Thursday, September 16, 2010

only for those who follow.........

Momma said "don't go begging".   This is only for those who bother to check out my babbling brook. This will not be posted anywhere else. 

The image in the upper right corner is a photo Brenda sent to me in Viet Nam.  The big picture is one I had enlarged in Nam and hand colored.  Talk about a motivation to stay alive and get back home, she was it.

A dog's life
Only time I ever really was jealous of a dog.  Got my cuddling when I got home.  By the way, Brenda's nickname from me was "cuddles" after a comic strip character in the 60's.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Who is James David Huff ???

If you are just joining, you should go back to the end of August and start at page 0001, we will wait for you along the way, it is easy to catch up.

Time to start catching up ourselves, on some pictures. This is the only picture I have of Momma, and to me she always looked like this.  Probably taken in 1958, I caught her napping on our living room sofa.

1032 Brown Avenue as it is now (2006)

This was my home for 19 years.  That little tree in the front yard was a towering Maple that was as tall as the house in 1960.  The front porch was not enclosed, but open to the breeze, rain, snow and sunshine.  Behind the parked car, the garage with access from the roof to a second floor window in the back bedroom (the one converted to a kitchenette).  The second floor window, on the left, over the porch roof, that was Mommas room.

And the dormer, two windows on top, the attic.  There were also windows on either end of the attic, but none in the rear.

The telephone pole by the curb had a street light on it, and to comfort me Momma would tell me that if anyone kidnapped me "when they got you out under the street light, they would let you go". 

To the left of the porch was a narrow walkway to the side door (right down to the basement, left up four steps to the kitchen) and the back yard.  Garbage men would go to the back yard for can as they knew Momma was old and I was little.  They even took the empty can back for us. 

On the front porch next to the door was our mailbox and under it our milk box.  The mailman came TWICE a day, six days a week and always knocked or rang the bell if he thought there was something important in Mommas mail.  In the summer he had time for iced tea, in the fall coffee or hot cocoa.  A bitter cold day in the winter might find him taking a few minutes to warm up in our hallway entrance.

The milk man came twice a week with, naturally, milk.  He also carried butter and eggs that we felt were to expensive when you could get them a nickle less at the corner store. 

I am about to turn five years old and we are going on a BIG adventure.  My birthday was October 10th.  The year 1949 and we were going to California.

Before we go, I want to tell you about the rest of my family.  Momma raised kids all her life.  Three of her own, two of her sisters kids (her sister died in childbirth) and me.  That is really three generations of children.  You will get to meet them briefly in page 0007 and know them much better as we journey along.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Who is James David Huff ???

From my earliest remembrance (age 4) I had a drug problem.  Momma drug me to Sunday School, she drug me to Church, she drug me to Prayer Meeting on Wednesday nights.  I got drug to pot luck dinners every month at church and everywhere else she went.  I loved it. 

We would go to farms around Erie when they were done with most of their harvest.  Like the times of Ruth from the Bible, farmers (even commercial farms) would let people come in and glean after the picking was no longer profitable to them.  We would go to the pickle farm and Momma would give me a peck basket to carry.  A bushell was to big for me and a peck or "splint basket" was just right.  We would go thru the fields and collect a bushell or two of pickles and cucumbers take them home and "can" them. 

Old song..."I love you, a bushell and a peck. A bushell and a peck, and a hug around the neck". 

Remember those shelves in the basement.  We had more fruit and vegetables than we would be able to use in one season, so there was always some to share with friends.  Momma would cook, steam, or boil anything from apples, berries, cherries, dandelions, eggplant, fruit, grapes, honey, ijklmn....all the way to z for zucchini.  She made pie fillings, jellies, jams, peaches, pickled watermelon rind, rhubarb, and on and  on...

I don't think that there was anything she could not preserve in a Mason jar, and did.  Corn, lima beans, peas, carrots, elderberries, mince meat, quince, strawberries, and more.  If it grew, she canned it in season and we ate it all year long. 

The oven and stove was gas and served many more purposes than just cooking.  We will discover some of them later.  For now, let's just say it was one of my favorite places in the house.  Momma was always baking pies, making stew or dumplings or bacon and eggs or baking bread.  The kitchen would always be remembered as a gathering place for friends who were always dropping in.

Remember that the "block" I grew up on was triangular not four sided.  Starting at the eastern point (22nd and Brown Avenue) and going West on Brown Avenue we had a small ice cream store run by Vincent Manarelli, a very special Italian gentleman.  At the western end of his building was my barber shop. The next house West were the Ryans.  Then the Reddingers, then our house.  Nest to us were the Alberstardts and then a family who's father was a commercial artist.  Skip Niebauer and his mom and dad and sister were next. Skip was my best friend from four years old thru high school. 

Keep in mind, he was only three houses West from me and consequently most of our adventures were initially centered in the area the size of a football field.  Next to skip was Aunt Jenny Smith who was the neighborhood "historian" and my Mommas best friend.  Historian is a polite way of saying that she made sure she was aware of everything and anything going on in the neighborhood.  She was the reason Momma knew so much about where I was and what I did until I was about six years old.  After that I learned to cover my tracks better.

Next to Aunt Jenny was an older couple who were nice yet kept pretty much to themselves.  Roslind and her family lived in the last house before the alley that divided the end of the block.  I am thinking that it was "Millers" furniture store that finished out Brown Avenue to Raspberry.

This was the focus of our "tactical area of responsibility"  Other than Skips uncle, who lived directly behind him and whose house faced 22nd Street, the German bakery at 22nd and Raspberry was the only other point of interest for us.  Until I was six years old I was not allowed to go past the alley way and for Skip and I that area might as well have been as off limits as daring to cross the street. 

Over the years our range of operations would expand to include undreamed of adventures in places that were so full of wonder and history and discovery as to be worthy of their own story.

Back to adventures with Momma.  In addition to visiting farms to "pick your own" we would go to the farmers market on the East side of town. 

Guess this would be a good time to mention that by now Momma was 68 and I was 4.  Our transportation was a 1942 Nash, four door, straight eight, vib, stick shift, black sedan with running boards and a trunk big enough to stuff at least two bodies in it.  We walked two blocks to church.  Everywhere else we went, Momma drove.

Momma drove to the farmers market at least twice a month during harvest, and once a month the rest of the year.  They called them "the good old days" and for good reason.  The United States was the breadbasket of the world.  We grew not only enough to feed ourselves, but much of the free world was dependent on our surplus.  There was no such thing as food stamps for the poor.  Instead there was surplus food.  Anyone on social security with need was eligible for "surplus food" at a distribution center, a part of the farmers market.  Every month Momma would pick up 10 lbs of flour, 5lbs of dried beans, 5lbs of cheese, and what ever else the government had purchased as part of aid to farmers.  The farmers were helped and the people with need were helped.  Interesting concept, the idea of charity beginning at home. 

I digress.  The farmers market also was a wonder for the beholding.  Live chickens, turkeys, and even goats as well as fresh meat and produce.  Pick out a chicken and they would kill it, bleed it and take most of the feathers off with a knobby rubber belt that looked like an over sized belt sander turned upside down.  The smells, the sounds and the action was like going to the circus for a four year old.

On the way home, we might go by the public dock at the foot of State Street, watch the fishing boats come in from Lake Erie and purchase some "fresh" lake perch.

What a wonderful world.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Miami Beach

Miami and Miami Beach 
 A Day Off From "Not Working".

Biscayne Bay
Miami Beach Sunrise
Boat I like
Boat I can afford........
Wind and Surf at sunrise on Miami Beach

Monday night trip to Miami for appointment with DOS for passport.  Getting ready for trip to Togo, West Africa in November to see Jonathan and family.  Arrived at Miami Beach in time to enjoy sunrise and put "two feet, two feet" into Atlantic Ocean.  Breakfast at Double Tree on Biscayne Bay and then back home. Fun trip, profitable and good exercise for MH.

Album - two feet - two feet into waters around the world
Atlantic Ocean, Miami, FL. USA

Monday, September 6, 2010

Who is James David Huff ???

Everyone needs a best friend in their childhood.  If you don't have one, you make one up. 

God blessed me with a real friend that was more awesome than any I could make up myself.  We would have many adventures together and learn much about life in reality and imagination.

Carl Austin Niebauer, "Skip" to me, lived three houses west of mine and we were best friends from as early as I can remember.  Skip's dad was a contractor and built many of the Catholic Churches in Erie as well as anything else that could be constructed.  His mom was from Canada and was the nicest woman in the neighborhood.  She was born in Loggieville, a small town near Chatum, New Brunswick, Canada and welcomed me into her home as if I was Skip's brother.  Skip's sister was enough years older than us that we seldom saw her.  I only remember her as being a pretty girl like you would hope to find when you got older. 

Skips house was built of brick and had a large front porch that we could play on even in the rain.  The best part was the barn out back.  Even though we lived in the city, his father had kept the barn on the property and its loft would become our secret club house. 

Directly behind his house, facing the opposite street, was his Uncle and Aunt and a their parakeet who drank beer from the bottle cap.  Hey, I remember what I remember.  Skips uncle was a barber who's shop was four blocks away next to an old movie theater that became the source for us to acquire real old silent film and a hand cranked projector that would play in many adventures.

Skip and I were inseparable and had free run of the neighborhood.  In those days it really was a village raising the children.  We were safe and watched over by everyone on the block.  Neighbors knew each other and took care of each other.  The down side was that by the time I got home Momma already knew where I had been and if I had done something I should not have.  How many times I walked in the front door to be greeted by Momma saying "Jimmie, get the switch" before I figured out how she knew......

Skip was a few months younger than I and it was not long before I was labeled the instigator in any trouble we got into.  Often the adults did not approve of the things we did and sometimes rightly so for many of our adventures could have had disastrous results.  If we had guardian angels I could picture them saying "Lord, not Jimmie and Skip, please."  "Couldn't we have some one easier, just for today?"    Seriously, God protected us from ourselves and so many other dangers....

Brown Avenue ran diagonally (from northeast to southwest) between Cascade St. on the East and Raspberry st. on the West with 22nd St. on the North and 23rd St. on the South.  We will start at the pointed East end and walk around the block meeting the neighbors.

next -  a walk around the block


Who is James David Huff ???

Going up stairs, we hit the second landing and start down the hall

The first door on the left is my room.  Single bed and dresser.  Window, on back wall of house, gives view of back yard and the house behind us.  Spent nineteen years with this as my bedroom retreat and many parts of this journey take place here.

Next door on left, bathroom.  Cast iron tub, toilet, washbasin, little open flame gas heater for cold winter nights (and days).  No shower, that was a luxury for the wealthy. 

Last door on left, at end of hall, was originally a bedroom but converted to a small kitchenette when I was about four. The window was over our flat roofed garage and in later years would provide a way for me to sneak out and back in. Across from it on the right side of the end of the hall was another bedroom.  In order to provide some extra income Momma rented out these two rooms for about a year.  The tenant was a trucker who worked locally five days a week and went home on weekends. 

Every morning he would have six eggs, six donuts and coffee.  I got one of the eggs, one of the donuts and coffee that was half coffee and half milk.  He taught me that when a plate of cookies was passed, "take two, it might not come back again."  He told me that when "Aunt Kate" ( everyone called Momma "Aunt Kate") had company visit, I should ask them for any change they had.  Needless to say, Momma did not find this as amusing as he did.  While I no longer ask for loose change, I still take two cookies first time around.

Back down the hall, directly across from my room, was Mommas room.  Her bedroom window was directly over the tin roofed porch.    I loved to lay on her bed and listen to the rain on that tin roof.  It is a sound I have never forgotten and still brings back memories of my childhood. On her dresser was an old "40 hour mantel clock" that was wound with a key every evening and chimed every hour on the hour.  Between Momma's closet and dresser was a locked door that led to the attic stairs and an adventure land that kept my imagination for years.  The attic was a treasure that would influence and affect my life beyond any single place in my childhood.

Standing out front on the sidewalk and facing the house you would be looking north toward Lake Erie (22 blocks away) and under the shade of a really big maple tree.  The street light, mounted on a telephone pole nearby, would cast shadows on the front of the house that were scary when the wind moved the branches.  Making friends with the shadows was the answer and works to this day.

To the right of the house was our driveway and half way back the East side of the house our garage.  It would be considered a one car attached garage, although there was no entrance to the house from it.  There was a side door in the garage that opened to our small back yard. 

We had a clothes line (double), a burn barrel, some rhubarb growing next to the house and enough dirt for me and Skip to play in.

next - my best friend Skip


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Who is James David Huff ???

Mrs. Catherine Huff will, hereafter and ever more , be called my mother.  Any reference to my biological mother, will be referred to as Dorothy. 

As we left off, Mrs. Huff was fighting to keep me.  In as much as she was born in 1880 and was sixty four years old when I arrived on her doorstep, the courts declared her too old to adopt me.  However, God in His wisdom provided.  The courts awarded me as a ward (like that play on words) to Mrs. Huff for as long as she wanted to keep me.  Mrs. Cecilia Knickerbocker was the case worker for the Erie County Institution District and assigned to look in on "Aunt Kate" and her little boy.

We lived in a two story frame house on Brown Avenue in Erie, Pennsylvania.  We had a basement with an old coal furnace that we eventually converted to natural gas when Mom got to old to shovel coal and I was not yet old enough.  I remember playing in the coal bin, talk about getting dirty......  We had an old Maytag washer with a wringer on it.  Google that one.  Our hot water came from an open flame gas burner that heated a copper coil outside a thirty gallon tank.  Two walls were covered from floor to joists with shelves three feet deep and loaded with fruits and vegetables that Mom had "canned" during the harvest season.

The front porch had a large swing suspended from the roof and we spent a lot of time just sitting, swinging, talking to neighbors that would stop by.  Everyone in the neighborhood looked out for everyone else.  A special watchfulness over the old and the young.  I came to know first hand that "it takes a village, to raise a child".  In later years this fact would become a mixed blessing.  But, more about that in due time.

Walking in the front door you found yourself in a small entryway with a writing desk and telephone ahead of you.  To its side, passage to the kitchen.  To your left, stairs going to the second floor.Two steps to the first landing, turn right and fourteen steps to the second landing, right three steps to the hallway.  The first landing had an old Victrola (crank it up to play) and pre vinyl records that would shatter if you dropped one.

Turning right as you entered put you in our living room.  Big window looking out onto the street.  Sofa, chair, the usual with my favorite, A Zenith Super Hetrodyne Radio that got short wave broadcasts from around the world.  Ships at sea using Morse code.  Quito, Ecuador and the Voice of the Andes.  Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, The Great Gildersleeve, Amos and Andy, Marx, Burns,Winchell, and on and on with all the greatest of all time entertainment.  You used your ears and your imagination. 

Turning left was a dinning room that would seat ten at the table.  China Cabinet, Buffet, Wardrobe, Sewing Machine and a lot of room for a little boy to play.  Another left and you were in the kitchen.  My second favorite place.  Gas stove and oven, refrigerator, cupboards, drop leaf table and two chairs.  Momma was always cooking and I was always eating. 

Later we will go upstairs.

For now, I am going to go to sleep with some very good memories.