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FULL CIRCLE: PART I OF VThis was written soon after I sold my home of fifty years and moved into an apartment complex off Engle Road. At that time I had no idea America would have once again be fighting a war.
My thoughts and hopes when I wrote this was that we would never again experience a Depression. I worried that the younger generation might not have the courage to cope with such a problem.
I suspect, however, that in each and every crisis, there are those who rise above the rest and carry on. The present crisis was brought on by the cowardly act of September 11, 2001. I’m sure no American ever thought such an event would, or could occur.
“We will always be proud and brave and free-We Will Be Americans!” My parents taught me this as they raised my two brothers and me during the depression years. I am now nearly 90 years old.
The freight train passed by with a warning whistle for the nearby crossing. Watching the long line of boxcars go by I realized I have come full circle. Once again, I am at home next to the railroad.
I was eight years old…a skinny freckle-faced, always questioning eight year old, when my family first moved beside the railroad. Our home, then, was the first house south of the Wabash Railroad elevation on the east side of Broadway.
Three families lived in the two-story unpainted structure at the top of a long flight of cement steps. An open porch on the front of the house faced Broadway and the middle room of the first floor opened onto a small porch at the south side of the house.
The owner of the property rented it to three families for fifteen dollars a month… five dollars per family. The year was 1929.
My father left our small comfortable pink and white house in southern Illinois to hunt for work. He had been an engineer at the brickyard but lost his job when the yard closed. My Uncle Lyman joined dad in his search. Thousands of men had no work and no income in the late twenties and the thirties. My aunt and one cousin soon joined Uncle Lyman in Fort Wayne. Within a year mother, my two brothers and I also came to Fort Wayne. Work was also scarce here, and soon both families moved to Wauseon, Ohio.
In Wauseon both men found part-time work. The families settled down in a big old house across from the Lutheran church and school. My cousin Betty was born there in Wauseon. And I finished second grade in the Public School in Wauseon. I made new friends some of them attended school across the street at the Lutheran school.
One of the most vivid memories of that winter is the sound of sleigh bells as the farmers came into town with horse drawn sleighs. The snow came early and stayed and stayed. The streets were covered with snow and ice. I trudged off to school well bundled, for I had to walk through the center of town to my school on the far side of town.
In a year we were all back in Fort Wayne. Work in Wauseon was no longer available.
On Broadway my uncle, aunt and two cousins, Bob & Betty, lived in three big first floor rooms on the south side of the house. Another uncle, aunt and two more cousins, Phyllis and Jack, lived in three smaller rooms upstairs. Our family of five had two small rooms on the first floor at the northeast corner of the house next to the railroad right of way.
Between the house and the railroad a path extended from the top of the steps on Broadway all the way around the north side of the house and the back, Miner Street and the Hercules Coal Company. Quite close to the house, near Broadway, was a good-sized hill leading up the embankment to the railroad.
Several footpaths led up this hill, and we played King of the Hill there… when mother didn’t see us! Also east, between the north edge of the property we rented, and the railroad, was a roughly triangular-shaped piece of ground owned and used by Fort Wayne Lumber Company to store huge piles of lumber. Their offices, mill and main yard were just north of the railroad on Broadway. The way the lumber was stacked made intriguing cavers and hiding places.
We children were allowed in this area with an adult, which, of course, made it all the more tempting!
There among the piles of lumber, in the spring, one could pick the most beautiful violets with the longest stems. There were the large deep blue violets and the white ones with touches of lighter blue. These violets, added to the long stemmed lily of the valley growing in a corner of the house, made many fragrant nosegay for teachers at Miner School and later at Hoagland School where I finished seventh and eighth grades before going to South Side High School.
Pictures of the house on Broadway in Depression days are not the House and Garden picture-pretty by any means. However, we living there felt fortunate with electric lights, running water and a roof over our heads. And by sharing what we had, no one ever really was starving. I know the adults went without sometimes so the children were not hungry; I did not know it then but later when I heard conversations about the “really hard times”.
Between the three big rooms and our two small ones on the first floor was a closet-sized room with two doors, one from each apartment. This was the toilet (not to be confused with a “bathroom”, which was shared by all three families.
In a large downstairs kitchen was a sink from which my family and my uncle upstairs carried water by the bucket. Our bucket of water (for drinking, cooking, bathing and some laundry) sat neatly on a shelf, built by my father, just inside the back door-our only door. Under the shelf mother kept a box of towels, washcloths, and soap for laundry and extra hand soap. On the wall above the water bucket was a smaller shelf with Dad’s shaving mirror, razor in a small box and his shaving mug. At one end of the shelf against the wall he hung his razor strap and a water dipper.
One day my uncle’s brother stopped to ask Dad for help on the wallpaper-cleaning job. Seeing the water bucket, he ignored the dipper hanging on the wall beside it, reached up on the shelf and took Dad’s shaving mug with soap at the bottom, he dipped the mug into the water bucket and took a big drink! Sputtering, spitting and bubbling he, at last, accepted the cup of coffee Mother offered him. Many years later when he no longer lived on Broadway and no longer needed a bucket of water, Harry was still warning everyone to be very careful getting a drink at Al’s!
Some years later this man, decide he was hungry, ate a bowl of canned dog food taken from my uncle’s ice box and praised my aunt for her delicious stew!
to be continued…

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Dorothea Lebrecht

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