Well, Here I Am Part 1
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Janice Foley's childhood, Birth to 18, 1929-1947.
Part 1 Table of Contents:
My Family; Right or Wrong
My Family; Right or Wrong
My paternal grandparents were both born in County Fermane in Kilty Clocken, Ireland.
However, it wasn't until 1875 when they came to America that they met.
Upon my grandfather's arrival into the United States, he was faced with the decision to pick one of his two Irish surnames; one was Foley and the other was McSherry.
You, of course, know the outcome of this.
My grandmother was living in Kent, Ohio, with an aunt when she first she met my grandfather.
Soon after they met they were married, and moved to Akron, Ohio, to settle down.
My father was from a family of seven.
He spent many of his younger years around Union Park because his home was situated on the corner of College and James Street.
He spent that part of his life with a group of boys who were known as the
"Union Park Searchlights"; this was also the name of their football team.
There was an old water fountain located in the park, and each time a new boy was initiated into the gang he was thrown into it.
From the incidents that happened in my father's younger years, I could see where I inherited some of my devilishness.
There was an incident where his gang took six surreys from the wagon works on Forge Street and put them on the steps of Central High School.
There was another incident where my father planned to visit my aunt in Athens, Ohio, with two of his male friends; he was about fourteen at the time.
He decided to buy a canoe and make this trip.
They had to carry the canoe as much as they had to row it, so they stopped at Massillon and had it shipped back to Akron.
That was my father's one and only expedition into the unknown.
As my father grew up he decided to go west to make his fortune.
He travelled throughout the West and worked in different places, including oil wells, the docks, a circus as a candy butcher, and as a grocery store clerk.
However, he became weary after a while and headed back to Akron.
Akron, as I mentioned earlier was where my grandfather met my grandmother before they were married.
My mother's family came from the little town of Washington, Ohio, in southern Ohio.
They were Irish and of English descent.
My mother however, grew up in the town of Chillicothe, which is located in the same district. It was not a large town by any means, so my mother had quite the rural life.
However, she got to experience all the fun that came with being a country girl and having her own sleigh and all.
She told me that she was quite the 'Shinney' player back in her day.
This was a game, somewhat like 'Kick the Can' except it was played on ice skates.
My mother moved to Akron as a young girl, and that was where she met and married my father.
I have an older brother and sister that I would like to take this opportunity to mention. They were born before I came onto the scene.
My brother, Michael, was born in 1917 and he was one of the plumpest little boys you could imagine.
From what I heard, he had a very pleasant young life until I came into the picture.
He led the life of an average young boy, his included indulging himself in every known prank in the book.
He had a gang too and they were a terror to the whole neighbourhood.
My sister Jean was born in 1921; she too was a 'Heavyweight.'
It was not long before she started taking part in anything and everything possible.
She had one of the greatest imaginations you could think of and she was always getting herself, or someone else, into trouble because of this.
To illustrate this, let me go back to an incident that took place when Jean was about five years old.
She told a horribly fictitious story to the little boy who lived next door to us at the time. He had every reason to doubt this story, and he made sure to tell her that.
This, of course, brought out her "Irish" and she grabbed the closest thing to her, a butcher's knife and started to chase him.
The outcome of this was by no means tragic, but it guaranteed that he never doubted her word ever again.
My sister was initiated into my brother's gang soon after because she could manage a weapon so well. This, of course, did not help the morale of the poor boy who she had chased due to the fact that he too was a loyal member of the gang.
It was also about this time that my family acquired a home for stray dogs.
This wasn't as a result of any form of encouragement from either of my parents.
It seemed like both Mike and Jean had a sixth sense that told them just where one of these stray creatures could be found.
My parents had to put a stop to this; they did that in the simplest possible way.
They decided that each stray dog that was brought home was to be fed with the money that would have originally gone to my brother and sister for the pilgrimages to the show each Saturday afternoon.
You can already tell how this turned out; Foley's Home for Stray Dogs soon disappeared.
However, this didn't mean the end of the orphanage.
Mike and Jean soon converted the home into a hospital for the poor dogs, and very soon, they had acquired every dog in the neighbourhood as a patient.
They could not by any means use their money for this, so they charged a small fee to keep the place in order and also furnish refreshments for the staff.
This job would have probably gone on indefinitely if my brother hadn't kept two of the dogs overnight when one of them started to howl.
'Misery loves company,' as the saying goes.
You can already imagine what happened; the other dog joined in and started howling too.
This definitely closed the hospital.
It was on the thirteenth, and a Friday to boot, when I chose to enter the world.
It was a nice Indian summer night, a little after eleven, when I arrived, so the future looked very bright to me.
I definitely did not have any idea of the childhood catastrophe that awaited me.
The first of the crises came when a name was being decided upon.
My brother and sister suggested some names that would definitely have ruined me for life, but my father and mother came to a compromise, I ended up with Janice.
It would have been perfect if they just left me as Janice, but no, they just had to give me a middle name too! Ann, Sue, and a lot of other names would have been just perfect for me, but apparently not my parents!
I genuinely believe that giving me a middle name in between Janice and Foley must have been the crowning moment of their life.
I will keep the name to myself for a few more years as I have managed to keep it quiet up till this moment.
At just three months old, I was stricken with an ear infection and a case of bronchial pneumonia to boot.
They gave me a 100-1 chance of living, but my lucky 13 came through.
Of course, we can't give it all the credit as the luck of the Irish must have had something to say as well.
After spending six weeks in an oxygen tank I was ready to try again, this time, hoping for a better result than the last.
I was kept indoors for the first year, maybe it was due to the fact that I wasn't doing much crawling; however, that summer I did get out.
I was taken on my first trip to Canada.
Being so young I do not remember enjoying it, but both my parents guarantee that I had a grand time.
The following winter I spent much of my time at home, as I would not make much headway in the snow.
The following spring however, I was out with the first robin enjoying long walks with my mother in my new carriage.
That summer was a repeat of the previous one as we visited Canada once again.
Quoting my brother and sister, I enjoyed this 'Immensely.'
The next three years were spent growing up.
I can remember having more skinned knees than six other kids put together!
I don't believe that a week went by that I did not have to wear a bandage, at least part of the time.
My summers those next three years were divided between Canada and Michigan.
They were very enjoyable summers.
I will always remember the one in Canada, especially for being given a little tin whistle of a Mountie, by a real Mountie. I still have it in my little collection of odds and ends that I have acquired over the years.
The following year, after returning from the wilderness, I enrolled in the school of knowledge.
Little did I know what I was getting into!
My first day at school was an unforgettable one because I cried for most of the time.
This was because I could not remember my middle name.
I suppose that if I had applied a little grey matter, I would have thought of it.
But I did not like it anyway, so I just gave up and sat down for a good, long crying spell.
After getting through this, my first day went along fine.
The Fall of 1935 was a very happy one as I had already adapted to school life by then.
Christmas arrived that year with all the snow and cold any polar bear could wish for.
It was a wonderful Christmas, in the way of presents too, because I had never counted so many presents, even after visiting every nook and cranny in the house.
After being forced back to school for the rest of the year, Spring came with all of my best wishes.
Soon after the close of school, the family packed up and we left for Half Moon Lake, which lay in the northern end of Michigan.
This was a great summer for me because my brother brought along two of his friends.
The five of us, my sister Jean included, really gave everyone a run for their money.
We had stored all of our devilishness up all winter and we really let it out that summer.
It was hard to leave Half Moon Lake and head back to civilization and the inevitable.
But due to circumstances beyond my control, I entered second grade that fall.
This was as I thought it would be because I found that we would soon be moving to a new home.
Preparations started in early October and we moved later that month.
We haven't moved much as a family, so my father advised that we make the most of it and become adjusted to our new home as we would be there for quite a while.
The first day at King School was an uneventful one and I came out with banners flying.
It was on this day too that I acquired most of my friends that I still see much of today.
The first night, after school, I walked home with the girl that sat across from me during class that day. I could never have imagined that I would still be doing this today.
The girl I am speaking of, of course, is Patty Fritsch.
The days between November and Christmas were divided between school and Patty's house.
We struck up quite a friendship right away.
The Christmas of my seventh year was a happy one.
Good old St. Nick brought me one of the best sleds any youngster could hope for.
We have the perfect place for sledding seeing as our house is located on top of a big hill, allowing you to start at the top and slide for a good two blocks.
I made a lot of friends during this time. This was partially because of our location, so I considered myself to be very lucky to have such a grand place for all of my chums to slide.
Returning to school after Christmas was not as hard as I thought it would be.
The number of new friends I had was the reason for this.
At about this time, I got my first library card.
This meant that I was ready to face the world, or at least, go to the library by myself.
This helped me develop quite a flair for reading, and it has stayed with me till today.
Summer was here again with our plans already set.
We went to Canada once again, this time near Niagara Falls.
This was my first time seeing them.
We went for a walk underneath and it was one of the queerest sensations one can imagine.
It's difficult to picture it because you get a very different feeling from actually experiencing it.
I purchased my first pair of Indian shoes by the Falls.
We bought them at an old trading post stationed there; those shoes were the real deal.
I liked the shoes so much that I wore them until they were threadbare. Even when I needed to fix them at the cobblers, I found it difficult to part with them.
We got back from Canada during first week of August that year, and that's when I got really acquainted with the gang in my neighbourhood.
I was taken into the mob without too much fuss.
I was soon joining in on games like 'Capture the Flag' and others.
We were engaged in mud fights about once a week.
We divided up into two teams; one making a camp behind the old voting booth and the other on the bridge.
We then proceeded to bombard one another with the mud.
I never seemed to get out of those without being plastered from head to foot with the messy stuff.
To be continued in Part II.
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