Friday, April 28, 2006

Little Sophie Barer

As a chld, the home at 28 W. Chestnut was a fascinating place place. The parlor was off limits. Everyone gathered in the large dining room where you could pickup the candlestick telephone. A sweet feminine voice would ask, "Number please?" and you would request 1633 for I. J. Barer, 1441 for D. Barer, or 953 for B. Barer & Sons, hides, furs and metals. 3086 was the number for B. Barer.

I loved to wander through the house. I could find fascinating things such as a razor blade sharpener. You could twirl the handle and the blade would scrape against the grinding wheel for a few revolutions then flip over to do the other side. Through a confessions magazine left behind by cousin Thelma I learned of the anguish of Joan/John born with the genitalia of both sexes she/he was raised as a girl but yearned to be a boy. (1939)

In a closet where I found grandfather's money belt which I used as a bandolier when I was a cowboy or a cavalry man in our games, Uncle Dave's home built crystal radio, and an article from the local newspaper about little Sophie Barer who had advanced four grades in four months at Sharpstein school. The three children although they lived across the street from the old Lincoln School which was replaced by Paine Scool attended Sharpstein School because it offered a course in English as a second language. Aunt Sophie started as a first grader speaking no English but after four months she was mainstreamed into the regular classes at the fourth grade level.

Wow! Once I get started it is hard to turn off the stream of memories. When we returned from Montana we lived at 28 W. Chestnut for awhile. My mother tells of Uncle Dave and the Stoller boys making use of the candlestick telephone to call every taxi company in town to make a pickup at the intersection outside the house and then giggling as they all showed up to look for the phantom fare. "Dirty Blonde" was a slang expression of the day and the pranksters would take turns calling laundries asking if they were able to wash dirty blondes.

I had the pleasure of sitting at a lunch counter with Arnold, Harold, and Harvey Stoller and we reminiced about those times. The crystal radio came up and Harvey told of building it as a group project out of odds and ends. The problem was the earphones. Everything Electric had the best buy but the boys could not come up with the $2.00 for the hi-tech necessity. They approached grandfather B for a loan.

He responded that if they could make the contraption "talk" he would give them the two dollars.
They approached the merchant with the proposition and he gave them the earphones on approval.

That evening grandfather adjusted the earphones as the boys "tickled the cat's wisker" on the crystal. He smiled and reached into his pocket for two silver dollars.


Blogger Mike Barer said...

Good story

11:29 AM  
Blogger Burl Barer said...

I have a photograph of Stan and I making one of those radios out of a razor blade and a pencil lead rather than a cat's whisker. My dad was really more interested in our success than we were -- he got a big kick out of hearing the radio "talk" -- for some reason, we already had earphones.

6:38 AM  

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