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Bear N Mom - Growing Up in the 1950s

Updated on May 22, 2016
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Growing up along the Allegheny River in the 1950's was an exciting and time for a child to learn and grow with personal experiences.

Bard's Dairy Store -- Brilliant Avenue
Bard's Dairy Store -- Brilliant Avenue
Trolley Loop located on Llawnipsa Street where the trolley turned around to head back into downtown Pittsburgh
Trolley Loop located on Llawnipsa Street where the trolley turned around to head back into downtown Pittsburgh
Houses on Fourth Street
Houses on Fourth Street
St. Scholastica Church built in 1950;s
St. Scholastica Church built in 1950;s
American Legion -- built from the Train Station
American Legion -- built from the Train Station
Fehrmann's Drug Store Memories
Fehrmann's Drug Store Memories

This is going to be a continuing piece because I really don't know where to begin. You might say start at the beginning, but that is just a matter of how far back can I remember.

I remember growing up in a three generation household on a street with diverse families of varying nationalities and faiths. Faith and church going was one of the basics of the day.

We moved into our home, not just a house, in 1946. I wasn't quite 2 years old and I have very little recollection of that year.

My earliest recollections seem to be around the age of 3. My best friend for all these some 50 plus years grew up in the house next door. She still lives there and I lived there for 44 years.

As children we played in adjoining yards. I was not allowed out without adult supervision and used to be the death of my mother because I would wander out of the yard. I was such a wanderer that I had to be put in a harness to play in the yard. I think this shows that my mother cared. There weren't too many automobiles in those days, and I didn't know about predators, if there were any; but just the thought that I might wander too far and get lost was the reason for tethering me.

Life was simple in those days and you really didn't have to lock the doors at night or lock up the bicycles. Most of the bikes lay on the lawns until their riders picked them up again the next day.

I remember learning to say "Yes, Mam" and "No, Sir" at a very young age. There was no disrespect tolerated. If you were disrespectful you got a spanking. To this day, I don't see why a spanking when needed to teach a lesson is so wrong. I don't condone abuse, but I do believe that sparing the rod does spoil the child's upbringing. The rod in this case being a kindly few smacks of the hand on the behind. The shame of falling out of grace and having to have a spanking is discipline enough.

In our neighborhood, we had a mixture of Italians, Irish and German neighbors. We learned respect for different cultures early in life.

As I got older, I was the youngest of the older children on the block and the oldest of the younger children. So, I didn't really fit in anywhere with the games being played. I tried to play Freeze, Tag and Hide and Go Seek with the older children but I leaned that I was always being taken advantage of but I still tried to fit in with my peers.

My brother was 3 years younger than me and when I tried to play with the children his age the parents would send me home because I was too old to play with their children. I remember one child in particular was my brother's girldfiend and she had the best toys.

As a result, I would wander up and down the block (I was only allowed on our side of the street between the two cross streets). As I made my way up the block I would talk to all the neighbors and would sit on the top step of their porches just chatting away.

On the other side of our home were the 3 yards of our neighbors on the closest cross street. The children in the first house were all older and some were even in high school. They had one daughter who was the same age as my brother and I loved going to her house to play. Her father was an attorney and she had a Ginny doll among all the other latest toys. Ginny dolls were the first dolls to have outfits for every occasion including wedding gowns. I still have contact with the older brother and we email back and forth even though he has moved across the continent.

In the middle house was a German family with 17 children. This family grew their own vegetables and had a grape arbor in their back yard. Only half of the yard was vegetables. The other half was devoted to flowers. The father was the janitor at the high school. All of the children were adults when I was growing up the youngest being in high school. When my mother went to the hospital, my bother and I were welcomed into their home for lunch. All of the daughters came home at lunch to help with the bread baking and pre-preparation of the family dinner. The boys all worked in their father's workshop when they came home from school.

The last house that the yard bordered our yard, was owned by the town Bank Manager. His wife made the best fudge and she tipped the paperboy with pieces of that delectable treat.

My point being that the entire neighborhood was made up of varying careers as well as nationalities. Yet it was a neighborhood with families that interacted and cared for everyone within their block. In times of sadness or death, the appointed neighbor would go to each house and collect money for flowers or to help the needy family. Every neighbor would make a dish of some sort to take to the family for the wake. We had one family who still had their loved one laid out in the family parlor.

That is all I have for now. I'll pick this up again with more of the fun we had as children growing up on our block in the 1950s.

Childhood Fun

As a child, life was not only simple; it was more affordable. I remember as I got a little older I was permitted to go around the corner and up the avenue to the corner store. It was heaven on earth because I would have a nickle or a dime to spend on penny candy. Not only was the candy really a penny each some of the varieties were 2 or even 3 for a penny. Green leaves came individually wrapped and were twice the size of the ones we have today. There were jaw breakers, hot balls, red coins, red shoestrings and red or black licorice whips. Mr. Conn would put your candy in tiny paper bags.

I would buy the licorace strips with the icing dots on them. Another favorite were the penny candy pies (sort of a fudge type candy) that was in a miniature tin pie pan with a tin spoon to scoop the fudge out. Daisies were a penny. There were tiny wax bottles filled with a sugary liquid that you could get from the candy case. Speaking of wax, at Halloween you could purchase wax lips and wax fangs.

Coca-Cola came in the original green glass bottles and only cost a dime. Potatoe chips cost a nickle. Mr. Conn's corner store was catty-corner from the elementary school and a favorite hang out for all of us children on the block.

Evenings were fun because a neighbor would come home, gather his harmonica and banjo and sit on his back steps and play tunes for all of the children. Big Rock Candy Mountain comes to mind as one of the tunes he would play. We children would gather in his back yard, sing and dance to the tunes he played. I remember once a girl flew off the giant reel and broker her arm. There was no fuss and no one sued anyone over the accident. It was an accident and her parent took her to get the arm set.

At an early age, I came to love the high school band parading past my house to get to the football field for high school home games.

Parades were fun in our town. Every Memorial Day we had a parade that all of the children decorated their bikes so that they could follow the parade through town and end up at the Borough Building for judging of the best decorations.

I remember my very first parade because I couldn't pedal my tricycle fast enough and I got lost from the parade. I was about 5 years old. The parade route made a turn and by the time I got to the intersection I went straight. I rode all over town and finally ended up back at home around lunch time. Was I ever in dutch that day. That was one thing my Dad did not tolerate, being late for meals. As a punishment I was not allowed to go swimming with my brother at what we children called the duck pond. It was a small swimming pool at our athletic field.

Most of the children and high school functions were centered around the football field. In the summer the football field was divided into two baseball fields for the little league. Above the baseball fields were tennis courts and above that was a picnic shelter, swings, a slide, a seesaw and the duck pond swimming pool. On Summer mornings, volunteer high school children would run dodge ball games and the like for preschoolers on the baseball fields. Some of the elementary school children got to play softball. In the afternoons the volunteers would have crafts for the children. The afternoon was given away to cutting colored paper for projects or weaving necklaces out of strands of colored plastic coated strings. The really great day was when you got to make plaster paris molds and paint them after they dried in the sun. These activities were designed to keep the children of the borough out of trouble with things to do.

On the Fourth of July, the field was turned over to the fireworks people and the skies would be lit up for almost an hour with whizzing and booming lighted displays. I would beg to go every year and in my younger years I would end up being carried home because I was so frightened of the fireworks.

The first snow seemed to always be on Thanksgiving Day. All winter long, the children would drag their sleds to the field and ride down the humpty bumps that were miniature hills. They were much safer than riding down the hilly streets in the borough. Only one street was cordoned off and devoted to the more adventurous children because it was steeper and the sleds slid down past the cross street almost to the next street.

When I got a little older, I was allowed to go to the movie theatre on Saturday afternoons for cartoons and a single feature, usually a western. Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans were favorites of the day. The price to get into the show was a dime until you reached the ripe old age of 12 when it cost a quarter to get in. It was an adventure to try to sneak into the theatre from the back doors. You would see older boys going through the curtains and there would be quick flash of sun while they let their friends into the theatre. During the film, the only thing you could smell was popcorn. The refreshment stand would carry dime boxes of juju bead, jelly fruit candy, hershey chocolate bars but the only thing you could smell was the popcorn.

That's enough for today. Come back often to see what else I can remember.

Faith and Family

The more I think back the more I realize that our family was not all that different from the other families in our community and the world as a whole.

On Sunday, you went to church as a family and it didn't matter to what faith you belonged. Except for the Jewish people all the faiths worshiped on Sunday morning. As a result you learned at an early age how to behave and to give respect. You didn't mouth off to your parents or any elder for that matter. You learned you get what you give.

Sunday was a day of rest and some of the religions like my grandparent's didn't even cook on Sunday. My grandma would cook her meal on Saturday and it was eaten on Sunday. I'm glad that my Mom didn't follow that because Sunday was the only day of the week that we would have a roast.

There were no stores open on Sunday, not even convenience stores. If you didn't buy what you needed Monday through Saturday, you did without. Saturday was usually the day to pick up what you needed for that special Sunday dinner. If you were going to have a treat from the bakery, it was purchased on Saturday. On weekdays, the desserts were bought by my grandfather on his way home from work. He would go to Donohue's downtown and call home to ask what to bring home. I always asked for pumpkin pie. My grandfather would say, "All our pies are pumkin here." My other grandfather would always buy the roast for the Sunday dinner and that roast would turn into soup or stew or something else for another dinner during the coming week.

Families sat down to dinner (WITH ALL PRESENT) seven days a week. At our house that included my two grandfathers and a college student that my Mom took in as a boarder while she attended a local college. Dinner was eaten in silence but when dessert came it was a time to catch up on what was happening in the family.

The world was smaller in the fact that television was only invented and most families didn't own one. The only news you got was from newspapers or radio. Reading was a big part of the family entertainment. Listening to programs like Amos and Andy and The Lone Ranger were pass times that entertained most children. The music was simpler too. Country Western music was meloncholy and I personally didn't like to listen to it.

I remember that there was only one lady in the middle of our block who owned a television. I would go to her house every night to watch The Lone Ranger and Captain Video. We didn't get our own tv until I was in about third grade. I don't remember who bought it, but I remember that my one grandfather only watched it on Friday nights to see the boxing matches. He would tell us that wrestling was fake but boxing was the real deal.

It was post World War II and the Cold War was in effect. People were afraid that we were going to be attacked. At 11 every Monday morning, the Air Raid Sirens would be blown. Air Raid Drills were taken seriously and at home or school you were taught what to do in the case of a real raid. You were taught to protect your face and neck and to hide under some sturdy piece of furniture. Magazines still boasted features of stories of war and war heroes. Ike Eisenhower was running for President of the United States. His real claim to fame was being a general in the second world war. It's sad but that is all I really remember about him other than he played golf and vacationed in Pennsylvania at Camp David near Gettysburg.

© 2009 Laura L Scotty


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