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  1. #1
    Atomic Punk
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    05.16.18 @ 11:48 AM
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    Default Looking back; A nice newspaper article...

    WARNING: not one of my normal fucked up threads....

    Column: Children of the Depression had great imagination
    Bill Stanley
    Once Upon a Time

    Once upon a time, in our back yard, we celebrated a childhood birthday party. This morning's picture was taken at that party. It is hard to believe those who have survived are now in their 70s. In the lower left, with his pet dog, Maggie, is the late Richard Powers Reed. Dick Reed, for years, managed WICH Radio in Norwich. At the time of his death, he had amassed, for Hall Communications, 17 radio stations from Vermont to Florida.

    In this morning's picture, to the right of Dick Reed, are the Jensens -- Richard, Paul and Carlotta. Several years ago, at a book signing, a pretty lady asked if I recognized her. When I asked, "Should I?" she said, "I am Carlotta Jensen."

    All of the children from that birthday party went on to have very purposeful lives. Next to Carlotta is my brother, Jim Stanley, who died a very young man at 47. Behind him, covering his mouth, is yours truly. Finally, the Johnson boys.

    I ran across this picture in an old book last weekend. I must have put it there to flatten it out. The picture took me way back to my school days.

    Coincidentally, the next day, I received a note from my sixth-grade Broadway school teacher, Mimi O'Neil, now living in Florida. She wrote after reading an article in her local paper about the Norwich Historical Society's presidential library.

    Today, she is 88 and wrote in her letter how proud she was of her sixth-grade student and her hometown of Norwich. She wanted to become a member of the Norwich Historical Society.

    Between the picture and the note from Miss O'Neil, I spent some time thinking just how wonderful my childhood was and how different life was in the 1930s. To be sure, life was simpler, and I honestly think more fun. We all had sneakers and polo shirts and we looked forward to the long, hot summers when we would play from sunup until the streetlights went on.

    Today, children spend so much time on the computer and sitting in front of television sets.

    We used to play tag, cowboys and Indians and hide and seek. We all had scooters, and the girls all played hopscotch.

    During the Depression, we ate less because the families were all broke and unemployed. It was a time when you grew up poor, but you didn't know you were poor, because everybody was.

    Looking back, school was so much different. In Norwich, there wasn't a single school bus. The few that traveled to Norwich Free Academy by bus were from Lisbon, Franklin and other surrounding towns.

    Norwich had a neighborhood school system in those days. I still think that was best. Everybody walked to school in the neighborhood from the first to fourth or fifth grades.

    From fifth to eighth, we all walked farther to the bigger schools -- Broadway, Elizabeth Street or Samuel Huntington.

    In East Great Plain, where the volunteer firehouse stands today, was a two-room schoolhouse where they taught four grades; first and second in one room, third and fourth in the other.

    Today, from time to time, I speak at many schools and know school is much different today from how it was in our time. There was more emphasis on history and geography. Penmanship was important, and we spent hours practicing. It was a time when there were no calculators.

    Today, in supermarkets, everything is computerized. In school, calculators are allowed for examinations.

    It is a far departure from the days when the grocer would write the price of each item on the back of a brown paper bag. He would total it, and then your groceries would be put in the same bag.

    Years ago, even at the big grocery stores, you stood at a counter and told the grocer what you wanted. From the shelves behind him, he would select the cans, bottles and the vegetables.

    Another thing we didn't have or have need for were grocery carts. Years ago, all the grocery stores were downtown. On Franklin Square was the Mohican Market, Beit Brothers and the First National Store were in the building where today Eastern Federal Savings has its headquarters.

    So often, I read in the Bulletin where children in Norwich and neighboring towns complain there is nothing to do. I don't ever recall growing up and not knowing what to do.

    Looking back, our problem was there wasn't enough time to do all the things we wanted to do.

    In grammar school, I remember how we looked forward to certain things, such as holidays, vacations and NFA after graduation. In fifth grade, we would write in ink for the first time. There were no ballpoint pens, but each desk had an inkwell, and each child had a little piece of felt that was used to keep the point of the ink pen clean.

    All the boys, it seemed, wore corduroy knickers, and all the girls wore dresses. It was a much more formal time, and we dressed up to go school. It was a time when almost every boy had a dog. Those dogs ran free with the boys to sandlot baseball games and pick-up touch football games.

    We would fill the whole summer with play, as we did during our Christmas and Easter vacations and weekends.

    It wasn't all play, as we had our chores. In the winter, the boys would often have to shovel out the ashes from the coal-burning furnaces we all had.

    The girls worked with their mothers and the boys cut their lawns in the summer, using push lawn mowers. No one had anything like today's ride-on lawn mowers. I think they even cut Chelsea Parade with hand-pushed mowers.

    Many of us had paper routes. There was no television and, until the mid-1940s, there was no radio in Norwich. We had two newspapers, the morning Bulletin and the afternoon Record. They were both published by the Bulletin Company. They were also sold on Franklin Square by newsboys.

    Some of us had spare-time jobs. Every day, after school, I would walk to the Checkerboard Feed Store where I was paid 15 cents or 20 cents to sweep the store.

    Most everything I swept up was grain, and, one day, I asked the manager if I could take it home. When he said yes, I then bought 24 little chickens for 10 cents apiece. Within six months or a year, two-thirds of those chicks were laying hens.

    During the Depression, I would sell eggs on my paper route. My total investment was $2.40. The grain I got for nothing, and an old hut we had built in the back yard as a clubhouse ended up being a chicken coop.

    Growing up, I never remember racial or religious prejudice, though it must have been present. In school, we did everything together, and even at Christmastime when he had Christmas plays, some of the Jewish students would take part.

    During my school days, how clearly I remember teachers telling us of our obligations to make something of our lives. So often, today in colleges, they are fighting for their rights, which we always were taught had to be earned.

    So, I guess, technically, as the courts so often rule, we all have rights, which today seem to some more important than obligations.

    Maybe, looking back, things weren't as good as they now look from a distance of many years.

    I do think our minds were more fertile, because they were not contaminated with so much television. We had to use our imagination listening to children's programs, such as "The Lone Ranger" and "Captain Midnight."

    They would paint pictures with words, and we would have to imagine in our minds what was happening. Today, the images are on television. You don't have to wonder. It is all put there before you.

    I just love this morning's picture and thought you, too, would enjoy it. It reminds us of those happy days of back yard birthday parties and walking to and from school with your friends -- friendships that would last a lifetime.
    "Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack. -- Gen. George S. Patton

  2. #2
    Sinner's Swing! racefan8's Avatar
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    04.01.11 @ 06:59 PM
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    That is awesome
    Stupid is forever, ignorance can be fixed.
    False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.
    Compassion is the basis of all morality.
    The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.

  3. #3
    Atomic Punk Viking's Avatar
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    05.08.18 @ 01:14 PM
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    That was a good read, but how did I come across it? Sitting at my damn computer!
    "Viking - last to sleep, first to rise, last to leave, that's how the Nords of old rocked the house." ~ timmac in the 'Texas Linkers' thread talking about yours truly. :-)



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