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Joyce Family History - Detroit, Michigan

Stories of the Joyce Family

Autobiography of Bertha Joyce
Stories of the Joyce Family
Obituary article




of the

Joyce Family


By: The children of William & Bertha Joyce


Transcribed & Edited  by David Smith


Copyright 2005











Editor’s Preface


This collection of stories from the children of William and Bertha Joyce was collected at a family reunion in Midland, Michigan in the summer of 2002.  Interviews were conducted by David Smith and recorded on tape.  The interviews were later transcribed into this book.


The rationale behind providing this section of stories is as follows:  I began interviewing my Grandmother, Bertha Joyce, in 1997.  I made a tape of the interviews and transcribed them onto paper.  I never completely finished the interviews.  I had initially planned on having her tell me her personal history from her early days up to the present.  We only got as far as 1960.  I always intended to continue the interviews.  In 2000, she suffered a stroke.  After that, her memory was not good enough to do the interviews. 


I had also wanted to do a biography of my grandfather, William Joyce, to accompany his wife’s autobiography.  I felt that this would have been a difficult task, since he died in 1979.  Then I came up with the idea of doing this book of stories.  I felt that it would help to fill the gap in my grandmother’s autobiography and the lack of a biography of my grandfather. 


The Joyce family has many good stories to tell.  Many of them are from when they were growing up.  Growing up in tight-knit family of twelve with two blind parents seems to promote interesting and amusing situations.   Many of the stories in this book I had already heard, before the interviews, and some I had not.  I found it very interesting that the same stories turn up in different interviews with different people, but the story is sometimes changed or altered.  I don’t think these are inaccuracies or forgetfulness, but rather, different points of view of the same story.  I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have enjoyed hearing them.


-David Smith, July 2005




Recorded July 31, 2002.  Interview with Barb Howson.  Patricia Smith and Margaret Johnson joined later.


How Dad got Mom

Barb:  One of the things I remember was having breakfast at the table.  Dad would tell us how he got Mother, and that she was the fastest runner he ever saw.  And when he was trying to date her, all these other guys were always running after her.  But usually it was him and Clem Cadilohopper.  Sometimes Clem Cadilohopper would get in the lead, but my Dad would beat him out, and that is how he got Mother.



Barb: My Dad always liked to put a lot of salt on things.  I wanted to be like him, so I always put a lot of salt on stuff.  Every day when he was at the kitchen table  while we were eating, he’d do this giant stretch. 


When I was in first grade, I got a C in citizenship.  I didn’t know why I would get a C in citizenship.  My Mother went with me to school  to talk to the teacher to find out why I got a C.  She said it was because I was always playing airplane in the back of the room.  And what I was really doing was my Dad’s stretch.  I just thought it was the coolest thing in the world, so at different times I would just stretch.  She never talked to me or said not to do it.


Daddy’s Christmas Ritual

Barb: Any time we had Christmas or Easter, we always had the door shut to the front room.  Many times in the night, when I was sleeping, and I thought I heard the reindeer, because we knew we’d better get to sleep fast if we’d see them we’d be in trouble.  On those mornings we’d come down for breakfast, and of course we’d go to church first.  And we weren’t aloud to peak.  Dad would always say, “I don’t think he  came this year, I didn’t hear anything.  I don’t think he came.”  And it would drive us crazy.  On those mornings he would always be the slowest eater in the world.  And he’d always want second helpings (while we were all dying).  And he’d say, “Oh Bert, I’ll have another cup of coffee, some more eggs.” And we were all going crazy.


Marge: I remember one time when Bobby was little, and Daddy was going through this ritual.  And Bobby screamed out, “Dad! Don’t you want to see the presents!?”


Barb: I remember one of our gifts which we didn’t find until the end, was a tape recorder.  When Dad finally played it, it was total chaos.  You couldn’t understand a single thing.


Marge: And every once in a while you’d hear Mother say, “Oh, boy!”


Heath Bars

Barb: Also, there was one time for a while, Mother use to have us come home at lunch.  And she got us into this routine where we’d clean up the house at lunch time.  We’d come for lunch, clean it up, watch a little bit of Soupy Sales, and she’d give us each half of a Heath bar (which I actually thought was a health bar).  I thought, this tastes very good for a health bar, and I’m very glad it’s a health bar.


Marge: I thought that too.


Mother yells

Barb: When Pat was in Fifth grade and I was in Third, it shows how amazing Mother was, one time Mother yelled at us. And Pat and I had this serious conversation with her, about how Mothers do not yell at there kids, and that she shouldn’t yell at us, because Mothers should not yell at their kids.


Pat: Well, she never had yelled at us.


Barb: No, that was the amazing part was that she never had yelled at us.  It was not that big of a thing, but she had never yelled at us, so we were shocked.  I remember when we said that, she made us write down that when we were Mothers, we would never yell at our kids, and she made us sign it.


Mother’s wedding pictures

Pat: When I was three years old and Barb was 18 months, and my parents went out, Barb and I got into their wedding pictures.  We were looking at their wedding pictures.  By the time they got home, much to my surprise, we had destroyed most of them, just looking at them. 


Barb: They were all torn up.  Probably my looking was pretty basic there.


Pat:  There was somebody (watching us) downstairs.  We went into Mother’s bedroom and were looking at the pictures.  And Mother said, “Oh no! Bill . . . . .”  And Daddy said, “What’s wrong?” And she said, “The wedding pictures . . .”  He came in and started yelling a little bit.  And she said, “Oh Bill . . . I can’t believe it.  He started to get upset, but she said, “Bill, they’re just little kids.  They didn’t know what they were doing.”  And I was shocked, because I thought we were just looking at them.


Barb: Which can happen with little kids.  And you don’t realize you’re doing it.


I remember loving to go into the attic (at Newport, before they changed it into a room) and find like letters to Mother and Daddy, and pictures.  Mother would send me up there to get something, and I would just get fascinated by all their stuff.  I’d rummage through and find letters and pictures.


Daddy’s proposition

Marge: Something that I didn’t know, was that when Daddy proposed to Mother, he actually made a record, and he sang on it.  He may have even made it up, I’m not sure.  That was the way he proposed to her.


Wes Freid

Barb: Another thing Mother told me was kind of funny.  Who was the guy that liked her a lot?  There was Harry Hunter and that other guy.  Wes Freid.  Mother and Dad were in this drama club.  He asked Mother to go out.  This was before Mother and Daddy were going out.  Mother said, “Wes, I like you and you are a good friend.  But it wouldn’t be fair for me to go out with you, because I’m really in love with someone else.”  She told him that she really liked Daddy.  So Wes went and told Daddy, “Hey, did you know Bert Dewey is in love with you?”  So Daddy came over to Mother one day at the drama club and said, “Hey, I hear you’re in love with me.”  She was embarrassed.  She had just told Wes in confidence, and Daddy was laughing because he was happy.


Daddy’s Stories

Marge: Daddy used to tell us these stories of how he got Mother.  One was how he was on his horse, and all these other men were chasing Mother.  I pictured her running away, down the road, while all these men on horseback were running after her.  And he sweeps her up!


Pat: Daddy used to tell us stories all the time.  One time we were in the bus, and he told me that he was a Martian, and that he had an eye in the back of his head.  And he’d say, “You see that guy over there, He’s another Martian!” 


Barb:  Remember when we would be walking with him, he would always say we were rambling.  We’d say it was cold.  He’d say, “You think this is cold?  You should have been in the Yukon!”  We walked to grandmas and we’d pass all the street signs, and he would make up stories using all the street names.


Daddy’s Ethical Question

Pat: I remember when I was learning the Ten Commandments and he was quizzing me on it.  Then he gave me an ethical question: “Now Pat, do you think it’s all right to steal if this, this and this.” And I said, “No, its never all right to steal.  Then he said, “Well what if this, this and this.” And he starts arguing with me a little  bit.  By the time he got done I said, “Well, I think you’re right, I think it’s OK to steal if you do this this and this.”  And then he takes the other side.  And he argued the other side.  Then I was totally confused and I didn’t know which side I believed. 



Marge: He was also a wonderful singer.


Pat:  He sang every morning taking shower and in the car.


Marge: He just sang such great songs, and some of them were so moving. 


Pat: I’d do requests.  “Could you sing, Won’t you ride in my little red wagon.”  And then there were several country songs that had a story to them. 


Marge: A lot of times, when he went to weddings, he’d get everyone around him to start swinging.  He did that at Michael’s wedding.  Lots of people there were singing those Irish songs.  I really felt bad after he died that we’d never recorded him.  But you don’t think of that.  He sang every day.  He really did have a wonderful voice.  He also played many instruments.  He played the piano, accordion, harmonica, flute, and violin. 


Daddy’s Recall

Marge: I’ll tell you one thing about him that was very amazing to me.  This was after I was married.  We had come back to Michigan after living in Germany.  I was working a Wayne State University for a Gerantologist, trying to help him organize millions of articles.  As I went through them, if I found one interesting, I’d make a copy and send it to Mother and Daddy.  When I came by the house once, I saw he had one of my articles there.  I asked, “Has anyone read these to you.”  Daddy said, “Someone read them to me.”  But Mother had heard them, and I wanted to read them anyways, so I started to read this article.  And line for line, before I said it, he would say it.  He said, I’m just testing my recall.  I thought, wow, that is incredible.  I just never realized the extent to which he had trained himself.  It was amazing. 


Pat: Well, he went through law school with someone just reading to him.  Those law school books are tough.  I was in college reading some to him and wondering, how can he even understand this? 


Marge: What was amazing too, was that stuff like Law, he really liked it.  Kathy was saying that at one time he was working on putting together annotations of all the Michigan cases.  He was spending a lot of his free time on it.  At on point, Mother told him, “I didn’t marry you so that I could raise these kids by myself.”  And he made a decision then, and he just stopped it.


Working to much

Barb:  Mother told me that at times, with all these kids, that Daddy thought about getting a second job.  She said, “No, you need to be here with us.”  I thought this was funny, because when she was going with Andy, she found out that he was doing his farm and a job at the same time.  She said, “If you weren’t doing those two jobs, you’d probably still be married today.  You shouldn’t have been doing that.  You should have been home with your family, not doing that.  Its not that important, you don’t need the money that bad.”


Mother’s games

Marge: I was talking to Pat about when we were little.  There were really some things that Mother did.  I think the playing with us.   I remember the row, row, row your boat stuff.  She actually played with us.  “We went to the animal fair.”  Also her gardening is a real strong memory for me.  Her rose bushes and lilies of the valley were very pretty.


Barb:  I remember Pat was going to school, and I was four and I wanted to go to school so bad.  I talked to Mother about it.  She said I could go when I was five.  I remember for a long time, I would ask her, “Am I five yet?” “No you’ll be five pretty soon.” “Am I five yet?”  “No you’ll be five pretty soon.”  I remember thinking, this is ridiculous, she keeps saying its coming up, but its not coming.  Then of course, I turned five.



Pat: I remember Marge coming home from the hospital.  My big disappointment in the baby was the poop in the diapers.  I thought, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t realize this occurred”  We used to have to  have to wash the diapers in the toilet.


Barb: Sometimes you’d just flush them down.  Or they’d get away from you, they were so disgusting.


Pat: Remember when the twins and Marge got poop all over the crib?


Barb: I remember a couple of times they did poop sometimes, and they did Vaseline.  I remember Pat and I decided to disappear.  We’d go into the room and see what you guys did and it was so depressing that we would go to the furthest corner of the house and wouldn’t be able to hear when Mother and Daddy were calling for us.  It was disgusting.  Can you imagine Vaseline or poop all over everything in the world.  And they would like play in it.  Everything was covered from head to toe.  “Oh God!  Let’s get out of here!”


I also remember when Bill and Mike were twins.  Bill could walk much faster than Mike.  Bill would get up and walk right on top of Mike in the crib.


Dan cleans a room

There was the day that Dan cleaned the play room out.  Dan was always a very meticulous kid.  Mother gave Dan the play room to clean.  Dan was in there cleaning.  A neighbor came to the door and asked, “Are you moving?”  We said no.  “Well, there is a huge pile of stuff outside the bedroom window.”  Dan had taken everything that  could move and put it out the window.  The shelves were empty.  Everything was out that window.  Dan’s mind was very ordered.  I think he looked at that room and said the only way to do this is just to get it all out of here.  There is no way it can be organized.


Marge: I often wonder, how did we get Dan and Jim.


Pat: Dan was amazing because he was in with Bill and Mike in the boys bedroom.


Barb:  Dan was the only one growing up who had that gene in him.  He always had his neat little tidy space.


Marge: And total chaos.


Barb: Actually Marge has some of that in her.


Pat: Dan was amazing because of where he was staying.  Dirty socks in with the clean socks, everything all over the floor, you would go into the room and it smelled bad.  Then you’d open Dan’s little drawer and everything was perfect and folded.


Marge: And you remember the other boys wanted to paint the room black so you couldn’t see the dirt?  It was so disgusting, you couldn’t stand to go into that boys room.


Playing upstairs

Barb: Remember Aunt Lottie who came over to iron, who we loved.  When we were young, Mother would have her yell up to us, because we were always playing, “You kids need to be quiet and take a nap”  And we would listen for two seconds and then go back to playing.  I remember Daddy used to, while we were supposed to be going to sleep, sneak up the stairs, listen to our conversation, sneak back down.  Then he would come back up, clomp, clomp clomp! “Who’s awake up there?”  Nobody was awake, we were all sound asleep.  Then he’d repeat back our whole conversation to us.  I remember this one time, because I only got spanked a couple times in my life.  This one time, Pat, Marge and I were in the bedroom.  I was chasing Marge, pretending that I had a booger on my finger.  We had two big double beds, and Pat was sitting there and laughing.  And I was pretending with Marge and we were jumping off the beds and racing around.  Then Daddy came up.  “What were you guys doing?”  Pat was just sitting their laughing and Marge and I got spanked.


I remember one Christmas morning.  I woke up at four in the morning.  Pat came up, and Mother and Dad came up and said, its not morning yet, go back to sleep.  I thought, Oh yeah, every school day when I’m supposed to get up, I can’t get up.  But the morning when I’m supposed to sleep I wake up at four.  I found out a few years later that the thing had crashed.


The Easter Bunny

Barb: One night before Easter, I was walking to the store with Mike.  Mike was telling me that he didn’t think he believed in the Easter Bunny anymore.  So I went through this gigantic thing.  “Now Mike, you know there is an Easter bunny, there’s eggs and baskets.”  I like worked all the way to the store and back.  I had convinced him.  At the end he said, “I guess there is an Easter bunny.”  That night we were up doing eggs, and there is Mike doing eggs and candy with us.  I was so mad, and I looked at him, and he just smiled.


Marge:  It’s amazing what you are not aware of as a kid. I always remember the teacher coming to me in first grade, telling me I was talking.  I never knew I was talking.


Barb:  Do you remember Ricky Palmer who would always get in trouble.  They were always yelling at him and picking on him for everything.  For some reason when we went outside he would pick me up in the air.


Marge: I was telling Pat, I remember going principals office, getting hit with the ruler.

Pat & Marge

Recorded July 31, 2002.  Patricia and Margaret were present.



Marge: One of my interesting stories has to do with the fact that I felt that I always got caught at everything I did that wasn’t right.  Just one example of this: Many of us were out playing.  We were never supposed to be playing.  We were supposed to be working. But we found many opportunities to play.


Pat: Mother never knew who she gave the job to.  She would give out the jobs and then forget who she gave them to.


Marge: I always felt that when we were playing, we were doing something wrong probably.  We were all outside playing and my father came and called for people.  We very quietly snuck through the door through the kitchen.  Everybody in front of me,  (actually Daddy was standing with his arm over the door)  everybody in front of me snuck through without so much as a movement.  As I went through, clunk! Down came his arm, right on top of me.  “Who is that?”  “Nobody” 


Marge’s song

Pat: Do you remember the song we made up.


Marge: I hated that song.  Kathy told me she loves that song.  I said, “That is not a song.  That’s a song Pat and Barb made up to torture me.”


Pat: It was:

                             My name is Margaret,

                             And Margaret means a pearl,

                             And this is the story,

                             Of when I was a girl.


Marge: That was the refrain.  It was sung to the tune of the Wabash Cannonball.  And then they made up  derogatory verses, as I recall.  They of course, thought they were very humorous and talented.


Pat: We did.  We just laughed at it ourselves.


Marge: They were wrong though.





The Salvation Army

Pat: I remember going to the Salvation Army many times with Dad.  We’d always go find all the old books and records.


Marge: I have to say something funny about that.  It wasn’t until I was older that I realized he was buying those books for us. I always thought, he loves books, and we’d go to the book store or the salvation army.  We always had a ton of books, and I was reading them.  It never really occurred to me that he was buying those books for us.  But I thought, he couldn’t really be reading them.


Dad’s questions

Pat: My Dad’s eyes looked very normal. We all suspected he was pretending to be blind, just so he could catch us.


Marge: Not only that, he was very sneaky and clever.  He would always catch you at everything.  He wouldn’t even ask you about something, unless he actually knew what you had done already.


Pat: And then he’d ask you in a round about way.  He’d ask you innocent sounding questions, and then he’d ask you, “Did you do this?” “Nope”  Now I never got caught, because I didn’t lie, but I listened to him many times catching the boys in their lies.  It was like, “So you never did this?” “Nope”  And then he’d ask a few more questions.  Then he’d say, “Well, if you never did this, then how does it happen that, this, this and this happened.”  All of a sudden, I and everyone else who was listening realized that the boys had trapped themselves.  And there was no way out of it.  They had answered all of his many questions which had seemed totally unrelated to what was going on.


Marge: And totally innocent, like he didn’t know a thing.  When he knew everything.


All I can remember was that Mike was never a good liar.  Mike always told fantastic lies.


Pat:  They were just outlandish lies, where anybody would think, “Now this is just a tough one to believe.”


Marge:  The best lies are the half truths really.  The ones that have these little pieces of truth that they are hanging on to.  With Mike, there was no truth.  Even thinking that what he said could have possibly happened was usually pretty far fetched.


Bill and candy

Marge: Bill was kind of a pack rat.  He would go down the alley and find “good junk” as he said.  His room was filled with good junk.  Bill was also the one with the worst sweet tooth.  He could always smell out candy no matter who it was.  We didn’t even know Mother had any.


Pat: Even after he got married he still had a sweet tooth. He was still hiding candy.


Marge: We never even knew Mother had candy, for the most part. 


Pat: She’d put it in her bedroom and lock the door.


Marge: Bill would find it!


Pat: And he’d get in there.


Marge: And of course, if there was candy, and if it was taken, we all knew who had taken it.  It was Bill, of course.  But Mother didn’t know.  This one time, somebody had taken her candy bars.  She didn’t know who it was, and no one would admit to it.  I think this was with the younger kids.   I don’t think me you or Barb were in on that.  She said they couldn’t do something, or even come downstairs, until she knew who did it.  So Bill had all the little kids up in his room.  One of his pieces of good junk was an old transformer from a train set.  I think he had Mike working on this with him.  He had Mike plugging it in. He told the little kids this was a lie detector.  He asked Sally, “Did you take the candy?” “No” (She was very little)  Mike would plug it in and it would buzz.  “The lie detector says you did.”  She’s like, “I don’t remember taking it.”  So he said, “Well, you better go tell Mother, because the lie detector says you did it.”  (I think it was Jan, I had thought it was Sal.)  She went down the stairs and she told Mother that she had taken the candy, and Mother didn’t believe her.  Mother said, “If you took the candy, then where are the wrappers?”  And Bill whispered to her, “Behind the couch.” 


Pat: No actually, it was behind the radiator in Dad’s bedroom.


Marge: But Bill whispered it.


Pat: And Jan still didn’t realize it.


Sally and Jim and the boxer shorts

Marge: Sally was telling Mother a story about how her and Jim had these huge pair of boxer shorts from Art from next door.  And both of them were in these shorts.  And of course, they were supposed to be cleaning.  We were always supposed to be cleaning.  But instead, the two of them fit into these huge boxer shorts. And Mother called them, and the two of them started to run.  And they fell in the boxer shorts. And Sally started laughing hysterically, as she tends to do.  And Mother got more upset.  The more Sally laughed, the more upset Mother got.  So she and Jim got stuck between the refrigerator and the stove.  They had fallen down in these shorts. And Sally was actually at the bottom, and Jim at the top.  But Mother didn’t know there were two of them.  She  only knew Sally was laughing.  She comes over and starts beating on Jim.  She said, “Stop laughing Sally!”  Finally Jan pulled the two of them by their legs out.  When Sally gets like that, she can’t stop. That happens sometimes, the more you feel like you better stop, the more you can’t stop. 


Mother’s advice about Dad

Pat:  You should probably tell the story about Mother’s advice to you about Dad.


Marge: Oh yeah, that was actually a good thing.  I was about twelve.  I had many, many.  I thought I was dying actually.  I had a lump on the back of my neck, so I thought it was cancer of course.  And I kept it to myself for a while, feeling sorry for myself.  I finally told Mother, and she felt it.  Sure enough, I had a lump there.  So she took me to children’s hospital.  It was Doctor Blonde.  I was very embarrassed to be going to him a twelve.  He didn’t’ tell me anything.  He had me stay there while he told Mother something.  I was taking Mother on the bus to go home.  As we were at the bus stop she said, “The doctor said there was nothing wrong with you.  That is a lymph gland.”  She said, “I think there is something wrong – Your relationship with your father.  I think there is something you can do about it.”  Her suggestion was, that I start kissing her goodnight.  Frankly, I had not kissed or hugged my father for as long as I could remember.


Pat: On the other hand, I kissed and hugged him all the time.  So did Barb.


Marge: I hadn’t.  I couldn’t remember any time when there was a loving interaction between him and me.  This seemed preposterous to me.  But she kept talking to me about it, not really pushy, she just talked to me about it.  She thought that would be a good thing.  I think I was just so moved that she talked to me about what she thought was wrong and what she thought could be done.  Her manner was so nice.  I told her I’d go ahead and try doing that.  I remember the first night I tried doing that.  I went into their bedroom and I kissed her goodnight and I went over to Daddy and gave him a little kiss on the cheek, and then I left.  And as I was leaving he says, “What’s the matter with her?”  And Mother says, “Nothing”


Pat: Just following orders.


Marge:  So she encouraged me to continue that, and somehow our relationship did change, and became very good actually, much to my amazement.  I remember when we were in New York with Mike’s wedding.  There was a point there when I was with Daddy by myself.  He kind of surprised me, he said, “You know, I feel like my life’s work is pretty much done.  I feel like all my kids are good people, pretty independent, and I think they can do OK in life.”  I realized then that that was what he thought was his life’s work was raising his children.  He also told me, “Can you imagine, your Mother once thought that you were going to grow up hating me.”  I said, “Well, I remember those days.”  It was neat that he thought that, a lot of men don’t.


Pat: Once you got to know him, he was very emotional and extremely involved with his kids.  More like a Mother would be actually, he was very involved.


Marge:  Actually, that’s kind of an interesting thing. I have always been attracted to emotional men.  It’s probably partly because of that.  Steve is, and Kirk is.  That trip out to New York was kind of fun.


Marge in school

Pat: Now we can tell the story about Marge in school.  Marge’s two older sisters had a problem ever saying a word in school, they were so quiet.  And then came Marge.  And the teachers had the totally opposite complaint.


Marge: You know, I’ll tell you.  They did always complain.  I think I must have been talking to myself because I never realized I was talking.  It was really weird.  I was in the first grade. 


Pat: We were all in shock.  Somebody in our family got caught for talking to much. Usually the teachers were saying, “I wish they’d talk a little, they never say a word.”


Marge: I was always going to the principles office, I got some burning stuff put on my tongue, I got tape.  It was to help you to remember to stop talking in school.  Of course, I didn’t even realize I was talking so that was pretty tough to remember. I remember in class when the teacher would say something, I was totally shocked. “What? I was talking?” 


Actually, I remember another thing.  I think I was in second or third grade, and I got a D in Art.  I had no idea what Art was.  I asked Pat (who knew everything) and she said, “I think that’s like sitting up straight.”  I thought, how can I get a D in that?”  I was just broken hearted, and I went home, and I had this D to present to Mother.  I really felt terrible.  Mother said, “Oh its not so bad.”  And she gave me a pair of roller skates.  That’s where I got my roller skates.  I never did quite figure the whole thing out.


Pat did a couple of funny things.


Craig: Probably Pat was trying to get you to sit up straight.


Pat: I probably thought, well, it’s nothing that I can think of.  It’s probably just how you sit.  Our teacher was probably trying to get people to sit up straight.


Pat’s D

Marge: I’ll tell you another thing that was really funny.  It was still at St. John’s as I recall.  I think you must have been in fifth grade.  Was that a tough grade?


Pat: Sister Stanislaus.


Marge: That was it!  Pat had this teacher that everyone feared.


Pat: Her reputation preceded her by years.  Everyone had heard how mean she was.


Marge: No one wanted to get this teacher.  What I remember is this one time you came to me and Barb and said, “I have this terrible test tomorrow, you have to pray.”  So Barb and I, all night long, we prayed for your test.  As soon as one of us started falling asleep, we’d say, “We can’t go to sleep, we have to pray for Pat.”  I remember Mother coming in the room in the morning and she said, “Is anyone awake here?”  We hated to admit that we were still awake, because then we had to let the dog out.  I thought later, that was pretty amazing what we did for Pat.


Pat: That was when I got a D.  My one D in all of school, Geography with Sister Stanislaus.


Marge: But, not because we prayed.


Pat: No, not because of that.  I didn’t know why I got a D.  Sister Stanislaus always used to say to us, “Now you people back there that are talking and fooling around, don’t bring your parents to me when you get a D in my class!”  Much to my shock, I got a D.  I could not believe it.  I never got a D.  I always got all A’s and Bs.  I was trying to remember, when did I talk in her class.  I couldn’t remember.  So when I got home, Mother said, “We’re going to go to the convent and talk to Sister Stanislaus.”  I thought, she is going to say, “OK Pat, tell your Mother why you got that D.”  And I didn’t know.  I cried, I pleaded, I begged. “Please, Idon’t want to go see Sister Stanislaus!  Please,  take somebody else!”  “Nope, you’re coming with me.”  All the way to the convent I cried, asking her not to take me.  We get to the convent and Sister Stanislaus comes out (very friendly) “Oh, hi Pat, how are you doing?”  “OK”  And she says, “Why don’t you just sit here and I’m going to take your Mother into another room.”  She goes in another room with Mother. I’m sitting there waiting, wondering what’s going on.  She comes out and says, “See you tomorrow Pat!”  We walk out the door, and I said, “What did she say?”  “She said you’re doing fine.”  I’m thinking in my mind, “I’m doing fine and I got a D?”  So I thought, “I’m not going to say anything more about this.  If Mother is not going to get mad at me, fine.”  It wasn’t until I was in practice as a pediatrician, and I thought about it again.  All the time I thought, I must have talked, and I just couldn’t remember it.  I looked back and I thought, I was so terrified of that teacher, and I know I didn’t say anything in her class.  I called Mother up and I said, “Mother, why did I get a D in Geography in fifth grade?”  She said, “Well Pat, that was when I had my corneal transplant.  After we came home from the hospital and we realized that I had lost all my vision.  None of the other kids were affected, but you cried every night for a whole week, and you had a lot of trouble sleeping.  I think that’s what it was.”  (The interesting thing was, had she told me at the time that that was the reason that I got a D, I would have thought, “Mother cannot accept that I got a D, she has to make up an excuse for me.”  I would think that was totally unrelated to getting a D in class.  How can she even think there is a connection there. Luckily she didn’t tell me until I could understand the connection.  I didn’t understand it at the time.)





Mother’s garden

Marge: Another thing I remember about Mother when we were little, and I was thinking about this, that the little kids wouldn’t know about this, because it was before she was (totally) blind.  Remember how she used to garden a lot, she had all those beautiful flowers? 


Pat: Right.  We all helped her.


Marge: And she really liked gardening.  And I loved taking the flowers to school.  The little kids never knew that.



Pat: I remember after she had six kids, and I had seen other people’s parents, I thought, “I can’t believe I have such a wonderful Mother.  I have never seen a Mother who doesn’t yell, doesn’t get upset ever, is cheerful, and has fun with her kids.”  She would play games, she enjoyed everything. 


Marge: She played a lot of games with us.


Pat: It wasn’t until six kids, it was like with the seventh kid, was like the straw that broke the camels back.  I remember telling her, “I am so glad I have you for a Mother.  Ive never seen a Mother that is as nice as you.”  I realized afterwards, when you’re stuck in the house with a lot of work, lot of kids, it finally got to her.  Plus, losing her vision, and we moved were also a lot of stress on her.


Pat in school

I remember in fourth grade, I had Mrs. O’Keefe, one of my favourite teachers.  We switched rooms and  went to another room.  I did this myself.  I would never have believed I could do this.  Apparently, while the teacher was talking, someone left a crayon on the desk.  I scribbled all over the desk with a crayon. I didn’t even realize I did it.


Marge: You see what I mean?


Pat: Yeah.  I went back to Mrs. O’Keefe’s room, and somebody from the other teacher’s room came in and talked to Mrs. O’Keefe.  She said, “Pat, the desk you were sitting in the last period is scribbled all over the desk with crayon.”  I thought about it, and I realized, there was that crayon there, I must have done it.  All of a sudden I realized I must have done it, I didn’t realize I was doing it at the time.  The other teacher said, “Tell her she has to have that desk cleaned off by the time lunch is over.”  I went home in tears.  I was like, “How am I going to do this, I have no idea what to use to wash it off.”  I told Mother.  Mother took a crayon, scribbled all over her coffee table, and tried every cleaner she had in the cupboard.  She finally found one that took it off.  She went back to school with me, washed off the desk, and that was it.  I thought, most parents would say, “Why weren’t you thinking what you were doing.”  And they would give you a little talk.  Mother didn’t say anything.  Of course I was crying profusely.


Marge: There wasn’t much talking she could do.


Pat: Right.  I mean, anything I did that wasn’t perfect I just about died about.  An then one time I cheated in school.  I was in Mrs. Ward’s class, in sixth grade.  She was Mrs. O’Keefe’s daughter.  Part of why I hated it was that she was Mrs. O’Keefe’s daughter, and if Mrs. O’Keefe heard that I had cheated, it would just devastate me.  What happened was we were supposed to do a history assignment over the weekend and I had totally forgot about it, just answering questions at the end of the chapter.  We had like a class before history, and I had done all the work in it already.  Somebody asked me, “Did you do those history questions?”  And I realized, Oh my gosh, I didn’t do any of them.  I started to look them up and do them and I realized there was so many that I wouldn’t have time to finish it.  I asked my friend Cindy, “Did you do those questions?”  And she said “Yeah”, I said, “Could I just copy them down?” And she said, “Yeah.”  It was just looking it up, it wasn’t like a test.  I never thought of it as cheating.  We get in the next room where we were supposed to turn them in right away.  Somebody went  up to Mrs. Ward and told, but they used the names of one of the worst students in the class.  “So and so copied their answers off of Cindy Mitchell.”  So Mrs. Ward called the student up and started talking to her.  That’s when I started feeling a little bit guilty.  So then, later on in the day, Mrs. Ward calls me and Cindy Mitchell out in the hall.  She said, “One of you copied the answers from the other.  I want you to tell me who did it.”  Cindy wouldn’t say a word, so I told her I did it.  The whole rest of the year, I always thought she looked at me like, oh what a cheat.  I could never look Mrs. Ward in the eye again.  And I avoided Mrs. O’Keefe, thinking she had heard what a rotten person I was.


Using our money

Marge: You remember Mother used to give us allowances.  We had to keep them in our bank and we didn’t get to spend them.  Well there was one time, we had at school, there were some little chances you could buy.  Barb and I wanted to buy some.  We found the key so that we could break into our banks.  So we took our own money.  Well Barb, and I never could understand this, was filled with remorse and guilt.  She went to Mother and she was all upset because she had taken her money from her bank and bought these things.  Then Mother came to me and she wants to know why I wasn’t so filled with remorse.  I was like, “It’s my money, what’s the big deal?”


Reading at night

Pat: Speaking of being filled with remorse.  I loved to read.  I’d start a book, and then it would be time to go to bed.  It was very tough to put it down.  I’d end up taking a flashlight to bed, and staying up reading, finally finishing the book about 2 am.  Then I’d try to go to sleep, and I would lay there feeling extremely guilty. “Oh, you snuck again.  Your sneaking around, your not honest.  Mother thought you were in bed and there you are sneaking.”  Then I would have to go to Mother. “Mother, I’m sorry, I was reading a book in bed.”  Of course, she was sound asleep.  “OK Pat, that’s alright, don’t do it again.”  I would say that this happeed about once a week.  I would pick up a book and I just couldn’t stand the thought of not reading it all.


Marge: We all loved to read.


Mother’s way of assigning chores

Pat: Do you remember Mother, when she gave us a job, she tried to make it interesting.  She made it like a treasure chest hunt.  “OK now, go to the bedroom door, and take ten steps each, twirl around three times, and then hop three hops.”


Marge: Those were great.  Then we’d get our chore and then we’d do it.


Pat: Well, we didn’t always do it, but it was a fun way of getting the chore.


Marge: Usually we did it though . . .


Pat: I was thinking about it.  This is when I was old enough to realize why Mother was so ineffective at getting anybody to do any work.  She made it lots of fun to get the chore and then everybody got there chore.  But then she never knew who had the chore.  The next thing you know, we were playing Peter Pan outside, or some game.  She’s trying to figure out who did there chore and who didn’t because she didn’t know who had what chore to do.  And she wasn’t even aware we were playing outside until we had been outside for an hour and a half.


Marge: That’s probably why we weren’t supposed to be playing.


It’s funny to think about these things.  You have this perspective when you’re a kid, and I know I always felt guilty playing.  Later on in life I thought, “Why did I always feel guilty playing?  Aren’t kids supposed to play?”


Pat: You probably didn’t always feel guilty, but you just remember the times you felt guilty because you weren’t supposed to be.


Marge: I think Mother, any time she knew you were playing, I felt guilty, I felt like I wasn’t supposed to.  That probably wasn’t their intent.  I’m not saying that’s what they intended.  I think what happened is that probably there were things we were supposed to be doing and we were playing instead.



Marge: It used to be in the Catholic Church, there was a ceremony they did in the month of May, because May is the month of Mary.  And at our church, all the kids would bring flowers and we would have this procession from the church and we would sing songs of Mary.  All the parishioners would come to.  It was a lot of fun.  We had a wonderful time in May.  And we’d crown Mary and sing songs to her.  My memory is, we’d always go and have a Dairy Queen, which made it even more wonderful.  Do you remember that? It was the best part.


Tropical Fish

Pat: One thing we could talk about is tropical fish.


Marge: I want to tell you something about tropical fish.  I have an aquarium with guppies in it, and they refuse to die.  I can’t believe it.  We don’t do hardly anything for these fish.  We do give them food, because I wouldn’t want to just starve them.  My friend has guppies and they are always dieing on her.  Mine, I would like them to die so I could get rid of them, but they just keep multiplying, we have hundreds of them.  She has a really clean aquarium, I don’t.  I occasionally scrape off the windows when it gets really bad.  I really don’t do much for them.


Pat: My Dad decided he wanted to get tropical fish when we were at Lakewood.  I remember we walked to Mr. Taggy’s house on Ashland.  We got some tropical fish.  The first thing we found out is that they often jump out of the aquarium and die if you don’t have a top on it.  There was a few missing and we couldn’t find them anywhere.  We found them on the floor.  The next thing was, we found out about all these diseases, because the fish kept getting them.  Dad always liked to have us read all the books about aquariums and tropical fish to him.  Then he wanted to get all different types of tropical fish.  We ended up spending a lot of time and energy on tropical fish.


Marge: We had jars, tanks, and traps for the pregnant Mothers, so the babies didn’t get eaten by the pregnant Mothers when they were born. We even sold some tropical fish as I recall.  The real story about the tropical fish is the one that you get to tell.


Pat: That was a long time later when I was in medical school.  All those years we had tropical fish.  I took care of them at first, and then it went down to different people.  I remember when I took care of them, it always killed me when a fish died.  I always hated to have anything die. I didn’t like tropical fish all that much, except for the ones that would live easily.  We had Siamese fighting fish, karames, angel fish.  So the ones that were fairly hardy I didn’t mind, but the one’s that got their diseases, I hated to have.  By the time I was in medical school, Michael was taking care of them.  When I was talking to Dad on the phone, he was telling me about what amazing luck he was having with these fish.  He had never done so well before.  All he had was fancy tail guppies, which made it a little believable, because guppies are hardy.  He said, “We’ve got four aquariums, and they are just breading like mad.  We don’t even have enough breeding tanks for them because they keep on having babies.  We got one Mother in the breeding tank with her babies falling out.”  In each tank they had a couple breeding tanks.  Some of them were just having their babies in the tank because they couldn’t fit enough in the breeding tank.  I was amazed at how well they were doing because we had never had such good luck with tropical fish before.  When I came home, I went out on the porch to look at the fish.  I couldn’t find one fish, not even a catfish.  I thought, maybe Dad has different tanks then the ones out here, because some of these are only half full of water.  So I said, “Dad, where are the fish.” He said, “They’re on the porch.”  “I just looked on the porch, and there is not a single fish in any of those tanks.  I can’t even find a posthumus or a catfish in there.  I cant find anything.  What happened to these fish?”  He said, “I don’t know.”  Then Mike came home within a couple hours.  He said, “Mike, are your ready to feed the fish?”


Marge: See this is the way he did these things.


Pat: Mike said, “OK.”  He said, “Mike, what’s happening?”  “Well, this one guppy, there’s like five guppies trying to get all the food and there is like one guppy fighting another one off.”  Dad said, “Mike, count how many Mothers we have now that are still having babies.”  Mike comes up with like six Mothers still having babies.  “And how many babies are in each breeding tank.  Mike went through how many there were. “Now Mike, how many catfish do we have in each tank?”  And Mike told him how many.  And Dad said, “Well what’s happening now?”  “Now I’m feeding the other tank and this guppy is trying to get all the food for himself.”  He made it very interesting – the feeding time.  More interesting than I ever had made it.  Mike had a story with each one.  After this was all done, it took about fifteen minutes.  I was there – I’m listening to this.  At the very end, he said all the fish had plenty to eat, because you have to be careful not to feed them to much.  He said, “It seems like some of them are losing interest, some of them are swimming away.”  Dad said, “Now Mike, I want to ask you a question.”  Mike said, “What?”  He said, “Why can’t Pat see any of those fish that you just told me about?”


Marge: What did Mike say?


Pat: Nothing.  It was years later that I realized, that of all the fish who took care of the tropical fish, he probably had the least fun with me, because I was so distressed any of them were sick or died – it just totally destroyed my day.  Probably Mike was the most interesting one – even though there were no real fish there.  He got the best stories from Mike.  Fights going on, tremendous population booms in the tanks.  Even Dad couldn’t believe it.  He’d never had such luck. Fancy tail guppies all over the place!  I think Mike just loved having Daddy happy.  It was like, “Wow, I’m really making him happy!”  So he made the stories even better.  As Daddy got more pleasure out of it, they got even bigger! 


Marge: And you had to blow it all.


Pat:  You have to realized, Mike was always the one who was in trouble with Dad, so it was probably one of the few times he was really making Dad extremely happy.


Marge: Yeah, and I think Mike had a hard time really connecting with Dad.  Mike does have a great imagination.


Mother and the income tax

Pat: Income tax time was the worst time of the year.


Marge: And Pat was the oldest so she was the helper.


Pat: And I was a terrible helper.  I’m terrible at  doing business or keeping records.


Craig: That is true.


Marge: See, she loses his records too!


Pat: I was always bad at it and I hated it.  I could never see the need for all of this meticulous record keeping.  I married someone who doesnt keep very good records either, but just like Mother, yells and screams about it.  I mean, Mother didn’t have real good record keeping abilit either.


Craig:  When you saw me do that, you must have thought, “This must be normal.”


Pat: No I thought, taxes are horrible anyway, and you’re just like Mother. I’ve been through it.  I’ve survived, and after a while, people give up on me being good at it anyways.  They realize I just can’t do it.


Marge: Mother had a little business selling brooms and brushes which they started before my Dad was a prosecutor.  We actually delivered the brooms and brushes.


Pat: That I loved.  I liked the deliveries, because then I got to drive.  I liked that.


Marge: We had to write out invoices, and you had to keep track of the income and expenses.  This wasn’t Pat’s forte apparantly.  I think I was a better helper than Pat. I think that’s why Mother hated it when I went off to college.  Her helper was leaving. 


Pat: Tax time was just bad for Mother because you could never find her records.  We were always missing a million things.  She didn’t say, “put this in the invoice folder”.  If she didn’t say where things went, I didn’t know what these things were for—until tax time came and then we were supposed to find a million things to put in the file.  And then she’d yell and scream for days about, “I can never find anything! You guys are always moving everything around here!  Where is this!  Where is that!”  I had no idea where they were.  I just accepted that at tax time we had to go through yelling and screaming.  It never changed.  It was like this every year at tax time. Isn’t that your memory?


Marge: It was.  It was an ordeal.


Pat: Yelling and screaming all day long.  Mother would get very tense.


Marge: She had lots of schedules to fill out.  She had real property that she rented, and then she had the business.  It was just, I’ve always thought our taxes are way to complicated anyway.


Bill and Mike in school

Pat: I do remember that Bill and Mike had a lot of trouble in school. Marge always did well.


Marge: I loved school.


Pat: Dad was always very patient.  He would explain things a million times.  After he was done explaining he would say, “Ok Bill, do you understand?”  “Nope.”


Marge: Well Bill had real mental blocks I think.  I worked with Bill.


Pat: My  Dad would try a million ways of explaining the same thing.  At the very end, you’d think Bill wasn’t even listening.


Marge: I worked with Bill sometimes and he would do Math sometimes, which was one of the things he had trouble with.  I think that Bill just lacked confidence in himself.  If you worked with him at night he could work on it and do it, but then in the morning, it was totally gone.  That was another thing that Mother did really well.  She was concerned about Bill particularly, but also Mike.  We were going to a Catholic school which was very academically oriented, that didn’t really seam to help them at all. 


Pat: I think Bill was flunking and Mike was getting Cs and Ds.


Marge: What Mother did, was she arranged for all of us to be tested at the University of Michigan.  It was kind of fun. Interest testing and all those things.  I should have been a physical therapist, is what it said.  I think sometimes I should have been.  She had all of us tested so Bill and Mike wouldn’t feel singled out.  The next year she put Bill and Mike in the public schools.


Pat: First she just put Bill there.  Actually, it wasnt just as a result of that testing.  The nuns came to her and said, “Mike might be college material, but Bill for sure is not.  He is not going to make it through this high school.  So we advise that you put him in public school.”  So they put him in public school and he got all As and Bs.  They were all amazed.  Then Bill was bragging about his good grades and the smarter of the two was feeling like he was a dummy.  He was still struggling to get Cs and Ds in Catholic school.  So then they switched him over too.


Marge:  Actually, Bill, he started taking drafting and metal shop, and different types of classes where he did really well.  And then he took a tutoring class during lunch time where he learned how to read.  That was another thing, for some reason, he had not learned how to read.


Pat: They taught whole language.


Marge: He didn’t get taught phonics, so he had a real hard time learning additional vocabulary.  But I always thought that testing was kind of a smart idea.


Pat: In my mind, I had no idea why we were doing it.  I always knew, at that time, that I wanted to be a vet.  I thought, why are we doing this.


Marge: Well you were one of the few.  Pat always had a sense of direction.  The rest of us weren’t quite so.  I think Carol did to.  Most of us really had very little idea.  I didn’t.  I liked teaching when I did it.  I probably should have just stayed a teacher.  I didn’t know what a physical therapist was at the time.  I should have been smart enough to ask.





Interview with Bill Joyc.  Bob Joyce and Kathy Kim joined us later.

Recorded July 31, 2002


St. Ambrose

Bill: I remember growing up in Grosse Pointe even though I was from Detroit.  We went to St Ambrose School.  In first grade I was in love with my nun, Sr. Mary Saline, I still remember her.  That was at St. John Birchmans.  Then I went to  St Martins, where I tended to be the teachers pet.  Mother got upset with some of my teachers because I had teachers that stressed the classes.  I tended to be the kid that the teachers liked, but I didn’t learn anything.    I remember when we went to St. Martins I had a really nice nun and Mike had a really strict nun.  I had Sr. Paul Therese who was a young nun, and  Mike had a real old Sr. Shefton.



Then Mother switched us over to Guyton, which was a great elementary school..  Most of my life centers around when we lived on Lakewood and going to that school.  The teachers there were more than just teachers.  We tended to be more like a family.  I think most of my family went there before we went to St. Ambrose.  I went to Guyton until seventh grade.  Then we switched over to St Ambrose.  We switched over to St. Ambrose because we knew we were going to go to High school.  We were in the City of Detroit.  Mother didn’t like St. martins, so they gave us a special thing to go to St Ambrose which was in Grosse Pointe.    The one thing I remember about being at St. Ambrose was that I was from Detroit.  I knew I was from Detroit.  It kind of sticks in your head about class of people.  It wasn’t that bad of a thing though.  There were some good things at St. Ambrose too.  I remember just really struggling through elementary school. Especially in Math.  I don’t think my father thought I was a ever going to make it through high school.    I think a lot about how Mike and I were different.  We kind of went our own separate ways.  Although we were very very closed.  I don’t think I ever was a follower.    I don’t know if I was a leader, but I certainly wasn’t a follower.    I really dint care what other people thought of me.  I dint even care what my father though of me.  You want to do good but it wasn’t my number one priority to impress my father.  I just kind of did my own thing I guess.  I remember even as far as taking the buss and playing football at Chandler Park.    I just got on the buss and played.  Mike and I would go to Chandler park and got into the boxing.   


Mike and Bill

Mike and I, even though we were very close, we were very different.  Mike needed friends ( I don’t mean this negatively), I really didn’t care.    It was pretty important to mike.  And Mike had some good friends.  Growing up I remember at St. Ambrose.  The first love of my life was a girl I went to school with.  I remember my first heartbreak was when I was a freshman and she went out with a football player who was a senior.    It was pretty heartbreaking to me.  That affected me, even when getting married.  There was somewhat of a mistrust towards women.    That is when I decided just to concentrate on sports and decided, you know, screw women.  Deb actually had gone out with Mike and she plucked me out, I didn’t get her. 


Selling Pictures

We used to  make pictures in art school, and I used to ask my sisters to go around and sell them to the neighbors  to make money.  We used to make the  stupidest things in art class, and we even made some at home.  Sally and Jan were nice enough to go and sell them.  I didn’t want to sell them.  I was the manager of the operation.  That was where Amway got there ideas.


Cleaning Downstairs

I remember Daddy used to get everybody up at five o’clock in the morning and send us downstairs.    We were supposed to clean up.  Daddy would keep someone upstairs, usually Pat,  and sometimes Marge.  Pat was the one that would tell Daddy the truth, so she was the one we were leery of.  Everyone else would kind of say “Their working”, while we were actually sleeping.    I don’t think we ever got anything cleaned in the morning.



Daddy used to punish us.  There was one punishment that Daddy gave to me that really affected me.  One time we were throwing snowballs.  There was always this thing about with throwing snowballs you would knock someone’s eye out.    Daddy and Mother were going to some dinner or something.  And Daddy said, when we get home, you are going to get whipped.  We cleaned the whole house while they were gone, thinking that, when Daddy got back, he wouldn’t punish us.  Daddy wasn’t swayed by that.  He came back and he still whipped us. 


Cleaning the basement

We always used to clean the basement and we used to drag the hose in.  One of the things we used to do, was we had this game where we would spin people around, and wherever they landed, that was where they had to clean that area around there.  We used to wash the basement floor.  We would put the hose through the window and use soap and clean it off.  Then we would end up with mildew clothes down there.


Beer Bottles

Daddy used to have beer bottles upstairs.  We used to have to carry all the empty beer bottles down stairs.  I don’t know why we used to do this, but we used to go out of our way to hide the beer bottles.  The case would be there, so you could put them in the case, and we’d be going down there anyway, but we would just hide them.  I think that has to do with that you can’t understand a kids brain.  They just think totally different. 



Daddy would line up these plants on his shelves with seeds.  He’d call us in every night and have us water the plants and ask us how the plants are doing.  We’d never water the plants, they’d just die. 


We did the same thing with the turtles, and even the dog.  He’d ask you if you’d done it, and if you hadn’t, he’d be so angry, so you’d just say you’d done it.


Alley picking

Bill: Mike an I were going to Ive’s, past Kresge’s.  As kids, we never went down streets, always alleys.  We would alley pick and bring things home.  We got a lot of good stuff.  That was a normal thing, we never went down a normal street.  I remember this one winter day that Mike and I were out there and we saw this turtle out there.  They were actually throwing away this turtle, but it was still alive and it had a disease.  So we took it home and told Daddy that we had found it.  Daddy would put it in saltwater.  I remember to this day, I had never seen Daddy so happy, like he had brought something back to life.  So Mike and I in our intelligence, (I guess I shouldn’t blame Mike), decided that we had finally done something to make Daddy really happy.  We decided that we would just go through Kresge’s and pick up a turtle every day, just go in the store and steel at turtle.  And so Daddy would think we were going through the garbage to get these sick turtles, and of course we were bringing home these good turtles that weren’t sick.  We had tons of turtles.  Daddy was really happy about this.  Daddy would just cure them, of course he didn’t have to cure these, they were already cured.  One day he asked Pat how the sick turtles were doing.  She told him there was nothing wrong with the turtles, the turtles were fine.  So he found out what happened.  I was surprised, because he didn’t whip us that time.  Mother made us go to Kresge’s and give all the turtles back and do some work for Kresge’s.  That was when Mother started to think like a psychology major, though she wasn’t the best in the world.  She sent me to apologize.


Daddy’s candy bars

Bill: You’ve probably heard this one, about Mother coming home one time from Grandma’s.  Ever Daddy would go to Grandmas there would always be candy bars.  She’d always send home candy bars.  Daddy would come home about 1 o’clock in the afternoon and by 3 o’clock they’d all be gone.  Daddy would ask who took the candy bars and we’d all say “I don’t know.”  So Mother decided that she was going to make us all sick of candy.  So she went out and bought boxes and boxes of candy.  I remember we would all look at each other and say, “No Mother, please don’t feed us anymore.”  We were all faking it.  That was what she wanted to hear.  She thought she could cure us from eating candy just making us sick of candy.  I can remember us all sitting there and faking it, saying, “I don’t want any more.”    I said, “Let’s make Mother happy.”  No one was crying except me.  So Mother thought she solved that.  Of course, there was so many candy bars left, and someone stole them.  So that ended her psychology on us about candy.  That was a great one.


Lie Detector

I’m sure you heard  the one about when we had the lie detector with Sal and Jan.  There was candy missing.   Mother asked who took the candy.  Mother would always do this thing where she would say, “All you kids go up stairs and you got 15 minutes.  If you don’t come down and tell me who stole it in 15 minutes, you’re all gonna get punished.”  So we had a transformer from a train.  We would use it as a lie detector, and Mike would plug it in.  I’d say, “Sal, I’m going to ask you a question, this is a lie detector.  If you did it, you are going to hear this  noise” (buzz).  Mike would plug it in.  So I’d say, “Sal, did you take the candy bars?”  “No” (buzzing sound).  “Are you sure you didn’t take the candy bars?” “No” (buzzing sound).  Anyway, at the time, we convinced her that she had taken the candy bars.  So she would go downstairs and confess.  This is the way Mother would do it, having us all come upstairs.  This was before she started doing the lie detector, where she would take our pulse, and we would try to breath easy.  So Sal came down.  Mother said, “Who took the candy bars.”  Mother said, “where are the wrappers.”  So Sal looked up at me and said, “Bill where are the wrappers.”  I said, “Behind the radiator.”  So Mother caught me there.


“Selling” Candy

We used to go to a store near Coplin and Freud.  Everything had to do with candy.  Mike and I went in there and convinced this guy that we could sell candy for him.  So we got like ten boxes of candy.  Of course, we didn’t sell any, we ate them.  I remember sticking them into the top of the ceiling in the basement.  What would you do when you ran out of ten boxes of candy?  Go get ten more.  We convinced the guy we didn’t have all the money.   Finally the guy decided it was a good idea to talk to Mother since he wasn’t getting his money.  So he called Mother.  Mother saved me from Daddy many times.  Mother paid it off.  I think we had like 30 or 50 boxes.  Everyone shared in it.  When you are thinking as a kid, you are thinking, “Everyone is involved in this.”  It was like a hush hush operation.  Don’t say anything about it and you would get candy.  We used to hide everything in the ceiling of the basement.  Mother saved me on that one.  Daddy would have killed me.  Daddy’s big thing at the time, you know, he was a young prosecuting attorney, he was afraid we were going to be lifelong criminals and that we would embarrass him.  There were two times in my life where Mother saved me and it never went to Daddy.  And if it went to Daddy, I didn’t know, because he never said anything about it. 


Shooting out a tail light

The other time Mother saved me was when Mike and I went on the roof with sling shots.  As the cars went by on Freud, we were shooting plums at the back of cars, trying to hit the lights.  We actually hit one and knocked the lights out.  The car stopped.  Mike went up the tree and I ran.  Mother and  Daddy weren’t home.  I hid under the car.  The police came.  A group of kids from Newport  were talking to the police.  I was under the car and heard everything they said.  The police asked who did it.  They said, “It was those Joyce boys.”  My first defense in my younger days was, you lie.  You never tell the truth, you just lie.  So I heard this conversation with the police.  Next thing, I got back into the house, when the police walked down the road.  The police knocked on the door.  They asked Marge, “Do you have a Bill Joyce here?”  So Marge came and got me.  They asked, “were you out there shooting plums at cars?”  I said, “Yes sir.”  I remember the guy dropped the case, he didn’t do anything because he thought I was really an honest kid.  Mother came home and paid the man for the light.




Fischer’s Mansion

Daddy used to keep Mike and I really tight on where we could go.  He said,”Don’t let them to far lose because they’ll get in trouble.”  One day we went fishing.  He thought we were going to Lakewood Park, and we went to Fischers.  It was a Mansion, but it had barbed wire and stuff around it.  It now belongs to the Harry Krishnas.    We decided we were  going to do something different.  We went in there and there was a marble pool with fish in it.  We saw the police come by.  We were supposed to be home within an hour.  We had dug a hole under the fence and crawled in.  When we left it was early in the morning.  How we got out of there, I don’t know, because it was a barbed wire fence.  The sirens were going, we got over the fences and got away. They didn’t catch us.  To this day, I look at the fence and I don’t know how we got over.  When there is fear, you can do some amazing things.  We all scattered and ended up meeting.  When  we got home, Daddy was ready to kill us.  He thought we were going for two hours and it had been much longer.  We didn’t have a concept of time.  When they finally gave us permission to go somewhere, we didn’t pay attention to time, we just went.    I got to a point where I figured I would just take the punishment.  When Daddy beat you, you couldn’t cry or yell, because if you did, you just got more.  I learned just to shut up, take your beating, and get on with you life.  I don’t blame Daddy for that.  That was one of the other times when Mother kind of covered for us.  He didn’t beat us that time.


Mother’s Lie Detection

Bill: With Daddy, you would always get a whipping.  Mother would try to be nice about it and try to find out who did it.  I don’t know where she learned to do the lie detector thing.  I remember when Mother would do her pulse (lie detector).  You would go in the bathroom with her.  Everyone else had to stay behind.  One person would go in at a time and she would sit there on the toilet seat.  You’d sit in front of her.  She would try to trick you sometimes. She would take your pulse while she asked questions.  People would say, when she asks you something, think of something totally different.  I think it may have worked for a bit, but really it was more that Mother said you did it.  After a while you’d say, “Yeh, I did it.”


If Dad said you were going to get punished, you would get punished.  It didn’t matter what you said or did.  If Mother said she was going to punish you for something, it depended on the result.  If you did something and the result was horrible and everyone found out about it, then you were dead. If nothing came of it, then she didn’t always punish you. That was the difference between Mother and Daddy. It wasn’t real consistent.  But Mother was more feeling with you. 


The Basement

I remember one time in the basement, we were roller-skating and Jan got a black eye.  She ran into a pole or something.


Bob: There were 8 piles of trash and 8 piles of clothes (in the basement).  And they threw you on this pile (swung you around) and whatever pile you landed in you had to clean it up. 


Bill: I remember we were under a table one time in the kitchen and Mother had Nestlé’s chocolate.  We hid it under the table. It’s amazing how as a kid you think that no one will see you.  Mother was asking, “Who took it?”.  We had it all under the table, but we said, “I don’t know where it went.”  We must have drove poor Mother crazy.


Bob: We always used to play kickball in the yard.  We would put somebody on the other side of the house, that way when the ball went over the house, it was still in play.  We’d call, “It’s coming!”


Football in the street

Bill:  I remember we used to always get up in the middle of the night.  If Mother and Daddy were sleeping we’d sneak down and play football in the street with the cars.  All you could see was the lights.  We never played during the day.  It was always at 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning.  It got to be a little bit of a problem because we’d get the neighbor kids to come out.  We’d get the Timmermans and the other neighborhood kids.  So at 1 o’clock we’d all sneak out and play. 


Bob: One time they caught us and yelled, what are you kids doing down there?  We said, “We’re letting out the dog.”  “It takes six of you to let the dog out?”  “We want to make sure he doesn’t get away.”


Bill: We were always letting out the dog.  We’d split up teams and play football and basketball and whatever we could possibly play.  All our cousins used to really love to come over to our house because they’d have more fun than anywhere else.  We would have a good time.  We’d play kickball in our little mudyard.  Remember we used to kick it against the wall of the house.  The challenge was to catch it before it went over the fence.  If you could knock it against the wall and then over the fence it was a home run. 


The police came by one time while we were playing football in the street.  It was at night and we were just playing football.  He said, let me see the football.  He looks at it and handed it back to us, because it wasn’t worth taking.  We would play with anything. 


Salvation Army

Daddy always worked Saturdays.  One of us would always go with him and we’d go to the salvation army downtown.  We’d pick up all the locks they had.  He’d get them for a dime or nickel a piece and he sold them to Marv’s for thirty cents.  And you’d always see Daddy working on them and asking us “What’s this number? What’s that number?”  There wasn’t a lock that Daddy couldn’t do.  I always remember going to the Salvation army looking for hockey sticks and footballs.  In the basement they had tons of junk.  You’d spend a quarter or a dollar and come home with more junk, just great stuff.  We’d grab all the hockey sticks we could and play hockey up against the garage.  The entire garage door was the net.  We’d just keep shooting.  We never had a mask. 


Bob: I remember being in the football helmet a lot.  I was a double blader.


Bill:  We tried to make a rink in the yard a couple times.


Daddy’s Work

Bob: We’d get there at Daddy’s work and we’d have Skipper, and in later years we’d have Sammy.  The officers would come in with dozens of donuts, and they’d feed them to the dog.  You’d get one, but the dog would get six.  And then for lunch you’d go over to Coney  Island for  breakfast and spit a $1.99 breakfast. 


Working on the car

Bill:  When I think of Dad, you would have never known he was blind.  I remember we got a car from a neighbor.  It might have had a license, but we couldn’t drive the car anywhere.  He would go out there and work on it.  It always had to be the coldest day.  It was like, why don’t we ever do this in the fall.  Daddy would tune the car.  He’d ask me a question and I’d be shooting baskets.  I’d say, “Yep, that’s what it is!”  We’d be out there quietly playing around, not paying attention, while we were supposed to be helping with the car.


More Salvation Army Stuff

That was another thing we’d get at Salvation Army was TVs and radios.  Daddy just loved to take them apart and put them together.


Bob: Remember the tube box we had up in the attic with all the tubes in case something went wrong.  And we’d search through those tubes, to find the one tube for his TV.   


Bill: I don’t remember selling any, just getting them.  Daddy could do anything.  He’d sit there and fix a radio or a TV.  He’d take the tubes to the drug store and test them, these were good (store them), these were bad, (throw them out).   We kept everything.


High School Football

I remember playing freshman football.  Perles was a coach there and I was a halfback or running back or something.  When we played football, they used to pit Mike and me against each other.  I would always hit and run.  That was my thing.  I could never stay mad that long.  Mike was like an ox or a bull, he didn’t know when to stop.  So if I got in a fight with Mike, and we did a lot, I’d just hit and run.  He could never catch me.  Mike would be swinging.  I couldn’t stay mad that long anyway, and I was smart enough to know that if he ever got a hold of me, he’d probably kill me.  So I’d get my punches in and run. 


I was in freshman football and I was supposed to block.  I didn’t like to block.  I liked to catch the ball and run.  It was a game, right before half-time.  When you don’t like to block, you tend to just nudge and look like you’re blocking.  Perles came in.  The quarterback was hit hard.  He picked me up by one hand against the wall.  He said, “If you ever miss a block again, I’m going to kill you.”  I was so scared to death, that I went out there in the second half and played the game of my life.



We played little league ball at St. Martins.  There was a guy on the other team, and we got in a fight, but I didn’t fight back.  He pushed me, but I didn’t push back.  When we got home, Daddy said, “You go back there, and you’re gonna fight.  And if you don’t, you’re gonna fight me.”  That’s the way Daddy was.  Of course my sisters were there, and they said, “Billy got in a fight and didn’t do anything.”  He sent everyone back with me to make sure I did it.  I was so scared of my father (I was about 3rd grade), I went back, picked a fight with this guy, and beat the crap out of him.  It was out of sheer fear that Daddy would kill me.  It had nothing to do with the guy.  That made no difference at all.  I went home and Daddy said, “Don’t you feel a lot better?”  I was like, thank God I’m not getting killed.  I remover after that when someone picked a fight, I never backed down.  So it was probably the right thing to do.  Those were the two times in my life that I was really afraid.


The Coast Guard

The other time was when I was in the service.  It was insane, but I was in the Coast Guard and I didn’t know how to swim.   I almost drowned.  We were never in the water.  This was in the Vietnam era during the draft.  Me and Mike would have both gone.   We were out of high school and had  no intention of going to college.  We wanted to join the service and get away and do something different.  Of course the recruiters made it sound really good.  Mother was pushing for us to go into the Coast Guard or the Air Force because it would be less of a chance for us to go to Vietnam.  They had a lottery pick.  We took the Coast Guard test and the Air Force test.  The Coast Guard called us in about a week.  It seemed like it was the hardest test of my life, so I was really surprised when they called me and said we both passed.  So we said we were going to go to the Coast Guard.  Its stuff like that that I think Daddy had a role in.  He said, “If you give your word, you give your word.”  I think Mike and I would both have rather gone into the Air Force, but we told the Coast Guard we were going to sign up.  That was our word.  We gave them our word and we were going to go.  Mike wanted to be a mechanic and I didn’t know what I wanted to be.  Since Mike wanted to be a mechanic, they made him a cook.  They had what they called the dream list.  I remember going into boot camp.  Boot camp was three months.


Kathy: That’s what I remember, the letters, “Pray!”


Bill: The Coast Guard was considered the hardest mentally and the second hardest physically to get through, second only to the marines, which is kind of nuts.  But you have to remember that the Coast Guard at that time was nicknamed the Jewish Navy, because it was pretty tough to get in.  There were no blacks in there until John Kennedy said you have to let blacks in. 


In boot camp, if you didn’t study, you’d flunk.  The mindset that we had was that you are not going to get out of the Coast Guard.  You are either going to make it, or you will stay here forever.  It got to a point, where we had to, for life saving, pick up weights off the bottom of the pool.  By the time I got done in the Coast Guard, I actually enjoyed the water and swimming.  The whole idea with the Coast Guard, or any service, is you don’t think, you just do what they tell you to do.  And you understand afterwards why they do that.  You don’t want somebody in a battle or a war to start thinking about, we shouldn’t kill people, because then everyone gets killed.  You understand that.  You start off as whale scum, the lowest form of dirt on earth.  You end up as, you’re still whale scum, but you’re OK whale scum, there are people who are lower than you.  There are classes of people.  The last couple of weeks, we ran the commissary for the people who were just coming in, who were just garbage.  It’s a totally different mindset.  That’s the way they teach you to think. 


Mike was the kind of person who always, didn’t go with what society did, you know.  He let someone where his hat and he had a little spot on it.  You had to have everything perfect.  Next thing you know he was out on the deck, naked, with a foot in each bucket, scrubbing himself down with a scrub brush.  Mike got it for things like that.


Kathy: A lot of times he got it for things just like that, for being nice to someone.


Bill: That’s right.  I loved the Coast Guard.  My personal feeling is that everyone should do it.  I think it has a lot to do with as your growing up, your friends and who you stick around.  When you’re young, I don’t think you really look at your Mother and father.  They are there, but you tend to look at who you’re friends are.  My friends were few.  I didn’t have many, but the ones I had were good friends.  Mike tended to have a lot of friends.  It wasn’t important to me.  For Mike it was.  Mike had to have friends.  I remember going to catechism one time.  Mike got into a fight for some stupid reason.  It was the first time in my life that I fought for someone that I really cared about.  You just go in there and start fighting.  At the end, Mike was pulling me off.  I didn’t think I could get that mad.



After I got married, I went to Albuquerque on a partial scholarship to the University of Albuquerque.  I decided I would just go away.  I remember when Daddy came down.  We had bought a house.  I don’t think Daddy ever thought I’d make anything of my life.  I didn’t let on to anyone that we had a house.  I remember when I was in the service we’d come home, just on surprise, but I’d never tell anyone I was coming home.  It was always great to come home.


In Albuquerque, I would have these dreams about my father, and he was always the bad guy.  I was scared of him, but he wasn’t the bad guy.  I would wake up in a cold sweat.  It was the first time in my life that I remember my Dad sat down and talked to me.  I’ll tell you how fearful I was of my Dad, I asked my Dad if I could get married, I asked my Dad if I could get engaged.  It was nuts when I think about it.  When I asked about getting engaged and getting married, he never said anything negative, but he never sat down and talked to me.  He said, “If you’ve got a woman and you’re going to get married, you are going to go out and you are going to find women who look better.  If you’ve got someone who really loves you more than anyone else in the world, just stick to it.”  I remembered that all my life.  And of course, being married thirty years, you are still going to see women, you’re not dead.  And you are going to see people that look good.  I think about what Daddy told me and it still sticks today.


When he came down and found out that I had a mortgage on the house, that I was going to college, that I had two jobs.    It was the first time I saw my Dad proud of me, and all those bad dreams just went away.  It was the first time that him and I had a conversation, instead of him just telling me what to do.  It was a good experience.


Kathy:  When we went down, Deb and I were real close.  She told me how she couldn’t get pregnant because her ovaries had this sac around them and they were getting crushed and she was going to have to get surgery, but she didn’t have money.  She had no insurance.  When I went home, I collected money from everyone.  Deb said to me, if you want to do me a favor, get your family to eat all those hot dogs in the freezer.  She had been having some of the signs of pregnancy, gaining weight and throwing up.  She said, I know what is making me sick, It is those hot dogs.  Just thinking about eating them makes me sick.


Bill: I know what Deb and I went through.  I was going to school, we were struggling, no insurance, (we paid for Billy for ten years).  I remember calling the Veterans thing saying, I’m going to school, working two jobs, I was making like $127 per month more than you could make to get help.  And I just decided, we weren’t going to do it, we were going to do it the right way.  When I think about things like that, I think that Daddy must have had a big influence on my mind, for it to think that way.  There is no possible way on this earth that I was going to collect welfare.


Kathy: We came back, and I collected money from everyone.  In the midst of this, Deb calls me.  She found out she was like four and a half or five months pregnant.  It was amazing.


Bill:  You got to remember you were struggling, trying to make it on your own. I don’t remember ever borrowing any money.  I just never thought about it.  You eat hot dogs and fish sticks.  There were times when hot dogs didn’t look to bad.  When you go through something like that, you know that you can make it no matter what.  If I lost my job tomorrow, I’ll make it.  I’m a survivor. 


We moved to Albuquerque.  Deb bought a horse before we had a house.  We didn’t have a place to put it. 


Kathy: I contributed to that one.  I put in the money and she took care of the horse.  That was our deal.  That was our horse farm.  She had this dream of owning a race horse, so we went in together.


Bill: That was one of the nicest times, when Mother and Daddy came down. 



Sally and Jan


Recorded August 1, 2002.  Sally and Jan were present at first.  Others joined later.


The Lie Detector

Sally:  I’ll tell you a good story.  My Mother had this theory that if someone did something wrong, she would send us up to our room, lay our heads down on the pillow, and that the guilty person, while nobody was looking, would come down and confess.  What Mother didn’t know, was that we would get to the top of the stairs and Bill would tell us who had to go down and tell Mother they did it.  He would say, “It’s your turn, go tell Mother you did it.”  I remember going down to tell Mother I did it.  I don’t even know what it was.  She said, “You didn’t do it”  I said, “Yes I did.”  She said, “You didn’t do it.”  I said, “No, no, I wouldn’t come down and tell you I did it if I didn’t do it.”  She said, “You didn’t do it, go back upstairs.”  Which meant we were all stuck upstairs until somebody could convince her they did it.  Mother always had this theory that honesty would win out, which wasn’t always true.


Jan: There are two stories that go with that.  One of the methods that Billy used was a converter to a railroad set.  He told us it was a lie detector.  If there was something that everyone said they didn’t do, Bill would say, “This is a lie detector, it will help to find the guilty party.”  And every time it would come to Sally and I, it would beep.


Sally: This is the earlier version, because, Jan and I were probably 6 to 8 years old.


Jan: We’d say, “We don’t remember doing that.” And he’d say, “Lets check it again.” And it would beep again.


Alex: Was Bill the only one who did that?


Jan: Dan was behind there making it beep.


Sally: Bill was the one who thought it up, but he couldn’t carry it through on his own.  So he had Dan or Kathy assisting him.  When Dan and Kathy wouldn’t play the game, they said, “No, we’re not doing that.”  They new it wasn’t a lie detector, it was train converter. 


Jan: They new that they weren’t involved, but they didn’t let us know, so they were involved in helping Sally and I find out we were guilty.


Dad’s candy bars

The other story that I remember along the lines of this was that my Dad’s mom used to give him, every Sunday he would go play cards with Grandma, and she would send him home with a bag with donuts and three candy bars.  He’d stick those in the refrigerator, and those were his.  He’d never share his candy bars, willingly.  Bill would always share his candy bars.  Everytime Daddy would ask for his candy bars, they’d always be gone.  So one day, I must have been in kindergarten, I was out playing in the back yard. Bill comes out and says, “You have to say you ate those candy bars, because everyone else has been asked and everyone else said no.”  I said, “What candy bars?”  He said, “Dad’s candy bars from Grandma.”  I said, “Why?”  He said, “ Because Mother’s really mad and everyone else has said no.  So you have to say you ate them.”  I was like, oh man.  So I came in the back door and there was stairs going up and stairs going down.  Mother was standing right there.  I started to go up, and Bill stood on the stairs right there.  I told her I ate the candy bars, and she asked me, “Where are the wrappers?”  And Bill whispered in my ear, “In her bedroom behind the radiator.”  I told her that, and sure enough that’s where the wrappers were.


Cleaning the Basement

My Dad always woke up at about five in the morning.  The first thing he did was he’d go to the bathroom and he’d wake up somebody.  Somebody had to be up with him all the  time.  That person’s job, once we woke everyone else up, was to go check up and tell him what everyone was doing. 


Sally: A normal thing for him to have us do was to have us clean something before school.  Generally, for some reason, it was always the basement.


Jan: When it was my turn, I hated it.  I wanted to go downstairs with everyone else.  I’d say, “All right, Bill, what are you doing?” “I’m picking up a piece of paper.” “Kathy, what are you doing?” “I’m sweeping.” “Dan, what are you doing?” “I’m putting clothes in a basket.”  But the truth is, they were all sleeping.  No one was doing a thing. 


Sally: Bill was the mastermind, but Daddy would say, “Go down the basement and clean, and he always would say, “What are they doing?”  And you’d say, “They are picking up junk off the floor.”  And he’d say, “What exactly are they doing?” 


Jan: And if you’d go back and someone told you the same thing they were doing last time, you’d tell them, “No you cant tell him you’re doing the same thing. What are you doing now.”  They’d be asleep in the basement on the chairs.  This happened all the time.  Almost every morning.


I hated answering the phone.  Daddy would ask, “What is everyone doing.”  Then you’d have to go through the same stuff.  Sometimes, if you don’t know where someone is, you’d just say  they were in the bathroom.  Then he’d call back, and you’d say their still in the bathroom. “What are they doing in there?”  “I don’t know what they’re doing in there.”  “Go ask them.”


Midnight street football

Sally: We used to go out at night, Bill, Mike, Kathy, Dan, me and Jan.  Pat, Barb and Marge were like one family.  Bill through Jan were another family.  And Carol, Jim and Bob were another family.  We used to go out at night.  At like 12:30 at night we’d play football in the street.  This is at Lakewood and Freud on the east side of Detroit.  Now you wouldn’t go out there in broad daylight without somebody with you. 


It was like 12:30 a.m. and this cop came by and yelled at us for playing in the street.  He said, “I’m taking your ball.”  And he took it.  Really, what it was an old football that had been busted. It was just the guts of the football.  He looked at it and said, “Forget it, you guys can keep this.” 

One night Jan got hurt. We couldn’t tell Daddy what happened


Jan: Bill was running up for a long pass, and I was chasing him.  We collided, and I got a black eye.


Sally: Half of her face was black and blue.  Of course, someone would tell Daddy that Jan had a black eye.  So Daddy said to Jan, “How did it happen Jan?”  Jan said, “I was roller skating in the basement and I ran into a pole.”  We used to roller-skate in the basement and there were these two huge steel poles.


Jan: It was all I could think of.  We’d roller-skate in the dark.  So it was not so unusual to run into something.


Sally: But we never ran into a pole.  The funny thing was, Daddy for months talked about how uncoordinated and stupid Janice was.  He’d say, “She is the stupidest person, roller-skates into a steel pole.”  Over and over again.


The cure for candy bars

Jan: Here is my favorite story.  Mother and Daddy got sick of Dad’s candy bars disappearing, so Mother was going to teach us a lesson.  (Daddy was the one who go Mother riled up about it.  Those were his candy bars that came from grandma, and he did not share what came from grandma.  He would send us down there to get them one at a time, and he would get very mad  when they were gone.)  What she did, was she sent Pat and Barb up to the corner store to get a huge bag of candy bars.  She said, “I’m going to make you guys so sick of candy bars.”  Bill said to us, “Mother’s got this great big bag of candy bars. Make sure, every time you take one, you moan and groan, because we want to keep this going for a while.”  So you would go up there and she’d say every hour we had to take another candy bar, it was torture, ok.  So we’d go and say “Ohhh, I’ll have a three musketeers.  Oh please don’t make me eat it, I’ll have a payday.”  Every hour for days we got a candy bar.  Bill said “If yo don’t moan and groan, it will end to soon. Moan and  groan and make sure she knows you’re in pain.”  After a few days we were most of the way down, and then somebody stole some of the candy bars from the bag!  That was Bill I would say.  He stole the punishment candy bars.


If we were going to clean the basement, and the basement was always where the whole floor would be covered (you cannot envision a dirty house), we would push everything from the sides into this major pile.  Bill would always come up with a game to make it fun. Bill would twirl us around and where ever you landed, you had to pick up whatever you touched.  The reward was, when we were done, we’d bring the hose in through the window, hose down the floor and slide on it.  And we’d send someone sliding across the floor, so we’d wash the floor with our pants.  That was fun.  You’d slide from one side to the other, just make sure you don’t hit the wall.  Bill would keep pushing you. 


Selling Jesus Pictures

Sally:  When he’d throw us into the pile, he’d make it fun, and no one would object to cleaning their part.


Jan: I think our life is full of Bill stories is the problem.  Remember Bill selling his Jesus pictures and steeling the silver dollars.  Bill told us that he was an artist and everyone wanted his pictures.  He painted one on wood, a picture of Jesus, and he did a good job.  Then he made these little pictures.


Sally: You know how you can go to Hobby Lobby and make these little ceramic molds out of plaster of Paris and it comes out with a picture.  Bill used to do those and then he’d paint them.  He told us for the longest time that he was selling them.  He made Jan and I go around the neighborhood door to door and sell these.  They were trash.  I always felt horrible going up to these people we knew and asking them to buy these things.


Jan: He told us that was how he was getting money to buy us candy.


Sally: He’d buy himself a lot and we’d get a penny’s worth.


Jan: So we went door to door selling these things.


Sally: Bill is one of the best salesmen I’ve ever known.  He could sell anything to anybody.


My Dad, since he was a little kid, collected silver dollars, the ones with real silver in them.  Daddy found his jars of silver dollars and they were empty.  Daddy was furious.  We ended up all getting in trouble, because, we didn’t know Bill was stealing them.  Bill said he buried some of them.  So we had to go out in the backyard and dig by the plum tree, but we never found any.  We all got in trouble.  In effect, what Bill had done was just find these silver dollars and just use them as money.  They were extremely valuable actually.  He bought candy with them.


We thought the money was coming from us selling the pictures.  I sold a couple of them.  But we thought Bill sold a lot also.  When Mother and Daddy found out, they blamed us too, because he said he was buying us candy.  We got about a piece of gum for every buck Bill spent.  We just didn’t know it.  Daddy found out when he went up the attic and the three jars were empty.


Jan: Somehow, we all knew it was Bill.  I can’t tell you how we knew.  Mother and Daddy found out too.


Sally: Bill did so many things. You know when Mother found out about a lot of this.  One year we were sitting around the dining room table telling stories.  Mother was like, “I didn’t know that, I didn’t know that”  She didn’t know any of it.




Butter smearing

Everybody has a slightly different version of this story.  But this was one of the funniest things that happened in our family.  Mother was going through the trash, because we suspected us of throwing things out all the time.  The biggest things she ever found in the trash were butter squares and silverware.  One day she said, “ If I find one more square of butter in the trash, I ‘m going to smear it in someone’s face.  She said that all the time, but she never did it.  Dan was actually the one throwing it in the trash.  Mother would leave out a square of butter to butter the toast.  We were to lazy to use a knife, so we just took the butter and smeared it on the toast.  Dan thought that was messy so he’d take the square of butter and throw it in the trash.  Mother would then go through the trash, find the square of butter, and be furious with us.  So one day, she finds a square of butter in the trash and Dan just happened to be handy.  So she started yelling and told Dan to get over here.  And she smeared the square of butter in Dan’s face.  It was so funny, I can still picture it, globs of butter coming down his face.


Jan: I was with Sally, but Sally always laughs louder than me.  Mother hears Sally laughing.


Sally: I’m watching Mother smear the butter in Dan’s face and I started laughing.  Mother said, “You think its funny!  Get over here, your next.”  So I had to go over there so she could smear butter in my face.  So Dan and I went up there in the bathroom and we stood there looking at each other in the mirror in hysterics.


Jan: and it was coming out of their ears and nose.  And they would look in the mirror and laugh.  They didn’t even take the butter off.


Large boxer shorts

Sally: Marge was up at Sienna Heights.  Mother used to say every month or so, go clean the basement, Marge is having some party in our basement.  I never had one party in our house, but we were always cleaning the basement for Marge’s parties.  So one day Marge was having a bunch of people over and we were supposed to clean.  Well we found this pair of gigantic boxers.  They were our next door neighbors, and he was this huge man.   Looking at it now, they probably weren’t that big.  But to someone who was 15 and 12, they were gigantic.  Jim and I got in them, and we were back to back. The funny thing is, back to back, you can’t walk. 


Jan: They were fooling around when they were supposed to be cleaning up.


Sally:  And making everybody laugh.  Well we were at the dining room door.  Mother was over by the bathroom and she hears us messing around.  “You guys are supposed to be down the basement cleaning the basement!”  She comes charging across the dining room to the kitchen.  Well, Jim and I tried to run, but we can’t because we are really back to back.  So we fall on the floor, right between the stove and the refrigerator.  We were stuck on the floor.  (This is at Centerline).  Janice is where the table is, and she is trying to pull us.  But we were laughing so hard, we were all tangled.  So we were on the floor and Mother comes at us.  Now the good part is, I’m on the bottom, Jim’s on the top.  I’m laughing the loudest.  So Mother comes at me, “Sal, stop laughing” and she was calling me names and kicking and hitting.  She never once touched me.  Every time she kicked or hit she hit Jim, so I laughed even more.  And she gets madder and pummeled Jim more.  Jim won’t say a word.  He is getting Kicked and punched, but I am on the bottom. 


Jan: And I cannot move them for the life of me.  I was trying to pull them. 


Sally: She was trying to pull us, because we were wedged in between the refrigerator and the stove.  All I remember was Mother pummeling Jimmy and yelling at me.  I just thought it was the best thing I ever saw happen. 


Jan: The only thing that stopped it was the doorbell rang.


Dan kicks Marge


One I remember at our old house on Lakewood, Mother had told Dan he could kick Marge.  Dan said, “With pleasure.”   And Dan went to give this big kick and fell on his back.


Sally: Marge moved and Dan went flying in the air!


Jan: We all laughed so hard.


Sally: When you say “with pleasure” you deserve it.


Jan: I remember times when Mother was after somebody and we’d be dragging them through the house.




Games after bedtime

Sally: Lakewood was a fun house.  There was three stories.  To me as a kid it was the neatest fanciest house I had ever seen in my life.  When you went in the front door, there was a huge living room, huge dining room, and a staircase.  At the top of the stairs was a bathroom and a hallway.  Pat’s bedroom was first.  You walked down the hall, there was the boys bedroom, then Mother and Daddy’s bedroom.  On either side of that there was a long closet and an attic.  On the other side there was the girls room.  We had a closet behind our bedroom and an attic up there.  So, one of the things we did as kids, is we would play hide and go seek in the dark.  In the girls room we would have two full size beds and two dressers.  It was Marge Jan, Me, Kathy, Jimmy and Carol sleeping in this one room, because Jim and Carol were little kids.  It was very common.  Bill Mike and Dan would come in from their bedroom, and all of us would play in the dark.  One of our favorite things to do, was we had this tall dresser.  So when we played hide and go seek in the dark, we’d climb on top of the dresser, or on top of the windowsill, because you don’t want people to find you.  They had to find you in the dark.


Jan: Or you’d fit in a drawer.


Sally: We did this all the time.  It was the most fun, except when you went in the attic and got the hairy, itchy stuff all over you, which I don’t remember what that was.  So one night, we were playing.  All of a sudden, Daddy was outside our bedroom door.  Realize, there was Kathy, me, Jan, Bill, Mike and Dan, all in our bedroom, hiding somewhere.  He said, “Is anybody awake?”  Dead silence. “Bill?” Now Bill was in the wrong bedroom, he’s not saying a word.  “Kathy”  What you did was, once he went through the whole list and no one answered, then you were asleep.  Then he was persistent. “Sal, Sal!”  And you’d go, “Yeh, what?”  I remember when this happened, I was on the dresser, right behind the door.  And my Dad was right outside the door.  I said, “Yeh, I’m asleep, what do you want”  And then he said, “Who’s in there with you?”  “I don’t know, I’m asleep”  Everyone was asleep, no one else was in there with us.  The boys were of course in their bedroom.  What actually happened, while we were playing, was Daddy had crept up the stairs, listened to us playing for about 20 minutes, then clumped up very loudly.  Then he repeated our conversations to us.  Once he had gotten us all to lie, he repeated our conversations back, of when we were chasing each other down, “what are you doing under the dresser, I didn’t find you yet.” That was one of the nights we ended up kneeling in the hallway.  That was our punishment.  We were always kneeling in the hallway.


Jan: We had the same thing happen when we used to play Peter Pan or Pirates and jump from bed to bed.  We liked jumping on the springs.  I remember one time when the springs fell.


Sally: When we played Peter Pan, we would jump really heavily on the beds.  We smashed the mattress and the spring through the bed many of times.  And of course, we were always asleep.  Even though it was a “Pow!”  We were all sound asleep.  “Didn’t wake anyone up here!”



As a kid, our punishments were (we did get hit), but our funny punishments were, we had this dog (one of my Dad’s leader dogs), biggest pig of a dog you have ever seen on the face of the earth.  But he was a great dog.  Our punishments were: Mother and Daddy were kind of creative with our punishments.  Kneeling in the hallway was an all time favorite.  Another favorite of Daddy’s, was because he couldn’t trust Skipper anywhere, you got to sit on the steps and hold skipper on a leash, for hours on end.  I hated holding skipper.  We did use Skipper when we let the dogs out at night.  We were always letting the dogs out.  Those dogs got let out at 12:30 at night.  No matter what happened we were letting out the dogs.  That was really a safe thing, was to be letting out the dogs.


Another punishments that I remember personally was that, my Dad would have a couple of beers at night.  I was responsible for taking the beer bottles.  His bedroom was on the second floor, and where the beer bottles belonged was in the basement.  That was my job for several years, crating the beer bottles down.  The beer bottles ended up in the linen closet, in drawers, in anybody’s closet, they never got past the upstairs.  There were probably three cases of beer bottles hidden by the time Daddy found them.  My punishment for that was to walk up and down the staircase with a beer bottle in each hand for hours.  And you’d think, these are so stupid, who would care.  But the truth was, I objected strenuously to those punishments.  I whined and moaned.  I thought they were the  most horrible punishments on the face of the earth.  But that was Daddy’s punishment for me not putting the beer bottles away.  I don’t even think I had the job after he found them.  It was funny.  After he found some in his attic, then everyone was supposed to look and they found like three cases!  It was the funniest thing, everybody was finding beer bottles.


Mike and the fish

Jan: Here is a funny story.  Mike and the fish.  My Dad always had fish, and he’d always ask someone, when he was feeding them, he’d say, “How many are feeding, how many at the top, how many at the bottom.  We used to have tanks in the basement and someone would tell him about his fish.  Well Mike was telling him about his fish.  Mike had told us, don’t tell Dad the fish are dead because he couldn’t bare the thought.  I went down with Dad one day, and here I am looking at all these empty fish tanks.  And Dad says, “How many are at the top feeding?”  I’m like, ok gosh, “Three at the top feeding, two in this tank and two at the bottom.”  “Which one’s eating the most?  The guppies or the black angels?”  You’d have to make up whats eating because there was nothing there. 


Sally: And there was traps in some of them.  There was supposed to be a pregnant one and babies in some of them. 


Jan: So then he was like, “How many babies are there?”  I thought gosh.  So then one day Pat came home and went down there, and she told him they were all empty tanks.  And so what he did, was he called Mike in there again to tell him how many were eating on the top and at the bottom!


Pat:  The funny thing was, I had been away at school.  Daddy kept calling me, because he was so excited.   He had fancytail guppies and they were having babies like crazy.  He had every breading tank full!  He had a couple in each one.  He couldn’t get enough breeding tanks because there were so many babies being born.  I had never had the fish flourish so much.  When I got home, I was thinking, I’ve got to look at all those fish, I can’t believe it.  I mean he was having babies like mad.  And I looked through all those tanks and they were all empty, (on the front porch at centerline).  So I thought, maybe there were some other tanks somewhere else. 


Jan: And all the pumps were running and everything.


Pat: I never even thought of it being a lie.  Dad came home and I said, “Dad, where are the fish?”  And I said, “No, they must be somewhere else.”  He said, “What do you mean?”  I said, “There is four tanks there but they’re all empty.  I said, “I can’t even see a catfish, not even a live snail.”


Jan: But Dad was really excited about all the fish.  That’s why Mike said you can’t tell him.  He said, “You can’t tell Dad about it, he’s so excited about the fish.”


Leader dogs

Sally:  I’ll tell you something neat about my Dad.  We lived on Lakewood.  My Dad had always gone up to Rochester to get his leader dogs.  I remember as a real little kid, to my Dad, a leader dog was almost like a kid to him.  He had had Jackie for a long time.  And I remember Jackie in the summers, he was in the basement.  Two of us used to  have to carry Jackie up the stairs, put him in the sun.  He wasn’t continent any more, so we had to clean up the mess.  Set out in the yard with him while he basked in the sun.  Then carry him back down to the basement.  The real thing is that my Dad just, Jackie was so important to him that he couldn’t bear to put Jackie to sleep.  Mother finally got Daddy to put Jackie to sleep.  Daddy was mad at her for days, because it was so hard on him to do that.  But, in later years, I remember my Dad training his own leader dogs.  He got this dog from Tom Higgins.  He was a hunting dog, and my Dad decided he was going to train him to be a leader dog.  And he did.  He did a great job.  That dog was Yankee.  He trained another dog, Kurt.  We thought it was a baby Lab, but it turned out to be a miniature dog that never grew.  I remember following Daddy for weeks on end, while he was training Kurt.  Daddy’s way of training was endless walking, stopping on curbs, talking to the dog.  We had this modified harness on the dog.  He actually did train Kurt, but Kurt never grew.  The neat thing to me was, whatever my Dad took on, he accomplished.  He was brilliant to me.  There was nothing that my Dad couldn’t figure out.  I remember one time, and I still know how to do this.  Daddy used to go by the piano and he’d pound out tunes.  One day, he played happy birthday.  I said, “How do you do that?”  He showed me how to play happy birthday.  It was real simple.  To me, who didn’t know anything, it was kind of cool.  In later years, my Dad taught himself to play guitar. 



When he was younger- now this is a funny story about my Dad.  We had this old Rambler.  The motor got ruined somehow.  Daddy decided, with Bill and Mike’s great mechanical expertise, he was going to redo the motor.  Bill and Mike, there is a lot of good things about them, mechanical ability is not the first one thousand.  The entire summer, they spent reconditioning the engine.  They had it chained up in the backyard.  Daddy took apart every part of this engine, cleaned it all, go new parts for whatever was busted and put it back together again.


My Mother tells me a story about when they were first married.  My Dad wired a room.  I guess you have to have it inspected.  The inspector came to inspect and my Mother was the only one there.  He goes, “Oh, this is a really good job.”  My Mother said, “Phew! My husband is blind.  I was just hoping it would be safe.”  They guy says, “Blind! Let me check this out again!”   The truth of the matter was, my Dad could figure out anything.


I remember we had this old piece of rust, called the station wagon, that we used to drive down to Wayne.  Bill and Mike were always Daddy’s helpers when it came to fixing the cars.  I was labor, “go get this part, go get this.”  Daddy gets in the driver’s seat and says, “Ok, I’m gonna start it up, and he wants them to do something.  The very next thing I remember was my Dad driving down toward Newport, by himself.  Honest to God.  I am not making that up.  Daddy drove that car from the corner of Lakewood and Freud, to Newport and Freud, and stopped it.  Bill and Mike were supposed to be standing over the hood doing something.  He intended to move the car, but not as far as he moved it.  I remember it happening and thinking, Oh my God, Daddy stop!  On the corner of that street was a little market – Sals Groceries – Sal Lemeto.  I was yelling at him, “Dad, stop that car!”  And he did.  Nothing shook my Dad.  If you needed to figure something out he figured it out.


Squishy Toes

This is one of the best stories about  my Dad there ever was.  First of all, I was going to visit him, and he was on the eleventh or twelfth floor of the prosecutors office.  Usually I would tell Daddy, “come down and meet me.  I don’t want to go all the way down there.”


Two neat stories: One time Daddy was doing a trial. Jan and I went in because we knew he was doing a trial and was going to be late.  We go in there and we sit behind the bar.  All of a sudden, the leader dog sees us, jumps over the rail.  The judge says, “Mr. Joyce, I think we need to call a break here.  Your dog just left, and I think one of your kids just came in.”  The dog was always by his feet.  When he was up, he would just leave the dog by his seat, because the dog would just stay there.  But when it saw us, it jumped over the railing. 


The story about squishy toes was: Daddy asked me to go let Skipper out at the prosecutors office.  At the bottom of the prosecutors office building was a little patch of grass where we always let the dog out.  It no longer was green.  It was this yellow thing.  After years and years of letting the dog out there, and Paul Teranis had a dog too.  It was a tiny yellow patch.  But they knew where to go.  Well, the dog had the runs and there was four elevators.  I started coming down and the dog has the squats in the elevator.  I stop off on a floor, get in another elevator, and continue down.  I do not want to be caught in the elevator with that!  We get to the foyer where the cops are sitting with the security people in the middle.  I start heading out and the dog starts going again.  The cop says to me, “Lady! You need to. . . .”  There was this poor woman, oblivious to the world in open toe sandals.  She was following me.  This is what you hear: “Lady, you need to get the . . . .Lady! Lady! Watch out!   . . . . You need to get that . . . Lady!”  And she was walking split, splat, split, splat.  Of course, I have this real sense of humor, so I am laughing by now.  I could not move.  The guy was yelling at me to get out.  I can’t get out.  I thought I was going to have a heart attach right there.  The poor woman, she had it all over her feet.  It was disgusting.  It really was the runs.  The cop says, “You get out of here now, and you’re not coming back in.”  I’m like, “This is my Dad’s leader dog.  He can’t be left.  He’s blind.”  “I don’t care whose dog it is.  You’re not coming back in here.”    So I’m stuck outside with Skipper, and I can’t get back in.  So I said, “Can I at least call my Dad and tell him.  He’s blind.  I don’t need the dog.  I’m just letting the dog out.  The dog needs to be up there.”  He says, “You’re not coming back in.”  It took me holding the dog there, and he brings some kind of phone like a walkie talkie over to me and starts calling Daddy to tell Daddy that he is not letting the dog back into the building.  This dog has done serious damage.  By then, I think the dog was done.  The dog made a royal mess in that entire front area.  I really felt sorry for the lady, but there was nothing that could have been done.


Jan: When we were telling Dad that story later on in life.  I loved his comment, because he was so honest.  He said, “You know what you should have done don’t you?  You should have gone down the elevator where the dog made the mess, and gone back up and let them blame it on Paul Teranis.”  He was another blind guy there with a leader job. 


Dad in school

Sally: My mom was very active in sports at the blind school.  My Dad swam, but he didn’t learn to  until he was an adult.


Pat: And Dad had a peculiar talent.  When he did the back float and he kicked, he didn’t go forward, he went backward.  In order to go forward he had to use his arms. 


Sally: Before he lost his eyesight, he loved baseball.  That was all he did.  It always amazed him that Bob and Jim could keep such good grades and play sports.  Bob in particular.  Bob was the captain of the basketball team and was also on the student council and had good grades.  He said before he lost his sight, all he did was play baseball, and was barely a C student, but after he lost his sight, he was a straight A student.  He kind of cut himself off from  his friends, because he didn’t want them feeling sorry for him.  The difference is, my Dad went to a regular school, versus my Mother went to  a school for the blind.  My understanding is, that when my Dad went blind, there was some time that he lost in school.  And he was able to make that up, and go into the next grade and graduate with his class from high school.  Then when he went to Wayne, my Grandma read to him  Now, my Dad was my Grandma’s favorite, it was extremely obvious to every other sibling that my Dad was my grandma’s favorite.  She loved my Dad.  We would go over to my grandma’s house on Saturday’s and she would just make my Dad anything he wanted for breakfast and lunch, and we would play cards with her.  The reason my Grandma was crippled was because she fell over one of Daddy’s leader dogs, and they never straightened her legs out, Grandpa wouldn’t take her to a doctor.  She had to use a chair as a walker.  It never healed correctly. She read to my Dad through all of his classes.  He was a straight A student from then on. 


A job as a prosecutor

Jan: Another good story about Dad was that he graduated with the second highest honors in the history of Wayne State Law School and highest in his class.  When he graduated from Law School, he was trying to find a job.  Every time he called a law firm that had an opening, they wanted him until they saw he was blind.  He ended up selling brooms and brushes for five years after law school.   When his friends from law school would call, he wouldn’t talk to them.  Finally my mom said, “He is really embarrassed because he doesn’t have a job and he is selling brooms and brushes.  I’m really sorry but he won’t talk to you because he is to embarrassed.”  He had such good friends (Romano and another).  And they got their friends to help out.


Sally: Olsen was running for prosecutor.  These two friends of my Dad, one went to the prosecutor and said, “I will do anything you want to get you into office, but I only ask you one thing, If you get elected, you hire Bill Joyce.”  The other guy went to the Democrat and said, “I will work my but off for you, do anything you want, if you get elected, I want you to hire Bill Joyce.”   So there was both the Democrat and the Republican, no matter who got elected, my Dad was going to get hired.  Olsen got elected, and my Dad got the job, but he didn’t go in right away.  He wanted to take a couple of months to study.  He had been out of law for several years and he didn’t feel that he had retained.  He just studied and studied so that he could catch up on the law, so that he would feel confident.  It took those two guys to get someone to try him.  Although he did have a private practice and Mother actually worked for him.  But it was very hard for someone to take a blind attorney.  It was really because of my Dad that Paul Teranis, and other blind people, were able to get a job, because he was the first one that did it. 


My Mother was mostly at home supporting us.



Going to work with Daddy

Jan: My Dad always used to take a bus to work, and we would walk up to the bus stop with him.  (Up to Jefferson and Lakewood).  One person used to get to go to work with him.  The good thing about going to work is (what do you know about cops?).   You always knew if you worked with Dad you were going to get donuts.


Sally: It was a real treat to get to go on the bus with him.  In later years, when Kathy, Dan and Jan and I were going to Wayne, we’d drop him off and pick him up.  And we’d sing songs to him all the way down there.  There was this one song where the end was “lalalalalala”, and Daddy said, “You guys just made that part up to annoy me, I know you did, there is no real song like this.” 


Jan:We’d start singing and he couldn’t hear the news anymore. 


Sally: He gave up because we just sang to him the whole time.


Walks with Mother

Jan: The one thing I remember about Mother was that if you ever went for a walk with her, you’d end up at Saunders.  If she ever asked for a walk, you’d know you’d end up with a hot fudge sundae at Saunders.  I think that’s why I like ice cream to this day.  She would only take one person at a time.  I would never miss a walk with her.  It was very special for me.


School and friends

Sally: From fifth through tenth grade I went to St. Ambrose.  Before that I went to Guiton.  I hated St. Ambrose, because the nuns were always saying really stupid things.  This nun said to me one time, “How do your parents get dressed?”  I thought, “You’re stupider than I think.”  I went home to Daddy and told her what she’d said.  It was the funniest thing, because Daddy said, “Next time she asks, tell her that we’ve arranged it this way, there is a maid who comes in and dresses me and there is a man who comes in and dresses you Mother.”  She never asked me again, but I always was waiting for that opportunity to throw that in.  That was a good answer, and I never thought of as good answers as my Dad did. 

At St. Ambrose there was Kathy, Dan, me , Jan, Jim, Carol and Bob.  We were never dressed like the rest (because there were people from Grosse Pointe), but it was OK.  That was one of the benefits of growing up in a large family.


There was this really popular girl at St. Ambrose, and she said to me, in order to be my friend, you have to do this.  I didn’t want to do it (I don’t remember what it was), I said, “I’m not going to do it.”  She said, “No, I’m real serious, if you will not do this, you cannot be my friend.”  I said, “That’s ok”.  And she said, “No, No, I’m serious, I will have nothing to do with you.”  I said, “Yeah that’s fine.”  I realized years later when my stepdaughter Helen told me she did a lot of stupid things just to have friends, that really was one of the benefits of being in a large family.  You didn’t need to because you had these people who were stuck with you the whole time.  We never walked to school by ourselves.  We always had this little army. 


Marge’s study habits

Barb: Marge used to bring home every book from school, every night.  All of her younger brothers and sisters (her minions) would be carrying them.  Pat and I would say, “We have to study a lot tonight.  Marge would say, “I have to study a lot too.”  Then she’d lie down on the couch and fall asleep.  We’d work our heads off and Marge would take her test the next day and do great, and we’d be disgusted with her.


Grocery shopping

Jan:  Since I was very young, I used to be dropped off at the grocery store to do all the shopping.  I used to write out the grocery list and someone else would grab it and see “letus” and “cutecumers” and they’d start laughing and I’d wonder, how in the world do yo spell these words.  I used to take Bob with me (Bob was 3 and everybody loved Bob, he was this cute little thing.)  I had a sweet tooth.  What I talked Bob into, was I’d put Bob in the basket.  There was the nicest manager at that store – Joe.  When you walked in the store, the first thing you’d have was candy.  We’d look over the candy and decide what kind of candy we wanted that day.  We’d walk into the store through the aisles.  Our plan was this.  I’d leave Bob in the aisle, he’d start crying.  Joe would find him.  And he takes Bob over to the candy aisle.  Bob picks out the candy that  we had determined we were going to get that way.  (Usually it was a big bag of candy).  Then we’d split the booty, finish the grocery shopping and wait for someone to pick us up. 


Alley Picking

One of the things (from Bill down to me) we always did was go alley picking for treasures.  On the way to school, on the way home from school.  Do you remember when those Italian people across the street emptied out their house?  They had the old frames with the pictures of old people.  Bill said, “These are treasures”  So we took these frames with whoever these people were and started hanging them up around our bedroom.  We had no clue who these people were, they were their ancestors.  There was a fancy round one.  Bill said, “Do you see what we got?”  And we’d say “Wow!”  We alley picked for years.  There wasn’t a day we didn’t come home with something.  We were always alley picking.


Plum Thieves

Barb: We went to Franks house recently and we met a couple of Franks friends.  This one guys name was Carl.  We were talking.  It turns out that he lived further toward the Key school.  He said our section was the rich section.  He lived in the poorer section.  He said, you won’t believe this, but I have a story about your family.  We used to have a plum tree in our yard.  He said, “Like all good Italian families in the area, we had a truck that we sold fruit on.  A friend and I saw your plum tree and decided we were going to steal the plums.  They were in the yard one day, and they had just filled up two big things of plums, when a man came to the back door and said, “What are you doing out there!  Get in this house now!” (it was Daddy)  He called them in the house and sat them down, and he and Mother gave them a talk about stealing, and you don’t steal, and you need to be honest.  Finally at the end, Daddy said, “you can keep the two bags of plums.”  At this point we realized they were blind.  If we had realized they were blind we would have never come into the house, we would have run away.”  He said he remembered it all his life because Mother and Daddy gave him a talk about being honest and then gave him the two bags of plums. 


Marge: I remember that incident.  I was frankly, kind of disgusted that they let them have the plums. 


Jan: We started watching those plums trees, to make sure no one else would steal.


Mary Poppins Story

Jan: You have to realize, that I would do anything for Bill.  Because if you were on Bills team, you will always win.  (Not only always win, but you lucked out in the junk food, you ate well) 


Barb: He used to by those bumpy chocolate cakes.  He’d say, “Barb, I’ve got one hidden here.  Any time you want it, you can have it.”


Jan: He had candy hidden every where.  We found some of his booty sometimes hidden in the rafters.  Sally and I started searching those rafters.


Marge: No wonder he could find Mother’s caches no matter where she hid them.


Jan: Mother was a novice.


Sally: Lakewood had this huge  porch.  If you went upstairs into my Mother and Dad’s bedroom you could climb out the window onto the roof of the porch.


Jan: I did it off the garage.  We climbed up French’s tree and onto the garage.  Bill decided that an umbrella would be a parachute, and that him and I should try it (for science) to see if this really worked.  So him and I climbed up this tree onto the roof of the garage, and we had our umbrellas.  And he said, “Jump Jan.”  I would do anything for Bill, whether you want to or not.  He would always pick me then.  I’d always be on his team.  Even when we played football, he’d say, “Jan, if you can learn to throw it long and straight, you can be my quarterback.”  If I could beat Jim at running I could be on his team. 


So we were on the roof, and he says, “Jan, you jump first, and then I’ll jump.”  So I  had my umbrella and I jumped and I hit my legs and I fell and I couldn’t stand up.  I was like, “All right Bill, come on down! I’m fine”  He said, “Stand up Jan.”  I was like, “I’m fine Bill, just come on down.”  “ Well, can you stand up?”  “Not yet but come on down!”  He was like, “Well Jan, stand up.”  “Bill just come on down!”  And he climbs down the tree, and checks to see if I’m ok.  I couldn’t stand up for a while.  He was rubbing my legs and saying, “You’ll be all right! Its just the shock!”  So I was like, “was it a parachute?”  I don’t think so.




Mother Fletcher

Jan: Another one he used to do was: all our cats used to be blackie, whitey, et cetera.  But the first one we had was Mother Fletcher.  Bill found her.  We called her Fletcher until she had babies, then she was Mother Fletcher.  I remember Mrs. French, one day.  Fletcher got under the car and we wanted to go some place.  We were saying, “Mother, come here come here! Mother!”  Mrs. French thought my mom was under the car but we didn’t know that.  We were on all sides of the car to call Mother to come out from under the car.  Mrs. French called Mother later and asked her, “What were you doing underneath the car?”  Mother said, “I wasn’t underneath the car.”  “About half an hour ago, the kids were yelling for you to get from underneath the car.  What were you doing there?”  Mother had no idea what Mrs. French was talking about.  Mother asked us about it.  Once we figure out what Mrs. French was talking about, we made sure that every time that Mother Fletcher was outside we’d say, “Mother, come down from that tree!  Mother, come off the roof!”  We’d have a good laugh thinking we were making people think Mother was climbing everywhere.



Jan: The other thing Bill did to Mrs. French, was he liked to just get her for whatever reason.  He got these records with screaming and two gunshots.  It was like a murder record.  We’d go out in the garage, late at night, and play this record very loud for Mrs. French (we wanted her to hear it) so that she would think something was going on.


Salvador Lemeto’s Dogs

Jan: We would play in the backyard.  There was our backyard and  an alley, and then Salvador Lemeto’s little store.  He wouldn’t feed his dogs, so he always had “Beware of dogs” on his gate.  And we would feed his dogs.  Our balls would always go over his fence into his yard.  We’d just jump the fence into his yard and go get our ball.  We’d go into his yard all the time.  He would tell us, “Those dogs are ferocious, they will bite you.”  Bill used to wait until he closed up, then we’d go in and get our balls.


Bee hunting

Jan: We loved to sit out on the front porch.  Mike was out on the front porch once, singing, and a bee went down his throat and stung him.  He was taken off to the emergency room.  So Bill gathers the clan and says, “Mike was stung in the throat by a bee.  We need to avenge him.”  So we all had to go down the alley killing bees.  We killed so many bees that day you can’t even imagine.  Bill had us killing bees until Mike came back from the hospital.


Mother’s Lie Detector

Sally:  Mother had a necklace that she had gotten from Daddy.  What she used to do: Mother would sit on the couch, and she’d close her eyes and say, “OK, tell me what you’ve done.”  While she was feeling our pulse.  [Here Sally sits on the couch, pretending to be her Mother.  Jan sits between her legs and Sally Jan’s pulse, during the following conversation.]


Jan: I might say, “I stole a cookie the other day.”


Sally: “You did something else. There’s more there, tell me.”


Jan: “I found a nickel on the sunroom floor.”


Sally: “There’s more than that, tell me!”


Jan: “I played with Barb and Pat’s toys and I put them in the closet.”


Sally: “ Hold on . . . . Nope, that’s not it.”


Jan: “I went with Bill and we sold some pictures to some to of the neighbors.”


Sally: “Nope, that’s not it.”


Jan:”We tried to sing Christmas carols and get money for it.”


Sally: She did this to every one of us.


Jan:  What she would do, was, “that’s not it, (whack) tell me another one.”  You have to realize, this happened to Sally and I who were told we did all sorts of things we didn’t remember.


Sally:  You also have to remember, in our family, we were so sheltered.  We didn’t know how to do wrong things.  When I went to confession in second grade, I didn’t know what to say.  My standard was, “I took an apple out of the apple drawer in the refrigerator.”  We didn’t even have an apple drawer.


Barb:  That’s what I would say when I went to confession.  I know I must have done something.


Jan: I was told by the nuns that if you tell big sins, you get big graces.  I would tell them I skipped church all the time.  “Why didn’t you go to church on Sunday?”  “I don’t know why. I just didn’t want to.”  I always  thought I was getting a lot of grace afterwards.  I made up this lie and now I get grace.


Sally: Mother one time did this to me, it was about Daddy’s necklace.  To this day, I have no idea who took it.  My standard thing was, “I took an apple out of the drawer in the refrigerator.”  So Mother says, “what did you do?”  I said, “I took an apple out of the drawer in the refrigerator.”  She hits me.  And says, “Yes you did, but there is more there.”  Then I realized, I didn’t take an apple out of the drawer.  I said, “I’m not telling you a thing, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”  And I was like seven.  The priests you could tell anything to.  But Mother, was Mother, and she had to know if I was telling the truth, but she didn’t.  It was the most amazing thing to realize. 


When she did the lie detector, she did it in the dark, in the frontroom, on the couch.  You were petrified anyway.  Then you add that sort of mystery to it and it almost seemed like it could be real.  When I told her about the apple, she had been doing this for a long time.  It wasn’t the first time.  Mother was always trying to be one step ahead of us, but she was always 15 steps behind.


Salvador Lemeto

Jan: Salvador did something to us and we decided to strike him.  So Bill decided we should march in front of his store.  We made signs and marched in front of his corner grocery store.  He was really a very nice man.  When it was raining, he used to pick us up and take us home.  But he did something to us, so we had a strike.  The police told us we had to leave.  It was almost Halloween.  Remember the poem?  “Salvador Lemeto sells rotten lettuce” It was a long poem and we marched in front of his store saying it.  On Halloween we wrote it on his window in wax.  Like he didn’t know who that was.


Pat: Another story about Dan and Sal.  I always thought this was amazing.  It was the middle of winter, no one was around.  Mother gets a call from Sal Lemeto.  He said, “Mrs. Joyce, your son is over here in shorts, no socks and shoes, and no shirt.”  It was less than 30 degrees out.  Mother said, “Tell him to come home right now.”  But this was normal for Dan.  Mother yelled at him but there was no way Mother could get him to put his shoes on.



Two dogs glued together

Sally: I’ll tell you a funny one that happened to Bill and I.  Bill and I were so innocent.  Bill was always dragging these stray animals home.  I remember one time in the alley we saw these two dogs but to but.  Somebody had glued these two dogs together.


Barb: You know who we thought it was, was those bad guys.


Jan: The kids, Butch Elpert on Newport.


Sally: We got on one end, and we pulled those dogs for the longest time.  I think now, those dogs were not coming apart. 


Barb:  It was the funniest thing.  We said, “We’re gonna get those kids who would do this to a dog.”  After we had been pulling and pulling, we turned around and they were apart.


Jan: I remember telling Mother and she didn’t react at all.  She was like, ok.


The field

Marge: I don’t remember there was a field, near our house on Newport, and we always played in this field.  Remember they started building an apartment house.  We went to Mother and Daddy and said, “What are they doing to our field?  They are building this big apartment house.”  But Daddy wouldn’t do anything about it.  I couldn’t understand, why wouldn’t he tell them to get out of our field?  It was a great disappointment to me.


Pat: It was a great field, we were small, and the grass was high enough that you could hide in it.


Marge: There were great adventures there.


Barb plays football

Barb: One night, I got up, and you guys used to always go out and play football in the street.  One night, I got up for some reason, and you guys said, “Come on, we’re going out to play football in the street.”  I remember going out, and it was a vicious game.  You guys were still pretty young and they would just mow you over.  I was like, Oh my gosh.


Jan: We were tough.  There was only one person who wasn’t tough, Mike.  He’d always pout because he’d always lose.


Kathy and passive resistance

Sally:  You know who was the toughest though.  Kathy.  When she punched you.  She’d put her foot into you and knuckle you in the back.  You wanted her on your side, or at least you didn’t want to go up against her.


Marge: The think I remember about Kathy was her being the strongest passive resister I have ever seen.


Pat: Mother making her eat breakfast.  Mother asking her to get clothes out of the drier.  All day long.


Sally:  Mother had Kathy sit at the table.  Mother had something she wanted Kathy to eat, but Kathy wouldn’t eat it.  Mother said, “You have to sit there until your done.”  She sat there from breakfast until lunch.  It was still there.  I think Mother finally gave up around 1 in the afternoon.


Marge: I remember one time I asked Kathy to do something, and I wouldn’t mind if she said no.  But she didn’t say no.  She’d say, “I will.”  And then she wouldn’t do it.  And then, later you’d say, “Kathy, you said you were going to do this.”  “I will.”  Then the fourth time, when you start getting upset, she’d say, “Well now I’m not going to do it, forget it now.”


Pat: To Mother she never said that.  To Mother, she would torture her.  “Now Mother, I’m going to do that, why are you getting upset?”


Dan’s kick

Barb: Mother was calling Dan and he wasn’t coming.  Would someone give him a good swift kick in the rear.  And Marge said, “With pleasure!” And Marge took this big kick and fell and on the floor!


Jan: We got it backwards!


How Daddy met Mother
Jan: I remember when I was really little, I always used to ask Dad how he met Mother.  He used to tell this story about him running this race.  He was the fastest one, and he always won.  The story would change sometimes, but he was always running with everyone else, and he always won.


Barb: Right.  Clem Cadillohopper was up there in front.  He’d do that from the time we were little.



Barb: When we were young – Every time Mother had a baby, suddenly Mother would leave the house and have a baby.  I said, “Where do you guys go to have a baby?”  Mother and Daddy would say that they climbed up the stairs into heaven and there was this big circle with all these babies on it.  They would go around and pick out the one they wanted and bring it home.


Marge: I pictured it like the chapel.  They were going up a staircase behind the alter.


Barb:  When Dan was a little baby, he would scream a lot.  Dad would say, “I told your Mother to pick a different one, but she had to have this one!”


Marge:  Was it Jim, where Daddy would come in and say, “How is my little ray of sunshine this morning!?”  And the baby would cry “Wah!”  He made Jim cry everytime.


To messy for Christmas

Sally: I’ll tell you a funny one.  Pat, Barb and Marge are the ones who did this, but me and Jan were to young to know at the time.  At Christmas time one year, when Bob was born, they would do Christmas, but we believed in Santa Claus.  So this one Christmas, Bob was born on the 21st.  Mother came home from the hospital on Christmas Day.  We got this note from Santa Claus, saying, the house was not clean enough, so we had to clean the house, and Santa would come back Christmas night, just to our house.  Joyously, Bill and I spent the entire day at a Laundromat washing 100 loads of clothing.  Everyone believed it and we had to clean the house.  We always made sure the house was clean after that, because we never wanted to have this happen again.  I remember asking Mother, “You mean Santa Claus is going to come all the way back from the north pole, just for our house?”  “Oh yeah.  Only if its clean though.”  We literally spent that entire day cleaning and washing.  I realized later when Jan and I did this job, that they just didn’t have the Christmas presents wrapped.  I’m sure that’s what it was!


Dan’s Concussion

Jan: Sally, tell the story of Dan’s concussion. 


Sally: I don’t know if anyone knows this.


Barb: I do.


Pat: The funny thing is that Dan doesn’t remember it.  I told him why he had a seizure, and he said, “No, I never did that.”  It made sense when you told me.



Sally: One day, Dan and I were walking to Guiton, and he didn’t want to go to school.  So he tells me he wanted to go home.  You couldn’t just go home and tell Mother you didn’t want to go to school.  He said, what will do (we always walked in the alleys for some reason) is walk down every alley and  bang our head on every garage we saw, and trees and telephone poles. 


Pat: I thought you said that Dan came running and banged his head into a tree?


Marge: Now you’re hearing the real story.


Sally: I don’t remember that.  This is honestly what happened.  We went down these alleys banging our head on everything we saw.  Finally I’m like, “I’m getting sick here. I’m not banging my head on anything else.”  He said, “Sal, we can’t go home unless we really have headaches.  We have to do this.”  I said, “Dan, I’ve really got a headache.”  He said, “No, it’s not bad enough.  You can’t lie, you have to have a headache.”  We kept doing it.  He literally was real sick.  He was hospitalized.  What we told Mother is that we were walking down an alley, he wasn’t looking where he was going, and banged into a tree.


Barb: Another part of this story is – when he had his seizure, I had just learned how to drive.  I was the one that took him and Mother to the hospital.  I knew when you were driving an ambulance that you honk your horn and drive through.  I think I was going like 25 miles an hour going, “Honk”, people passing me by. 


Sally:  I never knew Dan had a seizure.  When he got sick, he told me, don’t ever tell anybody that.


Pat: What happened is, he had a seizure in the middle of the kitchen.  We took him to the emergency room and they didn’t find anything.  They thought he had meningitis and they hospitalized him.  Then they did a spinal, and he was fine as far as I understood.  When I was at Children’s, I said, I’m going to look up Dan’s chart and see why he had a seizure.  I looked it up and all they found was blood in the spinal fluid.  It was either you or Dan, I think it was you that told me that you didn’t want to go to school so you ran into a tree.


Sally: My story was that Dan had run into a tree.  I was not admitting that I had a headache.


Pat: That made sense, because a head injury would do that.  But Daniel totally denied any head injury when he went to the hospital, which made the doctors not sure what was going on. 


Barb:  When we went to the hospital, he had his spinal, he screamed so loud, that I have been afraid of spinals ever since.  This is a grown up story.  When I had my miscarriage, I was at school, Jim comes up to the hospital, and it turns out to be the hospital where Dan is doing an internship.  I get there and they tell me I need a spinal.  I am freeking out.  Lou is trying to calm me down.  Dan comes in, and Lou said, “She is going to have a spinal and I’m trying to calm her down.”  Dan said, “That’s the worst thing she could have in her life, that’s horrible!”  Lou was like, “What are you doing?” “I’m honest with my patients and I tell them how it’s going to be.”  I kind of lucked out because on the way to the hospital, Jim was eating a banana, and he said, do you want any food, and shoved this in my mouth.  The doctor said, “Have you had any food?”  I said I had had a bight  of a banana.  He said, then I couldn’t have a spinal today. 


Check his underwear

Pat: Remember how if any one went to the emergency room, Mother would always make us check their underwear first.  Mother wanted to make sure they had clean underwear on.  One day, something was wrong with Jim and Mother said, “Check his underwear.”  We looked and they were very white and clean, and we thought, this is unusual.  They were cleaner than I could believe any of the boys had.  We got to the hospital and they wanted Jim to get undressed.  He would not take his pants off.  The doctors were saying, “Come on. He’s got to take his clothes off.”  We said, “Jim, your underwear are fine, just take off your clothes.”  It turned out, the underwear were really nice in the front, but the whole back was missing. 


Barb: He had probably bleached them and the whole back fell out!  It wasn’t until he had them off and then Pat and I saw and we couldn’t stop laughing!  He was so upset.


Stuck to the door

Jan: Marge, do you remember the time when you and I were walking to Guiton.  We were very late, it was in the middle of winter, and we went to open the door.  Our hands got stuck on the door.  Daniel put his tongue stuck on it.  They had to do something to  get him off.


Stealing Christmas Trees

Jan: This reminds me of a funny story.  This was one of the last Christmas’s when we stole Christmas trees.  I remember going out the night before searching for the trees.


Sally: We’d always go Christmas eve night to get our tree because all the lots were closed and you could have your pick.


Marge: It was also because our tree always went up Christmas morning. 


Jan: I was riding in the station wagon with Dan.  We got three Christmas trees that year.


Sally: Mother put one in the sun room, one in the living room, and one in the basement.


Jan:  But the last one, we had scoped out and were ready to take it.  Dan said, “How much is the tree.”  And the guy said, “Forty-five dollars”  and Dan said, “No way.”  So he said, “OK, we’re going back for the tree.”  So we drove around the block, Dan jumped out of the car, grabbed the tree, threw it on the car and jumped back in and yelled, “Merry Christmas!”


Barb: Marge and I had a terrible time one Christmas Eve.  Actually, I never thought of it as stealing.  I just thought they were all done for the night.


Pat: Some would give them to you very cheap, like five dollars, and some were just closed for the night.


Jan: I don’t ever remember paying.


Barb: This one night, we couldn’t find a tree.  Marge and I were scouring and we drove all over.  We jumped over Franks fence.  We got a tree and we were hauling it out.  Some guy drove up and said, “That was the one tree that was mine.  Hand it to me.”  We gave it to him and he drove off.


Marge: I think he said, “Let me help you.”


Barb: I was with Marge, (Marge is kind of holy) and I was saying, “I’m really upset. I really dislike that person.”  Marge said, “Well I hate them!”  I said, “So do I!”  That same night we got another tree and you and I hauled it home.  Daddy tried to set it up.  It turned out it had two stumps and it wouldn’t go into the stand.  So then we had to go out and find another tree.  We had a horrible night.


Being In Charge

Sally:  When we were young, whenever Mother and Daddy went out, someone was in charge of us.  Whoever was in charge, their job was to make sure the house got clean.


Pat: It wasn’t even that actually.  It was our idea to surprise Mother, that’s why we cleaned the house.


Sally: All I know, is every time someone was in charge I was cleaning the house.


Pat: Me and Barb wanted to get  the house clean and surprise Mother.  She was never surprised.


Barb: She’d always get mad at us for some reason.


A stranger at the door

Sally: I remember one night, Barb was in charge, and someone came to the door late at night.  We were all screaming, running upstairs, and went into a closet to hide.  We slowly crept around the stairs, get to the front door again, to see who it was, then we’d hear the noise again and run back up to the closet.


Barb: There is a whole background story to that.  I had gone to work with Daddy that day.  A case that Daddy had, the man got really mad at Daddy and said, “Somebody’s going to be sorry about this.”  Then we were on the bus to get home and the man was on the bus with us.  I pleaded with Daddy, “Don’t get off at our regular stop.  He is going to know where we live.”  Daddy said, “We’ll just get off at our regular stop.”  I had this huge imagination.  I was like, “Oh my God, he knows where we live.”  That night, Mother and Daddy went out.  We actually worked with you guys.  It was a giant plan.  Someone was supposed to call, someone was supposed to grab the kids, someone was supposed to run next door.  We were supposed to do this giant thing.  Meanwhile, the doorbell rang, we all screamed, turned off  the lights, and ran in the closet.  Then, you guys got home finally.


Pat:  It was the Mahoney’s.  They said, “Is everything OK at your house?”  Dad said, “Yeah why?”  They said, “Well we just came to visit.  We rang the doorbell and there was a lot of screaming.”  That was how we found out.


Barb: Wasn’t there one time when I was home in charge.  You and I were watching a movie and it turned out to be a scary movie.  First of all the movie was scary and then I had my own story on top of it and it got worse and worse.


Marge: And all the lights were out.


Barb: We got to this fever pitch.  Again the doorbell rang.  Me and Marge were crawling.  I said, “Ok, don’t scream.”


Marge: Barb had one of the most vivid imaginations.


Pat: She believed everything.  All you’d have to say to Barb was, “Barb, don’t look through the window.”


Barb: I was a person who would not hang my hands over the side of the bed, because I was sure there were things under the bed.  I went to see snow white and the seven dwarfs, closed my eyes at all the witch parts and still had nightmares.  I thought things were in the closet, things were everywhere.  Pat would say (we were in bed) “Turn the lights out.”  I’d say, “I can’t turn out the lights and be in the dark.”  She’d say, “If you don’t turn out the lights, I’m going to tell you there is a witch in the window.”  And I’d scream. 


Pat: And Daddy would come in and say, “Pat, what are you doing in there?”  All I wanted her to do was turn out the light.  I was amazed that anybody would believe there was a witch in the window.


Sick with the Mumps

Barb:  There was also a time when I had been sick with the mumps.  Mother set me up in bed to eat and nothing looked good so I’d just dump it over the side of the bed.  Practically every meal Mother sent me, (you know how the beds were against the wall) I just threw it behind the bed.


Marge: Why did you do that?


Barb: I didn’t want the food and I didn’t want to hurt Mother’s feelings.  Probably the room had been cleaned many times before.  I said, “Don’t have Mother clean my room, It’s fine, its clean.”  We moved aside the bed, and there was nothing there.



Barb: I got my tonsils out when I was seven.  In the same room I was in, a girl was going to get her tonsils out and she died.  Mother was not going to leave.  They wanted her to go home.  She said, “I’m not going to leave this room.  I’m going to stay with her until she comes home.”  I remember that day, they told me after I had my tonsils out, “You can have all the ice cream and popsicles you want.”  After they took out the tonsils, I didn’t want it anymore.


Pat: We were all jealous.  We were amazed when she didn’t want any.


Barb: When I felt better, they didn’t offer it to me anymore.  I felt cheated. 


Marge: The first person I remember who died was a little girl in my class.  She died of tonsillitis.  Elizebeth Hagopian.


Barb:  In my class in second grade, we had a kid who’s sister got real sick.  They called the ambulance and the ambulance got in an accident on the way to the hospital and she died.


Daddy’s punishments

Sally:  When I was like in first grade, we walked home as a pack from Guiton. Two stories.  One was throwing snowballs and getting hit from Daddy. 


Barb:  That happened all the time, you would think he would just forget.


Jan: He just put it off.  It was agony.


Sally:  I got hit by a car.  Because I got hit by a car, I got punished.


Jan: What you didn’t know about that is that I was home playing in the backyard and some kids came over and said, “Sally Joyce was hit by a car.”  I went in the house and said to Mother and Daddy, “Some kids keep telling me Sally was hit by a car.”  They were really upset at that time.  When they found out.


Sally’s toenail

Sally:  I was the last one to cross the street and got rear ended.  I don’t remember exactly.  I just remember, when I got home, I got punished.


The things that happened in my life were: I lost my large toenail. Something fell on it and I lost it.  This one summer, everyone kept stepping on it.  It was sore as ever because there was no nail there.  I would scream when they stepped on it.  Daddy’s answer to that was, “Go up and stay in your bedroom so you’ll be safe.” Or “Go kneel in the hallway.  Nobody will bother you up there.”  I said, “I’m not doing anything.”  He said, “You’ll be safe.”  I was relegated to my bedroom  for days so I’d be safe.


Kissing Bill

Jan: I remember Mother making us kiss Bill for days because he had the measles.


Sally: I never had any childhood diseases and Bill got the measles, so Mother had us all kiss Bill. 


Jan:  None of us ever got it


Pat: You got antibodies.


Sally: We all thought it was the most repulsive thing.


Pat: When Bill had the mumps, I thought, here is Bill feeling totally fine, staying home for a whole week.  I thought, I want that disease.  I went in the morning and I kissed him voluntarily.  I was so happy the morning I woke up and my cheek was swollen.


Mike sick

Barb: Do you remember, Mike would get up in the morning and say, “Oh, I’m so sick.”  Mother would believe him.  Pat and I would say, “Mother, he’s not sick.”  He would have his hands on his face.  We’d pry his hands off and there was this huge smile.  We’d say, “Mother, he’s not sick.”  She’d say, “He sounds pretty sick to me.”



Jan: One of the times we went skiing at Shanty Creek, we took Mother down the bunny hill.  I remember Steve trying to keep her ski tips together.  I was surprised she’d even try.


Barb: When we were kids, we used to go to Belle Isle and try to ride a tandem bike.  I remember Mother would be on it, and we would be on it, and trying to  balance it.  I never felt really in control of it, I always felt like I was going to fall.


Sally:  That was the neat thing.  Mother used to take us to Belle Isle.  We’d play baseball all day and then she’d take us out for ice cream.  That was the biggest treat.


Father’s Day

Barb: I remember a great story.  It was father’s day, and Mother said that Pat and I could take Daddy out to lunch.  She gave Pat the money.  We walked to Dairy Queen and a restaurant.  We went into this restaurant and Pat said, “You can order anything you want Daddy, money is no object.”  Meanwhile, Pat and I found out later that Mother had given Daddy strict orders, “Pat has five dollars, you can only get this.”  We felt so good, we had the money and we were in charge.  We used to always walk to Dairy Queen.  Mother would walk us their.


“Never get in a car with someone you don’t know”

Sally: I have sort of a funny story.  My Mother told us, “Never get in a car with someone you don’t know when you are walking.  If you have to walk for miles you don’t get into a car with someone you don’t know.”  I took this to heart.  My godmother, who I couldn’t stand, came to pick me up one day, walking home from Saint Ambrose.  She drives to Lakewood and rolls down the window, “Sal, I’ll take you home.”  “Nope.  Can’t get in the car with someone I  don’t know.”  “It’s Aunt Mabel.”  “Sorry, not getting in the car.  I don’t know you.”  She was like, “No no, I’m Aunt Mabel, come on.”  “Nope, can’t get in the car.”  I was insistent.  She got so mad, she went and told Mother how rude I was because I wouldn’t get in the car.  I said, “Mother, you told me never get in the car with someone I don’t know.”  This is what I knew about her.  I was told my whole life that I was named after her daughter.  I saw her daughter one year and she was like this big and this tall.  She was like this boat.  I was like, “Great, I can’t stand the woman and I’m named after her daughter.”  Pat and I are home one day, Mother was in the hospital, and Aunt Mabel comes to the door.  I remember Pat saying, “Let her in.”  I was saying, “I don’t want her here.”  Mother was in the hospital.  I remember Pat deliberating, “Should we even answer the door, should we pretend we’re not home.”  So she finally answers the door.  She says, no, we don’t need Aunt Mabel to come in and baby-sit.  This is what I get out of this, aunt Mabel says, “I’d be more than happy to.  I like to see those little buts get hit.  And especially yours!”  I always thought she held it against me because I wouldn’t get in the car with her.  I hated her after that. 


Aunty Ann

Jan: Aunty Ann would come over and baby-sit when Mother was in the hospital.  She told Jan and I we could go around on the front porch.  There was all these dandelions by the front bushes.  We thought, “we’re going to go inside these bushes and pick these flowers for Mother.”    We picked this huge bunch of flowers for Mother, and Aunty Ann comes around to the front porch screaming at us.  We were small.  This is the funny part, she had a spatula.  She said, “Hold out you’re hand, I’m going to hit you.”  Jan and I looked at each other and thought, “Mother’s got a belt, and this lady’s got a spatula.  This isn’t going to hurt.”  Sure.  There was welts.  It hurt so bad we thought we were going to die.  We were on the front porch and Jan thought up this song, and we sang it forever to her.


        Anyway, I don’t like somebody,

Don’t like somebody,

Don’t like somebody,

Don’t like somebody,

Anyway, I don’t like somebody


And we repeated it over and over again.


Later on in life she says to me, “Oh Jan, you always liked me.  I know you used to sing that song about me.”  That wasn’t a clue?


Bus money

Jan: I had a couple other funny stories.  Barb, you were responsible for this one, although I don’t know if you ever knew.  At one point during the summer you decided that we should try to save enough money to get Mother a dishwasher.  So everyone tried to save whatever money they had.  So the only money any of us could ever have was bus money to Denby.  It was a quarter.  So all  of us would walk all the way home every day.  We were two and a half hours late, and Mother wanted to know why we weren’t home on time.  And then we got in big trouble to give you our quarter for the dishwasher.  At the time we thought, we have to save every quarter.  As each bus passes you by, you’d say, “Should I get on this bus.”  But you really can’t at that point.  But the worst part was when you got to that little store at Jefferson and Chalmers, you’d think, I really want some candy as a reward for all this walking. 


Here is something you guys will all remember, (in a high pitch voice) “Bertha, it’s Edna.  You-hoo, Bertie.”  I don’t even know who Edna is.


Sally: She was a friend of my Mother’s.  But she would just open up the door and start walking in. “You-hoo, Bertie!”


Peace Bonds

Jan:  The other thing that ought to be told about Dad was the Peace Bond.  Whenever he (as a prosecutor) had neighbors who were fighting, instead of charging them with a crime, they had Jay Nolan, who was a big guy, dress up as a judge and take them to another room.  First Dad would lecture them about neighbors and how they should get along.  He’d say, “I’m going to give you a break this time, and I’m going to ask the judge if we can do something special.”  What he did is he’d put them on a Peace Bond, and if they could agree to get along with each other, he would not charge either one of them with a  crime.  (Usually one neighbor would accuse the other of something, so they could charge each other of crimes.)  So they’d go into this room and Jay Nolan would sit up on the thing like he was a judge.  He explained to them the Peace Bond and if they broke the Peace Bond they’d be back there and both of them would be thrown in jail.  He did that lots of times.  It made neighbors get along with each other.  It was more effective than any charges we’ve ever had, but they don’t do it anymore.


Pat: I was talking with Jan about her work.  I said, “All the time I was with Dad, he was always putting people on peace bonds.  That was the most common thing he did.  I asked Jan, “Don’t they do those Peace Bonds anymore?”  She just laughed.  I said, “What’s funny about the Peace Bond?”  She said, “There never was one.”  It was something that Daddy and Jay Nolan made up.


Barb: When Daddy was in his office, he always had a policeman there who could read stuff to him.  This one lady came in who wanted Daddy to do something for him.  He turned her down.  She came out to the receptionist and she was really angry.  She said, “You can’t get anything done in this place, this is the most terrible place.  They don’t help you at all.  One of them sits their looking stupid and the other one sits their chewing gum.”  When I told Dad, the policeman says, “I was chewing gum!”


Jan: We all know who was chewing gum.  My Dad.  Not only was he chewing gum, he’d chew it all day and then chew it again the next day.


Pat: Remember that one guy who talked about Dad’s advice to him?  There was a guy who years later told you that he had come in front of Dad.  Dad told him something.


Jan:  He went on to be a lawyer because of Dad.  I can’t remember who it was.



Marge: My story has to do with going to Mass on Sunday.  We used to get up to go to a very early mass – six o’clock.  We were all beat, we all crawled out and got in our little line there in church.  Inevitably, somebody would have a runny nose, and Daddy would offer his handkerchief.  Which he would keep using until every corner was used up.  It was so crusty that you wouldn’t want to touch it.  It was disgusting.  We prayed that Mother had a Kleenex.


Barb: Remember Daddy’s T-shirts as he got older.  He’d say, “These are still good.”  And they were like rags, all torn up.


Marge: Also, he walked very softly on his shoes so he wouldn’t have to replace the heels or soles.


Daddy’s Christmas Gifts

Barb: I remember when I started doing Christmas, (you just recycled Daddy’s underwear and socks) Mother would always give him the same little green packages.  She would give it to him for Christmas, after Christmas, he would give it back to her and she would save it for next year. 


Jan: I remember collecting them and putting them in a bag.  Part of that story was, Bill knew where the booty was, so when it was Dad’s birthday, he’d bring it out and give it to Dad then too.  It was all rerun Christmas presents we kept giving Dad.  He’d give it to him again because he was always so excited to get it.


Sally in charge

Sally:  The few times I was in charge, I hated it.  I didn’t want to be in charge.  Mother and Daddy got home, and I didn’t want to clean up the house, I didn’t want anything to do with that.  Daddy always said, “If the person in charge tells you to stand on your head, you stand on your head and you don’t question it.”  Jim and I concocted this story.  Mother gets home and Jim tells her that I made him stand in the cat litter box, barefoot.  Mother, screams at me.  “Why did you make Jim stand in the cat litter box with a bunch of poop?!!!”  I thought it sounded so stupid that no one would believe it.  She believed it and she was so mad at me.  Finally, I said, “Mother, why would you believe that someone would do that.  She did.  But it was Daddy’s theory.  “If the person in charge tells you to stand on your head, you stand on your head and you don’t question it.  You don’t complain, you just do it.”  It was the truth, when anyone was in charge when I was a kid, you did what they said.


“I don’t want to hurt you”

Barb: When I was in college, all you guys were home.  She said, “I want you to be in charge.”  I was going to do the clean up thing.  I told Jim to do something (he was in high school and he was huge).  He came over to me and he kind of picked me up and said, “Barb, I’m not going to do it.  I don’t want to hurt you, but I’m not going to do it.”  I said, “all right”


Jan: Jim told me that the first time I was in charge.  I thought, I’m in charge, the power is in my hands.  So I was giving chores, “Jim, do this, Bob do this, Carol, do this.”  He came up and said, “Jan, I don’t want to hurt you.”  I said, no this is my day of power, “Jim, do it.”  He said, “Jan, I don’t want to hurt you.”  I got the leash out and said, “I’m going to hit you then.”  He said, “Jan, I don’t want to hurt you,”  then he pins me to the ground.  I was getting really mad now, because I was used to fighting.  I said, “Get off me Jim!”  He took off and I grabbed something and he went out.  I locked the door.  Then I started screaming like I was hurt and he felt so bad.  He was like, “I’m sorry, I’ll do whatever you want me to do!”  I was like, its to late.


Sally:  Jim pushed me off the bunk bed one time, we got into a fight.  Remember that? He felt so terrible.  Mother and Daddy were somewhere in upper Michigan.  I had broken ribs and I couldn’t bend.  Marge drove me, and she has me leaning out the car window, on my knees while she crates me around to hospitals to see which hospital will take me.  No hospital will take me because she is not Mother and Daddy.  She tries to get a hold of Mother and Daddy at some seminar somewhere, while we are going from hospital to hospital, on my knees, out the window, and its cold.  You can’t bend because it hurts like heck.  I said, “Marge, just take me.”  The first two hospitals wouldn’t take us.  We finally got a hold of Mother and she gave her approval for Marge to take me.  The third hospital took us and they said, “There’s nothing we can do, you have broken ribs.”  Back in the car. 


Dad runs for school board

Jan: I have one last story for you.  Remember when we were going to run Dad for the school board?  Mother and Daddy went up north and we decided to run  Daddy for the school board, to get an honest guy for the school board.  So we got our money together and we made up these little post cards and we wrote everything we could on these postcards.  We each had ten post cards and we went to different schools with them.  We were working at the schools, saying vote for my Dad.  We would hand them the post cards and say, could you give them back to us?  They gave them back and we ended up with almost all our fliers back, and he won.   I remember him saying, (we told him we were going to run him) he said, “Go ahead, there is no way I’m going to win, but you guys do whatever you want.”  He won the school board and he was so happy.  It was neat because people actually stopped and read them.  It was amazing.  We’d say, “This is for our Dad, we’ve only got ten of them so we can’t give them out.  Could you just read it before you go in.”


Sally:  My Dad also ran for judge, but didn’t win.




Bob, Jim and Carol

Conversation with Bob, Jim and Carol on August 1, 2002



Bob: A lot of the older ones I can remember them getting hit. I think I only  got  hit by dad twice and got hit my moth a few times.


Jim: that’s what sticks out in your mind?


Bob: I remember hiding behind that banister that goes upstairs and watching everyone else get hit. I remember thinking that that was kind of cool because it ain’t me.


Jim: Yea I remember when we were sent to bed. None of you guys could ever go to sleep. Kind of what I should do with Austin now. We were jumping on the beds and eventually they end up on the floor. Grandma came up and go all right time to kneel in the hallway. Kneeling in the hallway was instant sleep.


Beer Bottles

Bob: One of the big things I remember. I don’t remember why but I think it got passed down, is that we were supposed to take the beer bottles down the basement.


Jim: yea that was passed down. It was the impossible job.


Bob: You never took the beer bottles down, you hid them in the dresser drawers you hid them behind the doors you hid them everywhere.  And then when we had to go get beer for my dad you had to go find the beer bottles and put them in the cases. It was like a big hunting trip.(the beer bottles were returnable)


Jim: he bought EB which stood for excellent beer. But he didn’t like to take them down. So no one ever took them down. It never got done


Carol: I think that was Sally’s job. I remember him making sally finding them in that cupboard upstairs and making sally one by one carry them down. Oh this is so much fun Sal. And Sal was so upset. I thought it was fun!


Bob: I thought it was everyone’s job.





Bob: Another thing I remember that must have got passed down was at Easter when we all got our basket. You didn’t get anything out of your own basket but you snuck one or two things from every other basket. I think I learned that from you Jim, I was like following you around all the time


A Late Christmas

Jim: You have a better recollection then I have. Do you remember the Christmas that never came. Pat told us that Santa didn’t come because the house wasn’t clean enough. We cleaned the house. Santa didn’t come for 10 days.


Bob: Is this me coming home?


Jim: Santa came Jan 3rd  that’s when you finally  made it home, You were trouble from the get go.


Dave, You know your Mother was the queen of Sheba right? Yea.. Oh dad always put her in charge and she squealed on everybody. Way to honest. And she had a favorite meal… cottage cheese and pineapple. Invariably we would have to clean the house and then get sent to bed while she was eating her cheese and pineapple and enjoying it thoroughly.


The basement

Bob: I can remember a lot of times being down in the basement and they would take all the clothes and toys and put them in a big pile. And then they would spin you around and throw you on the pile and whatever you landed on you would have to pick up and put away.


Carol: You remember that time when we were cleaning the basement and somebody put the hose down there and we were sliding across the floor.. we were supposed to be washing the floor.. but we brought the garden hose down there. And the tile was flooded with the soap on there.


Bob: and we had roller derby in the basement, I had a helmet on.


Jim: I threw Jan through a fish tank.


Bob: I just remember some how I ended up with a helmet on.


Carol: Do you remember the time when we were at 10 mile and Jim was picking on Bobby and he tried to cry but he couldn’t cry. And he couldn’t cry so he started laughing and Mother was coming to his rescue but he started laughing. He used to be able to turn on the tears but he just couldn’t cry.



Bob: There was one time when I was really young and I was real sick and Mother was yelling at everyone. I remember thinking while its not that bad. She was rocking me and I had a high fever. And I was thinking its not that bad but I better keep crying because its working.


I remember Mother going through garbage in the kitchen. looking to make sure nothing was thrown out that was good.  The punishment if you did something stupid was sitting next to skipper and brushing him. that dog had never ending hair and he always got away from everyone.


Lie Detectors

Jim: The first lie detector was when feeling your pulse in the bathroom by yourself. “I didn’t do it” but your pulse is racing.. “I think you did”


Smoking Dogs

Bob: Dad smoked. I was like 4 and carol was like 5 or 6 and Jim was 7 or 8. And we would take cartons of cigarettes. Hide them in the attic over the dog pen. We never smoked them we would just light them and throw them down into the dog pen. And the light in the dark would go in a circular motion. And then someone squealed on us and told someone that the dog was smoking cigarettes.


I remember Mother taking us in the bathroom and making us smoke grandpas non filtered pal mals cigarettes that was the last time I smoked a cigarette in my life. I remember the tobacco in my mouth.  She was just showing us what a filthy habit it was.


Carol: My dad smoked filtered ones all the time.


Bob: They weren’t as bad.  These were unfiltered Pal Mals.  When you smoked it you got tobacco in your mouth.


Jim: It’s a good thing cigarettes weren’t as expensive as they are today.


Bob: We did it for weeks.


Carol: Each of the rooms had a walk in closet and a little attic off the walk in closet.  It was hard to get to the little attic because you had so much junk in the closet. 


Bob: We were in the back attic throwing them into the dogs pen.  There was a little window.


Peter Pan

Carol: Do you remember Sally and Jan playing Peter Pan to get us to clean the room with them one time.


Bob: We were in the closet, and one of them was in the upper attic.  I don’t know how they did it, but they had ropes to fly us up there, taking us to never never land.  They hoisted us up into the upper attic and then they told us we had to clean stuff. 


Carol: You had to clean a certain amount and then they’d take you to never never land.  You’d fly up into the attic.  It was kind of itchy though.


Bob: It seems like every Sunday night we had a little cook out of hot dogs.  I think that’s one of the reasons I don’t like hot dogs, I  don’t like spaghetti (we had that every week), and I don’t like fish sticks.


Football at night

Jim: Do you remember it took eight people to let the dog out?


Bob: Playing football?


Carol: As a little kid it was always fun to play football if you were on Bill’s team.


Bob: Yeah, but I always got stuck playing center.  As a center, all you got to do was center the ball.  Then once a game they’d throw it to me or I’d get to run with the ball.  That was just so I’d come out and play center again.


Carol: If you were on Bill’s team, if you were on the other team, I never knew who the captain was of the other team.


Bob: Mike.


Carol: Oh, I never liked being on that team. I always liked being on Bill’s team. 


Bob: Bill’s team usually won. 


Carol: If you were a little kid and you were on Bill’s team, you’d just stand there and he’d run a few plays.  Then he’d run a play and everybody was over there, and he’d pass it to you and you’d run up and it was a score.  It was fun.  Bill always made you feel like you were an essential part of his team.


Bob: Bill was always the best player too when we were young.  We played in the alley, the street, we played basketball in the yard, I always remember playing kickball in the yard, when one of the big kids came up to bat, we’d say, “Somebody get on the other side of the house . . . . Here it comes!”


Jim: There were a lot of kickball games played in that yard.


Other games

Bob: I go back now and look at it, and it’s so small.  It seemed big at the time.


Do you remember it was always a big thing for the three of us to climb that big weed in French’s yard.  You were like bat man climbing up it to the roof.  I almost fell down from that one time.


Carol: Do you remember playing Richard Kimball.  The fugitive.  We’d go jumping off the porch and hide behind things and chasing each other.  “the dogs are coming”  and we’d go through the bushes and stuff.


Carol’s fight

Bob: One of my best memories was one time Sal was in charge and Sal and Carol got into it.  Sal cornered Carol in the bathroom.  Jan went in to save Carol.  Carol beat the living crap out of her.  She must have thought it was still Sal coming after her.  She beat Jan senseless.


Carol: Jan said she’d never save me again.  Sal was so mad at her for interfering anyway.  Sal cornered me in this bathroom and she had a leash.  I remember thinking, “I’m getting out of here.”  The bathroom had a big walk in shower.  She cornered me in there.  I was furious.  I was getting out of there and she was not going to hit me again.  Jan was the next one to come around that corner and I attacked her.


The front yard

Bob: Do you guys remember playing in the front yard, climbing up on the mailbox, jumping off the mailbox, jumping off the front porch.  The big thing was climbing up the tree next to French’s house.


Carol:  We had that nice big porch.  When it rained, I  liked to go out there and watch it from the glider.  Sometimes in Detroit, when it would rain the street would flood.  We would watch the storm go through.


Mother’s games

Do you remember Mother when we were real little Mother doing somersaults.  She’d put you on the floor and let you do somersaults over her belly.  Sometimes she played hide and seek with us.


Bob:  I remember her picking me up with her feet, and putting me over her head, and you’d put your arms out and you could fly like superman.


Dad’s questions

Another thing, whenever Dad came out of the blue and asked you a question, you were cooked.  It took me until I was fifteen to realize that. “Hey do you know where the new battery charger is?”  I had used it a couple of nights ago in the garage.  “I don’t know where it is, it’s probably still up in the attic.”  “Why don’t you go get it for me.”  Great, how do I sneak past, out to the garage and put it in the box, and then get past him back up to the attic, to give him the battery charger.  Then you’d go out to the garage, the battery charger is gone!  Hmmm, who might have it.  Dad had it.  Ninety percent of the time he already knew what the answer was.


One time I came home from school and dad said to me, we’re going up to clean the attic.  I said ok.  We go up there and he reaches into the attic and pulls out a brown paper bag and says, “What’s this?”  He puts it back  in the bag and says, “We’re done.”  Someone had picked up the dog crap, shoved it in a brown paper bag, and threw it in the attic.  We have no idea why.  Lazy I guess.  Probably the same as the beer bottles.  I did that a lot of times. 


Jim’s cleaning

Carol: Jim was famous for cleaning.  The idea of cleaning just meant you got everything out of that room.  He’d go into a room and everything either went in the trash or in the attic.


Bob: More in the trash.  Jim was a good cleaner for getting rid of the crap.  I wish I had more of that.


Dave: I’ve seen him do it at Grandma’s before.  She was afraid of him.


Carol: Everybody was afraid of him. The only stuff that wasn’t crap was his stuff.


Bob: He threw most of his stuff out too.  If it was his and it wasn’t being used, it was gone.  It’s like my wife, if it isn’t cemented down, it’s history.


Football highlights

Jim: If we go back to our football games, what was our most famous football game?


Bob: I remember as we got a little bit older, Barb was a center, they did this thing where Bill would touch the ball, shove it up the back of Barb’s shirt, and then he’d run like he had the ball and Barb would go running for a pass.  I’m thinking to myself, he never did that when I was a center for four years.  I got to touch the ball once a game.


Jim: Do you remember when Jan got her black eye.  We were all playing under the lights late at night.  Jan ran into somebody and got a black eye.  She was in church the next day and of course, Mother and dad being blind, but someone at church mentioned, “Jan, how did you get the black eye?”  Jan being the quick thinker she was said she ran into a pole roller skating. 


Bob: I remember Dad saying, “I’ve got to have the stupidest kids in the world.”


The car and church

Were you in the car one morning we were going to church, it was snowing, we had the emergency brake on and we started to go up that one wire?  It was on Phillip.  Sal had the emergency brake on, she was trying to keep it running.  Dad was sitting in front.  She started to go up the wire on the side.


Jim: All I remember is we went to early church because it was the shortest one.  Thirty five minutes and you were done.


Carol: Seven o’clock, I hated it.


Bob: A lot of times we got donuts on the way back though. 


Carol: A lot of times I wasn’t awake going or coming back til I got back in bed when we got home.


Jim: One thing that sticks in my mind about Dad is that we were going to tune up the cars on the coldest day of the year.  That was a given.


Jim’s punishment

Jim: I remember one time you touched Marge’s clock and the heal came off Dad’s shoe when he spanked you?  Bob was going to be punished and the punishment wasn’t due right now.  Dad would say, “remind me, I need to spank you tonight.”  It’s like making you cut your own switch to get beat with.  But it’s worse because you think about it the whole day.  You try to make yourself scarce, you didn’t anybody want to know you were anywhere.  Just before bedtime you had to face the piper.  You had to pull your pants down so he could hit you on your bare ass.  You always stuffed your mouth with my dad, because the more you cried, the more he hit.  With my Mother it was exactly the opposite.  The more you cried, the less she hit.  With my dad you’d stuff you mouth, with Mother you’d wail, even before it started, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it!”  That time, he had his slipper, and in the middle of my beating, the heal fell off.  The heals are held on with little tacks.  I was getting beaten with tacks.  Naturally, you don’t want your ass hurt.  So I put my hands back to protect myself.  By the time he was done there were needle marks on my arms.  He didn’t know it though.


Another time, it was with the famous Dan belt.  Dan had a belt with three sections and metal hinges on it.  The metal hinges hurt a lot.


Bob: I only remember getting hit by dad twice.  Mother was a few more times.  I always look back on it like he was trying to prove a point.  Some look at our family as righteous.  I think it’s more about having moral values about what is right and wrong, and making a clear line of what is right and wrong.


Jim:  I think it was more that he was a prosecutor and if you did a crime, you got the punishment.  He wanted to protect us from everything that was out there.  It wasn’t cruel and unusual like some of my sisters might think.


Bob:  You look at the results and you think, pretty good job.


Carol lends Daddy’s tools

Carol: I remember one time, Mr. Denman, one of our neighbors, came over and wanted to borrow some tools.  I knew where the tools were, I took him down to Daddy’s workshop, he took the wrench set, said thank you.  It was no problem to me.  He brought them back.  When he brought them back, Daddy was home.  He thanked him for lending him his tools.  Daddy didn’t know he had lent him his tools.  “Who lent out my tools?”  I was little, under fifth grade.  That was at Lakewood.  Daddy lined us up, getting ready to hit somebody.  I said to Kathy, “It was me.  He can’t hit them, it was me.”  I was scared to death.  Kathy said I had to tell him, you can’t let him hit them.  She took me in there and held my hand, while I told him, sobbing the whole time, that it was me that had lent his tools out.  And he had me kneel in the hallway.  Everyone else got to go.  I cried for almost an hour.  I couldn’t believe he was mad at me.  I laid there crying.  Kathy said, “Carol, it’s ok, he didn’t even hit you.”  “But he’s mad Kathy, did you hear him?  He’s really mad at me.”  Daddy never yelled at me.


Kneel in the hall

Bob: We were at the ten mile house, Bill was gone and Daddy was wondering where Bill was.  Daddy said, “Where is Bill?”  Debbie was sitting there and she said, “I think he’s out playing football.”  “Think!  I can think for myself.  If I want you to think, go kneel in the hallway!”  He didn’t know it was Debbie.  Debbie goes over to Kathy and says, “Tell him that Bill is outside playing football.  You don’t think, you know for sure he’s outside playing football.”  So Kathy went and told him.


Acting like blind people

Carol: Jim, do you remember coming back from Salvation Army Camp and asking Mother and Daddy why they didn’t act like normal blind people?  They didn’t bob and weave and poke out their eyes.  Mother couldn’t do the bobbin.  Remember Daddy standing there in the door way, rocking, and we’d say, “Daddy, you’re doing it!  And now all you have to do is stick your finger in your eye and jab at it. 


Bob: The ones who are blind from birth bob back and forth, rotate their head and sort of poke at their eyes.  Those are the characteristics of people who are blind from birth.


Carol: Mother thought it was because no one would ever correct them.  We were at the salvation army camp and the guy across the table was eating a watermelon and spitting the seeds in the other guys face.  He’d just spit them out.  Remember Mr. Patterson said, “Mrs. Joyce, how come you and your husband never do anything like that?”  She said, “Did you say anything to him?”  “No, I didn’t want to embarrass him.”  She said, “Well, that is why he does it. No one wants to embarrass him, nobody’s wanted to embarrass him his whole life.  That’s why no one wants to be around him.


Daddy’s hearing

Carol: When my dad looked at you.  You thought he could see.  He looked you in the eye.  He had normal eyes, crystal blue.  Very pretty eyes.  You’d be sneaking into a room and he’d say, “Who’s there.” 


Jim: He could never hear if you talked to him, but if you whispered, he knew what was going on.


Bob: I remember one time I was at the house, and I whispered to my mom, “I’ll be over at Doug’s house, ok?” And my dad said, “You ain’t going nowhere.”


What parents know

Jim: Uncle Bob was over for Christmas one time and they were sitting at the table talking about the good old days.  Uncle Bob and my dad talking about when they were kids.  I figured out that he knew everything because he had been through everything that we had, the pitfalls and everything.  He’d been through it, just like your parents.


Carol: Every single kid goes through this period where they think, “They don’t know how I feel or what I’m going through.”  And then, they do.   The worst thing is, you are Pat’s son.  Pat never did anything.  You could have gotten away with a lot of stuff.  The only advantage Pat has, is that she thinks about stuff, and she watched what she did.


Bob: And she caught all of us.


Carol: Imagine being Bill’s kid.  Bill did everything, and he got away with a ton of stuff.  He was sneaky about everything.  He could figure his way out of a padlocked room.


Dogs in school

Bob: After we had moved out to Centerline, Mother and Daddy had these leader dogs and they could bring them into the schools.  I don’t remember who it was, they didn’t like that.  I always thought it was neat to have the dog come in and you could walk the dog around.  Yours was the only pet aloud in the school.  They were huge dogs, and they were usually really good dogs.


High School Football

Bob: When I was in seventh grade, dad didn’t come to one of my football games.  I went home and asked, “Why didn’t you come to my game?”  He said, “I didn’t know you wanted me to.”   I said, “Yes I do.  I want you at every one.”  From then on, he never missed another one of my athletic games until he died.  Never missed one.  Track meets, soccer, football, everything.


Carol: I always remember Daddy telling me he was so amazed at Bob.  Because when he had been in school, before he lost his eye sight, he was a C student, because he played baseball.  That was all he wanted to do.  Then he lost his eyesight.  After that, he didn’t want his friends to feel sorry for him.  So he avoided them.  He said, “I could never had played sports and been an A student too.”  It really amazed him when Bob did.


Bob: It was sort of expected in our family.  You get good grades, all the other stuff is extra.  Pat started it.  When we got out of high school, it wasn’t like, if you go to college.  It was, what college are you going to?  It was more expected than a choice. 


Wayne State University

Jim: Yeah, It was like what school are you going to?  Oh you are going to Wayne State.  Because that is where they had the merit scholarship, which is a scholarship based on academics.  They gave you four years of tuition for an undergrad.


Carol: I got the merit scholarship so I did a full year at Wayne State.  I told dad I wanted to go up to Michigan State.  He asked why.  I said, “People say if you go there for your undergrad, its easier to get into med school.”  And I wanted to be a vet.  “Well then you got to go don’t you.”  Mother said I couldn’t go because I needed to drive them places and stuff.  Daddy said, “Carol, we got along before you were old enough to drive.  We’ll get along after your gone too.  You need to go.”  So I did. 


I told Mother one time I was going to Michigan State, and she said, “Oh, I don’t know what I will do without you.”  I was the major one driving them places.  It wasn’t like I had to, I liked it, I liked going to the parties and I liked all of their friends.  If they asked me to go, I’d say sure, if they asked Jim or Bob, they had basketball and stuff.


Dad dies

Bob: My senior year, I was going to go to Yale.  They wanted me to play basketball.  I was supposed to go down there the weekend after Dad died.  I called them up and I said, “I’m not going to go there because my Dad died.  I don’t want to waste your money.”  When I talked to Dad about that, that they wanted me to play ball at Yale, he was like (and this was back in 1978, tuition was $20,000)  Dad told me, “It’s a great opportunity and it’s a great school.  We’ll make it work”  I went to talk to the coach. We talked for an hour and a half or two hours about what a great school Yale was and all the famous people, doctors, lawyers and politicians who graduated from Yale.  I said, “What about your basketball program?”  He said, “Son, we’re seven and twenty-three, if you can’t play for us, you can’t play for anybody.”  I went to Macomb first, played a year with Jim.  Then I went out to Eastern. 


Jim: I went to Wayne after I graduated High School until dad died.  After he died, I didn’t go to school the following semester.  Then I ended up going to Macomb for a year with Bob.  For someone who started out gang fire in college, --I took 23 credits, 20 credits, 18 credits.  I was like a junior in my sophomore year.  I just got a little bit sidetracked. I thought I was going to go to be a dentist, but then I decided I didn’t want to do that.  At the school at Macomb you couldn’t take biology or chemistry courses, so I took accounting courses.  I got to the point where I had to get a degree in something.  So I ended up getting an accounting degree from Walsh.


Training Yankee

Bob:  Do you guys remember when dad was training Yankee?  He was training this dog that had been used for hunting.  He was training it to be a leader dog.  We had to walk behind him and tell him if the dog was going to take him through a puddle or over a curb.  This dog had the unique ability to crap while it was walking.  He didn’t even stop or squat.  I remember stepping in it.  You really had to watch him.  He was dropping it like a horse.  This was a big dog, probably waist high.  He crapped when he walked and never broke stride.  You were supposed to walk pretty close behind him and make sure the dog didn’t do something stupid where my dad would get hurt.


I remember one time dad took me, Jim and Carol to work one time.  Dad’s famous line when we got home, “Well, they’re not nearly as good as the dog, but I think we can work with them and get them up to that speed.” 


Once or twice a month, dad had to go sign warrants on Saturday at the old Recorder’s Court Building.  We’d go down there.  First you’d go to the coney Island and get something to eat.  The Officers always brought in dozens of donuts.  The dog inevitably got six donuts.  Coming home the dog would be farting.


Carol: Later, I always wondered why he took us. He always wanted us to be quiet.  If you did anything, you’d get yelled at.  You sit in this little office. It wasn’t his normal office, it was in the recorders court.  You couldn’t run around because dad was always worried someone would grab us.  The only fun part was going to coney island.


Bob: Also we’d stop at salvation army and get the old locks that no one could work.  We’d buy them, pick them, and sell them to Marv for thirty cents.  Marv would sell them for two bucks.  I was thinking, “Something’s wrong with this picture.”


Carol: Daddy liked doing that.


Daddy’s Health

Bob: Daddy used to get up early in the morning and walk on the walker.  You’d wake up early and hear that treadmill going, continuously.  Didn’t he do that for years?


Carol: He went in for hernia surgery and they found out that he had had a heart attack.  He couldn’t walk.  He got a walker and lost weight. 


Bob: The weekend after that we went out to Art and Helen’s. Every year we’d go out to Aunt Helen and Art’s for the annual family gathering.  It was them and their kids, and Tex and his kids, and us.  It was all of Mother’s family.


Carol: It happened after Pat was a doctor.  She actually told the doctor that she thought that Daddy had had a heart attack, but he wouldn’t go to the hospital.  He had told her that he had pain in his chest for a week.


Bob: He would go to work, come home, and just go to his bedroom.  You knew, that’s not the way my dad was. 


Carol: Daddy was kind of famous for getting up early on a Saturday morning when everybody wanted to sleep in, “Bert, this has to be done! Bert, that has to be done!”  Mother would get us up, start yelling at all us kids, get us going.  Then he’d go back into his room, have a beer and listen to the radio.


Reading Law

Bob: Another one of our punishments from dad, was that we always had to read his cases for him on tape.  He had all these cases that might be relevant to him in his practice.  We’d read it onto a reel to reel tape, and then he’d listen to it later. 


Carol: It was a big real to real tape, if you messed up, the tape would break and you had to splice it.  It wasn’t a punishment, it just had to be done.


Bob: We read all the law reviews.  You’d go through and read the subtitle and then he’d tell you whether he wanted you to read the whole case.


Jim: It’s kind of like reading a textbook.  I f you want something to put you to sleep.  That was it.


Bob: I remember falling asleep, but then you have to go back on the tape and find out where you left off. 


Jim: If he had a particular case, you’d be looking up cases and past decisions.


Bob: We did it a lot of times with the tape recorder, but sometimes, when he needed it right now, you’d read it right to him in his bedroom.


He’d have the court stuff, and then he had a pile of stuff that we could record if we got to it.  After we got a certain amount behind, he had to throw some of it out.  When you get like a year and a half behind.


Bob: I think he got these things every day.


Jim: Every case that ever goes to court was recorded.  In every trial there is a summary of the facts of the case, the decision, the concurring decision and the descending decision.


Bob: They were ten to twenty pages long.  Their summary of how the trial went would be five or six pages.  Then it would have their decision.  I only really remember the three of us doing it.  I don’t remember the other’s doing it at Lakewood. 


You’d usually try to do a whole tape at once.  He could listen to it then.  Other wise you have to go back and figure out where you left off.  He would never erase them, you’d be taping over an old tape.  I’m sure he fell asleep listening to them.  If we fell asleep taping them, I’m sure he fell asleep listening to them.  We’d fall asleep midsentence.


Carol: We were reading stuff we didn’t understand. 


Bob: We had to spell it out if we didn’t understand it.  That is probably the reason people in our family were such good readers.  We were reading way over the level of our comprehension. 




Mother’s way of thinking

Bob: I always felt real bad about this. I always thought my Mother wasn’t very smart.  In reality, it was just in comparison to my dad.  My dad had a photographic memory.  He could do calculus in his head.  He was two steps ahead of you.  I look back now, and I realize, my Mother’s memory for phone numbers, and dates is amazing, but as you are growing up as a child, you look in comparison of one to the other and you’d say, Mother was not that smart.


Jim:  The truth is, I thought Mother was brain dead.  The reason is because you have so many people heading you off in different directions that you either go crazy or your extremely good at it.  I think there was points at time when I thought, “Wow, how does she keep this all straight, who is going there.”  Especially when you start having your own kids.  Twelve schedules, you can’t keep track of two or three.


Carol: When our whole family is together, the noise level, it’s just impossible to think sometimes.


Jim: With one through six, dad was real strict.  He  wanted to know where the kids were.


Bob: Yeah, but those kids were the black sheep of the family.  When you got down to the bottom three and you got the real intelligent kids, he really eased up on us.


Jim: But you know, he wanted to know where us kids were, and make sure  they weren’t in trouble and stuff like that.  As it got down to the end of the line, I don’t think he was as worried because there were other people watching them.  He didn’t need to know everything.


Things to do

Bob: Football at night compared to football during the daytime was a rarity.  We played football and kickball all the time.  Once in a while we’d get out there on a Saturday night.


There was always something going on.  You were never at a shortage.  That’s the amazing thing, I listen to my kids, “We have nothing to do.”  “There is three million toys here.”  There was always something going on, you could always get out a board game and play checkers, or all the games we got from salvation army.  We were always doing something.


Carol: You always had someone to talk to.  If Mother and Daddy gave us time when we weren’t doing chores, we’d always say, “Lets get out of this place and go play some basketball, or something.”  Do you remember playing spud in the yard.


You’d throw the ball up, call “spud” and somebody’s name.  Everybody would run away from the center except the person who’s name you called.  When he caught the ball, he yelled, “Stop!”  Everybody had to stop running.  Then he gets four steps, S-P-U-D, then you throw it at somebody.  If you throw it at someone and they catch it, you got an S, if you throw it at them and you hit them, they got an S.  When you spell SPUD, you are out.


Carol’s Birthday

Carol: One time when I was a little kid on my birthday, (Mother only did this one time, I must have been bad or something).  She said I could do whatever I wanted on my birthday.  I went over to Timmermans, and did all kinds of things.  I thought, “This is the greatest day of the year!”  All day long she asked me what cake I wanted and what meal you wanted.  Mother would make that for you and that was your birthday party.  All day long I had friends over, played SPUD.  I was watching the sunset, thinking, “Its almost over, I’ve got to do something else.”


Five houses

Bob: For the longest time, we could only go five houses.  Then finally, Mother let me go up to meet dad when he got off the bus.  It was this big triumph for my life.  I could go the whole block.  I still couldn’t cross the street.  I was four or five.  I remember thinking, “One day I will be able to cross the street.”  I remember seeing kids playing across the street and thinking, “Wow, they’re having fun over there, someday I’m going to be able to go over there.”


Jim: There was French’s, Kowalski’s, Emery’s, and the house with the twins, and then doctor Lefton.  Timmerman’s was a couple more down.  This was going down the street from our house toward Jefferson.


French’s house

Carol: Do you remember when the Crandalls moved out of their house and it was vacant for a long time.  French’s were there, then Crandalls.  We climbed up the tree, up to the balcony.  We checked out the whole house.


Bob: French’s and Crandalls would let you into the kitchen to get a pop, but they would never let you into the house.


Jim: Why would she let you into the house?  “Here is a little four year old kid. We need you to come in to destroy the house.” 


Carol: Bob and I both think the same way.  We thought there must be something really cool in that house.  They would never let us in.  We wanted to see what was in there.


Bob:  We wanted to see what was so special in that house that we couldn’t go in.  Everyone was always in our house.  I remember when it was vacant, dad bought mom a dishwasher and we played in the box.



Carol: Remember we had the kitten in that box for almost three weeks, and then it rained.  We went into the house, and said, “Mother, there is a kitten out in the rain.  It’s going to get wet.  Can’t we keep it?”  She let us bring it in and Bob named it one of those original names, “Gray” or “Brownie.”  Bob named them all.


Bob: I wanted something simple that you could remember.


Carol:  A lot of times it was like, “Oh we can’t have another animal.


Bob: We always had a leader dog, plus we always had a little mutt.  Pat picked up a mutt and called it Kurt.


Carol: I just remember finding the kittens and then hiding them until we had a good opportunity to spring them on Mother.  I remember Smoky (a dog).  Mother tried to give him away three times and he kept coming back.  The third time he came back from such a distance that we were afraid he’d get hit by a car when the people called and told us he’d disappeared.  He showed up two weeks later.  Mother said we could keep him.


The house

Bob: In my mind, that house was huge.  My mom and dads bedroom had a walk in closet and an attic in both ends.  Then there was the boys and girls bedroom.  In each of those bedrooms you had two double beds, two dressers, and a walk in closet and attic.  Then there was a little half attic off Barb and Pat’s bedroom and there was a bathroom up there.  ]


Carol: Marge made one of the attics off the girls bedroom into her bedroom.  Marge was never home much.  You know how attic rooms have slanting ceilings.  Marge’s room was like that, and Pat and Barb’s room were like that.  They took those smaller room because they could have it to themselves.  The five boys were all in one room.  The rest of the girls were all in another room.  Sometimes we’d put all the beds together, like at Christmas or Easter.  We’d all get into bed together.  Whoever was in the middle would push the people on the end off the edge.  Then someone would jump into the middle.  It was like a game.



Bob: Bill used to make me and Jim memorize sayings. “I dig you but I dug to far.” He would make us memorize that before we went to sleep.


Jim: Then he’d buy a pack of cards with gum in it, and it would have sayings in it.


Bob: He is the only one  who did that to us.


Carol: Bill was the one who had us do the Big Time Wrestling.


Bob: We used to watch Big Time Wrestling.  Then we’d act it out in the basement.


Carol: I used to do it on the boys bed.  Remember we’d get out there and take sheets and Bill would be the announcer.  He’d coach whoever he was coaching. “You can take them.  You can do it.  Just get up there.”  He’d pit me against Jim or something. “It’s not you Carol.  You’re BoBo Brazil today.”  You’d be up there on the bed and Jim would throw you down and jump on top of you. “Get up, you’re not really hurt.”  We’d go bouncing around the bed.


Breaking Bushes

Bob: Do you remember breaking all the bushes in front playing football.  At our house at Lakewood, from the side of the house, there was perimeter bushes.  We used to play football in the front, especially in the snow when you had your jackets on.  You’d dive over the bushes and break the bushes.  Where these perimeters bushes were supposed to be, there were these gaping holes where we dived through.  And they died.  They were like little secret passageways. 


Carol: We started making paths on the lawn and the grass wouldn’t grow there any more, because everyone was taking those short cuts.


Jim punches through a door

Bob: When we were in tenth grade me and Doug were screwing around with Jim.  Jim had worked all night at 7Eleven and was really tired.  We were screwing around and putting hairs over his face.  We finally got him really mad.  He gets up off the bed and we go running up the stairs and we got in the bathroom and slammed the bathroom door and locked it.  Jim put his fist right through the door.  I was like, oh man, I’m dead now.  He was reaching his hand through the door, trying to unlock it, like one of those movies, you know.  And I’m whacking his hand with the plunger.  “You got to come out sometime.”  “No I don’t. I’ll be in here a long time.”  It was me and Doug and we were scared.


I remember one time I got in trouble.  Jim was chasing me and he stepped on a rake and had to get stitches.  It came up and hit him and it went into his foot that far.


Carol: I remember that.  I thought, serves him right.  Someone told me he could have got tetanus.  I just wanted him to stop chasing me. 


I remember Jim chasing me around the house at Ten Mile.  Remember when I ran into that pole.  I went behind those pine trees right next to the house.  I thought I had gotten away from him.  I turned around and there was a pipe sticking out of the wall and it knocked me out.  It caught me square in the head.


Climbing up the side of the house

Bob: It was either you or Sal.  For some reason you locked me outside.  It was winter.  I climbed up from the outside onto a little porch and I was going to climb through the window.  I nearly killed myself.  I think back now.  If I had fallen off that roof, I probably would have killed myself.  It was snowing and there was ice on it.  After that you have a real hard time saying that anything your kids do is stupid.  I was just a blithering idiot.  I got in trouble for that one two.



Carol: Most of the time it was Bob and I with Jim picking on us, or it was the three of us with Jim leading us.  Jim always had some cool stuff to do.


Bob: The best thing that Jim always had was Jim always had the means.  You always ate good with Jim. Candy.


Carol: Skipping school with Jim.  If he asked you to skip school you were the luckiest person in the world.  You ate good that day.  We’d go running down by the ditches, spend the afternoon in the car.


Bob: Jim is going to claim amnesia.  When I was in fifth or sixth grade I always used to go to Jim’s basketball practice.  Inevitably on the way home, we would stop and get candy.  I had no money.  I learned that from Jim.  Jim said, “Don’t tell anybody.”  I said, ok.  He always had a quarter.


Carol: Nobody ever accused Jim of not being smart.  That was not a problem.  Jim would say, I just tapped her, I don’t know what she’s talking about.  Mother would say, ”Jim, God made you big to be gentle.” I’d say, “He needs more than that Moth.” 


Dan’s Room

Bob: I remember when Dan was at Wayne State. He was always in that back room (in the basement).  There was never three people so happy as the year he locked himself in that room. We were like, “Yes.  He won’t be complaining about us. We wish we had a lock on the other side to lock him in there for days.”  He was always complaining to Mother and dad about me Jim and Carol.  Then he went and locked himself in the room so he could study.


Carol: Our family for Dan was a horrible trial for him.  Dan wanted his clothes just so, and his toys just so.  They had their own little shelf.  Dan was the only person, I thought one time I’d be nice and fold his clothes for him.  He came down and corrected how I had folded his clothes.


Bob: That’s the last time you folded his clothes.


For years, no matter what happened in that house, it was me Jim and Carol’s fault.  It was never Dan’s fault, because he was the king down in his cell.  (That workshop off the basement, he made it into his room and he’d lock it.)


Carol: And he’d lock it on the outside when he left.


Jim: There was a lock on both side.  He wouldn’t have been stupid enough to leave the lock outside when he was inside.


Bob: We would have locked him in, that would be a given.


Carol: And if he ever left that lock off, we would have gotten into everything of his that we possibly could.  He did have some cool stuff.


Bob: Absolutely.


Carol: If you were really good, Dan had this collection of miniature dolls.  One time he brought out his collection and let me play with them for a while.  When that time was over, he took each one and wrapped it up and put it back in its little spot.  It was one of those things where I always wondered where he had it hidden, because I would have liked to play with those dolls.  It was good he kept them hidden, because I probably would have broken them.


Bob: Dan always had neat stuff.  All the neat stuff we had, we broke.  Dan didn’t really play with it, he just put it somewhere to look at it.


Our family

Jim: My whole childhood was unique.  I think you’d be hard pressed to find a group as large as ours.  It was one thing to have a large family, but another thing to have blind parents.  It was an extraordinary situation.  From going to the Catholic Schools and having the nuns report on us daily. We didn’t have a tie or a coat.


Later in life when Bob had kids he said, “My Mother is going to baby-sit.”  Tammy said, “She is blind.  How is she going to watch them.”  “She had twelve kids and she got them through life ok.”  You just don’t realize until someone says something like that that it is pretty amazing.  You watch my Mother and the kind of relationship that she immediately built with children.  One, when I call your name, come or answer.  By comparison to what mine or Bob’s children have, they may have a lot more things, but you don’t have the kind of scenario.  It does take a village.  We had our own village growing up.


Carol: It was amazing going to school.  I literally got into college before I realized there was such a thing as pear pressure.  I didn’t care what those fools thought.  If I needed help, I’d call Bob.  Bob always said I was OK.  I had Bob, Jim, Kathy, Sal.  Do you remember when we’d walk home with Mother, begging her to have another baby so we’d have someone boss around.


Bob: I always wanted to have someone to boss around.  I got to order around the dog.  Skipper basically ran our life.  It was a punishment to watch the stupid dog.


Carol: Daddy said, “Damn Bert, the dog is smarter than those kids.  Take him out and have him train them!”


Bob: What happened with a lot of people is they’d say, “How did your mom and dad manage?”  How do we know.  We didn’t know anything about parents being sighted because we grew up with mom and dad.  We knew they were blind, but you didn’t get away with anything.  How did they do it?  They did everything.  They cooked and cleaned. 


Jim: You learned a lot of things.  Taking out screws you couldn’t see, and taking out bolts from places you cant see.


Bob: Teaching himself to be a locksmith.  Sighted people can’t do that.


Jim: There are the mysteries.  How did they pay for everything?  How did they juggle their finances and make sure everyone got what they wanted?  How did they make sure that everybody ate.  When Daddy died in 1978 he was making $32,000 per year.  That was the highest he made.  You think about it, and it’s like, wow.  Jan started in the prosecutors office higher than dad finished.


Carol: When I was at Michigan State, I got a job at the cafeteria.  The ladies liked me.  I remember this one lady saying to me, we were washing lettuce, “You come from a family of twelve?”  “Yeah, I was almost the youngest. I had a younger brother.”  They thought that I knew how to do stuff.  They wanted me to peel potatoes with a knife.  I said, “How do you peel potatoes with a knife?”  My mom had never handed me a knife.  I had never done anything with a knife. My mom did that.  I used a potato peeler.  She said, “You’ve never peeled potatoes?”  I said, “I used a potato peeler.”  There was a lot of things I didn’t know how to do, because Mother didn’t have me do it, because she couldn’t see if I was doing it wrong, and she didn’t want someone to cut their finger off.


A carpentry accident

Bob: What was dad doing when he cut himself?


Jim: He was working on a band saw, or a table saw.


Bob: He cut it deep in and cut some tendons. They had to sew it back up.  He had every power tool there was.  He made chess boards. He liked to make them.  It took a long time to make them.  Don’t think it was easy.


Jim: He always said with the table saw, “Don’t get your fingers to close to the blade.”  One time I had to go to the bathroom, because I got my fingers to close to the blade.



709 Lakewood

Bob: Remember that sign that he and Bill made at 709? (Lakewood), I went back there a few months ago.  It’s still there.  They made a round disk, painted it white, and then it said 709.  That was the street address.  He made that in 1965.  Our house is one of the houses that is still there.  Some of the houses aren’t there any more.  Of the thirty houses on our street, there is only about ten up.  I would love to walk through it one more time.


Carol: When we got it ready to sell, there had always been these old rugs.  We tore it up and there was solid oak floor.  We sanded it, so when me moved out, it was the most beautiful it had ever been. 


The Riots, 1967

Bob: Then it sat there for a year and a half.  It  took a year and a half to sell.  Someone got shot down the block, and my dad said, “We’re moving.”  That was is summer and he moved into Centerline in December. That was in 1968.  We were there during the riots in ’67.


Jim: You could see the reserves and the tanks going up and down the street.


Carol: I remember Dad was real worried because we were a corner house.  A lot of corner houses got bombed or had drive bys.  That was more a source of worries for us.  Then the Timmermans and the Denmans moved away.


Bob: Didn’t Jimmy Denman commit suicide.  He was a friend of mine who lived kitty corner.


The big shorts

Carol: There was a man who lived at Newport who must have been about four or five hundred pounds.  Do you remember when Mother brought home those clothes from Newport.  She brought home these clothes.


Jim: They actually were clothes from uncle Gus, after he died.


Carol: We had three or four people fit into them.  Mother had us doing some work.  You know how at Centerline there is that narrow area in the kitchen?  Mother was yelling at them and she came at them.  Jim and Sally were trying to get through that island, and they couldn’t coordinate themselves fast enough because they were in those pants and they couldn’t get them off fast enough to get out of Mother’s way.  If Mother was mad, you did not want to be in her way. They fell down.


Bob: Wasn’t she hitting you Jim, and Sal was laughing.  She said, “Stop! Stop laughing!!” Boom, boom.  She thought Sal was laughing at her, she was laughing because Mother was hitting Jim.  Sal just kept laughing so Mother keeps beating him. 


Living in the basement

Bob: We lived in the basement for a long time.  For a while we were in Dan’s room, but then we just took over the whole basement.  We slept on the bunk beds, and there was a hospital bed down there.  Dan was the one that brought the hospital bed down there.  We actually had four bunk beds down there because Doug and Rob and some of our friends slept over a lot.  Doug used to always ask me and Jim to play, and we’d say, “Nope, gotta mow the lawn.”  So he’d help us mow the lawn.  The he got us one time to help him paint his garage. 


Daddy singing

Carol: I used to go to a lot of the parties with mom and dad for different blind people.  I was fun because they’d sing.


Bob: It was almost like a barbershop quartet.


Carol: They liked it when he sang because he was baritone, and Daddy knew the parts.  When we went to some of the Knights of Columbus picnics, they’d have a barbershop quartet.  Eventually someone would bring him over and dad would sing with them.  He knew how to sing the part, rather than just sing the song.  He had a true voice.



Jim: You look at some of the accomplishments they had . . .


Carol: Daddy used to tune pianos . . .


Jim: He taught himself to play guitar, learned to be a locksmith, Mother had those psychology classes, she had her own talk show on cable TV, tap dancing.  When she tap danced, you wouldn’t even know she was blind.  She practiced so much it was unbelievable.


Carol: I remember going to Tiger Stadium to watch Mother play beeper ball.


Bob: She did that for years.


Jim: I think my parents, if nothing else, taught us what love was all about, and taught us what life was about.  They always told us, “The only limits on you are what you put on yourself.”  Otherwise, you can do whatever you want.  And they proved it.   My dad proved there was nothing he could not do.  Absolutely nothing.


Mother volunteers at school

Carol: When Mother went back to school, it was because she had been helping a little kid in school. 


Bob: She was helping Bobby Sharan at Peck learn to talk.  The boy could not talk, would not talk.  They said he was retarded.


Carol: His mom said to her, “I always wanted to go to college.”  Mother said, “Well, why don’t you.”  “I’m to old.”  This woman was thirty.  She was young compared to my mom who was in her fifties.  This got Mother upset, “You’re never to old, if you want to do it, then you can do it.”  Then Mother decided, well maybe she should go to college.  She wasn’t to old and this would show people that you’re never to old.  So she went and did that class. 


Bob: She was working with that kid.  The kid made a connection with her, the dog, and the kid started coming out, he started talking, learning arithmetic. 


Carol: He did really well after that.  He joined the regular classes.  She just went in to volunteer at the school.  Bob and I were at the school, she didn’t have any kids at home anymore.  So she’d come to keep an eye on us and just to help out.  I don’t think the teachers knew what to do with her, but she gave him one on one attention and he did really well.


I remember I did swimming classes with Mother.  She told somebody, she had been afraid of water her whole life.  If she could learn how to swim, she could learn anything.  She did, and I learned how to swim too.


Bob: Do you guys remember going a couple of days a week to Warren Woods gym to go swimming.  We went there for years and went swimming.


Kathy was petrified of water.  She’d stick her toe in and every hair on her body would stand up on end. 


Carol: She never wanted to be beside a pool.



One thing that I realized with Mother and dad when I was trying to be a parent myself.  Whatever mistakes they made, it was not because they didn’t love us.  If something ended up not being right, it was not because they weren’t trying or they didn’t care.  With Tristan some times it is like, “Why do they get to do that?”  I don’t know why their parents are stupid.  They don’t care.


Bob: That’s always the answer though. “Well Joey’s parents don’t care.”  “You’re absolutely correct.  They don’t care.  That’s the way it is. And you’re not Joey, last time I checked.


Carol: I remember in college, I would have to call home.  If you weren’t home by 11, you had to call, and you had to call every hour after that.  And you had to be home by 2, because the bar let out at 2 and he did not want you driving when the bars let out.  When I got home, he was there.  Daddy always had to go to the bathroom just as I got home, so you knew he was waiting until he knew it was me.  How do you get upset at somebody because they worry because they love you.


Jim: Start to worry when nobody cares.


Carol: Yeah, when they don’t care if you’re home, that is more worrisome. 


Mothers Brother and Father

Carol: When Mother had told me that she was looking for her brother.  It was a younger brother who was adopted out.  I think his name was Philip.  Mother told me when she was a young girl, she found a picture on her dad’s dresser, that was of , that he had another family.  I think grandma didn’t thing he was really married to her.  He had another wife and daughter in Germany that he had left, for whatever reason.  At one of Uncle Bill’s and Aunt Roses parties, they were talking about how his Mother’s dad had shown up in Detroit.  He was in bad shape.  They had him at this place for two or three months, and then realized he might be related to uncle Bill because he was pretty active in the church, which ran this shelter for homeless people.  They contacted uncle Bill, and he didn’t want to get in touch with him. The only one who was interested in seeing him was uncle Art.  When he heard, he went down there and he had already left.


Bob: That was moth’s dad right?


Carol: It was Art, Ann, moth, and Annies.


Bob: And then they had another one.  Wasn’t it like, there was a baby was born when he was leaving.


Carol: When he left the family, Grandma was pregnant.  It was depression time, and she put the baby up for adoption through a church.  It was like how was she going to take care of seven kids, and be pregnant and take care of an eighth kid.  Somebody at the church knew of a family that wanted to adopt a baby.  Mother remembered Grandma going and taking two busses across town to sit at a park and watch this little kid play, just to know he was all right.  That always bothered her.


Uncle Art had looked for his brother.  They knew his last name, probably because uncle Bill was involved in the church.  As an adult, he found out more about it.  I believe, (I was a little kid) Uncle Art (when they were talking about the father) mentioned he was in Pearl Harbor when the planes attacked it and he was in the Navy.  He had been tracing his brother and his brother was on one of the ships that got destroyed.  They were both (the younger brother and Art) in the Harbor, on different ships, side by side.


Bob: The other thing was that they all had different last names.  Apparently Moth’s dad thought if he changed his name, that would change him.  There was Duey, there was Arnt.


Carol: Actually, Duey was Grandma’s first husband’s last name.  That is why Tex, Henry and Bill are Duey.  Mother’s Dad’s last name was Gelpke or Gelbke. His name was Herman Frederick Gelpke.  It was  a German name.  Her name was supposed to be Fredericka.  When she got married she had been called Bertha her whole life, but when she married Daddy, that’s when she found out that this other name was on her birth certificate.  She went through and changed her name legally to Bertha Duey.  In those days they had the baby was had at home, the doctor came to the house.  The birth certificate was filled out at home.  Why was Uncle Art Arnt?  He knew somebody names Arnt, who was a good guy, and with every baby he decided he would turn over a new leaf.  This was a man who cheated non stop on his wife, drank a lot, did not hold down a job, was abusive.  He was not a nice guy.  He was supposedly very good looking. 


Bob: Mother said she had the chance . . . he was sick or something.


Carol: He showed up and they wanted to know if anyone in the family wanted to see him.  They thought he was going to die. 


Bob: Moth said “No.  He was never a dad to me.”


Carol: Everybody was kind of surprised that Aunty Anne didn’t go see him, because Aunty Anne was his favorite.  Aunty Anne got the nice dresses, got everything she wanted, was spoiled.  Aunty Anne was his oldest, then there was Mother, and then there was Art.


Bob: No, Tex was the oldest.


Carol: No, of his kids.


Jim: You guys are forgetting. There was Dorothy also.


Carol: Duey was Tex, Bill.  That was their dad.  Mother’s father was the step dad.  Mother told me when Grandma was a kid, her mom died.  She was like eight or nine years old.  Her dad remarried.  The step mom was very mean to her.  She was treated like a second class citizen. She had to clean house and take care of their babies.  She was basically like the nurse maid and the housecleaner.