Memoirs

 

of

 

 

Jack Otto                                  &                               Joan Otto

 

                                          

 

AD 2005

 

Rev 1 Feb 2006

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dedicated to

 

Our great- grandchildren

 

And

 

Their

 

Great-grandchildren

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONTENT

 

 

 

1.0          Preamble

 

2.0 Who made me what I am.

2.1 Ancestors

2.1.1 Grandparents, Parents, Aunts and Uncles.

2.2 Contemporaries.

2.2.1 Cousins

2.2.2 Friends

2.3 Public figures

2.4 Events and things

 

3.0 What made me what I am.

3.1 Early experiences

3.2 Learning experiences

3.2.1 High school

3.2.2 Experiences, events

3.2.3 Service / World War II

3.2.4 College, single life

 

4.0 Marriage, career and parenthood.

4.1 Love and marriage

4.2 Life in the fifties, the luckiest generation

4.3 Through the years

4.3.1 Pre-Paul

4.2 Paul

4.3 Post-Paul

4.4 The twentieth century

4.5 Epilogue, Joan

4.5.1 What she is

4.5.2 How she is

 

5.0 Miscellaneous

 

6.0 Joan’s Story

 

7.0 Genealogy

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.0 PREAMBLE

 

On Tuesday, Dec 9, 1997, while at perpetual adoration at St Elizabeth Ann Seaton chapel I started thinking about all the important people in my life who have departed, and how nice it would be if I could see them again and ask all the questions I didn’t ask when I had them here.

 

One of the sad things about being a member of the oldest generation is that there is no one to “look up to” or to ask about past events. I keep asking myself “Why didn’t you ask dad/ aunt Mary/grandma about that when you had a chance?”

 

Therefore I decided to offer my “ progeny” some answers as to who and what made them what they are, and recommend that they ask questions before it’s too late. I write this in the first person because it reflects who and what made me what I am. I refer to my beloved wife, Joan, only to the extent that it affects me. (I hope this encourages her to write her own memoirs, which are at least as colorful as mine.)

 

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………

                                                            

                                                             Morning Offering

 

 

Dear God

 

So far I’ve done all right

 

I haven’t gossiped, I haven’t lost my temper

 

I haven’t been greedy, nasty, selfish or overindulgent

 

I’m very thankful for that

 

But in a few minutes, God, I’m going to get out of bed.

 

And from then on, God, I’m going to need a lot more help.

 

Amen

 

 

 

 

2.0 WHO MADE ME WHAT I AM                                                                                           

 

2.1 ANCESTORS

 

 We inherit our genes from people we never knew. Why does my grandson Ethan look like my dad, his great grandfather as pre-teens?  How come our granddaughter, Kristen has features and facial expressions like her grandma Joan’s cousin Jean? Why does our granddaughter Jennifer look like her grandma Joan did at the same age, and share her neat and tidy ways?

 

My mother’s parents, Abbie Kelleher and John Walsh, came over from County Cork, Ireland.  They met over here, and Married in St Louis in 1895. John’s brother, Edward married Abbie’s sister Ellen. Ellen’s daughter Mary, (called Mamie) was a “double cousin” to my mother.

 

John and Abbie had four children; Ellen Rosalie, born 22, 1895, Mary Elizabeth, born Jan 7 1900, John J, born and died, 1901, and Abbie Elizabeth, born Jan 7, 1903. (I didn’t know I had an uncle John until late in the 1990’s as I never heard my mom, aunts or grandparents mention him)

 

From my infancy till we moved out into the suburbs, at about age 11, I always lived in the “flat” upstairs from grandma and grandpa Walsh, with my two aunts and three cousins one or two houses away. My grandparents babysat, visited, told stories, sang songs, and helped form my ideas, values and morals.

 

Grandma Walsh was a small woman with a quick wit and a quicker tongue. She sang a lot and had a saying for every occasion. When we fret too much, she reminds us “You’ll be a long time dead”. When I can’t find something and she walks in and picks it right up, I get “If it was a snake it would have bit you”. When I forgot something and had to go back for it, it was “Use your head, save your feet”. When something is disorganized and messy, it looks like a “connaminar’s nest. I never really knew what that was, but I knew it must be something gruesome.

 

`Grandma was a little vain. She said she didn’t know how old she was, as the records In Ireland were destroyed by fire. The family took her to a live broadcast of a radio show, ( I think it was Tom Brenneman’s breakfast club ), a coast to coast network show. One of the features was to give an orchid to the oldest lady in the audience. When the family urged her to participate, she advised them that she will buy her own orchids, thank you. When we took her to see the horse races at Fairmount Park in Illinois, we thought she would be impressed. Her comment was, “them nags. I ‘ve seen better at Fairgrounds park in town in the old days.

 

 

 

Grandpa Walsh  was a tall, rather distinguished  stern looking man. He was born in 1871 in County Cork, Ireland. He was what we call “black Irish, with black eyes black hair and full mustache.  He played football, (soccer), in his younger days. Of course, I only knew him as 

An “old” gray haired man, crippled with arthritis and injuries sustained as a worker in a glass factory, walking with a cane and his sight slowly failing from cataracts. He smoked a corncob pipe. In fact, when my dad took him to the doctor with some ailment, as he stood there, stooped with arthritis, nearly blind with cataracts, the doctor told him the best thing for him to do was to quit smoking. Grandpa asked him, “What’s the next best thing for me to do?”                                                                                                                                           

 

Grandpa and I were kind of buddies. He would take me on walks around the neighborhood.

We would sit around his kitchen table eating bread and “tay”’ (tea). We would sit and listen to the Cardinals games on the radio. If the Cards weren’t doing well, he would turn off the game in disgust. I was named after him. Everyone else in the family called me Jack. Grandpa never called me anything but John.

 

My paternal grandfather, Frank Otto, was born in Germany in June 1846. His wife, Alvina,  (don’t know her maiden name), was born in December 1861. Frank was 51 when my dad was born, in May 1898, so it is not surprising that he died when my dad was a “young” boy. I suspect dad was between 9 and 12 when Frank died. Dad described him as a draft dodger, an atheist and a socialist. I believe he fled to this country about the time of the Franco-Prussian war. (1870-1871), at which time Prussia, (Germany), had universal conscription. My dad was not allowed to be baptized until he made his first communion, probably around age 12, at which time I presume atheist Frank was dead. His Occupation, as described in the 1900 census, was that of a “ packer of chinaware”.

 

Grandma Alvina had to have been married at least 3 times. She had a daughter named Gertrude, born in1887, who was dad’s half sister, so Frank had to be her second husband. Growing up, I knew her as grandma Grimmenstein, and I can remember grandpa Grimmenstein who died when I was young. Dad’s half sister’s married name was Puddy, as shown on her gravestone. She had a daughter, also named Gertrude, whom I last met during World War II. She was about ten years older than I and was married to a man whose name (I think), was Cleon Freeman or Friedman. He was a Colonel in the Air Force at that time. I mention these names in case anyone in the future is able to identify them and shed more light on my paternal relatives. Along this line of thought, we have a photo of a baby, about two years old, identified as Lucy Otto, and we have no clue as to who she was. (I now know that I had four first cousins by Gertrude Puddy, (see genealogy), and the only one I remember is the aforementioned Gertrude.

 

  I know grandma Grimmenstein mainly from dad’s descriptions and stories. After grandpa

Grimmenstein died she lived alone in a flat in south St Louis. I remember it had sliding doors between the living room and dining room. (So they wouldn’t have to heat the whole house in winter. The “heating system” in those days was often a pot bellied stove heated with coal or kerosene.) In later years she lived in a “retirement home” mostly paid for by dad, as there was no Social Security. She was short and stout, spoke with a slight German accent, and seemed very stern. I don’t ever remember seeing her laugh.

 

 

 

 

 

2.1.1 PARENTS, AUNTS & UNCLES .                                                                                 

 

My mother had two sisters, Mary and Ellen, (called Ella), and a brother, John J Walsh junior who died as an infant. Mary never married. Ella and husband Ed had three girls. The twins, Mary Ellen and Rosemary were born April 6, 1921, and Abbie was born Oct. 12. 1922.

 

Aunt Ella, (Ellen), was a character. I always called her O’Dell. She always lived one or two houses away from us and not everyone had a phone, so mom would stand on the back porch and shout “Oh Ell”, and she would come to her back porch and converse. I thought she was saying O’Dell, so that’s what I called her to her dying day. Ella was a professional worrier., the superstitious one, who always told her daughters how to raise children. They only had 16 of their own. I could drive her crazy by opening an umbrella in the house (it’s bad luck.), or stepping over my little brother as he sits on the floor. (It’ll stunt his growth).

 

William Edward Tudor, “Uncle Ed” was a country boy from Kentucky. He had several brothers. One was a policeman in St. Louis, another was a “big shot” in Washington, DC. Ed was “just a machinist”, a steady worker. He was out of work a couple times during the depression, and he never owned a car. He didn’t seem to resent taking a back seat to my dad who, though having to take cuts in salary, was never out of work.

 

Let us not forget aunt Mary. She was a loving, generous interfering busybody, every inch an “old maid’. When I was small, she was dating a doctor. What happened to him, I don’t know. I was told she was in love at about age 18, but grandpa Walsh interfered and it ended. She was the only person I ever knew who admitted she had no sense of humor. She was a surrogate mother to Mary Ellen, having shared quarters with her at times. She could hold a grudge. Her motto was “I can forgive but I can’t forget”. At the same time she was very loving and generous, especially to me. (I was one of her “favorites”). She told my dad, after Bill was born, that they shouldn’t have any more children. Dad didn’t appreciate Mary at times. She was also a wedge between Mary Ellen and her husband Dick Foster. This caused a lot of friction between Mary and Dick. Yet when his son, “Dickie”, Moved to Quincy Ill, after Mary Ellen died, aunt Mary moved into a seniors’ home in Quincy and Dick senior had a “jealous” fit. She was the last of the Walshes.

 

 

My mother Abbie Elizabeth Otto (Walsh) was a wonderful person. She never had a bad word for anyone. She would keep quiet rather than say something derogatory. It is said that she wouldn’t say sh-- if she had a mouthful of it. She claimed to be five foot two, but I’m pretty sure she lied about her height. There was a time when she and Carmen Miranda, (look her up), were the only ones left who wore “platform’ shoes. Like someone I later married, she would stay up till 2 am or later, and then sleep late. Often, when I came home from a night of wild partying, I would find her in the kitchen kneeling on the chair, elbows on the kitchen table, having fallen asleep saying her prayers. Also, like Joan, she was a good judge of character. She would size a person up, cut through the facade, glitter and bull and decide at once whether the person was real or phony. My dad would take a lot longer, but almost always come to the same conclusion. She loved young folks and they loved her.

 

She only got to see one grandchild before she died at age 52, and Steve was only 6 months old when she died. ( She would call up almost daily to see “how’s my Steven?”) She died too soon because of loyalty to our family doctor, Dr. Byrnes. After old doc Byrnes died we didn’t have a “ family” doctor, and mom put off going to a new doctor until it was too late. She died of hepatitis, failure of the liver. The family doctor was more important in those days. Dr Byrnes delivered me, (at home), and my brother Bill, (at Christian Hospital), came to the house several times when dad had “strep” throat, came to the house to announce that I had diphtheria. (I was playing in the back yard at the time.) The family doctor was like part of the extended family.

 

She didn’t get to travel much, because of dad’s devotion to work. He was a “traveling salesman” for several years and didn’t really like to take a lot of time off.  If I wanted something from dad, I would often ask mom to intercede. When brother Bill wanted something, he usually went to dad first.

 

My father, Raymond Eugene Otto was a man of many parts. Raised largely with no father and a harsh, unemotional mother, he grew into a self made successful business man, stern and serious concerning business, but a push-over at home, easy going, friendly and generous to a fault. He had it so tough as a child, he made life too easy for his children.

 

As I recall, dad went through the eighth grade and finished one year of high school. He was about to flunk math, but they offered to let him pass if he promised not to come back the following year. (The truth is, my dad could out-calculate and out-estimate me when he was 70 and I was 43.) So, dad was 13 and looking for a job. After a couple days of this his mother told him; “You’ll go out again tomorrow and come back with a job, or don’t come back at all”. So that was the kind of childhood he had. His father died when he was a young boy, and his mother didn’t lavish much love or tenderness on him. He didn’t really have an opportunity to play ball, go fishing or generally have fun.

 

So dad came home the next day with a job that lasted for several months. His next job lasted somewhat longer, 49 years to be exact. He hired in as a “mail boy” delivering inter office correspondence, etc. He went on to become a salesman, sales manager and vice president of marketing at Emerson Electric in Saint Louis, Mo. Then a manufacturer of electric motors

and fans, now a world wide conglomerate. He no more looked or acted like a salesman than a cowboy. He was quiet, honest and impatient with “phonies”. He didn’t mince words with business associates, but sometimes could not express his feelings with his own family.

 

I think he was disappointed that his sons were not as independent as he had to be. One reason for this was that he didn’t want us to face the hardships he encountered so he went out of his way to make things easy for us.

 

 

 

 

2.2 CONTEMPORARIES

 

2.2.1 Cousins.  The first “other kids” I knew were my three cousins, Mary Ellen, Rosemary and Abbie. They were the daughters of aunt Ella and uncle Ed. I started out in life surrounded by “women”, my three cousins, grandma Walsh, aunts Ella and Mary. As previously mentioned, uncle Ed was a quiet, retiring man whom I hardly knew when I was small. Grandpa Walsh was my “buddy” in my early years, but he seldom left the house, except to join me in a walk around the block.

 

Mary Ellen and Rosemary were “identical” twins who were far from identical in looks and personality. Rosemary was more feminine, prettier and more laid back. Mary Ellen was more serious, more of a “tom-boy”, outspoken, “touchy” and loyal. She was my buddy. We did things together, played sports, went on “camping” trips, packing a lunch and hiking down to the fruit cellar in the basement. (our “cabin”)

 

Abbie, though only a year younger, seemed much separated from her sisters. I don’t much remember the three of them doing anything together. They did have one thing in common. They spoiled me rotten, as did my aunts, grandparents and parents.

 

The three girls were Tudors before Marriage. Mary Ellen met Dick Foster during  “the war” when he was training at Scott Field in Illinois. I was best man at their wedding, at age 16. Dick went on to become a B-24 bomber pilot in England. Dick came from Lansing Michigan, and after the war they settled in St. Louis. They were “happily married” but there was a subtle jealousy between him and the Walsh clan, especially aunt Mary. They had three children, twins Dick and Donna, and David, who was a couple months younger than our Steven. Dick, senior shared my birthday, April 17. Although he was sometimes “at odds” with the other cousins, he always liked and respected us, especially my mom. Dick was different than the other husbands. He was not from the St. Louis area and he had been an officer during the war, (an ego building experience), which contributed to his position as the “odd man” among the three husbands.

 

Rosemary, as I had said, was not very interactive with me in my early years. She was pretty and popular in high school, married a true “character” and had eight children                                                                                                                                        with him, and always had time to be romantic through it all. It was not uncommon to see them dancing in the living room with bedlam all around. Her husband, Al Whitelaw, probably never weighed more than 140 pounds in his life. He looked the same the last time I saw him as he did when I first met him, about 30 years before. He was a tough, wiry little guy who was good at anything he did, but he had no ambition. He would work his tail off for my parents, or for Joan and I, but he didn’t want any part of any job with responsibility. He had a dry wit that wouldn’t quit. Never cracked a smile. One of his favorite sayings was, “if there’s anything I hate, it’s kids. They had eight and, when one of them died, they grieved like it was their only child.

 

 

Their five girls were named; Mary Francis, Mary Patricia, Mary Jane, Mary Ellen and Mary Ann. 

 

I don’t remember any of Abbie’s boy friends except the one he married, Charlie, “mutts” Kranz. Mutts was a policeman and a character in his own right. He was a cop, later a detective. They had five children including Abbie, a late surprise who was an aunt the day she was born. (She is the fourth generation Abbie, including her mother, my mother and her mother. Charlie and Al were very good to my parents, and especially to Joan and I as newlyweds. They teased us mercilessly, but came over to “help” me paint our first house. My main job was to keep the beer coming.

 

Jim Wissler, (Wiss), was not my first cousin. (I only recognize the titles; “ first cousin” and  “not first cousin”.) At whatever level, we were double cousins. If some of my cousins were characters, this one was THE character. He belonged to everything, knew everyone, respected everyone and was in awe of no one, and was never at a loss for words. He had a younger brother, Dan, just a couple years younger, but I was never really close to him. Jim was about two months older than I. They were the “poor” relatives. Jim’s dad died when he was a young boy. His mom Mamie struggled to keep them fed and housed. Mamie had a hard life, bur she had a great attitude and a great sense of humor. I loved her.

 

Jim spent three years in the navy during the war, and was almost drowned in a typhoon in the Pacific. (He didn’t know how to swim and refused to try it afterwards.) He was married to June while in the navy. I was in the wedding party and we had a few drinks the day we got measured for our “wedding garments”. It’s a wonder June didn’t call the whole thing off. He joined the navy reserves and was just staring his family when he was recalled for the Korean “ Non-war”. After his second hitch he went to work with civil service. While building his brood of six children he went to night school and earned his degrees, eventually becoming a CPA. During this time his was the only family we knew who didn’t own a car. I won’t say he was successful, but by age 55, he found he could take home more money as a retiree than he could as an employee.

 

Jim lived life to the fullest. He might break a leg playing softball in his 40’s or lose 24 feet of his lower intestines to cancer, but he never slowed down. With his sense of humor, he could tell a bad joke and make it sound hilarious. His funeral parade would make a mafia don jealous.

 

                                                                                                                           

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.2.2 FRIENDS

 

Jack Sly was, and still is, my closest friend. I met him when we moved to Bel Nor. He lived on the street behind ours. It is surprising that we have been so close for so long, since we are so different. Jack is outspoken, opinionated and quite the entrepreneur. He has never had a full time job, working for someone else. He savors his reputation as a tightwad, but is very generous to people and causes he believes in. He is convinced that everybody likes him. He can be intimidating, but I never felt intimidated by him. He has many attributes in common with my bride, doesn’t he?

 

My mother had two versions of Jack: “Jack Sly dries the dishes for his mother every day” and; “If Jack Sly jumped in the lake, would you follow him?” The answer is “only if I couldn’t jump in first”. We jumped in many a lake and river over the years. Jack could tell stories with the best, (“the best” was his dad, who could tell stories that only he could believe.) Jack didn’t just tell a story, he re-lived it with gestures and demonstrations. His motto was “it could happen to anybody”, but mostly it could only happen to him. Like the time he was driving his truck down the street and he saw a wheel rolling past him. While he was feeling sorry for the poor slob who lost a wheel, his truck lurched to a stop and he found out who the poor slob was.

*(After I heard this story at least 20 times, I was corrected recently when he told me that it happened to his father, not him. He tells it so well I naturally assumed… a bad thing to do.)

 

Jack’s father, Leo Sly, started a fruit processing business during the depression. He was wiped out when the banks closed, leaving him with little but the eggs he was unable to sell. That’s all they had for food for a while. Like many who were wiped out during the depression, Leo was a staunch Republican. My dad, who, though he took cuts in salary, never lost his job, was a loyal Democrat.

 

After “the war”, Jack took over the family business, “Fruit Products”, and helped make it profitable. Eventually they sold the business and Jack and his family traveled the United States for a full year looking for the “ideal” place to raise their children. They wound up in Versailles, Mo, a town of about 2000, where they owned a local motel. When the children, Patrick and Laurie, completed college, they sold the motel and retired in Versailles. Recently, they have become rather reclusive, ignoring the rest of the world, and living by and for themselves.

 

Jack’s wife Betty is quiet, like myself, but intelligent and capable and can be, at times, stubborn. Jack’s mother, Blanche, did not approve of her, mostly because she wasn’t Catholic. When she was dying, slowly, of cancer, Betty was very kind and supportive of her. Betty had a stressful childhood and is kind of fragile personality.

 

My baby brother, William Eugene, (AKA Billy Gene), was born on July 12, 1931. I was disappointed when he was born. I was five years old, surrounded by girl cousins, looking forward to a brother to play with. He was so small and useless. I was so naïve I didn’t notice mom’s condition and, as I recall, no one told me to expect a new baby, till the morning I woke up and mom wasn’t home. As I recall, they let me name him Bill. Uncle Ed, whose first name was William, thought Bill was named after him, and nobody corrected him.

 

As a baby and toddler he had long blond curls. I was embarrassed, thought he looked like my sister. He was a finagler, whether it was “pony ride dad?” at some place where there was one set up, or “I’ve got a pain in my side” when we were walking a mile to St. Ann’s school, and” Big brother” had to carry him part way. In return, I brought home from school all the childhood diseases,( measles, scarlet fever, etc.)

 

 I always came down with a slight case, and Bill got a severe case of the same thing. When Bill wanted something he worked on dad, while I usually went to mom. Bill was always a skinny kid who wouldn’t eat. That is, until meat rationing was imposed during “the war”. Then he suddenly developed an appetite that never quit 

 

Bill followed me through high school at CBC, then went to St. Louis College of Pharmacy, then did a hitch as an army corpsman. Shortly before his time was up, mom went to the hospital for a checkup. We didn’t think it was serious, but we had him request an early discharge. It just so happened that the day he came home, mom died. I had to pick him up at the airport and tell him his mother was dead. At that time, it was the hardest thing I ever had to do. Years later I had to tell Joan that Paul was dead. Then that became the hardest thing I ever had to do.

 

As we got older, the age difference dwindled. His friends became my friends. In fact, I dated his friend Larry’s sister a few times. Once, when I was supposed to take Joan on a hayride, I got called out of town on my job, Bill took her. She never heard such complaining about what a bummer it was, to this very day. Bill was a good dancer, I was not. Joan loved to “fast dance”, I didn’t. Joan liked to dance with him, but all Bill did was act goofy and stumble around with a pained expression. Bill would go to extremes for a joke. We used to go to Illinois for football games .The team is called the Illini, after an Indian tribe. During half time, as the band played, “Chief Illiniwak”, in buckskins and head dress would do a war dance of sorts. We would have a “pep rally” the night before, talking, drinking, playing college fight songs. So Bill goes to the bathroom, unnoticed. A few minutes later, Bill comes out, shirt off, pants rolled up, barefoot, with a towel for a loincloth and a toilet seat cover for a headdress, doing a war dance. He went to all that trouble for a two minute “show”. He is also a great story teller. Like my friend, Jack things happen to him that wouldn’t happen to anyone else. If you get with “uncle Bill” anytime ask him about when Louise got locked out of her house. Never mind, I’ll tell it.

 

Bill and Gloria had her parents over on a Sunday evening, as usual. Louise was a sturdy Italian woman of about 170 pounds. Joe was a small wiry Italian man of about 130 pounds. They didn’t have a car so Bill drove them home, as usual, to their sturdy brick bungalow on “the hill”. The next morning the telephone conversation went something like this;

Louise; I left my purse in your back seat last night.

Bill; Oh! I’ll get it back to you

Louise; But bill, my house key was in the bag. Didn’t you see me waving at you?

Bill; I thought you were waving goodbye. Did you get in alright?

Louise; All the doors were locked and all the windows except the kitchen window and it’s

about 6 feet off the ground.

Bill; But how did you get in?

Louise; I gave Joe a boost and he finally pulled himself up. Then he pulled me through the

window, but Bill, I had a terrible time. I tore my stockings and skinned my knees on the bricks.

                                                                              

 Now picture a 130 pound man, about five feet, two, pulling a 170 pound woman  up  the wall and through a kitchen window.

Bill; Why didn’t Joe just unlock the door and let you in?

Louise. (There was a long pause.) Oh!

 

Bill met, and eventually married Gloria Puricelli. Gloria’s theme song was “Life is just a bowl of cherries”. She was an upbeat person, jolly, not without a temper, willing and able to brag about her children. She and Bill were ”crazy” about each other. They had five children together. Our children and theirs were rather close, in spite of the fact that they lived about 40 miles apart. Then, in 1969, after a day of fishing, she came home and, when she was washing her hair, she fell over, dead. She left five children, two of them under the age of three. The next few years were very hard, exacerbated by the fact that I had to take my family to Wichita to find work. He met Shirley Czerniewski, who also was recently widowed and had three children of her own. She was tall, poised, blonde and serious. Gloria was short, stout, brunette and “laid back”.  So they married, moved into the house with eight children, at one time five teenagers. Shirley handled the children well, especially the two little girls. The step brothers and sisters soon were just brothers and sisters. All of Shirley’s children, Debbie, Terry and Bob are married. None of Bill’s are.

 

Then disaster struck again. Bill’s youngest, Michelle, was killed by a drunken driver. She was about 30, had many friends, a very crowded, very sad funeral. They worked hard and finally got the driver jail time. They joined Mothers Against Drunk Drivers,(MADD) and have been active in it. Shirley goes out with police, lectures and is politically active.

 

Bill and Shirley are popular with our children and grandchildren. They are very hospitable and generous when our family members are in St. Louis. Shirley’s children are always warm and friendly when we are in town.

 

 

 

 

 

2.3 PUBLIC FIGURES.

 

To repeat, one of the sorrows of aging is loss of people who made my world what it is, leaders and mentors. Some of these are;

 

Charles A. Lindberg, Lucky Lindy:                                                                                   He was lucky and plucky. He made all of us “children of the 30’s” want to be “aviators”. We wore “lucky Lindy” helmets with goggles. (Like little Ralphy in the movie “a Christmas story”. When I was small, grandma Walsh and I would stand in the back yard  when a plane flew over and yell “land here Lindy”, although our back yard wouldn’t accommodate a small helicopter.

 

Winston S Churchill:

He used his middle initial because there was a Missouri politician and writer named Winston Churchill. When Winston S wrote him concerning the possibility of confusion, the Missourian answered “As I am older than you by some months, I suggest you use your middle initial. (A typical citizen of the “show me” state.)

 

Winston S was a reporter during the Boer War, (1899-1902). He was minister of munitions during World War I. As such, he instigated the first use of tanks to break the deadlock of trench warfare. If you wonder why these armored vehicles were called tanks, it was a disguise. For secrecy, these crated machines were identified as fuel tanks on board ship to fool any German spies.

 

As Prime Minister of England during World War II, it was he, alone, who stood before the German armies, who had conquered all of continental Europe, when many of his advisors wanted him to sue for peace. Most of us had no idea how desperate their situation was. He said, in part, “We shall never surrender”. But for him and his people we might be speaking German today.

 

Franklin D Roosevelt:

He was a controversial, egotistical charmer, loved by some, reviled by others, who for 13 years, led our country through the bleak days of the depression and the frightening days of World War II. Though crippled with polio and, in his last years, failing health, he generated confidence in us. His most famous quote was; “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

 

General/President Dwight D Eisenhower;

As a General, he orchestrated the most gigantic logistic operation in the history of the world, the invasion of Normandy. (D-day). He was not a great tactician, but he managed to blunt great egos such as our Gen. Patton and England’s Marshall Montgomery, and get the many international units going in the same direction. As an example of the patriotism and respect of the press at that time; Gen. “Ike” called a news conference for all the media and stated that there was no way to keep secret the time and place of the invasion, so he told them exactly where and when D-day would occur and requested that they keep it secret. And they did! What would be the chances of that happening today?

As president, Ike was best at leaving things alone. During the Truman administration there was a railroad strike, during which Harry threatened, cajoled and promised to draft the strikers into the army and make them work. In Ike’s administration, another strike was threatened, and Ike did nothing. The dispute was settled by both parties without incident.

 

General George C Marshall. (The Marshall Plan).

General of the armies Marshall was chief of staff during WW II. Under the direction of newly invested president Harry Truman, he implemented a massive generous program to “win the peace”. The allies, after World War I, set out to punish the defeated countries by stripping them of their resources and denying certain rights, thereby causing economic depression and resentment, and instigating World War II. After World War II, however, we generously offered the defeated countries the means to recover. We gave (lent) the money to rebuild the facilities that we had destroyed, and made them productive and prosperous allies. In spite of the “cold” war, world war III was averted.

 

Adolph Hitler;

This egomaniac was such a ridiculous figure that no government heads paid any attention to this “clown” until it was too late. He broke the treaties signed after WW I by building a war machine and none of the allies had the guts to stop him until it was too late. He defeated and humiliated the armies who opposed him and enslaved continental Europe. He was responsible for more deaths than any other person in the history of the world. And he affected the lives of every American for a decade.

 

Teachers;

Sister Marian Gerard, St. Ann’s, Normandy, seventh grade. She was a warm, friendly, interesting person who got me to realize that nuns are really people like us.

 

Brother Linus, Christian Brothers College High School. He taught Latin and life in the real world. He knew every student by name and temperament, (about 450 kids). When I graduated in 1943, almost all of us were in the service. He kept in touch with them and could tell you about almost every one; What branch of service, where stationed, and how he was doing.

 

Raymond R Tucker, Washington University. Professor of Mechanical Engineering, later Mayor of St. Louis. He taught thermodynamics and combustion engineering, but he spent most of his time trying to convince us that without salesmanship, (charm), no great idea will flourish. Of course we didn’t believe him until it was too late.

 

Pope John XXIII

He changed the concept of being Catholic. A thousand years of rules and law were torn down and not quite replaced. There was some comfort in knowing that certain things were “mortal sins”, and must be avoided at all cost. Now our “black and white” world had shades of gray. More decisions had to be made. On the other hand, the Mass is in English, and we are participants, instead of spectators. It needed to be done.

 

Nikita Kruschev/ The Cold War.

The atom bomb may have saved my life. I was scheduled to ship out to the Pacific in two weeks when the first bomb fell. It was the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War. For decades we lived under the shadow of “Armageddon”. It was in the back of our minds at all times between crises. There was the blockade of Berlin, the Berlin wall, the Cuban missile crisis, and in between, wondering if the next crisis would be the final one. Much of my employment as an engineer was devoted toward preventing World War III. When the Cold War ended we did not anticipate anything like the War on Terrorism. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.4 EVENTS/THINGS.

 

The Breakdown of the Family;

The collapse of morals, a sense of right and wrong, was caused by several things.

 

Television, the “one eyed monster”.

Television has been defined by author Doris Goodwin as “The most fragmenting force in all cultural history.” It has replaced the family as teacher, moral guide and baby sitter. It has changed the way we get our news, elect politicians (and thereby redefine our constitution), define our morals and spend our money. We allow this single source of information to shape our news, redefine pornography and teach our children filthy language.

 

The Computer  (and it’s offspring, the Internet, the computerized Credit Card and the Cell phone

I have seen the computer evolve from a massive machine with it’s own air conditioner to something that fits in a shirt pocket. The modern computer now offers us extreme freedom, with a touch of slavery. It eliminates chaos in our lives, while creating new levels of chaos. With it’s wonders we can work at home, buy, sell, do research, print, check our credit, pay our bills, order pizza, all without leaving the comfort of our room, car or lap. In other words, we can become high-tech hermits.

 

With instant credit comes the computerized credit card system. This is the engine that drives the internet. It also drives many into bankruptcy. I have read how the banks carefully screen applicants to control excessive spending. That is why they pre-approved my grandson, who was in school and jobless, and also why they pre-approve some people’s household pets.

 

Cell phones can enrich your life by ensuring that, wherever you go, whatever you do, there will be no privacy. I liken them to the transmitters attached to criminals, in lieu of jail time, so that the law will always know where they are. (a tool of the Devil.)  One day, my grandson, whom I dearly love, complained that his phone went off three times in a movie theater, and he had to go out in the lobby to answer it. I was too flabbergasted to ask him, if he didn’t have a wife about to go into labor, why he took a cell phone into a movie.

 

It is interesting how the telephone evolved into the computer age. When I was small, you picked up the phone and a human voice asked “number please?” You told her the number you wanted and soon a person said “hello”. Next came the dial phone, followed by the touch tone phone. Now when you dial a number a computerized voice says “thank you for calling the XYZ company, then feeds you a series of menus, and eventually you hear the dreaded “Your call is important…..”.

 

 

The Entertainment Industry

In 1939, Rhett Butler was allowed to say to Scarlet O’Hara, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” This was considered obscene language for a movie at that time. Gradually, entertainment media achieved more “sophistication” until I now hear words on “prime time” television that have never been spoken in my living room.  Mere total nudity in bed does not beget an “R” rating, nor does the abominable F word. The “heroes” on TV, cops, doctors, judges, mothers, etc. have “trivial sex” with various partners without any sense of shame, or any attempt to keep it private. “Vengeance” movie heroes, (Schwarzenegger, Stalone, Norris, etc.) are allowed to commit first degree murder and various acts of brutality, as the audience cheers, because someone “done him wrong”. These are the role models our children are expected to look up to. TV games keep score of how many “bad guys” you killed on your journey. They don’t miss any of the 10 commandments. They break them all without remorse or punishment.

 

Lawyers,Liars and Legislators.

Beginning, (as I recall) in the1960’s, the Constitution of the United States has been gradually rewritten. Freedom of religion now means it is illegal to pray in school. Freedom of the press means there is no such thing as pornography. Freedom of speech means that special interest groups have the right to “bribe” politicians by giving unlimited  amounts to their election funds. Elections are won by the candidate who can extract the most money from the special interests. After the election, to whom are they beholden? (We no longer have elections. We have “auctions”.)

 

Judges have allowed us to be a generation of “victims”. It’s not the murderer’s fault because he was mistreated by “society”. A woman spills coffee on her lap and sues McDonalds because the coffee was too hot. A mother sues McDonalds because her son is grossly overweight from too much “fast food”. A woman is “awarded” $28 billion,

(That’s 28,000,000,000, almost 3 times the budget for the state of Kansas), because, in spite of the labels on every pack and the escalating warnings in the news media she smoked for fifty years, and got cancer. Descendants of slaves think the government owes them billions of dollars because our dead ancestors mistreated their dead ancestors. (In fact my dead ancestors, who came here around 1890, were themselves “wage slaves.) When I was growing up I was told I was born with “free will”, and was responsible for my actions.

 

Change of subject”  Hoene Springs.

It was a phenomenon of the 1930’s and beyond. Before homes had air conditioning or even window fans, summer in the city meant you never got a decent night’s sleep. We slept on porches, back yards, or in a city park. People went to the movies in the afternoon because it was air conditioned. It cost 15cents and up, and the show was continuous so you could cool off for six hours if you wanted to. To get a cool night’s sleep and daytime entertainment, some people had access to “club houses”. They were usually at or near a river for swimming, boating or fishing. Some were without electricity, most without running water.

 

 Our family owned a club with the Alfert family, Ben, Gerry and girls Betty, Joan and Marilyn. Ben went to school with my mom and was my godfather, and, at the club, he tried to teach me to fish, without too much success. This “kid’ stuff my dad did not enjoy as a boy. It is a minor miracle that two families, for almost 30 years, could share a clubhouse, (one room, kitchen and porch), without a major disturbance. The first club #32, as I said before, consisted of one huge bedroom, a tiny kitchen and a screened in porch. It stood on “stilts”(cedar posts about 10 feet high) because every few years the river would flood the grounds. The bedroom was also used for indoor recreation, especially on rainy days. The porch was used for dining, drinking and playing cards, usually till the wee hours of the morning. Outdoor activities included swimming, fishing, boating, “mountain” climbing, corkball, (look that one up), softball and hanging out. For the adults it was swimming, horse shoes, bar-b-cueing, beer drinking and penny-ante poker long into the night. Sleeping occurred on “rollaway” beds, day beds, (they call them futons now), and sometimes on army cots. There may have been as many as 18 or 20 people sleeping there on some nights. Either family could invite one or more friends at almost any time without prior approval from the other family.

 

Hoene Springs was a community of clubhouses in a valley surrounded by the foothills of the Ozarks, about 4 miles from Eureka, Mo. The area is now virtually a suburb of St. Louis. There was a spring at the foot of a hill, from which we got our water. Next to the spring was an ice house, a small general store and the original Hoene farmhouse.

 

All this was started by a farmer, grandpa Hoene, who used to sit in a lawn chair under an old tree and tell his stories. How his first year as a farmer, he planted his crop, tended it and watched it dry up in a drought so he harvested nothing. He decided farming was not for him. Next year he rented out his land to a tenant farmer and started to invite people out for a day in the country, chicken dinner, etc. He picked them up at the train station at Eureka and brought them out in a horse drawn wagon. Then during the depression of

The 30’s, his son Harry, a shrewd farmer, started building clubhouses and selling them to city folks. Shrewdly, while my folks owned the cottage, Harry still owned the land it sat on. Somehow, Harry managed to buy land when it was truly “dirt cheap”, (during the depression), and wound up owning  “about half of Jefferson County” according to rumors. With all his wealth he lived in the original farm house and his wife, Winnie cooked on a wood fired stove until after the war, when they built a beautiful ranch house.

 

We would go there on weekends and sometimes we would spend a week or two out there. Dad and Ben would have about a 30 mile commute to work each day. We went to Sunday Mass at House Springs, (4 miles), or Byrnesville, (8 miles) on alternate Sundays. Father Murphy, a witty old Irishman, said the 7 AM  in one town and the 9 AM in the other on alternate weeks. We went to the 9, whatever town it was in. He could keep the congregation in stitches. He would announce the bans of marriage and say “ Don’t see what Rosemary sees in that ugly lug”. House Springs was a tiny frame church perched on top of a hill with a few pews so uncomfortable that Father dared anyone to try to fall asleep during Mass, and a choir so bad it was comical. If you arrived late, as we usually did everyone could hear you chugging up the gravel road. Sometimes the Church was full and the husbands would stand on the porch or outside the windows and “hear” Mass.

 

Around 1940, Harry finished off the loft of his large barn and every Saturday night there would be a genuine barn dance. This really brought the club owners, (and renters) together and formed year long friendships. One incident stands out in my mind. Herman Haenel, Who knew dad from grade school, and his wife, Ethyl, after the dance argued for hours as to who will drive home. It was; I’m driving!, no, I’m driving!!. We kids were in bed hours before and wondered when it would end. Finally Ben drove their car back St. Louis and dad followed and drove Ben back. Probably neither Herman nor Ethyl was in any condition to drive home.

 

The barn dance really turned the place into a community. People would get together, “kids” from pre-teens to thirties and all treated alike. Party games, dancing, softball games. We even had annual elections to various offices. Ben was elected mayor one year. Dad was always elected official party- pooper.

 

While I was in the service, they sold old #32 and bought a nice cottage about a mile from the river. It had running water, separate bedrooms, a basement and a lovely porch about 20 by 20 feet, screened in on three sides. It had a large dining room with a beautiful sponge rock fireplace. It was a mile from the river, making it less convenient. And it was more formal, such that you couldn’t invite a guest without first checking with the Alferts, because we couldn’t have too many total guests, lest they not each have a private bedroom.

 

This was a magic place in it’s time. But it’s time has passed. The area is now a subdivision with permanent homes, a part of suburbia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.0 WHO /WHAT MADE ME;

 

3.1 EARLY EXPERIENCES.

 

My mother was less than five foot, two, and weighed between 90 and100 pounds before she had me. I was born at home, and backward, (breech), My weight was estimated by the doctor at about nine and a half pounds. The doctor sent dad to the drug store to get some medicine. Actually it was just to get him out of the way. My oldest memory was at a “flat” on Carter Avenue in St Louis. Our families moved from flat to flat in groups of three. We lived upstairs above grandma and grandpa and uncle Ed and aunt Ella and aunt Mary lived one or two houses away. I have two “first memories”. I remember the family moving from one set of flats on Carter Avenue to another set of them about a block away. I remember our new address was 4585a Carter Avenue. By the way, a flat was what we called a two story rental with one “apartment” upstairs and a separate one below. They may have been called flats because some of them had flat roofs. The new location was about half way up a steep hill. The old  “double decker” busses had to get a running downhill running start to make it up the hill.

 

My other “first memory” I think is remembered because my folks told it so often that I couldn’t forget it. I remember staring through a fence at the big kids playing in St. Englebert’s schoolyard. I had to cross two busy streets and walk a long city block to get there. Apparently I came home with a stick in my hand which mom proceeded to whip me with. (They were so mean to me.)

 

Grandma had a player piano. I remember when I was big enough to pump the pedals, the three girl cousins and I would sing along to; “ My Buddy”,” Peggy O’Neal.”  “The “Prisoner’s Song”:

Oh if I had the wings of an angel

Over these prison bars I would fly

And I’d fly to the arms of my loved one

And there I’d be willing to die.

At my age, I couldn’t see how anyone would be willing to die.

And then there was;

It’s only a shanty in old shanty town

The roof is so slanty it touches the ground

Just a tumble down shack

By an old railroad track

Like a millionaire’s mansion

It’s calling me back

I’d give up my palace if I were a king

It’s more than a palace, it’s my everything

There’s a queen waiting there

With her silvery crown

In my shanty in old shanty town

I didn’t realize at my age that the depression was at it’s worst, and there were homeless, jobless people living in tin and tarpaper shacks at the time. I remember later, while on the

excursion boat trips down the Mississippi, seeing “Hooverville”, a collection of shanties on the riverfront.

 

I believe we also played and sang the first song I ever memorized, “ Springtime in the Rockies”;

When it’s springtime in the Rockies

I’ll be coming back to you

Little sweetheart of the Rockies

With your bonny eyes so blue

Once again I’ll say I love you

While the birds sing all the day

When It’s springtime in the Rockies

In the Rockies far away

 

 There were three pianos in our clan. We had one, aunt Ella had one, and grandma had one     Nobody in the whole bunch knew how to play one. For the edification of the uninformed,

a player piano was a wonderful magic machine. There is a scroll of paper about a foot wide with perforations, one for each piano key. The foot pedal moves the scroll across a bar and blows air through the holes actuating the piano keys. The words are printed on the scroll so you can sing along. It worked without the magic of electronics. By the way, Ed and Ella had a “ Victrola” that played records, also without electricity. They also had a copy of a famous painting called “September Morn”. It showed a naked lady stepping into a babbling brook. It was very “fuzzy” and not explicit, but I was mortified by it. although I don’t think I ever mentioned it to anyone.

 

When I was five, mom took me to enroll in kindergarten at St. Engelbert’s. Sister said I looked big for my age, so she put me in first grade. So all through school, I was a year younger than my classmates. In those days school was simple and inexpensive. Almost all the teachers were nuns, working for almost nothing. We walked to school, walked home for lunch. All we did was sit down and learn and take home our homework. When we moved to Shirley place we were in the same parish, so I didn’t have to change schools.

 

Life in the city was simple but pleasant. Cousins and friends and school and Church were within walking distance. For a long time I didn’t know there were any “non-catholics” in the world. Our friends, the Haenels, Herman and Ethyl, were not only non-catholics, but they were the only “Republicans” we knew. Ruthie Menges lived next door to us on Carter Avenue. She was a year older than I. When she was six, I was five and I thought,  “next year I’ll catch up with her”. Unfortunately I did. She caught the measles at about age six, developed pneumonia and died. I guess I’ll never forget that.

 

 Life in the city had a lot of amenities. I remember when we got our first refrigerator. Before that we had an ice man who came by daily, (I think), and carried blocks of “fresh” ice up the stairs and put it in the “ice box”. We would leave a sign in the window, letting him know if we wanted 25 or 50 pounds, or none. It was a great treat when he “accidentally” spilled a few small pieces for us to chew on. We didn’t need a refrigerator to keep the milk cold, since the milkman came by every morning with a fresh supply. The grown-ups bought groceries on almost a daily basis, usually by phone. Mom would call up and order meat, cut to order, vegetables and whatever. It would be delivered within a couple hours. If you went to the grocery store you stood at the counter and told the clerk what you wanted and he, or she, picked it up, brought it back and put it in your bag and carried it to the car. (If you had a car)  There were many people who made a living doing “menial chores” in those days. Chores now performed by “do it yourselfers” or “high-tech” gadgets.

 

There was a truck with fresh vegetables daily, (I think), and a White’s Bakery truck that came by. He used to come by with a horse drawn wagon, and people congratulated him when he got a truck. He said it was no improvement. He used to stop his wagon, visit several houses, and the horse would keep up and meet him at the new spot. Then he would mount the wagon, let the horse “drive” to the next stopping point while he did his “paperwork”. Now, he had to go back, move the truck, and drive on, doing his paperwork afterwards. There was also a hot tamale vendor, a knife and scissors grinder, a “rag- picker” and a few other vendors who came by. We even had an “old lamp lighter”, an old gentleman who lit the gas lit street lamps in the evening and turned them off in the morning

 

I was part of the last generation to grow up without TV. The beauty of it was that we didn’t miss it. We had closer family ties and we had radio. (We also had voice recognition telephones. You picked up the receiver and an operator said: “number please”). Radio in those days was a source of quality entertainment. The best entertainers from vaudeville, Broadway and Hollywood gravitated to radio. Eddie Cantor, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, (George) Burns and Allen, Fanny Brice, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, and many more. Radio did not demand your undivided attention. You could listen with one ear whole doing your homework. Comedy and serious drama were to be found there. 

 

The best part of radio was that it left something to the imagination. In “Amos and Andy” the kingfish had various ways of describing his “momma-in-law”. “She had the disposition of a hermit crab, the beauty of a wart hog and the sense of humor of a wounded rhinoceros”. Now every listener conjured up his own picture of this person.

 

Radio also had fifteen minute adventure stories that ran between school time and supper time. Tom Mix and his Ralston straight shooters, Jack Armstrong the all-American boy,( he was a student/athlete at Hudson High for at least ten years.) And, of course, Little Orphan Annie (as portrayed in the movie, “A Christmas Story.)  As a matter of fact I had a lot in common with Ralphie in that movie. I had a Little Orphan Annie decoder badge, a Red Rider 250 shot carbine style bb gun with a compass in the stock. I even had a “lucky Lindy” aviator’s helmet with goggles. I also had a little brother who wouldn’t eat and a fight with a bully, but I didn’t wear glasses.

 

I interrupt this story for a little bit of showing off. I remember most of the words to their theme songs:

 

 

 

 

Jack Armstrong;

Wave the flag for Hudson High boys

Show them how we stand

Ever shall our team be champions

Known throughout the land

Little orphan Annie;

Who’s that little chatterbox

The one with pretty auburn locks

Cute little she

It’s little orphan Annie

Bright eyes, always on the go

There’s a sign of healthiness handy

Mite size, cheeks a rosy glow

If you want to know

 “Arf says sandy

Always wears a sunny smile

Now wouldn’t it be worth your while

If you could be

Like little orphan Annie

Of course, if you wanted to be like Annie, you would drink your Ovaltine.

 

While I ‘m in the mood for nostalgia, what I believe was the first ever singing commercial went like this;

                                                    Pepsi Cola hit’s the spot

Twelve full ounces, that’s a lot

Twice as much for a nickel, too

Pepsi Cola is the drink for you

You can tell by the price how old this commercial was.

 

Catholic schools in those days were taught mainly by volunteer “slave labor”. Dedicated nuns who had almost no salary and no “ family life” to distract them. We walked to school and walked home for lunch, (or brought it). No computers, no fancy teaching tools. It was the three “R’s” plus Religion. If sister spanked you, you didn’t go home and tell mom, unless you wanted another spanking. Of course, I was so good I never needed to be punished.

 

Sports were a spontaneous thing. There were no little leagues with practice and referees and demanding parents. You went to a gathering place, chose sides and started playing. In those days in the city, we usually went to the Steinlage’s house. They had three boys about our age and three older siblings we seldom saw. Everyone got to play. (There was no bench..) If you didn’t feel like playing you didn’t go there. If there weren’t enough players to cover three bases we played with two bases. If you had less players you played “Indian ball”. No baserunners, two baselines, one or two infielders, one or two outfielders. You hit the ball, if it’s fielded cleanly you were out. If not, it’s a single. After you load the bases, every hit scores a run. Cork ball was played by similar rules of scoring. A minimum team consisted of a pitcher and a catcher. The pitcher threw a small, unstable ball, (It was almost impossible to

 

throw anything but a curve ball), the batter swung a broomstick sized bat. One strike is an out, unless the catcher drops the ball. Foul tips don’t count. If the ball is hit in front of the plate and not caught in the air, it’s a single. I presently possess a bat and a couple balls, for museum purposes.

 

Some of the good things about those times;

 

Police were considered our friends. Once, when our streets were covered with packed snow and we children were sledding down the hill, the police barricaded the street so the cars had to use the alleys to get to their homes.

 

The only drug “addicts” were criminals and some musicians.

 

We walked the streets at night without fear. (Partly because of ignorance.)

 

We members of the “knot hole gang” could watch major league baseball for free.

 

Some of the bad things about those times;

 

The practice of medicine was far removed from what we know today. As I mentioned earlier, the little girl next door died from pneumonia, a complication following measles. Pneumonia was often fatal in those days.

 

We were in the midst of the “Great Depression”. There were no unemployment benefits, no welfare and virtually no jobs. Joan’s dad Will had a job. Her uncle Fred didn’t. His family moved in with Will’s family, instead of sleeping on the street.

 

The world was covered with soot. Virtually all homes with central heating were heated with coal. If you ever wondered why movies of that era showed “common folks’” homes in dark colors of woodwork and wallpaper. Soot was the answer. Coal was shoveled from a truck, down a “coal chute” into a bin in the basement. Coal dust and fly ash abounded. Every morning you could open your window and brush powdered ash off the windowsill. Also, the ashes had to be removed from time to time. They were placed in “ash pits”. Concrete things shaped like a bath tub about six feet by four feet square by four feet high. At least that’s how I saw them as a child. They were also a popular breeding place for rats. (No fun)

 

When my baby brother was born I was five years old. I was so naïve and people were so secretive about pregnancy that I had no idea he was coming. I guess I didn’t notice that mom was getting fat because one day I got up and dad said mom was in the hospital and I had a new baby brother. I was so happy to have a playmate, and so disappointed to see how small and helpless he was. I wanted to call him Bill, and for some reason they agreed. He was not named after anyone as I was, (after grandpa John), but uncle Ed, who was William Edgar, thought Bill was named after him. As far as I know nobody told him different.

 

Bill was a skinny kid and a poor eater. I was the one who would eat almost anything put in front of me. He was not sickly, but he didn’t have a great immune system such as mine. I would come home with a “touch” of scarlet fever. I would miss a few days school and pass the germ on to Bill, who would get very sick and miss a few weeks of school. When we went to a restaurant, I would wait till after Bill ordered. Then if he ordered chicken, I would order steak, knowing I would get to finish his chicken. During the war, when food was rationed, especially meat, Bill suddenly acquired an appetite and never relinquished it, becoming the well rounded person we know today.

 

When I was about eleven, we moved to the suburbs, a place called Bel-Nor in Normandy, Mo. I was in sixth grade. I finished grade school at St Ann’s, in Normandy. I met Jack Sly, who lived in the next block. ( his back yard touched ours). He became my best friend throughout my life.

 

The “gathering place” in Bel-Nor was the Smith’s house. There were three boys there, so that’s where make-up baseball and football games were organized. During the games, for refreshments, volunteers would go across the road to Bellerieve Acres to collect apples. There were large houses on large lots with lots of apple trees. We would eat them, hard as rocks and green as grass, through the summer until they were ripe and ready. When they were ripe, the summer (vacation) was almost over. That’s how the summer went. In spring, before school let out, we could pick cherries. In summer, apples and pears. When the grapes were ripe, it was time to go back to school. Sometimes we had permission, more often, they were “swiped”. (They tasted better). It never occurred to us that we might be “stealing”.

 

In the eighth grade, we went to a few “dances’. There wasn’t a lot of dancing. Believe it or not, most boys were not that interested in girls at that time. The best dance that year was at Koenig’s farm, where I ate strawberries right off the vine for the first time.

 

p.s. When we were small we used to play games like; “hide and seek”, “cops and robbers”,    “cowboys and Indians”, and sometimes “war”. I remember the first time war was explained to me. Grown-ups going out and trying to kill each other, (total strangers). It was hard to comprehend. It still is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.2 LEARNING EXPERIENCES

 

3.2.1 HIGH SCHOOL

 

I went to Christian Brothers College High School. (CBC). The Christian Brothers had operated a College in the 1920’s but it burned down. When they re-opened as a high school in the late 1930’s, they kept the name “CBC”. In these days of “loose morals” it is refreshing to be able to say that there has never been a student pregnancy at CBC in all these years. The fact that it is an “all boys” school had a lot to do with it. It was also a military school. Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, (ROTC). We wore uniforms, did close order drills and studied military tactics. I was never the “warrior” type, but I feel that I benefited from the discipline and structure of it. Being in an all male school was good for learning, (no feminine distractions), but it left some of us ill at ease in the presence of girls. An army officer and non-commissioned officer were assigned to our school. We started out in 1939 with a Colonel and a Master Sergeant, but when the war came along we wound up with a Captain and a Staff Sergeant.

 

   I’m not sure how I wound up there. My parents suggested it, (They knew an older boy who was going there and they liked his poise and attitude.) I checked it out, took a placement test and won a one year partial scholarship, so I decided to go there. Jack Sly decided to go there too. He also checked out St. Louis U. High and seemed to like it but decided on CBC. For years I wondered why. After 60 years, I finally asked him. “Because my dad told me I was going there, that’s why”. About that time Don Heitmeier and his family moved in next to Jack’s house. He was about my age, but a year behind us in school. He became the third member of the “Bel-Nor Bulls”, as we sometimes called ourselves. He also went to CBC.

 

We were taught primarily by “the Brothers”. (The Christian Brothers) They were a religious order of men, not ordained, but practicing many of the same disciplines. (They took a vow of poverty, for instance.) They were an eclectic bunch of characters. Brother Linus, as mentioned earlier, was very intelligent, colorful, person with a great sense of humor, but a strict disciplinarian. He was not above seriously slapping students who misbehaved, though I never heard any repercussions from their parents. He taught Latin and made it bearable. I may be the only person alive who thought that learning Latin was worth the effort. (So many European language words have common Latin roots.)

 

Brother Theodore was a dramatic tyrant. He directed the annual dramatic presentation “Purple Patches”. It featured music, dramatic skits, (mostly comic), chorus “girls”, etc. He was dramatic in school, too. He would threaten to tear off his robe and go out in the street and direct traffic for a living. Then there was Mr. Klemm. He coached all major sports. He was called captain Klemm. He was just a civilian but he wore an army officer’s uniform. He was my track coach. He called me Ott. He would crack a smile that lasted about 1/100th of a second. He tried to teach us to be “good losers” if all goes wrong. Jack Sly’s dad Leo used to say, “It’s one thing to be a good loser, but they don’t have to be perfect at it.

      

We didn’t have a parking lot for students’ cars, partly because we weren’t allowed to drive to school. In those ancient days very few high school students had their own cars even if their parents were rich. We also didn’t have school busses. We caught the Ferguson street car a couple blocks from home, transferred in the Wellston area, (not a nice neighborhood), took the Kirkwood trolley to Clayton Road and walked a couple blocks to school. It took 45 to 60 minutes all together but it wasn’t all bad. We usually got most of our homework studies taken care of “en route”.

 

  I was not much of a “joiner” at school. I loved football but failed to go out for it as a               freshman, and couldn’t make the cut as a junior with no experience. In four years I never missed a home football game, but went to exactly one basketball game. I did “letter” in track, first in the 880 yard run and later in the shot-put. Unlike most high schoolers we didn’t have to decide what we were going to do after graduation. Our choices were what branch of service and whether to enlist or wait to be drafted. It was 1943 and if you were classified 1A, as most of us were, those were your choices. In the summer of 1942 and 1943 I worked at Emerson Electric, who were building aircraft gun turrets. My first job paid 35 cents an hour.

 

As I graduated at age 17, I had a year of freedom and, as I was considering a possible career in aeronautical engineering, I spent the 1943/1944 school year at St Louis U. in a sort of pre-engineering course. I had enlisted in the Army Air Force, as it was known then and was not called up until August 24, 1944.

 

I visited the “old school” in April 2003, at our 60th reunion and toured the new facilities due to open in Sept. of the same year. Words like ostentatious, luxurious and excessive fail to describe the campus. At the reunion we estimated that tuition in 1943 was about $230 per year. For the upcoming year it was trimmed down to an even $7000.

 

This has nothing to do with important and wonderful experiences, ( As discussed in the following section), but, as April is the month of my birth; For several years running, I spent my birthday incapacitated. I lost my tonsils In April. Then I lost my appendix in April. (I remember this one clearly because my new friend, Jack, visited me in the hospital on my birthday and explained in detail what a beautiful day I was missing out on.) The following two years I had ingrown toenails treated in April. After that April returned to normal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.2.2 EXPERIENCES

 

By this time in my young life, I had been privileged to see some major events;

 

 I went to the 1933 world’s fair in Chicago. In those days, with travel and communication limited as it was, these fairs were a major means of communication, education and demonstration of a community’s capabilities. I don’t remember much about the fair. (I was only 7). I do remember the train ride with aunt Mary and grandma, and afterwards watching various scenes through a stereo viewer brought home as a souvenir. I do remember a demonstration of an unbreakable hair comb which we bought. It was hammered, twisted and otherwise abused by the “hawker” without breaking. When my 2year old brother got a hold of it, he twisted it once and“snap”, end of comb. We jokingly agree that this was where I met my future wife. She was there, less than a year old, in a stroller, with her grandma. Considering the age difference, we probably didn’t notice each other.

 

I also went to the New York world’s fair in 1940. That was the year of our family’s only really big vacation. In fact it was a combined vacation/ business trip for dad. We saw New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC and Niagara falls. In Philly, I touched the liberty bell and was scolded by a guard. In Washington, I remember dad getting “stuck” in a park. The park, like the city, is built in a circle, and dad went around a circle three times looking for an exit not marked “no right turn’. He finally had to ask a cop for help. At Niagara, I remember looking up at the falls from the boat “Maid of the Mist”. We went along a walkway at the bottom. The mist was so heavy we had to take off all our clothes and put on “slickers and hoods”.

 

 In May of 1940 I got to see the Kentucky Derby. I believe it was aunt Mary and the three cousins and their boy friends that took me along. Mary Ellen’s boy friend at that time, Jack Dolan, was a cousin to jockey Carrol Bierman, who rode the winning horse at the previous year’s Derby. It was won by Whirlaway, setting a record time that lasted for 21 years. Afterwards we met some of the jockeys, including Eddie Arcaro, who rode the winner. Next morning they gave me a ribbon that (they said) was from the winner’s bouquet. I’ll never know if it really was, but I displayed it proudly for years.

 

In 1952, I went to the Indy 500. In those days there was no stock car racing, so this was “the big one”. As an engineer I was impressed with the action in the pits and at the ingenuity of the fans in the infield. They were stretched out on blankets oblivious of the race, or in makeshift bleachers on the bed of raised dump trucks. There was an experimental Diesel powered machine which failed miserably. Bill Vukovich led most of the way, but crashed with about 10 miles to go. (He won it the next two years but was killed in a crash in a subsequent “500”. Troy Rutman won the race . It was the last race won by a front-engine powered car. The winning speed was about 130 mph. Pretty paltry by modern standards.

 

In the late 40’s and early 50’s I was privileged to watch several major golf tournaments in St. Louis, including the U S open. Got to walk alongside of and talk to the likes of Sam Snead and Ben Hogan. I also got to see several World Series games over the years. I was lucky to have witnessed some of the great sporting events in this country.

3.2.3 SERVICE / WORLD WAR II

 

I enlisted in the Army Air Force (AAF) in 1943. I was called to active duty, (inducted) Aug. 24, 1994. I spent my first weekend at Jefferson Barracks, Mo. (St Louis), after which I went to Amarillo, TX for basic training. The area is flatter than Wichita. Training was very physical. We were mostly 18 or19 year olds. The old man of the outfit was 24. We were surprised how the old timer kept up with us. The barracks were covered with tarpaper and heated by a couple of pot bellied stoves. It being summer, that didn’t matter much.  It was so windy that the corners of the barracks were tied down with guy wires. Of course no one had air conditioning at that time. The town didn’t amount to much, but it didn’t matter because we got about one weekend pass in six weeks. We were tested for qualifications for pilot training but I didn’t make it, partly because at that time they didn’t have many openings for pilots, bombardiers, navigators or other officers. There were plenty of openings for gunners. There was a song we sang at that time, (To the tune of “My Bonnie lies over the ocean”);

 

They promised him wings made of silver

 

They promised us bars made of gold

 

But now he’s an aerial gunner

 

He’ll die when he’s nineteen years old

 

 Next stop was Fort Meyers Florida. Again with flat sandy soil, tarpaper covered barracks and, (as I recall) pot bellied stoves. At no time did we need heat there. Who would have thought Florida could be flatter than Texas.

 

Gunnery training was sometimes fun for a guy who loved flying. We fired 50 caliber machine guns out of the “waist” window of a war weary B24 bomber. The windows were open to a 200 mile an hour slipstream and there was no insulation in the plane and it was so loud that we couldn’t talk to each other without intercom, even if we touched our foreheads together.  The planes had finished a tour in Europe and would creak and groan. One day on a return trip the pilot tried to see how slow he could go without stalling. He stalled and we found ourselves floating in mid air in front of an open window. The spent cartridges we had collected and boxed were now scattered on the floor again. I learned about “ zero-g” early on.

 

 The weather in Florida was not friendly. Heat and humidity. I would hang up my freshly washed clothes in the afternoon and they would still be wet in the morning. The people were not friendly. Anywhere else I went it seldom took more than five minutes to hitch a ride. Florida was the only place I couldn’t get picked up. One night we got stuck in the swamp between town and camp for hours and finally caught a bus back to town. Next morning we took the bus to camp. And the mosquitoes in Florida are like no others. You can always tell a Florida mosquito. It has a white spot between it’s eyes, about the size of your fist. (I stole that story from a comedian called Bob Burns, the Arkansas traveler. He played a sort of a trombone, made of water pipes and other things with a funnel in front of it. It was called a bazooka. The military bazooka, having a similar profile, was named after it.)

 

After gunnery training I was shipped to Lowry Air Force Base, Denver, Colorado for remote control gunnery training. Denver was a very friendly town of about 250,000 people then. The barracks were permanent and well kept. It was invigorating exercising in shirtsleeves in the thin air surrounded by snow-peaked mountains. It was many years later that I realized that Denver is as flat as Wichita. It is a city in the bottom of a “bowl”, surrounded by the mountains, facilitating pollution as the city grew in later years. Mom and Dad got to visit me there that Thanksgiving and a good time was had by all.

 

I learned to operate and maintain the B 29 fire control system, consisting of one or more unmanned turrets, controlled from a remote firing station. After training was completed, while waiting to be shipped to our next destination, we were “chosen” for two weeks of “permanent K P. This consisted of 14 to 16 hours per day sweating over dishes, pots & pans and scrubbing garbage cans. It was the second nastiest job I ever had in the service.

 

Then it was back to good old Florida. This time it was for training as a member of a B-29 crew, at MacDill Air force base, near Tampa. The B 29 was a “high-tech” machine for it’s time. It had pressurized cabins when commercial planes didn’t. We went to war in air-conditioned comfort complete with ashtrays. We cruised at altitudes above 30,000 feet. Commercial planes didn’t do that till jets came along. Once, when a hurricane was headed our way, the planes were flown to safer ground. With it’s long range capability we flew to Grand Island Nebraska. We landed in a 50 mile an hour wind. At that time, Jack Sly was near Lincoln, taking radio training. I had no trouble hitching a ride 90 miles each way to visit him. When we returned we learned that the hurricane winds never exceeded 50 miles per hour at Tampa, though there was heavy damage to Navy planes in the Miami area.

 

From there I got my only furlough, and, as much as I disliked Florida, I found out why it is so popular with winter travelers. I left St. Louis on the way back, in November, in soggy, freezing, icy conditions. When I landed in Tampa the warm sun and green grass were intoxicating. In August 1945 we had completed crew training and were expecting to ship out to the Pacific theater of operation in two weeks or less, when the first bomb hit Hiroshima. (Actually, I would have shipped out sooner but for an accident I had. I was cleaning a .50 cal. machine gun barrel after firing several hundred rounds through it, when it rolled off the table, I tried to grab it, and it burned my hand. While recovering I couldn’t perform the maintenance tests, so as I was reassigned to a later crew.)

 

On August 14, “V-J day”, I happened to be on leave in town, and there was truly dancing in the streets. Although my son Steven thinks the atom bomb was a terrible thing, I tried to convince him that many lives, both American and Japanese, were spared by eliminating the imminent invasion of the Japanese mainland. And most importantly, I might have been one of them.

 

The following ten months, after I was no longer needed, I resented the time waiting to get enough “points” to earn my discharge. I knew it was a necessary evil, but I felt like I was “marking time” and getting older.  For a long time we did nothing. Then I was assigned to permanent guard duty and issued a .45 cal. automatic pistol. This “sidearm” was issued prior to WWI for killing drunken Moros. The .38 cal. pistols used in the Philippines did not have enough “stopping power” to prevent drugged natives from using their machetes on the troops before expiring. The large slug had great stopping power, but only if it hit the target. It had a powerful recoil and was very inaccurate in the hands of a novice. In basic training I did well with the carbine but failed with the pistol. So they gave me one.  Later I got to fire for record again I failed again. Later I was transferred to Almagordo AFB, New Mexico, to help close down the base. The most memorable detail I got was to clean the grease trap at the mess hall. I found out there is something more disgusting than a “ripe” outhouse. This was THE nastiest job I ever had in the service.

 

I was “mustered out” from Fort Sheridan, Ill, (near Chicago), on July 2, 1946. A chilly wind was blowing in from Lake Michigan. It was a “cold day in July” literally when I became a civilian again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.2.4 COLLEGE/SINGLE LIFE

 

   I got home from the army on July 3, 1046. Mary Ellen and Dick’s twins were born three days later. Mary Ellen and Dick were staying with us due to the housing shortage following the war. All these newly united families needed to live somewhere but there were not enough homes to go around. I wanted to go to college to become an aeronautical engineer but I couldn’t find a suitable university anywhere nearby, so I went to Washington U. and took up mechanical engineering. It turned out to be a good choice because there was a broader demand for mechanical “expertise”. The “GI bill” paid my tuition of $520 per year. By the year 2003, the tuition at W U was up to $29,000 per year. The GI bill was the wisest thing our government did in the twentieth century. These were the people who wanted an education and showed their gratitude by leading our country to the post-war productivity and prosperity we may never see again.

 

I went to school by streetcar for the first year and a half. I’d been saving for my first car since 1942, but as I got more money, the cost kept going up. For four years during the war there were no new cars built due to the war effort. Finally, I had the money and there was a shortage of cars. The families who couldn’t find housing were competing to find cars. In 1941, a new Chevy cost about  $800. By 1947, when I was “allowed” to buy a new car, a new 1947 Chevrolet club coupe, loaded with extras, (radio, heater and seat covers), cost me $1490.

 

 

Washington U. was a “city” school, no great school spirit, “amateur” athletes, peopled by a lot of war veterans, some married with children, not into the hazing of freshmen, etc. Jack Sly went to Illinois U., a campus town, big 10 football and other sports, etc. In four years at W U, I went to exactly one football game. (I was filling in for a guy who had a blind date, but had appendicitis instead.) Meanwhile, I went to Champagne-Urbana to see the Illini two to four times a year. This was good “basic training” for a date. Drive 160 miles, watch the game, drink a few beers, (celebrate victory or drown our sorrow), stop for dinner on the way home. This was a good way to test a date’s endurance, sense of humor, patience, etc.

                                                  

Because of my prior credits at St. Louis U, I did not have a “standard” schedule at Washington U for the first two years, so I didn’t make many friends. In the final two years, when we branched out and specialized, the BSME ( mechanical engineers) became like an extended family. The 50 club, as we called ourselves, consisted of 64 men, half of them married, between the ages of 22 and 39. We kept in touch for several years after that.

 

A word of wisdom about going to college. You don’t go there to accumulate information to solve today’s problems. You go there to learn how to learn so you can solve tomorrow’s problems, which haven’t been invented yet. Professor Kippenhahn, who was my teacher and later a co-worker, said that the world’s fund of knowledge doubles every 10 years. He said that in 1950, so the rate of gain has certainly increased since then. When I graduated there were no transistors, much less microchips. A computer filled a room and required it’s own air conditioning system. A cataract operation required several days recuperation followed by thick glasses. And a credit investigation took weeks, not minutes. When my dad died, I thought his life span, (1898-1974), had seen a greater change in lifestyles than anyone before or since. From kerosene lamps , outhouses and horse drawn wagons to watching a man walk on the moon, live on TV, but I think my generation  has seen greater changes in the way we live. Greater is not necessarily better.

 

Following graduation, I had reached the peak of independence.  I was living with my parents, earning $240 per month, banking every other check, and when I came home from work there was no homework to spoil my evenings. Till love moved in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.0 MARRIAGE, CAREER and PARENTHOOD

 

4.1 LOVE and MARRIAGE

 

My first job as a graduate engineer was at Emerson Electric in St Louis. I was paid $240 per month. As an engineer trainee I visited all departments of office and factory, spending some days at each department to learn the “big picture”. Passing through production control I noticed this pretty blonde in a nylon “see though” blouse. Sparks didn’t fly at first though I certainly did notice her. Her first comment, as she related to a girl friend was “He certainly isn’t my type”. It so happens that my mom said about the same thing when she first saw my dad, when they both worked at the same Emerson Electric.

 

 The year was 1950 and the war in Korea was just getting serious. The government required all manufacturers to estimate the quantity of “critical” materials, such as aluminum, copper, rubber, etc, required in the coming year. (I learned about the rubber shortage later that year when my new 1950 rocket 88 Oldsmobile was delivered without a spare tire due to the shortage of rubber. They gave me a refund of $15. I had to go buy one for $35.) I was chosen to help set up the plan and the little “smart- aleck” blonde was one of my assistants. She was going steady with another guy and I was on the road to confirmed bachelorhood. She was outspoken, impetuous, gregarious and forward. I was quiet, conservative and. a general “fuddy-duddy” and considered by some as anti-social.

 

On our first date, a picnic, I gave her a black eye. (She dropped ice cubes down my back and as I stood up and turned around my elbow caught her eye.) She proudly displayed it to all our co-workers. She described our dating as an old fashioned courtship, though I didn’t know I was courting. We never went “ steady”, as in going out five nights a week together. (Better make that five evenings a week as we members of the dinosaur generation didn’t have sex until after the wedding). I was convinced I could enjoy a girl’s company and, as I learned more about her, decide whether or not to get serious. Little did I know, love comes when it’s ready, not when you ask for it. Once you are in love, logical analysis evaporates.

 

 Often I wondered which Joan would greet me, the happy, effervescent optimist, or the moody, sullen pessimist. I figured some of it was due to the menstrual cycle and some was caused by her situation. She felt obligated to her mother who was not well. Her favorite brother, Mick, who could have helped her care for her mom, was killed in an auto accident just months before I met her. Brother Bill was slightly disabled after two accidents, and her brother Buddy was disabled by encephalitis as a toddler. Her oldest brother, Vernon, was in the Air Force, and, later, didn’t even come home for their mother’s funeral. Her dad spoiled her as a child and was her hero when she was little. Now she could see him as he really was, a weak, bitter, opinionated little man. But the one she didn’t want to abandon was her mother.

 

So I tried to decide if I was really in love and wanted to spend the rest of my life with this woman whose presence lit up the room and whose scorn blackened the world. I wasn’t sure until the night she told me she couldn’t see me anymore. This prospect ended my doubt. I wanted to marry her. I told her so. But she said no.

At this point Ruthie B, (her mother), entered the scene. She gave her a long lecture about living a life of her own. I called Joan a few days later and she consented. My mother-in-law Ruth was a very special person. She was both intelligent and smart. She had self respect and self reliance and, and was loving and loved by young and old. She would have died a pauper rather than be a “burden” to us. She was my greatest supporter when any disagreement occurred between us. She was a convert and, as such, a very strict Catholic. She divorced Joan’s dad, who wasn’t supporting them, so she could get a job and take care of herself and Joan. Later she re-married him because she didn’t want to die a divorcee. But they couldn’t get along together so they separated again after a few months, but didn’t divorce.

 

So with Ruthie B’s help we became engaged on or about Valentine’s Day, 1953. Once committed, I wanted to get married right away, but Joan wanted to wait till her 21st birthday in December. But common sense prevailed and we were married on September 12, 1953. During the interim, we bought a small house, which cousins Charlie and Al “helped” me paint, and our parents “helped” furnish. By the way, when I told Jack Sly we were engaged he said he was shocked, stunned and flabbergasted, but he wasn’t surprised. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that Jack and Betty got married a month later after a long and often interrupted “courtship”.

 

I can truthfully say my wedding day was the happiest day of my life. It was a full day with the wedding, followed by a large breakfast, followed by pictures, driving around town visiting friends, followed by something to eat, followed by an evening reception with food, drinks, live music and much visiting. My folks and, especially Ruthie B, went to great lengths to make it happen.

 

We were married the same day as, then Senator, John F Kennedy and “Jackie” and honeymooned at the same place, Mexico. We may have seen them at Acapulco. It was a wonderful honeymoon and I wonder when it will end.

 

 

 

Statements a married man should never make;

 

 

A bachelor is a man who never made the same mistake once.

 

 

Statistics show that married men live longer than single men. Don’t ask, “is it really longer or does it just seem longer?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.2 LIFE in the FIFTIES/The LUCKIEST GENERATION

 

Most old timers spend a lot of time recalling the “good old days”. Partly they were the good old days because they were the days of our youth when we were young, energetic, alert and full of promise and naïvete. Beyond that, I truly believe that we were members of the “luckiest generation”. Newsman Tom Brokaw referred to the survivors of World War II as the greatest generation, but I think we were of the luckiest generation for the following reasons;

 

We were the last generation to grow up without T V. Why is that lucky? That meant that we were forced to entertain ourselves and learn to take care of ourselves. It also meant that we learned about life from our parents, our family, our schools and our churches. Our morals were not tainted by the “one-eyed monster”, telling us how our lives should be lived, and demonstrating that our morals and family values were, after all, obsolete.

 

In our adult years, early T V was limited. The few programs we saw were new, spontaneous and innovative, and live. Playhouse 90 was a 90 minute “stage show” written and produced weekly “ live” without benefit of “cue cards”’ scripts or “second takes”. Rod Serling’s “twilight zone” created bizarre plots that are being mimicked today. Sid Caesar’s “show of shows” was 90 minutes of original comic sketches and scenes performed, live and new, each week. Caesar’s writers included names like; Carl Rainer, Neal Simon, Mel Brooks, Larry Gelbart, (of MASH, etc), and Woody Allen. “I love Lucy”, “Andy Griffith” and “The Honeymooners” are still running as of the year 2003.

 

The family was intact. The family was important. It was the basic building block of society. It was the source of learning, from our ABC’s to nursery rhymes to our sense of right and wrong. For most people only one parent worked. It was feasible at that time to raise a family on one income. Things like homosexuality were considered a perversion of a gift from God. Young people who openly had sex “out of wedlock” were called promiscuous, (sounds bad), and were considered indecent. Now they are called “sexually active’, (sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it?) Now homosexuality and “sexual activity” are considered normal and abstinence is considered abnormal and “weird”. Movies and TV shows were based on the traditional family and justice always prevailed and the “Bad guys” always got punished.

 

We were a nation of builders and manufacturers of things and ideas. We were exporting cars to Japan, steel to Europe and technology to the world. We had a positive balance of payments. In other words we were exporting more goods than we imported, and dollars were flowing into the country instead of going from it. We were also rebuilding the infrastructures of Germany and Japan so they could compete with us in the future.

 

Our government balanced the budget on occasion, (usually the year before the presidential elections).

 

 

 

 

Suburbia was created. Payments on a new house for most families was less than rent on an inferior apartment. Schools, roads and “infrastructure” to support the new housing boosted the economy.

 

There was a mutual sense of loyalty between worker and manager. Labor and management were constantly contending for power, but overall they had the same goals. For a blue collar or white collar worker of moderate skills and behavior, it was feasible to work at the same company for 30 or40 years and retire with a moderate income. At the same time the income of CEO’s, athletes and other celebrities was relatively moderate. Star athletes could make more money than the President of the United States, but most athletes and CEO’s did not. (In the year 2002, the average major league baseball player made more than five times that of the president.) CEO’s might make 20 to80 times as much as the average worker. At the turn of the century, some CEO’s were taking home more than 500 times a typical worker’s pay.  J S McDonnell, founder of McDonnell Aircraft, boasted, (in the 1950’s), that his salary was less than 6 timed that of his lowest paid worker. (Of course, as primary stock holder of his own company he didn’t need any salary.)

 

A visit to the doctor’s office might cost $3 to$5 out of pocket. A night at the hospital might cost$14 to $25, including many services, which now cost extra.

 

On the other hand;

 

My mother died at age 52 from hepatitis because our family doctor died and she hesitated to “break in” a new doctor until it was too late. Joan’s mother died of heart problems, which probably could be easily corrected by today’s technology. For instance, my heart attack was corrected by non-invasive surgery, inflating a stint in the blocked artery. Joan’s heart attack was more severe and required open-heart bypass surgery aid installation of a pacemaker, followed by continuing medication, without which she wouldn’t be alive today.     

 

 Grandpa Walsh was nearly blind for several years because of cataracts. There was no affordable surgery in those days. Aunt Mary had cataract operations, one eye at a time, each followed by weeks of recovery, requiring the wearing of thick glassed for the rest of her life. My cataract surgery was “out-patient”, took about a half hour per eye, and included insertion of a plastic lens, which allowed me to get by with reading glasses only.

 

 On the other other hand; Doesn’t this prove that ours is the luckiest generation?

 

Violent crime was low. I realize that such crimes were “under-reported” by today’s standards, but we were not afraid to walk the streets at night or leave the doors unlocked during the day. Consider this; Drug-related crimes were virtually non-existent. Drug use was limited to “gangsters” and some musicians. The word “ terrorism” had not been invented yet.

 

On the other hand: The ever present threat of nuclear war was a form of terrorism that was inescapable and affected every plan we tried to make for the “future”.

 

 

There was a sense of propriety, of manners, of respect for the rights of your neighbors. Most “gentlemen” did not use foul and abusive language in public. Commercials for children’s cartoons didn’t say things like “will he save his ass”? TV heroes were not seen “naked” in bed with a different partner in each episode.

 

On the other hand;

 

Words like “nigger”’ “dago”, “hebe” and “spic” were commonly used. Jackie Robinson was a major league baseball player, but as a spectator at the old Sportsman’s Park, (where the Cardinals played), he would have not been allowed in the grandstands, but would have to sit with the “coloreds” in the right field pavilion.

 

There was a sense of recognition of good and evil.  A sense that we are responsible for our own actions A President of the United States, caught having sex in his office would not have first denied, then referred to his actions as “Inappropriate”. (Eating salad with the wrong fork is inappropriate.) A murderer who killed a housewife in her own home would not apologize to her survivors by saying “I’m sorry for the stuff that happened”. (This is a direct quote from a murderer in Kansas). A mother would not sue McDonalds for making her boy overweight. A woman would not be awarded $28 billion because she “couldn’t stop smoking”, in spite of 50 years of warnings and threats. Road rage virtually never resulted in homicide.

 

Dress was more formal and more “appropriate”. Yes, it was too formal. At a “family”

Restaurant, moderately priced, sometimes a “gentleman” was expected to wear a jacket and tie. (Or one would be furnished for him).  People put on their “Sunday clothes” to go to church. They did not go to church in cut-off shorts and “flip-flop” sandals, or two piece outfits with their navels showing. Children were expected to behave out of courtesy to their neighbors. Five year old children did nor eat popcorn and candy in church. Often children’s tantrums were diverted to the nearest rest room and appropriately handled. Adults did not go to weddings or funerals in sweats, shorts or jeans.

 

True patriotism prevailed. Our government was perceived to be honest. Harry Truman was not a genius, but if he didn’t like something he didn’t dance around the subject, he said something like “it stinks”. We may have been more naïve, but government agencies did not publish reams of  “disinformation” as they seem to do today. Political conventions were a means to nominate a candidate, not a “coronation” for a candidate who already has bought enough votes to be nominated on the first round. The concept of, “who raises the most money gets elected”, did not apply. The police were perceived to be our friends.

 

Sports were sporting events, not show business.  Events were played for the benefit of live audiences. Events were scheduled for the convenience of (live) spectators. A football game used to last two hours or less. Now they take three and a half hours, primarily due to commercial interruptions. I could go to see a Cardinals game with 75 cents, no reservation required, sit in the bleachers, have a couple 50 cent beers and converse with the “fans”. Now, to take a family of four to a game, with a few refreshments, can cost $150 or more. When you have a $250 million contract for one player, someone has to pay the price.

 

Today sports are multi-billion dollar show business events, scheduled for the convenience of the T V networks and always must result in one team being number 1 in the country. Anything less is failure for the fans, coach and team. Football bowl games had names such as Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Sugar Bowl. Now we have a multiplicity of bowl games with games like MasterCard Alamo Bowl, Outback Bowl and Continental Tire Bowl. (As I type this I am watching a football game at the Edward Jones dome in St. Louis, Formerly the TWA dome, till TWA went under.) Is there a hint of commercialism here?

 

……………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

Quoted from the Reader’s Digest, Aug. 2003;

 

Nancy Reagan tells the story of how President Ronald Reagan was challenged by a college student who said it was impossible for Reagan’s generation to understand his.

 

“You grew up in a different world”, the student said. “Today we have television, jet planes, space travel, nuclear energy, computers,…”

 

Taking advantage of a pause in the student’s litany, Reagan said, “You’re right. We didn’t have those things when we were young. We invented them.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.3 THROUGH the YEARS

 

This story is not supposed to be a biography. It is about events and circumstances that shaped my life and the lives of our family. At the time of this writing, there are fifty years of them. Roughly divided into three “eras”.

 

4.3.1 PRE-PAUL

 

1953; Got engaged in Feb. Bought a house in May, (Maybe June or July) in Ferguson, Mo. Prepped and furnished same. Got Married Sept. 12. (busy year).

 

1955; Steve was born, Jan 15. My Mom smothered him with love. Called daily to ask, “how’s my Steven”. Mom died in August. (The best of times and the worst of times)

 

Steven John was a happy baby, easy to take care of. Joan nursed him at first. Once when she was away for a while and Steve was hungry, I gave him his first taste of homogenized milk and he didn’t seem to know the difference. I think he resented the responsibility of being the first born, but he was very good at teasing the younger ones, especially Terry. You would hear Steve mumbling, then Terry would say “no, it is not”. Steve was somewhat “hyper” in pre-school days and in the primary grades. Later he was diagnosed with Attention Deficiency Disorder, (ADD). It hadn’t been discovered, (or invented) when he was in school. Steve was always a “worry wart”. Like his mother, he would fuss and worry about how he would behave when something was going to occur. (Like a needle to his spinal cord). But, like his mother, he would handle it bravely and professionally.

 

Steve was a personification of Peter Pan. He refused to “grow up”. He saw no reason to stop watching ants, caterpillars and turtles just because he was an adult. He would have been a typical “hippie” if he had been born a few years earlier. As it is, he is a would-be socialist, peace marcher and a protester against almost everything I am in favor of.. His politics and social beliefs are diametrically opposed to mine. (See A-bomb episode, later).

 

Steve took 10 years at K U and Wichita State, with time out for “party time 101”, to get his degree in Journalism. He loved journalism, even published his own newspaper at times, but finally decided that there is no money and less security in being a journalist. He then spent several years, part time, getting his certificate as a teacher. He has always had good rapport

   with children, partly because he refused to grow up himself. He is presently tutoring “disturbed” middle school children and enjoying it. More about his married life later.

 

1957: Terry was born April 24. Joan’s mom, Ruth died seven weeks later, not before seeing Terry and pronouncing “there’s your waterloo”. She died peacefully of heart failure in a hospital with Joan at her side. We miss her still and regret that our boys didn’t get to know her. My brother Bill married Gloria about a week later. Another busy year. Terrance Raymond was born on April 24. His birthday is one week after mine. He was a delicate, “pretty” baby with transparent skin. He was born on his due date. He had to be brought on because Joan was overweight and retaining water. He was “high strung”, and a poor eater from infancy thru teen age years. (We would tell him, “You can’t get up from the table until you eat “this much”. He would sit there till bed time). Terry was the only one of the six who would fall asleep in the car on the way home from an event.

 

Terry loved to hunt, fish and camp out. After we moved to Kansas he became a bit fanatic about it. He would “borrow” small items such as a shovel or sledge hammer and forget to bring them back. Weeks later I would look for them in vain. He could catch fish where “there were no fish” and come home and lie to his brothers about where he caught them, so they couldn’t catch any of “his” fish.

 

We had one special rule about Terry. Never ever tell him exactly what not to do. A typical example follows.  When Paul got burned at the age of two, Joan lectured the other boys about what a terrible thing a burn is and why they should never play with fire. All the boys seemed impressed. Next morning, Terry got up early, put on his bathrobe and went out on the driveway with some newspapers and some matches to find out how dangerous it was.

 

Terry was our most rebellious teenager, partly because of loyalty to unworthy friends and partly due to drugs. We had someone in high school for ten years at Goddard and up to three at one time, so we were well acquainted with the principals, etc. at the high school, but Terry was the most “popular”. Teenage Terry had shoulder length hair and would shower for forty minute if we would let him. With eight people and 30 gallons of hot water that was not possible. Fortunately, I had a valve which could shut off the hot water. That really got his attention.

  We almost lost him to a drug overdose and he spent his seventeenth birthday in jail. But after that he calmed down a lot, partly, perhaps, because he met and later married Barbara French. More about this later.

 

Terry has loved fishing, hunting and nature studies all his life. He is an accomplished artist and craftsman. He spent several years working at Lear and Boeing doing plain and fancy carpentry, and loathing it. When they moved to Oregon in 1999, Terry went to school and graduated in 2002 with a degree in fish biology at the age of 45. Now he counts fish, explores creeks, writes for wildlife magazines, and thinks he has died and gone to heaven.

 

1958; Phillip was born and almost died.

Phillip James was born July 31. He was our smallest baby, covered with “white” hair, dimple in the chin, (like his uncle Vernon), looking about as big as a peanut. We called him peanut till, at about age four, he announced that his name is Phillip and he would no longer respond to that name. He had a squeaky little voice as a toddler, which disappeared when he had his tonsils and adenoids removed. He was allergic to milk and drank a soybean product called mulsoy. He often regurgitated that, but it never bothered him much. He also had, (and still has), asthma. When he was about four to six months old, the asthma lead to a bronchial infection our pediatrician, Dr Londe, gave him a penicillin shot and he stopped breathing. Doctor said; “he’s gone”. Then he gave him a shot of an antidote he had on hand, and Phil “came back”. The doctor was so upset he cancelled his appointments for the day and, a few

 

   months later, retired from his practice to go into research. Years later he was tested and found not to be allergic to penicillin, but may have been allergic to the procain used as a “ vehicle” to dilute it.

 

Phil started school a year after Terry, and was placed in the “slow” group in first grade. His teacher wondered why, as did we. At first his teacher wondered if he knew how to talk. He did his work perfectly, but never volunteered to answer. He soon caught on. We found out later that Terry’s teacher, Mrs McKean had Terry and didn’t like him (he had the audacity to be an introvert and a boy) so she put his brother, sight unseen, to the other (slow) class. Phil was, and is, unflappable in the face of adversity. When others bemoan the need to take that 1000 mile hike, Phil is taking the first step. If he were one of the three pigs, he would be the one with a brick house. In fact, he built his own house, virtually with his bare hands and no printed plans. He thinks he can do anything, and he’s usually right. Phil was always an organizer and tried to be organized at all times.

 
Phil grew up surrounded by brothers and wound up surrounded by women. His wife, Sherri had three sisters, and one brother. He became “big brother” to the sisters. He and Sherri had three daughters, one of which died at birth. He married young and married a girl even younger. He was not the “smartest” of our sons but he was by far the best student. He won scholarships to college, but dropped out because raising his family had a higher priority. He has worked his way from “mechanic” to supervisor at a local chemical company. He has won the respect of his co-workers and management.  More about his family later.

 

1959; We moved to a new house, and Paul was born. With 3 boys and one on the way, two bedrooms weren’t enough. We got a brand new home built to “our specifications”, in the Spanish Lake area.

 

Paul Joseph was born on December 1. We considered him to be our “prettiest” baby, born with blond hair, fair skin and a round “Charlie Brown” head. He was a pleasant but busy baby, who liked to climb out of his baby bed in the middle of the night, He would hand us his bathrobe belt so we could tie him in. A month after his second birthday, on New Year’s Eve, we went out to dinner, came home and woke the boys up to make noise at midnight. We were using a steam vaporizer in the room he shared with Phil, who was having breathing problems. We forgot to tie Paul in after the celebration and he got out, crawling, and pulled the electric wire out, spilling steam on his arms, legs and body.

 

He had burns over 16 percent of his body, most of them third degree. His diapers and rubber pants protected his vital organs, but his legs and arms peeled like bananas. He was in the hospital for weeks, and we all found out how stubborn Paul could be. Remember, he was in extreme, agonizing pain. He would be nice to the nurses and all when we were away, but when we came he would throw things and yell “Get me out of here”. The doctor called and asked permission to “spank” him during the extremely painful change of dressings. (Nurses said they had never seen the doctor lose his temper before). If Paul had not been stubborn, stand on legs that turned purple and painful, he might not have recovered full use of his legs. The doctor had warned us not to be “soft” on him. He had permanent keloid scars on his arms and legs, where the healing left raised surfaces. When he was about four, riding in our

   car, a schoolmate asked him what that was on his arm. He replied “none of your damn business”. (We did not use that word in front of the kids).

 

Paul had a lot of “bad luck” in his life, but he never felt sorry for himself. When we went for vacation in the Ozarks, he got sick and had to see a doctor. When we went to the Illinois state fair in Springfield he got sick and spent part of the day in the car. As a senior in High School, he had a case of “pneumo-thorax”, (his lung pulled away from his chest), and it went unnoticed for a while. When he had his accident, his injury came a few millimeters of being non-paralytic. The passenger sitting next to him walked away with only a chipped tooth.

 

Paul was very talented. He had a photographic memory. At about age four he would draw dinosaurs and portraits from pictures in the encyclopedia, including lettering, though he couldn’t read or write. If he was drawing a racing car, he might start with the left rear hubcap, then the wheel, then forward and upward without erasing or retracing till the car was complete. He came home from kindergarten one day and announced that they had drawn pictures of the school and his was the best in the class. “Oh, they told you that?” “No, but you should have seen the other pictures, all crooked and some using the wrong colors, not as good as mine.” To no one’s surprise, we got a call from the kindergarten staff asking for permission to “sit on him”.

 

 But he was a tender and loving child, always caring for his little brothers, loving and hugging a lot. He was also somewhat opinionated. Shortly after we moved to Wichita, Joan took the boys to church to confession. What with moving and all, she breathed a sigh of relief and said, “well, I finally got you boys to confession.” A voice from the back seat said, “You didn’t get me. I think it’s a lot of foolishness and I’m not going any more.”

 

When Paul was about thirteen, he picked up his brother Phil’s guitar and started strumming it. He taught himself to play it and his life changed. Music became his passion, his pastime, his hobby, his mistress and the most important single thing in his life. He learned to play “anything with strings.” He played in his high school band, and after graduation, Pratt County Community College wanted to give him a scholarship, but he declined. His senior year in High School, he tried to be independent by renting an apartment in town, but the commute was too much. His freedom after graduation was short lived.

 

1962; Will King died December 18, Joan’s birthday.  John was born in June. Isn’t it funny how often one passes on and another is born, as if to take his place. Will king was in declining health ever since Ruth died and I think he was ready to go.

 

John Lowell was born on June 6, the anniversary of D-Day and also Jack Sly’s birthday. He was our biggest baby, at about 7 pounds, 10 ounces, and grew up to be the smallest adult. He was a fussy baby, the only one to use a pacifier. I believe he was our most intelligent child, but the least “smart”. He was an open, friendly child, never without friends, He had the most athletic skills of all our sons. On one of our rare vacations at an Ozarks resort, when he was about 10, he took to the trampoline like an old timer and had other guests amazed at his skill

   at miniature golf. At school, having grown up in St. Louis, he was a sort of soccer expert in the eyes of his peers. He was (and is) very good at pranks. He sounds so sincere when he says, “Mom, come quick, Chris fell and I think his arm is broken”, that we almost always fall for it. He was always a deep thinker. At about age 9, we heard him tell brother Chris, “Don’t even think about infinity, it will make you crazy.”

 

John is a “quick study”. You only have to explain what you want once, and it will be done promptly, properly and completely. More than one employer has told me what a good worker he is. Doctors, councilors and priests have said he is extremely bright and extremely talented. He can do almost anything; landscaping, apartment maintenance and supervision, construction, computer and software design, music, amateur astronomy. With no training, he taught himself to operate, redesign and repair computers. He tries to explain to me how he proves that the universe is still expanding. If John wasn’t around, our computer would simply be a way to play solitaire, if it was working at all.

 

The “almost” part that John cannot or will not do is take care of himself. (Act responsibly). Diagnosed as probably bi-polar or manic depressive, he refuses to manage his money, plan ahead or look for a “real job with benefits and a stable future. I sometimes refer to him as my 40 year old   teen-ager. He personifies the character played by Jack Nicholson who, when accused of planning some disaster replied: “I never planned anything in my life”. He can be moody and surly at times and sometimes shows poor judgment in his choice of friends, but he usually doesn’t hurt anyone but himself.

 

John is a dreamer with grand plans and incomplete execution. After Paul’s accident, he planned a mural for a wall in Paul’s room. John was always artistic and imaginative. He started outlining mountains, dragons, villages and landscapes. He drew these outlined, to be painted in later, for about three feet of wall, then got distracted, and couldn’t be talked into any further action. We eventually painted over his artwork. (If it’s any consolation, Leonardo Da Vinci was the same way. He would get a commission to do a sculpture, get it under way, and lose interest in favor of a more recent project.)

 

John has a good heart, a quick mind, and very little common sense, and little of what the worldly call ambition.

 

1965; Chris was born in July.

 

Christopher Eugene’s birth was semi-planned. I found that out afterward. His mother thought I should have one more chance to have a girl. Her name would have been Christine. Joan did not have an easy pregnancy. She took this on in spite the stress of her anxiety neurosis, burying her parents, bearing and rearing five other boys, trying to keep a “perfect” house and putting up with me.

 

 Chris was such a good baby we don’t remember much about him. He did have physical problems as a baby and toddler. He had to have a growth removed from his back, needed a double hernia operation, and had to have his urinary passage reamed out. When he was about ten, he had to have his teeth straightened because his mouth was too small to accommodate

   his second teeth. We took Paul at the same time but when the doc told him what he would have to do, being Paul, said “no thanks”. Chris did exactly as he was told and got the job done ahead of schedule. In the primary grades, Chris was diagnosed with “lazy eye”. The doctor requested that we do some exercises with moving objects with letters marked on them. Together he and I practiced “religiously” and he overcame the problem. Whatever he was asked to do, he did thoroughly.

 

Chris was born an old man. He was serious, shy, quiet, meticulous, business like, did not like excitement, disturbance or crowds. Joan described him as a “momma’s boy”, always hugging and hanging in to her. Then, as he grew older, he became distant to the point that she suspected he didn’t like her anymore. His best friend as a young boy was Frank Kill, another old man. They got along together. He was interested in politics and world affairs, even when small. His oldest brother Steve was the same way. Ten years apart, it amazes us how similar they are as to politics, manner of speaking, gestures, etc. When he was eleven or twelve, before school he would grab the morning paper and reach for the editorial page as I reached for the comics.

 

Chris stayed out of trouble as he grew up. He went to college, but lacked incentive, or focus or something. He never decided what career to pursue. He got a laborer’s (mechanic) job in an assembly plant and did well. He managed his life and his money well. He moved out and got his own apartment and cat. He decided to see life outside Wichita, and, fortunately for him, got a job in St Louis, where he has family to visit with and share holidays, though he still gets back for Christmas. He bought a house in an old neighborhood in south St Louis, where he tends his gardens, mows his lawn, paints his porch and minds his own business.

 

Chris is still quiet and retiring, but he takes no “guff” from anyone. As a teenager he bought

 tires for his car, had a problem with a tire dealer and got no satisfaction. He took them to small claims court and got what he wanted. He operates a computerized metalworking machine where he works and is active in personnel and management problems. He’s always ending up on some committee or other, and doesn’t hesitate to offer his opinion.

 

Chris is very much a “loner”. He doesn’t make friends easily. He travels a lot, alone, which worries us. He travels extensively, camping out alone, more interested in nature than city sights. He takes professional quality photos of everything from landscapes to mushrooms and insects. He visits with Bill and Shirley and his cousins often and they include him on holidays and special occasions. He seems to be a contented “old maid”.

 

1969; A year of many changes. After 19 years of uninterrupted employment, I got laid off twice in four months. Found an interesting job with Lear Jet in Wichita, Kansas. The day I agreed to move, July 19, Bill’s wife Gloria died. On that somber note, within a month we were all relocated in Wichita. Before we moved, we bought our first new car since 1950.

 

1970; After 15 months at Lear Jet, I found myself jobless again. Advice to the working man: don’t get laid off between Thanksgiving and New Years day.

 

 

1971; Finally got a job. In St Louis. Working for Emerson at MacDonnell. Staying with cousin Mary Ellen, (later with aunt Mary), commuting every other weekend, leaving Joan to take care of the house, kids, school, finances, etc. With aerospace in the dumps, we couldn’t give away the house, much less sell it. These 15 months were hard on Joan, myself and the kids. I finally got a job at a small supplier of aircraft components, at a reduced salary.

 

1972; Bill married Shirley Czerniewski, a widow with three teenage children. With Bill’s five, they had a total of eight children, I believe five of them in high school at one time. Where Gloria was short, round and “happy-go-lucky” Shirley is tall, thin and all business. His five kids and her three got along like true brothers and sisters.

 

 

1974; Then there were none. My dad died shortly before Christmas. My dad, Joan’s dad and grandma and grandpa Walsh all died the week before Christmas. That Christmas “vacation” we drove to St. Louis for the funeral. Steve wanted to go, as did his fiancé Mary Ann, so we took both cars. Steve and Mary Ann managed to crash my car, so I borrowed one of Bill’s cars for the drive home, which entailed driving through blizzard conditions in Kansas City with sliding off the road and near-collisions. When I got back to work, the boss’s secretary asked if I had a nice holiday. Like a coward, I said yes. A couple weeks later, I had to drive back and swap cars again.

 

1975; Steve married Mary Ann. It was a tumultuous marriage, which caused much pain and produced nothing good except grandson Ethan.

 

1977; Phil and Sherri were married. Our first grandchild, Brandi, was born.

 

1978; A pivotal year. In January, Joan and I made Marriage Encounter, a weekend to truly understand and appreciate and learn to communicate with each other. It was an overwhelming experience, and, we believe, gave us strength to survive what was ahead. In June, Terry and Barbara were married. In August, Ethan was born. In October, Kristen was born, premature, at just over three pounds. Also, Desiree Otto was born to Phil and Sherri, stillborn.  In September the kids gave us a 25th anniversary party. And on Sept. 20, Paul had his accident.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of children; Much has been said about the brutality of “spanking” these days. I consider spanking a simple ploy such as is used in training mules.

 

A retired “gentleman farmer” went to buy a mule from a lifetime farmer, and asked if the mule was obedient and easy to handle. Assured that it was, he bought the mule, and was unable to coax, threaten, or push the mule onto his truck. Disgustedly, the farmer picked up a heavy wooden fence post and slugged the mule between the eyes with it, after which the mule quietly boarded the truck. The farmer then said to the gentleman, “You don’t understand about mules, do you? The thing about mules is, first, you got to get their attention”.

 

That’s the way it is with kids and spanking. First, you got to get their attention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.3.2; PAUL

 

Sept 20, 1978. We had just gone to bed. The phone rang at about 11:20 PM. We had been to a Marriage Encounter meeting and volunteered to be the “back-up” couple, to fill in, in the head couple’s absence. Paul had been in a serious accident and was at Osteopathic hospital, (now called Riverside). He had crashed into a concrete light standard on Kellogg at the bypass. He was driving our car instead of his own, for some reason I don’t recall. Joan feared he was dead, like her brother, Mick. When we got there he was in a coma and not breathing on his own. After a long night’s vigil, he awoke, still not breathing, and paralyzed from the neck down.

 

When the doctors started using words like “quadriplegic” we were filled with fear, dread and denial. The caretakers at the hospital were loving and caring, but woefully ignorant of treatment for spinal injury. Such care was often wrought with fear and superstition. At that time, when doctors were offering hope and promise to patients with incurable cancer and such, they defined spinal injury as hopeless and incurable, and went out of their way to avoid “false hope”. The caretakers allowed the spinal cord injury to swell, causing further damage. After two or three days he was found to have some mild reflex motions in his legs, but nothing was done to enhance them and they disappeared. Also, they kept him immobilized, allowing decubitus ulcers, (bed sores), to form. His injury was diagnosed as at C2/C3. (Between the second and third cervical vertebrae). The doctors agreed that there was no visible evidence that the vertebrae had been damaged. They theorized that they were displaced, then returned to their original positions.

 

 After about four weeks we had him transferred to Wesley hospital’s spinal-cranial unit. They were more knowledgeable and more proactive in their treatment. The first order of business was to get his strength up, treat the “decube”, loosen his joints and muscles with range of motion and build up his body. (He was six feet tall and probably weighed less than 100 pounds.) During his ten months of confinement, I don’t believe there was a day that he didn’t have at least one of us to visit him. He would get grumpy and his mother would scold him and remind him that his caretakers did not cause his predicament. People would say, “ How can you scold him?” She would say, in effect, because I love him and he is the same person now that he always was.

 

When he arrived at Wesley he had several decubes including one on the end of his spine, which formed a crater about the size of a hockey puck, which was not responding to treatment. They were considering surgery, unsure of how it would turn out. That Sunday, Joan asked the priest to have the congregation pray for this special intention. The next day, when we got to the hospital they announced that the sore was beginning to heal.

 

Paul was on a respirator, connected to a trach, ( having had a tracheotomy),  thru a flexible tube. It was removed to “suction” him. (Insert a catheter down his throat to remove mucous.) When the tube was removed for this purpose, an alarm went off. One morning we got a phone call to hurry to the hospital. Paul’s tube had popped off and no one answered the alarm. When it was finally replaced, he remained unconscious for several hours and we didn’t know if he had had brain damage, organ damage or what. Apparently there was no

 

   damage at all, but I think they expected a lawsuit and they apologized profusely. Joan often said she prayed that there would be no brain damage, and when there wasn’t any, she regretted not asking God for more.

 

The next half year dragged on, routine, but never boring. One of the “omnipotent” neurosurgeons inserted a phrenic nerve stimulator in his chest, intended to activate the nerves which make him breathe, but I’m not sure anyone there knew how to check it out. Doctor Snyder said he knew how to install it, but didn’t know how it works. We found out a lot about doctors during this ordeal. Some think they are God-like and some think they are God Himself. The experts said Paul would be in denial, and then depressed and suicidal. When we told him this he said it never occurred to him to try suicide, and besides, there was no way he could do himself in, in his condition.

 

As Paul got stronger, different things were tried. He had been fed through a stomach tube. The glop they gave him was blue. I don’t know if it was intended, but when you saw something blue leaking from his trach, you knew from whence it came. When they proposed to feed him by mouth, they warned him that terrible things could happen if it went down wrong. They didn’t know his mother had been giving him food and drink for several days. Later, when I went to St Paul, MN, to investigate the Spinal Chord Society, I met a young man who, after years of treatment, with a disability less than Paul’s, was still being fed thru a stomach tube.

 

As Paul progressed, he got a wheel chair with backrest and a portable respirator and battery, and got to go about the hospital and go outside for short periods. It appeared that Paul might not spend the rest of his life in the hospital. But where and how would he be cared for? In shock and disbelief, I found the answer was “at home”. While I was still in shock, Joan was making plans. He was brought home for a couple of “training” visits. Faster than I thought possible, the house was made accessible. The walk-in closet to his bedroom became a bathroom/shower, the lavatory became a hallway and the main hallway lost a wall. The stairway to the front porch became a ramp, a new sidewalk was poured, a used van was purchased, a wooden ramp built for it and equipment, (a portable hydraulic lift, a full size respirator and a modified raised water bed, etc.) was purchased with the help of the J I Case insurance plan. I surprised myself by doing much of this work myself, with the help of my sons. We were told at the hospital that people in his condition usually lived for about two years and spent much of that time in the hospital.

 

So Paul came home to almost 13 years of “intensive” care. I “ ranged” him twice a day, Joan and the nurses a couple more times. Joan was in charge of home care and “nursing” the nurses. Every Tuesday, Joan and the nurse would hoist him in his net-like sling, wheel him to the shower, put his portable respirator behind the shower curtain, and Joan would give him a shower. In the hospital, at first, Joan would not even watch while he was being suctioned. When he was home, she not only suctioned him, but changed his trach as well. They sometimes leaked, and needed to be changed periodically to prevent infection. At first, as instructed, we took him to the emergency room at Wesley to have them replaced. About the second time we did this, we found the doctor carefully reading the instructions before starting, at which time Paul decided “we can do this”. Some of the nurses nearly fainted when Joan first announced, “Now we will change his trach”.

 

We had nursing help for about eight hours a day. Detailed, comprehensive schedules& procedures were setup by Joan and updated as required. We had a parade of nurses, working part time. It took at least two and preferably three to fill our needs. We learned from them and they learned from us. There was Ann, a Quaker who grew up as the daughter of a missionary in Africa. She knew some unconventional methods. Susan introduced us to Carrington lotion, (now called Carasyn), which cured decubes about five times as fast as the beaded stuff they used at the Wesley. She went back to school to become a doctor. We think Paul sort of inspired her. Stephanie was a young “airhead” who formed a sort of brother-sister relationship with him. A typical comment: “They keep wanting me to make monthly payments on this bill. Don’t they know I’m going to pay it off, in full next month? Suzanne was a pretty redhead and mother who traveled with us when we took Paul to St Louis for a week. She remained friends with us and we still correspond.

 

Bernice is hard to describe. She was a burly middle- aged woman who came on like a herd of buffalo. She was a very good nurse, But… Her attire was strictly Goodwill Industries. She was a “jack-of- all- trades”, Avon lady, notary public, sales rep. for other items, who charged for baby sitting her own grandchildren. When we had company, she would sit down in the middle of the group and join in the conversation. She had a tendency to “take charge” when Joan was supposed to be the “take charge” person. Dealing with all these personalities took a lot of finesse and discipline, and Joan did an outstanding job of it. Joan was good at giving advice, both medical and personal and, I believe it changed our nurses’ lives for the better.

 

Then there is Berdina. Berdina is a loving, caring truly good person who was often mistreated by the ones she loved the most. She was intimidated by Joan at first, but learned to deal with her and the rest of the world. She went on to become a dear friend to both of us as well as our head nurse. When Paul died, she was traumatized and ill for months. She still is one of our closest friends.

 

Paul’s plight was published in the newspaper also. Bob Getz, a feature writer for the Eagle did a story on our situation, and a fund was set up for contributions. We got several thousand dollars, which was spent quickly, and several touching letters, which we cherished. (It would not be an exaggeration to say his first year’s costs exceeded a million dollars.)

 

1980; This was another pivotal year. I lost a job and found a job, Joan went to Denver and Phoenix, Paul went to Phoenix and I went to St Paul, MN and Las Vegas.

 

Along about Easter, I was called into the manager’s office at Case and told; Times are tough, you are laid off, two weeks pay in lieu of notice, pick up your things and be gone. Medical coverage was to continue for the next year, (As a “pre-existing condition” he would not be covered by my new employer.) Fortunately, I was hired by Boeing, by Memorial day.

 

Meanwhile, we had been looking for a rehab center, which might be able to improve his condition. Joan went to see Craig, in Denver and talked to Good Samaritan, in Phoenix. Craig didn’t really want him because he was on a respirator. Good Sam welcomed him with open arms. The first problem was how to get him there. The airlines would not accept him

because of the respirator. Surface travel would take too long and be a hardship for Paul. Finally, the insurance company agreed to charter a Cessna citation, at a cost in excess of

   $4000 each way. (This was Case’s insurance and I didn’t even work there anymore.)

 

So we went to Phoenix, Paul, Joan and I, two pilots and a female “attendant”. Joan was going to stay at the home of sister-in-law Shirley’s sister Dianne and family for a few days for a “transition” period and I was to go back with the plane. The crew, not knowing that I was to return, had planned to stop at Las Vegas on the way back. So, when they asked if I would mind stopping on the way for free dinner and drinks, it seemed to be “an offer I cannot refuse”.  I called home, (from 35000 feet to let them know I would be delayed and, when Joan called to see if I had arrived, Terry gave a slightly garbled version saying I was in Los Angeles.

 

Doctor Dugan and his staff tried every trick they had to get Paul’s stimulator to work, to no avail. In the process they learned how stubborn he could be. We heard again, “can we sit on him”? We did learn one important thing from all this, which, we believe, greatly improved his health. They stimulated his bladder daily, by tapping in his lower belly, thus draining it completely, eliminating the accumulation of the foreign matter that causes infection. (Urinary infection is probably the most common reason that quads become hospitalized). We brought Paul back in July. The temperature was 108 degrees and getting him off the plane and onto his van was very uncomfortable for him. It took him days to recover from the trip.

 

I think it was in 1980 when I read about the Spinal Cord Society on the editorial page of the newspaper. It seemed that someone was interested in trying to find a cure instead of telling us how to “cope”. They were having a meeting in St Paul. MN, and we decided to look into it. So I flew up and attended. It was interesting and amusing. About the second day I got on the elevator and a man asked a common question, “where are you from?” It turned out that they were from Wichita, too, and, to make a long story longer, they came up on a private Cessna twin belonging to Bob Love, (I think his name was Bob), of Love Box Co. in town, and they invited me to join them on the trip home. On the way, we dropped Mr. Love at Orr, MN, (13 miles from Canada), where he was going fishing. After the Las Vegas episode, Joan wasn’t surprised to get a call from me from Orr Minnesota. We are still active in fund raising for SCS.

 

Regarding SCS, we did stay in contact with them. Brenda Potter, who became quadriplegic when struck by a drunk driver running a red light, formed a local chapter, which we joined. It deteriorated into just Brenda’s family and us. We did annual fundraising, usually a “bluegrass” concert with the help of a local country radio station, with limited success. Then, in 1990, we were contacted by Liz Sims, a fellow parishioner, who was trying to raise money for a group home for mentally disabled. With the help of the church, she was organizing a golf tournament and knew of our experiences and proposed that we go together to organize the tournament. So we did. A month or so before the tournament, Liz, who had been doing a lot of physical work at the group home, was hospitalized with a “minor stroke. While there she was diagnosed with cancer, which raced through her body, and she died the night before the tournament. So it became the annual Liz Sims Memorial golf Tournament. We had the

15th annual tournament in 2004. Brenda, who had two children after the accident, (now grown), and her family are close friends.

 

 

So  we resumed the routine of caring for Paul. The first thing I did in the morning was to turn him, tap his bladder and range him. The last thing I did before going to bed was to range him again. Joan and the nurses did a lot more during the day and night. The quality of their care was attested to by the professionals. Paul had several broken bones, which were not cared for when he was fighting for his life. There was a broken arm that Doctor Murphy attended to belatedly. He had a broken jaw, which was not attended to. When doctor Rensner, the Dentist, worked on his teeth, he had him anesthetized, then got on the table and pried his jaw open to work on him. Every time he did that, he uncovered him to show the nurses what good condition his skin was in, and congratulated us for same.

 

For a while we didn’t get to go to church together. We didn’t have nurses on Sunday so I would go to one mass, rush home, and Joan would go to the next mass. Then we got permission to keep a nurse on Saturday evening, so we could go to the evening mass, then go out to dinner. This became our special time together, a temporary escape from the responsibilities as caretakers. This may have saved our sanity. We still almost always go to mass and dinner on Saturday night and it is still a special time.

 

Doctor Fields had a lot of respect for Paul, and a lot of frustration dealing with him. He actually made house calls to see Paul. When Paul was on Medicaid, and Fields didn’t accept Medicaid, he finally treated him for free. Paul was always “second guessing” the Doc, and was usually right. Doc would prescribe “medicine A” for congestion and Paul would say, “no, that didn’t work last tine, give me “medicine B”. Paul was very cognizant of his care and his respirator. He often told the technician what to do to fix the machine. 

 

Some of the other doctors didn’t understand Paul. When he had something wrong, his system often responded by exhibiting diaphoresis, profuse sweating that soaked his clothes and the sheets. An internalist, specializing in ulcers and such, tried to convince us that he couldn’t have ulcers as the symptoms were wrong. Joan had to explain to him that Paul’s body was not typical and couldn’t show the proper symptoms. The god-like doctor was embarrassed to find that he did, indeed have ulcers. There were many similar events through the years.

 

Another case of too much “expertise” follows. One day we brought Paul back from the hospital following treatment for an infection. When I went to range him and put him to bed at 11, I saw that his leg was swollen to about twice normal size. It was apparently phlebitis, caused by a blood clot. A few minutes later the ambulance arrived and the paramedics seemed to be intimidated by Paul’s (disability) condition. They wanted to call a helicopter, but couldn’t figure where it could land and how they would get him there, (Of course it was winter with snow on the ground and a howling wind.) When we got to the hospital we were warned that the clot could move to his lungs and that could be very dangerous. When he was admitted, he was told what the settings would be on his MA1 respirator, the same model he had at home. He protested, knowing his own machine, but was ignored.

 

The phone rang at about 2:30AM. Paul was having breathing problems and wanted the MA I set his way, but nobody wanted to disturb “doctor’s orders”. We were furious. They wouldn’t take our word, or Paul’s, to reset the respirator. They finally got permission to set it right and things improved somewhat. Part of the cause of his distress, (surprise, surprise) was that a clot had indeed migrated to his lungs.

 

One night to be remembered while we were at home went like this. There was a blizzard outside, with snow, howling winds and a temp of 15 degrees. The lights went out around 1AM and Paul’s respirator quit. We had to hustle to get him on the portable. About an hour later the portable quit with a dead battery. While Joan bagged him with our ambubag, I stumbled out into the cold, dark, garage to remove the battery from his van. Soon all was well, although cold and dark. We were on a priority system with the electric company. Although there were only four houses in the dark, the service men came out and repaired our transformer in the blizzard, finishing at about 4 AM. We thanked them and offered them a hot drink, but they had other calls to make.

 

Paul’s health and welfare got a giant boost when we bought new carpet along about 1981 or so. With a major purchase, Star Lumber was giving away a Texas Instruments computer. By today’s standards it was a pitiful 128 K capacity, but Paul latched onto it with a vengeance. With his photographic memory, he would read a page of instructions and never have to refer to it again. When he found out he could compose music on it, his world expanded mightily.

 

Next, Paul got a Yamaha music maker computer and started composing for real. Instructing the nurses, step by step, He composed and copyrighted about 50 tunes. Some of them merged with real instruments and vocals, performed by friends. His tunes are complex, almost symphonic, using multiple “instruments”. He said he couldn’t read music, but he could write it. Once he started composing, his health improved, his attitude improved and he began to “socialize”. The internet had not been “invented” yet, but, by phone and by mail, Paul was making friends and trading information with folks all around the United States, Canada and England. When he died, many of then told us they had no idea how “handicapped” he was. On a good day, Paul’s routine included getting his “care”, lunch, wheeled out on the deck for some sun and a couple hours on the computer. Dee Starkey , of Starkey Music, formed a relationship with Paul. When a new “gimmick” came along, Dee would give it to Paul to try and to evaluate to see if it was worthwhile.

 

I was interviewed by Boeing regarding their “good neighbor” charity campaign. When they learned of his music, they sent a musician to visit him, and the musician wrote words to one of his songs and their choir sang it on several of their recitals.  It was called “Sunshine and Shadows”. They also printed an article with pictures in the company newspaper. He was also interviewed on the TV nightly news. He was a celebrity, of sorts. He was known and treated as someone special whenever he took me shopping for musical “stuff”. (When it came to musical things, he could be a “pill’. He would “audition” a set of speakers in the store, then, if the quality was not right at home, back we would go.)

 

In 1991, Paul went on his first “out of town” trip. Preparing for it was something like preparing for the Lewis and Clark expedition. Paul had a full size van. Still, with clothes and accessories for four people, Paul’s chair, pillows, pads, portable respirator, battery charger, 12 volt and 110 volt suction machines, catheters and nurse Suzanne, we needed a car top carrier before we left. Then we had to find a motel with an accessible room with a waterbed. We found that at a Motel 8, near the airport with adjoining rooms and an accessible Denny’s restaurant next door, which worked out very well. Suzanne stayed with Paul and probably didn’t get much sleep, while we slept “next door”.

 

We went to a King family reunion, visited Bill and Shirley, visited our old neighborhood and took in some of the sights. One of them was the riverfront. There was no way Paul could go up the arch, but he did go for a short excursion on the riverboat “Huck Finn”. There was no easy access, but the crewmen lifted him bodily, respirator and all, onto the forward deck. Paul enjoyed it thoroughly. He did not much enjoy, nor did I, getting in and out of the van, parked “in the tilt” on the levee in the 95 degree heat. Driving home across Kansas was an adventure. There were tornadoes about and a high wind whistling thru the straps that held the car top carrier and we wondering what we would do if we saw a tornado coming our way. Altogether, the trip was extremely successful.

 

It opened Paul’s eyes and imagination to the point that he was colleting data and planning more trips. We were preparing for a busy future. Little did we know that this first trip would also be his last. Looking back, we were so very grateful that he was able to enjoy the one trip.

 

For years we had tried to get Paul interested in a motorized chair, so he could have a little more independence, but he always resisted for reasons we did not quite comprehend. But after his trip he changed his mind and we arranged for one to be delivered to be adapted to his requirements. Ironically, the chair arrived in Wichita the day he died.

 

For some years we had been concerned about what would happen to him when I had to retire. The coverage would be a supplement to Medicare, and Medicare had no coverage for the type of care he needed. The “ experts” from Medicaid and SRS carried on about what wonderful care he was getting, but sadly stated that there was no way to get help from the state.

 

In January of 1992 we went to an Independent Living Resources conference in Topeka to see if   we could learn if something could be arranged. In fact, we learned that there was help available for “special circumstances” like his and all the local “experts” didn’t know what they were talking about.

 

We left Paul in the care of head nurse Berdina and a relatively new nurse, Gale Rich. She seemed capable, but seemed to lack empathy for Paul and she just didn’t seem to “fit in”. We planned to dismiss her after the trip. What we did not know was she was having marital troubles, was taking pain medication which made her drowsy and that a previous patient, a young boy, had died while under her care.

 

On the morning of the second day of the conference one of us, I forgot whom, forgot a notebook and I went back to our room to pick it up. While there I saw the message light, on the phone, blinking. The message was to call home. Berdina answered, hysterical, and told

me Paul was dead. I don’t know what was more painful, finding out, or having to tell Joan. I must have looked ghostly, because she knew immediately that something was terribly wrong.  We decided to drive home, instead of flying and leaving the car. We found a doctor who gave her a sedative and the long drive home gave us a chance to contemplate the reality of what had happened.

 

Paul died January 25th, the feast day of the conversion of St. Paul.

 

Gale’s story was: The alarm went off at 5:30 AM and she suctioned him, and asked if he was all right and he did not answer. She went back to bed and slept till 7:30 and went in to check him and he was dead. She called Berdina, instead of 911. Berdina rushed to the house and called the authorities and us. (In our absence, Steve took charge of the comings and goings.) 

 

We believe: The alarm went off at 5:30, (it was very loud).She slept thru it, woke up later to find him dead, panicked, and called Berdina, and made up a story.

 

We played Paul’s music at his funeral. It was attended by many whose life he had enriched. The newspaper wrote a nice obituary. (attached).

 

Paul liked all kinds of music, from heavy metal to classical. (The exception is “rap”, or whatever they call it now, which we don’t consider to be music.) when his mother asked, “doesn’t it give you pleasure to have other people enjoy your music?” He replied something like “I play my music for my enjoyment”.

 

You will note that going “ through the years” not much is being said about the eighties. While Paul kept us abreast of music during this time, we were so busy with Paul we missed out on history, politics and entertainment of the times. The eighties were a blank spot in our memories. On the other hand, taking care of Paul gave us a sense of purpose and accomplishment that more than made up for whatever we missed. To paraphrase the quote a parent of twin adult sons with Muscular dystrophy, “Taking care of him wasn’t a task or a responsibility, it was a privilege”. As the song says, he was the wind beneath our wings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.3.3: POST- PAUL

 

The chronology of events is slightly askew due to the events which affected Paul at the same time as “non-Paul” events.

 

1979; Granddaughter Jennifer was born in October to Phil and Sherri.

 

1980; Paul went to Good Sam. In Phoenix, as previously mentioned.

 

1982; Grandson Jeff was born in October to Terry and Barb.

 

1991; Paul went to St. Louis as previously noted.

 

1992; Jan. 25, Paul’s death. September, our first trip overseas to Ireland.

 

Many things added to the frustration after Paul died. The coroner, who had a drinking problem, attributed the cause of death to failure of the respirator, which was not true. Joan talked to him at length.  He apparently was “under the influence” at the time, but finally agreed to correct the autopsy. It took us almost two years to find an attorney who wanted to be bothered with a wrongful death suit, which was capped by law at a maximum of “only” $100000. Some insulted us by implying that his life wasn’t worth much. Sherri’s schoolmate, Rachel Perner, also a friend of ours and an attorney, referred us to Dave Calvert, a paraplegic himself, who turned us over to a young, enthusiastic lawyer who pursued our case. The company settled out of court, and we got enough to permit our subsequent travels. After we took care of Paul all those years, I know he is somewhere taking great comfort in taking care of us.

 

On the other hand, we thought the nurse should have been sanctioned somehow. Not that she should lose her license, but she should not be allowed to work without supervision. Thus began a four year running battle with the Kansas Commission of Nursing. I called, I wrote, I begged and threatened, but they were too busy, I guess. One excuse they used was that they couldn’t proceed until they pursued a new allegation against her for sleeping on the job. Finally I complained to the Governor. He replied that it was a serious allegation and he was turning it over to the Kansas Commission of nursing to investigate. Surprisingly, they found nothing wrong. I guess she’s still out there endangering other people.

 

1993; I retired, finally. Went to work as a sales associate at Sears, for the Christmas season.

 

1994; I was on Japanese television. Also we went on a cruise to Alaska.

 

My Son, Steven, always opposite to me in politics, wrote a letter to the editor decrying the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan, declaring that the war was almost over and all that killing was unnecessary and evil. I composed a letter opposing this view, saying that they started the war by bombing civilians, that the warlords wanted to continue the fight after the bombs fell, and that many hundreds of thousands of Japanese and Americans would die as we invaded their mainland and, most Importantly, his father might have been one of them.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a working typewriter at the time and Steve was the only one to see it.

 

Some months later, a group from a Japanese news service contacted Steve and wanted to interview him at length. They asked if he knew anyone with an opposing view. He said he surely did. So they visited him, myself and his son Ethan over a couple of days at his house and my house getting input from three generations. Steve got a video tape of the event.

 

1995 ; We took a trip to continental Europe and I volunteered at the Wesley Rehab Hospital.

 

Germany, Switzerland Austria and France were interesting, but the people were not nice like the Irish.

 

The people at the rehab were extremely friendly. I helped them design an accessible training kitchen, and built some minor prosthetics, saving them a few bucks, but when I found out that the CEO of the conglomerate that owns the unit took home a salary in excess of $126 million that year, I lost my incentive.

 

1996; Great grandson Joshua M Lazar was born in September to Brandi and Kevin.

 

1997; Brandi and Kevin were married.

 

1998; Great granddaughter Elizabeth H Lazar was born in February. Great grandson Kai D Zimmerman was born to Kristen and Michael Zimmerman in May.

 

We went to Italy and saw a lot of things, including the Pope. (at a distance).

 

In October, Kristen, Michael and Kai moved to Eugene Oregon

 

1999; Saw the Pope up close. Founded the Maple Hill Neighborhood Association. Terry and Barb moved to Portland Oregon.

 

In Jan. 1999 the Pope visited the U S with a stop in St. Louis. Parishes in nearby Diocese could request tickets to be issued “by lottery”. We applied in our parish and, surprisingly were chosen to go. He visited the (then) TWA dome and convention center, said mass for and spoke to 110000people about 40000 of which were in the dome, and the rest in the convention center on large screen TV. The minority of dome residents were also chosen at random. We were so pleased to be on the trip we didn’t even consider the possibility of getting in the dome.

 

 To our surprise, we were not only in the dome, but seated directly across from his throne. He is just a little old, tired, bent over man, but there is no way to explain the feeling that came over us when the Popemobile entered the building. He has charisma befitting the only Pope in the whole world. It was an experience unlike any other in my life.

 

In September, Terry Barb and Jeff  moved to Sandy, Oregon, just outside of Portland

 

The same year we got “taken in” to the city of Wichita. I use the words “taken in “advisedly. They kindly offered to bring us city water at an outrageous price. (about 50% more than we paid for sewers).  (huge, gravity fed Pipes with manholes, etc.). I spoke up at a hearing and later in a TV interview, (we knew somebody at channel 10), quoting the old man in the

movie, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”. So I sent out fliers and held a meeting and we set out to keep the city honest. Some of the residents were wise in the way of city operations, and we reduced the actual costs to about half of their original estimate.

 

 

2000; Great granddaughter Sarah A Lazar was born. In October, Kristen and Michael Zimmerman were married in Arizona (we attended), and great granddaughter Eyalu S Zimmerman was born.

A couple days before Halloween, I was eating dinner after Saturday mass, I passed out. I had had a heart attack, the details of which are chronicled further on. The day I came home from the hospital, there was a message on the phone, inviting me to discuss employment. I had been looking for a part time job where I could “help the handicapped”. For the next two years I spent about 18 hours a week helping care for eight “developmentally handicapped” adults in a group home. I helped to feed, medicate, educate and transport them to their many social events.

 

2001; We visited Terry and Barb in Portland, OR, and Kristen and Michael In Eugene, OR and toured Oregon and Washington at length.

   On Sept 11, the world trade center was bombed. Our way of life was changed forever, as it was on Nov 22, 1962 and Dec 7, 1941

 

2002; In June, Joan had her heart attack. Unlike mine, which was minimal, hers was complicated and confusing, as explained in the appendix.

 

2003; We celebrated 50 years together at a fine dinner, courtesy of our children, and spouses, and a second visit to Ireland with Phil and Sherri.

 

2004: Granddaughter Jennifer married Bradley Davis on Phil’s birthday, 7-31-04. In the fall, Phil and Sherri & Joan and I revisited Ireland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.4 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY; As seen by the working man, (or woman).

         

                                                

 

 

I have experienced about 3/4 of that century and it seems to be going in a circle. As the century began, there were three classes of people; the poor, the rich and the very rich.  The very rich included the industrial giants, also known as the “robber barons”. They were the Rockefellers, the Carnegies, the Morgans and others who exploited the workers and the consumers. They virtually controlled prices, wages and, sometimes, Government policies. They controlled the railroads, the steel mills, the oil refineries, and other major industries. The workers faced long hours, short pay, no “fringe benefits”, such as pensions, health care or union representation. Any attempt to unionize was met with brute force.

 

The rich, in those days, included professional men such as doctors, lawyers, and athletes and management employees. They probably earned 10 to 20 times the income of the average worker. Babe Ruth, the first sports superstar, was chided for making more money than the President of the United States. In the year 2002, the average “ordinary’ baseball player made $2.5 million per year. That’s 12.5 times what President Clinton made and 6.25 times the salary of President Bush. The lowest paid rookie in baseball today makes more than the President.

 

President Theodore Roosevelt fostered “anti-trust’ legislation to curb the merger mania and virtual monopolies formed by the “cartels”, but there were always loopholes. The World War, later known as WW I, opened the eyes of millions of farm boys to a world beyond the county they were born and raised in and would have died in. In those days, most families grew up on a farm, and many never traveled more than 50 miles from home. There was no radio or TV to connect them to the “outside world”. When they saw how the rest of the world lived, they wanted some for themselves. The song “how ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paree”, tells it all. They emerged from the war full of hope and ambition. Their hoped were dashed by the “great depression. The war probably opened the

door to the union movement. The “great depression” further aggravated the plight of the working man.

 

During the administration of Franklin D Roosevelt, and especially during World War II, the workers obtained more benefits such as overtime premium pay, holiday pay and pension and savings plans. It was after WW II that the 40 hour work week became the norm. (surprised?)

 

After World War II, in the face of an expanding economy, “enlightened” management became more cooperative toward workers, creating a feeling of loyalty and opportunity. Fringe benefits such as pensions, health care insurance and profit sharing created the feeling that management and labor shared the same goals. (At least, that’s the way I perceived it at the time.) This was about the peak of organized labor’s influence. Labor was pushing management for increased wages without increased productivity. Management often acquiesced, passing the cost on to the consumer. Later, global competition pointed out the fallacy of this ploy.

 

When I entered the work force in the 1950’s, there was a feeling that anyone with training and ordinary ability could, if he chose, work for a chosen company for 30 years or more, advance to his level of competence, and retire in relative comfort.

 

Compensation for managers and skilled professionals, (Doctors, lawyers, scientists, entertainers and athletes), was modest. James McDonnell, founder of McDonnell Aircraft, boasted that his salary was about six times that of the lowest paid worker on his payroll. (Of course, as major stockholder in his company, he didn’t need any salary to “get by”.) The president of Emerson Electric, when I started working there made about 20 times what I made as a “rookie” engineer. The average major league baseball player made about $13000 a year. (In today’s dollars that would be about $93000, enough to hire two “rookie” engineers.

 

Gradually, in the 70’s and 80’s unbridled greed started to move in. It was aided by the politicians who were increasingly bought and paid for by ‘special interests” and were beholden to them. So the laws increasingly favored the special interests, to the detriment of the consumer. In the 90’s and the new century, it exploded.

 

Integrity and cooperation were replaced by naked greed:

 

Compensation for VIP’s skyrocketed. As previously mentioned, individual baseball players are signing contracts in excess of $250 million. A few years ago, that amount would have bought a baseball team, The salaries of CEO’s of large corporations, (This does not include bonuses and stock options and retirement packages), in the 1980’s averaged about 42 times that of the average worker. By 1990 this ratio increased to 80 to 1. By year 2000, it was 476 to 1. By comparison, the same ratio in Japan is 11 to 1. After I retired, I volunteered for a while at the Wesley rehab hospital. I assisted patients, revised their training kitchen, and built minor prosthetic devices, saving then a few dollars. When I learned that the CEO of the conglomerate that owned the hospital made$126 million in salary, I lost some of my enthusiasm.

 

In the year 2000, actor Bruce Willis made 54.4 million. Basketball player Shaquille O’Neal made 31 million. Golfer Tiger Woods got 60 million from Nike and didn’t have to touch his clubs. The executives of ENRON Corp. voted themselves 55 million in bonuses, (meanwhile their employees lost their savings which had been invested in company stock), and then declared bankruptcy. Meanwhile, people with really important jobs, such as schoolteachers and nurses have to get along on $30,000 to $40,000.

 

Regulation was replaced by chaos;

 

Beginning in the Reagan administration, the concept of de-regulation was born. When corporations have a monopoly or an oligopoly in an industry, (such as electrical energy), the government normally allows a price that guarantees a profit. In return, the corporation is required to make sure the product is available. In other words the infrastructure is in place and they “take care of business “. When the airlines were cut loose there was a rash of bargains for some destinations while others suffered a loss of service and/or outrageous price gouging. In Wichita, for example, predatory pricing drove the small feeder lines out of business. (The big airlines matched the prices of the smaller ones and gave more convenient service, until the little guys went broke or left town. Then the big guys tripled their prices.)

 

In the year 2001 the price of natural gas suddenly tripled. The gas companies claimed there was a “shortage”. There are billions of cubic feet of gas right under our feet. (If you don’t believe it look up what happened in Hutchinson about the same time.) The gas company failed to build the pumps, pipes and valves to deliver it. For this dereliction of duty, they were rewarded with high prices.

 

Later the state of California “ran out” of electricity. They blamed the EPA, the Governor and everyone but themselves. They sold electricity to other states, but had none for themselves. They had the responsibility to build the capacity, but didn’t. For this they were rewarded with high prices. Similarly, the price of gasoline is allegedly driven by mid-east politics, refinery fires and a hundred other things. The fact is a handful of oil companies, in collusion, control the product from the well to the gas tank, and they control the price because “they can”.

 

 Manufacturing productivity was replaced by global importation;

 

There was a time when America was exporting automobiles, steel, electronic devices and technology to the rest of the world. These days it is almost impossible to buy tools, clothing, cameras, appliances, electronics or an American flag that weren’t made in China, Mexico, India or some other far- flung country, in a factory that is probably owned by an American conglomerate.

 

When I retired from Boeing in 1993 they were exporting airplanes and associated equipment worldwide and operated in an ethical and responsible manner, or as seen from my workplace. In the year 2003, they have been accused of unethical activities regarding competitive bidding, and they requested $500 million in municipal bond money from the city of Wichita so they can compete to build part of their proposed new super airliner, the 7E7. Fully half of that airplane will be built in Japan, Italy or some other foreign country.

 

The newest strategy in importation concerns technical manpower.

 

It began with semi- skilled, easily portable jobs such as telemarketing. When you call to check the status of a purchase from a local store, you may be talking to somebody in El Salvador. This has expanded to a situation wherein engineers and technicians have been asked to train their replacements who can go back to India where they can afford to work for a fraction of the American’s wage. After which the Americans become unemployed.

 

We have at least 8 million illegal aliens working in our country in spite of the fact that it is illegal to hire them. Now our President wants to reward these lawbreakers by making them “legal”. This is not popular with the legal aliens who must work and study for 10 to 12 years to qualify for citizenship.

 

Finance has replaced integrity in politics;

 

Since the emergence of TV as the primary means of electioneering, the guy with the most dollars almost always wins. The candidates expend most of their time and energy raising cash before the election and repaying their supporters afterward. The biggest suppliers of money are the special interest groups who want favors. In the presidential primaries of the year 2000, George W Bush drove off all competition by virtue of his $200 million treasury. No opponent could out-advertise him. Sen. John McCain, whose main issue was campaign finance reform, could not compete. The politicians who benefit from the system are not about to change the system. In my opinion this is the single most important problem of the 21st century.

 

                                                        

 

The above depiction of the 20th century is not purported to be an objective history, but as my perception of what has occurred in my lifetime. It may be more hysterical than historical, but it portrays life as I saw it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.5. MICSELLANEOUS

 

 

MY HEART ATTACK;                                                                                       

 

 

It was October 28, 2000. Joan and I had gone to 5:30 Mass as St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton Church, and, as we usually do, we went out to dinner at the Black Eyed Pea, a moderately priced restaurant, not one of our favorites. (Actually they are no longer in business).  We were sitting at a small booth for two facing each other, not two feet apart. We were finished eating and about to get the check. I don’t remember what I had, but I didn’t finish it, which was unusual. I was feeling kind of “queasy”.

 

The next thing I remember Joan was asking me if I was OK, a lady in the next booth was leading prayers for me and an ambulance and fire truck were outside and EMS people were giving me oxygen and loading me in an ambulance and I was still wondering what all the excitement was about. I didn’t realize that I had “passed out” twice and Joan had propped up my head to keep it from falling into my food. When we got to the hospital, I got feeling “clammy”’ and started sweating profusely. That was the only discomfort I felt during the whole episode.

 

After about an hour in the emergency room at Via Christi, St. Joseph, I was admitted. I was subjected to every test known to man; CT, brain scan, (of course the brain scan revealed “nothing”), EKG, EEG, sonogram, etc, etc. The next day was Sunday, so nothing happened. The following day “Dr. Doofus” came in to look at me. He was filling in for the doctor assigned to my case. (I never met the doc assigned to my case. I did get a bill from him.) Doc Doofus looked like something out of vaudville, with polyester striped pants and checkered jacket. He was from Galicia Medical group, a prestigious cardio-vascular group, but I wouldn’t trust him with my goldfish. He pronounced that I had a “vaso-vagal syncopy”. (An erratic heartbeat caused by a form of indigestion).

 

Daughter-in-law Sherri, Who has had some medical training, thought this was a stupid assessment. So did Daughter-in-law Cam, who works in the library at the same hospital and looked it up in said library. We all agreed this was not likely.

 

The next day, Tuesday, Doc. Doofus told me that I had had a vaso-vagal thing and I could go home. I told him I needed a second opinion from a cardiologist. A nurse on the floor called the Galicia group to find that the doctor on call was not available, nor was his back-up. She persisted until Dr. Joseph Chambers found time to visit us.

 

He sat down and asked what happened, and we told him. (At that time I think he knew exactly what happened). He ordered a heart cath and insisted on having it the same day. The procedure consists of entering a major artery in the groin, probing with a catheter for a blockage and, if one is found, opening the area and placing a stent, (a flexible expandable mesh sleeve), in place to prevent closure. I was certain he would find nothing and asked the doc. what happens if they don’t find anything. He indicated we would worry about that when it happens. As it happens, I had a 95% blockage in the “lower anterior descending” artery attached to my heart, and a stent was installed.

 

After the procedure I spent the night in special care. One of the first things I remember seeing   when I awoke was a day calendar with a big number 1 (November 1) on it. I took it to stand for the first day of the rest of my life. Doc. Doofus came in that morning and asked me how I felt. I told him “much better, no thanks to you”. He had nothing more to say. Had I listened to him, I probably would have had my final heart attack by now.

 

I have not changed my life style much since then except to add an aspirin to my medicines and cut my beer and wine consumption in half. I consider this a beneficial heart attack which

prevented a more serious heart attack. I feel like I have had my warranty extended.

 

CHAPTER 2

  On 12-20-03, I had a routine visit with Dr Chambers. He set up a routine thaliun stress test.

On 1-8-04, I had the stress test. Chambers thought I might have an ischemia, a shortage of oxygen to the heart, so he scheduled a heart cath.

1-14-04, Heart cath at Galicia Heart Hosp. Apparently went ok. Had an allergic reaction to the dye, turning red and “flushed” for about four days.

1-21-04 Visited Chambers. Discontinued mavic pills.

1-23-04 Friday night. I am sitting in the kitchen, getting my hair cut, then I’m sitting on the floor and Joan is calling me to wake up. Out for 30 t0 45 seconds. I don’t remember a thing. We decided to check the nearby emergency center, who took a “normal” EKG, tried to call Chambers, got a Dr Amarani, who wants me to spend the night in the hospital and I think, “Friday night, I’ll spend the weekend sitting on my hands till Monday before anything happens”. But I went, got “wired”, awakened at 1:10 am to get weighed, saw doc Amarani, who scheduled two tests, and released me. Two and a half hours later I was “paroled”.

1-28-04 Scheduled to have a “T wave” stress test at 2; 00 at the office, then a “tilt table” test at 3;00. First, they couldn’t find my papers, then, they couldn’t get the T wave machine working, so they sent me to the hospital for the three o’clock test, which didn’t get started till 6:30 pm. In other words, they didn’t know I was coming. They injected something in my veins to boost my blood pressure, but it didn’t. The other test was scheduled for 2-2, but it was snowing on 2-1, so I cancelled, at which time the snow stopped.

 

2-12-04 Reported for the T wave test. First, they couldn’t find my papers. Then, they couldn’t find “doctor’s orders”. (They were still at the hospital). By the time they finished, doc Chambers was out to lunch, so Joan and I lunched and waited. Chanbers said results were inconclusive due to my occasional “ PVC”, (premature ventricular contractions), Translation; “my heart skips a beat”. He said, come back in eight weeks. (If you’re still alive.)

2-17-04 Feeling uneasy, I made an appointment with doc Hilger who got me on a “monitor” for 30 days and scheduled an EEG. No episodes on monitor.

2-24 EEG at St Josephs. Results normal. No waiting or confusion.

3-24 Follow-up with Chambers. “case closed”, follow up in 6 months.

  The end?

 

                                                                 

Joan's heartless heart care.............2002

 

 

It all began when she was born.  She had a history of high cholesterol, extremely high triglycerides and a bent heart artery. She was being x-rayed for the 'umpteenth' time when the tech. first advised her that she had an enlarged heart. She was then scheduled for a heart cath. (not her first). At this time she was said to have pulmonary edema.

 

6/20 The heart cath showed a blockage which couldn't be treated with a stent , as was my blockage, and she was held overnight to have further tests, (thallium stress).

 

6/21, 10 AM  Having had no meds or food since midnight, and no clue as to when she would go, Joan was getting anxious. I finally asked an attendant when she was to go and she said; "I'll find out". I never saw her again. Later, when I insisted on knowing "when", after a few phone calls I was advised that they had forgotten to schedule her, and would we please come back Monday. Having found out that the tests could be done at her doctor's office, she said; "no, thanks".

 

6/24 to6/27 Finally got the records from heart doc's office to doc's office, found the test wouldn't take place till 7/17.  Heart doc's office was upset that it took so long. We later learn that the heart doc. had the records and could have done the test sooner! By now, they are calling her condition pulmonary hypertension.

 

7/6..........7/10 Joan is having a "slow motion" heart attack, and Sherri is having a fit. Finally in 7/11, she goes to the doc's office and doc says to get to the hospital "stat".   The Kansas Heart Hospital is small, specializes in heart treatment, has a high nurse to patient ratio, and claims to be the “best”. Sherri and Jennifer are there constantly, Sherri, around the clock. Dr. Murphy is the surgeon. Jenn thinks he’s no good. The heart doc assures us he is very good, and Jenn approves of the doc who will assist.

 

7/12 The surgery goes well.  Joan is retaining fluid and her condition is defined as “Congestive heart failure”.

 

7/16  It is announced that a pacemaker will be installed “tomorrow”. Joan is now gaining weight daily, though she is eating almost nothing ,and is having anxiety and hallucinations due to a medicine called atavan.  Her incision is beginning to look infected .7/17 The second surgery goes well, except that she was “prepped” and waiting for a half hour because doc Murphy couldn’t find the right operating room.  Sherri finally convinces staff that diuretics should have been restored three days before. Instead she is, by now, congested and bloated. Also determined that dressings on incisions were changed once in five days, instead of daily.

 

7/16  Phone call reminding us to report to doc’s office for thallium stress test. (previously scheduled for 7/17)

 

7/18  Released from hospital. Hosp. Failed to send home pain meds.  Found infected incisions. Joan was congested . Went thru two bottles of high dollar meds.  Congestion returned, on a week end, of course. Jenn contacted Dr.X , whom she knew and was on call at St. Joe. We were to meet him at the ER and not have to check in. After about an hour, during which Dr. X could not be found, we checked in and waited some more. The ER doc looked at her and went to find Dr.X. We never saw him again. Finally we checked out, went home and got the heart doc to give us a prescription.

 

7/27  Joan short of breath. Called  her doc for  super anti- biotic.  Made appt for 7/31.

 

7/31 Waited an hour at doc’s office. Went to ask what happened. Told we were there at 11, our appt was 10:20,  everyone is out to lunch. They had picked up her folder and ignored it. Goodbye doc G, hello doc H.

 

8/1  Visit with doc H re; chest pain  and back pain.

 

8/3  Cat scan at St. Joe. Kidneys  O K.

 

8/15 (approx.) When  Doc Murphy  introduced himself at the hospital, he gave us his card showing his address on north Emporia. When Joan went there for her follow-up visit, she learned that he had moved to a new office right  behind  the heart hospital. (about 12 miles farther away.)

 

8/16  Two postcards stating appt at heart doc’s office  8/28 @1PM, & 8/29 @ 1:45pm. (it’s 23 miles to doc’s office).

 

Sometimes the cure is more dangerous than the disease!!!!!!!!

 

Ps; The lab tech. First informed Joan that she had an enlarged heart.

Doc Murphy told her she had a “young” heart.

Every one who knew her knew she was big-hearted. 

Just ask any of the young folks at Sears or the parish council if she is “young at heart”.

           Or just ask her husband,  “kids”, or “grandkids”.

 

4.5; EPILOGUE

 

This story would not be complete without crediting the person who affected my life the most, namely Joan Lorraine (King) Otto.

 

 

4.5.1; WHAT SHE IS;

 

Lover; She is, of course, my lover, best friend, confidant, my inspiration and my caretaker. She is also so many other things.

 

Mother; She raised six sons, kept them fed and clothed, meticulously, in spite of her anxiety neurosis. Doctor mom could look into one of the boy’s eyes and predict; “You’re going to be sick tomorrow”. Doctor Londe, our pediatrician, would predict one ailment, and Joan would predict something else. More often than not, Joan would be right. She was always coming up with new traditions. One Friday night, I came home from work and was informed that Steven and I were going on a campout that weekend. And a new tradition was born.

 

Grandmother/Matriarch; She is a great grandmother as well as a great great-grandmother. She worked at Sears, part time, for decades for two reasons. First, she loves people and she loves to meet people. She is very popular with the customers and with her co-workers and some of her bosses. Some of her bosses think she talks too much to the customers and treats them to too many advantages on prices, and returns. Also, she doesn’t take criticism meekly. The other reason she works is to shop for bargains for her friends and family. It’s always something like, “O, wouldn’t Eyalu look adorable in that”. She takes the grandkids and great-grandkids on shopping sprees and adventures. They confide in her things they wouldn’t talk to their own parents about. (Often they tell her things she would rather not know.) I have a theory about the strong bond that often occurs between grandparent and grandchild. They share a common obstacle, namely the stupid parents/children in the generation between them.

 

Matriarch; Joan is the cement that holds together the branches of our diverse extended family together. She works hard to see that no person or group is neglected. She sends appropriate birthday cards to more than 25 people, including her sponsored child in Guatemala.

 

Lover of people; Our sons say “She talks to strangers”. In fact, she never met a stranger. As noted, she works at Sears, “ helping customers”. She also enjoys finding “clearanced” items for others. She also picks up bargains for me. Among her co-workers I’m known as “clearance rack Jack, the man with100 shirts”. Many of my shirts don’t “go with” anything else I own, so I never get to wear them. She can tell people what size to wear, She also sizes people up at first sight and sees good things in people that others overlook. Who else would talk to a grossly overweight man with little education and less social skills and declare that he has a handsome face and beautiful eyes. She never saw a baby she didn’t want to squeeze. She loves children. She loves old folks. She loves young folks. She is young at heart and is popular with all generations. I love to watch her young co-workers faces light up when she appears.

 

 

Dispenser of advice and wisdom; Joan speaks out. Whatever is on her mind is out in the open. Whether she is telling a bunch of teenage bullies to “knock it off” picking on a kid, or explaining to a doctor that Paul couldn’t exhibit the same symptoms as a person who wasn’t paralyzed. In addition, she possesses that uncommon commodity called “common sense”.  Father asked her to join the St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton parish council mainly because she always had something to say when a new condition came along. The grandchildren always ask for her advice, knowing that they will get it anyway. All our nurses have had the benefit of her insight, and often come back to say, in effect, “you were right about ……”. The same is true of (of all thing), our sons. When strangers tell me “you have a wonderful wife”, (and this really happens), I tell them I know, she reminds me daily.

 

 

Artist, actress, entertainer; One day in the early 1980’s, Joan confided in me, “You know I’ve always wanted to act on stage.” I wouldn’t have been more surprised if she had said she always wanted to be a skydiver. But she did study at Wichita State under Mary Jane Teale, a well known actress, teacher and producer, who now has a theater named after her at Century II. She did this when we had Paul to care for, so it was not easy to do. Her first performance was a solo effort telling about Paul and his music. Her favorite was that of a Jewish mother. The locals thought she sounded a little Jewish because of her St Louis accent. She took pride in working the audience. She had several supporting roles and was terrified and intoxicated by each one. She doesn’t mind being “on stage” in real life. On our overseas trips we always seemed to be the entertainment. She would tell stories and I would fumble with our baggage, money and drinks.

 

Our sons all have artistic talent, and they surely didn’t get it from me. When we were newlyweds, Joan took a course in oil painting. She was very good at portraits, including one of me, which is hanging on the wall, and a scene of us and our (then) five children at a picnic at Spanish Lake in St Louis County. That one is also hanging on our wall. Why she stopped painting I don’t recall. Maybe having three children in three years had something to do with it. In the following years she took up writing. Some short stories and poems, but mostly witty, true short stories about episodes in our busy lives. People always tell her, “you’re so funny”, and she doesn’t seem to know why, but she is witty, articulate and self-deprecating, as are all true comedians. She claims to be a “Joan of all trades and master of none”, but I don’t accept the last part of that assessment.

 

4.5.2; HOW SHE IS;

 

Sensitive; Not that she’s “touchy’. (Well maybe sometimes she is). When she sees a dog limping in the gutter, she shares his pain and wants to do something about it. She talks to people. (I may have said that before). The world is full of people who talk, but she is one of the precious few who listens and remembers how many children the person has and what is special about them. She has such empathy for people, especially those who are, in some way helpless. She often sympathizes and rarely judges. In spite of our experiences with Paul, she cannot work with the disabled, because, I believe, she shares their disability. This sensitivity may be due to her early years visiting Buddy at a time when the helpless were ignored and mistreated.

 

  She is also sensitive in another way, especially so since she has been taking so much medication. Her skin is so delicate, (She loves to use that word), that it reacts to common things such as deodorant, adhesive tape, wool and a few other things. For one who comes on as tough and, for some people, intimidating, she has this tender and very feminine side. Many years ago there was an advertisement for a product, whose name I have forgotten. Their motto was, “tough, but oh so gentile”. I think that’s her.

 

Generous, to a fault; When she was small, she was always doing one of two things; Preaching, telling the other kids what was right and what was wrong, or; Sharing, taking little Rosie, the mistreated girl down the street to a, (nickel), ice cream cone. She never got rich working for Sears, partly because she was always finding some great bargain that would look so cute on Elizabeth, or somebody, or would make me look so sharp. When we were traveling, it was always something like “Don’t you wish Jeffrey could see this castle?” She never said, “If I won the lottery, I would buy this for us and we could go and do…..”. It was more like, We could take all our family on a tour of Europe, so they could see what the rest of the world is like”. If she did win the lottery we would be broke in a year, but our kids would all have new homes.

 

   She always checks to make sure that I give the waiter a proper tip. She spoils her brother Buddy with presents and goodies, then buys shirts and things for the “have-nots” who don’t have family, and brings candy and things for the staff. She tries to spoil her sponsored boy Edin, in Guatemala, but the postal limitations limit how much she can send. That doesn’t stop her from wishing him happy birthday, merry Christmas and congratulations on being

promoted in school. If she wasn’t paying the bills at our house, we would be deep in debt. With her paying the bills, we are solvent, but, thanks to her generosity we aren’t rich in terms of money, but we are rich in the things that count. She is just as generous with her “time and talents” (as they like to say in church), volunteering her services, and sometimes mine at church or wherever needed. Did I already say she is generous in offering solace to anyone in need?

 

Vain; to a point. Joan is a stickler for propriety. She likes to dress well, appropriately for the occasion. In addition to bargains she buys for others, she also buys for herself. I accuse her of having more pairs of shoes than Imelda Marcos. (You may have to look her up in the history books, under Philippines.) She would rather leave late for work than go wearing something “inappropriate”. I have seen her change her outfit two or three times just to go to church on Saturday night. She may buy something, take it home, and then decide it doesn’t look right and return it. Her co-workers love to tease her about her frequent returns. Or, she may leave it hang in her closet for a year, and then donate it to a friend or relative. Her vanity flows over to my attire. I seldom buy anything to wear except shoes. She keeps me in clothes and in style. (I have been known to change my outfit once or twice before going to church also.) So, if she is vain, we all benefit from her vanity.

 

Proper; This category is hard to define. Words like perfectionist, obsessive, determined and tenacious all fall short of defining her. First and foremost is her orderliness. Secondly, there is propriety. She is a lady and will be treated as such. She does not allow co-workers to use foul language in her presence. The workers respect this. She has other measures of propriety. She doesn’t allow pink Kleenex in the kitchen, nor white Kleenex in the bathroom.

  People ridicule her for being a “neat freak” and she resents it. (So do I.) She doesn’t ridicule other people for being disorganized slobs. Her life has had many disruptions and was (and is) disorderly in many ways beyond her control. She requires order in things she can control. With six children, each with a multiplicity of toys it was logical that each keep his own toys under control. So we had rows of shoe boxes filled with toys. She paid a price for her neatness by way of extra work. Phil used to make his bed in the morning. But he complained that she made it over “properly”. So she wound up making eight beds each day.  There may be a little backlash in evidence. Some of these same children who kept their toys in proper shoe boxes, dressed up for church, and hung up their clothes when they came home, have become litterbugs whose cars are single seaters because the other five seats are filled with trash.

.

    

                                   

 

5.0 MISCELLANEOUS

 

 

ANIMALS WE HAVE KNOWN

 

In addition to people and events, animals have affected my way of life and that of my family. Some of them are listed herein.

 

Trixie, 1933-1944 (approx)

My first pet, a “Scottie”, very popular at the time because of President Roosevelt’s Scotch Terrier, Fala. Bought at El Clair kennels “way out” on Natural Bridge road.

She was a natural “old maid’’, never spayed, never pregnant, never wandered far from home. She was very friendly, though she didn’t like mailmen. (I wonder why most dogs don’t.) We had no fence, so she wandered around freely. She followed me, on foot or on my bike, around the neighborhood. When she got tired and the weather was warm, she would walk very slowly through the shady spots, and hurry past the sunny spots.

Her long wiry hair could get tangled and matted. This was worst when she visited construction sites. They were building new houses in the neighborhood, and there were no porta-potties. They just put up a temporary “outhouse”, and Trixie was known to visit them, to my parents’ consternation. Yes, I was spoiled, they didn’t make me clean up the mess. (Maybe they were afraid I would make it worse.) I believe she “died in her sleep”.

 

Rocky, 1954-1958?

I bought Rocky, a boxer pup, from a co-worker shortly after we were married, as a surprise. As we didn’t want too big a dog, I got the runt of the litter This was not a wise choice, as he was never really healthy. He thought he was an only child at first. We took him with us to friend’s homes, on picnics and places that tested our friend’s loyalty to us. He was somewhat “gassy”, a fact that our friends later commented on. When Steve was born, he became very upset and “neurotic”. The vet had us give him tranquillizers. He was an escape artist. He would find a way over the fence, and I would change the fence and he would find another way out, etc, etc. He ran away a couple times and we got him back. Then once he ran off and didn’t come back. There were “wild” dog packs in the county then and we suspected he may have joined one or been attacked by them. (He also didn’t like mailmen and we had one living next door.)

 

Tweety was a blue and gray parakeet. He, (I think we decided it was a he), flew into our yard about 1955. He was not much of a talker. He stayed with us until the doctor told us Phil was probably allergic to him. We gave him to my aunt Ella, who had him for a couple more years. We suspect St. Francis sends creatures to Doctor Joan from time to time.

 

Hildagarde, The 1960’s. she was a stubborn Dachshund. A knothead who would not behave and was not very friendly. She resisted “potty” training. Her favorite trick to play on me would be to hide under the furniture and dare me to come and get her.

She had been spayed, but she came up with a case of “false pregnancy”, complete with swollen teats and milk, followed by medication and love.

I don’t think she ever bit our boys, but she bit several of their friends. She didn’t like it when they left our yard to go home so she would bite one friend, then be “under observation for rabies” for two weeks. Before the two weeks expired, she would have bitten another friend. She wound up at the dog pound.

 

Tropical fish and reptiles, various, including;

Baby guppies, including Siamese twins joined at the head, who lived a few days and were then preserved in alcohol.

A baby guppy with its mouth propped open by a pebble. Dr. Joan operated and it survived.

Various fish with Ick., which Joan netted and treated.

Fish which survived the trip from Ferguson water to Spanish lake water.

“Dimestore” turtles, including “grandpa” who used to beg for braunschweiger an outlived all the rest and died from chemicals in the new pipes at our new house in 1959.

 

Penny was a dog pound puppy. She was part Doberman, tall enough to eat off of the kitchen table with all feet on the floor. (Which she sometimes did.) She was friendly, cute but large. When we moved to Wichita, my new employer, Learjet, had her flown to Wichita. We weren’t here very long when she was found on the road, apparently hit by a car. When the vet looked at her, he determined that he had been shot and was paralyzed. We thought we knew who did it, but had no proof. The same boy was involved with our next pet, Benjamin. We had to put Penny to sleep.

 

Benjamin, a poodle, was bought from a woman who lived nearby and had a kennel, of sorts. We believe he was mistreated by the woman’s son, (the one we suspected of shooting Penny), for he was very timid acting. We only had him for a few weeks or months. We have never had a fenced yard, and Maple street was a busy thoroughfare. One day he disappeared, and out neighbor, Jim Kill, found him in the ditch alongside Maple. He buried him for us.

 

There was a sparrow who adopted us for some reason or other. We can’t recall how it came about, but it is safe to presume that he was young and injured and “Dr. Joan” nursed him (or her) back to health. She tried to turn him loose afterwards, but he always came back to our porch at night. One day he was in one of our trees and Joan was trying to coax him to leave. Later, our neighbor, Bobbie, asked Joan if we had a pet bird. She had seen Joan talking to him and was relieved to find that she was not just talking to a tree. Once the bird went across the street to visit Harlan, working in his garage. He was all excited about this wild bird, till his wife explained that it was “just another of the Otto’s “pets”. He never got a name. Finally, one night he didn’t come home.

 

 

 

Hamlet was a gray kitten one of the boys brought home. There was nothing unusual about him until he delivered a litter of four kittens, and he became Hamletta. We didn’t have her very long and, after the first surprise, she didn’t do anything memorable.

 

Romeo was a black and white cat, mostly black. He was very friendly and “laid Back”, not having many of the feline characteristics that I disliked. I don’t remember how we acquired him. He died of a liver ailment, not more than two or three years old. We later wondered if he was so “laid back” because he wasn’t well.

 

Juliet was a “dog pound” dog, mostly terrier. She was the smartest dog we ever had as well as the one we had for the longest time. Joan and the boys got her while I was working in St. Louis. She was acting cute and seemed to be saying, “take me, take me!” She was easy to train and very friendly. She recognized many words. You should have seen her ears perk up when Joan said “cookie”. We had to sedate her on the fourth of July because she loved fireworks and kept running towards the firecrackers. When the boys played soccer, she played along with them. She would run along, controlling the ball between her neck and shoulder. She was friend and “mentor” with our duck. (See next paragraph.) She was a good traveler and once went with us to the canyon in Colorado. She died peacefully at age 16 after her organs shut down.

 

Lord Byron, aka Lady B, was a “wild” mallard. Phil picked up two eggs from a nest at the Lakeshore Club, as it was called then, a nice clean “sand pit” lake suitable for swimming and fishing. He brought them home and hatched them in a quail incubator. One of them died after a few days, (Actually, it drowned,) and the other was called Lord Byron, until he failed to develop male coloring, at which time she became Lady B. She grew to maturity, not knowing if her “mother” was Phil or Juliet. I built her a pen in which she slept and ate, but she had the run of the yard most of the time, and, occasionally was allowed in the house. For some reason we kept the pen locked. Everyone at work knew about her as I was always getting calls inquiring as to where the “duck key” is. She followed Juliet about the yard, trying to bark when Juliet did, following her to the small pond across the street for a swim. When Juliet played soccer, she would try to do the same, but she was too small to move the ball very far. She never showed much inclination to try to fly. She would watch the birds fly by. We sat her on a fence, hoping she would fly down. We ran around the yard, “flapping” our wings, to no avail. She had a “nest” with shelter, but wouldn’t use it. One winter the exposure was too much for her and she died in the spring, partly from “foot rot”.

 

Nameless wren. Sherry brought it home from high school with broken wing. Joan took it to Dr. Bogue, one of the few vets who worked with birds. After he carefully wrapped the wing to it’s body, Joan advised him that he wrapped the wrong wing. Unwilling to unwind it, he wrapped the other wing too. As I came home from work that night, the phone was ringing and, while I was answering, I saw this thumb-sized mummy running around in a bird cage. When Joan showed up I asked, “So what else is new? It died in about two days, but it had a ball while it lived.

 

Bebe, the bird, was a cowbird, brought to us by Mary Ann, (Steve’s first wife). She found it under a robin’s nest. We later learned that cowbirds lay their eggs in other bird’s nest, hoping that the mother can’t count. We fed her and found a cage for her. Cowbirds are moochers and thieves in the wild. This one would climb on my shoulder and pull a cigarette out of the pack in my shirt pocket. She would pick a flake of cereal out of the boy’s bowl. She had epileptic seizures, and we were so silly we took her to doc Bogue and gave her medicine, till one day she had a big seizure and died.

 

Bridget was the first shih tzu I had ever seen. Phil and Sherri found her wandering the street on a stormy night. They checked the neighborhood and papers and no one claimed her so they thought she would be safe at our house. She had strange habits that we found later were typical of the breed. She would take one bite out of her dish carry it away, eat it and get another bite. She was terrified of storms, probably why she got lost. She hated to ride in the car and made weird, pitiful  “un-doglike” sounds while doing so. We only had her for a couple months. We couldn’t teach her to stay in the yard and a neighbor, (driving too fast) ran over her in front of our house.

 

October was a (totally) black cat of nine lives.  He was about half grown when he adopted John, while he was living in Colorado. When John came back to our house, October came with him. He was somewhat timid and we suspected he had been mistreated before John got him. One time, when Joan accidentally cornered him, he bit her near her Achilles tendon, then ran off. (We thought he was scared) The cut was deep and infected. He came back and, like all our animals, started to train us. For his next adventure he got run over by a car right in front of our house. The car straddled him, but squashed the end of his tail. The vet had to amputate part of it. A few years later, I heard him whimpering underneath the deck, and couldn’t coax him out. I cut a board out of the deck and found him, unable to move. After $200 and three nights at the vet’s, he was not making much progress and the vet asked if we wanted him put away. John had moved to a new apartment and decided to bring him there and wait a few days and see what happened. We decided he had had a stroke. He could barely move. John laid him gently on his sofa and went to get him a drink of water. When he came back, the cat had jumped down and started to explore his new home. For months he walked, cross-eyed and staggering like a drunk. Some of John’s apartments were not “cat friendly” so he moved back with us, became sociable and laid back and lived to age 22, in good health, except for about the last six months. We had him and Ami-Kate put to sleep at the same time.

 

Ami-Kate was a “black and white” shi-tzu. Because we liked Bridget, we thought we would like another shi-tzu. We bought her from an “Air Force” couple at McConnell AFB. She was so small she could stand on her hind legs at the foot of a step and barely reach the next step with her front paws. She was all fuzzy and looked like an “ewok” from the Star Wars movies. She was very playful and affectionate. She was also very sassy. At first she was called Amy, but she was so sassy Joan added Kate after the Kate in “the taming of the shrew”. When I came home she would “greet” me by leaping halfway across the room, landing in my lap and licking me “nose to nose”. Oddly we have never had a dog who would “fetch and bring back”. They all fetched and ran.. She had the shih-tzu traits. Take a bite of food, carry it away, eat and go get another bite. Also, she would only eat out of her dish. She wouldn’t lick the plates, even for something she loved. She would “speak” by growling. She hated to ride in the car and made weird noises while doing so. She loved Paul and he loved her. We couldn’t bring him from his room to the breakfast table without her in his lap. She licked his face, which was the only part of him with sensation. She would eat M&M’s off his pillow. After 14 years her sight and her hearing slowly failed her and her quality of life deteriorated. Once she wandered off and got lost and a kind driver picked her up and returned her. As noted, we had her put down the same day as October.

 

Bebe is a black and tan miniature dachshund. She was “donated” to us by granddaughter Brandi and her children. Brandi told them that ami-kate’s health was failing and she would soon die and the kids really missed her. I was not convinced that we needed another dog so soon, but, they offered to lend her for a weekend, and you can guess how that worked. She is cute, stubborn, conniving and very loving, a licker and cuddler. When we got her she was about seven months old and had formed some habits of her own. She is extremely affectionate, cuddly and “licky”. She jumps up in my lap, as Ami-Kate did and tries to lick my mouth. She decided to sleep in our beds, not at the foot of the bed, but under the covers. I always said only fools and barbarians sleep with dogs. I wonder which one I am. She needs company and physical contact. She has to have her nose on your leg, or in your lap or under your arm. When we left her alone, with the run of the house, she tore up carpets, damaged doors and spitefully piddled on the floor. When kept in her carrier, she is peaceful. She is a tramp and a thief. She will go to anyone and loves to tour the neighborhood, plunging through all the culverts under the driveways. We have an electric containment system that keeps her in the back yard. She steals and chews clothes, pencils, toys, medicine containers, socks, tools, etc, etc, and hides them under our beds, (her hideout). She also runs under the beds with a bite of cookie or a snack, and when she has been scolded or she wants to pout.  She is a hound and a moocher. She scarfs down food ravenously, will eat almost anything. (Certain things she doesn’t approve of, such as “cheap” vanilla wafers.) She begs shamelessly and, when invited, licks the platter clean. She has a loud and sassy bark, a whimper and a little “squeak” when she wants to be let in. She loves to ride in the car, although she prefers the air conditioned comfort of the sedan and sometimes refuses to get in my truck. When I pick up my car keys, she can hear it anywhere in the house and is waiting for me. If she is in the back yard and the garage door opens, or the car door slams, she is there. She also has ESP. She always knows when we are going to leave her. Then she hides under the bed. Sometimes she knows I am going out before I know it. Her biggest problem is she knows if she is cute enough, she doesn’t have to behave            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOVIES;

 

I have been asked what is my favorite Movie. I don’t have one. My favorite movies are those I could watch once a year and not get tired of them. There are many outstanding and excellent movies, which I wouldn’t care to see repeatedly. My “top ten”, in alphabetical order, are:

 

*The African Queen

 

Love can come to “old timers”, love conquers all. Old(er) people can be interesting, too.

Quote: Nature, mister Ornott, is what we are put here to overcome.

 

*The Battle of Britain

 

Authentic “Air War” movie, which shows how close we came to losing WW II, when Britain stood alone against the forces of evil

 

*The Bridge on the River Kwai

 

Illustrating the madness of war.

Quotes; I suppose if I were you, I should have to kill myself

               I have already given the order

              We shall build a “proper” bridge

              There’s always the unexpected, isn’t there?

              There’s always one more thing to do

               Madness, madness

 

*Fiddler on the roof

 

Tradition, and how “our children” can ignore it. (When I first saw it, I was like the “papa”, and my children were straying from the traditions we had been raised with.)

 

Quotes; Would it spoil some vast eternal plan, if I were a wealthy man?

 

*Gone With the Wind

 

A real feeling of what the Civil War, and the aftermath, was like

Quotes; Don’t cut, don’t cut!! (at the medical center in the railroad yard)

             I’ll think about that tomorrow

             Frankly, my dear,…..

 

*The Lilies of the Fields

 

God’s providence, as wielded by a bunch if nuns. You have to be Catholic and know nuns to appreciate it

 

Quotes; I done builded you a schurch.   Aaamen, aaamen, aamen, amen, amen.

 

*The Quiet Man

 

You have to have some Irish in your background to appreciate it.

Quotes; You see that road there. Don’t take it, it’ll not get you there.

              It’s just five miles, just a good stretch of the legs

              He’ll regret it till his dying day, if he should live so long.

                Americans! Pro-hibition

 

*The Ten Commandments

 

The most extravagant, colorful, interesting production of it’s time

Quotes; His God, IS God.

 

*The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

 

How gold turns loyal friends into distrustful enemies

Quotes You’re so dumb you don’t know gold when you’re standing on it

             Fred C Dobbs is not a man to be trifled with

             Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges

 

*The Wizard of Oz

 

Just a fun movie. Singing, magic, special effects, a moral to the story.

Quotes; Somewhere, over the rainbow

              Follow the yellow brick road

              Lions and tigers and bears, oh my

              I’m not a bad person, I’m just a bad wizard

              There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.

 

I know there have been excellent movies made within the last thirty years, but I don’t think I would care to watch them once a year. (Saving Private Ryan is a great and important movie but I wouldn’t want to see it on a yearly basis.) Maybe I’m just a slow learner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who has faith?

 

 

Does anyone have absolute faith? We like to think we do, but what would you if you were Pedro?

Pedro was tending his sheep, walking along a narrow trail above a cliff. Suddenly, there was a landslide and Pedro fell off the edge, managing to grab a protruding bush, the only thing keeping him from a 400 foot fall.

 

In desperation he called, “Is anybody up there?”

I AM HERE, came a deep voice.

Who are you?

I am GOD

Will you help me?

YES,

DO YOU BELIEVE IN ME/

Yes

WILL YOU DO AS I SAY?

Yes

FIRST, LET GO OF THE BUSH

………..

………..

Is anybody else up there?

 

 

 

Would you let go?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHY?

 

Dear Joan;                                                                                    5-4-2004                                                                       

 

 A few days ago you asked me “why I fell for you”.

It didn’t happen all at once, but it got off to a fast start.

It wasn’t the first time I was impressed or intimidated by a pretty girl.

There was Betty Ann Bocklage, an older woman, an eighth grader when I was in seventh. She was a baby-faced blond, my weakness. Then there was Rose Marie Brennan, a brunette. I think we were in the same grade but not in the same class at St Ann’s School.

Then there was Dolores, (last name forgotten), a really pretty petite blond I met on a blind date in college. I guess I was not a very aggressive “suitor” and she moved on.

 

It may have been “hair of gold and eyes of brown, the prettiest girl in this old town” that got my attention, (even the “see-thru” blouse), but it was your spunk, perkiness, and completely open attitude that drew me to you. Irreverent, outspoken, in awe of no one, sympathetic to everyone, full of love and full of fun is what you were and are. It was your complete “openness” that did it. It was the fact that it didn’t show that you had lost your favorite brother and that your mother was in poor health and your parent’s divorce was very stressful on you. Your positive attitude was contagious.

 

It was the girl in the gingham dress who would “bum a cigarette” from my dad the first time they really got together, set off a firecracker at work, refused to do act busy when she was caught up, and instead chose to drive her bosses crazy.

 

In searching for a one-word definition of what attracted me to you, the closest I can come to is the word uninhibited. If there is a word that is the opposite of hypocrite it fits you. Open, frank, “what you see (and hear) is what you get”, you are as un-phony as you are funny. As one who has been inhibited all my life,(I have dived into the water a thousand times and never tried a back flip, never tried to fall on my back and bounce to my feet on a trampoline), I appreciate someone who has nothing to hide.

 

Maybe, in the back of my mind, I thought it safe to approach you because you were “safely” going steady. Maybe it was the “forbidden fruit” aspect that urged me on. Or maybe I just enjoyed being alive, whenever you were near.

 

Whatever the reason, I think it turned out rather well for me!   Love, me

                                                                       

                                                                                               XOXOX

                                                                                                 XOX

                                                                                                     X

 

 

6.0 

 

Part II

 

 

Joan’s

 

Stories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A grandmother’s book

 

Questions by: Kristen Otto (now Zimmerman), granddaughter

 

Answers by: Joan L Otto (Grandma)

 

Where were you born?

St Louis, Mo.

 

What was the month, day and year?

December 18, 1932, Sunday, about 10 AM.

 

How much did you weigh, at birth?

I weighed 5 pounds and was a breech birth, as was your grandpa.

 

What were your parent’s names? How old were they?

My mother’s name was Ruth and my dad was Will. Mother was 30 and my dad was 40 when I was born. I was their only daughter.

 

Where were you when I was born?

Grandpa and I were spending all our time, at the same hospital where you were born, staying with your uncle Paul, who had been in a serious car accident.

 

Did you predict whether I would be a boy or girl?

Your mother was so small when she carried you, I couldn’t predict.

 

How did you find out I had arrived?

Your dad called us. (Both you and your brother.)

 

Who were the first people you told?

We can’t remember, probably your uncle Paul.

 

Did you suggest a name, or names, for me?

No we didn’t. Your parents were very decisive about your names.

 

When and where was the first time you saw me?

A couple days after you were born. You were so tiny they kept you in an incubator. You had your eyes wide open, lying on your tummy, with your little behind sticking up. You were moving around quite a lot for a little preemie.

 

Was there anything unusual about the circumstances of your birth?

I was really small and a breech birth- doubled over- rear first. My mother took castor oil to bring me on because she wanted to have her baby on a Sunday. I was her only daughter and I was born on a Sunday.

 

What was your full name? Does your name have a special meaning?

I was called Joan rather than Jo Ann because my mother did not want anyone to call me Jo. She had three boys and didn’t want me called by a boy-sounding name. My second name, Lorraine, was the name of my mother’s friend’s daughter, whom she said was a beautiful model.

 

What was the first home you remember? What did it look like?

A four family flat on Arlington Street in St. Louis, on the north end of town. I just remember my parents’ bed and an old ice box in the kitchen.

 

Who were your neighbors?

I don’t remember. There were so many, many kids to play with when you lived in the city. We had so much fun.

 

Who was your best friend?

A girl by the name of Mardel Lived down the street from the second house we lived in on Arlington.

 

Who were your other friends?

 

Mostly my cousins, Jean Krach and Joy Pomeroy, and we were always getting in trouble, especially Jean and I.

 

Do you still have any favorite things that you had as a child?

No I don’t. In later years my parents divorced and mother got rid of a lot of things.

 

Note: City flats we grew up in were pretty much the same. A living room, and next to it a dining room everyone used as a bedroom, and behind it a kitchen and bathroom and sometimes a small bedroom in the back. There were 2 family and 4 family flats. 1 or 2 families upstairs and 1 or 2 families downstairs. Very little yards. Big lampposts all along the streets. Hardly any closet space. Being the only girl, I slept mostly in the hall on a roll-away bed.

 

Did you have brothers/sisters when you were young? When were they born?

I had 4 brothers. Vernon- Jan 1921, Mickey- May 1924, Bill- Jun 1926 and Buddy- July1934.

 

What do you remember about your room?

I never had my own room. I slept on a roll-away bed, (a portable bet that folded in half), in the hall or at the foot of my parents’ bed. Lots of people did this in that time.

 

What were your favorite toys?

A doll I got on my second or third birthday. It was broken by my little brother. I remember how bad I felt. I had a little wash machine, (with a little roller to squeeze the water out of your clothes- not like today’s washers.)

 

What were your favorite games?

Jump rope and hop scotch. Roller skating. We had lots of sidewalks. In the summer we played outside under the lampposts. King of the hill. School on the steps. (Hide and seek) We had lots of games.

 

What is the first present you remember giving? To whom?

 

I remember giving my purse to my little cousin. (I was 7 and she was about 3.) She was in the hospital and very ill. She died shortly after I saw her. It touched me deeply. She was so sweet and beautiful.

 

What is the first present you remember receiving?

Christmas presents on my second Christmas. My mother had all the toys sitting under the tree. I still remember how wonderful it looked, like a fairy tale.

 

Do you have favorite stories?

Favorite stories came from my grandma King about the olden days when Indians still roamed the country.

 

Did you have a secret hiding place?

Behind the sofa, especially if I had been bad. We had a closet in the hall that went under the stairway that went to the flat upstairs. It was a great place to hide and be alone. I was such a dickens I hid quite often.

 

Did your family have any pets? What kind? What were their names?

Yes, Dogs, Queenie. I let her follow me home one day and shortly after she had 11 puppies.

 

Did you have favorite relatives?

My grandma Rogers and my aunt Esther. I shared a lot of my growing up years with my cousin Jean. We had tendencies to get into trouble. What one didn’t think of, the other did.

 

Did you have a nickname? How did you get it?

No, though sometimes my two oldest brothers called me Patricia. That’s what they wanted my mother to name me when I was born.

 

Did you like it or dislike it?

I didn’t like my name till I got older. I always wished I’d had a nickname. Now I’m glad I don’t.

 

Who took care of you if your parents were away?

My grandma King mostly. She told great stories about when she grew up. She was very sweet.

 

Did you have a grown up friend who was not a relative?

I recently lost a friend I went to grade school with. She was Pat Bello. She lived in Texas these last few years. We hadn’t seen each other for at least 25 years when she died, but we talked on the phone a lot.

 

What was the first movie you saw?

A Shirley Temple movie. I was 2 years old. We sat in the very last row. Mother was afraid I’d be noisy, is the reason we sat there. I never made a sound. I stood up the whole time. When we got home they couldn’t get me to stop dancing. I was so wound up they  like to never got me to bed. I remember it so plainly.

 

What were your favorite radio programs?

Major Bowes, ( Amateur Hour), Fibber McGee and Molly, The Goldbergs.

 

What were your favorite TV programs?

We didn’t have TV then. Not until I was about 13. Milton Berle’s show was a riot. We had Playhouse 90, mostly drama, and I loved it.

 

What indoor games did you play?

We played house and dress up. We played school. The best part of it was playing the teacher.

 

What outdoor games did you play?

Hop scotch, king of the hill, crack the whip. (Played on skates.)

 

Who did you play with?

We had lots of neighborhood kids living in a big city. The houses were so close together and each “flat” housed 2 to 4 families. And a lot of cousins lived very near us.

 

Note: When I look back at my childhood I realize what a boon it was to live in a big city. Movies down the street, so every Friday we’d all go and take a dime to get in and 5 cents for popcorn. Huge ice cream cones at the confectionary for 5 cents. The YMCA for free swimming. Old wonderful streetcars. I can still feel that sway and that lovely sound – clickety clack, clickety clack. Everything was right at your fingertips.

 

Is there one special early memory you have of your mother?

Sitting on her lap with my head resting on her soft bosom and hearing, (or feeling) her voice vibrating through her body. It made me feel so good and safe. It was lovely.

 

Is there one special early memory you have of your father?

Playing house on the pillows. I was allowed in my parent’s bed until my mother came to bed. I would set “pretend” dishes out and daddy would pretend to eat and drink out of them. And then he would sing “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” or “When You Wore a Tulip and I Wore a Big Red Rose”, two very, very old songs. I just loved it.

 

Note: I slept in a baby bed next to my parents’ bed for about the first two years of my life and couldn’t go to sleep unless I held my father’s earlobe. I was slightly spoiled.

 

What grammar school did you go to and where was it?

Part of kindergarten at Gunlach, and the rest of kindergarten to 3rd grade at St. Edwards, and 4th to 8th grade at Blessed Sacrament on Kingshighway in St. Louis.

 

Who were your favorite teachers and what was special about them?

I had a nun in the 4th grade I just loved. She told me her name was Joan before she became a nun. I thought she was beautiful.

 

What were your favorite grammar school subjects?

Some English classes, handwriting and history.

 

Were you in any school plays or concerts?

Not in grade school. But we had a teen dance every Friday night in the 8th grade and I sang sometimes with the band.

 

What did you do after school?

I remember going to my friend Pat’s house or mine and eating mayonnaise on toast. We loved it. Or just going outside and playing with the neighbor kids.

 

Who were your best friends in grammar school?

Pat Bello, Pat Maguire, lots of others.

 

How late did you stay up during school nights?

I was always hard to get to bed early. I’m a night person. I imagine 9:30 to 10. Ten most likely.

 

What chores did you have at home?

My mom worked when I was about 9. I had to have the potatoes peeled and the beds made before she got home. I had a rather carefree childhood until I got into my teens when it came to chores.

 

What do you remember about your summer vacations?

Mostly to relatives in Indiana. No one had much money for vacations then. But we had fun right at home- swimming for free at Sherman Park or just sitting in an old washtub in the back yard.

 

What do you remember about the school buildings?

They seemed so big and scary. I went back when I was 58 and they looked so small.

 

Did you get an allowance?

Not that I can remember. In a time when folks didn’t have much my dad was always giving “his darling” quarters. That was a lot then.

 

How did you spend it?

Usually at the confectionary for goodies. I used to take a poor, mistreated Italian girl who lived across the street from me and treat her to ice cream and candy. I always liked her and I felt sorry for her. As hard up as my parents were, I don’t remember being denied much.

 

What high school did you go to?

St. Alphonsus (Rock High) on Grand avenue in St. Louis.

 

Who were your favorite high school teachers? What was special about them?

I can’t remember the nun’s name but she had a beautiful face but was hunchbacked. It was the first time I was teacher’s pet.

 

Who were the teachers you didn’t like? What do you remember about them?

I liked all the nuns who taught us, (Notre Dame nuns), but I had a lay teacher who disliked me intensely and I felt the same about her.

 

What were your favorite high school subjects?

History and English. I had a nun who taught Shakespeare by acting it out. I was enthralled and she thought I had very good writing abilities.

 

What subjects did you dislike?

Geography, Latin and algebra. I also did not like shorthand, I liked to party!

 

Who were your closest friends?

Pat Kickham, Jerry Harkins, lots of different girls. We were the “rowdy bunch”.

 

Were you on any school teams?

No. I was not very athletic. My brothers wanted me to be “feminine” and kept me that way.

 

Did you belong to any clubs?

I was not a club joiner.

 

Were you involved in any activities- newspapers, scholastics clubs, etc.?

No

 

Who was the most envied person in your school? Why?

I can’t think of any one person. I will say most of the girls with looks were in our “rowdy” gang, but I really liked our whole class.

 

What teacher influenced you the most?

The hunchbacked nun who befriended me. The kids made fun of her and she took it so well. She always carried herself with dignity, poise and a wonderful disposition.

 

Who did you date?

 Roge Brengle.

 

Was there someone you wanted to date but never did?

Not that I can remember.

 

What did you want to be or do when you were finished with high school?

Not get married right away. I wanted to work and have nice clothes and travel some. At one time I considered being a singer with a band but I didn’t pursue it very much.

 

Note: We married fairly young then, 18-20. I thought I was too young but I still married right before my 21st Birthday.

 

Did you ever fight with anyone? Who was it and what did you fight over?

I never really fought with anyone but I became very angry with a girl named Celeste. She borrowed my nicest dress that I just loved. It was navy blue and very “sophisticated”. She borrowed it and returned it all dirty. I felt like she did it on purpose. I never let anyone borrow my clothes again.

 

Did you have any part time jobs during the school year?

When I was 13 or 14 I worked in downtown St. Louis at Woolworths. (about 1944-45). Made about 50 cents an hour and did get up to 75 cents before I quit,

 

What did you like best about summer vacations?

Sleeping late. Always being a night person I just loved laying in bed in the morning and staying up later at night. We didn’t have air conditioning so going to bed long after dark when it cooled down was best.

 

Did you ever work during summer vacations? What did you do? How much did you earn?

Probably just some baby sitting at about 25 to 35 cents an hour.

 

What were your favorite books?

Scarlet Letter. We considered that really grownup reading in high school. I’m ashamed to say that I was not an avid reader.

 

What were your favorite movies?

King Kong, though I was in grade school when I saw it. I loved them all, especially the dramas with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. We went to the show at least once a week and sometimes more.

 

Who were your favorite athletes?

I didn’t have any except my boy friend who played lots of sports.

 

Who were your favorite actors?

Van Heflin, Glen Ford, James Cagney, Gary Cooper.

 

What were your favorite clothes?

A brown ordinary suit. I wore the skirt which was straight clear down to just above my ankles. My blue file suit I talked of before. It had a fitted bodice with a roll collar and the skirt was set in tiers

 

What were the major clothing fads?

Skirts and sweaters with your socks sometimes glued to your legs so they would stay up, and saddle oxfords. The skirts were long but in the summer shorts were really “short”.

 

What did you do in high school that gave you the most satisfaction?

Sang at many functions. And having lots of friends. The nuns were really interested in all of us and always had time for us. They taught me respect for others and myself.

 

What was the greatest disappointment you experienced? 

The teacher who was in charge of deciding who were wearing formals that were too revealing made me go home and get a jacket. The dress had wide straps and was not low cut at all. Father,  (out priest at school), was angry about it. He thought I looked great. The teacher and I had never gotten along.

 

Did you drive a car?

Not until I was about 18. Never had my own car. Rode busses and streetcars.

 

Who taught you to drive?

My boyfriend Rodge Brengle. I almost married him.

 

How did you get along with your mother?

Like most mothers and daughters we had our spats, but I admired and loved her so much. I never wanted to hurt her in any way.

 

How did you get along with your father?

My dad spoiled me all my life. He was a stubborn Irishman but I could always get my way. I loved my dad but as I grew older I realizes how his drinking interfered in our family life. But I still loved him very much.

 

Note: My parents were divorced when I was 13. A very traumatic event in my life. I understand why mom left dad. There was never anyone else for either of them. My mother’s health could not withstand my dad’s drinking and jealousy. She had a bad heart and she’d always worked so hard and had lots of sad events in her married life. She died at the young age of 55.

 

Who were the adults you considered friends?

I had a lot of relatives that I grew up with and considered friends, and my grandma, (on my mother’s side), was a very good friend to me. I loved her so much. I was her only granddaughter. When she and mom had words, she’d say “Joan’s the only one around here that has any sense”. She knew that made my mom mad.

 

 

What were your neighbors like?

We moved a lot when I was in high school but when I graduated we lived next door to a childhood friend of my mothers, Caroline Sweet.

 

Who did you have “crushes” on?

The first time I saw Roge Brengle I just about flipped”. He was 5 years older than I was, I always liked older boys. I saw him at a football game.

 

Did you fall in love with anyone?

I did with Roge for at least 2 1/2 years. I thought I was in love. Later when I was out of high school for a short while I thought I was in love with Ed Link, but it didn’t last.

 

Did you go to college? Where?

I didn’t want to go.

 

What friends have you stayed in touch with since childhood?

Pat Webb, nee Bello. She died in 1993. Went to grade school with her.

 

What friends have surprised you by keeping in touch?

Still occasionally go to Alumni get-together from high school in St. Louis, MO.

 

What friends have you meant to keep in touch with, but haven’t?

Pat Kickham from high school.

 

Who were your closest friends? How did you meet them?

Sonja and Jim Kill. They were our neighbors when we moved to Kansas. They were great to us. (Jim has since died). Also, Berdina Stephens, a nurse who took care of Paul in my home at the time of his death in 1992.

 

Have you ever gone to a reunion? What was it like?

I went to Alumni high school reunions in 1990, (40th), and 2000, (50th). I was thrilled that everyone knew me and that I didn’t look too shabby compared to the other “girls”.

 

Have you ever had a serious quarrel with a fiend? What happened?

Yes. Varlene Best. We had been good friends for 21 years, since we moved to Wichita. It was a silly matter. She had a habit of correcting me out in public. I finally told her I didn’t like it. I tried to get back with her and called her a few times, but she never called me. A friendship is a really sad, sad thing to lose.

 

What do you value most in a friendship?

Acceptance.

 

Who is the best friend you ever had?

Sonja Kill. I’ve confided more to her than to anyone.

 

When did you leave your parent’s home? Why and where did you move?

When I got married. We bought a little house in Ferguson, Mo. My dad said where we bought was “Fools Town”. (During the “great depression” in the late 1920’s and early 30’s, someone was developing the area where our 1st house was built, to build homes and everyone said they shouldn’t  because they’d lose their money. The depression came and they did lose all their money.)

 

What did your house look like? How large was it? How was it furnished?

It was a little frame house with a picture window in front and a nice front porch almost the length of the house. A “very” small kitchen, a “very” small dining room, a nice living room with a fireplace, two bedrooms and one bath. It had a walk out basement that had French doors and French windows. It was a “cute “ house. We bought very good furniture. We still have the same bedroom set and dining room set.

 

How long did you live there? Why did you move?

Six years. We moved into the (St. Louis) county to Northgate Estates, to a brick home that was larger. We moved because I was expecting our 4th baby and we outgrew the other house.

 

How many other houses or apartments have you lived in?

We moved from Northgate Estates to our present home in Wichita, Ks.

 

Do you have any furnishings that belonged to your parents?

No. We bought every thing new. Even had drapes made for the living and dining rooms in out first house. In-laws bought stove and refrigerators for us.

 

Note: The day all my new furniture arrived, (before we were married), my mother and I went out to wait for its delivery. I think she was as excited as I was. It was so much fun fixing and decorating our first house.

 

What was the least expensive home or apartment you’ve ever had?

Our first home.

 

What is the most expensive?

Our home we live in now.

 

Which homes or apartments have you enjoyed the most? Why?

I enjoyed them all. It was a new adventure each time. When we moved to Kansas, I wasn’t real happy. We were leaving the place I’d called home, St. Louis, up to that point in my life. Took me a year to make up my mind that this was my home. I still love St. Louis. If it wasn’t for my children, grandchildren, and now great grandchildren, I’d probably move back. Although the traffic there is really bad. I prefer getting around in Wichita.

 

What room have you liked the best in any of your homes?

The living room in my first home was very cheerful and had a beautiful fireplace. I liked the hardwood floors in my bedroom in our 2nd home- though I didn’t like to keep them up. In our present home I like the family room because I can look out on our lovely big yard.

 

What have been your favorite pieces of furniture?

I like my bedroom set, especially the beds. They are twin beds that swing from a nice big headboard. They’re special. I have a small cabinet type table that is special to me because my family gave it to me. I like to keep furniture when I can. There’s something warm and secure about old pieces that have been around since your wedding day. You can remember all those lovely times just by looking at them.

 

How did you meet my grandfather?

Your grandpa and I met at Emerson Electric, where we both worked. I was a clerk typist and he was an engineer.

 

How old were you, how old was he?

I was 18, he was 24.

 

What attracted you to each other?

The girl I worked with said, “Look at the new guy who just came in”. I looked at him and said, “Well he certainly isn’t my type”. Grandpa’s mother and father met at the same place and she felt the same way when she first saw Ray Otto, grandpa’s dad.

 

What memories do you have of aunts, uncles and such?

I had an aunt Esther, married to my dad’s brother, uncle Mike, (who was a sweet dear man), who was a big part of my growing up. They had 5 boys and lost their only daughter at 3 years of age. Saddest funeral I ever remember. But my aunt was a character. I could almost write a book about her. She was a tall woman with long legs. One of her favorite expressions, when two unpleasant people were married to each other, was “It’s good they married each other. Why spoil 2 families.” Another expression she picked up while working in a factory, (to help with uncle Mike’s medical bills), was, “he thinks he’s it on a stick but he’s only sh- - on a splinter. My mother used to bawl her out for that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YOUR PARENT- MY CHILD

 

When and where was my father born? How big was he?

Terrance Raymond Otto was born in De Paul Hospital in St. Louis, Mo. On April 24, 1957, at 1:40 AM. He weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces and was 19 inches long.

 

 

 

 

Who delivered the baby? Who was present?

Doctor Kohler delivered him. He, myself and the nurses were present. (Jack had been here for about 10 hours and had gone home to eat and freshen up. He wasn’t home a few minutes when he was called back.)

 

Who were the first people you told?

Our parents.

 

How did you choose the name?

Even though our last name was German, I grew up around the Irish and I loved the name Terrance. Raymond was his grandfather Otto’s first name. As a new baby he was fussy, but I had just lost my mother when he was 6 weeks old, so he was probably sensing my grief. He had a stubborn streak which I admired somewhat.

 

Note: Terry as a baby had porcelain skin. It was so fine you could see some of his veins. He was a very pretty baby. He had a way that made him handsome. My mother held him for the first time and said, ”Here’s your Waterloo, you’ll see.” I said, “Mom, he’s just a tiny baby, how can you tell?” “I feel it, that’s all.” Mom saw some of me in him. He did give me the most worry. He was a bit of a daredevil!

 

At what age did he take his first steps?

Around 11 ½ months.

 

Were you firm or easy-going on him? How did he react?

I was firm. Grandpa was easier. I was too strict with the boys. I wanted everyone to love them like I did and I didn’t want them to be spoiled like I was.

 

What was his favorite entertainment as a teenager?

Fishing and hunting-- What else? Of course girls, too.

 

What did my father want to be when he grew up?

An artist or Architect.

 

What did you think he would grow up to be?

An artist of some kind. Or maybe an engineer of some kind.

 

What did he look like?

When he was a baby he looked like my side of the family. But he became more of a composite. Now I feel he looks like my side again.

 

What did he do that made you angry?

Lots. If you told him not to do something, you could bet your life he’d make darn sure that’s what he’d do.

 

What did he do that made you proud?

As Terry grew up he was friendlier than the other boys. Through the years my friends enjoyed being around him. And I always thought his looks were outstanding. I was very proud of the fact that he had lots of friends and people really liked him.

 

Note: When he was little he didn’t like women. He used to tell me he loved me all the time but he wouldn’t talk to other women or little girls. In our 2nd home, shortly after we moved in, he woke from a nap one day and I told him to hurry, there were kids waiting to play. When he saw it was little neighbor girls he wouldn’t go out. “Their mouthes go too much” he said. It broke me up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biddle Street*

Or

 Snitch, snitch, fell in a ditch

Or

Smarty, smarty, went to a party

Or

Saints and Mary, Mother Help Us

 

December 18, 1932—My father used to say it was the most important day of his life. He would draw a circle around it on the calendar, saying it was so close to Christmas he didn’t want to forget it. I was born during the depression of an Irish father and a mother of German/ English mix. There were aunts and uncles and cousins everywhere close by. We could walk to most of their homes, and did almost every day. I often thought growing up how wonderful it would be to live on a farm, but as I grew older I realized that living in the city had so much to offer- shows just blocks away- confectionaries with their wonderful penny candy and nickel ice cream cones, (In the days before home freezers  and some homes without refrigerators, just ice boxes.) The ice man would come down the long streets with two family and four family flats, built side by side with maybe only room for a sidewalk in between. His truck was pulled by a lovely old horse, and we children were treated to free chunks of free ice in the humid heat of a St. Louis summer.

 

We had Sherman Park, where there was a small outside swimming pool, (where I managed to get sties on my eyes from the water), and a large swimming pool inside. No one had much money in those years so a dime to get in the show, a nickel for pop corn and free swimming pools, rides on the streetcar for very little- kids galore to play with- it was a really great way to grow up. But of course there were many hard and sad times in my family. Those long summer days making clover chains out of clover flowers. We’d fill large wash tubs with water in the back yard and were small enough to fit inside them. Later we had a little fan that moved the heat around some. We used curling irons to fix our hair for special events. By the time you had one side of your head curled the other side you had done was falling out from the summer heat.

 

 

 

*Biddle Street was a street in a poor, run-down part to St. Louis. To insult one’s

housekeeping habits you would say, “It looks like Biddle Street”. The other expressions are from her childhood, repeated many times in her “grown-up” years.

 

 

 

 

 

I slept at the foot of my parent’s bed on a “roll-away” cot. We live in “flats” in the city. Two family flats or four family flats. They consisted of a hallway that ran from the front door to the back of the house. (My husband says they were called “shotgun houses, because you could fire a shot in the front door and it would go out the back door.) Off the hallway was a living room, behind it a dining room, often used as a bedroom with the help of a fold-down “Murphy bed”. These two rooms were separated by a large archway. Off the hall on the other side was a bathroom. Behind this was the kitchen and next to the kitchen was a bedroom. Always across from the bathroom was a door to the basement if you lived downstairs, or, if you lived upstairs, a door that led to the first floor.

 

 There were few exceptions to these in the 30’s and 40’s. So as the only girl I slept, as I said before, at the foot of my parents’ bed or in the hall. One morning I woke to see my father lean over to kiss my mother goodbye as he was leaving and her breast was exposed. I felt ashamed that my dad and I saw this. I was about four at the time. My mother had lovely large breasts that cushioned my head as she held me in her lap and I remember her breathing that caused the rhythmic movement of her breasts and the murmur of her voice that would lull me to sleep. What a glorious experience that was.

 

Every yard had an ash pit in the back. We had furnaces that heated with coal. The black soot permeated those old flats and laid on clean starched curtains and kept plaster and wallpaper dingy no matter how often we cleaned. The ashes went into the ash pit. We were never allowed by my father to put anything but ashes in the pits, which were four brick walls about four feet high, joined to form the pit. But other people weren’t always as clean so therefore at night, large, cat sized, rats patrolled the pits. Our trash cans were next to the pits, so in the evening, when it was tine to take out the day’s garbage, they never could get me to take out the trash. Dad would tease me that the rats wouldn’t bother me. It was one time I didn’t believe him.

 

In some ways the city in the thirties and forties looked very dingy in the starkness of a late winter day. Mom would take our white lace curtains down to wash and clean them and the large windows in our flat looked out on those bleak winter days when you didn’t have the full green of the trees to soften all the brick and mortar of city life. And yet many times living in the city was exciting and stimulating.

 

The doctor came to the house then. We had to quickly straighten the house and change the bed. Whenever I was sick I got to lay in my parent’s bed. What a treat. And daddy would always bring me paper dolls from the dime store. Even in these hard times daddy would spend his last coins for his spoiled little girl.

 

I had three older brothers and one younger. I’m sorry to say they got little attention from my father. After I was born he gave me all his attention. When I got older I felt guilty about this until I realized it wasn’t my doing. My older brothers were quite typical of children of that day. When they were old enough they would work after school and in the summer. I remember they “caddied” a lot at local golf courses. I’m sure they made very little. But whatever they made would be given to my mother to help with the finances that were very sparse. Mother said she never had to ask. Everyone pitched in. I thought that was so great. I had a lot of respect for my brothers as I grew up and realized how little they had and how good they were.

 

Sad things happened to some of them in later years. Mother had much sadness in her life. I think my mother was a brave and wonderful woman who died too young. She was 55 when I lost her and here I am in my seventies and I still miss her. Being that my father spoiled me so, it was left to my mother to discipline me- and thank goodness for that. Any good in me is credited to her. How I loved her!

 

I loved my father too. But the Irishman caused a difficult life for my mother. He was a very insecure man that probably had low self-esteem. He was second in a family of 9 brothers and sisters. I was once told by my aunt that dad hung on his mother’s skirt as a little one And I’m sure with 9 children, widowed in her late thirties, she really didn’t have much time to give to a child that needed extra attention. There was another strong and brave woman. A gentle soul who survived it all and lived to be 93.

 

There are so many marvelous “characters” to talk about in my family. Daddy used the corner tavern to hide his insecurities. His drinking disrupted our family quite a lot. He used to push and shove her when he became inebriated. But when I became old enough to hit at him and tell him not to hit “my mommy”, that stopped. The sad thing is, I believe he adored her but he was quite jealous of her in many ways. She had more schooling than he had and I think he was intimidated by that. My mother was extremely smart, although never lording it over dad in any way. She had the ability to be liked and loved by everyone she met.

 

 Mother was told, because she had lost an ovary because of a ruptured appendix, that she would never have children. (They thought at this time that childbirth was impossible if you lost an ovary), and my father changed when she did start to have children. I’m sure the responsibility and rivalry of competing with the attention children require really added to his insecurities. Mother was good to dad. I remember her putting in a “fresh” housedress and combing her hair before dad came home each day. For all his failings, she really tried. She could have gone out and gotten a job making more than dad, who had a simple job at the Chevrolet factory. She was at one time a secretary to two lawyers. I think that was before I was born. In the late 20’s whoever could find a job did so. I found out when I grew up that dad had had a job during the depression, when many didn’t. They took in families that didn’t have work.

 

An odd little story that I always found funny. My mother was engaged to marry my dad’s cousin. In fact she had started her conversion to the Catholic faith. Well she met my dad –and fell in love. It’s not nice to say, in a way, but my mom would probably have had an easier life with “Ed”. He did well. He was a really nice man. I can’t remember who in the family told me this little “tidbit”. It certainly wasn’t my mother. She just told me how she met dad.

 

I do have some lovely memories of my relationship with my father. Mother said when I was born he acted like an idiot, he was so excited to have a little girl. Of course, as a little one, he was my knight in shining armor. When I was a baby, he said, my crib was next to his side of the bed and I couldn’t or wouldn’t go to sleep unless I could hold on to his ear until I was asleep. The funny little Irishman let me do that. He drove a cab when I was a baby. He got home very late at night. Mother would be trying to get her little night person to sleep, (I’m still that way). Dad would come in, put my baby basket on the table, turn on the ceiling light, and I would instantly quiet down. To this day, for some reason, I don’t like ceiling lights. I probably stared at too many as a baby.

 

While waiting for mother to come to bed, I was allowed to lay in their bed, and play house on the pillows with dad. I set an imaginary tea table on the pillow and we’d pretend to eat. And then dad would sing two songs to me that I remember to this day; “Let me call you sweetheart”, and, “When you wore a tulip and I wore a big red rose”. I was very much a “scardy cat” as a child. I was afraid of everything. Today, I realize that many times as a child I suffered from “anxiety” for I suffered severely from it in later years. But daddy tried to make me face my fears. I was afraid of thunder and lightning, so during some storms he would put me in our old “jalopy” and we’d drive around in the rain to show me I wasn’t going to get hurt. He did many things like that and I truly believe it helped. I never felt as scared when dad was around. He really did adore me. 

 

It was extremely sad for me to one day realize he wasn’t quite a knight in shining armor but a very scared, insecure little man. But I’ll always love him, regardless. How could you not love someone who loved you so very much. My father died on my 30th birthday, the day of the year that he said was the most important day of his life.

 

I have so much more to tell, but I have to stop. It all floods my mind and the tears are starting. Remembering is both joyous and sad. It’s an extremely emotional experience—going over your life. And really so much happened—so much in a lifetime.

 

My brother Vernon was about 11 years older than I. When I was born he told my mother she now had her “little snitch”. And boy, did that come true. He also resented the fact that mother had to stay in the hospital over Christmas day. That’s when they kept women over a week for childbirth. Vern was the only “dark one”. (Dark hair, brown eyes.) He was a very pretty baby and a good looking young man. He even did some modeling before going into the service at 17. Of course, very shortly after he enlisted in the (Army) Air Force, The war started for us in December of 1941. I remember Dec. 7, 1941 vividly. Mother was playing the piano and dad was listening to the radio and the news of war came. My mother cried because of Vernon. After Germany declared war the next day dad told her she could never again play “Ach Du Liber Augustine” on the piano. (It was a popular “sing-along” song.)

 

With six weeks training, (at most), Vernon became a lieutenant and a glider pilot. He landed in the Normandy invasion and was about the only glider that didn’t crash against the posts the Germans had stuck in the ground to rip open the gliders. Many men were killed or injured. His friends called him “lucky” after that. Whenever he came home on leave he looked really dashing in his tailored dress uniforms. Of course, as a little girl of 9 it was all very exciting and glamorous. But of course it wasn’t.

 

My brother “Mick” was just that, a handsome looking Irish “Mick”. He was the tallest at about six foot. He had a marvelous physique, good features and wonderful thick wavy blond hair. Mick was the kind, loving one. Although, as a little guy he came to my mother and told her he had a hard time defending himself because when they, (other boys), started a fight he got scared. My mother casually told him, “Well, just close your eyes and you won’t see them.” Mick took it literally and became the best fighter in the neighborhood. Vernon would start a fight, run home with the other kids behind him.  “Come on Mick, I’ve got a fight going, and Mick would come, arms flailing and eyes closed.

 

All my high school girl friends, (all girls, I went to a Catholic High School), would come by in hopes that “The Irish Mick” was home. He and I were very close, even though there was about a nine year difference between us. I was blond like Mick. We looked a little alike. I once thought we looked a lot alike, but now I don’t. He had beautiful blue eyes and I have “muddy brown”.

 

Mick went to enlist and was told his blood pressure was too high. I don’t know what he was told to do, but in about three weeks he was accepted. He was very determined to fight for his country. He and his buddies were mine detectors. He saw so many friends killed that he never was the same after the war. He told how in some places they couldn’t find anything good to drink so they’d mix medicinal alcohol with soda. It was awful, he said, but after a while it tasted pretty good! His favorite place during the war was Italy. Which surprises me now that I’ve been to Italy on vacation and didn’t find the countryside as beautiful as some other European countries.

 

When the war ended in Germany we never knew where our men were. Phones were not in every home, as yet, and they came home every which way. Trains were swamped, people flew some, but not like later years, so most “hitch-hiked” home. The uniform guaranteed that you’d be picked up in most states. So one day Mick just came in the back door. The first thing he said was “no comments about my hair”. For some reason the water and climate in Italy gave him very curly hair. Brother Bill and I were told to go tell all the relatives that Mick was home and that night we had a great celebration. Mom playing the old upright and everyone feeling good from cold beer and just utter relief that one more of our big Irish family was home, safe and sound.

 

But the truth of the matter was their scars didn’t show. They only told the funny things that happened and you didn’t ask for more, especially dad and the uncles that were in World War I. They knew some of what they weren’t saying.

 

Mick stayed home the next six months, just quietly drinking his beer, not doing much of anything. We all noticed the change, the solemn looks, gazing straight ahead and we let him be. Finally, he went back to work at Chevrolet, on an assembly line. He didn’t care much for it, but it paid well. He moved to his own apartment, which hurt mom. But he explained that he had to be alone-to work things out in his mind. He finally was able to buy a brand new Chevrolet. He was so thrilled with it. One evening down by the Mississippi he was playing cork ball with friends. It’s a St Louis game. I don’t know if it’s played anymore. Lots of taverns had an area outside of their bars. It consisted of a chain link fencing about 10 feet high. I’m not sure of the measurements of the cage. You had a small lemon sized baseball. It was very hard to the feel. You had a long thin bat. One strike and out. Anything hit forward was a single. After “bases loaded”, every hit scored a run. One young man lived across the river in Illinois and, of course, Mick said He’d take him home. It was about 10:30 PM. Over in Illinois they came to a fork in the road. Trees hid a stop sign A young man, late for work, driving an older Cadillac was barreling down the road. They had a head-on collision. He died the next day.

 

It was May. The young man sitting in the front seat went through the metal strip that separated the front windshield panes. Two men in back were injured very badly, but survived. My dear mother had to go into the room of one of the injured men and tell him Mick was fine and he shouldn’t worry. Had to tell him they transfer him to a hospital in St. Louis and that’s why he couldn’t see him. He had been worrying and it caused him undue stress. When she came out she collapsed.

 

At his funeral a man told us he had met Mick once and he stood there crying, he had been so impressed with him. The funeral was mobbed with people who hadn’t even known him long. My life was shattered! I adored this man. I was to graduate from high school in a couple of weeks and Mick said we were going to have a bang-up party.

 

I had to work hard to get over the loss of my best friend. We worried so about my mother. Her heart wasn’t that good. And she had been through so much in her life already- a lot I haven’t touched on yet. The year was 1950. In 1951 she suffered another great loss to her. I’ll talk about that later. We found out at Mick’s funeral that he fell in love with an American nurse while overseas. She dumped him and he was crushed. We never knew. Mick had always wanted to buy mom her own house to live in so we insisted she do so and she did. But our beautiful Mick was gone. He could never have stood the fact that maybe he caused someone’s death or hurt others. For all his fisticuffs as a little boy, he was a very loving, gentle man.

 

Then there was Bill, my third brother, who was about seven years older than me. A very pretty baby. When he was born, mother said, she was nursing him, and he cried and nursed constantly. Finally they figured out he was hungry. Her milk wasn’t good enough. Those large beautiful breasts, (which she was ashamed of), just weren’t giving him what he needed After his first bottle, which he finished pronto, he slept for 12 hours. Of course he flourished after this. And then a sad thing happened. When he was about three years old he got into the street and was hit by a truck, There were seemingly no injuries. It was like a miracle, but Bill started to slowly change. He just wasn’t the same inquisitive boy he had been. Doctors could not find any reason for the change.

 

Then one day, while visiting a friend, they were eating at the table when she went to serve coffee. She accidentally spilled some on Bill’s head. He didn’t complain. They ran water over his head and he seemed to be fine. But when mother got home and went to bathe him and his brothers, she went to wash his hair and noticed some large blisters. The doctor treated the burns and they healed and all seemed fine. But after this Bill really changed. His development really slowed down. He graduated from grade school with great difficulty. He just couldn’t handle high school. You have to remember this was the twenties- not much was known about these kinds of injuries to the brain.

 

When war broke out Bill enlisted and, being healthy, he was accepted. A few months after his acceptance, he broke his ankle. They wrote my mother that they were giving him an “Honorable Discharge” and told him his ankle would be a detriment to him being in the war, but the real fact was that Bill couldn’t keep up even though he tried much harder than the others. He was heartbroken but was very proud of his Honorable Discharge. When he died later, from the effects of diabetes, I had him buried at Jefferson Barracks In St. Louis, which is a Veteran’s Cemetery. He would have been so proud.

 

He had a sad life. He knew he was different than others and had no friends. He bothered others because he could only carry on a one way conversation. He just couldn’t communicate in a normal, give and take, conversation. He drank a lot and this made him very difficult to be around. It was really an added burden for my mother. She was good to him- we all were- he was ours, after all. Bill was in his 50’s when he died. I was the only immediate relative he had, and I had moved to Wichita in 1969. Mother had died in 1957, dad died in 1962. Bill was very alone. He was living in an “elders” home when he died. Because of his diabetes he couldn’t work any more and he had become more difficult. He even left a small insurance “inheritance”. We were surprised at this.

 

Buddy was my younger brother. He was a darling baby. We were about 16 months apart. He was extremely bright. Mother would get me all dressed up to go somewhere and I was told to go out on the back porch and keep my lovely starched dress clean. I would carefully sit down and flip the back of my dress so it wouldn’t get wrinkled. I usually had a lively big bow in my hair. He would rush out to the sand box and throw sand in my hair. Mother wanted to blister him, but he was so cute, she usually just scolded him.

 

Uncle mike once told me that Buddy adored my father. He seemed to know when it was time for him to come home from work and watched from our large window in the living room and, as soon as he entered the house, come running up to him. It broke my heart when I heard this. How could he have done that? This little boy was precious. I never understood dad’s ignoring his good sons. I think he feared his own inadequacies and that the boys would see them.

 

Then, in 1934, an encephalitis, (sleeping sickness), epidemic hit St. Louis. It was rampant. I came down with severe dysentery and almost died. At the same time, Buddy came down with encephalitis. He was two years old. He came down with about a 109 degree fever. They immersed him in cold water. The fever plunged and then immediately rose to 107 degrees. He was in the hospital for almost a year. My poor mother, with me so very ill, went, every day, by streetcar, to the hospital to see Buddy. My father wouldn’t go, so she had no emotional help through this terrible crisis.

 

I had an aunt Esther, married to dad’s brother Mike, who lived near us, who probably helped a lot at this time. Aunt Esther has five sons, Jack, Bob, Larry, Clarence and Dan. My whole life I’ve been surrounded by boys and men. One day the hospital called “someone”, (We didn’t have a phone until I was 12 or 13.), to report that Buddy was doing very poorly. My father said he couldn’t go, he didn’t have a clean shirt. Aunt Esther told him. “I’ll wash and dry a shirt for you and then you’re going to get your fanny over to the hospital”. Of course he went. You didn’t fool around with aunt Esther!

 

The woman was very tall and leggy. A marvelous character. Uncle Mike was tall and thin, a good looking man, of a gentle manner, a sweet dear man. He was never really well. His lungs were bad for years. Whenever aunt Esther would get perturbed at him, I can still hear him saying, “now honey…” He was such a patient man. Those five boys were all very tall young men. Clarence was the only one not as tall as the others. Whenever we visited their house those kids charged in and out, slam would go the screen door. Mom would say to aunt Esther, “Doesn’t that banging bother you”? “What banging” she would reply. She paid no attention to it.

 

When aunt Esther went to work in a factory to help pay for the oxygen uncle Mike needed for years, before he died, she picked up some dandy language. Her favorite expression had become, “He thinks he’s it on a stick but he’s only shit on a splinter. Mother used to say, “Honestly Esther, your mouth since you got that job”. But she’d laugh like the rest of us did. Jack’s favorite “Estherism” is; (With reference to an obnoxious couple.) “It’s good they married each other. Why spoil two families.”

 

Neither family had much. During the depression there were times when food was at a premium. Mom said they barely had enough to eat. She and Esther were thrilled one day to be able to buy a nice ham bone, which they cooked with beans and had a large pot of bean soup to feed mom’s and Esther’s boys. They lived next door to each other. They were, of course, going to divide the soup between the two families. They headed to Esther’s flat with a large pot of beans. Out in the yard one of them tripped, sending bean soup far and wide in the yard. Mom and Aunt Esther sat down in the middle of this mess and started to cry. But all of a sudden they realized how ridiculous they looked, and burst out laughing-- till tears ran down their faces. That picture in my mind still brings a smile to my face. These two women were tremendous people. They laughed and cried together a lot in those years.

 

After a year in the hospital, in which even the famous Mayo Brothers had examined him, because he survived such a severe case of encephalitis, Buddy was coming home. He had not spoken or showed any evidence of seeing in that year. They had decided he was probably somewhat blind and mute. As he went out the door of the hospital he pointed and said, “see, car”. Mother said the nuns all knelt right there and then to praise God because this indeed was a miracle. Mother said it was probably because he had no stimulus in the hospital to cause any response. He could not walk so he crawled until he went to the St. Louis training school at age seven.

 

There were more hard years for my mother. She had always thought that what happened to Buddy was punishment for her abortion that my father insisted on before she became pregnant with Bud. Mother loved children but when she became pregnant, shortly after I was born, my father hounded her constantly until, she said, in a near stupor she went to an abortionist and she almost bled to death.

 

 My father could be a very dominant and single minded person at times. I saw it all my life. As a convert to Catholicism she took her religion very, very seriously. She said when my father had to get rid of the 4 month old fetus he never would get her to do this again. It haunted her the rest of her life. She said she dreamt of a deformed child crawling on the ground, so when she had to see her beautiful baby boy still crawling at age 3 or 4, she often thought of the dreams she had before Buddy was born. Of course, anyone who knew my father would understand how he coerced her to get an abortion. Evidently abortion by butchers were common in those hard years. I’m still against abortion and, of course, so was my mother

 

The strange thing about my father: If anyone in the family was ill, he always visited them. Of course, If mother was ill, (And with such a bad heart, she often was), it was all in her mind. I truly believe he feared losing her, which, largely due to his own actions, he finally did.—emotionally and physically.

 

My brothers did not like the Catholic school, St. Edwards, and after a while refused to go there. They attended Gunlach public school. (Not sure of the spelling.) When I started school at the age of four, (I would be five that December), mother put me in Gunluch so the boys could walk me to school. You walked just about everywhere then. If it was too far, you took the streetcars. They ran on rails set in the streets, with a rod going up to an electric line hung above the streets. They would click-clack, gently swaying from side to side. Hot in the summer and cold in the winter, they were. But they didn’t run on our street so we walked to school, rain, snow, whatever. The blacks, then known as “coloreds”, shared the streetcars, usually riding in the back. We were told to avoid them. Mother said they smelled, but I didn’t notice it. I never understood this when I was little. They always smiled so nice at me.

 

I didn’t last long at Gunlach. This spoiled mischievous little girl’s mother was told to put me in a Catholic school- maybe the nuns could do something with me, which she did. One look at the lady in black and I immediately changed my ways, though there were times when I had tape put over my mouth. One day we had a spelling bee and I couldn’t spell the word twelve. Because of this our row missed and was out of the bee. Audrey Hartman didn’t like me anyway and it made her mad. She got some of her friends together and they picked on me at recess. The next day I brought my jumping rope and when they started to tease me again I hit her across the face with my rope and it left a dandy mark. I don’t remember my punishment from sister, but I’m sure there was one. I’ve never forgiven Audrey Hartman. I’ve heard, from my cousin Larry’s wife Loretta that she was a really nice woman. I told her to be sure and tell Audrey that I haven’t forgiven her.

 

I was also a little snitch. My brother found out and gave me a good talking to. After that I ceased to be a snitch. I know I drove my brothers crazy, I was so spoiled. Mother didn’t fool around with me. She used to say she would spank me till I’d bleed. I used to look back after each whipping, (which I deserved), to see if I was truly bleeding. I can remember not coming home when I was supposed to after being out to play and my mom would meet me at the door. I’ll come in, mom if you don’t hit me.” After repeating this many times, through gritted teeth, “Get in here.” And no matter how fast I’d tried to run past her, she got me every time. I can’t imagine what I’d be like today if both parents let me get away with things the way my dad did. Mother was my salvation.

 

When I was about four, I put on my first pair of roller skates. They were nothing like the ones today. They had four wheels, a metal piece went around your heel, and in the front were two adjustable clamps that were turned with a special key till they held your shoe tightly. We didn’t wear “tennis shoes” then, just plain leather shoes. Just about anyone could afford a pair of skates, which you could buy at any “dime store”, those glorious little stores where you could buy anything and everything quite cheaply. You could buy a lot for a dime then, two ice cream cones, entry to a movie, (2 movies and cartoons in between), 2 bottles of coke, ribbons and a hair brush, paper dolls, (my favorite), to cut out and play with for hours, the list goes on and on. The only trouble was, these dimes weren’t easy to come by. But daddy could always find a dime, or even a quarter for his little darling.

 

Getting back to roller skates, I remember older neighborhood kids holding me by my hands and helping me get started. By the end of the day, with large scabs on my elbows and knees, I was racing by the streets by our flat with gusto and proud of my wounds of conquest. Every kid raised in the city had large scabs from falling down on concrete city sidewalks.

 

In the summer when it started to get dark, all the lampposts on the street would come on. Folks would all come out of their flats and sit on their porch steps and the neighborhood kids would play games like “school”. Neither my husband nor I remember exactly how it was played. You’d start on the bottom step and be asked a question. If you didn’t know the answer you couldn’t graduate to the next step. First one to reach the top step got to be the teacher for the next game.

 

Of course there was “ hide and seek”, and a variation called “kick the can”. Then there was “king of the hill”. Someone would stand on top of the hill on the front yard, and everyone would try to run past the “king” without getting caught. There was also “green light, red light”, but I don’t remember how it was played. And of course there was jump rope and “hop-scotch” and dodge ball. And to top the evening off, a walk to the confectionary for a nickel ice cream cone. Or there was the ice cream man who came by.

 

Daddy would sit on the top step of our front porch and, with hose in hand, could water the whole front yard. So you can imagine how big our lot was.

 

The house on the corner was a small frame two-story house and in it lived the Italian family from Sicily. (At least that’s where I was told they came from.) I loved to sit on the steps on the side of our house, (They were the back entrance for the flat upstairs), and just watch this volatile family. It seemed to me they were always fighting. Papa had a little dilapidated truck and he would put crates of chickens in them and tie them down, and off he’d go, sputtering, down the street to wherever he went to sell them. In the summer he had a small vegetable garden and he would take his products to sell also. But “mama” ruled the roost. She used to run him out quite often. He seemed to have bumps on his head quite often. The sons looked like young hoods and the girls in the family were their servants. One girl in particular, the youngest, “Rosie”, was very mistreated. She was put in the slow class at school. To this day I think, if she hadn’t been treated like a slave, she probably would not have been considered “slow”. Even as a little girl I felt very sorry for her. I remember going over and asking if Rosie could go to the confectionary with me. Her mother made her clean up and even brushed her hair, which looked like it wasn’t touched most of the time. (And she had beautiful curly black hair.) One time, when we left the store, Rosie had stolen a candy bar and I, (the preacher), told her God didn’t like that and I made her take it back. Then I bought it for her. She was thrilled. To her it was like gold.

 

Years later I saw Rosie. She was a waitress at a neighborhood cafeteria called Hendricksons that used to be on the corner of Easton Avenue and Lotus. They later moved across the street from Drehman and Harrell Mortuary on Union Avenue. Rosie was a pretty woman and probably was still being mistreated.

 

One day one of the sons got married and they had lots of people to the house for a celebration. Of course a fight broke out between the son and his new blond wife. I rushed to my step to watch. People were running out the back door and out the front door screaming in Italian. One had a knife in his hand. Who needed Television! I don’t remember the police coming and I don’t think anyone was hurt, it was just a usual day in the Sicilian household. I don’t think anyone in the neighborhood had much to do with the Italian family but they were sure fun to watch.

 

A few years ago we were in St. Louis and we drove past my old flat on 1440 Arlington Avenue. I could not believe how narrow a house it was. How did all of us fit in that flat? My first kindergarten, Gunlach, was still the same. From the fifth grade on, mother let me go to Blessed Sacrament School. I loved it there. We rode by there also on our trip to St. Louis and it was all the same. I graduated from there in1946. The boys and girls were kept separated so we all became pretty “boy-crazy” by 8th grade.

 

Daddy was the second of nine children. His father died in his forties. (Probably of drink.) He had an older brother, John, Then there was uncle Mike, uncle Joe, and uncle Tom. The girls were Aunt Mary, Aunt Winnie, Aunt Agnes and Aunt Irene. Lots of cousins. It was so much fun having so much family.

 

Grandma King, dad’s mom, lived with Uncle Tom. She had all these daughters and ended up living with uncle Tom.   Aunt Onnette, Uncle Tom’s wife was a heavy set woman who had a beautiful face and hair. She was very sweet. If I remember right, she had five children. Mother said, before he got married, Tom would say when he had kids they were really going to mind. He was going to line them up and dare them to move. (As next to youngest, he had his children later than the others.)  When he did have his own children it was a riot. You’d go over to visit and his kids would be crawling all over him and he wouldn’t even notice. Mom was visiting once and looked into the kitchen, and the youngest, (about 2), was sitting on the kitchen table holding a butcher knife. Mom said, “Tom, look at the baby. He’s got a butcher knife!” “Oh he’ll put it down soon”. We laughed about all this many times. He was the most easygoing parent you ever saw. He had this little house and, next to it, a little garage. He was what they would call today a mechanic. Aunt Onnette was always running to the store for parts.

 

When I was maybe 6 or7 I developed an “anxiety condition”. Of course, I don’t know what they thought was wrong then. You have to remember this was the 1930’s. One day we went to go shopping at Sears. When we got to the front of the store I told mother I was sick. She was annoyed with me, of course, that I didn’t say something sooner. After that it was a year or more that they couldn’t get me into any kind of store. I remember my father finally forced me to go into a shoe store. (I remember crying the whole time.) After that I slowly go over this. Before I was completely healed of my fears, aunt Onnette said I was going to the circus with her. I remember waiting for her to pick me up when the day came. I was just shaking. But when aunt Onnette came and took me by the hand, I felt a lot better. She was so warm and nice.

 

My other aunts were not nice to her. They excluded her a lot. Mother said they thought she was a girl off the farm and didn’t know anything. My mother liked her a lot and said she was probably smarter than all of us. My mom was kind to kind to everyone and didn’t approve of their treatment of aunt Onnette. I’ll say this for uncle Tom’s kids, they were all extremely handsome children, and friendly. I didn’t become as close to them as to some of my cousins because they were quite a bit younger than I.

 

My cousin Jean, (My aunt Agnes and uncle Fred Kracht’s 2nd daughter), was a year older than I and so was cousin Joy. (My aunt Irene and uncle George Pomeroy’s 3rd or 4th child.) This was an important matter because when we were little I heard, over and over, that my turn was last because I was the youngest. We played a lot together. One summer, at my house, we developed the “3J” club. (For Jean, Joan and Joy.) My girlfriend Mardel came by to play this day. My mother heard us tell Mardel she couldn’t come come in to join us because her name didn’t start with a J. Our club instantly became the “3J and M” club. Jean and I were the bad ones. Joy was pretty good. When we got together everyone just held their breath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments on my computer skills;

 

 

 

Words to live by; Growing old ain’t for sissies

 

7.0  Genealogy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

            mm=Male side, (me)Male ancestors

               mmf=Male side, Female ancestors

            mm3=Third generation, (Joan’s and mine)

                        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Group Records

Page mm1

Husband

Frank Otto

 

Birth

Jun 1846

Death

x-x-19xx

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

 

 

Wife

Alvina

 

Birth

Dec 1861

Death

Jun 7 1947

Burial

Sunset Bur.Park

Lot182, section 14

 

Children

Gertrude (Otto)* Puddy

See p mm2A

Birth

Nov 1887

Death

Apr 8 1936

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

 

 

Children

Raymond Eugene Otto

See p mm2B

Birth

 

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

 

 

Children

 

 

Birth

 

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

 

 

Notes

 

Gertrude was dad’s half sister. Don’t know her father’s family name

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Group Records

Page mm2a

Husband

(       ) Puddy

 

Birth

 

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

 

 

Wife

Gertrude (Otto) Puddy

 

Birth

11-17-1887

Death

4-8-1936

Burial

Sunset Bur. Park

Lot       Section 14

 

Children

Gertrude A (Puddy) Freeman ?

 

Birth

 

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

Cleon Freeman

 

Children

Marie (Puddy) Berg

 

Birth

 

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

Harry Berg

 

Children

William R. Puddy

 

Birth

 

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

 

 

Children

Adele (Puddy) Hollingsworth

 

Birth

 

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

(     ) Hollingsworth

 

Notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                

 

Husband

Raymond Eugene Otto

 

Page mm2b

Birth

5-25-1898

Death

12-20 1974

Burial

Calvary Cem.

Lot 223 Section 31

Marriage

 

 

 

Wife

Abbie Elizabeth  Walsh

 

Birth

1-7-1903

Death

8-26-1955

Burial

Calvary Cem.

Lot (223) Section 31

 

Children

John Raymond Otto

 

Birth

4-17-1926

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

Joan Lorraine King

 

Children

William Eugene Otto

 

Birth

7-12 1931

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

Gloria Puricelli / Shirley M Link

 

Children

 

 

Birth

 

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

 

 

Notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Group Records

Page mm3a

Husband

John Raymond Otto

 

Birth

4-17-1926

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

9-12-1953

Joan L King. Corpus Christi Ch. Jennings, Mo

 

Wife

Joan Lorraine King

 

Birth

12-18-1932

Death

 

Burial

 

 

 

Children

Steven John Otto

 

Birth

1-15-1955

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

Mary Ann Wesley / Camile  Gentry

 

Children

Terrance Raymond Otto

 

Birth

4-27-1957

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

6-23-1978

Barbara Anne French

 

Children

Phillip James Otto

 

Birth

7-31-1958

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

3-26-77

Sheryl Louise Patrick

 

Children

Paul Joseph Otto

 

Birth

12-10-1959

Death

1-25-1992

Burial

1-28-1992

Resthaven, Wichita, Gospels, 85, C2

Marriage

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children

John Lowell Otto

 

Birth

6-6-1962

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

 

 

 

Family Group Records

 

Children

Christopher Eugene Otto

 

Birth

7-20-1965

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

 

 

Notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Group Records

Page mm3b

Husband

William Eugene Otto

 

Birth

7-12-1931

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

6-15-1957

Gloria Puricelli, St. Ambrose Ch., St Louis, Mo

 

Wife

Gloria Puricelli

 

Birth

3-16-1928

Death

6-9-1969

Burial

6- -1969

Resurrection Cem. St Louis, Mo.

 

Children

Jeffrey William Otto

 

Birth

3-7-1958

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

 

 

Children

JoAnn (Jana) Otto

 

Birth

6-11-1959

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

 

 

Children

Mark Joseph Otto

 

Birth

1-10-1961

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

 

 

Children

Meribeth Louise Otto

 

Birth

1-12-1965

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

*(Rich Stiebel )

Children: Jack Anthony & Kyle Jeffrey

 

 

Children

Michelle Elizabeth

 

Birth

10-28 1966

Death

10-22-1994

Burial

10-24-1994

Resurrection Cem. St Louis

Marriage

 

 

 

Notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Group Records

Pagemm3b1

Husband

William Eugene Otto

 

Birth

7-12-1931

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

6-9-1972

Shirley M (Link) Czerniewski

 

Wife

Shirley M Czerniewski

 

Birth

6-30-1935

Death

 

Burial

 

 

 

Shirley’s Children:

 

Children

Deborah (Czerniewski) Smith

 

Birth

6-27-56

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

9-17-77

Dennis J Smith

 

Children

Terry L Czerniewski

 

Birth

10-28-1957

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

10-12-1986

Mary Tunnicliff

 

Children

Robert V Czerniewski

 

Birth

10-10-1961

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

4-11-1987

Laurie Bremehr

 

Notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Group Records

Page mm4a

Husband

Steven John Otto

 

Birth

1-15-1955

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

Jan 1975

Mary Ann Wesley

 

Wife

Mary Ann Wesley

 

Birth

 

Death

 

Burial

 

They were divorced in 1978

 

Children

Ethan Robert Otto

 

Birth

8-16-1978

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

 

In 1984 Steven married Camillia A Gentry

Children

 

 

Birth

Sept 1, 1949

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

6-16-1984

 

 

Children

 

 

Birth

 

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

 

 

Notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Group Records

Page mm4b

Husband

Phillip James Otto

 

Birth

7-31-1958

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

3-26-1977

Sheryl Louise Patrick

 

Wife

Sheryl Louise Patrick

 

Birth

3-27-1961

Death

 

Burial

 

 

 

Children

Brandis Lorraine Otto

 

Birth

2-27-1977

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

July 1997

Christopher Kevin Lazar

 

Children

Desiree Otto

 

Birth

1978

Death

1978 Stillborn

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

 

 

Children

Jennifer Marie Otto

 

Birth

10-18-1979

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

7-31-04

Bradley Davis

 

Notes

Christopher Kevin Lazar  is the son of Larry Lazar and Jeri Kemp

Bradley William Davis is the son of Troy W Davis and Stephanie L Dreher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Group Records

Page mm4c

Husband

 Terrance R Otto

 

Birth

4-17-1957

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

6-23-1978

Barbara Anne French

 

Wife

Barbara Anne French

 

Birth

9-2-1957

Death

 

Burial

 

 

 

Children

Kristen Chandler Otto

 

Birth

10-21-1978 (preemie)

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

Nov 2000

Michael James Zimmerman

 

Children

Jeffrey Raymond Otto

 

Birth

10-11-1982

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

 

 

Children

 

 

Birth

 

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

 

 

Notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Group Records

Page mm5a

Husband

Christopher Kevin Lazar

 

Birth

2-24-1976

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

July 1997

 

 

Wife

Brandis Lorraine Otto

 

Birth

7-27-77

Death

 

Burial

 

 

 

Children

Joshua Mason Lazar

 

Birth

9-15-1996

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

 

 

Children

Elizabeth Haley Lazar

 

Birth

2-25-1998

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

 

 

Children

Sarah Ashlyn Lazar

 

Birth

2-13-2000

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage

 

 

 

Children

Phillip Andrew Lazar

 

Birth

Sept 9-2005

Death

 

Burial

 

 

Marriage