Chapter 3-2 (1947-1953) Elementary School Years
Chapter 3 – Elementary School Years
Shortly after Dad and Mom married, they sold the house on Clover Avenue and moved to a much older house at 983 Henry Street in Marion. This was a yellow-two-story house with a front porch that went across the entire front of the house – which wasn’t particularly wide. It was actually a row house and the homes on either side were so close together that you could lean out a side window and touch the next house. An older couple by the name of Bowman lived next door … (they seemed old to us, but they probably were not since they had a teenage son named Harold). In any event, Mrs. Bowman baked the best cakes and always gave a cake to my sister and me. While at this address, I started school and walked about a mile to Oakland Heights Elementary. My best friend at that time was a boy named Dallas James, whose parents owned a small grocery store in the neighborhood. It was in that store, that I saw my first TV set. Unfortunately, Dallas taught me some bad habits. He would engage his Dad in conversation, while I swiped candy bars for us. I even remember our favorite candy bar – Yorkshire Mints. I don’t believe I have ever told anyone about this before. This shoplifting habit came to an abrupt end when I took a couple of comic books home from the barbershop. My Mom asked where I got them. I lied and said the barber gave them to me, but she knew better. She marched me back, made me return them, apologize and sweep the barbershop. This all happened in the first grade. However, it taught me a great lesson. I have never stolen anything since that time.
There were some very mean boys about a block away from us that lived in a run-down shack. I suppose you would have called them “white trash.” They delighted in terrorizing younger children and used to chase me home from school. I remember one afternoon when I ran into the house and shouted to them, “You can’t catch me now!” My dad grabbed me by the collar and threw me outside into the midst of them, declaring that it was about time I learned to take care of myself. Fortunately, Harold from next door stepped in and knocked a few heads together and informed them that from that time on, he was my protector. I never had any more problems with them.
My dad fixed up and restored the home at 983 Henry Street and we moved to 603 Henry Street in a much nicer home. I got my own bedroom. In the first house, I shared a bedroom with my sister. This new house had a refrigerator instead of an icebox and had a basement, which was dark, damp, and full of spiders and cobwebs. The coal furnace was in the basement and needed to be stoked. I learned how to do that, and also how to clean the ash pan and box the ashes. There was an alley behind the house and we had a garage facing the alley. I don’t really remember much about the garage other than Dad did not like to leave his car parked on the street.
We had many things delivered to our house. I remember when the coal truck would back up our driveway beside the house. Now I know why almost all older homes had a driveway right next to the house. My dad or mom would open up a basement window which was covered with a wooden board, prop it up, and the driver of the coal truck would place a chute from the truck into the window and the black, sparkling lumps of coal would slide down into the coal bin in our cellar. The coal bin was a magic place. Coal is not called black diamonds for nothing. Lumps of coal shine and sparkle and coal bins are fun to play in until Mom gets catches you and makes you head to the bathtub. Of course, little boys learn how to make the appearance of bathing without actually doing so. Unfortunately, or maybe, fortunately, my Mom was pretty smart, and she always checked behind the ears and neck, and if she was not satisfied, back to the bath!
It was while living on Henry Street that I remember praying for the first time. I know that my mother had me say my prayers as a child, but the prayer was the usual “Now I lay me down to sleep, etc.” The reason for the prayer was not one of praise, but of desperation and fear. I was playing with a neighbor boy and we got into an argument. I picked up a handful of cinders and threw them in his eyes. It cut his eyes, and I was afraid that I had blinded him and prayed for him. Fortunately, he was OK by the next day.
It was on Henry Street that I held my first job. I was in the second grade and had a paper route. I had one block to deliver the Columbus Dispatch on Sunday. I collected monthly. The paper arrived before dawn on Sunday morning, and I had to have the papers rolled and delivered by 6:00 a.m.
During WWII, a new product had been introduced – oleomargarine. This was a butter substitute. Today, we usually say just margarine, but there are some people who were adults during WWII, that still call it oleo. Well, anyway, the dairy industry would not let margarine be packaged in any way that resembled butter. It was purchased in a plastic bag and was pure white like lard. In the bag was a small capsule of yellow food coloring. You would squeeze the bag with the capsule trapped between your fingers and burst the capsule. Then you would massage the bag until the food coloring had turned the margarine yellow. Then it was removed from the bag and placed in a container that often was a butter mold.
While in elementary school, I started hunting with my Grandpa Jack Chapman. He taught me to shoot a gun and gave me my first rifle, a .22 caliber with an octagonal barrel. We went coon hunting. He raised coon dogs and gave me one of my own, a red-boned hound named Babe. At this time, the Davy Crockett TV show and movie were very popular and the price of a raccoon skin brought up to $25, depending on size.
Coon Skin Cap
For those who have never been coon hunting, let me explain. Sometime after dark, you load the hounds in the car and drive into the country. You turn the dogs loose and then listen for their voices. They bark when they hit a hot trail and then bay all together when they tree the raccoon. You follow the sound to the tree, shoot the raccoon, and put it in a sack for sale.
A good night could earn over $100. However, this is a winter activity and it is very cold. There were times when my hands were so cold that I couldn’t hold the rifle steady. Raccoons were shot with a .22 caliber shell so as not to tear up the hide. We also went to coon-dog field trials. In these, the dogs were in competition. A bag container raccoon scent or a live raccoon in a bag on a rope (before the ASPCA) was dragged behind a man walking through the woods. He laid a trail usually two to three miles long. It ended about 100 yards away from the starting point, but never crossed the trail. At the end of the trail, the scent was rubbed all around the trunk of a tree. This was the finish-line tree. About 50 yards away from the tree, two white flags were planted about 25 feet on each side of the trail. The dogs ran in heats of five to ten dogs. They were taken up to the starting line, held by the owner until the starter either blew a whistle or shot a starting gun. At that point, the dogs were released and started on the trail. The first dog to cross between the two white flags won line and the first to bark on the tree won tree. It was rare to find a dog that would do both well. However, we had a champion red-boned hound named Cherry, who would cross the line barking and never stop. He was a national champion hound and won lots of prize money for Grandpa, especially at the Leafy Oaks field trials in Kenton, Ohio. One night, he was stolen. There was an underground network of hunters, and the word got back to Grandpa Jack that he had been spotted in southern Kentucky. Prize dogs were tattooed inside the ear for identification. Grandpa went to Kentucky, found the sheriff, and got Cherry back. The pictures below include a Bluetick, a Black and Tan, a Redbone a Redtick, a Walker, a Weimaraner, and a trio baying at a treed raccoon – All coonhounds.
As children, my sister and I spent a lot of time with our grandparents Jack and Helen. They lived on Blaine Avenue on the corner of Noonan Court. Grandpa made his own beer and wine in the basement. The basement was always cool, and during the hot summer months, we ate in the basement. There was a girl who lived on the court named Sylvia who was mentally “slow.” She peeped in windows and sometimes when we were eating dinner, we would look up and she would be on her hands and knees in the flowerbed looking through the window. She always asked, “Mrs. Chapman, what are you eating? Grandpa had bought a new car and promised grandma that he wouldn’t let his dogs ride in it. He did let them ride and made me promise I wouldn’t tell. One day Sylvia wanted to see the new car, and she climbed in and announced “Mrs. Chapman, your car smells just like doggie!” Grandpa was in trouble.
Besides the house in town, Grandpa and Grandma had a small 4-acre property out in the country near Essex and Woodland. The property had an old brick schoolhouse, Woodland School. Grandpa kept hunting dogs there, and some chickens and ducks. Eventually, they built a new home on the property and sold the house in town. One day, we were going to have fried chicken, so grandpa brought in a live chicken from the farm. There was a stump of an old willow tree in the backyard. Grandpa got his hatchet and had me hold the chicken on the stump so he could behead it. Every time he would swing the hatchet, I would pull the chicken away. After about five times, he got mad that he grabbed the chicken, cut off its head, and hit me with the chicken. Of course, it was all bloody. When I ran into the house, Grandma took one look at me and screamed. She thought Grandpa had missed and hit me with the hatchet!
The house on the other corner belonged to the Noonan’s, Charlie, and Annie. I have no idea, how old they were, but while we lived there Charlie died. We visited Annie often. She always baked cookies for us and kept a basket of Baby Ruth candy bars, and we would just stay with her and read books and magazines. I think she was grateful for the company. The lady in the house next to was named Ruth and had a daughter that was bedfast with Cerebral Palsy. We would go over and visit occasionally. Ruth had a problem, however. Her favorite meal was Four Roses whiskey. I suppose she was an alcoholic, but to little kids, she was just a jolly lady.
While living in Marion, we were contacted by the LDS Missionaries, Elders Packer, and Stubbs. Elder Glen R. Stubbs went on to be a professor of religion at Ricks College, and Elder Packer a rancher in Montana. We loved those missionaries. My mom and I joined the church. Dad wasn’t interested and my sister was too young. We attended the Marion Branch that met on Main Street in Marion. We met in a rented building between the railroad tracks that we shared with the Seventh-Day Adventists. It was just a couple of buildings from my Uncle Paul Thomas’ butcher shop. Just down the street was the Catholic Church, and for the first time, I saw nuns. My Mom never forgot to remind me how much I embarrassed her by yelling “Mom, Mom, look at the Witches! From that location, our branch moved above the Odd Fellows Lodge on Main Street, near Center. It was soon after this that we moved from Marion to Richwood, and my Mother became inactive in the Church.
In the first grade, I had my first girlfriend, a pretty girl named Ann Moore. I would walk her home from school every day. I had a friend named Mike, and he and I used to make experiments in his basement with his chemistry set. In the second grade, my best friend was Gary Coons. He and I would spend most of our time together. We had a collection of plastic soldiers, both American and German, and many plastic Army vehicles. We would build hills of sand and create mock battles for hours. Gary and I both liked the same girl. Her name was Nancy Creasap and we made up childish poems about her. We would try to walk her home from school but she would hit us on the head with her umbrella. We were broken-hearted when she moved to Arizona, while in grade school.
Gary and I would ride our bicycles to the top of “Cinder Hills” near our homes. Marion was a factory-town and the factories burnt coal. The cinders were hauled to the area we called “Cinder Hills.” The mounds or tills were over 60 feet high and spanned almost a mile. Every kid in the neighborhood played there in spite of the “No trespassing” signs. It was where we played war and Cowboys and Indians and raced and jumped our bicycles. It was great, great fun.
While in Marion I had my first (and last) run-in with the law. For several days, several of my classmates and I couldn’t resist crawling under the construction fence and playing “hide and seek” where a new building was being erected. A police cruiser came by, saw us and the chase was on. Unfortunately, one of my playmates was pretty hefty and couldn’t get down off the construction shed, and he gave the police the rest of our names. I saw them coming to our house and hid behind the sofa. I heard him say, “Lady, do you have a son named “Wayne?” All he said to me was “Son, you can run like a deer.” Well, anyway, all of us had to go to the police station with our parents and receive a lecture from the Chief of Police about the dangers of playing in construction sites. That was the end of my criminal career.
Mug Shot – the Face of a Hardened Criminal!
I had continued school at Oakland Elementary when we moved to the other end of Henry Street. I was a bright student and got very good grades while in grade school. In fact, during the fourth-grade, my teacher, Mrs. Moore, selected me to represent our class in a TV quiz show in Columbus on Channel 10. It was called “Quizdown” and schools competed against other schools. It was run like an old-fashioned spelling bee for grades four through six. Quizdown had begun as a radio program in 1947 and was found in many major cities in the United States during the 1950s. I had two questions. The first was to spell October and November, which I answered correctly, and the other was to name the first ship that sailed around the world. My answer was Henry Hudson’s, Golden Hind. Unfortunately; the correct answer was Ferdinand Magellan’s Victoria. However, our school won the competition. Being chosen kind of made me a class hero, and a girl in my class had a crush on me. Her name was Mary Alice Hoffman. She would come by my house every morning wanting to walk with me to school. Usually, I was able to escape out the back door. Actually, she was very nice and later on in High School, she became a good friend, but never a girlfriend.
Since both Dad and Mom worked, family vacations were pretty nonexistent. However, our grandparents, Jack and Helen Chapman, took my sister and me on vacations several times. Once I went with Grandpa Jack and my cousin Jerry Chapman to Tennessee. We visited Humboldt and Paris Landing, and fished and boated on Kentucky Lake. Jack’s brother owned a grocery store and he kept Jerry and I supplied with plenty of ice-cold bottles of Yoo-Hoo. I remember the heat. In the afternoons we would collect Catawba worms from the trees for night fishing. At night we went out for catfish. The other thing I remember from the trip, even at a young age, was how pretty the Tennessee gals were. The store images are representative of the way I remember Grandpa Jack’s brother’s store. I don’t have any actual pictures.
Another trip was out West. We went to Yellowstone, and to Salt Lake City. I remember, how in the middle of nowhere in the mountains of Wyoming, that Grandma had to use the restroom. There weren’t any, so she went into the woods. There were bears near us, and just then, a carload of tourists stopped and started taking pictures of the bears in the woods. Grandpa made jokes all the way home, wondering if the tourists would find a picture of a real “bare” in their camera. The trip was fun, but Grandpa wouldn’t stay anywhere long enough to really see anything. We did stay a couple of days in Yellowstone. We rented a log cabin at Roosevelt Lodge. Behind the lodge was a trail going back to a waterfall called Hidden Falls. It was a narrow trail with a cliff on the one side and a drop-off to the river below. We had just gotten to the falls and ran into a bear on the same trail coming our way! We turned around and started back. The faster we walked, the faster the bear walked. We started running and so did he. Terrified, we ran into the hotel lobby and the bear came right in behind us. It stopped at the counter and begged for a treat! The desk clerk said it was running because it thought we wanted to play. Sure…
We did manage to go to family picnics and reunions almost every year and visited relatives frequently. We were seldom home for a full weekend. We used to go to Aunt Ozella Thomas’ home near Prospect on the river road. This was a farm, and although it was a fun place to play, it had its hazards. There was a great big Rhode Island Red rooster that would attack me when I was little. Once it dug its spurs into my back. I can remember the pain. There was also a flock of geese that terrified me. Any time visitors came; the geese would run at them with wings outspread and hissing. I would not get out of the car until someone chased them away and locked them in the barnyard. My Great-Grandfather Josephus had two wives. I am descended from the second, but Aunt Ozella had been married to the son of the first wife. This was Uncle Elliot who died when I was three. He was driving a tractor on the old CD&M railroad bed, which ran at the end of the lane, into town. The river was flooded and he hit a soft spot. The tractor tipped and crushed him. The body was in the front parlor. I can still remember that.
Uncle Earl’s son Merle and his wife Pauline then took over running the farm. They had three children. Tommy, who was two weeks older than me, had Cerebral Palsy and was always in a wheelchair, was the oldest. He could not speak or feed himself. Next was my cousin Teresa who was a year younger, then Linn who was about Ruth Ellen’s age. Linn and I would get into mischief and Uncle Merle would discipline us. One of our mischief activities was to go into the pasture, grab cows by the tail and let them pull us around the pasture. At another time, we drug an empty watering tank to the pond to use for a boat. It was about 8 feet long and 3 feet deep. It was great fun until it tipped and sunk. Neither Linn nor I were going to fess up, and for years, Merle would tell about how one of his water tanks had been stolen. Aunt Ozella always had great meals. She canned eggs and beets together and I loved her pickled eggs. She made a great rhubarb pie too.
Because both of our parents worked, Ruth Ellen and I had a series of “Nannies.” Mom called them housekeepers because they had maid responsibilities also. Ruth Ellen and I were always conspiring against them. There was May who had a drinking problem but was nice. There was Nancy, who was really weird and liked to make Ruth Ellen and I dress up in costumes. We continued having housekeepers after we moved from Marion and I believe our last one was when I was in the eighth grade. This was Flirty. She was almost deaf and absolutely hated men and boys. She and I spent a good part of our time torturing each other. She had a hearing aid, and I would come up and talk in a whisper. She would think the hearing aid was off and keep turning it up. When she got it all the way up, I would shout, and she would jump and hit me. She told stories of how her husband (she was divorced) was a drinker and how she would put salt in his wine and tie him to the bed and beat him. We had a short in the house wiring, and a bare wire somewhere was rubbing sporadically against the plumbing pipes. Because of this, my Dad told us not to use the bathtub until he had a chance to fix it on the weekend. My sister was going to take a bath, but Flirty told her not to because of the danger. When I came inside, she told me to take a bath. My sister warned me just in time. Flirty was a real jewel!
Ruth Ellen and me with “Nanny” Nancy
As a young boy, there were threats that were special. I liked grape soda that came in little wax bottles that became wax chewing gum once the taste of the grape was gone. We bought Red Hots which were cinnamon, little black licorice figures we called n*****r babies, candy cigarettes, and Hershey bars, cinnamon balls, jawbreakers, and Double-Bubble bubble gum. Our family really liked ice cream, especially Dad, and frequent trips were taken to Isaly’s Dairy for an ice cream cone. My favorites were orange sherbet and black raspberry. When it would snow, Dad would bring in a big dish of snow. We would add vanilla, sugar, and eggs and have snow ice cream. In those days, eggs were safer than today. Eating raw eggs was not a problem. In fact, one of my favorite treats was making my own eggnog. I would break an egg into a glass of milk; add a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and a couple of spoons of sugar.
I had a series of childhood illnesses, measles, mumps, whooping cough, chickenpox, etc. I was also anemic. Each day I had to take a dose of Watkins’ Beef, Iron and Wine Tonic. The doctor also prescribed beer and milkshakes. At a very tender age, I would drink a bottle of Grandpa Jack’s homemade beer every day. On the way home from school, I would stop in at the dairy store on the corner of Bellefontaine Ave and David Street and have a chocolate malt milkshake. These were actually doctor’s prescriptions. Medicine has certainly changed.
As a young child, I suffered greatly from earaches. I remember repeated trips to the doctor and getting my eardrum lanced, and the many, many bottles of eardrops that were used continually. The pain would be so bad, that Dad would blow cigarette smoke into my ear to numb it. At age five or six, the mastoid bone behind my right ear became infected and my temperature soared to 106 degrees. The doctors were afraid I would not survive and an emergency mastoidectomy was performed. This operation no longer exists. Antibiotics now handle mastoid infections; but in those days, the only treatment was surgery. During the surgery, a piece of bone was removed from my skull directly behind my right ear. For years, this area was so sensitive, that I could barely stand to wash it and tears would come to my eyes during a haircut. I was one of the first patients to use penicillin. Before this time, mastoid infections were usually fatal. In addition to the experimental penicillin, sulfa drugs were also administered. Since they were oral, and I was only five or six, the hospital attempted to disguise the drug in cups of hot chocolate. Sometimes it worked, but more often than not, I gave it back to them. I developed such distaste for hot chocolate that I could not even stand the smell and never drank another cup until I was well into my twenties. The operation affected the optic nerve and caused my eyes to cross. I had an eye operation and this was corrected, but I had to wear glasses throughout my school years –Very Ugly Glasses! I had a very strict third-grade teacher named Mrs. McKinney who had a habit of sneaking up behind kids who were whispering and hitting them in the back of the head with her grade book. Unfortunately for me, I was one of her victims and she hit me the day I got back from the hospital from the eye operation. The stitches broke loose and I ended up with a major eye hemorrhage. The eye never healed correctly and by the time I was 30, the eye had re-crossed. In the 1970s, another operation was made at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver, Colorado, but it was unsuccessful and to this day, my left eye is partially crossed.
I had several childhood accidents. The first was when I was about seven and was thrown off a runaway horse. He ran into the barn, planted all fours, and threw me over his head into the wall. We were at the home of Damon and Ethel Ledley. She was a nurse and treated me with ice packs. The second at age eight was a fall from the top of a sliding-board at school and I broke my wrist. Mom didn’t take me to the doctor. She wrapped it in ace bandages and it healed with a bone in the wrong position. I was playing the violin in the elementary school orchestra and had to quit because my wrist wouldn’t bend right. The third was when I was either eight or nine. I was at a coon dog field trial with Grandpa Jack and fell climbing a gate. I landed head first on a rock. It knocked me out. He put me in the truck and I had a mild concussion and a headache for a couple of days. The fourth was when I was ten. We were at Aunt Dorothy Blevins’ home in South Webster. All of us kids were playing in the haymow and jumping into piles of hay. I jumped onto a pitchfork that went through the bottom of my foot and came out the top. My cousin Dreatha pulled out the pitchfork and I went into the house, where it was cleaned and bandaged. Mom took me to the doctor for tetanus shot the next day.
Our house had the usual “stuff” found in most homes of the day. We had our black and white console TV with a ceramic black-panther night light on the top, linoleum in the kitchen, and oilcloth on the kitchen table. The tables and chairs in the kitchen were chrome and plastic. Artificial leather furniture was in style in the 1950s and we had our share. Central air for a home was unheard of, so in the summer, all of our windows had window fans. Venetian blinds were things used in offices. Homes had pull-down blinds that had a cord with a macramé ring attached. All coffee tables and side stands had the obligatory doilies.
Retro “stuff” from our house
We were children, and there are things that all children have in common: play, toys, and children’s books. I was no different. As any child, I loved to swing, run, play softball, ride my bike, and play hide and seek. I can’t think of anything different or special that would set me apart from other children. My first recollection of a toy was a wooden dog named Sparky with wheels that made a clacking noise when you pulled it. I had favorite toys such as Tinker Toys, American Bricks, Lincoln Logs, Erector Set, and my collection of toy soldiers. I wanted a model railroad and finally, my parents bought me an Atlas HO Gauge train for my twelfth birthday. Years later, I found out that Dad had set it up after I went to bed and stayed up all night playing with it. This is the only toy from my childhood that I still have. I also liked yo-yos and marbles. Like most boys of the time, I had a good collection of marbles – glassies, tiger-eyes, boulders, clayies, steelies, etc. Of course, I had my favorite shooters and played many a game of marbles. We played keepsies (you kept what you won). If you were good, your collection grew. If not, you kept buying more marbles. A small bag of marbles at the 10-cent store cost a dime. My collection grew. Other childhood toys were Slinky and Mr. Potato Head. I also had a lot of metal friction cars. They were made in Japan, and when you took one apart, the inside said “Band-Aid!” They were made from recycled Band-Aid cans!
Mom always encouraged us to save our money. We had allowances and were given banks. We had a great big ceramic piggy bank at one time, but the neatest were two bronze metal banks from Federal Home Savings. They looked like houses and you put the money in the top. They could only be opened with a key. At that time Log Cabin syrup came in metal containers that looked like a log cabin. The cap was in the shape of a chimney, but you could remove the very top, and it became a bank when the container was emptied and washed out. I wish we had kept our banks; they would really be collectibles by now.
I also played games with my sister. We liked checkers and monopoly and putting together puzzles. We also had an Ouija Board, and a board called a Carom Board. It was large and you could play over 100 games on it. My sister would talk me into playing jump rope or jacks with her and her friends. There were games we played where we bounced balls to rhymes.
I loved to read and always completed the Reading Circle books each year. I really liked comic books, especially Marvel Comics, and Classics. I also liked the Scary ones, but Mom wouldn’t let me buy those. Comic Books cost a nickel, except for the classics that cost a quarter. These were often 50 pages or more in length and very well made.
After my fourth grade, we moved to Richwood, Ohio where we lived on a 12-acre farm just west of the Richwood City limit on State Route 47. This was one of the happiest periods of my life. I had many friends and enjoyed living on a farm. Soon after we moved to Richwood, I met George (Junior) Thompson who became my closest friend for several years.
Dad remodeled our house which was an old farmhouse. He had a picture window installed in the front room. We took all the paper and plaster off the walls of the house down to the lath, and re-plastered and papered or painted. Indoor plumbing was installed in the bathroom next to the only downstairs bedroom that was Mom and Dad’s. In the dining room, Dad installed knotty-pine paneling. Shelves were put in the walk-in cold pantry off the kitchen and the back porch became a laundry room. The upstairs where Ruth Ellen and I had our bedrooms was re-papered. We had a very large landing room at the head of the steps that became our playroom.
My Pet Calf – 1951 On the farm – 1954
It was in the fifth grade, my first year at Richwood, that I started to meet those boys that would be my friends throughout the remainder of my school years. Since we were newcomers to the area, I was a misfit. There were friendships and cliques that dated back to the first grade. I found myself outside these groups and found friends that were loners like me. Junior Thompson’s dad worked in a factory like my parents and since most of the boys in the class were sons of farmers, he was a loner. We soon became fast friends. Then there was Fred Newman. His father owned the butcher shop in town, but Fred was different. He liked Science Fiction and lived in a world of his own. We also became friends because in some ways, I was bookish and we had common interests.
But, eventually, grade school ended and we all moved into Junior High.