After Aunt Anna died (1929), my grandfather and his brother were “latch key kids.” Uncle Cliff remembered having the house key tied to a shoe string and looped around his belt so he could get into the house after school. I believe Grandpa also had his own key. Neither remembered ever being locked out of the house as kids.
(Note - I took the pictures of Paul Revere Elementary School in March 2000 when on a trip to Cleveland with Grandpa)
I remember my grandfather telling a story about root beer. I’m not sure who bottled it, but Nellie had it stored in their root cellar. I believe it was saved for special occasions. Anyway, Grandpa and Uncle Cliff decided to take a bottle, but when they opened it, the liquid shot out at the same time their mother came in to check on them. My grandfather, quick thinker that he was, decided to shove the bottle in his mouth to “hide the evidence.” Grandpa said it shot out of his ears, but I think he may have exaggerated!
Grandpa remembered that their mother would pay him and Cliff to kill flies that were in the house. I believe she paid them a penny for a certain amount. I think it was Grandpa who masterminded their plan to kill all the flies that clung to the outside of the house (“like shooting fish in a barrel”). I can only imagine Nellie’s face when she got home from work to see all the dead flies she was supposed to pay them for!
Speaking of flies, Cliff wrote (February 26, 1998):
When Aunt Anna lived with us, she would put sugar on the kitchen table to attract the flies. After swatting them, she wanted to make sure they were dead, so she would press down on the fly swatter and squish the flies to make sure they were dead.
Speaking of Aunt Anna, she was quite ill before she died, and when she lived with Nellie and her sons, she was in bed most of the time. Uncle Cliff wrote in a letter dated March 5, 1997:
One day we [he and his brother] had a pea shooter and were looking for targets. She was there and guess who was the next victim? She didn’t get hurt and never said anything to Mom. Of course, we went in later and retrieved the peas so there was no evidence.
Grandpa remembered a wake in his home when he was little; he couldn’t remember who it was for, just that the body was in the parlor for a few days and people visited a lot. He said that he and Cliff would sneak downstairs in them middle of the night to peek at the body.
It could not have been Anna’s sister Louise who died suddenly in 1920 (2 months before Grandpa was born) and it could not have been Anna and Louise’s brother, John, who killed himself in December 1921 (Nellie was pregnant with Cliff at this time and Grandpa was less than a year old).
Grandma Lena died in 1934, but it’s more unlikely that, at age 14, Grandpa would have forgotten who had died. It is possible that it could’ve been a family friend or any of the “shirt tail” relatives Grandpa vaguely remembered. Cliff and his daughter Ginny conjecture that Grandpa remembered Aunt Anna’s death and wake (in 1929, Grandpa was 9).
[In the February 26, 1998 letter, Cliff also wrote:] Have you heard about the time Richard and I found some cigarette butts and were smoking them behind the garage? The dry grass caught fire. As I remember, we put it out using various sources of fluids, including water, but not soon enough for it to go unnoticed. That night, we got a visit from a fireman who talked to Richard while I hid under the bed.
I’m not sure whether it was dry grass or hay that we had for the rabbits. I was going to say rabbit, but does anyone have just one rabbit? We must’ve gotten this rabbit for Easter one year. After a while, we had a problem figuring out what to feed him, so Mom ended up buying a whole bale of hay. We kept it under the back porch.
Years later, when they were living in the Miller Avenue House (1941) and both in college, Grandpa and Cliff were locked out of the house with their dog, Daisy. Cliff said that Grandpa picked up Daisy and put her through the milk chute so she could be with her puppies.