Opa Memories - December



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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


Dec 01: Did you ever have a bad experience with a haircut or a permanent?

I always had a “heinie”, a buzz cut. It was easy to maintain.

Dec 02: Who was your favorite movie star?

I liked all the cowboys; Gene Autry, Johnny Mack Brown, Lash LaRue, Roy Rogers, etc. but I was partial to Randolph Scott.

Dec 03: Why?

I thought he was strong and not flashy. He didn’t sing, he didn’t have fancy riding saddle or guns. He was all business, a strong and silent type.

Dec 04: Were you ever in a life-threatening situation?

I thought I was in danger when I fell through the ice in the swamp. I could touch the bottom and the water was only up to my chest but every time I tried to pull myself up on the ice it cracked. Finally I got a thicker patch and I crawled on it to the shore.

And the time we had the gas leak in the house it was life-threatening but I was too out of it at the time to know it.

Dec 05: If you have another childhood picture for me, put it here. 

 I loved the radio, even in the early days.

Dec 06: Do you have any knowledge of how your first name was chosen?

I was named William after Grandfather Schuck and John after Grandfather Scherer. Dad’s brother, also William John Schuck, said he was saving that name for his son too. Everyone then used my middle name. In fact, until I was about twelve or so I thought my name was John William.

Dec 07: Do you have a Pearl Harbor Day memory?

No, I was a year old – I don’t remember any of it.

Dec 08: Tell about your favorite store to browse in as a child.

Laureman’s Department Store

Dec 09: What did you like to look at there?

Lauerman's Department Store (click to enlarge)
The Laureman’s Department Store had a long food counter beyond the Main Street entrance and right at the end of the counter was a very large doughnut machine that pressed doughnuts out on a conveyor belt, advanced them to a deep fat fryer, floated them for an appropriate amount of time, automatically turned them over and cooked them on the second side and sent them on another, screen mesh conveyor belt so they could drain. Then they dropped into a basket where the waitresses could remove them to bring to the customers. I though that it was a fantastic machine and every time I entered the store I would watch that machine work.

Dec 10: Tell about something you built, designed, or made as a youth.

Our school did not have the equipment for a shop course but they had a contract with Marinette High School, which was next door, and Mr. Tulip taught those classes. One day we went over for his class and Jim Doran said, "Good morning, Mr. Tulip, how are all the little rosebuds?” Mr. Tulip proceeded to draw a chalk line on the blackboard, and had Jim stand there with his nose on the line.

The first project I did was a pair of bookends which tested you ability to cut and plane a straight edge. Then we put the ends together, glued and finished with screws, and then stained. My second project was a cutting board which tested using a jig saw and a router. What I learned in shop has been very handy over the years.

Dec 11: Were you ever in a church or school Christmas or Holiday pageant?

The first play that our English teacher, Mr Harold Zahorick, wrote was built on the concept of a large book from which characters from famous stories came out and took part in a skit. It wasn’t a Christmas pageant but covered many of the holidays, to include Christmas.

Dec 12: When did you put up your Christmas tree?

Our tree was always put in the front living room where it could also be seen from the street.

Dec 13: Where did you get your Christmas trees?

Mother was the scourge of the Christmas tree lots. Around the 20th of the month she would go to the tree lot she preferred and would tell the owner she wanted a blue spruce and would say how tall and what shape it should be. Then on the 22nd or 23rd she would look over the selection and either accept one or tell the man that she wanted another. She wanted it fresh, the right height and the right shape… and she got it that way.

Dec 14: How did you decorate your trees?

Our tree always had blue lights. Later, when mini-lights came, out we would use clear lights. Some years we would put tinsel on the tree and for a couple of years we put on a Lux soap flakes concoction which looked like heavy snow on the branches. We had 3-inch glass balls, mostly silver but some red. There were also several blown glass birds on the tree. We also had bright red cherry candy balls, one on each end of a wire, which bent over the branches. Sometimes we also hung small candy canes on the tree too.

Dec 15:  Did you ever hang a Christmas stocking?

We each had a white stocking with a red top which had our name and date of birth in the red top border. Mother saved those and gave them to each of us as we got older and moved away. I still have mine.

Dec 16: Did your Grandpa or Grandma ever make gifts for you? What?

All of my grandparents died before I was born or before I was old enough to remember except Grandma Margaret Gatons Schuck and I don’t think she sent any handmade items to me.

Dec 17: Tell about the neatest present you remember giving to your Mom.

Individually and collectively we gave Mother a 2-lb box of Fannie Mae dark chocolates. They were her favorites and very special. Dad gave them to her for her anniversary and we gave them to her for Christmas and her birthday.

Dec 18: Tell about the neatest present you remember giving to your Dad.

Dad smoked Prince Albert pipe tobacco but at Christmas time I gave him a package of London Dock tobacco as a special treat.

Dec 19: Tell about the best Christmas present you ever received.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Projector (click to enlarge)One Christmas I received a Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Projector. The box cover served as a projector screen. The red projector held a disk of small slides like a Viewmaster and when you turned on the light it would project a picture on the screen (or a larger picture on the wall). I thought that was very neat.

Horehound candy (click to enlarge)Dec 20: Tell about the worst Christmas present you ever received.

A bag of Horehound Drops that Grandmother Schuck sent. I was very disappointed with the taste of that candy.

Dec 21: Tell about experiences with Santa Claus.

Santa Clause always seemed very good to me… but I never met the old saint. I have played the part of Santa and really enjoyed feeding his reindeer in Monterey when Lindsay and Geoffrey and their neighbors were enchanted when they saw their hay had been eaten and the reindeer left muddy hoof prints.

I also enjoyed showing them how Santa entered the house and walked across the rug even when they didn’t have a chimney in their house in San Diego.

Dec 22: Did your family go to a special church service at Christmas? Tell about it.

We went to Midnight Mass when we were old enough to go and hopefully stay awake. I do remember one special Christmas when we went to Queen of Peace in Madison. Jane’s children were little and we went to the early vigil of Christmas Mass. They had guitar players perform and a woman in black tights performed a interpretive dance. Dad was appalled and I was very amused at his reaction. We had come a long way from the Latin masses we remembered from the 1950s.

Dec 23: When did you open your presents?

We opened our gifts on Christmas morning. Later, under pressure from the five of us, we could open one present Christmas Eve. That often was selected for us… and was usually the new pair of pajamas or the robe we could use that night.

Dec 24: Tell about Holiday celebrations at a relative's house.

After our own Christmas we would go over to the Gilbertson’s or the Jaeger’s to see what Santa brought them. One year Bob Gilbertson got a movie projector and a box of 16mm Castle Films and we played all of them that afternoon.

Dec 25: Do you remember a "best" Christmas?

They were all quite special but none stick out as better than another.

Dec 26: Share any other Christmas memory.

One Christmas Eve we tested out a new popcorn popper in the fireplace. It was a pan with a long handle and a screen that closed over the top. You would put the popcorn in it and hold it over the coals… just like it would have been done in older days. It was a disappointment only in that it took too long. It held a modest amount of popcorn and Dad could take the 10-quart Dutch Oven and pop corn on the stove in quantities large enough for the seven of us.

Dec 27: Do you remember celebrating any special wedding anniversaries of your parents or grandparents?

When Mom and Dad celebrated their 50th Anniversary we all gathered at Jim and Bea’s house in Chesterfield. It was a huge party and the first time all the cousins met Lydia and Mark.

 Dec 28: Do you have any knowledge of the origins of your family name?

SCHUCH, Schuchard, Schuchart, Schuchardt (shoe, shoemaker)...SCHUCK, Schucks, Schucker, Schuker, Schuckermann (shoe, cobbler). [German Names]

Dec 29: Is there anything else that you would like me to know about your childhood?

I believe I was a very happy child. We were loved by our parents and our extended family. Life was exciting, we were well cared for, and school was both interesting and fun. We had many friends and I have kept some of them over the years. Reminiscing is easy and enjoyable.

Dec 30: Did you ever make New Year's resolutions as a youth?

Yes, but they didn’t last long. But Grandfather William Peter Schuck and his siblings made much better resolutions for their school assignments.

01 Jan 1891

Dear Mother,

Again a year has gone by and a new one has begun.  Gone is the one with its joys and pleasant things, but also with its sufferings, sorrows and heartaches.I have to confess that in the past year I unfortunately have not always acted in a way that is appropriate for a good and grateful child.  Often I did not respond to your teachings and admonitions or did not obey willingly and joyfully.

I am deeply sorry and promise to be an obedient and loving son in the future.  Also, I shall not forget to ask God daily that you may live for a long, long time and that we all shall meet again at some future day at God's throne.  This wish is from the bottom of my heart.

Your grateful son,


Dec 31: What special memories do you have of New Year's Eve or New Years Day?

One New Year’s Eve our parents were going to the annual Elks Club dinner and New Year’s party. I stayed over at the Gilbertson’s and as a new and now more mature teenager we decided to celebrate in our own way. We found some Mogen David wine in the liquor cabinet and decided it would be very grown-up to have it as a ice cream topping. It was another of life’s disappointments… and I got sick besides.



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