|Across from our home on Elmwood Avenue in Evanston, Illinois.|
Ellen Maurer, more pictures and stories:
Until the last year before her death, a year in which she ran away from home repeatedly, and was in either police or mental health custody much of the time, we were constant companions and co-conspirators. Our parents were constantly drinking and fighting, so we had to make our own world. We funded it in part by appropriating whatever loose change our parents left lying around, which was enough to get loads of candy. (5c for small candy bars, 10c for Mounds and Almond Joy, 12c for Hostess cupcakes.) If we were allowed out of the apartment, we'd set up a picnic at a nearby park. If not, one of us would sneak out of the front door of our apartment, while the other would make some noise to cover the sound. The nearest drugstore (huge candy rack) was half a block away at the corner of Elmwood and Dempster, so chances were good that the designated runner would never be missed. The return was covered with a similar diversionary noise, but as an added security measure, the returning runner didn't try carrying the loot through the door. It had already been placed in a basket lowered by rope from our second-story window.
Baskets and ropes were a theme we repeated when we visited my mother's parents in Stuttgart, Germany. There we didn't need to conceal our games, and the loot was not candy, but baskets full of plums from my grandparents' little orchard. It would have been perfectly easy to fill the baskets and carry them into the house, but much more fun to rig up a rope from a plum tree to the second-story balcony, hang a basket on the rope, and use a second rope to pull the full basket up and slide it back down empty.
To our enormous disappointment, it didn't work. We had no knowledge of how to repair a television but we figured that the vacuum tubes were the most likely culprits. We checked each of the fifteen tubes, one at a time, going to the same drugstore that supplied our candy habit and using their tube-testing console, and carefully noting the numbers of the faulty tubes. I blush to admit that we shoplifted the replacement tubes from an electronics store a little further up Dempster Street. I'd like to believe that we weren't personally the reason that this store is no longer in business.
(I need to report here that I did eventually grow out of that shoplifting phase!)
Finally, we managed to get all the tubes to light up, and a picture appeared on the screen. We then had to figure out why the picture was hopelessly distorted. We noticed the electromagnetic yoke wrapped around the neck of the picture tube, and by moving it around we realized that this yoke was what controlled the beam of electrons that painted images on the front of the tube. We could twist and shift that yoke and either correct the distortion or, if it suited us, we could create all sorts of funny special effects. I now shudder to think how many thousands of volts were going through those wires that we were playing with so happily.
Our parents were amazed that we had figured out how to resurrect the TV, but they rarely let us use it. My being able to watch my favorite program, Superman, depended totally on whether they were too busy fighting to notice.
In short, our family life was chaos (unpredictable cycles of total neglect, alternating with strict discipline enforced by beatings with a hardwood crib railing) but we coped. At school, Ellen was brilliant. She was allowed to skip second grade, so at school we were only one year apart rather than the two years of our age difference. During her last two years of life, she wrote two short novels and a stream of song lyrics to match the Motown sound she loved so much. I have no idea what happened to all those manuscripts, but I cherish the letters she wrote to me from her times of incarceration in Chicago. I miss her fierce energy and fertile imagination, and can't help wonder what she would have given the world if a sawed-off shotgun had not ended her life.
Indulge me! Here are two more photos from those recent scans:
|Reading about the Winter Olympics.|
|Putting together a science kit. (Such family scenes were very rare, but maybe we learned skills for our TV repairs!)|
Friends United Meeting offers two opportunities to visit Cuba. November 2015. January-February 2016.
Reserving comment for another time, but I couldn't pass up this item: 53% of Americans feel that God has a 'special relationship' with our country.
The strange story of Kendrick White. The Guardian. The Moscow Times. Interestingly, the Russian-language coverage of this story that I've seen has been very positive toward White, compared to the neutral tone of these English-language articles. Friday update: White returns, expresses optimism.
Blues dessert: B.B. Queen....