If You Don't Laugh, You'll Cry - Laughing's Better!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Vacations to Remember

Apparently, my husband was raised to think that vacations were a waste of time and money. I never heard of his parents going anywhere just for fun. They probably went to a few weddings, most funerals, and family reunions. Both of them died not long after I married, Tony’s dad the first spring and his mother two years later, in 1959. Their finances were awfully tight plus, owning a grocery store possibly made it difficult to get away. The only trips I ever heard of them taking were to visit family – or because of family.
They didn’t go out to eat very often either or at least didn’t take their three little boys. There was talk of going to a fish camp, somewhere on a river, fairly primitive, 15 or 20 miles away. There, one was served all the fried fish and hushpuppies one could eat , plus cole slaw and sweet tea. The fish had bones in it and my mama had scared me to death of fish bones from an early age. She did not allow fish in her house so I was very ignorant of how to eat it, much less how to avoid bones. The only time I went to the fish camp, they made money on me, what with their fixed price for everyone. When my nice husband realized I was going to eat nothing but a little slaw, he deboned a couple of the little fish for me and explained that hushpuppies have no fish in them. I’d never seen one before and had no idea what they were. Now, I make delicious hushpuppies, better than the fish camp’s, I think. The fish we were served were bream, I believe, and their fresh caught meat was delicious. However, it took me the entire time to eat them because I had to carefully roll every bite around in my mouth to check for bones. My in-laws were not thrilled with me. Oh, how I longed for the square fish I’d always got at the Atlanta S&W Cafeteria ! Not a single bone in sight.

Tony’s family still teased him about his order, at a diner, in Birmingham. The family had driven down to attend the wedding of Tony’s cousin. Tony was about 12 or 13, old enough to read a menu and order for himself. When the waitress came around, he told her,” I’ll have number 3 and eggs any style.” Of course, his big brothers hooted and teased him horribly! He thought is sounded grown up to say "eggs any style"!

Years later, when all of us were on our way to the beach, we stopped at a lovely restaurant for lunch. The brothers and two little boys were at one table and all the wives and our four little girls were at another. I had been careful to tell Tony to insist that our son eat something. He was small but apparently could read the menu. After saying he wasn’t hungry, and being told he had to eat, he ordered a 12 oz.T-bone with all the trimmings! And, much to our amusement, he ate the whole thing.

The three brothers always rented the same lovely, big beach house at Kiawah Island so we could split the cost. Back then, it was not the resort that it is now and so was perfect for young families. We had a very cute milk man who knocked at our door most mornings. To even buy a loaf of bread, we had to drive back to John’s Island, on the way to Charleston. I seemed to get elected to deal with the milk man which was fine with me but they just had to tease me about him. One day, my two sisters in law and I drove over to the little store. I was driving and the car ran over a very long black snake. I did not see him in the rear view mirror, either going off the road or in the middle. I had read about the wheels kicking a snake up under the car some way and had visions of that guy waiting for me when I exited the car. As luck would have it, our milk man was just getting into his truck, on the side of the road. I stopped and motioned him over, told him the situation, and asked him to please look under my car to see if there was a snake under there. He very sweetly and politely did so. Now, understand that all this was going on while my sil’s were absolutely shrieking with laughter, grown women, mind you! Yeah, I got teased about that for a few years until my niece who was living in Texas, very kindly sent a newspaper article about a snake that had crawled up under a lady’s car. Someone told her they thought they had seen it. She pulled into a service station and the men there put the car on the elevator thingy , sent a burst of steam up under the car and a large snake dropped out. Ah, vindicated, at last!

For years, we didn’t take vacations, just trips with a purpose. One year, a day or two before Mothers’ Day, Tony’s cousin, who had a home in the mountains, died unexpectedly. That trip became my Mothers” Day present! Yes, we went to the funeral and Tony had a visit with his relatives. It was not sad to me because I’d never met the woman. At least, we stayed in a nice motel.

One evening, in late May, a nice man came up to me at a party and said he’d just offered us a free vacation at Fort Lauderdale, for a week. The only catch was that he had just bought the motel and wanted Tony to check it out and be sure the accounting etc. was correct. Of course, he was a bank customer. I said, ”We can do that." The man asked, how soon --- and I said that night but the next day would be easier. When he and I approached Tony, his excuse was that Bruce would miss the last week of first grade. I called Bruce’s teacher the next day, explained the situation, and her response was, “ Oh, thank God, I’ve been praying and the Lord answered my prayers. Maybe I can finish out the year without a nervous breakdown.” She assured me it wouldn’t hurt Bruce’s grades, might even help! Knew I should have home schooled that little boy. He got into a lot of mischief. We had a wonderful vacation!

In 1969, we received a big, heavy, elegant, wedding invitation from Mr. and Mrs. Bob Hope, to the wedding of their daughter. She was marrying one of Tony’s customers, who lived in New York but had grown up in Augusta, Nathaniel Greenblatt Lande. We could not afford to go, but my parents insisted and said they’d come keep the kids. We had to get a bank loan to pay our way. That was our only trip to Los Angeles so we stayed about five days. The groom’s parents, two doctors and wives, and we were the only guests from Augusta. Oh, and Rabbi Goldburg.

We went to a party at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the night before the wedding. On the day of the late afternoon wedding, a doctor and his wife and we rented a limo and had the driver give us a very nice tour, drop us back at our hotels to dress, then take us to the wedding and wait for us. That limo money was well spent as the area around the church was crawling with yellow cabs who had to let their passengers out away across the street to walk. The limos were allowed right to the front door with valets etc. The entire place was crawling with Secret Service and Hope’s security people. The Vice President and Mrs.Agnew were attending, obviously before his troubles. We presented our card on the steps before entering and Rabbi Goldburg had to identify us for the Secret Service. The wedding was lovely, part Roman Catholic and part Jewish. All around us, people were craning their heads and gawking to see who the other guests were. The gawkers themselves were big stars and easy to spot. We thought that was so funny that they were impressed with each other. Some even stood on their seats to see! The Crosbys were two seats in front of us and Bing arrived late, in his golf clothes.

After the wedding, we were transported to the reception at the Hopes’ home. It was a very nice home but surely not ostentacious. We spoke to our hosts but the line was not long. I got the impression that the party had been going on for some time. We chatted with the Agnews off and on as they knew as few people as we did. The party was in a huge white tent that ajoined their patio. The band stand and dance floor were the pool cover, pretty big. The food was everything one could think of. We drank nothing alcoholic as we wanted to be sure and remember everything. Tony and I , by agreement, went opposite ways around the tent and would meet and share info. Phyllis Diller spoke to me and was very friendly. When she heard my accent, she pulled me around the room so various people could hear me talk. I finally escaped. I didn’t introduce myself to many folks as I knew who they were and figured they had no interest in knowing me. The wedding gifts were displayed in the dining room the same way they would have been in Atlanta except names had been left on. We never received a thank you note and I believe it was a very short marriage. Didn’t matter. It was a trip of a lifetime, for us and Tony no longer ordered “ eggs any style”.

In later years, we did take a couple of great cruises , only for pleasure but that’s another story.

All of Bob Hope's children (left) were adopted!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bridge Baloney

When I was an undergrad, some of the other coeds at University of Georgia played a card game called Bridge. Often, a game seemed to go on forever in the dorms, or so it seemed to me as I walked past their doors. I did not play and had no time to learn, anyway. I carried a full schedule, plus I was often pulled out of class for some kind of testing project. Also, I was on music scholarship so when someone needed solos sung, I was elected. At a large university, there was always some kind of meeting or seminar that needed luncheon entertainment. Mostly, I enjoyed this and got a free meal too.

Bridge didn’t come into my life at all until I married. We lived in an apartment complex with lots of other young couples who were also paying off college loans etc on starter salaries. So what they did for entertainment was play bridge. My husband had played all his life with his parents. They enjoyed playing so taught their three sons to play, at an early age. My parents played also but did not teach their kids to play. There was nothing to do but our neighbors decided to teach me to play. Wives were delegated to teach me in the daytime and I tried to explain that game playing and I don’t get along well, especially card games. Poor things! They were also trying to teach me to cook. It’s a wonder they could stand me but they taught me a lot, like how to make casseroles with mostly just noodles, and other ways to stretch a buck. I was such an awful bridge player that they took turns being my partner so no one got stuck with me too long.

We played Friday night bridge for the next 14 years but we narrowed it down to once a month, finally. People moved around, others joined the group.

When I was expecting my son, he was one of those babies that kicked constantly, turned somersaults, and just generally raised a fuss. Once that started, the guys at the bridge table would stand up and lift the table away from me because the table bouncing around was eerie!

One night when the temperature that day had hit 100 degrees and our house was really hot, no AC, I fixed a lovely big, raw vegetable salad for dinner. It had all kinds of veggies and homemade Thousand Island dressing. We also had grilled cheese sandwiches and iced tea. When we arrived at our friends ’house to play cards, I noticed that Tony was eating all the nuts and little goodies sitting around - I mean ALL of them. Finally, one of the men asked him if he was hungry. Starved, he said, he hadn’t had any dinner! Everyone looked at me. I could have killed him! By that time, I had learned to be a good cook but a sandwich, and no meat, was just a snack to him.

We most often vacationed at Keowah Island , S.C. with my husband’s two brothers and their families. One afternoon, the guys decided they wanted to play bridge but their wives refused to play. I was the youngest and had never played with the three of them before. The oldest brother was so proficient, no one else wanted to partner with him. I explained how awful I was so he and I played partners all the rainy afternoon. Don’t remember who won but our resident bridge grump never said a cross word to me.

One Friday night, trying to explain to the group why I was kind of sad, I explained that I’d had to paddle one of my students that day and I hated doing that. Someone said, ”But lots of those boys are bigger than you are, so how do you manage that?” “Oh”, I said,” I just grab them kind of roughly by the front of their jeans and they don’t move a muscle . “ Several of the guys said, “ Yep, that would make me stand Very still!” We lost a few minutes of playing time until they could stop snickering.

Playing correctly involves hundreds of rules and Conventions, or so it seems to me. Also, they change from time to time. Serious players demand utter silence except when discussing the game or bidding. Both my dad and husband were good bridge players but both thought all the contrived conventions were nonsense, so they didn’t bother with them. This did not set well with the persnickety players, especially when they got whooped! I can remember my parents returning from playing bridge and Dad saying,” That Mrs. Smith Jones has a right sharp tongue on her.” And Mother tearing her hair saying, “ She just wants you to play by the rules.” Then Dad retorted, “This is a game, not life or death, so I have a little fun with it.” Other than Mrs. Smith Jones, he was generally a very popular person.

When we moved To Knoxville, I told people I did not play bridge and never did again. If I got the urge, I’d just pound my thumb with a hammer until I remembered how little I enjoyed it.

Tony and his brother and sister in law, and Broad Street in Augusta in the 1950's.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Chef Boyardee And Other Foreign Foods

My mother was a wonderful Southern cook but even by southern standards, her food was kind of bland.  Oh, her foods were prepared properly, but her seasonings, which she used lavishly, were  salt, pepper, and butter. Well, add one tablespoon ketchup to that. She and my dad enjoyed a good leg of lamb which she barbequed by rubbing it good with salt, placing one slice of onion about ¼ inch thick on the highest part, and adding one tablespoon ketchup over that. All was held together by sticking  a wooden  toothpick into it to hold it in place. The lamb was delicious  and sometimes she cooked it plain without the “spices”.

Some of the items that never would have had the nerve to darken her kitchen door were: garlic in any form, onion salt or powder, Tabasco, red pepper, wine, or sherry. Now, there was sherry in the house but it was kept back behind something, in our big, pine, hutch cabinet, in the dining room. She always had expensive bottles of Scotch and bourbon, also hidden behind stacks of china etc in the hutch. She said she kept them for medicinal reasons - and besides, they had been a gift.

Other items not allowed were any kind of seafood, lettuces or green salad makings, or raw vegetables except tomatoes. She made wonderful fruit salads.

 Dad and I liked fish so I was really thrilled to go to Atlanta’s  S&S Cafeteria, downtown, across the street from Davisons Department Store. There I always selected the square piece of fried fish, Cod possibly. That and about a gallon of tartar sauce and I was in hog heaven --- or maybe cod heaven! That was the only seafood I ate for years.

Once when I was in high school, I came home from lunch at my cousin’s house and told my mother about a salad we had, called tuna salad. I raved over it so much, she finally bought one of those little cans of it and then had to call my Aunt Miriam to find out what on earth to do with it! She asked questions like, does it have to be washed and does it have lots of bones and skin? Even then, she did not eat it but did fix it for me. I still like tuna salad and have probably eaten enough of it to fill an 18 wheeler. When I first married, we had it a minimum of it at least twice a week; only once as tuna salad, though. I served is also as “chicken salad” - carefully rinsed under cold water and patted dry, and mixed up with mayo just like tuna salad. My husband proudly told people that I made grand chicken salad, unlike any he’d ever eaten before. Darn tooting!

When my brother married, he wanted his wife to make this delicious casserole for us. Back then,  it was new. It contained noodles, canned soup, tuna, and sherry. She had brought a bottle of cooking sherry and it stayed on the shelf, in the pantry, for years. By itself, it was nasty. One day, I came home from school with an awful case of the cramps. Mother said she’d planned for me to help serve as they were having dinner guests. She said, ”Here drink this sherry as I’ve heard it will cure the cramps.” With that, she made me chugalug  an iced tea glass of  cooking sherry and assured me I’d be fine soon. Hey, whaddaya know, I was shortly feeling no pain or anything else. Kept looking for my feet, could find one or another but not both at the same time. This made me very uneasy about walking down those high, winding stairs so I tried lying down. The next morning when I woke and I discovered someone had kindly thrown a quilt over me and the cramps were gone but I had an awful headache. Note: never buy cooking sherry. Instead, just buy a bottle of Taylors’ Cream Sherry. Then you can cook with it, drink it, or wash your feet in if you wish.

At some point growing up, one of my textbooks suggested that families should have a meal that represented another country and perhaps learn something about it.. When I told Mother about it she thought it was a great idea. A few nights later, we were served meatballs and Franco American spaghetti, a very easy meal. It was enjoyed so much that she branched out to meatballs and Chef Boyardee. A family member suggested she might research meals Yankees eat but she was not ready to put sugar in her cornbread and eat crunchy green beans.

I don’t remember just how old I was when my precious friend, Pat Ewalt, for my birthday, took me to lunch at Little Italy, in downtown Atlanta. We were old enough to be allowed to go out to lunch alone so maybe 8th grade. Honestly, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven! They brought us the most delicious garlic toast I’ve ever eaten. They sliced a fat loaf of bread horizontally into about ½ inch thick, huge slices, you know, about the size of a platter. I don’t know what else they did, added olive oil, lots of garlic, teensy bits of red and green peppers, I just am not sure what they did .But it was the best toast I’ve ever eaten, then or now. We ordered other food, of course. We celebrated each of our birthdays there until we graduated from UGA, and I had taught school in Atlanta one year. Then I married and Pat and Chuck married just a few months later. Really, the food in Italy was never as good as the Little Italy restaurant!

Because of my limited exposure to different cuisines growing up, I enjoyed discovering various new foods as an adult.

I believe it was the first trip we made to Texas to visit Bruce, after he graduated and went on into the regular Army, that we picked him up and went to spend the weekend, in Austin .At breakfast the next morning, he showed the waitress the menu, and told her just to bring everything on one side. She did that and he did not leave a crumb.  From then on, our vacations centered around wherever he was stationed. I loved Texas and we pretty much drove all over it. We’d run around during the week and come back on Thursday to spend the weekend with him. He introduced me to Tex-Mex food and I loved it. I am careful not to add too much hot pepper sauce though -just made that mistake once.

I don’t believe I’ve eaten enough French food to judge it. I’ve enjoyed French food in the states but was not thrilled with it in France. Maybe it’s because I don’t know how to pronounce it correctly. Then again, after spending time at the D-Day beaches and the American cemeteries, the lump in my throat refused to go away. The best meal I ate in Paris was in the train station when we just arrived. It seemed that lots of local people were eating there and the food was quite good.

I did very well with German food because, I suspect, Bruce always ordered for me after we talked it over. Got kind of funny because he started ordering a child’s plate for me - portions were so generous. Then when he didn’t, he changed plates with me and ate half of my meal. He studied German before going over because he wanted to communicate with them in their own language, and he never lived on post. I spoke the language well enough to get by but never as comfortably as he did. I am real good at pointing, grunting, and giggling and loved the fact that the Germans liked to laugh too. (Interesting note: I was only pinched once in Europe and that was in a German art museum!)

Monday, October 19, 2009

War's End

Toward the end of the war, we moved on to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a short time. It was not the tourist mecca it is now, just a small beach town.

The most important thing that happened there was on the day we moved into our new house. I was perched outside watching the men unload the moving van. Big brother Bobby was helping, as he was 16 or 17 years old. From the house next door, a beautiful, blonde, young woman came walking out and continued walking toward downtown, about three blocks away. Well, Bob grabbed our car keys from somewhere, jumped into the car, and pulled over offering her a ride. She accepted. Myrtle Montgomery was two years younger than Bobby. They were pretty much always together the rest of the time we lived there.

Bobby and Myrtle were married 60 years and died within about two hours of each other, last December 23, 2008.

 They had three beautiful children, three grandchildren, and me. For a lot of my life, they were almost like second parents to me and I miss them terribly. Never a month actually passed that Bobby and I didn’t talk on the phone and most often to Myrtle too. When all the kids were young, Myrt and I talked in the daytime and after he retired, Bobby and I often talked in the daytime when folks were at work or school. One day, years ago, my phone rang about noon and Bob’s voice said, “How old am I? I’m trying to fill out some blame papers at work and have just gone blank.” He wasn’t old enough to have a senior moment  but we’ve all done that. Anyway, we talked it through and laughed about it for years afterwards.

There was simply nothing I couldn’t ask or talk about with Myrtle and her answers were always totally honest. She was as close as I came to having a sister. I was only eleven or so when I met her and we lived right next door. I adored her older sister, too, and spent many afternoons visiting with her mother. My mother was often working.  Myrt’s brother, Bud, and Don were about the same age but I don’t remember them being really close friends – but I could be wrong. When Bud and Elsie married, I went to Myrtle Beach to sing in their wedding and had a grand time.

Bobby joined the Navy, a few days before he would have been 18, July 19th. Daddy had to sign for him and it nearly broke his heart. That was the first time I’d ever seen my dad cry. Though the war was winding down, it was still very frightening. We were no longer afraid of being invaded but our young men were still in harm’s way.

Myrtle Beach was filled with young soldiers, sailors, marines, and airman. There was an airbase   close by and lots of the military came there for R&R. Bobby spent some time teaching me how to protect myself. I was pretty much a free soul, riding my bike all over town and on the beach. Most of the time, no one knew where I was.

That Christmas, Mr. Montgomery hitched up a horse to an old sleigh and Myrt drove it and took me with her and we delivered Christmas presents all over town and up toward what is now North Myrtle Beach. A group of young people came by the Montgomery’s  to get  Butch [ Myrtle’s nickname} to go caroling and she took me with her, great fun for me.

Years later, after I married and lived in Tenn. with husband and children, Miss Flora, [Myrt’s mother, Mrs. Montgomery] died, and they told me not to try to come. So I sat down and tried to write a letter telling all of them how much I loved their mother. It was a few days after the funeral and Myrtle called. She said it was the sweetest letter she’d ever seen and described her mother so well. Can’t begin to say how much that meant to me. Wish I’d saved a copy of the letter.

Something about the war years I’ve always remembered is that whatever happened, people went to church. My memory is that D-Day, June 6, was a big one. People stopped work and went to church to pray for our troops and all the troops on our side. V-E Day, victory in Europe, and V-J Day, Victory in Japan, sent many people to church in thanksgiving. We are a nation of people who pray and worship GOD. I am proud and so thankful for that!

Well, soon after, my parents were ready to return to Atlanta. It was an extremely crowded city. There were no houses to be bought or rented. Most of our furniture went into storage and we lived in a too small apartment, the four of us and a big dog. Then, thankfully, Bobby came home but we were even more crowded. Don was riding a city bus to Boys’ High School, and one day, he saw a moving van in front of a house. I am vague on the story here but I think he called Dad at work. Dad came and talked to the people and he and Mother bought the house shortly after. We were all thrilled at Don’s quick action!!!

Our wonderful, roomy, big, 4 bedroom house was at 386- 9th Street, N.E. I always thought it was just exactly what a home should look like with its big bedrooms upstairs, big front porch with a swing, living room, dining room, music room, kitchen, enclosed back porch etc etc.. Dad had his big basement which he made into a workshop .Lots of wonderful memories about that old house that was truly a home.

The Atlanta public school system changed the high schools to grades 8-12, neighborhood high schools the year I started 8th grade and Don was a senior. So I was lucky enough to walk the block and a half to Grady High the entire 5 years. Don had sung in the chorus for the wonderful Dr. Rumble, at Boys High. So when I started at Grady, Don told me to go talk to Doc and tell him I wanted to be in his chorus. Well, I went after school the first week and told him I needed to be in his chorus. He said I’d have to sing with the girls’ glee club first then could sing with him my last two years. I said but my brother said I was to sing for you so I’d like to do that now. He laughed at that shy, trembling little girl with the great big voice, and said Ok, lets sing.  I have no idea what I sang, but he just said, report here in the morning. I was in his homeroom my entire five years at Grady  and loved him dearly, as did all his students. We always did a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, every year.

At first, Dad worked for Foremost Dairies and organized and managed their baseball team, as he had done for other companies. Of course, he pitched also and that brought out lots of people to see him, as well as the sports writers. Bobby always played for him and was himself a fine player. Bobby could have easily made it to the pros if the war had not got in the way.

Finally, Dad went to work for Lockheed where he stayed until he retired. He was allowed to work two extra years while he trained TWO men to take his place. He was not a college graduate and he was often amused at the Ga. Tech grads he had to train. When he finally retired, there was a nice write up in the company magazine about his having retired from two careers. Little did they know of all else he had done as well!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Memories if WWI [part 3]

My father was a man who wanted to do things the right way and learn about new concepts of farming. Dad and the County Agent worked together to improve the land of the farm. In hilly South Carolina high country, erosion could be a problem. One of the first improvements was to terrace the fields. In our tractor shed were 2 tractors plus other equipment to use with the tractors.

There were several tenant families on the farm and during busy times, it pretty much took everyone, working together, to get the work done. Most of these people were so good that they made picking cotton, for example, look easy. I tried it and was horrified at how difficult it was.

[Don and Bobby, my brothers are in the photo, left]

Dad worked from dawn until dark, he had so very much to do. They planted a huge vegetable garden, large enough to feed several families. Fruit trees were planted, and we also bought or bartered fruit from neighbors until our trees would bear.  Hog pens were located a long way from the house and a registered boar was bought to improve the strain. We had Herefords for beef . A vet came out to periodically to check on the animals and neuter the steers and boars.

Mother ordered baby chicks, which she raised for eggs and for eating. The postman drove around in his car and normally left mail in the mailbox  but he had to help Mother carry the chicks to the house. They  were delicate and had  to be kept warm etc.
She also raised turkeys. The story was that Mother selected the hen she wanted to cook, then shot off it’s head with her little shot gun. I know she was a very good shot with firearms but I don’t remember her ever doing that.

Sewing became a hobby for Mother. She washed chicken feed sacks and some other sacks and used them to make all kinds of things. Along with other girls at school, I wore homemade dresses and slips. Most all our dishtowels were former sacks and she made potholders in shapes of fruits and vegetables which she used for gifts. There were very few paper products available.

This was before the use of home freezers, so they studied ways of preserving food. Next to the high school, in Woodruff, was a cannery for the use of the locals. We’d carry the truck filled with the food to can. Then Mother, and usually one of the tenant wives, would prepare the food, and cannery workers would help them fill and process the tin cans. Of course, for small amounts or special foods like preserves Mother canned in glass jars at home. This was on a wood burning stove, usually in summer, with maybe a tiny electric fan to cool her.

At some point, we built our own cannery, on the farm. That way, we could can food for the owners, tenant families, and ourselves. My dad experimented with various foods, and also canned pork and beef. No one knew how long the war would last or how scarce food would become.

One experiment of Dad’s was a disaster. He tried to develop a recipe for canned wheat  cereal. The stuff was so chewy one could spend the day trying to eat it. We thought it was awful but Dad insisted he liked it.

One day, Don was driving our two-horse wagon home from some distant field. I was sitting beside him. We were on a nice dirt road and Dad was behind us driving a tractor. All of a sudden, the horses reared, started backing up, and neighing, and stomping the ground. Daddy came running around to the front of the horses, and picked up about a six foot long black snake and popped his head off, kind of like one would crack a whip!  He threw the snake over a limb of a tree and we went on home. Our horses were very well behaved, usually. Dad’s horse was a huge, red stallion, named DAN. Molly was a pretty little mare that Don enjoyed riding.

As I believe I said before, when the grass in our yard got high, various animals were sent in to feast. The horses would go to the back, screened door; cats would appear; hens were allowed inside the yard etc. I always thought the horses were so cute because they would wait at the door for Mother to give them a treat. I don’t remember the mules being allowed that close to our house.

All the young to middle-aged doctors and dentists were drafted. This caused the old doctors to have to come out of retirement and work extremely hard to take up the slack. We did not go for check ups, just for sickness or emergencies. There was a popular song about then, “They’re Either Too Old Or Too Young.” The lyrics were kind of cute but it was not a song I loved.

At some point, Mother stepped into a hole in the yard and pulled all the ligaments in her left knee. She couldn’t bear to walk on it and Dad and Bobby had to carry her in to the doc’s office, in Spartanburg. She had to be totally off her feet for about 2 months or longer. Those were some of the hardest months of my life. I was either 9 or 10 and basically had to run the house and try to take care of Mother. She had to use a bed pan and I couldn’t lift her so we had quite a time .She was in terrible pain which didn’t improve her disposition. When I came home from school I immediately went to take care of her, then had to make a fire in the stove, wash up the dishes, make another fire in the stove, try to cook supper, make another fire etc. Bobby and Don had chores to do when they came home, later than me, from the high school. Dad was usually out until dark. I expect he checked on Mother at lunchtime. I’m sure the food I cooked was awful. I got into trouble at school because I didn’t do homework.

Laundry was a real chore. I washed Mother’s gowns and my clothes in the kitchen sink and hung them on the clothesline. I washed my own clothes by hand the rest of my life until Tony and I bought a washer before Bruce was born. I also taught myself to iron and between that and the darn stove I still have burn scars to show for it.

Back then, fast foods were nonexistent plus we lived out in the country. Bread was most often biscuits and cornbread. The food was there but it had to be cooked. Bobby made pretty good biscuits and could cook but he was working outside usually.

We rode the school bus together in the mornings, but I was brought home earlier than the boys. I went to the 3 room schoolhouse and I think Don went to finish the year but was taken to Woodruff to school later. There were 3 teachers in my school: Mrs.Entriken, Mrs. Rogers, and Mrs. Miller who was also the principal. I had each of them. Each room had a potbellied stove that had to be fed. Once or twice a day, a big child would bring in a bucket of water from the well out back .We made paper cups out of a sheet of notebook paper and filed past the teacher where she poured a dipper of water into our cups. There was no water in the school, guess they got water when the war was over.  There was an outhouse for the girls and another for the boys.

Once Dad got a really bad toothache but the waiting line for a dentist was months. So he went somewhere out back and pulled his own tooth. Mother was furious with him, afraid he’d get an infection etc. There were no antibiotics back then.

I never heard my dad cuss but one time in my life. He and the men were trying to sharpen some kind of blade on one of those turning wheels. Well, the blade snapped in two and Daddy said “Sheee-it!”  The fellows were trying hard not to laugh and Joe, the older one,  motioned for me to get lost, which I promptly did. I never heard my father say a curse word in my life, except that time.

During hot weather, Daddy rigged some sort of hose contraption with a water container that was filled and left all day for the water to warm up .He and Don and Bobby took their showers there, but I was not allowed near it so am not real sure how it operated.

Every trip into town, we saw huge numbers of soldiers. One could never forget about the war. I learned about places in Europe and North Africa and we tried to find them on the maps. We sat glued to the radio when the news came on. There were constant rumors that we were going to be bombed, so we tried to watch for enemy planes. Then we heard that enemy ships or subs were off shore, in the Atlantic Ocean, perhaps to invade the U.S. About 1943, my husband and his family were driving along a coast road, in Florida, and actually saw an enemy submarine. They rushed to the next town and told the police and saw our planes immediately start flying over the area. The war was scary, even for a child.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

WWII Memories [Part 2]

History is both public and private. I have studied a lot about World War II, but I want to talk here about how that war affected my childhood, and of course it’s a very subjective story. When Pearl Harbor happened I was 7 years old.

After Pearl Harbor, many men enlisted. I remember very well my dad leaving the house one morning and my mother being weepy all day. I am guessing this was early 1942, maybe January. Like me, my mother was not a person who cried easily so this was disturbing. Finally, after I questioned her repeatedly, Mother said Daddy had gone to enlist in the Army. He had been a sergeant in the previous war, so he felt he might be needed.

When he returned that afternoon, he told us he had been turned down because of his age. He was almost 46 years old, plus he had three kids.. I don’t think he was at all happy about being rejected for service. He was probably in better physical condition than most younger men. I believe it was about then that he began to try to figure out how best to get his family safely through that awful war.

I don’t have handy a timeline to consult in regard to battles or politics, nor do I see a need. There must be thousands of books about all that. No, I am just trying to remember the effects on our little family.

Dad decided that we would be safest if we lived on a farm. He grew up on a farm, and knew a lot about farming. He got a job as manager of a huge farm, under 1000 acres, in Moore, S.C. Moore is located between Roebuck, SC and Woodruff, SC. The nearest large city was Spartanburg. Moore had a general store, a tiny post office, a three room school, and a small Methodist church. A few years ago, we drove back through Moore so I could show my kids --- and the town had not changed. Bruce laughed and said he’d always thought I was exaggerating but I had proved my point.

Three men owned the farm and were Dad’s bosses. Their names were Sitton, Ligon, and Ligon. I believe the Ligon brothers owned most of it. I don’t remember their first names. They owned big cloth mills in that area of South Carolina and had government contracts to make cloth for military uniforms.. When they found out that Mother was such a good seamstress, they sent bolts of flawed cloth to us. This cloth would have probably been destroyed, as it would have maybe a grease streak all through the bolt or a dye off color etc. Mother and Dad would open the bolt and cut out the bad places, on our big dining room table. Mother was less than 5ft tall and those bolts were big and heavy.

Mother made everything from those bolts of fabric - mostly khaki cloth, shirts, blouses, dresses etc. On my dresses, she was so clever, using lace, rickrack, etc. to make the cloth look a little more feminine. Pants were another problem, just too difficult for her to sew. They measured out cloth and sent sizes to Dad’s sister, in Smyrna, my Aunt Georgia, and she made pants. My dad was a really big man, 6’4, and he loved having pants that actually fit for a change. He never had an ounce of fat on him. The cloth from the Navy uniforms was a welcome relief from all the khaki but we did not receive as much of it.

The farm meant we lived in a pretty white frame house, with grass in the yard, and I think it was on a dirt road. There was a fence out back and sometimes an animal was brought in to eat the grass.

We had a huge barn with a fenced in lot. In fact, almost all the farm was fenced for the animals. We had three cows, two horses, and several mules. Sometimes we had little calves - I loved them. Daddy, Bobby, and Don each had a cow to milk. Don pretty much made a pet of any animal he dealt with.

We had several cats but they were not allowed in the house. Their job was to keep the barn free of rats. One day, Mother noticed that Don’s cow had stopped giving as much milk as previously. Dad investigated, and found cats with milk all over their faces where Don squirted milk to them. They loved that. Don was scolded but my parents were amused.

We were very much aware of the war and kept up with the news as well as possible. I am thinking the postman must have brought our newspaper. Rationing was with us but living on a farm was surely a plus. The biggest headache that I remember was the lack of tires. Rubber was definitely needed for the war effort so any new tires were retreads, and they were patched up sad looking items. Tire blowouts were common and I hated the feeling.

We had ration books for lots of things but Mother dealt with them. I just remember they were always in her purse, carefully guarded. Some rationed items were sugar, coffee, meat, tea, chocolate, gasoline, leather shoes, and lots more. Silk was needed for parachutes, and nice stockings were mostly not available. I remember ladies mending the ones they had. Ladies always wore stockings back then.

Some goods and foods were very scarce but I don’t know if that was because they were not grown or produced in this country, or if they were needed for our military. My cute Aunt Hazel absolutely adored pineapple and was thrilled when she could find a can of it. I don’t remember ever hearing anyone at all complain about the lack of anything. People shared ways to cope with shortages. Women everywhere shared recipes that didn’t require rationed items. Mother used to have lots of little recipe booklets that she used but she could have written them. I may still have them somewhere.

When we first moved to the farm, we had no electricity, running water, and certainly not central heat. When the house was built, there was a nice room for a bathroom but the fixtures were not plumbed. We had a nice kitchen sink but no water. We did have a nice outhouse, which was a big novelty. At night, 2 or 3 kerosene lamps were placed on our dining room table so we could eat and do homework, read, sew etc. The room next to the kitchen was heated with a fireplace and surely got some heat from the big wood stove we had to use for cooking. Mother’s beautiful gas range sat in a corner, never used.

Going to the outhouse at night was scary. Mother and I most often used slop jars with lids, in the bathroom for privacy. Also, there was a vanity with a place for a pan of water and a mirror so we could wash up.

There was a deep well, maybe 50-60 feet from the back door so we could turn the big wheel and draw water. The water was very cold and delicious. We had to carry buckets of water from the well to the kitchen, for all our water needs, cooking, dishwashing, people washing, clothes washing, etc. A bucket of water is heavy and I was never able to carry a full bucket, which meant lots of trips. Finally, Dad was able to buy enough pipes to pipe water to the kitchen sink where we could raise the pump handle up and down to get running water into the kitchen. We still had to heat the water on the wood stove.

When our house was built, the war had started .So all the materials needed for plumbing and wiring were just not available. We did get on a long waiting list and finally got enough wire for electricity. What a joy to be able to listen to the radio, which I did constantly.

I loved the popular songs, and learned all the lyrics. Some songs we all loved were: I’ll Be Seeing You, I’ll Get By, There’ll Be Bluebirds Over The White Cliffs Of Dover, My Buddy, Just A Prayer Away, When Day Is Done, Deep Purple, and on and on - plus some from the first world war. Dad’s favorite, or one of them, was Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (with anyone else but me). Behind our barn was a huge pasture that had a spring and shallow creek, kind of at the bottom of a V, where the animals came for water. The acoustics in that hollow were wonderful. My favorite thing was to slip down there and sing all the songs I’d learned, really belt them out thinking no one could hear me. The cows and dogs often followed me so guess they enjoyed the concerts!

Our old upright piano always moved with us and gave so much pleasure and welcome respite. .Mother played, and I still have her music books. She may not have been the greatest piano player in the world but I thought she was. Unlike me, she could not play by ear, so we had to stick to the notes. She played light classics and the beautiful old hymns and often sang them along with us. She had studied voice in college, although her major was Home Economics. People dealt with the worry and fear of war in their own way. Mother’s way was prayer and she often sang it. She was the hardest working woman I ever saw up close and sometimes I could tell when she was really worried by what she was singing. God Will Take Care of You was what she sang when she was most upset. She sang that when Daddy went to enlist and when Bobby left for the Navy at 17 yrs old.

My maternal grandmother, Granny Butler, came to visit and usually stayed a long time. I loved having her. She could be stern but was often funny and she and Daddy liked each other. She would say, “ Elva, we are going to play the piano.” That meant I was to stand by her and sing with her and of course, I did. She liked The Old Rugged Cross and In The Garden. Her sister, my Great Aunt Willie, was the pianist at the First Baptist Church, in Acworth, Ga., for years, and she played for me when I visited there from college. If I was in town visiting they expected me to sing for them and I loved it. Pity they didn’t hear me sing in the cow pasture where I did some of my best singing!!! I was reminded of my pasture singing years later, when I sometimes sang for the troops, at USO Shows , during the Korean War. I used a mike if we were outside, of course.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Memories if WWI [part 1]

Dee asked me to write about my memories of WWII, so that we would have a personal narrative we could show to my grandchildren, and future generations. We all know about the war as its seen in movies and books, but what was it like for a normal person, an American child?

My dad, Bob Hasty, was in WW I; an uncle, friends, cousins, and my big brother Bobby, were in WWII. Another precious big brother, Don, was in the Korean War, as was my cousin-brother, Frank. Although I didn’t know him at the time, so was Tony Thompson, my husband, and most of the guys I dated during college and most of the following year before I married. [Tony didn’t go to Korea, but was stationed in Germany during those years.]

At the time of Pearl Harbor, we were living in Smyrna, Georgia, in a pretty yellow frame house with white trim, on the corner of the Atlanta Road and Love Street. Smyrna is a town between Atlanta and Marietta. Just on the other side of Atlanta Rd. was the streetcar track, which had a stop right in front of our house. I loved to ride the streetcar to Atlanta or Marietta but we didn’t do that too often.

Right in front of our house, across the road and track, was a big frame house on the hill. Mr. Jesse and Mrs. Ruby Cook lived there with about 5 little stair step boys. They were all good friends of our family. When their boys or ours wanted to get together to play, one would stand outside facing the other house and whistle the bobwhite whistle until someone heard it and called one of the boys. Then they would yell across the street and make their plans. Once, I remember overhearing my mother ask Mrs. Cook how on earth she could cook enough to fill up all those boys plus a husband. Mrs. C. replied that she cooked a big pot of some kind of dried beans plus a big pan of cornbread, every day of the world. I am sure that those beans were cooked with a big slab of fat back or streak-o-lean, salt pork. Then she just filled in with whatever she had on hand and they always had a big garden. I loved to eat with them.

On December 7, 1941, I was 7 years old. It was a Sunday but I don’t remember if we had been to church, tho’ we most often did go. For some reason, I doubt it; perhaps my parents had already heard the news on the radio. I truly don’t understand why this is so etched in my memory because I was too young to understand it. I found Don standing on our big front porch, looking up, watching airplanes overhead and listening to their drone. When I asked what he was doing, he answered by telling me that the “Japs” had bombed Pearl Harbor. Don would have been eleven years old and now when I think back, his understanding of the entire situation was remarkable.

Within a short time, Don knew how to identify all the airplanes we could spot. When we heard planes, we ran outside and observed them. He had pictures, I think from comic books or somewhere, and he drew dozens of air battles all over his notebooks and everywhere he found a clean sheet of paper. I don’t believe we were unusual because lots of other kids did the same thing or, at least, the boys did. I was not on their level at all, but the little tag along that trailed them everywhere. They seemed to know they were stuck with me and tolerated me right well.

Back when Don started school, he had school for me, every afternoon when he came home and I pretty much went to first grade along with him. So, in 1941, it was not at all strange for him to demand that I learn all he learned about war. We learned about the military branches and sang their songs at the tops of our voices. Later, we had maps and traced battles, and were avid radio news listeners.

My husband told me that he grew up pretty much the same way. His Dad was older than mine but had also been in WW1. Tony liked to dig foxholes and he and his friends staged battles. One day, Tony’s dad told him that he and his little friends could dig a super fox- hole, giving them fairly exact size and depth. After several days of hard work, the foxhole became the pit for a new out-house, in the back yard.. Those “boys” laughed about that for years, no hard feelings at all. Their beautiful old home did not have indoor bathrooms until after the war.

At school, we were told to scout around for scrap metal, for war materials. We also saved the tinfoil from chewing gum. Adults did this too and sometimes when a train went by, we would see open train cars filled with scrap metal.

At the beginning of the war, everyone was getting geared up for the war effort. People worked together and it was at least a good feeling to feel we were helping a little.

[Stay Tuned for More WWI memories!]