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Quarantine memories

I never remember entire neighborhoods being quarantined as a boy but I do recall a couple of occasions when specific homes were quarantined. When I was a boy during the ’40s and ’50s the big scares were polio and scarlet fever. There were all the other infectious diseases such as mumps, chicken pox and measles. We all assumed we would catch the last three at some point because all our moms told us we would. It was always a bit scary to think about catching something that seemed mysterious to a small child but our moms didn’t act overly concerned about those three.

When learned someone had measles, mumps or chicken pox we would stay away mostly but lots of moms seem to think it was best if we got it over with. They would not do it when we were under about 6. But of course when we started school it was only a matter of time before we contracted all three. They were worried about us catching them when we were too little but my memory is they all thought it more or less better to get them over with during the first two or three years of school. The mom theory was that if you got them when you were past ten it could be more serious. I suppose the pediatricians had passed the along to them. I got all three and so did my child bride. I also through in yellow jaundice about the second grade which I remember as being much worse than the usual three. The other three I just remember being sick but not awful. The chicken pox was a hassle because mom was constantly harping about not scratching those really itchy sores. She said I would be scarred for life.

We were all vaccinated for small pox. That circle scar on our shoulders was a mark of maturity and bravery for all us young folks. But scars from chicken pox just proved you didn’t have the moral courage to resist the temptation to scratch. Yep, that is my memory of my mom’s view of it–if you scratched you were a sissy. The yellow jaundice I had was pretty debilitating, high fever and bad stomach. All I could hold down was jello and that is why to this day I can’t stand the stuff, ever to look at it.

There was a case of scarlet fever in the neighborhood when I was about 9/10. Mom warned us about it and strictly instructed us to not go near the house. It was quarantined. She explained of course that no one could go in or out until the scarlet fever was gone. Naturally being a kid me and my best bud couldn’t wait to see the place and see what a “quarantine” looked like. I distinctly recall riding our bikes around the neighborhood until we find it. Sure enough there was some kind of sign on the front door. We just rode back and forth past it several times but kept our distance. Mom after all had made it sound pretty darn scary.

The real enchilada of disease scares was polio. For some reason our moms believed it was worst in the summer time and when kids were tired. Most of our moms made us come in during the heat of those Texas summers to nap and or rest for a while. I thought that was about the biggest bummer you could imagine. They had all those frightening shorts at the movie houses between films collecting money for the March of Dimes and showing the kids in those iron lungs. It scared me seeing those. Then bam–1954 if memory serves Dr. Salk and the vaccine. We got our vaccine shots at school. I have no idea who paid for those. The State I suppose. They lined us up class by class in the cafeteria for the shots. Of course the challenge was to be brave because it wan in injection with a big needle. The guys couldn’t flinch in front of the girls. That would not do. Some cratered anyway. It wasn’t terrible is my memory, I just looked away and felt that whammo sting.

I firmly believe that we will all get through this too. We might have to be a little braver than we like and there may be some pain but I guarantee there will be a next generation.

God Bless All, olcranky

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Its A Wonderful Life–1948.

This date was picked at random by our staff’s secret algorithm.  Nothing magic about it but it was as good a year as any and at least a year that this feeble brain can still recall with a modicum of clarity.

This was the front of our drought that lasted until 1957.  I can still recall the huge cracks in the ground everywhere.  They were in our yard the playgrounds and parks.  You could also discern the effects in the cotton field right behind our house.  We moved that year to  truly fancy digs on Savoy which was the southernmost street in Oak Cliff, a section of Dallas.  It was brand new and Dad bought it with a V A loan which was a new program started after the War as part of the GI bill.  It was a cookie cutter clapboard house with 2 bedrooms and one bath.  For reasons only known to the developer of that day, there was a fake hearth in the living room with a small mantle.  It was where we placed the gas heater with the false logs.  The whole house probably had at best 1000 square feet but we had an ample backyard.  There was no paved alley and behind the house was a large cotton field that ran all the way to Kiest park.  The crop was skimpy due to the drought and the ground parched.   Within a year the development began with more cookie cutter houses and the streets and side walks being poured.   These homes were a notch above ours because they were all brick and not clapboard.

I was 6 but not yet in school because I had a September birthday and had to wait another year.  Mom worked with me more than I wanted naturally on my colors, numbers, alphabet, shapes and I suppose a little reading.  There were that first Christmas no TV antennae in the neighborhood.  That started changing right away though.  With just three years or so it was unusual to see a house without an antenna but there were still some.  Radio was the major entertainment center of the day.   Saturday mornings in particular were special because they had all the kids shows.  Buster Brown was a favorite along with Archie and his friends.  Mom would let me sit by the radio after breakfast until about noon or close to it for all those programs.  Friday night early was also terrific.  You had the Green Hornet, the Inner Sanctum, when they didn’t think it was too scary for me, the Lone Ranger and all the others.   It required imagination and I suppose that was part of the allure of all of them.  You got to imagine that Western landscape the way that fit your own image of it which in turn was no doubt influenced by the Westerns you had seen at the theatres.There was no multi-screen theatre.  But there were local movie houses in just about ever commercial area of any size.

The nickel values of the time were many.  You could get a Coke for a nickel.  All the filing stations had those big red Coke machines that stood upright and many still had those that open from the top like a large freezer.  There was nothing like that really cold Coke on a hot summer day if you could get your mom to spring for the nickel.  You kids have probably never heard the expression “its your nickel”.  It meant you had paid the nickel for the phone call so start talking and don’t waster the money.  Yep, there were pay phones everywhere.  Sometimes just on a street corner if it was a commercial neighborhood and at churches, schools, parks, and almost every retail store had one.   One advantage of the pay phone was that you weren’t on a party line.   In 1948 we were still gripped with tight regulation of the phone service and getting a phone was a real hassle with the bureaucracy, Federal of course.  But it was allegedly for our own good, like it always is with Federal programs.  Typical wait times were several years to get a private line. I distinctly remember we wanted one in 48 but didn’t finally get one until about 1953 or 1954.  That was tall cotton living I can tell you.

You could ride the bus for a nickel and sometimes for only 2 cents, that was a Saturday only deal if I remember correctly. The adults had to pay 8 cents and a dime on weekdays.   That also included the street car which were still running in 48 on a regular basis.  I always preferred the street car because you could lean out the window a little and that was especially daring when you went over a bridge or viaduct because you couldn’t even see the tracks below and it was like flying through the air and was a big thrill.  Mars, Hersey and Babe Ruths were available for that nickel and these were the full size ones and the popcorn was there for a nickel.

Don’t remember what I got for Christmas that year but I do recall getting out my Lionel train set and playing with that and the awful white flocked Christmas tree mom wanted.  The train set was from a year or maybe two before.  It was really wow.  Must have cost mom and dad 10 bucks and was so heavy. It was made out of that old cast iron but had such great detail on the engine.

It was a hard year and a good year.  The good made it easier to not notice the difficulties especially if you are only 6 and not having to pay the bills.   We could have been rich maybe but it all worked out well with me.  Can’t complain and in fact was so very blessed with my childhood.  My parents were the best, can’t blame my faults and failures on them.  Thanks Lord as I try to attain only a portion of their goodness.

“Ho Ho Ho’,,,Santa Claus, everlasting  http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com



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Summertime, In The Good Old

When the air begins to hang heavy and the winds diminish, the Sun is unobscured by clouds and the heat hits you when you open the door my thoughts drift often back to those summer times of my youth.  School would be out and we kids had almost three full months of relatively free time for our moms to fill.  We are already pretty well acclimated to the heat by the end of May because the schools then had no air conditioning.   That’s right even in Texas we were expected to endure the horrible discomfort of being hot in class.  Each class had one large blow fan up front for the teacher and the front row or so.  The really nice teachers would sacrifice and not take any of the fan-borne breezes but would let all reach as many in the class as it could.   The windows would be open but that was not much help as all it did usually was let in more hot air unless there happened to be an actual breeze blowing hard.   Oh, we certainly were not allowed to wear shorts to school, applied to both boys and girls.   The guys were all in the standard uniform of the day, jeans and t-shirts, white.  The girls wore mostly sun dresses by late May.

No one then went to camp of any kind.  It was pretty much unheard of in the middle class neighborhoods.   We and our moms were expected to find our own entertainment and amusement for those long summer days.   For the majority of us the only organized activity during summer was Vacation Bible School which was usually in June before the heat became unbearable because not all the churches were air-conditioned either.  Yep, big fans again, even in the sanctuary.  the various churches would organize miniature parades around the neighborhoods honking horns as a way to promote VBS and the cars would be decorated.    VBS was ok for me when I was really small but by about 9 or 10 it began to be a real drag.  By that age boys are hard pressed to get much pleasure and excitement out of the arts and crafts we did there.   We were too energetic and sitting at the table pasting things together didn’t have much appeal any longer.

Today most of our moms would be considered derelict parents who endangered their children.  We would often be off in the neighborhood, actually outside, for hours at at time and under no adult supervision (other than the watchful eye of neighbors which was the unwritten rule of the moms).  We all had bikes but the difference then was that we truly used them everyday, all day, of hoofed to our play and activities.   We did most of our hard playing in the mornings and late afternoons and even after dinner (which was at 6) to avoid the worst of the heat.  After breakfast many days me and a couple of buddies would go the creek nearby. Normally the rule was I had to be home by lunch.  First we would powder ourselves all over our legs and arms with the powder sulfur mom kept on the front porch.   It would ward off the chiggers and the mosquitoes a little.  Those times were terrific.  We hunted for anything and everything.  Most of us had pocket knives  and envisioned ourselves a true Daniel Boones.   There were frogs, tadpoles, sometimes minnows or very small white fish and a complete assortment of fossils in the limestone rock that lined the creek bed.   I almost always  brought something home as a trophy of the exploration.   The times that were slower was when I had to take my little brother who was 4 years my junior.  A 7-year-old is a real drag to an 11-year-old especially when you know it is your fault if he gets hurt and comes home telling on you for being “mean”.    Poor guy he probably didn’t like himself and mom got him his own friends as much as she could.

Most days we would also go bike riding.  Yeah, just riding our bikes all around the neighborhood looking for whatever 11-year-old boys think is interesting.  Up and down the alleys looking for figs to pick even though I hated the taste of them.   When it is 103 outside you can burn up a lot of calories and energy riding a bike for a couple of hours.   We would have races and play a bike version of ice hockey in the streets with brooms an any kind of can or ball that came to hand.

Almost everyone had trees in their yards. I had a really big elm tree in my back yard.  A few days a week we would go out there and climb the tree and take our bb guns.  We would shoot at leaves, toy soldiers we sit on the ground, ant mounds and anything else that struck our eye.  We often played WWII using the bb guns as cannon or rifles, they were very versatile that way.  Even though the Korean War was on it didn’t have the magic or allure of the -War.  And the grownups sure didn’t view it the same way they did the War.  We could waste an entire afternoon in those trees but we loved it even though mom constantly told us to not climb higher than one particular limb but we did almost every time.

We would swim but then the swimming pools were pretty small affairs and located on almost every elementary playground.  The gym teach would earn extra money teaching swimming during the summer but there were also free times to swim.  It was free then.  Covered by school taxes.   Today I am sure it would be considered a liability hazard for the school system.   It was several blocks away and we walked or rode our bikes.  The moms didn’t take us and pick us up like would happen today.  For one thing almost no family was a two car family then.  It was relatively unusual for two cars per house then.  We had two but only because dad drove an old International Harvester pick up truck for work that he got to bring home.   Most dads took the family car to work in the morning and brought it home at night or the mom drove him to work and picked him up.

Just warming up to those days,,,,,maybe we’ll talk baseball, kick the can, bat catching and bow making another time.

My child hood was blessed with wonderful parents.  The lessons and underpinning of a good childhood by good parents are your strength in later life with challenged by the inevitable vicissitudes.  It is an endless well of restoring waters to draw from.  Count yourself fortunate if that was your experience.   God bless one and all.

“Think for yourselves  and let others enjoy the same privilege to do so too.”  Voltaire.  olcranky.wordpress.com




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Moving On

That title is certainly not to be confused with MoveOn.org.  This isn’t about politics but rather family and home.   After almost forty years of living in the same home the child bride and I moved in the last month or so.   You’ve no doubt heard that a move is one of the more difficult events in life to absorb and endure.  Of course age and time in location make a huge difference.  When we were young and more or less carefree we moved several times as is common with the youth.  When we were first married we moved into our one bedroom apartment near Stephens Park golf course and then moved within two years to another apartment that had two bedrooms so I would have one for my studies during law school.  After that in my last year of law school we moved when the bride was pregnant with our first child.

We were looking for a house because we anticipated my graduation and real employment as an attorney in short order.   Due to the impending birth and graduation we had to delay the actual home purchase a few months and so everything went into storage and we lived out of our suitcases for a while.  First for two months with my in-laws and then the last month before my daugout ohter’s birth with my folks.  Indeed we were there when she was born.  Not fun living out of the suitcases.  Then we immediately moved into our new house in Garland but that was followed almost immediately with my firing for asking for a 50 cent an hour raise.

So we packed up and moved again to Santa Fe as that was the only place I could find a job quickly and I needed one quickly; there were three mouths to feed.  We moved, I took the bar exam and picked out our rent house all in one week  and spent two of those days at the hospital with our daughter who had dehydrated terribly.  After six months in the provinces we moved back to civilization in Dallas and into another house in Garland.  Whew, we got to stay there for about two and half years and then moved to a really nice place that my Dad built for us.  Cost 21,000 which seemed huge at the time.   Stayed there for about three years until the last move to University Park where we remained until this spring.

All those early moves you note were when we were in our 20’s and young, healthy and full of ambition.  The moves were tiring but each felt like we were moving up and doing better for our family.  Those moves were merely tiring physically but there wasn’t any deep emotional bond to those locations.

By the time we got to University Park we had five of the kiddos and then the last was born there. That is the home they think of when they recall their childhood and it is where we have the memories of birthdays, Christmases and first days of school and neighborhood activities, our church life and all those thousands of sports events we attended.  That is where the kids all had their first crushes on someone and where we endured the lumps of life and also were blessed with the many joys a large rambunctious family brings.    I could drive home from work without even thinking about the route; it was ingrained in my brain.  That house was far more than shelter it was a hive of memories and emotions for both of us.  During forty years you can accumulate a lot of stuff.  Some is just truly junk but you have a memory associated with it and some came from family now in heaven and you can’t trash them.

The current move was very hard physically because there was so much to lift, pack, tote and re-position.  The hard part was the internal feeling of abandoning an old friend and finally having to make those choices about what had to be tossed even after you had given away as much as you could endure.    All those tossed items had been important at one time or another for an event or emotion associated with it or you wouldn’t have kept them in the first place.   I had the feeling of running out on a duty owed to that house because it had been so good to my family for decades.   It will be razed to make way for a new house.

So now it is time to begin making new memories and attachments. We’re in a nice neighborhood.  Everything in much newer here and for the most part everything works and I don’t have to constantly fix everything.  We are very fortunate that we are within driving distance to the kids still living in the area.   The yard will be nice; the little lady has already worked hard putting in our her flowers and garden to add color and we’ve planted a peach tree and the Red Maple comes next week.    Our loyal dog and I get to make our run/walk each morning along a creek bed and see the sights  and wildlife.  Now, the trick is to live long enough to build that new treasure chest of memories with family.  Some of the grandchildren might remember this as their grandparents home and I sure want to insure that they are given that opportunity and more importantly that they feel love and and a sense of joy when they are here.  It can never replace the old memories but if we do our part maybe it will be the reservoir of new memories, life the fresh blooms and leaves of new spring.

“When the state is corrupt then the laws are most multiplied”  Tacitus, Roman orator.  Ponder that as you contemplate our current Federal Registry and US Code and Statutes.  olcranky.wordpress.com

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Old/New World of Water

Today you can get bottled water in those coke size bottles just about everywhere.  They even have gallon and larger sizes at the grocery stores and the large private water companies delivery the 5 gallon size bottles to the water coolers at homes or offices around the country on a daily basis.   Indeed in many stores the variety and amount of bottled water almost equals that set aside for soda and fruit drinks.   People have been getting drinking water from private companies for centuries around the world and since the earliest days of our country.    The packaging and delivery and availability has changed a great deal in the last two decades but the basic delivery system and packaging is pretty much what it was almost 60 years ago.   Not long ago our kids got us one of those fancy Sodastream gizmos.  Filling it with the fizz brought back memories from a time long ago when I filled thousands of similar bottles with fizz.

As a teenager in 1955 I started working at a water plant owned by my uncle and where my dad was then the manager.  They had been in the business of delivering drinking water since 1898 throughout the Dallas area.  The early public water systems were slow to be built due to the expense and the quality of the water was variable.    I was too young to get the job legit but my dad agreed I could and I believe he thought it would be a good lesson in life for me to work each summer.  So that summer of ’55 I started much to mom’s chagrin, she thought it was too dangerous around that plant, trucks and equipment plus in her view the negative influence of those older working guys that were in fact a little rough around the edges.   I was so proud working at the same shop as my dad with the big men.   In fact in was very hot, exhausting work and definitely a little on the dangerous side with that equipment and the glass bottles.

The water was bottled into several different size.   Then they were all made of glass, not plastic and hence and additional element of danger from cuts when they broke which inevitably they would.  The basic standard was the 5 gal bottle.   By ’55 there were two kinds–one with a wide and smooth neck for a cork and the other kind with a slimmer neck and screw ruts at the top for a screw top cap to fit on.   We liked the old type best because they were easier to grip.  Your hand was always wet with water and sweat and lifting those bottles to load in the washer or onto the bottling machine after cleaning and then onto the pallets and the trucks.  Being able to grip the bottle tightly was best.  Those old bottles were corked and then we would put a paper cup over the top and tie it in place  with red twine to hold it there.   The screw caps were turned by hand and then a wet latex sleeve was put around the neck and when it dried it would shrink to seal the cap.   When you pick up and move 4 or 5 thousand of those bottles a day by hand those little things make a big difference.

The company made distilled water, indeed that was in the company name.  But it also sold demineralized water which went through a filtration system to purify it.  They sold ozone water.  Some folks and even doctors believed that drinking water laced with ozone was good for you health.  The shed that held that equipment smelled so strong.  If you have ever smelled the ozone in the air during a big thunderstorm you have the idea but this was much stronger.  Couldn’t stay in there too long.  Probably was a health hazard and today OSHA was explode.   And they even bottled and sold fresh mineral water which had a high sulfur content which again some folks thought was the bees knees for you health.  Stuff stunk to high heaven to me.  But every couple of weeks I got to drive the truck to Glen Rose to pick up about 5000 gallons of the stuff.  Driving that truck was like loafing compared to working on the bottling line and loading all those bottles.  The 5 gal. bottles with the glass included weighed near 40 lbs each and about 2 empty.

In those days lots of homes that had bars and of course restaurants and lounges had seltzer bottles with the fizz to fix cocktails.  They also sold those but that was a pretty small part of the business.  Every 3 weeks or so me and my cousin would be assigned to cleaning out the old seltzer bottles and re-filling them.  They were about a quart size and had a metal top with spigot and lever to release the fizzy water.  Of course being kids we would first find all the bottles that had a little steam left in them and squirt each other.  There was also some there.  Then we would take the clean bottles and fill them on a simple machine that had a special tray with restraint to hold the bottle with the top off then pull down a lever that was attached to the tank of co2.  Whoosh and it was filled right away.  Those bottles had special wooden crates that were used to deliver them to the bars and homes and held twelve each.  The machinery for these work was in a special shed that had great ventilation when the back and front doors were open so the work was much cooler than some of the other work and we loved doing that.  But we never did more than a few hundred at a time so it was quickly back to the grunt work on the big bottling line with the washer and bottling machine and all that lifting and toting.

So, Sodastream each time I use your device it does bring back memories of a 13 year old boy thinking that getting to fill a bottle with fizz was about as good as things could get on a hot July day in the mid-fifities.  I worked at that plant every summer for three years and then moved on to other work with my dad’s new business.

“In the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit.” Napoleon.  http://www.oclranky.wordpress.com


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2 Cents Worth On Life Its Ownself

The summer heat makes opinions and thoughts bubble up……let’s see if they are over cooked….

As you age you will notice more often that some old and useless items have an intense emotional value that exceeds all rendering.   In our breakfast nook there is a special built-in mail box, bulletin board, black board and mail box covering one wall.  We had it added special when we re-modeled over 30 years ago.  Then one of the kids used a wood burning tool and wrote everyone’s name above the mail box slots, even one for Mom and Dad.   Messages, congratulations, notices, team schedules and take out restaurants graced the bulletin board and the black board held comments from the ridiculous to the sublime over the years.  The mail boxes were for their letters and school papers and then there was the general small storage box right above each name for whatever small items they wanted to store there.   Toys, jewelry and birthday and Christmas cards have been there along with every other matter under the Sun.   It is merely a collection of cedar wood and nails.  It won’t go with us when we move.   It hasn’t been really used for years now because the youngest is 37 but no matter.   I will miss the family wall cabinet and mail box.  It reflected lives lived.

Here is the best compromise on the immigration debate–allow the illegal aliens to have permanent resident status but never citizenship.  If they really came here for work, money and opportunity then such move will allow that goal to be met.   Same with the kids.  Never citizenship.  We all have to suffer for bad decisions of our parents.  There is nothing special about illegal aliens to justify a more sympathetic attitude.

Another anniversary of the end of the active fighting on the Korean War.   Those poor guys had a rotten hand from the git go.  The first of the no-win wars.   In fact the spin doctors for Truman were active then and abetted by the compliant liberal press.  They insisted that it was in fact a “police action”.  Damned if the NYT and others of that ilk didn’t report it that way with a straight face.  Before the first year was done the front had moved back and forth several times and then settled down pretty much along the 38th parallel where it remained for over two long years before the cease fire that remains in place.   It would have been nice for the American people to know that Truman didn’t intend to do anything to achieve even a hint of victory.   He held up that facade of making an effort until he left in ’53 and then Ike mercifully put and end to it.

The guy in the White House makes a protest of “phony scandals”.   Such an old but still effective political and propaganda tool.  Simply re-label an event or transaction or program to your liking and if the press will report it that way–viola!, you have just diverted the attention of a sizable portion of the population that only follows reality shows and headlines but never dares look at facts to support their position whatever it may be.   Don’t take my word for it read the master of the art–Goebbels.   His diary should be required reading for journalists and marketing majors.   Most people rarely look beyond their own feet and the next step.   They wouldn’t see a mushroom cloud on the horizon until told to look out the window by CNN.

Anthony Weiner.   That is the lead up and the punch line.   Of course there is also the international implications of the situation.  I mean if Huma and Anthony can co-exist maybe there is hope for the Palestinians and the Israelis.   We should just make sure there a plenty of porn sites in operation across borders in that area.  Wouldn’t this be a truly new low even for New York if he were to win?  And if you know anything about New York politics that reaches down to some pretty subterranean depths.

Two young men demonstrated their ability to hack into the control systems of the modern cars last week.  They can make your car stop, accelerate, turn either direction or turn off the engine in addition to other minor nuisances.    With the proliferation of computer controls and electronics this should come as no shock but it is nevertheless very scary.  Apparently when the car manufacturers turned to computers and electronics they didn’t think about anyone hacking into the systems.  First they tell we’ll have driverless cars soon and now before that is ready to launch they inform us that some pimply-faced 18 year-old can grab my steering wheel from miles away.   Imagine the havoc a couple of those jerks could cause during afternoon rush hour in your town be controlling just a handful of cars on the major freeways.   On top of this latest concern we have to face the reality of the Government, boo, hiss, being able to track your every move in your car.   Hell, are cars going to be worth it soon?  Be lots of folks who will like the latest in the mechanical engineering but will be wanting to retrofit and take out the computer control systems and GPS signaling devices and those black boxes.    Naturally, such people who don’t want their cars tracked or controlled by others will be on a suspect list by the NSA as potential bad guys.   You’ll need a horse and buggy for privacy in the near future.

“That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath been; ”  Ecclesiastes, 3/15  http://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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Song And Memories Of Times Past

Here is a listing of some songs that surely bring your mind and your heart back to other times and places that have been burnished and dimmed with the mist of time.  You will have your own favorites of this variety but most of you when in that reflective mood of life’s journey will enjoy these.  They evoke happy and sad thoughts but good or ill though those memories may be they were in fact our walk in life.  Hopefully, your memories these bring to mind will be those that make you glad you where there when those remembered events came to pass.  There is no order of priority or worth; this is merely the musings of one man’s mind.

1. Can’t Stop Loving You–for all those who had their heart-broken at one time.  Those who won and kept their love can enjoy it also because of the relief for not having that heartache.

2. I’ll Be Seeing Y0u–this is broad enough to cover all sorts of relationships.  When you hear this it will recall those times with loved ones or close friends that touched your life.

3. The Way We Were–certainly not my favorite but many of the ladies seem to love it.  It is just too, well, Streisand, for my taste but  acknowledge it power to make one reminisce.

4. Softly and Tenderly–this old hymn will make you pause for sure.  The best rendition was by Maureen  O’Hara in Spencer’s Mountain.  It has that rhythm and soothing words that recall a simpler time for all.

5. Memories–again not my favorite but it will be for many.  You can almost fill in the blanks with about anything you want with this one–the birth of a child, the wedding, your child’s wedding and even those tender moments of childhood.

6.  That Old Gang Of Mine–a personal favorite of mine because it brings to mind all sorts of associations and friendships you formed during your lifetime.  The circle of relationships it recalls can be very close or more diffuse but still powerful.

7. The Night They Brought Old Dixie Down–even those north of the Mason-Dixon Line enjoy this one.  It conjures up images of a better time regardless of circumstances or tradition.  We all like our traditions and that is what this one is about and sacrificing for something besides ourselves.  Who would have thought Joan Baez would be the artist on this one?

8. Time Of Your Life–Whatever you did or hoped to do this one will bring back the memories of those failures and the successes in life.  It will comfort the hard memories and make you relish those times of peace and contentment.

9. The Things We Did–for all the lovers out there, young and old.   When your hair turns gray, as it will, this is the type of song you will relish even if you do it privately.  It is a bit saccharine but what the heck sometimes that is just what you are in the mood for.

10. Auld Ang Syne–you couldn’t have a listing of nostalgic songs without the supremo, numero uno song  of the category.  If you have a pulse you have to get a little mellow when this one is started.  The flood of memories and emotions will overwhelm even the most jaundiced heart.

The trick is to lead your life without regrets.  That means mostly being there for the others that you love.  Also remember that a dreamer is hopeless but a man without dreams is without hope.   http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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