Chapter 1951, age 8-9

Themes and Events
* The Univac 1  (filling the entire  room in photo at left) and Ferranti Mark 1  were the first commercially manufactured computers put into use, they were used at the U.S. Census Bureau and at Manchester University in England, respectively.
* The term “rock ‘n’ roll” was coined to describe the Rhythm and Blue songs that became popular amongst white youth.
* Paperback books enjoy a boom year in sales, leading an increasing number of publishers start their own “softback” lines.
* The Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb.

End of the piano lessons
When I first began taking piano lessons, I enjoyed the novelty, but as the months passed, having to practice scales and play the same monotonous tunes every day became drudgery.  During the summer months, when my friends came over to play touch football, in our rather large side yard, I had to sit in the house and practice the piano.  I don’t know why I wasn’t allowed to play outside first, then do the piano practice routine when my friends were gone.  Never-the-less, in the fullness of time, Mom grew tired of her practice too, so, much to my relief the piano lessons and dreary daily practice were terminated. Amen.

Our east coast vacation
During the summers of 1950 and 1951, our family took vacations to the eastern seacoast. The trips, made in our new car, resulted in visiting many very interesting historical sites which were all related to either the Anglo colonization of America,  Revolutionary War or the Civil War.  Although I’m unable to unravel in my mind the order of our travels during these vacations, we visited such places as: Fort Ticonderoga; Kennebunkport, Maine; Boston; the Pilgrim’s Plimoth Plantation by Plymouth, MA;  Valley Forge, PA; many historic buildings and alleys in Philadelphia;  the Capitol building and monuments in Washington, DC;  Kings Mountain Battlefield; Bunker  Hill; Jamestown and  Williamsburg, VA; the Smokey Mountains; and New Orleans.

Southern racial attitudes
During one vacation, after touring Civil War battlefields in Virginia, we drove across several southern states enroute to New Orleans. When we stopped for gasoline I saw an unusual, but not unheard of sight: Southern gas stations had two drinking fountains along the side of the building, not one, like we had at gas stations at home in Michigan. The taller, clean and snow white porcelain drinking fountain was labeled “White”. The other, a short, very dirty old fountain was labeled “Negro”. The gas stations also had three bathrooms labeled:  1) White – Men,  2) White – Women  and  3) Negro.

In context of “modern” attitudes, the social attitudes of the South seem very prejudiced. However, looking at the situation from the viewpoint of a 1950s southerner, forty years earlier Negros weren’t even provided “facilities” and eighty five years earlier they’d been slaves. There was always progress being made toward “equality”. The rate of progress just wasn’t fast enough for some Negros, particularly one’s who found they could capitalize on the evolving status quo, to their own social and economic gain. Today’s Negro heroes and leadership, including, Reverend Martin Luther King, Rev. Jessie Jackson, Malcolm X, and others sprung from their scurrying between one Black – White social confrontation and another, between one photo-op and the next.

Care and cleaning of the Chevrolet
Where ever we traveled, we stopped to see the museums associated with historic attractions.  We slept in motels at night and spent our days traveling between points of interest.  Often when we took our motel room early in the afternoon, Dad used the opportunity to wash and “shammy” the Chevrolet before the family went out for supper.  Mom and Dad took good care of the car and it lasted them many years.

Tonette class
During Third Grade I learned to play the “tonette”, an instrument very similar to the English Recorder.  I did quite well in Mr. Otto J. Hara’s music class, because I could already read music from my “old, piano playing days”.

The Sunday School blaas
Often on Sunday mornings during good weather, Mom and Dad would send me to Sunday School alone. I had to ‘dress up in slacks and wear a white shirt with small bow tie. The outfit looked odd to me and the bowtie was tight and pinched my neck. I think I rationalized those occassional Sundays, supposing one might as well be dressed uncomfortably for a chore whose purpose you don’t understand and which you really don’t want to do!
Ha! I never thought about it until later years, but suppose Mom and Dad shuttled me out of the house so they could return to bed for sex. At the time, Linda was still very young so it would have been easy to keep her distracted and occupied, but they knew I was inquisitive… and nosy.
Occasionally, the rest of the family would show up for church services which was even worse, because it stretched the hour for Sunday School into nearly two hours with the addition of Sunday morning worship services.
I was bored to death and died a million times, sitting through those long eloquent sermons when there was so much to do outdoors!

Adventures in Storyland
Our Third Grade Music Class put on a play for the community, entitled “Adventures in Storyland’.  We “actors” had simple, homemade costumes appropriate for our parts.  I played one of a half dozen “milkweeds” who sang a nursery rhyme. On the night of our grand performance, the short musical play was fun, but standing infront of an auditorium filled with people, was scary.

A game I learned from my Mom and played on occassion with Linda or classmates at school was the game of Rock-Paper-Scissors.  In the game, two children count to three and simultaneously present their right hand which must be formed in one of three particular shapes: 1) a ‘fist’ signifies an imaginary rock, 2) an ‘open flat hand’ represents a piece of paper or 3) the index and middle finger open while the thumb, 4th and 5th finger are closed to imitate ‘scissors’. The winner is determined by noting: rock smashes (beats) scissors, scissors cut (beats) paper and paper wraps (beats) rock. So each object beats one object but loses to another. When in my middle childhood years this was a fun game to occassionally play.

By 1951, I was old enough to be allowed to attend the Saturday afternoon movie matinee by myself. The Loma Movie theater was located on Main Street, only two or three blocks from our house. The main feature always had an associated cartoon, a newsreel and a “cliff hanger serial” movie. Admissions to the matinee admission cost 25¢ and my box of unbuttered popcorn cost 10¢.

Movies I saw by myself or with a friend (my choice);
Superman and the Mole Men with George Reeves, Phyllis Coates, Jeff Corey
The Red Badge of Courage with Audie Murphy, Bill Mauldin, John Dierkes, Royal Dano

Movies that the family saw together (parents choice);
Captain Horatio Hornblower with Gregory Peck, Virginia Mayo, Robert Beatty
David and Bathsheba with Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward, Raymond Massey
Jim Thorpe-All American with Burt Lancaster, Charles Bickford, Phyllis Thaxter
Quo Vadis with Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, Peter Ustinov
The Great Caruso with Mario Lanza, Ann Blythe, Dorothy Kirsten
Westward The Women with Robert Taylor, Denise Darcel, Hope Emerson, John McIntire

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Filed under Autobiography, __2. Childhood: 1942-1963

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