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21 July 1979
So they were married, where I don’t know, probably St. Casimir. Again I’m fuzzy on details. They lived in that back house on Weil street right after marriage or on Brenan street between Wright and Meinecke (then called Lee street). It was there that Bernice was born in 1912 (Aug. 3) and two years later I came along on Aug. 14, 1914 born in that same house. Selma must have been born there too but I don’t know. She was born Oct 19, 1915 followed by Herbert on Feb. 16, 1916. On we moved to 3330 N. Pierce St. (then 1438) in 1918. I was four then and remember only that I could see the nickel knobs on the gas stove in the kitchen. The house had three bedrooms with a big bathroom upstairs and a big kitchen, dining room and two “front” rooms downstairs. It was a frame house with a tall basement and with a boiler and hot water heat. There was a very scary toilet down there that served only when we were in a condition of “had to go”. I think Pa bought it for $3500 from people I remember as Berry or Barry (?) There were other detail like a big pantry and closet and a vestibule in front all of which disappeared in a remodeling Pa arranged just about 1929 - the year of the big crash. Another story that George and Jeannette were born in that house. I remember getting up to “go” at the very moment the midwife was carrying Jeanette to the bath tub. We crossed paths-the midwife did whatever she did and I did my thing then went to bed again. Impressed as hell. The next morning there was Jeanette in the family. Big deal for me that’s all I know.
Back to me now. Some of the remembrances I have. Most of them trivial I suppose.
The house was in a German neighborhood. Starkes to the South then the Tyrzyuski’s and further on South the Boelkes, then a grocer, Weiss, then the Winklewski’s and then Gennrichs saloon and bowling alley. The “school” clock comes from that saloon. It hung over the bar. Sniff close and you’ll smell the ages of beer, booze and cigar smoke it soaked up.
To the north were the Froemings. (Mrs. Froeming was a pillar of strength in emergencies when Ma fell apart). Then across the alley the Kofelers [?]. On the east across the alley were the Lamsters. Mr. Lamster worked at Warden Allen in the powerhouse and was greatly admired because “he” pulled the cord that blew the whistle on New year’s Eve. I also was introduced to auto mechanics when I helped him install a brake stop light on his Model T. That light was a marvel in its day. I don’t know how many brake shoes he wore out demonstrating how that fantastic thing worked, but we all were impressed by the fact that that light would signal when he braked and thus prevent accidents. (We didn’t say tail enders then.) Then there were the DuPays precisely east across the alley. He was a big florid faced fat guy who drove a big new Buick and oiled the overhead valves every Sunday on that big six. Pa shook his head about the ---- job. Mrs. DuPay (the second) was a scary witchy looking gal we avoided. There was also a crybaby daughter Audrey, who was miniature of her father.
Then the Prien’s [sp?]. He was an avid Socialist and Ma hated him because he delivered the Milwaukee Leader (a labor and socialist rag) on Sundays. All other papers were also delivered on Sundays but he peddled that rag and so he was desecrating the Sabbath. The Protestants in those days cut grass and did yard work when all good Catholics were at Mass. Some were Masons to boot and that made the offense even more vile. Of course Ma told them off, what else?
And on to the Striblings, known for a good apple tree and a consumptive daughter. The then Irish Beyers. Ma Beyer baked fabulous chocolate cakes in a sloppy kitchen. There was a pretty daughter and Mike, called Mikey - my buddy. Then the Voights, German of course and talented as hell. They all wore glasses and looked intelligent. The boy spoke a fluent German, the girl played the piano and one was a teacher. They were all so “cool” we hardly saw them and just never played with them. We were just below them - I mean everybody was. So we just ignored those snooty creeps. And on the corner were the Goertz’s, Mrs. Goertz had some fine apple trees in the lot next door and a fine garden. She gave us all the apples we could eat so it was no fun to “raid” her trees. Also she had only one arm. A wondrous thing.
Across the street to the NW there were the Fribergs and Kronbergs - Lithuanian. Mr. Friberg made everything big and husky. His fence was heavy and the yard swing he made was massive and everything was painted barn red. The women folks made rag rugs in a tidy shed on the alley. The Kronbergs had three kids, Elsie, Albert, and Raymond. Ray was weird but turned out all right. Albert was in the army and died in service. His funeral was from the house. It was the first military funeral I’d seen. The big flag impressed me and old John always hung it out on holidays like the 4th of July.
I remember how old John packed me into his Chevrolet with 3 other of his cronies for a trip to Waupun prison. We went through “O can --------------[?]” and drank some of his delicious home brew that had little things floating in the bottles. They talked in German and I looked at the scenery. Now and then Mr. Friberg would remove his curved stinky pipe from below a big heavy mustache and would ask me “You like ride?” I answered Ja and he then returned to puffing his Peerless.
In those days before supermarkets, family stores were everywhere. In our neighborhood we had Sommer’s, Weisse’s, Wenzel’s, TK and further away the A&P, Golden’s and Schroeder’s. Meat markets were around too as were three bakeries. The bakery on Booth and Auer was a favorite. “ Schneck’s” were 2 dozen for 25 cents.
Saloons were also around (at least until prohibition), Genrich’s with a bowling alley and Belot’s across the street. There must have been others but since Pa was a not a drinking man I don’t remember.
I first went to school to the Fratney St. School which is still there. When it came time for Holy Communion Ma transferred me (and Bernice) to St. Mary Czestahowa on Burleigh and Fratney. It’s still there but the church then was part of the school (or the other way around). Now there is a “new” church resembling Christ King’s, though built first.
Some of my teachers - Miss Kwolinamn[?] , Miss Shermerrer at Fratney and Sisters Stanislaus, my favorite, Emmaroma, Bernadine, Teresa, Ludwicka, a red head we found out. They are still around some of then at Elm Grove, but I suspect most of them have passed on to a well deserved reward. Those were hard days.
I graduated in 1928. There’s a picture of that group somewhere. I have a pin dated ‘28 in my collection. It fastened a ribbon, white and yellow I think, which we wore as graduates. The whole affair is memorable to me only because it marked the first time I had a suit with long and short pants. All suits had two pair of pants then. I recall how I chewed up those knickers so as to get at the long pants. Never again did I wear short pants. If you knew my mother you'd know what a triumph that really was. I revolted too against the “Buster Brown” shirts she made me wear. Beauties they must have been since she was seamstress but to me her collars were wide and rounded and the cloth of rebellion was a pink chiffon left over from the “girls” dress also sewn by Mom. I was my own man once I wore out my knickers (I wore them below the knees to tear them up). Once a guy got to long pants a lot of things happened. He got to wear short stockings instead of the long black lisle stockings. This meant he no longer had to wear those hated garters fastened to a vest-like thing called a “Stavick” in Polish. Shoes were still high tops called “bicycle”. You can see them in the Sears catalog of 1927.
We wore longies in the winter and they doubled as pajamas. We must have smelled sweet? These longies were buttoned up the front and had a trap door in the rear seat. We called it a “clappa”. It was fastened by two buttons in the corners. Often the button would be missing and the clappa would droop and give a guy a cold ass, and the roll of cloth gave the distinct impression that he had unloaded prematurely. As a matter of record two of the kids in our gang did so with same regularity. One we called “shitki four”. He stayed outside until his mother saw substances leaking down his legs. A disturbed kid we’d call him today. Actually he was having fun and couldn’t bother. We used to tell him to run home when he kind of bent over and got a kind of glazed look for a moment or two but we were too late. We played on, with him to the lee of the wind. To get down wind from him and the other guy was the occasion for some comment. Eddie’s Ma caught up with him because he delivered his duty but walked spraddle legged afterward. Bad tactics.
High school loomed ahead. I wanted to go the Boys Tech but Ma mentioned car fare and how it was a rough house. She prevailed and sent me to what was then newly established high school called Diocesan. It was in the old St. Elizabeth’s grade school now called Harramby. Later the high school moved to Capitol Drive and was called Messmer. Naturally I resented this and jazzed around until Ma finally switched me to Riverside High, called East Division by all of my generation. There too I despised all attempts to education me and dropped out.
So to a job. I got it somehow. It was with Universal Engraving Co. on 13th and Cherry above Krueger Printing Co. I was a messenger delivering cuts[?] to various printers and publishers. I rode street cars all over the city and learned where all the lines and streets were. I also had to sweep the studio and clean glass photo plates. I picked up and interest in photography there. I got $10 a week which was really good since I worked half days and had to go to the Vocational school the other half. At Vocational I took showcard writing, electric wiring and machine shop. All of which helped me but were really diddling around.
As the depression deepened I was laid off, but got another job with Badger State Dental Labs. For $3 per week I delivered false teeth etc. Things were not so good. I had to buy a $1 pass for streetcars so I had $2 left and Ma promptly took it away. Things were rough at home by now. Pa was working short hours and every buck counted. I lost the job as most other kids did and was on the bum but not for long. Pa said “Back to school” and back I went to EDHS. By now I’m older and wiser so I settled down.
In 1934 I graduated with an 81 average. No bad for a dropout but all thru school I wore pants and a suit so shining and varnish laden the pants stood by themselves. I rarely had more than a dime in my pockets and more often than not had no lunch or just bread and butter wrapped in the paper the bread came in, or in newspaper (which I took home for reuse).
Those depression years were something. They marked all of us and we remain marked today. Pa was a proud man who always worked hard and was a good provider who paid his bills on time. When the depression hit in 1930 he had a good job and was making $240 a month. As the depression deepened work fell off and eventually Pa was down to $6 a week. With 6 kids, he and Ma got really desperate. Ma aged a lot and Pa got real quiet and perhaps cynical. He was forced and it hurt him to the quick to apply for aid. We got it like most of the people I knew but it was humiliating and disgraceful. I don’t think Pa ever recovered from the shame of it.
We got flour, yeast, dried prunes and apricots, lard and I don’t know what else, but it all stuck in Pa’s throat I’m sure. But we staggered through. Allis Chalmers sold Pa steam coal cheap and lent him a truck to haul it. I remember driving the truck. I shoveled the box full from a gondola car in the A-C yards. Every damn lump I shoveled on and off that truck into the basement. I was supposed to get a ton but not knowing anything about how much a ton was I ended up loading better than two tons. I recall some sharp remarks made by the A-C people about how much I had loaded but home it went. Whether Pa appreciated the extra amount I’ll never know. Pa was not one to admit anything and I suppose he had reasons for that.
The government had all sorts of programs going in on attempt to resolve the economic problems and one of them was the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). I applied and because we were on relief, I got in. I had just graduated from high school (June 26)? and up I was sent to Minocqua, Wisconsin to Camp Blue Lake 654th Company CCC. My number was CC 6 10 5731 [or CCC 10 5731…ed.]. I was up there only a short time when I was chosen to be Assistant Educational Advisor at $36 per month, up from the normal $30 for enrollees as we were called. Why I was given that job I don’t know but it seems the job fell vacant just before I arrived and since I talked like a school teacher I got the job. Not one of The older enrollees seemed ever to resent a rookie taking over that job so I suppose I was in a sense the last resort or suckered into it. I prefer to think I had something on the ball because later on I got to run the PX units boost in pay to $42 per month. All but $5 went home to help out. Ma sent some back from time to time so I never felt broke. I even managed to save a part of that five to buy Xmas presents for everybody at home. Laugh if you want to but I got Ma a purse and Pa a pocket knife with his name stamped on it. I didn’t know it at the time but some Europeans including Pa never gave knives or sharp thing as gifts. Knives were supposed to sever friendships if gifts. However true this was of Pa I can’t say, but when I got home from Notre Dame many years later he gave it back to me. I’ve lost it since. All the gifts were ordered from Sears and arrived in a box about 8 inches square. Big stuff you see. I felt great about the whole affair.
What did I do in the CC’s? Well as Asst. Ed Advisor I ran the library, lined up some courses like auto mechanics, Spanish etc., none of which really took off because the boys weren’t really interested. When I ran the PX or canteen I had charge of the library, mail and all the candy, beer and soda sales in camp besides care of the building itself, keeping it clean with all kinds of help, and eating mouse-nibbled candy. I’d cut off their share and eat the rest. When I got sick of authority I went into the woods where we built fire breaks, bridges and roads and fought forest fires. We all loafed a lot (we worked 6 hours a day) and ate very well, especially if we were on permanent KP. Finally the Commanding Officer was changed and many of us got sick of him and decided to quit the Corps.
Pa had arranged for me to work at A-C and so in April of ‘35 I left the north woods on North Western Railroad from Woodruff, Wis. It was hard parting from that bunch of buddies, but I was on my way. Lots of guys didn’t connect with jobs for a long time. The depression was fading a bit in ‘35 but wasn’t over yet.
So now I was a working man at Allis Chalmers and I stayed on until June 10, 1937. I will always remember it as St. Margaret’s feast day and here’s why. But first —