Bob's memories of growing up in Fort Wayne, Indiana

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Places I've Lived

Courtland Avenue Greenwood Avenue Ossian, Indiana 1026 Third St Greenwood Avenue 1929 Third Street
  1925 Courtland Avenue 629 Putnam Street Entrepreneurs Drug-Store & Bee Supplies Turkey Lake Grandma Stearns & Great Grandpa

Early Memories

First Love The Altekruse farm Turkey Lake Chicago World's Fair Meeting Jean The 1937 Trip East
NorthSide HS Jean Marriage Early Working Life Mark Purdue and Graduate school Dave's Arrival
Education, School & Teaching   Flying Learning to Fly at Smith Field War, University and Flight Instructing The Navy Experience  

 

Courtland Avenue

Born on January 10, 1923 in the 2400 block of Courtland Ave., Ft. Wayne, Indiana. My parents were Emerson E. Whitehurst and Kathryn E. (Altekruse)-Whitehurst. I lived there until I was just over two years old. I remember the Gallmeyer girls--first names not remembered, but there were two sisters, my earliest memories were of being taken about the neighborhood in a wagon, I think I liked that. At this early age I do not remember Jim being born (1925) or Marshall, born in 1920.

Ossian, Indiana

Late in 1925, on an icy road morning, I remember my mom driving an old car -a soft top early 20's type, on the move to Ossian, Indiana, (about 15 miles south of Ft. Wayne) where we lived for a couple of years on the interurban track just north of the main east-west road in Ossian, on the west side of town as I remember. It was cold and icy on the roads and mom was worried, but got through OK. Living on the tracks was ok, but apparently my parents worried. I think dad took the interurban sometimes to work at the GE. We met some local people there, and the Hatfield’s -Halden was one of dad’s wartime buddies, and Lena made the most perfect date bars served with gobs of sweet whipped cream,--heavenly! Their kids, Rex and his big sis Patty often visited us. It seemed always cold in the house in winter--as with most houses then and I am accused of putting pennies on the tracks to see what they looked like after the train ran over them. Another story (true?) Is that I tried to put my dad’s pocket watch on the tracks, but I got caught. I also remembered hunting easter eggs in the yard in the spring of 26--and throwing some of them at the trains--must have been great fun. But, for reasons of distance from work or whatever, we decided to move back to the city. We visited Lena and Halden Hatfield after that as he and dad had been wartime buddies in the 309th engineers. I saw Rex after the war and think he was divorced sometime later. A highlight of our visits to the Hatfields (typical, some think of me) was her diving date pudding bars, served with fresh whipped cream, such a wonderful treat.

See Ossian today

1026 Third St.

In late 1926, we moved to 1026 West Third St., I think just east of Sherman. This house was also cold and drafty. Two things stand out here, first I used to go with my dad to repair radios, for which he got about 15 cents per job and if I was lucky I got some candy. At that time, most were still battery powered, but soon to come were plugin radios. The other main thing was I remember my mother ironing (often she did this, always singing hymns), and she showed me the newspaper article about Charles Lindberg crossing the Atlantic in his plane. SpiritStLouis

Not long after that, I remember being on the edge of town with my dad somewhere and hearing this noise in a field nearby. I ran over toward the noise and it was a plane taking off. I can still see clearly the old biplane, wheels still turning as the pilot waved at me--passing nearby so I could see him well--and his scarf flowing behind in the wind, I was so excited I decided right on the spot that I was going to fly--so at least a part of my future was fixed by these events. I also remember vividly that winter sledding on a nearby hill and stupidly putting the sled on my back going up the hill, slipping and almost cutting off the end of my right thumb. Old doc Haffner to the rescue, he did a bum sewing job, but I still live--at this writing— and my right thumb splits open and gives me fits every winter as it cracks and requires medication. This is also the locale of my first school experience, walking east on Third St. to school, Nebraska, which then had a kind of small addition to it. I remember vividly the art teacher critiquing my picture of a sailboat I made, said it needed some red and also I had made the mast too big (trying to make it straighter by adding more), so I often wonder if I had been subjected to another kind of teacher if I would have done differently. At this time, we also went to church where my grandma Stearns sometimes preached and went to folks houses for spiritualist seances; Marshall remembers more than me about these, but I mostly remember Minnie Stearns as not too fun as a person, stern like her name and not a great cook! Thankfully, we did not have many dinners at her house. She lived on West main street, pretty much across the street from Eckerd’s (I think) slaughter house. Jim, Marsh and I sometimes went across the street where we could watch the butchers hit the poor cows over the head, stun them, then slit their throats, next to cut off head and gut them, a really awful performance I did not want to ever see after the first time.

PopcornWagonAlso, one of the great summertime things to watch was Jimmy’s popcorn wagon, with its cheery gas-heated popper pulled by his horse coming down the street. Fresh popcorn, popcorn balls, candy and assorted goodies awaited those with money; a lovely sight as I remember, but never any cash to buy anything. In the first grade, I committed my first delinquent act, helping some boy in my class who wanted to kiss one of the cute girls. After school, I was part of a small gang that grabbed her and held her while the other guy did the deed. Needless to say, we were all called to the office of the principal who gave us the sternest of lectures and warnings........it worked, I went straight for a long time after that.

I often hung out after school and Saturdays at Jim Snavely’s place, they lived above the store his folks operated there near the school. We also attended NS high school and I still have seen him off and on throughout the years, same with Bill Stauffer who was also in my first grade class.

Greenwood Avenue

(ten houses North of Japanese gardens, near entry to Trier’s park)

For whatever reason, we moved around the corner about 1928 on Greenwood ave. 10 houses from Trier’s park, an enchanted place –where I used to love to stand outside the pavilion, which was lighted with lots of beautiful different colored lanterns–a magic place for me–and I still like lots of colored lights and dance music! Seems we used to try to sneak into some rides and the fun house, where we would slide down the very high (or so it seemed when I was young) wooden slide on a piece of rug, run through the rotating barrel, walk on the moving wavy sidewalk, and stand in front of the distorted mirrors–among other treats. Much of this must have been at a later time, however. John Trier also would go up in the airplane swings with a cigar box full of pennies and would throw them out to the kids standing below— I got my hand stepped on a few times but few pennies. Once a man went up in a hot air balloon in the park, released himself from it, cutting loose from balloon in free fall: he fell a ways in a trail of smoke then opened a parachute and landed–quite thrilling.

The St Mary’s river flooded while we lived on Greenwood, prompting another move— severe flooding on all the nearby area included our basement, –it being winter my dad was very busy with a hand pump trying to get the water out of the basement...very difficult times for my parents. It was winter and ice and water were everywhere–to top it all, a son of a neighbor died I think of a contagious disease(scarlet fever?), and vividly remember their burning all his clothes and bedding in the alley.

I learned to swim in the Sweeney park pool, just behind Trier’s park, I clearly remember being there with Jim and Marsh and being in the shallow end and suddenly noticed my feet were not touching the bottom—I was swimming.
Also, the Japanese gardens were just down the street a bit, so we came to appreciate the place as a nice place to just take in the scene; it was a very nice garden place with all the usual parts of such a place.

During our time on Greenwood I also remember mom heating a galvanized tub of hot water so wee could take a bath. Marsh got in first, then me, then Jim, and I remember mom pushing us out the door in the snow in the buff to have a roll in the white stuff after the bath, quite a shocker, but clearly a German thing to do.

Dad had built a back yard mini golf course for us in the back yard, I was trying to teach our next door neighbor, Lyle Teeple to play and (foolishly) standing behind him I told him to take a small short swing and hit the ball easy........but instead he pulled the club way back and gave me a still-present scar on my nose....live and learn!