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Tacoma, Washington, United States

Monday, May 16, 2016

Goin' to Kansas City

Faxon School in Kansas City, MO where Conrad and Richard attended school during their time there. Fall of 2015 the building, which had sat empty for a decade, was turned into affordable housing for seniors.  Quite possibly its former pupils are now tenants.

In 1929 when I was seven, Dad got restless again.  He was not making it at the station and one of our many relatives in Kansas City, Missouri, told him he could get a job at the Fisher Body automobile plant there.  Dad did get a job on the assembly line for Chevrolet bodies and moved us to a two-story white house on the corner of 37th and Highland not far from where our Uncle Hubert and Aunt Ora Hayward lived.  
Aunt Ora was Dad’s eldest sisters.  Uncle Hubert, an inventor (the Hayward wrench was his design) and entrepreneur, was to die at a relatively early age in the mid-thirties and Aunt Ora reigned for years as the matriarch of the Kansas City bunch—which numbered at one time around seventy-five relatives of various degrees.  We never went to Kansas City in later years without without paying or respects to “Mama Ory.” [My only memory of Aunt Ory was at her funeral in the Bona Church.  Although Friezes left Bona and Dade County, most, including my dad, considered it home—forever.] Hubert and Ora had several children, some of whom I don’t remember much about, but I became close with Maude, one of the younger daughters.  Maude was a happy-go-lucky teenager when we lived there and I liked her very much.  [Although I probably met Maude when I was little and my parents took me to Missouri, I remember her from my visit to Greenfield in 1970.  She was still happy-go-lucky and excited about going to see Elvis.  Of the cousins of my dad that I met over the years, Maude is the one I remember best, heard him speak of the most often, and liked best.]
                The big city was quite a change for a couple of young country boys.  We went to Faxon School on The Paseo about four blocks from where we lived.  Faxon was big and bewildering after having gone to little one-room country schools with maybe a total of thirty pupils in all eight grades.  In those, each class took turns going to the front of the room to recite.  At Faxon, however, each class had a separate room, generally with as many children in it as we were accustomed to in a whole school!  I felt like a fish out of water for a while, but it did not take long to adapt.
When we started at Faxon, I was put in class 3B because of my age, but before long the teacher realized that they teach pretty well in those little country schools because I was ahead of everyone else in the class.  They jumped me one grade 3A and I felt good that once again I was just one grade behind Richard who was in 4A.  I was quite proud when I showed my new teacher that I could already do long division.  She embarrassed me because she was so delighted that she hugged me right there in front of the whole class.
One time at Faxon I was in an operetta as a wooden soldier.  A bunch of us little boys had to march to the music of “The Parade of the Toy Soldiers.”  We had to wear white pants, blue coats with white bands crossed over our chests, and tall black shako hats that our mother made out of stiff buckram.
I was confused and scared while we were lined up waiting to go on the stage.  I was afraid that all those people would just laugh at us and I wished that I could go away and hide.  When the music started and we marched on, I just tried to remember what the teacher told us about marching with stiff arms and legs.  The audience—mostly parents, I suppose—did not laugh.  They clapped for us and we marched off harder.  I suspect that we did not stay in step too well, but as we left the stage they clapped again and that made us feel good.  It left me with the beginnings of a feeling of confidence about getting up in front of people that was to stand me in good stead all of my life.