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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Tales from the old-timer

Issue Date: June 20, 2012

Kids’ Lives in Depression Days of the 1930’s

Kids were familiar with depression talk among their parents in the Depression days of the 1930’s. We couldn’t do anything about it, but our elders kept costs down as much as possible. Most of us boys wore knickers, not long pants, as knickers could cope with growing boys and they could last a boy 2 or 3 years. At the East Side Elementary School the plump kids bought half pints of milk at noon but us skinny kids never even asked our parents for the milk money.

We knew better than to ask for money. Any spare or odd pennies went for jelly beans at Ellison & Holm Store at the corner of Pine Street and Beebe Avenue in Peshtigo. You’d better get your jellybeans quick, because if a lady came through the door with a long grocery list, the lady got waited on first by the jolly clerk, and you could keep on looking at the jellybeans all you wanted to, even if the school bell rang the lady got all the clerk’s attention, and kids were last served.

I liked, but never spoke to the pretty girls in 1st and 2nd grade, as I knew I was the homely new kid with red hair, freckles, and a lopsided head.

One girl I won’t name whose family could ill afford to buy her a coat, and she wore a threadbare and faded one, had her coat thrown down the hole in the boy’s outhouse by the reigning schoolyard bully, she went coatless all through the winter, thanks to the bully.

There were teeter-totters in the small playground and the bully liked to entice, then you would take a seat and then he would jump off his end, causing you to come down with a bang that really hurt.

The nearby pulp mill log piles were off limits, and the girls from the East Side Safety Club would tell if one of the boys went over there. The Club was organized by 3rd Grade Teacher Clara Anderson, and members would squeal on violations. Bullying was not a squealable offense so victims never complained. A Miss Moran had the combined 1st and 2nd grades, about 40 kids in all, and she was kept busy and fit athletically by chasing wrongdoers up and down the aisles and whacking them with a sturdy ruler. I finally got the ruler for talking to my deskmate (double decker desks) Teddy Kozuszek. He kept Miss Moran chasing him up and down the aisles to whack him. He tried to outrun her but lost every time.

Fourth grade on the west side across the street from the Zion Lutheran Church was a welcome change as all of us boys fell in love with the new 4th grade teacher, Mae Murphy, a real sweetheart but also a strict disciplinarian. We walked over the paper mill railroad bridge to get to the west side grade school. We naturally outranked all the 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders there. Snort Dupuis and Cubby Couvillion were tearing around a corner of the school from opposite sides, and Cub got some teeth knocked out. He had to wait several years for transplants to fill the gaps, as the Depression made repairs costly.


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Peshtigo, WI 54157
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