Excerpt for When I Was a Child by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

When I Was a Child

By Edythe Nelson Crabb Stewart




Smashwords Edition

Copyright © 2017 By Edythe Nelson Crabb Stewart

All rights reserved



Recognitions


A very special thanks to my cousin Marna Benion, who was my adviser, and editor.  She spent day and weeks editing my book, only to have some of it "fly away" off my computer. I then rewrote areas, changed, added and deleted until I no longer had the courage to ask her to "redo" any more editing.  So where there are mistakes...they are mine and mine alone. And besides her hours of editing, she also referred me to Rhonda Kay Edwards.


To Kay Edwards, a published author, I thank you over and over.  I have never met you, but your time and patience on instructing me with getting the book published, doing the formatting, picking out book covers, and doing the final procedures, exemplifies a true Christian in giving of ones self.


Lastly to my husband, Jerry.  He has eaten fast food often, did laundry, cleaned, been patient over the many times he heard me say, "oh no", when I accidentally deleted something, and on and on.  Thank you dear for your encouragement, love and long suffering. 


I wrote this as "I remembered things" as accurately as possible.  All my siblings have passed on and an unable to verify my stories.   But like many siblings, their view point may have been. "no siree, I was the one that did so and so and you were the one that didn't".  Be that as it may, I hope you will enjoy reading my childhood journey as much as I did reliving it. 

Introduction

       

The youngest of ten children, I was born at home. My siblings did not know my mother was pregnant until the day I was delivered.  It was not common to speak of being pregnant in the 1930's.  Expectant mothers wore loose fitting clothing to disguise the pregnancy, which is a stark contrast with today's world where tight-fitting tee shirts are the norm for displaying the pregnancy.  Why things had to be so secretive, I don't know. Most pregnant women were married back then, and so it wasn't a matter of legality. My two oldest brothers were twins and only lived to be a couple of days old, and so basically our family consisted of eight children and Mom and Pop.
   
        The closest sibling to me in age was my brother Carl.  He was eight years older than me.   After Carl was my sister Bee, ten years older, and my sister Wanda, twelve years older.  The next four were brothers. They were old enough to be my father, and believe me they assumed that position.  I recall being spanked by most of them; however, having parent aged brothers came with some perks.  This will be revealed later.

        Apparently, my mother waited to give birth, until my siblings were conveniently in school for the day.  Whew...how did she managed that?  When Wanda, Bee, and Carl returned home after school that day, Mom asked Carl to go get a hankie out of the clothes basket for her.  Our clothes basket was oval in shape and served many purposes including cradling a newborn.  As the story goes, Carl ran into the bedroom and all but had me standing on my head as he searched for a handkerchief for Mom.  He kept digging and digging around and finally came back to the living room where Mom and Pop were waiting, exclaiming that he couldn't find a hankie.  Mom told him to go back again and look carefully at the top of the basket. He did so, and hollered that there was a baby in the basket.  Upon hearing that, my sisters came running to see the baby, too. What a surprise that must have been!

        When I was born my four oldest brothers had graduated from high school. Two were still on the farm helping and two had left home. My brother Cecil said it was quite a shock when he received a letter from home stating that Mom had given birth to a little girl.

        This book then tells the stories of where and how we lived as I remember them.  All the way from South Dakota to Iowa.  Hopefully it will give you an insight of how farm life was then, compared to farm life now.   What it was like to be raised by siblings and how life carried on without a mother. 






Chapter One


The Johnny Place




        When I was a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.   I Corinthians 13:11.
        My parents were renters and moved quite often. I don’t know the reasoning behind the moves unless the grass looked greener on the other side.  To distinguish between the different places we rented, we gave each place a name. This chapter is devoted to the Johnny Place which contains my earliest memories.  I will try to give you a full picture of our neighborhood, town, events, and what our house was like.

        We lived in a farming community with friendly neighbors, and therefore, exchanged lots of visits. When I was three years old, I decided that I wanted to visit our nearest neighbors, the Gundersons.  This turned out to be a not so good idea.  It was a nice sunny day and I asked my mom if it would be alright if I visited them.  She said, “No not today.” So, if mama says no, what do you do?  Well, you ask Papa.  I found him out by the barnyard fence, and he said that I could visit the neighbors.   I must have thought if a person is bent on sinning, do it up big.  Now my sisters each had a large doll.  I was three, and the dolls were as tall as me.  I had to drag them as they were too large to carry.  In my parents' bedroom, was a slanted ceiling storage closet that covered the full length of the bedroom and that’s where the dolls were stored.  My sisters hadn't played with dolls in quite a while; after all they had real live me.  I was forbidden to play with those dolls unless of course, my sisters were there to protect them.

        I must have been a very strong-willed child because after my dad had given me permission to visit the neighbors, I sneaked into the house and got one of the big dolls.  I dragged it outside and put it in Carl’s Red Flyer wagon.  Then off I went in the direction of the neighbors.  Now the sound of a metal wagon on a gravel road is hard to conceal.  Whether it was that noise or my mother just deciding to check on me certainly curtailed my attempted visit.  Whatever the case, I heard my mother calling my name and she was on a fast trot after me.   I can still see her in her white dress as she approached.  She was gaining ground, so I dropped the tongue of the wagon realizing I couldn't win and climbed into the wagon and began to cry even before I was disciplined.  Don’t tell Children and Family Services, but during my childhood I was disciplined with switches, belts, and razor straps. I did every kind of dance known to man, even though our family felt dances were worldly and not allowed.

        Mom turned the wagon around and pulled me back to the side yard.  She picked up a switch and remember the forbidden dance?   Never mind.  I did the two step with absolutely no training!  We often kept a washtub of water under the tree for the men to rinse off when they came in from the field or barnyard.  Since it was a very hot day, and the welts were bright red, I got to climb in the tub and cool off.  That was one day, I didn't like the color red.  My father got the story from my mother, and the lesson he taught me was that, “YOU NEVER NEVER ASK ME FOR SOMETHING IF YOU'VE ALREADY ASKED MOM.  DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”

        My brother Rex often treated me as if I were his child.  Whenever he went to town, he would take me with him in our new 1936 gray Ford that Pop just bought.   Rex would make it a point to stop at Woolworth's 5 and 10 after he had run his errands.  I LOVED licorice candy and it could be purchased for a nickel or dime.  At the front of the store was a candy counter with glass bins of candy about eye level.    A clerk would scoop up the candy of choice and weigh it.  I usually chose jelly beans which had a lot of licorice in the mixture of different colors and flavors.  Rex would tell the clerk that I especially liked licorice, and the clerk would patiently take the candy scoop and try to get as much licorice in the mix as possible.  She then would deposit the candy into a little white paper sack.  Candy corn was my second choice and my third choice was also Pops favorite...orange slices.

        There was no need to tell Mom when I had eaten licorice candy because it was usually all over my hands, face, and clothes. On those trips into town, I stood up in the front seat, usually by the driver.  There were no child car seats then, and there were consequences.  Once Rex had to slam on the brakes, and my head crashed into the windshield.  Of course, I cried a lot so we went back to Woolworth's where Rex purchased a red patent leather purse for me.   Red was my favorite color and that purse went with me everywhere.   However, that purse met its fate as one day Rex put me in the car, and somehow my purse got slammed in the door.  Patent leather cracks and my purse was badly cracked.  Again, we stopped at Woolworth's, but alas they were out of red children's purses.  They did have a white one that Rex bought for me, but it did not replace the red one and therefore I never carried it around as much.
         Our house had a large dining room with a dinner table that seated about twelve people.   Drop in dinner guests were not uncommon.   Adults, young people, relatives, church friends, and neighbors were often seated around that table. Other dining room furnishings consisted of a large rocker, a buffet (which my Dad called the sideboard), a floor console radio, and a potbelly stove that was put up in the winter and taken down in the summer to make more room.  My dad's boxes of chocolates were kept on the buffet.  I guess I got my love of candy from him.   For his birthday (which was in August) and or for Christmas, he got BIG five-pound boxes of an assortment of chocolates and one or more, three-pound sizes of chocolate covered cherries.  (Who ever heard of a pound or twelve-ounce size?)    I had been told not to ask for his candy.  So, when he came in the house I would ask him, if he would like a piece of candy, naturally hoping for a piece.  Sometimes that worked, other times it didn't.  

         Breakfast was a big meal, the noon meal was called dinner, and the night meal was supper.  (I still call them that unless we are having a sandwich and then that is lunch).   Breakfast was served after the men did the morning chores.  Dinner time was when the men needed a break in the heat of the day.  We ate supper after the night chores were done. We all waited to eat together matter how late.  In the summer, the men would work in the fields until almost dark, then do the chores, and after that eat.  Eight or nine p.m. was not out of the ordinary for supper.  I would sometimes get so hungry waiting for supper I would feel sick, and Mom would tell me to eat some crackers which usually helped.  After supper the ladies, except for me, washed the dishes.  I stayed in the dining room with the men who crowded around our radio.  We would listen to Fibber Magee and Mollie, Lum and Abner, Amos and Andy and other programs.  If music would come on...either my Dad or my brothers would stand me on their knees and hold me tight by my ankles.  I would then twirl from side to side and sing “Ooh la la, Ooh la” and clap my hands.
        
        I think our home furnishings were average with the exception of our refrigerator which was run by kerosene.  Upon opening the door, a small light bulb gave light by the ice maker as we had electricity at the Johnny Place.  In the top section of the refrigerator was a freezer that held ice cube trays, we had three aluminum trays, each fitting in its own shelf.  They didn't have the release handles that came with the later models.  Removing the ice from the trays was sometimes a challenge. We often resorted to a variety of ways to get the cubes out.  Sometimes a dinner knife would work, but that could result in punching a hole through the thin aluminum trays. If this happened, my father would then take a nut and bolt to fill the puncture.  We didn't buy new things back then...we fixed them.

        To the side of the kitchen was a pantry.  Rex would pick me up and we would go into the pantry.  It was off limits to me ordinarily.  My sister Wanda would yell, “Rex and Edythe are in the pantry”, and my mother would feign a look that said we were in trouble!  We had a huge bread box in there that sat on the floor.  (Gordon had made that in shop class at school and it was intended to hold wood for the stove but we used it for a bread box).   I suppose there was bread inside, but what I remember are brown sugar packages.  We could reach in and get a huge lump of brown sugar.    On the pantry shelf, we could reach for delicious shredded coconut, marshmallows, dried apricots, prunes, dates, and raisins.  There was a huge glass jar with a tin lid on the side filled with salted peanut cookies. (The jar was kept from when my parents owned a grocery store and perhaps was used for the sale of cookies or candy). This room was a child’s wonderland, and we frequented it often.
  
         Our living room at the Johnny place was furnished with a blue-green sofa and an upholstered chair, a piano which held all the children's graduation pictures on its top, a wooden rocker, the library table, and a pot-bellied stove in the corner during the winter. 

        Mom and Pop's bedroom was just off the living room. It held their bed, a dresser, my crib and a sewing rocker (a rocker with no arms on either side).  Mom could sit there and patch clothes or knit with her arms extended.  My brother Gordon made a duplicate of that rocker which I now have in my home.  Other than the lights, the only electrical item that I can remember us owning back then was an electric heating pad.  My family would use it to warm the crib before bedtime.  For safety reasons, they would not allow it to be left in my crib for the night.

        The rocking chair in the living room only had one arm, it was not always so. There was a group of ladies from church, called the Women's Missionary Society.  I don't recall everything that they did, but they made quilts for one thing.  They would take turns meeting in one another homes.  The men would usually come that day and help chop wood or help in the field.  This was a family event that included children.  At noon, a large meal was served for all.

        One rather large young lady came to our house on one missionary meeting day.  She asked my mother which one of her sons she liked the best.  My mother politely replied that she liked them all the same.  “Oh," she responded, “surely you like Rex the best, I do.”   That love fantasy, was short- lived for as she sat in our wooden rocker she somehow wedged herself in it, and couldn't get out.  A group of ladies were standing in the kitchen silently laughing with tears running down their cheeks.  I didn't know they were laughing tears, as one woman was leaning on the refrigerator by the air vent making her hair blow.   As a child, I somehow thought this lady's hair was caught in the refrigerator and was hurt.  Others were in the living room, but no one could get the young girl out of the chair.  They had to call the men in from outside; one being my brother Rex. They sawed off one arm of the rocker to free her.   That was the last time I remember her coming to our house.  We had that one-armed chair all the years I lived at home.  It did generate a lot of conversation as to why the rocker only had one arm.  My Dad would simply say, they had to saw one side off.

        On the back side of the kitchen was a stairwell that led to the bedrooms upstairs.  For some reason, I was never allowed up there; but that didn't mean I didn't try.  I would get as far as the top steps where there was a large landing.  It also served as Gordon's bedroom.   In that area, he had a desk with pigeon holes in it, and in one of the pigeon-holes, was a toy machine gun small enough to fit in your hand.  It was camouflage color and had a small crank on the side.  When you turned the handle, sparks would fly out of the end of it to look like it was being fired.  He also had a musical instrument, called a sweet potato.  It was tan in color and shaped like a fat gun.  You blew into it and placed your fingers over the holes like you do a clarinet.  On the window in the landing, Gordon had a wire connected to something he called a ham radio. He would let me see him in operation, but it was a quick look because I never got any farther than the landing.  It was well worth the spanking though.  Looking back, I have often wondered about the other bedrooms and what they were like.




Chapter Two


How I Found Out About the Woodshed



I had lots of fun playing with other kids at the church ladies’ meetings.   At Aunt Sadie's (not our aunt but our friend's aunt), we made mud pies.  She had empty oval cans from smoked oysters that we filled with a dirt and water mixture.  After setting in the sun for a while, they would dry out, and we could turn them out and make lovely shaped pies.  I was even convinced by older children that this was the real thing, hence my first taste of mud pies. I think some of the ladies’ missionary meetings were often prayer meetings too.  With kids doing all kinds of things, we were probably first on the list of prayer requests.

        One of the things I learned while at one house was, we could lock some of the other kids in the toilet. These toilets were not indoors, but shanties with two and three holes.  While I didn't participate in that particular activity when we were at the ladies’ missionary meetings, I did try a similar idea at home.

        My dad's mother, Grandma Nelson, would come to our house occasionally and spend a few weeks.  Her husband had passed away, so she no longer kept her home but took turns staying with her married children

.  
        I think our home was Grandma's least favorite place to stay, for one reason...ME.  She would often have the responsibility of watching me while my siblings were in school and my Mother was about doing all the things a mother does.  My mom was not only active in church, but she also was on the school board.   In addition, she would also go to various homes as needed to care for the sick.  She tended a huge garden, did ironing for her large household, and on and on.

        I found out I could get away with lots of stuff with Grandma.  Grandma realized the brother that had the greatest influence on me was my brother Rex.  So, whenever I would act out, she would step outside and call for Rex.  When he came in, I would always be sitting nicely on a chair or doing some quiet activity.  He thought Grandma imagined things until…Grandma went to the outhouse.  As I was coming out, she needed to go in.  So, when she stepped in, I asked her if she would like me to lock the door.  In no uncertain terms she yelled, “NO”.  Most outhouses had a lock on the outside to keep animals from pushing it open and making a home there.  I immediately locked the door leaving her screaming.  Rex just happened to be walking through the grape arbor just then and heard her.  I got a tremendous spanking from him and of course had to unlock the door.  This is when I also found out about the woodshed.

        No doubt the toilet incident was relayed to Pop.  Because when he came inside from his farm work, he got my attention when he said to me, "DO I NEED TO TAKE YOU TO THE WOODSHED?”  Now I didn't know what the woodshed was, but the tone of his voice made me think it wasn't a place I wanted to go.  When I started to cry, it became all the worse...for then the statement came. "stop your crying, or I'll give you something to cry about." So, for me, the woodshed was a dreaded place to avoid.

        While on the subject of Grandma; Carl had a rubber knife.  The blade was painted silver so I suppose it looked real. I would grab that knife and tell Grandma I was going to stab myself.  She would yell, "No, no, " and try to grab it from me.  Most of the time she was sitting in the rocker by the pot belly stove and I could easily out run her. 
 
        I would stand on chairs and jump off and make a lot of noise when we were alone.  I did all kinds of things to aggravate her.   When I got older and visited her, I think her memories of me as a young child giving her a rough time, never faded.  She didn’t seem to enjoy my visits much.

        Evidently, Grandma didn't like dolls. When we would go visit Grandma in Iowa, I would want to take my newest doll to show her and Pop would say "Leave your doll in the car, Edythe."  Years later, he told me the reason why.  He said Grandma thought they were like idols.   It was he that persuaded Ma to let his younger twin sisters have a doll when they were little girls.  (My father and his siblings called their parents Ma and Pa.)   

        One of the pieces of furniture I was allowed to stand on, was the library table and only when I was lifted and placed there.  When someone stood me on the library table, it was to sing.   Apparently, I learned to sing quite a few songs at a young age.  My sister-in-law Bea told me the first time she came to visit, Rex stood me on the library table, and I sang "School Days."  Evidently standing on the library table was practice for standing on a stage.   My parents entered me into a kids' talent show on the radio.  I remember going to the radio studio where there were lots of kids.  I didn't have any nice anklets...so a lady Evangelist by the name of Sis Batherm, stood me on a table and put new anklets on my feet.  The anklets didn't make me sing any better because a twelve-year-old boy won. Even though I didn't win, it launched me into a singing career that lasted until I was about fourteen.   But from time to time I sang on church programs on the radio station WNAX, which aired out of Yankton, South Dakota and Sioux City, Iowa.



Chapter Three


The Town of Meckling and the Tabernacle


Our church was called the Tabernacle.  It was the Assemblies of God Church in Meckling, South Dakota.  I thought it was called the Tabernacle because the building was a sheet metal Quonset hut.  Two other churches in town were the Congregational Church and a Lutheran church which had the traditional type church buildings.   Until I was nearly five, the Tabernacle was the only church I knew.  In fact, I later learned that my mother was with a group of five ladies that prayed for an Assemblies of God church to be birthed there and it became the first Assemblies of God church in the state of South Dakota.  Church was a great place and the friendships were so close it seemed as though we were related when in fact none were our relatives.

        The church  had electricity, but there was no running water, and we used an outhouse.  It didn't even belong to the church, but was owned by a neighbor.  In the winter, sometimes if we needed the facility we could walk over to the parsonage which was just around the corner and use their indoor one.

        The Tabernacle floors were made of sawdust.  I sat between Mom and Pop.  Sometimes on Pop’s lap.  But I was taught to be very quiet during church.  No toys were allowed from home.  My mom showed me how to make twin dolls with a handkerchief, or occasionally I could have paper and pencil for scribbling.  The most fun was to take my shoes and make roads in the sawdust.  No matter if I played with my shoes in the sawdust or not, everyone including me, had to empty their shoes before going in the house after a church service.

        On the back of the church was a picture of a cradle.  It was called the cradle roll.  From it hung ribbons with pictures of the babies from the church.  The pictures were mounted on a piece of cardboard and hung diagonally.  Someone would carry me back there and show me my picture.  I still have my cradle roll picture.  Children were on the cradle roll until age three, after which you had a Sunday School class to attend.  Nurseries were not heard of.  I remember the little children's red painted chairs in our class.  We were given picture cards of a story from the Bible that we got to bring home each Sunday.  My dad would give me a penny to put in the offering.  The penny would be tied to the corner of my child size handkerchief.  The teacher would then undo the penny and put it in an offering plate.  Don't ask me why, but children would often chew on the corner of their hankies.  And if the knot was tied hard and it was wet, it was almost impossible to remove.  Yukky!  All I can say is, I'm glad things have changed in that area.

        My father was one of the deacons, and I was to be an example of good behavior.  If I was not, I got thumped on the head or had my ear pulled as a signal to shape up.  We sat up near the front of the church, in the pews.  Behind the rows of pews were wooden folding chairs if needed, to accommodate a larger crowd.
        One of my dad's jobs was serving communion.  Evidently, the deacons were assigned different isles.  So, when the time came for my Dad to fulfill that service, I would get off his lap and sit right next to the aisle.  The reason was a Bro. Hollingsworth also served communion.  When he passed our pew, he would always reach over and pat me on the head.  At communion time, I remember him singing, "At the Cross, At the Cross"as he passed by.  Children can't remember how they are treated.  I did, and it was a wonderful feeling to be acknowledged and treated so special; even if it was just a pat on the head.

        Because we had such a big family, we would have to make two trips with the car to church.   I think I was usually in the last load.  One Sunday evening we were late and as I said my parents sat near the front of the church.  They tell me that as my dad carried me walking towards the front of the church trying to be inconspicuous, I proceeded to yell out, “Hi folks” as we passed all the pews.

        My mother had terrible headaches.  I suspect due to high blood pressure.  On one particular Sunday evening, it was so severe she had to leave the church; but not before she saw my sister Wanda acting the part of an angel from the balcony.  Immediately afterward she had to leave.  I ran after her because sitting quietly was not fun.  She had already told me to stay, but about the time I got to the door, I saw some children doing their part in the program and wanted to run back.   Since I had already disobeyed I had to go home, and I missed out on the rest of the program. 
        Sometimes during the summer, we would have dinner on the grounds at the Tabernacle.  The only thing I really remember about that, was in front of the church was a large tree stump and a girl four or five years older than me, was standing on it twirling around in her yellow taffeta dress.  She was eating something I had never seen before, and so I asked her what it was.  She said, "It's an olive, and you can't have any because you are too little."ン   After that I couldn’t wait to taste an olive.  I never had one until I was in my early teens, but I knew immediately when I tasted it, I was going to like it!  I also learned that the tables that held the food were nothing but saw horses with pieces of lumber placed on them and covered with table cloths. Folding chairs were brought outside from the church and blankets were placed on the ground for the children.   

        Evening church didn't start until eight p.m. since most of the congregation were from a farming community.  It certainly wasn't uncommon for services to last very late at night.  There was a prayer room right behind the platform.  It had wood floors, and I suspect served as a Sunday School classroom on Sunday mornings.  Nonetheless, after every service, people moved to the prayer room.  It had long benches, the full length of the platform, secured to the wall on each side of the room.  Had it been out front, it may have been called an altar.  But we didn't have an altar probably because of the sawdust.  Anyway, people would pray until the wee hours of the night.  Lots of stories of answered prayer came from those times.  People obviously enjoyed talking to God longer then than we do now.

        Every adult in our church had a title.  It was always Brother and Sister, and the last name accompanied that.  Our Pastors were Brother and Sister Gottwald and I believe their favorite hymn was, “Look to the Lamb of God”.   It seemed like we sang it every service.  The ones that started the church were Brother and Sister George, and were lifelong friends.  

        We had lots of traveling preachers come through, and many stayed at our house.  People miss out a lot today by not having missionaries and evangelists stay in their homes.  Such interesting stories and lessons were learned from them.  The following is a list of people that I remember either speaking at our church or staying in our home: Sister Batherm, The Lundstrom’s, the Lindquist’s, The Webb’s, The George’s. The Argues’, and C.T. Beem.  Brother Webb would always ask me if he could pick me up by my ears.  He would place his hands on either side of my head over my ears and lift me up.  I can remember being scared, but always running to him when he came.
  
        CT Beem later became well-known when he became a radio announcer on the Revival-time radio program, but to me, he was like a relative.  My brother Marvin, or MC. as we called him and CT went to North Central Bible College together.  I believe CT was in the first graduating class and my brother MC the second class.  Since CT was from our church, Pop hired him and my brother MC to work in the fields in the summer to earn money for their fall semester.  I heard about this story later on in life which was:  MC figured out a way to cut the weeds out of the corn rows quicker than hoeing them out.  If they took their hoes and scraped them across the top...it would get the weeds out to ground level.  Then they could take a nap in between the corn rows.  My father seemed not to be the wiser.  But CT couldn't stand it.   He came to my Father wanting to give the money back.  My Father told him he had been satisfied with the work and refused the money. So, CT felt forgiven.  I can't imagine my brother doing such a thing as he was always like “Honest Abe”.

        Some of the Women's Missionary Meetings were held at the Parsonage and we kids would have a wonderful time.  Across from the Parsonage lived a lady by the name of Sis. Dunbar who must have been a widow.  She had an older son who talked us younger kids into going to Mr. Young’s grocery store one day.  He said if we went there we could get candy.  None of us had any money, but a group of us kids went into Mr. Young's grocery store and asked him for candy.  I remember what I got, which was a BB bat sucker.  I still picture Mr. Young as he often stood outside the grocery store in his white apron.  I remember him especially well that day!  Somehow, my parents found out about the candy, and my dad marched me inside the store to tell him, that my father said I had to pay for my candy.  I don't believe I got a spanking that day as Wanda was always my intercessor.  She stated that one of the older boys told me I could get it for free, and I had believed him. 

        Kitty corner across from the grocery store was Overton's gas station.  The Overton’s had a daughter Peggy, who was my brother Gordon's age.   We had huge soap bars from Proctor and Gamble that was stamped, “P and G” in big letters.  We teased Gordon and said those letters stood for Peggy and Gordon so they must be going to get married.  In the gas station window, was a set of Peggy's doll dishes.   One day when we went to get gas, they gave me those dishes.   It had plates, cups and saucers, and a teapot.  My sister Bee had play dishes that she kept perfect in their original box and her set had tiny spoons, knives, and forks.  Occasionally, she would play house with me, and we would use her play set.

        Next to the highway was Mr. Gil's Garage.  It was an open sided building that you could look in when passing by.  It was always very dirty with oil and grease everywhere, and Mr. Gil was always covered with dirt and grease.  They didn't have the equipment that they do now, and I believe they had to lay on the ground to get under the cars to work on them. 

        The church would often have Cottage Prayer Meetings and Brush Arbor Meetings.  I think that a Brush Arbor meeting was like a Revival meeting held outdoors under a brush arbor.  I remember attending at least one.  We walked over a stubble field to get to the brush arbor.  I have a picture of myself about three years old walking across that field with a parasol.  Mine parasol was child size and was used for shade.  (Ladies used parasols in the summer for outdoor events).  It must have been on a Sunday as farmers couldn't have attended otherwise.



Chapter Four


The School and the Neighborhood


With eight children, both of my parents had a keen interest in our school.  Pop was on the school board while my mom was president of the PTA.  She also belonged to a book club that I believe was related to the school.   All my siblings went to the Meckling School except me.  I was too young to attend, but could visit the school with one of them.  Visiting children could go and sit in the seat with their brother or sister, as I usually did with Wanda.  I would often attend when there was a party or something special.  People celebrated birthdays back then at school, and homemade foods were allowed.  Can you imagine? 

        One day, someone, passed out bubble gum at school.  We seldom had gum at home. Our gum consisted of paraffin or wax from off the sealed jelly jars.  The jelly gave it a flavor for a while.  But if you did get gum, you chewed it, and then you saved it for several days.   Wanda happened to have saved hers on the metal strip of her notebook.  She came home from school and lay on the couch as she was prone to “sick headaches”.  While she was on the couch, I spied the gum, took it and got it all over myself.   They used kerosene to get it off me and it burned as they scrubbed.    A song came out once titled, “Does the Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost over Night”.   Yes, it did, but we would save our gum on the bedpost if we had any.  I do recall that Bazooka bubble gum came with a comic strip inside the wrapper and you were sure to lick the wrapper to get all the flavor.

        Bee would help with the morning chores and not take the school bus.  Mostly because the chores took a long time.  As soon as she finished her chores she would run the mile and a half to school and often outrun the bus, I've been told.  She was warned never to get in a car with a stranger.  So, if one offered, she would stand on the running board.

        Our neighbors the Whittaker’s had a daughter considerably older than me, and if we ever visited there I got to play with her doll house.  It was equipped with all handheld furniture.   I never saw anyone else with anything like it during my entire childhood.

        We visited the Browns in Vermillion.  Their house had burned down, and I believe my family took something to them for their new place.   They had a child about my age, whose name I forget, but I do recall that the house had almost no furniture in it.  Not even any chairs.  That was really strange to me.   On the enclosed back porch were some barrels that contained food.  One was macaroni.  So, the little girl and I took handfuls of macaroni and ate it raw. I remember the crunching sound as we ate.  We also used it to play with somehow.    How could anyone ever get rid of a barrel of macaroni?

        I learned the usual Nursery rhymes and children's songs and was always asked to “perform” by singing or quoting poems and rhymes.   Did you ever wonder whoever thought up those nursery rhymes?  Whoever Jack was, must have been ADHD. jumping over a candlestick!!   I sympathized with poor little Jack Horner sitting in a corner on Christmas Day eating his Christmas pie.   Today the parents would have been contacted by CFA.   Maybe he was the same Jack that jumped over the candlestick and was getting punished.  Well, it is food for thought.  Yes, I get a little wacky at times.

        One Christmas, I remember getting a toy paddle with a small rubber ball and rubber band attached to it.  I would bounce it up and down with the rubber band.  However, the rubber band soon snapped -  so one of my siblings put it back with a straight pin.  Well, that didn't last long, but I saw how it was done.  I held a pin in my mouth to fix it and promptly swallowed it.  That was checked daily for several days, and I will spare you the details of how it was checked, but it was never found.  However, for years, I would feel something sharp stick around my middle area and would let out a scream.  My parents mentioned once they thought it was the pin had lodged in my system.    Indeed, that feeling lasted until I was in my twenties.
        
        Our friends the Steele's lived in a basement house.  I think someone may have started to build a house but somehow only got the basement finished.  Across the back was the roof for it, and it was covered with black tar paper.  You could walk on the roof, as it was ground level.  It had an outdoor cubby hole and in one of those cubby holes was a doll stroller.  One day they gave it to me.  I have a picture with my doll in it.  There was also a small house on the property where I believe their housekeeper named Ethel and her daughter Gwendolyn lived.   Gwendolyn was raised with the Steeles’ two daughters, as Mrs. Steele had passed away at a young age. 
 
        We had a bunk house on our property.  That was where hired men slept.  Many of the farms had bunk houses.  It was a two-story building similar to a garage or a place to store machinery at the ground level.  An enclosed stairway led to sleeping quarters over the garage.  We girls were never allowed there.  It was for men only.

        The Hollingsworth’s were also lifelong friends.  Rhoda Kay was a couple of years younger than me, but I remember playing with her a lot.  Cecil worked for them and stayed in their bunk house.  Wanda worked as a housekeeper for them as also did my cousin Elinor who came from Iowa to live with us for a while.

        The Moore's had a goat named Rex and he did not like me.  He ran loose around the yard and when we went to visit them, he would run after me.  I was so afraid of him.   Safely inside, Mrs. Moore and her daughter would be making all kinds of crafts and needlework.  For one craft, they cut pictures from calendars or magazines, glued them to cardboard pieces, varnished them, and put them together with yarn to make waste baskets.   I had never heard of a waste basket as we use the coal bucket for trash at our house.

        There was a train that would go past our house at certain times of the day.   Out front of the house, was a deep ditch and the railroad tracks were elevated about head level.  When I heard the train, if MC was at home, he would stand me on his shoulders by the ditch so I could wave at the man in the caboose.  It seemed wherever a train was, the man at the caboose had the job of waving.  They probably still hold that position.

        Mom cut Carl's hair in the dining room.  I remember one day looking at the cape she had on him while cutting his hair...and it was my yellow dress.  I guess it was just the right size for a cape.

        Seemingly one of our neighbors gave us a canary to babysit, which eventually was deserted by its owner.  I remember feeding the canary in its cage and Mom would enjoy listening to it singing.  So, the punch line is, I don't recall anyone else during my years of growing up, having a bird in its cage in the house.  We were special!




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