Tag Archives: childhood

Today’s Worry From Yesterday’s View

We’ve just passed the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with all the usual alarms and horror stories from the many survivors of those events of war.   At least this year I saw one article about one of the few surviving American POW’s who witnessed the Nagasaki bombing from miles away and what his perspective was.  The article did correctly p0int out that the Japs had already issued orders to kill all remaining POW’s once the Allies launched the expected invasion of the Homeland Islands.   The POW’s naturally were unaware of their impending death sentence and most had already reached the near end of their endurance due to the extreme cruelty and brutality of their captors.   They were thrilled to learn within days that the Japs had surrendered and that they had a chance to live.  They literally were given a ladder up at last from the depths of Hell.

I was very small at that time and don’t have a specific memory of the bombings or the end of the war.  I don’t recall my dad or any of the other men coming home in a big parade.   I do remember that dad was there and we moved to a new duplex from the old one and then a new baby brother.   The War and its aftermath was the dominate event and topic of conversation for years.  By the time I started school I knew we had used a really big bomb and that made the Japs surrender.  I recall the adults when I listened to them really didn’t understand exactly how the bomb worked.   It was an “atomic” bomb I knew from hearing them and that an atom was a really tiny thing you couldn’t even see.

It was a wonder to me that anything so small could make such a big bang.  How did those miniscule bits mix around to make such a large whomp?  As a small boy playing soldier I could understand rifles, cannons, hand grenades and regular bombs but the physics of the atomic bomb were beyond me.    You could get a feel for the destruction regular bombs and artillery could do because the newsreels in the ’40’s after the War were often about the occupation of Germany, Austria and Japan and they would always show the unimaginable destruction of whole cities.  Frankly, the newsreels of Hiroshima and Nagasaki didn’t look any different than the cities like Berlin, Munich or Dresden.

When mom and dad had relatives or friends over to visit I was always watching for when the men would gather separate from the women folk and would immeditate ly stop whatever I was doing and slip in there and sit quietly somewhere so I could hear them talk.  Sooner or later they always began swapping stories about the War.  Virtually all of them were in the War.  I guess the had some acquaintances that didn’t serve but I don’t remember a single one.  They were in all services, Army, Navy, Air Corps and Marines.  I wish I had those conversations on tape today.   What a treasure trove that would be.   All except one (with a minor wound) were still in the services in August of 1945.  Without exception they expected to be soon shipped to Japan.   Never heard one word of regret or sorrow for using the atomic bomb from one of them.  They believed the Japs deserved it, earned it with their barbaric behavior and none of them were eager to face the prospects of death after four years of war.   My dad could have been on one of those Navy ships off the coast of Japan facing the 5000 kamikaze planes (yes, 5000) that the Japs still had to deploy and planned to deploy against our invasion.  I am sure glad my dad didn’t have to do that.

“These proceedings are closed” General MacArthur after the last signatures on the Japanese surrender documents.   http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Dads And Daughters

I can at least comment on daughters and their relationships with their dads and vice a versa as I have four and six granddaughters.   Every dad and daughter will have a different relationship qualify  but there are certain events and feelings they have that tread their way through most of those relationships. 

When you learn you are going to have a daughter for the first time there is always that little thought in the back on your mind that you are getting into water a little too deep for you.  I mean after all what do you know about women?  Even after dating and married life for a while you still realize that your wife will surprise you on occasion because she doesn’t see something the same way you do even though it is so obvious to you.  Then they get mad or cry and you have absolutely no idea what brought it on.  Now you are going to be the man of the house for this little lady and you know you will be having an influence on her. 

But then you have those first few hours and days with her.  You hold her a little more gently than the boys;  I don’t know why that is true but it is.  Guess it is because they are a girl and you are supposed to treat them more gently.  Then there are those frilly clothes and outfits that they wear.  When it is your turn to dress them as infants you usually don’t get it quite right for mom.  She often will come along right behind you and make an adjustment or two that makes them just right.

There is nothing prettier than that infant in her crib dress or whatever they call them, all white with trimmings on her pillow holding up a plump little arm and cute smile on their lips.

By the time they are ready for the nicer things when they start Sunday School or other special events it is all patent leather shoes and velvet dresses and you are definitely a bystander but you love the way she looks at you and you can’t resist asking for another kiss although you get them all the time.   But that afternoon they might look the tomboy in shorts and a tee-shirt and tennis shoes and she is begging you to chase bugs with her in the back yard.   Soon you will be working with her to learn to ride the bike the first time or try her three-wheeler.  The little  boys smile when they do it but those gals just beam all over they are so happy.

Then the time will come when she wants you to play dolls with her or do “kitchen” or tea party with her.  You are awkward with this since you haven’t had much experience.  Don’t worry she will start telling you which outfits to put on the doll and then re-do what you have done to make it just right.  Just like her mom she knows you have limits as a guy and they seem to learn this so early.  

As much fun as they are little it is just as good as they become 8 or 10.  It is different but lots of fun.  You aren’t directly involved as much but you  get all the great things like those hugs and kisses when you get home.  They still will bring you everything under the Sun to fix or repair.  They think you can fix anything even if you are all thumbs.  Now they are more under Mom’s wing but you get to watch your gals together.  There are those soccer games and practices to do and you have to restrain yourself not to make it too arduous or intense so they can enjoy it.   You’ll get the pleasure of taking 10 or 12 little gals to the pizza parlor after the game with all their excited yells and running about and whispering with each other.   That is an experience all its own.

Boys.  Yes, so much sooner than you ever thought it would they are interested in boys.  You’ll hear and see those short intense conversations with Mom and then tears on occasions because someone told someone that some guy liked someone else and she heard it at school.  The heartbreak of it all.  Then they discover the phone or cellphone today for many I suppose.  Oh boy, you are on your own with that one.  If you don’t pull the plug they will never have the thing out of their ear or today in their hand with those texts messages non-stop.  If there is more than one, then you will be the constant arbitrator of who gets the phone next.  

Then they are grown up before you can spit over the creek.   Now they still give you those hugs and kisses but they don’t bring you a toy to fix anymore.  The issues are more important and you want them to be happy and safe.  Their friends, the schools they choose and certainly the guys they want to date become major issues with you.   If you stay out of jail and upright you know you will have their love.  There is no greater feeling in the world than to be loved so unconditionally by someone.   You need to deserve it.  That means you have to have done a good job over the years.   You can’t buy being a good father at the drugstore; it is not bottled for sale.  It takes some sweat and worry along the way but the rewards are as good as they get on this earth. 

One day she will give you a peck on the cheek and a big hug and you will realize she is really a grown woman.  It comes like an epiphany.  Like any grand house it is the foundation that makes it all possible.  If you are lucky and have worked at it, she will adore you through all the years and the gray beard.  Prize your daughter every day for she is your prize, you will find none better.

“Thou art they mother’s glass, and she in thee Calls back the lovely April of her prime”  Shakespeare sonnet  www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Mom Memories And Play

I am rapidly approaching the 50th high school reunion for my class.  That event doesn’t make me sad but just catches me by surprise.  Been so busy with life and the kids and now grandkids that it stuns the mind to actually come to grips with the fact that the graduation was 50 years ago.   Some of those events still seem as though they occurred only a few months ago yet the calendar has turn over many times since that event.  When I think of myself I still “see” in my mind’s eye a young man I suppose of some indefinite age but late twenties or thirties I suppose but then I step in front of the mirror and realize that haggard face is mine not just a hazy memory of a dream.  As they say it is a shame that youth is wasted on the young.

My mom was always a good sport about things and usually ready for just about any adventure.  My Dad was the cautious one and much more likely to want a few more restrictions on my activities, not the social stuff but the cars, traveling out of the neighborhood and who I was hanging out with.   Mom always encouraged me to be more social and mix with the groups.  I started having a real passion for reading when I was pretty young.  By the time I was a teen ager I would just as likely prefer reading one of my books in my room as watching Lucy or Gunsmoke on TV.  Mom couldn’t stand that.  She was one of the few parents who fussed about her boy reading too much!   But she sure let me and my brother have our fun in the neighborhood.

She always let us build our forts in the backyard or trees if they were large enough.  The forts were used to play cowboys and Indians or soldier.  We would get whatever sticks or rods we could scrounge up and some cardboard boxes.  We could always find some of those.   We would plant the sticks in the ground which was often very difficult because the earth was so hard from the drought during the ’40’s and ’50’s.  As long as they would remain upright we were set.  Then we would cut the cardboard to size and tie or tack it to the sticks to make walls.  The walls often collapsed during construction and required constant attention and rebuilding.  We course had to leave a door way somewhere and that was usually determined by the bends in the cardboard.  The roof was always a challenge and more than on ce it made the whole thing fall in or over and had to start afresh.   They always looked like something out of a real junk yard but up0n completion we had a place of privacy and a spot to get into and out of the direct rays of the hot Texas sun. 

In hindsight they must have been very unsightly but Mom always let us build them and we could keep them as long as they would last which was until the first rain and the 20th collapse of the structure and we couldn’t repair it any further.  Of course we would take out toy guns and things inside them and the kit items from the Army and Navy store.  In those days those stores were loaded with surplus from the War and Korea.  Every stain on a backpack or musset bag we were sure was the blood of some fallen hero.   Mom would let us take our baloney or peanut and jelly sandwiches out there to eat and kool aid.

At the heat of the day we had to come inside to play because of the scare of polio.  It was generally believed at that time that exp0sure to heat would trigger the polio condition.  I have no idea if that was true but all the moms believed it and from about 2 to 5 we had to stay inside.  Of course it was only marginally cooler inside that out because the only cooling was by electric buzz fan or rotating fan.  No one could afford air conditioning.  By the time I was about 15 we got our first window unit a/c and we thought we had the life of Riley.  (Do you know who Riley even was?)   The only downside about playing inside was that was when Mom would talk with me and help me with school work. 

She would often set up the ironing board and do that while she had me sit at the table beside her and work on my numbers, letters penmanship.  Sad to say I never developed the pen hand that she preferred.  Mom was from the old school that thought it was very important to have a good “hand”.  Hers was magnificent.  You’ve seen those shot in movies where the pen scratches across paper and the script is beautiful.  My Mom could have written those words for those shots.  

When I was released back outside I could ride my bike or go play with the neighborhood guys.  I had several friends within just a couple of blocks to that was great and they usually wanted to come to my house to play and I naturally wanted to go somewhere else like the creek a block away.  If I was home I always feared Mom would cut off my play time sooner that normal if all she had to do was open the door and there I was.  She would always let me play until dinner time.  Poor Mom me and my brother and Dad always wanted the same thing–meat and potatoes.  Mom constantly tried to get us to try something new, liver, fish, cauliflower, rutabagas, greens or chicken.   She would fix something that we considered weird a couple times every week and was always surprised and disappointed that her guys didn’t like that stuff.  She would ask about the next day’s meal and it was the same refrain–we want meat and potatoes.  In fairness to us we could take our potatoes, baked, fried, boiled, mashed, au gratin or thick cut.  See we were flexible.  Thanks Mom for the memories.

“A good wife who can find?  She is more precious than jewels.”  Proverbs www. olcranky.wordpress.com

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The Old Neighborhood–II

When I was in elementary school I would come home and begin the real enjoyable part of my day.   School was fun sometimes but like most kids I was more eager to do what I wanted rather than having to do as instructed by the teacher.  I would almost always have my homework done before I left school.   There was allocated time to study.  Lots of kids goofed off during the period but I used it to do my school work so I would be free in the afternoon.   It was only about a six block walk from school to home but me and my best friend would always make it take as long as we could, exploring and just looking to see what was happening in the neighborhood.  Mom of course knew exactly when we got out and she knew how long it should take us to make that short walk home. 

Mom would allow for a little bit of leeway on our walk but not much.  If I was more than about 10 minutes late she would be on the porch waiting.  That was not a good thing.  That meant she would be on my case for being late and she might restrict me to the house.   If the weather was warm enough I always wanted to be outside until dinner time.   I didn’t like having to stay in the house after school except to watch a few special things on TV.   I would carry my books to my room I shared with my brother.  We didn’t have backpacks or even satchels of any kind that I remember.  We just carried our books.  Today all the kids have backpacks.  I can’t really remember when that became the standard.  I guess they started doing that 20 or 30 years ago.  When I was in school only the nerds had satchels or briefcases for their books.   I guess they were ahead of their time.

If I had to stay inside because of the weather or mom was making me do it, I would watch a little TV.  There were the special shows like Howdy Dowdy and Mickey Mouse and local shows just for kids in the afternoon.  They were live shows with a small audience of local kids.  There wasn’t anything like the kids channels today on cable.  There were no electronic games of any kind but we had toys but mostly we liked to go outside.

I was lucky to have a few guy pals on my block so on most days I could always find someone to play with.  My best friend lived only a few houses down the block and we would hook up together to do something.  There was always the bike we could ride.  Mom had a pretty restrictive route we could take.  We weren’t allowed to get more than a few blocks from home on the bikes.  From the time I was 5 or 6 until I started driving a car I always had a bike and rode it almost every day at least a little while.  We particularly liked riding in the alleys because you never knew what you might come across and in the spring and early summer there was always fruit trees you could stop and plunder–peaches, apples, crab apples, pears and even figs.  I didn’t like the figs but it was fun to “steal” them from the limbs hanging over the back fences.

When we weren’t on our bikes we would be playing football or even throwing the baseball around some.  Mostly we played football.  We would play a game of punt.  You would kick the ball and try to back up your opponent as far as you could with the kick. He would catch and do the same trying to make you back up.  The one that could make the other move all the way back to the corner of the street was the winner.   We also played lots of tin can hockey in the street.  Just used and old tin can and whatever sticks we could find and smash away with them to propel the can.  The curbs were the out-of-bounds and we would sit up goals with whatever came to hand.   Sure got a lot of bruised shins doing that game.

Climbing trees was another favorite pastime.  It was fun to get up there and “hide” from everyone.  Of course the moms knew where we were.  My mom actually was pretty good about it although she didn’t like us to go too high.   Naturally we were always pushing the limits of what “too high” was.  It was fun to be up there and pretend you were a soldier or cowboy waiting in ambush on the bad guys.  This was only a few years after the War so we were constantly battling the Japs and Nazis.  To get to sneak up there with your BB gun was the best.  Then you could shoot sparrows or other critters that came along.  Grasshoppers and frogs made as good a target as anything else.  As a last resort there was always each other.   I can report though that those were always just threats and never put into action.  Sometime we would a toy soldier figures on the ground below the tree in what we considered battle formation and then go up into the tree to shoot back down at them pretending our BB hits were an artillery barrage.  We would do this until we knocked down all of them and the jeeps and artillery with them–or until Mom called us in for dinner.

We always ate dinner together.  I liked Dad coming home every day.  There was something very comforting I suppose about him being there and being so dependable.  I loved listening to his tales of his workday. That was probably strange in that age but I did.  Mom never had to worry about me ruining my eyes with an electronic game or video only from reading too much in her estimation.   It was not a complicated life but it seemed good at the time and in hindsight seems even better.

“Say not, Why were the former days better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”  Ecclesiastes  www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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The Old Neighborhood–Fini

We had a really large elm tree in the back yard.  I loved climbing up into it.  It was like going into a different world for kids.  You could see around the neighborhood and you felt like it was your own little world.  Mom of course was constantly fussing about us “going too high” and she had rules about which limbs we could go to but naturally at every opportunity we went higher.  Moms today would have a stroke I imagine if they saw their kids up that high.  We would often have “wars” with some in the tree throwing things at those on the ground.  We built a couple of different tree houses but they were pretty flimsy and even I didn’t really trust them.   They never lasted long because they would start to wobble and we would have to take them down, but heck putting them up and using them for just a couple of weeks was a pretty big thrill.

Shaky lived up at the corner.  He was the neighborhood baseball player.  In fact he got a scholarship to A & M to play for them.  We all tried to recruit him for our church team.  We played lots of church baseball in those days.  The catch was that you had to attend Sunday School at least two Sundays each month to qualify.  I was never a baseball fan at all, it was too Yankee.  But we got to play with our dads and cousins because there was no age limit so that was a hoot.  Teens playing with the men.  They didn’t let up on us like they do today.  No Tee ball.  It was  a real game.  Often after one of the games we would go to a watermelon stand.  There were many of them then with just outdoor tables and newspapers for sitting the slice on.  I never liked watermelon but the going was fun.  There were several ice cream parlors around then and we would drop by for a malt or double dip cone.

This was the house where we got our first modern car.  It was a ’53 Chevy and even had an air conditioner in it.  It didn’t work terrific but it was quite the rage and we felt like Kings driving that brown and green sedan around.   In the summer we would go every now and then to the local drive in theater on Hampton Road.  It was only about a mile away.  There was lots of them then scattered all around the city.  There were even more local neighborhood indoor theaters.  There would be one at just about every major intersection.  Jefferson Blvd. had about 7 alone and there were more everywhere.  But the malls and larger theaters slowly pushed them out.  They became plumbing shops, garages or whatever during the sixties until they were all gone.  I can’t think of one that is left at the moment.

The neighborhood was called Elmwood.  It was in Oak Cliff with gently rolling hills and two major creeks that eventually emptied into the Trinity river.  Those creeks straddled Elmwood so we got to explore as only 12-year-old boys can do.  Mom was  pretty good sport about it but she made me check in every hour which I thought was a real pain. I didn’t have a watch then so I had to be careful about it.  I can’t truly remember when I got my first watch.  It must have been in Jr. High.   This was also the house where we first got our private line on the phone.  Everyone had a party line.  It was a big deal to get your own private line.  Like lots of older houses there was a special inset in the hallway wall for a phone.  It was one of those big black ones with a rotary dial of course.  Our local exchange was “Yukon” which I thought was so neat because it harkened images of the wilderness and pioneers. 

Of course everyone walked to school.  It was only about a mile away and none of us thought anything about it.  It was very rare to even see a school bus.  Only kids who really lived far out rode them but none at our school.   There was still lots of vacant space only a mile or so away in an area called Wynnewood where they were starting to develop a shopping center and houses.  My friend David had some horses right beside the development.  We would go there sometimes to ride.  When we got on the back trails you wouldn’t have known you were in a city at all.  The horse I had to ride was very tall.  I remember always being a little scared and concerned because it was so far to the ground and he wasn’t the most gentle of horses.  I do recall once when we were riding in the woods by the creek  and I lost one of the reins.  The horse wasn’t running but he was at a nice canter and I kept trying to reach down and grab the rein again but could not quite make it, it was just too much of a stretch for my arms and it was more difficult with all the jostling around on that darn nag.  I finally hollered at David and he stopped his horse and mine did too right beside his.  Then I was able to scoot up on his neck a bit and get the dangling rein.  Mom was a real sport to let me do something like that at age 12 or 13.  That is how I learned to saddle a horse and rig the other gear.

We moved when I was about 15 to Holiday Circle a few miles farther out.  Dad had built the house with hopes of selling it at a profit but the market was weak then so we moved into it.   This would have been about ’57.    It had an attic fan and window units, still no central air conditioning although it was becoming more common then.  Mom thought the attic fan was great but I thought it only brought in the heat of summer nights.   We only lived there about three years and then moved to Wynnewood hills on Trinidad.  I was there the last couple of years of high school.  Then I was off to college and soon married.  So that was the last place I lived with Mom and Dad.  But when I think back to childhood it is still Cascade and Elmwood that bubbles up in my mind.

When I went to school we had over 30 kids in each class, we got a pretty good education from the public school system.  Of course there wasn’t any discipline problem because they weren’t tolerated then.  troublemakers were sent to the principal and if it was repeated they disappeared.  I think they sent them to some special school but I really don’t remember or know.  But I know we all did what we were told and paid attention.   Teachers taught, they didn’t waste time with behavior issues.  http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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The Old Neighborhood–II

When we moved to Cascade I was about 9, I was starting the third grade.  Dad had worked really hard fixing the place up for Mom, working every evening and on the weekends to make the upgrades for her.  It even had a chimney and a hearth in the living room but it was a fake one.  But it looked homey.  Except Mom insisted on putting plants in the fireplace hearth which took away from the look in my opinion.  That house became the place I always thought of as my childhood home.

That block and the whole neighborhood was filled with kids and interesting characters.  The Church we attended was only a three block walk from home so that made it easy for Sunday church.  It was a true neighborhood church, small and all locals. My Sunday school teacher for the next several years was a man who had been in the war like so many.  He had been shot by a Jap machine gun that stitched across his belly and chest.  Of course, we guys thought that was really something.  You tend to listen to a man who has been through something like that.  We lived in that house for about 6 years.  That was where I finished elementary school and started to jr. high.

Next door was the Windoms.  The brothers were a lot older and quite nerdy but they did interesting things and had fun stuff.  They were both very active in Scouts and the outdoors.  They had their garage walls covered with old license plates.  In those days you got a new license plate every year and some folks would take the old ones and nail them to the garage wall as a memento.  They had them going back to the early ’30’s.  They made their own bow and arrows from scratch.   They caught an injured owl one time and nursed it back to health.  It bit the devil out of the older brother.  He had a big bandage on his hand for a couple of weeks.  Then they let it go.  Their grandfather was very old school.  He wore a white Panama hat with bolo tie and shirt every day and spent lots of time sitting on the front porch.  Sometimes he would tell us kids stories of the old west and Dallas from the pioneer days.  He was very old then, in his nineties.  We loved hearing the story of how his dad and some others had a gun battle with  Comanches just outside Dallas after the War Between The States.  Lots of shots but only a wound from and arrow and an Indian wounded by gunfire.  Then each side went its separate way.  It was fascinating to hear him tell about the first time he heard someone had flown in a machine and that cars would be replacing horses and buggies.

Next door was the neighbor with the boy who was retarded.  It was sad.  I remember being sad every time I would think about him.  He had a sister who went to school with one of my cousins.  Across the street was a fellow named Perry.  He was also quite a bit older but he had lots of memorabilia his older brother brought back from the War.  He would show us occasionally some of the things.  A German helmet, a knife, some German insignia, belt and other things.   Naturally all us guys thought that was pretty cool.   Billy lived two house down. He was smallish for his age but a good athlete.  He ended up playing tailback for Sunset which was a pretty big deal at the time.  Next was Jimmy, who was  member of the DeMolay, the youth group for Masons.  My dad became a Mason while we were living on Cascade.  Jimmy was also pretty nerdy but he tried hard to be one of the guys.  He just wasn’t much of an athlete.  But he played pretty good chess.  I played with him often and the Windom brothers next door.  I have no idea why I was interested at such a young age. I beat the younger Windom brother regularly which bugged him no end.  He gave me a book on Chess strategy which I actually did read. Guess I was pretty nerdy too.

Up and the corner of Cascade and Pioneer was my best childhood friend, David.  He was always tall and gangly.  He was a good egg.  Not very agile but he did play football with me and continued to play until his junior year in high school.   We spent hours together goofing around and being guys.  When the weather was nice we would always be outside doing lord only knows what.  Late in the day when Dad was home and it was time for dinner my Dad would come to our front porch and whistle.  He could whistle really loud.  That was the signal for me to come home and eat.  There were no excuses.  I was expected to be close enough to hear it.  You could hear it easy if the wind wasn’t blowing a block away.   Of course I often said it didn’t hear it right away.  

We played lots of stick hockey in the street with old tree limbs and tin cans for a puck.  Hours were spent throwing and kicking the football in the street.   This is where we lived when I got my first car and began working in the summers at the water plant.  This is where I learned to drive and was allowed to drive to the 7/11 by myself when I was only 13 but I had to park without crossing Edgefield which was considered a busy street by Mom.  I was really young and had no license of course but they trusted me.   I even got to drive the car to the school dance when I was in the 7th grade that spring.  It wasn’t very far but man did I feel like a big shot.  To be continued…..

If total government control and central planning of the economy is the best formula for success one wonder why the Soviets aren’t King of the Mountain, with their people living off the fat of the land and happy as clams.  We know how that story ended though don’t  we.   http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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The Old Neighborhood

No matter how many times you may have moved during your youthful years there is always one house and one neighborhood that you have locked in your memory as the “old neighborhood”.  When you think of your childhood that is the image that comes to mind, that front window, that special friend you played with down the block or the bikes and skateboards scattered about the front porch and driveway. 

I was born during the War and we lived on Beacon street in east Dallas.  It was not too far from the old Ford assembly plant.  During the war it was used for war production to build trucks and jeeps.  My mom worked there for a short while.  She was a messenger and she wore roller skates to get around the factory quickly because it was so large.  She didn’t stay long she was no Rosie the Riveter.  She was a true stay at home mom, even if that meant living on the edge. We were with my grandmother, her mom, in that duplex for the duration.  Dad sent her most of his monthly pay from the Navy.   It was a pitifully small amount but it bought shoes and baby food for me.  Dad had left for the War only a couple of weeks after I was born.

When Dad came home we moved pretty soon to another duplex without the grandmother to Overton Road; it was not the best of neighborhoods even then. But it was ours.  Before we moved I recall once when the neighbor next door got really mad at Dad about the use of the drive way.  He was a brute and a drunk.  He cussed and yelled at us.  Not a good idea for a guy just back from the war.  I don’t remember any real physical confrontation but I do remember the guy back up on his porch hollering that he would call the police.   We didn’t have trouble with him anymore.  After Overton Rd. we moved to Monticello.  Another duplex but it was two-story in a decent but middle class neighborhood in Oak Cliff.  That was where we were when I got my first train set and my brother was a toddler there. 

Then we moved to Dawson street in south Dallas.  It was literally next door to the water plant where Dad worked.  At least he didn’t have to drive to work.  That was the place where we had our ice box.  Dad would bring a big block of ice home every few days.  We would chip it off for ice tea in the summer.  I guess he went by the ice house on his routes to get it.  It was not a great place because mom was so worried about the trucks and equipment all around the place.  It wasn’t very elegant and the neighborhood was a bit shoddy but the church we attended was only a couple of blocks away.  “Dr. Daughtery” was the preacher.  The Dr. was an honorific.   This where Dad had two jobs.  He worked at the water plant and was also working for the Texas Pacific Railroad.

Then we moved to Savoy street farther out in Oak Cliff.  It was a brand new house.  It was two bedrooms and one bath.  Very small.  It probably had only a little over one thousand square feet.  That is where I got the yellow jaundice and started to school.  Dad bought it with a VA loan.  It was one of many new developments popping up everywhere to accommodate all the veterans and their families.  This was when TV first started becoming popular.  Every other week or so you would see a new antenna going up on someone’s roof and you knew they had bought a TV.  Before we bought ours we had driven to my cousin’s house to watch theirs.  We would all gather in the living rooms and watch anything that was on, literally anything including the test pattern. I imagine there are millions of youngsters out there today who don’t even know what a test pattern is much less have ever seen one.   Not much to see those first couple of years because TV was on only a few hours a day on the days it was on.  Sign off was about 10 and it didn’t come on until the afternoon.

From there we moved to my cousin’s house.  They had built a new house on Monte Carlo not too far from our place on Savoy.  But their house was bigger and a bit nicer than ours.  We moved in with them a little while before they moved out.  Probably because dad had rented out the place on Savoy.  ‘This house was on Cascade.  I had always liked that house and was very happy to move there.  There was a creek near by and more of my friends from school lived in that area.  It was a brick house with a separate garage out back.  It had three bedrooms, but still only one bath.  It was a real upgrade for us.  I remember my Dad did lots of work on it when we first moved in.  He painted everything and knocked down a wall to open the area up so the old dining room and living room became one large room.   He put in a patio in the back for mom.  We got out first “air conditioning” unit there.  It wasn’t really an air conditioner.  It was just a fan that blew over a wet sponge like device to cool the air.  It was pathetic but it seemed like the greatest thing since sliced bread to us.

This was the house where Mom got her first modern washing machine. Before that she had the old-fashioned kind that were just a big tub that would jostle the clothes.  They all had a handle on the top with rollers that  were the “wringer”.  After the clothes were washed you would take them out one at a time and hand crank them through the wringer to get most of the water out.  Then take them out to the clothes line.  All the houses had clothes lines then.  I guess it was during the mid and late ’50’s that they finally quit putting in the clothes lines.  I wonder what happened to all those companies the used to manufacture them?  To be continued…..

Don’t forget to keep a box of baking soda very handy in your kitchen.  It is great for small cuts, nicks and bug bites.  Nothing is better for those pesky skillet fires that erupt on the burner.  Yes, ladies, those greasy skillets still catch fire on a regular basis, don’t they?   http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Dads And Go Carts

It seems that virtually everything these days is manufactured for kids.  If you remember the old Our Gang Comedies you would see that in that pre-electronic world the kids made lots of their own toys and play things or at least they got help from their dads.   When is the last time you show a home made wagon?  They aren’t that complicated to make but have you seen one?  Even the tree houses these days are mostly pre-fabricated.  The kids used to build their own in the back yard and some of them were pretty fancy.  Those tree houses you see in the movies these days are pretty close to the ones that sprinkled around the neighborhood where I grew up.  We used to make our own stilts to walk on and create bows and arrows and even fake planes or cars.  Of course we some times had a little help from Dad.

In my neighborhood when I was about 12 there were a couple of guys who had built themselves go carts.  They weren’t called that then.  Theyd were just soapbox racers with engines on them.  The Soapbox derby was a big deal then when they would have the competition every summer.  I suppose they still do them but they sure don’t get any attention anymore.   I thought those things were so cool and my dad knew how much I would love to have one.  Nothing was every said but then one day my dad brought home a bunch of equipment and materials and said we were going to build a go-cart for me for my birthday.  My dad was from that old school where a guy was expected to know a little about a lot.  That is how to do things with your hands.  It is a shame he never got to go to college he would have made a terrific engineer.  He had a real eye for knowing how things worked and how to build or make most anything.  He could do carpentry; he knew about being a glazier; do basic plumbing of all kinds, build the molds and mix and pour cement for curbs, patios or even foundation ,could do electrical wiring and could certainly put in all the fixtures of any kind, he could weld and knew how to take apart and re build most any kind of engine, either electric or gas.

He took some 1/4 inch angle iron and welded the frame for the car.  Then he drilled and bolted on 2×4’s to that to add the rest of the structure.  He used some old wheels and axles from a wagon for the wheels.  He build the connections for the front wheels so they could be connected to the steering column.  He used a U joint from somewhere for the front wheels.  The steering column was a 1/2 inch pipe and he welded on a steering wheel from a riding lawn mower.  He got a seat from a riding mower.  He rigged up the brake and the gas pedals on his own.  I got to watch all this and “help”, of course my help consisted mostly of just handing him tools and bracing things on occasion.  

The brake was a plate in fastened to the rear so that when you stepped on the brake the wire would pull it up against the rear wheels.  The engine was an old lawn mower engine that he mounted just above the rear wheels and right behind the seat.   There was a line running from the gas pedal up to the carburetor on the engine; it was threaded through some eye bolts he placed in the frame.  The more you pushed the gas pedal the more the gas was injected into the engine.  The whole thing was about 6 or 7 feet long.  It wasn’t a pretty piece.  There was no “body” but all the essential parts were there.  You started the engine by pulling a rope cord just like you would on a lawn mower.

Mom was NOT excited about  the whole project.  She thought it was a dangerous idea from the git go.  Especially the idea of riding on the streets in the neighborhood.   Dad was always very careful about everything but this is one time he overruled Mom and went ahead.   It took about a week to get the project done.  My pals on the block would come by every day to see the progress and give their opinion on the best way to proceed.   He finally got everything ready and we were set to give it a try.  The engine fired up and it was loud but it hummed.  All the basics worked, gas, brakes and steering and it was time to give it a spin.  Dad took it out for the first test run. He didn’t go far but wanted to make sure it worked and that the brakes would function properly.  My friends were there for the maiden trip.   I felt like Charles Lindbergh.  I got in and pressed the gas and sure enough I was off down the street.  Man, that was fun.  Tooling around the block in my very own “car”. 

Dad had built it so soundly that it was very heavy for the engine.  We lived in an area that was hilly.   So sometimes unless I had a little head of steam it couldn’t make it up the inclined streets.  I would have to get out and push it.  On the down hill or level ground it would work fine.  I never said a word to Dad about it being under powered for the hills but he knew it was too weak.  He replaced the engine one night for me.   I drove that thing off and on for a year or two and then became and teen ager and got interested in sports and whatever else teenagers did then.   I really don’t remember what happened to that go-cart.  I know it wasn’t with us when we made our next move a few years later but by then I was 15 or so.   I’ve never had a car though that I loved any more than that go-cart dad built for me.   As an adult I realize how much extra effort and time that took for dad, he had a job and plenty to do but he always took the time to do for us.  A good example is the best teacher for life.

“Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain in insight”.  Proverbs  http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Memories That Endure

We all experience much in life on a daily basis. So many things happen to us and we do a lot everyday if you think about it. As the decades roll by it is curious why some of those memories stick with us more than others. I have had lots of interesting things, joyous moments, scary times and exhilarating episodes but the fact is that the overwhelming majority of them have been lost in the mist of time and the memory. Others remain so clear I can conjure up the weather, smells, smiles and tears of specific events. Some of them are not really that important at all but they stick in the mind and won’t go away like that rattle in your car you have tried to find for months.

My earliest memory is of my da.d coming home for leave from the war. I didn’t really understand what that meant at the time but I have the distinct memory of being in my playpen and seeing my dad in a uniform (Navy). I cried because Mom was leaving with Dad. I am sure they weren’t gone more than 24 hours together but I had to stay with my grandmother and I can recall being very upset about that. I don’t remember the hugs my Dad gave me although I know he did. I don’t recall him coming home with Mom from San Francisco when he was discharged in late 1945 but I do remember the duplex we lived in for a while. We moved a lot those first few years after the War probably a function of money needs and the effort of Mom and Dad to “move up” in the world. I do remember the first house we bought when I was six. It was two bedrooms and one bath, a wood frame house. We had a big back yard and a detached garage. No trees in the neighborhood; it was a classic tract house built in that era for veterans. I can even remember the old Victorola player in the garage. I have no idea where it came from. It had one of those cranks on the side to wind it up to play a record. Don’t I wish I still had that now. It was just gone at some point.

I don’t remember my first grade teacher’s name but I can remember what she looked like. The school was brand new. One of the many built at that time to accommodate all the kids being born after the War. The principal was a man and he had a Phd. The same man ended up being the principal at my high school a few years later. Almost all the principals then were men and they had advanced degrees. I never heard of a female principal then. I can recall getting our polio vaccinations at school. We were all lined up and nurses came to administer the shots. It was a big deal. I remember my Mom making me come in to rest during the summer because she was afraid I would get polio in the heat. I have no idea where she got that idea but that was the common belief at that time. Then in the early ’50’s we got our dog tags at school. Just like the soldiers had. We guys thought that was really cool. It had our name and other info on it. That only lasted a year or two. We were supposed to wear them all the time in case of a nuclear attack by the Commies. I distinctly recall the drills we had to do in class and in the halls in the event of an attack. We were taught to dive under our desks if it was sudden, against the walls if there was a bit more time, and if there was an air raid warning we went to the halls and got on the floor with our heads against the lockers and our feet toward the middle of the hallway. I have no idea why it was that precise but it was.

I don’t really remember that many Christmases or birthdays. I remember them being fun but can’t really remember any particular gifts except a couple. I remember the Lionel train I got when I was about 5 for Christmas one year and I remember my tenth birthday when I got my 410 shotgun from Sear and Roebuck. I do remember all the store windows being decorated and having toys, Santas and reindeer in them. I loved going to just look at the windows of all the big stores. Then there were no strip centers or shopping malls, everything was essentially down town.

When I was small we would ride our bikes around the neighborhood and look for fruit trees in the late spring and early summer. We would use the fruit that fell over the fences as missiles to throw at each other. On occasions we would be very daring and actually hop over a fence to get some of the fruit and then right back as quick as we could so we won’t get caught. The figs and peaches made the best weapons. Even thought cars and trucks abounded there were still wagons with mules that would come to the neighborhood about twice a week with fruits and vegetables. I don’t know if that was peculiar to our neighborhood or not. I recall it seemed very old fashioned even to me at the time.

We kids liked to listen to the stories of the old man who lived in the neighborhood, next door to me in fact. He dressed very old style, string bow tie, white coat in summer and hat and cane. He even had one of those goatees. It and his hair was all white. He was at least 90 something then and would sit on the front porch in good weather for hours. He would tell us stories on the old west and we loved it. I don’t know if his stories were all true of course but I was fascinated by them. Indians, cowboys, and then WWI and what things were like then. He had lived in our town since right after the War Between the States.

Those are only a few memories of the zillion little memory bytes buzzing in my head but to think of all those that can’t be retrieved. Perhaps more another day.

You will have regrets in life, but nevertheless you should try each day to live in such a way to avoid the those rash comments that cause them. You know how to do that in your life better than me.

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Nostalgia and the Season

Nostalgia is one of those words that can conjure up a lot of different emotions and interpretations.   Some would make the case that it is nothing more than a bunch of old fuddy-duddies remembering the “old days” and viewing them through rose-colored glasses.  Others believe it is a waste of energy or worse an aversion to anything new or progressive.  One thing is for sure and that is most everyone allows themselves to indulge in a bit of it from time to time even if only secretly.

Who has not reminisced about some past sporting event whether as a participant or fan.  If you played football, basketball or any other sport you have memories of particular games and your actions.  Hopefully they are the pleasant ones about making a touchdown or a crucial first down at a tense moment in the game.  Maybe it is about that cheerleader you were dating then and that special feeling when she would praise you prowess.  You can literally feel the way the ball cradled against your body as your carried in through the line, you can hear that roar from the stands, or smell the dust from the turf as you were pounded down by the opposing team.  Those memories are strong and it is amazing that they endure so long with such intensity.

Everyone can recall songs and tunes from long ago.  They evoke some of our strongest reactions.  They recall for us a different time and place where society was different.  Society does change ever generation for good or ill.  We all like to think that our youth was the best and the brightest don’t we?   Some of those old big band tunes for Glenn Miller don’t remind of my personal life so much as they remind me of my mon and dad.  Those were their songs, their time.  Those old songs remind me of waiting for dad to come home from work and mom in the kitchen preparing dinner while me and my brother were hounding her about going out to play for just a few more minutes.  She would relent usually even if it was close to dinner time.  The radio would have those great tunes playing all the while.  When dad got home he would come out on the front porch and whistle for us.  He could really whistle loud.  That was the deal, we had to stay close enough to the house to hear the whistle.  It was not an acceptable excuse to say we didn’t hear it.

Christmas Day always brings up memories of some bygone special mornings rushing to the Christmas tree.   I recall one in particular when I got a Lionel train.  I was only about 5 and we lived in a rental duplex.  Dad had only been home from a the War a couple of years and was working two jobs to make ends meet.  It was important then that the man be the sole breadwinner and mom stayed home.  It was one of those old very heavy types they made then.  It was quite exact in its detail of an old steam engine.  They had it all set up Christmas morning for me.  I bet that sucker costs ten bucks!  A real sum then.  I kept up with that old train for years even into my teens.  Then one day it was just gone.  I guess it got lost in one of our moves.  That train brings back such great memories for the joy of being a child and of my mom and dad.  I suppose what it does is remind me of the sacrifices they made for me. 

Watching the current leaders of our nation certainly reminds me of our past leaders.  It was true that most everyone liked Ike.  What was not to like?   Those were good times for the most part.  Our economy was growing and expanding and opportunity was beckoning for those willing to venture out and try their luck or skill.  He kept in check the worst ideas of the progressives of the day and he made us feel safer having him there in the White House with the Commies barking at every door around the world.  It is hard now for many to recall just how menacing those threats from the Kremlin were.  Often they were not only threats but hostile actions.  They did have an active spy network within our own government.  Hiss, the Rosenbergs and McClean, Burgess et al were real people out to do our nation and way of life harm.  Ike had defeated the Nazis and was a warrior, that was important.  Don’t believe me?  Then I would remind you that even his Democratic succesor ran as a hawk and touted the “missle gap” and was actively promoted by is party as a warrior.

Why do we have all these thoughts?  That must be pretty important to most of us.  We all go back to them over and over.  The nostalgia connects us to our cultural heritage.  Whatever our heritage might be it is important to us.  It reminds us of family because family is important to us.  No one likes being alone and the tightest bonds are those of blood.  Admit it, those day dreams of your days of yore make you feel good.  Nothing wrong with that.  Rather than fighting nostalgia or denigrating it I recommend you rejoice in it.  Savor it like some family relic that it handed down from  generation to generation.

Most vital of all is to make sure you are doing what you should to build those future nostalgic day dreams for you own children.  It is my prayer for you that your progeny will one day recall their days and years with you as the best of times, not the worst of times.

Gold is at 1200 plus.  Some one doesn’t think the current policies in DC are in the best long-term interest of our economy.  That is more than an opinion, it is a fact demonstrating by the hundreds of thousands or millions of folks investing in gold.  They are voting with their checkbooks.   www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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