Chapter XV- The Sack of Potatoes
Early in the spring I had gone to Kenwood Country Club to see if I could be a caddie. I was about 6 inches taller than a golf bag. The Caddie Master said, "Young man I would be happy to have you as a caddie, but first you will have to go home and eat a whole sack of potatoes."
As summer drew to a close I decided to try my luck once again at Kenwood Country Club. I said, " Hey Mister, last spring you told me to go home and eat a whole sack of potatoes and I could be a caddie. Well I have just polished off the last of the sack, and I want to be a caddie."
He said," Never let it be said that I didn't keep my word. You are Caddie Number Twenty Four, When I yell Twenty Four, You jump!" Me and my big mouth! I sat around the caddie shack until almost every one had gone out or went home. Then Charlie called out " Number 24."
I was thrilled and scared to death. He gave me a ticket and I ran out to #1 Tee. I was teamed up with a nice lady in a foursome, and we went 9 holes. I was paid 40 cents with a 10-cent tip. I had earned my first half-dollar, and was I proud.! Bill said, "How can you be a caddie? You wouldn't know what club to give them?" When my player wants a club, I just hold the bag up and let them pick out what ever club they want.
Don was a caddie at the more prestigious Hide Park Country Club. They insisted on nothing but the best. If you wanted to caddie at Hyde Park, you had to pay your dues at some other golf course. They suggested that you learn the craft at Kenwood or Camargo Country Clubs The last few days before school started that summer, found me sitting around the caddie shack, waiting for a chance to go out. We were paid 75 cents for 18 holes and 40 cents for nine.
The days were growing a little shorter each evening. We looked toward the new school year with a degree of mixed emotion. Marg had outgrown the annual hazing she that she enjoyed in the past. I entered the seventh grade with the usual anxiety. However, I became enamored with the idea that perhaps I might become a patrol boy. School buses had not made it to the drawing boards by 1935. All school children walked to and from school unless their parents were able to drive them in the family car. The number of children in our parish that fell into that category could be counted on one hand. Several of the more dependable boys, in the seventh and eighth grades, were selected to be patrol boys. They were permitted to leave class five minutes early, and take up positions on prescribed street corners to direct traffic and escort the smaller children across the streets.
Their patrol uniform consisted of a wide, white canvas belt that circled the waist and crossed over the shoulder to the hip. Little has changed in the past six decades, except that official badges were issued by the Cincinnati Police department, and were displayed on the canvass belt. Although the patrol boys were mere children, they carried a badge of authority that was respected by motorist as though they were traffic cops.
One of the seven deadly sins prompted me to volunteer once again, without a thorough analysis of the other side of that coin - namely, that school was never out until every last straggler had safely crossed the street at your guard post. I grew a few inches taller each time I strapped on my belt, and escorted the little ones across the street. Our annual singing tryouts or auditions were delayed until the end of September. In the meantime, I had been caught out in the rain and soaked to the skin. I developed a case of the sniffles just before the auditions. My rendition of the Panis Angelicus, sounded like "Ole Man River". The choirmaster said, "You may remain in the choir, but I must move you into the alto section".
Oh I hated that, but I had no other choice. I didn't have brains enough to ask for another audition.
Now my attention was focused on Catherine. She had developed an aura of beauty about her that I had not noticed before. However, she didn't seem to notice any of my sterling qualities. She probably realized that I had paid more attention to Ilene in the past. It is said that, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." It also fades one's memory. My memories of Ilene faded through out the summer. I did learn that the attention of surveillance was the key to being noticed, for better or worse. I could only hope it was the former rather than the latter. I could not follow Catherine home from school, because she lived in the opposite direction. I had to be satisfied with my "Modus Operandi" - a theater operation. After a while, it started to work just a little, but it was a start!
It was the middle of August, needless to say, it was time for yet another moving van to pull up in front of our house. This time, we were going about 4 miles north to Dante Ave. in Kennedy Heights. It was a big, white, two-story house with a yard the size of a golf course.
That's what it seemed like each week when it came time to cut the grass. This was long before the advent of the power lawn mower. It all had to be cut with the old-fashioned, reel type mower. The high bank on the East and North sides was the worst; it took just about all day to cut it. We moved into a new parish. It was called the Church of the Nativity. The church and school were located a mile and a half away in a village called Pleasant Ridge.
School always started the day after Labor Day. I had been promoted to the eighth grade.
The Church of the Nativity was one of the wealthiest parishes in the greater Cincinnati area. Virtually every student in my class was the son or daughter of the President of a large corporation. It didn't take long for me to learn that I was not a member of this element of society.
The discomfort of being a part of it was becoming more intimidating with every passing day. As an example, James, the boy seated directly behind me, was an heir apparent to a very prominent paint manufacturer. In the seat next to me, was Shirley - her family owned a candy manufacturing company. Seated two rows over was Charles whose father was President of Trailmobile. The entire student roster read like a list of "Who's Who" in Cincinnati. Only then, at age 13, did I realize what being poor really meant. My peers in and around Fairfax were all in the same proverbial boat, so to speak. Suddenly that leaky boat became a forty foot yacht in Martha's Vineyard.
One Saturday, while I was cutting the grass, a boy from my class came by and talked to me for a little while. Then he said, "When you finish, would you like to come over to my house and play in my new streetcar?"
At first I thought he was crazy. Then he said, "The riggers just set it up in my back yard yesterday." Then I thought I was crazy. I asked Bill to finish for me, and I went over to see this streetcar. Sure enough, in this kid's back yard was a real, genuine, life-size "streetcar" sitting on railroad ties. His father bought it from the Cincinnati Street Railway Co. for his boy to play in. As preposterous as this sounds, it is true.
Streetcars were being phased out and the trend was toward trolley busses. They were propelled the same way but had the advantage of pulling to the curb, to load and unload passengers. Streetcar loading zones or islands were becoming a traffic hazard. An increasing number of cars and trucks were becoming involved in accidents, running into these obstructions in the middle of the streets. The boy's father, who bought a streetcar for his boy, probably sold it as scrap iron for a great deal more than he paid for it.
The choir director at church was a nice young lady whose name escapes me at the moment - Mary something, I believe. Mary conducted the annual singing auditions for the choir in mid September. Once again, I was asked to sing the Panis Angelicus. My voice was back to normal, again. When I finished, Mary said, "I can't believe you were put in the alto section! Your range is higher than most of our sopranos." I was returned to the soprano section, and was much happier to be there.
Our eighth grade teacher, Sister Isabel, thought a class election would be an ideal adjunct to our civics studies. Shortly after school started, the nominations were held to select candidates for the primary election. Several candidates were selected. To be on the safe side, I cast my vote for the pride of the eighth grade class - a girl by the name of Jane Biedenhorne. I was the only one in the class that voted for Jane Beanhorn. When this name appeared in a separate column on the black board, it provided a bit of laughter from the entire class at my expense. I felt that the person who put it on the black board intended to humiliate me, since I was the only student who did not know how she spelled her name.
There was a small restaurant a short distance from the school and I preferred to eat lunch there, rather than in the school lunchroom. I felt embarrassed frequently, because my brown bag lunches seemed to contrast to the elaborate lunch boxes of the other children in my class. It may sound silly, but it was very real to me at that time.
My parents celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary on the 11th of January. They decided to have an anniversary party for our family, and a few friends. We children were supposed to stay in the kitchen, out of the way. However, as the festivities progressed, I managed to sneak around and sample a little bit of the drinks the guests left in quite a few glasses.
While no one was watching, I just took a sip of "home-brew" beer, and a little swig of homemade port wine. I liked the "Dago red" better - then, just a sip of Old Grand Dad, and a sip of Four Roses. Around 11: 00 o'clock, I staggered up the long, steep, undulating stairway. I was stone drunk, and sicker than any dog ever was. I went into the bathroom and threw up everything but my stomach. For the next two hours, I just wanted to die - but I couldn't. I have never been able to stand the smell of whiskey or gin since that day. It was a good lesson.
We suffered through another horrendous winter. I suppose the reason those winters seemed so hard and cold was due to the fact that there was no automatic heat, like we have become so accustomed to in recent years.
The coal fire, in the furnace, went out almost every night. Then, by morning, the whole house would always be freezing cold. The fire was "banked" each night before going to bed, but that didn't provide sufficient heat to keep the house warm. It only made the job of kindling the fire a little easier the next morning.
March, 1937, brought the worst flood Cincinnati had seen in 150 years. The flood stage of the Ohio River at the foot of Broadway, was 52 feet. The high water mark reached 97.8 feet. More than 45 feet of water paralyzed the entire city for more than a week. The Water Works pumping stations were inundated. Water was delivered to neighborhoods in tank trucks. We lived 200 yards from a water tower, and couldn't get water. Even the (potable) drinking water from tank trucks had to be boiled for 20 minutes. After about 10 days, the river went back into its banks and the dirty business of cleaning up the city began.
I had become rather paranoid about the social differences between my classmates and myself. It seemed to me that every thing I did was a faux pas. I was constantly embarrassed. For example, during the month of May in those days, school children paid special homage to Mary, the mother of Jesus. The school children formed a procession in the churchyard and, as they passed the Statue of the Blessed Virgin, they were to lay flowers at her feet and recite a small prayer. This was my first procession at this school and I was determined that I would not be embarrassed or humiliated this time.
I got up very early Saturday morning and hitched a ride up to Kenwood Country Club, to try to earn money for flowers by caddying. I went 18 holes and earned 75 cents plus a 10-cent tip. I spent my tip on a bottle of soda and a candy bar. Then I went to a nursery, and bought a nice bouquet of flowers for 75 cents. They were neatly wrapped in tissue. When I got to church, I discovered that all the children in my class had just picked an iris (We called them flags) off the hillsides of people's yards. They handled them like weeds. All my effort was once again the object of snide remarks. I felt that I just couldn't win.
Graduation day came the first week in June. We were told to wear White Ducks (cotton twill trousers). I didn't have a pair, and could not buy any. One of the boys, who was taller than I, told me that he had a pair that were too short for him. Bill had a pair that was too long for me. The boy agreed that we could exchange. I would wear his pants, and he would wear Bills. They would fit him just fine, since he was the same size as Bill.
I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking the problem was solved. On the afternoon of graduation day, this boy came to school wearing a new white suit. When I asked him about our agreement, he just laughed and walked away. I had to wear Bill's long trousers with the legs rolled up, escorting a girl in a pretty new gown, as they played "Pomp and Circumstance." I swore then to my self, that, if I ever had any children, they would never be subjected to that kind of humiliation if I could help it.
After graduating from the 8th grade, I learned of a boy's model airplane club that was to meet at the local library each Saturday afternoon throughout the summer. My interest in airplanes was rekindled, and I began learning how to build model airplanes. Several model plane kits were available. Small ones (16" wing span") were only ten cents. Whenever I could get away from the golf course, I would spend endless hours gluing little sticks together on a pattern, or layout, of the famous flying machines of WW I - the French Neuport, the British Spad, the German Fokker, and Messerschmidt.
The Air War in that period was called the Gentleman's War, because of the honor and chivalry demonstrated by pilots on both sides. Every country had their hero's. The "Red Baron" Manfred von Richthofn and his "Flying Circus" was the scourge of the allied air forces. This Ace of Aces as he was called, was reported to have flown over enemy Airdromes, to drop a bouquet of flowers, along with the personal effects collected from a pilot he killed over German territory the day before. He gave new meaning to the phrase "Officer and a Gentleman" To this day, eight decades after "the war to end all wars" We honor this legendary figure. When "Snoopy" dons his helmet and goggles and ties the white silk scarf around his neck for the imaginary "Dog Fight" above his dog house. The national pizza chain called Red Baron also pays homage to his memory. I spent the summer of 1937 building model airplanes, when I wasn't carrying golf bags at Kenwood Country Club.
Then came time to choose a High school. Once again I rejected the conventional wisdom. I selected a all male vocational school with aeronautics as a major element of the standard academic curriculum. The school year was 11 ½ months long compared to the traditional 9 month period. The 2 week vacation period was at the end of the school year. Students were required to "Punch " a Time Clock just as though they were employed in industry. I was exposed to a wide variety of sciences that were not taught in academic High school. Metalurgy-chemistry- physics- welding. as well as Machine tool operation. This educational background has supported me throughout my life in a way stat a standard High School program could not have done. At that time, the cost of higher education put it far beyond my reach. Consequently the prudent thing to do was to learn a trade or vocation Being expose to the basic fundimentals of manufacturing proved to be the logical choice at that time.
There was a symbiotic relationship with local industry. Each year a damaged airplane was donated to the schoolmuch like a cadaver is donated to a medical school for "hands on" experience. The complete overhaul of this airplane was a annual class project. Strip it down-Take it apart-learn haw and why it functions. Determin what is needed to repair it. Put it back together . Have it certified as Air worthy - Transport it to the airport and offer it for sale.
Aircraft and automobile engines were donated for the same type of "Hands On" experience, but they were never sold. Take it apart, figure out how it works, or why it doesn't; then reassemble it, and make it run. When your white coveralls are white after you finished, you will be a Airframe and Engine Mechanic. I could never keep them white.
On July 5th, 1940, I joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. . I was sent to a para-military camp that was run by army officers with military discipline. Our weapons were picks and shovels, not guns. We stood formations just like the army. We did not salute the officers. They were called leaders and assistant leaders. The camp was isolated in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nothing. It was a very small, sheep-herding town called Green River, Utah - 1800 miles from home.
It was assigned to the federal division of grazing - (D.G.115). Our first assignment was to eradicate the over population of kangaroo rats that were eating what little vegetation there was, consequently many wild horses were starving. 140 men were taken in trucks, out to the dessert each morning. They formed a line at arm's length about 200 yards long. Each man had a bag of poisoned oats. A pinch of oats was tossed with every other step. Dead kangaroo rats were all over the place. It turned out to be a horrible mistake, though well intended!
By killing off the kangaroo rats, we succeeded in taking quite a few links out of the natural food chain. Then all the other rodents and ground squirrels had to take up the slack of providing prey for carnivores that had nothing to eat. The things that ate them, had nothing to eat. Our beautiful eagles, condors, hawks, and falcons could no longer swoop down for a fast Kangaroo Burger. The government discovered that there were a lot of hungry mouths between the kangaroo rats and horses. The government never told the public why so many different species were endangered, or how they became endangered.
After that fiasco, we were assigned to rip-rap natural depressions in the ground with stone to create water-retention ponds for the wild life - what little was left. Our tour of duty lasted 6 months, and it required 50 years to recover, if it ever really has.
This was a very valuable learning experience in respect for authority and self respect. The work was hard but rewarding in the pride of accomplishment. We were provided with all the necessities of a healthful life style and paid $8.00 for incidentals , a government check $42. 00 was mailed to or parents to support the family.
When I had completed the required tour of duty in December of 1940, I elected to leave my friends and return to my home in Cincinnati. approximately 100 of us boarded a Troop Train in Green River for the trip home. After telling and retelling the exploits and experiences of my 6 months stay to Utah. My Mother informed me that she was able to save the last $42.00 Government check which she handed to me. That was more money than I had ever had in my entire life. and it was almost enough to purchase a used car.
The relationship between Teenagers and their First CAR has changed very little in the past 60 years. My Father escorted me to several used car lots. and we finally decided on a beautiful 1932 Oldsmobile. Straight Eight. I think it weighed about 7000 pounds and got 7 miles to a gallon of gas. But it was all Mine.!!!!!! Repeating the old Biblical Adage " BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR" January 1941 - The wars in Europe and Asia were still a long way off and everyone was hoping that the United States would be protected by the Oceans on our coasts. The only way I can convey the feelings at that time would be to compare those Wars with the Sci Fi wars of today. They were the "Klingons" fighting some extra terrestrial armies in another Galaxy.. We heard of the daily accounts of the German Viermacht thrusting toward Moscow and the millions of people freezing to death over there. The Air raids on London and the thousands of Chinese people being killed by the Japanese Army but it was so far away - It just didn't sink in to our Consciousness.
About this time, President Roosevelt requested the Congress to enact general conscription of all able bodied young men between the ages of 20 and 35. This was called the DRAFT All young were ordered to report to the nearest Draft Board to recorded. Induction into the various branches of the military was started immediately. This was to be a one year tour of duty for military training. Song writers immediately started writing songs about the draft. The most popular one was "Good Bye Dear, I'll be back in a Year cause I'm in the Army Now" My older brother DON was one of the first to go. He was sent to Fort Benning Georgia. Bill was in the Ohio National Guard.
The economy was beginning to show signs of improvment but jobs were still hard to find. We had a family friend who was in a position of authority in a manufacturing company located about a mile from home. This was the World Famous "CINCINNATI MILLING MACHINE COMPANY" There wasn't a machine shop on the planet that did not boast of owning a CINCINNATI CUTTER GRINDER OR A CINCINNATI MILLING MACHINE this was the epitomy of precision manufacturing. Mother decided to introduce me to this man and ask if I could be considered for employment.
He gave me an interview and ask all about the CCC and what I had done. Then he interrupted the conversation and ask me-How much is 25 times 25 ? I was caught completely off guard and after stuttering sand stammering for what seemed an eternity I said 625. He replied -You can start out as a Tool Boy in Our Apprenticeship School Monday evening. I'll have the personnell office prepair the paper work.
When I reported to the Personnell Office I was informed that I would be required to work on the Grave Yard Shift (11;00 PM until 7:00 AM) I would be paid 40 cents per hour plus time and one half for all time over 40 hours plus a 20% night differential. I would be earning 48cents per hour. 11.5 hours per night 6 nights a week. I worked 69 hours a week for $37.22 total $3,20 was deducted for income tax. net $34.02 It was such a prestigeous organization they acted as though you should pay them for letting you work there.
On the very first night I was instructed to move thousands of beautiful Brass Legend Plates from the Stock Room to the Scrap Tubs- I was horrified to see that these Legend Plates were a beautiful bright red enamel covered with Japanese Symbols. This company had been selling thousands of machine tools to Japan to build their War machine. That had been turned against us.
"Legend plates" are attached to Machines for lubrication instructions. After hauling several(Shop) truck loads of Japanese plates to the trash bin · I then started hauling several loads of Russian Legend Plates to restock the shelves. From that time on most of the machine tools were shipped to Russia and England. It was then I realized that the United States was quietly engaged in the European War effort.
Now that I was gainfully employed , I was able to Trade-in the 1932 Oldsmobile for a 1936 Ford for an additional $245.00 that I did not have. Semi-Monthly Payments of $10.00 would releave the debt in a year. This was not one of my better ideas.
My Machine shop experience in High school enabled me to progress through various stages of training over the next several months, at a more rapid pace than I would have otherwise. I quickly learned to operate large machines with a reasonable degree of proficiency.
Email The Author, Ed T. Braun, email@example.com
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