ON THE BOULEVARD

Our address at 2221 Park Row was a Boulevard. The Boulevard was a safe neighborhood three or four blocks long with a grass strip down the middle. The strip was landscaped with shrubs and we played there. Because of high temperatures in the summer, we were allowed to play there until dark. Inside, the houses were beastly hot because there was no insulation and no air conditioning.

We played hide and seek and played tricks on drivers of cars. We tied tin cans to a string and stretched it across the street. One of us held the string in the Boulevard area and the other on the opposite side of the street, hidden from view. As a car drove through we lifted the can attached to the string to catch the car's bumper. Drivers would sometimes stop as the cans dragged down the street making a fearful noise. When the drivers stopped we all scattered in every direction. Another trick for drivers was to lay a lady's purse in the street with a string attached. When the driver got out and was reaching for the purse, we would pull it away fast. The disappointed driver would realize it was a joke and get in the car to drive away. We thought that was great fun.

My sister Betty's birthday is July 4th and we always had firecrackers for the 4th of July. One of her birthdays almost ended in tragedy when a neighborhood boy put a lighted firecracker down the back of her blouse. It could have been much worse but she ended up being badly burned and had to be taken to the hospital for treatment.

Our house was two stories with an upstairs sleeping porch - one long room with windows and no heat source. Corsicana winters rarely have snow, but it does have a winter season with low temperatures. I shared a bed with my sister, Betty, at a time when she was a bed wetter and I suffered from it. In her sleep she wet the bed and then moved over to my side where it was dry area. Then WE were wet!

The room was too cold for anything but sleeping. Our heat sources were a fancy gas heater on the hearth in front of the living room fireplace and one not as fancy in the kitchen. Also, we used small space heaters in the upstairs bedrooms, which were only lit when we got up in the mornings to get dressed and then turned off for the rest of the day. We had no basement and I don't ever remember seeing a house with a basement until I was married and moved to Ohio.

Our two story garage had an upstairs apartment with a small room at the top of the stairs that had a toilet and wash basin. Inside, there were two rooms, one used for a sitting room, which had a wood burning stove in the center of the room and one used for a bedroom. This is where our hired help lived some of the time. Rosa Jimerson worked for us as I was growing up. She cooked, did the laundry, stayed with us at night when my parents went away, and on occasion stayed with us overnight when they went out of town. Weekends she would go to her home across the railroad tracks -- the part of town where all the black people lived. Our town was segregated, as most were in the 1920's and 30's. She would go there to be with her husband, Mr. Ike. Her salary was $5.00 weekly, plus room and board.

We nearly always had pets -- dogs, cats and once, rabbits. One of our dogs was a golden Cocker Spaniel. My Dad liked to hunt and one time came home with a bird dog, a pointer for which he paid $100. He named the dog Joe. Joe resembled a dog named Napoleon which was the name of a comic strip dog about that time. My Mother's instant reaction was "What are we going to do with THAT THING?";

Once, my Dad took me quail hunting with him. The pointer would bring the birds back to us. My job was to pick the feathers off while the birds were still warm. There was a limit on the number of quail one could shoot during hunting season. We had no freezer, so a friend of my Dad's who owned a restaurant, sometimes kept the birds for us.

When my dad's business was slow, we charged our groceries at a local grocery, Allen and Eden. Sometimes Mr. Eden would carry us for several months before my dad would make a sale and pay off the grocery bill. My mother usually ordered the groceries to be delivered. Coca Cola was bottled in small bottles and we ordered coke by the case. The cases were wooden with 24 bottles to the case. We usually drank straight from the bottle.

Before we had our first General Electric refrigerator, with the motor on top of the refrigerator, we had a wooden icebox and ice was delivered about every other day. The old wooden iceboxes were lined with aluminum and had four doors. Behind the two small doors at the top was the ice storage; and two long narrow doors at the bottom had shelves behind them where the food was stored. As the ice melted the water ran down a tube into the drip pan. If you forgot to empty the drip pan which sat directly on the floor under the icebox, you had to mop the floor!

Our neighbor bought an electric refrigerator before we did and when their little girl came out with ice cubes in her hand it puzzled me as to how they could break them into that shape. We always used an ice pick to chip ice from the 25 or 50 lb. blocks in the icebox.

We had milk delivered in glass bottles from a local dairy . The milk was not homoginized, so there was thick cream which you could see on top of each quart. Sometimes we used that thick cream on our cereal. It was thick enough that it could also be used as whipping cream. We purchased butter and buttermilk from a family, the Magnesses, who lived about a block from us. They were outside of the city limits, so they had a small farm. All the dairy products were stored in the icebox along with eggs.

We had papershell pecan trees in the backyard. My mother used to start shelling them out as they ripened and put them in a half gallon fruit jar to be used later in the fruit cakes which she baked in November to be used at Christmas for gifts and for our family. She was clever at keeping the pecan halves from breaking into pieces. These halves decorated the cakes which were traditional gifts from our family to relatives. One variety of fruit cake she made used only egg whites with red cherries and pecans. They portrayed the Christmas season.

Sometimes we purchased fruit cakes from Collin Street Bakery for gifts. These fruit cakes were world famous and even at this writing are still well known and are nationally advertised in periodicals such as TV Guide. There are a lot of negative attitudes toward fruit cakes from adverse publicity. Such publicity is often in comedy routines of Johnny Carson, Jay Leno and others. Lots of people don't like them because they don't realize how good they are. Most of these people have never tasted a Collin Street Bakery fruit cake. I ordered one for the 1996 Christmas Season and Betty Darr and I had our first piece on November 30th, 1996. They are as good as I remembered them being years ago. This year, 1996, is their centennial anniversary year. This bakery has been in existence since 1896.

We had a fenced in chicken yard and chicken house. The chickens - Rhode Island Reds - were bought as baby chicks each Spring. While they were young, we used them as layers for eggs, and when they were older, they were used for meat. We even sold some eggs at 15 cents per dozen. The chicken nests were built so that one could walk behind the nest and gather the eggs without disturbing hens in the other nests.

I did not like it that we killed the chickens for food by wringing their necks and allowing them to flop all over the back yard as they bled to death. Sometimes when my mother was to be gone for a short time she would send me across the street to Dacus and Katie Pinchbeck's home where Katie would watch me. Sometimes Katie would have the local grocer deliver a live chicken which she tied in the backyard with a rope around its leg until she was ready to "wring its neck." One day when I was staying with her she had a chicken on the rope. When I went out to play she told me not to bother the chicken. Even so, I didn't want the chicken killed, so I let it loose! She came out the back door yelling, "What did you do that for, G. G.?" Needless to say I was disciplined, but I was glad for the chicken.