My father must have gone on ahead of us to scout out the job prospects in Reading, Pennsylvania. He remarked many years later of sitting on the edge of his bed at nine o'clock in the morning dripping with sweat. I remember Reading as scorching hot and humid in the summer and cold with lots of snow in the winter.
We must not have brought much with us because Margaret and Bonnie, my younger sisters, slept in dresser drawers. Where my older sister Pat and I slept I do not remember.
By and by we moved to a basement apartment in the downtown district, on South 6th Street, if my memory serves me correctly. There were a lot of those basement apartments in the 40′s and 50′s. Ours was a rather large apartment, or so it seemed to me, in a several stories tall apartment building.
I remember one summer day when my mother had gone out for something in the pouring rain. Dad was concerned for her and stood at the open door waiting for her return. I happened by and could see the pelting rain hitting the sidewalk several feet above my head. That scared me. I thought we would flood. I was glad when she arrived home and Dad shut the door.
As my birthday approached my parents gathered up all my broken toys — many of which I had deliberately broken — and threw them away. They lectured me on how wrong it was to always be breaking stuff and told me they were getting me a special birthday gift. If I broke it, they told me, I would get nothing for Christmas but if I took care of it they would get me something special that I would truly enjoy.
When my birthday arrived early that November I was presented a Marx gas station with the Texaco logo, similar to the one in this picture I got off of Pinterest.com. It came with a couple of cars which you could drive onto an elevator and lift to the second floor. I was thrilled with it and treated it with great care. At Christmas, in keeping with their word, I got an American Flyer electric train set. I had both gifts for several years and only parted with them when we left Reading for Rochester, NY several years later.
One incident that occurred shortly after my fourth birthday made an indelible impression on me. A plumber came one day to repair some item in our apartment. I saw him take a brown bar out of his pocket and. He put the corner of that bar, which looked like candy to me, into his mouth and with a twisting motion bit of a chunk of it. As was my habit, I asked him for some. He told me that I would not like what he had and that if I did eat it I would get very sick. Not believing him, I persisted in pestering him for a bite. My dad finally had enough and persuaded the plumber to give me a bite of his chewing tobacco. It really tasted good but that sensation only lasted until I swallowed the juice. Then, almost as fast as it went down it came back up again. It went down brown. It came up green. I left a trail from the front door to the bedroom. Needless to say, it broke me of the habit of begging.