Chapter 1949, age 6-7

Themes and Events
* On 4 April 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), was officially formed, comprising; the USA, UK, France, Benelux, Italy, Iceland, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Portugal.
* An Air Force B-50 Superfortress bomber, the Lucky Lady II,  completed the first nonstop round-the -world flight, flying 23,452 miles in 94 hours, 1 minute.
* LP (long playing) 33 1/3 RPM and 45 RPM records go head to head at record stores, while the 78 RPM record becomes more and more out dated. * The first Polaroid Land camera goes on sale in New York. * There are now about 1,000,000 television sets in the United States. The department of Commerce determined there are about 90,067 movie theaters in 116 nations around the world with a seating capacity of 48.7 million.
* The minimum wage was raised from $0.40 to $0.47 per hour.
[The 1989  photo above is of Coloma, MI, Main Street. It’s an image that hasn’t changed (except for the automobile model dates) since I lived there as a child and walked to school along the sidewalk at left. Our house was-is on the left side of the street, about 3-4 blocks away.]

29 January 1949,  6 yr. 6 mo
“Larry lost his first baby tooth- lower right hand.”

Reminiscing about American history
Its interesting to look back on this period and see how the  American social fabric became ‘enriched’.  Until I was about eight or nine years old, I honestly don’t remember seeing any other races of people than ‘white’ and a few Negro’s.  Negroes were seldom encountered at school and when they were, they were always very poor and kept to themselves. Of course, in movie theater newsreels, we occasionally saw Indians sauntering around on their poverty stricken reservations, Mexicans, who lived in boarder towns of the American Southwest, and an occasional Oriental.  Putting some perspective on these times, prior to my birth in 1942, it had only been:
1)  30 years since ‘wild and woolly’ Arizona became a state;
2)  50 years since the last of the western ‘Indian Campaigns;
3)  90 years since Pioneers streamed west in wagon trains on the California and Oregon Trails.
By the 1940s, the United States had been settled and industrial expansion was under way across the breadth of the land. The United States had became a focus for immigration from all over the world, no longer just a European dream.
During the previous century, the  early waves of immigrants had ‘melted’ into the national fabric, the new immigrants, from Exotic lands in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, India, Central and South America, and Asia didn’t really adopt our culture.
Negro Americans poured out of the old South into northern cities and to the west coast looking for jobs. Mexicans and other Hispanics streamed  north into the US, resettling and growing in number on the periphery of the ‘white neighborhoods’.  As the decades passed and these people moved around in the USA, fewer and fewer were opting to give up their previous cultural heritage.
Maintaining an ‘identity’ is indeed admirable, but in doing so these new immigrants began changing America, the very culture that they found so admirable in which to relocate. Their visibility and collective voices grew and changed dramatically during the last half of the 20th century. The United States did not become a better place to live as dissension between the racial groups flourished; each espousing their Constitutional Rights over every item of trivia, every slight perceived injustice.

17-21 July: Vacation to Niagara Falls
[Robert]  [Almost 7 years old] “At this time Larry and Linda took their first real vacation.  We visited Elizabeth and Bill (my brother) at Royal Oak, Michigan.  From there we traveled north to Port Huron to cross over into Canada on the Bluewater International Bridge.  From there we traveled across Canada to Niagara Falls.  The kids were not too impressed with the spectacle but were rather young yet to really understand.  From there we drove along Lake Erie then Buffalo, Cleveland, South Bend and home. Both kids were very good.”

I remember our family vacation to Niagara Falls quite well. The falls were an awesome sight to see. A large river of water pouring over the crest of the falls and dropping into rocks with a mighty roar.  A cloud of mist hung in the air amongst a jumble of rocks at the base of the falls.  We drove for a long time inorder to visit the splendor of Niagara Falls.  Yet once there all we did was look at the falls from a guard rail, we didn’t take the boat ride that approached the base of the falls for a close up look.  Part of the expense of the ride was the rental of raincoats, all of which apparently ‘cost too much’.  I really don’t understand why after making a 98% effort to get to Niagara we didn’t go the extra 2% for a truly memorable experience.

The fish bone story
One Saturday afternoon while the family sat around the dining table eating a fish dinner:  Linda and I carefully picked bones out of the fish on our plates, then chewed the meat slowly inorder to find and remove any other bones before daring to swallow.  Dad, seeing that we kids were falling behind in our meal, decided to give us a demonstration on “how to eat fish”. As we looked on, Dad speared a piece of fish on his plate with a fork and promptly popped it in his .mouth.  After only partially chewing the fish he swallowed and immediately began to choke.  With Dad choking and clutching his throat he and Mom jumped up from the table and quickly hurried out the door to the doctors office, where he had a fish bone dislodged from his throat.  As our parents rushed away, Linda and I sat the table looking at one another, smirking slightly to ourselves while continuing to smugly, but cautiously eat our fish dinner.
In the years that followed, whenever the family had fish for dinner, one family member would always point out how we should take time to look for the bones and chew our food carefully before swallowing, the warning was always followed by a little “choking cough”.  We never -ever-heard any more from Dad on the topic.

[The image above was photcopied from the birthday card given me by my parents.]

Memories of the Telephone System ,  1949
During the early years of my life, having a telephone in the house was considered a convenience, but not a necessity. If a person really needed to make a phone call, they could use the neighbors phone and pay them for the cost of the call. As it is in other times, one respects their neighbors privacy, so borrowing the use of their telephone was limited, as was receiving calls through the neighbors.
Soon after moving into the Shoup house in Coloma, Mom and Dad had their first telephone installed. Linda and I were admonished not to use  the telephone with out specific permission, not to answer it when other numbers were being rung, or listen in while our party line was in use.
Both my grandparents family’s,  already had telephone service in their rural home’s for several years.
It seemed that all we used our new telephone for was to occasionally speak with relatives and for very few local calls. Actually the phone was used so infrequently that when it rang in the evening, Mom and Dad would sit momentarily petrified, looking at one another and at the telephone, as one or the other said, “Oh ohhh. I hope it’s not bad news.” or “Oh ohh. I hope everything is alright.”, before rising to answer the call.
The telephone service industry, still in an early state of development, didn’t have the rapid communications capabilities that would follow in the decades ahead.  Factory workers didn’t have easy access to telephones at their place of employment so few phoned home. During the 1940s people seldom called to wile away the time chatting. When I was a child, about the only voices I ever heard on the other end of the phone line were those of my relatives or maybe the doctor returning a call.

This was a time when brown and blackish creosoted telephone poles and electric poles stood along the major highways and local roads throughout the country. The tall dark poles with wooden cross members supported from one to perhaps a couple dozen black utility wires.  The poles and wires, were seen as a sign of progress. They were satisfying symbols that spread from horizon to horizon across the landscape and came down the street connecting your house to the telephone and electric service.

Local telephone numbers were placed by dialing a number, often no more than four digits long; for example, 2486.
Back in the 1920s, during my parents youth, all telephone calls went through the local “Operator”, but by the late 1940s, local calls could be dialed direct. Telephone calls going out of the immediate area, but which were still geographically close, required an extra one digit prefix, i.e. 7-2486. All long distance calls were placed through the Operator, which was reached by simply dialing “O”. Besides placing long distance telephone calls, the Operator cheerfully  assisted callers in finding local numbers in her small telephone directory. Operator assistance was a service for which there was no charge.

The black cat story and nightmare
One late summers night, I  was sent to bed just as Mom and Dad were about to sit down and listen to Mystery Theater on the radio.  Though it was late, I wasn’t tired and wanted to hear the half hour program.  Cautious, so as not to make any noise, I opened my bedroom floor register and laid on the floor with my ear to the grate. The sound of the radio program filled the lower floor of the house and drifted up through the register and into my ear.
That night’s mystery story  was about spine tingling tale of murder and supernatural revenge.
As it so happened, a greedy person killed a friend for money. The spirit of the dead person came back to life in the body of a black cat.  This spirit sought revenge for the murder of its human body.  One night, the spirit-cat crept silently into the boarding house where the killer slept. It hurried through the dim light and between shadows, climbed the stairs and explored  the rooms on each floor until it found his room.  Then the black cat gently climbed onto the sleeping killers bed and crept toward his face.  Ever so gently, it laid across the man’s face purposefully covering his mouth and nose. As the minutes passed the killer was suffocated to death in his sleep.
With its revenge complete, the black cat sprung from the bed and leapt from the boarding house window. The cat was killed by a several story fall into the concrete alley below.  As the cat laid dying, its body changed back into that of the friend who’d been initially murdered.

During the next couple weeks I had nightmares about this story nearly every night. Street lamps  near our house cast the shadow of tree limbs on m y bedroom wall.  When I went to bed, I’d see the shadows. When I’d awaken from the reoccurring  nightmare, I would lay in bed frightened, watching the shadows for movement, a sure sign of imminent, malevolent danger.  Aggravating the whole affair was a stove polish advertisement I saw every day on my route to school. Walking to school I passed The Coloma Repair shop. And what do you suppose was set up for advertisement in the window, but containers of Black Cat stove polish which displayed a black cat.  It was bad enough worrying about that spirit-cat under the covers of my bed, then seeing it on the advertisement was too much. After a couple days I began turning my head and looking the other way as I walked past the shoe shop.

15 October: Starting piano lessons
[Robert]  “Larry started taking piano lessons with Miss Furmen. She lives about a block away.”

First bout with precognition
During Fall while attending Second Grade, I had an interesting precognitive experience. It occurred during morning recess. I was standing beside the school’s football field with a classmate watching  about a dozen Fifth of Sixth Grade boys playing touch football. The fellow I was standing beside pulled a pocket knife out of his pants pocket, opened the blade and began flipping the knife  to make it stick in the ground. I didn’t have a pocket knife of my own so asked if I could look at his. When he handed me the knife, I opened a couple of the other blades keenly interested in the can opener, bottle opener, and the smaller pen blade. For a moment I became lost in the experience of holding and looking at the knife.
A commotion on the football field brought back my attention and made me look up. Out on the field, the football was being carried by a boy, members of the other team were running diagonally across the field to stop him. Suddenly, I knew that the boy who was being chased  would bump into me and that I’d be cut by the knife. It was as not as though someone told me what would happen. I experienced the moment of impact before it happened: There was the inevitable mental state of confusion from being knocked off balance, loosing my footing and the pinch on my finger.
With a forewarned sense of disaster and the event still unfolding, I rapidly began folding down the knife blades. Just as the large blade was being closed, the boy running with the ball was pushed across the side line and bumped into me. My finger got caught  between the handle and the closing blade, and pinched me from the impact. I reeled backwards, dropped the knife and ran toward the school crying.
I ran across the playground looking at my finger then looking up at the school, running and crying, clutching my right index finger with my left hand. As I ran, I became aware of the fact that I was barely bleeding, my finger hurt more from squeezing it than from being slightly cut. I was scared and confused by the whole affair, because I knew I would be bumped and cut before it actually happened. I knew that  you can’t know things before they happen, things weren’t suppose to work that way.

14 November: Progress on the piano
[Robert]  “To date Larry has had five lessons and Miss Furmen says he does exceptionally well.  He is her youngest pupil by three grades.  (Larry is now in Second grade).  Hazel is learning to play also and no doubt the tremendous help she gives Larry shows up while playing for his teacher.  We bought a awfully good piano for only $25.00.”

Movies, 1949
Amongst the movies I remember the family seeing this year were;
Samson and Delilah with Victor Mature, Hedy Lamarr, George Sanders, Angela Landsbury
She Wore A Yellow Ribbon with John Wayne, Ben Johnson, Victor McLaglen, John Agar
The following two Tarzan movies were in rerun at the Loma theater in Coloma:
Tarzan, The Apeman (1932) with Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan, Neil Hamilton
Tarzan and His Mate (1936) with Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan, Neil Hamilton
Twelve O’Clock High with Gregory Peck, Richard Anderson, Lawrence Dobkin

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Filed under Autobiography, __2. Childhood: 1942-1963

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