Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Viffy, 1942

The year that I spent in Miss Cheda's grade two, my sister was still at home.  You had to enter kindergarten then in September, and you had to be four years, nine months to enter; she had turned five in January, so, if I recall rightly, in the summer of 1942 she was still at home.
We had two girl cousins whose mothers sewed for them beautifully, and, though one was a little older than me and the other halfway between our ages, when my aunts sorted out the outgrown clothes once a year all the dresses that came fit my sister, and they were better made than anything downtown.  Of course, to a little girl, having new things of her own is more significant than having better things, and our grandmother did make us each two new dresses every Easter and two new outfits for school each fall.  Anyway, our cousin N. looked well in maroon, of which the dress in this picture was an example, but so did my red-headed sister, and no little girl was better dressed than she was.
For Christmas 1941 my uncle, a year younger than my mother, gave us a springer spaniel puppy.  He came with instructions for feeding and exercise.  He had a run at the very back of the yard, back where nasturtiums grew wild, with a dog house, and my mother made him the prescribed stew with vegetables and plenty of garlic to prevent worms cooked in a stock off soup bones from the butcher.  Because he was bright and lively, vif, he was named Viffy.  My sister loved him from the day he arrived.  Not that the rest of us didn't, but I think that my uncle even had her in mind when he brought the dog for Christmas.
Viffy ought to have been the dog we all grew up with, but the declaration of war and the opportunities it offered of better paying jobs triggered the decision to move to the S.F. Bay Area.  The shipyards called my father (who was 4F and had four children) first to work at Mare Island, later at Hunter's Point.  My mother said that the children could go to UC Berkeley, as my uncle had done, if we moved north.  Our new neighbors were very difficult about Viffy from the very beginning—not all of them, but those next door.  When he barked they called the police.  Would they even hurt the dog?  In the event, after only a couple of months, if I remember accurately, my parents advertised and found a new home for him with a family on Bay Farm Island, then still mostly rural, recent landfill.  A young cat was gotten from the Pound to console us, and he may have consoled me, but not, I am sure, my sister.
What war meant to us children, in this connection, was that, with both parents working and both of the children of halfway responsible age already in school, we could not have the dog.  Shortly, too, my uncle joined the Navy.