Saturday, December 5, 2009

Chapter Four


Chapter Four
Cherokee And Rosedale
The elementary school we attended was called Rosedale and I attended there from Kindergarten through part of the fifth grade. In the 40s grade levels were identified as grade 5 b and 5 a. After I was hit by the car, I missed a half of year of school, so I was what they called a mid-term student. This meant that while other students ended the fifth grade at the end of May identified as being in 5 a, I was ending 5 b. My mother had decided that it would good if she kept Dave out of school to be at home with me as I recovered. So he was also a mid-term student.
During my years at Rosedale several things happened, but two events stand out that were potentially life-change for me. One had to do with a test the school wanted me to take. Everybody probably has a story about how they were misunderstood in school. I’m no exception. As good as our mother was in so many ways, she did have some peculiar ideas that bordered on eccentric. She never wanted her children to stand out for any reason—good or bad. If anything happened that might put us in the spotlight, she was uncomfortable and even somewhat suspicious. So when the teacher sent a note home with me, asking my mother’s permission for me to take special test, my mother automatically assumed that the teacher was saying that I was dumb. Because of this, she refused to give her permission. Unfortunately, from that day forward, I was convinced that I was not as smart as the other kids which gave me a “why try” attitude. It wasn’t until I was in college that I finally found out that the teacher wanted to test me because she thought I might need to be in an accelerated program at school. Naturally I can’t help but wonder if I would have been a better student if my mother had told me sooner.
On another occasion, Rosedale had a talent show and I decided to tryout. By the time I reached the fourth grade, I found that I could make people laugh by imitating certain sounds with my mouth—cars, animals, airplanes, etc. So I thought this might fit in a talent show. However, when I tried out the teacher in charge wasn’t impressed. But, instead of simply telling me no, she said she wanted more singers in her show and asked if I knew a song I could sing. My dad sang and played the guitar, and one of the songs he sang was called “Old Shep,” a very sad song and I had listened to him enough that I was able to remember all the words. So I sang that song for the tryouts, convinced that I was wasting my time. To my surprise she put me in the show. I honestly couldn’t believe that anyone would be entertained by listening to me sing.
On the night of show, several of our neighbors attended. Because of the sadness in the song, several of the little girls cried which made my act a little more noticeable that the others. For a few weeks I was a semi-celebrity. It didn’t last very long because popularity was based on the sadness of the lyrics. However, a couple of days after the show, one of our neighbors came to our house to ask my parents if they would let her be my agent, to have me sing at different events around town. I honestly have no idea what would have been involved, but it didn’t matter because my parents said no. It is interesting that I don’t remember being very disappointed, but I still wonder what it might have led to. I am thankful that my parents were wise enough to decide against it. It wasn’t until many years later that I had a short-lived stint in show business.
Another thing I remember about Rosedale was my friendship with a girl named Floy Dean Ragsdale. She died of leukemia when I was in the fifth grade. This was my first experience with the death of someone I had spent a lot of time with. It was also the first time I realized that death wasn’t just something that happened to old people. I handled it by pretending it wasn’t true, by not thinking about it.
In those years, the extent of our involvement in sports was finding a vacant lot, choosing up sides and playing ball—mostly softball and baseball. Sometimes we did play touch football, but we usually played that in the street. I’m not sure why we didn’t play it in a vacant lot. Of course, the game was interrupted from time to time when cars would come down Cherokee Street. One street over, toward Broadway was Bannock Street. So, when a car would interfere with our game we would yell at them as they passed by, “What’s the matter with Bannock?” We were too young to be reasonable.
One of the vacant lots was right next door to us. It wasn’t very big, but it was big enough for a soft ball game of workup. I don’t know if the majority of people today know what the rules of workup are. It was best if you had enough people to cover all of the positions and have two or three people as batters. A batter could stay in that position unless they were struck out, put out at a base or was left on a base with no one to bat him in. When the batter was put out then the one who had been playing catcher would move up to be a batter and the one who was playing pitcher would become the catcher—thus the name, workup. Another way that a batter could be put out was if someone caught his fly ball. Then the batter would change places with the one who caught the ball. This was a faster way for someone out in the field to get up to bat.
Two games of workup stand out more than the others. I was playing center field, which was usually a boring position in most workup games. So, to keep from getting bored, I had a big/little book to read when things were slow in the outfield. Since they don’t have big-little books today I guess I had better describe them. The contents were the same as comic books but instead of a magazine format, these were like small books—thus the name, big/little books. As I am trying to describe these books I know that most people are probably thinking, “What?”
Anyway, on this particular occasion I was out in center field reading my big/little book. The batter hit a high fly ball and as I was reading the ball came straight down, hitting me on top of the head. I was afraid the other players would be upset with me, but they were too busy laughing for them to be upset. On another occasion it was my sister who got the laughs. She was pitching and the batter hit a line drive directly into her stomach. It knocked the breath out of her and as the air was leaving her lungs, the sound she made was like, “uhhhhh, daddeeeee!”
During the months I was recovering from my fractured skull, the doctor told my mother that I needed to be very careful not to get a hard hit to my head. It seems the concussion had caused some kind of fluid to build up near my brain and a hard blow could have caused that fluid to do possible brain damage. A few months after the accident Dave and I were walking down Bannock street about a block from our house when a neighbor decided to be a bully and since I was the smallest, I was his target. He shoved me causing me to lose my balance and I slammed my head against a cement wall in front of a neighbor’s lawn. This is the only time I ever saw Dave hit somebody in anger. The blow to my head probably wasn’t hard enough to do any damage, but Dave didn’t know that, and even though I know it sounds like an exaggeration, Dave hit the bully hard enough under the chin that it actually lifted his feet off the ground. I know some people still wonder if I did end up with some kind of brain damage. If I did, it wasn’t from this occasion. The only result was that the bully backed off and never bothered us again. Having witnessed what Dave had done to him, I can’t say I blame him. This wasn’t the only time one of my brothers came to my rescue.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Chapter Three Part Three - Streetcars & Teddy and Other Relatives

I think it was about that time I lost Teddy. I don’t remember when he came into my life or who gave him to me. But, for a while, he became more important that my imaginary friend Johnny. Teddy’s fur was supposed to be white, but it didn’t take long for him to turn a dirty grey when I carried him around everywhere I went. Even though he was a stuffed toy teddy bear, I remember thinking of him as being just as real as any of our other animals.
I have vivid memories of the times when my mother decided that Teddy needed to be white again. After surviving the washing machine, he would end up hanging by one ear on the clothesline. During those times I would spend several hours checking to see if he was dry yet, so that I could take him back into my life again
Eventually, he didn’t survive another washing and he ended up as several pieces of fuzz. Looking in retrospect, I remember that everyone in my family shared in my sadness, not because Teddy was important to them but because I was important to them.
World War II brought many things to our lives. We learned what rationing was. Sugar, gasoline, chewing gum (?), and rubber, are just some of the things I remember. There were some things we couldn’t get at all, such as bananas. I still have no idea why gun was scarce during that time.
The war also introduced me to patriotism. Everywhere we went we were bombarded with the importance of being patriotic. It was in the movies we saw, the radio programs we heard and even in our comic books. It was all around us and it was exciting. It affected me so much that, even today, my emotions are stirred when I hear the national anthem.
By the end of the first year of the war we had learned to hate three countries—Japan, Germany and Italy. The Icons for these countries were Tojo, Hitler and Mussolini. We even had a dart game with pictures of these men as targets. To hit Hitler gave us 100 points, 75 points if we hit Tojo and 50 point when we hit Mussolini. Unfortunately, some of this propaganda resulted in some ugly things. Japanese Americans were sent to camps in the name of national defense. These were people who had been born in our country and yet, they were rounded up and even had some of their property confiscated—the ugliness of politics and propaganda. I guess you could say it was like a government-sponsored racism.
One good thing that came about in those years was the unity it brought to our country. It not affected the country and the individual states, each neighborhood worked together, and just about every individual found a way to serve even to the point of sacrifice. At school we had scrap metal drives, paper drives, rubber tires and drives for every kind of vital material. To explain what these were, students in each grade at school would go from door to door collecting all these materials and then take them to the school. I guess I could look it up, but I don’t really know why paper drives were so important. To make it interesting, every school was in competition with the other schools and we were as excited about this as were when we competed in sports.
Before the war, just about every child could identify every car on the road with few exceptions. Of course, back then the majority of those were either Ford’s or Chevrolets with a few Buicks, Chryslers thrown in, and every one of them looked different. Not only could we identify the make of the car but also the year it was made. Then, as the months went by into the war, we were also able to identify the airplanes that flew over. Anybody could identify Lockheed P 38 Lighting with its twin booms and the cockpit between them. The Curtis P 40 was known by several names: as Warhawk, Tomahawk, Kittyhawk but probably best known as the Flying Tiger. Then there was the P 51, Mustang also known as the Thunderbolt. We could also identify the bombers, like the B 17 Flying Fortress, the B 24, the Liberator, and later, the B 25 Mitchell, and the B 29 Super Fortress which replaced the B 17. We knew them all.
I have other memories of Ford and Chevrolets. They were the cause of many arguments between my mother’s two brothers. Uncle Neville never owned anything other than a Ford in his lifetime. Uncle Dave was loyal to Chevys during my younger years. He eventually went to Buicks and finally to Chryslers. Every time our family would get together and that gathering included my two uncles, they would find something to argue about. Most of the time it was about cars, but sometimes it would be about things like trade unions. Being in construction, Uncle Dave was a union man and Uncle Neville was not.
The loyalties to Ford and Chevy spilled over into the world of kids. You were either a Ford man or a Chevy man. I’m not sure where it came from, but a popular put down was, “A Ford is nothing but a tin can with cardboard wheels.” Then, of course, there was the old standby that would be said to Chevy owners. “The reason they are called a Chevy is because they shiver all over the street and lay in the garage.” This was funny back in the 40s.
There was another member in my mother’s family. My grandmother had married a man name Walker and they had a son name Hugh. I’m not sure, but my grandmother divorced this man and married my grandfather, Charles Colglazier. They had four children and Hugh was their half brother.
Uncle Hugh caused me to believe that every family probably had a family member who was strange—the black sheep. By the time I met him, he had already established a family in Oregon, abandoned them, moved back to Colorado and married another lady name Neva. In all fairness, I need to include some of the details that brought him to this point.
When he was in Oregon he was working as a lumberjack. There was some kind of an accident and he ended up with a broken back. Unfortunately, this disability caused him to lost his ambition. While recovering he was being paid full compensation, not having to work at all. He got accustomed to getting something for nothing and, even after the compensation ended, he never made any real effort to hold a job for very long. I never found out how it happened, but Neva was slow, with an IQ of someone in elementary school.
Uncle Hugh and Aunt Neva didn’t come around very often, but when she did visit us, she always showed up unannounced, riding her bicycle to our house. Even though cleanliness was not very important to them, my mother always treated them well. Sometimes if was very difficult to be patient, especially with Neva, but my mother was always tolerant with her. My mother would never fail to ask Neva if she had eaten and Neva was always hungry.
In those years, it was not unusually for tramps to come by and ask for something to eat. We didn’t call them tramps to be unkind. They were not called “homeless.” They were either known as tramps, hobos or bums. These were the men who rode the rails—sneaking on to freight trains to hitch a ride from city to city. My mother never failed to feed these men. She would tell them to go around to the back door and a few minutes later she would come out with a plate full of food. I grew up thinking that this was something everyone did.
Since my parents didn’t own a car, streetcars were an important part of our lives. I find it interesting that I don’t remember the first time I was allowed to ride a streetcar by myself. I’m sure I couldn’t have been more than 8-years-old. Since we only lived three blocks from Broadway, it only took a few minutes to catch a number 3 that ran down Broadway from Hampden in Englewood, a suburb south of Denver and then to the middle of downtown. Of course we could transfer to a number 5 at Broadway and Alameda and it would take us to University Boulevard near Louisiana. A number 6 would go east from Broadway on 6th Avenue, but I don’t remember where it turned around. Number 14 ran from the middle of downtown, straight east on Colfax, turning around a few blocks from Aurora, a suburb of Denver. Of course there other routes that went to other parts of the city, but I don’t remember their numbers.
Like most families, we have stories that we have told over and over again. More than one of these was when Dave and I were going to take a streetcar somewhere. We used the number 3 streetcar more than any of the others since it covered most of Broadway from one end to the other.
Sometimes you could find a place to sit and sometimes you had to stand. Of course, back in those days, we were trained to get up and give our seats to any female or older person if it was crowded. That’s the way we were taught, so we didn’t give it much thought. That’s just the way it was. Because of that, my brothers and I usually traveled standing up, holding on to a pole.
I don’t remember where my brother and I were going that day. It was probably some errand for our mother, like going downtown to pay the light bill or to the coal company near Gates Rubber Company.
During the Word War Two years, very few people had checking accounts. Even though paying with cash was inconvenient, it did eliminate things like overdraft charges and credit card finance charges. We didn’t have much money but at least it all went for things we could actually use. This makes me wonder just how much money the average person would have if they had never even thought of getting a credit card. Some people would probably be able to finance a small country.
Anyway, Dave and I were waiting for a streetcar to go on an errand for our mother. I was probably around 10 and Dave was 12. As brothers do at that age, we were playing around, pushing each other, tickling, etc., and just as the number 3 stopped for us, Phillip had done something to me. Before I could retaliate, he jumped on board and headed toward the back of the crowded streetcar. Quickly dropping my token in the strange looking box, designed to accept them, I went in search of my brother with revenge on my mind. I finally found him holding on to a pole.
It didn’t take me long to evaluate the situation. His grip on the pole is what got my attention. His four fingers were wrapped around the pole, but his thumb was sticking straight up, giving me an obvious target. It would have been best if I had thought about it a little longer before I took action.
My intention was to grab hold of his thumb and bend it backwards—a good way to get even, I thought. I knew I had to move fast, so I quickly reached out and bent the thumb. It didn’t cause him any pain at all. The thumb I was bending belonged to the man standing next to Dave. It not only caused him pain, it also caused him to look at me as if I had lost my mind. I immediately started to apologize, but from the look on his face I could tell he still believed I was crazy.
Dave was enjoying every minute, laughing long and loud as I tried to explain myself. The last I saw of the man was when he was getting off the streetcar, holding his thumb, still looking at me as if he had no doubt there was something wrong with my mind.
This event is just one more reason why I feel sorry for people who have missed out on the fun of traveling by streetcar. I mean, it’s not much fun traveling alone in a car. Maybe it would be a good idea for everyone to travel by streetcar again. It might not be as convenient, but I bet it would cut way down on road rage.
We rode on the Number 3 streetcar more than any of the others. It traveled from the middle of downtown Denver, down Broadway, and then turned around in Englewood, a block north of Hampden. I have lots of memories involving the number 3 route. With one exception, most of them were good.
Going south into Englewood we had to pass a mortuary on the west side of Broadway, and passing it became something I dreaded for many years. It all started with a vacation to Glenwood Springs in Colorado. As far as I was concerned, this small mountain town was about an inch this side of heaven. My mistake was when I went to see a movie called “The Mad Ghoul” during one of the weeks we were there. Since I was the “little boy” of the family, at first I was told that I would not be allowed to go. “Scary movies” sometimes caused me to have nightmares. But somehow I was able to talk my dad into letting me go—something both of us lived to regret. Since the cabin was small, he and I had to share a bed and neither one of us got much sleep that night.
The movie involved a mortuary where the ghoul had to go and get a new brain from time to time. So, my young mind made me decide that these places were where the ghoul lived, and if I would pretend not to be aware of these places, I would be safe. When the Number 3 would pass the ghoul’s house in Englewood, I would make sure I was looking east. This way, I was able to stay safe. He wasn’t going to get my brain.
I enjoyed taking the Number 3 going north because we passed a lot of movie theaters. First, there was the Jewel Theater, where I had my first date. I wasn’t old enough to realize that a girl would not enjoy watching a documentary called “Memphis Belle.” Looking back now, I am able to appreciate her willingness to tolerate my choice.Her name was Donna Meacham and, even though she was considered to be my very first girlfriend, she wasn’t my first love. I mentioned earlier that Arthur Golden was our preacher at Sherman Street and that he came to visit me in the hospital. But the reason he was important to me was because of his daughter Joann. I’m not sure why, but I was totally enthralled with her. It might have been because she and I were in a wedding together.

Stelean Peck and her parents were members at Sherman Street and when she got married to a soldier during the war, they asked me to be the ring bearer and Joann Golden was the flower girl. Because it was a military wedding, I wore a small uniform. Then, when the photographs were developed, the adults kidded me about it being my wedding. Part of the problem is that Joann wasn’t as enthralled with me as I was with her. I doubt that anyone at that time had any idea just how painful all of this was for a 9 year-old boy. I have no idea what ever happened to Joann.




After passing the Jewel, it was several blocks before we came to the Weber Theater and three blocks after that was the Mayan. It wasn’t until years later that I learned we had mispronounced Mayan. To us, it was the “May-On.”
It is interesting that passing those theaters didn’t frighten me. After all, those were the places where the Mad Ghoul had really lived.
Our family depended on other people in the church to give us a ride to church. As I look back, I find it surprising that we were able to get by without a car for so many years. On some occasion, when money was extra tight, Dad would get up early and walk several miles work. And then, he would still find time to work in his garden when he got home in the evening.
Uncle Neville was the one person in our family who had money. We thought he was rich, but he actually just had a good job with the phone company. During the depression he was one of the few who had a steady job. I remember that he always had a nice care. He was a hard and fast loyal Ford owner. In his entire life he never owned anything but a ford. On the other hand, his brother, our Uncle Dave, drove a Chevrolet and then later a Buick and finally a Chrysler. Since Uncle Dave and Aunt Gladys never had children, they were better off financially that my parents. With the exception of our Aunt Betty, Uncle Neville’s wife, they were usually very generous in helping our family from time to time. Aunt Betty was very selective in her giving. Looking back now, I can see where she used her money to try and gain control of my brothers and sister and me. She made it difficult for my mother to ask for help. For example, when I had pneumonia at eight months old and dad was in Fitzsimmons hospital, mom needed a ride to go see Dad. Aunt Betty took my mother’s last quarter to help pay for the gasoline. But she was always ready to take us kids to places that were fun, buying fun things and even taking us on vacation to Glenwood Springs. She was a strange lady—so nice to us on some occasions and very cruel at other times.
She was a smoker and on one occasion she asked if I would like to see her blow smoke out of her ears. Naturally, since I was only about six or seven-years-old, I fell for it. She old me that I would have to stare at her ears without blinking or looking at anything else. Then, while I was staring at her ears, she took her hot spoon from her cup of coffee and touched it to my arm. It wasn’t hot enough to cause a blister, but it still hurt. She thought it was funny.
One year, when she took my brother and me to Glenwood Springs, she bought a big box of comic books, but she wouldn’t let us read any of them on the trip from Denver. Then, during the week at Glenwood she only allowed us to read one comic book a day. At the end of the week there were several left in the box that we never did get to read. Like I said, she was a strange lady.
She had the opportunity to find joy in helping to make things easier for my mother and yet, it seems that she made every effort to do just the opposite. She finally divorced my uncle and ended up as a sad, lonely old lady.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Chapter Three - Part Two

To start this history from the beginning, go to the right hand column and click on June and then scroll down to Chapter One - Part One.

World War II brought many things to our lives. We learned what rationing was. Sugar, gasoline, chewing gum (?), and rubber, are just some of the things I remember. There were some things we couldn’t get at all, such as bananas.
The war also introduced me to patriotism. Everywhere we went we were bombarded with the importance of being patriotic. It was in the movies we saw, the radio programs we heard and even in our comic books. It was all around us and it was exciting. It affected me so much that, even today, my emotions are stirred when I hear the national anthem.
By the end of the first year of the war we had learned to hate three countries—Japan, Germany and Italy. The Icons for these countries were Tojo, Hitler and Mussolini. We even had a dart game with pictures of these men as targets. To hit Hitler gave us 100 points, 75 points if we hit Tojo and 50 point when we hit Mussolini. Unfortunately, some of this propaganda resulted in some ugly things. Japanese Americans were sent to camps in the name of national defense. These were people who had been born in our country and yet, they were rounded up and even had some of their property confiscated—the ugliness of politics and propaganda. I guess you could say it was like a government-sponsored racism.
One good thing that came about in those years was the unity it brought to our country. It not affected the country and the individual states, each neighborhood worked together, and just about every individual found a way to serve even to the point of sacrifice. At school we had scrap metal drives, paper drives, rubber tires and drives for every kind of vital material. To explain what these were, students in each grade at school would go from door to door collecting all these materials and then take them to the school. I guess I could look it up, but I don’t really know why paper drives were so important. To make it interesting, every school was in competition with the other schools and we were as excited about this as were when we competed in sports.
Before the war, just about every child could identify every car on the road with few exceptions. Of course, back then the majority of those were either Ford’s or Chevrolets with a few Buicks, Chryslers thrown in, and every one of them looked different. Not only could we identify the make of the car but also the year it was made. Then, as the months went by into the war, we were also able to identify the airplanes that flew over. Anybody could identify Lockheed P 38 Lighting with its twin booms and the cockpit between them. The Curtis P 40 was known by several names: as Warhawk, Tomahawk, Kittyhawk but probably best known as the Flying Tiger. Then there was the P 51, Mustang also known as the Thunderbolt. We could also identify the bombers, like the B 17 Flying Fortress, the B 24, the Liberator, and later, the B 25 Mitchell, and the B 29 Super Fortress which replaced the B 17. We knew them all.
I have other memories of Ford and Chevrolets. They were the cause of many arguments between my mother’s two brothers. Uncle Neville never owned anything other than a Ford in his lifetime. Uncle Dave was loyal to Chevys during my younger years. He eventually went to Buicks and finally to Chryslers. Every time our family would get together and that gathering included my two uncles, they would find something to argue about. Most of the time it was about cars, but sometimes it would be about things like trade unions. Being in construction, Uncle Dave was a union man and Uncle Neville was not.
The loyalties to Ford and Chevy spilled over into the world of kids. You were either a Ford man or a Chevy man. I’m not sure where it came from, but a popular put down was, “A Ford is nothing but a tin can with cardboard wheels.” Then, of course, there was the old standby that would be said to Chevy owners. “The reason they are called a Chevy is because they shiver all over the street and lay in the garage.” This was funny back in the 40s.
There was another member in my mother’s family. My grandmother had married a man name Walker and they had a son name Hugh. I’m not sure, but my grandmother divorced this man and married my grandfather, Charles Colglazier. They had four children and Hugh was their half brother.
Uncle Hugh caused me to believe that every family probably had a family member who was strange—the black sheep. By the time I met him, he had already established a family in Oregon, abandoned them, moved back to Colorado and married another lady name Neva. In all fairness, I need to include some of the details that brought him to this point.
When he was in Oregon he was working as a lumberjack. There was some kind of an accident and he ended up with a broken back. Unfortunately, this disability caused him to lost his ambition. While recovering he was being paid full compensation, not having to work at all. He got accustomed to getting something for nothing and, even after the compensation ended, he never made any real effort to hold a job for very long. I never found out how it happened, but Neva was slow, with an IQ of someone in elementary school.
Uncle Hugh and Aunt Neva didn’t come around very often, but when she did visit us, she always showed up unannounced, riding her bicycle to our house. Even though cleanliness was not very important to them, my mother always treated them well. Sometimes if was very difficult to be patient, especially with Neva, but my mother was always tolerant with her. My mother would never fail to ask Neva if she had eaten and Neva was always hungry.
In those years, it was not unusually for tramps to come by and ask for something to eat. We didn’t call them tramps to be unkind. They were not called “homeless.” They were either known as tramps, hobos or bums. These were the men who rode the rails—sneaking on to freight trains to hitch a ride from city to city. My mother never failed to feed these men. She would tell them to go around to the back door and a few minutes later she would come out with a plate full of food. I grew up thinking that this was something everyone did.
Since my parents didn’t own a car, streetcars were an important part of our lives. I find it interesting that I don’t remember the first time I was allowed to ride a streetcar by myself. I’m sure I couldn’t have been more than 8-years-old. Since we only lived three blocks from Broadway, it only took a few minutes to catch a number 3 that ran down Broadway from Hampden in Englewood, a suburb south of Denver and then to the middle of downtown. Of course we could transfer to a number 5 at Broadway and Alameda and it would take us to University Boulevard near Louisiana. A number 6 would go east from Broadway on 6th Avenue, but I don’t remember where it turned around. Number 14 ran from the middle of downtown, straight east on Colfax, turning around a few blocks from Aurora, a suburb of Denver. Of course there other routes that went to other parts of the city, but I don’t remember their numbers.
Like most families, we have stories that we have told over and over again. More than one of these was when Dave and I were going to take a streetcar somewhere. We used the number 3 streetcar more than any of the others since it covered most of Broadway from one end to the other.
Sometimes you could find a place to sit and sometimes you had to stand. Of course, back in those days, we were trained to get up and give our seats to any female or older person if it was crowded. That’s the way we were taught, so we didn’t give it much thought. That’s just the way it was. Because of that, my brothers and I usually traveled standing up, holding on to a pole.
I don’t remember where my brother and I were going that day. It was probably some errand for our mother, like going downtown to pay the light bill or to the coal company near Gates Rubber Company.
During the Word War Two years, very few people had checking accounts. Even though paying with cash was inconvenient, it did eliminate things like overdraft charges and credit card finance charges. We didn’t have much money but at least it all went for things we could actually use. This makes me wonder just how much money the average person would have if they had never even thought of getting a credit card. Some people would probably be able to finance a small country.
Anyway, Dave and I were waiting for a streetcar to go on an errand for our mother. I was probably around 10 and Dave was 12. As brothers do at that age, we were playing around, pushing each other, tickling, etc., and just as the number 3 stopped for us, Phillip had done something to me. Before I could retaliate, he jumped on board and headed toward the back of the crowded streetcar. Quickly dropping my token in the strange looking box, designed to accept them, I went in search of my brother with revenge on my mind. I finally found him holding on to a pole.
It didn’t take me long to evaluate the situation. His grip on the pole is what got my attention. His four fingers were wrapped around the pole, but his thumb was sticking straight up, giving me an obvious target. It would have been best if I had thought about it a little longer before I took action.
My intention was to grab hold of his thumb and bend it backwards—a good way to get even, I thought. I knew I had to move fast, so I quickly reached out and bent the thumb. It didn’t cause him any pain at all. The thumb I was bending belonged to the man standing next to Dave. It not only caused him pain, it also caused him to look at me as if I had lost my mind. I immediately started to apologize, but from the look on his face I could tell he still believed I was crazy.
Dave was enjoying every minute, laughing long and loud as I tried to explain myself. The last I saw of the man was when he was getting off the streetcar, holding his thumb, still looking at me as if he had no doubt there was something wrong with my mind.
This event is just one more reason why I feel sorry for people who have missed out on the fun of traveling by streetcar. I mean, it’s not much fun traveling alone in a car. Maybe it would be a good idea for everyone to travel by streetcar again. It might not be as convenient, but I bet it would cut way down on road rage.
We rode on the Number 3 streetcar more than any of the others. It traveled from the middle of downtown Denver, down Broadway, and then turned around in Englewood, a block north of Hampden. I have lots of memories involving the number 3 route. With one exception, most of them were good.
Going south into Englewood we had to pass a mortuary on the west side of Broadway, and passing it became something I dreaded for many years. It all started with a vacation to Glenwood Springs in Colorado. As far as I was concerned, this small mountain town was about an inch this side of heaven. My mistake was when I went to see a movie called “The Mad Ghoul” during one of the weeks we were there. Since I was the “little boy” of the family, at first I was told that I would not be allowed to go. “Scary movies” sometimes caused me to have nightmares. But somehow I was able to talk my dad into letting me go—something both of us lived to regret. Since the cabin was small, he and I had to share a bed and neither one of us got much sleep that night.
The movie involved a mortuary where the ghoul had to go and get a new brain from time to time. So, my young mind made me decide that these places were where the ghoul lived, and if I would pretend not to be aware of these places, I would be safe. When the Number 3 would pass the ghoul’s house in Englewood, I would make sure I was looking east. This way, I was able to stay safe. He wasn’t going to get my brain.
I enjoyed taking the Number 3 going north because we passed a lot of movie theaters. First, there was the Jewel Theater, where I had my first date. I wasn’t old enough to realize that a girl would not enjoy watching a documentary called “Memphis Belle.” Looking back now, I am able to appreciate her willingness to tolerate my choice.
After passing the Jewel, it was several blocks before we came to the Weber Theater and three blocks after that was the Mayan. It wasn’t until years later that I learned we had mispronounced Mayan. To us, it was the “May-On.”
It is interesting that passing those theaters didn’t frighten me. After all, those were the places where the Mad Ghoul had really lived.
Our family depended on other people in the church to give us a ride to church. As I look back, I find it surprising that we were able to get by without a car for so many years. On some occasion, when money was extra tight, Dad would get up early and walk several miles work. And then, he would still find time to work in his garden when he got home in the evening.
Uncle Neville was the one person in our family who had money. We thought he was rich, but he actually just had a good job with the phone company. During the depression he was one of the few who had a steady job. I remember that he always had a nice care. He was a hard and fast loyal Ford owner. In his entire life he never owned anything but a ford. On the other hand, his brother, our Uncle Dave, drove a Chevrolet and then later a Buick and finally a Chrysler. Since Uncle Dave and Aunt Gladys never had children, they were better off financially that my parents. With the exception of our Aunt Betty, Uncle Neville’s wife, they were usually very generous in helping our family from time to time. Aunt Betty was very selective in her giving. Looking back now, I can see where she used her money to try and gain control of my brothers and sister and me. She made it difficult for my mother to ask for help. For example, when I had pneumonia at eight months old and dad was in Fitzsimmons hospital, mom needed a ride to go see Dad. Aunt Betty took my mother’s last quarter to help pay for the gasoline. But she was always ready to take us kids to places that were fun, buying fun things and even taking us on vacation to Glenwood Springs. She was a strange lady—so nice to us on some occasions and very cruel at other times.
She was a smoker and on one occasion she asked if I would like to see her blow smoke out of her ears. Naturally, since I was only about six or seven-years-old, I fell for it. She old me that I would have to stare at her ears without blinking or looking at anything else. Then, while I was staring at her ears, she took her hot spoon from her cup of coffee and touched it to my arm. It wasn’t hot enough to cause a blister, but it still hurt. She thought it was funny.
One year, when she took my brother and me to Glenwood Springs, she bought a big box of comic books, but she wouldn’t let us read any of them on the trip from Denver. Then, during the week at Glenwood she only allowed us to read one comic book a day. At the end of the week there were several left in the box that we never did get to read. Like I said, she was a strange lady.
She had the opportunity to find joy in helping to make things easier for my mother and yet, it seems that she made every effort to do just the opposite. She finally divorced my uncle and ended up as a sad, lonely old lady.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Chapter Three -- Part One

Chapter Three
Cherokee, The War Years

1941 was not only eventful for the United States, possibly for the world; it was significant to our family for more than the fact that we were at war.
Sometime around late 1939 or early 1940, when he was nine-years-old, Jack got a job selling Look magazines. He would sell each one for ten cents and every two weeks someone would deliver 200 to our house and for every one he sold he was paid a penny. This meant he was able to make $2.00 every two weeks which he turned over to mom. This was a time when every family member was expected to do their part to help the family.
He kept this job for at least three years. Sometimes Dave and I would go with him, not so much to help as to keep him company. On one occasion, December 2, 1941, when Jack was almost 12, Dave was 10 and I was 8, Dave and I went with Jack to sell magazines on South Broadway. Englewood was only three blocks south of our house and the three of us ended up in Englewood on the corner of Bates and Broadway. Since I was young enough at eight-years-old to still be cute and cuddly, people seemed to buy the magazines more often from me. Jack had his bicycle with him and, at one point, when we only had a few magazines left, he suggested that he ride his bike north on the west side of Broadway, while Dave went south on the same side of Broadway. There was a Service Station on the east side of Broadway where I had always been able to sell one or two magazines, depending on the number of customers. So Jack told me to go over there and this is the last thing I remember until I woke up in the hospital the next morning.
We were usually very careful about crossing the street, but I obviously didn’t look ways before crossing the street. A car that was traveling south on Broadway didn’t have time to stop when I walked in front of him. Dave heard the sounds of the breaks squealing and the thump when the car hit me. He turned around just in time to see me fall. According to him, I was already trying to get up by the time he got to me. Jack hadn’t made it very far north because he was able to push the driver away from me who was trying to help me. I do have hazy memories of the ambulance siren, being wrapped in a scratchy, wool blanket making me much to warm.
After the ambulance left, Jack had the unenviable job of riding his bike home to tell Mom and Dad about the accident. When he got home the atmosphere made his task even more difficult. The smells of the cooking dinner permeated throughout the house and Mom was in a very pleasant mood. Jack knew he was about to destroy the peaceful evening. No one should have to do something like this, let alone an 11-year-old. I’m not sure how my parents got to the hospital, but when they did arrive they found out I had a fractured skull and severe concussion and at first I was completely blind. Thankfully, this symptom had passed by the time I woke up the next morning.
I was in the Denver General hospital for three weeks. Since the car had hit me on December 2nd, this means I was in the hospital on the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. I remember the nurse coming into the ward that I shared. She was crying and told us, “The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor.” At eight-years-old I had no idea what a pearl harbor was or why that made her cry. Like everyone else, I learned very quickly what it meant.
It is difficult to imagine this now, but my parents were only allowed to visit me one time during my three-week stay. The only one who came more than once was our preacher, Arthur Golden. Now that I look back on this I surprised that I adjusted to this so quickly. The other boys in my ward had various injuries, burns, broken legs, etc. All of us were confined to our beds. It seems I had some kind of fluid in my skull and had to be careful not hit my head. Ask me if it stopped me from getting out of bed when the nurses were not around. One of my roommates, dared me to get out of bed, so, the first time I got up, all I did was stand by my bed. The next dare was for me to walk to his bed a few feet away. I did it. In fact, the final dare was for me to walk out of the ward, to the room across the hall to touch the table we could see in there. Not knowing exactly how dangerous it was, I took the dare. I wish I could say that this was last foolish thing I ever did in my life.
I have great memories about when I was finally released from the hospital. When I got home everyone treated me like a king. I had never felt so important. Even my brothers and my sister treated me special. At that age I wanted it to go on forever. It didn’t. It wasn’t long before I was simply another member of the family. But it was still good to be home.

Chapter Three -- Part One

To start this history from the beginning, go to the right hand column and click on June and then scroll down to Chapter One - Part One.

Chapter Three
Cherokee, The War Years

1941 was not only eventful for the United States, possibly for the world; it was significant to our family for more than the fact that we were at war.
Sometime around late 1939 or early 1940, when he was nine-years-old, Jack got a job selling Look magazines. He would sell each one for ten cents and every two weeks someone would deliver 200 to our house and for every one he sold he was paid a penny. This meant he was able to make $2.00 every two weeks which he turned over to mom. This was a time when every family member was expected to do their part to help the family.
He kept this job for at least three years. Sometimes Dave and I would go with him, not so much to help as to keep him company. On one occasion, December 2, 1941, when Jack was almost 12, Dave was 10 and I was 8, Dave and I went with Jack to sell magazines on South Broadway. Englewood was only three blocks south of our house and the three of us ended up in Englewood on the corner of Bates and Broadway. Since I was young enough at eight-years-old to still be cute and cuddly, people seemed to buy the magazines more often from me. Jack had his bicycle with him and, at one point, when we only had a few magazines left, he suggested that he ride his bike north on the west side of Broadway, while Dave went south on the same side of Broadway. There was a Service Station on the east side of Broadway where I had always been able to sell one or two magazines, depending on the number of customers. So Jack told me to go over there and this is the last thing I remember until I woke up in the hospital the next morning.
We were usually very careful about crossing the street, but I obviously didn’t look ways before crossing the street. A car that was traveling south on Broadway didn’t have time to stop when I walked in front of him. Dave heard the sounds of the breaks squealing and the thump when the car hit me. He turned around just in time to see me fall. According to him, I was already trying to get up by the time he got to me. Jack hadn’t made it very far north because he was able to push the driver away from me who was trying to help me. I do have hazy memories of the ambulance siren, being wrapped in a scratchy, wool blanket making me much to warm.
After the ambulance left, Jack had the unenviable job of riding his bike home to tell Mom and Dad about the accident. When he got home the atmosphere made his task even more difficult. The smells of the cooking dinner permeated throughout the house and Mom was in a very pleasant mood. Jack knew he was about to destroy the peaceful evening. No one should have to do something like this, let alone an 11-year-old. I’m not sure how my parents got to the hospital, but when they did arrive they found out I had a fractured skull and severe concussion and at first I was completely blind. Thankfully, this symptom had passed by the time I woke up the next morning.
I was in the Denver General hospital for three weeks. Since the car had hit me on December 2nd, this means I was in the hospital on the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. I remember the nurse coming into the ward that I shared. She was crying and told us, “The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor.” At eight-years-old I had no idea what a pearl harbor was or why that made her cry. Like everyone else, I learned very quickly what it meant.
It is difficult to imagine this now, but my parents were only allowed to visit me one time during my three-week stay. The only one who came more than once was our preacher, Arthur Golden. Now that I look back on this I surprised that I adjusted to this so quickly. The other boys in my ward had various injuries, burns, broken legs, etc. All of us were confined to our beds. It seems I had some kind of fluid in my skull and had to be careful not hit my head. Ask me if it stopped me from getting out of bed when the nurses were not around. One of my roommates, dared me to get out of bed, so, the first time I got up, all I did was stand by my bed. The next dare was for me to walk to his bed a few feet away. I did it. In fact, the final dare was for me to walk out of the ward, to the room across the hall to touch the table we could see in there. Not knowing exactly how dangerous it was, I took the dare. I wish I could say that this was last foolish thing I ever did in my life.
I have great memories about when I was finally released from the hospital. When I got home everyone treated me like a king. I had never felt so important. Even my brothers and my sister treated me special. At that age I wanted it to go on forever. It didn’t. It wasn’t long before I was simply another member of the family. But it was still good to be home.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Chapter Two - Part Five

My parents were strict disciplinarians. Even though mom would do most of the spanking, all of us kids were more afraid of dad. I can only remember two or three times when he spanked me, but I think his temper is what frightened us. Because of this, all he had to do most of the time was give us a stern look and that was enough to make us behave. We knew we would not get a second chance. Mom would get angry, but she was always in control. Using a switch, that we usually had cut from a tree ourselves, her spankings were short and stingy. When we were in church she would use the well-placed pinch, which was more aggravating to me than painful.
Even though we were certainly not perfect kids, I can honestly say that none of us ever talked back or got sassy with our parents. I can’t even remember wanting to say anything disrespectful to them. I’m not sure about the other kids, but, for me, showing that kind of disrespect to parents just was not an option. After all, they were our parents—mom and dad.
Our kitchen was also equipped with an icebox. Not a refrigerator, an icebox. Putting a block of ice in the top compartment of the box would keep the food placed in the middle section from spoiling. Of course, we had to place a pan underneath the box to catch the water dripping from the melting ice. Two or three times a week the iceman would drive his truck down the alley. His customers would place a large card in the window that had different numbers on each corner—25, 50, 75 and 100. If the corner, pointing up showed the number 25, this meant the customer wanted a 25 pound block of ice.
On hot summer days we would follow the ice truck, hoping to get the small pieces of ice that had been chipped from the larger blocks to make the size the customer wanted. Sometimes the iceman would chip enough to give us all a piece. He was almost as popular as the ice cream man. But since the ice was free, there were times when he was more popular because we seldom had money for ice cream.
When I think of our icebox there is one special memory that comes to mind. Sometimes, on rare occasions, my mother was able to make a pie. Having a cherry tree in our backyard helped to make this luxury possible. Since we had six people in our family it was very easy to cut the pie into six pieces. Sometimes, on the day after we had our piece of pie for supper, we would look in the icebox and find a piece of the pie still there. Even though we knew whose piece it was, we would always say, “Whose piece of pie is this?” Most of the time my mother would say, “Yours if you want it.” I didn’t think much about that back then, but now I recognize it as the symbolic epitome of the kind of mother she was. Because of her sacrificial character, she never hesitated in her willingness to put herself last when it came to her children. This kind of attitude is rare today since the majority of wives and mothers seem to be more interested in making sure that they get their piece of the pie—even to the point of demanding.
In our younger years, some people thought Dave and I were twins. We were blond and had fairer skin than Pat and Jack. I suppose they got most of their genes from my father’s side—French and Indian and Dave and I showed more of the German traits from our mother’s side.
Even though Jack was only one year and three months older than Dave, he always seemed so much older than his two younger brothers. Being the oldest son, I believe Dad had a lot to do with this. More was expected out of Jack, even though Pat was the oldest. Even though we all had certain respect for who he was, in many ways Dad was a tyrant and I believe Jack suffered more under this tyranny than his siblings. As I look back I can see evidence that Dad enjoyed finding something that he felt gave him an excuse to jump all over Jack. In a sense, Jack was never allowed to be a little boy.
Dave was two years and two months older than me and yet he spent more time playing with me. So, in many ways, I was closer to Dave in those years than I was to Jack. However, even though I would do just about anything to please Dave, doing something to please Jack was at a premium. It didn’t happen very often in our younger years. Recognizing that I could be as aggravating as most little brothers, I’m sure this was the main reason it was so rare.
Dave and I spent as much time as possible playing in our own dramatic scenes. Sometimes these dramas would go on for two or three hours. I’m not sure if we were influenced by the movies we saw, but we seemed to be able to anticipate what the other one was going to say as if we actually had a script. For me, these dramatic playtimes were more exciting and fun than playing cars, airplanes or with other toys.
Our devotion to these dramas is a little surprising because we didn’t get to go to the movies very often. While most of the neighbor kids went to the movies every Saturday, we were lucky if we even got to go once a month. This was another thing about our mother that I didn’t understand. She simply didn’t like for us to go to movies. I don’t think it was because of the money because a ticket was only nine cents. This included a double feature, a cartoon and the week serial. We could buy popcorn for five cents a bag and candy for another nickel. All of this for less than a quarter. Years later I found out that she and her sister were allowed to hang out at the local movie theater, which was called the Jewel, located on the 23 hundred block on Broadway. This was where she met Dad and since this was during the end days of the Roaring Twenties, I’m sure that she and her sister, 16 and 18, were a little “wild.” Of course, I would not define this term by today’s standards.
Dad and his brother Ben were working for a distant relative that everyone called “Old man Carter.” I think he was something like a third cousin. He was involved in building several theaters in the Denver area. They included the Jewel, the Mission, the Santa Fe, the Oriental and possibly others that I can’t think of. Anyway, this relative owned these theaters and Dad and my Uncle Ben managed some of them. There was always a family rumor about “Old man Carter” being connected with the local mob. The fact that he was eventually murdered gives some support to that rumor. All of this makes me wish I had asked my dad more questions.
The times when we were allowed to attend a movie was when the whole family went. On rare occasions we were allowed to go with a friend to a Saturday Matinee. This was always a little frustrating because the serials always ended with a cliffhanger and I knew I wouldn’t find out what happened.
I don’t know about my brothers and sister, but movies always to enter another world. From the time when the curtains were opening until the “The End” credit, I was totally involved in that other world. I’m sure some movies were better than others, but it didn’t matter to me. Every movie allowed me to escape.
Our dramatic playing was another way for me to continue this distraction from the real world. These times, like the movies, allowed me to become someone else for a while. I suppose it was no surprised that I ended up acting in a limited sense, and, no, I’m not talking about my preaching.
On very rare occasions, we were able to get Jack to be involved in our dramas. However, when our friends came over neither Jack or Dave would even mention this kind of playing. This is when we would play all of the typical games, etc. that most boys play. I’m not really sure why, but Dave was the only one who was able to fit in to these special dramas.
On the occasions when Dave and I would be allowed to go to a theater alone, we would inevitably get home late because we would stay and see the movie again. During those years you could enter the theater in the middle of a movie and when it got to the place where you first walked in, you could simply stay and keep watching.
I’m not sure why, but our mother seldom allowed us to go to a neighbor’s house to play. Even though there were rare occasions when we were allowed to play in other kids backyards, most of the time, when we would ask Mom if we could go, she would usually say, “Why don’t you ask them to come over here?” It was probably a matter of trust, but I’m not sure if she didn’t trust us or simply wanted us to be close by. In some ways she was very protective and in other ways allowed us to be independent.
In those days there was no lease law in Denver. So Pal was able to go with us when we went to the store or other places for our mother. We would ride our bicycles along the sidewalk with him trotting along in front of us, his tail looking like he was leading some kind of crazy band. Sometimes he would carry an empty tin can in his mouth, which would cause people to laugh as we passed by. I’m not sure who trained him, but when we would get to a street, he would never cross until we said he could.
Pal’s peculiarities included certain phobias. He was afraid of loud noises, he wouldn’t get into a car unless we picked him up and put him in. If we visited other people’s houses he would never go in no matter how hard we tried to coax him. As I mentioned before, our Uncle Neville only live about three blocks from our house, not far to walk. However, when we would ride in his car and didn’t tell Pal to stay home, he would run along side of the car, running the entire three blocks. On one occasion Uncle Neville clocked him running at 35 miles per hour. There is lots more about him which we will cover later.
Those first years on Cherokee were difficult and yet, very simple. We never went hungry, but by every definition, we were poor. We didn’t know we were poor. As far as we were concerned, the poor people lived in a house on the corner of our street. We even called it the poor people’s house. It was even smaller than our house, sitting way back from the street, allowing the front yard to take up most of the lot. To me, the house didn’t look big enough to have rooms, not big enough to sleep in or to set a table to eat on.
The yard was usually littered with trash and pieces of scrap metal. The sides of the house had a scraped look, making it look as if it had been prepared for painting but no one had ever bothered to paint it. If there had been a lawn in the front yard it would have looked nice. But other than a few scattered clumps of ugly, green stems, it was mostly dirt. When I walked by that house I always felt sorry for the people who lived there even though I never saw them. It is interesting that as I walked away I was walking away on shoes that had pieces of cardboard cut out to cover the holes, and yet I felt sorry for them. I knew that my dad would eventually be able to put half soles on my shoes as soon as we got enough money to buy the material.
We didn’t have much, but our lives were mostly uneventful. And then came the war.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Chapter Two - Part Four

In addition to Pal, we had several cats through the Cherokee years. The only ones who stand out in my memory are Figaro, Tommy and one that ended up having two different names. I don’t remember the first name of this particular cat, but I will never forget what his second name was and how he came to be called that. One day, when this cat (really more of a kitten) was about four months old, I was going to go the store for my mother and every time I would start to leave he would try to follow me. After several tries to leave, I finally decided to shut him up in the coal shed. I didn’t know that my dad had been working on something that involved oil. He had placed a small bucket of oil in the shed and by the time I got home from the store the kitten was surrounded by the family as they tried to clean the oil off his body. It seems that his curiosity caused him to investigate the bucket and he fell in. From that day on, he was known as Greaseball.
Taking care of chickens in our backyard was always fun until we got a rooster that we named Butch. It wasn’t until many years later when I found out that other people didn’t name their chickens. We named all of ours. Before Butch and his contemporaries came along, we had a little hen who was more special to us than any of the rest would be. She was allowed to stay outside of chicken pen, walking all over the backyard. As she walked, pecking as he she went, the sounds she would make were not the typical chicken sounds. Instead of trying to describe them in the detail, I will just say that the name we gave her was like the sounds she made. Her name was Pruck Pruck. If we were out in the yard, she would follow us around like a little puppy. She was the breed of chicken that grew feathers on her legs and when she would walk through the mud, the mud would stick to the feathers. When the mud balls on her legs would dry out, you could actually hear her walking. Unfortunately, having free reign of the backyard was her downfall. One of my brothers had been working on his bicycle and after removing one of the wheels, he leaned it against the wall of the coal shed and went into the house. Pruck Pruck came by and brushed against the tire. Sadly, the tire fell on her and broke her neck. I remember that the whole family felt the same kind of sadness we felt when on our cats or a dog died.
But Butch was a different story. He could have been named Mean or Satan or other things along that line. Anybody who went into the chicken pen quickly learned to carry some kind of stick to keep Butch away. On one occasion my brother Dave wasn’t quick enough and ended up getting spurred by Butch. It was bad enough to draw blood and we came close to having rooster for dinner that evening. I hope this doesn’t offend animal lovers, but that is how Butch eventually ended up, and the meat was tough.
For a short period of time we also had rabbits in our backyard. Dad’s idea was that we would raise the rabbits and then sell them to other people for the meat. The problem was that the rabbits became pets. We never ate any of them and we never sold them to anyone else. As tough as my dad was, he was also softhearted when it came to animals. Even when it came time to kill our chickens I can’t remember one time when he did it. He left it up to us boys and I didn’t have any problem chopping off their heads as long as they were never around long enough to have names.
My dad should have been a farmer. As soon as he arrived home from work and changed his clothes, he was out in our backyard working in his garden. I believe he could have grown just about anything. But he stayed with the standard vegetable garden—corn, beans, peas, carrots, radishes, lettuce and squash. I liked to eat all of these as long as some of them were raw. The only things I liked when they were cooked were corn, beans, potatoes and spinach. Being from the old, old school, my parents tried to force me to eat my vegetables, even though some of them made me gag. Eventually my stubbornness won the day and they gave up. I still like very few vegetables today.
Dad would go to extra effort to set up an irrigation system that allowed him to set the hose at one end of the garden and the water would follow the small canals he had made, eventually reaching every part of the garden. When we would help him, he would show us how to make small water wheels that would actually move from the force of the water.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Chapter Two Part Three

For a while I became talented in ways to get out of work, especially in special tasks. By the time I was old enough to do my part, Dad and Mom were use to being able to give a job to the older kids and they would get it done. So when they would give me a job they expected the same results, not realizing that I needed more instructions. The first time it happened I gave it my best effort, but fumbled around long enough for my dad to lose his patience and he would say, “Here Jack, you do it.” Other times it was Dave or Pat who took over. I quickly learned that the best way to get out of work was to deliberately fumble around with the job until it was given to someone else. Actually, that ploy didn’t last very long. Just one more experience to help me learn that I was not smart enough to outwit my parents for very long—most times not at all.
People my age will agree that neighborhoods were different than they are now. Everybody knew everybody and could be depended on to help each other when there was a need. We also had fun together—playing softball, touch football, kick the can, run sheep run, etc. Most of the time the parents were involved in these games. I remember riding on my dad’s shoulders when we played the hiding games.
Believe it or not, I can still remember most of the names from the Cherokee neighborhood. Our next-door neighbors were the Rankies and Mrs. Athey on the other side. Mrs. Athey had a sneeze that could break your eardrum if you were in the same room with her. We could hear her when we were in our house with the door shut.
In the wintertime we would shovel the snow from her sidewalks and, even though we would always turn it down, she would offer to pay us every time. We did the same for Mrs. Hamm, another widow who lived across the street. I wonder what happened to that kind of neighborhood. To be totally candid, I don’t know the names of my next door neighbors today. Of course part of that is my fault.
In 1939, when we moved to south Denver, we were much close to the congregation on south Lincoln (also known as South Denver or Lincoln Street), so we changed our membership. Sherman Street was located at 125 South Sherman and Lincoln Street was at 2005 South Lincoln. Our new home was at 2444 South Cherokee. Lincoln Street is a block east of Broadway and Cherokee is three blocks west of Broadway.
There were several families at Lincoln Street who also took us under their wing. There were the Hazlets, the Fritz (two families) the Barns, Chapins, the Chumleys and the Storm family. Ruben Storm was the song leader and was known for the loud volume of his voice. The preacher’s name was C.E. Fritz who was the first publisher, editor of the Rocky Mountain Christian Newspaper. His brother was C.A. Fritz was a doctor and also served as one of the elders at Lincoln Street.
I remember one couple in particular who were very unique. Their last name was Mebius and both of them were doctors, but I don’t remember what kind. He was at least six foot five and she wasn’t even five feet tall. Probably the main reason I remember them is because he scared me. To me he looked like Boris Karloff who was the actor who played Frankenstein’s monster. Both of them were always kind and friendly but I still stayed away from him as much as possible.
The Hazlet family had a farm out near Hayden, Colorado, which was at 50 miles from the church building on Lincoln. In spite of the distance, they were at services every Sunday. I always enjoyed visiting them because we could actually be around horses, cows, pigs and at least a hundred chickens. My enjoyment ended when I spent a week there to actually work. I had always had to work, but at the farm it seemed as if the work was never done, which provided very little playtime.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chapter Two Part Two

I don’t have many specific memories about my time in kindergarten. I do remember milk and graham crackers. During the morning break, the kids who were able to pay a nickel were allowed to have milk and graham crackers. Needless to say, I was not among those who had a nickel. After all, a nickel a day amounted to 25 cents a week, enough to buy a dozen eggs and a loaf of bread.
On some occasions they would end up with extra milk and crackers and the teacher would choose a lucky child to get them. For me, the few times when I was chosen, the treat was so amazingly good that, even today one of my favorite snacks is graham crackers and milk.
Everyone in our family had certain jobs to do. Even though I was only five-years-old, I was expected to do my job. Some of these assignments were easier and even more fun than others, like feeding the chicken and gathering eggs. One of my more difficult jobs was cutting wood. Since our stoves burned wood as well as coal, getting free wood was a real blessing. My Uncle Dave, one of my mother’s brothers, was a plasterer before the days of dry wall. This means that strips of wood called laths were used to provide a base to hold the plaster on interior walls. Because of his work, he sometimes would have access to old laths when an old building was torn down. This wood was dumped in our backyard and that is when I received my assignment. Every day, after school, I was expected to take a small ax, cut the laths so they would be short enough to fit in our stove. Part of the job was to stack this wood in to neat piles. When I watch five-year-olds today, I can’t even imagine any of them with an ax in their hand. In fact, it is difficult to imagine them doing any kind of work.
Since Jack was the oldest boy, his job was to carry in the coal from the coal shed in our back yard close to the alley. Anyone who grew up in that era will remember that a coal bucket sitting by the stove was a common sight. Every morning, Jack would take the coal bucket out to the shed, unlock the padlock, fill the bucket with coal and bring it back to the house. This wasn’t a difficult job unless it was wintertime. Then, while the rest of us were able to stay in our semi-warm house, Jack would make his way through the snow to do his job. On one particular morning, it was so cold that the padlock was frozen and the more Jack tried to work it loose, the colder his bare fingers became. Before I tell you what he did, you need to remember that he was only eight-years-old. Bending down to the lock he tried breathing his warm air on the lock, and when that didn’t work he decided to try thawing it out by licking it. I doubt that I need to tell you that his tongue immediately stuck to the cold metal. There he was, all by himself in hip deep snow, probably below zero, ten yards from the house, his tongue sticking to the lock while he tried to yell for help. As you can imagine, he was able to yell loud enough to get anyone’s attention, and even if we had heard him we wouldn’t have understood what he was trying to say. He was yelling, “Mom!” but it came out more like, “Ahauh!” The final solution to this problem was leaving a piece of his tongue skin on the lock.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Chapter Two Part One - Cherokee, The Early Years

Chapter Two - Part One
Cherokee, The Early Years
Pal came to live with us during the first week we moved to the little house on Cherokee and he was part of our family for almost ten years. He was not a puppy when we first met him, having lived with another family who didn’t treat him very well. My Uncle Neville found him for us and I remember overhearing him say that the previous family had fed him things like potato peelings and other things that could have been described as garbage. So when we got him we quickly found out that he would eat literally anything.
Everybody probably thinks that their dogs are unique. But when I say Pal was unique, he defined the word. I will say more about him as we go along, but to give you a brief introduction to his strangeness. He would never play with a ball. He played with tin cans. We would throw the can and he would retrieve it with great joy coming back with a look of anticipation on his face, throw the can down in front of us and wait. If we didn’t react right away, he would do an impromptu dance, bar, pick up the can and throw it down again. As far as Pal was concerned, the only reason we wouldn’t throw the can is because we didn’t understand. We tried to get him to go after sticks, but when we threw them he ignored it completely.
This house was somewhat primitive, even in those days. It wasn’t unusual for houses in the country not to have indoor plumbing, but we were in the city. Our indoor plumbing consisted of a sink in the kitchen and a commode in the bathroom. That’s right, we didn’t have a bathtub or a shower. We took a bath in a number three washtub.
There was a large coal-burning stove in the kitchen and a small, potbelly stove in the living room. The kitchen stove was kept burning most of the time, even in the summer since it was also used to cook our meals. It wasn’t until two years later that we were able to get a kerosene stove, which allowed mom to cook without making the house a continuous hotbox.
Anyway, back to bath time. My mother would set a plank on two opposite chairs in front of the kitchen stove, placing the washtub on the planks. The water was heated on the stove then we would take turns getting into the tub.
So every Saturday evening we would take a bath. This is difficult for me to think of—going for a week without a bath or shower. It is interesting that I don’t remember being around very many people who were in obvious need of a deodorant. In fact, I doubt that deodorant was even available back then.
One Saturday a month we would dread the bathing ritual because it was also haircut time. On the other Saturdays you could hear one of us say, “I get to take my bath first!” This was because the water was fresh for the first bather. My mother would simply add hot water that was heating on the stove. After all, she didn’t want to waste water. On haircut Saturday we didn’t want to be first because we simply didn’t want our haircut to come after the bath. Otherwise, we would spend a good part of the week scratching our necks because of the left over hair. Not one of my most pleasant memories. My dad’s brother, Uncle George, owned his own barbershop and yet, the first time I got a haircut from someone other than my dad was when I joined the Navy. I suppose my parents felt like it was a luxury to go to a barber. If you think of this as extreme, you will be completely amazed to know that they felt the same way about going to a dentist. The only time I went to a dentist before I joined the Navy was when I had to have one of my permanent teeth pulled that had come in crooked. Of course the idea of resolving this problem with braces didn’t even cross their minds.
This house had two bedrooms—one for our parents and one for the four children. Unfortunately for her, my sister didn’t have her own bedroom until she was 12 or 13-years-old. The bedroom was big enough for two bunk beds. When we first moved here, Dave and I were forced to take the top bunks simply because we were the two youngest. Pat and Jack probably decided that age should have its privilege. But they found out that there are other factors. One night, when were sound asleep, I fell out of the top bunk and my mother decided the bump on my head was enough to take precedence over age. This was just one of many times when an injury led to certain privileges in my life. If you continue to read my reflections, you will find out about the other occasions.
Shortly after moving to this location I finally got to start school. My excitement lasted about a week before I began to miss my free time with Johnny, Rex and Bobby. Rosedale Elementary was about two mile from our house, which didn’t take us very long to walk. Even though I was only five-years-old, I was kept safe from traffic, etc. by my siblings. I was in kindergarten, Dave was in second grade, Jack in third and Pat in the fourth. Until Pat went to Junior High school we always walked together.
Back then the school system was more focused on quality rather than quantity. We started school at 9:15 a.m. and got out at 3:15 p.m. I find it interesting that the academic standards didn’t start to decline until the administrators decided to make the school days longer. Today it is not unusual for students to start their school day at 7:00 a.m. In our day, the school year started the day after Labor Day and ended just before Memorial Day. Now most schools start in August, not ending until sometime in June. Now they are even talking about lengthening the school day and even having school on Saturday. If these people have their way, parents will have even less time to be with their children. I wonder when we forgot that parents are primarily responsible for the training of their children. I suggest that those who make these decision need to take a hard look at the quality being offered rather assuming that the solution is longer school time.
I guess I need to get off my soapbox and get back to my history.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Chapter One - Part Five

Two houses from where we lived was where the Daniels family lived. Their son, Bobby was my age and if his mother was in the right mood, she would let us play together. Most of the time it was at his house. I’m not sure why she was so protective. His dad worked for Gates Rubber Company, which was, located about six blocks south of Wards. My family enjoyed telling the story about an occasion when were driving past Gates in my uncle’s care and I enthusiastically said, “That’s where Daddy’s Bobby works.” At my age it sounded ok to me.
Our house only had one bathroom and since it was downstairs my brothers and I hated going down the dark stairs at night. Not only was it scary, it also took longer to get back under the warm blankets. To be honest, I suppose laziness played a part as well. I’m not sure who was first in finding the solution to our problem. Since this is my story, I think I might as well blame one of my brothers.
In the wall, at the back of the closet, there was a small hole and I guess we figured that it didn’t really go anywhere. We were only able to use this hole no more than two or three nights before my mother discovered something all over the piano downstairs, right below the closet. As I mentioned before, she had a great sense of humor, but it didn’t cover this offense. Can you believe it, she actually spanked us. This was one of the first times I learned that laziness can get you in trouble.
Sometime in my early years my dad and my grandfather owned a small cafĂ©. I’m not sure what happened, but this venture must not have lasted very long because I have no memory of the place at all.
I don’t have any specific memories of when my parents decided to move. My Uncle Neville and Aunt Betty lived at 2137 S. Cherokee and my uncle found a house at 2444 S. Cherokee that he help my dad to buy. If I remember right, he paid something like $2,000 for the house. I do remember that I liked the new house because it had what I thought was a big backyard which allowed us to have a chicken pen.
So, in 1938, we moved from Lincoln to Cherokee Street. I was almost five-years-old. Shortly after we moved in was when Pal entered our lives.

Chapter One - Part Four


Even though there were a lot of advantages in being the youngest of four children, the baby of the family, at that age there was a down side as well. Monday through Friday were lonely days. But they would have been worse if it were not for my mother.
On the typical week day, my dad would go to work, my brothers and sister would go to school and I would stand and watch them leave, not looking forward to the day. I guess my mother saw how sad I was because she made up a game we would play just about every morning. After everyone else was gone, she would help me put on my coat and we would pretend that I was going to work. I went out the front door, rode my scooter around the house and come in the back door. My mother would have a cup of coffee waiting for me on the kitchen table. Of course the cup was filled mostly with milk. Through the years memories of that particular game has given me a warm feeling. It was just one of the ways she expressed her love to her children.
On some occasions, when my game with my mother was over and neither Bobby or Rex were available, I would resort to my other friend. His name was Johnny and nobody could see him. It is interesting that I don’t remember when he came into my life for the first time or even when he finally left for that matter. Maybe he is still around but I just can’t see him any more.
Johnny was so important to me that I even wrote a song about him. I would sit at the piano, hit one key and sing, “Johnny get your gun, Johnny get your gun.” That was it—no follow-up lyrics to say why he needed to get a gun or if he ever got one.
A block from our house on Broadway was the landmark Montgomery Ward building. In those days everyone called it Monkey Wards. Don’t look for that building because it was demolished in 1990. It was like losing an old friend.
Most people don’t know this, but the origin of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reign Deer was as a marketing concept of Montgomery Wards. In fact, I have memories of a special building (a one story annex) that was built south of the larger building. Its main purpose was to house the Christmas displays; toys, several electric trains running over miniature layouts and even larger moving scenes that displayed puppets skating, etc. But the star of all of this was Rudolph. After the story came out in book form, Gene Autry came out with his recording helping to make the story of Rudolph known in every household.
Just south of the building was the Merchants Park semi-pro baseball field. These leagues were very popular in places that didn’t have major league teams. Today I suppose these have been replaced by the minor leagues. The reason I mention this ball field is because I remember one occasion when my brothers and I sneaked in to the park. We didn’t really watch the game. It was far more fun to play under the bleachers.
Another memory I have involving that park isn’t actually about the park itself. Since we were only a block away from the entrance, the vacant lot on the corner became a parking lot for those who wanted to attend the games. Of course they had to pay to park there. The fee was ten cents per car. This was quite a bit if you realize that you could buy a loaf of bread for 8 cents and a dozen eggs was 18 cents. Part of my memory is of a man standing on the corner yelling, “Park your car here!” Adding to the significance of that memory, there was a radio program that had a character named, “Park Your Carcass.” Don’t ask me why—that’s show business. Because of that, I was convinced that the man on the corner was yelling, “Park Your Carcass.” In my four-year-old mind, it was all tied together.

Chapter One - Part Three

*I barely remember our dog at that time. Pepper had “fits.” Three or four times a day he would suddenly fall over, his body going into convulsions for a few minutes. When it was over, he would get back up, wagging his tail in anticipation as if he was wondering what was going to happen next. As far as he was concerned, nothing unusual had happened. Unfortunately, he had one of his “fits” when he was crossing the street in front of a car. The driver didn’t have any chance of stopping. I found out later that this was probably best for him because every time he had one of his “fits” they would last just a little longer and the convulsions more severe.
To be honest, I kind of liked our neighbor’s dog better than Pepper. I guess I should have felt guilty about that, but Pepper didn’t really do anything interesting. But Rex, a big German Shepard, ate ants. He and I would spend a lot of time playing in the front yard when my brothers and sister were at school. He would follow me up and down the front sidewalk as I pointed to ants that were traveling across the cement. I would point, Rex would lick, the ant would disappear, leaving a wet spot in its place.
Rex made a good playmate, but wasn’t much of a bodyguard. On one occasion he and I were playing our hunt and lick game and three older girls walked by. They started talking to me, talking about how cute I was. Hey! I was four-years-old, so I was still cute and cuddly. Anyway, I enjoyed talking to them until they began talking about taking me with them. Of course they were kidding, but in my four-year-old mind convinced me they were serious, that they were really going to take me away. One of the girls made it worse by pulling on my arm. Rex stood there wagging his tail and I began to cry. My tears had the desired affect—they felt bad, let me go and tried to comfort me. When they left, Rex looked at me as if he was wondering what we were going to do next.

Chapter One - Part Two

My very first vivid memory was from when our family was living at 575 S. Lincoln in Denver. This was a two-story house, and my brothers and slept in the bedrooms upstairs. This first memory is of looking out the upstairs front window. It had just finished raining—the lawn a lush green giving me a feeling of contentment that is still with me when I remember.
Little did my parents realize just how spiritually significant it was that they decided to move to this house on Lincoln. Living next door was A.J. Rhodes, the preacher for the Sherman Street Church of Christ.
Part of my memories is about when my father was still drinking. He was, in fact, very close to being an alcoholic and frankly, he really wasn’t being much of a husband or father at that time. I didn’t know it back then, but my parent’s marriage was close to coming to an end.
Religion played a very small role in our lives. We were attending an Episcopalian group. My only memories of that group were that we had fun. In fact, I have a clear memory of one of their dinners when I was standing on the stage in their building and I sang, “Barnacle Bill, The Sailor.” I also remember that this embarrassed my mother. One part of the lyrics said, “He was all lit up like a Christmas tree.”
From time to time, my father and A.J. Rhodes would talk to each other over the backyard fence. Several things helped to make these conversations fruitful. As I said, my parents marriage was in trouble, so, without really knowing it, they were searching for something. My dad enjoyed singing and in spite of his injured right arm, he was able to play the guitar. A.J. knew about dad’s singing and one evening he used this knowledge to work in his evangelistic favor.
Sherman Street was going to have a Gospel Meeting, the speaker was a brother Cook, but I don’t remember his first name. Anyway, back in those days congregations would prepare for their Gospel Meetings by practicing their congregational singing. During the course of their conversation, brother Rhodes asked my dad if he would like to come to the singing, which was going to take place on the following evening. My parents did attend and that was the beginning.
In addition to brother and sister Rhodes, there were other families who more or less adopted our family. We lived across the street from the Hoagland family. The Rhodes, the Hoaglands, Homer and Suzie Ward, Dan and Mary Ward, Jay and Maxine Selby, John and Ellen Brown, John and Mildred Lewis, Marvin and Vylabelle Crowe and many others I am probably forgetting. Two weeks later, during the Gospel Meeting, both of my parents were baptized into the Body of Christ. So, someday, when I get to heaven, I am going to find A.J. Rhodes and thank him for helping to change our family. Little did he know that he was helping to start and kind of dynasty. Even though me and my brothers and sister were not happy to make this change, eventually all four of us became Christians; all of our children are Christians, as are their children. All three of dad’s sons became preachers, also serving as elders as well. In the next generation there are three preachers, one elder and two deacons. Of course, none of the females held any official position, the spiritual leadership they provide is obvious to those who know these women.
Dad’s great-grandchildren have continued the legacy, every one of them becoming Christians and totally involved in the Lord’s work. His great, great-grandchildren are being trained in the same direction.
I can’t help but point out that because of dad’s decision, literally thousands of others have been brought to Christ during the past 70 years. This, of course, is counting the ones that Jack, Dave and I have taught as well as those in the following generations who are continuing to teach and convert others.
It is interesting to note that the friends and family members who criticized dad when he was drinking, etc. were the same ones who were critical when he changed, calling him a religious fanatic, etc. He was never able to convert any of his brothers or sisters.
If my dad were still alive he would be embarrassed that I talked about his drinking, etc. But with what he was able to accomplish after he became a Christian, he had no reason to be embarrassed. Except maybe that his real name was Ippie, and that wasn’t his fault.
Now, back to more of the trivial memories.

Chapter One Part One

I don’t know why, but I wish I had asked my mother what day of the week I was born. I just know it was on July 19th, 1933, and it was in the Denver General Hospital. Eight years later I had another experience that made me wonder if being born in that particular hospital was a good thing. I will say more about that later.
My family was living on West Cedar Street, but I, of course, have no memories of that house. I do remember than my oldest brother, Jack, told me later that when they brought me home from the hospital the family dog snapped at me. Jack said my dad almost killed the dog.
I was the youngest of four. My sister, Patsy Ruth, was born on August 15th, 1928. Then came Jack Warren Douglas on February 10th, 1930 and David Neville Phillip on May 22nd, 1931. You may have noticed that both my brothers had two middle names. I always felt I was short-changed in two ways. First of all, I only had one middle name and that name was such an embarrassment to me that I was always reluctant to tell people what it was. I was told that my mother named me and I’m not sure why she gave me the burden of being Ronald Leroy. If you take a hard look at all this, I am certain you will understand why I felt short-changed. Jack had two cool middle, tough guy sounding names, especially Douglas. Dave was named after my mother’s two brothers. I’m sure he wasn’t that thrilled with the name Neville, but Phillip was at the same cool level as Douglas. Of course, as we were growing up we were called Jackie, Davey, and Ronny. I was so glad when I finally outgrew that variation of my name becoming known as Ron. Not as cool as Douglas or Phillip, but certainly better than Ronald Leroy or Ronny.
There was a lot that happened during the first four years of my life, but I only know about most of these things from what I was told. The most significant thing happened when I was eight months old. My dad was in an automobile accident that almost destroyed his right arm. If my memory serves me, he had something like five compound fractures and on top of that, when they pulled him out of the wreck they laid him on a lawn that had been freshly fertilized. It is not surprising that he developed gangrene in the injured arm.
They didn’t know much about gangrene back in those days and it seems even the medical staff was afraid of it, like it was contagious. So when they put my dad in the Denver General Hospital he didn’t receive the best of care. Today, most hospitals have an ICU (Intensive Care Unit). In 1934, Denver General had what they called the 48 Hour Ward. This simply meant that patients in this ward were not expected to live for more than 48 hours. I can only imagine how discouraging that must have been if a patient knew they were in that ward. My dad was in the 48 Hour Ward for eight weeks. The doctors wanted to amputate his arm, but he refused.
As an example of how primitive things were, part of the treatment for gangrene was sterilized maggots. Their job was to get rid of the diseased flesh. Dad said he could remember picking the maggots off his body. Adding to the other mistakes, someone ordered that his arm be put in a cast. Because of the gangrene, the pressure of the infection began to build up causing the pain to be almost unbearable. So, if you can imagine this, he was left alone long enough to allow him time to leave his bed (actually falling out of the bed), crawl over to the sink, and pull himself up where he found an old double-edged razor blade. He never said how long it took him, but after he lay back down on the floor, he began to shave away the cast to relieve the pressure. He would have lost his arm or possible died if he had stayed in this hospital. It seems he had a good friend who had connection with the Veterans Administration and since Dad was a veteran he was transferred to Fitzsimmons Army Hospital. They saved his arm, but he right arm and was so crippled he had to learn to write with his left hand. I have no memories of him with a normal right arm.
My dad was born in Lumberton, North Carolina and was saddled with a name that was even worse than mine. He had no middle name. He was named after his father’s best friend. Believe it or not, his given name was Ippie. That’s right, IPPIE! Is it any wonder that, when he was old enough to be in charge of his life, he had it legally changed to Jack I. Carter? When he was asked what the “I” stood for, he would never say. I never felt like I had much in common with him, but I guess we did carry a similar burden. His brothers were named Wesley, Ben and George—all cool names, and he had to suffer being known as Ippie. When my brothers and I got older we made a joke, saying that our mother could be called Mrs. Ippie. My dad didn’t laugh.
By the way, my mother’s name was Ruth Ellen and her maiden name was Colglazier. From my dad’s side we were part French and Cherokee. Mom added to the mix with German/Jew. She was 17 when she married my dad and by the time she was 23 she had four children, all born within four years and eleven months. When I was eight months old, my dad not only had his accident, but I had my first bout with pneumonia. I’m still not sure how she was able to handle all of this. If I were to write her story the title would be, “Too Much, Too Soon, With Too Little.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Few Basics

For the sake of those who don't know me, and for some who do, I am the Ron Carter who is serving as one of the elders at the Brighton Church of Christ. My son is Bret Carter, who teaches at Hyland Christian School and my daughter is Julie Oehlert, whose husband preaches for the Brighton Congregation.
I helped to start Kamp Koinonia back in 1971 and I publish the Rocky Mountain Christian. Other information will be shared in the content of my blog.