BUD BREWER

One Man's Opinion

LIFE IN THE 20TH CENTURY Chapter one

A series of stories and some experiences for sharing with our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Life is Good!

In September of 1935, at the age of 5, I was enrolled in Kindergarten at the Oneonta Grammar School in South Pasadena.  My family lived at 1124 Beach Street in the left side of this 1200 sq. foot duplex shown below with one bedroom and a sleeping porch behind it where my sister and I slept in Bunk (stacked) beds.  When guests or relatives came to visit (not very often), they would sleep on a “Murphy bed pulled down from a closet located in the dining room.  What I remember about that period is that as a small child I had freedom to wander all over the neighborhood if I was home by dinnertime.  Among the more popular pastimes in our neighborhood was the game of hide and seek or “Kick the Can” as it became known in which each participant would have 60 seconds to hide and try to race whoever was “It” to the can in the street first.  A player would get home safely if they were able to kick the can before the person who was “it” did.  In this period, it was common for kids our age to play baseball or “kickball” in the street of a residential area. Or other times to just venture around the neighborhood exploring alleys, vacant lots or even wander up into the then undevelopped foothills above our home.  How I kept time to know when I was late is unknown but it seemed natural to just be sensitive to my stomach to guide me when I had to start moving toward home.  Life in those days was simple.  We were called or sometimes pulled out of bed and dressed for school, every morning and fed our cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, told to brush our teeth and patted on the behind to get moving off to school.  Fortunately for us we only had to walk about a mile to school. My sister was in charge to see that I crossed the railroad tracks (then running down the middle of Huntington Drive) safely but for the most part I was responsible to take care of myself.  Our kitchen appliances looked something like those in the image here. We had a small nook with built in benches on each side of our breakfast table.  Every day or so a truck would pull up out front and the driver, usually dressed in white, would carry a 20-pound block of ice to our back door and place it in what we called an “icebox”.  To this day, I often reply to a question asking where we kept something cold with the response, “It’s in the ice box”.  Refrigeration was expensive and available then only in a bulky piece of equipment that was too large for our close quarter living.  Of course, we had no TV, Cell phone, Tablet, Disc Player, computer access to the Internet, Facebook page or any of the other gadgets todays youngster live with. We had a bicycle and treasured the mobility available thereby.  We had to make do with what our imagination would construe.  And sometimes that got us into trouble.  Saturday afternoon movies were a standard with cartoons, and double feature films about cowboys and Indians. For 10 cents, a parent could get 4 hours of baby sitting in a movie theater, deemed a safe place.

At my home, we had relatively modern plumbing and heating, etc. when compared to that available to my wife Dotty’s family in her childhood.  She grew up in Waverly, Kentucky, a small village in the northwest part of the state.  She was the 7th child of her mother, Mary and father, Charles Cruz.  They lived in a modest log framed house built in the late 1880’s like in the image below (but the dormer windows in the roof as shown were for ventilation only as it was a one story home). and while it had three fireplaces, it had no indoor plumbing.  Water for drinking, cooking, washing up, laundry, or even bathing was available only by depressing a pump handle up and down 20-30 times and collecting water from a well located under or near the house in a bucket, glass, or tub of some kind. Then it could be heated by placing it on a grate over one of the fireplaces or over grills of a coal or wood burning stove.  Of course, without plumbing one had to use what is called an “Outhouse”, typically located 30-50 feet to the rear of the home, to empty bladders or do more serious voiding. While the central house was connected to a source of electricity, most of the evening interior light was obtained from kerosene lanterns.  The electricity did provide power for a radio and limited illumination in the Living or Great room.  During the winter, Dotty’s dad would light all three fireplaces before going to bed so the family could keep warm at least for most of the night.  Dotty ‘s two older sisters, Anne and Kathryn, influenced her behavior most. Their early training caused her to spend only one day in the first-grade classroom before the teacher told her to report to the second grade class the next day. The family couldn’t afford nonessential play things like dolls, so Dotty would make her own by cutting out figures from the Sear’s catalogs. Her sisters taught her to study, do her homework every day of the school year.  Her father, a college graduate, checked on her math and science studies daily and made sure she completed every assignment, often begrudgingly.  But math and science were not her best subjects so she directed most of her free time to recreational reading.  This practice is something Dotty has done for most of her life thus gaining knowledge fast and becoming one of the best students in her Catholic schools.  But Anne was 7 years older and Kathryn was struck with Tuberculosis and had to live in a hospital for persons recovering from such a contagious disease.  Dotty found her good friends at school to be most influential for what she did and how she behaved during her teenage years.  In fact, her best school chum, Jeannette Webb’s mother, a good friend of the family, sort of took over her disciplinary teaching during those teen years and became a seregate parent.   Ms. Webb was a kindly woman raised with strong Catholic standards and she would come down hard on both girls when they stepped out of line.  This strict religion based influence has served her well even to this day.  For young girls living in the Mid-west or anywhere in the country for that matter, one of the important influences on their lives was generated by the Motion Picture Industry in Hollywood and the Stars or screen idols seen in the movies every Saturday night or Sunday.  It became a dream for Dotty to visit Southern California and walk down Hollywood Boulevard (hopefully to see a Movie Star or two).  During her teen age years, her dreams were just that, but little did she realize then that one day soon she would face the realization that it just might not be so much of a dream but reality.

But more on that Next Time when we talk about life in the 1940’s   

Sunday, December 7, 1941: After returning from Mass, Dotty turned on the radio before joining the family at the mid-day meal and heard an announcement by the newsman that a Japanese fleet of dive bombers from aircraft carriers had bombed Pearl Harbor. He reported Several Battleships had been sunk or were seriously damaged and Hickam Field had suffered serious loss of planes and pilots. Dotty’s mom screamed with fear stating, “now Charles (Dotty’s older brother) will have to go off to war!” That is the way American mothers thought when another nation attacked the USA in that time. It meant that we would be at war and all eligible males will be subject to military service and full wartime mobilization of the American Economy changing a peacetime economy into a wartime economy.

“One man and his wife”s opinions”

Bud & Dottie Brewer



One Response to “LIFE IN THE 20TH CENTURY Chapter one”

  1. The “Greatest Generation” has much to teach our young. I cannot wait to read the next installment, although you may have to break it down into something less than a whole decade! Too many stories worth writing about!

Leave a Reply