Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Five Questions about Home

Juliana Smith at the 24/7 Family History Circle blog, as part of her Weekly Planner series, has been providing a list of 5 questions on a particular subject as part of honoring October as Family History Month. The topic this week is Home. The questions are:

1) What was your room like when you were growing up? Did you share it or did you have your own room? What did it look like?

I always shared a bedroom with my younger brother (I am 3 years older). Until 1955, we had bunk beds and shared the room next to our parents room in the southeast corner of the house. There was a central desk area for stuff and homework. When my youngest brother was born in 1955, the nursery was set up in that bedroom and we were moved to the sun room in the southwest corner of the building. My dad took the bunk beds apart and we each had a single bed against the outside wall with a long desk built into the other wall. The desk was great - there was wall space and counter space for homework and projects.

From the sun room, we had a commanding view to the south - we could see the B-36 airplanes coming into the airport, the neighborhood down to the church, the bay and Point Loma off to the southwest, and Mount Miguel to the southeast.

2) Did you have a backyard? A garden? Did you grow fruits and/or vegetables?

Before 1953 (when I was 10), we had a large lot to the south of the house - half of it was a field where we played ball and the other half was vegetable, fruit and berry plants. We picked the fruit and berries and sold them at sidewalk stands near the Piggly Wiggly two blocks away. It was a good early lesson in entrepreneurship.

In 1953, my grandparents sold the south lot and two-story apartments were built on them. That reduced our play area to a small patio and garden (walled on the south, against the two apartment houses on the north, and the street on the east and west. My dad put brick down in the patio, and set up a basketball standard. During the summer, the ping pong table was set up and a barbecue was in the corner. When the table wasn't there, we played kickball, dodgeball and whiffle ball in this small patio that measured maybe 20 by 30 feet. We had to be careful not to put the balls over the wall into the apartment complex or to break windows in our own apartments.

3) Did you have a secret hiding place?

In the house, there was a "cubby hole" over the front staircase, accessible from the living room. I would spend time there watching cars and buses on 30th Street - keeping track of the buses and trying to figure out how they scheduled them. In my room, I had a fairly private bookcase at the head of the bed, and would often hide stuff under my mattress. I also had hiding places outside - the house did not have a foundation, so there was a crawl space underneath.

4) What household chores were your responsibilities?

Making my bed and keeping my stuff on my side of the room. I don't remember having washing or cleaning chores, but I think I took out the trash and often went to the store with my mother to help her carry groceries home.

Outside, my brother and I had lawn mowing responsibilities every week or two using a push mower.

5) In what room did your family gather most? Was it in the living room or around the kitchen table? What did you do there? Sing? Talk about the day? Watch T.V.? Tell stories?

We always had meals in the dining room - never in another room or in the bedroom. My dad often read the newspaper during meals, but this sparked conversations about sports and world events. The dining room table was where we played board games, card games and mind games.

We got our first TV in about 1953, and it was set up in the living room with a big antenna on the roof. We watched the cowboy shows - Hopalong Cassidy was a favorite, but also Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and others. We watched game shows and family shows when they came along. Baseball and football games were big favorites on the weekends. We had two TV channels in the 1950's - CBS on Channel 8 and NBC on Channel 10. In about 1960, a third channel came on from Tijuana in English, and we got ABC programs on Channel 6.

During the early 1950's, the only radio in the house was in my parents room. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, my folks would lie in bed and listen to radio shows, often with music. My brother and I would crowd into bed (a double bed) with them and sing along with my folks.

The 1950's were a great time to be a kid growing up in in San Diego. The city was growing but uncrowded, schools were excellent, and kids had a lot of freedom to try and excel. We were all over the neighborhood on our bicycles and flexible flyers. We often went to the cultural places in Balboa Park, enjoyed baseball games downtown, and occasionally went to the beach. A highlight was going to my grandparents home on Point Loma - here there were new neighborhoods to explore and map out, a large garage to find treasures in, a garden to hide in, and a fireplace for Santa to come down at Christmas time.

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