The War Years

Elaine and Stevie

We were born to war.  The war followed by divorce of our parents shaped our lives in ways that we are still discovering.  Our parents, in turn, were shaped by the depression.  These world events built traits that have embedded us with empathy and steeled us to face adversity, but mostly it was bad.  But rather than leading us to lives of crime, depression or what ever, we have perhaps overcompensated in attempting to live productive and good lives.  These unhappy events did not prevent me from having a mostly enjoyable childhood.  While very poor during the war, I never noticed any deprivations.  For example most of the beef was sent to the front and severely rationed at home, but as mother said, "You kids were wonderful ... every time I announced chicken dinner, you kids thought you were getting a rare treat!"  Mom did have a wonderfully seasoned frying pan that enabled absolutely tasty pan fried chicken ... much better than K-Fry, Kentucky Fried Chicken.
 Where's Dad? Note vertical cut
Typical photo in a divorced family, many of the family photos exhibited a vertical cut where our father was excised with scissors.  Today, with Photo Shop Pro, I can do the same thing while removing the evidence of the cut.  You cannot imagine the pain and loneliness from missing my Dad over the many years.  In an attempt to "make a clean break", Dad moved to California.  As a result, I would see Dad only once every two years.  Back in those days, long distance phones calls were very expensive and rare.  I can remember with great excitement when Dad would make the "just before Christmas call" to talk to us kids.  Elaine awaited that call with dread because Dad would "grill" her about what Mom was doing.  I was too young.

The divorce was the direct result of my father going to war.  With a family and working in a business critical to the war effort, there was no reason for him to "go to war".  In addition, he was initially rejected for flat feet.  Since he worked for a drapery shop, you may wonder how this was critical to the war effort.  That drapery shop was making tents for the troops under a very major contract.  A typical example of converting civilian efforts to war-time production.  In any case, my dad was determined to be in the war.  So he rolled his feet over a milk bottle every night before going to bed.  His final ploy was driving from Omaha to Des Moines, Iowa with a friend.  There they enlisted in the Marines.  Des Moines, a smaller town, was happy to meet quota by accepting men from out-of-town.

Here he is ... in the Marines 
My dad served in the Pacific during WWII spoken "World War two".  According to Dad, he was the smartest man in his unit ... that is until some newer fellow (a jerk) joined the unit.  Dad worked in Intelligence (little did he know that his son would be under contract for the government on Top Secret projects many years later).  Based on intelligence gathered and evaluation of same, he planned missions for fighter squadrons including Gregory H. "Pappy" Boyington 's squadron, Marine Fighter Squadron 214.  Pappy's exploits later resulted in a book and TV series starring Robert Conrad based on the exploits of his unit, Baa Baa Black Sheep.
[Need copy of commendation ... insert here]
Mom warned Dad that if he joined the Marines and left her with a house, two kids and no income, she would divorce him.  As a result, Mom started teaching piano in her home.  To increase her income, she also obtained another load of students from a retiring teacher Mr. Braveroff.  He lived in the Dundee district near our Grandparents, so Mom taught in her parent's home in addition to our home.  This led to the need for a baby sitter, Mrs. McPherson.  Due to tight housing, Mrs. McPherson became a live-in housekeeper and nanny (in today's terminology).  This was not a happy addition to our home.
Mrs. McPherson 
Mom was buying food on credit from the grocery store across the street.  When the bill became well past due, she fixed up our piano and sold it having enough money to pay the past due bill and buy another cheap clunker.  After doing this several times, she noticed that the income from selling pianos was much greater than teaching ... thus the beginning of the piano business.
  Envelope Return address, note 2 digit Zip code

You will notice the two addresses with the Minne Lusa district and the Dundee district (our home and grandparents homes respectively).  Our telephone number was Kenwood or the KE exchange when you placed the call with an operator rather than dialing.  "Studios" was an extreme exaggeration for selling out of your home.  After remarrying, the business was renamed to Eckert Piano Company.

Retail Business on Dodge Street

While creating a successful business, Mom initiated a gray market activity [click here].

Housing During the War
During the war, a series of people lived with us in our little house on 30th street.  Housing was very tight and Mom needed the rental income to make ends meet.  I enjoyed the many people.  Uncle Jesse and Dad created a living space in our attic so that the upstairs could be rented to roomers.  I remember several young ladies rooming up there.  One of them kindly taught me how to "make a bed".  At one point, my Uncle Jesse and Aunt Theodore lived with us.  As a result, their son and my cousin became my constant playmates.  We had many great adventures together and I missed him greatly when they moved to Ft. Wayne, Indiana.  I have a photo taken by our postman with a miniature camera (spy camera?) of Chip and I standing on a porch step.  We tagged along with that postman.
[find and insert photo]
After Chip and his parents moved away, the postman asked, "Where's your brother."   My reply demonstrated some of the confusion resulting from these war time arrangements, "He's not my brother any more.  Now that he's moved away, he's my cousin."
 Stevie, Elaine and Chip (Jesse)

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