Thursday, November 18, 2010

2nd Grade 1934-35

Next year we moved to a National Avenue Address, in St. Aloysius parish, to run a corner grocery store and even to to earn extra money by making salad dressing, and mayonnaise and relish in big urns [I think I still can smell the mix] in the basement, attach labels to the glass jars, and market the dressings around town, true family business. We now owned a Chevy delivery van, dark blue or black. Mother and Dad would pack us 3 children in the back of the van, no windows, and weekly drive to the theater to enjoy a family movie, not always for kids, on Friday evenings. We would return late at night and often daddy had to carry my limp body from the truck to my bed. Sometimes the movie would be so-o-o-o boring and it was late to boot. Like a Mae West movie for she was a popular star.
 Click or Copy and paste the above link
Elayne and I each recall living some distance from our parochial school, St. Aloysius. Some mornings were quite cold. My father had arranged for us to get rides from the willing bread delivery man. When the bread truck arrived we would hop aboard. He was huge of frame and we always felt very embarrassed jumping out from the truck in front of school while children were arriving for the day. Our own dad was sleek, and good looking. Kids might think this was our dad. I was in 2nd grade, Elayne in 3rd. Each Friday we were shown films from a projector in the auditorium. 
I alway recall Hunchback of Notre Dame
I had a special book which had the picture of a little child [boy] with blond, curly locks, who had climbed up on the altar to look into the tabernacle in search of the Child Jesus. Impressed me so I never forgot it. One day I attempted to walk home on my own. I had taken it upon myself to search out a new way home. Apparently I blocked out what happened for I know I was lost and have no clue how I was found. Each classroom desk seated 2 children. I recall some children had only lard sandwiches for lunch. Things were still pretty sad for families. No money.

There was a storeroom in the rear of the grocery store, behind our living quarters. We had these huge cast off, wooden refrigerators along the wall, unused. I don't think they were dangerous for there was plenty of open air. Though they had strong fasteners on the front doors, I think there were no backs. We loved climbing in and out of them as if animals in their cages in a zoo. Also, there was a wood, single car garage out back. We would climb onto it's roof where we'd  challenge each other to jump. Eventually, Elayne did and she suffered a badly sprained ankle. Two friends our age who lived up the street had a wonderful basement to play in. I recall one name, Oren Jacoby. They had a great playhouse in their basement.

Mother often told us how her mother had always had plenty of hired help when she was just a girl and she never learned even the basic household chores. She considered this quite a loss in her vocation as a mother, and wife. Mother would often be ironing as we came in from the school day.     click or  Copy and paste this link and hear her soap opera
She'd have the radio on listening to her serial programs, Backstage Wife followed by Stella Dallas.These were the days of weekly ironing of the family's clothing on Tuesdays. One day returning from school, as my mother had the iron standing upside on the board, I knocked it over, it falling onto my right arm. I received quite a burn. Mother hurriedly ran with me across the street to a drug store on the opposite corner for some balm to apply. My mother had a tendency to get panicky, [hysterical?] when things happened. Sore and scar remained some time on my right forearm.    

On Sundays our daddy would give us each a big hunk off the hard chocolate slab from the glass case in the grocery. [Similar to the chocolate we were given on the Sunday park days in New York] Tradition. Yummy. I recall one Sunday when we were in the store proper and witnessed my mother crying. Could it be when she found she was pregnant with her next child?Times were so hard. Operating the store too, was short-lived. Perhaps the tears were due to failing the store project. From the Dairy business we had long cardboard tubes of cardboard bottle caps left over. Stayed with this family many years as a reminder. Now we would have boxes of spices.
Aunt Alice, my Uncle Howie's wife,  put on a birthday party for cousin Alice in 1934 when young Alice turned 4 years old. I believe this was Elayne and my first and Billy, too, invitational birthday party, that is the kind with games and favors, balloons, young guests with presents. The Morris' youngest daughter, Karen, has the original picture taken by a photographer who came to the house. See the picture below. Though the young Morris' continued to live on 12th St. the Collins' and the Bergins' came visiting the relatives to celebrate the birthday.

Cousin Alice Morris 4, seated at the head of the table. At her left is Tommy Collins the other boy left is Billy Bergin, my brother. The girls are Aunt Alice'  2 niece. On Alice right is her sister Mary Morris in the high chair, next to her my sister Elayne 8,  MaryKay 7, Bergin. MaryAnn Collins is seated in the big chair. Other 2 children Alice' cousins not ours.

You will notice the woodwork in this home is painted light. Aunt Alice painted the wood to look more modern. Aunt Alice could do most any kind of physical work like this. She could work outside the home, waiting on tables or kitchen work. Always seemed to me Aunt Alice was energetic. She was brought up to participate in family chores whereas Florence and Cecile had servants for chores. Not a great way to learn. My mother would often say thanks to the Betty Crocker cookbook she was able to get along. That was a few years hence. She would say her younger sister, Gladys was more handy in the kitchen.

I am wondering if the 4 children in the picture are from the same family. I would notice when their Aunt Katz was visiting her sister, my Aunt Alice she'd be holding the baby to her breast and periodically the baby would slip off and I would see her bare bosom. I never witnessed this among the Morris family even though babies were born over a span of time in which I would certainly  have. I believe this baring of the breast was explained to us because Aunt Alice and family grew up on a farm in Iowa. The girls were not as sophisticated. That Uncle Howie met his bride at the 5 and 10 cent store. I have a hunch she also wasn't of Irish pedigree. That's just the way it was. We have grown out of such prejudice. We must forgive naivite. Aunt Alice's know-how was extremely valuable times when Uncle Howie spent periods of time in a santitarium dealing with TB recovery. He worked for The Milwaukee Sentinel and I believe Uncle Jimmy did also for a time. 

Uncle Jimmy had a great voice. He lived at home with our grandparents. When we visited we would often hear him crooning while shaving, dressing or just sitting down to read the paper. He was the favorite of the kids. He could sing and bar-tend also we were told.

Like no refrigeration in the kitchen, the bathrooms, too, were typical of that period. The tubs had claw feet, no showers. There was a tank on the wall above the toilet from which a long, strong chain hung down. To flush I would yank on that chain and gravity do the work.

Elayne, especially, loved the Sunday comics which were always available at the Grandparents. She would miss quite a few Sunday readings . When visiting she and I would trek down the cold back enclosed stairway to a small  room where all the papers would be neatly stacked. Of course, there would be 6 weekdays to every Sunday. The Sunday comics could be hidden. We had to rustle through the stacks to find them. I never heard anyone complain. We must have made messes. I know we did.
Car, tracks, electric pole to overhead wires [cancel palm tree]
Though Highland was an Avenue, 12th Street was a streetcar route. All day and into the night we'd hear the cars braking and starting up, clang, clanging and see the  electric flash on the lines above as they connected with their attached poles. This was primary transportation for all the people, our conveniently available transportation other than walking.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

1st Grade 1933-34

My daddy and grandaddy had a great deal of respect for each other. The relationships together were serene. I mentioned previously that my grandfather was like an entrepreneur today. He owned the entire corner real estate at 12th and Highland Avenue in Milwaukee, WI. The 2-flat at 1213 W. Highland was now where my grandparents lived in the downstairs flat and our William and Cecile Bergin family upstairs. There was another house directly on the corner, and one around the corner on 12th street where Uncle Howard and Aunt Alice Morris lived with their first 2 children, Alice Kay and Mary. To visit the younger Morris' we need only cross through the back yards. My Aunt Florence and Thomas Collins family were living in Oconomowoc, WI

I attended 1st grade at Gesu school. The school almost seemed like a part of the Marquette University campus. Elayne and I would leave our home on Highland Avenue and walk down 12th Street, cross under Wisconsin Avenue, the main street going through downtown.
We would pass through the university walkways. This was wonderful bustling territory with both young Jebbies and college students coming and going as we little tykes walked amongst them. I believe they were mostly males in thirties and forties other than female Nursing School students. The elementary school was right there amongst the colleges on 13th street.

My teacher was Sr. Jean Allen B.V.M. [Blessed Virgin Mary] Billy would be in her classroom for first grade, too. That’s jumping ahead in time. Remember the Cathedral Basic Readers series? Here I began with the primer. I read: Dick See Dick  See Dick run  Jane See Jane See Jane run- each phrase on a separate page.   Sister was seemingly a nice lady, at least I had previously always thought so. I know she was young and very pretty. But-- one day she was weary of talkers and threatened to put a strip of brown packaging tape on the mouth of the first child who talked. I was not a talker, but I did, and true to her word she slapped the sticky tape across my mouth which I had to keep over my lips when school was dismissed and all the way up the sidewalk, in public, from Michigan Avenue to Wisconsin Avenue-- a very traumatic experience. [Did I even think of removing the tape? Must have already known about venial sins and Hell and guilt]] Parochial schools called this discipline. Something changed inside of me from that moment on. A tunnel had been built beneath the busy Wisconsin Avenue for safe pedestrian crossing especially for the children. I don't know if the tunnel is there today or if open. Today we would consider it a danger for children to walk through it all alone. Then it was considered safe.

My sister and I took piano lessons. We would walk from the school to the nearby convent. Once inside it was truly mysterious, so quiet, so clean, spotless, with a glowing wooden floored hallway from which doors to the music rooms opened. I can still hear the piano notes as the little children had their lessons. It sounded like one finger piano. 'Robin in the cherry tree sing a pretty song to me'.

While we lived above the grandparents my mother owned a player piano. When parents played the piano rolls it was fun to watch keys move as if magically on their own and to listen to melodies. Kind of odd, really, for my own mother loved to play the piano. I suppose it could be played either way, huh?

In winter my brother Billy became very ill, pneumonia. There were a scary few days and nights for all as he was carefully nursed through the illness. No penicillin. I recall times here when we were to go somewhere how we kids had to wait and wait and wait until finally parents were ready to go. The lesson I learned from this was to tell my children where we were going shortly before departure. and save them that long, dull, boring wait.

Elayne and my bedroom had a door which opened onto the dining room which opened into the living room. My parents occasionally had company at night after we were sent to bed at 7:30. They had an audience, watching and listening in, giggle, giggle, for we would push our double bed up to this door, slightly opened and look over the top where we could watch the guests in the living room.

We had this set of little books to read with Red Riding Hood, Three Little Pigs, Gingerbread Boy. I had a very special book though not in the set, Raggedy Ann, my favorite. I will refer to this book later on. Uncle Tim’s kids are all aware of the few times I attended novenas in the evening with their father, my Uncle Tim Bergin. I think this was at St. Rose or St. John’s. These were very special evenings for me; like date with Uncle. I recall lying contentedly and sleepily on the oak pew beside him throughout the service. Apparently this was special for him too as he told the story from his memory, too, and repeatedly.

We often gathered together as extended family for a meal seated in the dining room in these red velvet high back chairs around the large dining table. I have this memory of my grandaddy standing at the table's head and speaking loudly with all of us attentive. My hunch is the two grandparents argued often. My mother dreaded the anxiety she would feel when they did. She made her decision not to have these loud discussions in her marriage. I believe she succeeded. The furniture in the living room was dark, also,  Craftsman style, couch,  chairs, etc. She'd be seated in one of the chairs.

Cousin Tom recalls- "I see her always sitting in the same chair on the south side of the living room on Highland—always sitting in state, like Queen Victoria.

My memory of my grandmother is walking with a cane and a limp. She had bright, twinkling eyes and a lovely Irish accent-- lots of ‘tis this and ‘tis that. In those days one with arthritis lived  a more confined existence. I often wondered if she ever attended Mass then. She had other physical problems, too. Adults would leave for Sunday Mass yet I don't remember her  leaving with them. Though physical attendance may have stopped when her son John, her eldest son died and they changed addresses.  There were holy pictures on her walls and she often   had rosary beads in her hands softly praying aloud.

 I was aware of these cotton cloths, about 8" x 12" which were washed clean and hung to dry on the clothesline in the back yard, again and again and again. They weren't dish towels. I thought this mysterious for there never was an explanation for us. When did Kotex enter the markets?
Elayne's special relationship

My granddaddy's had a special relationship with my sister. Yet I have my own special memory of my grandfather Morris showing sympathy for me. If and whenever I went down to Milwaukee City Hall to get my childhood shots I would come home deathly ill, vomiting, fever, etc. This one time I was showing my dread to such an extent that he made a deal with me, his granddaughter, the one who loved to roller-skate. He promised me he would purchase a pair of roller-skates for me if I would go down like a brave girl and get my shot. He delivered his side of the promise. I did get sick.
When the sisters would get together with their mama and papa, eventually they would get around to telling wonderful yarns about the Irish. “Did you hear the story about what  Paddy Donavan did after church this morning? Did you?” No I didn’t.” “Did you?” “Didn’t You?" And they would carry on and on with some yarn to which each could add on their 2 bits, all in Irish brogue. Was such a comical routine. We played lots of PACKED MY TRUNK TO IRELAND  with adults and children gathered together sitting around the room in those Morris chairs.

I made my First Holy Communion this year.
It was probably a distance of 4 or 5 blocks to the church door
Inside the doors I climbed many stairs to the upstairs church
 I felt like a big girl going off to Gesu by myself. I had this lovely, soft green Easter coat which I remember wearing proudly as I skipped  down 12th street by myself and climbed the many stairs into upper Gesu Church. There were classical choirs those days for the High Mass, especially in this University environment. The music was professional and particular. Many lit candles, added to the formality. Sunlight came through beautiful stained glass windows in every direction. One had to step up into a pew upstairs. I'd be surrounded by adults. I loved going there alone.

There was an entire church downstairs, too, and a memorable Pieta statue. When attending Mass downstairs, due to the many, many young Jesuits priests and brothers all about the campus, every 15 minutes or so one of these men would walk up to one of the many side altars with altar boy or boys trailing behind him. He would begin to 'say' his required daily Mass. There would be 3,4,5,Masses being celebrated so one could almost always be 'on time' for one.
Colorful Pieta downstairs where children usually attended

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Like a graduate of a University today, 2010,  daddy was hard put finding a job in his field after the ‘crash’ of ’29. We returned to Milwaukee, close to my mother’s parents, John and Katherine Morris, and aunts and uncles. We would visit the grandparents in their home now in Wauwatosa. Time passed. Dad tried a number of projects to support his young family. He opened a creamery with friends or university buddies as partners. The factory was on Michigan avenue, a block behind Brett’s Funeral Home on Wisconsin Avenue. Over the years we often attended a  wake at that Brett's Funeral Home with extended family and friends. 
Billy, MaryK, Elayne stand beside a delivery truck
They named the company  Country Creamery Crafts. Our home was across this alley [ see electric pole in picture above ] from the dairy in a 2 story Victorian frame home on  Michigan Avenue, 2023.
[left standing] William Bergin with Marquette buddies and friends
Margaret Sullivan, a  young Irish mom, lived next door in a similar 2 story home.We used to love to play with her young son, Paddy, in his backyard . Mother and her seemed such good friends. BUT, something happened sexually between Paddy and us girls. Show his and I'll show mine or such. At any rate the relationship ended abruptly. No one seemed to know how to traverse this happening. We were just told Paddy was a naughty boy and we were no longer allowed to play together. 
I attended kindergarten now at 18th Street School [my guess called Lincoln School today,PK thru 8] and loved being at school with the other children. I learned to tie my shoes and finished blanket stitching in orange yarn around the edge of my stuffed black, oilcloth cat. I was first to finish the project. I learned group games in the school yard like London Bridge and Go in and Out the Window. Was an opening into a whole new world for me. We had a show and the children had to wear soft, pastel, printed flannel pj's. Together we sang 'Sleepy Time Express'. I loved the plays. I still recall the words- “ We’re going to meet Jack, we are going to meet Jill. They live in a shack on pumpkin pie hill. It’s an all night trip on a pillowslip on the Sleepy time Express. All aboard. All Aboard for the Sleepy time Express.
That Christmas I received a lovely wardrobe doll in a suitcase with a few changes of very stylish clothes. I was disappointed, really, for I always wanted a baby doll like my sister's 'Sugar Bun'. [see photo of 'sugar bun' in blog [MORE CLIPS FROM BABY DAYS].  I had this brown, striped kitty with glass eyes, floppy body and straggly tail. Was well loved. Now a girl from my school, kindergarten class,  lived down the alley at the next street south from Michigan Avenue. Her family was extremely poor. I visited her a time during Christmas vacation and she had an old , old baby doll. I traded off my spanking new Christmas gift, the wardrobe and doll. Mother was extremely disappointed but would not retrieve the wardrobe doll from the little girl.

We had measles and mumps and whooping cough. We spooned up many bowls of Campbell's chicken noodle soup that year. Yes, the Campbell's Kids were advertisements everywhere in the thirties, magazines, newspapers, billboards. 
And I recall vomiting into a lovely cotton quilt and all the colors ran because colors weren't always colorfast in the 30's, for sure when splashed with acids. Whooping cough was awful.
  2 blocks south were some railroad tracks. 1st introduction to skinned knees from cinders between the ties when we stumbled. Amazing how much freedom we had. My sister, almost 2 years older and I would be exploring on our own. Living on Michigan Avenue across the alley from the company, the little trucks would come and go throughout the day. We ate lots of ice cream that year. Also, there were the small Omar Bakery trucks. Certain time of day we could cherish the heavenly smell of the fresh bread baking. Another familiar smell in the Milwaukee air is forever the smell of the breweries, outstanding and therefore memorable. The dairy business was not so long lived, however. Apparently it ceased to be profitable enough at least not sufficient income for 3 families.
My parents took time off to attend the Chicago World's Fair and returned with baubles to share with their children.

You may enjoy this link. It will take you to many additional Chicago World's Fair views--  Ex. latest design in Plymouth cars and the huge Radio Flyer wagon.

[Many years later, '54-5-6-7 I would be a mother of 3 then 4 children living just across the street from this famous World's Fair Midway, long stretch of east/west green parkway. We were living in Univ. of Chicago family housing [2-story army barracks] while my hubby attended university.] 

While my parents were away in Chicago  our sitter taught me to color nicely in the coloring books staying within the lines. I learned of orange trees for the 1st time, in my coloring book, never dreaming they would one day be every day reality for me living in the southwest.  I savored coloring in orange all those circles on the green trees with my crayolas.

I frequently saw my uncles, daddy's young brothers, my young uncles, Tim and [John] Mansfield Bergin. There was a time they slept in the upstairs front bedroom. Did my parents rent the room out to them? I don’t know--  Don't know if just a visit or short interlude. I was that sleepwalker I told you about that already and oh so many nights. I recall ending up in uncles' bedroom and not my parents' at least once. If truth be told what I liked most about sleepwalking was the visit to my parents bed. They would pick me up, hugs and kisses, and return me to my own bed. Then there were those times I stayed in bed with them 'til morning

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Mother's Family

Returning to Milwaukee gave us the opportunity to spend many happy days with both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. Of course there is so much history preceding 1931 regarding this family: Ireland, Minnesota, White Bear Lake, railroad, millenary, etc., etc.

I’ll begin with this photo my husband copied from the original when we visited my sister. He would prefer to have had the right equipment for a quality copy. I believe Elayne said this was prior to the wedding. I want you to see it and have it not forever lost.

John Morris and Kathryn Kirby
Katherine with Florence Marie 2 1/2
 and John  with John Kirby 6 mo.

My grandfather owned a number of properties. Reviewing a census 1910 and another 1920 I see he was proprietor of a grocery. Mother often said he was in the wholesale business. 1910 the family lived on Howell and in 1920 on Chestnut St. when Florence was 20.  He must have invested in property. There was question about the spelling of my grandmother’s name. On the census she is identified as Kathryn, with a K and a y. My name spelled the same and now my granddaughter Emily Kathryn.

John James Morris and brother Michael
with young John, Cecile, Florence, Gladys

He owned the Palace Theatre, downtown, Milwaukee. Mother often told me of the many times she would seat herself during practices right down front in the theatre where the organ was playing as the show went on, either vaudeville or film,  before the 'talkies', playing on stage. A very happy memory for her. Possibly inspired her to learn and play so many of the tunes 'by ear' on the piano. This talent passed down to my son Christopher Stewart.

Florence, Howard, Gladys, John, Grandmother, Grandfather, Cecile
Jimmy in front
could have been taken beside the home on Chestnut 
I wrote earlier of the Juneau house. Could the family have moved again in 1920-30. In the 1990’s I drove up Juneau Avenue in Milwaukee, checking it out and all the homes did have the many steps up to a porch. I think I need to look at another census. Well, I did look at the 1930 census and Uncle Jimmy is then 18 yrs. old. Uncle John died in 1932.

70th Street Wauwatosa

Sometime while they lived in this Wauwatosa home my Uncle John Morris, mother's big brother, the family's pride and joy, died, 1932. Sad time. Funeral took place from the Church on Bluemound Rd. My first memories attending Sunday Mass with all the family are of this white, wooden frame church.  Uncle John  was buried in Calvary Cemetery. I think he died of tuberculosis, so common a cause of death early in the century. Other Morris gravesites can be found in Calvary, our Grandparents, Great Auntie Mamie, Uncle Michael and his sons. After my grandparents died in the 1940s my mother and sister planted bridle wreath at the site. In the 1990s we found one growing there.