Thursday, May 22, 2008

Chapter 3 - Karl Jansen

Jack had a shoeshine kit that he would take up town on occasion to make a few coins.
We had pruned a few of our trees mostly for fire wood. Jack and Dad had rigged up a sawing gig to cut the branches to stove length and it was my job to drag the limbs to the back of the house where they were. I whined and complained about the cold. Jack says we are not complaining. I said, I have to walk north. Big laugh. What I was referring to was that I had to walk into the north wind and they were on the leeward side of the house. After that any time someone griped about being cold, someone would pipe up, "Oh you had to walk north". Sound in back ground of teeth being gritted.
There was a part basement under the house. Food stuff like ham, bacon, big crocks for salted stuff. I remember the corn kernels in brine. We had a sieve pan for a dipper, scoop out some corn in a bowl then rinse and rinse. The corn still tasted a little salty. Lots of potatoes, apples, shelves of canned stuff.
We had city water only in the kitchen sink. The turnoff was out in the yard. It consisted of a half inch square rod in a small pipe. The rod fit in a little square hole many feet below the ground for non-freezing capabilities. Once in a while some idiot kid would pull up the rod and we had to dig down to the main pipe and put the rod in again. They never did it twice.
We had acquired another dog, his name was Pal. He was a reddish brown, maybe a foot and a half high with mixed genes. He spent the night on Jack's and my bed, but his favorite spot was in a box behind the stove. He had a problem of bad gas. He would cut one loose then he would open one eye and watch everyone. When one of us turned our heads quick and looked at him, he would jump up and run to the door. The door was opened and he got booted out..
We burned wood, cobs, and coal to heat with, the cobs mostly for cooking. Dad and some of his friends would bring in three big cottonwood logs at a time and every night after school it was my job to saw off three chunks and split them, put them in the wood room; misery-whip time. big saw.

We had concrete sidewalks on two sides of our place and the big thing was an orange crate scooter, consisting of a three foot 2 by 4 upright and another one to stand on behind the orange crate. The wheels were one roller-skate bisected, half in front and half behind. A cross bar for hanging on. Seems like every kid had one. Transportation for small grocery orders. We also rolled hoops. An iron ten inch in diameter ring off a wagon hub. We propelled it with a lath.
We lived across the street from the Presbyterian Church. Someone gave me a hand me down suit to wear to Sunday School. That was the only suit I ever owned. I went to church pretty steady until I outgrew the suit. We gave it to someone else to help them walk the straight and narrow.
Another one of our recreations was to hit the country-side and gather stuff. A lot of farms had been abandoned and the people had an auction sale, then left. We would get volunteer stuff from the gardens. Every farm had fruit trees so we got lots of that. We carried a tote sack. Mom would process anything I brought home.
There was one Christmas vacation I didn't enjoy too much. It started out good. I went to Billy Dunn's place just out of town at the foot of the bluff. I wasn't supposed to play with Billy. His family had a bad reputation. His older sister's boyfriend was a boxer. Billy had all the things needed to make a soap box cart. We built a nifty one, even had a steering wheel rigged to the front wheels with ropes. We made a few runs down the bluff. His younger sisters wanted a ride so we all got on, pretty crowded! I drove down the hill weaving a little for fear appeal. The slope was lined with trees. I headed for one to scare the girls, but when I wanted to swerve back, the steering rope broke. I stuck my foot out to stop us. When we hit the tree my foot was between cart and tree. Big Pain! I couldn't walk so Billy pulled me home in a little red coaster wagon. Here is Billy Dunn with me--how do I explain why we are together. I came up with a story about being beyond Billy’s
Place and stepped in a hole. I know I taxed Mom’s ability to keep faith with some of my excuses. I had to come clean the next day when it hurt so bad. Mom called Dr. Hagman and he said the foot was broken pretty badly, not like stepping in a hole. He put a cast on it and the pain stopped. By the time Christmas vacation was over I could hobble to school.
We had a special treat one day when the PallMall cigarette PR car came to our town. The car was an Austen and the man inside was a midget. Barely room for him with all the cigarettes. Carton and cartons of them. He would drive along slow and holler, “Call for Phillip Morris” What a voice. A few of us town kids followed him all over town and as he left town he threw out a carton of cigarettes for us. We smoked pretty fancy for awhile. I think all the boys smoked, but I don’t remember any of the girls smoking. Have to ask Martha.
A few of us city boys hit an occupied farm one night and got a good watermelon, but we also got caught. We had to work two days picking potatoes for the farmer. What happened to the spank them and let them go theory. I think it was about this time that I thought maybe I was the kind of little boy my mom didn’t want me to play with.
I mentioned the floods. We also had dust storms and cyclones. Run for the storm cellar where ever you hear what could be a cyclone. I don’t think anyone locked them. They were pretty much alike. About five feet below ground, pole and sod roof, slanty doorway. Shelves for canned goodies and bench seats. Big enough for six or eight people. Dust storms every year. Yeah, we are still in Kansas.
One of the sad times I can remember was when one of our buddies stepped on something and cut his foot. He got blood poisoning then lockjaw. We took turns sitting in his room with him. He was in coma condition but his mother wanted us to talk to him as if he could hear us. I was with him when he died, not pleasant.
We had good times too. We had a big city park. Big crowd every week-end. All kinds of race competitions and baseball . The surrounding towns had their own town teams. Mom played on the gals team as the catcher. She caught the ball in her right hand, the left hand jerked the glove off her right hand ball and all. She then grabbed the ball from the mitt and threw it. The moves were so smooth and quick you didn’t really see it. Not many gals stole second base. They didn’t replace her so I guess she did O K.
Later in the day we would have boxing matches. There was a ring with a pad on the floor put up in the dance hall by the ball park. We could choose our opponent. We would go three rounds. The winner go fifteen cents and the loser got ten cents. We could go to the movie for a dime and the winner bought the popcorn and split.
A group of actors, ”The Chick Boys Players” would come to the theater fairly often. When they arrived in the afternoon I would be there and volunteer to help set up. Free ticket being the object. I always got the job. I will never forget the night they did Doctor Jeckle and Mister Hyde. All afternoon I watched them put the props together. The cane that was a weapon, how it came apart. The shattering chairs. I knew it was all phony stuff, but that night at the play Mr. Hyde was real. I was in the third row of seats back. I would duck behind the seat in front of me when he was on stage, but I would look up often to be sure he was still up there. I wanted to go home but it was dark and would he stay in the theater.
Sometimes, maybe during the week they would show silent movies with the writing at the bottom of the screen for the dialog. I think silents just cost a nickel. We could look through a back window and see the back of the screen and try to read the words kinda backwards.
The town jail was in a little park by the theater. Some nights we could hear a locked up drinker singing or another calling for help… “Let me outta here!”
We played baseball at school before school and noon hour. The two biggest kids would take turns choosing a player. I was small and not fast so I was nearly always chosen last. I don’t remember feeling bad about that. When the choosing was over we were equal.
I must have been in about the sixth grade when I played in the school pep band. The main reason for this was to get into all the ball games free. One night I went to the band building to get my clarinet and as I pulled it off the shelf the reed clamp hooked on something and came off reed and all. I didn’t notice it until I got to the gym. I told our band teacher my problem and she said the band building was locked, just go through the motions of playing. She played the same clarinet that I did. After the game I was in the restroom and an older fellow I knew said he had never heard me play so good and he gave me two dimes. I never said I was perfect, there is a good reason for that.
Mom made the best cottage cheese in town. I remember it hanging on the clothes line in sacks to drain. I peddled cups of it around town. Fifteen cents a cup. Mom got a dime and I got the nickel. Dr. Hagman was a steady customer, usually asked for two cups. I would go back later and pick up the cups.
In the spring the first plants to come up was lambs quarter. I really liked it and as soon as it started coming up I would bring a big bunch home. Greens for dinner tonight. Mom always made me feel like a real breadwinner when I brought something home for her to cook.
We had lutefisk for Christmas dinner. Most of the people in our area were Swedes or Norwegians. We fit in fairly well being Danes. Lutefisk was what they had for Christmas dinner looked to me like a piece of cardboard in the shape of a flat fish. It was dry and hard as a board. It had to be soaked in water to rejuvenate it, then cooked. Why anyone thought it was a delicacy I don’t know. It didn’t taste good to me.
When a person paid for their groceries the store keeper would fill a small sack of candy and give it to them. For the kiddies.
While we lived in this house in Scandia, dad was gone most of the summer. I think he liked it out west. There was more work for a person. He would write home I don’t know how often and tell about where he was and what he was doing. Idaho seemed to be the place he liked best. I do recall one letter when he was in New Mexico.
Some of us boys would go down to the hobo jungle by the tracks under the railroad bridge about half a mile out of town. We would scavenge a few gardens and take a few things to the camp, quite a few people did that. There was usually quite a lot of guys there. Not the same ones, just passing through. They would pat us on the shoulder and thank us. I probably told them about dad being in Idaho and how much work there was there. Mom really didn’t approve of me going there but she didn’t tell me to stop. I was in the seventh grade. I could take care of myself. I couldn’t fight very well but I could talk my way out of most trouble. I should have used some of that skill talking myself out of getting into it.


Sondi said...

What kind of work did grandpa do when he was away?

I'm glad to hear that you got another dog. I can't imagine the family without one! Especially my dad!

I didn't know my dad shined shoes for a living!! How interesting. Sounds like you were a good gatherer. You used all the resources available! No welfare there.

Keep the stories going. I love to hear them. Can you jog Aunt Martha's memories too? I know she must have some good ones to tell.
With Love, Sondra

K & N said...

Your dad only did the shoe shine thing for about a year. It was just for his own pocket money.

Karl & I were married by the time you and Jackie came to live with Charley & Zoe. Zoe, alone, got on the bus and went to Bremerton to meet your Grandmother Hoffman. She was the one who took Zoe to the judge and had 'custody' of the two of you transferred to Zoe. Aunt Martha is probably more knowledgeable about all of this than we are. Zoe was a champion for sure.

Charley did whatever work he could find, Karl says he was an Itinerant worker. He was away much of the time when they lived in Kansas and Idaho.

Love Flo!

K & N said...

"I can't answer all of your questions and Karl is busy.
I do remember that sometime just after FDR was elected President G'ma Zoe wrote him a letter. (She told me this.) She told him about Charley getting his back broken while breaking broncs for the Cavalry in WW1. They had several children by then and needed help. She rec'd. an answer from his Sec. and from then on she rec'd. a monthly check for $40-. So, that was about 1933 or 1934. She thought FDR was the best president ever!! So, your Dad was a teen, Martha about 12 and Karl was about 10. You can just imagine how she felt. The check was HERS for her family!! She got the check until she died, we are pretty sure. By then it amounted to quite a bit monthly. Martha probably knows! I guess we need to ask her some ??? and write down what she says. Some day!
Can you imagine what that meant to her? She and her kids were just scraping by all those years before then.
This isn't for the blog until we have verified some things and even then, maybe not!
Karl checked and ok'd this, I don't like sending things off and having him tell me later 'that isn't right...'
Flo & Karl"