Psst. Hey, kids. Put down your cellphones. Turn off your televisions. Pause your video games. Dick Snader has a story that he’d like to tell to you.
The World War II veteran marked two milestones recently. He and his wife, Pauline, who live in Fairlawn, celebrated their 70th anniversary and the next day, he turned 94 years old.
As a father, grandfather and great-grandfather, Snader has attended his share of birthday parties for children. In modern times, he’s watched boys and girls rip open mountains of gift-wrapped packages containing the latest gadgets and must-have devices. He’s seen $100 bills dispensed like Monopoly money.
“These kids just act like it’s nothing,” said Snader, a former Fairlawn councilman and sales agent for a real estate company.
He can’t help but wonder if today’s children truly appreciate what they receive — or if they even remember from one year to the next what they have opened.
It’s been quite some time, but Snader vividly recalls the memorable gift that he received for his 12th birthday on Saturday, April 27, 1935.
He was a pupil at Margaret Park Elementary in Akron and lived in a little house on Hillcrest Avenue with his parents, Roy and Mary Snader, and siblings Irene, Margaret, Lois and Bill. The three girls slept together in one bed while the boys had to share a rollaway, Snader said.
After her husband was injured in a 1929 industrial accident, Mary Snader became the breadwinner during the Great Depression, making miniature tires for wheelbarrows at Firestone.
“We never had no money,” Snader recalled. “When you had birthdays, you didn’t get nothing. You would have a cake and candles, and that was it.”
But the telephone rang that fateful day in 1935, and Snader’s mother answered it.
“Dick, Aunt Laura called,” she said. “They’ve got something for you for your birthday.”
“I’ll go right now!” the boy replied.
The gift was a secret, but Mary Snader wondered aloud if it might be underwear or socks.
“We’ll wait for you,” she said. “Hope you get what you want.”
The 12-year-old boy began the mile-and-a-half walk to Aunt Laura and Uncle William Kleckner’s home on East Avenue, near Diagonal Road.
“All the kids were all excited because we thought they were rich,” Snader recalled. “He was a mailman. He had his house paid for and everything.”
Snader had once mentioned to his uncle that he would like to get a baseball glove someday.
“Wouldn’t that be something?” the boy mused.
He quickened his pace, crossing Thornton Street, Wooster Avenue, Euclid Avenue and finally Diagonal Road.
“It didn’t take me too long,” Snader recalled. “I probably ran about half the way.”
He knocked excitedly on the door of his aunt and uncle’s home.
“So glad to see you!” Aunt Laura beamed. “Happy birthday!”
“How you doing?” Uncle Will said. “We’ve got something here that I think you’ll really like!”
Snader remembers his aunt walking off to the kitchen and returning with a smile. The anticipation was too much for the little boy. What could it be? What could it be?
“She’s got her hands behind her back,” he said. “She reaches out and there’s a beautiful red apple.”
They had picked the fresh fruit from a tree in their yard and wanted their nephew to have it for his special day.
“Oh, it was pretty,” Snader recalled. “They must have polished that sucker for about an hour.”
The boy thanked his aunt and uncle for the gift and walked back home in a bit of a daze.
“All my brothers and sisters were waiting to see what I got,” he said. “The kids were sitting on the front porch. They yelled to my mom and dad, ‘Dick’s coming!’ ”
The siblings crowded around the boy. “What did you get? What did you get?”
“So I reached in my pocket, and I said, ‘This is really something special,’ ” Snader recalled. “I pulled it out.”
The family gaped: An apple?!?!?!?
“Everybody was quiet,” Snader said. “Then they started laughing like hell.”
So that is the story of the 1935 birthday gift.
Snader hopes today’s children will take the time to appreciate their gifts. That way, when they reach their 90s, they will have fond memories, too.
When he attends birthday parties, he likes to pluck a red delicious story from childhood.
“Do you remember any of your birthdays?” he asks today’s kids. “Well, let me tell you a story about a birthday I had that I remember.”