Tuesday, January 8, 2013

More Boyhood Memories



The "New" Robert Street Bridge
Some Sundays, when we didn't go to visit Grandma and Grandpa in Excelsior, we would drive over to West St. Paul and visit with friends of Mom and Dad.  To get there, you had to go through downtown St. Paul and cross the Mississippi River on the Robert Street bridge.  When we got over the bridge Dad would always point out the place where he used to work, which everybody called "The Hoist.” Only later did I learn that it was the American Hoist and Derrick and that it was where he got a job after getting out of something called the CCC's.

Picnic with the Schmahls
Those visits were usually with Babe and Mabel and their kids, Nancy and Billie, who lived on Robie St.  They said Robie just like something  you would do with your bath robe.  I always thought it was a funny name for a street. Also, I could never figure out why they would call a man a babe, especially when other people called him Henry.  Their last name was Schmahl. Nancy always wanted to hug me so, even though Billie was a couple of years younger than me, I preferred to play with him.  The adults would say you just go out back and "run around" so I guess that is what we did.

Sometimes we went to the Englemann's, who lived in the same neighborhood as the Schmahls.  It was more fun to call them the Angleworms though Mom and Dad didn't want us to use that name.  The adults were Art and Bernice and their kids were Jimmie and Janie.  Jimmie was a little older than me and Janie was about my sister’s age.  They didn't get to "run around" as much as Nancy and Billie and so it usually wasn’t as much fun even though they had some neat games.
 
The favorite card table
These people were kind-of like aunts and uncles and cousins, but they really weren't.  Both West-Side families were the ones we also saw on New Year's Eve, which was sometimes at our house and sometimes at theirs.  Often another Angleworm family came for New Years. They were John and Maud and their daughter Roxie.  Roxie wore thick glasses that made her eyes look big.  I always wanted to look through her glasses.  New Years was just a longer visit with more food on fancier plates.  All the adults played a card game called 500, and because there were so many adults, they needed an extra card table.  Sometimes we brought our table.  I really liked our card table because it had horses and men in red coats and dogs running all over.  The other tables were just plain.  The problem with New Years was you had to wear your "good clothes" and you didn't get to run around and you had to play games in one of the kid's bedrooms.  You ate real late and then you fell asleep in the car on the way home.  

When we were a bit older Dad would take a week vacation and we would go up north and live in a cabin at Cass Lake.  I never really knew how or why they chose that lake since the car license plates said there were 10,000 lakes to choose from.  I can remember that the trip up there took a long time and sometimes we would have to stop because Kayleen got sick of the car and Mom said we had better pull over.  When we got to a place called Brainerd we were getting close and soon could start looking for the other B town called Bemidji where there was a big Paul Bunyan and his Blue Ox. We often had to stop there and have our picture taken.  Not too long then and you came to a dirt road and the sandy  driveway that led to the cabins.  I think Hultgren was the name on the wood sign.

We took walks along the beach and made things out of the sand.  One summer I built a drive-in movie place with sticks and weeds and a drift-wood movie screen and made places so people in the toy cars could watch the movie.  Sometimes in the evening we took a row boat out to fish for perch. There was a special fish cleaning place about the size of the outdoor toilet. You had to keep the screen door closed and you put the fish guts and heads down a hole in the cleaning table.
 
A few summers the West-Side people also rented cabins at the same resort. One or two afternoons we drove over to the park at Norway Beach where the sand was cleaner and there was a life-guard on duty to watch that the kids didn’t drown.   He sat up on a tall white wood tower.  He was very tan and always smiled, especially at the girls.

After supper the mothers and fathers would play cards and drink beer out of the bottle. My real uncles and aunts at my other Grandma’s house also drank beer out of the bottle. I thought it must be what adults did on vacation or when you sat out under willow trees.
 
Back at the cabin at night we would have camp fires and roast marsh-mellows for a sandwich on a graham cracker.  But you could also just let the marsh-mellow burn to black and then eat the goo off the stick.  Dad cut the sticks off of a tree with his pocket knife.  Sometimes Mom would say it was not like a real vacation because you still had to make the beds and cook. But I think she liked it and sometimes would tie her hair up in a handkerchief, which she never did at home.