Opa Memories - July



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When our grandson, Geoffrey, was four years old he sent me the book, “Grandpa, Tell Me Your Memories.” As I filled the daily pages  over the next year was able to relive many fond memories.Opa, Tell Me Your Memories
by W John Schuck


Jul 1: Describe an outside game you made up.

I didn’t make up the game but our entire neighborhood group of kids played Kick-the-Can. We played it almost every night during the summer.

Jul 2: Describe an inside game you made up.

I would set up a card table with chairs in front to make a stagecoach. A blanket over the card table would provide the side curtains and rope would connect the chair “horses.” We rode all over the “west” with that coach.

Jul 3: What kind of fireworks did people have when you were a youth?

We would have sparklers, roman candles, cherry bombs and rockets. We also had “snakes” which were little tablets that produced coils of spongy soot that seemed to grow out of the tablet.

Jul 4: Tell about Independence Day traditions of your childhood.

We would march in the parade and that evening we would pack a picnic and go to Victory Beach to watch the fireworks.

Jul 5: Do you have a special July 4th that you remember most?

Not that I can recall.

Jul 6: Did you ever go to carnivals or amusement parks? Where?

The carnival would come every year and there were rides at the Marinette County Fair too. The county fairgrounds were in Wausaukee, Wisconsin.

Jul 7: What kinds of rides and games were there? How much did they cost?

I think the rides were about a quarter. There were ride like the Tilt-a-Whirl, Rock-O-Plane, Ferris wheel, Carousel and bumper cars.

Jul 8: Tell about any State Fair or County Fair experiences.

Going to the fair was a late summer diversion. I would walk through the grounds and wonder why winning a blue ribbon for making bread, canning pickles, or grooming a pet was such a big deal. I guess I thought I was too cool to ever understand those things then. I just wanted to go on the rides.

Jul 9: Tell about going to a circus or Chautauqua.

When I was about seven or eight we went to the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus in Green Bay. It was a huge, three ring circus in a tent at that time. I remember the clowns did an act with a very tall clown in a yellow suit with big polka dots. He got into a machine called an atom splitter (a new concept at the time) and there was a huge bang followed by a half dozen midgets dressed in the same outfit running from doors at the base of the “atom splitter.” I thought it was wonderful.

Jul 10: Tell any favorite summertime memory.

I loved to swim and I looked forward to riding my bike to Victory Beach in Menominee. It was about a seven mile bike ride across the Interstate Bridge. I would go there in the early morning and come home mid afternoon. It was great fun and I would come home very tired.

Jul 11: Did you go fishing in your childhood?

I did fish for perch off the pier (breakwater) at Victory Beach and sometimes I would fish for bullhead in the Menominee River. We used big dip nets to fish for smelt every spring off the Hattie Street Bridge below the dam

The Hattie Street Bridge lay below a dam that crossed the Menominee River between Marinette, WI and Menominee, MI (click to enlarge)Jul 12: Tell about your biggest or best catch.

Once my cousin Bob Gilbertson and I brought up a dip net so full we almost filled a bushel basket. That may be more fish story than I remember because now I think a bushel basket full of smelt would have been very heavy for the two of us.

Jul 13: Do you remember having a favorite candy? How much did it cost?

I used to like almost every candy. One I particularly remember was a little tin bowl, almost like the paper that fancy chocolates rest on, about a half dollar in size and a quarter inch deep. It was filled with a semi-hard candy and you used a small spoon that came with it to dig out the candy. It cost about 2¢. Another favorite were the candy dots that came on a strip of paper. They were three to a row and maybe 20 rows. You just nibbled them off the paper. I think a strip cost a nickel. My favorite bar candy was the Clark bar and it also cost a nickel.

Jul 14: Do you remember having a favorite snack that you made at home?

By far the most favored snack that we made at home was popcorn.

Jul 15: Share a memory about going on a picnic.

We often went to Henes Park for our picnics. Dad was not a fan of the outdoors and he would take off his suit jacket, loosen his tie just a little, roll up his cuffs two turns and get comfortable for a picnic there. They he would try to relax while we would swim.

Jul 16: What kinds of party games or party activities were popular?

We liked to play Monopoly, Clue, and later, Scrabble.

Jul 17: Share a memory involving a heat wave or drought.

Most people who do not live there know that Wisconsin is cold in the winter but few realize that it also is very hot in the summer. Since the town is surrounded by water with the Menominee River to the north and the Green Bay to the east, we usually were hot and humid but seldom had a drought. When we were last there it was for my 40th high school reunion the 1st week of July, 1999. We ran the fans all day and all night and still were miserable. The grandchildren slept in the basement where it was a little cooler.

Jul 18: What did you do to stay cool?

We would go to the breach to swim, stay in the shade, and run the electric fans. Sometimes we would go to an air conditioned movie.

Jul 19: What was your favorite holiday of the year?

Christmas, of course.

Jul 20: Share a birthday party memory.

One of the realities of a December birthday is that it often resembled Christmas and not a separate, special day. I usually got cash for my birthday… and I needed it to buy Christmas presents for two weeks later. It was a practical solution but not particularly memorable.

Mother would make my favorite dessert (either spice cake or zwieback torte) and that was always nice. One year, when I turned thirteen, I was given a key to the house. Since I was now a teenager I was deemed responsible to carry one… but I was also charged that I was never to come home so late that I would have to use it!

Jul 21: Tell about the neatest shoes you ever owned as a youth.

I think I was probably 15 or sixteen and I got a pair of Florsheim wingtip shoes. I thought they were very grown up. I still have them and wear them for dress occasions.

Jul 22: Share a memory about a power outage.

We would have real thunder boomers during the fall. We would sit on the front porch and count the seconds from the lightning flash to the crack of thunder. Sometimes that might also knock out the power. Then we might light a fire in the fireplace and sit and talk.

Jul 23: Relate a memory involving a flood or cloudburst.

I recall having to walk home from school when the skies opened and it just poured buckets. I was soaked a few minutes after I left school so I didn’t really get any wetter but for the next 20 minutes I could hear my shoes squish as I walked. When I got home I got out of those clothes, ran a hot bath, and soaked for an hour. Then I got into dry clothes.

Jul 24: Relate a memory of a tornado, hurricane, or destructive wind.

I recall a radio program where the announcer stated that we never got tornados in our part of the north. It seemed like just a couple of days later the same announcer came on the radio and said, “The Menominee Airport just blew away.” It was a small airport primarily for people with piper cub aircraft. There weren’t any commercial planes that flew there and the light planes were demolished.

Jul 25: What memories do you have of lightning or thunder during your childhood?

Mother Nature would put on quite a show. We would sit on the front porch and count the seconds from the lightning flash to the crack of thunder.

Jul 26: Share a special memory about riding in a boat.

Mom and dad had some friends, Vic and Marion Hansen, who could borrow one of the Lauerman boat. They would invite us to come with them on the Famona and we would cruise out on the Green Bay. That was my first memory of cruising out in deep water and it was very exciting to be out so far that you couldn’t see land.

Jul 27: Tell about a family vacation trip.

I don’t remember going on a family vacation. I remember going to live with Aunt Laura and Uncle John Scherer when Jane was born but I don’t think the seven of us ever went on a vacation trip.

Jul 28: Share the best vacation experience you can recall.

I loved going to Combined Locks to stay with Laura and John Scherer. Aunt Laura was a lovely lady and Uncle John was a favorite uncle. They always made me feel special.

Jul 29: Share the most unpleasant vacation experience you can recall.

One time Jere and I had to go to Chicago and get dad to bring him home. That was a scary trip.

Jul 30: Do you have any other memories about a river, lake, or beach to share?

We would all go to see our cousins, the Melegari’s, out at Pine Beach and swim out to the raft and dive off. That beach was on the Green Bay too.

Jul 31: Tell a memory about riding on a ferry, bus, train, or plane.

One time Jane and I took the train down to St Louis by ourselves. Mother and Dad were going to meet us there and we would stay at Jim and Bea’s house. That was an exciting trip in itself, especially switching trains in Chicago. But another great part of the adventure is that they allowed me to fly home. It was my first flight and I flew in a Northwest Central Airline DC-3. When the plane took off I was fascinated by the fact that there were rivets in the wing that seemed loose and vibrating. I didn’t know if I should warn the stewardess or not. Nobody else seemed to notice and I tried to relax and seem as nonchalant as they were… but I wasn’t.



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