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.
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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.

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