Culbertson Grade School - Joliet, Illinois - 1949-1955

Memories of David Ullian Larson


Culbertson Grade School is in Joliet, Illinois. It is still open for business. Now it is T.E.Culbertson Elementary School (Thomas Edwin Culbertson).

Back when I was a kid we walked to school. In the rain, in the snow. We walked. No moms in SUV's lined up for blocks to transport kids a few blocks. If we had a token we could ride the city lines busses. But that was rare. 

Culbertson Grade School was probably eight blocks from where I lived at 214 Anderson Avenue. Could I have even walked home for lunch? Probably. I am not sure about that. I know I rode the band bus at lunch time on some days. The band bus picked up kids at various grade schools all over Joliet and took us downtown Joliet to Central School where practice was held in the basement of an old building. The Joliet Grade School Band was a big deal, then. Tryouts, concerts, marching band, competitions. I still have medals I won from those days. And I also have the year books that were put out with pictures of the band members. I also remember band camp at the Boy Scout Campground. We slept in tents and practiced music all day for a couple weeks each summer. 

Culbertson is where several memories are based from my early childhood. Here's a collection, in no particular order, of stuff which I seem to recall. There was no kindergarten when I went to school. Two years later my brother Terry did get to go. And Howdy Dowdy was Big. I still say Howdy when I greet people. Go figure.

In school, I often spent punishment time standing in the hall after doing something bad. I wasn't a terribly bad kid in first grade. But I could already read and math was easy. So I spent time in the cloak room or in the hall after getting into trouble. The hall was the best because I could drink what ever milk I found in the small glass bottles that were put in the hall. Not everyone would drink their milk. I can still recall the concept of milk money each week.

The movie on penmanship was fantastic. I still like the feel of a real ink pen. I can write better with one to this day. I ran the movie projector to show the movie on penmanship. I must have been a geek even then to know how to run the projector. I could not have been older than 8 because I can recall running the projector in second grade room. I saw that movie several times. We probably saw it in Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Grade.

One teacher always said safety saf-e-ty so we would learn to spell it correctly. I still think of it that way. And the a rat in the house may eat the ice cream for arithmetic. No spell check then beyond the dictionary and the brain. 

I got all A's on my report card only once from Miss Long. That was Third Grade.

Weekly Readers were great. I mostly liked the pictures.

In winter when the roads were covered with snow,  I often tried to hop cars and get pulled home while holding onto the bumper. Dangerous, sure. But great fun. Those innocent times will probably never return for anyone. The bus was 5 cents or a token. I would rather spend my 5 cents on a candy bar. Yep. A candy bar was 5 cents except a Carmello which was a dime.

On the walk home there was always something interesting to see or do. The shoe shop had a tall stool near the counter. When I went in there to pick up or drop off something, (yes we did have shoes repaired in those days), I was put on the stool and called King. I guess the men did that there to keep us kids quiet while they worked. They did it to every little kid who came in the place.

Sometimes I would go behind the school where household items were dumped down a steep hill. Not food garbage. But stuff like radios, yeah. Or other electrical appliances. I would dig through the trash looking for something to break or fix. Either way. I was a dump rat in those days. The dumping went on for years. And the slant of the dump was ferocious. A real cliff. The more danger, the better. I probably imagined I was climbing a mountain or something. You know how kids are. My mother never knew we did that sort of thing. She has passed on so I can let out the secret. We also looked through the trash in alley ways on the way home thinking we would find something great. Once we found a stack of National Geographic Magazines. I saved the pictures of sea shells for years. Don't know where they are now. But I do have a huge collection of actual National Geographic going back to the early 1900's when they were black and white.

 Wouldn't you know that once my collection of National Geographic magazines got huge there would be something like a CD set of discs with every magazine on them that was ever printed with search and all. I have a set. One fact is that the CD does not have the advertisements on them. So the old magazines are still better for holding and reading. You get the full flavor from the actual thing. They also have a smell to them that is nice. A virtual National Geographic is something good to give as a gift, but I prefer the actual thing. The CD stuff is good, though, because I can not seem to get the magazines from the war years.

The barber shop across from the Methodist Church in Ingalls Park seemed to always have a foul smell about it. That is probably because the guy who ran the shop burned the hair he cut in a pile behind his 12 foot by 12 foot shop. It was a brown building large enough for one chair. I don't think I ever got my hair cut there. We were always glad to see the road crew come through so we could pick up a fresh piece of black tar to chew. I know we did that but do not know why. There was also an ice wagon from time to time. And a guy who walked every street ready to sharpen scissors and knives. Back then people fixed things rather than get new all the time. That might be because people didn't have money to buy new.


Other memories from the old neighborhood:

I remember picking asparagus for farmers up the street for 35 cents per hour with a dandelion digger.  And going to the neighbors house at the Perona Grocery Store to watch television when it was new and we did not have one. We also did not have indoor plumbing until about 1952. The outhouse was in vogue in those days. That seems like a million years ago. Yet is was only 50.

We had great baseball games in a field at Park Road and Washington Street until the Dairy Queen was built. It was diagonal from Gilkerson Ice Cream Parlor. I never could see why another ice cream place was needed so close to the other. So we lost our ball field to progress. I did a lot of grass cutting for neighbors. The mover was the push kind with a rear bag. Kids then took a roller skate, a piece of 2x4 and an apple crate and made a scooter. I never did have the real thing. Just the home made variety. I had a few bicycles and even a new one in 1956. The next new bicycle I ever got was in 1998.

Our house at 214 Anderson Avenue in Ingalls Park had fruit trees in the back yard and lilacs on the fence row to the alley. Us kids would build forts as fast as we could. And we would try to rescue wooden boxes from the fire pile behind the store to make stuff. My grandfather Ullian was always willing to listen as I explained what I wanted to build. And he would help hold pieces together as I nailed them together. He would tell me to be an architect. I should have listened to him. 

I was a stamp collector, beginning in 1954. I would go through the trash at the office building downtown Joliet where I took my drum lesson looking for stamps I needed. And I belonged to a book club which had Isaac Asimov as an author. I think it was science fiction mostly. I also belonged to a book club for mysteries which I do not like now. I read Boys Life from cover to cover every month wondering where I was going to get the 15 cents that was required to get yet another package of used postage stamps from all over the entire world. I still collect stamps to this day. My other hobbies were to put stuff together and try to get what ever it was to work. Kind of like now. I liked ice skating which I did on the ponds down by the railroad tracks near the Little League Ball Field. Perhaps the best part of that was lighting a fire while we skated. One time I put my shoes too close to the fire and burned them beyond use. I tried to wear my Grandfathers shoes to school the next day and listened as everyone at school laughed at my shoes. Kids can be cruel. I learned many lessons in those days. Like tolerance. I'm not graduated from that course yet but continue to do the homework.

I was in Cub Scouts. My mom was den mother. My dad helped get together all the stuff we needed for our projects. We met in the basement of the Methodist Church. We kids did all sorts of crazy stuff. My mom was great at painting plaster of Paris models. Her stuff looked really great. My stuff was monochromic with splotches here and there. A notable person in our pack was John Beck (THEN and NOW) who went on to fame in TV and in the movies. He has been in many many productions. Strange how a person can go through a whole life and only know of one person that is publicly notable. Where do all the famous people come from? I sure haven't met any others. 

Click on the year to see the class picture from that years:

First Grade 1949-1950

Here are the names for this class: (Please excuse spellings. Send corrections to )
Top left to right Eddie Troughton, Stanley Lawerence, Bobby Tibble, Paul Grauer, Dennis Clark, Jerry Jackson, Billy Fraser, Cecil Caldwell, Jimmie Spicker, John McDonald, Wayme Smeets
Center Row left to right  John Kearner, David Larson, William Chaney, John Beck, Sharon Potter, Linda Brady, Nancy Archibald, Robert Kursell, Frankie Lindberger, Charles Gilbert, Robert Grencher
Front Row left to right Patty Gabel, Pamela Blessing, Marilyn Williams, Lynn Cassa, Sharon Selby, Patsy Prim. Rosan Beebe, Joann Leonard, Joy Whitmore, Terry Kelly, Marilyn Hunter
Susan Meyer was in the class but not in the picture.

Second Grade 1950-1951 -I can not seem to locate this photograph. If anyone has this item, I sure would like a copy to add to this collection.

Third Grade 1951-1952 - I would like to add names but am at a loss for some of them. I'll do my best. Any help would be appreciated.

Fourth Grade 1952-1953 - I would like to add names but am at a loss for some of them. I'll do my best. Any help would be appreciated.

Fifth Grade 1953-1954 - I would like to add names but am at a loss for some of them. I'll do my best. Any help would be appreciated.

Sixth Grade 1954-1955 -I can not seem to locate this photograph. If anyone has this item, I sure would like a copy to add to this collection.

And for a recent picture of the school, click HERE.