Memories of Living in the City 1950–1953
As a Young Boy Around 1947
My Early Life in the City
The first decade of my life was spent initially in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and then in West Allis, a nearby suburb. Most of my memories start when I was about six, although I can still remember breaking my left arm when I was five and in kindergarten.
Mom and dad moved to West Allis in the late 1940s because dad got a job as a millwright at Allis Chalmers Corporation. Up until March of 1954, my parents, younger sister Beatrice, and I lived in a rented apartment before dad began farming.
This article includes my memories of living in the city of West Allis from 1950-1953. In it, I recollect our rented apartment, visits to relatives, the Catholic school which I attended, my friends, and the most enjoyable and frightening times.
Our Rented Apartment on South 63rd Street in West Allis
The first apartment I can remember living in was a small first-floor apartment on South 63rd Street in West Allis, Wisconsin. We lived one-half block from Greenfield Avenue. and about one or two blocks from National Avenue which ran all the way into the city of Milwaukee.
In reality, we didn't live alone on the first floor at 1338 South 63rd Street. We shared the first floor with a woman who lived in an adjoining small apartment separated only by a passage that led up to a shared bathroom between the first and second floors. I used to call the lady Mrs. Poo.
Our apartment was very small having only a small kitchen, living room, and one bedroom. I remember sleeping on a small roll-a-way bed in the living room.
We didn't really have much — only a small couch, 12-inch black and white TV in a console with a record player and radio. I do also remember books in a small bookcase and some paintings on the wall. Dad's favorite was that of a covered wagon going out West in the 19th century.
I remember dad having a big green workbench in the basement. One time he showed me a big rat which he had poisoned. Dad also had a late 1930s car which he kept in a rented garage about a block away from our apartment.
There were a very small front yard and a little larger backyard where ma went to hang clothes. I don't remember the neighbors who lived upstairs or on one side of us, but I do remember Harry Fiske and his daughter Marlene who lived on the other side. Harry was a short fat jovial man who gave us our first color TV in 1953. He did this by affixing some colored transparent paper on the screen of our TV!
Visiting My Grandparents and Other Relatives
As a kid, I enjoyed visiting relatives with mom, dad, and my sister, Beatrice. We often visited my paternal grandfather and grandmother who also lived on South 63rd Street only two or three blocks down the street. For some reason, ma never liked to go over to grandpa and grandma's house.
They lived in a small two-story house which had a small living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom on the first floor and two bedrooms on the second floor. My two youngest unmarried aunts, Helen and Florence, were still living at home in the early 50s. I especially liked talking with Aunt Helen who always let me practice hitting golf balls with her clubs. The enclosed front porch was my favorite place in the house because it had a swinging love seat.
Grandma and grandpa had a cherry tree in the backyard, and also a small chicken coop where grandma raised about 10-15 chickens. During the day, grandpa went to work at the stockyards in Milwaukee.
When not visiting grandpa and grandma, we would usually go to Uncle Augie's apartment on the east side of Milwaukee on Saturday evenings. Uncle Augie and Aunt Georgiana had a big 30 inch TV which I clearly remember. The Burns and Allen show would usually be on when we got to Augie's apartment. I spent most of my time, however, playing with my cousins Gail and Alan.
Every summer we would also take a few days of vacation and make a six to eight-hour car trip up to Marshfield in central Wisconsin where my maternal grandmother and grandfather lived. They had a small two-story house on the north side of town which was almost out in the countryside. There was a big field next to the house with a brook running through it where I used to play with Aunt Mary who was one year older than me. I remember sleeping upstairs in an unfinished room that was right under the roof. Every time I had to fight back tears when it was time to head back to West Allis.
Relatives on My Father's Side
The Catholic School I Attended
In the fall of 1950 at the age of six, I started attending Saint Mary Help of Christians School on South 60th Street in West Allis. This small school and church were only about three or four blocks away, making it an easy walk to school every day.
What I remember the best is my second-grade teacher and learning to be an altar boy or acolyte.
Sister Colleen was a very kind and beautiful second-grade teacher. She asked me once if I wanted to be a priest, and I replied by saying that I wanted to become a bishop. I'll never forget the crown she put on my head for having the best penmanship of the day!
When I was in third or fourth grade, I decided on becoming an altar boy. It was really exciting and cool memorizing Latin prayers to say in response to the priest and in assisting during the Mass. I especially liked ringing the bell during the consecration of the Holy Eucharist and holding the paten under Holy Communion recipients.
During the non-school time, I remember playing baseball on the school playground and also getting cheap tickets from the school to see movies at the Paradise Theater on Greenfield just up the street from my apartment every Saturday morning.
Jackie and Alan Jon Zupon were probably two of my best friends.
Jackie was a little older than me. He liked bullying me around until dad bought me some boxing gloves and taught me how to box. After that, we were the best of friends and used to run around the neighborhood during summer vacation.
Alan Jon lived a couple of doors down from me. I recall playing a lot of baseball with him and also riding to the park in his mother's car.
My Most Enjoyable Memory
My most enjoyable memory was going to see the old Milwaukee Braves play the Pittsburg Pirates in a doubleheader on a Sunday afternoon in the summer of 1953. The Braves had just moved to Milwaukee from Boston and were having a great first year in Milwaukee.
At the game, dad and I sat in the left-field bleachers along the third base foul line. It was really great seeing live the players that I had only seen before on baseball cards. My Braves baseball heroes were pitcher Warren Spahn, catcher Del Crandall, and third baseman Eddie Mathews.
Since I was starting to play baseball and wanted to be a catcher, dad told me to watch how catcher Del Crandall held his glove when catching. It was a great afternoon because the Braves won both games.
My Most Frightening Memories
The three most frightening memories during my time in the city 1950-1953 include the following:
1. My Appendectomy Operation
When I was six years old, I suddenly became very sick with vomiting and pain in my abdominal area. Ma immediately took me to see Dr. Voellings who had a clinic up the street on Greenfield. When the doctor told my mother and me that I had a ruptured appendix and needed an immediate operation, I was so afraid and kept asking the doctor and mom if I was going to die.
I remember the taxi ride to Deaconess Hospital in Milwaukee and then lying on a table in the operating room. After a medical person put some ether on a cloth over my face, I had the scariest of dreams. I dreamt that I was lying on railroad tracks and that a big locomotive with white smoke was passing over me.
2. A Bad Spanking from Dad
One afternoon after school when I was in the third grade, I brought one of my classmates over to my apartment to listen to records. While Karl and I were putting the arm with the needle of the record player on a record, the arm of dad's record player broke. Dad wasn't at home at the time because he was working a 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. shift. The next morning after dad woke up, he got me out of bed and gave me the worst spanking of my life with his belt.
3. Bullying by the Twins
The twins, Stevie and Joey, lived across the street from me. They were a couple of years older than me and enjoyed bullying me and making my life miserable whenever I went outside on the street. Once when they cornered me, they asked me what my name was. I was shaking with so much fear that I replied, "I don't know my name, but I used to know it."
At what age can you recall your first memories?
Although I missed my friends a little after we moved to the farm in 1954, I was anxious and excited to leave the city and start a new adventure in the countryside.
Other Hubs Related to My Memories of the 1950s
- Remembering the 50s
Experiencing the early 50s as a young boy did a lot in defining my life. The Lone Ranger and Milwaukee Braves ballplayers became my heroes and role models. In this hub I recall the early 50s culture.
- Technology in the 50s and 60s
Technology in the 50s and 60s was less advanced than it is today. This hub tells how the telephone, slide rule, phonograph records, film projectors, and the transistor radio were used in daily life.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2015 Paul Richard Kuehn