Let’s take a trip back 60 years!
This morning I was making breakfast on Mother’s day. Obviously my blog is about 1 week behind real life but that’s just the way things go.
Anyway…. I fried up some Jimmie Dean breakfast sausage in little schnitzels and mixed them in with some scrambled eggs which I served on toast. Conversation turned to sausage (we talk about food a lot) and I was commenting on how little fat rendered out of the name brand sausage which got us off on a tangent quite unrelated…
…and hence the story…
We moved around a bit when I was young. At six months we moved from Milwaukee to Algoma, WI. At 2 1/2 we moved back to Milwaukee — bringing the entire hardware store that my parents had bought in Algoma back to Milwaukee where my mom wanted to live. I lived in the community called Bayview in Milwaukee from then till second grade, at which time we moved to Wauwatosa (a Milwaukee suburb) where I went to second, third and fourth grade. Fifth and sixth as well as all of junior high and high school we lived in yet another place. And about the time I graduated high school we moved one last time.
During that period between second and fourth grade my dad superintended an 18 family apartment building owned by my uncle. It was on Martha Washington Drive in Wauwatosa and because he was taking care of the building the apartment assigned to the “Super” was small — never intended for a man with a family. One tiny bedroom. And in a closet there was a murphy bed, which would have been mine had I not had a mind of my own. So, assuming that you start kindergarten at 4 or 5, by this time I would have been 8 or 9 years old. I took one look at that murphy bed and I was not happy!
You can see that the building was sort of “C” shaped and there was a long hallway that went along the spine of the building, connecting the two wings. It was the only place in the building where you could get from one wing to the other. Along that hallway were small rooms containing laundry facilities and chicken wire storage lockers. One day I was exploring our new home and I realized there was a lot of room going to waste in those locker rooms and I harassed my parents with the idea that I could get a bed — a real bed — and we could put it in one of those rooms, and maybe a table to play on, and I could have my bedroom there; a good 30 feet from where my parents were, two doors away. Don’t ask me how I did it but I convinced them it was a good idea.
Soon I had not only a bed, but bunk beds (maybe they were thinking about having another baby? — well, I know they were because my mom went through a spontaneous abortion about that time and the whole family were sad for a long time. Anyway… I ended up with a small table/desk where my store-bought chemistry set went and they came up with an old, rickety three band radio similar to one my grandfather in Chicago had — why that was important I didn’t know, but my dad made a big deal out of it — and the radio was a floor model. They put the radio at the foot, or was it the head, or the bunk bed and I could reach through the boards of the headboard/footboard to reach the tuning dial. For some reason the on/off switch didn’t work and my dad (not being much of a woodworker) put the cheapest sort of push button switch right through the beautiful wooden case so I could turn it on and off and I used to lay there in the evenings, long after I was to have been asleep listening to the radio.
It was my first experience of shortwave radio, but my fascination with shortwave was short-lived. Even at that age I found myself listening to the “Clear Channel” station, WGN, broadcast from Chicago. And on weeknight evenings there was talk radio a program featuring Milt Rosenberg. I’ve written at least one previous time about Milt Rosenberg so I won’t go there again…. but an odd memory came up this morning from that program.
It seems that one of the sponsors for that talk show was a company that made breakfast sausage. It was advertised as a “Whole Hog Sausage.” To this day I think about those evening listening to the radio and at the oddest times I remember that commercial for whole hog sausage. I have zero recollection of the company doing the advertising — but I’m that way. There are a lot of products that I remember because of the cleverness of their advertising whilst I have zero recollection of the company name. So much for the value of advertising.
I lived like that — in a room separated from my parents — for two, maybe two and a half years. I have more recollections of that period in my life than any other, even though I can not remember any friends from that period. I know I had a couple. At least one living half a block away, but I remember walking up this parkway — actually walking along the edge of the creek there — the mile and a quarter to my elementary school. I would walk quickly on the way to school, but the trip back home took a lot longer and sometimes involved water, mud, and a bawling out when I arrived home late. Still, it was fun. And I think I walked that way alone most of the time…. more happy with nature, the bugs and the frogs, than with classmates who must also have lived in the same direction.
Going the opposite direction from school, we had a county park just a couple blocks from home and even at that age I used to spend a good part of the summer exploring the trails and the curiosities of the park on my own. You could do that sort of thing back then and no one thought anything about it. It was an innocent world and I was free to wander — and I did.
It’s odd the memories that stick the clearest in one’s mind. That was a short period of time in my life, yet it has some of the most vivid memories, but I’ve never thought of it as the “happiest” or the “most interesting” or any appellation at all. It was just the “time we lived on Martha Washington Drive.” Or the time I listened to late night radio.
I find myself writing more often about memory now that I’m retired. I’ve said many times that in my prime I spent almost no time remembering things. I was always focussed on the future. When we retired it took me a couple years to embrace this phase of life but now, fully 8 years on, I wonder how I ever got through the working years. They seem so far away now. And when we are with our daughter or grand-kid (for some reason typing “granddaughter” just annoys me. It doesn’t LOOK right with two “d” ‘s and it doesn’t look right with only one either!) it get all tired out just listening to their schedules — to say nothing of trying to live their schedules! I wasn’t mentally ready for retirement, but I was physically ready to be sure. Too many years of burning the candle at both ends and the demands of too many people left me happy to wander around the country in an RV and now to enjoy the simple pleasure of being with my bride and cooking and visiting places we like and not being embarrassed to have gotten to this age. 🙂
I guess whole hog sausage isn’t a particularly memorable thing any more. I see that Johnsonville Sausage used that expression for a while, but for me it will always be reminiscent of another day and time. A simpler, more innocent time. Peggy has nieces and nephews who are in grade and high school. They are interested in robotics and all manner of things that never crossed my mind. At their age I was reading philosophy and religions. Clearly, I was cut from a different cloth. But I think about the way in which activity stifles thought. You need a certain amount of stillness for your brain to entertain ideas and I’m glad I was born when I was. I hear others who say, “oh, to be twenty again” or thirty or forty. The problem with such wishes is that the person looking back would no longer fit into that time, no more than Michael J. Fox’s character in “Back to the Future” fit into the time he was exploring. Life simply doesn’t work that way — and it’s good that it does.
All we can do is use the time we have in the best way we can.
I hope you have a great day. It’s sunny here today — the first sunny day in quite a few. We had 33º overnight but the forecast indicates we might just about be out of the nearly-freezing temps for the year. I hope so. Rain is a lot more enjoyable when the temps are warmer and we have a good share of rain in the forecast for the next ten day. Oh goody. The farmers aren’t happy. They ought to be in their fields by now and many of them still haven’t done their spring chores.