We lived a well-ordered life, as did most children of the 1950s. There was a time for everything. When it was time for bed, it was time for bed. Whining would get you nowhere. The ritual began after supper, which would have been about 6 o’clock.
At the appointed time we had our baths. Mother took charge of that. Once bathed, dried, and “pajamaed,” Dad took over. Perhaps he had the easy part. For me it was the fun part. One-by-one we joined Dad in our living room. Dad sat in a large stuffed armchair. John and I sat on one or the other of the arms of the chair while little Joan sat on Dad’s lap. We sang songs together. Some were crazy little ditties, like “K-k-k-Katy.” This is the refrain, which I still remember:
K-K-K-Katy, beautiful Katy,
You're the only g-g-g-girl that I adore;
When the m-m-m-moon shines,
Over the cowshed,
I'll be waiting at the k-k-k-kitchen door.
But the really fun part was when we sang the parody of it which Dad learned in the Army. It was called “B-B-B Bedbug.” Here’s that version:
B-B-B bedbug, horrible bedbug
You’re the only b-b-b-bug that I abhor;
When the m-m-m-moon shines,
Over the barracks,
I’ll be scratching at my b-b-b-back until it’s sore.
Another favorite was “Swingin’ on a Star.” This was a song that Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby had popularized. As a child I took the little lessons to heart.
Would you like to swing on a star,
Carry moonbeams home in a jar,
And be better off than you are,
Or would you rather be a mule?
You can hear the whole song on UTube by using the above link. It's very enjoyable.
We also sang Catholic religious hymns, like “Bridegroom of My Soul,” “Soul of My Savior,” and “Mother Dearest, Mother Fairest,” to name a few.
Dad couldn’t carry a tune, but that didn’t matter. He sang anyway and he put up with my laughter when he really messed up the melody.
Then, after our songfest, Dad settled us down by reading aloud from a book. One of them was the original Pinocchio story by Carlo Collodi. It was about a puppet that wanted to be a real boy. Dad would read only one chapter each evening, which was good child psychology. This kept us wanting more. It also gave us time to apply our imaginations to the story and to digest the truths about life and its challenges. I must have been the perfect age for this story, because I really worried about my nose growing long if I told lies.
Once the chapter was finished, Dad escorted us to our bedroom. John, Joan and I shared the same little bedroom when we were young. We had one twin bed and a bunk bed, which mother and dad had purchased at the Merchandise Mart with the help of Uncle George, who worked there. Each of us got into our respective bed. Dad brought a kitchen chair into our room and sat with us for awhile. We talked. Then it was time for our prayers. We didn’t kneel at our bedsides. We just stayed in bed. Dad didn’t baby us. We learned short as well as long prayers. So we were just as adept at the “Act of Contrition” and “Memorare” as the “Hail Mary” or “The Lord's Prayer.” I was eight when he taught us the “The Lord's Prayer,” in Latin.
There were no issues about understanding the words to the prayers. I was a questioner. “Dad, what does ‘mourning and weeping in this valley of tears’ mean? Dad, what does ‘advocate’ mean? Dad, why do we say ‘thee,’ ‘thou,’ and ‘thy’? He always knew and I took his explanations to heart.
When we were finished with our prayers it was time to sleep. Dad left the room, closing the door behind him. Now it was dark. The three of us talked and joked. I liked to play tricks on them. But soon we dozed off.
Final thought: We had no T.V. in our home. This was our entertainment.