Monday, March 10, 2014

WW2 Homemade Racer

Being a young boy growing up during WW2 found yourself without lots on your wish list. A cart, sled, pedal car, or anything made of steel was impossible to have unless it was a hand-me-down. The best place to find a treasure was the dump, the "weekend store," usually with a  broken or missing a part.

Being a country boy with a clever father, many finds could be repaired. Cast away baby carriages would supply the wheels and axles for a wagon or push car racer. The hardware to hold a cart project together -- nails, screws -- all had to be on hand. Nothing came from the hardware store or the lumber yard. All was found, and at no cost.

My first wartime toy was a race car that mostly got pushed up and down Station Street. The wheels came from a cast-off wagon. The front wheels were on a pivot for steering. A rope tied to each side of the axle: a pull on the left rope turned you left, and so on. The rear wheels had rub sticks for braking. If you were lucky they slowed the racer slightly. The hood was from a steel barrel. One would sit straight-legged into the barrel, and lean against a back support.

That's me, 10 years old in my racer.

On occasion we would haul it to Seager's Hill. Steering was a feat and stopping was impossible.
Crashing was inevitable! Most of the crashes were rolling on its side. No helmet, no safety belt, no elbow pads. I hauled my racer home numerous times with bent wheels! I have no idea why none of us got hurt coasting that hill!

by Ray Freden  Seaview/Marshfield, 70 years

"There are memories that time does not erase." - Cassandra Clare

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Special Times and Foods

Both my Mom and Dad's parents were Swedish immigrants. Dad had told me that the Swedish language was not allowed around the children. However his parents would use Swedish in their evening conversations. Only a few words and phrases could Dad remember. He referred to himself as a “Svenska Pojke,” (Swedish Boy) and Mom as a “Svenska Flicka.” He would use “Tack Sa Myket” (thank you very much) often. There were a few more phrases that have slipped away from me.

At Thanksgiving and Christmas time, both parents had favorite Swedish foods. A braided Swedish coffee bread was always on the table at breakfast, sometimes in the shape of a wreath.

Kanebulla, (cinnamon buns) were also a breakfast treat. 

Spritz cookies were a favorite of mine at Christmas time, and still are.

Swedish Limpa bread (Wort Loaf) would also be made by Mom.

Swedish meatballs with gravy, served over mashed potatoes, was always welcome.

A note here: never, never would I let the peas touch the mashed potatoes. Nothing could touch anything! Boy how things have changed. Oh how I remember picking the onions out of spaghetti sauce -- no onions for me.

I wrote about Knackebrod, crisp bread, published 2/21/11.

It was seldom that this crisp bread wasn't in the cupboard for a snack with cream cheese or blue cheese as a spread. It was my job to mash the wedge of blue cheese with milk to make it spreadable. To this day, it's still my job to mash the  blue cheese wedge, and my job to consume the whole damn thing!

At New Years Eve bedtime, my Mom would leave a bowl of porridge for the” Tomte” or “Nisse.” This little creature lived in the cellar and looked over us during night time. I never saw him, nor was I afraid of him. I always wondered where he ate the rest of the year.

Thanks to the “Nisse” our holidays during the Great Depression and WW2, were happy ones.

“Nothing is really lost to us as long as we remember it.” - L. M. Montgomery. The Story Girl.

by Ray Freden, Seaview/ Marshfield, 70 years.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Longest Winter Coast

In the winter, sled coasting seemed as important as bike riding in the summer.

My sledding story of 1/20/13, “The Winter Days of Sledding,” brought me back to the most memorable coasting I ever had. At age 10 or so, I knew the Flexible Flyer sled was the best of the bestest! I remember outgrowing it and asking Santa for a new bigger Flexible Flyer sled.

A Christmas or two came and went, although there were gifts, there was no Flexible Flyer! Yes, there were wet eyes. My Dad explained it was war time and certain things were not available. Oh well, I'll have to make do with I have.

On a Christmas school vacation week, sledding was most every day. Yes, some kids had new sleds. The New Year’s weekend was coming up, and the coasting was great. On New Year’s morning, as Dad was cooking breakfast, he looked at me and asked, “Why didn't you put your sled away last night?”

I was puzzled. I responded, “I did.”

“No you didn't,” Dad said. “Go look.”

As I neared the back door, I could see something sticking up in the snow – it kinda looked like my sled. But then, WOW! I saw a big, shiny sled! 

I ran out of the porch, no jacket or boots, grabbed the sled out of the snow bank, and dragged it into the porch!

It wasn't a Flexible Flyer, but a big, long, sleek, brand new Champion sled! Oh, I could hardly wait to get to the hill to show off my Champion.

“But wait,” Dad said, “It's not broken in!” 

“Huh?” I said. “Whata-I-hafta-do, Dad?”

He showed me how to polish the runners and wax them. I rubbed and rubbed them with a broken piece of sharpening stone, and waxed them with paraffin wax.

Oh boy, it sure ran fast on my little back yard hill! Now, off to the big hill on Summer Street.

Skippy and the Champion waiting to go sledding.'
 Yes, it was fast! And it was faster than any sled on the hill that day!

A winter or so later, we had a very snowy winter. A foot or more snow crusted over, so it could be walked on without breaking through. Word got out that Doroni's hill on Pleasant Street was great sledding, and it sure was.

One weekend, the area kids gathered to race down that tomato field on top of a frozen crust. Franky C. had a long rope attached to his tractor and would pull us back up after a run. Not only did we have a sled tow, but on break, we could run across the street for an ice cream at the Peacock Tearoom. (See my blog of 4/21/08.)

 Late on Sunday afternoon, I prepared for my last run. I waxed the runners, ran, and flopped on my Champion. I sped down that hill, a right turn onto Pleasant Street, down Pleasant Street, a sharp corner to the left and a long straight run to Summer Street.

And a long straight run to Summer Street
 Back then, the roads were not sanded. It seemed I'd never stop coasting! When I approached Summer Street, I slid to a stop into Gino Rugani's parking lot. I sat up, looking back at the hill in disbelief. It seemed like I just coasted a mile! That never happened again in my days of coasting.

by Ray Freden

Seaview, Marshfield 70 years

"Write what should not be forgotten." - Isabel Allende.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Winter Days of Sledding

I think every kid that grows up with winter snow looks forward to that storm that brings enough snow to cover their favorite hill.

I was one of those kids. There was a hill just across the street, and just enough hill for a little kid. My Dad would haul my sled up the hill, get on the sled with me in front, and away we would go!

We would whiz to the bottom in no time, time and time again, until my little legs could take no more!

“That’s enough for me too,” Dad would say.

A short walk back across Station Street, up the back stairs onto the porch to shake off the snow. Leaving my boots behind along with my snowsuit, into the kitchen I ran to sit on the radiator until I thawed!

As I got older I could go sledding alone -- that is, alone with my dog Skippy. He was my companion. Up the hill dragging my sled, Skippy leaping back and forth dipping his nose into the snow. At the top, I would coax him close enough to get him into my lap, then off we would go. He would wiggle away from me, preferring to run alongside and bark!

Off the sled I went, as Skippy races back.'
We outgrew that hill. A little farther away was the old lower road that led down from Seager's Hill. At one time it was kept in good condition. It was once used by David Seager's farm to bring goods to the railroad to ship to Boston. In the mid 40s it was showing deterioration. A good snowfall hid all the ruts and washouts. It was a long, great ride down that old road. But it was a longer pull up!  Sometimes half way was enough.

The upper road to Seager's farm (now Deer Hill Lane) was even better to slide on because of its good condition . . . but one would have to watch for Mr. or Mrs. Seager returning home. Only once did I encounter Mrs. Seager coming up the hill as I was going down. Up and over the banking I went as she drove slowly by with a smile and wave -- phew!

Another great hill was behind Torrey Little’s Auction Barn, (formerly Hoods Milk, 575 Summer Street). This was a wide path that ran up to Canoe Tree Lane. It was steep and fast.

A long tug uphill.
Christmas and New Year's would bring a big gathering of kids and adults from that area. There were a few times a kid we called “Ham Bone” brought the six-foot-long double runner his grandfather made. It took three or four of us to pull and push it to the top. On we would get, then shove off, and down we would go.

We would be at the speed of sound as we approached the bump at the opening in the stone wall. Into the air we would go!  Every time I can remember, we would come crashing down on the sled’s side. We always made it without a scratch!

Bill Frugoli of Summer Street remembers, “The slide started at Donald Hagar's house and came down the path just north of the barn between a small opening in the stone wall. It stopped out in front of the barn. Before you got to this point, you would go off the embankment by the rear of the barn -- it was about a three-foot jump. It knocked the hell out of your lungs and guts.” (circa 1948)

Bill said of Florence Tilden, (Harry Tilden's wife) who also lived on Summer Street, ''She told us of stories when her kids were young, they would come down the hill on toboggans and continue to the left down Summer Street and come to a stop at about Alfred Hitchcock's house (663 Summer Street).”

“Back then, Summer Street was a dirt road. The snow was packed down as hard as ice.”

"Strange---what brings these past things so vividly back to us---sometimes."
- Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin

by Ray Freden  
Seaview/ Marshfield 70 years

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Days Before Christmas

As far back as I remember, we always had a pine tree for Christmas. About a week or so before Christmas, on a Saturday, my Dad would get out his tree cutting tools. They consisted of a small hatchet and a hand saw. Dad liked the saw because it didn't make much noise!

Mom would get me bundled up in my winter clothes, hand knitted mittens and hat. Dad would let me carry the hatchet in spite of Mom's protest! The hatchet blade was wrapped up with an old rag and tied, keeping me safe.

Off we would go down the old railroad tracks to a cart path crossroad (now Pinehurst Road). We would take the cart path into a pine grove of small trees. These pine trees were spreading into the pasture land of David Seager's Farm.

Dad would select one a little taller than he could reach. He would send me in to trim the lowest branches with the hatchet. This was quite a task for a young kid.  Dad helped me those first few years. He would take his saw and, in short order, over the tree fell.

Now the task of dragging it home: Dad in front and me taking up the rear, trying to keep the tree from dragging along the ground, while still hanging onto my hatchet!

Finally we arrived home. I was pooped!

Oh no, we weren't through. Dad had me gather up the bushel baskets stored in the barn. Into the back seat of the old Chevy they went. We now headed off to Pine Street.

About half way down Pine Street, we pulled over, across from the brick yard factory. We scrambled over the embankment, jumped over the brook and through the thick moss.

The moss-covered ground under the hemlock trees was ideal for Princess Pine to thrive. We would pick a basketful -- how pretty those little tree-like plants were. A good crop of Trailing Ground Pine was also found growing through the Hemlock litter and moss.

With two full baskets, we headed back to the car. I would drag the lightest basket to the edge of the brook. Dad would carry it over the brook, up the bank, and into the Chevy. (I was back at the brook on my hands and knees having a cold drink, and boy was that water cold!)

Back home we unloaded the full baskets of greens. Dad got the round frames made of chicken wire down from the barn attic. They still had a few dried-up leftover greens from last year. I would clean them out and start weaving the Princess Pine into the frame.

I had watched Dad make these wreaths as long as I could remember. He would fix them up here and there where I messed up. During this time Dad was making a stand for the tree (no store-bought stand here!) Finally, late in the afternoon, we had three wreaths made and a tree ready for decorating.

Remember, this took place on a Saturday, so now what? Into the old Chevy and off to Sted's. I, holding a five cent returnable bottle. Dad would get a bottle of Ballentine Ale and a cigar. I would exchange the bottle for a candy bar. After arriving home, the tree got dragged into the house to be decorated the next day.

Supper came and went. Now it was time for a few games of checkers. I, with a candy bar and a glass of milk. Dad, with a glass of ale and a cigar. As I look back, I lost most of the checkers games, but I won a day with my Dad.

''The smells of Christmas are the smells of childhood'' - Richard Paul Evans

by Ray Freden. The village of Seaview, Marshfield Ma.

P.S. I still have one Christmas tree ball from my first Christmas. It's 78 years old!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Holidays of the 40s

As the holidays neared, Mom and Dad would start preparing the food stuff and housecleaning. Our guests were Gram and Gramps, my mother’s parents. They were always welcome for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. That was okay with me because they were very generous.

As I was the only child for my first nine years, I had chores. Clean my room, clean the hall and stairs up to my room. Geezs, why? No one goes up there! Also, straighten up the porch. Well, I could see that -- anyone that came into the house came through the porch. The summer table and chairs got stacked neatly, other stuff got taken to the barn. Skippy's [my dog] bed and dishes got moved whether or not he liked it!

And then it was my chore to care for the chickens. We had 3 or 4 roosters, each for a holiday dinner. Turkeys -- what are those? Yes, I knew wild turkeys were the traditional birds of Thanksgiving. But, where would you get a wild turkey? I never remember seeing one in the grocery store. I knew of a turkey farm in Duxbury -- on occasion we drove by it. My mom said they were expensive. I had no idea what expensive was.

 Anyway, I took care of the chickens -- about twelve hens and three or four roosters. During school years, it was tough to get up early enough to feed them, so Mom did my morning chores after she saw me off on the school bus. After school, I would lug a bucket of fresh water to them, a coffee can of mash, then a treat of cracked corn scratch. Boy, would they run for that! The roosters would get all puffed up and stomp around in circles, telling the hens where the food was! The hens cleaned that scratch feed up fast. There was little corn left for those dumb roosters!

About two weeks before a holiday, it was time to fatten up a rooster. Dad had a small cage he put in the chicken yard. He put a rooster in it. Now he got special treatment. Warm, wet, fattening-up mash, and a half can of corn twice a day. He was fed well and had limited exercise so he fattened up fast. Now he had a bad attitude -- he would try to attack me when I fed him. Dad said he was mad and wanted out with his hens!

On the Saturday before the holiday, Dad would get his gear together to do the rooster in, pluck him and clean him. Oh yes, I watched. I knew where chicken came from -- roosters too. Mom would take the naked bird, singe the fuzz off it and wash it up. Then it went into a cooler box on the porch. Dad would always have Mom weigh the bird. He would be disappointed if it didn't weigh more than six pounds.

I remember so vividly my Dad carving that rooster, always saying, “What a great bird.” My favorite was a wing, but white meat smothered with gravy was equally accepted. There was never much left on that bird after a holiday meal, but enough for Mom's soup or a chicken pie, both my favorites to this day.

Happy Holidays.
- Ray

Friday, November 16, 2012

Box Tops

--> Wheaties were not my favorite cereal, but Jack Armstrong was my favorite radio person, “The All American Boy.” Oh how I wished I too could have been an All American Boy. Listening to his adventures made me feel like a different kid. However, after finishing a soggy bowl of Jack Armstrong's Wheaties, “The All American Breakfast,” hardly made me feel like a different kid.

I remember, it was the summer of 1944, I was almost 10. Wheaties was offering two WW-2 war plane models for two box tops and a nickel. An offer I couldn't resist, [but should have]. The first offered was the P-40 Flying Tiger, my favorite fighter. The other was a Japanese Zero, not a favorite! I really had to stuff down the first box of Wheaties. My dog Skippy never let on that there was more in that bowl than leftover milk and sugar.

Then there was a delay for the second box of Wheaties. Mom said I had Cheerioats to finish before they get stale! Oh no, another setback!

I finally got the second box of Wheaties, a nickel, and three pennies for a stamp.
Now, a three to four week wait for them to arrive -- eternity for a 10 year old! The rest of school vacation passed, school started and no model planes!

The school bus let me off a few steps from our mailbox. I would run over, wing the lid down and only find no mail for me. More days passed, still an empty mailbox. Now I was pretty mad at Jack Armstrong! In fact, I was so mad I could have kicked the cat, only we didn't have a cat!

Into the kitchen I went. I threw my lunch box onto the table, scattering the mail my Mom brought in earlier. There it was, a manila envelope with my name and address, and most important, P-40 and Zero stamped on front. A few seconds later, the contents were spread out in front of me. Where to start? Reading instructions was not something I was good at.

Mom convinced me to wait for Dad to help. After supper, Dad and I spread newspapers and an old sheet on the dining table. There would be hell-to-pay should anything spoil that table. Out came the two cardboard sheets. Each plane was printed in color. Dad picked up the instruction sheet and started reading. I had the P-40 sheet in my hands.    

“Come-on Dad,” I urged, “Let’s cut 'em out!”

Finally we got cutting. I was having a hard time cutting that cardboard. Oops, I cut a tab right off! Every tab was important to hold the parts together. We worked on those two models until past my bedtime.

The next night was glue together time.

The only glue we had was a bell shaped bottle with a rubber, pig-looking nose, with a slot for applying the glue [Le Pages glue]. A dab on this tab, then on that one, then a glob spurts all over the place! Glue all over my fingers. What a mess!

The instructions said to place a penny in the nose and glue it to the tabs. Well this smart kid of 10 thought two pennies would work better. Dad glued the recommended one penny in the Zero. What I thought was going to take a few hours took a week!

The next Saturday came. I was right on time having breakfast with the two finished planes sitting in front of me. My mind was flying with my P-40 Flying Tiger. I was going to dogfight with that Zero and blow him to smithereens!

“Come-on-Dad, lets go and dog fight.”

We went out front where there were no trees. I faced into the wind as the instructions said, and threw my P-40 as hard as I could.

Up, up, up it went. It nearly stopped, then nosed straight down, crashing into the wet grass.

I ran to it, picked it up, shook it off, and set it on the front step. Now Dad's trial flight.

Up, up, up the Zero went, nosed over, and glided softly down into the grass.

I was not happy. I went and picked up my P-40. It was soggy and soft! Dad said the Zero was getting soft too. The water from the wet grass had softened the cardboard and melted the glue!

Into the house I ran. I set my P-40 on the table, and Dad set the Zero down beside it. I looked up at Dad, my eyes full of tears. I broke into a cry as he held me. My dreams shattered -- no dogfights, no blasting that Zero out of the sky!

Well, in a few days, I got over that disaster. I will never forget the sight of those two limp planes sitting on the kitchen table! Never again did I mail away for any other box top offer!

W. Ray Freden    Seaview/ Marshfield