My grandparents’ lives
were relatively simple
compared to that of
and in the adult lives
of myself and
My grandparents had
no social security numbers,
no telephone numbers–at least
not in the beginning–
and when telephones became
available, the numbers were easy
to remember–GRanville 2334 or
Kirby 8846 (the first was Grandma’s
number and the Kirby exchange was
Their address was 1957 Baltimore Street
and a zip code was only two numbers;
their was 25.
It cost a penny to mail a letter. (When
I was a child, a first class stamp to
mail a letter was 3 cents.
There were streetcars (often called
trolley car) to take you where ever
you wanted to go. the fare was
five cents and you could ask for
a free transfer slip if you needed]
to change to another car. There
was no need for my grandfather
to drive a car; a streetcar could
take him where he needed to go.
I think my father was the first
in the family to buy and drive a car.
My memory is that of a 1953 Chevrolet
that my father bought–he was loyal
to Chevrolet for many years.
My grandfather enjoyed a successful
career as a tailor; he created men’s
My grandmother was a cook in
the home of a well-to-do family
before she married and settled down
to be a housewife and mother.
She could be bossy and opinionated
but never with her grandchildren
who all adored her. I think it’s
safe to say, she adored us, too.
My parents were both born
in Cincinnati, Ohio, and all
of their children were born here
as well. It was a fairly simple life
in Cincinnati when my grandparents
were young adults , where you paid
cash for everything. There were no
credit cards. They had a house payment
and once a month
grandma went downtown to pay
the utility bills and house payment
in person, with cash.
My parents met when they were both
teenagers, and my father had a metal
social security card with his number
stamped on it.
My parents’ marriage began
at the tail end of the Great Depression,
an event that greatly influenced my
mother’s entire life; she would
always be frugal and reuse everything
that could be recycled and used again,
and sometimes more than twice,
items such as newspaper, wax paper,
aluminum foil and definitely all leftovers
from a meal.
It took them 9 years to save up enough
money to buy their first home,
at 1618 Sutter Street; this is the home
where my memory begins; I was going
on 5 years old when we moved into
the Sutter Street house;
My mother was one of a few working
mothers in the 1940s when most mothers
stayed at home.
My mother also took in laundry and I was
often corralled to iron hankies and other
simple items; mom also sold greeting cards
from Cardinal Craftsman and would send
me to pick up her order at 8th and State
since my car fare was only a nickel whereas
hers would have been a dime. I also sold her
greeting cards to the neighbors generally
for five cents each. My mother was as
frugal as it is for a person to be; she
bought our Christmas tree on Christmas
eve when very little was left on the lot
and she could get a tree for a quarter.
But mom had a charge-a-plate for Shillitoes
and sometimes sent me downtown to shop
for her. she sent me downtown every
Saturday for several months to pay a
dollar a week for a new coat she had in
layaway at Lerner’s. (When I was older
and getting married, I bought my wedding
dress at Lerner’s too).
In 1955 my parents bought a brand-new
house; it was their dream house at
7099 Mulberry Steet; It was unfinished inside
and unpainted–we children sanded woodwork
and they waited a long time before painting
the walls. (I believe someone told them it
was better to wait a year before painting
All that being said, my father loved new
gadgets and we had the first television set
on our street. He bought a new Chevrolet
every few years.
My father retired from Formica –the only
place he ever worked at and my parents
retired in Florida in a mobile home park.
I obtained my social security card when I was 16,
to have it when I started searching for part time
jobs and found my first full-time job at Western
Southern Insurance a few months after my high
My married life began in 1958
and in 1961 my husband and I
and our one year old son
drove across country to California.
I find in my life
we have a great deal more
to remember besides
a social security card–
cell phone numbers,
account numbers for credit cards
We are a generation of numbers
but in 008
I bought a house
that is all numbers *yikes!)
this is, I think, Progress
where a woman
(and not a young one)
can buy a house–
My grandmother would
applaud me if she were
Maybe she did..
and maybe she had a hand
in helping me buy my house.
Sandra Lee Smith
Originally posted Day 3, October 3, 2009
Updated September 14, 2018