DESIGN: Those Were The Times No.9 – 1943 WWII Middle School Goat Farmer

Written by Bob Gurr. Posted in Bob Gurr, Design: Those Were The Times, Features

Tagged: ,

frontpagepic_bg

Published on May 08, 2013 at 3:00 am with 19 Comments

Bob Gurr, Disney Imagineering legend behind such attractions as the Monorail and Autopia, is back to spin the Wheel of Years for us once again. This time he takes us way back to his days as a goat farmer. Yes, you heard that right. Set your clocks for 1943.

Today’s Wheel of Years has stopped at 1943, so here we go. Everyone was slowly getting into the rhythm of World War II with all the sacrifices and shortages in our daily lives. Most young men had been drafted, the ladies hired on in the war factories, typically building airplanes in Burbank California, home of Walt Disney Productions. My dad ran Harry Gurr’s Sandwich Shop in nearby Glendale, not far from today’s WDI Creative Campus. Since times were tight, my dad saved a lot of money by not buying frying chickens from a commercial supplier, but having me raise them. We’d buy chicks for 25¢ each, then raise them about three months until they’re frying sized. I had about 1,000 to take care of at any time. Every day I’d kill about 50, my little sister pulled feathers, while mom yanked out the insides – yuch!

For this I was paid $1 per week, sister and mom got nothing. But then my dad passed away suddenly leaving us with no income. Thankfully, I had been raising a goat, added two more, and built quite a business selling goat’s milk. Doctors would prescribe goat’s milk for folks with certain ailments. This worked out great for me since goat’s milk sold for four times the price of cow’s milk. The downside was that I had to milk my goats every morning and evening without fail (soon a dead goat if I missed). I also had four paper routes six afternoons a week plus 1,000 “shopping news” to deliver before dawn twice a week. So the goats got milked and the papers got delivered, again all without fail! Between that and school, my days were pretty full. But at least we had a bit of money coming in.

Since we had 1/2 acre of fruit trees, I could pick and sell apricots and peaches during the summer. I rigged up a little fruit stand on our busy North Hollywood highway, hopefully to attract speeding motorists to buy a few bags. We made an extra $350 in the summer of 1943. In between the fruit trees, I planted what was called a “victory garden”. Families were urged to grow their own so more commercial food would be available for the war effort. It was great having fresh vegetables every day. Everyone had chickens, so fresh eggs were always available. We bought very little food at the corner grocery store.

I learned a very useful economic lesson; if you don’t have much money, barter! Here’s the deal. For your goats to be milkers, they must be bred. The lady with the male goat would not charge me the stud fee. When the goat birthed kids, I’d let the little males grow big enough to kill for cat food for the stud lady. She’d show me how to skin and tan hides which I could swap for other stuff. See, no checks, no cash, no sales tax. The female kids would be next years milkers. Most goat milk customers came to my backyard farm to drink some milk raw and warm, taking a quart or two home for later. One lady had the most gorgeous car; a 1940 Cadillac Fleetwood with dual fog lights and covered side mount spare tires. She would arrive several days a week at early morning milking time in this fancy car wearing a white fur bathrobe!

I did have to pay cash, which I collected from the paper route subscribers, to buy alfalfa and goat feed, but I came out way ahead with the barter methods. I’d usually make enough from delivering papers to buy a war bond every month – $18.75 at purchase and $25.00 when the war ended. Everyone that didn’t have a family with two working parents learned to scrounge anything. Tin cans were priceless – I could use them as raw material for projects in the middle school metal shop class, “Found” wood could be built into neat stuff in the wood shop classes. Our school would have big paper drives several times a year. I’d snitch some of the best magazines from which I could study architecture and read about cars and airplanes.

Funny, today’s kids complain about everything, smart phone on the blink, mom can’t drive me to soccer games. Golly, we were in an awful war and still managed to have fun. A bike gave us total freedom for miles. Since there was no TV and electric gadgets, we had time to run all over doing crazy stuff for entertainment. For me, the highlight was the sky filled with all kinds of warplanes buzzing overhead. Sometimes, they’d crash and we’d all gather around the wreck waiting for the army to clean most of it up. Then we’d rush in to grab the small bits to play with. It was common to see a biplane trainer on it’s back in a field while the uninjured pilot thumbed a ride back to the flying field.

I do cherish the memories of those sacrificial WWII days as I worked my way from sixth up to ninth grade, learning how to survive without complaint. And it was a heck of a lot of fun to boot!

- Bob Gurr

About Bob Gurr

Bob Gurr is a true Disney legend who was hired on to design the Autopia for Disneyland. Over nearly four decades, Bob would become famous for developing the Monorails, Submarines, Flying Saucers, antique cars and double-decker buses of Main Street, Ford Motor Company's Magic Skyway (at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair), Omnimover ride system, Matterhorn and lots more. It has been said that if it moves, Bob probably played a part. Upon leaving Imagineering in 1981, Bob worked on a number of "leisure-time spectaculars" and "fantastical beasts" for parks and developments all over the world. Most notably, he created King Kong and Conan's Serpent for Universal Studios Hollywood, A UFO for the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics, and the memorable T-Rex figure featured in Steven Spielberg's motion picture "Jurassic Park." You can find Bob's column, Design: Those Were The Times, right here on MiceChat. Though don't pin Bob down to a schedule, he's busy being "retired."

Browse Archived Articles by

19 Comments

Comments for DESIGN: Those Were The Times No.9 – 1943 WWII Middle School Goat Farmer are now closed.

  1. Tremendous piece, Bob. Though I fear it’s going to read like Latin for middle school kids today – the sheer commitment to providing for your family and working that extra to create a foundation for your future is just so heartening and refreshing. Thanks for taking the time to share, thanks for your character and for going the extra mile, always.

  2. Thanks Bob. It is fascinating to read about the war years from a kid’s perspective. I had always thought I was busy as a child in the 60s, but your story puts this into perspective. Like most of our neighbors we had no TV and we kids entertained oursleves — as you said, a bike gave you access to a wide area of interests and day long excursions to new and exotic locales like construction sites, factories, or interesting naturual areas.

  3. I can’t imagine having that kind of energy!

  4. That level of sacrifice seems so foreign to us today. Yet, as a child, you adapted and did what you had to do. We often hear stories of what happend on the war front, but this very personal account of life at home is absolutely priceless. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  5. Thanks for another great column Bob.

    It’s interesting to see the similarities and differences between your life in LA during the war and my grandparents here in England.

  6. Wow, I’m AWED by how resourceful and industrious you were to provide income for your family, Bob. Your perspective on growing up during the war years is fascinating.

    It’s sad to say, but I think if such civilian sacrifice were required today, we would never win a war.

  7. Oh, and I LOVE the picture!

  8. Absolutely amazing story Mr Gurr. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Another delightful article and showcasing the type of attitude and work ethic your generation has. Sadly there isn’t much of that alive today. Kudos to you!

  10. What an amazing story. Being a younger person myself, I know firsthand that todays youth would have trouble doing even a fourth of what you accomplished. It’s my hope that my peers and I can learn something from previous generations rather than discounting it as “outdated”. Thank you for the important reminder to be grateful for what we have and to not become too absorbed in all of our modern frivolities.

    On a side note, it was a pleasure meeting you at Disneyland today, and thank you for the picture.

  11. What a great story, and so foreign to today’s society filled with every creature comfort.

  12. When I was 4 years old I remember my parents raised chickens in the post war years. I always thought was odd but now I know why.

  13. I read through this and started to take note of how many jobs you had and I lost track after about eight. The war years were indeed hard times and your dedication to helping your family is to be highly commended. Such dedication is sorely lacking in this day and age. My admiration of you has gone up a few notches, which I didn’t think could go any higher.

    But I must admit it was hard to read the part about the cat food business.

  14. Loved this story Bob, Thank You. It’s such an important story to tell not just kids but all people today. It’s a reminder how wonderfully blessed we are with our lifestyle today. We owe your generation for huge debt of gratitude

  15. I really enjoyed this article. I love hearing stories about how Americans coped during the Depression and WWII.