1957 Through the Eyes of a 13-Year-Old
An Adolescent in a Farm Family
I will always fondly remember 1957 as being one of the most exciting years of my adolescence. Although I cannot recall much of the national and state news happening around me at that time, I do remember a number of interesting and exciting things that happened to my family and me.
These events included moving to a new farm, enrolling in a different school, and attending my first funeral. For personal enjoyment, I played on a village baseball team and on an eighth-grade football team. I also went to my first Halloween Party.
As to the news in the paper, I can still remember the Milwaukee Braves winning its first World Series and the Russian launch of the first Sputnik satellite.
In this article, I reminisce about 1957 through the eyes of a 13-year-old.
January-February - Preparing to Move from Our Rented Farm
During the period of March 1954 until March 1957, mom and dad had been renting a 70-acre farm three miles east of Mukwonago, Wisconsin. As 1957 began, my oldest younger sister Beatrice and I were pleasantly surprised when our parents announced that they had made arrangments to buy a bigger farm not too far away. This 117-acre farm was just one-half mile north of the small village of Honey Creek and only 10-15 miles from our rented farm. One of the features of the farm was a creek, Honey Creek, running through the land from north to south.
Another pleasant event was the birth of my younger brother Philip on January 14. He was born in Waukesha Hospital and was bigger than me at birth weighing in at nine pounds and 12 ounces.
In February, while mom and dad were planning the move of our farm machinery, dairy cattle, and simple household effects, I announced our planned move on March 1 to my teacher and classmates. At that time, I was attending Saint James School in Mukwonago. As a seventh-grader, I was in a classroom shared by both seventh and eighth-graders in the basement of the church rectory. When I told Sister that I would be moving on March 1, she wanted to know where I would be transferring to attend school. After I told her it would be Saint Thomas Aquinas in Waterford, she told me to continue being a good student. Sister also promised that my classmates would write to me after I had moved.
March-May - Moving and Settling into Our Newly Purchased Farm
On March 1, 1957, mom and dad moved from our rented farm near Mukwonago. Our new home would be a newly purchased farm just north of the village of Honey Creek. A township of Waterford road divided our farm into two parts. Thirty-seven acres east of the road were situated in Racine County. Eighty acres which included the homestead, creek, woods, and land to the west beyond the woods were in Walworth County.
I can still remember Uncle Dick and "Little" John, one of dad's fellow workers at Allis Chalmers in West Allis, helping us to move.
At that time, we had four to eight head of dairy cattle. Dad hired a cattle hauler to help us move the animals.
Our household effects and farm machinery were loaded on to a couple of hay wagons. One was pulled by an old International Harvester "H" tractor and the other by a green John Deere with a big flywheel. Thankfully, our new farm was only 10-15 miles away.
We moved on a Friday and I can still remember the feeling I had on Saturday morning the day after. As I sat eating breakfast, I felt so happy that we now had indoor plumbing. There was a big bathtub in a bathroom and I looked forward to taking my first real bath since we moved from the city three years earlier in 1954.
Two days later on Monday, my sister Beatrice and I started our new Catholic school, Saint Thomas Aquinas, in the village of Waterford five miles away. Since the neighboring farm boys, David and Terry, went to this school, dad worked out a car-pooling arrangement with their mother, Mrs. Lewis.
My new seventh-grade teacher was Sister Michael. She was of medium height, thin, wore glasses, and looked about 50 years of age. About 20 kids were in my new class which was held on the second floor of a new school building.
Toward the end of March, dad returned with a hay wagon to our previously rented farm to load up his corn stalks which were in shocks in one of the fields. When the former landlord, Mac, came out into the field, he told dad that we were trespassing and couldn't get the corn. If we did load the corn stalks on to our wagon, Mac would call the police or his lawyer. Before dad could speak, I told Mac that we were getting our corn and that we had a lawyer, too.
In addition to daily barn chores, the planting of our field crops of oats and corn began around the end of April. To reach the land which was across the creek and west of the woods, we had to either take our machinery through the creek or drive through the village of Honey Creek to reach an East Troy township road which ran parallel to our land.
Finally, around the end of May, my aunt's husband, Chuck Hyland, died of a heart attack in West Allis. This happened while Chuck was playing the saxophone in a band. I attended the church service before the funeral where I could see Chuck's body in an open casket. He didn't look at all like the stocky guy I knew while he was still alive. I can still recall comforting Aunt Marie in her home after the funeral.
June-August - Becoming a Baseball Player
After school let out for summer vacation at the end of May, I had three months to enjoy at home. It wasn't all play, however, because I had my daily barn chores of helping with milking, feeding dairy cattle, and cleaning the barn. In addition, I helped dad make hay and cultivate the corn.
When not helping with farm chores, I occupied my free time by fishing and playing baseball.
At the beginning of June, I went down by our creek and caught a good size bass. Everyone in the family was so excited because it was the first fish that anyone had caught from the creek. On occasions throughout the summer, I would go down by one or two of the big bends in the creek and haul in either big carp or bullheads. No one liked to eat these fish so I gave them to our cats.
Most of my summer months, however, were spent playing baseball with the kids in or close to the village of Honey Creek. Since March, I had been friends with David and Terry who lived on a farm just up the road. David was two years younger than me and Terry three. When I showed David the catcher's mitt, mask, and shinguards that I had, he always wanted to play ball with me and be the catcher. After David, Terry, and I had played ball a few times, we came up with the idea of putting together a baseball team and playing other teams near Honey Creek.
Before recruiting other boys for our team, we decided to have our baseball diamond in an oats field which had just been harvested in back of David and Terry's house. Bales of straw would be used as a backstop.
Not counting David, Terry, and me, we still needed six players to field a team. From the village of Honey Creek, we were able to attract five boys. They were the brothers Mark and John, Skipper, Jimmy, and Billy. The ninth player on our team was a six-year-old boy, Scottie, who lived further up the road from David and Terry.
Although David and I practiced a lot of pitching and catching, we never had nine players for a full team and practice until the day of our first game. I remember that game so very well. It was held on a diamond in our home team straw field against a team of David and Terry's relatives. Since I was the oldest and biggest boy, I was chosen to be the pitcher. David was the catcher and his brother Terry played left field. We filled in the other positions on the team with the other six boys.
The score of the game was 9-9 and from it, I can only remember two things. The first is that I hit a home run which landed in a cornfield beyond right field. The second is the refreshment break which we had after the fourth or fifth inning. David's mother and father brought out an eight or ten-gallon milk can filled with ice-cold Kool-Aid. This really hit the spot in the hot August sun.
We only played one other game that summer against the same team we had tied. It was an away game played this time in a cow pasture. Both games were so exciting and fulfilling because it was the first time I had ever played on a baseball team.
September-December - Fall Memories
On the day after Labor Day, I began eighth grade at Saint Thomas School. I had a new teacher, Sister Salutaria, and felt much more comfortable in school having known my classmates since March. Sister liked me because I was well-behaved and a very good student. I also got to school before church Mass started and for these reasons, she entrusted me to care for the church front door during Mass. Watching for late stragglers arriving after Mass had already begun, I had to open the door for them and make sure there was no noise when the door closed. One of the benefits of this duty was seeing my sixth-grade puppy-love, Jeannie, when she arrived late to church.
During the fall and early winter of 1957, nine events occurred which I will always remember.
1. The Milwaukee Braves Win a World Series
Ever since the Braves moved to Milwaukee from Boston in 1953, I had been a Milwaukee Braves fan. Although Milwaukee missed out on winning the National League pennant by one game in 1956, it was victorious for the first time in 1957. In a seven-game World Series with the New York Yankees played October 2-10, the Braves behind World Series MVP Lew Burdette came out ahead. I remember Sister in-class reading us articles from the Milwaukee Journal about the Braves' outstanding achievement.
2. Russian Launch of Sputnik 1 Satellite
On October 4 while watching the World Series on television, I learned that the Russians had launched the first artificial Earth satellite. It was 23 inches in diameter and had been launched into an elliptical low Earth orbit. I didn't pay much attention to this until the store in Honey Creek starting selling Sputnik bubblegum balls. Facts about Sputnik are taken from Wikipedia.
3. Being on the Eighth-Grade Flag Football Team
During October, a couple of my classmates organized an eighth-grade flag football team. I was chosen to play left guard and after a few practices, we had our first game against a public school in Waterford. I cannot remember whether or not we won the game but do recall that the assistant parish priest was our coach.
4. Listening to Rock and Roll on the Radio and Jukebox
In the fall of 1957, I spent between one and two hours each day after school listening to rock and rock music on the radio. My interest in rock and roll began in 1956 when I listened to Elvis Presley and Fats Domino songs. By the autumn of 57, I was grooving on Buddy Holly, more Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard, just to mention a few recording artists. On a few occasions, I would also stop in a diner in Waterford and play "That'll Be the Day" by Buddy Holly on the jukebox.
5. Attending a Halloween Party
On the occasion of Halloween, one of my eighth-grade classmates, Mary S., invited me and other classmates to her home for a Halloween Party. The jitterbug dance was the craze at that time. While I was trying to dance it to the music of "Wake Up Little Susie" by the Everly Brothers, I almost broke my classmate, Ellen's, arm.
6. Butchering a Steer in the Front Yard
On a Saturday morning in early November, dad hired a butcher in the village of Rochester five miles away to come over and butcher our one and only steer. Since we didn't have much money in those days, dad and mom figured it would be cheaper to eat our own meat rather than buying it in a store.
After Johnny J. arrived, dad and I got the year-old steer from our barn and led it into the front yard. I can still remember Johnny killing the animal by shooting it in the head. After it dropped to the ground, he started to cut it up. I really cannot remember more than that. The slabs of meat were sent someplace I am not able to remember to be packaged.
7. Sensational News about the ED Gein Murders
When the mid-November news broke in the Milwaukee Journal newspaper, it described a 51-year-old Wisconsin man, Ed Gein, as a murderer and body snatcher. Gein's crimes were committed around his hometown of Plainfield in central Wisconsin. In addition to killing two women and cutting up their bodies, Gein exhumed corpses from the Plainfield graveyard and made trophies and keepsakes from the bones and skin. This news was shocking and certainly scared my almost-four-year-old sister, Patty. Information is taken from Wikipedia and my memory.
8. Watching Uncle Dick Bowl on Television
Around the beginning of December, we received news that Uncle Dick would be bowling on television one Sunday morning. We went to church early that day and got home just in time to see Dick in a match competition at 11:00. I cannot remember whether my uncle won or lost his match but I do recall seeing his wife Reggie and my cousin Dickie in the viewing gallery.
9. Receiving a Record Player and Records for Christmas
Dad and mom knew that I loved listening to rock and roll music so for Christmas in 1957, I received a small record player and some 45 RPM Elvis Presley records. I think one of the songs on the records was "Jail House Rock" by Elvis.
Ed Gein - Serial Killer Documentary
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© 2018 Paul Richard Kuehn