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 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  

Jean Garnelle Pfeiffer-Whitehurst


Jean was born in Ft. Wayne on March 10, 1923; her mother was Ruth Shepherd-Pfeiffer, father was Ralph Lester Pfeiffer. At age three her parents moved to Heuestace Ave. Jean started school at Miner school a few weeks of kindergarten before moving to Franklin school. Jean and her mother moved in with Fred Shepherd and .Verda (Fritz, who now lives in Venice Fl. With her son in law since Nancy died–daughter who married John). At this time Jean’s Paternal grandfather took over care of her father, who it was later found had Addison’s disease–for which there was no treatment at the time. This residence was on State St. near Wells St. where we both remember ‘belling’ at their wedding (Fritz and Fred).

Fred paid the rent on a house on Florence near Hensch st. when Ralph Pfeiffer returned from whatever treatment he received. Maxine Carmer lived near, Jean and Maxine played dolls together and Jean remembers packing her tiny suitcase to run away; her dad gave her a nickel and said to call home soon. For most of the early kindergarten and beyond, Jean went to Franklin school. Her teachers were Miss Parker (whose brother Jean later worked for at Wayne Hardware) and Miss McMillan, who gave Jean a very nice prized dress.

Jean’s dad got a job picking up milk from farmers as he was told to get a job outside. Jean’s family lived then at corner of Hensch and Florence Ave, Jean walked to school with Louann Gallmeyer every day and also lived near Ann Martin. In one of the moves, Jean and her mom moved to St.Mary’s st. near Kieth Green, a friend of Bob’s as well. Jean’s dad committed suicide due to severe depression and no progress in his condition in 1934. After his death, Jean and Ruth moved to a small apartment on Huffman St. on the car line.. Fred had bought a diner across from the. Joseph hospital; Ruth was cashier, cleaner, etc. and was busy most days with little time off and only about a dollar a day wages. Mid depression times were tough, but Jean and Ruth were lucky as Fred always provided meat and some food items. Fred continuously provided Jean and her mom with many gifts and essentials in the depression. We remember a shiny bicycle and a deluxe scooter Fred brought Jean when we were young. Jean, being often alone was always afraid someone would be in the place; these fears still haunt her at odd times (Bob thinks she watches too much TV news of bad events!) .

Jean’s mom met Paul Hunt at the diner where they both worked. They were married in 1938 and soon got a job with Peter Eckrich, moving to Anderson Indiana.. Jean had just completed one year at North Side High school, was in love with Bob Kreoner, who wanted to marry Jean (foolishly, she thought she was too young).. Jean reluctantly moved to a big two bedroom apartment with Paul and her mom where Nancy Shepherd came to visit. Jean’s second year of high school was in Anderson, after which Jean moved to Muskegon Heights where they rented a small house, later moving to a house owned by friend of Jean’s friend Elaine (and Bob) Newman. Later Ruth and Paul bought a house on Glenview Ave.

Jean walked about five blocks to bus to Continental Motors until the bus line came into Jean’s area and the driver nicely would drop Jean off at her house. Jean worked for Lyle Moran, doing secretarial work. At this time, Continental was making engines for tanks and planes early WWII times. Jean worked at Continental for more than two years before moving back to Ft. Wayne with Aunt Fritz and uncle Fred, who was a serious alcoholic by this time. Fritz was always very good to Jean and had sometimes had problems with Paul Hunt, who Jean feel sher mom gave too much attention to her making Paul jealous.

Jean moved to Ft. Wayne early in ‘44 and took a job with Wayne Hardware, working for Elmer Parker, her kindegarten teacher’s brother.... he was a nice person to work for. Jean worked a bookeeping machine; of course Jean got a reputation for careful and error-free work, which made her relationship with Parker good as well.

One night while in Ft. Wayne on a weekend leave, I wandered into the USO club, held at the YMCA downtown. It was early and a few young women were sitting at a round table waiting for service men to come in to play cards or whatever—where I saw Jean and said something original like, “I think I know you from somewhere”—and soon I found myself coming to Ft. Wayne more often and within a couple of months we were engaged. I sometimes would borrow a Navy SNJ advanced trainer and fly over where Jean stayed with her Aunt Fritz and change prop pitch–making a terrible racket so she would know it was me waving to her.

We became engaged one day when Bob met Jean after work at the hardware; he slipped the ring on her finger as we walked down the street at the corner of Main and Columbia. One of our jokes was that we hoped for as much success as the UN, which was just forming at the same time. We still don’t know what is the answer!


For some as yet unknown reason, we made the decision to get married (likely since both Marsh and Dot and our parents did it), which we did at Trinity Methodist Church, (three doors east of 629 Putnam), and on June 29, 1945, me in my dress whites, Jean in white did the deed in front of Rev. G.K. Finch and brother Jim. Ross Vogelgesang was best man, Edie Anderson was maid of honor, Jacque Levesque and Norman Thomas Valco (navy buddies) were also in wedding party (as well as Nancy Shepherd as flower girl-- Nancy deceased as of Dec. 02 from cancer), the last two being flying buddies from my navy flight class. Almost 61 years later, we wonder if we did the right thing—likely not is the best answer we both give (after due consideration—more later about that). We do still have some great times together and enjoy lots in common (and some other items less compatible). I bought the engagement ring from a catalog the navy had in the commissary (425$ diamond), and the reception was held at Fritz and Fred Shepherd’s place on Florence Ave at Short St. Memory tells me we spent all of $45 on the reception, cake, goodies, booze here as Fred was an alcoholic and some thought it inappropriate.
Billy Graaham’s comment comes to mind (this is NOT an endorsement of him!!) –he once told somebody he and his wife were happily incompatible...sounds a bit like us–sometimes.
Jean and I stayed a few days at Paul and Ruth Hunt’s house in Peru, near the base at Bunker Hill. We then rented an apartment awhile nearly across the street (Main St in Peru) from a businessman. Jean cleaned things up nicely and we stayed here till we bought a small trailer on our move to Glenview. We found a decent trailer park near the base at Glenview, but found the door lock sometimes would not open right so we were locked out sometimes and needed help from neighbors, who were quite good about helping us. Soon, we bought a new 27ft. Trailer and moved to another new trailer park, nearer the base. It was a nice trailer with lots of space we thought and it was even warm in winter. Continued car problems and orders to move to Corpus Christi Texas air base soon changed things. We bought a 1942 Plymouth with cast iron pistons to haul the trailer to Texas, the engine slapping the cast iron pistons all the way down the road. My friend Tony Ranalli, a Lt, also had been transferred with us to Corpus. He was immense help along the way, flat tire, and a problem getting the rig up the hill in Jefferson City, Mo. Where Jean and I got out, blocked traffic at main intersection so Tony could get a run and he finally made it over the top----quelle experience! We also had to keep a close watch to not hit cows on the roads at night in Oklahoma and Texas as they seemed to wander freely and were hard to spot.

It was hot in Texas in fall, lots of really big Texas size mosquitos when wind blew from north off the swamp near the base. We did enjoy the evening scene after we would sometimes have chinese dinner at a place on the bay and we would go to top of hill on bay to watch the evening scene...quite nice–at least for Texas!

At the base pool, Jean and I would swim in afternoons after my duty hours, but it was no use trying to cool off as pool water was much too hot for that. I had pondered putting in a request to stay in the Navy, but on close consideration decided against that after a long think. It was early in ‘46 I think when I asked to be put on inactive duty to remain in reserves, which I did till about ‘56. When I was released, Jean and I went to Mexico in our Plymouth after selling trailer. We drove to Monterrey, in some ways a nice city, but of course much was very strange as a culture to us. I bought a wooden cask of Tequila as a souvenir one hot day while in Mexico; left it in the back seat of the car while we went to look at another site........on returning and opening car, it about knocked me over with Tequila fumes as the cask expanded and the stuff all leaked out.

Mom and dad decided to join us in New Orleans as we worked our way back to Indiana from Texas; dad had just installed a Jeep engine in an old Oldsmobile he had and drove that down to New Orleans. He seemed to have to stop often to adust something or other, but did make it back home with the rig.

On returning to Ft. Wayne in 1946, we moved upstairs at 629 Putnam when I went to fly for AIRGO, owned by Marcy Gettle. I was given job of chief pilot, we had about five instructors; Gene Zerkel, Wayne McDonald, Roger Goble and Leonard Zumbaugh. We got along fine together, but after a time I decided to seek an airline job. Jean said a firm no to that, so I finally decided to go back to school. I enrolled in a building construction course at Purdue U at Ft. Wayne extension, where I met Rip Watson, the engineer who designed the first house we later built in Peru. The math was very hard for me, though Marsh often helped a lot when he was visiting in Ft. Wayne. Jean had been working for tax accountants at Lincoln Tower and liked the people there (such was not to be so for succeeding jobs for her).

Early Working Life

I struggled on with passing marks in the Purdue program, but the promised apprenticeships to architects in the city never materialized. About that time, Paul Hunt asked if I was interested in an Eckrich sales job in Peru, where Paul lived with Jean’s mom, Ruth–and Paul was branch manager. I pondered some about such a decision but it paid so well I decided I ought to take it. Jean and I moved back to Peru in spring of ‘48, rented an apartment upstairs from Jack Erlenbagh’s plumbing shop, living there until we bought a lot in Mills and Maugin’s addition, south of town, just east of highway 31. We discussed house plans and began by clearing the lot, which was over 300 ft. deep and had some trees that needed work. My old Purdue teacher, Rip Watson agreed to draw us up plans for about $200 for the job. We settled for a flat roof design with about a six foot overhang on south side, where living room and a large window were located. The roof had angle cut 2x4's on edge of roof to hold water for cooling in summer. A central drain we could open from the basement would presumably drain water from roof when not wanted. Bill Mills was also a plumber-heating man who offered us a good deal to install ceiling copper pipe radiant heating, which we did, paying about 800$ for the whole job. This heat was wonderful, the system heating the surfaces, not air. Toilet, sink, tub, etc were always warm in winter, quiet, no air blowers, little dust, etc. Its only disadvantage was if we went away for awhile and had turned down thermostat; it took a couple of hours or so to get house warmed up after that. Also, when water on roof stood in low spots in winter, it sounded like ice freezing on a lake up above!–ker whump! It was a nice house and good neighbors, woods across road where I collected nuts and fruits and where Mark first lived.

Mark's Arrival

MarkWe attended the First Methodist Church in Peru, Ernie Lawshe was a really nice person minister there, we met many nice friends at the place and had good times. We had by this time been married for seven years and no pregnancy, so we decided to seek an adoption. In March, 1952 we brought Mark home with us; we cannot ever forget how his little chin quivered with fear at every small bump we hit with the car on the way home, he was so unused to movement or being held. The woman in the country where we picked him up had several infants she cared for; she had either only time or inclination to change pants and stuff a bottle in her charges. It was only a short time that Mark began smiling and for 12 years was the almost perfect child who gave pleasure to all around him. (It could also be added that he is currently doing the same for lots of our older retiree friends as he makes repairs, etc at their houses). Three years later, after Jean had been taking some male hormones for fibroid tumors did she become pregnant. We were living in the National prefab home on Logan St. at the time and Mark had a dog named Twinkie. Mark and Twinkie loved a game we played sometimes in the cemetery across the street from our house; Twinkie was a smart dog and we’d play hide and seek behind tomb stones. We’d ask Twinkie to stay behind one stone while Mark and I ran and hid behind another; then we would whistle for Twinkie to come and she would usually come past us going like crazy, then realize she had passed us, stop, look around and after a bit would find us........good fun for all and a game well remembered.

Dave's Arrival

DaveDave arrived on July 29th at the Logansport Hospital about 3 p.m. 1955. I had taken off early on my Eckrich route, when Jean’s water broke, someone took her to hospital, (maybe Paul)–who then knew where to find me–he ran the rest of my route while I went to the hospital. They did not allow me in delivery room, so I paced. All went well and soon we were all back home and doing baby and child things.

We lived next door to Ruth and Paul’s fancier Natonal home. I had built a play area, sand box and canvas roof for Mark’s play in back yard. I built a canvas top on it as Mark was very fair and sunburned easily. We sometimes had fierce reactions when his play was interrupted there as he was very intense stringing up various imaginary machines and playing with his diggers. As soon as warm water hit him in the tub it served as a great pacifier. During the day Mark sometimes did not even come back into our house as he mostly ran next door to use gramma’s bathroom, cookies, etc. etc. and at that time we had no TV, so he liked that in the mornings as well. He also liked it when he could go to gramma’s for pancakes at breakfast time.

We had the unusual situation of having my in-laws keep asking us,’don’t you have someplace to go’-- wanting to sit with the kids. We did have ample opportunities to get to go and do some things on our own, quite nice and always appreciated. We took some of those opportunities to go to Chicago for weekends at times and other small outings.

Two young girls lived a couple of doors from us, Marcia and _____________–who became Mark’s buddies when he was young. For his early years there were simply no boys near places we lived.

After some years on the Eckrich route, it seemed like I knew what every customer would say before I entered their stores.......and I had begun evening classes at IU extension at Kokomo and did enjoy going to school again, so we decided by 1954 that I would return to finish a degree. We had no trouble selling the house as the folks who bought it liked Jean’s decor and bought the whole package at a nice price.

We moved into a rather small apartment after that and lived in a National Homes house for awhile, making further plans and getting more extension IU credits. Dave was born when we lived on the hill next to Ruth and Paul Hunt, across street from cemetery. By 1956 in spring, we had moved to Indianapolis on 21st St. in another apartment. We bought another lot at 3536 N Adams St.-just south of 38th west of Sherman St. The lot was on a grade, back yard down a hill, so we had a two level house built, with carport under north side of house, where I piled snow in winter so kids could slide on their sleds from the street down into the back yard. My uncle John Altekruse loaned us about $2000 so I could get through school. I do not remember paying him back but am sure we did and we paid him a little interest on the loan.

I built a heatilator fireplace insert in the basement so we could have heat, roast hot dogs, etc in the family room. We did not use it much as it was too comfy upstairs and we did not really need the space.

Once again, relatives came to my rescue when I needed a job; Marshall got me an interview with the plant manager at RCA record plant, Eugene Mahoney, who hired me as a press-floor supervisor, where I learned to adjust heat, steam and the cycle of the press that made Elvis Presley and RCA classical, among others, records. I found myself going to school at Butler University and working, trying to keep all ends together as best I could. I sometimes worked second and third shifts, the latter being the really tough one as it seemed hard to get enough rest to feel good, though Jean did well at keeping kids quiet when I was trying to sleep. After about two years of this routine, I decided it was too hard to get through school this way, so I quit RCA and took on more classes at Butler, where I liked the profs and courses. Jean was working for an outfit called Brulin, where she worked for the boss’ son, who was not a worthy character according to Jean’s accounts.

By June, 1959 I was graduating from Butler with a B.A. in sociology and education, by now having decided I would go on to grad school to get an MA rather than try for a teaching job in high school as I originally had planned.

Mom and Dad came to Indianapolis for the graduation ceremony–I had not planned on attending, but thought I’d better when they wanted to see me in the parade in that silly costume.

Purdue and Graduate school

I had applied for graduate school at Florida State U in Tallahassee and been accepted, but on applying at Purdue in the family studies program, they offered me a better deal moneywise, so we went to Purdue.. I took summer courses on arriving on the campus and began duties as a teaching assistant to Gerald Leslie. I attended his classes, took notes, then went to my own class-which they unexpectedly gave me to teach right off and soon learned I could do it and get by. The first class meeting was harrowing however, having been used to being a lowly student for so long; I started to bound up the steps to the class with the text under my arm when it hit me —I was about to stand before the class and not with the rest of the students. I got a bit weak in the knees and stopped at the drinking fountain for the pause that refreshed— realizing I had no real choice, I went to class and took a deep breath and began. Soon, I realized I was getting feedback just like a real teacher-professor, so was on my way.

We had moved to grad student housing out toward the Purdue airport on our arrival; three apartment buildings formed a U shaped place with parking in centre. We counted nearly 100 children in our complex, needless to say a good place for ours to learn some socialization skills. Kids would come up to our windows at mealtime wanting Mark and Dave to come out to play, but the worst was coal dust from loading the small train that plied near airport to power house, and on the back side in summer when experimental ag frields were being harrowed, et. The dust would flow into our place freely. We soon looked for another place to live.

Glenn Harper was one of the first grad students I met on coming to Purdue, Ed Dager recommended a thesis project with the family life teacher study going on at the time. I have the thesis I did for an M.S. in Jan. 61, wonder if anyone ever did read it other than me! Ed Dager was also very helpful in helping me get my Ph.D. thesis propsal in order, a comparative study of working and non-working mothers in a poor area as work affected family structure.

We had moved across the river to Lafayette on Sequoia Ave. in a small National prefab home early in 1960. Neighbor raised Basset hounds which she sold one of to us, with kids promising to take wonderful care of Gussie (needless to say this worked for only a few days—after a couple of years when we were nearing time for a move we found Gus a home in a campus frat house–Mark retained visiting privileges!) I took my first full-time teaching job at Bowling Green, Ohio in summer of ‘62, doctoral thesis still in the works. I liked teaching and the people at BG but Jean did not like the small town much and felt she did not fit in much with campus wives, etc.

We lived in a rented house on S edge of town, Mark broke his arm swinging on clothesline post, we paid doc to put on splint and set it---- I sawed off plaster cast with neighbor kids onlooking to save money by doing that......we had no med insuance yet while there. By end of the spring term in May, ‘63 I had made my thesis defense at Purdue and graduated (have never heard from them since, even to ask for money!)–I took a job at Indiana U in Ft. Wayne as assistant prof in the old building downtown where I had first taken a couple of university courses off-campus after high school. The new academic building was built by 1964 and we had moved into the new campus. We had good social times and good collegiality there, but I can’t say I fit into the politics of the area much. We had moved from Northampton house to an apartment, then to Glenwood avenue in a new house. I had taught a summer session at Brooklyn College summer of ‘66 and later in ‘68 spent 10 weeks at an anthropology institute at U of Colorado at Boulder. Dave and I liked New York City better than Mark and Jean (though Mark liked the night deep sea fishing trip I took hm on where he won a prize for fish he caught), while Mark liked Colorado so much he tried to go back even before finishing high school. He was disappointed he had cut his knee while outside the dorm playing frisbee with Dave (students had trashed campus and all was not yet back in order-broken windows) –thus he could not take the rock climbing course he was to start –ruined by bad knee.

I would at times walk up the Flatiron range to top of mountain at sunset after supper to see sunset and lights come on down toward Denver and as far north as Ft. Collins, a wonderful view. Jean would drive up with the kids in the car. Another thrill for the kids was to go tubing down Boulder creek, a rapidly running small river coming down from the mountains. We used regular inner tubes, Jean would take us upstream about a mile or so, we’d tube down to library in town, be picked up again, run the heater to get warm while going up the hill and do it all again–at least till we turned a bit blue from the cold water–but what fun!

We lived on Glenwood till early summer of 1969 when we moved to 11044 Riverside E. in Windsor. We have now lived there for nearly 36 years and are reluctant to move away from the lake (St. Clair) even though we are both in our 80's and the house needs work and property care becomes more difficult.