Life in the 1930s, Chapter 5

By Barbara F. Dyer | Feb 06, 2020
Photo by: Barbara Dyer Barbara Dyer poses in front of the Prince Cottage on Chestnut Street.

This article continues from last week.

One afternoon, Ma met Susie at the door when she arrived from school. She said, “I let Snooky out and she disappeared, but don't cry, as I am sure she went back to our last home.” “Oh, Ma, she would have to walk down this long street, through town and up the other long street. She will get lost and be very frightened! Give me a hot dog and I will go back there.” Ma said, “OK, but be very careful; it is a long walk.”

Susie found it was, indeed, a long walk, but Snooky was waiting on the doorstep. She sat and rested with her and fed her the hot dog before the journey back. She held her in her arms on their way back, but the cat was very frightened, of the cars and noise and dogs, as they trudged on.

When they arrived near the bottom of the first long street they met the constable’s wife. She said that if you take off your jacket and wrap her in it, she cannot claw you. They finally arrived home, both very tired but happy, and Ma kept Snooky in until she got used to the place. It took quite a while to get the cat hairs off the navy blue velvet jacket.

The principal of the old school was the fifth-grade teacher, who was very strict but a very good teacher. Susie found that the teacher could be a lot of fun, even though she looked stern. If any paper turned in to her deserved an A she would sing “Stars and Stripes Forever.” The penmanship lessons were writing O's over and over and then and up and down like a fence. They practiced and practiced. There were no ball point pens then, just ink wells and pens you dipped in them, quite often. If you did not want an English lesson, you could put on a play. School was seldom called off due to blizzards, because there were no buses; one just walked and walked, taking all the short cuts they could find.

Susie's grandmother lived across the road from the old school. One day she called to say that Susie could come to lunch instead of walking home in the snow storm. That was nice, but she always drank tea and ate crackers and peanut butter. The silverware was in a glass pitcher always; what a time-saver that was. She was a restless woman and was always going somewhere, instead of getting meals. She moved quite often to a different house, but always in town. Her son lived with her and painted her cupboards one day. The next day he got the wrong can of paint, so when she came home, some cupboards were pink and others were green. Her son was color blind; she was furious.

It was time for Susie and her family to move to the cottage on the hill. What a nice place with a very large back yard and big front porch. Aunt May was only a short distance, down the hill. The living room ceiling was something Susie had never seen before. It had a chandelier in the center and a design to each corner of gold leaf and blue and pink. It was old and done by a man who had done gold leafing on yachts at the H. M. Bean Yard, and so he did his own ceiling, too. Ma thought the ceiling looked dirty and wanted to paint over it, but the owner said,”No, it is special!”

It was a nice place to finish growing up. Pop had an ice-boat on a pond, just a long walk through the woods. She and John spent many hours ice-boating, then skating to get warm before heading home for the long, cold walk. John also had a bobsled to have wonderful and very fast rides down the whole length of the hill.

Ma did laundry for Pop's boss, and all his friends, to earn more money during the Depression, so the children could have more, like class rings, etc. That was very hard work, as she had to heat water in a copper boiler on the black stove, dump it in the washing machine, empty it out with a hose and put another fill of the copper boiler to rinse again, drain again and wring the clothes by hand by cranking the handle on the washing machine. There were no driers, so all the clothes had to be hung on the clothes line outdoors. There was no permanent press, so all had to be sprinkled, rolled up and then ironed. Susie thought, ”What a hot and tiring job!”

Pop worked very hard because there were 42 acres and they only had a hand mower. He planted and weeded many flower gardens and vegetable gardens. Susie loved to go help her father plant and learned a lot about gardening.

Best of all was going with him on Sunday morning. First, a ride in the big car to get fresh raspberries or peaches and then the cook made ice cream with real cream. Susie's Father had to crank a container with rock salt around it until the ice cream was frozen. When it was taken to the cook, she always let Susie have the paddle to scrape off all that wonderful ice cream and eat it.

For excitement in the summer, three friends came to their grandmother's house from Massachusetts. Also, two others came with their parents, as the father was chauffeur for Pop's boss's Aunt Nellie. Every evening at the Yacht Club, they fired a cannon when lowering the flag. The group of kids' big entertainment was to all walk together for what they thought was quite an event. There were a few other friends and one boy quite often had his father's truck. So they would all go for a joy ride in the back of it. Susie and John never told Ma about that either.

More fun was when Capt. John (the grandmother's husband) let the kids use his rowboat, which was kept at the Public Landing. They would take raw potatoes, a heavy skillet, Moxie and candy bars and head for Sherman's Point. They could catch flounders all the way over, and fry them and the potatoes on a little fire they built. That was a big day for them and cost no money (as there was no spare money during the Depression). They made their own fun.

John mowed neighbors' lawns, and Susie babysat a neighbor's little boy and earned 10 cents for the evening. With that money they could go to the matinee at the movies after school or on Saturday afternoon. If they had earned enough they could buy a five-cent candy bar or 10 cents for popcorn. The theater would have “money night,” once a week, to draw people in. They would buy a ticket and wait outside for the prize to be drawn. They did not care about the movie, so some of the younger boys who would be there were happy to have the tickets being thrown away.

Graduation from high school was a big event for both the children and their parents. Everyone in town went, because they all felt the town children were theirs. Not many were able to go to college in those days, so graduation week was so important.

Well, that is a picture of growing up in the 1930s. It also made pleasant memories for a lifetime.


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Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Feb 10, 2020 15:45

This does bring back memories! Just married and with first born twins at 18 yrs. young, very young, I remember laundry just like that. And the joy of frozen clothes taken in to thaw in winter, clothes hung all over the house-porches included.

Thanks for the memories!  Such a joy now to have todays washer-dryer modern innovations!

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