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Retirement. Publishers, thank you for the many years of reading pleasure you gave me, but all good things must come to an end. Due to failing eyesight I am forced to retire. I can no longer review your books, and any that you send will be donated to the local library, unread. Do not send any more. I can only read for a couple hours every day, and this does not allow me to finish a book in reasonable time. I will be devoting time to my own books from now on, and reading on a personal level. Books that interest me. I prefer paperbacks and hardbacks, not eBooks. My eyesight has been failing the last few years, and I cannot handle hundreds of review books any more. My books are still available for review. Anyone interested in reviewing any of them, they are found in the Link to Tom’s Books On Amazon. Contact me for pdf copies at

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hard Times

The above picture was taken of me and my dog, Joe-Boy, after leaving Ohio Street. The Memorial Auditorium is in the background. I am about ten years old in this shot.

When the city was first laid out around the railroad, Ohio Street became the first main street of Wichita Falls, just a half block from the tracks. Buildings that first sprouted up catered to the many businesses that served the needs of the people and the railroad. Many of these businesses were two-story structures, the business on the ground floor and living quarters on the floor above. In the late 1800s, Ohio Street was the main hub of activity. But by the 1940s, it had become a street of bars, winos, and lower class families trying to etch out a living, while the main business district had moved a block away to Indiana Street.
            The apartment where we lived was above a bar owned by an older woman who lived in a nice home at the edge of the city. Her daughter ran the establishment, and lived in the apartment at the top of the stairs. She had a son my age, and we played together and went to the same school. I never knew what had become of my friend's father, but he and his mother were alone - most of the time.
            In 1947, it seemed that everyone was struggling. I don't remember very many of the dwellers, although the Martin family lived across the hall from us. They had two daughters and a son. Their son was a teenager, and rode his bike to Reagan Jr. High every day. I didn't know him very well, but I do remember that bike. It was my duty to go for milk and bread every morning, and at the bottom of the stairs was usually a wino or drunk, passed out from the night before. And I always had to jump over one of them to reach the outside door. My heart would stand still until I was on the sidewalk and safe. I would then pray that the sleeping man would be gone by the time I returned. Sometimes they were, but most of the time they were not, and I would have to climb over them again. It was scary! But when the Martin boy left for school, he rode that bike down those stairs, and made the most awful racket you ever heard as the wheels hit each step. Before he reached the bottom, the doorways would be clear of drunks!
            Another man I remember was a big redheaded fellow. I heard he was recently discharged from the Army. But now he was setting up illegal card and dice games in the rear of businesses along Ohio Street, and staying one step ahead of the law. I don't know if they ever caught him.
            Another product of the Army was an abundance of photographers. There must have been several from Wichita Falls, for we encountered them quite often. Returning from the war in Europe, they had no skills, except for a camera. Some got jobs with studios or the newspaper, but others turned to freelancing, and would approach families in cafes or stores hoping to take their pictures for a little bit of money. The "man on the street" usually worked for a studio. For a while they were tolerated by the businesses, but by the 1950s, I think they were ran off from the downtown district. Later, I would see them in little communities going from door to door, trying to take pictures of families. By the 1950s, they got smart, and a few brought small ponies around, with little cowboy outfits, and talked parents into having their children's pictures taken on the pony!
            But even in the late 1940s, there was a demand for other type photographs. Some of the photographers ended up taking pictures of nude women to sell. My older sister, age 13 or 14 at the time, answered an ad in the newspaper for a babysitter. When she arrived at the house, there was a man who told her he wanted to take her picture, and started undressing her. Just in time, the police broke in the door and arrested him. They had been watching his house ever since he placed the ad in the paper. Evidently, he was a known pervert. I don't know if he was going to take nude photos of my sister, or molest her. But the police warned my mother not to let her answer ads in the paper after that.
            I mentioned my friend and his mother. Every so often my friend would tell me that he had a new father the night before. At the time I didn't understand, as these things were beyond the knowledge of little boys. But the same oddity was happening down the block. We were only a couple buildings down from the Holt Hotel, and around 1950 I started selling newspapers along Ohio Street. I used to sneak into the hotel and go from room to room, knocking on each door, trying to sell newspapers. I often saw older men with younger women, but never thought anything about it. One old man started to run me off, when the young woman told him to buy a paper from me … because they had time. I even ran into my math teacher at the Holt Hotel one morning, and I don't think he was married. He told me not to tell anyone I saw him there. Of course, I didn't understand that, either. I saw just about everyone at the hotel at one time or another. The teacher went on to become the principal of my school. Today, I sometimes wonder who was with him that day, another teacher, the parent of one of his students, or a "friend"?
            Even though the Korean War started in 1950, there was a boon in the economy and jobs opened up. People were moving to the suburbs, and soon there would be TV in just about every home, along with a two-car garage. I'm sure that everyone was glad to see the 1940s come to an end. We moved from Ohio Street, and I left the winos behind. But for some families, life did not change much.
            My dad started drinking more, and we had trouble paying our bills, and never had enough to eat.
            Times were still hard for some.

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