Yes, it was wash day, again. The clothes were boiled in water heated in a cast iron wash pot above a roaring fire. Then they were scrubbed on a scrub board, using lots of home made lye soap. Or, if you could afford it, store bought Octagon Soap.
The laundry was not the only thing to have a go in that number two wash tub. Before nightfall, Doug would have a refreshing round in it using a big bar of floating Ivory Soap!
Doug had a nick name. He felt kinda special when a grown person called him 'Cotton Top'. None of the children called him that, just the grown ups. So, it must have meant something very special. Doug didn't know he earned that name by having the whitest hair of any child around.
There was a lot little Doug didn't know, things about the big wide world he was entering, things he wishes he didn't know now. Children are so innocent. Maybe that's why they're used to make adults.
Daddy was a strange man. He was born to a wonderful woman and a strange man. His father never showed any affection to his children as he was never shown any affection by his father. In turn, my father never showed affection to his children. He did not know how.
I remember him walking me to town some time before I started school. I had to be taken to a clinic to get my 'shots' before I could enroll.
I was so little and those needles were so big. I was very scared. Daddy had never said anything comforting to me in my life. I was surprised when he looked at me and said, 'Son, turn your head and don't look at the needle. That way it won't hurt as much'.
My father actually spoke to me with kind advice. Maybe he did like me just a little bit. I was determined to show him I would be strong. The needles did hurt but nowhere as badly as I had anticipated. I didn't even say 'ouch'. I smiled afterwards, hoping he would be proud of me.
On the way back home, we took a path through a wooded pasture. The ground was sort of rough on my small bare feet. As I was a bit unsteady, Daddy offered me his hand. I didn't know what to think! His hand was so big and mine so small, I ended up firmly grasping his forefinger. We walked together that way the rest of the journey home. Maybe he did like me, just a little bit.
I lost my father tragically in a fire when I was eleven. A long time to spend with someone and never really get to know them. For years after his death, I still disliked him very much, he was never a father to me. In time I was able to forgive my father. In simple terms, he did the best he could with what he had to work with. My forgiveness has made me a better person in ways only I will ever know.
Paulette Lindsay may well have been the oldest teacher at the elementary school I attended. I'm sure she was. And yet, she was the youngest. While the other teachers wore very conservative hair styles, Ms. Lindsay wore a short, carefree style. One the wind was always seeking, perhaps to toss a lock about on a cheek deeply furrowed with lines of laughter.
And while the other teachers wore tailored suits, Ms. Lindsay wore dress shirts, skirts with kick pleats, and bobby socks. And yes, penny loafers! Every child attending that school was or wanted to be Ms. Lindsay's pupil.
She taught 2nd and 3rd grades simultaneously. I was very fortunate to have her as my teacher for both. Come to think of it, Ms. Lindsay introduced me to gardening. At the tender age of seven or eight, I was told that if I had my parents' permission, I could stay after school one day and help her plant tulip bulbs in a little bed visible from the classroom window. I did. I loved every minute of it.
Most other teachers would tell you, you had egg on your face in such a way it would be embarrassing. Ms. Lindsay would tell you in such a way the two of you found it cute and you would grin while walking down the hall to the restroom to remove that tell tale egg. I wanted to hug Ms. Lindsay.
She was petite and carried herself like a teenager. The only thing big about her was that quick smile. She seemed to always smile. She was such a sweet ol' gal!
Lisa was my niece, though just like a sister. Mama raised Lisa from the time she was born. When I was about 12, she was about 8. We got along well, there was little 'sibling' rivalry. She did however, have one habit that made my 'you know what' want to crochet barbed wire.
In those days there was one TV per household, centrally located in the living room. I know some of you younger ones may find that hard to believe, but it's the truth.
Mama's work day began early so she went to bed rather early. Lisa slept with Mama and would go to bed some time later. I stayed up as long as I could.
Lisa always got the sofa and I got an arm chair. That's where we were every night, watching TV. And it was the same every night, Lisa would go to sleep on the sofa with a thin bed spread wrapped around her.
I wanted that sofa cause I planned to watch TV for a while, and there Lisa was, asleep. I would try to get her to get up and go to bed. She wouldn't. I always ended up calling to Mama, 'Mama, make Lisa come to bed'. Mama would call to Lisa, 'Lisa come to bed'.
One night when this happened, Lisa grabbed up the bed spread and made a detour through the kitchen on her way to the bedroom. I hopped on the sofa, stretched out and made myself comfortable.
Soon, I heard some strange sounds. They sounded as if someone was struggling awful hard to do something but couldn't quite get it done. I thought, 'This is weird'. I got up to investigate.
I went to the kitchen. Lisa was standing in front of the refrigerator, sound asleep. She had opened the refrigerator door and then the small freezer compartment door. (Back then, refrigerators had little compartments just large enough to hold four ice trays and that was about it). Though sound asleep, she was desperately trying with all her might to cram that bed spread into that tiny freezer.
I bowled over. I was laughing so hard I feared urinary incontinence. My loud cackles finally brought Lisa out of her stupor. She looked at me with glazed eyes. Half asleep and half awake she mumbled, 'What's so funny'?
I was thirteen when misfortune struck me. My hair was long and shaggy. I walked to town to get a haircut. I had forgotten that the barber shop closed early on Wednesday afternoons. I walked back home disappointed and bored.
I decided to walk to my girl friend's home, about two miles away. I remember nothing about the rest of the day. The account compiled here is from different sources.
I was just a few hundred feet from my home, walking along the side of the road when I was struck from behind by a car. It was said that the driver thought he might have killed me. So, he got out of his car and dragged my body into the side ditch, there to die if I wasn't already dead. Then he drove away.
A couple hours later, a little boy who lived in my village was walking down the same road. He found one of my shoes along side the road. While looking for the other shoe, he saw me lying in the ditch.
He hurried home and told his father who rushed to where I was lying unconscious and bleeding. The father rushed back to his home and called for an ambulance.
In the hospital, I regained consciousness two days later with Mama by my bedside. When she told me what had happened, I asked her if she was afraid I might have been killed when she heard a car had hit me. She said 'Doug, that thought never entered my mind'. That is what I call unshakeable faith and trust.
I had several fractured vertebrae. One leg was fractured at the knee, and on the same leg, the ankle was almost crushed. I had a laceration to the forehead so deep, sutures had to be made to the skull lining. And there was much more.
The impact lifted and twisted my body around, facing the car. It was my forehead that made contact with the car the second time. It hit the rear view mirror on the passenger side. The mirror shattered, causing the deep cut to my forehead.
The investigating police found the shards from the broken mirror. I have no idea how they knew where to look, but within two hours they found the car and matched the shards to the broken mirror on that car.
I found out later that I was the third person hit by this driver. I was told he had hit a little six year old girl. And he had hit an elderly lady leaving church one Sunday.
The man wore very thick glasses. It was never mentioned whether he could see well enough to drive. The judge decided to let the man continue to drive because he worked on cars for a living and afterward had to return them to their owners. If he couldn't drive, it would cause hardship to his family.
I sought no vengeance. I was alive. I would recover. But, was the judge not the least bit concerned that if this man hit a fourth person, he just might kill them?
I was in the hospital for a long time. After being there for about a week, a small, elderly lady came to see me. I had never seen her before. She introduced herself. She was the driver's mother. She asked nothing about how I was doing. She did say that she came to ask me if I would not hold it against her son for what he did.
I was bitter. My body was broken. I was in horrible pain and on morphine almost 24 hours a day. But, what do you say to a mother who is in fear of her son going to prison? I said, 'No, these things happen. I don't hold it against your son'.
The man dragged me into a ditch to die and drove away. Surely she was aware of that. I saw no point in reminding her.
Carolyn was not my real girl friend, she was my buddy. At about age fifteen, we skipped school together and did lots of fun things. One day while playing hooky, we decided to walk to town. We window shopped, checked out coming attraction posters at the theater and idled about without a care in the world.
We walked into a drug store just to have a look around. While looking, I spotted a display of gags. One was a bar of soap that would turn your hands black when you used it.
I found one gag I thought quite interesting and bought it. It was an assortment of tiny objects that could be hidden in cigarettes. (Yes, as early teenagers, we took a few drags from a cigarette now and then. Made us feel all grown up).
One of the objects would cause someone's cigarette to taste terrible. Neither one of us was willing to try that one. Another created fine particles that would rise in the air and then slowly fall down, somewhat resembling snow. Another filled the air with a disgusting stench.
Heading back towards home, we stopped at a small burger joint for a Pepsi and fries. While waiting on our orders, I put one of the 'snow' objects in a cigarette and lit it up. Sure enough, we could see all these tiny white particles rising in the air. While we thought it hilarious, no one else seemed to notice. Just as well.
And then after rising so high, the particles began to descend. Still, no one else seemed to notice. Just as well because Carolyn whispered, 'Look! Doug, look! She was pointing to trays of hamburger patties on a shelf behind the cook's back. They were nice and pink and all ready for the grill.
I guess the exhaust fan carried most of the 'snow' in the direction of the hamburger trays. The snow white ash was settling all over those pretty pink patties. Quickly, Carolyn feigned sickness and said in a loud voice, 'Doug, I'm sick. I gotta get home, now'! Without ever receiving or paying for our order, we dashed for the door and made our get away. Golly, that was close!
We made it back to Carolyn's house only to be greeted by Carolyn's irate mother, Ida. I was blamed for Carolyn's truancy. Carolyn was ordered to march to the kitchen and wash dishes. I went to the living room where Carolyn's father, Bob, was deeply engrossed in the six o'clock news. I don't think he knew I entered the room. I sat down and waited for Carolyn to finish the dishes. The day was still young.
I was bored and not at all interested in the news. Aha! I had completely forgotten about those little things you put in cigarettes. One I had not yet tried was the one that made a stench in the air. With Bob's eyes glued to the 'television set', I quietly inserted that little object into a cigarette and fired it up. Carolyn's mother came into the room and joined with Bob in watching the news.
At first, I didn't notice anything. And then as the cigarette burned down to where the 'object' was, things quickly changed. I had to hold the cigarette at arms length.
Ida began to sniff the air. She said, 'What is that I smell'? No one answered. As the odor became stronger, she said, 'Damn, what is that smell'? No one answered. She quickly rose from her seat and said, 'Lord god, it smells like somebody puked in here'! She made a quick exit to the front porch for a gulp of fresh air. Bob was still glued to the television set.
I guess Ida's sudden exit caused a change in the room's air current. Bob began to sniff the air. He said, 'Good god, what's that uh stinkin'? Tears were streaming down my face and I dared not make a sound. I was about to bust!
Bob sniffed some more, stood up, stomped the floor and said, 'Damned if I don't smell dog shit'! He stomped out of the room and to the front porch, slamming each door as he went.
People, I had to hold onto the walls as I made my way to the kitchen. My knees were buckling beneath me. Tears were running down my face. When I got to the kitchen, I had to brace myself against the table to keep from falling.
Carolyn said. 'Doug, you better go now. Go out the back door. Mama's liable to beat the daylights out of me and not let you come back for a long time'. I couldn't speak. I just nodded 'OK' and wobbled out the back door.
My Aunt Viola on my Mother's side was the youngest of four girls and two boys. She was the last of that family to leave this ship. She was a wonderful woman who led an adventurous life as a cow girl and cook for ranch hands while her husband was a real cowboy.
While I did ask Mama a few things about her own childhood, I now long to know so much more. After Mama's death, I spent a lot more time with Aunt Viola. She often spoke of her younger years on ranches in Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico. She said she slept a many a night under the stars, drifting off in a state of pure peace.
I relished the time I spent with Viola, eagerly anticipating another true tale from her very exciting life. I never tired of hearing those tales. I always left wanting to hear more.
As wonderful as it was to hear her speak of those times, I missed a golden opportunity. The things I didn't ask Mama about her childhood and now hunger to know, Viola could have told me.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to see your Mother as a little girl? A little girl as seen through the eyes of her younger sister? I know Mama was poor. There was no running water, no electricity, never more than two dresses at a time. I know all that, but that's not enough. I want to know more.
What was her favorite flower? Did she ever let a boy kiss her and make Viola promise not to tell? What did she find funny and how old was she when she baked her first cake? Did she act prissy and sophisticated or like a plain Jane? Viola could have answered all these questions and hundreds more. I didn't think to ask. Now, it's too late
Is there a common thread running through all these vignettes? There is. The thread is not of finest silk but of hurtful, rough hemp.
I have two needs. Neither will be fulfilled. While I have done much genealogical research, all I learned was cold hard facts. I learned when and where a person was born, when and who they married, when and where they died. Census records give no clue as to what type personality a person had, nothing about their hopes and dreams.This type information is passed down by word of mouth and many times if you don't ask, you'll never know. Often, I didn't ask. There is so much I long to know but never will.
The second unfulfillable need is to personally share with someone, my own memories, such as the ones I've shared with you, today. I need to speak of my memories with someone who knew the times and people I want to recall. There is no one left. All childhood friends are gone. Most all family members are gone. I ache to speak with someone who remembers when we both were children and can identify personally with all the names of people we knew. There is no one.
Will your great great grand children who never saw you, know things about you that would only be learned by word of mouth or will all they know be learned from statistics?
Learn as much as you can from and about the elder friends and relatives around you, not just dates and names but the real homespun stuff, the stuff precious memories are made of. Keep this knowledge in your heart and when the time is right, pass it along to your children. Everyone's life will be richer.
Many people make the mistake of dwelling on the past. I believe to do so, robs a person of a rich and rewarding present. While we should never dwell on the past, we should never forget it. Our lives are incomplete without it. That past has gotten us where we are today.
I have many hurtful memories. I try to tune them out as soon as they enter my mind. As for the good memories, spending a few moments remembering, especially about the good times spent with my Mother, is the best sleeping pill of all time.
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Thank you for feeling you can share your memories with us. Memories/stories make up our life as we are today; some good and some not so good, but still a part of us. I am sharing my life and things I remember about other people through a family blog and find that, like Doug is encouraging us to do, there are events and moments that someone may like to know but just never got around to asking.
They were the good old days. Love your stories. I still say, you should write a book.
I love this! It makes me feel alive somehow, even reading about your journey. Thank you for sharing!
As I read this, i thought i recognized the writing and scrolled back up to the top and yep, there you were, Likekinds. I've told you before and so have many, you write like someone who should be writing a book. Think about it.
And thank you for sharing the memories. I too have wished that I asked more questions. Even simple ones like what did Nanny put on her salads that was so good and how did she make a roast as superb as she did. She died before my mother and I ever asked and now that's lost, along with so much. When you're young, you just don't think of such things. My son once said to me, "We don't know anything about you!" I said, "Well, ask." Have they? Nope. Well, someday they'll be in the same boat as the rest of us. Not knowing much about the past. What ever happened to people keeping journals/diaries?
I grew up in the 50s in Texas, but my family lived like it was the 30s. No indoor plumbing except for cold water in the kitchen sink, and though I don't really remember, we didn't have electricity until I was about 5, I think. I think the cold water in the sink came about the same time.
It wasn't because we were poor, it was because my father was stingy with money. As my mother said, he'd tell her she couldn't have a new pair of shoes while he spent thousands on a piece of farm equipment. Meanwhile, she had three very-much planned babies though she told him the last one was an accident.
We moved to a small house in the early 60s, about the size and shape of a mobile home, and we had a bathroom, finally. Recently I was talking to a friend of mine who'd grown up in about the same circumstances, and she said, "I thought your "new" house was a castle because you had a bathroom."
I think people who have fond memories of going to an outhouse never really lived like that for very long. I won't go camping--don't see any reason to, while my husband and son love it. They even went on the Philmont Boy Scout Trek about 20 years ago for TWO weeks!
After sharing that tiny bathroom with 4 other people, my first apartment, at 18, did seem like a castle to me. (It shouldn't surprise anybody that my house that I designed has 4 bathrooms now.)
I learned a lot from my mother. I learned to never let a man push me around, and to demand what I wanted. While she let my father move her into that old (built in 1840) farmhouse with no plumbing, I wouldn't have married my husband if it had meant living with no dishwasher. I made sure I had two careers I could fall back on if I ever needed to.
Anyway, have you considered looking on Facebook for groups of people who might have a lot of your same memories? I belong to one, "Love the 70s, grew up in the 60s, born in the 50s," and we're always sharing music and memories of those times.
Thanks so much for your comment. It brings back even more memories of my own. We had cold running water, but it was from a spigot on the back porch. We had no kitchen sink.
I see a wonderful article all bound up in your comment. I do hope you will find the time to put it together and submit it as an essay for publication. I will be looking for it.
Thanks again for your comment.
My father's side of the family was, in a word, strange. According to family lore, my grandfather was only his final exams away from having his teaching degree, probably in the last part of the 1890s, but for some reason he never finished. My grandmother also went to college, but they wound up getting married and having 7 kids. Through the years, they share-cropped and farmed, but eventually their oldest son, my uncle, acquired a lot of land.
Out of the 7, only 3 got married. The old house (well over 100 years old) my grandparents, my oldest aunt, and the oldest son lived in had no indoor plumbing until about 1984, the year I had my son. (They drew water from a well and carried it to the house.) I wouldn't have even gone to see them until they installed everything. There's no way I'd have walked out to that outhouse while I was pregnant.
While they were putting in a bathroom on the back porch and a sink in the kitchen, Sears sent them a hot water heater that was blue. My aunts had a fit and sent it back to get a white one. The grandchildren couldn't believe it. I mean, who cared what color the hot water heater was? It's not like it messed up the "decor" of the old back porch.
This house was way out in the country, but my uncle owned a small house in a nearby town that had indoor plumbing. His sister refused to move there, because she remembered how, in 1927 or so, a tornado hit the town and bunch of people were killed.
When I went to visit them in later years, three of my aunts (grandparents and uncle long gone) were living there. They'd go out to the back porch bathroom, fill up a dishpan with hot water, and carry it back to the kitchen sink. They said it took too long for the hot water to get to the sink, so, in effect they were still carrying water.
My cousin moved the last two aunts (still called "the girls" when they were in their 90s) to a retirement community so that she and I could be close by to help them. Last time I drove by the old house, I couldn't find it. All that was left was an old brick fireplace and chimney and it was all grown up with vines. Turns out my nephew, who had a home nearby, had let the fire department burn it for training.
That's just a small part of my father's side. My mother's side has equally eccentric characters, but that's for another time.
Really enjoyed reading this. Thank you so very much for sharing these memories. If you ever do write a book please let us all know.
I sure would like to read it.
Our mother died nearly 60 years ago when I was 16 and my sister 27. We weren't close: due ,I suppose to the difference in age and outlook -i was a 60s teen, she'd been a child in the war. I moved away at 17. So it wasn't untill 2008 when her daughter was dying that we really talked again. She knew so much more of our family than I did and one thing she said sticks in my mind: "I expect there are a lot of things I know that you don't, but I don't know what they are'. She's dead now , so I'll never know them. Her other daughter has asked me to record my memories for her so I am trying. I have a couple of recordings from when my sister was alive so we have her voice which is more than i have of my mother. So ask, before it's too late and take a recorder if you get together. Just imagine if you could hear your great, great , grandmother's voice. As Likekinds said, life can feel lonely when there is no-one left to remember with.
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