Chapter 1947, age 4-5

Public themes and events
* The transistor was invented, after this momentous discovery, electronic goods began to shrink in size. The transistor was also responsible for the rapid development of computer technology in the approaching decade of the 1950s.
* The first tape recorder for home use was marketed by the Brush Development Corp. of Cleveland, OH.
* Kenneth Arnold of Boise, Idaho reports seeing flying saucers over Mount Rainier, Washington. It is the first of many thousands of reports over the years of “shining saucer-like objects.”
* Russia politically and economically sealed Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and East Germany under their zone of control.  With this development, President Harry Truman issued a declaration of intent to leave US troops in Germany as long as there were occupation troops anywhere in Europe.  And so the “Cold War” started between the two major survivors of World War II.
* Air Force Captain Charles (Chuck) Yeager, flying the Bell X-1 experimental jet exceeds the speed of sound, flying six hundred sixty two miles per hour above Rogers Dry Lake in southern California, thus achieving a key aviation goal.

The Fourth of July parade, 1947
On this evening, Mom took baby sister Linda and me to a children’s Fourth of July celebration held at a public swimming pool, a few blocks from our apartment.  At the park, electric lights, set inside of colorful shades, had been strung above the sidewalk and about the pool. There were several dozen children, all ranging in size from my height  to perhaps a foot taller. There were lots of parents and older people standing around and chatting with one another.  A  portable record player was seen sitting on table playing music for the crowd.
After a short while all the children were lined up, one behind the other. Some of the kids were wearing  ‘^’ shaped folded, paper hats. Others, like myself were given a stick to carry, like a rifle, on our shoulder.  A  “marching music” record was put on the record player and we children were prompted to march around the pool to the tune.
The parents stood in a ring outside of us kids, listening to the music and watching us march in single file, around and around. After a couple rounds the novelty wore off for me. It just wasn’t any fun walking in circle around the pool following the kid in front of me. I left the ring and began marching in the opposite direction.  Mom tried to coax me back into line, but I wouldn’t go.  I preferred marching in the opposite direction, outside the ring of the other children. It made a lot of sense to me, in this way I could see the parade of smiling kids with their paper hats and wooden stick “guns” as they passed by, while at the same time being able to march.

7 July 1947: First dental experience
[Robert] “Age five years-Larry had two cavities in his upper right side filled. This was done for his school checkup. They weren’t bad at all and he was very good at the dentists – Dr. Tipet.”
I remember that dental experience, because it was to that time, the most excruciating pain I’d ever felt. The dentist was a lot older than my parents, probably in his fifties, a rather thin man of average height. When my Mom turned me over to him, he took me into the Examination room and bade me sit in the dental chair.  It seems that the chair was made of wood, with a padded black leather cushion on the seat and backrest. The chair tilted back, but not nearly to the horizontal position seen in dental practices of the late 20th century. The dentist picked around in my mouth looking things over, then announced he would have to fill a couple cavities. He said he’d have to do a little drilling to get the decay out. The cavities were so small, he “didn’t think Novocain was necessary”, adding, “It will be over in a minute.”

I’d never been to the dentist so and knew nothing of cavities or ‘drilling’ one’s teeth. I went along with the idea of drilling without Novocain.  A moment later the dentist had a small drill in his hand that was driven by black cords that extended to an elbow in the contraption, then back to a central motor on the main machine. It only took a touch of the drill on my tooth before I was sitting erect in the chair trying to creep up the back and away from the drill. The dentist kept talking to me, telling me that it would be over in a moment and that he was almost done.  Yes indeed! In a few moments he was done and was I glad, because the drilling had hurt like hell. Then he told me we had one more cavity to clean out. He said “It is smaller and will be an easier one to do. You won’t need any Novocain, because it was so small.”  I believed him and settled back for the “real quick” drilling.
Unfortunately this episode was just a bad as the first and I was beginning to crack under the continued pain.  I remember clutching the arms of the chair as tight as my little fingers could squeeze, as my teeth felt like they would explode with agony and the dentists drill kept screeching out it’s “whizzbrrizzz” sound. I smelled something burning. My tooth? I don’t remember crying, because at that level of pain your eyes don’t produce tears, they simply bug out  while your body is rigid in agony. I always remembered the dentist office and the pain one could experience there. That was the last time I ever had dental work done without Novocain!  During the rest of my life, I have been afraid when visiting the dentist. I only go when it’s necessary to keep my teeth in good condition, but beneath a veneer of calmness, I’ve been frightened of the pain.

My fifth birthday
[Robert]  “Hazel made Larry a birthday cake with chocolate frosting – five candles and ‘Happy Birthday’ on the top of it.  Larry had his little friends-Eric and Norby and Barby in for cake and ice-cream.  Larry received from his Mother and Dad a pair of long trousers for school, a shirt, candy, and a set of soldiers.  We also bought him a water pistol but decided against giving it to him as it might cause too much trouble.  He likes his soldiers very much and plays with them very often.  Larry also received a birthday card from Grandma and Grandpa Pierce, plus three dollars.  We will buy Larry a pair of shoes with the money.”

Kindergarten memories
My years in school began with Kindergarten at Emerson School, located about three blocks from our apartment in Berwyn, Illinois. In the beginning, Mom walked me to school in the morning  came for me three hours later, when school let out. After a couple weeks, I began walking to and from school by myself.
Little is remembered about Kindergarten.  There were two teachers in the classroom, who helped with our projects and took turns reading stories to us. During school we did such things as color with crayons, work with paper, scissors and glue.
Our room had an open area where we sat on the floor listening to stories and singing songs. There was also an area in the room where stood several short, round tables. We were grouped into batches of five or six children each and assigned a table. The table tops were covered with various shaped pieces of different colored paper. Laying about on the tables were several short little scissors that didn’t cut too well, but which were fun to play with. When it was time to glue papers together, the teachers would bring to each table a bottle of glue made from flour and water.
We worked a little everyday, experimented with coloring. Each table had a small wooden box containing maybe 50 different colors of broken, half used crayons, from which we made our selection.
At some point in the morning we all sat about in a semi circle and sang songs like, The Farmer in the Dell.
Daily, we also had a short rest period. We were required to bring a small rug to school. During mid morning, we unrolled our rugs, laid them in neat rows, and lay down for a five or ten minute ‘nap’.  No one actually slept, but we were required to close our eyes and rest. Most of us pretended to sleep, occasionally opening one eye to seehow many of the other kids were peeking too.  I recognized that a few kids had nicer colored rugs than the others, mine was not one of those nicer ones, the observation was only a curiosity and didn’t really matter.  After our rest period, we were each given a single graham cracker for a snack, I recall that every few days we were also given a small carton of milk.

During recess, the class was taken outdoors into a relatively small paved school yard that was surrounded by a tall chain link fence.  All that I remember we ever did during recess was run foot races.  The teachers would have the class line up against one fence. When the teacher shouted, “Go!” we would race across the yard to the opposite fence. The teacher’s would point out and cheer the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners.  At the time, I had no idea what competition, racing and winning was all about.  All that I knew was: Running back and forth for no apparent reason wasn’t fun.  I knew we were suppose to run as fast as possible and try to be “first”, but after trying over and over, it became clear that the taller kids always won the race. I wondered about the purpose of continuously running back and forth, until your legs got tired, in a race that was stacked against you?!

My grandparents big radio
In my grandparent Glen and Elsie’s farmhouse was a large, vacuum tube radio. It had a cabinet that stood about 36 inches high, and about 24 inches wide. Even when I was a child that old radio was considered more like a piece of furniture than what we think of a radio today (1991). As long as I remember, the radio sat in their fully enclosed, semi heated front porch beside a day bed and near several easy chairs.
When you turned the radio on, it took a few moments to warm up before any sounds came out. It also had a little, round, glowing green eye like tuning meter. When you turned the tuning knob and received the radio signal more clearly, the green part of the eye grew larger, when you slipped away from the ideal frequency, the eye grew smaller. The radio was pretty neat to play with.
As I understand, when they first bought the radio, it was a piece of modern technology and was placed with great honor and pride in their living room.
Its purchase dated back to a time when radios were first becoming widely and inexpensively available to the public. Glen and Elsie bought the farm during the mid 1930s at a time when my Dad was still a teenager.  My father told me that on the day the radio was purchased he was unaware that his parents had gone to town with intentions of buying a radio. When Glen and Elsie returned home later that day, they carried the bulky object into the front room and hooked it up. My youthful Dad, Robert, was outdoors at the time. The first thing he heard from the radio was, to quote him, “…someone introducing the President of the United States”.  Dad, who happened to be passing under the front-room window outdoors, said, “I was dumbfounded! What was the President doing at our house?!  Not being very familiar with radios and not knowing my parents bought one, I peeked in the window expecting to see the President in the house!”

[Above photograph is an Internet image of the model radio my grandparents had. It was a 1936 Zenith. The radio received short-wave , AM, and mid-range. It had a shadowmeter circuit which cast a shadow
on a plastic screen which varies with radio signal intensity.  The radio had tone control as well as settings for distance. It has a very large speaker.]

Food shortages in Europe
During the first televised Presidential address, President Truman asks Americans  to give up eating meat on Tuesdays and poultry on Thursdays in order to help alleviate food shortages and starvation in Europe.

Moving to Smazick’s Resort
[Robert]  “We moved from Berwyn, Ill. to Grandma Pierce’s(farm, outside Coloma, Michigan.)
Just before Christmas, we moved from our temporary residence at my paternal Grandparent’s  farm, to rented rooms at Smazick’s Resort on Paw Paw Lake, near Coloma. The farm, Smazick’s resort, Coloma are all only a few miles apart.

Missing the last half of Kindergarten
[Robert] “Larry was going to Kindergarten at Emerson School in Berwyn and only completed 3 months before we moved to Michigan.  We tried to enroll Larry in Kindergarten at the Washington School but they were so crowded and supposedly advanced he couldn’t be admitted.”
I remember that once we were settled in our rooms at Smazick’s Resort, I was taken to a local school for readmission to Kindergarten. I don’t know how it was determined that the local Kindergarten classes were more advanced than those in Berwyn. But I was not allowed into class to finish Kindergarten. This was no problem to me, but I remember it upset my parents.

Christmas 1947   [5 yr. 5 mo.]
[Robert]  “Larry and Linda and Mother and Dad just moved into Smazick’s Resort on Paw Paw Lake. We spent Christmas Eve at Grandma and Grandpa Pierce’s. After going home Santa brought Larry a new corduroy pants and jacket, heavy wool coat, long wool stockings, first necktie, leather slippers, a drum from Uncle Jack and other toys.”

I don’t remember if the family attended any movies together this year or not. I was four years old and turned  five during mid year, while my sister, Linda, was only one year old.  I do have vague memories of our having a baby-sitter stay with us for a couple evenings, so maybe Mom and Dad went to an occasional movie.

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Filed under Autobiography, __2. Childhood: 1942-1963

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