Posted by: davidbowerkingwood | March 11, 2015

Once Upon a Time I was a Little Boy, Continued

Mystery and Danger

There was no air conditioning, no TV, essentially nothing electronic except a Philco radio in the living room. During the summer the inside of the house was not a comfortable place to be; children looked forward to going outside because it was cooler by far than inside. In those days, most houses were built with a crawl space beneath the house which just happened to be the coolest place around and offered the added touch of mystery and danger that would appeal to a boy. Needless to say, I spent many an hour playing with my toys in the cool crawl space under the house.

In the evenings when everyone was home we would usually gather around the piano and sing while my grandmother played the piano or listen to some of our favorite radio shows on the Philco radio. I still have a big box of popular sheet music from the early 1900’s to the Second World war. Although my grandmother could not read music she was very comfortable with the piano keyboard as she played the piano in church and had played in a silent movie theater as a young woman.

There were some good mystery shows on the radio in the evenings such as “Inner Sanctum” and “I Love a Mystery.” We would turn off all the lights and listen to the show by the glow from the dial of the Philco radio; after all, mysteries are much more mysterious in a dark room. I would usually be sprawled out on the floor and sometimes, at a climactic point, my grandfather would grab my leg and give me a good scare.

One of my favorite shows was the Tom Mix radio show and I looked forward each week to his solving of the latest mystery. In those days all shows were broadcast live and you heard the voice of the actor playing the part on live radio. Mr. Mix was in the middle of a mystery named, “The Black Cat Mystery” when one day the announcer came on and said the show was cancelled because Mr. Mix had been killed on October 12, 1940 in a car accident. I was truly stunned by that announcement and have never forgotten that moment.

As I grew older I added roller skates which strapped on to our shoes and stilts, which we would build ourselves, to our boyhood collection of toys. Racing down the sidewalks on either side of the street on our roller skates partially satisfied our desire for competitive activities; seeing who could build and walk on the tallest stilts satisfied another part of our competitive spirit. We got to the point where we could only get on our stilts from the vantage point of a front porch and would tower over our stilt-less friends.

The Anonymous Boy

David Baby Picture

Baby boy Bower

Before I forget to mention it, I didn’t have a legal name until I was 18 years old. There was much discussion about what my name should be but by the time I was taken home no decision had been made; all my birth record showed was “baby boy Bower.” When I was 18 I wanted to join the United States Naval Reserve and my mother had to get a copy of my birth certificate and only then discovered the error. She filled out all of the paperwork needed and at age 18 I finally had a legal name. I thought it was funny that she did not mention a word of this to me at the time and it was over two years later that I accidentally discovered the paperwork that gave me a legal name at age 18. It appears that the Houston Independent School District accepted me without determining if I had a legal name or I might have had one sooner.

The School

Elementary School

The Third Grade Class Photo

Schools were just like homes, no air conditioning and during the late spring and early fall, the schools were very hot inside. Some classrooms had fans which had been purchased by local parent groups and having a classroom with a fan, especially on the West side of the building was a great privilege. As I think back on my elementary school it has just dawned on me that the older children’s classes were on the West side of the school and the younger children’s classes were on the East side of the school.

The photo above was my third grade class; Miss Hudson stands out in my memory as a favorite teacher. The man was Mr. Elrod, the school principle. I’m the first one on the left in the front row.

Getting to and from school was solely the responsibility of the student and their parents; I walked to school down the busiest street in the whole area and thought nothing about it, that was what everyone did.

In the last few weeks before school was out for summer vacation, the boys, if they wished, could come to school barefooted. This was a big thing to the boys and I cannot recall even one who didn’t want to take advantage of that offer. We all looked forward to coming to school barefooted and saw it as a promise of future freedom from school offered by summer vacation. School was over by the end of May and didn’t start again until September; August was just too hot to open a school with no air conditioning.

The high point of the year was a May-fete which included a Maypole; it was thought an honor for a girl to be selected to participate in the wrapping of the Maypole. There would be singing and refreshments and a generally happy time for all who attended.

Next time church and World War II


Responses

  1. Going barefoot was the best. Think of all money we saved on shoes. We went to grades 1-8 where we changed rooms and teachers every other year. I have such good memories of those years.

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    • Kathy,
      As I think back I’m amazed how deeply some of those school memories are embedded in my mind; the smell of the lunch box as one opened it for lunch, the odor of the Big Chief tablets as one prepared to write; the quill pens, blotters and the inkwells on each desk, the chewing gum stuck under the desk, the initials of past students carved into the wooden desk tops. Those quill pens were my nemesis being left handed; we never got along very well and I wound up using my blotter a lot plus I always had ink stains on the side of my left hand where my hand finished the job started by the blotter.
      David

      Like

  2. Loved reading this! I remember my dad telling me how he and and his brothers used to play under their house in Houston, too! It is amazing how many of our school memories are embedded in our minds. My husband still gets excited when the school supplies come out in the stores each year – it brings back those childhood memories! 🙂

    Like

    • Sheila,

      Playing under the house was really for the little kids, as we grew in size crawling under the house became more trouble than it was worth and on top of that our idea of toys and playing just wouldn’t fit under the house. Roller skates, bicycles and stilts were simply not “under the house” toys.

      Thank you for commenting!

      David

      Like

  3. Keep up the good work David, you are causing a lot of “good old days” memories to stir up. My mother’s cousin had a house that had about a 4 ft. crawl space and it was always great to play there in the summer because it was tall enough we could run around and not have to crawl like we did at our house and our next door neighbor’s house. We were not allowed to go barefooted to school but after school and summer was great. I don’t think I ever went a summer without having a piece of bacon soaked in turpentine strapped on my foot because I stepped on a nail somewhere.
    After school when would get home, mom would be ironing, cleaning, sewing or washing and would have her radio programs going; Stella Dallas, Mary Worth or others and we could not have the radio until her programs were over. Those fifteen minute segments of Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy, Captain Midnight, Dick Tracey and others would keep us occupied until it was time for homework and supper. Most Saturday mornings we would get to go to the Popeye Club at the North Main theater; class b through z westerns, cartoons and some kind of serial like the Green Hornet would thrill us all. Looking forward to your next chapter!

    Like

    • Fred,

      I remember the North Main Theater and the two dwarfs, Shorty and his wife, that ran a concession stand next to the theater; I also remember about a block or so down was an early Shipley’s Donuts shop and you could go in and watch the do-nuts being made. It was a big deal to go to the Saturday morning fun club at the North Main Theater. The old Heights Theater also had a Saturday morning fun club for awhile and that’s where I saw my first Buck Rogers serial which made a lasting impact on my imagination.

      There was fun to be had even without electronic toys and TV.

      Thanks for the reminders.

      David

      Like


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