Growing Up

In Kansas City, Barbara remembers playing with her dog, Blackie, and hanging out with lots of kids in the streets. Her father became a sales engineer with York Corporation after attending RPI and was transferred to York, PA. As a salesman, he had a car for work and traveled a lot during the week. Barbara’s mother provides the strongest, warmest memories of her childhood although her older brother, Sandy, played a very big role as well.

What was family life when you were growing up?

  • I remember dad made $50 a month. So all these things they did for us were just unbelievable. I mean we went to private school. Never went to a public school. But that was because of my mother. She had this thing about education. She went to the girls boarding school in Troy, New York. But they didn’t have any money either. But the way they did it was because of Grandmother Otis. That was what she did – she paid for all of our schooling all the way through. Because they couldn’t have afforded it. Grandfather Otis had tons of money (because he was a successful businessman with Otis and Company) and he had to support her. He went to Colorado and married Rowena but I didn’t know any of them.

  • He would just sit in a chair and sort of enjoy things. He was not intellectual. Mother was the opposite. She was very people oriented. Dad was sort of a comedian. He had an incredible sense of humor and, at parties, he was sort of noted for that. Being the one with the sense of humor. He played the piano. At a party, he was the one who sat and played the piano and everybody would sing. He could play absolutely anything by ear but he couldn’t read a note. Mother was very sociable and very kindly, giving, everybody was welcome to her. She was like that. That was her nature.

  • Wasn’t she? She really, as a person, was really unusual. She was very kindhearted. She was like a saint. You know. Really. But she was an unusual person. Dad was very lucky. And everybody thought so. She was very appreciated with everybody.

  • Sandy is such a character, isn’t he? He really is. He was a tough older brother to have, can you imagine? Because he was absolutely worshipped. He treated me like a little sister. He called me “little one”. We didn’t even become friends for a long time. No, I never appreciated him – at all. And Sandy always had this incredible following even back in high school. And it wasn’t anything he did, it was just him - it was sports. Does that always do it? He did have personality and he had all that all his life but I don’t know if that is enough to do it. Mother and dad couldn’t do anything about him. He was absolutely it. He ruled his life –totally - because he was very popular. I mean extremely popular.


A letter from her Dad describing his father and why they never met

Who else was important to you during those years?

  • Certainly Sandy. 4 years older. Was always there. He was very much there. He was worshipped. And that was very influential on my growing up. Having a brother who was this big hero. My family was very - you know them. You know mother. Because she was unbelievable. She really was. I think everybody sort of thought so. She was very unusual. She was just everything positive. Everything positive. I can’t think of anything negative about her. I think anybody would say that about her. I wonder what Sandy would say about her. But she was great. And Sandy could have upset that I think. And it wasn’t his fault - at all. But it’s hard when you grow up this big sports hero in a private school. He was really a very big hero in school because of athletics. If you were a big football star. You couldn’t even walk down the street. It went to his head. He sort of overcame all of this. I wonder what he would think. I don’t even know if he remembers all of this.

  • Warren was almost part of our family. I can’t imagine the story with Warren. When I look back on it. I think he took every vacation with us. Isn’t that weird? And my dad liked him. There was no romantic thing with my mother but a very strong friendship. It must have worked both ways. I think it’s unusual. But maybe there are those situations where everyone needs a different thing and so it all works in that way. And they went all over the world. I think they traveled around the world but always 3. En trois. I don’t know. It’s just so funny. It never cracked or anything.
    He was very interesting and smart. He had been and lived all over the world. He lived in Europe and taught over in France. So that was very unusual. And Warren – he had that 2 week marriage so he was very needy. They really were a trois. And dad liked Warren as much as mother did. Warren provided as much in his life as he did for mother’s life. Because dad needed certain things. Dad was very what he was. He was a business man and he was kind of down to earth.
    Lawrence was because of Warren. He was a teacher at a private school in Kansas City where Sandy went. They were a menage a trois. It was the most amazing thing, isn’t it? I don’t know what everybody thought about him. What do you suppose all their friends thought? Because their friends accepted Warren just like they accepted mother and dad.

  • She wasn’t an imposing person but Mother made her very comfortable. And she went out of her way for her – much more than dad. I mean much more than she did for dad. The life was very much her. She had the master bedroom which I always thought was weird since it put Mother and dad in the maid’s room. It sort of made sense because it was kind of her living room too but that wasn’t why Mother did it. Grandfather Wheeler wasn’t around so I didn’t know him but I knew her. She was around forever and she had her friends. She had a real life at our house. She was just there. She had everything she wanted. She wasn’t demanding or anything. She was perfectly nice. She had a lot of friends like her and they came to call. That sort of relationship. And she sat at the head of the table. She was – like, the best chair was always where she was. Like in the living room or anywhere. The best was where she sat and then everyone else, including mother and dad, went elsewhere.

  • Blackie was like 14. Blackie was just loose in those days. I mean you just opened the door in the morning and they went out for the day to every garbage can in the neighborhood. Isn’t that funny? But it was a wonderful neighborhood. 32 kids, can you imagine. And every afternoon you just went out and you played kick the can. I remember kick the can and I know we played hide and seek.

Barbara loved her dog, Blackie