While in the seventh or eighth grade at the Little Red Schoolhouse (Douglas MacArthur School later became its name), the school put on a play for parents, relatives and friends of the families. This was one of many such plays we'd done, but this particular one sticks in my mind because of the part I played. I was honored to be "Major Bowes" of Amateur Hour fame. It was a radio program to which almost everyone listened (maybe a few had TV's in that day).
My part was to act much the same way Major Bowes did on his show. The amateurs who appeared on the program were of a mixed quality of talent. Some were very good, while others were very bad! As Major Bowes listened, when he found the latter talent, he'd ring a loud gong. This meant, "Sorry. Maybe some other time," or "Get lost!" It was the part of our show to which I looked forward, having the chance to ring the gong on some of those performing in our play. I don't recall if I was advised who the victims of the gong were to be or not; but I do know that when anticipating the act, I could hardly keep from laughing out loud. The people present may have felt offended when the "gongee" turned out to be one of their very own, but it didn't affect the pleasure I had in performing. If I felt bad at all, it was only because I couldn't keep a straight face, being unable to control my emotions better.
Other plays were strictly musicals. It was when I was asked to sing a certain solo part that I learned I really couldn't sing worth a 'diddly'. Embarrassment followed which added to my shyness, another of those feelings I already had plenty of in my memory bank. As to singing, I once heard my voice on a new gadget of the day, a wire recorder. That merely cemented my idea of self-worth going down the drain.
Sears Roebuck had released this new product called "The Wire Recorder." It worked much like tape players of today except that wire was used. Bob Edgren, my brother-in-law, and I were taking a physical inventory of my deceased father-in-law's wholesale auto parts store. I told Bob we should try recording all the figures on my wire recorder and then get the figures at our pleasure at a later date. Since I'd taken many inventories with my father-in-law in prior years, I knew it was a long and tedious experience, and I was trying to make it simpler by using the recorder.
Well, the time came to take the data off the wire. Bob and I had changed off calling out figures during the inventory, so when we began playing the data off the wire, I heard what I couldn't believemy voice. It was horrible! "How could I have gone through all those years of sounding like that? How could people bear to listen to anything I had to say? Why would my wife ever have chosen me as a lifetime partner when I sounded so awful?" I wondered.
For weeks and weeks I listed figures taken from the wire recorder. I agonized as I looked forward to the day I'd never have to listen to that awful voice again. It sounded to me as something scratchy and "mush-mouthed." Bob's voice, in contrast to mine, was deep and clear. He sounded like a radio announcer (which, by the way, he eventually became when his church group sponsored a radio program some time later).
All that to get back to my "singing" at the school play in which I was asked to solo. I knew I was bad; but I had no idea I was as bad as I learned later from those wire-recorded inventory sessions!
Well, there were other kinds of plays put on by our school, too. Happily, I never volunteered for anything where much of a spoken part was involved. Though there were times I was given no choice in the matter.
Christmas was a very special time of the year. Yes, we had plays at that time, too, but getting gifts from Santa Claus at the end of the play always more than compensated for having to perform. Actually, Santa Claus' real identification was almost always known by us kids. He would usually be the school janitor or one of the school district's officials, district 110, if I'm not mistaken. The kids all received a paper bag, a pretty large one at that, filled with big apples and oranges, hard candies and nuts. Considering that our normal everyday living didn't include such luxuries, this became very special to us.
While in the eighth grade (there was no junior high then), the last year of Grammar or Elementary School, I always thought of there being five of us in the class. Yet, I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out who that fifth person may have beenwithout success. I (John Sedory), Charlie Krizek, Virginia Leonard and Josephine Hennen make up the four I recall. So maybe I've been wrong in thinking there were five.
Whatever the correct number, as the end of that final year approached, we in the eighth grade were advised we were to take a test at the local high school to determine our IQ or intelligence quotient. Big words that meant little to me; but in later years the results of that test troubled me greatly. It still does today!
We had no idea of what the test would be like. We'd made no special study in the class of what to expect or to try being prepared to face (at least in any depth). When the day of testing came, mathematics and algebra hit me in the face like a ton of bricks! I'd never heard of or seen anything related to that subject in my elementary school days! Of course, arithmetic led to these subjects, but this was a new language altogether. There seemed to be one or two other areas in which we'd not been properly trainedor is this another copout to cover my steps?
When the scores were passed on to me, I learned that of a possible 200 correct answers, I'd gotten something like 93 to 95 correct. That meant there were approximately 105 answers I didn't get right, many of which I'd never been schooled in to answer correctly. In the years that followed, the question always came up, "What was your I.Q. score?" Sure, there were the geniuses who reached as high as 150 or more on the test, but even the "average" person made at least 110 or better. There was another of my loads to carry through life, this one indicating to the world how dumb I was!
As I think back of that test and its influence on the years following, I wish I had been prepared for, at least, the math and algebra. That would have had to bring my score up to at least "average." It wasn't the degradation of the score alone at that time, it was what it did to my self-worth in the later years.
High School & Baby Sister
It was 1938, near to the end of my first year of high school. Mom had seen a doctor, but we kids didn't know (at least I didn't) she was pregnant. At age 34 we didn't exactly think of Mom as in the "bearing age." I personally was totally shocked and even ashamed that a guy in high school would have a mother who'd be having a baby. It must have been the contemplation of the razzing I'd get from my peers, along with the putdown which goes with it, that gave me that feeling. I'm sure my attitude toward this whole thing wasn't unanimous among my siblings, especially from my sister Marie. She'd been a minority among us boys for many years and most likely was busy praying this would be a sister who would assist in cutting down the odds. And brother Ed probably welcomed another addition to the family so he could no longer be called the baby in the family.
Whatever my thoughts and feelings, on May 6, 1938, Dorothy Jane Sedory entered into the clan. Dad came home from the hospital and tried describing what she looked like. I remember very clearly he'd said she had "kind of a pug nose." And that immediately brought to my mind that here was going to be another who'd take on Dad's genes which dealt with the shape and size of the nose. Mine, as you may recall, was just like Dad'smaybe worse. And to think a girl, a sister at that, might be stuck with a proboscis such as that was alarming. Why couldn't he have come home saying something like "She's the cutest thing you ever saw!"?
Dad's nose was what I've heard called a "Roman" nose, sort of flat on the end with a bend toward the middle and kind of wide. Mine was maybe even a bit more pronounced due to the fact I was bigger than Dad in every physical proportion. The exception was his hands. They were about twice the size of mine, maybe because he handled bricks most of his life.
Mom, on the other side of the family, had a small nose which was nicely shaped and proportionate to her facial features. Up until now Dad and I were the only Sedory-featured individuals around, but now we had Dorothy to join ussad to say. It didn't appear on Dad's and Mom's wedding picture that either of them looked abnormal. Mom was real nice looking, and for that matter so was Dad!
Flashback About Noses
If a kid in his early years learns from peers that he has any, even slight, physical abnormality, he has to be influenced negatively the rest of his life. At least that's what happened to me one day while standing in line after recess at school.
There were two or three of the Schwass kids in our school. One was a huge sized kid in the upper grades, while the one with whom I'd had some kind of disagreement was this big guy's kid brother. Shoving and pushing began but was interrupted by the older brother. The one with whom I'd had the skirmish was no Tiny Tim either for that matter. Anyway, the older brother told me if he'd ever catch me fighting with his kid brother he'd let me have it. He then added, for no extra charge, "You've got a big nose, kid!" After all, kids in the lower elementary school grades don't look in the mirror to see how they lookat least I hadn't. And I didn't know if what he'd told me was so or not. I never even thought of noses! From that moment to this very day, I've been a "nose-conscious" person!
This explanation of how I came to be a "nose person" should help you understand better how I'd reached the attitude I had when Dorothy was born into the family.
Be that as it may, after school the day of that terrible revelation about my nose, I went home and had a talk with Mom. I explained what had happened in the line that day after recess. Then I asked for a straight answer. "What the Schwass boy told me, is that the way it really is?" Her face never let on for a moment that she was telling me something I wanted to hear. Maybe she even believed it herself. But she said, "Johnny, you're a nice looking boy. That boy was just angry with you and said what he had to get even with you. Don't even think about what he said again!" Mom loved us kids and always had the right thing to say to lift our spirits. She tried desperately to give us self-esteem and confidence in every crisis of our lives. I loved her for that!
This was the same mother who on another occasion had to take me to school, almost physically, when I didn't want to go there. It was a day when I had only patched trousers (we always called them "pants") to wear. I was self-conscious about those pants and didn't want to be seen by other kids or the teacher while wearing them. Mrs. Blazek was my teacher then, the one I'd said was kind of grouchy or hard to get along with (my opinion when I moved from the fourth to the fifth grade where she taught the upper four grades). After Mom explained why she was there, Mrs. Blazek nearly shook me out of my pants when she lifted her dress enough to show me she had a patch on her slip (in those days it was a "petty coat" believe it or not). She added, further, "As long as your clothes are clean and neat, you need never be ashamed of the patches!" What could I say?
Returning to that new kid sister, Mom was home from the hospital in just a few days. They didn't keep new mothers in very long in those days, nor do they now, I guess. Dorothy became the center of attraction, maybe a curiosity, too. As we settled in to acceptance of this addition to the family, I soon forgot about noses, as Dorothy really was a cute baby with blonde hair. At first we all wanted to hold the new baby, but turns had to be taken. This, of course, lasted until the newness wore off. As with most things, what is at one time fun can later become a chore. Perhaps Marie would have been (along with Mom and Dad, of course) the exception to that rule. I know she adored her new baby sister!