Bill Jackman, who used to live at 4110 Queen Avenue N., has been gone several years now. One of his favorite things was to notice what was going on around him in daily life and write it down. I have written some of his observations before, but keep finding new ones.
For instance, he writes about Brown Photo company. He said, “It started in the Brown’s family house at 4135 Penn Avenue North. There was a dormer on the front of the house facing Penn at the attic level, and that is where the photo business began. The Browns lived in the house below. Years later they moved out to Troy Hills, just east of Highway 100. They were fine people. Course when they started out, cameras were a little different. I can remember people saying, “Watch the birdy!” Like maybe the birdy was going to do what my sister’s pet crow did!
In our area there were many horses, ‘course horses needed help every so often too, like new shoes. Look at the chores they did. There were many blacksmiths in the area and across the street from us lived Martin Ranwick. He had a blacksmith shop in his garage at 4105 Queen. Was one of the neat things in life watchin’ him make horse shoes out of a square rod of steel. He’d heat it on red hot coals until the piece of steel was red hot. Then he’d take his big hammer and work the rod on the anvil and form the horse shoe right in front of my eyes.Then he’d dip it in water and “pffssst,” it was cooled down and ready for the horse’s foot.
Horses had team spirit. They’d get you where you were going, most of the time. Like me, they liked new shoes once a year. It took a good blacksmith to get a proper fitting shoe. Ranwick had muscles of steel and a heart of gold.
When winter came along, the horses pulling delivery trucks called “buckboards” were sliding all over the road, sometimes like me when I had to push the family car when it wouldn’t start. Not too fond of winter. I did make two bits now and then shoveling snow off the neighbor’s sidewalks. A few of my friends went skiing over at Glenwood Park. They had a big ski slide there. I would have broken my neck on that thing!
My favorite time of year was summer. I loved to swim. Had a choice of Crystal Lake, Twin Lake, Camden pool or the Mississippi river. Crystal lake was the closest. The lake bottom dropped deep close to shore so you could swim right away. They had a pretty good bath house, but the one they had first was not so good depending how you looked at it. There were two changing rooms, one for girls and one for boys. The trouble was, the partition didn’t go up high enough, and I heard kids would get up on the benches and look over the top. They said there was a lot of screamin’ going on.
It was nice swimming at the Camden pool. They had lockers and showers. The only problem, I wanted to wash my dirty cloths in the shower but there was no way to dry them.
The place I liked to swim best was under the Camden Bridge in the good old Mississippi. It was only me and the fishes. I would bring a lunch and something for the fishes, and a pocket full of lettuce for the worms which were carried there. I tied my fishing line to my toe so I’d know when they bit. Besides fishing, I could wash my cloths and take a bath. You see, at home on Saturday night I was the last one in the tub without changing the water and by that time, the water was pretty grimy.
If you’re wondering how I got to the river, it was by train. I hiked to the Great Northern tracks north of town and hitched a ride to the bridge. Got home the same way. It sure did help saving shoe leather and my bare feet too.
Another thing the boys and girls did in the summer was work in the farmer’s fields. We were all the same—up to our knees in rich soil. We all kinda smelled the same too. The wage back then was a dollar a day; course to make the wage a little better, you’d snack on the vegetables, just to make sure what you were pickin’ for others tasted good alright.
For variety, I liked to hit the melon patch on the east side of Twin Lake close to where 152, where Brooklyn Boulevard is now. When those melons were ripe, there wasn’t noth’ finer than a good tastin’ watermelon to melt in your mouth. But all good things must come to an end. Farmer got tired of his watermelons walking away and caught me in the act. From a distance he had rock salt in his shotgun. I took off with that salt burning my behind. Learned my lesson. Never took a chance going back there. You didn’t complain when you got home, didn’t need the razor strap to top that burnin’!
Well, that’s enough of what’s going on around the neighborhood for now.”
Note from Barbara Meyer Bistodeau: Taken from the notes of Bill Jackman.