Through Any Given Door

1.37 Larry’s Diary, Aug-Sep 1947

1947 • Larry’s diary (age 13)
Aug 1  Got paid for morning route and paid off my $15 clothing bill at Baers Store
Aug 2  Paid dad $5 and I still owe him $10 for my radio
Aug 3  Went swimming nearly all day at Phoenix Lake’s Plunge. Sorted out some more stamps and hope to be through this week.
Aug 4  Went to Doctor Grosso and got my eyes checked
Aug 10  Went swimming almost all day at Phoenix plunge with Carleen, Betty, and Claudia and we had a good time
Aug 12  The roads of Sonora are being retarred, reoiled, and regraveled and are beginning to look better
Aug 13  Bought a full box of bubble gum, 100 pieces for $1. Gum very rare in past 6 years as it was not available during the war
Aug 14  A scout meeting was held tonight but the Youth center was filled with girls. We had meeting in open.
Aug 15  Went through box which I had locked up for about two years. There was nothing much in it.
Aug 16  Worked 26 hours in store this week and got paid $13
Aug 17  Father (???) visited us up from San Francisco. He stayed overnight and slept in Carleen’s room.
Aug 18  Paid ten dollars down on a sleeping bag; am hoping to get a air mattress also very soon.
Aug 19  I have decided to get an air mattress also. They cost twelve dollars. The sleeping bag about 15 to 25
Aug 20  Tonight I enjoyed a very good show, Anna and the King of Siam. I liked it and sat through it two times
Aug 21  Mr. Mouron fired the other paper boy who was taking half my morning routes so now I am taking the route
Aug 26  Got a letter from Miss Conway from San Francisco. In it was a first flight cover for the new 24 cent airmail stamp
Aug 28  The work being done next door is going to be a garage for trucks by Central Motors Company
Aug 29  The Days arrived for a few days visit. I am sleeping on spare bed and they are in my room
Aug 30  Jeff the Day’s baby cries a lot and keeps us awake at night. Got ten dollars pay at the store.
Aug 31  Today was Labor day and the first day in three years without a paper route to attend to as usual. I found a boy to take my place

Sep 1  The first day in three years without a paper route to attend to as usual!!!
Sep 2  The Days left finally and I moved back into my room. I hope to make twenty dollars this week (50 cents an hour)
Sep 3  Only 5 days work this week, Labor Day Holiday, I am working 8 hours a day
Sep 5  Bought book Lad of Sunnybank, a dog story. So far it is a very good book
Sep 6  Earned 20 dollars this week and paid my last installment on the sleeping bag and air mattress together
Sep 9  Bought some school supplies today. My father plans to buy Tibbits store by end of this month
Sep 10  Stood in line all day to register for high school. I got my locker number and filled out a questionnaire
Sep 11  Richard Duval was hurt today when his gun went off and shot him through the head. His mother works for my father.
Sep 12  Richard Duval died this afternoon. His mom will not come to work for about three weeks. A boy was with Richard
Sep 13  An inquest is going to be held for Richard’s death. He was to go second year in high school day after tomorrow
Sep 14  On the last day before school starts again. I cleaned up my room and took down my curtains to be washed. My mother brought a box of apples
Sep 15  First day of high school was today. We had pictures shown to us in the auditorium.

Sonora High auditorium

Sep 16  Pulled weeds in the bleachers today during noon half-hour. Am beginning to learn the rooms at high school better
Sep 17  Some Sophomore lipsticked me today for initiation. Got most of our books at school. Ancient History changed rooms
Sep 18  Was elected scout patrol leader. Mr. Gorman treated us all to ice cream
Sep 19  Was lipsticked again today by some Juniors and Seniors at High School. I was sent out of class to wash it off.
Sep 20  Went on a camping trip near Columbia; had my picture taken among the other scouts for “Boys Life”. Will go home tomorrow
Sep 21  Went to show, The Yearling. It was a good show and I had to sit in the loges for eighty cents.
Sep 22  My father finished buying Tibbit’s Drugs store and will take over the beginning of October
Sep 23  A big article was in tonights Democrat and Daily about Dad buying Tibbits
Sep 25  Went to scout meeting today. It is Dad’s birthday. Dad is 42
Sep 26  Two girls were hired today at the store so that the new manager will not be short-handed
Sep 27  Got in truck load of freight. Another new girl has been hired making eight in all
Sep 28  Sunday, worked all day today at store trying to clean it up and get out some of the new freight we got in
Sep 30  A new coke machine was put into the school today. It is the latest model

Carl J. Clemens, new owner of Tibbits Pharmacy

Sale of Tibbits Pharmacy by Lynn Day to Mr. and Mrs. Carl Clemens was consummated this week with Clemens scheduled to take over active management of the business October 4th. Clemens, who came here in July 1943 has served as manager of the local Sprouse Reitz store. Clemens stated he would add a variety line to the cosmetic, stationary and novelty lines already carried by the store, and will sell general merchandise. The store will be known as Clemens’.

After running Sprouse Reitz for four years and as the economy was good, Dad went into business for himself. Inheriting some money when his father died and borrowing from his sister Elizabeth, he bought Tibbits Drug Store in September 1947, remodeled it into a record and department store, and opened Clemens’. He sold records and music because no other store in Sonora sold them, not because he was interested in music.

Clemens’ was in the center of town on the block in front of our house. He readied his new store for the upcoming 1948 California Centennial, to be celebrated with town parades, fanfare, and all sorts of grand hoopla. The country was recovering from the war, gas was available, and tourists were visiting the gold country again. The Sonora Union Democrat store advertisement read:

“Only Music Store in Tuolumne County”
A Full Line of Records, Sheet Music, Toys, Cards, Gifts and Variety Items
440 Washington Street, Tel 2143

Inside the store’s glass front door stood the tall three-sided glass candy counter. Dad set up the record and sheet music bins to the left. To the right were two soundproof booths for listening to 78s, 33s, and 45s, mostly popular, jazz, and classical records. He also sold mandolins, guitars, and fiddles, but it wasn’t just a music store. He sold Golden Books and greeting cards and Gold Rush painted plates. He carried yardage goods: bolts of calico fabric, wooden spools of thread, and racks of Simplicity, Butterick, and McCalls clothing patterns. He sold small green turtles (when the shipments came in it was Betty’s job to throw the dead ones away) plastic turtle islands, fish and glass fish bowls. He stocked rock candy, black licorice whips, and colored jawbreakers. He carried music boxes and wind-up monkeys and Madame Alexander dolls.

I still have two of the Little Women dolls from the store. They are made of hard composite, with delicate faces, real hair, a waist, hips, and a belly button. The movable heads, arms, and legs are held together by interior rubber bands that haven’t broken in fifty years. Meg is now barefoot. Jo has no socks and only one black Mary Jane on her left foot, dried elastic in the waist of her white pantaloons and a slight crack running down her forehead. Behind closed doors, when Betty and I lived with the Guidicis when our family first fell apart, my sister took a long thin artist’s brush and painted Beth’s eyebrows black and lined the outer corners of her eyes, converting sweet Beth to Jo (having no patience for wimpy people or wimpy dolls), she carefully painted the lips and the ten tiny finger and toenails red, then cut the doll’s bangs and brown hair off in back into a short bob, like hers. Jo was beautiful, and so was Betty, who looked like Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet.

to be continued …

© 2017. Catherine Sevenau.
All rights reserved.

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  1. I commented last post that Larry’s $4.50 earned mowing lawns for the day equals $50 in 2017 dollars. But using the online inflation calculator his $25 sleeping bag equals $273 in 2017 dollars. If I’m not mistaken, wages don’t seem to be keeping pace with inflation, but with goods produced inexpensively oversees at least perhaps we can camp out for less!

  2. Susan Davidson Dalberg says:

    Larry definitely was a hustler! He was making as much at 13 as I was at 18 (10 years later) working my second job at F W Woolworth! (Same kind of store). I miss those kind of “everything” stores. Your story brought up great memories. I loved working in the fish/turtle sections and the candy counters! Perfume (Blue Waltz) was a big seller in the cosmetics counter….remember? Thanks for sharing your Diary, Larry. Keep up the great work, Catherine!

    • My brother loved everyone’s comments, shocked and amused that his diary would interest anyone. We had an uncle who kept a diary for years and nearly every enter was only about the weather. “Hot today.” “Cold today.” “Rained today.” Thank goodness he had a girlfriend for a while who got honorable mention… “Took Lura to the movies today.” “Went to church with Lura today.” Five years of this was not riveting reading…

  3. Jim Chatfield says:

    Your Dad really did good in stocking his store. Sounds like he had all the good stuff that kids liked. I still remember all the five and dime stores that we use to wander through.

  4. Ditto!

  5. The nostalgia rolls over me in waves as I read your stories carrying me back to a simpler, safer carefree time.

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