I Started Out As A Child~ The Sequel

I realized that I had left out some things from my original post so I’m adding them here.  Also, it gives me a chance to use this picture of me on the front porch circa 1942 that I think pretty well defines me at that time. 

I mentioned before that dad was gone for a great deal of my childhood.  We had a large family, there were eight of us kids, and times were hard anyway.  Dad spent a lot of time in Alaska as a painter and did best when he could get on a government job, typically painting smokestacks or buildings.  He also did some freelance portraits and murals but I doubt they contributed much to his income.  So, a lot of the significant memories I have of that time had to do with his either coming home or going away.  He didn’t drive, and at that time neither did my mother, so anytime he traveled meant a big deal with someone, probably a married sister or their husband, doing the driving.  That meant there were at least four people in the car plus his luggage so that meant I couldn’t go to the train depot.  I loved the train depot!  On one of his trips, I think I was three or four, I was standing out by the ditch on Mill Street hollering my head off because I couldn’t go and dad was trying to placate me.  He tried reason, as if you can reason with an angry three-year-old, and explained that I had to stay home and take care of the cats.  I yelled back, “#*&% the @!#-damned cats!”  Mom says he laughed all the way to the train depot in Eugene.  That may give some idea of the kid I was. 

I just realized that I’m still staying at home taking care of the cats.  Patty is in Dallas, TX this week at an AARP training session for her stint as the State Training Coordinator for Oregon and Traci and Rene are still in Copenhagen for the summer. 

I’ve taken care of animals and plants all my life.  I remember that we had about a half-dozen Pekinese in the back yard living in kennels and at time there would be puppies so we had a lot more.  Some of these dogs were ostensibly pets of Ginny, Pete and Millie although they had very little to do with them.  While Millie was in Madrid, Spain with Bob in the mid-fifties I cared for her toy Pekinese, Mitzi, who should have been put down.  Something was wrong with Mitzi and she had maggots eating her alive.  I had to give her sheep-dip baths to kill the maggots in a vain attempt to keep her alive until Millie got home.  Mitzi didn’t make it and Millie was very upset that we tried to do that.  We also had cats, rabbits, parakeets, goats and at one point, even pet skunks.  Dad thought naturally homogenized goats milk would be good for us, although I don’t think we ever really managed to milk a goat. 

The picture of me with my diaper falling off is on the front porch of the house we built when I was born and in which I lived until I went in the Navy at 18.  The house was never really finished and was built by family and friends so the construction was suspect.  It had three bedrooms up front, a living room, kitchen and dining room.  The back porch was screened in and the whole thing was built on a pier-post foundation.  We were usually a family of five but sometimes my married sisters would be there or dad would bring home a homeless person to stay for awhile.  My mom always gave him hell for that. 

Until Millie, Pete and Dolly left, starting in about 1948, it was pretty crowded and Omie and I had to sleep in the attic.  The attic was never finished and so the planks for a floor were unfinished lumber and spaced about an inch apart.  The walls were similarly constructed and were only in the front part of the attic where Omie and I had our cots.  The rest of the attic was rafters and  storage and to get around you had to step on the ceiling joists.  There were birds and, I suppose, other critters living in the attic and Omie and I could hear them while trying to go to sleep.  One of the things that made it difficult to sleep was Mom’s artificial arm hanging from a rafter as you came up the stairs.  Also, dad had a back-brace hanging from a rafter and there were other frightful things about the attic that were more in my imagination than any real threat.  It didn’t help that my sister, Omie, was an evil person that loved to tell me ghost stories as we were laying there –‘Who Stole My Liver’ comes to mind. 

In the summer Omie and I got to sleep in the screened-in back porch and we loved that.  During this time, Aloyisus was building a house next door for him and Theresa to live in and he kept his tools and some materials on our back porch where Omie and I slept.   We had gotten in the habit of having a coffee can to use- sort of our ‘Can-O-Pee’ bed since we generally slept in the attic and Omie used the coffee can of 16-penny nails she found to do her business one night.  The next day Aloyisus came to get his hammer and nails and as he got to work, he grabbed a handful of nails and stuck them in his mouth, which you do since you’ve only got two hands to hold things.  Well, you could hear him yelling and cussing for miles.  THAT was a red-letter day for memories. 

Theresa's house in background

Omie was in trouble as much as I was and she had a long list of accomplishments.  She burned down our barn, she stole alcohol and replaced it with water and she frequently stole cigarettes.  Although, I gotta admit that sometimes she just got blamed for stealing cigarettes because everyone thought I was too young to be doing it.  We fought like cats and dogs until I got big enough to hold my own and then I’d get in trouble because Omie would claim I hit her in the chest. Looking back on it, I think Mom and Omie shared a bi-polar condition that made them both very hard to live with. 

One other thing I’d like to cover in this post is the neighborhood.  In a previous post I’d mentioned the mills, railroad tracks and the rivers where I played but the neighborhood itself had a lot going for it.  About a block away ‘Old Man Corbett’ built his house out of scrap lumber, or so he told me.  He said that explained why it was round and he claimed that he had hydraulics inside so he could raise the roof a few inches in the summer for air-flow to cool it off.  He had a reputation for having set a trap for Halloween pranksters by moving his outhouse a couple feet and disguising the hole so that at night the outhouse tippers would fall in.  He made violins by hand and was the grandfather of Jack Corbett, a kid about two years older than I who used to retrieve condoms from the Willamette River and boil them so he could show them off.  I don’t know why else he would want them. 

About a half block further and on the same side of the street lived ‘Maggie The Witch’.  She had a bungalow that was almost completely obscured by blackberry vines and volunteer saplings and bushes.  One day I saw her out in the middle of Mill Street screeching and obviously upset.  I went over to see what was wrong and her wooden path to her door was covered with snakes.  They were garden snakes and red racers but they still upset her.  I helped her chase them off.  On Halloween we dared each other to go to her door but I don’t think anyone ever did. 

I think I probably lived in the neatest place ever with the rivers, hills, abandoned mills, industrial storage yards, city storage yards and quirky neighbors.  I know there were plenty of ways to get into trouble and I spent my days exploring as many as I could think of.  When I drive down Mill Street now, I don’t recognize the place.  The last time I did it, I couldn’t even identify where our house used to be.   

Explore posts in the same categories: Family

3 Comments on “I Started Out As A Child~ The Sequel”

  1. […] a string of family memories « Dog-sitting I Started Out As A Child~ The Sequel […]

  2. Michael Thompson / Sederlin Says:

    This is GREAT STUFF. Interesting to see it through Jack’s Eyes. I have a lot of memories of the same place….different time, a lot of STUFF.
    Jack was cool….Studebaker and all.

    • limberjack Says:

      Thanks, Mike. I’m going to need some help with an entry on Ginny and your siblings. Is there anyone that you can think of that would like to help with some Chronospot entries? I’d like some guest bloggers.

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