Recollections of Barbara Ann Bottenus (Palen)
8th Grade Class of 1940
The Bratenahl School: Making a Noah’s Ark poster in Miss [Edna] Aldredge’s first grade class . Marching through the halls in our Halloween costumes. Musical chairs while Miss Aldredge played a Sousa march and dancing the Virginia Reel. That was always fun, and probably a good outlet for our energy on a rainy day when we could not go outdoors.
My memory is jogged by the thought of a 3-D gadget, which I believe was a stereoscope. Miss [Rose] Schafer enhanced her geography class with wonderful photos of faraway places. Also, I remember Miss Schafer’s old electric car.
Book reports for Miss [Selma] Sandberg. Miss Sandberg did give us a great foundation.
Hating Home Economics. Eating brown sugar in the Home Economic kitchen with June Ryan. Singing with Miss [Zoe Long] Fouts and later recognizing the songs as classical music. Attending the afternoon sessions of boys’ playground (rather than the morning girls’ sessions).
The honor pin. Mr. [Ira] Smith, the custodian. Playing hide and seek and hiding in the stairwells of the school. Saying, “excuse me” when walking in front of a teacher. Christmas programs in the hallway. Being scared stiff of Miss [Sara] Bair.
The House on Burton Avenue: Milk cupboards (chutes) with inside and outside access for daily milk deliveries. Coal trucks sending chunks of coal rattling down a chute into the basement coal bin. Shaking the furnace grates with a unique handle to expel ashes to be removed in an ashcan. The iceman carrying a massive block of ice on his shoulder and putting it into the icebox.
I recall drinking a lot of Ovaltine and eating a lot of Wheaties. Hot Ovaltine was immensely enjoyed after a day of ice skating at the park. I loved building model airplanes. I used to do it in my basement at home. My brother, Bill, used to build some great ones with gasoline motors. He got me interested in models with rubber band motors. Bob Reilly made model planes too. I remember going with him and Dick Arbuckle once to fly Bob's big gas-powered plane. It flew away and got lost, but we eventually found it where it had crashed. I also built model planes at the afternoon boys' session of the summer playground. How liberal of all the guys to let me be their equal for many years.
I babysat for the Persells. I received 25 cents per hour. But, you could go to the drugstore at 105th and St. Clair and buy big candy bars at two for 7 cents, three for a dime, and even have money left over for the Saturday matinee at the Uptown with the Buck Rogers serial.
I remember Tillie Bell, who lived alone in the little house between Allen’s and Merkel’s. She probably was a nice old lady, but I recall she didn’t like children very much. I think we probably gave her a hard time.
Street vendors: The Star Bakery horse-drawn wagon, where we would buy chocolate "Top Hats" for a nickel. The other horse-drawn wagon with the call of the Paper-Rags man echoing down the street. Following the ice truck down Burton, asking for, and receiving, chips of ice savored on a hot summer day. The organ grinder with his so-talented monkey, tipping his tiny red cap when we'd give him a penny.
Radio and Telephones: Who remembers the old radio shows of Orphan Annie, Jack Armstrong, The Lone Ranger, and Captain Midnight? Can you still sing "Who's that little chatterbox, the one with pretty auburn locks?” Does anyone still have a decoder pin or ring with a whistle in it? Wish I had mine yet. Remember when your friend's phone number began with something like Liberty or Potomac. You dialed the first two letters of the exchange and then four numbers.
Daily Life in Bratenahl: Going to Murphy’s on 105th Street for ice cream suckers to perhaps get a free stick and all-day caramel suckers. Taking good care of bikes, our most precious possessions. Calling everyone by their last name mostly (the boys did that). The mournful sound of the lighthouse foghorn on a rainy, foggy night. Chewing bits of black tar from the patches put on our roads. Canadian Soldiers (That flying insect that breeds on dead fish.) covering the sidewalks and houses.
Bob Eichenberger [8th Grade Class of 1938] had a paper route, and I used to frequently tag along on my bike. Once when he was ill, he asked me to deliver his papers since I should know the route pretty well. I was apprehensive but took on the task. When I finished, there were a few phone calls to Bob's house from customers wondering where their papers were. Some were estate owners on the boulevard. I guess Ii didn't know the route as well as he thought I did.
Troop Trains: When the troop train would stop by in the early 1940s, we would go over to the tracks to wave and chat with the boys if the windows were open. As teenage girls, of course, we found them quite interesting. Also, seeing German prisoners on trains stopping by the park in the '40s.
One time, Janet Fort [8th Grade Class of 1942] and I walked along the row of cars filled with khaki-clad men (boys really) when one fellow called to us, waving a piece of paper. He gave us a dollar and asked us to please call his mother and tell her he was on his way west. He had taken a chance, for they were not supposed to let anyone know where they were going. Kind of stupid at that, since anyone could see the train was heading west, and the soldiers did not know their right final destination anyway. Janet made the call and delivered the message. The telephone call was to a Lyndhurst Florist Shop. Many years later, I needed to do some business in that same florist shop. I related the story. To my amazement, I was talking with the same man who was on that troop train. He remembered the occasion, and he had returned safely from the war and was operating the florist shop.
Sports: It seems, while growing up, we all spent most of our daylight hours at the park, with tennis, baseball, football, flying kites and model planes, and of course, skating in the winter. Our indoor facility was "Bair Cabin" named for Miss Bair. Swimming at McLaughlin's pool and meeting stars of Billy Rose's Aquacade. Ice skating on the tennis courts in winter, and at night, too. Spending all summer playing tennis and baseball. Did anyone ever go across the tracks to swim at the Filter Beds? Wasn't that a sewage disposal facility? I recall there being a swimming pool there. Our gang was always a bit afraid when kids from over there came across the tracks. They were considered rather tough as I recall. No doubt to them, we were all rich, spoiled brats.
Games: The Yo-Yo craze, when a hired expert would travel the neighborhood showing off his skills. The high-flying sky-writers advertising Hi-Li paddles, complete with rubber band and ball. Scooters made from orange crates and a board with roller skates to coast down Burton Avenue hill.
Did you know we even had an element of glorifying violence then? I remember bubble gum cards with drawings of “criminals of the day,” including John Dillinger and “Baby Face” Nelson.
Do kids play marbles anymore? Indeed, not as we did. We would draw a large circle in the dirt and have great fun losing some of our favorite aggies and winning someone else's. I recall Richie Allen being a great marble shooter.
We gambled too. We pitched pennies at the school building. Whoever got closest to the building, won the pot.
We played a game with a jackknife too, flipping a knife in the air, and it would spin and land in the dirt or grass. We played a baseball game where we could get singles, doubles, triples, and home runs, depending upon how the knife landed and how many blades, if any, stuck in the ground. Many of the boys carried Scout knives then.
Boys: Many of the boys had boots they called "high tops," which laced up to the calf. Lots of work was involved in getting them on in the morning. I think some of the boots had little pockets on the side for Scout Knives. (I secretly wished for high tops.)
I can still picture Vic Conrad [8th Grade Class of 1934] in his "Archie" cap, a sort of skullcap with pointed triangles all around, cut for a used or cast-off hat. Men wore hats a lot when I was a youngster, and tipped them to ladies in passing or greeting, as a gesture of politeness. They usually did not remove them, but would tuck at the brim lightly, a sort of a salute. Vic liked to ice skate, and I was a little afraid of him. We'd all skate at the tennis courts at night under the lights (Just one light at one end of the courts). Vic liked to skate double, so he would grab me by both hands, we would cross arms as you do in doubles skating, and he would take me flying around that rink, narrowly missing fences. Luckily, I was a pretty good skater, so he had no qualms about going at top speed. I think he took Bev Hanson for some thrilling circuits also.
Famous People: I recall the thrill of seeing President Roosevelt on the rear platform of a train going east after giving a "whistle-stop" speech in downtown Cleveland. We had heard that he would remain on the platform as he left and wave to people along the route. We ran from the playground, through the trees, and on to the trackside. Sure enough, he was still on the rear platform, and he gave us a wave.
I remember when Katherine Hepburn was in town performing at the Playhouse. I had always been fond of her and went to see the play. I heard she was staying a Norman Seigel’s house. [Norman Siegel lived at 10229 Lake Shore Boulevard. He was the Movie Columnist for the Cleveland Press in the 1940s and 1950s.] I rode my bike to the house, and I liked to think that I saw her playing tennis on the court in the front part of the estate.
[Barbara Ann Bottenus Palen was born on September 15, 1926 in Cleveland to Frank and Alzora Bottenus. While attending the Bratenahl School, Barbara lived at 10109 Burton Avenue. She attended all eight grades at the school, graduating with the class of 1940.]