The little kid (part 2)

Another set of photos of my family, this time a page of 6 shots of me as a little kid (age 4-7). Some notes on memory, clothing, and names for things.


The top four are from the first house my family lived in, on a circle in the Oakview Manor subdivision of Allentown PA; I was around 4 at the time. There are three characters in this little play: me and my playmates and neighbors Woody and (I think) Sally.

Top right: me on the right, my buddy Woody on the right; we’re wrapped in beach towels after playing in what we used in those days as a kiddy pool — an ash tub of galvanized steel (whose everyday use was to haul coal ashes from the furnace to the alley for trash pickup).

Top left: Sally and me enjoying each other’s company.

Bottom left: me nuzzling Sally, probably at my mother’s encouragement.

Bottom right: the three musketeers, looking cute.

I have a vivid memory of playing with Woody in that ash tub, and of the three of us romping around the front yard (in view of the garden in the middle of the circle, the garden that my dad maintained for the neighborhood, and in which he bred tulips (wonderful exotic hybrids that followed us through the next two houses, outside of Reading). So I have these vivid memories, and I’m sure they’re all false, created by sitting with my parents and looking at these very photos with them, while they constructed for me the story of my early childhood.

As far as I can tell, my first real memories come from house #2, in West Lawn PA; they include meeting our next-door neighbors, the Barths, adding coloring to margarine to make it look like butter (for the war effort), growing vegetables in a Victory Garden, collecting tin cans for the war effort, and (deliriously, clamorously) celebrating V-J Day on the sidewalk on our block.

In the bottom two photos I’m 7, posing in my Eton suit and cap at my Swiss grandparents’ house in Sinking Spring PA (just west of West Lawn): with my mother and with my father.

Two items here: the ash tub and the Eton suit.

Ash tubs. They are still being made after all these years, but they’re rarely called ash tubs — I doubt that people use them these days for hauling ashes — and little kids have plastic kiddy pools that are more capacious than an ash tub.

The ash tubs of yore haven’t really changed, but now they’re called just tubs, or steel tubs, or wash tubs, or (tellingly) beverage tubs, since their principal use these days is to be filled with ice cubes so that they can keep bottles or cans of beverages cold at parties. Here’s a nice galvanized steel number:


Eton suits. They started at England’s Eton school, a boarding school for young boys from elite families. A 19th-century example:


Note the short pants. In both the UK and the US (and, I believe, throughout most of Europe at the time), boys were expected to wear short pants until some cutoff age, when their first long pants marked them as becoming young men.

At the same time, in the 20th century a version of the Eton suit became fashionable in the US. From a history of clothing site:

A spin off of the Eton suits became fasionable for small American boys beginning about 5 years of age. The suits had very short jackets with no lapels and were generally worn with very short short pants. The suit was usually worn without a tie with the collar folded over the jacket. A Peter Pan collar was usually used and not the stiff Eton collar formerly worn by British boys. Eton suits were worn until about 7 or 8 when the boy would given a more adult-looking suit with longer short pants or longs. The suits were generally blue or black with matching knee socks, but sometimes with ankle socks. Grey suits were also worn. Eton suits generally disappeared in the 1980s, although very small boys are still dressed in them. The shorts, however, in the 1990s tend to be knee length in contrast to the rather short shorts worn during the 1950s-70s.

A pair of little American boys looking cute in their Eton suits:


Materials and colors varied, as did the style of cap (though there were usually caps). Which brings me to my childhood Eton suits (I had more than one), which served as my fanciest dress, for special occasions: the little-boy equivalent of a three-piece suit.


One Response to “The little kid (part 2)”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Michael Siemon on Facebook:

    Me and my sister in ash tubs, 1947…

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