Peoria, IL, 1953: Wee Lass Demonstrating the Gift of Gab

by Ellen
(Iowa City, IA)

1950s Girl

1950s Girl

Hi, Lady.

Hi, Mister.

My name is Ellen and I’m this many. (holding up four fingers)

Where do you live? Oh, that many blocks away?
I live in that house, right there, across the street. See it? It’s really scrunchy, but really tall and it takes me a long, long time to run from the front room to the kitchen in the back.

My room is right there, that window at the tippy-top. Grandpa tells me our house is the oldest house on our block. He says it’s over a hunnert years old!

All the other houses have painted wood or bricks on their sides, but ours has tarry, tan shingles, so I guess grandpa must be right. But it’s big and nice inside, so I don’t care if it’s not new.

Mommy and daddy and me live there with my grandma and grandpa. My mommy lived in the same house when she was a little girl and she tells me that our same neighbors used to watch her play, just like they watch me now. I think that’s neat.

This tricycle was Mommy’s a long time ago. That’s neat too, doncha’ think?

I gotta’ a pair of roller-skates, too. I have to clamp ‘em onto my play shoes and tighten ‘em up with this key that I wear on this string around my neck. See? They are real heavy and clunky, but I’m learnin’.

Trouble is that the sidewalk has lots of big cracks in it. I never step on one, so I won’t break my mommy’s back, but those dern cracks keep makin’ me land on my “bumper” a lot, when I try to roller skate, stupid cracks!

See Mrs. Doyle’s huge flower garden, right next door to my house? She’s so nice and those pretty blossoms and butterflies make me giggle and skip, kinda' like Munchkin Land. She lets me play in there as much as I want, but I’m not supposed to pick anything, so I don’t. I play fairies in there, like Tinkerbell. You know Tinkerbell, Lady? Thought so.

I’m big enough now, so I can walk and play anywhere in our block. One of the kids has a tree house and a tire-swing in the alley! And I like catching snails and grubs and worms, too.

Sometimes Grandpa and I take the worms and go fishin’, but I haven’t caught one yet. Grandpa says I will. I just need to be payshunt. In the fall, I like to mix brown papery leaves with dirt and water and make mud-pies.

See the wire basket on our porch? That’s where Grandma puts our empty milk bottles and a note rolled-up inside one, to tell the milkman what to leave. Most of the time he leaves butter and eggs too, not just milk.

Once in a while the milk tastes different. Grandma says I have a “good palette,” whatever that means, and that the cows eat grass in the spring, summer and fall. They eat hay in the winter and that’s why the milk tastes different. I don’t get it, but Grandma always tells me the truth. Oh, well.

On really hot days, all of us kids wait for the milkman. He chips off big, clear chunks of ice for us, from big blocks on the back of his truck. Boy does it taste good!

And in the winter, I really wait for the coal men. There’s the window with our coal chute, down there. The only time Grandma lets Grandpa take me to the basement is to watch them pour coal down our chute. Then she makes him put me in the soapy bathtub right away, before I can touch anything.

My grandpa works all night at Keystone steel, so I have to play quiet as a mouse, while he’s sleepin’ in the daytime.

Most mornings, Grandma tunes into Arthur Godfrey on the Motorola that sits on top of the Frigidaire, then we make pie-crusts or noodles for tonight’s supper.

Sometimes we walk to the “Piggly Wiggly”. When we get home, I help her shell peas or snap beans. That’s fun and she tells me I her bestest helper ever!

I help her with laundry too. She lets me add bleach and “bluing” when everything is white. I turn the wringer on the washing machine, while she puts the wet clothes through. Then she lets me help hang everything on the clothesline in the back yard. I get to hold the basket of clothespins. When everything is dry, we fold it and put it in another basket. When Grandma irons, I get to sprinkle ice water or starch, but only when she says so, ‘cause I mustn’t get burned.

Sometimes I play hopscotch on the huge, red and white checkered, linoleum (took me lotsa’ days to learn to say THAT word) floor.

Daddy works at…at…at Killapatter! (Caterpillar) Mommy takes me to tap class and movies and for lunch at the Walgreen’s counter.

Sometimes she even takes me to the beautiful, fancy, “Tea Room” at Block and Kuhl’s department store, downtown. I always get a shrimp salad and a chocolate ice-cream scoop with a gumdrop clown face, on a little plate, with a pointy cone for its’ hat, on top. Mommy and I always wear our Sunday dresses when we go there.

Then we go to the toy department! Wowee! Everything is behind big glass cases, so I can’t touch anything, but it’s the funnest place I know. I see Raggedy Anns, Betsy Wetsys, Chatty Cathy’s, bride dolls, paper dolls, coloring books, tracing papers, finger paints, colored chalk, Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, tops, balls, trains, cars, trucks, cowgirl outfits, record players, music boxes with twirling, pink ballerinas, and Little Golden Books …my favorites!

Oh! Oh! We just got a telavishn set! Grandpa and daddy have to adjust the “rabbit ears” every time we change the channel or the picture’s all “snowy” or “rolls.” (funny, they look like wiry thingys to me, not bunny ears) I get to watch Howdy Doody and Romper Room School and we all watch Milton Berle and the Honeymooners and I Love Lucy. And we eat popcorn that Mommy and I pop on the stove together before the programs. She let’s me pour on the melted butter and it sure is yummy! But I have to use a gazillion paper napkins every time. And, I even get a bottle of Pepsi too. I just love Pepsi!

I don’t have any little brothers or sisters yet, but my girl cousins feel just like sisters. There are four of us and we play together most every Saturday. Gosh! I sure do love ‘em and we have the funnest times together.

Patty and I are the same age and we’ll be the bestest friends forever and ever. She’s so sweet and pretty! I have stringy brown hair, but she has yellow curls. Daddy calls her a “toe” head, but I don’t know what her “little piggies” have to do with her hair.

Cathy is the biggest and she is so funny and doesn’t mind being “it” most of the time in tag and hide n’ seek. Chrissy is only two, but she is really cute and smart and wants to do everything we do, so we just have to pay special attenshun to be sure she doesn’t get hurt.

My daddy plays baseball on Sunday mornings, in the park, and he always takes me. He’s so strong and fast, my daddy is. After, we go to the lagoon and he lifts me up on his shoulders, so I can pick mulberries at the top of the trees, ‘cause the sun makes ‘em riper faster, high up there, Daddy says.

Then we eat ‘em all. Daddy and I smile mulberry smiles at each other and laugh and laugh. Grandma sometimes scolds him when we get home, though, ‘cause she spends all morning cooking a great big dinner and usually I’m so full of mulberries, I can’t eat very much else.

Hey, Lady? Hey, Mister? Do you hear somethin’?

Oh, it’s my grandma callin’ me home for lunch and my nap. I have to wait on the curb, so she can tell me when it’s safe to cross the street. I can’t ever, ever cross the street alone.

Bye-bye. Nice talking to ya’.

Hope I see ya’ again.

And remember, my name’s Ellen.

Wendy: Hey Ellen -- bringing back lots of memories to me! Loved it! THANK YOU!

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