Tag Archives: school days

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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Some Things I Miss

We have many marvelous gadgets, tools and devices these days to make our lives easier and I enjoy having most of them.  We have changed the way we do business in our personal lives and in industry.  I suppose many of those changes are useful but I am not so sure.   They in theory make our work more efficient and that is true is some instances but might be an impediment in others.  Socially the changes are quite large over the last 60 years and regarding those I have serious doubts as to their social effacacy.  I am not sure we are a better society for the alleged improvements due to social engineering and the brute force of political correctiness.  There are some things from the past that I feel strongly about.  Some gadgets, processes and systems were better then than the replacements that have evolved.  Below I list some of those I miss. 

1. The old school savings account–When I was a child you could save money in your own savings account at a bank at school.  Many of us did that.  You could save literally a nickel or dime or dollar every week in school.  It was a regular part of the home room period.  The amounts were small but it gave a sense of responsibility to the kids.  After a couple of years those nickels and dimes added up to 20 bucks or whatever.  The teacher would help you do the deposit each week.  Wish we still did that.  I wonder if any school districts still have that program?

2. The Series E savings bond–There was a time when you could buy these bonds issued by the Government.  They paid a low rate of return but they were solid and could come in various time frames.  You could get a one year, 5 year or 10 year bond.   They may have had even more of them than that.  They were advertised on the radio, TV, at school and in the papers.  You could buy them at any bank and I believe they were even sold at the post office.  Many a kid got a $10.00 savings bond from old aunt Milly as a birthday gift; they were also popular as a graduation gift from High School.  The Government got the use of the money and the kids learned to delay gratification for a while.  Not a bad thing to learn.   Today everyone seems to think they are entitled to instant gratification for anything they want.

3. The standard 30 year mortgage–You got a loan to buy your house after putting up 15 to 20 per cent down and then that same savings and loan held your mortgage till maturity.  It wasn’t repackaged and sold.  That same s/l also serviced the loan.  They were who you did business with until the mortgage was paid off.  It made them pick good customers and was a very stable if not glamorous industry. 

4.  School leaders–I loved it when the teacher was the boss.  She might be wrong sometimes and overbearing but more often than not she was right and did a pretty good job educating you if you did your part.  They darn sure weren’t glorified babysitters.  They had real authority in the classroom.   If the teacher was the boss, then the principal was God himself.  He ruled the school with an iron fist and had almost total control like the Captain of a ship at sea.   Again, they might have messed up on occasion but not very often.  That authority made us toe the line which is not a bad thing for kids to have to do.   Lots of life is about toeing the line.   Kids were safe at school and you had an education provided and you learned something about authority and how to “play nice” or else you paid the price.

5. Two mail deliveries a day–During my childhood we had a morning delivery of mail then another in the afternoon.  This was true for private residences and businesses.  You could communicate with another business on a same day delivery if the addressee was in your city.  My memory is they stopped doing this in the early ’60’s.  Of course the postmen were much more efficient then.

6. Two daily newspapers–There was a time when every major city and even many mid size cities had at least two major daily newspapers.  Usually one would be a morning paper and the other an evening paper.  Now it appears that newspapers are quickly becoming a thing of the past.  So many are already in bankruptcy or in severe financial straits.  I liked having my morning paper, then coming home in the evening to see what the latest news was. 

7. Latin–There was a time when that was the foreign language requirement in most schools.  Some would take Spanish but they were the same guys taking metal and wood shop classes.  If you were on a college prep course then latin was the language you took.  It is great mental exercise and a great way to develop an understanding of Western culture.  Plus it was very useful in learning English and grammar.

8. Posted grades–Today I know lots of folks would faint at the idea of their grades being posted outside the class room for all the world to see.  In our politically correct world it would be anathema.   It might hurt some one’s self esteem.  When I was in college and law school it was de riguer.  Our grades were posted with the exact numerical grade.  Not only that but you would be ranked with you classmates.  If you were at the bottom of the barrel, it was right there for all  the world to see.  In our modern pass/fail world it must seem barbaric to actually let everyone know how you are doing in school.  But facts are facts, you rate where you rate.  It is a competitive world, or at least I think it should be, and truth of your performance is vital information for future employers.

Many may think these are ramblings inspired by nostalgia and maybe some are but I ask you to think about whether some of these old things are an improvement over the “advances” of the last 60 years.

“The first destroyer of the liberties of a people is he who first gave them b0unties and largesses”.  Plutarch.  With our current political envoirnment and the grotesque growth and reach of our Government, I urge you to ponder that quote from a man smarter than you or me.

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Firsts–first car

There are many events in life that will remain in your memory because it was a first for you.  We’ll explore some of those special times and moments from time to time here.   Naturally, I can’t speak with any authority about what “firsts” are most memorable to our disstaff lovelies.   But I might try sometime for that too, after all I am not too shy about offering an opinion on just about anything and everything, regardless of my knowledge level many would maintain.

When I was thirteen I was in the 7th grade and in junior high school.  I had been playing football and all the usual things early teens do.  One thing was a bit different though, I got to drive the family car all alone in the local neighbor.  My mom started off letting me go to the local 7-11 and drugstore to pick up items for her so she didn’t have to make the drive.  I did other such errands for her around the neighborhood.  It was all quite illegal.  The driving age for a license was 16.   In defense of mom and me, I would add that I was very mature for my age both physically and even more importantly on an emotional and behavoir basis.   I wasn’t a wild child and mom knew I would do exactly like she told me to.  I always went only where she said and never dilly daddled around and got back home.  Of course I liked  it if one of my friends happened to see me driving around.

Anyway, that summer I worked at the water bottling plant where my dad was the manager.  This was where the big 5 gallon jugs were filled for delivery to homes and offices.  This was long before bottled drinking water became common and ubiquitous.  I earned a few hundred dollars that summer.  Without me knowing it may dad took the money and got me a car.  He knew I wanted one.   I didn’t think there was a chance that I would actually get one but had my hopes.  I came home one afternoon and there it was–a 1946 Ford convertible.  It was painted black and had some wear and tear marks all over the body and a few dings here and there.  I loved it.   Dad told me right away that I had to clean it up and fix it up.  We parked in out back where the driveway ran to the detached garage, that was the common arrangement at the time.  He had brought home with him a sander to work on the paint so we could have a new coat of paint applied.  He wanted me to do as much of the work as I could.  He showed me the sander and told me to sand the entire car.  I didn’t mind the work at all.  So the next morning I got up and started the sanding job.  It turned out to be lots harder than I ever imagined.  There were at least three layers of paint under the top coat.  I was sanding it down to the metal.  That was how I thought you were supposed to do it.  The fact is it took me all day and I had only finished a door and one fender when dad came home.  But the metal shined bright as a mirror.  I was most pleased with me toils. 

I told him I had worked all day but it was taking longer than I thought it would.  Dad thought I would finish easily in one day with time to spare.  We went out back to the car.  Dad was flabbergasted.  I didn’t know what was wrong.   He asked me why in hell I had taken all the paint off down to the metal.  I said that I was sanding it like he wanted me to.   He explained to lame brain here that I only needed to smooth out and rough up a little the top coat of paint.  I only had to move the sander over it with a few strokes in each area.   He showed me what I was supposed to have done.   In fact I had made things worse because now we would need to add a primer coat to the raw metal I had exposed.   Dad finally laughed about it.  I felt like a complete nitwit.  I was just trying to show dad how hard I could work.  I had no idea that the sanding was merely a light rub with the machine.   We did get it primed.  Dad showed me exactly how this time.  Then a new paint job–light gold.  It was a jewel. 

So the next week school started anew.  I was in the 8th grade now and driving my own car to school.   The only 8th grader to do so.  It was about two miles from home to the school.   With the top down, I was the king of the walk.  Of course it did have mechanical problems.  My best buddy lived down the street from me and he rode with me every day.  The starter didn’t do very well and I would have to pop the clutch usually to get it to started.  David pushed on more than one occasion to get her fired up.  At school I would park on a hill and let the car roll down  a bit and then pop the clutch.   We could lift the hood and jiggle it to start but that was always hit or miss.    I loved that car.  Had it a couple of years.  When I was a sophmore I moved up to a 1949 maroon buick.  One of those old ones that was shaped like a giant beetle and weighed as much as your average elephant.

There is a pretty simple cure for those sticky lightbulbs when you try to remove them.  I have had them snap off at the metal screw on more than one occasion and you probably have too.   Next time before you put the new bulb in take a bar of soap and rub it over the metal screw cap on the end of the bulb.  You will rewarded when it comes time to remove it after it burns out.   It was unscrew easily and none of that grit and scary squeak sounds

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