Friday, September 18, 2009

Jan and Pop - Part I

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I felt like I had to go speak to an "older" cousin to learn what he could recall about Jan and Pop. My brother, Tim and I, went to a Panera near Miamisburg to meet with the "resident historian", Fred Breving and his wife, Marge. We spent two hours trading stories and it wasn't nearly enough time. For one thing, I wanted to share some of the things I had collected with Fred and Marge and that left little time for us to hear Fred's stories and compare our recollections of "the facts."

Fred lost his own father, Fritz, to illness. Fred was only 12 years old at the time. His father worked with lead as a typesetter. I looked up the death certificate and it said that Fritz died of a brain abscess due to bronchiectasis. Fritz was 11 years older than his wife, Edith, who became a widow at the age of 36 with three young children. Fritz (Frederick) Breving was a German who believed in paying cash for everything and bought their home on Kinmont outright.

The first thing I learned about Pop was that he really enjoyed looking at the ladies. Apparently, even when he was losing his vision to macular degeneration, he'd suggest to a granddaughter that she move within his field of vision so he could check her out.

Pop loved to travel. Jan loved to stay at home. Fred said Pop would call him up and tell him they were going on a trip. It was not a request. He remembers being 14 years old when Pop wanted to go visit Harley (his cousin) in Buffalo. Once they got away from the city, Pop would turn the driving over to Fred saying you've had practice pulling cars in and out of your Uncle Clarence's car repair shop -- you can handle it. Pop would sleep while Fred felt like the king of the world.

He said they usually slept in the car, bought a hamburger a day at a truck stop, and otherwise ate junk. Every Sunday they would go for a ride or Pop would buy a Sunday pass for the street car for Fred and they would ride into town and take the incline up to Mt. Adams.

Pop had a sister, Edith Hodges, who relocated from farm to farm never paying the rent. They would work the farm until they were asked to move on. Fred and Pop visited the Hodges on several different homesteads over the years and Pop remained very loyal to his sister. Apparently, Margaret Ann, was told that she was really one of the Hodges because she couldn't stay put.

Fred said that Pop absolutely loved his job and that the "car barn" was Pop's second home. When Fred would come and meet Pop at the car barn, he said that not only the mechanics, but all of the drivers knew and respected Pop. The drivers would want to let Fred on the bus for nothing, but Pop insisted that Fred put his fare in the box.

When Fred was about seven years old, there was a summer when both of his parents were in the hospital. Fred had to live at 2424 Eastern Ave. for the entire summer and the beginning of the school year. Sleeping in that house was quite difficult. There were no interstates and trucks were banned from Columbia Parkway. Not only did you have trucks and traffic along Eastern Ave., but also frequent trains on tracks up the hill from the house in the rear. In addition, there was the sound of boat traffic on the river. Fred was attending school at Christ the King in Mt. Lookout. Every morning Jan would put him on the streetcar and he would have to transfer to travel up Delta Ave. to get to school. That kind of independence for a young child would be unthinkable now.

When Fred got his first car, it must have been quite a clunker. He said it had a cracked engine block and that he, his mother, Rosemary and Bob took the car on a trip to Natural Bridge State Park. It was a '41 Chevrolet and he had to bring a lot of water to keep the engine functioning. He worked at his Uncle's car repair shop and saved the oil they drained from customer's cars to replace the oil in his own. It was a big deal and the only car in the family.

Pop suffered from arthritis and Fred said when he would first get up from a chair, you never knew which way he was going to go. Once he got moving, though, he moved everywhere fast.

When Jan died, Pop sold his house and moved in with the Brevings. Despite Edith's best efforts, Pop would not give up chewing tobacco. Around his favorite chair, Edith had to cover everything in plastic because he didn't always make the spitoon -- made all the more difficult since he had difficulty seeing.

Jan was another story -- one I'll discuss in Part II of this posting.

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