CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston's Jackson Street has been in the recent news, much of which is not good. I remember Jackson Street when it knew better days. I lived with my parents and two sisters at 1520 Jackson St. during the 1930s.
It was a large gray frame house. There were three stories and a full basement. There were a finished attic, four bedrooms and bath and downstairs a hallway, living room, dining room and kitchen, in which there was a refrigerator fueled by gas. The entrance had a full porch. Out back there was a large tree and an alley. The parallel street north of Jackson was a playground with not much traffic. I cannot recall the name of it. I played touch football in the street with the local boys.
The year 1929 had come and devastated the economy. The Great Depression had descended the country and had hit my dad hard. He was still at the Security Bank and Trust Co. But while we lived at 1520, President Roosevelt declared a bank holiday. Solvent banks could re-open. Those insolvent were ended. My father's bank ended. He had no job and a mountain of debts.
While he hunted work, I continued at Roosevelt Junior High. I remember Mr. Shinn, Coach Donahue, Mr. Barlett and Principal Virgil Flynn. I also, remember an English teacher who read "Casey at the Bat" and another who taught Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar."
I was easy prey for bullies. I was effeminate in manner and physique. A pushover for a bully. There was the son of the state's attorney general in my class. He delighted in tormenting me. He would come up behind me, run his hands under my arms, lock them behind my head and apply pressure. It was a painful encounter. I believe his name was Edwin. He lived in a columned mansion on Quarrier or Virginia Street.
Once there was a dental exam. I was in line behind Edwin. The dental technician examined each student's teeth. She examined Edwin's and then mine. She felt called upon to show the difference between the stellar condition of Edwin's teeth and the less stellar condition of mine. I never forgot that. I console myself knowing at 92 I have all but four of my original teeth.
In gym, I was the target of a bully. He was throwing me down on the mats at every chance. One day Coach Donahue, who was aware of this, decided I had had too much and that he had had enough. Out of blue, the coach grabbed the bully, lifted him up and slammed him onto the mat. Bang! The bully got the message. I was free of him.