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

(highlighted topics are on this page)

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            
Learning to Fly at Smith Field War, University and Flight Instructing The Navy Experience      

629 Putnam Street

In 1936, dad found a place to buy, 629 Putnam St., about three blocks around corner from Cortland. It was a rather narrow lot, tall skinny workingman’s house that was a real fixer-upper–but dad was ready. For 2100$ it was a bargain and we moved and were all put to work helping the fix up. I remember feeling overworked and abused as a laborer in helping to dig the hole for new basement extension in back of house (all hard clay of course) and fearful as I went up ladder to point bricks on chimney and help saw and put up asbestos shingles (now I would refuse–asbestosis you know – which kills!) on outside (it’s a wonder I am still here).. Dad also had a range of carcinogens around the house as he was always interested in chemicals (but the term was not in use at that time and Dad was interested in the compounds, etc. that could be concocted from these). I do remember him saying that black top would cause cancer, so he was knowledgeable about that. About this time Dad got a coal fired water heater, next to furnace, pipe ran through it; if we wanted a hot bath, plan ahead, put fire in water heater, wait about an hour and do it before water cools. Also, dad installed a screw-type feed stoker for the furnace that fed fairly fine coal from the coal bin into the furnace–then we only had to make sure coal was in feeder place so screw could do its work and later take out ashes.

Little by little, the house become more livable; Jim and I shared one bedroom upstairs while Marsh had his own room....big brother privilege! He also had a small RCA radio which Jim and I ‘borrowed’ when he was not watching us..........so we could hear Fibber McGee or Fred Allen on their evening shows.........or maybe we could listen to the great big band music fom the Tip-Top tap at the Allerton hotel in Chicago..—of course Jim and I still have little jokes about all that, though we generally got on well. Jim always tried out his new magic tricks on me and for awhile I could fool him into making him believe I knew how the trick worked and he would then show me, but he soon caught on to me. Jim, even when I went to high school and he had not yet arrived at North Side, was known by lots of people, due to his performances all over town (and out of town as well). In a way, it has always been since early in my life that I was known as Jim’s brother (the famous one) or young brother of Marsh who had preceded me in school. Lucky me they were doing things people admired and not delinquent acts. Dad also made a number of Jim’s magic items and sometimes even took him to magic meetings, such as the annual one at Colon Michigan. Mom ran her beauty shop in the front room of the house and even had a private entry to the shop. We never lacked for food in depression times (cash is another matter)–as women brought eggs, chickens, veggies, etc. for barter at the shop. We had also taken on a depression garden space across Wells St. south of Putnam where the city gave people a space for veggie gardens. It was not good ground and labor was hard, crops few so that was soon given up as a bad job. No wonder I remember my childhood as being labor-filled and I dislike to this day house-fixing, etc. and maybe labor in general! It was about this time that I believe I must have come home from school hungrier than the others and mom used to tell me how to fix meals, me running into the beauty shop every few minutes for next instructions. Perhaps I was also a bit sensitive to how hard she worked and I helped some, or maybe it was that I was less busy than Marsh or Jim and Mom just put me to work. In any case, I learned about cooking, etc. at a pretty young age. I was not smart enough to resent it when Mom would introduce me to some of her friends by saying “Bob is my girl”—she used to also tell some that she did not want to fill up the ball park just to get one girl so settled for three boys.

Meeting Jean

It was about end of sixth grade or maybe seventh that Jean and others would hold parties, at Jean’s place on Huffman St (on car line), her mom would not often be home (always working to keep things together), so we had post office parties and spin the milk bottle. Jean’s house was on the way to Little Turtle library near Sherman St. and I would tell my mom I was going to the library; in order not to lie, I would run up to the library, go in, turn around and go to Jean’s for the kissing party about to happen. In retrospect it all seems normal and not too unusual, but at the time we thought we were doing really avant-garde risque kinds of things.