Chapter 4

After High School 1936-1940

During the summer of 1936 I tried working as a grocery clerk

on Main Street. The people who traded there were mostly

Italians and most spoke very little English, so I couldn't

understand them. At that time you had to get each item for

the customer and after two days of trying to figure out what

they wanted I was so nervous that I had to quit. Then I went

to work for my father in the painting business. My first job

was painting a wooden railing down to the lake at a cottage

on the West Lake Road. I started out at fifty cents per hour.

My father used to take all the jobs, arrange the work and do

the collection. We had a very good line of customers and in

all the years I worked with him, we only had one customer who

refused to pay all of his bill.


About 1937 Dorothy was working for a state official as a

secretary, in Hornell, New York and she had a 1929 Ford coupe

that she wanted to sell. She and Barney had been married and

they didn't need two cars. They were living in an upstairs

apartment and Barney had started working as a plumber for the

man in the lower apartment who ran a plumbing business. My

mother bought the car for me for $50.00 and I went to Hornell

to get the car. I had just got my drivers license and driving

alone for the first time I didn't dare stop the car on the

way home. I just slowed down a little at intersections and I

remember making a right turn in Dansville through a red light

as I didn't dare stop. I soon got used to the car and admired

the rumble seat in the back. Ray Smith and I used this car to

go to all our baseball games and take our dates to all the

square dances. I named the car "Little Eva".


We went to square dances every Saturday night at Baptist

Hill, Cheshire, Bristol Springs, Honeoye or Atlanta. I didn't

know a thing about dancing so the first date I took to the

dance, I had several drinks and they pushed me out on the

floor keeping me there until I learned how. Ray Smith didn't

drive and he was always getting me blind dates so he could

have a ride. I went with a lot of girls-Althea Treble and

Rosemary Schmuck from Honeoye, Barbara Sherman from

Gainsville, Julie Jones from Bristol, and Earnestine

Fairbrothers (get that name) from Atlanta, New York. For

about six months I went with a beautiful girl, Ruth

Richardson from Woodville. She was so pretty I guess I was

lucky to have gone with her that long. These dances were all

in the winter time and we had to ride four in the front seat

of the car. We went to a lot of movies too, in Rochester and



I played baseball for several years with Ken Montanye, Skip

Dewey, Ray Smith and Len Pierce. I played for the Cheshire

team and the Canandaigua town team. It was called semi-pro

ball and we played teams from all around this area. The only

one that got paid was the pitcher. They had a try-out camp

for the Red Wings for three days at Red Wing Stadium in

Rochester. Ken and I signed up for it and we lasted two days

before being eliminated. Some of the pitchers were so fast I

could hardly see the ball go by. I wish that I had been six

feet tall and weighed more because I really wanted to be a

baseball player.


It was during these years that Len Pierce and I became good

friends. When we played for the Cheshire ball team we would

hang out a lot at the barber shop in Cheshire. They had two

pool tables and a coal stove at the back of the shop with

chairs around it. We used to get warm in winter while waiting

for a haircut or the chance to play pool. The barber was John

Johnson, an older man with white hair. We got a haircut for

$.25 and I went there for several years.


The gang used to hang out at Chase's Ice Cream Store on South

Main Street several evenings a week. We ate a lot of ice

cream and sundaes. Sometimes around 1938 I sold "Little Eva"

and bought a 1935 Ford coupe that used to belong to a

dentist. The finish was so dull from sitting out in the sun

behind his office that I polished it for about a month before

I got it to shine well. There were about six of us who went

to all the square dances together every Saturday night. We

would buy a half gallon of wine and at the dance we would set

the jug on the hood of the car and keep running out to it for

drinks. Nobody ever touched our bottles--probably didn't care

for our cheap wine.


One day in 1938 when we came home from work we found my

mother standing on the back porch with her head jerking and

she was unable to talk. We called the doctor and he said she

was having a stroke. We had no idea how long she had been

like this, unable to call for help. She was paralyzed in the

right arm completely and partially in the right leg. Her

speech was affected a little. In those days there was no kind

of rehabilitation so she was unable to do any work. My father

had to continue working so we hired a housekeeper to come in

days to do the cooking and housekeeping. I can imagine what

this did to my mother, having a stranger doing all the things

she had done for so many years. I am not sure as to how many

months she lived before she had the second stroke, which was

fatal. She never did go to the hospital because doctors made

house calls in those days. We had a Dr. Stetson and he would

walk right in the house without knocking and sit down at the

dining room table and visit with everyone before he would see

the one who was sick. I suppose with a family of nine

children he made enough visits to feel like one of the



After having the stroke, my mother slept in a downstairs

bedroom and my father would sit by the bed in a rocking chair

and hold my mother's hand. He slept in the chair and still

worked every day. In my memory this will always be the

perfect definition of love. It must have been wonderful for

them to have a relationship filled with such love. At this

time, my mother, dad and I were the only ones living at



My mother's funeral was held at home in the front room which

was called the parlor in those days. It was a common practice

to hold funeral services in the home at that time. As I was

19 years old, playing baseball, working and in love with the

girl next door, the full impact of my mother's death did not

hit me until years later. Like I suppose everyone else feels,

I now regret not doing more for my mother to have made her

life more enjoyable and easier for her.


When I was in high school I went to a Dr. Brockmayer who had

an office on Chapin Street almost down to Main St. His office

was in his house, in the front room. The charge was either a

dollar or two. He had a large roll top desk with a bushel

basket beside it. When anyone paid, he would throw the money

into the basket. I can still see that basket about half full

of $1 bills.


After my mother died, my father and I tried having a

housekeeper but that didn't last long and we decided to keep

house for ourselves. Dad did the cooking and as near as I can

remember we ate pork chops and canned peaches most of the

time. I did the washing and ironing and I could do the shirts

quite well. My father had a big oak roll top desk he used for

all his book-keeping. He saved dimes in a codfish box with a

slot in the cover. He nailed the cover on so he wouldn't use

them before it was full. He couldn't resist knowing how much

he had so every few days he would pull the nails out and

count it. I remember one day he was sitting at the desk with

one of those little rubber bladed defroster fans that they

used to put in the rear window of cars. He was trying to fix

it and he plugged it into the outlet. It ran like hell for a

few minutes before it burned out the motor. It surprised him

so he dropped it like a hot potato.


About 1937, a couple of years after high school, Skip Dewey,

Ray Smith and I went to Florida for two weeks. We went in

Skip's car which used a lot of oil so we carried a case of

oil in the trunk and would stop a couple of times a day to

add more. We rented a small cabin in Ft. Lauderdale and

stayed for a week. We didn't do much while there except lay

on the beach and watch the girls. At that time there wasn't

much else to do as it wasn't developed the way it is now. As

I recall it only cost each of us $75 for the two week trip.

On the way home I remember one morning on the road through

Georgia when we passed an old shack occupied by a black

family. The fields were white with frost and a little boy in

a white nightgown was running through the field to the

outhouse way out in the back.


We stopped late one night in Pennsylvania to put more oil on

the car and it would not pour out of the can. We had intended

to spend the night in a nearby town with Skip's brother so we

just drove the rest of the way. When we arrived we found out

that it was 15 degrees below zero and that was why the oil

would not pour!


My mother died in 1938 and the following winter my dad and I

went to Florida for two weeks. We stayed in a tourist home in

Orlando and drove around the state to places of interest. I

was in love with the girl next door at the time and couldn't

wait to get home. I probably made my father come back sooner

than he would have liked for that reason. However, when I got

home, she had become engaged to someone else and they

eventually married. Oh--such is life! We drove all the way to

Florida and back and only made one wrong turn. That was in

Dansville, New York and so close to home that it didn't make

any difference.


When Gordon returned from Nebraska, he started painting by

himself. I never knew why, but he always worked alone and had

his own line of customers. When work was hard to get just

after the depression in the early 1930's, Leon got a job as a

painter at Brigham Hall. He worked all his years there, for

low wages, just for job security. He built a house on Chapin

Street just across from our house. We dug the foundation with

a scoop pulled by Clarence's panel bodied truck and a chain.

We also used a wheelbarrow and shovels. He put up a ready-cut

house from Sears and Roebuck that cost $4,500. All the pieces

came cut and numbered, with instructions to tell you how to

put it together. He hired one carpenter and all of us boys to

help him. This must have been in the early thirties and the

house is still a nice looking one. Last year I noticed

that they put on vinyl siding. Leon had to sell it years

later for financial reasons and has had to rent since that

time as he never made enough money to buy again.


Dad, Clarence and I painted together and my father arranged

all the work and did the collecting. Clarence did most of the

high work and Dad did the open places as he was a fast

painter. I did the windows and became good at it. We worked

together well by each doing what he could do best. That saved

time and money. When my father was in his 70's he could

spread more paint than the rest of us, although he began to

miss spots when his eye sight was beginning to go. My uncles

Jim and Ed were in the painting business also; Uncle Ed wore

a tie and a celluloid collar all his life, even when painting

in hot weather. His wife did all the book keeping for him.


In 1939 my father married my Aunt Constance and I guess he

thought she was like my mother. She was just the opposite and

I don't think my father enjoyed life as much after that. He

worked right up until his death at age 75. He used to get up

with the sun and work in the Garden or mow the lawn until it

was time to go to work. He was a very good bowler and

traveled to cities in the area to bowl for money. I recall

one time when he won $100 in Auburn. One time he and Leon

went with a team to bowl in the national tournament in

Chicago. When he married again I moved out of the house and

rented a room on South Main Street, staying there about a

year before moving to another place just below Clark Street

on Main. I also lived there about a year.


There was a diner next to where I was living--one of those

diners made from an old trolley car--and I ate my meals there

for two years. I got to know them so well that I would just

walk in the diner, tell them I wanted dinner, and they would

fix me a plate. I never did know what I would be getting

until it was in front of me. On the nights I was going to

square dances I would tell them to give me fried foods so the

alcohol would not give me too much of a hangover. The food

was good and they gave you a lot of it. In the winter I

remember the windows being all frosted over and you couldn't

see in or out.


I rented a garage just around the corner on Clark Street where

I kept my car. One night after going to a Saturday night

dance, I put the car in the garage. The next morning when I

went to get it I noticed it had a flat tire. The garage floor

was dirt and the wheels were down in hollows. The snow had

melted off the car and all four wheels were frozen in the ice

in the hollows. It was such a narrow garage I had to back the

car out to change the tire. It was frozen so solid I had to

get the jack out and put it from the bumper to the front of

the garage and jack it backwards to get it loose. Not too

easy when you have a hangover! Sundays I would get together

with a couple of friends and we would ride to Bristol or

around the lake and go to a movie in the evening. We were

riding around the lake and parked somewhere up the East Lake

Road on December 7, 1941 when we heard on the radio that

Pearl Harbor had been attacked.


Sometime during 1941 I went to Rochester to find another car

and found a 1936 Pontiac that looked almost new for $450. My

old car was using a lot of oil and I had it parked in front of

the used car lot. When the dealer was checking out my car for

trade in value, I was hoping he would not start it up because

when you did so the smoke was so thick you'd hardly see the

car! I was lucky and made a deal. I had to drive back to

Canandaigua for the money and once again to Rochester to

close the deal. Just on that one trip I had to add four

quarts of oil. Good thing it lasted the trip as the Pontiac

was a real nice car.


In the fall of 1941 we had very little work and it was time

for me to find work somewhere else. I had been called by

Uncle Sam, had my physical and reported to the draft board. I

was classified 4-F due to flat feet and a hernia (which I

still have and was never bothered by). I wanted to be in

service somewhere and so I went to Rochester and tried to

join the Marines or the Navy. I even tried to get into the

ambulance corps. With my 4-F status I couldn't get into

anything. I borrowed $10 from my father and applied at about

ten places in Rochester. This was the only time in my life

that I borrowed money except for when I bought a car or



During this time some of my friends were entering the

service. This was between Pearl Harbor and April of 1942.

Pete Lenzi decided to hitch-hike to California and, if he

couldn't find work, to join the Marines. He took one suitcase

and I gave him a ride as far as Avon, letting him out at the

statue in the center of the village. I'll write more about

Pete later. Ken Montanye entered the army and we had a big

party for him at the camp in Berby Hollow. Len Pierce also

joined up about a month before I did.


In December of 1941 I got a reply from my application at

Kodak and went in for an interview. I got a job at Kodak Park

and was one of the first three hired for a new product. Ray

Smith was hired soon after I was. The whole building where we

worked was empty except for the three of us and a boss.

Kodacolor film was being put on the market and the building

was being set up for developing and printing. The first few

weeks I spent polishing the reclaiming tanks on the ground

floor. After the first month I had fourteen men working under

me so it was a good opportunity for me. If I hadn't been

drafted then, there is no telling how far I might have gone.

When the film started coming in Ray Smith was working on the

floor above me and I was in charge of the basement. By March

things were really busy, and then, even though I was 4-F,

they called me for the draft. I was glad to go, but now

realize what a great opportunity I missed.


When I started working at Kodak, Ray Smith and I with another

friend, Kippy Oskamp, who also worked in Rochester,

rented an apartment on Alexander Street across from the Genesee

Hospital. During the week I parked my car in a large old 

building in the area and they took the cars up an elevator to 

the top floors. It used to be an old flour mill and every

Friday night I would get the car to go home for the weekend. It 

would be almost totally white from the remains of the flour in 

the building so I had to wash the car every weekend. We rode 

the bus to and from Kodak daily. We had to go up a stairway

inside the apartment and were to be very quiet. One night some 

of the boys from home had a party. When they left we carried 

out a large bag of bottles and cans, the bottom gave out at 

about the top step and the entire contents clattered down the 

stairwell at two a.m. Needless to say, we were asked to move 

soon there after.


Kip Oskamp went into the Air Force ( a bombardier, I believe

and his plane went down in the Japanese war...he was missing in 

action) so Ray Smith and I rented a room in a house on a small 

street in Greece NY which was nearer to Kodak. The owners name 

was Riley and now they live in the same trailer park in Florida 

as Ray. We worked different shifts so when we worked the noon 

to 8 pm shift we couldn't go downtown after work as the buses 

didn't run after 10 pm so we couldn't see any movies. We spent

a lot of time sleeping. My car was still over by Alexander 

Street and I only got it on weekends. I remember standing out 

on the corner during the winter in a blizzard waiting for a bus

to go to work. It was snowing so hard you couldn't see the bus

until it was 20 feet away. I ate at the cafeteria at work and

on the way home I would stop at the White Tower to get a bowl 

of soup.


The houses on Shady Lane were all the same and one night after 

midnight Ray Smith came home and went in the side door.   

The bathroom was just inside and there he was sitting on the 

john with the door open. You can imagine his embarrassment 

when the stranger indicated he was in the wrong house. It was

a wonder the owner didn't shoot him as a burglar. I guess they

changed the lock after finding out that the keys fit both 



At this time I was making $26 a week, renting a room, 

making car payments, and had enough left to run around with on 

weekends. It was in March or April that I received my draft

notice. The day I left Rochester it snowed two feet and I had

to shovel snow for hours to get my car out. I drove to

Canandaigua and left all of my things with my father. I left

the car with a friend who worked at a gas station down by the

lake and he stored it in his barn. I owed some on it but they

couldn't collect from you while you were in the service. 

After I was in the army about a year, I wrote to him and told

him to let it go back to the finance company. I don't know why

I didn't keep it or at least let someone in the family finish

the payments. It was a very good Pontiac and I didn't owe more

than a couple hundred dollars on it. In the service you soon 

got the feeling that your chances of living through the war

were pretty slim.

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