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Tacoma, Washington, United States

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Country Boy in the Big City

In Kansas City, my father took us to the first talking movie I had ever seen.  I do not recall the name of the movie, but it was at the Woodland Theater just beyond the fire station from our house.  I was fascinated when, at the beginning of the newsreel, a moving picture of a rooster crowed right out loud as if you were standing right near him in the barnlot!  Then, at the beginning of the main feature, the MGM lion roared.  I had to look in a lot of books to find out how they did that.

One important thing to Kansas City kids was the Saturday serial at the matinees.  You were not really “with it” at school unless you had seen the latest episode.  The whole time we were in Kansas City we went to see the serial “The Jade Box” on Saturday afternoons.  It was shown at a theater a few blocks beyond Faxon school.  We found out that on Saturday afternoons kids could get in for a can of food for the needy.  Sometimes we got in for just an egg and eggs were less than 25 cents a dozen even before the Great Depression set in the next year.
A scene from the Jade Box

We got quite fond of movies in Kansas City but, before long we were to move back to the country around Greenfield and Bona and we did not get to see many for several years—not until we moved back to Vancouver, Washington in the late thirties.

I never got to go to the plant where Dad worked but he told us that one of his jobs on the assembly line was to climb into each car body that came by and seal up under the dashboard with putty so rain would not leak in the seam.  It did not sound like much of a job to me and I decided that I certainly did not want to be an assembly line worker when I grew up.  I did not know yet what I wanted to be.  One time about then my father asked me about that and, according to him in later years, I solemnly said, “Well, I haven’t decided yet whether to be an outlaw or a preacher!”  I must have been pulling his leg as I do not recall ever wanting to be either of those.

One thing us kids liked about living in Kansas City was that we had an inside bathroom with white porcelain bathtub and toilet.  We did not have to take baths in a washtub by the kitchen stove and at night we did not have to go outside to a smelly old outhouse to go to the toilet.  We also had electric lights and my mother had a sink in the kitchen with hot and cold running water.  She had a gas cookstove so we did not have to split and carry wood.  There was an icebox on the back porch where an iceman put a block of ice whenever Mother put a card in the window saying how much she needed.

The icebox had no freezer to keep ice cream but we did not lack for it.  Each evening on weekends there were ice cream wagons that came slowly along the street.  They had bells on the wheels so you could hear them coming.  If you had a nickel or could talk your mother or father out of one, you ran out to the corner and the ice cream wagon would stop.

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