My parents moved often all their lives, I guess; I mentioned this to my sister, who is sixteen years older than I, and she remarked how awful it was to always be the new kid in a strange school. Mother seemed to love moving into a rental house, cleaning it up, painting woodwork, and wallpapering every room.
Then we'd move on to the next challenge, and she'd do it all again.
We must have moved briefly to Harlem at some previous time, because I remember attending a little school there that was long-gone in 1956 when we moved back. Those are bad memories, whenever it was: I was advanced a grade (evidently my one-room school teachers in Iowa had done their job well), and math suddenly became Greek to me. I hid under a desk once, hoping the teacher wouldn't call on me. Some little boy kept trading sandwiches with me there against my will, at lunch. He always brought peanut butter, and I hated peanut butter. I have no recollection of where we lived at that time, only the awful school, where I never made a single friend. It seems like this was second or third grade. I do know the time was brief, thank God.
There was an area of Harlem where people lived in old city busses converted into houses. Seriously! Uncle Cecil lived in one of those, at some time in my memory, with his brood.
But when we moved to Harlem in 1956, we moved into a three-room upstairs apartment in a four-apartment building that had once been a mom-and-pop grocery store. Uncle Cecil and his family lived in one of the downstairs apartments, and Uncle Clifford, Aunt Mable, and Alice were directly beneath us. All four apartments shared one bathroom, which consisted of a sink and a bathroom stool.
Primitive and crowded? Yes, but it was the first time we'd ever had an inside bathroom or running water (only cold water, but still...). I had been allowed to bring Pinky, one of the farm cats, with me when we moved, and I taught her a few tricks, believe it or not. She eventually disappeared, as is the way of cats turned loose on city streets.
Our landlords had a two-story rental house up the street, and when that became available, we moved there. Back to an outhouse again, but only briefly.
Across the road, a shack of a house went up for sale, and my parents, who had never been home-owners in their lives, bought it.
Now we had hot running water, and a bathtub! I remember taking hour-long baths with bubbles heaped up around me a foot high, just like on the commercials. (Get that Zest glow from head to toe. That must have been a great commercial, because I've been using Zest ever since... some fifty years.)
This is a house that holds fond memories for me. The pictures in my previous entry were taken when we lived there. I had my own huge bedroom, which I pretended was an apartment; the walls were plastered with pictures of Elvis, Fabian, Ricky Nelson, and Conway Twitty... all carefully removed from Photoplay Magazine. My hi-fi record player and a pink, plastic radio (with conelrad stations marked on the dial) were in heavy use. WHB was my station of choice.
I attended school at McElroy Dagg, part of the North Kansas City school district, and I made friends there.
Sometimes tramps came knocking on our door in Harlem, and if Mother was home, she'd pour them a glass of milk and make them a sandwich. They'd sit on the front porch and eat, then be gone. When Mother got a job, I wasn't to unlock the door to them, so I had to turn them away, and they finally stopped coming around.
My parents sold the Harlem house, which gave them the down payment on a much nicer place in Kansas City, North. It was a cheap, pre-fab house, but I felt like we had a mansion. It was practically new! Crestview, our subdivision, was a predominantly Catholic neighborhood because of its close proximity to St. Pius X school, and back then Catholics still had large families. So I had plenty of baby-sitting jobs.
That house was also in the North Kansas City School district, and that's where we lived when I graduated.