1947, SEPTEMBER TO 1948, SEPTEMBER
Fasten your seatbelt and get ready for a whirlwind tour of the next five years, because they whiz by fast and may get a little fuzzy! We are still on Cottage Avenue in Park Place, Anderson, Indiana, working on the fixer-upper. Mother is still secretary at the Anderson Chamber of Commerce and Dad is still working on his apprenticeship in photo engraving at Madison Engraving. September 1947, I am beginning kindergarten at Park Place School on Union Street, later renamed College Avenue. Mother helps me cross Eighth Street and walk the few short blocks to school before she heads to work. After school, I walk several blocks to Grandma and Grandpa Wolff`s house on High Street, where a snack is always waiting. Then, it`s outside to play until I get picked up to go Home.
The kindergarten class photo survived. Can you find “Waldo”?
Tallest kid in the class, back row, third from the left.
1948 didn`t start off too well. Mother and Dad were t-boned in the old 1941 Nash by a drunk, hit and run driver. They were on their way to pick me up from Grandma`s. Dad chased the guy down the street, while in shock, but could not catch him. Mother had some bumps and minor cuts, but the medics took Dad to the hospital for stitches to his knee. The doctor said, with the deep cuts to the kneecap, Dad should not have been able to run after that guy, let alone walk! We were just glad that every one was in one piece, even though Dad was using a cane for several weeks.
The old Nash was restored by the insurance company, not like today when it would be totaled out. The Nash and the 47`Studebaker were traded in on a 1948 Oldsmobile straight eight, two door sedan fastback with two tone blue finish.
Another Easter Sunday and dress up with cousin Bob.
I managed to pass sandpile and was promoted to first grade. During the summer I was able to spend more time on High Street with
Grandpa and Grandma Wolff, and this still included sneaking out during nap times. Our neighborhood gang had tricycle and peddle car races with the usual assortment of scrapes and bumps which kept Grandma on edge. I ran home one day with a mis-aimed dart stuck in my back and she nearly fainted! The abundance of homemade slingshots made for more bandaid badges.
Maplewood Cemetery was our playground, battlefield, old west setting and hide and seek sanctuary. The lady caretaker had a small office on the grounds and was exceptionally tolerant of our antics. She even had us convinced that she was able to teach the squirrels to read books! And sure enough, we would quietly wait in her office and watch out the window until the squirrels would get together and pick up their small books and sit there and read! Later on, we would learn of the deception. The books were small pieces of cardboard, folded in two. The inside of the books was covered with peanut butter which the squirrels would patiently sit and lick!
As fall approached, our attention shifted to the Anderson College campus, where we kept a close eye on the buckeye trees along College Drive. When the buckeye nuts would finally ripen, they would drop to the ground where we would gather them up and make buckeye necklaces and rings. Of course, being an impatient crew, we would try to hurry the process up by throwing rocks and sticks up into the trees with hopes of downing the nuts earlier. This, of course, resulted in more self inflicted injuries than it did nuts!
1948, SEPTEMBER TO 1949, SEPTEMBER
I must have been born impatient. The rainy days, waiting for it to quit so that I could get back outside, were the worst. Such a waste of time, almost as bad as taking a nap! I would stand up against the screen door with my nose pressed against the wire mesh screen, waiting for just a hint of clearing weather. At last, the rain would stop and I would go running to Grandma, begging for permission to go back outside. She would give me a look, pull her handkerchief out of her sleeve, give it a lick and give me a spit wash, cleaning the screen`s crosshatch off my nose and I was gone. Free at last!
The freedom wouldn`t last for long, as the classroom confinement was just around the corner. I started first grade at Park Place School this fall. My God the girls grew faster than the boys over the summer! I was there just long enough to get my class picture taken and then we moved to another fixer upper on West 10th Street in Anderson.
Now I would finish out the first grade at Seventh Street School. Grandpa and Grandma Barrett come down to visit and check out the new project.
Throughout his life, Dad would be fascinated with audio, video and photographic techniques. Along with the still photographs, he was already shooting moving pictures with a Bell and Howell, hand wind (no battery packs yet), black and white movie camera.
After the war television was something few had heard of. That changed quickly. In 1945, a poll asked Americans, “Do you know what television is?” Most didn’t. But four years later, most Americans had heard of television and wanted one, including Dad! The 1940s TVs didn’t look like today’s televisions. Most had picture screens between 10 and 15 inches wide diagonally, inside large, heavy cabinets. The early programing was sparse, usually from six PM till ten PM, when the National Anthem was played and then the test pattern would be displayed. According to one survey, before they got a TV, people listened to radio an average of nearly five hours a day. Within nine months after they bought a TV they listened to radio, but only for two hours a day. They watched TV for five hours a day.
Being secretary for the Anderson Chamber of Commerce, Mother had a few perks, like attending all of the Chamber luncheons to take notes of the “business meetings”. Then she would hurry home to help Dad paint, nail and refurbish the present fixer upper.
Whoa, wait a minute. I guess i won`t get to finish the first grade at Seventh Street School! We just bought another project on West Twenty Fifth Street, which was in a different school district. Now I was attending Shadeland School. This was the second Anderson elementary school named Shadeland. The original was a frame building built in 1897. This building, on West 14th Street, was just a short walk from our new home.
Summer arrives and that means more time with the Park Place gang! After watching the new asphalt paving of High Street and eagerly checking out the great smooth surface for our bike riding, we discovered a new building project on the Anderson College campus. Morrison Hall was the first dormitory on the
Anderson College campus. It was named in honor of college president John A. Morrison. We didn`t care about that because we were excited about a new discovery. The building would have a new type of fire escape, not the old metal stairs and ladders. This would have the inclosed tube slide fire exit and three stories high! The poor construction workers spent a lot of time chasing us kids out of there!
1949, SEPTEMBER TO 1950, SEPTEMBER
With students moving into Morrison Hall, we had to abandon our best fun ride ever. School was getting ready to start for us too. I would be starting second grade back at Seventh Street School because we were moving into the newly remodeled, twelve story, Tower Building on Jackson and Eleventh Street. We would be on the ninth floor accessed by the modern inclosed elevator. Most of the elevators in the downtown buildings were of the open cage type where we could see the cables, counter weights and floors go by. Some still had an elevator operator to operate the controls and sliding door.
Erected between 1929 and 1930, according to the National Register of Historic Places database, Tower Place was built in the art-deco, late-Gothic revival architectural style as a hotel, but never opened as one because of the Great Depression. Following the war, the twelve story high building was remodeled into rental apartments.
Our one bedroom apartment was on the ninth floor and we were the only tenants on that floor. This being the only place I had ever lived without a yard or playground, I used the elevator and ninth floor as my imaginary play area.
I always made friends quickly at my new neighborhoods and this neighborhood, though really different, was no exception. My school day routine would begin with meeting the gang and walking North up Jackson Street to seventh Street and the school. One particular morning, we were walking past the gas station on Eighth and Jackson and noticed a tanker truck filling the underground gas storage tanks. We could see the gasoline vapors rising up around the large filler hose and a discussion started as to who could take the deepest breath of the vapors. Reminiscent of a scene from the movie, A Christmas Story, the dare you started. It`s amazing how much stupidity one will demonstrate to gain a further bond with the gang! So there I go, one giant whiff, one instant flat on my back, stars swirling overhead and just like in the movie, everyone ran off to school! I made it to school but the teacher sent me to the nurse as I was still wobbly. My parents didn`t learn of that antic till years later thank goodness.
Meanwhile, Dad was still enamored with the developments in the audio and video fields. He bought a wire recorder that would record through a microphone onto a thin metal wire that was wound on a spool much like a fishing line would. The audio fidelity of a good wire recording was comparable to acetate discs and by comparison the wire was practically indestructible, but it was soon rendered obsolete by the more manageable and easily edited medium of magnetic tape. But for now, it was the best means to record family conversations (sometimes secretly) and sing-a-longs. I recorded many of my story books that I read aloud.
Mother and Dad had made friends with a couple who lived on ten acres near Pendleton. He was a civil engineer and traveled often for his business. They would have us house sit to take care of their many dogs and cats. On this summer Elmer had a huge bird house built to his specifications and we were there when it was erected.
Soon it was Christmas, and we all received a great Christmas treat, a new, big screen, television! Imagine, a whopping 15 inch screen!
TIME FOR A LITTLE TELEVISION PROGRAMMING HISTORY
Television was advancing. Broadcasts were expanding to 18, hours a day in the bigger markets. We were getting 8-12 hours a day some days. Some afternoon kids programs were extended to primetime evenings. Here are some of my favorites that I remember watching.
Kukla, Fran and Ollie
The first NBC network broadcast of the show took place on January 12, 1949. It aired from 6–6:30 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday. Fran Allison played opposite the puppets as they solved silly problems of Ollie the dragon.
The Lone Ranger
An American western drama television series that aired on the ABC Television network from 1949 to 1957, with Clayton Moore in the starring role. Jay Silverheels, a member of the Mohawk tribe in Canada, played The Lone Ranger’s American Indian companion Tonto. His silver bullets and the theme song from the William Tell Overture became The Lone Ranger`s trademark.
Captain Video and His Video Rangers
Captain Video and His Video Rangers was an American science fiction television series, which was aired on the DuMont Television Network, and was the first series of its kind on American television. The series aired between June 27, 1949 and April 1, 1955,
Howdy Doody was an American children’s television program (with circus and Western frontier themes) that was created and produced by E. Roger Muir and telecast on the NBC network from December 27, 1947 until September 24, 1960. It was a pioneer in children’s television programming and set the pattern for many similar shows.
Sky King was an American radio and TV series. Its lead character was Arizona rancher and aircraft pilot Schuyler “Sky” King. Sky never killed the villains, as with most television cowboy heroes of the time, though one episode had him shooting a machine gun into his own stolen plane. Sky King was primarily a show for children, although it sometimes broadcast in prime time. The show also became an icon in the aviation community. Many pilots, including American astronauts, grew up watching Sky King and named him as an influence.
On June 24, 1949, Hopalong Cassidy became the first network Western television series. As portrayed on the screen, white-haired Bill “Hopalong” Cassidy was usually clad strikingly in black (including his hat, an exception to the western film stereotype that only villains wore black hats). He was reserved and well spoken, with a sense of fair play. He was often called upon to intercede when dishonest characters took advantage of honest citizens.
The series and character were so popular that Hopalong Cassidy was featured on the cover of national magazines such as Look, Life, and Time. William Boyd, as Hopalong , began the merchandise licensing and endorsement deals. In 1950, Hopalong Cassidy was featured on the first lunchbox to bear an image, causing sales for Aladdin Industries to jump from 50,000 to 600,000 in one year. In stores, more than 100 companies in 1950 manufactured $70 million of Hopalong Cassidy products, including children’s dinnerware, pillows, roller skates, soap, wristwatches, bicycles and jackknives.
Now, back to Christmas 1949.
The Paramount Theater, to the left, opened in August 1929. Today it is still in operation as a special events venue and home to the Anderson Symphony Orchestra. The streets in 1949, are decorated for Christmas, as the hanging garlands show. In the background, the WHBU radio broadcasting tower can be seen.
I had another surprise waiting for me on Christmas morning, a little Mexican Chihuahua pup. We named her Chi Chi in keeping with her heritage. Chi Chi loved to snuggle and would burrow under my covers and even my pajamas to sleep.
She loved to cuddle on Mother`s neck as she napped.
As the decade of the 50`s was beginning, Uncle Sam was still promoting ways to repay the war debt. United States Savings Bonds were promoted at movie theaters, post offices, television commercials and magazine ads. I came across this page out of a 1949 Nature magazine. Many celebrities were involved in the buy bonds effort.
1950 didn`t start off the best that it could. Mother broke her neck when she took a spill down a flight of marble stairs in the Tower Building! Luckily it did no nerve damage to the spinal area! She had to wear a steel and leather neck brace to keep it immobile for quite a few weeks though.
During this time, we took Grandpa Wolff on a trip to Alabama to visit with his brother. When we returned, Dad thought maybe the 1948 Olds may be getting a bit feeble? Really!? Dad bought a new 1951, blue Kaiser 4-door with a straight 6 engine. Kaiser suffered the ultimate fate of all independent American auto manufacturers in the postwar period. While sales were initially strong because of a car-starved public, the company didn`t have the resources to survive long-term competition with GM, Ford, and Chrysler. The original Kaiser-Frazer design got out of date quickly and lacked body styles aside from a sedan or other important features like V8 engines, none of which they ever had the money to invest in. The all-new 1951 Kaiser sold well for a time, but sales slowed as the public wearied of the styling and the continuation of the line’s other market limitations. After ceasing US production in 1955, Kaiser’s son Edgar summed up their failure. “Slap a Buick label on and it would sell like hotcakes.”
I managed to finish second grade at Seventh Street School, but we were soon on the move again. For the first time since I was a baby, we were moving out of Anderson. Mother and Dad found another fixer-upper in Chesterfield, just a few miles East of Anderson.
One of our new neighbors helped throw a birthday party for me while we were still getting settled. I was already part of the neighborhood gang!
1950, SEPTEMBER TO 1951 SEPTEMBER
Grandpa and Grandma drove down to pick me up for another visit to Oklahoma. I think it was also a rescue mission to get me out of the new house while Mother and Dad got started on the remodeling! Another jack rabbit hunt resulted in a good photo op. That`s, left to right, Grandpa, cousins Georgia and Freddy, Jack, Uncle Fred, Me and Great Uncle Sam.
We returned home in time for me to start the third grade, working on my fifth school change!
For Christmas we got Frosty, a Russian Samoyed puppy after having a disaster trying to keep two young Collies which we had to find homes for. They chewed anything and everything while we were gone to work and school! Frosty got along fine with Chi Chi and our canary and two parakeets. Did we really have time for all of these?!
Chesterfield grade school had a music class that actually used musical instruments to teach music! I began to learn how to play the clarinet in the band. The neighbor boy, in the picture with me, played steel guitar.
Mother and Dad finished the repairs on that house and located another one in need of some tender loving care. It was just a block away on Vasbinder Drive. I got to keep my school and my friends for a change!
In the summer,when school was out, Grandma Wolff would visit for awhile to help care for me. Then, Mother hired a lady to stay at the house until Dad and she got home. One day, Mother asked me if I would prefer some other sandwich meat besides the beef or ham that she bought for the sitter to fix for me. I didn`t understand Mother`s anger when I told her “I don`t know. She always fixes me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.” The next day as Mother was reading the riot act to the sitter for eating my sandwich meat, I realized what was going on! Sitter fired, and Mother paid my playmate`s mother,who had thrown the birthday party for me, to keep an eye on me. Worked out great for me!
This years birthday was awesome! I was surprised with a Hopalong Cassidy 24 inch bicycle! It had a headlight, saddlebags, horn and two cap guns with holsters built into the bike tank. I still have one of the guns!
We took Grandpa Wolff with us on a visit to Grandpa and Grandma Barretts so that he could see their machine shop. He was always fascinated with anything mechanical. He even bound all of the early Popular Mechanics issues into book form for reference. This is one of the job order forms for the shop.
Dad finished his apprentiship and joined the International Photo Engravers Union. Wanting to look for a better paying job required going through the union secretary. He had all the listings of available union jobs in the country and the offers were passed out according to seniority. At this time, all the close by job openings were taken by the more senior photo engravers. But, there was one opening in Houston, Texas with the newspaper there! The pay would double what he was now making. A trip to Houston for an interview was set up and Dad was on his way.
The timing could`t have been worse. A huge rain storm had been hovering over the mid- west for days and as Dad was approaching Kansas City, Missouri, the area was flooded! This event was the worst in Kansas since June 1903. Small rivers and creeks were running at bankfull over eastern Kansas when rainfall up to 10 inches in 12 hours the last few days of June and the first few days of July caused rivers in Kansas to flood. The flood began running over the top of the levees protecting the Argentine and Armourdale areas, resulting in the evacuation of 15,000 people. The actual flood-levels are not accurately known for the Kansas River, as the water crested above all official flood gauges. The flood caused the Missouri River to change course at St. Joseph, Missouri cutting off the downtown area.
After some delay and detouring, (no GPS then) Dad got to Houston and his interview. He got the job and drove 24 hours straight to get back home!
As the house remodel was complete, it was put up for sale and we started packing and looking for a home for Frosty. Grandpa and Grandma Barrett drove their 1949 Nash down for a visit and to help pack.
We finished packing and the moving van was loading us up for the trip. We were packing the Kaiser with personal items and the birds and cages in the back seat with me. Off we went on our longest trip ever.
1951, SEPTEMBER TO 1952, SEPTEMBER
We moved into a two story apartment complex in Houston. I was enrolled in the fourth grade at a nearby school and Dad was off to work. Mother started some laundry at the laundry center in the complex and I set out to meet some kids.
Coming home for dinner, I met mother bringing in the laundry from the clothes line outdoors. She said that they were still wet even though they had been out in the heat all day! A neighbor lady explained that the high summer humidity would not allow the water to evaporate from the clothes. In the summer we needed to use the electric clothes dryer.
There was long gray moss hanging from the tree limbs and the heat was more noticeable than summers at home. We were not in Indiana any more! Mother said that after only two weeks of school I knew all of the downtown Houston streets that were named after Texas heroes! They taught history, but with a very strong emphasis on Texas history!
The heat and high humidity would create another problem for us. After only four months, Dad got ill at work and was taken to the E.R., he had a lung collapse! The doctors attributed it to the constant change from air conditioning at work and then the body trying to adjust to the heat and humidity at home each day. Air conditioning for homes and apartments was not common yet, even in Texas.
After recovery, the decision was made to move back to Anderson. Pack up and move again, no big deal.
This is the second of only two photos from the Houston adventure; Dad and me at the apartment entrance. A box with some movie film and photos was lost or misplaced during the move back to Anderson.
Back in Anderson before Christmas, we were settling in and getting ready for the holidays. Grandpa and Grandma bought a house on Noble Street in Anderson that we rented from them.
I transfered into Washington School, which was within walking distance, but I didn`t ever learn the name of a single downtown street! The original Washington Elementary School was built in 1896 and destroyed by fire in 1930. This 1932 building was located at Columbus Avenue and 23rd Street.
For Christmas this year we got two dogs! A Black and White Bulldog named Sparky and a Toy Fox Terrier named Cookie were added to the menagerie with the canary and two parakeets. The two dogs got along fine, chasing each other and sliding all over the hardwood floors trying to get their footing. We were back to the big Christmas tree again this year.
Dad`s union found him a photo engraving job in Indianapolis with the Circle Engraving Company. Mother decided to stay at home for the time being. She took on the Den Mother duties for a Cub Scout Troop. Our Den was named the Wolf Den!
Eventually a television upgrade was in order, maybe a 19 inch screen. I was proud of my Scout uniform and did many projects and deeds to earn merit patches. We held our pack meetings in our basement which Mother decorated in the wolf theme.
When spring came, it was back outside with the gang, riding bikes through the Anaconda Wire Works factory loading ramps and docks. We had a train siding track that was used to deliver materials to the lumber yard just a block away. When we noticed a train backing in for a delivery, we would ride over there and put pennies on the track for the train cars to roll over and flatten out to medallion size. Then the brakeman would chase us away.
One day, we all had our bikes and were getting bored trying to find something to do. As usual, someone came up with “a brilliant idea”. It would be great to ride our bikes on the train track rails! I still have the cinders imbedded in my knee to this day.
Early spring we were on the move again so Dad could be closer to his work in Indianapolis. We rented a house in the Windsor Village sub-division on the Northeast side of town. I was re-re-enroled in fourth grade at the Southland School, (my third this school year).
Back row second from left and even smiling. Lots of kids in the addition and many of their parents worked at the near by Naval Ordnance Plant.
The government commissioned the Naval Ordnance Plant in Indianapolis in May1942 to produce the top secret Norden Bombsight which was primarily for the Army Air Corps. These bombsights became available in 1943 and contained an analog computer that allowed for unheard of accuracy in high level bombing. The Norden bombsight was top secret and the general population of Indianapolis did not know what the facility was producing although the plant was awarded the Navy “E” flag for production from 1943–45. In September 1945 the plant was turned over to the Navy and became the Naval Ordnance Plant, Indianapolis. The facility tested and produced various forms of avionics technology for the Navy.
No more Cub Scouts, but with all these kids, something was always going on from dawn to dusk. Walking home from school one day, one of the gang had a great idea. Imagine that! Why didn`t I run away?! These dried out hollow fibrous reed stems would make great cigarettes. Someone always had matches. As we broke the stems into the proper lengths, the matches were lit and the “stooges” were fired up, literally! As we drew in the smoking reed, the rushing air reignited the reed and passed the fire to the tip of our tongues. Very few were able to eat dinner that night!
Mother helped us set up a Kool Aid stand that summer, but I think we drank up all the profits. I had a birthday party and Grandma Wolff was brought up for a visit. I bet she had fun!
That summer, the neighborhood was harassed by a peeping tom. This idiot would stand outside, up against the window and watch until someone noticed or yelled at him. As time went on, he became more brazen and would try to get into the house. Grandpa Barrett had the idea of stringing wire, shin high, across the yard in a few places. He and Dad did this one weekend because Dad was working second shift and was concerned for us. The “booby trap” worked great!
One night the guy was peeping in our window and a neighbor lady called to warn Mother. When she got off the phone, he was trying the front door. Mother grabbed the 38 special and told him to leave or she would shoot through the door. He ran around to the back door and so did Mother. Trying to open the screen door, he took off as Mother opened the door and ordered him to stop. He turned to run and hit one of the trip wires just as Mother was firing in the ground to scare him. Evidently, he and the bullet met on the ground as he fell. He got up cussing and ran away. The next day, the newspapers were all over the place.
Mother was shaken; Dad was shocked; I thought it was awsome! However, after calm and common sense prevailed, they realized the danger they may be in if the prowler wanted revenge. Not feeling safe there anymore, they started thinking of options.
Ever sense they were married, they wanted a place in the country and that is what they had been saving for. We took a trip to visit there friends in Pendleton, the civil engineer. He had just built a new ranch style home on their land close to the highway. He was getting ready to retire and said, “The house is close to the road so we won`t get snowbound anymore and with everything on one level we can chase each other around in our wheelchairs!”.
They talked about selling us the house we had taken care of, but Mother and Dad had another idea. How about selling us the acreage and the barn next to the house? Elmer had built the barn and it was obviously very well constructed, with solid red wood plank siding and hardwood planks in the upper floor where he had stored tractors and other equipment.
The deal was made and we bought five acres with all out buildings, the barn and a driveway easement through their side drive to the highway.
This will be a great place to play cowboys and indians. I had no idea what the plans were for the future!