This brings me to the subject I would like you to focus on for the next few minutes. I will help with some of my early reminiscences which may bring the topic into sharp focus and trigger your memory mechanism
Naps were always a waste of time for me, however, maybe not for the teachers, when I was growing up. I didn’t see the need for the “down time” when playing was so important. A nap was a requirement in early days of kindergarten and even first grade, but it wasn’t until I began reading books, that I appreciated the quiet spells that were becoming fewer and farther apart. Today, I relish a few relaxing moments with a good book to read and a comfortable easy chair in which to sit.
Sometimes the smallest achievements were the ones remembered. There was the time when I caught my first bass on a rod and reel, or when I “aced” a difficult Economics Exam because I dreamed the first question on the test and awoke in time to study guaranteeing a passing grade.
My mother’s baking and cooking were always a delight. She prepared every dish with culinary expertise. That was particularly true of her fried chicken that made Sunday dinners extra special. Then, add in her macaroni and cheese made with different cheeses plus bread crumbs on top, mashed potatoes with homemade brown gravy, green beans flavored with onions and bacon and apple dumplings made with a light crust sprinkled with butter and cinnamon for dessert. It’s no wonder we loved those dinners. One member of my family, who has inherited that specialty, is my daughter. She studied to become a Pastry Chef and has developed her own style. She makes a beautiful presentation baking specialties such as pumpkin cheesecake, chocolate éclairs, crème brulee and large amount of chips in chocolate chip cookies.
As a family, we had quite an array of pets – mostly dogs. It wasn’t until my wife and I inherited a Scotty Mix that this playful, black ball of fur took over my life at home. She sleeps at my feet every night and watches my eating habits like a sentry. She never whines or begs, only waits until I give in with bites of meat or bits of flavored crackers. Yes, I know I shouldn’t feed her that way, but we do have this understanding…
Our road trips in a two-door Chevrolet over four summers took us to the far western states; north into Wisconsin; the eastern seaboard including New York City and a Brooklyn Dodger Game with “legendary Bums,” and a family trip to Florida with a stay at an ocean-side motel. Several years later I went looking for that motel site and finally found it surrounded by high rise hotels. Prior to World War II, my folks bought a rustic cabin on Sugar Creek at Camp Joy - south and west of Greenwood, Indiana. Camp Joy was an appropriate name because it was a charming place for family outings and overnight stays. On warm, summer nights, with the windows wide open, you could hear the marvelous sounds of the Big Bands playing at the local dance hall about a block away. What a way to drop off to sleep.
Birthdays were always special in our household. The person celebrating was always awakened in the morning with gifts presented at bedside. As young kids, my sister and I were allowed to establish the pattern for activities the rest of the day. Usually, we were allowed to invite friends over for a party or later on it always included a dinner at a local restaurant of our choice. However, I remember one birthday when I lounged around most of the day in pajamas and robe until company arrived to surprise me on my birthday. That was the last time I didn’t get cleaned up early just in case festivities included an attractive girl or two.
Radio was our mainstay for enjoying the world outside of our street. “Tom Mix”, “Gangbusters”, “Inner Sanctum”, “Arthur Godfrey and Friends” were just a very few of the programs that took us away to other adventures and times. When television arrived, we sat and watched the Test Pattern so that we wouldn’t miss a single picture. “Studio One”, “Fred Warning and His Pennsylvanians”, “Kukla, Fran and Ollie” and “Ed Sullivan” were live with no video tape. You got what they had to give at the moment it happened.
Most families are hopefully special in our lasting memories. My extended family including aunts, uncles, cousins and close friends were certainly special to me. Family gatherings were always big affairs at various holiday times throughout the year. For Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Eve’s were spent with the Dad’s family – the holiday itself was always spent with Mom’s family. For Mother’s Day; Father’s Day; July 4th and special birthdays, the families were combined. It made quite a crowd of people. And, all of the women brought their special dishes and desserts which made the days even more special. Many of those meals were prepared on cast-iron stoves with wood chips for fuel.
During the war years – 1941 – 1945, these family gatherings were the only times I saw my relatives which made the days even more special. Because of gas rationing, it made it more difficult to get to the locations. We would save up our “stamps” and as long as tires and the motor held up on the 1941 Chrysler, we would be there on time. My Dad was always in his uniform because everyone was so proud that he was in the Army Air Corps – the only family member to serve on active duty. The majority of the others were essential to the war effort at home – basically farmers – or were too old to enlist or be drafted.
So, if someone asks me after decades of life, “What are my most important memories from childhood?” I would have to say, “All of them!” What are yours?