Recollections of David Franklin Gottschalt
8th Grade Class of 1937
The Bratenahl School: In some ways, I think Calvin, of cartoon fame, borrows something from me when he is in school. I would rather take time out from formal studies to investigate what a bug was doing than be shackled to a traditional educational setting. The poor teachers had their work cut out for themselves to get me through. In fact, I had to go to summer school to finish my workbook so I could pass from the first grade to the second grade.
When we were supposed to learn a story to tell, I wouldn't bother preparing. When my time came to recite, I would wing it. The kids seemed to love the stories. Miss [Jessie] McKee and Miss [Edna] Aldredge told my mother that they would have loved to have written them down and have them published. But they didn't, and so another "brilliant" literary career never got off the ground.
Miss [Julia] Miller was a very wise woman. The brighter kids were seated at the back of the room, and those needing more help were sitting right under her watchful eye. The first grading period in third grade, I was seated at her desk with her. The second grading period was near the last seat in the "peanut gallery."
Most of the remaining grade levels were just "there" until we came under Miss [Selma] Sandburg's instruction. Now there was a woman who could "larn” a kid very well. I have lost many of the structures and niceties of language she imparted to us. But yet, I hear to this day what even so-called teachers of English do to our language, and I shudder. I often hear the brutalizing of our vocabulary when interviews occur on television or during local news broadcasts. We hear such things as "went" for "gone"; singulars and plurals mixed; "myself" instead of "me; "who" for "whom"; etc.
Miss [Majorie] Hilkert made me an excellent turn by teaching me French.
When some folks speak with me about the good times at school and around home, I perceive they have forgotten that many of their good times were at my expense. I was born with rather rosy lips, which I had for years. Many of the older kids used to bedevil me with such things as, "Hey Gottschalt, are you wearing your mother’s lipstick?” There was usually a cadre of younger me-toos with them. My life was also made a bit unpleasant because of the fact that sports were not my God and were of only minor interest to me.
I was preparing to enter the new high school world. We had an eighth-grade party at the Ball's where they had cleared the garage to have room and some degree of privacy. Everything went well until toward the end of the party when someone decided to play spin-the-bottle. Howard Sielaff and I were best buddies and were a bit naive at the time, so we had to have the game explained to us. Well, since this wasn't what real cowboys did, we decided to go home. Only a matter of months later, we did manage to get the idea that this was maybe a pretty good game after all. I think one of the problems was that we had known the young ladies so long and so well that they were pretty much like sisters, and who wanted to kiss his sister?
Growing up on Foster Avenue: We lived in the factory district (Foster Avenue). One of my first memories is of the whistleblowing in the morning for "Time for Work," at noon for "Lunch," a short time later for "Back to Work," and in the evening for "Go on Home."
In the winter, the wind went howling, humming, and whistling about the factory’s tall chimney, which, as I recall, was erected while I was a young lad.
At lunchtime, the bakery wagons (I forget if they were Speck, Spang, or Star) and a milk wagon would pull up beside the factory. Weren't those horses fine? The men on the second and third floors would lower baskets on a clothesline to be filled with their orders.
In the evening, we kids would play games. Marble & Shattuck assisted us in "Hide and Seek" because its basement window wells (spiders and all) were just the right size for kids up to about the third grade to use for cover. "Pump-pump-pull-away" was another excellent number. On Roost's steps and sometimes further down the street, we'd play "May I?"
There was also the whine of the band saws as the men shaped chair and table parts. Incidentally, the name of "Marble & Shattuck" is still very desirable on duck decoys occasionally found at antique sales. Wouldn't it be grand to have a few chairs from the old factory for the Bratenahl Historical Society collection? But I digress.
Foster Avenue had not been furnished with curbs. When it rained, nice puddles formed along the street. On these “lakes” we would sail homemade boats, navigated by a string in the bow and perhaps a stick on the outboard end to reach the center of the puddle. Many of our "lakes" were connected by "straits" and a few by boy-made "canals."
A bit later, we would go down to the Chair Factory's end and become avid enthusiasts of the railways, especially the Lakeshore and Michigan Southern Division. Once in a while, we would get a treat in seeing a New York Central or a Wheeling & Lake Erie train routed over our division. We were always cautioned about strange men and warned to head home if we saw a stranger approach us. There were many hoboes in those depression days. Some were alleged to be downright unsavory characters who were always on the lookout for young boys to recruit.
I have yet to hear of anyone remembering the “Hot Waffle Man.” Boy, those waffles GOOD! Hot off his griddle! Was that griddle fired by coal oil, gasoline, or propane? I don't recall. Waffles cost a nickel a section and smothered in powdered sugar.
Of course, there was Mr. Pepper Rex (Paper, Rags) with a tired old skinny horse and the village crew with their big grey team. Some of us would go over in the afternoon to the village barn and watch them being put up after work. In the dry weather, they would come around every so often with the tank wagon to water the street and settle the dust in the "Lower West Side" of Bratenahl. Yes, we cannot forget the garbage man. I think his name was Charlie. He came around every so often with his round-bottom number 3 tin washtub and emptied our garbage can into it. He left, followed by his flies' entourage and the haunting aroma of once-edible viands (fancy word for fancy food).
Since my father was a law officer, I used to get considerable flak from many other kids. I would often hear, "You think you can do anything you want because your father is a policeman," when just the opposite was the fact. I heard ad nauseam that I had to be an exemplary model because my Dad was a cop.
I pestered my mom relentlessly to let me have high-top boots. But she was adamant. NO HIGH TOPS, they’ll make your ankles weak and cause your feet to sweat.
I was always told that no matter what the other kids did, I should not take ice from the ice wagon. My mother remembered when ice was taken from the lake and the various fam and the park pond in the area. I guess she was leery about the amount of typhoid fever going around. She apparently hadn't yet realized that the ice from the ice plants was made from distilled water. As to typhoid, I recall seeing an article about a young man who swam out to rescue someone near the break wall. Later, after doing this and swimming at Gordon Park, he must have ingested the germs. He contracted typhoid and died from it.
Lane Jonap [8th Grade Class of 1937] and I were pretty good friends. His Dad was an entrepreneur of sorts and set Lane and me up in business on a few occasions. The one thing I recall was fly swatters. They were not the conventional type with screening edged with felt on a wire handle. Ours had a brush with which you could sweep the flies into oblivion after you whacked them.
The Filter Beds: A swimming pool at the Filter Beds was quite popular, and far from being polluted. The water which was pumped there was leached through the sand to remove the floaters. I believed it was then pumped to the Baldwin Reservoir.
Glenview Park: Many Bratenahl folks visited Glenview Park to swim, watch baseball, and play baseball. Sometimes in the summer, when we would be down at the station watching for the evening trains, we would hear music emanating from Glenview Park. We would take off down the tracks at a dead run for the park. And what was the sound we heard? Why it was the skirl of the bagpipes as the Kiltie band would practice. Alas, when they were there, it was just for drill and was better than no loaf.
Sledding: We used an assortment of vehicles to use for coasting on the Foster and Burton Avenue hills. Of course, there was the sled. You would drag a foot to turn while camping the handlebars hard over, or you would bailout, or off as the case might be. And there were the "go-devils" that some of the boys would make. Sidewalk roller skates were attached to a plank with the front wheels on one end of the board and the rear wheels on the other end. An apple box was nailed on the front with a piece of wood nailed to it at right angles to form a rather crude cross or handlebar. Those things were mighty dangerous since the wheels were so small that any unevenness could send one head-over-the apple box if you were making any speed at all. They were pretty noisy, too, since the box amplified the sound of the wheels.
Movies: Bill Franzen [8th Grade Class of 1938] and I were in the same Sunday School class, so naturally, we had a fair association. We spent some of our time going to the Doan and Savoy theaters. We only went to the Uptown with our parents to see something more high-grade. On one occasion, we had been to a late afternoon or early evening monster show. We probably could be heard walking all the way to our homes. It was the whistling past the graveyard thing with every opening in the apartments along 105th Street harboring hordes of gibbering ghouls. Bill didn't want to go the rest of the way home alone, so I walked him home. Then, I didn't want to go home by myself, so he walked back with me. I suppose this would still be going on had we not decided that each would make a mad dash for his own house when we reached the half-way point between our homes.
Troop Trains and Murphy’s: The troop trains would pull into the 105th Street Station, and we would gather around to see if we could be of some service to our servicemen. I don't recall the Red Cross being there to help with any coffee, etc. We would run to Murphy's for his famous ice cream suckers, gum, candy bars, etc. I don't recall anyone ever getting back late enough to miss a train departure. I wonder what the troops did with the "This One's Free" sticks they found in the ice cream suckers.
I am reminded of Vic Conrad [8th Grade Class of 1934] running poor old Murphy to distraction. On one occasion, Murphy chased Vic out of his store and down the street with his knife used for making the famous ice cream bars. He was screaming his favorite epithet, which he used interchangeably as a term of affection.
We should not forget Murphy's clerk, Brenda. She was from Great Britain and spoke with a thick British accent. Brenda was an avid fan of the Cleveland Indians. One of her prized possessions from the 1948 season was an official baseball signed by all the tribe members.
[David Franklin Gottschalt born on August 5, 1923 to Frank and Martha Gottschalt. His father was a police officer. While attending the Bratenahl School, David lived at 10119 Foster Avenue. David attended all eight grades at the Bratenahl School, graduating with the class of 1937. David Gottschalt died on September 22, 1996, having lived in Bratenahl all his life.]