In 1924 we moved around the corner to Sacramento Boulevard, to a bigger, nicer apartment, right on the corner of Lexington.
We had bay windows out on Sacramento. You could see both ways. It was great fun watching the fire wagons. Horses pulled them.
The middle window didn’t open. The side windows did. So in order to wash the big middle window, my father got a plank and put it out a side window. He had my mother and us four kids sit on the end of the plank, and then he stood out on the other end of the plank and washed the window. Isn’t that awful? He said that if any one of us got up that would be the end of him. Nobody budged. We were scared stiff while he was out there.
Once my mother went to a fortune-teller–the only time in her life–and afterwards she said, “Never, never, never go to a fortune-teller. It’s the worst thing you can do.”
The fortune-teller told her that her husband would be hit by a car and probably killed. This was not long before Christmas. In our house the tree and everything were gotten after the kids went to bed on Christmas Eve, because Santa brought the tree along with the presents.
So after we went to sleep my father would go out and get the tree. They would decorate the tree, put the toys under it. Well, I’m sound asleep in bed. I’m ten years old. I still believe there’s a Santa Claus. And my mother comes in and wakes me up and asks me if I will come to the window with her. So I walk in the front room and see the tree all decorated.
My father had gone across the boulevard to see how the tree looked. And ma thought of the fortune-teller. What if a car hit him? What was she going to do? She was going to depend on me, a ten-year-old kid?
Anyway, he went out to see the tree, and he came back and said it looked fine. By then I was back in bed wondering.
I guess ma was just petrified and she needed somebody to be with her–and she chose me. But that’s how I found out there was no Santa Claus.
That was the same year pa took my sister Marge and me downtown to see the Christmas tree. This was before Christmas. The tree was on Michigan Avenue at Congress, where the Indians are. A great big, big Christmas tree. And afterwards he took us to a record shop, and he bought “That Old Gang of Mine” and “Last Night on the Back Porch.”
You know that song? “I love her in the springtime / And I love her in the fall. / But last night on the back porch / I loved her best of all.”
And he used to play “That Old Gang of Mine.”
“Oh, how I’d love to see that old gang of mine / Oh, how I can’t forget the times we sang ‘Sweet Adeline.’ / Goodbye, forever old sweethearts and pals.”