Mom and dad were living in an apartment with my brother and me when dad was drafted to serve in WWII. Dad had been exempt most of the war due to his essential occupation, but now they were reaching further for recruits.
Dad’s four brothers were already in the service. The women remained at home with my grandfather and my older cousin. Mom remained in the apartment with the 2 children though by then it was a financial struggle. Dad’s income went down from little to even less when he was in the service.
However, when he was discharged, he was eligible for a veterans’ home mortgage and his income increased a bit as he was back to his old job. He was still (and always) a blue-collar worker but in those days blue-collar workers earned a living wage.
Dad and 2 of his brothers each bought a house. My uncle joked about the 30-year mortgage. Someday, he said, when we’re old, we’ll say (and he put on a shaky old man voice) “Well, we finally paid off the mortgage”. Thirty years were longer than they had even lived by that point. It was hard to imagine being that old and having the mortgage paid off!
Two of his brothers bought homes near each other in the city, but mom and dad chose a house in the suburbs where the children could play in their own back yard. (When we lived in the apartment, we kids had to play at a nearby park as the landlord wouldn’t let us play in the tiny fenced yard behind our building.) Mom and dad paid about $10,000 for their first home in the late 1940’s. The original house had 2 bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, one bathroom, and an unfinished basement and attic.
My brother and I shared a bedroom and mom and dad had the other. Since this was a new neighborhood, there were plenty of children on our block. It was a financial stretch for my parents to purchase this house and it took seven years before they felt they could relax and not worry about all the things they needed to purchase to make the house feel like home.
One of the first purchases was literally dirt (and it wasn’t “dirt-cheap”). Every family on the block had a pile of topsoil on the front lawn. The pile was taller than I was (starting kindergarten at that time). Naturally the rule was that no one was supposed to play in the dirt piles. Try and enforce that one! Mom gave us baths together much of the time as the hot water heater was not sufficient for several baths in a row. She put Tide in the tub with us to get us nice and clean. And they wondered why my skin was so itchy and sensitive?
I suffered from dry itchy skin much of my childhood. I wonder how much my inclination to play in the dirt and mom’s inclination to clean me with Tide had to do with it?