PART 5: I remember Grandma & Grandpa: Authur Godfrey and shotguns!
Morning started pretty early around our house. Grandpa was always up before me. In fact he was usually up before the sun. He never slept late. He used to work in the basement in the morning, planning out his day. He used to have the radio on, listening to Authur Godfrey. This guy had the deepest voice I ever heard. It was a morning talk show. The radio was turned way up because Pop had trouble hearing. I think it was both ears and he was a fairly young man. A little math tells you if I was 5 then he was 48 or so. He only wore glasses for reading at least at this point in his life.
Authur Godfrey would be blaring all over the house and Grandma would be yelling down the stairs “CARL! CARL! TELEPHONE!” “What do you want NELL?” “Telephone, cant you hear me? CARL? CARL! CARL! TELEPHONE” By this time he would be coming up the basement steps and Grandma would go back to the kitchen. There was a phone on the wall next to the back door. It was a special phone with a “VOLUME” control for the receiver. This was so Pop could turn up the sound if he could not hear the person at the other end. Believe me in those days it was like talking in two tin cans over a string. There were other times not many mind you, but just a few, where there would be a normal conversation going on in the kitchen and grandma would say something like “Oh, Carl did this or Carl did that, or if I could just get him to do etc. etc ...” And suddenly, from way back in the back of the basement Pop would yell, “WHAT DID YOU SAY NELL?”
Pop Had a BB gun. Here I am holding it. Do you like the Davy Crockett hat? (my favorite).
I used to take it outside and shoot it (with permission of course). Grandma always warned me to be careful. “When I was young”, she would say, “My brother shot me in the neck with a BB gun, now you be careful”. I always was. Standing in the driveway I shot that thing up in the air. If I was real quite and waited, I could hear it hit the ground. Not every time, but often enough that I knew it was that BB coming back down. My grandson now possesses the original gun. I had it repaired in 2006 so that it actually works. The 1939 gun has a historical value of about $40. It cost me $100 to repair. Hope my grandson likes it.
One day Pop thought I was old enough to learn how to shoot a real gun. I was older, maybe nine or ten, so he got out his shotgun. The door to the coal room was metal and had a shelf running across it at about the height of the door knob. On this shelf Pop placed a large potato. We walked all the way back to the stairway and Pop said, “Now watch this Joseph”. He got down on one knee, took aim, and BOOM he shot and killed a potato that had been resting on a shelf attached to the steel coal room door. We were probably 35 feet away.
Grandma must not have been forewarned. She was on the lower steps almost immediately, wanting to know what was going on. “Just teaching the boy to shoot” said Pop. “Oh Carl, Is that necessary?” Then there was some looking but no talking. Grandma wasn’t very happy, but Grandpa was a stubborn man. “YOU be VERY careful”. That was one disagreement I’m glad Pop won. “Ok, now kneel down and look here, put your finger here and pull this, after you do this...”
I was trying to do everything just right for Grandpa, and then I used one finger to pull the trigger and had my other finger between the firing pin (the part of the rifle where the hammer ‘strikes’ when you pull the trigger) and the hammer. The rifle didn’t fire. When I pulled the trigger the hammer came down and squished my thumb. It really hurt. It hit right smack dab in the center of my nail. Well, I wasn’t going to let Grandpa know just how much it hurt, so I said nothing. He had a big smile on his face and asked “Ok?”. “Yes”. That got me another try. This time the rifle fired. It was actually a shotgun. What a kick! I didn’t see the bullet. I didn’t hit the potato, I think I hit the door but never saw it. I was kind of disappointed. For all that my thumb still hurt - a lot.
Grandpa developed his own pictures. He did this on the other side of the basement, in the back room. This was the dark side of the basement, the side I talked about eariler. I was allowed on occasion to watch. There would be two tin pans on the table. This work table was much more sturdy that the office table. It had a grinding wheel on it and a vice attached to one corner. Behind the table in the center of the room were wooden, heavy duty shelves, floor to ceiling, the kind you see in warehouses only much smaller. This room was about 15 by 15. There was also an old ice box in it that held plants and sometimes can goods that Grandma had made.
When it came to developing pictures, in the first pan Pop would pour in a chemical from one container and in the other pan he would put a different chemical. Then the lights went out. In the corner of the room a small red light was turned on. At first it was the only thing I could see. A small firefly. Everything else was totally black. Then the details of the room would start to reveal them selves. Slowly I could see the table, the vice and then the walls were visible. Grandpa had me come closer and he took a piece of white paper and submerged it into one of the pans. As I watched, a picture formed. This was some amazing stuff. Then, removing it, he held it up for a minute to kind of ‘drip’ dry it, and then placed it for just a second in the next tray. A clothes pin was used to fasten the picture to a short rope-line that was running above the table. Several more pictures were “developed” and suspended from the line. They were allowed to hang there until they dried. You could not use a towel on this kind of stuff.
Grandpa new about a lot of things that I still don’t know about today.