Eugene (Here-after know as Gene.) was born the eighth of eleven children of George Leslie Maynard and Mary Gladys Maynard; Nee-Beedle. Gene was born at 3117 Elim Ave., Zion, Illinois of the United States of America. Geneís brothers and sister in order are Hugh Leslie--born July 30, 1920. Died December 12, 1998. Herbert Clarence--born December 10, 1921. Mary Louise--born April 27, 1925. Lewis Albert--born October 12, 1926. Elmer Lawrence--born April 3, 1928. Alice Irene--born July 7, 1929. Florence Anne--born March 6, 1931. Me (Gene), Gordon Wesley--born July 27, 1934. Evangeline May--born April 21, 1936. And last, but not lease, Laura Leona--born October 17, 1937.
Geneís father was born on August 25, 1892 in Millers Creek (Now known as Poplar Grove.) in Nova Scotia, Canada. Geneís mother was born in South Gardner, Maine, U.S.A. on August 30, 1897. Geneís mother and father were married on November 26, 1918 in Millers Creek. After the marriage, they emigrated to Gardner, Maine about 1921. Then they moved to Zion, Illinois about 1926. As one of eleven children, we were, rather poor, Geneís father worked at the Zion Cookie Factory in Zion and mother was a homemaker. When Gene was about six years old, the family moved next door to 3119 Elim. Geneís father also came from a large family. Geneís grandfather gave the house at 3119 Elim to my father, as we had such a large family.
When there are eleven children in a family, you never have to worry about what you would be doing next. There is always someone about and something to do. If you were foolish enough to tell mom and dad that you were bored, they will find you enough work to last you a month of Sundays.
When each child reached a certain age in the Maynard family, they were assigned certain chores or you could say work. Dad would rent three city lots in the neighborhood that were empty and have a man with a horse and plow get them ready for planting in the spring. Also the half, of the lot, that our house sat on, was dug up by a hand shovel. We raised corn, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, watermelon, strawberries, etc. all kinds of veggies and some fruits. When we could, we children would sneak off and go swimming, at Lake Michigan, as the work was long and hard, as seen through the eyes of the young.
Just so you donít think that us children had a vacation, in the winter time. Gene and Gordon had to do all the dishes, and let me tell you, that was a lot of dishes!!!! We also had to keep the little stove in the basement going to keep us in hot water, for baths, cleaning and of course, all those dishes. The girls did all the cleaning and ironing of cloths. Mom did almost all of the cooking. It worked out good, as most of the work would get done.
Gene and Gordon tore down the old chicken coop at the end of our lot and used the wood to keep that little stove going, also we helped to do a lot of repair work on the house (Replacing both the big front and rear porches.). So we had a lot of old wood to cut up. Gene and Gordon use to take a bath at the same time and later when Gene was older he would take his bath first and Gordon would then take his bath in the same water. Lucky Gordon!!!! This was done to save the hot water!!!
Second World War Gene was only eight years old, when the Second World War started on December 7, 1941. He remembers that it was a Sunday afternoon, about 3 P.M. and the rest of the family was eating, the traditional Sunday afternoon meal. Gene being Gene, wanted to listen to a radio program, called Terry and the Pirates, instead of eating his dinner. Mom and dad called to Gene several times from the kitchen, but he had his ear glued to the radio. Anyway, the radio program was interrupted, by the announcer, who said that the Japanese, had just bombed Pearl Harbor, in the Hawaiian Islands. Gene called the rest of the family into the setting room, so they could hear what was being said on the radio. To say the lease, the rest of dinner was eaten with all ears glued to the radio.
Geneís two older brothers, Hugh and Herb, soon joined the Army Air Force, and after training, Hugh was sent to Iceland and Herb, was sent to Christmas Island in the Pacific. Both were trained as aircraft mechanics. Herb had the hardest time of it, as Christmas Island was really small, and he had nothing to do in his time off.
In the next couple of years, Gene saw the country gear up for war. He helped to start Victory Gardens, where everyone had small gardens in their back yards. Also we saved all the old newspapers, (Called paper drives.) and every bit of metal that was laying around. Little old ladies would donate their old pots and pans that they were not using anymore.
The war effort took all the peoples spare time, there was not very many young men around. Jobs went begging and Gene is sure that this is why he started to work so young. Also the fact that he grew tired of wearing old hand-me-down cloths from his older brothers. So this is when Gene started to work on the truck farms in 1944, at the age of 11 years old. Gene also had a job delivering newspapers door to door. It was in March of 1945 when he was on his paper route, when some lady came to the door to tell Gene that President Roosevelt had just died. The whole country was very sad, and a person could see people walking down the street, crying as they went about their work. No one stopped work as the war was still on.
Gene remembers going to the memorial for Burton Lee, who had been killed in the European Theater of the war. Burton was the brother of Betty Lee. Geneís brother, Herb later married Betty Lee.
Gene remembers when the War was over and the big celebration with people driving up and down Sheridan Road in their cars, as the gas rationing stopped right away. We started a big bon fire right in the middle of Sheridan Road and 27th Street. The Fire Department was not too happy, as there was two very big wooden building near that intersection.
It was during this war that a lot of women started to get out of the house and start to work, (Rosey the Riveter.) and some joined the WACís. The Womenís Army Core. Many young men quit their jobs or school to join the Army and Navy to help to end the war. Over 300 thousand young men from America, lost their lives. Almost everyone supported the war. It was quite a thing to see, not like now days, where most young people want to know, what is in it for them. Gene joined the army during the Korean War in 1952, when he didnít know if he would be in the fighting or not. Like Gene says, it was a different time, like we were in a time warp.
Gene wants to tell you a little about what he saw. There were a lot of cars setting around, because of the lack of gas and tires. Sometimes a person would see a car going down the road on its steel rims. A lot of people put their cars in their garage, to set, till the end of the war. As for gas rationing, a person had to have a good reason to get gas stamps. Some people de-tuned their cars, so that it would run on methane gas, which, could be had from some farmers, illegal of-course, but better then nothing.
If someone threw away a cigarette package, we would pick it up and take the tin foil out of it and roll it up into a ball, until a person had enough, and then turn it in to a special collection point for this. Sugar and butter were rationed very tight. This is when margarine came into use. Old rubber bands and used razor blades were saved. Even old used up, tooth paste tubes, were saved.
The Maynardís had a chicken coop at the end of the back yard, because it was difficult to get enough meat. If a person knew a farmer real well, a person was lucky. Gene is sure that he ate, horse meat, many, many times during the war.
Girls could not get silk stockings at all, as silk was used for parachutes and this is when rayon stockings came into use, and later nylon stockings if a person could get them, not very often at all. Everyone knew someone, who could get you things that were not for sale in the stores. Even Geneís father would deal a little in the black market, even though a person could go to jail, if a person was not careful.
Don lived north of the Maynard's, on the same block of 31st street and Elim Ave., and Don was an only child. Being an only child Don had a lot of toys and one of the best toys that he had was a set of Lionel trains. It was no wonder that Gene and Gordon spent as many hours that they could at Donís home. We played with the trains as often as Donís mother would allow us boys in the house.
Don, Gordon and I also use to make rubber band guns out of a piece of wood and a wooden cloths pin, that had a spring and a piece of old rubber tube from a car tire, nowadays cars donít have rubber tubes in the tires. We would play war games with these pretend guns. Shooting each other in the butt and other places.
Near the Maynardís family home was a big area of trees that us children played the War Games and Cowboys and Indians. Also there was much climbing of the trees plus there was a small stream running through the cow pasture that was near by. We use to play in the stream by taking off our shoes and putting on rubber boots with a canning rubber to hold on the boots, from our mothers canning supplyís, which of course we stole while mom was not looking. We would get into the stream and look for tadpole and minnows.
Near where we lived there also was a culvert that where a stream came out of the ground (This stream was a drainage system for Zion City.) and it was not a protected opening and so we would put on those boots again and walk bent over at the waist and walk up the drainage stream, under ground, which had to really be very dangerous. We could of died in that thing, from bad air or cave-ins. Also the water was not so clean, I am sure.
Also near our grade school was another culvert and when it rained hard this culvert was full to over flowing. Us children would play near the culvert opening, which was really dangerous, as the water would come shooting out of this culvert. One day after it had been raining very hard all day, after school, a lot of us children went over to look at the water as it was shooting out of this culvert very, very fast and the children were standing over the culvert, (There was at lease a 10-15 foot drop from the top of the road to the opening of the culvert.) and a girl, called Dorothy fell into the water, I was sure that she was going to drown, but one very, very brave boy jumped into the stream of water and saved the girl, I only wish I could say that it was me that did this very brave thing. I am not that brave!! Were we dumb or what???
The following little story is one of many reasons why Gene went to work at such a young age!! He was in a qualm-drum, in that he didnít know what to do. There he was wearing Elmerís old shoes and cloths and they didnít fit worth a damn. There were holes in the soles of the shoes and because Gene wore more then one pair of Elmerís shoes over a period of one year, one pair was different from the other. But none of them were good, or fit right.
One pair had bad heels, one pair had even holes in the area of the toes, one pair had more then one problem. Like one pair had a rip along the instep where the sole met the upper part of the shoe, plus holes in the soles and the heel nails sticking up into the heel of Geneís feet. He remembers when the nails were making sores in the heels of his foot, that he took some pliers and pulled the nails out of the heels of the shoes, and even sometimes the heels would fall off or would not be on straight.
At this period of time, Gene knew it was of no use to ask his parents to buy him a new pair of shoes, or cloths, as there was very little money to buy anything except food for the family!! Gene could also see that mom and dad were so busy that they didnít have time to do anything, except work and go to church. Talk about a dysfunctional family!!! When the wolf is at the door, it is not time to worry about religion.
Now we will get to the cloths. Gene was wearing knickers and this was during the middle of the winter, as he didnít own a pair of long pants. Talk about freezing your butt!! Also the only coat he had to wear was really a spring/fall coat without any lining and the temperature would get down into the range of -20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. And talk about when the wind was blowing, Gene would have tears in his eyes and he would be shaking so bad, by the time he got to school, it would take him 30 minutes to warm up, so that he could pay attention to his studies. All of these cloths were Elmerís old cloths. Gene didnít even have a sweater It is no wonder that Gene decided to go to work at age 11 years old!!! And it is no wonder that Geneís mom and dad didnít complain that he found a job and was able to buy his own clothes.
When Gene was a young boy of about thirteen years old, he had a friend , who lived about half way down the block. They were of a Bohemian nature. Anyway their life style was very different from anyone I had ever known up till then.
When a person walked in their home, there was always three days of dirty dishes on the kitchen table. In the living room there was always so many un-ironed cloths on their couch, that there was no room to sit down. They would just take a piece of cloths, whenever they needed something different to wear. You would think that I would not want to go there, but the reverse was true. I could relax and not have to worry about, if my own behavior was good or not. My friends mother smoked, which was unheard of at the time in Zion. She never bothered to use an ash tray, and the ashes were always dropping off the end of her cigarette onto the floor. She would always have on a white tee shirt without any bra, and she really did look bad. Yet as I say, I like it there.
Anyway, my friend and I would do things together that we should not be doing. Nothing really bad, but not good also. Like trying on my friend's older sisters, underwear and bra. You know, getting to try to understand life.
My friend's father was not around much, as he was a typewriter sales and repairman. So a lot of things would fall to my friend, that were not really a child's responsibility. There we were, I thirteen years old and my friend eleven or twelve years old, and my friend's father asked us if we could cut almost all the trees in the back yard, down and dig up the roots!!! We were paid $1 a tree and there were 12 trees. So that was $6 each, what to hell were we going to do with all that money?????
Anyway, we found something to do with the money after we were done with the job, ha, ha!!!!!
Getting back to the trees, we first cut down the twelve trees and hauled them to the alley and burned them. That was enough of a job to earn our pay, but being rather stupid, we continued on with the job. Digging down around the roots and cutting them off was not easy. But chopping that final big root that went strait down with a small ax was a real bummer. We had to dig a large hole around the roots to get at that final root.
After getting the tree stump and root system, out of the hole, we would load them on a child's wagon and take them down to the alley, to be disposed of later. We were so dumb that we enjoyed the work and were sorry to see the project done.
My sister Alice went to California in the winter of 1946-47 and when she came back to Zion, a man named Allen Marshall followed her back in a few months time. Allen had gone to Polly Tech., in southern California to become a dairy farmer, why anyone would want to be a dairy farmer, I have no idea and I was only 14 years old at the time. Anyway, I had never worked on a cow farm before and Gordon was available to take over my three paper routs and when Allen asked me if I would like to go with him and work on this farm in Antioch, Illinois, I stupidly said yes. It really turned out dumb, except for the work experience that I received.
So Allen took me with him out to this rich manís farm, where all the cows were Show Cows and worth a lot of money. Over each cows stall, they had the cows, blue ribbons that that individual cow had won. They were really good looking cows, as cows go. The farm was really a collection of five farms that were tied together by the fact that the rich man had bought all five farms and restocked them with the very expensive cows.
The farm had their own veterinarian and one man who did nothing else but taught the cows how to walk right for the times the cows were on show. On each of the five collective farms they had a large barn and it was to be my job to help fill these huge barns with bailed hay. We would go out to the hay fields and with the help of a bailing machine, we would work the fields in the morning and put the bailed hay into the barns in the afternoon. It really was hard work for a 14 year old, but Gene was already over six feet tall, but only weighed 130 pounds and this is were Gene got his nickname of String bean Gene!!!
I remember the owner of the huge farm drove up in his black Cadillac for his annual visit to his farm. The farm was more or less a hobby for the rich man.
After three weeks Allen quit and went to work on another farm where they didnít need me. Since I had no way of getting back and forth to Zion, I also quit after a few days I never went back to get my pay, so I am sure the farm manager had some beer drinking money, on my back. But thatís life!!!
There Gene was stupid as ever, at age 13-14 or maybe just very, very naive. Donít make any difference, as the results were the same. Geneís brother Elmer and his friend Skitter were making a Kayak. A type of boat that the Eskimoís use to hunt Seals and even Wales with.
This was a very light boat of about 10 feet long with a wood frame-work, screwed together with brass screws and covered with a water-proof canvas and then the canvas was then covered again with a water-proof sealer. Anyway it was a very light boat that two people could carry with ease and this was why the Eskimoís liked to use it, as they could carry it over the ice-flows with out any trouble. Of course the Eskimoís used Seal skins, to cover their boat and Wale blubber to seal the edges of the skins.
Anyway you will see, how this ties into the hog-tying and Gene, as the story evolves. There Gene was bothering his brother Elmer and his brothers friend Skitter. He would want to help in any way he could, but I am sure Gene was more bother then help.
Elmer and his friend would let Gene hold the strips of wood in place, while they drilled the holes for the brass screws. Putting the screws in was very hard on the hands and raised a lot of blisters on the fingers. We didnít have electric screw- drivers back then as this was about the year 1946. Elmer would let Gene put in a couple of screws from time to time, as Skitter and Elmerís fingers would get very sore.
The only way Elmer and his friend could get rid of Gene, was to hog-tie him and Gene was so dense he thought it was a game. What Elmer and Skitter would do was to tie Geneís feet together at the ankles and then tie his hands together at the wrists behind his back. Then they would roll Gene over on his stomach and tie the feet and hands as close together as possible, bending the legs as far back as they would go. Then they would tie a rope from the hands, and around his neck, bending the head back and again tying the other end of the rope back to the hands. This was in reality dangerous, but young people do dumb things, as a person could choke to death if this hog-tying, was not done right.
Anyway there Gene was hog-tied and Elmer and Skitter would leave him, to get un-tied by himself. Sometimes it would take Gene two hours to get un-tied and all the time Gene was on his stomach, as a person canít roll over on his back when they are hog-tied. Or they would choke to death. So there was Gene tied up and Elmer and Skitter would go do other things, like play ball or chasing young girls. Why no one bothered to see if Gene was O.K., he doesnít know!!!
As I said before, Gene thought this was a fun game. Gene even encouraged his brother Elmer and Skitter to tie him up again and again, as Gene was always able to get un-tied by himself. After about six or seven times, Geneís brother got tired of this game and he and his friend wouldnít play this game anymore.
In the mean time the Kayak boat project was finished, and we took the boat down to Lake Michigan to see if the boat was any good or not. The boat was O.K., but after that, everyone forgot about the boat.
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