Chapter 4 of Volume 2
My early years growing up in Ferndale, Michigan.
I should note that my nickname during all of these years was "Dick." Sometime during the early 1980s I changed it to "Rick." I favored this name over Richard and Dick, and it was still similar.
I don't remember much of the 1940's. One event that really stands out was in September 1945. It was time for me to start kindergarten at Roosevelt Elementary School in Ferndale, Michigan. Mother walked me to school, and I cried all the way. I didn't want to go to school. I really cried when she pulled me into the school and took me to my classroom. She left, and I continued to cry. The teacher came to me as I was seated at a desk and asked me what was wrong. I told her that I didn't feel very well and I wanted to go home. She took me to the nurse, and she called mother to tell her that I was sick. Mother came and picked me up and we walked back to the house. I believe the next day or soon after I was taken to the doctor. The doctor discovered that I had rheumatic fever. I had it for two and a half years. I had to stay in bed for a year or more since I was supposed to continually rest. I remember that even on Christmas Day 1945 I was still not allowed to leave my bed. I pleaded with my mother, promising that I would lie still on the sofa during the opening of the presents. I was reminded that I still had to stay in bed. I remember crying as I heard the conversations and the enjoyment from the living room. I felt very sorry for myself. Eventually my presents were brought to my bed, and I could then open them.
The time came when I was allowed to spend some time in the living room sitting still, and then later sitting on the front porch during nice weather. The instructions were to stay put and sit still. I could not do anything. After perhaps a year and a half or two years I was allowed to move around. A schoolteacher would come to the house to work with me. I don't believe it was every day. I remember I was learning my coloring skills by coloring within the lines of an image. As all kids do at my age, I took a crayon and just moved the crayon back and forth on the paper. She showed me her example of coloring within the lines. Then she compared her artwork to mine, and asked me which one looked better. I said, "Mine!" I don't remember her reaction.
Finally September 1947 came and I was told I was healed. Age wise, I was supposed to be in the second grade and that was the grade I started school. Many years later I felt that I should have started school as a first grader. During summer 1948 after passing the second grade, the school contacted my parents and suggested that I repeat second grade. I cried. I felt that I had failed, even though I had passing grades. I was very embarrassed about this, and my self-confidence declined. I didn't want to continue my friendship with my best friends and any others advancing to the third grade. I kept these feelings to myself.
While walking home from school as a second grader the second time around, I came up with a brilliant idea. I thought that I already knew everything I needed to know in life, and therefore I no longer needed to go to school. Mom would surely love to have me home with her every day. I was so excited that my schooldays were behind me. I was so excited that I ran home from school, which was probably less than a mile. I enthusiastically told Mom my brilliant plan, but she didn't see it my way, which was a big disappointment and a surprise. She said, "Maybe so, but you still have to go to school." That proves that not all brilliant ideas will fly!
It took me several months to gain strength after not being active for two and a half years. I worked on running, but just a little running would cause me to breathe heavily with a sound from my throat. I worked at running, building up endurance, and eliminating this breathing sound.
I enjoyed reading books. I read several Hardy Boys books but also enjoyed books on known and little-known people. I enjoyed reading about how they lived and what they did. I also enjoyed stories related to American history. To this day I still enjoy these types of books.
Mother's brother, Lionel Burrows, was a carpenter and a housepainter. He was good in his work. He purchased some land up in northern Michigan on Bear Lake. He built log cabins on this land and rented these cabins on a weekly basis. We spent a week on the property for a few summers. It was fun being there and on the lake. During one of these times I would row the boat for Mother as she fished. I wasn't into fishing, but I had a fishing rod during this time. Mom would put a worm on the hook, and I would drop the line near the boat. The fish we caught were small. I let Mom remove the fish from my line. One time I just dropped the hook in the water without any bait. The water was so clear you could see the bottom, and thus the fish near the hook. I watched one of the fish bite the hook, and I had a fish without the use of bait. Another time I remember Dad and I were together on Bear Lake and I was doing the rowing. We were a distance from the cabins, and a storm came up very fast. The wind was blowing, and the waves were high. I rowed as fast as I could while going against the wind. I wasn't making any progress so finally Dad said to switch places and he would row. I was a little concerned, thinking the wind could push us further away from the cabins with the water getting rougher. Dad slowly made progress, and we got back safely. I was grateful for Dad because I realized if he hadn't been with me I would have ended up further away from the cabins, and who knows what would have happened to me in the storm.
This same brother of Mother's converted our Ferndale house attic into one very large room with windows on opposite sides. The window hinges were on the bottom, and thus we could open the window from the top and let it lay flat on the bottom wall. This room was like an apartment. It was enclosed with paneling, built-in shelves, and a built-in work desk. This room became the bedroom for Phil and me. When Phil moved out of the house to attend Adrian College the room was all mine! I loved it! I spent my evenings up there doing school homework, devotions, and listening to music. It was very special for me. I remember one Saturday morning lying in bed with the windows open and hearing the birds chirping and a neighbor speaking to someone. It gave me a warm and peaceful feeling. It was a wonderful situation for me during my high school years and the times I was home from college.
When I was very young Phil had a black cocker spaniel dog. This dog didn't like small children, and we had to keep her in the basement when there were small children in the house. When this dog died, I asked Dad if I could have a dog. During one of my birthday dinners, perhaps when I was thirteen, Dad and Phil excused themselves from the kitchen table and went outside. I didn't have a clue as to what was going on. Dad came back into the kitchen with Phil and a boxer on a leash. Dad said, "Here is your dog, Rick." I was surprised and excited. Dad had said he didn't want another dog! The dog was only about six months old and was very thin since it had been mistreated. In the beginning this dog was something else! Mother laid her new Easter hat on the bed, and Lady got hold of it and destroyed it. One time Mom cleaned the side of the stove with a chemical, and Lady licked it off. She was sick and threw up everything that was in her stomach. Another time I left small plastic tubes of paint used to paint a picture by the numbers on my bedroom floor. Lady came in while I wasn't in the room and ate all of these tubes, plastic and all! Again the dog was very sick, and what she threw up was in colors. Perhaps it was a miracle that she lived! Another time mother took a steak from the freezer and placed it on the kitchen table, and then went downstairs to her workshop. Later she came up to the kitchen and saw that the steak had disappeared! She walked out to the living room and here was Lady enjoying a raw steak meal.
The dog was becoming a real problem. When we left as a family we had to put her leash on her and tie the opposite end of the leash to the basement door handle. If we didn’t, she would knock over the trash container and spread the trash throughout the dining room and living room, and chew on what she would find. When the dog was let out we couldn't get her back in unless one of us threw a stick or stone at her making a direct hit. To her, if the object didn't hit her it was a game. She would run around in circles until a thrown item hit her, then she would understand that it was time to go in the house. We were thinking of getting rid of this dog.
One time Phil was outside with the dog, and the dog took off running to the end of the street. Phil called and called for her, but the dog kept running. Phil went after her, and apparently Lady ran onto the heavy traffic of Woodward Ave. and was hit in the hip by a car, but nothing was broken. Her back left leg and hip were hurting, but she was able to get on the sidewalk and came to a car that had the back door opened. The lady was about to put her groceries in the back seat when Lady hopped onto the car's seat and urinated on the backseat. Phil finally caught up to this car and grabbed Lady's collar and dragged her out of the car. Poor Phil was very embarrassed and told the woman that he was sorry. Phil left the scene and took Lady home. This was bad, but it ended up being positive because we never had any more problems with this dog. She would always come when one of us called her, and she never ran away again. In addition, we could leave her loose in the house when we were gone and she didn't do any damage within the house. She was a wonderful, changed, calm, and lovable dog.
In early January 1957 Mother was in Los Angeles visiting some of her relatives. Dad was preparing our meals. On one particular evening he announced he was making pancakes for dinner, which we all liked. Phil and I took a bite, and we both thought it was terrible. Dad didn't really believe us, but when he took his first bite he agreed that the pancakes were terrible. He asked what we wanted to do. I said there was a coupon for White Castle hamburgers, twelve hamburgers for a dollar. These hamburgers were smaller than the regular restaurant hamburgers. Since I had my driver's license I could drive. So I volunteered to drive over there for these hamburgers. Dad put all of the pancakes in our boxer dog's food dish, and she rapidly ate them up. Dad made the comment, "Well somebody likes my pancakes!" I drove to White Castle and gave my order with the coupon to a girl at the counter. I was surprised when she said I couldn't eat twelve hamburgers. I had to tell her this was a takeout order. When I got home we sat down and started eating our meal when I noticed that the dog wasn't with us. This was very unusual, because Lady always kept us company when we were eating. I got up and went out to the dining and living rooms, and I was shocked to see piles of pancakes that dog had thrown up. The dog was miserable, lying on her side. The dog did survive!
As I mentioned, Lady became a very calm, easygoing dog. Most people could walk into the house and the person would not even be aware that there was a dog in the house. Kids could bounce on our dog, and she would recognize it as fun, but if a stranger came on the property and our dog sensed something negative about this person she would charge close to the person and growl with teeth showing and with glassy eyes and a strip of hair on her back standing up. In this situation Lady would look mean and aggressive and the unknown person would just freeze until one of us would pull the dog back. Once we came home on a Friday night from dinner and a show and my parents' bedroom screen was on the ground and the window was opened. Apparently someone knew we were gone and removed the screen and lifted the window. He was greeted at the window with a teeth-showing, growling dog. The person went to plan B, which was leaving the yard as fast as he could. This was the biggest plus Lady earned during her lifetime. Our front door was all paneled glass. The regular mailman could come up the stairs to our mailbox and the dog would ignore him. One day our dog was lying in the front room and a different mailman arrived. He was walking up the steps when Lady jumped to her feet growling, and charged the front door, knocking out a few of the glass panels. Then she backed away and just walked behind Dad's chair and sat down as though nothing had happened. The poor mailman probably came close to a heart attack.
The day came when we could leave her out on the porch or in the front yard and other dogs and people walking and on bikes would pass by the house and Lady would ignore them. I did train Lady to do her business behind the garage, and she was faithful in this even when she was in the front yard. She would travel to the backyard behind the garage on her own when she had to go.
Lady would follow me upstairs when I went to bed. In the wintertime she liked to get under the covers at my feet. Eventually she would get too warm and come out from under the sheet, panting, to sleep on top of the covers. Dad didn't like the idea of the dog under the sheets, but Mother didn't think it was any big deal.
Mother was a great cook and made wonderful bread. Bread is my favorite food. A peanut butter sandwich with thick-sliced homemade bread is one of my favorite meals. Lady would always be with us during a meal, hoping some food would fall to the floor or a little handout when Mother wasn't looking. One time Dad cut half of a toasted slice of Mother's bread, buttered it, and gave it to Lady. Mother protested, "Don't give my bread to the dog." Dad said, "Lady likes good bread!" Lady loved toast, but it had to be buttered before she would eat it.
There was one time that I really embarrassed Dad. I was probably sixteen years old. I had an interest in astronomy to some degree. I was mainly fascinated with planets and nebulas. Our front porch had outdoor chairs. One dark summer evening I took my binoculars and one of these chairs to the dark backyard to look at the sky with my binoculars. After I reached the backyard a car drove in our driveway to turn around. In the living room Dad got up to see who it could be. As the car left the driveway Dad noticed one chair was missing. He immediately called the police, reporting that someone had stolen a chair from his porch. As the policeman was writing up a theft report, here I came with the chair. I placed the chair where it had been and walked into the living room. Dad was so embarrassed when I asked why the policeman was here. I think the policeman took it all in good spirits. It was a good laugh!
Mother seemed to find a lot of money during her lifetime. When I was about four years old she took me to a 5 and 10 cent store, as I remember. While I was standing next to her, she bent down to pick up a dollar that was right next to my shoe. I remember being very disappointed that I didn't look down to get it. Years later when we were all in Switzerland, at Lucerne or Interlaken, the four of us were standing together outside of a building. Mom bent down and picked up a silver coin next to my foot. Another time when I was a teenager we were entering a grocery store. As we were walking past a swept pile of litter, she spotted a wadded twenty dollar note in the trash. That was a lot of money back then. She was always picking up money.
Mom enjoyed Hershey chocolate bars. She would buy the very large bars and stash them away in the cupboard and not tell anyone. One of her hiding places was the cupboard over the built-in desk in the kitchen. I looked there once and found one opened bar. She changed her hiding place. Sometime later we were in the kitchen and she was washing the dishes and I volunteered to dry them. When we were done, I said, "Why don't we have some Hershey chocolate candy?" With her unique giggling she said, "How did you know that I have Hershey chocolate?" as she pulled open the drawer of dishtowels, reached under the towels, and pulled out the large Hershey bar. I said, "I didn't know." We both laughed.
I remember another laugh sometime during my teenage years. Mom was in the back room of the house, and I walked in the kitchen for either a soda pop or an ice cream stick. As I opened the refrigerator door I heard her loud voice saying, "I'll take one too!" I was surprised she could hear the refrigerator door opening. She wanted whatever I was getting. Mom was always a lot of fun and she had a very outgoing personality. People couldn’t help but like her. My brother Phil has her personality.
In 1952 we spent Thanksgiving at the home of one of my mother's sisters (Dottie Pierce) and her family in the Chicago area. They had two boys, David and Roger. David was one year older than Phil and Roger was two years older than me. We had a lot of fun hanging around together. Roger showed me his coin collection and gave me a lot of information on what he was doing with his collection. I was hooked! When we arrived home I started searching my parents' pennies and continued with the goal of completing the Lincoln cents set. Eventually I found enough coins to put sets together of the nickel through the silver dollar. In 1955 I started collecting silver dollars from 1878 to 1935. Just about every bank had silver dollars, and they were glad to get rid of them. It was possible to get brand-new silver dollars issued during the 1880s because the mint had many thousands of bags of new silver dollars that had never been released for circulation. Shortly after I started this new fun activity, Mother started to pursue the same goal of putting sets together. When summer came my most enjoyable activity was getting rolls and bags of coins and searching for specific dates and mint marks. Mother and I would do this together. We split the rolls and bags of coins equally and then searched the coins together. I have a lot of good memories of mother and me searching through volumes of coins. During these years there were coin shops in the area, and we could take the extra coins with values greater than face value and sell them to the coin dealer for a profit. I enjoyed making money from coins I had located from rolls and bags of coins. All of these coin sets were sold long ago.
I have always liked silver dollars. I remember when I was about four years old I had five or six silver dollars. Dad would keep them in his locked steel box in my bedroom closet. When I wanted to play with them he would retrieve them. I was fascinated by their size compared to my small hand. I don't know where these dollars came from, but this was all the money I had. One day Dad said something like, "Why don't we take these dollars to the bank and they will pay you money to keep them." It sounded good to me, so I said okay. Sometime after the savings account was created for me I asked Dad if we could go to the bank and look at my silver dollars. I envisioned that they had a lot of little wood shelf boxes and one had my name on it with my silver dollars. I was surprised to learn that this was not the case, and I was saddened that I no longer had these silver dollars. If I had understood that the bank wouldn't keep these silver dollars for me I would not have agreed to use this money for a savings account.
Silver dollars were very common but were rarely used for paying expenses. Most people were not aware that one could get nineteenth- and twentieth-century silver dollars dated 1878 to 1935 from the bank, many of which were never used for circulation. People requested them for gifts, especially for birthdays and Christmas. As a paper delivery boy I received silver dollars as tips during the Christmas season. I also enjoyed spending them. One could buy a lunch using a silver dollar and get a little change back. Most of the time when using a silver dollar or two to buy something the clerk would ask me if I really wanted to use these coins and express pleasure receiving them. It was fun.
Sometime during my freshman year at high school in Ferndale I started carrying a brand new but old silver dollar in my right pocket. These new coins were mostly dated during the 1880s. The luster would disappear after about four months, which meant I would spend it and get another new silver dollar from the bank. During my senior year in high school I decided to take the most common silver dollar, which was the Philadelphia Mint's 1921 Morgan dollar (silver dollars were minted at the Philadelphia, New Orleans, Carson City, and San Francisco mints), and have Mother engrave on the front "FHS class of 1959" (Ferndale High School). I believe she also engraved my initials, "RAW." I planned to carry this dollar in my right pocket for the rest of my life.
During this time I was a cashier at A and P grocery store. At the end of every business day we cashiers would balance the total money to the total purchases as shown on the cashier machine. One Friday night after I finished balancing, I went down the aisle and looked for any interesting coins in the trays of money the other cashiers had. This was a common procedure. One of the ladies had a silver dollar in her tray and I picked it up and got excited that it was dated 1895. All of the 1895 dated silver dollars from all of the mints were scarce, and each one was worth more than face value. The 1895 Philadelphia dollar was unknown, but the Philadelphia Mint showed minting twelve thousand for circulation and eight hundred and eighty proof surfaces for collectors. Only a few hundred of these proofs survived. It was during the 1980's that it was concluded that these twelve thousand coins had been melted down decades ago. Back to my story, as I turned the silver dollar to the back side it appeared to not have a mint mark, which means it would be from Philadelphia. I didn't have any money with me except for the silver dollar Mother had engraved for me. The cashier didn't care if I exchanged her silver dollar for mine. When I got home I discovered that this coin had a very faint "O," indicating that it was minted in New Orleans, and therefore was not from the Philadelphia Mint. Someone had tried to remove this "O" mintmark and was almost successful. I needed the "O" for my set, but the coin was damaged. I spent it. In the morning I was back at work (Saturday), but the lady who took care of the money each day didn't have my 1921 silver dollar with Mother's engraving.
At the end of August 1959 Mom and Dad came home from Montana. Mom had brand new silver dollars she got from a Montana bank, and I picked up an 1886 Philadelphia Mint, a very common date. I asked Mom if I could have this coin to keep in my right pocket during my four years of college. She agreed. I'm still carrying this coin in my right pocket, and it is very worn.
When Carole and I returned to Michigan from Germany in July 1965 silver dollars were no longer available. When the federal government announced that silver was going to be removed from our coins (late1963) and the value of silver was rising, there was a run by the public to hoard silver dollars. Thousands of people drained the U.S. Treasury of their one thousand silver-dollar bags. Banks no longer carried an inventory of silver dollars.
A short summary of my completing a silver dollar set (1878-1935) was published in the Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of The United States, a complete Encyclopedia, Volume II, pages 2044-2045. I'm credited as the writer, but the author is Q. David Bowers. These two-volume books were published during 1993 and they are now out of print. This book is the bible for silver dollars. The last set I sold was my silver dollars set. It was my favorite set, and it took me eight years to complete it. I completed it during my last semester of college in 1963 when I came home during spring break. Mother got a thousand silver-dollar bag from a local bank that was sealed in 1911. Mom told me I could have any dollars that I needed to complete my set, which were about thirteen silver dollars. That bag had every silver dollar that I needed to complete the set. When Carole and I purchased our first house in Portage outside of Kalamazoo, I sold this set in 1969 so that we could pay cash to furnish our house. I later wished I hadn't sold it since it was a nice set and some of the dollars were very scarce, but we didn't have to get a loan and pay interest for furnishing the house. The days of searching through rolls and bags of coins are long over, but I have fond memories of those days.
I also enjoyed baseball. During these years at home Dad would take me to the Detroit Tigers games. He took me to the 1951 All Star game at Detroit's stadium. Dad enjoyed sports; that was his entertainment. He reminded me when I was older that the two of us went to a double header on a Memorial Day. He purchased tickets that didn't have seats assigned. There were no vacant seats, so we sat on the steps. Two men were sitting in two end seats on Dad's side who were getting drunk. They left during the first game and never came back, so we took their seats. Dad asked me if I wanted to go home, after the first game. I told him I didn't want to leave until the second game was over. He was pleased and probably a little surprised. A lot of my togetherness with Dad was sports, and with Mother coins.
I remember one Christmas in the early1950's my brother Phil and I received a ping-pong rifle. This gun had two handles. When the barrel was expanded a ping-pong ball was pushed in the end of the barrel, which had a handle. Then your right hand would steady the gun and your left hand would quickly pull the extended barrel's handle toward yourself, and the ping-pong ball would really fly! We had a lot of fun running around the inside of the house firing ping pong balls at each other. I'm sure our parents regretted buying these toy guns for us for that Christmas. One Christmas we got an electric football game that we thought was really cool. The players had a magnet base and would move on the field's board when the power was turned on.
Dad put a basketball hoop on the top of the garage for us to shoot basketballs. One summer we played baseball in our driveway using a ping-pong ball and a tennis racket for the bat. We played this a lot during that one summer. During the summers we played catch with a baseball. It was fun just throwing the ball back and forth. During the fall we also played touch football on our street with the other kids. When I was in high school the gym would be opened for kids wanting to play basketball on Saturdays. I walked to the high school a few times to join a group of kids to play basketball. We played a lot of cards and board games, especially during the winter. I also did jigsaw puzzles and even made up a baseball game with dice that I could play by myself.
Dad also gave us a ping-pong table, placed in the basement. We used this table a lot, and so did our friends. I could never beat brother Phil during the first several games. A day came when I could beat him in this game and did many times. I got good hitting the edge on his side of the table. We both enjoyed playing ping-pong very much. During my freshman year of college I lived on campus in one of the men's dormitories. In the basement were a couple of ping-pong tables, and there was one fellow student who could beat everyone. I was no exception. He was my favorite opponent because I loved the challenge, and the day finally came that I was able to beat him.
My brother Phil had a paper route on W. Lewiston Ave., which was the next street south of us and was two blocks long. Almost every house subscribed to the Royal Oak Tribune. Royal Oak was a town next to Ferndale. I believe when I was eleven or twelve he wanted to give it up, and I wanted to take it. I started delivering newspapers after school, which I believe was only Monday through Friday. I had to collect the money weekly, and on Saturday Dad would take me to the newspaper office in Royal Oak to pay for the week's papers. My profit was what was left over, which was seven dollars and some cents.
When I was sixteen years old Dad got me a job at A & P grocery store on 9-Mile Road not very far from our house. I gave up my paper route and started work as a bagger. I also stocked shelves, and then I was promoted to cashier. I loved working at this grocery store. One could say I gave 100% to my job. I wanted to be busy all the time and always do what was right. As a bagger, when the customers were few, I would stock shelves, stock the paper bags at the end of the checkout aisles, or wherever I was needed. I always kept myself busy. I had a great learning experience during my employment with this A & P grocery store. The manager and assistant manager were very friendly and made it fun to work for them. The assistant manager joked a lot, and I never remember them being upset. They were always positive to everyone and made you feel that you were part of a team working together. This atmosphere made me enjoy working there and considered making a career in this business. During my senior year of high school the manager and the assistant manager were transferred to a new A & P store in Southfield, which were several miles from where I was. They wanted me to go with them, but I couldn't because I didn't have a car.
The new manager was very different, in fact just the opposite of the transferring managers. He turned me off from considering a career in a grocery store. He was very cold, quiet, and threatening. If you did something wrong his standard statement was, "If you do that again I will fire you." One time I was working as a cashier and few customers were ready to check out, so I went to the produce area to help with a customer returning soda pop bottles for a deposit refund. The procedure was to place the bottles on a specific counter at the back of the store to calculate the amount due the customer. As I gave her the credit slip for the refund, I left this area to help someone else with the intention of returning to remove the bottles to the storage area. Before I got back from this customer the manager approached me and asked why the bottles were there. I said I had delayed moving them to help someone else. He said that if I ever left bottles on the counter again he would fire me. Another time I was in an aisle stocking a shelf, and I felt that someone was watching me. I turned around and there he was at the end of the aisle just watching what I was doing. From this experience I learned, and never forgot, that you motivate people through love and encouragement and being positive toward them. Threatening people brings just the opposite response. I worked at this store up to the time I left home to go to college.
Dad enjoyed taking trips during the summer or renting a cabin on a lake. I remember when we were vacationing in New England in 1954. In Boston Mother wanted to visit a specific shop in Rhode Island in reference to her art business and Dad wanted to go to a baseball game. Dad asked Phil if he wanted to go with his mother or with him to a baseball game. He picked Mother, and when the same question was put to me I chose baseball. Dad asked me if I wanted to go to see the Boston Braves or the Boston Red Sox. I picked the Red Sox since I was an American League fan, and I wanted to see Ted Williams. To this day he is my favorite player. I only remember seeing Ted Williams; I don't know who Boston played or if they won.
Another trip that stands out was our 1950 western trip. At this time the movie theaters showed a lot of cowboy and Indian movies. They were my favorite movies. Dad mentioned this trip beforehand, and I asked him if we would see Indians. He said Indians live like we do, they have washing machines and stoves. I was excited that we would see real Indians. I went across the street and told my friend Bill Cowell, who was the same age as me, that we would see Indians that summer. Then I said, "Did you know that Indians have washing machines and stoves in their tepees!" He too was amazed.
We visited Aunt Winnie and Aunt Kittie in Southern California. Dad told me that these two women were his favorite aunts. They are from the Brown family, related to his mother Susan Belle Brown, who married Dad's father. From Southern California we drove to San Francisco and spent a day or two there. Dad wanted to go to a seafood restaurant on one of San Francisco's piers. I didn't want to eat there because at that time I only wanted hamburgers. Dad explained that this restaurant was owned by the New York Yankees star Joe DiMaggio and his brother Dom. I asked Dad if Joe DiMaggio would be there. Dad said perhaps. I didn't consider that this was baseball season and of course he would not be there. I was excited that we could meet Joe DiMaggio and his brother Dom. I wanted Joe's autograph. I was impressed with this restaurant because it had two continuous rolls of 8x10 baseball pictures around three walls. This was really a neat restaurant! While checking out after dinner, Dad asked the employee taking the money if Joe and Dom were available. He said no. Dad said his youngest son wanted their autograph. He said to give him his name and address and he would have them send him their autographs, which actually happened! I still have this small sheet of paper with their autographs.
As a kid I always wanted hamburgers when Dad would take us out for dinner. When we were on this western trip I wanted hamburgers for every meal. Finally Dad agreed that I could have two hamburgers for breakfast (apparently he was tired of saying no to me). He asked the waitresses if that was possible and the same for the next two mornings. For three straight days I had two hamburgers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The fourth morning I decided to have pancakes for breakfast, and Dad said, "Not ordering hamburgers?" I'm sure Dad figured I would eventually get sick of them. During this time Dad was calling me "Hamburger Dick."
As Dad was driving from California to Oregon we had a bad accident in the mountains of Oregon. The two curvy lanes were wet from rain and our car skidded on a curve off the road and fell down into trees. The trees saved us. Dad ducked as the top of the car on his side caved in, and we boys flew into Dad and Mother. My body going over the front seat onto Mother forced her head to crash against the dashboard, resulting in a fractured skull. At this time dashboards all metal. She was bleeding from her forehead. The driver of the car behind us stopped and helped us climb up to the street. He and his wife were pulling a boat. Phil and I sat in the boat, and Mom and Dad sat in the car. I guess Dad was able to take the suitcases out of the trunk. We were taken to the hospital where Mom spent a week. Mom’s cousins came and picked up Phil and me and kept us for the week. We then took a train to the home of Dad's brother Monroe and his family and spent time there. Mother was inactive since she had a constant bad headache. Uncle Monroe took Dad, Phil, and me to Yellowstone. After a few days we all came home by train.
My parents' best friends picked (Howard & Ruth Thompson) us up and drove us home in his 1949 Chevrolet. On the way home he offered to sell Dad his car and Dad accepted the offer, so Dad had a car before we arrived home. Howard Thompson had purchased a 1950 Chevrolet. He would get a new Chevrolet every six months. Dad's Pontiac that crashed in Oregon was sold as junk. He didn't get very much for it. Right before this western trip Dad cancelled the car insurance to save money. After this trip and for a year or so we could not have ice cream on our strawberry shortcake. Dad said that was two desserts. Later in time we always had ice cream on our strawberry shortcakes, a very popular dessert during the strawberry season. Dad's statement of just one dessert is an indication that losing the car with no insurance created a financial hardship for the family.
The 1950's, my Favorite Decade!
I look back on the 1950's as my favorite decade. Life was so different compared to our current times. People were different, friendlier perhaps, but there was more respect for authority and for our teachers. Crime was nothing compared to today. During the 1940's and most of the 1950's one would not lock one's house doors, even leaving for vacation. Carole's parents still kept their windows and their back door open throughout the night during the 1960's. A very large percentage of mothers stayed home. There was no school bussing. Many times after elementary school we would play on the playgrounds and play kick ball, touch football, and baseball. No parent seemed to be concerned if their kids didn't come home right after school. We knew when dinner was, and when we had to be home. As a kid you felt good when you were away from home shopping, going to and from school, playing on the playground after school or at a friend's house. Children went by themselves to trick or treat on Halloween evening. Parents were not concerned when their children were on their own.
There was prayer in school and a few times reading from the Bible. We were a godly nation even though only half of the population attended church. Even though not all of the society was Christians, a large majority of people lived by what was right and wrong as recorded in the Bible. I heard a lot about the Golden Rule, "Do on to others as you would have them do on to you." People believed this rule. People knew what was right and wrong. Students read about the faith of the founding fathers of this country. Christmas was all about Jesus Christ, and that was accepted within our public schools. Some high school sports teams would pray together, and that wasn't a problem. Those who didn't want to pray just ignored it.
Some students did drink, but they were in the extreme minority. I never heard of anyone on drugs. There was shame if an unwed student girl was pregnant. It was rare when this happened, and the girl would drop out of school. Movie shows had no swearing, bad words or nudity. Another thing was that there were no credit cards. If you didn't have the money you didn't purchase it. It was just a wonderful time to be alive. Sometime during the 1960's our society started to change.