Some Early Memories from the Life of Jim AndrisIt's been fifty years since I was a kid. I was born December 3, 1938. 36 hours labor, and born a breech delivery with a cull over my face. Every one of the three children had unusual births.
Thomas Franklin was born unattended. Mom tells this story. The '45 flood was coming up fast, and Dad had to see to it that the store equipment and stock was moved safely out of the way of the water. Mom had made it to the hospital, but still was on a gurney in the hall, because there were so many other births at that time. Mom called for a nurse but before they could get there, Tom was delivered. The nurse said he was the cleanest baby she had ever seen.
After a few days, they brought Tom home from the hospital. I waited with keen interest. I can see mom and dad driving up in the old black Buick with the big chrome "teeth" on the front. Mom got out of the car with little Tom wrapped in a blue blanket. I couldn't see his face. She was made up with rouge and had black high heels on. I think she was wearing a tan tam. She held down the bundle and pulled back the blanket a bit. "Jimmie, this is your new brother." I thought he looked pretty strange, all squinty eyed, like a little troll. We lived in the 800 block of Quarry St. in Marietta then. It was a pretty steep hill.
Vicki was born during the '48 flood. They had to use instruments to take her. I remember mom said she screamed when she saw Vicki's eyes. They were all red and her head was bruised from the instruments. What I remember most vividly about this time is that we lived at 317 Greene Street. It was a house with an interesting history. On the front was a big square house, four rooms up, four down, with a big hall and staircase. Tacked onto the back was the old house that had been there before. The previous owner, Lil Warren or Nel Weinstock, I forget which, had had the smaller house come off of the foundations in the '37 flood (the same one that destroyed Victorine Andris' grocery business two doors down the street.) She decided to build it up high. So both the back and the front house were about 12 feet off the ground on a brick foundation. Anyway, when Vicki came home from the hospital, the water came up to within a foot of the main house, and we could open our inside cellar door and see the brown water lapping at the threshhold.
The year before, dad had carried me into this new place all the way from 107 North Fourth, which was around the corner. It was a double-house, 107 and 107 1/2. For a while, we lived on one side and Alphonse's family (dad's next older brother) lived on the other. I had developed asthma, and among my many infirmities were gastritis, exzema, and hay fever, and I was a "sissy," according to various opinions. I lived at 107 between about the close of World War II and 1947, and we had lived there before we moved to Quarry Street. I guess I must have been in the 3rd grade. Mrs. Lucille Miller was my teacher. As an adult, I have talked to her on a couple of occasions. She said that she always wondered if I liked her class, and that I seemed like such a serious student. About the only thing I remember about the third grade was the field trip we took to her husband's business, the Miller Bottling Company and that we were learning cursive writing. I hated Palmer Method, and I was always amazed at all these girls, like Judy Arlene Wagner, who could do those circles so perfectly. But now that I'm a computer jock, I don't need cursive writing.
I remember that one of the things my dad was doing when we moved into 317 was building a large concrete block store building. He used Mr. Markley, a carpenter, as the main contractor, and we later bought his house. I remember how fascinated I was with the pouring of the foundation, the laying of the concrete blocks. My father did most of it. He was so strong, he could "muscle" two concrete blocks. He built a fine building which still stands today. We had the first walk-in cooler in Marietta. He continued in the Clover Farm tradition that his mother had started.
One thing I remember about Clover Farm is that they periodically had conventions. We always played Bingo and they also had raffle drawings. I was very lucky at both. One time I won a beautiful box of stationery; another time I won two big sacks of groceries. I also was lucky at other drawings. One Saturday I took Tommy to the Putnam Theater a couple of blocks away. (It seemed like such a big distance then.) We went to see a double feature of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, and probably a cartoon or a serial. At the intermission they had a contest where they were giving away 10 sets of Roy Rogers guns and holsters. They called my number, but I gave it to Tommy. He went up on the stage to stand with the other winners. To my amazement, the last number they called was Tommy's ticket. The theater was full, too. So then when we were walking home, Ronald Gumm, a mean and tough little devil who periodically picked on me, came up to us and started pushing me around. He said, "I suppose you think you're a big shit, because you won those two guns." He pushed me down on the ground, but I didn't fight back. Eventually, he let me go home. But this was the kind of environment I lived in.
But I did have my limits. One time Richard Snow taunted me all the way home, trying to pick a fist fight. I had a big zipped up brown bag of books. I finally got mad and threw the books at him as hard as I could. It knocked him down, and I jumped on top of him and started pushing his face into the mud. I really wanted to kill him. Cricket Erb came along and pulled me off of him, or he said I would have killed him.
To go back a while in time, one of the things I remember has to do with the fact that I was raised by one father and a matriarchy. By that I mean that I was very close to my mother, her mother, and her mother's mother. They had always lived together before mom got married. What I remember is that while I was growing up, both Clara (grandmother) and her mother Eva (grandma) lived at 103 North Fourth, which was just two doors from the other two places where I lived, 317 Greene and 107 North Fourth.
So my grandmother and grandma were always very much in my young life, and they very much loved me, and I, them. Dad kindly let them live there without charging them rent. Also, it was a big old house, and there were other roomers that paid for the house. It had a big old porch that wrapped around two sides of the house, and it had 4 or 5 concrete stairs that led up to the porch. Inside was the living room which had linoleum on the floor, a dining room table and chairs, and a rocking chair. There was a big radio on which we listened to such programs as Jack Benny, Fibber McGee and Mollie, Sky King, The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, Superman, and The Shadow. I would rush over to their place after school, (which was right across the street) to listen to these radio programs. It was great fun.
They also had a pantry, with a chipped white enameled table that sat under the window, and a kitchen. From the kitchen there was a back door that led out to the stoop and to the back yard. Grandma Noe always had Heavenly Blue morning glories that grew all over the stoop, and marigolds, zinnias, and touch-me-nots that grew around the sides of the back yard. Grandma used to take me by the hand even when I was very young and show me these flowers. I have loved them every since. In the last years of her life, grandma loved to have coffee with milk and sugar in a bowl with oyster crackers for breakfast, and bacon and mustard sandwiches on white bread for lunch.
Once in a while, I got to go into my grandma's bedroom, which was right off the living room, or to grandmother Clara's bedroom, which was the inner sanctum, a big deal. In fact, I only got to go in there either when Clara was sick, or when she showed me her jewel box. Clara had suffered from "liver trouble" all her life. She took Carters Little Liver Pills like they were going out of style. I wonder now what was in them. I'm proud to say that I own Clara's jewel box today. After she died, mom gave it to me. I also have my grandmother's gold watch and fob, Louis Noe's pocket watch, Grandpa Frank's lucky ruby ring, and assorted cuff links, rings, keys, and pocket knives. But the real treasure is the jewel box itself. She must have acquired it in the first decade of this Century. It has lovely flowers and decorations on it. There are two compartments on top and a drawer beneath. I also have her green upholstered rocking chair with the swan handles.
My grandmother and I were quite compatible, and I often found myself a part of a triangle involving her and either mom or dad, depending on which one she had a bone to pick with. Of course, my dad drank, and she would always be on him for that. I now wonder if she wasn't one of the reasons he drank, although I'm sure that the real cause was much deeper. Mom and she had a strange relationship. Mom says she abused her as a child. For example, she locked mom in the cellar where all the spiders were, and hit her over the head with a board. Mom always looked to her grandmother for protection. But I can remember once my grandmother seriously saying to me, "Jim, I think your mother is crazy." I, of course, was trying to be diplomatic about it.
Loving both my mother and my grandmother was a challenge. In fact, I once got caught playing a game. I was carrying stories back and forth between my grandmother at 107 and my mother, who was clerking in the grocery. Each round escalated a bit more. About the third round, my mother caught on. She said something like, "Why Jimmie, you little prevaricator! You're just carrying stories back and forth, trying to cause trouble. Well, you stop it, right this instant!" And she was right, in a way, although I'm sure I was partly just trying to get both of their approval. But as soon as mom confronted me, I realized right away that she was right, and I never did it again.
One of the things I remember about my childhood is the disciplinary phrases that my mother and father used. Phrases like "Aw dry up, Jim." "If you don't shape up, I'm going to jerk a knot in your tail." "I'm going to knock you into the middle of next week." "You're just getting too big for your britches, young man." "I'm going to knock your socks off, if you're not careful." "You little devil!" "You little shitass!" and when it was really serious "You little bastard!" "I'm going to spank your ass good." "I'm going to beat you within an inch of your life." Actually, while I was spanked and switched, it was infrequent, and it was always for some specific infraction of rules.
My grandmother had a small pension from the social security, and even though she didn't pay dad and mom rent, she periodically spent money on us kids. She regularly took us to the show at the Putnam and the Hippodrome Theater (later remodeled as The Colony in the '50s). We'd go see films like How Green Was My Valley and Disney films. I remember that Bambi came out when I was quite young and I cried hysterically because Bambi's father burned up in the fire. We also had one other thing in common. We LOVED Bud Abbot and Lou Costello. And also the Crosby-Hope-Lamour pictures. After we came home from the show, we would stop at the Crystal Dairy, which had a real soda fountain. I always got a hot fudge sundae. It had to have vanilla ice cream and hot fudge, topped with whipped cream, salted cashews and a marischino cherry. Boy did I love that!