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

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  

 

Marsh became interested in chemistry and sciences early, first at home as Dad always was mixing up salves, toothpaste, furniture polish or ‘burn ease’ salve (I still have some)—which we also sold door-to door in neighborhood. In high school Marsh soon found a job at a pharmacy on Main St.–a Rexall store where he learned more—all the while maintaining a morning Journal-Gazette paper route...which I sometimes helped with or substituted for him when he needed to go elsewhere. It was a downtown route requiring that we get up in the dark to service.

About mid 30's, Marsh also bought a 10 $ kayak kit from Dedham Kayaks, Mass. His craft skills were very obviously at work here as his kayak was the envy of all the kids around. He did a super job on it and there are also pictures of Marsh in Kayak in Franke park during a flood about 1936 or 37. In 1938, Marsh, Sam Johnston, Bill Mahurin, cousin Max Altekruse and maybe one other friend took a river trip down the St. Joe river from its source in Michigan. They took a week for the adventure, camping along the way.

I used to think of Marsh as the great entrepreneur of the family, but guess the whole family was sort of caught up in that mode of finding productive work: Mom of course always had her beauty shop in living room, Dad repaired radios when I was very young then went on to a series of ways to earn extra money and I went to work at the airport at 16 after having worked at Vachon’s lumber yard for three years. Jim became a champion prize-winner magazine salesman for Liberty magazine at a very early age–establishing a downtown route not much past six years of age..........along with his magic which soon made his reputation even bigger. What all this means is that we all had our own very separate interests; Marsh had more friends in a more cohesive group than either Jim or me, so he was around home less than me, perhaps than Jim and maybe that’s why I was home more and I got to help Mom more with house stuff and cooking...besides I usually felt a bit sorry for her with all she had to do to keep household going.

I think Marsh also chose his friends wisely as his bunch were really outstanding. Sam Johnston was a well-known lawyer-accountant, Bill Mahurin was very successful but died at 30 (with old man’s heart they said) and Max Altekruse we still visit and I rate him as one of the most intelligent people I have ever known—and a really fine artist as well.


Drug store – bee supplies:

In about early 1936, Dad had found an old drug store on Columbia St. on north edge of downtown (on south side of street between Calhoun and Harrison St.) It was at that time kind of a leftover from mid 19th century........dad obviously bought it cheap and it was a marvel of old pharmeceutical stuff. The store was a long, narrow one with lots of high old shelves and a full length counter behind the soda fountain. Old bums were in the habit of coming in to buy a pint of rubbing alcohol–laced with mint flavor (all this for only nine cents a pint bottle). This would make them high for a day or two......but none of the old boys who did this had any teeth as it was wood alcohol and not the kind to drink without great personal harm. Marsh and I helped Dad sort out all the old junk in the drug store so he could get it running again; if any of us had all the wonderful old colored glass bottles with curved glass labels and ground glass stoppers that were in the store we would have a treasure. At that time Marsh was also working at Rexall store in town so we were all plenty busy. Dad had not been in the Columbia St. store long till he decided either rent was too high, neighborhood not good or for other reasons moved the remaining store contents to a little store just north of Spting St. on Wells (east side of street just north of corner)..where Dad put in more bee supplies than he had sold before on Columbia St. We sold frames for combs, wax comb sheets, smokers, supers (box for holding all the frame stuff for bees) and still sold all the other stuff that previously dad had made or wanted to sell. Dad had accumulated too much stuff and bought a barn on Spring St. west of wells a couple of blocks. It had lots of leaky old holes in roof and siding–so Dad essentially built a small shop inside the barrn. He also rented out space to a friend of his Sam(a Jewish man in toy/novelty business)—so, the barn became kind of headquarters for his operations after he closed the store on Wells St. During the war, Dad quit the GE and got a subcontract with Freuhof trailer Co. to make bronze fittings for LSTs, the small ships that were to land tanks on beaches in WWII. In beween my sign-up for navy service and being called, I ran a lathe for Dad at his shop awhile.....though I knew it was not what I really wanted to do. At a later time, toward end of war or just after, Dad did buy an older J3 Piper cub—by that time I had lots of experience as instructor, etc. so went up with him to help him learn to handle the Cub..............but he never seemed relaxed about it and I never encouraged him to do it. I think he sold the Cub soon after that though he did solo it. Perhaps it cost too much in upkeep and since he did not enjoy it much decided to quit flying.

Turkey Lake

One important factor was that we always lived on the west side of the St. Jos. River in Ft. Wayne; the neighborhoods in that area were generally mixed working-lower class struggling while many of those on the East side of the river were middle and upper middle-class finer homes and families that were more secure financially. We moved to the top of ‘Hungry Hill’ on the West end of 3rd St. about 1928-29........our parents ‘bought’ the house but when the depression hit seriously in about ‘32 gave it up as house value had gone down while payments and balance or mortgage did not.

Of all the places we lived, we were still on the West side; Marsh, on entering North Side high school in ‘34 made friends with some East side kids and sometimes felt the need for more status (meaning a move to East side!)–it was not to happen, so Marsh began to look out for his own needs in a variety of ways. He was always creative and ambitious and worked at a variety of jobs and places to improve his status and funds.

Marsh's work experience:

Toward the end of the 20's, our folks bought a lake lot on Turkey lake–free lots were given in a lottery— they did not win one but bought the one on the hill where cottage was located–about a block or so from beach–for 15$--- 50cents/week.

We learned lots of work skills in cottage building, Marsh being a bit older and perhaps more interested did more than Jim or me..........but we all helped in several ways. Dad had an old trailer and after work at the GE on Fridays in good weather we would stop at Roethle bros. Used lumber and building supplies yard and get boards, pipes, etc. etc. and proceed to lake to build. It took perhaps three or four years of pounding old nails from boards, mixing cement, etc. etc to produce the one room upstairs (with a wire in form of cross to divide up room into four ‘bedrooms’. Downstairs had stove, kitchen and dining area as cottage was built into hillside.....after horse and drag scoop dug out partial basement for downstairs floor.
Dad built us a pole vault place in back yard where chemical toilet was as well.
Marsh also was usually our exploration-in-the-woods leader as he had helped Dad at times when he was a scout leader at church–so Marsh shared secrets of the woods......showed us how to dig sassafras–which we bundled and sold at home—how to avoid poisonous snakes, find edible berries and make boats (there is a pix of the three of us on dock Dad made on lake–Marsh made that nice sailboat in picture.)-don’t know who now has the picture—I might.

Marsh was often charged with looking out for Jim and me–and served as protector from potential bullies........meaning we seldom actually had fights which was fine with me. In some later years, we would swim across the lake–and one of us would always have to row along in dad’s home make row boat for safety so other two could swim. The village of Stroh was across lake and we liked to go to the general store–except we rarely had any cash.

Marsh became interested in chemistry and sciences early, first at home as dad always was mixing up salves, toothpaste, furniture polish or ‘burn ease’ salve (I still have some)—which we also sold door-to door in neighborhood. In high school Marsh soon found a job at a pharmacy on Main St.–a Rexall store where he learned more—all the while maintaining a morning Journal-Gazette paper route...which I sometimes helped with or substituted for him when he needed to go elsewhere. It was a downtown route requiring that we get up in the dark to service.

About mid 30's, Marsh also bought a 10 $ kayak kit from Dedham Kayaks, Mass. His craft skills were very obviously at work here as his kayak was the envy of all the kids around. He did a super job on it and there are also pictures of Marsh in Kayak in Franke park during a flood about 1936 or 37. In 1938, Marsh, Sam Johnston, Bill Mahurin, cousin Max Altekruse and maybe one other friend took a river trip down the St. Joe river from its source in Michigan. They took a week for the adventure, camping along the way.

(Great) Grandpa Whitehurst (Emerson's father) and Grandma Stearns

Gramps Whitehurst did not exactly abandon the family, but could not seem to fit well no matter where he went.......so, I think he went to a small town near Warren--where I remember going with Dad on occasion to visit him with Dad........he would give me a penny or two, I'd go explore the local area and general store (I'd buy a couple of wintergreen mints for my penny)--then later we would go back to Ft/ Wayne. I do not think he ever saw Grandma Stearns (gramps' ex-wife--dad's mother). One thing that I remember well: Dad and sometimes both Mom and Dad would take me along to visit or some kind of work, then they wold turn me loose in the area and I'd go exploring..........do not think most would do that today......though then it was sparse housing, etc. and we never seemed to go to downtown areas and that happened. Wandering around this way was seemingly part of very young life then. That's how I saw my first airplane (see the story of how I decided to become an aviator)

So, both our grandparents on Dad's side could be seen as 'strange'--Grammy Stearns would hold spiritualist church meetings at her house on Main St. across from Eckerd Packing Co.--a block of two from end of Main St. W where it met the cemetery. These involved the usual stuff of levitating tables, talking to the dead, etc. as well she (and maybe Dad) used all three of us (Marsh, me and Jim) to travel around to church meetings to play music......we have a brown sheet pix of the three of us with intruments.

Marsh became fast friends with Leland Phelps along with his sis Virginia Blessing (mixed remarriage family outside of town)--one or both were often at our house as it was too big a trip during week to go home from school in Ft. Wayne.....family went to our church......First Christian downtown.a common thing during depression....doubling up. Dad was a scout leader there --troop 9---so we met scouts before old enough to join........and tagged along to Big Island camp --on an island in Sylvan lake---I remember being there for weekends in winter----fun but cold.........we did learn a lot at these places however. Marsh got the boat bug and soon after built his kayak he got from $10 kit--Dedham, Mass. did a great job----I always envied Marsh his craft skills.