Chapter 1953, age 10-11

Themes and Events:
* Jonas Sauk announces the first successful vaccine against poliomyelitis. During the previous year 50,000  Americans were struck by polio, 3,300 died from a Polio epidemic that peaked in the  U.S.A.  from 1942 to 1953. During the epidemic there were periodic forced closings of swimming pools, movie theaters, and other places where children gathered in large numbers.
* The 29,000 foot high, Mount Everest, was successfully climbed for the first time by Edmund Hillary, Tensing Norkay and a Nepalese tribesman.
* The Soviet Union explodes its first Hydrogen bomb. Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin dies. Queen Elizabeth II ascends to the throne inGreat Britain.
* Televisions are now in 60% of all American homes; the first issue of TV Guide is published. The wide
screen Cinemascope process for making and showing movie, begins to rapidly  expand in theaters. Low cost aerosol cans become common place dispensing everything from dessert toppings to oil based paint. Sales of the game Scrabble make it one of the best selling board games in history. Playboy Magazine goes into publication with a nude photo of actress, Marilyn Monroe.
[Photo above left: A school picture of me, in ’53.]

Eisenhower and a booming America
On January 20 General Dwight Eisenhower, was inaugurated as President of the United States.  During World War II, ‘Ike’ became popular as the supreme commander of the Allied Forces. Eisenhower was nearly bald; a mild mannered man with a big friendly and warm smile.  Ike liked to play golf, so the most common image we, the public, had of him was as he puttered around out on the golf green.  At the time golf was a leisure sport of the ‘well to do’.  America was booming industrially and these were good times. Perhaps with everything going so good for us, we didn’t need the image of a “working” President. Eisenhower’s Vice-President was Richard Milhouse Nixon.

Personality clashes on the farm
In the spring of 1953 while after living on the farm all winter there occurred two sad personality clashes. During these brief periods, the inevitable friction caused by two families living together flared into arguments; unfortunately my behavior was a catalyst for one of these quarrels.

On one warm, early spring afternoon, I went outdoors to play. In doing so I did not wear my rubber goulashes to protect my shoes from becoming muddy. Mom saw me outside without my rubber boots and called me in to put them on. I didn’t do what I was told,  but continued playing. A few minutes later Mom came out and scolded me for not obeying her instructions, then Dad came to the window and shouted at me. With the threat of a spanking rapidly becoming a possibility, I began to cry.
Between Mom and Dad yelling at me and my crying, Grandma was drawn out onto the back porch to see what was the matter. When Grandmother didn’t see why Mom and Dad were getting so excited about getting mud on my shoes, she jumped into the situation on my side. Then tempers really boiled over. I was immediately sent to bed, in Grandpa’s room although it was only the middle of the afternoon. Then a yelling match developedbetween the adults down in the kitchen. Later, when things quieted down, Dad came upstairs and whipped my butt good.

In the second altercation, Grandma and Mom got into an argument in the kitchen. Grandpa, Dad, Linda and I were seated on the couch in the front room watching a weekend TV program when suddenly the yelling suddenly started. We immediately quit watching our program and sat apprehensively looking at one another and toward the kitchen where all hell was breaking loose. No one moved or spoke as we tried to make sense of what was going on. Finally, Mom came running out of the kitchen, through the dining room and into the front room with Grandma right on her tail.
Grandma was mad and was yelling, “This is my house and I’m not going to be told what to do in it.” Mom was crying. It was a very sad occasion, doubly so because I hated to see my Mother and Grandmother, both of whom I loved so very much, angry with one another.

A family temper trait?
There seemed to be a predisposition toward a rather quick temper that has come down the family line. This disposition to “fly off the handle” over  misunderstandings or other occasional trivia is directed at family members, not unrelated persons. The route followed by this trait seems to have come through
Great-grandmother, Anna Flora Anderson Grubb to her daughter, my Grandma, Elsie Grubb Pierce, then to my Dad, Robert F. Pierce, and unto me. Except for a child getting a cuff upside the head or a smack on the rear end — just to make the threat more real — I’ve never heard of or seen any violence from these  momentary tempers flare-ups. I think that in me this trait was more prominent
in my younger years, for having grown to middle age I seldom become angry[1]….and later still, at age 69, I no longer seem to get angry over anything, simply feel sad or have hurt feelings.

Swinging on broken tree limbs
On the Fourth of July holiday, my aunts, uncles and all the grandchildren gathered at the farm. As was usual, the adults were all in the house. The women in the kitchen each putting together a different course for the evening meal. The men were seated in the front room watching a sports activity on TV.

Meanwhile, we grandchildren were behind the barn climbing on Grandpa’s large scrap lumber pile, climbing trees, etc. As we played, I found several partially broken Maple or Oak branches. Normally these branches stood out from the tree above our heads, but broken they hung down to where we could reach them. What was particularly opportune about this was, that these branches hung down right over the top of the ravine that ran along and behind the barn. After selecting the strongest branch and giving it a test tug, to make sure it wouldn’t break, I swung out over the ravine and it’s mucky spring water bottom.

After several of us tried out our new swing and finding it fun, ran to the house to fetch our parents so they could see our neat invention. None of the adults were interested in our new “Tarzan vine” particularly if they had to expend the energy get up and go outdoors. However, after persistent and prolonged nagging by us kids, the eight adults finally gave in and traipsed out. We guided them across the farm yard, behind the barn, through waist high weeds, to a good vantage point beside the gully.

Since I had found the branches, was eldest and instigated the affair, I got to swing first. I took hold of the limb and backed up the hill, then, with a mighty lunge took off in an arc over the gully. Midway in my flight, the broken limb came free. With the limb still clutched in my hands, I continued flying outward and down, through smaller branches, finally descending into the gully and landing in the mud. A little shaken and disoriented, but mostly embarrassed, I crawled back up the slope and out through the brush.

Once everyone saw I was all right, the adults laughter and chides began, shaking their heads and laughing they turned away and walked back to the house.
We didn’t swing on broken tree limbs after that!
Some forty years later, my Uncle Bill still remembered that episode an brought it up to me, we both had a good chuckle.

Moving toArizona
During the summer of 1953, the family moved to Tucson, Arizona, where Dad had found employment at Hughs Aircraft Company in Tucson.

One late afternoon during the trip we encountered a quite scary dust storm.. We’d stopped for supper in a small town in either Kansas or Oklahoma, after the meal we turned  south off the main street and proceeded out of town. Lurking at medium distance was a huge ominous dark cloud, that sat upon the ground and extended from horizon to horizon. As we drove closer, the dust cloud loomed higher, finally enveloping us in a very low visibility swirling brown environment of low visibility. When we arrived in Arizona, Dad had to file a claim with the auto insurance company as the car’s wind shield was pitted.
Above, an Internet image, ca 1935: This ominous wall of billowing sand  is very similar in look to the storm  we encountered.

For the rest of the summer and briefly into the school year we rented and lived in a duplex. Dad found employment as an electrician at Hughes Aircraft Company south of the city.  Living in Arizona was a lot different than Michigan. Arizona was hot and dusty, there were the brown looking Mexican people who spoke Spanish, there were odd looking animals, and equally odd looking plants.

One evening around 8:00PM while Dad was at work, Mom, Linda and I were in the front room listening to the radio, coloring and playing. Mom got up and walked into the kitchen for something. Suddenly, in a very excited voice Mom called me. Somewhat apprehensive, I jumped up and ran to her as she backed out of the kitchen pointing to a corner of the floor.

Talk about surprise! Running back and forth along the bottom of the door was a huge, ugly twelve to fifteen inch long brownish-yellow centipede.  The miniature monster ran on dozens of legs which extended out from along the sides of its body, each leg ended in a sharp looking point; the creature also appeared to have pinchers at both ends. This was not the kind of thing we were use to seeing back east. Mom watched it for a moment, then determining it wasn’t going to attack, she hurried across the room and opened the door. The centipede ran outdoors and disappeared into the dusk. That episode taught us to on the alert for Arizona’s exotic and potentially poisonous insect life. As the weeks, then years passed, I found Arizona’s desert environment an interesting place to live and explore.

Memories of the Telephone System, 1953 [2]
The only problem I could find with the telephone service in the early 1950s was that nearly everyone still shared a “party line” with one or two other families. In order to identify which family was receiving a call, the phone had a ringing code; for example, one family might have two short rings, a second family on that line might have two long rings, while a third family might have one long and one short ring. Everyone on the party line heard the ringing, but only the family whose code was rung was suppose to answer the telephone. Occasionally, a person confused the code and answered someone else’s call.

The real problem was with the busy bodies” who would quietly and carefully pick up the phone and listen in on the party line conversation. I think everyone did this in varying degrees so no call was really considered private.
Anyway, when a “busy body” picked up the phone, you could almost always hear a tell tale “click,” occasionally you’d hear a radio or children talking in their background. Also, if you were on the phone more than a couple minutes, invariably, someone from the party line would pick up their phone and sarcastically say, “Hurry up!” or “Get off the line! Other people want to use the phone!”
Through the decade of the 1950s, all the residential telephones I recall seeing were of the substantially built, heavy duty, glossy black and rotary dial variety.
As the 1940s gave way to the 1950s, telephone numbers were lengthened a digit or two. Inorder to help people remember all the numbers, the first two digits were said as an alphanumeric code, for example, EDgewood 2486 would be dialed, ED-2486. The pneumonic made it a lot easier to remember those long strings of numbers. As telephone service penetrated suburban America, “private lines” replaced  the party line and it became more and more common for chatty conversations. As the number of telephones increased, the telephone company adopted seven digit phone numbers, for example, 387-2486. The seven digit number persisted into the 1990s.

Grandma and Grandpa Pierce visit Arizona
A few weeks after we moved to Arizona, Grandma and Grandpa Pierce drove out  to visit on an extended vacation. They rented a furnished apartment in Tucson and immediately began seeing the sights. Both were very taken with the Arizona desert with its rugged hills, mountains, vegetation and the beautiful sunsets.

As a hobby, both Grandparents began learning to draw desert scenes. Grandma bought a box of artist quality pastel chalks and several related instruction books. Grandpa bought a professional watercolor set. Both bought artists tripods, canvas stools and the appropriate drawing paper.  When they were not with us they were learning to draw or at some location in the desert creating images.

Grandpa Pierce’s drawing
Years, after Grandpa Glen’s death, in 1959, when I’d grown to adulthood, Grandma Elsie, gave me a water color painting that Grandpa had made during a visit to Arizona. Description: In the five by seven inch painting, the observer is looking across the desert toward a reddish yellow sunset. In mid-distance are the coarse outlines of brushy vegetation, closer rise the dark silhouettes of several desert palm. For years I kept the painting in my Baby Book, then in 1985, noticing how fragile it had become, I had it professionally mounted and framed. This is the only piece of memobralia that I know to exist, which was touched by and fashioned by Grandpa Glen Pierce’s mind. My Mom and Dad have a framed, small pastel chalk drawing made by Grandmother Elsie during this same general time period.

My Mom and Dad have a framed, small pastel chalk drawing done by Grandmother Elsie during this same general time period.

Our tract home in south Tucson
After several months we moved into a nice tract home on Rincoln Road.  This was the nicest most modern house we’d lived in to date and was the first time we’d lived in a suburban housing development.  The houses were neatly organized in their tract home community. All were one story ranch style with a light pastel stucco coating exterior. Linda and I were registered at the Peter Howell School.
Photograph at left: The family lived in this tract house at 748 Benton Blvd, Tucson, AZ, located on the south side of the  city, while Dad worked at Hughes Aircraft Company. My bedroom was located in the rear left corner seen here.

A block from our house
was a forty to sixty acre parcel of undeveloped desert that was fun to explore.
It didn’t take long to learn about “jumping” Cholla cactus, Prickly Pear cactus, scorpions, tarantula’s, Velvet ants, centipedes, Black Widow spiders and many other dangerous or potentially dangerous denizens of the desert.

The desert had a wonderful earthy smell when wet. The hours just after a rain were quite enjoyable, the break in the desert heat appreciated by man and the little beasties. Immediately after an infrequent Arizona rain, all the insects would come out of their holes and hiding places and creep around darting this way and that across the desert.

On occasion several neighborhood playmates and I had rock fights with some older kids in the nearby desert. One group would hide around several abandoned and stripped cars, the others would simply stand out in the desert. We were far enough apart where there was little chance of actually being struck by a rock, but there was just enough danger to keep it interesting.

While living in south Tucsonour family attended the St James Methodist church, where Clovis B. Snider was minister.  When we lived in Michigan Mom and Dad would occasionally send me to church alone and periodically they would attend as well.  After moving to Arizona and far from the rest of the family, we began attending church more frequently — as a family.

Movies that I saw alone or with a friend this year;
Abbott and Costello Go To Mars with Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Mari Blanchard
Shane with Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, Brandon DeWilde

Movies the family saw together (parents choice);
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Charles Coburn
King of the Khyber Rifles with Tyrone Power, Terry Moore, Michael Rennie, John Justin
Niagara with Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotton, Jean Peters, Casey  Adams
The Living Desert An interesting science documentary of animal life and survival in the southwestern American desert.
The Robe with Richard Burton, Jean Simmons, Victor Mature, Jay Robinson

[1]  And  yet much later, being 65 years old at this writing, now retired and having moved to Texas…I find that I really don’t become angry. I’m more prone to sit and listen to the other person and almost do things their way, simply because having things ‘my way’ is no longer as important as it once was. Besides if a person doesn’t like something and can’t solve it, they can simply just move on, why become angry?
[2]  See Journal 14, Trace of the Temporal Visitor, page 2744, “My “Memories of the Telephone System.”

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Filed under Autobiography, __2. Childhood: 1942-1963

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