We lived on a farm west of old Henderson for a while. It was called the ''Old Johnson'' property and the original log cabin was part of the house. There was a large maple grove south of the house which we made good use of. Grandpa bored holes in the trees, inserted hollow reeds in the holes and hung small buckets on them. As the buckets filled they were emptied into a big iron kettle. The kettle was suspended over a fire and the maple sap was boiled or cooked until it was syrup.
We also had barrels of apples and pears,which were wrapped in paper, carrots, parsnips, home grown potatoes, onions and turnips covered with dirt and straw in a home made cave. The cave was dug down into the ground about four or five feet, then my Grandpa and my future stepfather made a frame over the top and the frame was covered with the dirt from the hole. The top was about 2 foot thick. The men made steps going down to the inside, then put in a door. It really made a good storage place as everything was kept cold but didn't freeze. The cave, as we called it, was like a second basement, only a lot cooler. Our regular basement was also filled with all kinds of canned fruit and vegetables, jellies and juices. We also had baskets of nuts - hazelnuts, butternuts, hickory nuts and walnuts.
Grandma and Mom put up sausage in a couple of crocks. First they fried the sausage they had ground and seasoned. Next, the grease was poured into the crock and the sausage was put in, then another pan of grease and more sausage, until the crock was filled and there was a couple inches of grease over the top. Then they put a lid over the top and this also went into the cave. When we wanted sausage Grandma would take off the lard until she came to a layer of the meat, which she would take out, lay on a pan, or skillet, and set in the oven to heat. Grandpa cured a couple of hams and some bacon that had come from my pet pig. That was our meat for the winter, plus rabbits and squirrels, which were in abundance in the maple grove and the field. There was little work that winter but we lived very well. Mom and Grandma spent their spare time piecing quilts and making rugs and clothes..
What did we use for bread? We had about two or three 50-pound sacks of flour and several bags of corn meal. Mom and Grandma baked all our bread, biscuits and cornbread. Grandma had a very large flour bin. In the center she made a big hollow, in this she would put a yeast mixture, which she had made. As long as the yeast mixture was kept warm it ''worked and grew''. This yeast mixture had to be used every day or it would overflow the bin. If, for some reason, it wasn't used fast enough, some of it had to be taken out. A cake of yeast would last for about a month. We always had plenty of cinnamon rolls, bread, dough, nuts and other goodies.
Mom and Grandma also made soap to wash our clothes. They used the old grease and lard and, to make the lye for the soap, they used the wood ashes from the stoves. The wood ashes were covered with water which turned it to lye which was mixed with the grease. Then the mixture was boiled for a while until it became thick. Grandma had special pans she poured the soap in, then she cut it in squares and let it set for two weeks to ''age'' until it was ready to use. I guess that anyone reading this will think we lived in a very primitive fashion, and we did. Primitive or not it was a good way to live. No TV, we had no radio and no telephone, no automobile and no electric lights. The ''bathroom'' was a privy which always set a ways from the house, because in the summer it smelled bad unless lime was used in it. At night we used a chamber pot, or a larger vessel called a ''slop jar''. This had to be emptied every morning and washed out ready for that night. In the winter we waded through snow to get to the privy and believe me it was very cold. I had to wear my coat and knit cap when I went out there. In the summer the privy was very hot and very ''stinky''. Usually there was a wasp or hornets nest in one of the corners. Wasps and hornets are very unfriendly insects and can really sting. Needless to say, no one, winter or summer, spent much time in the ''Little house'' on the back of the lot, called the privy-- although there is a much more vulgar way of calling it (which I won't mention).
Our water came from a well, which had a square wooden pump. There was a square wooden platform built around the well. On one side was a trap door on hinges and along the side of the trap door were several hooks. Anything we wanted to keep cold, such as milk, butter, buttermilk and any thing else, which needed to be kept cold, was put in buckets with tight tops. A rope was tied to the handle and the bucket was lowered into the well. Good refrigeration! Oh yes, our milk came directly from a cow and she was milked twice a day. The milk was strained to remove any foreign matter, poured in big crocks and left to set so the cream would rise to the top. The cream was skimmed off and used for coffee or to put on cereal or fruit and some of it was allowed to sour a little then churned to make butter. The liquid left from the butter was buttermilk, which we drank or used in biscuits and pancakes.
About once a month we would walk the two miles to town. Then we would catch the train for the ride to Galesburg, a distance of four or five miles. We would ''do'' Main Street from the square to Seminary Street and back. Grandma would buy little things like needles, thread, yeast and maybe a piece of material for a dress. Grandpa would go to the pool hall and card room to play cards until it was time to go home. Grandma would visit with old friends who were also shopping, as Saturday was the day everyone, rich or poor, young or old went uptown to shop. Actually, that is where everyone went on Saturday to see their friends and visit. I always went home a very tired little girl with a five-cent bag of candy, which would last me until the next trip to town. Back then five cents worth of candy was quite a bag full. Sometimes I even had a penny for a balloon. On Saturday, when we were hungry, we went to the Coney Island hot dog place on Cherry St. Hot dogs were five cents or six for a quarter, same price for hamburgers. Next to the Coney Island was a popcorn wagon such as you have never seen. It was on wheels so it could be moved and was painted red, trimmed in gold, like a circus wagon. I have heard that it has been refurbished, as an antique and is exhibited at fairs.
When we were ready to go home my Grandma would wait on the corner of Main Street and the Square while I ran down to the pool hall to fetch Grandpa. Grandma didn't consider it lady-like for a woman to go in a place ''like that''. The pool hall belonged to a man named Fleener, therefore the name of the place was Fleener's Pool Hall. About that time we left the farm to live in Galesburg. On Main Street there were two cigar stores and in front of both of them was a very large wooden indian with a hand full of wooden cigars. They were very formidable to a little girl but I was fascinated by them. On Cherry Street, a half block north of Main was a harness shop. In front of the store was a life size dapple-grey horse with the harness on. In the next block of North Cherry was the old Horse and Mule Barn, and auction house. I was there a couple of times with Grandpa and have never before, or since, seen so many horses in one place.
In the middle of the public square was what was called a band shell or bandstand. On Saturday night there was a band for the amusement of the shoppers. All the men in the band wore white uniforms with gold trim. The band leader was little, short, rotund man with twice as much gold braid as the other men. How the lights would reflect off the brass instruments! They would play marching music, Old Black Joe, My Old Kentucky Home and many more almost forgotten songs. In this day and age there is no place for band concerts-- too bad as it was fine entertainment.
On the corner of Broad and Ferris was a fine old Opera House. There was no movie screen so the wheels of progress ground on and in the late 1930's it was torn down. What a waste. What beautiful red velvet drapes it had. The large seats were very ornate and impressive. They were embossed and trimmed with gold and each one had red velvet drapes to close them off from the second floor aisles. Then there was the third floor balcony which was also embossed and trimmed in gold. I went there to a couple of dance reviews, a magic show and a production of Arsenic and Lace, also several other ''Live'' productions. The site is now Galesburg Glass Company.
Where Park Plaza is now, there was a very narrow street called Boone's Alley. On each side of the street (or alley) were a number of very imposing buildings-- most of them empty. I know one of them was a card room and tavern called The White Elephant. As a child and even later I was afraid to walk past the entrance to the alley; it was dark and, to me, seemed very scary and evil. That is one place I was glad to see torn down. I would have walked two miles rather than down that alley. In fact, I would cross the street to keep from passing the entrance. In the 1800's, I think 1897, my Grandpa drove a dray and delivered beer to the White Elephant on Boone's Alley. According to him he worked for Frolic and Nirdlinger. The White Elephant continued as a pool hall and card room during prohibition. When taverns reopened in 1933 it became a tavern again.
Grandma canned jars and jars of fruit and vegetables every year, even in October of 1949 when she had her stroke. Grandma was a happy person; she would sing or whistle as she worked. She joked and laughed; she loved people. She helped other people in any way she could. Mamo and Papo had almost 54 years together, they had two children of their own, a boy and a girl, and me.
No, I have never lived in Galesburg but that was and still is, I suppose, a magic word.We lived about twenty-five miles east and so the early trips to the city were made only when roads were either very dry or very frozen.
On of my earliest recollections is of my mother and I going on the train, shopping all day and waiting in the Santa Fe Depot for the ''120'' to take us home.The folks took my brother and sister and me to get shoes and coats (if no hand-me-downs would fit) and books for school. I was usually allowed to look around in the ''dime stores,'' wonderful, dream-like places.
I especially remember the summer of 1940. There was much to-do about the coming presidential election. Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat, was running for president of the United States for a third term. He was a very popular president, having done a lot through his New Deal and other policies to help bring the country out of the depression years of the Thirties.The issue in this election was to keep the United States out of the war that was raging in Europe against Hitler.
Wendell Willkie was nominated by the Republicans as their candidate. Both men promised to keep us out of war, but Willkie believed in some strong sanctions against Hitler.Being born into a Republican family, naturally Willkie was my hero. I read everything in the papers about his policies as well as keeping up with the news of the war in Europe. And he was so handsome!
Then it happened!! The Galesburg Register Mail had headlines to announce ''Wendell Willkie Coming to Galesburg.'' I hurriedly read the article which told of his coming through the city on the CB & Q Railroad, making a brief stop at the railway station and speaking to the people.
I had to see my hero!! I started working on my mother.
''Mom, I just have to go see Willkie, please.'' She just sighed. She had never driven to Galesburg and the car wasn't all that dependable anyway. So I went to my Dad.
''Dad,'' I said, as we were doing some chores and I was trying to be especially useful, ''I want to go to Galesburg, meet that train and see Wendell Willkie. Please, let's go. I've never seen a celebrity. You know people aren't going to allow Roosevelt to have a third term. We will see the future president of our land.'' Now Dad had heard this song of mine so often he was tired of it and told me so. My heart sank but I didn't give up yet.
That most important day came. It was a beautiful day! Nothing was said at the breakfast table about that most important train stop. I had been put down so much that I held my peace, too.As Dad picked up the milk pails to go to the barn, he called me aside and said, ''Be ready by nine o'clock and I'll take you to see that man.''
I couldn't believe my good luck. The morning work that I was responsible for was done in record time and I was ready long before the time to go.I don't remember much about the trip but we got there in plenty of time and went inside the depot to wait. The crowd was beginning to gather.
I stood and gazed around that huge room at the beautiful floor, huge ceilings and those interesting benches made of dark polished wood. It was awesome!
Soon we heard the train whistle and we all pushed forward.There he stood on the back of one of the railroad cars, that mop of dark hair flying in the breeze! My hero!He told us not to worry. If elected, he would keep us out of war with Germany, would see that the Depression would not recur, etc, etc.
And then, the train pulled out. He was gone-- but I was very happy. I just knew we had seen the future president of the United States.
The crowd quickly dispersed and Dad and I went to the car.
''We had better get something to eat, don't you think?'' my Dad asked. ''Oh yes,'' I answered. ''Can we get a hot dog at Kresgies?'' So, he parked along Main Street and we went into the ''dime store,'' perched up on the stools along the lunch counter where the wieners were cooking on hot rollers. I had one of those out-of-this-world sandwiches and a bottle of Orange Crush.
It was a most memorable day! I had a trip to Galesburg with my Dad; the rest of the family stayed home. I had seen Wendell Willkie in person and ate a hot dog in town!
Galesburg has pretty much been my life. I was born here, raised here and, except for college, my adult life has been spent in Galesburg. And, more and more, I catch myself gazing back instead of forward--reminiscing about the ''good ol' days'' in place of envisioning what the future will bring our community. Undoubtedly, it's my age.
I'm convinced that each adult has a time that belongs to them--their era. This is the time in their past where their wind escapes to as it seeks relief from the concerns of the present. My era is the 50s. Summers in particular.
I grew up at 952 Arnold Street, not quite a mile from Farnham School-- where some good teachers tried to educate me-- and less than half a dozen backyards away from O.N. Custer Park where my summer days were spent on the dusty ball diamond playing hours of pick-up games.
Now, as we approach spring and the baseball season, it's the park I think of more than the school. What a place! Every now and then, to cool down, we'd punctuate the baseball with fully clothed dips in the park's wading pool or with trips across Losey Street to the Park Drive Dairy where you could choose not from 31 but from maybe six or seven flavors of ice cream at a nickel a scoop.More often, though, when the games grew long and the sun had cooked us good, we struggled on up Losey, our bats and gloves propped over our shoulders or being dragged behind us, to the corner of Losey and Arnold. There sat our favorite haunt, Levenberg's Market. Today it's a cellular phone business. Like all of the other neighborhood groceries which were scattered throughout Galesburg in the 50s, it has been replaced by something else-- something that speaks of progress.
Owned by Sam and Lena Levenberg, and operated by their son Harold, better known as ''Cheesy.'' Sam's Store, as we called it, was the hub of Monkey Town, the nickname given our part of Galesburg, and described in Esther Palm Gayman's book Tock Sa Mecka as ''bounded on the south by the Santa Fe tracks, on the east by Farnham Street, on the north by Fremont Street, and on the west by Lincoln Street- land inhabited mostly by Swedes.''
All day long, kids of all ages-- products of passions delayed by war-- streamed in and out of Sam's, slamming the screen door, which invoked wrath from Sam Levenberg and a chuckle from Cheesy. Each summer day, these baby boomers by the dozens spent pennies on candy, and nickels and dimes on ice cream bars, Dolly Madison cakes, bags of Highland potato chips and icy bottles of pop lifted from the chilled water of a red pop cooler.
Many, especially the 10-and-up crowd, chose not to leave Sam's right away but stayed to lollygag around in the store or sit on the iron bench in front, watching cars and trucks rattle over Losey Street, which was then paved with bricks not asphalt. Some of the trucks were flatbeds carrying pipe down to the big ''project'' at Oquawka that would bring water up from the Mississippi to the town's wells.
''When they finish that,'' Cheesy Levenberg would say, ''we'll never go thirsty or be dirty again.'' Then he would laugh and say, ''I wish they'd hurry up.'' Sadly, the pipeline would not be finished soon enough. The spring of 1958 had been a dry one. The town's wells were so low that all of Galesburg had been told to conserve water, even prompting the school officials to let us kids out early on Friday, May 9th.
For some reason that evening, instead of going to Sam's, some of my pals and I decided to go over to the A & W root beer stand on Lincoln, where Markham's Restaurant is now. Our decision to forego Sam's for the A & W had a lot to do with hormones. The bunch of us was just hitting puberty and the root beer stand had car hops-- ''older women''-- 16 and 17; one who worked the tap was even 18. We would hang around trying to impress them with ''clever'' comments and awkward passes. Most of them tolerated us. One always lectured us on growing up, and a couple would even play along and flirt with us. No doubt we were big bores.
Anyway, once we had tanked up on root beer and worn out our welcome with the car hops, the bunch of us departed the A & W with ''Purple People Eater,'' a popular but inane novelty song blaring from the jukebox. It was a fitting anthem to our budding adolescence.We sauntered south on Lincoln Street, blabbering on about what a break this dry spell was, getting us out of school early and all. We were about halfway to Williams Street when we noticed the night sky in the southwest glowing orange. It reminded me of the scene in ''War and Peace,'' a movie my friend Larry Sprinkle and I had seen up at the Orpheum, when Napoleon had burnt down Moscow. In some ways, the analogy wasn't far off--culture was going up in smoke.
A taxi pulled up at the corner of Lincoln and Williams and let out a passenger.
''Hey, mister,'' one of us yeIled to the cab driver. ''What's happening over there?''
''Ain't you kids heard,'' he said, ''the library is burning down.'' Then he pulled away.
I suddenly felt funny. The rest of the guys must have too. None of us spoke a word for probably ten minutes. Neither did we hurry home and get our parents to drive us down to watch it like so many Galesburg kids did--like the little girl who lived across town and was in sixth grade at L.T. Stone did. I didn't know Hattie Samuelson in 1958, but seven years later, after we had been married for a few months, my wife brought up the library fire, telling me that she had been at a slumber party and the girl hosting the party had coaxed her dad into driving them all down (dressed only in their shorty pajamas) to watch the beautiful stone building and much of its valuable historical documents turned to ashes.
Instead of being on-site witnesses, the bunch of us Monkey Towners chose to sit down and gaze off over the C.B. & Q track embankment at the blazing sky.
Finally, I was able to put my finger on that funny feeling-- it was a sense of Ioss, sort of like a kid has when a pet dies or your best friend moves far away. And even now, it seems strange that I would feel like that. At that point in life, I wasn't much of a reader. Had never checked a book out of the Galesburg Public Library. In fact I can only remember being in it once, when my mother look me as a small child to get some particular book my father wanted. Prior to that May evening in 1958, the library was not that important to me. But sitting along Lincoln Street that night, it suddenly was. I recalled having passed it more times than my weak math mind could count, as the family went downtown for this thing or that thing, or as my swimming buddy, Mike Wetherford, and I walked to and from our summer swim lessons, taught to us by Mr. Fish (a fine teacher with a great name for a swimming instructor) at the Steele Gym, just a block west of the library on Simmons Street. What the old Galesburg Public Library had been was a ''life's fixture'' - a thing that helps mark the place where you live and waits there to help you find out who you are.
And then it was gone.
Later, when I would come back to Galesburg and teach fifth graders about their town's history, I would occasionally use the library fire to teach the word ''ironic'': Wasn't Cheesy Levenberg's humorous wish for them to ''hurry up'' ironic? For I have been told that the problem that night was water pressure-- there just wasn't enough water to reach the top of the library where the fire started. Of course, I'm not suggesting that the water line from the Mississippi to Galesburg could have or should have been finished sooner but, had the water started flowing in April of '58 rather than that fall, the firemen would have knocked down the flames almost immediately, and a life's fixture would have been preserved for coming generations.
Cheesy Levenberg had been a kind of prophet. And over the next several years. I would come to think of him as even greater than a prophet. Cheesy would become a friend-- a sage-- a counselor. He imparted wisdom, and no matter what your problem, he had a way of helping you look at it so that it shrank and seemed manageable.
Trekking to Sam's became a daily ritual and I grew to appreciate the people who ran the store.
You didn't see Lena Levenberg, Cheesy's mother, much because her health wasn't the best. But Sam and especially Cheesy worked long hours. Cheesy would be in the store from early morning until late at night. Both men were among the people in my life who taught me what the word dedication means. What's more, Sam's was a place to go and hear the ''latest news,'' which is what men call gossip. But it was also a place to go and get some good information, engage in some healthy debate and hear some great stories, especially from Cheesy. In fact. I would say that Cheesy Levenberg was the greatest storyteller who ever lived, or at least the greatest of my era. He had away of personalizing a story, making you feel that it was told just to you, even though there was often a crowd. I think one way he accomplished this was by injecting the nickname he had tagged you with throughout the yarn. One of my friends was called ''Rummy,'' another kid was ''Tuti,'' and there was a ''Whitey'' and ''Schwartzie,'' among many others. He called me ''Jake.'' And, as he would relate a particular adventure, he'd say ''You know what happened next, Jake?'' or ''It's like I always say, Rummy....'' It was his way of giving everyone ownership in the tale.
Once, when it was just Cheesy and I, he mentioned that his father had come from a place called Lithuania. I told him that I had never heard of it.
''It's part of the Soviet Union now,'' he answered.That was all Cheesy had to say. I mean, this was at the height of the Cold War. The Soviet Union. it was explained to us, was the reason our teachers at Farnham School made us get down on our knees with our hands covering our heads and quake in fear as we waited to be blown up by the A-bomb.
I think I asked him, ''Did Sam leave because of the commies?''Cheesy, as I recall, removed the cigar which seemed perpetually in the corner of his mouth, and said, ''No, he left before the communists.'' Then there had been a pause before he added, ''Jake, let's just say it could be a tough place on Jews.''
I never answered back, but I had a pretty good idea what he meant.
Cheesy Levenberg was a hard guy to put a political label on. He certainly wasn't a liberal. His staunch anti-communist sentiments and admiration of General George Patton were evidence of that. But Cheesy wasn't exactly a conservative either. He had a grasp of equality rare for that day, often declaring that ''I've never denied service to anyone who's come into my place.'' What's more, he expressed sympathy with what would become known as the Civil Rights Movement. That fact was significant in the Galesburg of the 1950's. For, although abolitionists had founded the town, and we claimed some special link to the ''Great Emancipator'' through the debate at Knox College and Lincoln's biographer Sandburg, our favorite son, Galesburg, like the rest of the country, had a streak of racism. Here's some evidence to back that up:
In the mid-50s when the Supreme Court outlawed segregated schools and Martin Luther King, Jr. was leading the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, Galesburg's black and Mexican American children were generally isolated into two or three of our town's several elementary schools, while I doubt if public accommodations were fully available to Galesburg's African American residents. Furthermore, racial epithets were common among some of my friends, housing was segregated by a gentlemen's agreement, with ''colored'' sections of town and a number of the Mexican families living in railroad camps, and the major public summer recreational facility, Lake Storey, featured a ''white'' beach and a ''colored'' beach.
So, Cheesy Levenberg's hospitality to those people of color who occasionally entered Sam's, in spite of the displeasure of a few of his regular patrons, drew a sharp contrast in attitude and behavior to certain other whites who claimed Galesburg as their home in the 50s. Perhaps it was the experiences that his father had as a Jew in Lithuania that honed Cheesy's sense of fair play. Or, maybe it was just something that Cheesy had worked out on his own. I don't know. But, he did have a grasp of equality that some of the rest of us. including myself, had yet to develop.
Once, near the demise of the old Negro Leagues, the Kansas City Monarchs came to Galesburg to play our local semipro team. I think they were called the Warriors. Anyway, the Monarchs wound up at Sam's.
''Sold them everything they needed-- meat, bread, cheese, pop. They had their supper right here at the store,'' Cheesy bragged. Then he added, ''They probably had a hard time finding a restaurant.'' And, he had told it in such a way that let you know that he took satisfaction in what he had done. But Cheesy's commitment to fair play would become even more apparent and personal to me.
One summer night-- it must have been near the turn of the decade-- I rounded the corner of the store and found Cheesy sitting on the iron bench, smoking his cigar and taking glances at the traffic. A couple of other kids were hanging out, making small talk, laughing at Cheesy's jokes and generally acting a fool. I took my place beside him on the bench and became one of the group.
After a few minutes we went inside. As I recall, we all had money burning a hole in our pockets and we proceeded to spend it on what is known today as ''junk food.''
We gobbled down chips and guzzled pop, still listening to Cheesy expound on various topics, when the screen door opened. We three kids turned and stopped cold. In walked a short black man. I remember that he wore work clothes. It was obvious that he had just finished with his job. Neither the other kids nor myself said anything.
But Cheesy removed the cigar from his mouth, smiled, and stepped toward the man. ''Sir, what can I get for you tonight?''
I studied the two of them: Cheesy, inviting as always, and the black man now more relaxed.
''I need something for lunches,'' the man answered.
''Step over here,'' said Cheesy. He directed the man to the meat case where he instructed Cheesy to pick out a half a pound or so of a particular lunch meat, then asked for a variety of other items from around the store-- items any working person would pack into a 1950's lunch pail.
At last, with the three of us kids still looking on, Cheesy packaged everything up for the black man, just as he did for any other customer, and took the man's money as they thanked and bade each other a good evening.
I will never forget that; it was an indelible scene.
Cheesy Levenberg would have never called himself an activist. Certainly, he was not an activist in the sense that Dr. King or others in the Civil Rights Movement were activists. But, in the sense that he set before me an example, demonstrating how one should treat others, Cheesy was an activist. In a weird way, Cheesy was like the old public library: he marked my life. But, in another way, he was far more important to me than the library. Cheesy was not just a monument of time and place. Instead, he was one of the people who helped me discover myself and helped to shape me for my future.
My era was the 1950's in Galesburg. Summer in particular. I often retreat to that time when the present, and the prospect of the future, overwhelm me. It was far from a perfect time; in many ways the present is better. I think, in spite of lingering racism, that there is in our country and in our town, a keener sense of fair play-- probably more focused even than how Cheesy Levenberg understood it forty years ago. But in some ways the present is not better-- and that concerns me for our future. You see, water systems can be improved, new businesses can replace corner groceries stores and libraries can be rebuilt, but who will be the Cheesy Levenbergs for our children and grandchildren?
by Bruce Lauerman
It wasn't called West Fremont Street then: it was just the nameless road of sandy gravel that ran along the south edge of the town airport. Beside the road a rusted hog wire fence stood, warning that no trespass was permitted. Between the yellow-brown road and the fence, a ditch filled with tall weeds served as an additional deterrent to any would-be intruder. Protected by these barriers, at the far end of the main runway, was a row of small plane hangers. Placed closely together, they were in every way nondescript except for the dull gray uniformity of their corrugated iron exteriors. Standing in a row, closely placed side by side, they screened the fence, the ditch, and the road from the main office at the far end of the asphalt runway.
The narrow strip of ground between the hangers and the old fence had been relegated to the mundane chore of storing the airport's no longer needed discards. Hiding, forgotten and unseen behind the small hangers stood the six well-worn and well-ruined aluminum warriors. Left there,in coarse abandonment, were the craft that once were the mighty workhorses of an urgently constituted Galesburg pilot training squadron. In the frantic days of the Great War they had taught young men from every state the skill of the pilot.
Day after day their existence had been that of numerous mean takeoffs: short, grinding flights and hard, hard landings, all at the unfamiliar hands of novice pilots. Each aircraft had been daily pushed beyond its mechanical limits, for the young pilots needed to master their new skills rapidly. The constant demand for excessive performance had been unrelenting.
Now that frantic time was a bygone memory and the squadron of six, spent and used, had been hidden between the row of hangers and the back fence. Each discarded derelict now squatted on flat tires, no wings extended outward from their bodies, just the short stumps where the wings were once attached. A gaping, unfilled void at the nose testified to where the powerful aircraft engine had once been mounted. Only the barest hulks now remained. Years before, some unknown scavenger had removed every imaginable item of any possible value. The old aluminum veterans now sat in the autumn afternoon sunlight, still proud, still unbroken, now awaiting their final fate.
Down the gravel road, a red bicycle was being laboriously pedaled through the dusty crushed rock overlay. The rider stopped, now hidden by the string of hangers, and carefully examined the hidden space for the dreaded presence of any adult. For all adults seemed to believe it was their sacred duty to destroy the magic that enveloped this special secret place. His wary inspection had revealed that he was truly alone. In a few brief seconds, the bicycle was hidden in the tall weeds, the ditch crossed and the hog wire fence scaled. He rapidly dashed across the open grass, mounted the stubby wing and clambered up to the beckoning cockpit. Swiftly he slithered into its cramped interior surrounded by its yellow painted sides. He settled onto the steel framing of the cockpit seat, its cushions long ago removed.
Before him was the olive green control panel, now a cluster of circular dark holes that had once held the complex instruments of flight. Faded white names were stenciled below each opening to tell what gauge or device had once been located there. He had to scoot forward on the seat frame to enable his feet to rest on the rudder pedals at the cockpit's floor. Between his legs was the control stick, beckoning him to reach out and take it in his right hand. One more fervent glance over the cockpit wall assured him his presence had gone undetected and that he was still safe.
He reached forward taking the black control stick in his hand. The response was immediate; in a blinking the powerful radial aircraft engine began to turn over. His left hand eased the throttle lever smoothly forward, the engine RPM steadily increasing in synchronization with the throttle's movement. The gauges simultaneously sprang to life, fuel check OK, oil pressure OK, engine temperature slowly rising.
The controls, now in the steady grip of the master pilot, smoothly began to respond to the experienced hand. The brave pilot, no longer clothed in the gray rayon J.C. Penney jacket, reached up and buttoned the open collar of his leather flight jacket. A brief radio message to the tower gave him the wind direction, speed, runway number and takeoff clearance. He released the brakes and began his taxi roll to the main runway. Responding to his application of the left wheel brake and his expert control of the engine's throttle, the sleek and mighty fighter plane pivoted onto the main runway. Released for takeoff by the tower, the gleaming fighter sped down the runway. Its engine roared at maximum RPM in response to the instructions of its skilled pilot.
Like a shining arrow, they rose together into the deep, blue, autumn sky. War plane and its aviator had become a singular unit, each responding to the other's touch, feel and mood. The pilot had made the routine takeoff hundreds of times before. Now he placed the fighter into a lazy, circling climb, slowly gaining altitude. They had to get up to the fighter's maximum ceiling if they were going to fulfill today's mission of combat air patrol for the squadron base.
The scattered clouds acted as giant targets for the high performance fighter to chase around the vacant sky.
Just routine duty today, nothing but a few boring hours of patrol followed by another routine landing, some hot chow and the rack. Just stay near the fighter's ceiling and within ten miles of the base-- simple and routine, not much of a job for an experienced combat ace.
He was executing another slow bank to the left, thinking to himself that his uneventful patrol was nearing its end, along with his fuel. Suddenly, his mute earphones came urgently alive with a message from fighter command. Bogies! Four of them, Zeros coming from the west, out of the sun. They were coming in to attack the air base. He was the only one up. No other fighters could take off and reach him for at least 15 minutes. He alone would have to deal with the deadly threat until his squadron mates could join him.
He continued his banking maneuver until he was headed west, into the direction of the approaching enemy. The adrenaline created by anticipation coursed through his system. Dozens of thoughts entered his mind in a fraction of a second.
Well, this is why you wear these captain's bars; this is what they pay you for. If you can get high and get a jump on them you'll be okay. These are probably their best pilots since they're sending them against the squadron base!
His thumb briefly depressed the gun trigger on the control stick. A brief rattle confirmed the six machine guns were operational. The glare of the western sun was only slightly diminished by his helmet goggles. The massive engine continued its droning throb, bringing him rapidly to his destiny with his oncoming foe.
Constantly scanning the ocean of sky for those four tiny black specks, perspiration started to dampen his shirt and forehead. Then suddenly, there they were, four o'clock low and closing fast. If he could bank left and hide in the nearby cloud bank, perhaps he could come in behind them. If only he could maintain the ultimate advantage: the element of surprise.
Coming out of the clouds and back into the sunlit sky, he was behind them. Their tight formation gave no indication that they were aware of his presence. He put the agile fighter into a maximum full-throttle dive, the huge engine screaming in the thin air as it quickly approached its top speed. The four tiny specks doubled in size with each passing second. Suddenly they filled his gun sights. In that split second he depressed the gun trigger on the stick. The scream of the engine, the rattle of the wing guns, the streaks of red tracers as they sped ahead into the rear of the enemy formation combined to generate a momentary thrill within him. The Zero on the left gave off a brilliant flash followed by a trail of gauzy white smoke.
His fighter raced past them continuing its steep downward dive. Two of the enemy Zeroes broke off and followed him downward. The American ace's mind flashed the thought, ''Zeroes can't bank hard left!'' He threw the stick over hard left, forcing the over-stressed fighter into a sharp banking dive. His goal was to plunge his aircraft into the massive cloud bank just a few thousand feet below him. He knew his pursuers were closing the gap and coming in behind him. Now he was suddenly in the clouds, with visibility at zero, he leveled the straining aircraft without decreasing its speed. Then he rapidly pulled the stick all the way back into his groin.
The sleek, prop-driven fighter groaned in its response, climbing, climbing with every ounce of power its engine possessed. The opposing dynamic forces of gravity and thrust pressed his body backwards into the seat. He knew this was a maneuver filled with risk but he had no choice. He had to take that risk. He was the only thing between these lethal Zeroes and his defenseless squadron. He kept the stick back, then shoved it all the way forward performing a huge loop while hidden inside the clouds. When he finally leveled out, he was simultaneously coming out of the clouds. He had done it! It had worked!
He was behind them again! His two foes were now just a short distance ahead of him. Where the fourth Zero was he didn't know but the two in front of him were now in his gun sights.
The wing guns again gave off their thundering rattle. The closest Zero began shedding chunks of its tail section as it came apart in slow motion before him. Two down! The third Zero immediately banked to the right and dove downward. Copying the fleeing Zero's elusive maneuvers, he followed it earthward. The third Zero appeared in his sights again; the six machine guns gave their death rattle. His windscreen was filled with the giant flash of a fireball. Small pieces of the vanquished Zero littered the blue sky before him. He yanked hard on the stick to escape the growing field of debris into which he was rapidly flying.
Three down! Where was that lethal fourth Zero? He frantically scanned the skies above him for his last adversary, knowing full well that he was now at a dangerously low altitude. Altitude was the key and now the advantage was with the remaining Zero. He instinctively put his craft in a defensive hard left bank while constantly searching the skies above him. Finally, after what seemed like hours, he spotted the remaining bogie far above him. It took him several seconds to comprehend that the last Zero was racing back in the direction from which it had come.
Maybe these were indeed their best pilots; that last one was smart enough to know this just wasn't their day.
A check of the heroic fighter plane's gauges showed the fuel needle below the red line and the oil pressure rapidly dropping. Now he had to get them both back to base, if only his ship could hang on for just ten more minutes. He radioed the base advising them of this fuel situation and requesting clearance for an emergency landing. His previous combat maneuvers had repeatedly forced the mighty Pratt & Whitney engine well beyond its intended limits. If only she would hold together for a few more minutes, throttle back, ease her down, cruise for home. He felt her stutter a couple of times.
Come on, baby, just hold in there. We can make it. We can make it!
The field and its runway finally appeared just ahead of them.
Flaps down, throttle full back, ease the stick forward, a routine landing, come on, baby, we can make it!
The fighter thumped onto the runway mashing its tires into the tarmac and taking several hopping bounces. This wouldn't be his best effort but then you just had to be able to walk away to make it count. The tires were now smoking beneath the rushing fighter; slowly the brakes decreased its speed to a controlled taxi glide. He taxied his ship over to it parking berth, braked, and turned her around. With the prop wash fanning his face, he threw the kill switch to shut down the now coughing engine. He had made it back; he had done it; he had saved the squadron and the base.
Somewhat spent from the intense airborne struggle, he climbed down from the majestic fighter's cockpit. Still unnoticed, he rapidly dashed across the grass strip, climbed the rusted fence and quickly retrieved the hidden bicycle. The darkening sky told him it was time to ride home. His mother would never know that she was feeding supper to the pilot who had repeatedly faced mortal danger only minutes before. The pilot who had fought the last great air battle in the skies above Galesburg, Illinois, and more importantly, had prevailed. The prairie community would sleep soundly that night. They would never know how their native son had protected them from the dangers that had filled their skies on that autumn afternoon.
I was born on April 26, 1898. My former address was 841 N. Prairie St. in Galesburg, Illinois.
Some childhood games: ''Olley, Olley, Out in Free'', ''Pussy Wants a Corner,'' just to name a few of them.
On the public square there were water troughs for horses. Horses were often frightened by street cars on Broad, Main and Seminary Streets. They would run away. I was riding one once when it ran onto someone's backyard. I thought the clothesline was going to decapitate me.
Galesburg had few automobiles then. Most families' transportation was by horses and buggies. My family had a yellow horse named ''Pet.'' She was probably a Palamino, who took us everywhere. She really knew where her own driveway was. Years later, my family owned a one seater electric car. We also had a surrey with the fringe on top.My first grade teacher teacher was a male principal.He used to put a cute little first grader on his shoulders and give her a ride through the hallway.
A neighbor used to drown little kitties in his cistern.
In East Galesburg, about three miles from where I lived, there was an area with Highland Lakes. Some families had their own small tents and would stay overnight. For the public, there was a huge tent where Chautauqua's (live performances, lectures, concerts, etc.) were held. Really nice shows were provided.
At times, a circus would come to town and it attracted huge crowds because there was so much variety and talent. The fat lady was really FAT!
I taught third and fourth grades for 31 years at Hitchcock and Silas Willard Schools in Galesburg.
The winning memoirs from Ruth Pecsi and Bruce Lauerman are both fairly extensive. They will be serialized over the next several weeks, starting with Ruth's.
by Ruth Louise Kemmitt Pecsi
During this time, due to the depression, many Galesburg residents could not find a decent wage job. My father was one of those out of work citizens and so we were poor, very poor. I just didn't realize we were poor until after I grew up!
Thinking about Dad's unemployment helps me to remember him speaking about President Franklin Roosevelt's wonderful WPA program that put people to work . Dad got a job under the new program digging ditches somewhere on the west side of town. He swore Roosevelt put food on the table for the poor and, of course, he voted as a Democrat. I can also remember Dad telling us, ''Galesburg is a Republican town, so you keep it to yourself that you are a Democrat'' and he would register in the Primary as a Republican but vote Democratic!
Back to birth on Pearl Street. I can't imagine that sanitary conditions were very good during birth at home. Mother always told me the reason my eye sight was so poor was due to the negligence in the cleansing of my eyes at birth. I do not know to this day if that is the real reason I am so near sighted!
The earliest recollection of my childhood (I must have been 3 or 4 years old) was walking with my mother throughout the neighborhood. (We had moved to Pine St. -- another rented house.) She sold and delivered cooking flavorings which could have been Watkins Products. I just remember her black carrying case with all those bottles of flavorings in it.
Three other memories of life on Pine Street. A house was being built across the street from us and I would beg the carpenters for scraps of wood to play with. I must have gotten on their nerves as one of them told me if I didn't stop begging for wood he would cut my ears off! I ran home crying and scared to death.
Mother's memory is of my brothers (Don and Bill) being involved with some neighborhood boys in setting a telephone pole on fire and the fire trucks coming to put out the fire. I remember this incident as clear as anything because they both got a whipping from Dad for that prank! The last memory I have of life at that age was the birth of my sister Jane. She, too, was born at home and Dad woke me up in the middle of the night to see my new baby sister. I can remember him standing me on the oak library table and changing me as I had wet the bed and I had to be dry before I could climb in bed with Mom and the new baby. I also remember how cold I was (It was in December).
When I was five we moved again (yes, another rented house) to Fourth Street. I have often wondered why we moved so often and wish I would have asked the folks why so many moves. I imagine finances had something to do with it. We lived there for about a year and I can recall life on Fourth Street more than my previous four years.
There was an empty lot next door to our home and we played Fox & Geese in the snow in the winter time. We had a a big snow storm that winter and I can remember Mom giving me a little shovel to go out and shovel the walk. I remember getting very wet and cold and coming into the house to stand over a large heat register which was right in the middle of some room!
In the summer time my girl friend ''BeBe'' (who lived across the Street) and I picked clover that grew in the lot and made clover jewelry and played with our dolls there. There seemed to be a lot of garter snakes and the boys would pick them up and throw them at us while we played. There was an old man that lived next door to BeBe, and he would wear baggy pants and shuffle out by the barn and pee. We would sneak behind bushes and watch him from the back side. We saw nothing but thought we had the best-kept secret in the neighborhood.
Another memory was our neighborhood plays. One play I remember, in particular, was put on in our garage, and I played the part of Jill from the ''Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill'' rhyme. Mom cleaned out a tin pail which she'd bought lard in and let me use it for the play. I was just so excited that my older brothers and other older neighborhood kids let me be in that production!
The only toys I can remember having at that time was a little iron tricycle, a doll, and a rope swing with a wooden seat that hung on the tree branch out back, close to my sand box. Since BeBe was my best friend I spent a lot of time in her home. She was being raised by her Aunt Tutz. Tutz used to have Halloween parties for adults. I can remember hiding behind the davenport and watching the adults dunk for apples, dance, and play the piano. They would discover us watching (I expect they knew all along), would give us treats and send me home.
We had a large farm wagon stored in the back yard. I would climb upon the seat (which seemed so high) and watch Dad hand spade a garden with a pitch fork and plant potatoes. I still carry a scar on my elbow from a deep cut I received when falling off the wagon onto a piece of broken glass on the ground.
One of my very favorite memories of living on Fourth street was the opportunity I had to ride the CB&Q train (pulled by a steam engine) to Chicago. Tutz took BeBe to visit her mother who lived there, my name sake ,Aunt Ruth, and Uncle Mac living there also. As I think back on it, I'll bet my aunt sent money for my train ticket, as the folks didn't have money to spare for such extravagance. What a thrill!!
I remember getting into trouble with the conductor for running up and down the aisle on the train to the water fountain, which was a big glass jug turned upside down with little white pointed paper cups to hold the water.
My Aunt met us at Union Station and took me home with her for a few days while BeBe visited her Mom. It was winter time and I wore my one piece plaid wool snow suit with a zipper up the front. Aunt Ruth couldn't get the zipper to work to remove my suit when we arrived at her apartment. I was so hot and she took me all around the neighbors' apartments and they all gave me pennies. Later in the day Uncle Mac came home from work and he did get the zipper unstuck! For some reason, I remember hearing the song ''On the Good Ship Lollipop'' sung by child movie star Shirley Temple while I was waiting for Uncle Mac to come home.
Aunt Ruth and Uncle Mac both worked at Marshall Fields. Aunt Ruth worked on the 13th floor in the candy kitchen. She took me to her work place and all the ladies gave me a sample of the chocolate they were working on at their candy tables. I was in heaven! The big Christmas tree was on display (as it still is to this day during the Christmas holidays) and I remember how beautiful that big tree was.
That was the one and only long trip I took as a child and I will never forget the joy of it.
The following summer the City of Galesburg started to build a swimming pool at H.T. Custer Park on Fifth street. We were so excited to know there would be a place to swim just one block from home!
Mother used to take me with her when she walked over the Fourth Street bridge to get to the stockyards where my Aunt Agnes worked at the lunch counter in the restaurant there. I would peer out over the bridge and see the tramps sitting around a fire in their encampment under the bridge.
When I was a little older I did a lot of baby sitting. I babysat for a family that had five children and lived on South Cedar Street. I would walk over this same bridge to get to their home to watch the kids. I made 35 cents for working the night, slept over, then walked back home on Churchill Avenue.
As it turned out, and before I was six, the folks moved again to 532 Churchill Avenue (The street is one block long).
We still used the swimming pool at H. T. Custer but had to walk east on Knox Street for one block, then south on Pearl Street, crossing the railroad tracks, pass by the Burlington Northern Truck Lines terminal and then five blocks to the park. For about six summers, my Churchill Avenue friends and I went to that park almost every day during the summer to swim and play on the playground equipment. We even were allowed to be there after dark, as there were many baseball games played at night under the lights. My brother Bill played for Butler Manufacturing. We thought nothing of walking back home in the dark. The only stipulation was I had to be in the house by 9 pm. Not five or ten after, but on the dot!!
SUMMERTIME ON THE AVENUE:
Speaking of swimming, another way to cool off was to go to the Brooks Street Fire Station in the late afternoon. The station was right across the street on the corner of Brooks and Churchill Avenue. The fireman would turn on the overhead sprinkler on the side of the Fire Station or open the fire hydrant and let the water swoosh out while we kids played in it! I played around the fire station a lot and the firemen would give me a nickel if I would go to Duncan's Drug store on Berrien Street to buy them candy and cigarettes.
The drug store had an old fashioned soda fountain and an ice cream parlor. I remember a glass case that displayed those pretty cobalt blue ''Evening in Paris ''perfume bottles. Back to the firemen. They also played card games with me in their recreation room. I can remember making coffee for them while they were out on a fire call. Can you imagine that going on in this day and age! Most everyone in the neighborhood used the telephone at the station because they didn't have one. That station was my home away from home.
In the summer, life on Churchill Avenue seemed like one big happy family. There was no TV and most of the homes on that one block had children of all ages. We all played outside a lot but not until we helped our parents with house and yard chores. Everyone on the street knew each other and we played our games right in the street. We all looked after each other. Neighbors who might be driving home or to work in their cars simply drove slow and we got out of the way. No road rage here!! We played games such as Hide and Seek, Punch the Icebox, Kick the Can, Red Light- Green Light, Rope Skipping (especially Double Dutch), played house with our dolls, roller skated and played Jacks. We also walked on homemade wood stilts and smashed tin cans to our shoes and clanged around on the brick street. Anyone that had a golf ball to use to play jacks with instead of the little rubber ball was the most sought after partner! I, being a tomboy, played marbles with the boys and I usually won a lot of marbles, especially in ''Bulls Eye.''
When Mother wanted me to come home from playing outside, she would stand on the front porch of our home and clap her hands! You could hear that clapping two blocks away! Every kid in the neighborhood knew what that meant and they would yell, ''Your Mom wants you to come home, Ruthie!''
My Dad built my brother Bill a wood box covered with shingles with a strap attached. Bill would buy dry ice and ice cream bars and put them in the box and carry the box across his back. He would then ride his bike out to the railroad yards and other places to sell the ice cream. Many of the railroaders kept a running tab with him and would pay him on payday. Bill would come home and spread out his coins on the front porch, plus check his supply of dry ice. He would never give me an ice cream bar. If I didn't have a nickel-- too bad!!
During the time I attended grade school Mom, kept my hair short and straight with straight bangs. My brothers called me ''Straw Hair.'' Once in a very great while, Mom would scrape together a dollar and send me to a place I think on Third Street to get a ''permanent.''
The beauty shop was in the basement of a house. The electric hair curlers were hooked onto a big black machine that had cords hanging down and were clipped on to my head. I was always afraid to sit there but did it anyway, as anything was better than my straight straw hair.
Brother Don would curl my hair at home using a curling iron that had to be heated by placing the iron (shaped liked scissors) over the flame on the cook stove. If the iron got too hot it would singe my hair, and many times I had a burn on my neck from that curling iron. The curl would last one day!
One of the neighbors (Mr. DuVall) had a little track and coal car that was used to transport dirt up and out of the basement he was digging out. We rode up and down in that dirty little coal car many a day. Mrs DuVall (Sadie) took in laundry. She always had a washing machine whirring away right in the middle of their kitchen, The ironing board and mangle was set up in the front room. She was the only lady on the block that wore rodeos (blue jeans, for you young folks) and I thought she was really neat. I can't remember her not being at the washing machine or ironing. Their three daughters, Shirley, Bonnie and Linda DuVall, were playmates of my sister and I.
Next to the Duvalls lived a lady called Mamie. She used to sit with us under a tree in her backyard and read stories to us. She had a large goiter on her neck One day someone found her in her basement where she had fallen down the steps and died. The rumor in the neighborhood was that she had pet rats and they ate on her goiter. We kids were so sad to see her body being carried out in a black bag.
Another neighbor was Mrs. Asher. She took in sewing for a living. She had four or five sons and no husband. I never knew why she was alone with her kids. She could sew something out of nothing and not even use patterns. I can remember my Aunt Clara visiting all the way from Oregon. She brought some old dresses of hers and a coat and had Mrs.Asher make me three dresses and a coat. One dress was black velvet with little glass beads and a lace collar, one was blue wool with red flecks in it with red buttons, and one was maroon with white polka dots. The coat was a beautiful light blue with a sailor collar. I remember how happy I was, having so many new clothes all at once. When my cousin Rosie came to visit, I would show her those clothes and brag to high heaven about my wardrobe!
Another memory of Churchill Avenue was the family next door who raised chickens and rabbits in the backyard. They had several children. I can hear my mom to this day accusing that family of giving us kids head lice! They moved out and another family moved in, which happened to be grandparents raising three girls. When the grandfather died, they had him in a casket right in their living room. I remember the black ribbon on the front door which was a sign that there was a death in the family and the body was laid to rest in the home. I went into the house to see the body and they had candles lit at the feet and head. I was fascinated and scared and got out of there as fast as I could.
When I was a little older I was allowed to ride my bike out to Lincoln Park and Lake Storey. Lake Storey had a huge slide that was right in the lake! We could climb to the top of the slide and slide into the water. There was also a wooden water wheel that had steps. Kids climbed the steps and tried their luck at running on the wheel until they lost their balance and fell into the lake!! The wading pool at Lincoln Park was a favorite place to play in the water when we were younger. The pool is still in use!
They used to sell ice cream Dixie Cups in the concession stand at the Lake Storey pavilion. The cups had a waxy cardboard lid with a little thin piece of paper that could be peeled off, exposing the picture of a movie star. We used to raid all the trash cans around the pavilion, looking for the lids and trading the pictures.
Before Dad found steady work, I used to go with him to the relief office and stand in line to get a box of donated food. Usually there was lard, sugar, beans, rice, prunes, etc. in the box. If there were some wrinkled apples, I couldn't wait to eat one.
When I was about eight years old, Mother became quite ill and was bedridden most of the time for several years. I can see Dad to this day sitting at the kitchen table going through all the medical bills and holding his head in his hands in despair. At one time she needed to be in the hospital and the doctor had her placed in the asylum in East Moline where she received many tests. Her mind was fine, but I believe Dad received financial help by putting her in that hospital. She hated it and wasn't there very long.
Due to Mom's illness, Dad had to have help with our care. He hired young girls (called ''hired girls'') who probably had dropped out of school, as they were old enough to manage the house (cleaning, cooking, taking care of us, etc.). Their pay was $4.00 per week and room and board. I always had to share my bed with the hired girl. We had several hired girls over the years. It was just part of our lives and I always liked every girl that lived with us. I never stopped wishing for Mom to be well enough to come to our school for PTA meetings or school plays.
Her sister, Aunt Agnes, had no children. She was very good to come to the school in Mom's place. When my sister Jane or I had a birthday, Aunt Agnes would often have a party for us in her home. She always cooked the Thanksgiving meal and fed our family. She was like a second mother.
Speaking of birthdays, when I was around 10 years old, I begged and begged for a new bike. Dad surprised me with a yellow and green Hawthorne girl's bike that he bought at Montgomery Wards. I know now he could not afford to buy me that bike, and I'm sure he made monthly payments which strained his budget.
During the time we lived at 532 Churchill Avenue, Dad got a steady job at the Western Illinois Ice House. He rode his bike to work and worked six and seven day weeks. Because he worked at the ice house, we got our ice free. Most everyone had wooden ice boxes to hold the ice to keep food cold. The icebox had to have a drip pan underneath it, and when the ice melted, one of my jobs was to empty the drip pan. Mom would place a cardboard sign in the front window with the number 100-75-50-or 25 printed in bold. When the iceman delivered the ice, he would look at the cardboard sign in the window and leave that size block for the day. He had a heavy rubber cape over his back and would pick up the ice with an ice tong, throw it over his shoulder, carry it into the house, and put the ice in the icebox. We would wait for his truck to come down our street and on very hot days we'd beg him to chip us off a piece of ice. Depending on his mood for the day decided whether or not we got ice.
I remember Dad developed severe rheumatism in his feet while working at the ice house, and many times he couldn't walk but would crawl on his knees to the table to eat. At one time he couldn't work and my Uncle Roy, Dad's brother, came to live with us and worked for Dad at the ice house. This arrangement allowed for Dad to keep his job! Uncle Roy turned his paycheck over to Dad and in return received room and board. Dad did get better and returned to work.
When Dad was well and working I used to love to visit him at the plant. He would show me how he used this huge crane that moved along the wood floor. Under the floor was where the ice was made. He would use a long iron prong to lift the flooring up and hook the crane onto the containers that held the ice. He then moved the whole crane across the length of the room to the area where the ice would be released and stored or moved out onto the dock for loading the trucks. Many tons of ice were produced daily!
We had a coal burning stove in the dining room and a wood burning stove in the kitchen for warmth and cooking. My brothers used to fight over who would empty the ashes from the stoves. Dad used to send us kids over to the railroad tracks that crossed South Chambers Street. We were given gunny sacks in which to put pieces of coal we found that had fallen off the coal train cars. We didn't give a thought to the danger of this practice and we usually had at least a half sack to take home for Dad to burn in the stoves!
In the spring when the stoves were no longer used for warmth, we always had to help clean the wallpaper with this pink soft putty-like substance. The paper was black from the coal stove dust. We also helped hang the rugs over the clothesline and beat the winter's dirt out with a rug beater. Most of our rooms had linoleum on the floor. Linoleum was a hard slick covering that came in many designs, depending on the room it was used for.
With the railroad tracks being so close to our home, we often had tramps come to our back door begging for food. They had been riding on the train-- as a hitchhiker! Mom always gave them something to eat, even if it was just bread and oleo. Speaking of oleo, one of my household chores was to mix an orange powder that came in a little envelope with a pound of lard-like substance. This made the lard look like butter and gave it some flavor. We just squeezed it with our hands into the soft mixture.
Mom kept her wringer washing machine in a corner in the kitchen. She or the hired girl washed every Monday morning and always cooked navy beans and cornbread for the Monday meal. She had rinse tubs on a little stand that Dad had made and kept in the kitchen. She used Fels Naptha bar soap to wash the clothes. I used to have to shave the soap to put in the tub of warm water. In the summer I had to lay all the wet towels and wash clothes on the grass to get dry. If a good wind came up, then I was chasing flying laundry around the yard. In the winter Mom hung the clothes on the clothesline and they would freeze stiff. I would help carry the frozen clothes into the house to thaw!
Since the wash machine was in the house, I often would climb into it to hide if we were playing hide and seek inside. I got stuck once and Dad had a hard time getting me out. I had been told not to climb into the washer. Of course, I got a whipping from Dad. My dad had a very quick temper. It didn't take much for him to give us kids a good spanking. He used a board or leather strap to whip us with. Usually, we knew we deserved the whipping and took the punishment with a stiff upper lip!
Ironing was always done on Tuesday, and the meal was leftover soup beans baked with ketchup and white sugar. Fried potatoes and no meat were part of the Tuesday meal! We ate lots of toast and coffee for breakfasts. We would toast the bread in the oven of the cook stove and drank coffee right along with the adults! Many suppers were corn flakes and/or oatmeal.
Another home delivery was the milk wagon. Housewives would set empty glass bottles on the porch with a note telling the milkman how much milk they needed. The milk wagon was pulled by a horse. We often had to clean up ''the mess'' the horse made on the street before we could start a game! We did not have milk delivered, as we couldn't afford that luxury. I remember some of the dairies in Galesburg. There was the Golden Cream, Meadow Gold, Higgins Dairy and Vedells out on the Knoxville hard road. There were also three large bakeries-- Lucky Boy Bakery on Main Street, Strand's Harvest Cream on South Street and another bakery on Chambers Street. They all baked bread, rolls, doughnuts, etc. A loaf of bread cost 10 cents; a quart of milk was 12 cents.
Our garbage was placed in a metal can out behind the garage. There was a man, I think by the name of Mr. Scudder, who would drive his truck all over town and pick up people's garbage to feed to his pigs! Only food garbage was allowed in these cans. In the summer I hated to empty the garbage as there were always maggots crawling around the lid. Dad burned everything else that was not a foodstuff type garbage.
In our immediate neighborhood on South Chambers Street was a junk yard. The owner of the junk yard sold his daughter's clothing and shoes to my Dad for me to wear. We would drive up to their home on the ''rich end of town'' and I would try on the clothes in the upstairs bedroom. I loved to go there. They had real carpet on the floor and beautiful furniture. That was before backyard sales!
There was an ice cream stand named Hylander's that was located on the East side of town. The building was kind of a little wooden shack located right on the terrace by the sidewalk. When Aunt Ruth would visit from Chicago, she always took us to Hylander's for an ice cream cone. Rarely did the folks take us, but if they did it was a very happy occasion! Another place that sold ice cream cones was located west of Galesburg. It was a working farm that had a yellow wood building from which they sold the ice cream.
We visited Monmouth a lot, as that is where my grandparents lived. On the way home from Monmouth I would sleep up on a ledge above the back seat by the back window, which had a shade. My sister would sleep on the back seat. We always woke right up when Dad pulled into the farm lot to buy a cone! Again I say, this didn't happen very often.
Dad used to take Mom and us kids for a ride in the car. He liked to drive out to the railroad yards at night and watch the box cars being humped over the hill and connected to other box cars to make up the freight train. Many Saturday nights we would ride downtown and sit parked in the car on Main Street, watching the shoppers, or park on the city square and watch the drunks stagger out of the taverns. There were several taverns located on the east side of the square. The Rescue Mission was located on the southeast part of the square, and we always heard that is where a lot of the drunks ended up for a meal and night's sleep.
Dad would drive up and down Water Street, which was the ''red light district.'' Many of the houses had a ''red light'' in the window, which was the signal it was a whorehouse. Mom and Dad would laugh at all the women standing on the front porch looking for work! I was old enough to know that was a ''bad'' neighborhood.
Another summer event in our family was the picking of wild raspberries. Dad would drive to the country and we would all pick the berries that grew along the road. My sister and I always begged Dad to let us ride on the front fender of the car while he drove down the country road looking for berry bushes. He always let us-- or we would stand on the running board and hang on to the window opening as he drove very slowly down the dusty dirt road. Many a time I would come down with a poison ivy rash after picking raspberries. Dad and Mom put the berries in fruit jars. Dad used the juice as a medical remedy every time we got sick! I seemed to come down with athlete's foot a lot. Dad would syphon gas out of the gas tank of the car and pour the gas right into my raw blisters!! Ouch!!
I can remember Dad hooking his old 1934 Dodge onto a chain that was draped over a limb on a tree in the back yard and hoisting the front end of the car up far enough to replace the engine!
When I was nine, I had to have my tonsils taken out. Dr. Malstrom removed my tonsils in his office located in the Hill Arcade Building. I can remember Dad carrying me home and laying me on the daybed in the living room and putting a lace curtain over me to keep the flies off. Mrs. Hill (our neighbor to the north) brought me a bowl of ice cream to sooth my sore throat. Some of my friends came to see me while I was lying there half-groggy from the anesthetic and saying ''Is she dead?''
We had no fans or air conditioning. Many summer nights we slept in the yard, and of course we chased the fireflies and put them in a jar.
Childhood diseases were treated at home. When I caught the measles, Mom would make me lie in bed with the curtains drawn to keep the room dark. This was a procedure to protect the eyes! That was pure torture, as we had no radio or TV to entertain us to help the time go by. Should a child come down with the chicken pox or small pox, the health department would hang a sign on the door that read ''Small pox-- Keep out!'' It seemed as though, when one kid got the mumps, many others in the neighborhood did too.
If I contracted a bad cold, Dad would have me place my head over a pan of steaming hot water with Vicks Vaborub in it and hold a towel over my head to inhale the fumes. I was fortunate in that I did not come down with infantile paralysis (polio) when a lot of children and adults had contracted the disease. When the vaccine for polio prevention was discovered, all the school children received a shot of the vaccine. It was a miracle drug!
WINTER ON THE AVENUE:
We still played outside a lot. The empty lot behind the fire station was the meeting place to build snow forts and snowmen. There were so many kids in the neighborhood, we would divide up sides and stage real snowball fights, using the forts for protection. We played fox and geese here when the snow was deep enough to stomp the pattern (a circle with spokes). Someone would be it the ''fox'' and chase the ''geese.'' If I remember right, if you stood on a spoke in the circle you could not be tagged out but had to move around the outside circle to be chased.
We also hopped cars. Our parents did not know we did this! We would wait for a slow moving car to come along and catch on to the back bumper and slide along on our feet until the car came to a corner where there were usually cinders spread by the city to help cars have traction at the intersections. Then we would fall off, run back to the middle of the block and do this all over again. We did this at night most of the time.
There was a big hill in front of the old hotel (which became Helen & Meads home for the aged) that was located at the top of the viaduct that connected South and Berrien Streets. We would take our sleds and slide down that hill right into the street. The icehouse was across the way on South Street. One day Dad was working out on the dock and saw us sledding down that hill. When he came home from work that day I received a good spanking! (Again)
Dad used to take us out to a hill by the old CCC camp south of South Farnham Street. He had a big piece of tin we used for a toboggan! One time he talked Mom into riding down the hill with him. They hit a stump and Mom hurt her back. I can see my Dad to this day trying to get Mom up and into the car. She wasn't seriously hurt, but we had to go home!
Another fun thing to do was to find a willow stick that would bend easy, reach inside a parked car (they were never locked), and place the stick over the horn and brace it against each side of the steering wheel. The horn would be pushed down enough from the pressure of the stick to cause it to blow. We would then run and hide and watch the person come out of the house to remove the stick. I think this was a Halloween prank!
Ice skating was very popular at Lincoln park. If we could get someone to take us out there, we would skate for hours. There was a log cabin and you could go inside to get warm-- there was usually a fire going in a large barrel.
When it was too cold to go outside at night, Dad would turn on the radio and we would listen to radio programs and prop our feet up on the heating stove until the souls of our feet got too hot! We used to listen to ''The Shadow,'' ''Jack Armstrong,'' ''Fibber McGee and Molly,'' and ''The Lone Ranger,'' to name a few.
Christmas was a special time then, as it is now. We did not receive many gifts. We always hung our long brown stockings over the back of a kitchen chair and Santa would fill them with nuts, oranges, and hard candy. One year, Dad made me a little table with an oilcloth top. He was building it in the kitchen and told me it was a stand for Mom's washtub. On Christmas I was given a little red chair and that table with a set of doll dishes. I remember that Christmas the most! Santa came to visit one Christmas Eve. I had to sit on his lap and sing a song for him. I thought he sounded just like Uncle Leo!
As I mentioned before, Dad was finally working steady. He must not have made too much money, as we still did many things to put food on the table, one of them being a trip to the ice house at night. One of the buildings of the complex stood empty and had exposed rafters up in the ceiling. This happen to be a roosting place for pigeons. At night I would go with Dad, armed with gunny sacks, to this building where he would shine a flashlight to blind the pigeon, grab it, and throw it in the sack that I was holding. He would catch several of them, and then we would take them home and Dad would kill the pigeons, and Mom cooked them for us to eat. They tasted just like fried chicken. This is not to say it was tasty, but rather ''eat pigeon or go hungry.''
I hunted rabbit and squirrels with Dad a lot. I even had my own little .22 rifle which he taught me to shoot. Once, while we were hunting, we had to cross a creek or walk quite a ways around it. Dad told me not to walk on the thin ice ( he always walked ahead of me). I didn't mind him and consequently stepped through the ice ankle deep! I caught up with him with freezing feet and he had to take me to the car, where he put my feet under the car heater to warm them. It ruined the day of hunting and I got a whipping for not minding his warning! When we did kill game, Dad would clean them out in the back yard and hang on a line to freeze on the back porch, outside.
We had rabbit pens along the back of the garage and raised domestic rabbits to eat. I had to help feed the rabbits and clean the pens. I hated to find new-borns dead in the pen. I felt so sorry for them.
We also had a wood box covered with shingles and attached to the side of the house at a kitchen window. All Mom had to do was raise the window and place milk, butter, eggs, etc. in the cold box. It served as a good ice box in the winter.
Dad bought a goat once and put it in the basement. I found out he was going to kill it for meat for the table. I begged him not to kill that little goat. I suppose I didn't realize at the time we needed food. He used a hammer and an ice pick to kill the goat. I can still hear that goat climbing the coal pile and wailing in the basement, trying to escape, but to no avail. Mom fried goat meat for days. I did not eat any!
I attended Weston School for six years. The ''old'' Weston School faced Allens Avenue and I attended that school for three years. While attending ''old'' Weston, a new Weston school was built right behind it that faced Mulberry Street. I started fourth grade in the new school.
I have a secret about walking to Weston. My friends told me that we could make a nickel if we stopped at this old man's house and let him put his hand in our underpants. I stopped with them once but I didn't let him go near me. Porn sex is not new and there are some things I wouldn't do for a nickel.
I remember a little candy store across the street from the ''old'' school. I also remember a small grocery store on South Street close to the Nazarene Church. You could buy Halloway caramels for a penny. The caramel was wrapped in paper. We quickly removed the wrapper, and if the caramel had a white end, we won a free large Halloway all-day sucker!!
What I remember most about the older Weston School was that it was three stories tall, brick, and it had a large playground that was covered in black cinders. Many a scraped knee I had, playing there.
We had a school band. Our instruments were wood blocks, sand blocks, triangle, etc. We had little crepe paper capes and hats. Classmate Charlotte Anderson was the leader of our band. We are still good friends! We'd march up and down the steps and all around the school while playing our instruments! (I wonder if we were good.) A favorite memory of grade school was the singing of Christmas carols around a big Christmas tree in the main hall. We were given candy canes. (I believe they were made at Gregory's candy store, located on the square next to the Hotel Broadview.) I used to be excused from class to go down to the principal's office and help wrap the canes in wax paper.
We had two janitors. One was tall and skinny and the other was short and fat. When it was time to come into the school in the morning or at recess they would lean out a huge window and ring a bell.
We were all so excited to move into the new school. I remember in the fifth or sixth grade we studied leaves. Our principal and sixth grade teacher was Nellie Morris. Her husband took a carload of us down to the court house where we collected a variety of leaves to study. We even went down to the W.G.I.L. radio station in the Hill Arcade Building and did a radio show about our study. I began the program by saying , ''If you were walking down the halls of Weston School you would see many colorful leaves on display.'' We were all so nervous and I have never forgotten those opening lines. (Perhaps this is where my love for radio talk shows began.) I still do those sometimes. I'm not as nervous now though.
I had a classmate named Shirley Hardister. She played the Hawaiian guitar when we were in grade school. I would sit beside her and turn the music pages for her when she played for school programs. I thought I was hot stuff to be her partner.
We played basketball way back then. There was a metal stand that was placed in the center of the gym to shoot the ball into. Shirley and I always tried to get on the same team! We are still good friends!
A wonderful thing happened to me while I was in the fourth grade. As usual, I failed the annual eye chart test given to all school children. The school used to send notes home with me informing my parents I needed glasses. I always had to leave my seat and walk up to the blackboard to be able to see what the teacher wrote. We were so very poor and Dad just didn't have the money to buy me glasses. A teacher or someone must have felt sorry for me because my folks received a letter telling them I would be examined by Dr. Smart who had an office in the Bondi Building (at no cost to my parents) and the Lions Club would buy me glasses! Retired and current Lions member Judge William K. Richardson was a member of the Lions Club that bought my glasses! I spoke to the Lions Club at one of their meetings last year and I told my eye glass story and was able to thank them personally for their kindness 58 years ago!
When I walked out of the doctor's office with my new glasses I couldn't believe what I saw. For the first time in my life, things were clear! I remember seeing the leaves on the trees as individual leaves instead of a green blob! Of course, the glasses were very thick and not very pretty to look at. I was called four-eyes by some of my classmates, but that didn't stop me from wearing the glasses!
We kids had fund-raisers in school back in the 1930s just as the kids do today. I remember we sold doughnuts made at Lucky Boy Bakery and turned the money in to our teacher. We always tried to outsell each other and went door-to-door, begging people to buy the doughnuts. I can't remember what the proceeds were used for. (Funny, I remember one of our teachers showing us how to dry our hands on a brown paper towel in the rest room. We were taught to wipe on each corner and then in the middle of the towel before throwing it away).
Another memory was handwriting!! Over and over we had to draw perfect lines up and down and perfect ''0's'' between three lines on our writing tablet. We did this repeatedly to acquire good penmanship! Can't you just see me with my head almost touching the paper in order to see? Therefore, I didn't get a good grade in penmanship. In some grades the music and art teacher came to our class about once a week.
When Nellie Swanson visited our school she gave some kind of test. We thought she was the most important person in the school system!
Some teachers taught a double class room. As an example, when I was in the 3rd grade, one of the 4th grades was in the same room taught by the same teacher. When I was in the 4th grade, the 5th grade was in the same room. If we misbehaved, the teachers would spank our hands with a ruler and sometimes they would turn a child over their knee and spank him with a book!! I used to like to stay after school and clean the chalk board erasers for the teacher.
I can remember in one of my grade school classes the students were separated in desk rows by the type of grades they received. The ''dumb kids'' (which we called them back then) were the ''redbirds,'' the ''C'' students were the ''robins'' and the ''A'' students were the ''bluebirds.'' If you got in any kind of trouble in class, you were automatically sent to the redbird row. As I look back on that now, I think how embarrassing it must have been for the poor ''redbird'' students to be singled out in such a manner. Actually, I know how embarrassing it was because I was sent to the redbird row once for talking. (Can you imagine?)
We had patrol boys back then to help us cross the street at several blocks close to the school. The boys were sixth graders who had good grades and could leave class a little early to get to the corner ahead of the other school kids. (Obviously, they were from the bluebird row.) They wore a white canvas belt and shoulder strap to identify them. We walked to school in the morning, walked back home for lunch, back to school after lunch and then home again after school (in any kind of weather).
Girls were not allowed to wear slacks to school. So in the winter we had to wear these ugly long brown stockings that hooked on to our underwear, or we used a garter to keep them up. In the spring we girls would roll our stockings down to our ankles (after we were far enough from home not to get caught by our mothers)! We wore brown leather boots with little cuffs that turned down at the ankle. The rich kids had cuffs of fur; ours were always flannel plaid. They are right in style today! What few shoes Dad bought for us came from Montgomery Ward. One pair for winter. One pair for summer. If the sole wore out, Dad would resole them. He used a little iron stand to put the shoe over as he nailed on the new soles. I still have the stand displayed in the kitchen.
My oldest brother, Don, graduated from high school and moved to Chicago. He got a job as a chef on the Santa Fe passenger train. When not traveling on the train he lived with Aunt Ruth and Uncle Mac . He traveled to California and back to Chicago while working. I remember he came home for a visit and he had on an orange two piece linen short sleeved summer suit. I had never seen anything like that and thought he was a movie star!
Before Don moved to Chicago he went to the roof garden a lot to dance. The roof garden was on the top floor on the Weinberg Arcade Building and people could dance to the ''big band'' music under the stars! Winter time they danced on the third floor. It had davenports all around the dance floor if they needed to rest. No alcohol was sold, so everyone took their own. They had ''instruction night'' on Tuesdays. Don became an instructor and would teach me the dance steps at home. We could really jitterbug, and by the time I was old enough to go to the roof garden I knew how to dance pretty well.
We moved one more time, about the time I was 11 or 12. Dad finally was able to buy a house on the other end of Churchill Avenue, 577. We were glad the move kept us in the same neighborhood. The house was very small and the price was $1,500. I think the house payments were $19 a month. Mother's health seemed to improve about this time and she went to work at the Knox Laundry (I expect to help make house payments).
My sister and I shared a room (which was really a dining room between the small kitchen and living room). Everyone had to walk through our room to get from one end of the house to the other. We slept on an iron folding daybed. Because our room seemed to be like Grand Central Station, mother was very strict about our keeping the room spotless. The daybed always had to be made and folded back to the wall. We had no bedroom privacy! The folks had a small bedroom that we had to walk through to get to the bathroom. Mother kept a folding cot in the bathroom and would drag it out every night and set it up in the living room for brother Bill to sleep on. We were still poor! I remember Dad putting up a wallpaper board as a long table in our bedroom to feed everyone when we had company or relatives visiting.
I remember there was a heat register in the kitchen that we would stand on when coming in from the cold. Don't know why, but I remember a cabinet right by the register. The folks kept an eye glass container in it for flushing the eye, some dreaded worm medicine that tasted terrible, and a bottle of mercury that you could roll around and see the mercury flow. Wonder where that came from? Wonder why I remember that?
Jane and I attended Sunday School at the United Brethren Church, located at the corner of Knox and Day Streets. The folks did not attend church but saw to it we went to Sunday School. I remember Sylvester Sanford from the Rescue Mission coming to our church and teaching us Bible verses. He had play points, and when we earned enough points from our memory work we received a book mark, small testament, or something along that line.
Every Sunday, when Sunday school was over, we would walk to Aunt Agnes' and Uncle Leo's apartment in the lower level of this huge house on Brooks Street. We would visit the ''Swede'' couple (the Nymans) who owned the house and lived on the other side. Mrs. Nyman always had sugar cookies made and would give us a cookie. Uncle Leo would give us a dime to be used to buy a ticket to the movie.
We rarely missed Sunday School or that routine. If we didn't want to go to Sunday School, Mom would say, ''No Sunday School, No Show!!''
In Sunday School at Christmas, we were given little cardboard boxes of hard candy. We couldn't wait for that treat and there were always a lot more kids in Sunday School on the candy-give-away day.
I loved Sunday School and when I was twelve years old I joined the U.B. Church with the guidance of my Sunday School teacher, Mary Hickman. I was also baptized when I was 11! Mary was very influential in my joining the church and being baptized. Mother was a confirmed Lutheran. After I grew up and was married, I joined the Trinity Lutheran Church because of Mom.
Speaking of the movies, I remember the names of all the theaters Galesburg had then. There was the Colonial, the West, the Orpheum, the Gala, the Grove, and the Earl in Knoxville. The Grove theater and the Earl had special soundproof rooms in the back of the theater for mothers to sit with crying babies, if need be. They also had seats in the back row with hearing aid assistance. Mom was deaf and she could hear the movie sitting in these seats and using the ear plug provided.
Let me elaborate here a bit about Mom being deaf. We grew up standing directly in front of Mom and shouting to make her hear us, and life surely did change when she got a hearing aid.
We were so in the habit of yelling to make Mom hear us that she came close to slapping us to shut us up after she got that hearing aid. It nearly drove her crazy to hear us yell so loudly. The hearing aid was pinned with a huge safety pin in a little white cloth bag onto her bra with a wire attached, with an earplug on the end and up to her ear.
We usually went to the Colonial or West theater located on South Prairie Street. We had to walk under the viaduct on South Street to get to the movie. If the movie was a scary one, such as ''The Mummy,'' ''The Werewolf'' or ''Frankenstein,'' we were always scared to walk under that viaduct on the way home, thinking any minute something would jump out at us from behind those huge cement columns. Shirley Temple movies were my all-time favorite.
Most movies we saw were Westerns with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, The Lone Ranger, etc. Every time we went to the movie, we saw a comedy, World News and a double feature! Lots of times we would sit through the movie twice. I remember the Orpheum had brass rails in the lobby and you passed by them to buy a ticket. I also remember how beautiful the sitting room was that the ladies used to touch up their makeup when using the restroom. It had carpeting, huge mirrors and seats - not the toilet seats-- vanity seats. We'd sit and watch the ladies put on their make-up.
In order to get to the movie we had to walk past the CB&Q depot-- coming and going. It was a large, beautiful, brick building located right at the top of the viaduct on Seminary Street. The restrooms had white marble walls, with a mirror that covered the whole wall from floor to ceiling, and a special waiting area for ladies with babies. The depot had a news stand located inside that sold sundries and, of course, there was a shoe shine area. In the winter they would put up a huge Christmas tree near the entrance to the ladies waiting area. It had a little village set up under the tree. We never went to the movie or shopping downtown without stopping in the depot!
There was another route one could take to get downtown other than walking under that scary viaduct. One could walk around the ice house and cross over several rows of railroad tracks and then cut through the depot. They had special ''Railroad Dicks'' that patrolled the area and they would chew us out and tell us how dangerous it was to cross over all those tracks. We would do it anyway and hope we wouldn't get caught!
When I started Jr. High School I began to find out more about our town and went downtown with my friends a lot. Main Street was always a busy hubbub and we loved to go to the dime stores. Kresge's, McClelland's and Grant's-- all on Main Street. O.T. Johnson and Kellogg and Drake were two of our favorite stores to visit. I remember Kellogg and Drake had this long counter one could sit down at to try on gloves or hats. I especially remember Kellogg's because one year they had a phone on the first floor for kids to use to call up Santa and tell him what we wanted for Christmas. I talked on the phone to Santa and requested a Bible. A clerk in the store delivered a Bible to me for Christmas! She must have overheard my conversation (or Santa passed the word along)!
O.T. Johnson had a sit down restaurant, and when one made a purchase there the clerk would send the money ''upstairs'' in a little basket container on a line that traveled through the store and up to the offices. They also had an elevator with an operator and a postal cage to buy stamps and send packages. I especially remember poet Carl Sandburg visiting Galesburg and autographing his latest book, Always the Young Stranger, at the bookstore in O.T.'s!
Other stores I remember were Hawthorne Drugs, Ford Hopkin's Drugs, and Walgreen's. (I think they all had lunch counters or restaurants in them.) The American Beauty Restaurant had a beautiful walnut room for special group meetings and sold homemade chocolates. Of course, there were Montgomery Ward, Sears and J.C. Penney, all downtown. The Karmel-Korn shop was close to the Post Office. There were the Three Sisters clothing for women, Continental, Weber's Book Store, Temple and Carroll Book Store. Wetherbee Brothers sporting goods, Mureen Hardware and Nyman Jewelers on South Prairie Street. Some of these merchants are still in business! Hall's Candy Shop on South Cherry Street was a ''hang out'' for teenagers. There was a Nine Cent Shoe Repair shop on the corner of Cherry and Main Streets. Next to it was the Butterfly Lunch, Gala Theater and the Bus Depot.
When I was in the sixth grade, Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese in December, 1941. I remember going to school and our teacher tried to explain to us about the U.S. going to war. She was crying and everyone seemed to be upset. School was dismissed early that Monday.
It wasn't long after the war started until rationing came into effect. Sugar, shoes, gas, canned goods, meat and, I believe, cigarettes all had to have a ration stamp when purchased. Due to the war, many food items became scarce as the government had to clothe and feed our Armed Forces. I remember standing at the door and showing people where the gymnasium was as they filed in to sign up for the ration stamps. Ration stamps were issued according to the size of the family.
My years at Lombard Jr. High School were all War Years and I remember the huge scrap drives we students would have. Hitchcock and Lombard school officials both allowed the students to go out into the neighborhoods and ask for any kind of metal pan, scrap iron, etc. to be used for the war effort. Housewives always had plenty ''scrap'' for us to collect. We piled everything right on the front lawn of the school and the pile would be just huge. We always thought we did better than the Hitchcock kids.
It was a chance to get out of school and we worked hard at it. The scrap would be picked up by trucks and transported to some location for distribution and then recycled somewhere for the Armed Forces use. An old daybed was given to us for the scrap pile. We picked some green apples to eat and shared one cigarette as a dare and got sick and took turns laying down on that daybed while the others in the group carried us! That was a big secret among us!
I was very active in G.A.A. (Girl's Athletic Association). We did not have organized sports in school for girls as they do now. We played basketball, baseball, and volleyball after school in the G.A.A. program. ''Sparky'' Burgland was our gym teacher. We won letters and proudly wore them on our jackets or sweaters. Annabelle Burgland was my home-ec teacher and at that time she was dating Dick Burgland, who delivered Coca Cola to the gym building. Annabelle later taught at the High School and I had her again for home-ec class.
My favorite years in school were my Junior High years. Many things were rationed due to the war but we didn't complain. Most of us had relatives in the service and realized the seriousness of the war years. I especially enjoyed helping put together a yearbook. Materials were too scarce to have a hard cover book, so we made due with a thin paper cover and only one class picture.
There was a huge elm tree close to the school ( I believe the largest in the USA). The school paper and year books were named after the Lombard Elm. Also, a beautiful three story brick building stood empty by the school with gables that made it look like a castle. The building was part of the Lombard College Campus, which Carl Sandburg attended. The college closed but that building stood empty for some years. I had to walk around it to get into the side door at school. There were a lot of nooks and crannies where we would meet our friends in and around that old building.
I had one math teacher who was very, very strict. One of my girl friends who lived on the avenue went to school with two buttons missing at the top of the shirt she was wearing. The teacher sent her home to change clothes!
A lot of memorable events come to mind as I think back on my teen years. For one thing, I got a part time job working for Wilbur Williams, who owned the South Street grocery store. He taught me how to cut meat on the meat-cutter machine, grind beef for hamburger, weigh fruits and vegetables, operate a hand-operated adding machine, the cash register and the McCasky. The McCasky was a large metal container that had folding parts with little springs that held the tickets for people that charged their groceries and paid their bill on payday. I liked to add up all the charge tickets and have the total ready for the customer when they came in to pay. They always were given a little brown bag of penny candy for paying their account.
I was 14 years old and would open the store on Sunday mornings for the Sunday morning people that came in to buy the Sunday paper. The papers would be lying on the front steps in two sections. I had to put the funnies inside the news section before selling the paper. I could cut the customers whatever size roast or steak they wanted and knew where everything was in the store to help them make their purchases. That experience was probably the best education I could have received that would help me in future jobs. My boss would come in around 11:30 to help me close the store; we closed at noon.
Because of the war, rationing was in effect while I worked at the grocery store. It didn't matter how much money people had, if they didn't have their ration coins or stamps they could not purchase any rationed items. There was a formula used to know how many points to charge people for meats and canned goods. Meats required red fiberboard type coins and canned goods blue. Sugar required little paper stamps.
It was a challenge to make the ration stamps last to purchase food until the next stamps were issued. I think we received the stamps in the mail monthly, or they might have had to be picked up at some specified location. Shoes were also rationed, as well as gas for the car. Lots of black market was going on at that time. (Some people would hoard scarce supplies; they were willing to sell you the item without a ration stamp but at a very high price!)
We used to have to hide jello, cigarettes, coffee, sugar and certain candy bars, etc. When the regular customer paid their bill, they could purchase a rationed item if they had the ration stamps. We never had enough rationed supplies for the public. I was pressured many times to allow someone to make a purchase without having a ration stamp. The law was firm, and if caught selling anything without collecting the ration stamp, it meant jail time.
I made on the average of $8.00 per week and had to give half of it to the folks to help with household expenses.
When the war ended, I remember my boss telling me to take all the cartons of cigarettes out of the back room and dump them on the front window shelf for all to see from the outside. We were mobbed that day and did a great business!!
When I was in the seventh grade, my brother Bill ran away from home. He hated school and was 16 years old. He and his friend packed a bag and I asked them where they were going. Bill gave me a nickel and told me not to tell the folks they were going to hitch a train ride all the way to California where Uncle Roy lived. When the folks discovered he was missing, they notified the police. I kept quiet for three days. I finally told the folks where he was and I received a severe beating from my Dad for not telling them sooner.
As it turned out, Dad called Uncle Roy and Uncle Roy convinced him to let Bill stay, as he could get him a job making good money in the shipyards out there. Dad agreed, and I remember Bill sent the folks money to buy a new davenport, end tables and chair. He also sent Mom a fake-fur coat which I wore when I got older.
Because of the war, Bill ended up in the Navy Seabees and was stationed at Pearl Harbor. My other brother, Donald, was drafted and he was in the Army. Mom hung a silk flag in the window with two blue stars, one for each son in the service. If the son was overseas, the star was silver. If killed in action, the star was gold. Many, many homes had these flags hanging in their front windows.
Don was on a troop train coming through Galesburg on the way to his Army camp in Oregon. I remember we all went down to the depot to see him for just a few minutes while the troop train stopped at the C. B. & Q. Depot. We all cried. He later suffered a heart attack at camp and received a medical discharge from the Army. Bill served in the Seabees until the end of the war and did not see any combat.
Earlier in this memoir I mentioned we had hired girls. One of them was named Edna. My brother Bill started dating her while he was in the service. She wasn't that much older than Bill when she worked for our family. Actually, she dated my older brother Don first! Anyway, she became pregnant and she and Bill married in the state of Maine. My Dad was just furious about this and forbid Bill to bring Edna into our home, should they come back. We were all so upset because Bill vowed not to come home unless he could bring his wife. It was a terrible family squabble!
Not long after the baby was born, Mother told me everything was going to be all right, as brother Bill and his wife Edna were going to visit us with the new baby.
I found out many years later from Edna that Dad had called her and asked her to meet him in the waiting room of the C.B.& Q. Depot. He wanted to see his first grandchild! Edna was afraid of what he might do, so she had her Aunt Hattie come with her and sit on a bench close by but did not let Dad know she was there. Edna told me that Dad forgave her right then and there and asked to hold the baby. He gave Edna $5.00 to buy the baby something and invited her and Bill to come home. I guess Dad's pride wouldn't allow him to apoligize in front of our family. I wonder why he never considered my brother was in the wrong (in his eyes), as well as Edna.
About this time, brother Don and his wife Jean moved back to Galesburg from Chicago. They had to live with us in that little (already crowded) house while looking for employment and a place to live.
Dad built a three sided lean-to building right to the side of the garage. We used it for a play house. It was fun to sleep there in the summertime. The kids in the neighborhood would take turns staying with me. We especially liked it when the boys in the neighborhood would climb on top the garage and onto the roof of the play house and bug us!
During the war years, Mayo General Hospital (now Hawthorne Centre) was built in Galesburg to house wounded soldiers. Behind the hospital were barrack buildings which housed German prisoners of war. The complex had its own chapel, brick buildings for the nurses to live in, a gymnasium, auditorium, fire station, several connecting buildings and a swimming pool. A guard stood at the Main gate 24 hours a day.
Dad quit the ice house and got a job at Mayo's in the heating plant. I served as a teenage volunteer at the hospital. I read to, played bingo, worked puzzles, etc. for the patients.
Several USO shows were put on in the auditorium. Many movie stars and singers would come to Mayo's to entertain the soldiers. I can remember pushing a wounded soldier in his wheelchair or a flat cart (depending on his injury) down the hallways through swinging doors to get to the auditorium. We actually had races from swinging door to swinging door!
I was old enough now to join my parents in the card games that were played on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. In the summer time, relatives would come for Sunday dinner and then go out in the back yard where we had card tables set up to play cards. In the winter we played at the kitchen porcelain top, chrome legged table. Mom made fudge and popped pop corn. We had so much fun. Dad didn't smoke or drink but he wouldn't play cards, pitch horseshoes, or play croquet without a small wager of some kind. We pitched horse shoes the length of our dirt driveway and played croquet in the back yard.
It seemed as though sickness just wouldn't leave our family. My sister Jane became quite ill when she was 11-years-old. She had a blocked kidney problem and her legs swelled very bad. She had to attend the Sunny Side school for the handicap which was located behind Lombard Jr. High School. She had to stay in a wheel chair and a taxi cab picked her up to go to school and brought her back home. I remember Dad taking her to the University of Chicago for special tests. I was in high school and went along in case she needed a blood transfusion. As it turned out, they told Dad I was too young to give her blood. Medications helped Jane and after about a year she was back to normal.
I attended Galesburg Senior High School located on the corner of Broad and Tompkins Sts. Churchill Jr. high school was close to the high school on the corner of Broad and Simmons Sts. Steele gym was around the corner on Simmons St. and the Home Ec building was behind the high school on Cedar St.
The gym had a swimming pool. We had to walk up an alley after swim class to get back into the school for our next class. In the winter my hair would freeze and then melt unto my shoulders while sitting in Helen Olson's English class.
When I was a junior in high school my parents encouraged me to quit school and get a full-time job. I wanted to stay in school so I bought my own books, clothes, glasses, etc. from money I had saved working at the grocery store.
In order to stay in school (to pay my own way) I enrolled in a school work program. The school found me a job at Temple & Carroll book store. I took classes in the morning and worked in the afternoon. I was graded for job performance just as if I were in a class room. I loved to sell the beautiful Parker and Schaeffer pen sets. When it was time for school to start we had to carry hundreds of books down two flights of stairs to display for sale. We sold books and supplies for students grade one through twelve.
There was a book store across the street from the high school called King Coals. Next to the book store was the beautiful Beecher Chapel. The book store had used books for sale and I would compare prices from Carroll's and Coal's to buy the cheapest books I could find.
The only regret I had for enrolling in the work program was missing out on G.A.A. after school and other after school activities. As a sophomore, I was very active in the G.A.A. and G.S. L. (girl's service league), Spanish club and year book. I had to give that all up when I started working in the afternoons.
I was able to join the ''Future Distributors'' club while in the work program. This was a club for anyone in the program to join. I was Vice-President. We had a class of about 12 students. Mr. Donaldson taught business english and business math. We became a close-knit group as we were the only students in Mr. Donaldson's classes.
If I had an extra nickel I would ride the bus home from school or work. The bus route that would take me home traveled on Seminary Street south to Sixth St. and cut back north on Chambers street to Brooks street. The bus had to make a stop at the railroad tracks on South Seminary. There was an alley from Seminary to Chambers which was close to the Victor Casket manufacturing plant.
If I were in a hurry to get home I would get off the bus at the railroad tracks and cut through the alley rather than ride all the way South and back. When the driver would stop at the tracks he would hollar out, ''hot potatoes or cold potatoes tonight Ruthie''? If I answered hot he would open the bus door and I would get off.
The day the war ended in 1945, I was about to start the tenth grade. I met my future husband Frank on this day. But, that is another story. My childhood behind me now, I will write about my young adult life in the next writing.