Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Random Memories III

Here’s part of what I wrote at the beginning of Random Memories:

I think I’ve mentioned before that when different stories, or “memories” come to mind, I jot them down - either here on the computer; or in my BlackBerry if I’m out of the apartment (or in bed!); or even on any piece of paper available, if I have a pencil.

WARNING! I’m going to start relating one “short” incident after another, including what I can remember about it, then move on to the next one. I don’t mind admitting, that if more incidents on that subject come to mind, I very likely will extend that into its own “posting” on this blog.


I don’t know when the Maddex Family Reunion started. Probably before MY time. Most likely near the turn of the twentieth century, in our case.

In memories of “reunions” of my childhood, it’s sometimes hard to distinguish them from the Christmas Family Celebrations we had. I might mix them up in my recollections - not necessarily distinguishing one from the other.

Our Family Reunions, in my memory, were always in the summer.

The most vivid memory? “Home made ice cream”, cranked out by hand, with ice, salt and ice water outside the can, and whatever made up ice cream, IN the can.

The adult males did the cranking - after, of course, the female adults made the mix.

Earliest memories to me of Family Reunions were always out in the country at my Granddad’s place on Bean Road near Mechanicsburg.

Most family members arrived near late morning, though some - including my mother - arrived early to help with the “fixin’s” (This Word Processor of mine seems to insist on putting a “g” at the end of that word, but, I WON’T PERMIT IT. It WASN’T “fixings”, it was “fixin’s.)

With the men “turning the crank”, and their women “fixin" the meal, what were the kids doing? Boys - mostly - playing ball. Some of the girls “played house”, or with dolls. Or, in some cases, the girls also played ball. All outside, of course. No men allowed in the kitchen.

The adult males mostly talked. About ANY subject - including politics.

“Boy, that Prohibition sure didn’t work, did it?”

“Maybe not, but somethin’ has to be done about that 'booze.'”

“What about the Teapot Dome scandal? Wasn’t that a mess?”

“I knew there was something fishy about that.”

“I hear this former New York Governor, Roosevelt, has a good chance of winnin’ the election.”

“The Democrats need somebody. I hear he’s crippled. Don’t show it in pictures, though.”

And so on.

When the boys grew to the teenage years, the adults tried to “foist” on them the cranking of the ice cream maker. We enjoyed it, since it made us seem “grown up”. (I thought cigarettes did that for me in my middle teen years.)

The men in our crowd all smoked either cigarettes, cigars, or even pipes. The smoke just swirled around outside the back door of Grandma’s kitchen.

My Uncle Carl - Dad’s brother - lived in Springfield and worked in various clothing stores down through the years. He was divorced, and lived by himself. He didn’t have a car, so someone - usually one of us boys old enough to drive - drove to Springfield to pick him up. We always met him at the same place - the end of the bus line on Lagonda Hill.

Uncle Carl’s former wife - Aunt Blanche - also lived in Springfield, and for many years, worked near the back wall of the third floor in Wren’s Department Store on Main Street in Springfield. They were estranged, so she very seldom came to the Reunions.

As a young boy, an interesting man came to our Reunions. He was married to Grace Snyder, the daughter of Uncle Butler - Granddad’s brother. His name was George, and he was always an interesting person. As kids, we were most interested in how he could talk. He had had his vocal cords removed earlier, and spoke aloud using a device that inserted into his throat, with a rubber tube extending into his mouth. Though the sound of his “voice” was different, he could be understood. Fascinating to us young kids. Very nice fellow.

An interesting thing about Grace that just now comes to mind, is that she was the first one I ever knew who had personalized license plates on her car. Her plates said “GRACE 35”. Though we never knew - or asked - we assumed the “35” was her age. She and George lived in Columbus, and she ran a Beauty Shop on North High Street - almost to Worthington. Grace was in my dad’s generation.

I’ve just now had a disturbing thought!

I was trying to remember whom else I could ask about our reunions in the 20s, 30s and early 40s, and I can’t think of ANY ONE who attended those reunions who is still living! Even the kids there who were younger than I are no longer alive.

Am I the last? Terrible thought!

And I’m ONLY 85 years old. What happened to everybody?

(I need to go sit in my “tilt back” chair, and relax!)



I don’t know how much MY memory will help this, but I’ve not found a better memory than that of our son Jim.

That’s what I want to write about now - not his PRESENT memory, but rather, his EARLY memory - like at say, seven years old. (He’s now 62!)

The first thing that comes to mind is the trip to Chicago from Mechanicsburg in 1954, in Uncle Ross and Aunt Ruth’s car. We had previously driven that route with our whole family when we moved to Chicago in June of 1954. Martha wasn’t born yet; Johnny was four; and Jimmy was seven. That was the only the second time Jimmy had been on that route. (Moving, then going to Mechanicsburg when Martha was born.)

When later that year, after spending time in Ohio while Jean was recovering from Martha’s birth, Jean’s sister Ruth, and her husband Ross brought Jimmy and Johnny home to us in Chicago.

In those days, US 30 in Indiana was the only proper way to travel from east to west in the northern part of Indiana. The way Ruth told it, they had stopped to eat at a little “Mom and Pop” restaurant in Larwill, Indiana. In those days, the route went right through the towns - no bypass.

Setting out again, Ross turned onto US 30 in Larwill - ostensibly heading toward Chicago. The only problem was that Jimmy saw that they were going back the same way they had come, and he let Uncle Ross know it. Would an adult normally take the word of a seven year old, when the driver obviously knew what he was doing? Of course not - and neither did Uncle Ross.

After traveling out of town a little ways, either Uncle Ross or Aunt Ruth said something like, “This looks awfully familiar. Maybe Jimmy is right.” He was! They made a legal “U Turn”, again heading west on US 30.

I haven’t been told of any other incidents along the way - until after their arrival in Chicago.

Remember now - no Interstates. No super highways. Only US 30 west to US 41 north (as I had advised Uncle Ross).

Taking US 41 into Chicago was no problem, but in the city, the best route then to the north side was Lake Shore Drive. As the name implies, it went right along Lake Michigan.

The instructions were: “Take Lake Shore Drive north of down town to Belmont Avenue, then west to Racine Avenue, and south to 2728, just across Lincoln Avenue and Diversey.” Very simple - or so thought Uncle Ross.

What I DIDN’T tell him was that, even though Lake Shore Drive ran right along the Lake, the Belmont exit required a right turn TOWARD the lake. Nonetheless, Jimmy knew. After all, he had traveled that route ONCE before!

As they were passing the North Street exit, Jimmy said to Uncle Ross: “Up here at Belmont, you have to turn right, toward the lake.”

Ross was incredulous! How could you turn right toward the lake when you were driving right alongside of it? “That can’t be”, he said. “Oh yes,” replied Jimmy. “You’ll see.” (Smart aleck kid!)

“Right here, Uncle Ross”, Jimmy said. “Turn right, then left after a little ways, then you’ll be on Belmont.”


Since there was no other way to go, they did exit there, and followed Belmont to Racine Avenue, then south to 2728, just across Lincoln Avenue.

What a memory! Even today, if we want to recollect something, we just ask Jim. I’ve done that so many times, in these “blog postings”.

No comments: