*************************** My early life ***************************
On my way... (my sister (January 7, 1931), mother, grandmother, & great grandmother).
Arrival: February 2, 1932 (Ground Hog's Day)
AQUARIUS - The Sweetheart (Jan 20 - Feb 18) Optimistic and honest. Sweet personality. Very independent. inventive and intelligent. Friendly and loyal. Can seem unemotional. Can be a bit rebellious. Very stubborn, but original and unique. Attractive on the inside and out. Eccentric personality.
Although somewhat in chronological order, I will skip around to different time frames. Usually because of subject matter. Eventually, I hope to write as many details as I can recall of the story of my life - good and not so good - there is plenty of each. Most of the photographs have been located via research and from my sister and Pam, as I have few personal photos from my past.
My earliest memories, as vague as they are, probably take place when I guess I was about three years old. Many memories stick out in my mind and yet I do not recall what went on with most of my early life. I don't always recall exactly where I was living or my exact age. I do not know if I have shut it out or if I simply have a poor memory.
Knowing that I grew up poor may help to understand some of what follows. It may not be a valid argument, but I think it had its effect. My mother didn't work and my father could only find intermittent work which never paid much. I think we moved so often as we could not pay the rent. A good part of the time we lived with my grandparents. As a very young child, I remember one summer living in a tent as we followed the crops which my parents helped to harvest in order to survive. I don't recall if my sister and I actually helped any. We had an old car with running boards and a large storage compartment on the back. Our father would allow my sister and I to sit and ride on the running board (it had some sort of a retaining rack for the camping equipment and some empty space where we sat).
To begin, I can remember living in a house across the street from a large park which was next to a railroad. This was in Berwyn (IL) and was most likely on East Avenue (30xx South), north of the Burlington RR tracks and south of the Illinois Central RR tracks. The house had an attic which was partitioned into two parts by a chicken wire fence which we (my sister - a year older, and myself) would crawl through. I do not remember what we did there. From what I understand, this is the house where we were living in when I fell through a glass storm door and was cut somewhat severely. To this day I have a very visible scar under my left arm. I have no memory of the occurrence and I sometimes wonder about how it could have happened. My sister advises me that I was two years old when we lived there and also that I fell from the second floor window and survived only as a result of a screen acting as a buffer and breaking my fall. She in turn was found wandering on the Burlington tracks and was picked up by the fire department who then got my mother to come to the fire station to pick her up. I guess we were prone to doing our own thing. This is when I saw (at least remember) a 4th of July Fire Works display.
I'm sure that we had toys, but I can not remember any until I was perhaps four or five years old. Regarding toys, I had a favorite, a marble game. (click to view the marble_game). It was a noisy toy and it suddenly was gone. No one knew anything about its disappearance. Another toy, which I believe I received via my grandpa, was a pedal car. It simply disappeared. I think it took too much of other's time to bring it in and out for use and storage.
I also remember when we lived above a store on a somewhat busy highway. This was in Riverside on Ogden (IL Rt 34), between Harlem Ave (IL Rt 42A - now 43) and the Des Plaines River. We were just down the road from a gypsy encampment in one direction and the river in the other direction. In addition to my sister, I had a male friend about the same age that lived just around the corner. I remember his mother breast fed him during the day and once offered me the opportunity to do so also. To think, I passed on the offer! I believe that I probably was about four at the time. My sister would take me to the Gypsy camp and also for long walks along the river and into the town near where we lived. This is the actual creek and walking path.
I guess because neither of my parents could find work (it was the depression era), we moved in with my mother's parents. I do know that at one time, my father worked for the WPA (Work Project Administration - one of FDR's help programs) in the construction of a highway bridge. We lived with them on and off for a couple of years in their apartment. There was a prairie behind us and a railroad across the street on the far end of the block. The side street to the west was a highway. (This was in Berwyn on 32nd Street and Harlem (IL Rt 42A - now #43)).Understand that highways in those days carried less traffic than most side streets do today). There was a candy store across the highway about midway down the block. We went there as often as we had money. By money, I mean a penny (one cent), which could buy a small size Hershey bar, Tootsie roll, or any number of multiple piece selections. I can remember running to get a view of the Zephyr (Burlington streamliner - silver) when we heard it coming. A BIG deal to us. We also would look to the sky when we heard an airplane. They were pretty scarce in those days (the 1930s). I also remember setting fire to the prairie on more than one occasion and usually paying dearly for having done so (probably well deserved).
Some of the things that were different in the 1930s and early 1940s was the use of horses. Although more and more automobiles were being purchased, there still were many "commercial" uses of horse and wagon. Ice was delivered by wagon (only the rich had refrigerators). The household would leave a sign in the window when ice was wanted. You could also take a wagon to the ice factory and buy what you needed (and save a nickel in the process). The same for milk. Most households received one or two bottles of milk each morning. You left the empties outside your door and the milkman left the same number of bottles unless you left a note for a different number or if you wanted a bottle of cream. Milk was not homogenized in those days. Nor was there 1% or 2% available. Coal (a typical means of heating) was delivered by horse and wagon and came in large canvas bags. Garbage was picked up utilizing horse and wagon. Junkman would travel the alleys at least once a week to pickup or buy old newspapers and scrap metal or other salvageable items. Vendors selling kitchenware, fruits and vegetables, and even clothing would take their horse and wagons through the streets or alleys. After the end of WWII delivery of these items were done by truck and eventually discontinued completely. During the summer, ice cream vendors would use push carts or bike carts to sell ice cream and popsicles. Sometimes even pop corn and hot dogs.
When more money was available (ten cents or more), we would walk into town (uptown, it was called), where all the stores and theater were, and went to the show on Saturday. The theater was called the Roxy. My first memory of attending church was at this time as well. It was the Methodist Church and I remember how proud and happy I was to get my first Bible (New Testament only). I can remember the first time we went Trick or Treating. In those days you did not need to fear anything. I recall having two friends of about the same age and we would play together in the prairie. As there were no others our age, we would play cowboys and imaginary Indians.
My school days also began at this time. I started Kindergarten, and attended first, and second grade prior to moving to Chicago. I probably was the youngest person to be expelled. My mother had to come to school (Emerson) because I argued with my teacher and refused to back down. I would not even back down when brought to the principal's office. We were drawing ships and I placed a flag on the bowsprit with the flag part flowing upwards and towards the stern. The teacher told me it should be hanging down, just like the flag hanging in the class room. I told her that the wind made it go up and refused to agree with her and told her she was wrong. I suppose it was a power thing that she had to win in front of my class mates. Never forgot it. My first major confrontation with authority in life (that I recall). Age six.
Not being able to let it go, here is basically what I drew, and here is a photo of signal flags (hanging down, but flowing upward - with the ship at anchor. What do you think?
I do not remember much else about going to school during those years. I don't know if I did well or not. I don't know if I have shut it out or simply remember nothing about it. I do remember the names of some of my school mates but that is all.
I also do not remember much of places where we lived. Some, I remember vaguely. Some were fairly nice, some were pretty bad.
Somewhere in between, we moved for short periods and I attended other schools, including Custer and Jefferson before returning to the first. If I recall correctly, my sister also attended Hiawatha. This may contribute to why I never really developed many attachments or feelings about anyone. Although never a loner, I had few close or lasting friendships until later in life.
I have always had an insatiable appetite for learning, but never liked attending classes. I like to pick what I want to learn and like to move at my own pace, be it quicker or slower than a class room. I also end up wanting a greater depth of knowledge about a subject than a classroom provides.