Growing Up In South St. Louis

One month after my birth, Lucille left for the the convent. She was just 17. I'm sure mother could have used her help but a deal is a deal! Lucille just never seemed like my sister; she seemed more like "A Sister", "A Nun". We would visit her about once a month, maybe less. She was never allowed to come home to visit and couldn't even go to a shoe store to buy shoes. People had to come to her and to the rest of the nuns in the Community. The Religious Order she entered was very strict.

My fourth birthday is remembered well for one simple fact. I received a box of chocolate candy from the Mittendorfs who lived upstairs. To a four year old (even a 60 year old) that box of chocolates looked so inviting and I couldn't wait to open it and sample some of those delicious looking morsels. The picture of the candy on top of the box told me they would be delicious. Sixty-two years later I still wonder if they were good. It seems my mother decided that I should not keep them but they should be given to my sister, the nun, whom we were going to visit that day.I loved my mama but somehow I hate that episode ever happening.My relationship with my sister was never as close as it could have been.Small things can affect how we view each other.

Lucille took the name Etienne, which means Stephen in French. She wanted to have my Father's name and so became Sister Mary Etienne of the School Sister's of Notre Dame.She was even stationed at my grade school and and taught me in 4th and 5th grades. She told me that she would have to be stricter on me than she would be with the other children and she was.I did love her and her love was returned but it's different growing up the way we did. She has since passed on when just 65 years old, a year younger than I am now. I miss her and wish we could have said things to each other that were never said.

It was fun having my brother Len around. He was 15 and dragged me with him all over South St. Louis. He carried me to the cow field where he and his buddies played soccer. He even took me along on some of his informal dates; that is, until I was old enough to snitch on him. After that, I spent a lot more time at home.

Walter was 19 so was out working and I don't remember too much about his being home. I do remember his playing the saxaphone at home and having some of his band members having a jam session down in the basement . Walter got married when I was 5 and I think Len got married when I was about7.After that it was just mama, papa, and me.

There were a lot of children that lived on my street with three different grade schools that we all attended. There was Mt. Pleasant Public School, St. Anthony Catholic School (referred to as the German Catholic School, and St. Hedwig. The latter one definitely being a Polish Catholic School even teaching the Polish language; although I must say, I never learned more than a couple of words that I can remember. We even said our prayers in Polish. Anyway, I was the only one my block of friends that went to St. Hedwig with my other friends attending one of the other two schools. It kind of set me apart but I still managed to have a lot of playmates.

It was a lot of fun growing up in that neighborhood and we played a lot of games in the evening. We would all meet at the concrete lamp post accross the street where we may just hang around and talk or start a game. Naturally the most played game was "Hide and Go Seek" but there were also; "Lay Low Sheep", "Kick the Tin Can", "Tippie", "Movie Stars", "Lemonade", and many more.

There were also the Rubber-Band Guns which shot these huge rubber bands made by cutting out bands from automobile innertubes. Those things could really sail a long way, were very strong, and would probably be labeled as leathal weapons if they were made today. A friend and I confiscated her brothers gun and all of his bands one day. We shot every one of them up into the top of a huge sycamore tree. Naturally, she and I did not intend to climb up into that huge tree and retrieve the ammunition. When her brother found out he was not too happy and I still have amnesia as to what happened next, but I know we never did it again.

In the alley behind the house the boys (and men sometimes) would play a game called "Bottle Caps". It was unique to St. Louis I think. St. Louis was a "beer town" and beer was sold in bottles back then.The bottle caps were saved and maybe someone would have as many as 500 in a can. Two teams were chosen and the bottle caps were pitched to an opposing team member using a broomstick for a bat. It was played similar to baseball except there was no running to bases. There were fielders who tried to catch a flying bottlecap and if they did, it was an "OUT" for the batting side. When the game was over there were bottlecaps strewn all over and everyone would help pick them up and put them back in the can.

When I was about twenty-five I remember a couple, Wally and Marian Froehle, who were visiting us from Minnesota. He was invited to join Harold and a couple of my nephews in a game of bottlecaps out in the alley. When the game was described to him and he saw all those bottlecaps laying all over the alley he said,"You guys are crazy 'cause now we have to pick up all of those caps!" He was not too enthused about this game but I'll bet he still remembers it as does everyone who ever played it.

St. Hedwig's elementary school was quite small, only about 100 children in the whole eight grades. My 8th grade graduating class had 5 girls and 6 boys. There was myself, Arlene Nemec, Delores Pawlak, Loretta Lawandowska, Cecelia Pelczynska, Robert Sax, Daniel Gruhala, Robert Koebbe, Donald Taylor, Ronald Zewiski,and Eugene Olsczewski. I can't hardly believe that I have actually remembered all of their names (although some of the spelling of those names may be "butchered") . That graduation took place in 1944.

On to High School and Boys, Boys, Boys
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