Dad’s First Photo

December 19, 2011

I was quite surprised when Jeff asked if he could have a copy of the photo that my dad had taken of himself.  My surprise was that Jeff had remembered an old photo he’d had seen years early and now wanted a copy to show his Facebook friends how ahead of his time his grand father had been taking his own self portrait.

Soren's first camera and photo.

As I retrieved the photo I recalled the story  my dad told me about it when he saw me going through the cigar box full of photos he kept.  He stopped me, pulled together a group of photos and explained they were from the first roll of film he taken.  He had just purchased the Kodak Bronnie box camera shown in the photo.  Eager to try it out he sat in front of dresser propped up the camera on a dictionary and took his own picture.  Then, eager to use up the roll he took a picture of my mom and then went to Palmer Park and took pictures of pigeons, the little castle and steam and ducks in the lake.  Then he got the roll developed.  Over time, the uninteresting photos were discarded.  As best I can figure the picture was taken in 1938 about a year after mom and dad were married and still living at Grandma Baker’s house because that’s where the dressing table in the photo was located.


Kallioinen Name Change

June 12, 2011

One day Dad told me about going to Ford Trade School and changing  his last name from Kallioinen to Kalen.


Instead of going to high school, he went to Ford Trade School and received a small wage while learning.  Being the oldest child, he could get an education and help support the family.  Dad excelled in math and the Trade School offered him a job as a teacher when he completed his Trade School training; he never did say what trade he was learning.  His teaching job resulted in his being offered a purchasing job at Ford.


This was a time when emigrants entering through Ellis Island had their last name “Americanized” by the customs officers.  Dad said he felt that it would be a business advantage to have a last name that was easier to spell and pronounce.  For a long time he went by Mr. Soren and most of the people who did business with him thought that was his last name.


Sandy remembers hearing that Dad’s boss at Ford told him to change his name because Kallioinen was hard to pronounce, spell and remember.


On day he went to see a judge and explained why he wanted to change his last name.  The judge asked him what new name he wanted and Dad said he wasn’t sure.  The judge had Dad print out Kallioinen, looked at it for a moment and then circled KAL from the beginning and EN from the end and Kallioinen became Kalen.


I’m not sure of the date Dad changed his last name, but it was before he was married in 1937.


The change was popular with his family.  A number of his brothers and sisters changed their last names to Kalen.



Bombs Away

June 11, 2011

For a very brief time I was an ace WW II bombardier blowing up bridges and factories.  I’d load up my four bombs, and fly my mission over the target on the floor below, a thick fiber mat with an aerial view of a city  printed on it.  The board had scores for what you hit, 10 points for a small bridge, 5 points for a large factory, but scoring didn’t matter.  The fun was in pulling the release and watching from above as the bomb descended to the target below.

The game disappeared shortly after mom discovered that I sometimes missed the board and the bombs with their pinpoint tips were leaving marks in linoleum floor.   It probably didn’t help when she found me doing high altitude bombing by standing on kitchen chairs circled around the target below.  As best I can recall, I was about 5 at the time making the year 1945.

Old memories are fun and challenging at times.  Having recalled the game from so long ago I worked hard on trying to remember what my bomb sight looked like.  Remember the main features, 2 eyeholes, a mirror at 45 degrees on the inside and a way of releasing the bombs.  A bit of research on the Internet didn’t find the game but did find patent 2359383 for the bomb sight and the patent drawing.   The drawings brought a smile,  and filled in the blank spots in a 66 year old memory.

Update:  A email from Cindy had links to both the bomb sight and a picture of the bombs used in the game.

The bomb sight game with 'bombs' featuring a very sharp pin sticking out of the bomb.

Painting Grandma’s House

December 11, 2009

Don’t remember if it was my idea or Mom or Dad’s idea to have me paint the exterior of our house on Waverly.   It was the summer of 1955 and I was interested; thinking it would be cool handling ladders that reached to roof and being up in the air working.  The novelty quickly wore off.  It was hot and dirty work but enjoyable seeing the change even though I was putting white paint over white paint.

The painting was going well and I managed not to spill paint the bricks.  Unknown to me Mom had told Grandma what a great job I was doing.   During one of our weekend visits Grandma wanted to know how much I’d charge to paint their house.  I was floored.  Going into the house painting business wasn’t something that I’d thought about, but suddenly here was this offer that I quickly realized would mean I’d live at Grandmas while painting.   I quickly said $50 plus room and board and Grandma accepted.

Grandmas house was a challenge.  The basement extended four feet above ground so all the first floor windows needed the extension ladder instead of the stepladder.  The attic was a full attic so the eves were extended beyond the reach of our 30’ extension ladder.  There was a dormer on the roof that I’d have to be on the roof to paint.  Grandma and Grandpa’s bedroom and the bedroom above had triple windows so there were more windows to paint.  The front porch and the second floor dust porch on back needed painting.

“Donnie you be careful.” startled me.  Shifting my eyes slightly I saw Grandma’s face looking up at me. It was about all of her I could see since she was directly below with her head tipped way back straining to look up.  “I’m fine and will be finished in an hour.”   “Just be careful” she said and shook her head in disbelief as she walked back along the driveway.  I went back to my upside down painting of the eves at the roof peak where the ladders didn’t reach.  I’d found a solution to how to paint the out of reach area.  I was laying flat on the roof with legs splayed wide for stability.  I stuck out over the roof edge to just short of my navel.  The paintbrush was in my left hand and a coffee can of paint in my right.  Bending down a bit I could reach under the eves and paint.  An hour later I was back on the ladder working my way down on the unpainted side.

I loved painting grandmas house.  I’d start painting as soon as the dew was gone; usually about 7:30 or 8 and work until about 2 before quitting because of the heat.  Then I had the rest of the afternoon I’d hang out with kids in the neighborhood or go off exploring by bike by myself.  In the evening the kids would drift together ending up on a front porch to sit around and talk or play cards.

I found myself in demand.  I think my price was too good to pass up even though I don’t think anyone though about what I’d cost in groceries sine I had a huge appetite at 15.  Uncle Gordon and Aunt Helen hired me and I was off to East Detroit to live with them for a few weeks to paint their house.  There weren’t a lot of kids around, but I got a kick out of meeting the next-door neighbors, Shirley and ‘Crazy’ Mary as everyone called her.  For me the most interesting thing was that Aunt Helen wanted me to stop early enough so that she and I could sit and talk while she had a couple of beers before heading off for work.  Barbara and Gary knew her routing and had always disappeared early in the afternoon.  Aunt Helen and I never talked about anything serious, but for me it was interesting talking with her.

Uncle Bob and Aunt Eleanor hired me next for what I thought was a small easy inside job at their house on Florence.  They wanted me to paint the windows in Uncle Bob’s office area.    I knew the office and said yes without really thinking about what was involved.  The first morning I realized the job would be harder than I realized.  There were two windows on each side and four windows across the back.  What I’d forgotten about was that each window had six panes in both the upper and lower window.  I had 96 panes of glass I’d have to edge.  More significantly there would be 384 corners I’d have to get paint into without getting paint on the glass.

It was slow going and then I had a pleasant diversion when the the McKinnon’s next door asked me to paint their eves.   Uncle Bob didn’t mind me taking a break from the window edging paint the McKinnon’s eves.  It extended my stay and I think they liked having me over the weekend since I was a built in sitter and they could go out.

I flunked time management.   I got the eves painted but had to return to  Dearborn because school was starting leaving one window unfinished.  Uncle Bob talked to me about not finishing on time and then decided to pay the full $50.  I was one window short.

School started and I started on the garage I’d left unfinished when Grandma hired me.  Painting the garage became the weekend project that cost me a friendship.

I was painting the garage when my best friend Fred showed up with his brother Kenny.  We got to talking and for some reason Kenny got into a swearing streak getting louder and louder and cruder.  I told him twice to shut up and that swearing wasn’t ok at my house.  I told him no one swore around our house.  He told me to go f— myself just as I was lifting a brush full of paint to the garage.  My arm shifted slightly and before he could react I’d painted his head from ear to mouth.  All motion and talking stopped and the three of us just looked at each other for a few seconds as I stood there with the brush still at face level glaring him.  Fred grabbed Kenny’s arm.  “We’d better leave” he said.   They walked out, got on their bikes and headed for home with one side of Kenny’s head sporting a nice white paint job.

Fred and I never regained the friendship we’d shared for years.  We’d say hello but we were never buddies again.

Photos from the past trigger memories

November 11, 2009

The photos of Ford Ave are from Rod Ellis, grandson of the mikman, Mr Ellis I wrote about. As each photo opened I felt like I was stepping back to the 50’s. Below are the photos he generously contributed and my reaction to seeing them the first time.

Orange Crate Scooter

March 5, 2009

Don’t remember how I came into possession of an orange crate but it was the inspiration for one of my first building projects. In the 1940’s oranges and grapefruit were shipped in wooden rectangular wooden crates that were thrown out when empty. I knew my orange crate would be perfect as the front of a scooter.

Scooter wheels would come from my roller skates. I hated my skates. No matter how tight I made the toe clamp one would come free at a critical time spilling me to the ground as the offending skate flipped back cutting into my Achilles tendon. I’d pick myself up, rub the stones and dirt out of the scratches and dump the skates back in the garage until months later seeing someone on skates would tempt me to try again.

A bit of scrounging at Grandma’s yielded a handful of nails, a length of 2×4 and a couple of short pieces of scrap wood. Now with all the parts I set to work. With my trusty wire cutters I went to work cutting the wires that held the crate top off. The thick steel wire resisted my attempts and it took a number of tries to sever each wire.

Now I thought I was into the easy part. Turning the orange crate on end I took one of the small pieces of wood, grabbed my dad’s hammer and Grandpa’s straightened nails and was ready to attach my handhold. On the first blow, the hammer bounced back as the flimsy crate flexed and caused the nail to bounce from my hand as the crate rebounded. Additional scrounging yielded enough stuff to build a support to back up the crate top so I could pound in the nails and bend over the ends that stuck through the thin wood of the crate end.

Taking my skates apart and removing the toe clamp yielded two front wheel assemblies that with a bit of hammering and bending over nails got a set of wheels at each end of the 2×4. A few more hammer blows attached the orange crate to the 2×4 and I was done. I had my official orange crate scooter.

Placing one foot on the 2×4, grabbing the two wood handholds I pushed off. Seconds later I was carrying the orange crate now holding the detached 2×4 skate assembly back to the garage for more nails to hold the orange crate to the 2×4. Next it was more nails to hold the handholds and then additional nails to hold the skates.

When things weren’t coming apart my orange crate scooter performed badly—very badly. The wheels weren’t well aligned so it was tough to figure out how to aim it. Because of the misalignment it was hard to push and didn’t glide very far. However all the other kids thought it looked great and everyone gave it a try and then had suggestions for making it better.

After two days of trying my orange crate scooter disappeared into the garage. A few weeks later orange crate parts and a 2×4 ended up in the trash and my roller skates, bearing many nail and hammer marks were reassembled and ready to again punish me for attempting to use them while attached to my feet.

Bike Riding to Grandma’s

February 14, 2009

One day when I was about 14 I took off and rode to Grandma Baker’s house from N. Waverly in Dearborn. I can’t remember if I told mom I was going to do it or not. I knew the route and had studied it on our many car rides back and forth. It was before expressways existed and it was the easiest way to get to Grandma’s by car from Dearborn.   I only worried about the part on Ford Road because I’d be riding on the gravel shoulder of a four-lane highway for three or four miles.

bikeride1Off I went down the city streets of West Dearborn and onto Golfview. Ford Road wasn’t too bad; the gravel shoulder was firm. At Greenfield I turned north and rode along Greenfield, another busy street but not as bad as Ford Rd. Once I reached Tireman it was easy riding on a not very busy street. When I reached Oakman Blvd I was in residential nicely kept homes and took my time looking at all the nice houses. Once Oakman started heading east it was again industrial, but for long portions I could easily ride in the curb parking lane and stay out of traffic. I did call mom once I was at Grandma’s and let her know where it was.

The ride covered 13.5 miles and wasn’t very tiring. It became a regular event with me to ride to Grandma’s in the summer. After the first time I got into experimenting and exploring. I’d change the route each time exploring new streets. For me it was pure adventure seeing different neighborhoods and shopping areas.

Most of the time I rode from Dearborn to Highland Park. That way I could get to Grandma’s earlier in the week and stay longer. On Sunday Mom and Dad and Sandy would come and in the evening when we were going home we’d load my bike into the car trunk, tie down the lid and head back to Dearborn.

Other Farm Memories

February 5, 2009

As a way of introducing me to the farm my cousins tried to talk me into touching the electric fence. One of them even said you could pee on the wire and it didn’t hurt and I should try it. I didn’t try that way but did learn a bit about electric fences using a piece of grass to touch the wire before finally touching it with a finger and getting jolted backwards.

The house had a classic Sunday parlor. It had the only carpet I can remember in the house. To me the furniture seemed new, but dusty. Curtains were drawn to prevent sun damage. The parlor was never used while I was visiting and the only time I could be there was in the morning when it was ok to use the front stairs to go downstairs.

At night we all sat around in the dinning room listening to the radio and reading. Radio reception was lousy and different stations would drift in and out. I found the farm magazines interesting and enjoyed learning about farm management practices.

Aunt Helen cooked on a wood stove. I went down cellar with her once to help bring up potatoes. The potatoes were on a huge pile on the floor. First we picked through the pile to get out any potatoes that had started to rot. They went in a bucket for the cows. Then we filled a bucket and hauled it upstairs.

I loved the tractor. You started it by hanging on to a big steel flywheel sticking out on the left side. The flywheel had finger grooves on the inside to help grip it. A hard sharp pull counter clockwise would start in on the second or third try if you did it right. I got to ride aboard when Douglas was driving. I rode standing on the axle case, leaning back against the fender with arms spread out and backwards hanging onto the fender edges with a death grip to keep from falling off.

We went into Atlanta a couple of time to attend what I’d classify as my first drive in movie. A big sheet between poles was the screen and the projector was in the back of a truck. Everyone sat on the ground or on chairs they had brought. Can’t remember anything about what was shown.

The granary sprung a leak and grain was leaking out. The only way to fix it was to empty the bin which at the time was full and was about 8’ x 8’ x 5’ high. We all pitched in. Two of us would climb in and start filling buckets. Others hauled buckets and dumped them. The granary was hot and once we started shoveling it was extremely dusty. We worked late into the night getting it empty and the bath water that night ended up looking like ink. For the next two days my nose drippings were black and I coughed up black spit. No one thought of dust masks in those days.

Making Hay

February 2, 2009

On my second or third visit hay was being bailed and everyone pitched in. Uncle Harold sized me up then handed me a hay hook and showed me how to use it. With it I could hook a bale of hay, pull it up and let it rest against my abs. Then I’d wait for the hay wagon to come up. Aunt Helen drove the tractor and Uncle Harold and Douglas rode the wagon. As the wagon came along side I’d bend forward and hook the bale near the ground. Then by pulling up and leaning back a bit I could lift the bale turn and place it on the truck bed. Uncle Harold and Douglas moved the bale building a stack on the wagon. I’d move down past the next person waiting to lift a bale and get ready to lift another.

Once the wagon was full we all went back to the barn to off load the bales to a conveyor belt. The boys got to unload and place bales on the belt conveyor for their ride up into the haymow. The men were up on the hay dragging the bales across stacked hay to place them for the next layers.

The work was tremendously hard. Muscles ached at the end of the day, but I enjoyed working and being treated like a man. The work made for huge appetites. Breakfast and dinners were around a huge table on the south sun porch. Eleven or more of us would sit down for huge breakfasts and dinners. When hay was being made lunch was a snack in the field.

The next day Douglas hooked up the hay rake. He drove and I rode the rake. My job was to push down hard on the foot pedal raising the rake. It took a bit of practice before I figured out the timing so each rake trip was nicely lined up with the prior hay release. The first couple of hundred feet of my line was a bit ragged. After that the row was straight.

Baker Dairy–Milk Production

February 2, 2009

During my first visit to Uncle Harrison’s farm I learned the milk business. I knew milk came from cows and milkmen delivered it but had no idea what happened between cow and bottle. Uncle Harold ran the dairy farm of about 20 or 30 milking cows. Being about the same age as Cousin Douglass I became his helper, learning how to close stanchions and bring cows hay to munch while they were being milked.

I bent close to watch Uncle Harold squeeze a teat squirting milk into a bucket and then with a flick of his wrist I got sprayed with his next squeeze. After my amusing introduction to the business end of a cow he put the milking machine on to finish the job. I’d had my inanition into how you got milk out of a cow and had given my uncle and watching cousins a good laugh.

Douglass, Charles and I hauled milk to the milk house where it was cooled and stored waiting for a day or so until there was enough to pasteurize and then bottle the milk. Bottling was a three-step process. First we hand washed the glass bottles. Then Uncle Harold set them on a table where they were filled and moved for capping.

bakerdairyI got to cap a few bottles one day. Pushing the bottle against a stop and pulling the capper handle was a no brainer operation. As the lever came down a finger pushed a cap out of the stack and cylinder pushed it into the recess on the top of the bottle. Thinking I was now a capping pro I grabbed a stack of caps and let them drop down into the cap tube. Some immediately got sideways and Uncle Harold explained that I was supposed to hold a finger on the bottom of the stack and guide them down the tube so none turned over. I soon learned I’d really screwed up as bottles with upside down caps came out. They were set aside for family use. That night Aunt Helen teased as she pried out an upside down cap letting everyone know that it looked like Donnie was running the capping machine.

Twice a week we filled the beat up old panel truck with crates of milk. A couple of times I rode along as Uncle Harold made his deliveries to a few surrounding farms and then to houses in Atlanta. A passenger seat didn’t exist so I sat on a milk crate covered with an old piece of foam rubber and some rags for padding. Milk delivery was a social occasion as many times there was someone at the door to exchange bottles and talk with Uncle Harold.

The uniqueness of the farm phone number, 1F31 fascinated me since it was very different Highland Park phone numbers. I knew Grandma Baker’s phone number, Townsend 6-1250 and the both the Baker Farm and Grandma’s number have stuck in my memory for 60 years..

Rick Baker found the picture of the of the Baker and Son Dairy bottles on eBay and seeing the bottle brought back a flood of farm memories about my stays at the farm.