|i love this pic... Donnie, my brother Dave and me...you|
can see the old gas pumps at the upper right..
It wasn’t as if I wasn’t loved. I was. I came along six years after my brother and seven years
after my sister.
I don’t know if I was a planned baby or an accident. But there I was. I was born on my sister’s seventh birthday, on Sept. 6th, l952.... Labor Day. My mom was in labor on Labor Day...twice. We lived in that tiny house on Indiana Ave. A busy street. Not really one that you would wish to raise children. It had businesses. Peterman’s Tavern across the street, along with a old timey gas station.. Scenic Bar on the other corner. Braun and Hauer Hardware Store. A shoe shop that we would get our Red Ball Jets every summer and had Buster Brown and his dog Tag in the window. A granite store that sold Cemetery monuments. Elbow Inn, a tiny little restaurant that we got our burgers and fries and ice cream cones and it still sits in my memory like it was yesterday. Jetzers Five and Dime at the far end of the street . A beautiful brick building with apartments upstairs and our dentist on the street level. Hours were spent in there buying penny candy...wax lips, rootbeer barrels, candy cigarettes, tiny candy disks that were on paper rolls that you would bite off. Malt Balls. MaryJanes. What we called “punks”.. which were like
incense sticks that were meant to ward off mosquitoes. I would look in that store for whole afternoons, looking at the thousands of tiny little items. lipsticks. eyebrow pencils. sewing stuff. Rat poison, mouse traps, ribbons, socks, underwear, cotton slips, moth balls and nylon hosiery. A butcher shop on the opposite corner where mom would buy summer sausage and bratwurst wrapped up in white paper with string tied around it. Then there was White House Bakery, where the sights and smells and flour covered bakers were a big draw to a small child, as I would be sent there to buy a loaf of half and half bread that the baker would put into a machine that sliced it right in front of us and with the leftover nickel we could get a cookie and they would throw one extra in for good measure. Down the hill from that was a drug store, the name escapes me, but the interior does not. Big Jars on the Chemists counter with green and red colored water, a marble counter top with about ten swivel seats in red vinyl where we would sit and spin and get ice cream cones or sundaes and cups of water in pointy paper cups that were placed inside of aluminum holders. Tiny hexagon white tiles on the floor. old wooden fans on the pressed tin ceilings A nice man that ran the place that wasn’t mean to us if we read the comic books off the rack, Little Lulu, Popeye, Beetle Bailey, Superman...Right next to that shop...the railroad tracks. Hours of amusement there and many opportunities to dare someone to ride their trike down the steep hill to the tracks, who cares if you got hurt and who cares if it’s your little sister she can handle it. We were absorbed in the world of play and adventure and there was plenty of it around . When winter came, dad would flood the backyard with water from the hose where we were free to skate whenever we wanted. Every park in town also flooded huge areas in the back. Skating shacks were opened and wood fires stoked and rubber put on the floors and the place was a steaming, wet mass of freezing, loud crazy children that skated endlessly for hours and hours after school and on weekends. Kids weren’t fat then. They burned off everything they ate. An occasional nickel coke burned off fast, and we didn’t get those too often, so our lean little bodies never had a chance to put on weight. We rarely sat still. Television was three channels and it was limited viewing time. And there were shows like Playhouse 90 which had adult themed teleplays that were done live with famous stars. As a little kid that was pretty heavy stuff to
watch...black and white memories of Ethan Fromme and Kim Novak and Julie Harris. We played hard and rough. We read books, colored in coloring books, played board games and puzzles. I had dolls and played with those but mostly it was wild outdoor play with the neighborhood kids. We ran roughshod through the yards and raspberry bushes and tulip beds and hid behind the Hydrangeas, and climbed the huge Chestnut trees with also provided lethal weapons when the chestnuts came in, with their sharp green thorns that when thrown with a good aim could drawn blood and often did, with kids running home crying on many an occasion. The Lutheran church down the hill toward Kiwanas Park had an adjoining school where there was a two story chute from the second story of the old building where children would slide in case of a fire and we would climb up into that and slide and slide for hours. Walking up Indiana Avenue on the way to Moose Park was an antique store that had so much stuff crammed into it that you could easily get sidetracked by looking into its dark, dusty interior that was filled to the rafters with old furniture, lamps, stuffed animal heads and outside sat a huge Nipper Dog and next to it an old phonograph with a big horn that the music came out of. We were not allowed inside the store, I wouldn’t even try but I can still smell the mustiness of it if you dared to poke your head through the door and caught a whiff of it. Moose Park was a place where we would play for hours and it was right next to a steep hill too with railroad tracks below it. There were endless paths from billions of kids sliding down on cardboard or bikes or being pushed or dared. And these were active tracks where the trains came filled with smelly hides from the tannery just across the river. You had many of an opportunity to practice your aim as you threw rocks at the boxcars as they flew past or sat and waited for the Caboose so you could wave to the man that worked in it. As kids we were free. We weren’t coddled. By a miracle we were safe and felt safe. My parents trusted us and trusted the world around us. Nothing seemed off limits. City workers would dig huge holes in the street to repair sewer pipes and just put some kerosene burners around them, unthinkable in this day and age. We would walk across railroad bridges that spanned the river with some barrels placed at intervals where you would climb into if a train was passing. The older kids took care of the younger ones. And when we got home there was meatloaf and baked potatoes and dad’s shoes at the door and the Kaiser parked outfront and maybe a little Lone Ranger after dinner if we cleaned our plate.
My childhood memories are filled with many sweet moments . My mother held me close and whispered endearments in my ear and treated me with as much love as she could. My father was loving and kind and many a time took us out to fish or wash the car at a Wayside with an old water pump down by the river and I would dance on his shoes and twirl in his arms and ride ponyback on his back while he was on his hands and knees or he’d put me high up on his shoulders and shout “duck” when he went underneath the doorways. He would read me the comics every Sunday and do the voices and did a mean Dagwood. I still get tears in my eyes just looking at that comic and thinking of my father.. My parents
struggled with money worries and their own demons, but they did the best that they could. And I know that now. And any shortcomings they had are forgiven and forgotten as the years allow me to dwell not
on the bad things but on the good things. The Catholic church and school that I went to did alot for the children of the parrish with many afterschool activities, CYO dances, and parties during the holidays. The City of Sheboygan, Wisconsin provided alot of activities with the recreation department. We didn’t go to pre-school. The park was preschool. My childhood in Sheboygan... the farmland, the countryside, Lake Michigan... My sense of wonder comes from that place. My spirit of adventure.