BY BOB CAREY, Contributing Writer
There are not a lot of people around anymore who lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s, but I am one of them. As children we didn’t really understand what was going on. I do remember one thing though, I was hungry all of the time. I do remember that my father didn’t have a real job. He worked for some outfit called the “W.P.A.” and brought home just $5.00 every Friday night, which he gave to my mother to buy what groceries she could.
When the “Great Hurricane of 1937” smashed ashore along the southern New England coast, nobody knew it was coming because there was not weather reporting like there is now. Nobody even realized it was a hurricane until it started smashing things to pieces. But that hurricane is what brought jobs back to Massachusetts. My father, due to his experience of doing the civil engineering work to lay out East Boston Airport, was hired to do the engineering work to rebuild the washed out Massachusetts highway bridges.
When I was 13 years old most of my friends had bicycles. They might have had rusted off fenders and seats held together with tape, but that’s more than I had.
Now that my father had a real job I finally worked up the courage to ask him at the supper table one night if I could have a bicycle. He told me, “If you will wash and dry the supper dishes every night for twenty weeks for your mother, I will give you a dollar a week; then, you can go buy a bicycle.”
I took him up on it, and I kept track of the twenty weeks. I don’t know if he did or not- but when it was done I let him know about it. Did he give me twenty dollars? He did not.
My father did things like that. Who knows how much he paid for the bicycle. But I can bet you one thing: it didn’t cost any $20. The top of the line bicycle in those days was “Iver Johnson.” The bicycle I got was an “Overland Rollfast.”
None of the kids in my group got “allowences” in those days like the “rich kids” that lived on the other side of the railroad tracks. Every penny I got, I had to earn on my own.
I used that bicycle to have a paper route after school with 26 customers on it. If every one of them paid me on Saturday morning like they were supposed to, I made $1.65 per week. That was a fortune in 1938.
There was one side effect that did take place as a result of me doing all of those dishes.
I loved to cook. I made pancakes for the whole family every Saturday morning just because I loved pancakes.
On the side of the sink was a tilted drain board where my mother put the dish drying rack. She covered the drain board with folded up newspaper to catch the dripping water.
I happened to notice a recipe as I was working along. It was for “popovers,” and in my mind I think I confused it with “cream puffs.” My grandmother made some cream puffs one time and BOY! – were they ever delicious. Now I was going to try my hand. The recipe looked simple enough. So I told my family I was going to make dessert for Saturday night supper.
Saturday afternoon when I got ready to make the “popover-cream puffs” I looked, and my mother had changed the newspaper. There were not many ingredients, and I thought I could do it from memory because I had read it so many times.
So, I got the oven nice and hot and mixed up a batch in a big bowl. When the oven was hot enough I poured my mixture into the separate cups in a muffin pan, and shoved it in the oven.
I did remember that the recipe said they would be done in 45 minutes. When the 45 minutes were up, I pulled the pan out of the oven. The “globs” had not risen but just sat there and jiggled like Jello.
I thought they weren’t done enough; so, I put them back in for another 45 minutes.
When I pulled the pan out the second time my “globs” had not changed one iota. There they were – sort of round, white balls that jiggled. I decided to dump them out on the kitchen table.
As I did so, they rolled around on the table; a few of them fell off – and they bounced!
About that time my sister came into the kitchen. She surveyed the scene for a moment, and before I could stop her, she grabbed up a few of the balls and ran out the back door.
She got my brother to pitch them to her, and when she swung the baseball bat and hit one over the garage roof she hollered, “Hey, look everybody! It’s a popover fly!”
I was never so embarrassed in my life.