In his own words
In 1979, just after our son Mark was born, Pop was visiting in Greeley. Somehow, somebody in the family was smart enough to suggest we sit together one evening and interview him, recording his words on a cassette tape. Some time later, somebody in the family transcribed that tape, and I was lucky enough to end up with a copy. So unlike any of my other grandparents, we have a brief sketch of Poppie’s life in his own words.
After reading the transcription a few days ago, I wondered aloud if I should “edit” some of Pop’s words to make his history more traditional or conventional or more “family history” sounding. Fortunately, Don reminded me that Pop’s history should reflect him – not a watered down version of the grandfather I knew and loved.
Enjoy his words in the next several posts- and perhaps you’ll understand where you get a little bit of your “spiciness!”
I was born in Wolverine, Michigan, and lived there for two years. The house I was born in was still there the last time I went back. It was made of sheet metal and simulated glass. It looked like a black house, but really it was sheet metal.
We moved to Flint when I was two, and lived at 207 Stone Street. The street ran all the way through to the railroad tracks. It used to flood every spring and the water came clear up to the floor of our house. We moved from there up to 205 when I was seven or eight, and I lived there until I got married. Then Dort Factory bought all the houses. Dort did not own that property along Water Street first. [Dort was the beginning of the auto industry in Flint – the forerunner of GM, Chevrolet, and Buick.)
After Dort factory was built, Dad started working there. We had two bedrooms upstairs and one bedroom down, and we started taking in boarders and roomers. We had two beds in the big bedroom upstairs – so we had four boarders there. And in the little room we had two boarders. When I was real small, the four of us kids slept in one be downstairs on a pull-out davenport. (Davenport was the name of a series of sofas made by the Massachusetts furniture manufacturer A. H. Davenport and Company, which no longer exists. Because the furniture was so popular at the time, the name davenport became a genericized trademark, like aspirin, especially in the Midwest. My Aunt Judy still calls her sofa the davenport!) Then I moved upstairs and slept with the boarders. We had five boarders for years.
Outside in the shed that was commonly called the back porch, we had a toilet. All it was was a steel round bowl with no trap. We had to turn the water on inside the house to wash things out. We had a toilet, but that was all, and in the winter when it was 40 degrees below out there, we were sitting on a steel bowl – you wouldn’t believe it! Well, you had a wood seat. When the kids were little, we took baths in the kitchen in the wash tubs, and heated the water on the stove. Every Saturday we would go downtown to the IMA [Industrial Mutual Association, which I think is similar to the YMCA], and we would make a big day of it. We would go downtown and take a shower and get a shave and a shampoo and get my shoe shined, and we would spend quite a few bucks to clean up. That night we would go out.
One of my first memories is riding in a Stutz Bearcat. That was one of the fanciest cars ever made, and I rode in the jump seat on the outside. It was a little seat on the outside and you put your feet on the running board. It was just a little two-seater. I have no idea how much it cot then, but a Stutz Bearcat today (1979) would cost you about 50,000 dollars or better. It belonged to one of those neighbors who was chasing (???) but I won’t go into that!
I started in Rankin School, which was about four blocks from where I lived. I was the wrong age to go to kindergarten, so I started in the first grade. I don’t remember much about school, but I wet my pants every day! I was too bashful to raise my hand, or one thing or another. I transferred from that school when I was in the fifth grade. I went to Stevenson School, which is still used for a school today (perhaps in 1979, but no longer today). I went to grades 6-8 in that school, and then I transferred to old Flint High. That school was torn down when they built the new Central. That was before Northern [High School] was built where Joyce went to school.
I didn’t graduate. I only went through the 10th grade. Gram only went to the eighth grade.