Saturday, October 23, 2010


While Billy is yet a baby my father found employment in New York, 1930-31

I don't know if this were a transfer or a new employer.

Our family moved to this home in Minneola, NY. 

I learned to talk in NY and my parents said I spoke with a Brooklyn or Bronx accent.

 I have many 2 and 3 year old memories of our life in NY. I recall the smell of the fish markets the times when Elayne and I had long waits in the car while mother and dad, with Billy, visited the doctor. I know he had at least one operation early on. He had a scar on the back of his head. 
I remember men in tall, stovepipe, hats walking up the main steps to a large, probably government building . 
For a long time I thought a gorilla had escaped from the zoo. Each time we drove downtown, which was often, I would look to the tops of the buildings, fearfully, expecting to catch sight of this gorilla. Many years later I figured out that the family had gone to the movies and seen KingKong.  To a 2.5 year old the gorilla on the screen would be real. I checked with my sister and she says, "One night search lights lit up the sky. A gorilla was said to have escaped from the zoo." 
There were musical carousels which drove through the Jackson Heights neighborhood, probably adjacent to Minneola something like the Good Humor man we came to know of later on. They had music playing and children could get rides. 

Elayne and I owned a children’s book which had a drawing of 2 clowns standing on their heads with their tongues hanging out and touching each other. We tried many times without success to copy that pose. 
The two girls lived next door pose with Elayne and MaryKay
We considered a big treat to be a full slice of bread covered completely with grape jam so not a speck of bread showed through. 
I know we visited Niagra Falls. I recall walking along beside the Falls and being frightened with the roar of the waters on one side and no railing on the other. My father often took us on Sunday drives to the ocean. He would drive out on a point overlooking the water. I always feared he would drive too far and the car might drop into the water for I could see no fence or abutment. These incidents were where I actually developed somewhat of a dislike for water. My sister says his parking also frightened her.
My mother had often hired black women to help with chores. We had this large, round black woman come time to time to watch us while mother and daddy went out for an evening. One night this woman told my mother that I had walked out of my bedroom, to where she was seated in a chair, climbed up in her lap exchanging hugs and  kisses, after which I was returned to my bed. I occasionally did this with my parents and didn't realize anything was different. I was a sleepwalker.   Today this wouldn’t even rate as a story. In twenties and thirties this was a special story to be told again and again in visiting company for racial prejudice was rampant. If we were tempted to put copper pennies in our mouths we were cautioned with, "Those pennies could have been in the hands of a nigger". Our grandson Timmy Stewart was a sleepwalker, too.

Our small family would frequently spend Sundays visiting a park.  A very special treat would be the chocolate bars we were given.   
When out for Sunday drives I would longingly look at the swings as we passed by parks hoping daddy would stop the car. Sometimes he did and sometimes I was so sad because he didn't.
The Crash, the Great Depression of October 29, 1929 started around September 3, known as Black Tuesday, with the fall of stock market prices. Eventually my daddy’s [name we called our father], employment in New York, at Durkee Famous Foods was affected. 

 The day came when the plant, lab, and offices closed. I can still recall the  moments when we drove up to a closed chain link double gate with a lock on it. Elayne and I discussed at that time, as we clung with fingers to the fence, the closing of the banks and how the pennies we had saved were gone forever; at so young an age no doubt we were picking up on the panicky feelings round about us. 

Job to support the family now ended, mother and daddy packed up our belongings and we drove back to Milwaukee. On route we had a memorable experience. There was a trunk rack on the rear of our car. My daddy had strapped some large items to take with us on the trip back. One strap loosened or broke. He stopped the car immediately aware something fell onto the highway. All five of us piled out to look. I presume roads were not as dangerous without traffic roaring past. Mother's typewriter had dropped and keys lay scattered all about the highway. Never before thought of it this way but our parents must have been devastated with this additional happening. I know typewriter was very important to my mother. Perhaps comparable to dropping a computer onto concrete?

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I could feel some of the things you are talking about. Like the typewriter! {"Perhaps comparable to dropping a computer onto concrete?"}
    It makes a difference when you put the writing with photos all together and then on line. It's like publishing a book. Each little snippet reads like their could be more! Your good!


I welcome your comments on my blog. Comments are moderated and I reserve the right to delete or edit comments as necessary.