Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Yes Dear - Blizzard of ’15 Edition

Little overdue with my periodic commemoration of life…my second one.  Wife saved my life almost 5-years ago and after the last go around with the doc and his vampire, he just said, “keep up the good work, see you next year.”

So, thoughts drifted back to the beginning, long time ago.  An extended bachelorhood established certain benchmarks….a 4-roll pack of toilet paper lasts a week or two in a bachelor’s apartment.  Add a woman, and that 4-pack is shot in a day or so.

“Honey, we need some more toilet paper.”

“Didn’t I just buy some yesterday?”

“Honey, we need some more toilet paper.”  So, I buy two 4-packs.

Couple of days later, “Honey, we need some more toilet paper.”

“Didn’t I just, ah…oh, never mind.”  So, I buy six 4-packs and stack them in the front foyer…a small pyramid of toilet paper.   

My gesture doesn’t go over well.

Adding wife to my comfortably predictable home life all those years ago introduced a number of new concepts I had never before considered.  We quickly became major consumers of Kimberly-Clark, Georgia-Pacific and Weyerhaeuser forest products….Bounty Towels and Kleenex etc.  Bounty, the best picker-upper…she uses each towel once to wipe up a couple of stray drops then, tosses it.

“You can use those good ones more than once,” I suggest…..no response.

“If you’re intent on using each towel but once, why don’t we buy the El Cheapo towels, instead?” 

“Germs,” she sniffs.

Cases of Kleenex….a bachelor just uses the toilet paper…an elegant dual use concept.

No response.

“Look at that lady over there.  She’s getting her own stock of Bounty in ahead of the storm.”

No response... 

Well, at least we've figured out how to reduce the trips to the store for this kind of stuff to about every other week rather than every other day all those years ago.

...and the beat goes on...

Friday, January 23, 2015

The EHHS Social Order – 10.1 – (More) Meadowbrook Moms

My musings about our moms tend to focus on how they might have interacted with one another and how those interactions might have affected our own social connections.  While they certainly had significant control over that aspect of our lives through the junior high years, I'm fairly certain their influence significantly faded after we started at EH fall 1960.  By then, we had substantially sorted out our own social preferences and had certainly done so as we started dating one another.  For the more precocious of us, dating might have started as early as age 13, or grade 8.  I think a common starting age for our real dating involving some preliminary romancing and testing of limits probably conincided with our obtaining that magnificent freedom ticket, a driver’s license…about age 16.  Maybe a year, or so earlier for the girls.

Partly due to our previously described staggered arrivals at puberty, boys were at a huge disadvantage to the girls in their own class during those seminal early dating years.  More about that in the next article or two.  Still, it's worth noting a few traces of the moms' involvement that survive, and appear as indistinct hints in our ancient scrapbooks.Published in a couple of c.1957-60 Meadowlark school newspapers are references to some of the parties, their hosts, and their venues where celebrations of various milestones and holidays were marked.  There is enough detail in the student authored newspaper articles to make a few assumptions about the social atmosphere of that time.

For instance, two of the 8th grade girls (future EH Class of 1962) sent 88 invitations to a party they (their moms, most likely) were hosting at the Sagamore Hill Rec center.  Since their class numbered about twice as many as the 88 invitees, the clear inference is that half or more of their class did not get an invitation.  Although the reasons for omission could likely have been perfectly legitimate, the omissions could also have caused a significant amount of heartburn among those excluded from the list.  In contrast, the school-sponsored dances were open to anyone with a quarter and a desire to attend ....another Meadowlark article reported attendance at one of those school dances to also be about half the student body or, over 300.

Further reflections of our moves toward maturity and socialization were to be seen in the active attention given to clothing styles and a number of fashion style shows featured in the school newspapers of the day. 
Home Economics classes were popular and provided (girls mostly) the opportunity to showcase their budding homemaking skills as they prepared food and beverages to be served at a number of school functions.  Developing real men of the time didn’t take these home-ec classes…pity, we were dumb and missed a great opportunity to tilt the numbers advantage our way.

The 1950s was a decade of stay at home moms many of whom, after working during the war effort as young women, were encouraged by our government to quit working and raise families.  Some of those young post WWII families were ours although some of our peers’ parents could be up to 10-15 years older.  In some cases, that difference in parents’ ages could contribute to significant differences in our living standards since they had been in the workforce longer and had achieved some additional growth as a result.

During the 1950s, those families starting to see growing incomes, began to have disposable funds sufficient enough to join or consider joining one of the Ft. Worth country clubs.  Self-employed could deduct the cost as a business expense and those I recall of our classmates’ families that belonged to some of the clubs tended to be small business owners.  The Ft. Worth area country clubs had been established around the city starting roughly with the 1911 opening of River Crest located near the western terminus of West 7th Street in what was to become Ft. Worth’s most prestigious neighborhood of the same name.  Star-Telegram publisher, Amon Carter was one of that neighborhood’s early residents.  The next blog article is a summary of those country clubs.

The effect one of our peer classmate’s membership in those clubs had on our East Side social order was minimal and subject to the youngster’s own standing within our class.  Probably contributing to that situation was the fact that the clubs were all located in other parts of the city posing a bit of a restraint to easy, neighborhood access.  We had the city-owned Meadowbrook CC, which was a modest facility by comparison.  Nonetheless, the MBCC clubhouse was a common venue for parties and dances both school supported and private mini-shindigs.

As an indication of just how pervasive the influence of the junior high cliques could be, my Mother accepted participation on my behalf with some other Moms as they planned to host an invitation only Christmas dance at the MBCC.  Trouble was, she didn’t bother to consult with me first and sprung it on me along with a printed invitation noting the sponsoring youngsters.  There was certainly no problem with those youngsters, except they were NOT in the clique I was seeking to align with.  This was a horrible surprise to an uncertain 14-year old and, given the strength of those adolescent cliques could spell the death knell to about a year’s posturing to that point.  Amusing now, tragic then…and a sad commentary.

Reading some of these old bits of ephemera now provides an occasional hint of things to come; the things we couldn't have known or even recognized then.  One such instance is found in the nearby column that mentions the Women's Club as a venue for the MJH 9th grade end of year dance with music to be provided by "some college boys."

The significance of the "Women's Club" reference, I'm sure went right by nearly all of us.  Someone associated with MJH PTA either was a member of the Fort Worth Women's Club or had the notion to use the facility for the dance.  The Women's Club was established very early in the 20th century and is/was a solid connection to "old Ft. Worth" society activities.  In my mind, this connection suggests the reason so much attention was paid to getting our younger incarnations tamed, into white sport-coats, and introduced to dancing lessons and pretty party dresses.  More on this in the next few chapters....



Monday, January 19, 2015

Little School - We were poor, obviously neglected and deprived, and it was absolutely glorious.

 Little School Life
(aka Tater Hill)

Little School, now a modern facility known as JB Little in
Arlington, is an old country school.  It was built probably not long after the turn of the last century.

When I attended it was a single story white frame building containing 6 classrooms, grades 1 thru 6, and a principal's office.  The bathrooms had been added and were outside in their own building a few steps away. As I recall the lunchroom was also a separate building, as was a small auditorium.

The school served a very large area of rural
Tarrrant County.  Some kids probably lived 12 or 15 miles from others. All kids were bussed, on several different routes, to school. Few or none walked and no mothers drove their kids to school.  For this reason there was nothing much in the way of before or after school activities.  The classes were small, probably 15 or 20 kids per grade.  Because of this small class size there were no real "cliques", just a mild gradation from more popular to less popular.   We were all generally even lower on the economic scale than the Handley kids.  Most of us lived on acreages or at least large lots.  Many families did some small scale farming and several still kept livestock.

Our school experience was almost 19th century.  Not very different  from that of our fathers or even grandfathers.  When school started the boys went barefoot until the weather changed.  Besides maybe a swing set and merry-go-round, our recess activities were ad hoc, unsupervised and generally very rough. We had no gym, we wrestled constantly and freestyle, played Red Rover, Crack the Whip and a vicious form of Dodge Ball.  A favorite contest of the boys was to climb to the top of the 30 foot flagpole. Minor injuries were common.  Everyone in charge of the school today would be arrested for what they permitted us to do daily.

Many of the families had lived in the area for generations and were inter-connected by blood and marriage.  There were often several sets of related kids at the school forming "clans" across class levels, for mutual support and even protection.  I had several uncles that attended before me, and had my younger sister and three cousins there at the same time.  A most important social grouping was formed by which school bus route you rode. The wait at the bus stop,  the long rides to and from school were  an important social time, and if you were lucky a few of those kids of your age would live within a mile or two and you could socialize after school and on weekends. 

There were essentially no organized activities for us either during the year or in the summer, unless a parent was willing to go to heroic efforts. The exception was a small  Boy Scout Troop. We were, I'm sure almost exclusively one car families, so no soccer moms were available.  No little league baseball, no peewee football, no shooting hoops after school, no available swimming pools.  We learned to swim sneaking away to a muddy pond in the woods, and oh, watch out for water moccasins.

Two events of the year were of supreme importance to us.  A school sponsored trip to the Fat Stock Show, and just before summer, a trip to
Forest Park.  That trip to Forest Park was like a trip to Disneyland is now.  Then we were turned loose on the world for summer.  I was lucky in that there were a half dozen or so boys of close enough age,  that lived close enough to get together by bicycle.  We left home in the morning an returned just before dark.  We formed a small semi-feral pack that roamed the abundant woods for miles around, fishing the ponds, hunting with our (gasp!) BB guns and exploring the banks of Village Creek, this was before Lake Arlington. We were  searching for Indian artifacts that were found there. There were no parks with baseball diamonds or jungle gyms.  We did however have an area where wild grapevines had covered several acres of the tops of tall oak trees.  We would climb to the top of the trees 30 or 40 feet up and spend hours chasing each other through the dense canopy of vines from tree to tree.  We were poor, obviously neglected and deprived, and it was absolutely glorious.

What we were, was not very well socialized by the norms of the times.  When we were thrown into Handley and then Eastern Hills, it was almost like going to school in a foreign country, and we lived so far out we couldn't even try to participate in that social whirl until we got cars of our own.  By then it was just too late. We were more or less permanently marginalized.  We stuck together, hunkered down and survived. Very few of us actually thrived.  I was actually advantaged that I had moved around so often and attended all kinds of schools and was better prepared to cope.  I think many of my old Little, or as we called it Little's, schoolmates were just bewildered by it all. It was not a particularly positive or enjoyable experience. Maybe for that reason I was the only member of my "pack" to go on  to college as far as I know.  Most joined the military or went to work right out of EH.  Going to Little's School in the early 1950's was in itself a wonderful experience, and I sometimes pity my own boys who enjoyed a more "Meadowbrook" existence.  But the cost of that "idyllic" boyhood proved to be socially prohibitive at EHHS.