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An Autobiography: Chapter 17, Growing Up

When I was little, my brothers had trouble pronouncing my name, and they called me “Turkey.” Later, that was often shortened to “Turk.” And for reasons I don’t know, my brother Clarence had the nickname “Dutch,” and my brother Edwin’s nickname was “Chink.” Being the youngest, I don’t remember much about my brothers when I was growing up. The house we moved to at 828 Banklick Street in 1935, where we lived for eight years, was when we parted. Clarence joined the Navy in 1939, and Edwin, after graduating from Holmes High School in Covington, joined the Army in 1942.


Clarence Calbert (CC) Moore 


A portrait of Edwin Byron Moore painted by an Army buddy. 

I think my first interest in girls came when we lived on Banklick Street, and the girl was the minister’s daughter! A few doors down the street was a church we called the “Holy Rollers” Church. I don’t remember Mom and Dad going to church regularly, and I doubt if they ever attended that one. How I met the preacher’s daughter, I don’t recall. But I do remember that when the preacher wasn’t there, she and some of the kids would play “Post Office” in the sanctuary. We would make a makeshift enclosure that was the post office. We were divided into two groups, typically a girl group and a boy group, and one group went into the post office. Then each person from the other group visited the post office. Once there, each person got a kiss from everyone in the post office!

I suppose the reason we moved so often was that Dad had to be close to work. In those Depression years, he held many jobs; he never knew a trade or had a set occupation, but he found jobs wherever he could. I remember when he was a streetcar conductor for a while, I was proud of Dad because I thought that must be a very important job.

When I was little, I used to go to the old abandoned cemetery in Covington with Mom and help her pick dandelions for salads. I don’t remember her salads, but my favorite salad that Georgianna made was with fresh dandelions she picked in the spring. When money was scarce in those Depression years, and it often was, Mom would make beautiful pies with meringue piled high, and Dad would load them in a wagon and sell them door to door. I didn’t realize at the time how degrading that must have been for him.

Another job Dad held for a while was the position of custodian at the Phelps Apartment House in Cincinnati. That was a 12-story upscale complex located near Lytle Park. In 2009, that historic building was slated for a $10 million facelift. Dad had to work one Sunday morning during the summer, and he took me with him. I think I was only six or seven, but I thought I was really big, helping him put bottles of milk by the doors. Before we went home, he took me for a walk through Lytle Park, which was a panorama of floral displays and flowering trees.

But what interested me the most in Lytle Park was the heroic bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln. I didn’t know who Lincoln was, but my father told me he was an American president, and I was in awe of that towering figure. That was probably the first statue I ever saw, and the image remained with me for a long time. We were poor, but there were many wonderful moments like that Sunday morning. The first time I walked up the steps to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., that statue in Lytle Park came drifting back through the years.

Lincoln Statue 

Dad was a fireman on the L&N Railroad for a while, too. That job took him away from home, and he didn’t like that. After World War II ended, Dad held a job at the Crosley Corporation in Cincinnati as a guard. He carried a 38 Smith & Wesson revolver, and Tracy and Marc thought he was really important. My mother worked as a nurse’s aid for many years at the Booth Memorial Hospital, where Georgianna and our first two children were born.

My father was a proud man, always looked neat, wore bow ties and kept his mustache trimmed. We had few of the daily necessities, but our parents loved us and kept us together. My dad never owned an automobile, and I am sure Mom’s clothes were far from the finest. I remember times when Mom took me to the Broadway Theatre for a Saturday matinee to see a cowboy movie. Now I wonder what she gave up to be able to do that. I never had a Christmas tree until I married. In the early 1940s, when Dad had a good job at a war plant and Mom was working at the hospital, we could have afforded a tree. Looking back, I really wonder why we never had one.

Dad Mustache 

Thurston’s father, Calbert Summers Moore. 

I have few memories of Christmastime when I was growing up. Probably the best thing I looked forward to was the holidays from school. I do remember one present. We were living on Pershing Avenue, and I was eight or nine, and Santa Claus brought me a battery-operated toy automobile. It must have been about 8 inches long, and that Christmas day I spent running that car up and down the sidewalk, hoping neighborhood kids would come out and see what a fabulous present I got.

Before I started selling newspapers in 1937, I spent many summer days in Visalia. I loved the Hensley family and had a hard time remembering the names of all of Earl’s brothers and sisters. Their mother’s name was Dolly, and I felt like she was my mother, too. Edith and I made telephones by attaching a string to two tin cans and pulling the string taut. Then we would talk into the can, and our voices came through across the field. I thought that was amazing.

I was playing mumley-peg, a game with a pocket knife, with Edith and several of the Hensley kids in the yard one day, and the knife went into Edith’s leg. I think she had that scar from then on. The Louisville and Nashville Railroad ran through Visalia, not far from the Hensley and Moore houses, and one of the pastimes we boys had was counting the freight cars as they went by.

When we heard a train puffing and roaring and belching out smoke in the distance, we would run to the tracks and sit on the ground, a short distance from the train. We could feel the earth tremble as the train went by. We waved to the engineer sitting in his cabin of that monstrous steam engine, and we never took our eyes off the train until we saw our favorite car, the red caboose, fade from sight. The cars were loaded with coal, coming from the coal fields in southern Kentucky. Most of the time we counted more than 100 cars!

Train Tunnel 

Ryland Lakes Country Club was located about three miles north of Visalia. They had a golf course, and in those days there weren’t any golf carts; boys who were called caddies carried the golfer’s bag and handed them the clubs they asked for. For 9 holes, the pay was 35 cents, and there was always a tip. Edwin took me with him sometimes, and we walked the rails from Visalia to the Club. We tried to see how far we could walk on a rail, one foot in front of the other, before falling off. I finally got to be a pretty good caddy and really enjoyed watching the golfers play.

As July 4th neared one year, the boys were told to be there for sure on the 4th, as there would be a big surprise for them. The event, hailed with a lot of fanfare, was a pie-eating contest. They had a bakery deliver a van full of luscious pies, heaped high with meringue. I think there were probably 15 or so boys there, and they were all handed a pie and told to start eating when the shot was fired. I knew I didn’t have a chance to win, so when I heard that shot, I walked over to a tree, sat down with my pie and enjoyd every bite. My brother Edwin didn’t compete either. He knew his buddy Howard Brosmore was there and said, “I can eat more than him, but not near as fast.” Brosmore won.

Don’t Miss the Next Chapter: Coney Island