Tuesday, January 26, 2010

30 West Street, Geneva—Small Town America in the 1930’s, by Aunt CB

A lot of us today are clipping coupons, watching closely for sales, and stretching our meals. All this reminds me of the Great Depression and the 1930’s so I asked Mom to give us a slice of life in Geneva.

Just to get us in the mood (ahh, Glenn Miller, isn’t it?), here are some events in the latter part of the Thirties:

--In 1934, Bonnie and Clyde were killed by police, and three months later, Hitler becomes President of Germany.
--In 1936, Jesse Owens is the star of the Summer Olympics, much to the embarrassment of Hitler who hosted.
--In 1937, the Hindenburg explodes into flames in New Jersey, and Amelia Earhart disappears over the Pacific.
--On November 1st 1938, Sea Biscuit upset War Admiral in the 'Match of the Century'.
---In 1939, ‘Gone with the Wind’ comes out, and the Nazis invade Poland.

In May of 1931, after school let out, the Taylor Family moved into 30 West Street in Geneva, to an area called ‘Christian Hill’. They lived in this house until the summer of 1944, Lucille’s junior year of high school.

Aunt CB writes:

Lloyd earned $100 per month at first, and rent was $20. Then, he gave Ethel $8 per week to feed a family of eight, and she did it! We had chickens, lots of eggs, grew raspberries in the backyard and Lloyd brought home two quarts of milk every work day from the station’s herd of cows (eight cents per quart), plus a milk can of skim milk per week for fifteen cents. Sugar was six cents per pound—I know because when I wanted to make candy, I had to buy my own!

Until 1937, we had no refrigerator, only a wooden ice box that Arnon had made, that we occasionally could afford to put the sign in the window to have the ice man stop. We only got 25 cents worth (choices were from 25 cents to one dollar), but always raced out to get George Abraham to give us ice chips (he later became our 7-8th grade science teacher). Ethel had no vacuum cleaner either, but that was no problem as we had no rugs, only linoleum, so she swept through daily.

To cook in the kitchen, we had our grand cast iron stove with warming oven, purchased when Lloyd and Ethel married. Here is a picture of a stove much like ours; the right side had a reservoir for hot water—in winter, this was our bath water! Although I don’t know what they paid, Sears and Roebuck’s 1900 catalog showed one for $25, and one like our living room stove for $20!

In the winter, there was a coal stove in the living room, and heavy drapes between that and the dining room where there was only an archway. Daddy took the coal base burner stove down every spring and put it up every fall, His biggest problem? Getting stovepipes in the correct position! We used to love the small isinglass (or mica) windows in it and with a matchstick you could pierce a tiny hole in one near its edge which was fun BUT merited you a swat from Daddy!!! (Editor’s Note: Hmmm, somehow, I think Lucille being quite young here played a part—perhaps an older sibling dared her to do it so that they could watch the ensuing ‘fun’?!).

Coal was delivered right to a cellar window-- the coal truck backed up and pulled a large metal chute from the back, positioning it through the window into the proper space for it in your cellar! We loved to watch it, but seldom got to as we only bought enough coal to heat the two stoves, one in the living room and one in kitchen. There was a furnace in the house but it needed so much coal to heat the large house that Daddy never could afford to use it!

The newspaper, the Geneva Daily Times, was 18 cents per week-- no Sunday delivery. In church, Mom gave 25cents per week in her weekly envelope. We each had two cents tied in the corner of our handkerchiefs to put in our Sunday School collection. Baby sitting gave you 10 cents per hour with maybe 15 after midnight!

Those were the days that a dime would pay your way into a movie, and Doris had a baby sitting job every Saturday afternoon with a five year old girl down the street-- taking her to the movies. This is when they had gifts awarded to ticket holders and Doris was the luckiest one ever!! She won a toy stove, a set of toy dishes and numerous other toys that we ALL played with! When she was busy, Harold was pressed into the action for movie chaperoning, and I doubt he was upset over it! I was busy minding the five year old son of my music teacher while she gave others piano lessons [ that is how I paid for mine--that and 50 cents!!!].


Susan Kinsella said...

So I want to know, did Hitler rise because Bonnie and Clyde were killed? Did Amelia Earhart disappear because the Hindenburg exploded? And most of all, did the Nazis invade Poland over "Gone With the Wind"?

Pat said...

My Big Sis Sue has a quick wit, which keeps us all on our toes, and smiling.

I well remember one memorable time: 1980 or so, and I was in the hospital for my heart operation. Sue was visiting as I attempted to eat my tray of hospital dinner food. With IV's and tubes coming out of my arms and wrists, I kept dropping peas onto my front. Sue looked at them, looked at me and said to me "Pat, quit 'pea-ing' on yourself!"

Thanks, Sue, for always finding the humor in things, AND for doing it so quickly!!


And Yes, I could have written those 1930 paragraphs better!

Susan Kinsella said...

Pat, I didn't mean my previous comment as a critique of your intro to the story. It's just that the juxtapositions made me laugh and I thought might add some levity in the comments section.

I well remember that afternoon in the hospital. You were so exhausted from the heart infection that ultimately led to your open-heart surgery that you told me, "I feel like a 70-year-old lady!" At the time we thought that was SO OLD . . . hmm, different perspective these days . . . .

MOM{CB} said...

and I must add a memory of Pat's operation! In the days preceeding it I could barely let my mind think of it ! It was paralyzing fear!! Then the day came and Dad and I were at the hospital Very early in AM to see Pat before surgery, only to find her bed MT!!! Shocked that they would take her to OR early, i heard a sound from her adjoining bathroom. Peeking in , there she was , doing push-ups on the floor, preparing for after!!!
Then , after the surgery we stayed all nite. During the nite I went into her room to find her ernestly trying to get the nurse to do something. She was on the ventilator so could not talk,and both arms had IVs so she was trying to write ! [ she is left handsd] When she saw me she just waved her hand and pushed nurse away. The next day, when ventilator was removed I asked her what she had been trying to get the nurse to do? She said that she was trying to get her to remove the ventilator and was going to promise that she would breate IF she did but when she saw me come in she knew she din't have a chance!