Memories (continued)

I have very few memories of life on the Naval Base as we left when I was four. I remember going to lunch with “Daddy” Gue and playing with their parrot. The Gues were close friends of Mom and Dad. In later years they came to Florida and. for a time. lived near us in Sarasota in a house belonging to Dad, the same house the Balls later rented. Daddy Gue worked in the Base office and walked to and from work right by our house.  I remember a big lizard, probably an iguana that lived in a tree by our back door. I was very wary of him.

Boots, John Oscar Johnson, was born in 1920 but I have no memory of him until we were on the way to Sarasota in 1922. We took a train to Havana, steamer ship to Tampa and made the rest of the journey on Captain Hamlin’s yawl, the Phantom. I remember that Boots had a rope tied around his waist so he wouldn’t fall overboard. I didn’t need one because I was BIG at four.  Capt. Hamlin anchored in the bay opposite the house and took us in to shore in a rowboat.

This was the same house Dad and Clara had lived in as they “waited for her to die”. It had been rented out in the meantime. I seem to remember the occupants had been some cousins of Mom’s but I don’t know which ones. I think they left some things in the house, one being the little rocking chair that became a prize possession of mine and sits in my living room at the present.

The house was smaller than you all might remember it as Nanny Johnson’s house   Before Harald was born the kitchen was doubled in size, a bedroom was added and the front porch was lengthened. What we called the “concrete” was built with a bathroom and what would now be called a utility room. The bathtub was formed entirely of cement with both faucet and shower but ony cold water.

Sometime during those early years, before Harald was born. Mother’s aunt, Hattie Steinel and her neice and nephew, Ruby (13) and Chris (10) Yent, arrived. Aunt Harrie had been an Army nurse married to an Army doctor, Louis Steinel. He died while they were serving in the Phillipines, I don’t know the particulars. In the meantime Ruby’s and Chris’ father had died and they were living with a stepmother in bad circumstances (Ruby was working in a sawmill at 12) so she adopted and raised them. They stayed with us while she bought some property on the corner of Bee Ridge Road and Tamiami Trail and Dad moved in and fixed up a house for them.  There was a road part way and path the rest of the way through the woods between our houses. I’ve walked it many a time. That was before Camino Real was cut through,in fact Granada was just being laid out. Between our house and the trail was nothing but woods

A little farther south, near what is now Kenilworth Ave, Esther and Will Rock lived. They were a colored couple. He was a preacher and Esther was occasionally our baby sitter, did laundry for Mom and sold us milk from her cow. If a hurricane threatened they would come down to our house and sleep on pallets on the kitchen floor.

There were a few other families along the waterfront in the area called Red Rock. Capt. Hamlin’s brother lived in one of the houses and when the phantom brought us groceries from Tampa occasionally Capt. Hamlin stayed overnight with his brother and family. Another family was the Godefrins. They had come down from Chicago because their son, Joe, was crippled from polio and they were told swimming would be good for him. Joe and his sister, Louise, were our playmates. We went swimming off the Godefrin’s pier, fished for sheephead, climbed the big oak tree in our yard, played in Louise’s playhouse,etc. If a few more kids were present we played a version of baseball. Joe was either pitcher or catcher so he could stay sitting down. When his turn came to bat someone else ran the bases for him. I don’t remember it ever causing a problem.

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