Mother would listen to her radio programs or read, while I played on the floor if it were wintertime. During the months when the days were long with sun I went outside and played to bedtime. Sometimes we played a board game. On the rare occasions when dad would be home he would choose the radio shows and I usually went up to my playroom to escape him
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Beginning My Education: Inside and Out of Schools
In June of 1947 I turned six. East Ward Elementary School (pictured) allowed me to enter First Grade that September. My teacher was Mrs. Mary L. Warren. She was a tall woman with broad shoulders, who sported heavy shoes and a stern face. She took no brook with misbehavior or inattention. She stalked about the classroom and if she thought you a slacker or caught you talking, chewing gum or goofing off, would grab your hair and yank.
I never had my hair pulled by her. I knew my alphabet and could read well in advance of coming to First Grade and I was never a discipline problem. My final grades for the two marking periods I was in her class were 4 As, 2 Bs and an S. The S was Satisfactory in Health. The As were in Reading, Spelling (surprisingly), Arithmetic and Art; the Bs for Penmanship and Music.
I was absent two and a half days in the first marking period. I don’t know why. I had two of the dreaded children’s diseases in those early years, Chicken Pox and a Mump, but I can’t place a date on when. Yes, I did say Mump rather than mumps. I only had it on one side. Either disease would have kept me out of school more than a couple days. The school nurse probably sent me home for a virus, which would account for the half day.
Although I never suffered a hair pulling by Mrs. Warren, I observed a number who did in my time there. It wasn’t a gentle tug either. It was a real yank that got the victim’s full attention. Her
Ronald had a problem then. He stuttered. When he stuttered, Mrs. Warren would come up behind him and slap the back of his head.
“See D…D…Dick r…r…”
Now through all the years Ronald and I were friends I didn’t hear him stutter. The Mrs. Warren cure must have worked.
The approach to education was different in the 1940s from today. Educators forced my wife to write with her right hand because she was left-handed. Unlike the cure for Ronald’s stutter, this cure didn’t take.
There is a mystery concerning my First Grade report card. I did not return to East Ward
I assume that when I transferred to my new school for the remainder of the year, my Report Card transferred too. It appears that the West Whiteland school used my Downingtown Report rather than issue a new one. I don’t know the reasons for the attendance left blank.
If this last half on the Report is correct, my marks dropped with the transfer. I maintained straight As in Reading, but everything else slid to Bs. Spelling and Music are no longer even subjects.
And here the mysteries collide. What was my dad doing in 1946 after the service and why is my Downingtown East Ward Report Card complete?
These are the facts I know.
My father did come home from the war early in the year 1946. I was not happy about it. I
My dad did get a job driving Milk Tankers at a company in Glenloch, Pennsylvania called Hines. This is my dad’s account:
“When I got outta the Navy I didn’t want to go back to what I use to do. I wanted something different where I had some freedom to get about. I had a friend workin’ at Hines out in Glenloch told me they were hirin’. He said, ‘Don’t tell Old Man Hines you know mechanics or you’ll never get out of the garage.’ So I told Old Man Hines I was a trucker and he hired me at $50 a month plus the house.”
Yes, plus the house.
(The photo of me on the pony (1947): a man came around with the pony and the chaps and cowboy hat. He must have traveled from state to state. When I worked at Wilmington Trust several of us brought in our photos on that pony wearing the very same outfits.)
We moved to that house during Christmas week of 1947. (We did a lot of changing addresses in December when I was a child.) This is not That House pictured left. This is Loch Aerie also known as Glen Loch or The Lockwood mansion. It sits alongside The Lincoln Highway twenty-five miles west of Philadelphia. This places it about seven miles east of Downingtown.
Addison Hutton, the architect who designed Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr Colleges and Lehigh University, designed this ornate castle of a home. Charles Miller, who had designed Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, landscaped the original grounds. This was at one time the estate of William E. Lockwood, owner of W. E. & E. Dunbar Lockwood. His company manufactured envelopes, tags, boxes and so forth. Mr. Lockwood commissioned its construction in 1865. It was the one of the largest estate in Pennsylvania at 684 acres. It was so large four railway stations were within its boundaries.
Our new home stood about a mile or two east of Glen Aerie on what was once part of theThe House my father received as part compensation for hauling milk.
It was a bit less imposing than Glen Aerie.
Mr. Charles Miller must have overlooked this little patch when he lay out the landscape for Mr. Lockwood.
What I show of That House is all I have to show. I pieced this image together from two separate photographs. It is impossible to obtain a better photograph today. The house and land disappeared beneath a Corporate Campus Parking Lot. Today the Lincoln Highway is almost a continuous series of malls and corporate commons. In 1947 this area was country with little around.
The land the house occupied was then mostly swamp. The marsh began on the east side of our lane just off the Lincoln Highway. This boggy area came almost up to the house, leaving a small front yard as it curved about and around to one side then continued southward to the woods beyond.
To the west of the long driveway from highway to house was a large fenced pasture. Cows roamed about this field in the warmer months of the year. There was a tiny creek that split the pasture into halves. It ran west to east like a scar. Watercress grew in abundance along its banks and the water was full of small crawfish.
We had a bit of a backyard and a vegetable garden my mother planted. My father built a rabbit hutch on stilts to house Snowball, my pet white rabbit. On the other side of the garden the flat country turned into a long sloping hill upon which was a cornfield. There was a fencerow to the west of the cornfield and then another field. To the east was forest. The Mainline of the Pennsylvania Railroad ran straight through a cutout just over the crest of the hill.
The driveway came level to our home where it split into a second short lane that curved west to another house a bit further behind ours on that side. Some people came and occupied that house for a month one summer, but I never saw them again
Our house had a split personality. One side was cinder block and the other stucco. Scaffolding
The inside of the house was nicer than the exterior. There was a kitchen to the back and a dining room to the front on the west side. A large living room was on the east side. There was a staircase between dining and living rooms to the upstairs. There were four good-sized bedrooms on the upper floor. My parents had the front bedroom on the east side and I had the rear. The front west bedroom was for storage. The remaining one was my playroom.
There was no one in eyesight to the western horizon. Our nearest neighbors were a quarter mile up Lincoln Highway to the east. There was a line of row houses, perhaps three or four. We knew two of the families there, the Holmes and the Benders. The Holmes has a son, Tommy, who was several years older than me. The Benders had a daughter named Dottie who was also my senior and who in the near future would be my babysitter and in the distant f
The Hines Trucking Company was set back a ways from the highway directly across the street from these homes. I suspect Joe Bender (pictured right) may have been the friend who suggested the job to my dad. Mr. Bender was a mechanic for Hines and Dottie’s father.
A little further up the road was the Autocar Motor Company, a manufacture of trucks (taken over by White Motor Co. in 1953). Therewere several Cape Cod style homes running atop an embankment east of the Autocar factory. These were company houses. There was one family I knew who lived there, but more about them later.
On the other side of the Autocar company houses was the Church Farm School, which took up acreage on both sides of the highway. This was a boarding school for boys run by the Episcopal Church. The farm buildings and land were north of the highway and the dormitories were to the south. Boys my age boarded there, but the school was off-limits to me. The Church School restricted the students to the school grounds.
This house in the swamp was compensation to my father for driving milk tankers for Hines. Supposedly this was because my dad was a returning Vet, but I suspect it was cheaper than paying him more than the $50 a month he received in wages.
In Downingtown I lived on a street full of children my age and directly across from my grade school. Here I lived in virtual isolation from the world. My mother did not drive and my father was gone most of the week. I went to school on a bus. This was a situation that had a profound effect on my personality and development.
I walked out of East Ward Elementary School on Christmas Break December1947. I entered
I might as well have stepped into a black hole. My mind is totally void of any memories of that school. I can’t describe what my classrooms looked like or name my teachers. I don’t know if my teachers were women or men. I don’t remember the subjects taught or who were my classmates. My knowledge of being in that building and what transpired there for two years is gone. Even the report cards I received have ceased to exist. I don’t know what my marks were, except for the mystery of my First Grade Card at Downingtown that had the periods I didn’t attend East Ward filled in and my promotion on the back.
Here is the sum total of everything I can tell related to West Whiteland School:
I made one friend in my class, Robert Cuellers. I don’t recall him in class, but I remember visiting at his home at least once. He moved to Downingtown the same month we moved back and we went to East Ward together for the latter grades. It may be for this reason I even remember Bobby (pictured left).
My bus stop was on Route 30 at the end of our long lane. It was my first experience riding in a school bus. The only trip I actually recall was one coming home from school. We were on the Lincoln Highway not far from my lane. There was a dog struck by a car and it lay on the centerline with its hindquarters crushed, but it was trying to get up. That is the one image connected to that school I wish I had forgot. I had nightmares about it then and have never been able to erase it from my mind.
I recall much about the house and grounds where I lived. Probably because I spent so much alone time there. I don’t know where father hauled the milk, except he kept the schedule he would follow the rest of my childhood. He would leave early on Monday morning, be home briefly on Wednesday and be gone again until Friday night.
This did not make me unhappy. I got more attention from my mother than ever before, after all, she was isolated too. My mother didn’t know how to drive. When dad left it was she and I until he next appeared. The move to Glenloch forced her to quit her job. She had no other occupation than that of housewife and mother.
She had never been in this position before except for the first year of her marriage and that was in a small apartment with no kid. All the other years of her life my grandmother had run the house and cooked the meals. Keeping house wasn’t a problem. My mother was used to work after the jobs in the mushroom plant as a teen and the two she held while dad was in the South Pacific. It was cooking that challenged her.
It wasn’t one she conquered, at least not for another forty years when her mother died.
Our meals were simple, both because we couldn’t afford a lot and because mom couldn’t cook. If it wasn’t a sandwich it was out of a can. Lunches and suppers were quite similar. Typical meals were tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich, hot dogs and beans, just hot dogs on buns, tuna fish salad sandwiches, chicken noodle soup, beef stew, dried-beef gravy over bread or leftovers from Sunday dinner. But she didn’t cook the Sunday meals.
When my father arrived home on Friday evenings I would have my little suitcase packed and ready. It was over the hill and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we would go. I would spend Friday and Saturday nights at 424 Washington while my parents had their together time. My parents ate out somewhere on Saturdays and on Sunday the whole clan gathered at grandma’s for a big sit down Sunday dinner cooked by my grandmother.
Mom saw little need to cook a big meal for just the two of us during the week. She was not a and eat out meager meals at the kitchen table. Superman was often on the radio while we ate. I would dry the few dishes while mom washed and then we would go into the living room.