Thursday, August 01, 2013

The EHHS Social Order – 4 – Foundations

The next logical part of this series of reflections is the 6th grade, the onset of puberty, and it’s profound impact on our developing social order.  However, first it’s probably worth a few preliminary comments about our dissimilar childhood experiences.

One of the interesting discoveries in doing this blog has been the inputs of others regarding their memories.  That’s what I had hoped might develop as time went by.  We were a lively bunch of kids that I knew could probably share some interesting perspectives on our shared past.  But, it hasn’t been so easy to draw people out.  It seems that life has transformed most of us into wily old farts….me, too.  Why else would I be Gus?

It’s clear that all of us had a different set of experiences with the same years and within the same hallways.  As a brief preamble to the next part of this series, I’ll relate the sequence of my family’s development through the 6th grade.  Compare it to your own, if you wish.  It’s from my personal perspective.

Meadowbrook Junior High was my 6th school.  After WWII, Dad attended college at Berkeley, worked his first job at Alice, TX with a power company, was recalled to the Air Force during the Korean War, returned to Dallas, then to Riverside, then to Richland Hills, and finally to Meadowbrook.  First grade was in Ohio, second was Dallas & Riverside, grades 3-7 in Richland Hills, and 8-12 on the East Side.

Dad purchased his first car when he was 27; a 1950 Oldsmobile 76.  It had neither a heater nor air conditioning.  Next was a ’53 Olds—no air conditioning, then a ’56 Olds with air, followed by 3 more Oldsmobiles in roughly 3-year increments.  They were all new cars that cost between $3000-$5000.

We rented 2 apartments and 3 houses before Dad bought his first house in 1953 when he was 30, 8-years after he was released from WWII service.  He used the GI Bill to finance it…no money down.  It was a 1560’ house on a 75 X 140 lot; three bedrooms, one bathroom, one garage, no air conditioning, an eat-in kitchen with no built-ins, and about 8,000’ of grass for me to mow all summer long.  Dad liked grass lawns and in retrospect, liked having a son available for the mowing.  The house cost $13,000.

Texas summers are hot as heck, as any Texan would attest.  And summer nights without air conditioning are tough.  We had fans, but all they did was move hot air…you still had to try and sleep in a bed wet with your sweat.  Dad’s first upgrade was a swamp cooler hung in a rear bedroom window which worked pretty well and provided a damp breeze that kept the mosquitoes from landing for their meals.  Unfortunately for me, Dad and Mom took over that room for themselves and I made do with the fan.

Our first “real” air conditioner was a window unit in the living room, followed pretty soon by another in Mom and Dad’s bedroom.  I moved up too, inheriting the swamp cooler…that was about 1956, or 5th grade, age 11.  Parents were about 33 then.

Dad was doing well, working as a sales engineer for a Los Angeles aerospace contractor focused mostly on GD and LTV.  He had met those people while he was in the Air Force at Wright-Patterson during the Korean War otherwise, I'm sure he would have returned to an electric utility with his new BSEE.
Although he spent most of his time in the DFW area, he also traveled to the west coast now and then, as well as a few other places.  So, that gave me an early view of the travel atmosphere to far away places via his stories and from taking him to the airport and picking him up.  But we seldom traveled as a family other than 2 or 3 gargantuan driving vacations that I’ve described elsewhere in the blog. 

By 1957, with 2-cars (& one garage), my 35-year old parents decided they could afford a “move-up” home.  A false start on Fossil Creek where his chosen building lot went under water in the 1957 flood, led us to the East Side, the newly building Eastern Hills neighborhood, and 8th grade with the future Highlander Class of 1963 at Meadowbrook Junior High, my 6th school by that time.

So, it was at that point that I entered the EHHS social order a couple of years before enrolling at EH.  I knew nothing of any preceding social formations, of anything having to do with a “social order” and contending with my own version of fussing with developing puberty.  What a challenge!

I’ll deal with the influence our childhood housing had on our development and social structuring a couple of articles hence.  Where the Richland Hills housing stock was generally homogeneous, the East Side housing ran a wider range.  Our first and only East Side house was one of the “big” ones in the neighborhood north of EH which I’ve learned only recently was seen by a lot of others as being the homes of the local “rich.”  More on that later.

Suffice it to say that by 1958, through his hard work and accomplishments, over a 5-year period Dad had managed to take us from a smallish, no air conditioning,  frame rental house to a 2500’ used brick, 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom, central air, 2-car garage, mansion…mortgaged to the hilt.  He was 36.  I’m sure that most of the others in that neighborhood had similar stories.  That house cost $25,000; some fancier ones cost up to $35,000 in that neighborhood.

How this figures into the “EHHS Social Order” is up to others to determine for themselves, based on their own experience.  These articles are just my view.  And this article is intended to illustrate the basis for the views that follow.



Anonymous said...

Another Good Read says McCoy

Gus said...

Your description of the girls, their behavior, circumstances, and their families is very good. Their flocking or herding, tendencies seem to have been a somewhat common behavior for their age as I observed it in my own daughter’s matriculation through school and my wife reported similar behavior at her high school in Louisiana.

Our ’63 Homecoming Queen and her court is perhaps the best illustration of how our class boys responded to that group of girls…only 1 of them was Thaelis, and she was one of the 3 “token” Handley members…meaning, not one of the insider Meadowbrook clutch. The reason that’s an illustrative example is that that nomination and vote was the product of team members themselves. The girls were the steady dates of some of the more popular team members! That’s a bit of insider insight few would know. In contrast, the 7-member ’62 Court consisted of 4 Thaelis girls. Other than the Carols, I’m not familiar with their romantic ties then.

There were no more than one or two marriages that resulted within those groups; to my knowledge none survived very long. In general, I agree that their association with Thaelis granted them little advantage over the long haul and definitely agree that the way the club was set up and managed tended to skew chances for a “normal” social life that might have otherwise developed within our classes. That’s not really a jealousy comment, but rather a suggestion that they tended to remove themselves from a more normal social mingling most others enjoyed.

I do tend to grant them more slack, probably from a more intimate familiarity with them; in fact, I dated 3 or 4 of the Thaelis girls at different times and found each of them delightful dates. This was near the end of our EH years together and I suppose they had grown somewhat curious about me after we had matured more, as I had always been about them (since 8th at MJH). My impulsive tendencies had grown impatient with them at the start of our post-drivers’ license months and the GDIs I settled down with were extraordinary young women in the making.

If we had stayed at Richland Hills, the experience would have been much different. That high school graduated its first class in 1962, so I would have been in its second graduating class. The area did not have the wide range of housing size as our East Side did so, I expect there was far less “class” consciousness. The older high school nearby was Haltom which was much newer than Poly or Handley, almost by a full generation. There would have been no parents graduating earlier, unless from Carter, which was just a little closer-in to the city. My sense is that they would have always thought of themselves as semi-country folk, similar to Handley but without the older traditions Handley had.

You’re right about the make up of the Eastern Hills neighborhood. I’m convinced that was the first visible example we had of the benefits WWII soldiers received as a result of the GI Bill. Steven Ambrose wrote eloquently about the nature of those returning servicemen as college students…he was much in awe of them and their work ethic learned in the service. For them, that college education made all the difference in their lives and in the subsequent success of the country. Much of that neighborhood consisted of the types of people you mention and I would estimate that the large majority of them were WWII vets, a lot of them Army Air Force aircrew.

Some older Poly exes suggested it was that neighborhood that contributed most to the snooty atmosphere of the new EH area that took a large cut of the Poly students over a couple of years. But, I don’t think so…they were too new to the area to have gotten that kind of business going and further, I don’t think they were cut that way, based on their similar WWII experiences. What they were, were the former kids on the front lines that crushed Hitler and Tojo. When they came home and got busy, they were a mature, seasoned force to be reckoned with.

Gus said...

Ward, I didn't know about, but did about Lankton and Liddle; in fact, both Liddle and Lankton are mentioned in one of these "Social Order" pieces...a picture of Liddle beside a cub scout troop including Mike and a DC-3. Others were Gay's (AAL) Sam Scott's, also a Central-Frontier captain.

There were a lot of pilots in Richland Hills, too...mostly AAL. We moved there in 1953 about the time that Carter opened his airport just a few minutes down the road on Hwy 183. It was a perfect location for them since both Love Field and GSW were along the same road and in those days, very little traffic.