Friday, March 11, 2011

Hebron Meets Bergin Family 5/42

Spring of school year ‘41-’42 the family as the previous year retreated to the farm for the month of May, Elayne and I being dismissed from Senn High School and Jimmy and Billy from Our Lady of Lourdes. Jimmy and Billy finished the year at Burgett one room country school.
This time the move was permanent. It was during the month of May Elayne and I first visit the High School in the village of Hebron. We will finish out out my Freshman and her Sophomore  years here at Hebron High. It was a replay of my previous first day of school experiences. First day or two one is extremely popular. Boys and girls cluster about, wanting to hear one talk, introduce oneself, year in school, where one lives and all of that, look one over up and down and in and out. Similar to putting a new heifer in the cow yard. Wow look at the friends I have made. After curiosity and gossip is shared one is dropped, left out and the rest of the time it is up to me to wiggle my way into this society with its defining boundaries. 
Bruce Stewart 14 years old

One memory I do need to share from those first days took place in the school's broad hallway. I was dawdling with some of these  ‘friends’ before the windows on the first flight of stairs during lunch hour. There is this boy down on first floor, going I don’t know where, not up the staircase, yet still showing interest in me, the new student, and he's glancing my way.  Obviously I am aware  I have some interest in this kid who's looking up at me. This kid was destined to both upset me big time and thrill me through the next three years and at least one year beyond Hebron High School. He’s not a town kid. He’s a country kid. Name is Bruce Stewart, my age, my height 5' 4 1/2 ", and in my class along with 11 others. We are 14 years old.
Classes are so small. We will share together the same teachers, same study periods, same classmates, even chorus as the school's 2 Bruces always signed up for chorus. Since it is Springtime girls PE periods are way out in corner of the field near the highway where the backstop stands and bases are marked for our girl’s gym period. And I love playing baseball, especially pitching softball. Time and again I have this feeling someone is watching me or maybe all of us from out the school windows or perhaps hoping we are watched. And we PLAY BALL. I  am a lefty who bats right handed.
I meet our new teachers- Miss Tupper, Latin and History, Miss Herlon English, Mr. Tigard, Algebra and General Science also Superintendent. Mr. Higdon who teaches shorthand and typing and is principal. There is that music room where I join chorus and also will take up cello for a time. We eat our lunch in the Home Ec room, Home Ec not being in the school's curriculum, so space is not being used as a classroom. We will have hot soup sometimes by heating a pan of water and adding a dry mix.

1940s  somewhat similar to Gym in 2010

Basketball seems to have priority at this small high school. There is a nice gymnasium with ample seating for the townsfolk who follow the games religiously. Soon we will realize in this small town even after folks graduate they never quite leave their high school. I will use the gym for girl’s basketball games- never interscholastic nor even intrascholastics- just for great fun. Also, there is a stage where I will find it’s used for drama productions. The school year soon ends. Elayne and I have a good idea of what to look forward to in the years ahead of us before our graduation, she in 1944 and me in 1945.

Immediately following last day of school there’s a Memorial Day celebration at the American Legion Hall which Elayne and I ride into town on our bicycles to investigate, 2 miles. Reminds me about how those times my sister would be so proud of us being a mess, dressed in overalls, work gloves, old shoes, of being so ‘dirty’ from our work assignments and then we could get cleaned up afterwards so not a soul would recognize us as these same young women. There are ‘Free Shows’ Saturday nights in the Hebron Town Hall. Don’t believe we ever sat through one. Always knew they were there in town. Seldom participated. Saturday night was the night all the farmers came to town-- to gather, for the show, for groceries, for gossip. Daddy discouraged us. Once during the summer there would be a carnival in the grade school yard.
Most everything a family had need of could be found in the little town of Hebron. I recall a tiny filling station with one pump. There were 2 grocery stores, one a chain called Royal Blue run by the 2 Ruehlman brothers, another called Lopeman’s the family owners surname, as was Okeson Hardware,  Schaeffer’s Dry Goods, Merry’s Drug, a family restaurant, Borden Milk Plant, Lumber Yard, Joe, the Barber, 3 churches, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, a cemetery, a Doctor Doc Bailey, a Dentist Dr. Mead.
Bakkom's International Harvestor Co.

Hawley's John Deere Implement Co.

There was a great deal of competition in this town beyond basketball games. This was among farmers and even family members who chose one implement over the other much like Ford/Chevy controversy.  Bakkom’s International Harvester and Hawley's John Deere.  The town in the 40s had a population of 650, all caucasian.

To shop meant to ask the grocer for any items we wanted from our grocery list. He would find them on the shelves behind the counter and place them one by one before us on the counter. Then he would tally them up on his cash register, weighing out what needed weighing and put the items in a bag or box. Very slow by todays standards. Usually required waiting in line. Grocer and shopper came to know each other. We never bought ground beef. We always asked at the butcher counter for chuck beef ground and await it put through the meat grinder. My dad wanted to be sure what was in the ground meat. And someone stocked the Royal Blue with fresh, homemade bread. They sold it in these 16” loaves a lot like french bread though soft crust, loaves baked alongside each other on a flat baking pan so clumps of dough clung together. Waiting for mother after school, once the semester began with that fresh bread smell in our car I would often tear off pieces from the side where the loaves clung together while baking. Yum! Patience was never my virtue. The proprietors of the dry goods, drug store, hardware operated same as the grocery. We'd have milk and graham crackers on return home.
Dr. Mead was my savior. Mother and dad saw to it that our teeth were always taken care of. In Milwaukee it was at Marquette Dental School, in Chicago we’d have our appointments with Dr. Schoen, from Marquette. She took us for our appointments in Hebron to Dr. Mead. This must have been the year we bought the farm. His office was up a stairway above the grocery store. When he saw that tooth I broke on that one fateful school holiday he assured my mother he could fix me ‘good as new’. Which he did by removing my tooth which Dr. Schoen had capped in ugly silver and replacing it with a false nice pearly white pin tooth, a complete match with my other front tooth. My shame was ended forever. I wouldn’t need to hide and I could smile broadly once again. Sometimes I heard derogatory remarks about Mead. I respected him.

Brother adds: "Keep up the good account - it's just thrilling to relive all that adventure/intrigue. How about Mother's frequent trips with the old Dodge, breaking down bit by bit (fenders etc.) to Royal Blue; Ernie Kraft's Feed store for those patterned feed sacks [women made family clothing from these sacks]of chicken feed supplement. They just threw them on the front fenders for transport to the farm." 

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