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.

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