Tuesday, May 15, 2012

50's Nostalgia

I remember bits and pieces of the 40's. Being in the hospital, the car accident with Mom, my cat destroying the Christmas Tree and the train noises that penetrated Mom and Dad's first little GI Bill house. The little house was about 2 blocks from the Great Northern switching yards, so close, the yellow beacons on the switch engines lit the walls of my bedroom.

I can remember all of the 50's starting school, moving to the house on Lincoln Dr, playing hockey, having my manhood (boyhood) tested by the Leonard and Rosenthal boys daily. Getting my ass whipped for swimming in the river, being the only kid for blocks and blocks who had to mow the yard with a push mower. Grass really grew on Lincoln Drive, it was river bottom land and we had a massive flood every few years making it the perfect environment for lush, manicured lawns. From the beginning of Lincoln Dr at the 8th avenue hill to its end at the Lincoln Park golf course on 13th ave Lincoln Dr was a big basin the the Red River of the North filled with water every spring. Everybody had a big, wooden plug to pound into the basement drain right after the first thaw! Never the less, I went to a great new school with great kids, a few of whom I'm still in contact with today. We really had neighborhood schools in my home town, the grade schools were about 8 blocks from each other. Overall, a pretty good childhood in post WW2 and Cold War America.

There were plenty of bad things going on. I had a friend with a father who beat the hell out of him and his mother all the time, everybody knew about it and did nothing. Women like my Mom during the entire time my Dad was serving in WW2 handled the money, paid the bills and made sure they had a nest egg when Dad came home, had the checkbook taken away from her, the account changed to Dad's name only and was handed an "allowance". Dad set up a charge account at a food market, a gas station, a department store and at a children's store. He was the boss and she was in charge of herself and me. She had better have run things the way he expected them to be run or he'd make sure they were. Was he a dick about it? He was. Was he alone in that kind of behavior, he certainly wasn't. Men were kings, they won the war, dammit.

I'd catch snippets of conversation between my parents, "I heard X is fooling around with Y" or "she caught him in the parking lot with her", "he lost his job because he was stealing money from the company" or "her father beat the hell out of him for hitting her". I had no idea who they were talking about but when I compared notes with my parent's friend's kids we probably came close. I found out only a couple of years ago that my Mother's best friend (one of the few divorced women around) had a child and gave it up for adoption in 1951. My Mom never mentioned it, ever. Mom's friend was at our house almost daily in those days and was skinny as a rail and we never noticed a baby bump. My sister went to school later with the girl, she had been adopted by a family in Bismarck.

There was a lot of drinking, plenty of house parties. It was hard to sleep when 10 couples are eating, drinking and laughing in the next room until 3 o'clock in the morning, I'd generally get up and entertain the guests for an hour or so and then have my skinny ass sent back to my room. I'd either read or slink down the hall and spy on them. A few of my parent's close friends became my friends later in life and that was a good thing.

Were the 50's great? Not so much. Problems were swept under the rug and because of that people suffered and spent too much time dealing, on their own, with things the nice folks never talked about.

My Grandfather, when he was a county Judge received a letter from a 15 year old prisoner he had sent to the state training school. The letter outlined his molestation by the sheriff. Gramps drove out and interviewed the kid, came back and told the sheriff he wanted his resignation and him out of town in 48 hours. The sheriff complied. Nothing more was ever said. My Grandfather told me years later, it was his biggest regret. He said he should have arrested the sheriff, thrown him in jail and tried him. In the fifties a lot of the time the right thing just wasn't done.


  1. Great tapestry of 50's life. Sparked some memories of my own. I may have to follow your lead and do a boomers rumination as well. Good stuff.