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‘City slicker’ settled in Pilot Grove

By Staff | Jun 14, 2009

“Never sit next to a cow,” was the advice given to ‘Bebe’ Johs by her grandmother before she began her journey of love to Minnesota.

Born in Long Island, New York, Gladys Frette (nee Bebe Johs) was one of five children in the family. Her father worked for a plumber with the Long Island Railroad and her mother was a homemaker until about 1938 or 1939 when she worked as a secretary for a clamp company.

“Everyone always called me ‘Bebe,'” says Frette. “I didn’t realize or go by my real name ‘Gladys’ until I came to Minnesota as a newlywed.”

Growing up during the Depression, Gladys says she lived in the same house her entire life with her wonderful grandparents living nearby.

“My family never had a lot of money, but they always had a lot of love,” she says. In fact, she recalls how one of her aunts would visit them every Thursday bringing a cake.

“My brother, even if he had been hanging out with his friends at the nearby grocery, candy store or butcher shop, would always make it home in time to have some of this cake,” she says. “Our family was always assured of this weekly treat.”

She adds “we were always fed and well-taken care of. Since our grandmothers lived nearby, they also saw to it we were never without. One of my grandmothers always brought fresh fruit along with her. Unlike many children who had to share a banana, for instance, she insisted we each were to eat the entire piece of fruit.”

Frette says her family ate a lot of hamburger in those days.

“I have always loved eating raw hamburger,” she confesses. “I would be sent to Bill the butcher to pick-up the hamburger, but because I liked it so much I would eat half of it before I got back home. It wasn’t long before my parents quit sending me there.”

Another memory she has is of the neighbor lady whose husband worked on the docks of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. She too had five children, so her mother and this lady would get together sharing meals with each other’s family.

“We never really realized we were poor when we were growing up because we were always happy,” recalls Frette. “People didn’t care if your family had money or not in those days.”

While growing up, Gladys says there were always plenty of kids in the neighborhood. In fact, she says they liked to play at her home, partly because it had two sets of steps and also because they would often be treated to a meal.

“Mom never knew how many she’d have for supper,” chuckles Frette. “Everyone was always welcome.”

She recalls playing games a lot while a child. These included ‘Red Rover, Red Rover’, ‘Hide and Seek’ as well as kite flying and cheering for the boys who always were playing either a game of baseball or football.

“I loved to roller skate,” says Frette. “I could even dance on skates. We also went to movies and bowled.”

To read more of this article, see this week’s Register.