Chapter One - Family
THE DOYLES AND YINGLINGS
hen I asked my father, Charles Edgar Doyle, about his family, he told me he didn’t know much about his parents or grandparents because he was so young when his mother and father died. He was told that Patrick and Michael Doyle migrated from Ireland before the Statue of Liberty was built. Patrick settled in Kansas and Michael in Missouri. According to information given me by a cousin, Michael was born in 1800, died in 1884 and was buried in Platt County, Missouri. He married an Indian woman named Lyda, and Papa thought she was a member of the Cherokee tribe. Patrick was known to have one daughter, Ellen, a spinster who died in Hutchinson, Kansas, at age 93.
According to the 1870 census, my grandfather William was the youngest child of Michael and Lyda. William was born in Kentucky in 1840 and died in White County, Arkansas, December 30, 1883. Michael owned slaves, which were sold. The money was divided among his children, except for William who at 18 was thought to be too young to be given a share. This made my grandfather angry, so he left home.
Later he joined the Confederate Army and while stationed in Arkansas he met and married Helaine (sometimes called Elaine) Yingling, daughter of German immigrants Christina and Sebastian Yingling. The Yinglings settled in White County between Little Red and Pangburn on 240 acres bought from the government for $101.93. This farm is still in the Yingling family and has been since 1854. Five sons were born to William and Helaine.
The fifth was Charles Edgar, my father. He was born October 14, 1875, and was only three months old when his mother Helaine died. William soon married her sister, Elizabeth Yingling Parsons, and they had a daughter named Lyda Anne. When this second wife also died, William married a third Yingling sister, Katherine Jenkins. Then he died from the bite of a rabid dog when Papa was eight. In Coffey Cemetery near the Yingling farm there is a row of four graves near the other family members which we assume are the graves of my grandfather with his three wives. They are marked by rocks at the head and foot.
The third wife, Katherine, was unable to care for the six Doyle children and her son Will Jenkins. So the Doyles were split up among different families who provided for them. Aunt Annie was taken by a family which moved to Illinois and my father saw her again only two or three times. I remember Aunt Annie came with her two daughters to visit when I was about 12 years old. The boys stayed in the area where they were born and remained close.
Papa wasn’t encouraged to go to school, so he had only a third grade education. In spite of his limited schooling he could read and write and was good with figures. When he was a young man he rode to west Texas on horseback and farmed for a year or two, then returned to Arkansas and opened a country store and post office at Little Red. The mail for Little Red and Little Rock kept getting sent to the wrong post office so the name of the post office at Little Red was changed to Doyleville. In March 1913, at the age of 37, my father married Sarah Effie Whitten McKaig from Steprock, a widow who was 28 at the time. They lived in Little Red, where Papa farmed and Mama kept the store and post office. Papa hauled supplies for the store by wagon from Searcy, about 20 miles away.
I was born October 12, 1916, two days before Papa’s 41st birthday. By that time the family had moved to Pangburn. Papa always called me his birthday present and said that because of me and his age he didn’t have to go to World War I. My brother Charles Edgar Junior was born February 13, 1919. The family was then living on a farm a mile south of Pangburn. I have many memories of the five years we lived on this farm.
When I was eight years old we moved to town and my father once again had a country store, which he continued to operate until it burned down in 1940.
fter I joined the White County Historical Society in the summer of 1999, some of my stories were published. When they also appeared on the Society’s website at www.rootsweb.com/~arwhite I began to find relatives I didn’t know I had. Relatives in Illinois, whom we lost track of after the death of my Aunt Annie in 1953, got in touch with me. Cathie Wright, Aunt Annie’s great granddaughter, and I have shared lots of family information. I found out that some of the things I had been told all my life were not true. For example: my great grandfather Michael Doyle did not come from Ireland, he didn’t marry an Indian woman and he didn’t have a brother named Patrick. He married Lydia Beacht from Maryland and lived in Lewis County, Kentucky, before moving to Missouri. He is buried in Platte County, Missouri, and I have this photo of his monument.
We are still trying to locate Civil War records to see if, in fact, my grandfather William Doyle served in the war as we had been told. If he didn’t, how did he get to Arkansas to meet and marry my grandmother?
Through the Internet, I met Dean Doyal from Newport News, Virginia, who has done extensive research on the Doyle family and has shared his research with me. He even paid a visit to White County in March 2001. This is how I came to get this new information about the family. The family name has been spelled many ways: Dyal, Doyal, Doyel and Doyle. His family spells the name Doyal, whereas my family spells it Doyle.
I have included a pedigree chart which shows the line of descent from Edward Doyle the Elder to me. I felt it necessary to add this clarification in an effort to keep the record straight.
THE WHITTENS FROM STEPROCK
y mother, Sara Effie Whitten, was born December 2, 1884, the oldest daughter and second child in a family of six children, born to James Luther and Sarah Martin Whitten. They lived at Steprock near Judsonia in White County most of their lives. When Mama was three years old the family traveled in a covered wagon to Moody, Texas, south of Waco. My grandfather’s sister, Emma Whitten Bybee, lived there and had urged her brother’s family to join her where the land was rich and farming was good. But after three bad crop years, the family moved back to Steprock where they lived until the older children finished the 6th grade.
The family then moved to Pleasant Plains so Mama and her older brother could further their education. My mother wanted to be a nurse, but her parents thought nice girls didn’t carry bedpans and perform the duties of a nurse; besides, my Grandmother wasn’t well after the birth of her last child and Mama was needed to stay home and take care of the younger children.
While living in Pleasant Plains, Mama met and married Albert McKaig March 5, 1908. Eighteen months later, Albert came down with typhoid fever and died, leaving Mama a widow at age 25. She moved home with her parents, who had gone back to Steprock. She took care of the family and worked on the farm. They had geese from which they picked feathers to make feather beds and pillows. Sheep were sheared for wool and Mama picked strawberries and made enough money to order a pump organ from Sears Catalog.
She played hymns and simple pieces by ear. She still had this organ when I started piano lessons at age eight. After my grandfather’s death when I was 9, Mama traded her organ for a piano for me. She finished paying for it with money from her father’s estate. Grandma Whitten died in 1914, two years before I was born. My great grandmother Mariah McCauley Martin died when I was five. I remember seeing her one time.
Mama gave me a pressed glass water pitcher that belonged to great-Grandma Martin. This pitcher will have been passed to the oldest daughter of five generations when I give it to my daughter Melanie. I would like to think of it as a connecting link between the generations.
MEMORIES OF MY MOTHER’S FAMILY
his picture of Mama’s family made in 1908 brings forth a flood of memories. There are two people in the picture I never knew – Grandma Whitten and Mama’s first husband. Grandma died two years before I was born but she still had an influence on my life. I have a quilt she made in the 1880s and I’ve been inspired to copy it. Mama told me when someone complained about their problems, Grandma said, “If people hung their problems on a line the way they hang out clothes, everyone would take in their own wash.” That helped me to think, compared to some people, maybe my problems weren’t so bad after all.
Uncle Festus and Aunt Ruth Whitten had three children. Flossie pictured on Uncle Festus’ lap was the oldest. She married Dewey Wilkerson and they had twin sons who are living in North Little Rock today. They were 70 years old last March. How well I remember rocking those boys when they were babies.
Marie Whitten Fikes is the only one of Uncle Festus’ children left. Marie enjoyed brushing my hair when she was a child. They lived up the street from us and Marie was always slipping off and coming to our house. One night she was eating with us and we had turnip greens. Mama said, “Cut up your greens, don’t string them like an old goose.” Aunt Ruth came out on her back porch and called Marie to come home. Marie yelled, “Can’t you wait until I eat my supper, you old goose?” In a few minutes we heard her crying, so we knew that remark wasn’t appreciated.
Mama is pictured with her first husband, Albert McKaig, who died of typhoid 18 months after he and Mama were married. I have some pressed glass dishes that were in his family.
Next to Albert is Uncle Martin, the youngest member of the family. When I was a child I enjoyed going to see Uncle Martin and Aunt Janie, who made the best big sugar cookies I ever ate. After I was grown I remember asking if she still made those good sugar cookies.
Aunt Jessie was Mama’s only sister and they were very close. I’ve written in another story about visiting Aunt Jessie and Uncle Elmer. I remember the red salvia Aunt Jessie always had in her flower garden and when I see those red blossoms today I think of her.
Uncle Luther and Aunt Beulah had four girls. Lola and Mable were the same age as my brother and me. Sarah Grace and Lanell were born when I was in high school; in fact, I named Sarah Grace after her two grandmothers. Aunt Beulah baked bread every week and I was so glad to be there when it was baking day and to have a piece of fresh-baked bread was special. I remember the beautiful iris in Aunt Beulah’s garden.
All of Mama’s family lived close enough that they were a big part of my childhood. Although most of them are no longer with us, they are still a part of my memory bank.
C.E. and me. We look like city slickers!
WHITE COUNTY ROOTS
y roots are deep in the soil of White County, Arkansas. That was where I was born and where my parents, grandparents and great grandparents lived and died. My mother’s family, the McCauleys, Martins and Whittens, lived at Steprock and are buried in Roosevelt Cemetery. My father’s family, the Doyles, Yinglings and Hilgers, lived at Little Red and Pangburn and are buried in Coffey Cemetery. My parents are buried in Henderson Cemetery.
This area, where my family lived and died, covers about 10 miles in the northwest part of White County. Pangburn, where I was born and where my parents lived most of their married lives, is located a mile from the Cleburne County line and about a half mile from the Little Red River. It is on State Highway 16 and is 16 miles from Heber Springs and 14 miles from Searcy, the County Seat.
In 1850, 80 acres of land was granted to the State of Arkansas from the Swamp Land Grant and in 1855, a deed was granted to Joshua B. Crow from the state. It was thought that this land was deeded to him as mustering-out pay from the army. He deeded the land to Dr. William David Pangburn in 1860. Dr. Pangburn acquired another 80 acres from the U. S. Land Office, and this is where the town is located. He had moved his family from New York about 1860.
In 1857, Cephas Judson settled on a hill overlooking the river. He started the first post office and called it Judson, but he didn’t stay long. He moved south to Prospect Bluff, which was later named Judsonia. About the time Judson left, Dr. Pangburn arrived and built a new post office and store on a site across the river and south of the Judson settlement. This is the present site of Pangburn.
When Dr. Pangburn died in 1880, he left the store and post office to his only son, John Austin. John died shortly after building a white house that still stands on Main Street. His widow, Sarah Morris Pangburn, sold the house to Dr. C. M. Peeler and although the Pangburn family has not owned the house since 1916, it is still known as the “Historic Pangburn House.”
Harry Churchill arrived in Pangburn in 1889. He was 25, barely able to write his name, but he had a vision of building a town. When he arrived there were three stores, but one was boarded up and the other two carried just bare necessities. The population was about 25. Harry was a representative of the Western Tie and Timber Company. When he had been there less than three months he had contracted for 700 acres of the best crosstie and stave bolt timber in the area.
He ordered two carloads of corn and let it be known that he was hiring tie hackers in exchange for corn. He had no trouble getting all the workers he needed to get the timber cut. From 1900 to 1904, he floated 24,000 ties down the Little Red River to Judsonia, the nearest railroad spur.
In 1904, he hired a person to run the store he had bought and he devoted his time to getting the town incorporated and to bringing a railroad to the area.
In 1904 and 1905, Churchill and others from Searcy, Pangburn and Heber Springs made numerous trips to Harrison, the headquarters of the Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad Company. The M&NA announced it would extend its operation from Harrison to Helena, a distance of 260 miles. The first train came to Pangburn on July 16, 1908.
On April 8, 1911, the dreams of Harry and Kate Churchill, John Austin and Sarah Pangburn, Maggie Pangburn Torrence, Harry Burton and Charles McKee came true. Pangburn was incorporated.
The town had grown from a population of 25 to over 1,000 by 1912. There were now sawmills, planing, lath and stave mills standing alongside the new railroad track. In 1914, Churchill built five white brick store buildings on Main Street and was granted a charter for a bank that was built on the corner of Main and Searcy Streets. That bank building and those five stores are still there today.
Churchill donated land for a new two-story brick schoolhouse and that same year, he and his wife Kate built a new house on the lot diagonally across the street from the bank. By 1916, the business district of Pangburn was six blocks long. There was a theatre - opera house, two new church buildings and a daily newspaper, The Pangburn News. There were three hotels, The Castleberry, The McGhee and The Fakes Boarding House. I can remember when there were three cotton gins and a potato shed near the railroad where cotton, potatoes and strawberries as well as lumber were shipped to faraway places. Pangburn continued to thrive until the demise of the railroad in 1946. .
My parents moved from Little Red to Pangburn shortly before I was born in 1916, five years after the town was incorporated. My father operated a country store on Main Street from 1925 until 1941. My Uncle Mike Doyle was the town marshall for as long as I can remember and Napoleon (Pole) Hilger, my father’s cousin, was the mayor and lived in the house Churchill built. His grandparents, John and Catherine Yingling Hilger, migrated from Germany in 1833, before Arkansas became a state and settled at Little Red, where he operated the ferry. Some of the McCauleys, my mother’s relatives, gave the land for the White County Courthouse in Searcy. G.O. Yingling, my father’s cousin, was the postmaster of Searcy for a number of years. So my relatives had a role in the life and history of Pangburn and of White County.
I have not lived in Pangburn or White County since 1937, but it’s the place I still call home, because that’s where my roots are.
Note: Much of the history of Pangburn comes from the Little Red River Journal April 6, 1988 and White County Heritage 1997.
MY GRANDPA, JAMES L. WHITTEN (1859-1925)
his picture of Grandpa Whitten was made in the early spring of 1920 when the snowball bush was in bloom and before the trees leafed out. In the picture he appears as a stern, unsmiling man, but I remember him as a sweet, kind person. He may have been a sad man because he was a widower for 13 years. He was the only grandparent I ever knew and I thought he was special.
He made his home with one of his sons, Luther, but he visited his other children for extended periods of time. I looked forward to the time when it was our turn to have him visit. He always brought shiny silver dollars for my brother and me and it was fun to sit on his lap while he told us stories. I was 9 when Grandpa died. His funeral service was held in the country churchyard at Roosevelt, near Steprock. I don’t remember anything the minister said, but I do remember the two songs the people sang, unaccompanied – “When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder” and “In The Sweet Bye And Bye.” When I hear these songs today I immediately think of my Grandpa.
A few years ago I went to Roosevelt Cemetery to locate the graves of my relatives. I found the graves of Mama’s parents James and Sarah Martin Whitten, Mama’s grandparents James and Mariah McCauley Martin, Mama’s sister Jessie Collins, Mama’s brother Martin Whitten, Mama’s Uncle and Aunt, Bill and Eskie Martin, and her cousin Ozella Martin. I took pictures of those graves. I was so pleased to see how well the cemetery was kept.
I can remember when people used to gather the first Saturday in August each year to have a cemetery working. Now they gather for a homecoming.
remember going to my uncle’s home where all the grandchildren were to meet to have a picture made with Grandpa Whitten. My mother, my brother and I went in the wagon with my aunt and uncle and two cousins.
We went from Pangburn to Judsonia by way of Little Red, where we crossed the river on a swinging bridge. Between Little Red and Steprock, we forded a creek and that was a scary experience for me.
After we got to Judsonia, the grownups had all the little kids take a nap so we would be in good humor in the picture.
The nap didn’t help – there were eight grandchildren and my grandfather in the picture and not a smile in the bunch.
y grandmother Sarah Martin Whitten died in 1914, two years before I was born. I feel I know her because I inherited her quilt, “Grandmother’s Pride.”
If her quilt could talk, it would no doubt tell how the different patches were made from the scraps of Grandpa or Uncle Festus’ shirts, Grandma’s aprons, Mama’s dresses or scraps from Great Grandma’s scrap bag. How the batts were carded from scrap cotton by the flickering light of the fireplace. Quilting thread was twine raveled from flour or sugar sacks and dyed with walnut hulls in the iron wash pot after the clothes had finished boiling on washday.
Her quilt might tell about going with the family in a covered wagon from Arkansas to Texas and back in the 1800s and how it kept the children warm as they camped along the way. It might tell how it was a comfort to Grandpa after the death of Grandma.
I am the only granddaughter who has continued the tradition of quilting. As I have struggled to learn to use the thimble and to master some of the techniques of quilting, I would like to think my work might be the pride of my Grandmother.
A certified quilt appraiser from Missouri estimated that this quilt was made in the 1870-1880 period, judging from the newest fabric that was used. She said the sashings were green originally but green was not a very fast color so it faded to tan.
When I told her about the story I had written and that in my imagination the quilt went with the family to Texas in a covered wagon, she said the quilt looked like a covered wagon quilt. The estimated value of the quilt is $650.
STORIES MY PARENTS TOLD
hen I was growing up in Pangburn, we had very few books. There was no public library. My brother C.E. and I had to be content with the stories our parents told. These tales were about their life experiences. Too bad they weren’t written down because memory is sometimes fickle. I remember Mama telling about Harry Churchill who had the first car in White County and how he asked some pretty girls to ride with him in the 4th of July parade. Mama and her friend Lula Lape were honored to be selected and at the same time they were scared. But they rode in the parade anyway. Mama also told about riding horseback from Steprock to Judsonia and from Little Red to Pangburn. She rode side-saddle and I remember seeing her saddle when we lived on the farm. Papa told about riding horseback from Pangburn to west Texas when he was a young man in the late 1890s. I don’t remember any of the details but I do remember he went through Dallas. Now I wonder how many days it took for the trip and where he stayed. Did he camp along the way or stay at an inn and did he go alone or with a group? He told about his experience hauling freight from Searcy to Little Red, a distance of 20 miles. It was dark when he left and dark when he returned. He told how scared he was of panthers and other wild animals that lurked in the darkness ready to pounce on him or the team of horses.
Another story was about climbing Sugar Loaf Mountain near Heber Springs to have a singing at the top. Years later when I climbed Sugar Loaf I had a greater appreciation of that story. I don’t know how they climbed and carried songbooks, too. It took both hands and feet and a boost from behind for me to get to the top.
To me those stories were more interesting than Mother Goose or Jack and Jill. And I still say, too bad they weren’t written in detail and illustrated.
A MAN OF FEW WORDS
apa didn’t talk much, but when he said something we listened. He was always telling me my long tongue would get me in trouble. A woman in the community called “Aunt Bine” talked a lot and Papa would often say to me “Now, now, Aunt Bine” when I was talking a lot and that would make me stop and think.
When I got dressed up to go somewhere I would say “Pop, how do I look?” He would say, “If you act as good as you look, you’ll be all right, pretty is as pretty does.” I never did know whether he was giving me a compliment or not. Another thing he always said was “Let your word be your bond, if you say you will do something, then do it.”
These are the sayings of my father that I still remember.
I recall Papa telling about going to visit his brother’s family at Dewey, a community between Pangburn and Little Red. He said he always took something for Uncle Louis’ children. One time he took a big sack of candy from his country store in Little Red. When the children saw him coming they ran to meet him, yelling “Uncle Led, Uncle Led…” Papa’s name was Ed. He handed the sack of candy to Garland, the youngest of the nine children. Garland was special because he was born October 14, Papa’s birthday. Garland emptied the sack of candy in the middle of the floor and stood guard over it like a dog guarding a bone from a pack of hungry animals. None of the children could get near the candy until he had eaten all he wanted.
I’m sure candy was a treat they didn’t have too often. With so many children it must have been difficult to provide more than the bare necessities.
Papa said he would never forget Garland and his sack of candy.
FAMILY TRIPS TO TEXAS
n August of 1929 Papa asked Mr. Edd Yingling to run the store and he got a young couple with a good Model A Ford touring car, Code and Mattie Palmer, to drive us to Texas to visit his two brothers. We were so excited to be going on such a long trip. I was 13 and my brother 11 and we had been no farther from home than Little Rock.
The day we were to leave we got up while it was still night to get ready. Mama fried chicken and packed a cake and other food she had cooked for us to eat on the trip. We packed the last-minute things and started while it was still dark. My brother asked if he could ride in the front seat and Papa said he could. When we got to Texarkana we found out why C.E. wanted to ride in the front: He got to Texas first.
My uncles lived on farms a few miles apart out in the country from Greenville, Texas. At that time there was a sign as you entered town which said “Greenville - the Blackest Land and the Whitest People”. By the time we got to Greenville it was dark and we didn’t know which road to take. We asked directions to the little town of Merit and people would tell us to go south, west or some other direction. Since we didn’t know one direction from another we finally said just tell us right or left. We finally found Uncle Will’s house. Incidentally, they didn’t know we were coming.
When the car drove up, all the kids came running out saying, “Johnny and George are here!” Johnny and George were the two older brothers who worked in Houston. There were still seven children at home. Can you imagine a family of nine making room for six unexpected guests? Well, Aunt Ida did it. Talk about Methodist pallets and nails! The next morning, Papa, Uncle Will and some of the older boys went to Uncle Louis’ farm where they were cutting hay. Papa pretended he wanted to buy some hay but Uncle Louis recognized him and said, “Kid, where’d you come from?” That week all work on the farm stopped and we all got together at a different home every day. Some days there would be 25 or 30 people together to pot- luck and visit.
I was introduced to banana pudding and I learned to like iced tea because the cistern water was so terrible no one could drink it. Someone would go into Celeste, Farmersville or McKinney every day to get ice or some other thing they needed. Every time the car started, I hopped in. I wanted to see the country.
At night the group would gather at Uncle Louis’ house to listen to Irene, John and Bill make music. Irene played the piano, John the fiddle and Bill the banjo. They all played by ear and it was country music, probably at its worst, but we liked it. One night we went to a yo-yo contest. Yo-yos were the rage at that time.
That was a wonderful week, I met relatives I didn’t know I had, cousins who were my age, and I met my two uncles and aunts for the first time. That trip started relationships that have waxed and waned through the years. From Uncle Will’s family there are only four children living and I hear regularly from one of them. From Uncle Louis’ family of 11 children, only one is left – Irene the piano player, who is blind and in a nursing home.
In 1939, 10 years later, we went back to Texas. This time we were in our own car and there were only four of us. Not many cousins were left at home and the others were scattered so the second trip was not nearly as much fun, except that it was our last family trip. We covered more of Texas this time. We visited Mama’s cousin in Canyon, Texas, then went to Carlsbad, New Mexico, and saw the Caverns. We then visited Papa’s nephew Garland Doyle in O’Donnel, Texas.
From there we went to Galveston and Houston. Mama was so thrilled at being able to see the Gulf of Mexico, to see the waves crashing on the shore and to find shells on the beach. Then we went through Dallas on our way home. Papa saw Dallas for the first time since he rode through the city on horseback when he was a young man going to west Texas to live. He said he didn’t believe he could ride a horse there then. We really made a border around the state on this trip.
Memories of these family trips are something I’ve cherished for these many years.
ama was very close to her only sister, Aunt Jessie Collins, and took my brother and me for a visit every summer. Our cousin Leon was a year older than me, and Thelma was a year older than my brother. The four of us always had fun playing together.
I remember one time when we were there, Leon said he hoped every day would be as long as June 21.
Another time I remember how creative we were with our mud pies. We picked the white petals from dog fennel blossoms for our coconut cake and the yellow center from the bitter weed flower to garnish the potato salad. Oh, the imagination of children!
One spring when Aunt Jessie lived in Judsonia we had so much fun making and flying kites on a vacant lot.
Another year, we visited at Christmas, and Rook was a favorite card game at that time. There wasn’t a suitable table for all of us to play, so Uncle Elmer went to town and bought a table at a second-hand store. Today I have that table in my living room for a coffee table. The legs have been shortened and a leaf removed. When I look at it today, I think about the Christmas we had so much fun playing Rook.
All through the years Thelma and I were more like sisters than cousins. Neither of us had a sister so we thought of ourselves as sisters. At one time Aunt Jessie’s family lived in Pangburn and we were together just about every day. After Thelma and I were married we both wound up in Little Rock for a few years and enjoyed each other and our children.
There were other cousins in Pangburn. My uncle Luther Whitten had four girls. The two older were the ages of my brother and me. The younger girls were much younger. My brother and I played with Lola and Mable. They lived a mile east of town and we had to walk to visit them. I can remember visiting them on Sunday afternoons and listening to records played on their hand-cranked Victrola. One record had these words: “Five-cent cotton, elevent-cent meat, how in the world can a poor man eat!” Uncle Festus, Mama’s older brother, had three children. Flossie and Wallace were much older than my brother and me and Marie was younger, so we didn’t play together much. Marie liked to slip off and come to our house. They lived just up the street from us when we lived in the old red house. She just loved to brush my hair.
Uncle Mike Doyle had four children still at home, but only J.L. was my age. He and my brother played together every day. One day they couldn’t do anything but fight and Mama told them since they couldn’t play without fighting, J.L. would have to go home. When it was dinnertime Mama sent for him to come back and eat with us. J.L.’s mother died when he was born and his sister Annie raised him. I think Mama tried to be a mother to him.
All these cousins were like our extended family and after we were grown, age didn’t matter. Today from Mama’s family there are only three cousins left. From Papa’s family there are five left, all living in Texas. There were two older Doyle cousins who lived in Walnut Ridge which we saw two or three times a year, but they are gone.
I feel sorry that my girls have missed the close relationship of cousins that my brother and I had. My brother never lived near enough to me for our children to be able to visit more than once a year and now that they are grown and so scattered, they seldom see each other. They have missed a lot.
MY BROTHER, CHARLES EDGAR DOYLE JR.
y brother is my only sibling. Born in 1919, he was named for my father but we called him C.E. Although I was only 28 months older I was his little mother for a period of time. Mama would have me watch him while she was busy with chores around the house. I would rock his cradle and hook the screen door so he couldn’t get out of the house when Mama worked in the garden. One time I fished him out of the creek when he tumbled in while measuring the depth of the water with a stick of stove wood. He was always getting into things and it was my job to watch after him and try to keep him safe.
He was a rather sickly child; he frequently got the croup and the doctor came in the middle of the night to treat him. After he started to school he had tonsillitis and pneumonia a lot. I remember one time the doctor had Mama wrap a sheet around him to restrain his hands while he lanced the tonsils. I ran as far away as I could, to try to keep from hearing him scream. When he was sick, it was my job to wait on him hand and foot. I would go to town to get ice cream, and when I got home he had thought of something else he wanted and I had to go back.
School came easy for him. He finished the second and third grades in one year and when he was in the seventh grade the teacher wanted him to take the eighth grade too, but Mama said “No.” He was barely 16 when he graduated from high school. While in high school he played American Legion baseball. Jack Bridger was the coach. I don’t remember the position my brother played but this was a worthwhile summer activity for him.
We played board and card games a lot and my brother most always won. He was not a good loser and if he lost two games in a row, he would quit. Once in the summertime we were sitting under the shade of a tree playing Pitch when we saw the preacher coming. C.E. said, “Heck, now we have to put away the cards and get out the checkerboard.”
My brother was a big tease and at times he was a pest. We would be walking along together and he would suddenly stop and make me bump into him. One time I was dressed ready to go somewhere and he drenched me with a glass of water. Naturally, I had to change clothes. When we started driving the car he didn’t want me to drive, so he would make fun of my driving to the point that I would give up and let him drive.
He entered Ouachita College in the fall after his 16th birthday. The President’s reception was held the first week of school and all new students were supposed to attend. My brother wasn’t there and when I asked why, he said, “All my ties were untied and I didn’t know how to retie them.” He grew so much that year my parents had to buy him a new outfit of clothes when he came home for Christmas.
His major in college was Chemistry and his minor was Math. I bet him $5 he couldn’t make A in Physical Chemistry and Calculus the same semester. Well, I lost my money. He made A’s in the hard subjects and didn’t bother to study the others. He was one of the student lab assistants and that was a big help to him in his chemistry classes. He took an education course and made 100 on all the tests. “Pro” Stewart knew he wasn’t studying but he couldn’t figure out how he did so well on the tests. There were True-False questions at the end of each chapter and those were the questions that were asked on the test. He memorized all the True questions and if a question was asked that he had never heard of, he knew it was False. One day “Pro” Stewart said he was giving that test for the special benefit of one person. He added words to the questions that changed their meaning and my brother was lost.
When my brother was a senior he was pretty hard on the freshmen. He had to pay for it at the end of the year when the freshmen threw the seniors in the fishpond. He spent most of the day getting out of the pond. One night he and a bunch of boys got a mule that belonged to Claude, the college handyman, and pulled the animal up the steps to the library and tied him to the library door. They hid in the bushes and waited for Mr. Ray, the night watchman, to come. Mr. Ray talked to himself. They heard him say when he was a distance away, “It looks like a mule.” When he got up closer he said, “It IS a mule! And I believe it’s Claude’s mule!”
After college graduation in 1939, he got a job teaching biology at Magnolia High School. He taught for a year and a half before he was called to active duty with the Arkansas National Guard. He was stationed at Camp Robinson, went on Maneuvers in Tennessee and was shipped to Alaska with the 153rd Infantry in the summer of 1941. When he was at Camp Robinson he had a car, and he and the other Pangburn boys would go home for the weekend. He was an officer and didn’t have to be back as early on Sunday night as the enlisted men. He would stop before they got to the gate and the enlisted men would get into the trunk and they would get past the guard unnoticed. He took his car with him to the Tennessee Maneuvers. They had to camouflage it and move it as the troops moved. When they left Tennessee to come home, he left the troop caravan behind, which resulted in his being confined to camp for a period of time.
In May of 1943 my brother came home from Alaska on a two-week pass and married his college sweetheart who had worked with him in chemistry lab. This marriage has lasted for 57 years and has produced six children, eight grandchildren and four great grandchildren. My brother always admired Doug and Inez Morris and their seven children and said he wanted a big family, too.
When my brother was young, he was carefree, full of life and lots of fun. He was active in the church when he lived in Magnolia, and when he was stationed in Alaska with his family, they were active in a mission church which he helped build. Somewhere along the way he changed. At age 81 he spends much of his time alone, working on some land he bought in Texas. He is clearing the land, building fences, digging ditches and laying a water line. He is no longer the fun-loving brother I knew when we were growing up but he is still my brother and I love him. When we get together I still hit him on the shoulder, the way I have always greeted him these many years.
IF TABLES COULD TALK
his oak table might tell about the young couple who saw its picture in a Sears catalog and ordered it in 1908 for their first home. It might tell about the meals and happy times they enjoyed around it as newlyweds. Later it might tell about being stored after 18 months of use because of the death of the husband. It could tell about being brought out of storage three years later when the wife remarried and once again it was used for happy times. How people enjoyed sitting around it and talking after they finished a meal. When children joined the family, how it was covered with an oilcloth tablecloth to protect it from spills as they learned to hold a glass and manipulate fork and spoon. It could tell about the children sitting on a stack of books to be able to reach it. When they started to school, how they studied their lessons around it with a kerosene lamp in the middle and how they fussed because someone was in their light.
It could tell about how one end was covered with an old blanket and sheet and used as an ironing board, and about the winter nights when the family gathered around it to play cards, checkers or dominoes. It could tell about dress material and patterns being laid out on it and the dresses that were cut out. When they were ready for the hem, how the little girl stood on it while her mother measured to get the hem straight.
When the preacher came for Sunday dinner it could tell about how a white damask cloth and the good dishes were used. About the 40th Wedding Anniversary party and other special events when a pretty cloth, flowers and refreshments covered it. When the grandchildren came it might tell about their lemonade or Kool-ade parties.
It could tell about the 15 years spent in the attic after the death of its owner before a use was found for it. How it was taken from the attic to the furniture refinisher for a new look. How it was made into a square table and joined its friend the pie safe in the home of the former owner’s daughter. How most of the time today one person eats alone and remembers the good times shared around it in years past.
SOMETHING MONEY CAN’T BUY
ooking back, I know now that we were poor when we were growing up, but at the time I didn’t know it. My parents worked very hard to give my brother and me an education and advantages they didn’t have.
They taught us to work and do our best, to share, to tell the truth and do right. I can still hear my father say, “If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all.” When I would get ready to go somewhere and ask “How do I look?”, Papa would say “If you act as good as you look, you’ll be all right.” “Pretty is as pretty does.”
Papa didn’t believe in buying on credit. If we didn’t have the money to pay cash for something, we did without. We never lived in a rented house. Some of the houses were not all that great but they were ours. To this day I don’t like to go in debt and I’m reluctant to charge things.
Mama was always a good neighbor, even to the stranger in need. Many hobos knew they could get a meal from our kitchen. My mother always had a quilt for the family who had lost everything in a fire. When someone was real sick, Mama was there to sit at the bedside all night. When someone died Mama was the one who was asked to prepare the body for burial.
Mama sold milk, butter and eggs to pay for my music lessons. When I was in college she sent the usual care boxes and money in letters, which meant a real sacrifice on her part. On occasion she would send a new dress she had made. I still have a note she sent with one dress. She said she hoped I liked the dress, that she left it for me to hem, but not to make it too short.
When Mama was in the hospital during her last illness, I was able to tell her how much I loved and appreciated her, that although she and Papa didn’t have much money, they had given us a sense of values and love that no amount of money could buy. I only hope I can pass on to my children those same priceless values.
< p class="center">Chapter Two – Early Memories < p class="center"> < p class="center"> < p class="center">
hrough the years Mama told about two things I did, which I don’t really remember: She left me to rock my baby brother in his cradle while she worked in the garden near the house. She told me when he got to sleep I could come out in the garden with her. I would rock until I thought he was asleep and then quietly walk to the door, but the minute the rocking stopped he would wake up and start crying. I did this several times with the same results, so I took a different approach. Mama heard C.E. screaming and came running to the house to see what was wrong. She found me hiding behind the door. I said I rocked and rocked and he wouldn’t go to sleep so I just slapped him. I couldn’t have been more than 3 years old.
Mama always wore a bonnet every time she went outside. She made one for me, but I evidently didn’t like it. She said I came in the house bareheaded and when she started looking for my bonnet, she found it in the pigpen. I do remember I never did like a bonnet. A straw hat was much cooler. Today I have Mama’s last bonnet hanging in my kitchen, and when I see it I think about her. Her bonnet and apron were her trademark.
he first trip I remember taking with Papa was when I was quite young and we went to Searcy, the county seat of White County, 14 miles from Pangburn. I don’t remember too much about the trip. I just know it took a long time in the buggy on a dirt road, across two creeks to get there. I can remember the sound of the horses’ hoofs on the wooden bridges as we crossed the creeks and seeing the mist on the water in the early morning. The thing that really stands out in my mind was stopping at a country store along the way to buy slices of hoop cheese, crackers from a big tin and peppermint stick candy. That was lunch.
When I see rat cheese and peppermint stick candy today I think about the trip to Searcy with Papa so many years ago.
FARM LIFE IN THE 1920S
n 1918 Papa traded a house in Pangburn to Sam Baker for a farm on a dirt road one mile south of town. We lived there from the time I was 3 until I was 8. Nearby was the M&NA railroad track. It was the Missouri & North Arkansas Railroad but we called it the “May Never Arrive” because of the uncertain arrival of the train. It might hit a cow and be derailed or at least delayed.
The farm consisted of 80 acres, 40 in cultivation and 40 in woods and pasture. There was a four-room white frame house with a porch across the front and a small back porch across the kitchen. A stone fireplace in the living room was the only source of heat. In the front corner of the lot near the yard fence was a dug well that provided water for the house and the livestock. There were wooden watering troughs for the stock to drink from.
We had a hen house with roosts and nests for the hens, chicken coops for the mother hen and baby chicks, a smoke house for smoking and preserving the meat, and a woodshed where the stove wood and fireplace wood were kept. In the lot were a big pigpen and a barn with stalls for the mules and cows and a hayloft. The loft was reached from inside by climbing an attached ladder. The hayloft had a large opening on the outside where loose hay and bales of hay could be “pitched up” from a wagon below. There also was a part of the barn called the corncrib where the grain was stored. The barn had an open shed on one side where the Model T car, wagon and buggy were kept.
The entire property was fenced because there were no stock laws and animals were allowed to roam at will – along the road, railroad or wherever there was grass growing. I can remember Papa digging postholes by hand using a posthole digger for the cedar posts that had woven wire or four strands of barbed wire for the fence. People called the wire “bob wire.” I was shocked the first time I saw the word written and realized “bob wire” was really barbed wire. A similar word was wheelbarrow. Country people said “wheel bar.”
We had a vegetable garden, a potato patch, fruit trees, grape vines, gooseberries and strawberries. We produced almost everything we ate.
In the front yard was a big bodark tree that shaded the yard and porch. Since the house faced the west that tree really helped in the hot summertime.
We had no electricity but we did have a crank telephone on the wall in the kitchen.
In the backyard was the wash pot for heating water to wash the clothes on the rub board and nearby was the clothesline.
Near the chicken yard in the back was the privy with its Sears catalog. There was a man who cleaned the privies at night.
Across the road was the storm cellar, which also served as a root cellar and a place to store home-canned food. This was also the place sauerkraut was stored in crocks while it was making before it was ready to be canned.
My parents did most of the work on the farm themselves. They grew cotton, corn, oats, hay and sorghum. They did hire a man to help for part of the year. I can remember Mama opening the man’s lunch bucket and when she saw nothing but cold biscuits and flour gravy, Mama told him to eat lunch with us.
Mama milked the cows – at one time there were 11 to be milked – separated the milk and cream with a hand-cranked separator and shipped the cream to be used to make butter and cheese. She set the hens and raised baby chickens, made the garden, canned and preserved food, stripped the leaves from the sorghum plants in preparation for making molasses, picked and chopped cotton, picked up potatoes, shelled corn and peas, picked off peanuts and a hundred other jobs. I don’t know how she did it all. She also made quilts and sewed our clothes.
Farm life was hard in the 1920s when modern conveniences were not available. But neighbors helped each other when it was hog-killing time, or sorghum-making time, or time to cut and bale hay. And because they helped each other they survived.
When we moved to town in 1924, Papa rented the farm to Lemuel Johnston for a couple of years, then sold it to Festus Lewis. The farm was passed down to Lowell Lewis then to his son Grayson. At the death of Grayson, his daughter sold the property.
All that remains of the farm today is the house, which is no longer white. It is being used as an office for a trailer company. I believe the bodark tree in the front yard is still there.
BEDTIME ON THE FARM
hen I was growing up, I hated to get ready for bed. I couldn’t understand why we couldn’t just go to bed when we were tired and sleepy.
In the summertime Mama said our feet were dirty from going barefoot and playing in the dirt all day, and we couldn’t go to bed on the clean sheets without washing. That meant getting a pan of water and soap and at least washing our feet. On Saturday nights, we had to get into the number two wash tub and take a bath. Mama would check our neck and ears, elbows and knees to be sure they were clean. She would say, “You don’t want to have rusty knees or elbows or a ring around your neck.”
In the wintertime the fireplace heated only the living room, so we would undress for bed in front of the fireplace, and run barefoot on the cold linoleum floor and jump into a cold bed. If it was extremely cold, Mama would heat an iron in the fireplace, wrap it in a towel and put it in the bed. There would be so many quilts on the bed, the weight of them made turning over very difficult. I hated quilts for years to come … they weren’t pretty and it took so many of them to keep warm.
Bedtime today is a time of thanks for my warm bath and house and a bed heated with a lightweight electric blanket. The quilts are on the wall as works of art.
KICKED BY A MULE
ften in the late afternoon when Papa was plowing the field near the house, my little brother and I would go to meet him and he would set us on the mules and let us ride to the barn. This day when we were waiting for Papa to put the harness in the barn, the mules ran by where we were standing. As they kicked up their heels in glee to be free from the harness and plow, I was laid low by a flying hoof.
Papa heard my little brother crying and thought something had happened to him. He hadn’t seen me lying on the ground. He picked up my limp body and took me to Mama who called the doctor. Dr. McAdams broke the speed limit as he made the mile to our house in record time in his Model T.
He discovered my lower teeth and the bone they were attached to lying back in my mouth. He was able to push the bone and teeth back in place. He pulled the edges of the wound on my chin together and put some tape on to hold it closed.
For days I couldn’t talk or chew. Mama carried me through the house and I pointed to what I wanted. Uncle Festus brought me a funny book, which was read over and over. My diet consisted of Mama’s standard – chicken tea, grape juice and buttermilk – this is what we always had when we were sick.
It is fortunate that I was only 5 years old when this happened. Otherwise I might have been singing for a long time “All I want are some front teeth.” The scar on my chin today is a reminder of the kicking mule episode.
eeing the picture of this old-fashioned crank wall telephone reminds me of the phone and party line we had when we lived on the farm in the 1920s. Conference calls aren’t new.
There were about five people on the same line, each with their own ring. I think our ring was a long and two shorts. To speak with someone on your line you could ring their ring and get them without going through “Central.”
When one person got a call, every telephone on the line rang and quite often everyone on the line would listen in. And many times they would join other people’s conversation. That was the way the news of the community spread. After all, we didn’t have a newspaper, so the telephone was the main means of communication.
I remember Mama telling about hearing Aunt Ella Marsh talking to her daughter, Mrs. Carrie Crook. Mrs. Crook had twins and four other children, so she had her hands full taking care of all of them. Mrs. Marsh said, “Now, Carrie, push your work – don’t let your work push you.”
If the line was busy when there was an emergency, the person with the emergency would break in and usually the people talking would relinquish the line.
Will Boggs owned the telephone company in Pangburn and his daughter Ara helped him keep up the line. She climbed the poles and straightened out the crossed wires and did whatever needed to be done to maintain service.
The operator, or “Central” as she was called, kept up with everyone. If someone was away from home she could tell you where they were and usually when they would be back.
I don’t care to go back to the party line with the crossed wires and poor service of the 1920s but it would be wonderful to be able to talk to central or a real person when you have a problem, instead of pushing buttons and listening to a recording.
SPRING CLEANING IN THE COUNTRY
hen the cold of winter was over and the days were sunny and warm, it was time to open up the doors and windows and air out the house, to get rid of the smells of Vicks Salve, smoke, ashes, smells from clothes worn too long between washing, and from bodies bathed too infrequently. The wood stove was taken down and stored in the woodshed; soot was cleaned out of the flue and a decorative flue stop inserted. The feather beds were put on the clothesline to sun and air, and quilts were taken out of the quilt box to air. Beds were taken apart to clean the slats and springs. The walls and ceiling were wiped clean of spider webs, smoke and dust. Curtains were washed, starched and stretched on curtain stretchers. Windows were cleaned and polished with Bon Ami, and windowsills and baseboards were scrubbed. The cedar water bucket was scrubbed with sand to brighten the wood and shine the brass bands around it.
About the only job I was big enough to do was clean the bottom windowpanes and scrub the baseboard. I was also around to hand things to Mama or pick up something she dropped, or go for something she forgot.
It took two or three days to get everything cleaned and back in place. How nice and clean everything looked! The floors were shining, the windows sparkled, the curtains were no longer limp, but stood out proudly and everything smelled clean. Spring cleaning signaled that winter was over and springtime with newness of life was here.
THE FLICKERING LIGHT
MEMORIES OF THE MODEL T
apa never learned to drive the Model T – it wouldn’t whoa, gee or haw when he told it to. It sat under the shed with the wagon and buggy while we rode with other people.
My first ride in a Model T was with Grandpa and Grandma Collins, not really my grandparents but that’s what everyone called Al and Susan Collins. We went with them to Judsonia to visit my cousins who were their grandchildren. I remember Grandpa Collins cranking the car to get it started while Grandma gave it gas to keep it from dying. Looking back I wonder how on earth he was able to crank or drive that car. His right arm was off just below the shoulder.
The gas feed was a lever on one side of the steering column and the spark was a lever on the other side. There were three pedals on the floor – the clutch, brake and I don’t remember what the other one was. I remember the isinglass flaps that snapped on the sides to keep the cold wind out.
Another time I remember Mama’s cousin Martin Stevens and his family bringing us home from Judsonia in their Model T. With our family and the Stevens, there were 11 people in the car.
Travel in the 1920s was primitive; the roads were little more than dirt pig trails. People were always getting stuck in the mud, but I don’t remember anyone having a wreck. Speed and traffic were not a factor.
I remember hearing about a man in a car meeting a man in a wagon on a one-way swinging bridge across the Little Red River. It was obvious that one of them would have to back off the bridge. Mr. Jess Brown was not a very good driver, so he said, “You can back your team off easier than I can back this car off.”
These were the not-so-good days of the Model T.
LONG HAND, SHORT HAND
hen I was about 4 years old Mama had me watch my little brother while she worked in the garden or the field near the house. She showed me the hands on the clock and told me when they were at a certain place, I should call her so she could come to the house and finish cooking dinner. Later when I was really learning to tell time, Mama played games with me about what time it is when the short hand is at 3 and the long hand at 7 and all sorts of combinations of numbers. Now that I could tell time she would ask me to call her at 11:15 and I would say, “Will the short hand be at 11 and the long hand at 3?” just to be sure I had it right. That clock from Sears’ catalog kept the family on time for as long as I can remember. It was an eight-day clock that struck on the hour and chimed on the half hour. When it was about to run down, you could tell by the sound of the striking, a long drawn-out sound. A special key was used to wind it.
If we wanted to check the accuracy of the clock we would call “Central” to find out the time. The mill whistle blew at 7, 12 and 5 and we would glance at the clock to see if our time was with the whistle. Sometimes the clock would stop and Mama would take the back off, get a chicken feather and dip it in some machine oil to oil the wheels. If that didn’t work then she would take it to Mr. Sharp, the town photographer and general repairman. When my parents died and we divided their things, my brother wanted the clock. It doesn’t run anymore but it still sits on the same spot on the desk that was in our living room. I often wonder how children learn to tell time today with all the digital clocks, watches and appliances. It must be much easier than when I learned the long hand, short hand method.
saw my first airplane the summer before my 7th birthday. One Sunday afternoon we were sitting in the front yard under a shade tree trying to stay cool, when we heard a strange noise in the distance that grew louder. We didn’t think it was a train because it had already run earlier in the day. We realized the noise was overhead and when we looked up we saw the plane clearly because it wasn’t flying very high. It landed on the school ground and for $5 you could take a ride over Pangburn. One man said he didn’t care how high they went as long as he kept one foot on the ground. No one in my family was brave enough to ride. It was many years later, after I had finished college, before I took my first ride in a plane.
efore there were beauty shops, everyone went to Stewart Coffey’s barber shop on Main Street in Pangburn to get their hair cut. I remember I wore my hair cut in a Buster Brown bob with bangs. I hated the electric clippers on my neck; the buzz would make me jump when the clippers hit a nerve in a certain spot. I asked Mr. Coffey if he couldn’t use the hand-operated clippers instead. Mama’s hair was long and she wore it in a bun. Her hair was thick, wavy and hard to take care of, so she decided to get it bobbed. Word spread that Mrs. Doyle had bobbed her hair, and from all the talk, you would have thought she had committed the unpardonable sin. Several women had their hair cut after that, but my Aunt Beaulah who lived to be in her 90s wore her hair long to her dying day.
We caught rainwater off the house in a rain barrel to use for washing our hair. It was softer than well water and made our hair soft. I don’t remember what we used for shampoo, because commercial shampoo was not available at that time. I can remember boiling flaxseeds to make a gooey liquid to use for setting waves. We would comb that mixture through our hair and push waves in place; we then used long metal clips to hold the wave until it dried. I remember we used vinegar in the water to rinse our hair and remove the soap. My hair was real black and someone told me years later that some of the younger girls talked among themselves about what made my hair so black. One said she heard I washed my hair in beer. When she told me this, I said, “Don’t you remember that White County was dry then and there was no beer for drinking or washing hair either?”
Hope Henderson, I think, had the first beauty shop in Pangburn. She had it in one room of her parents’ home, the historic Pangburn house. Hope tried out all the newest styles on me. My hair never looked the same way twice. The best I can remember, a shampoo and set cost 75 cents. I will never forget my first permanent. It was in August of 1935. I was getting ready to go to Ouachita College. I had cashed my check from teaching school at Brown School that summer, so I had money to pay for a permanent. I went to Mrs. Frauenthal’s beauty shop in Heber Springs. She rolled my hair on metal rods that were attached to a permanent wave machine. Then she turned the power on and my hair was fried. You never saw such a kinky mess in your life, and to think I paid $7.50 of my har-earned money to have my hair ruined. That was my last permanent for years. Hair care in the 1920s and ‘30s is a far cry from today with all the products and services available to make hair a woman’s “crowning glory.”
y first tooth brush was a black gum twig that had been chewed on one end until the wood was softened and the fibers separated until they were like a brush. A mixture of salt and soda served as tooth powder. When a baby tooth loosened, a string was tied around it and after several tugs, the tooth came out.
I discovered by accident that a good way to pull a jaw tooth was to eat a chewy banana caramel. The nearest dentist was 15 miles away, so I was in high school before I had a dental exam.
peaking of dental care, I am reminded of the time my parents were having a lot of dental problems while we still lived on the farm. My brother and I stayed with Uncle Luther and Aunt Beulah Whitten in town while Mama and Papa rode the train to see Dr. E.L. Robbins, a dentist in Heber Springs. After he examined their teeth, he advised them to have them extracted and to get dentures.
Back then, if teeth were abscessed or if someone had periodontal disease, there were no antibiotics or root canals, so the recommendation was extraction.
They made two trips to Heber Springs on the train to get their teeth pulled. They had to stay in town all day with sore and bleeding mouths until the train took them home at the end of the day.
A year or so later after their gums had healed and shrunk, they made another trip to Heber Springs to have the impression made for the new teeth. When the teeth were finished, the dentist mailed them with instructions to come back after they had worn them awhile and he would file down the hot spots.
I’ll never forget the day Papa brought those new teeth home from the post office. Mama put her teeth in her mouth with no trouble, but Papa had a time getting his in. He finally said, “Maybe we got them mixed up – let me try yours.” Mama handed hers over to him but they didn’t fit, either.
He kept trying and finally got his teeth in his mouth. Then when he tried to chew his food he couldn’t find it. After many trials they finally got used to eating with their store-bought teeth. I think they wore out at least two sets during the 50 or more years they wore dentures.
ontrary to the nursery rhyme, Monday was not always washday when I was growing up. The weather determined the day Mama did the wash. In the winter, she tried to find a sunny day so the clothes would be dry enough to take in before dark. Sometimes it would be so cold they would freeze dry. In the summer she looked for a day when it wasn’t threatening rain. She had a thing about leaving the clothes on the line overnight.
On washday, Mama got up early to get everything ready. She had to draw water from the well to fill the wash pot, build a fire under the pot to heat the water, put the tubs on the wash bench and fill them with water. In one tub she swished the rag with ball bluing in it until the water was blue. In the water in the wash pot she shaved a cake of homemade lye soap. Then she had to make the starch. She made a paste of Argo starch and cold water then added boiling water and stirred it until it was transparent.
The clothes were sorted into about three piles. There were the white clothes in one pile, the colored clothes in another, and then the rags. They were washed in that order.
When the water in the pot was hot, she dipped some out into one of the tubs where the clothes were scrubbed on the rub board. They were then put in the wash pot and poked down in the soapy water with a cut-off broom handle to boil. When they had finished boiling, they were rinsed in clear water and then in the bluing water. The white shirts were starched first when the starch was thick; only the collars, cuffs and front facing of the shirt were starched. Then the starch was thinned down before starching the other clothes.
I always wanted to help, but I was too young to do much. I was allowed to rub some of the small pieces on the rub board and I could hang the rags on the fence or hand Mama the clothespins. I usually ended up with skinned knuckles from rubbing the clothes on the rub board. She had a special apron for her clothespins. She never left them out on the line in the weather because they would mildew and leave a black mark on the clothes. I remember one time a wren built a nest in the clothespin apron when it was hanging on the porch. Mama sent to town for some more clothespins so she wouldn’t disturb the nest.
After the washing was finished, the soapy water was used to scrub the porch, and if it was summer time, the rinse water was used to water the flowers.
One summer when I was about 12, my aunt was sick and Mama took my brother and went to help take care of her. She left me at home with Papa. While she was gone I decided I would do the washing. After all, I had helped some and I had watched until I thought I knew how. I worked all day long. How I struggled with the sheets, trying to wring them by hand and hang them on the line. I decided right then that washday was not a fun day.
We finally got an electric washer to replace the rub board. We still had to draw water from the well and heat it in the wash pot to put in the washer, and we still had to have the tubs of rinse water, but that was easier than the way Mama did it for so many years. Mama did have the luxury of an automatic washer before she died, but she still had to hang the clothes on the line to dry and so Monday was not always washday.
This story reminds me of a column in the Arkansas Gazette by Charles Allbright titled “Grandma’s Receet For Washing Clothes.”
1. bild fire in backyard to het kettle of rainwater.
2. set tubs so smoke won’t blow in eyes if wind is peart.
3. shave hole cake lie sope in bilin water.
4. sort things in 3 piles. 1 pile white, 1 pile cullord, 1 pile work britches and rags.
5. stur flour in cold water to smooth, then thin down with bilin water.
6. rub dirty spots on board. Scrub hard. Then bile, rub cullord but don’t bile, just rench and starch.
7. take white things out of kettle with broom stick handel then rench, blew and starch.
8. spread tee towels on grass
9. hang old rags on fence.
10. pore rench water in flower beds.
11. scrub porch with hot sopy water.
12. turn tubs upside down.
13. go put on cleen dress, smooth hair with side combs, brew cup of tea, set and rock a spell and count blessins.
Today I can count my blessings because we have automatic washers, dryers and permanent press clothes and washday can be any day or night.
hen I saw this old churn at the Pioneer Village Museum in Searcy, I was reminded of a hated chore – churning – when I was growing up in White County during the Great Depression. At one time, Mama milked 11 Jersey cows and separated the milk from the cream with a hand-cranked separator like the one in the picture on the next page. She collected the cream in a milk can and when it was full it was shipped to the Sugar Creek Creamery in St. Louis where it was made into butter. The cream can was set out on the road next to the mailbox and a truck picked up the full can, left an empty one and took the cream to the depot to be shipped to St. Louis.
She saved out enough milk for our needs. We had whole milk to drink and then there was milk to clabber for butter and buttermilk. My job was to churn the clabbered milk until the butter formed. I can remember sitting out on the front porch in the early morning, pulling the churn dash up and down in that churn of milk. Some people could use one hand and read a book while churning, but it took both of my small hands. It seemed that it took a half-day to get the butter to come. If hot water was added, the butter would form sooner, but Mama wouldn’t allow that because hot water would make the butter puffy. After the butter had formed it was lifted out of the churn with a slotted utensil, into a bowl where it was worked with a wooden paddle until all the milk was removed. The butter was then salted and molded into pound and half-pound rounds. The wooden butter molds had pretty designs that left an imprint on top of the butter. I remember an acorn on one of the molds and a sheaf of wheat on the other one.
The skim milk, or “blue john” as it was sometimes called, was fed to the pigs. The buttermilk was used for making biscuits and cornbread. A glass of buttermilk with a plate of pinto beans, turnip greens and cornbread was mighty good eating. When we no longer had 11 cows and stopped shipping cream, we still had more milk than we needed, so Mama sold milk and butter for extra spending money. I enjoyed the things Mama bought with that money, but I still hated churning. I didn’t think it was a woman’s job to milk cows and I was determined I would never learn to milk. I said if I didn’t know how, I would never have to milk.
Today, city children know nothing about milking cows and all that has to happen before milk gets to the grocery store. They don’t know about milk being delivered to the door in glass bottles, either.
More than 50 years ago Mama’s great nephew, who was about four years old and who lived in Little Rock, came for a visit. His mother Thelma said, “Aunt Effie, let Jerry see you milk the cow. I can’t get across to him that milk comes from a cow – he says it comes from a bottle.” When Mama got ready to milk, she took Jerry with her. He was real intent on what she was doing as she started squeezing the cow’s teat to get the milk flowing. Jerry said, “Now get some from that other bottle,” meaning another teat.
I remember one time a teacher planned to make butter at school to teach children where butter came from. She brought some homogenized milk to school and no matter how hard they tried, they got no butter. Someone had failed to tell her you can’t churn homogenized milk. Milking cows by hand and churning butter is something in our past – and I am glad.
t was 1927 before a power line came to Pangburn to provide electricity. Before then we had to rely on the kerosene lamp for our light. Our water was drawn by hand from the well. Our clothes were washed on the rub board and hung on the line to dry. We sewed our clothes on a treadle sewing machine. We had an icebox and ice was delivered to the door. We had a card for the window to indicate how much ice we wanted. The card had 100, 50 and 25 on it and it was turned to read 50 if we wanted 50 pounds of ice. The icebox had a pan underneath to catch the water from the melted ice. Remembering to empty the pan was a pain in the neck and frequently it overflowed.
I remember the Warrens, who lived down the road, had a generator and they had electric lights. The generator was called a Delco. We never said they had a generator, we said they had a Delco and everyone knew that meant they had electricity.
When we got electricity and people started buying electrical appliances, it was interesting what they called them. We said Mrs. So-and- so has a new “Maytag” and everyone knew she had a new electric washing machine. When someone got a new electric refrigerator, they said, “I got a new Frigidaire” and everyone knew what they were talking about. Those were the brand names of the early appliances.
The power company hired home economists to demonstrate the different electrical appliances to help people learn to use them and to increase the use of electricity. They held cooking schools where they demonstrated the electric range and refrigerator. The audience got to sample the food that had been prepared and they were given recipes so they could go home and prepare some new dishes.
Today when we have all-electric homes with every appliance under the sun, we are encouraged to conserve electricity, not to use more. What a difference from the 1920s!
< p class="center">MAMA’S NEW COOK STOVE
ur new wood cook stove was ordered from the Sears catalog. When we got word that the stove was at the depot, my dad picked it up in his wagon. We gathered around and watched while it was uncrated and assembled in the kitchen. The stove was black with shiny chrome trim. There was a reservoir on one side to heat water. On the other side was the firebox with a damper to adjust airflow and control the temperature. Over the top of the stove were two compartments surrounding the stovepipe which were called warming ovens. Underneath the firebox was a deep tray for ashes. There were four eyes on top of the stove with covers that could be removed with a special tool when extra heat was needed to speed up cooking. My mother knew just how much wood to add to the firebox so the oven would be the right temperature for all the good things she baked.
I can still smell the freshly baked light bread and oh! … how good it tasted with fresh churned butter!
hen I was growing up we had a hearty breakfast, dinner and supper. Supper usually consisted of leftovers or in the wintertime we might have crackling cornbread and milk. For breakfast we always had oatmeal, bacon or sausage, eggs, hot biscuits with jelly, preserves or sorghum molasses. The adults had coffee and the children drank milk. That was breakfast 365 days every year. Dinner in the summertime was fresh vegetables from the garden with cornbread and a dessert such as strawberry shortcake, peach or blackberry cobbler or gooseberry pie. One of my favorite Sunday dinner menus was fried chicken, butter beans, fried corn, sliced tomatoes, hot rolls and strawberry shortcake.
In the early days Mama never had a recipe, she didn’t even have measuring cups or measuring spoons, but she knew how much of everything to use. It might be a pinch of this or a lump of something else, but it always turned out tasty. Cooking on a wood stove with no oven thermometer or temperature control was a science-defying feat in itself. In the wintertime after the hogs were butchered we had spareribs with baked sweet potatoes, turnips and turnip greens and apple pie. Or we might have backbones with sauerkraut. For supper we had hot biscuits with scrambled eggs and brains. Mama made head cheese or souse from the head and feet of the hog. Nothing went to waste.
Mama made the best chicken and dumplings, peach cobbler and strawberry shortcake. Try as I may I can’t duplicate these dishes. She rolled the dough out thin and cut strips for the dumplings. For the strawberry shortcake she used pastry similar to but not as short as pie crust, which she cut into plate size rounds and baked. When it came from the oven she spread it with country butter and stacked it three layers high with crushed sweetened strawberries in between. She served it in pie-shaped wedges topped with real whipped cream.
Mama made cottage cheese. She took whole milk and let it clabber, then she poured the clabbered milk into a cheesecloth bag that she fastened to the clothesline to allow the whey to drip out. She took the remaining curd and added salt and pepper and served it with sliced tomatoes.
In the wintertime she made hominy from shelled dry field corn and used lye water to remove the husks from the kernels of corn. After many washings to remove the husks and the lye, the hominy was boiled until it was tender. She made sauerkraut by shredding cabbage with a kraut cutter. The shredded cabbage was layered with salt and packed in pottery crocks. A plate on top with a clean heavy rock was used to weigh it down. The crocks were then put in the dark cool cellar to ferment. When the fermentation was finished the kraut was canned.
We produced most of our food and we lived off the land. We picked wild poke greens, wild blackberries, huckleberries, wild muscadines, black walnuts and hickory nuts. Apples and peaches were dried and saved for fried pies and stewed fruit compote. String beans were canned with vinegar water and salt. Since these were non-acidic foods they would not keep when canned by the water-bath method, hence the vinegar. Cucumbers and beets were pickled, also watermelon rind. We saved dried peas and beans to cook with a piece of streak-of-lean or a hambone.
We made peanut butter from shelled roasted peanuts. The red skins were rubbed off and the peanuts were ground in the food chopper and salt was added. We canned tomatoes, peaches, applesauce, grape juice, blackberries and plums. Preserves were made from strawberries, peaches, pears, plums and figs.
It was always my job to wash the jars for canning because my small hand would fit in the jar to get it clean. We canned and preserved 200 or more quarts and half-gallon jars of food each summer to carry us through the winter. All we had to buy at the store was sugar, flour, coffee, flavoring and spices. Occasionally we would buy a box of raisins, coconut or a box of crackers to go with the peanut butter.
If a nutritionist analyzed our menus they might be lacking in Vitamin C because we had very little salad and our only citrus was oranges at Christmas time. We did have tomatoes the year around, fresh or canned, with fresh cabbage and sauerkraut, cooked greens and pot liquor, which are all sources of Vitamin C. Whether our meals met the RDA or not, I’m not sure, but I do know they were mighty good and we were fairly healthy on that country cooking.
SORGHUM TIME ON THE FARM
y brother and I always looked forward to sorghum-making time in late August – it was so much fun for us. For our parents, it was a lot of work. The leaves had to be stripped from the cane with a large long-bladed knife, the seed heads cut off and the cane cut even with the ground. It was then hauled to the lot where it was fed into a mill that crushed the stalks and extracted the sweet juice. A mule was hitched to the mill and he walked in a circle to power the crusher. The juice was poured into a big galvanized vat where it was cooked and stirred with a wooden paddle until it was syrup.
Uncle Mike Doyle was the official cooker. He knew how long to cook it so it would be just right. If too much water was left in, the syrup would spoil and if it was cooked too long it would go to sugar. When it was finished, the golden brown liquid was poured into bright, shiny new tin buckets and when it cooled, the lids were hammered in place.
Uncle Mike brought along our cousin J.L., who was the age of my brother, and we were in the middle of everything. Someone cut off a length of cane and peeled it for us to chew on. We chewed so much cane the corners of our mouths got sore. We had fun sliding down the pummey pile, which is what we called the pulp of the cane after the juice had been extracted. We were ready with our spoons to eat the foam as it was skimmed from the syrup.
We had enough syrup to last through the winter. It was served with hot biscuits and butter and Mama used it in gingerbread and molasses cookies. We also made taffy and popcorn balls with sorghum. Following are some of the recipes we used.
1 C Sorghum ½ t Soda
2 T Butter 1 T Vinegar
1 C Sugar 12 C Salted Popcorn
Mix sorghum, butter, sugar and vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until a small amount forms a firm ball when dropped in cold water. Add soda. Remove from heat and pour over corn.
Cool slightly. Butter fingers lightly and form corn into balls. Makes about 18 large balls.
1 C Sorghum 1 T Soda
2 t Vinegar ¼ t Salt
¾ C Sugar
Boil molasses, sugar and vinegar to hard-ball stage (265-270) on candy thermometer. Remove from fire. Add soda, butter and salt. Stir only enough to blend. Pour onto a well-buttered platter. When cool, pull until real light. Cut into 3-inch lengths.
A taffy pull was one of the fun things to do for recreation.
6 C Flour 1 C Lard
1 t Salt 4 t Soda
1 C Sorghum 3 t Ginger
1 C Sugar 1 C Boiling Water
Mix molasses, lard and salt in pan and bring to a boil. Remove from fire. Put soda and ginger in a cup and fill with boiling water. Add to molasses mixture. Add this to flour, making a dough just stiff enough to handle. Roll out on floured board real thin. Cut with cookie cutter. Bake in moderately hot oven until brown.
MY BEST GINGERBREAD
½ C Shortening 2 ½ C Flour
1 Egg, Beaten 1 t Cinnamon
1 ½ t Soda ½ t Cloves
1 t Ginger 1 C Sorghum
½ t Salt 1 C Hot Water
½ C Sugar
Cream shortening and sugar together. Add beaten egg. Measure and sift dry ingredients. Combine sorghum and hot water. Add dry ingredients alternately with liquid in small amounts to sugar mixture, beating after each addition. Bake in a well-greased and floured loaf pan in 350 oven for 45 minutes.
Sorghum today is scarce and very expensive. My parents would turn over in the grave if they knew how much a gallon of sorghum costs, and to think we had several gallons every year!
TRY IT, YOU’LL LIKE IT
hen I was growing up, our experience with food was pretty much limited to what we produced on the farm or in the garden. It was a real treat to have oranges at Christmas time and lemons for lemonade in the summer time. I don’t remember how we happened to have grapefruit, but I can remember the first time I tasted it. Mama cut the grapefruit in half and asked us to try it. It was awfully bitter. Papa put salt on his and thought that helped; I tried sugar, but it was still bitter. Mama insisted that we taste it from time to time until I finally cultivated a taste for grapefruit, and it is now a favorite fruit.
When I was in the 10th grade, some of us stopped by the hotel to see the tables and preparation for the senior high school banquet. There was a relish tray on the table with celery in it. I asked if the celery was to be eaten, or if it was part of the decoration. That was another food I had to learn to like.
When I was in college we had some foods that were new to me. One day we had yellow squash. I didn’t like it, but there wasn’t much for lunch that day that I did like, so I ate the squash and thought it was good. I wrote Mama and asked why she never planted squash in the garden. She said she used to plant it and no one would eat it, so she quit. Another day, I ate Harvard beets for the first time and liked them. Mama always made pickled beets and served them as a condiment rather than as a vegetable.
When I was a student dietitian in Kansas, I was introduced to many new and different foods. Rhubarb, beet greens, creamed sweetbreads, kidney paprikash, lightbread dressing, shrimp salad, just to name a few. The head of the nutrition department made a point of telling us that we were to be an example by eating everything on the menu. These are still not my favorite foods, but I did eat them.
When I’ve traveled, I’ve tried to eat the food that is typical of the area and have found it fun. Cajun food in Louisiana including frog legs; lobster, clam chowder and Indian pudding in New England; shoo fly pie in Amish country; shaker lemon pie at Shaker Village, KY; black bean soup and banana bread in Puerto Rico are examples of the regional food that I ate for the first time.
I’ve never had escargot, eel, sushi, beef tartar or rattlesnake, and if those foods are a necessary part of my education, I guess I’ll just remain ignorant.
SETTING A HEN AND BABY CHICKENS
In the early spring Mama started saving eggs so she would have enough to set a hen when one took to her nest. We raised Plymouth Rock chickens, which was a large breed. One of the hens could cover 18 eggs. Their eggs had brown shells that were thick and not likely to break from the weight of a hen. Mama marked the setting eggs with a pencil or crayon so she could tell them from a freshly laid egg, in case another hen laid an egg in the setting hen's nest. It took three weeks for the eggs to hatch. My brother and I were so excited when Mama told us the chickens were beginning to hatch, we kept going out to the henhouse to see how many had hatched.
Mama put potassium permanganate in the chicks’ drinking water to prevent diseases. This turned it purple. The water was in a dispenser that had a half-gallon fruit jar turned upside down and screwed into a pan with holes in it for the baby chicks to drink from. Mama set hens along at intervals, so we would have a steady crop of fryers during the summer. The roosters were killed for our Sunday dinners and the pullets were saved for the eggs they would produce. Mama tried to grow enough to sell for some extra spending money. Will Jenkins had a produce store and bought chickens and eggs from the farmers. He even bought the grown hens to sell for baking. Turkey was not a part of our diet at that time; instead, we had baked hen and dressing. If we needed extra baby chicks, we ordered them from Thompson's Hatchery in Searcy and they were shipped to us on the train in a cardboard box with holes in it.
I remember vaguely that we
had an incubator at one time and hatched our own. I don't remember much about
it except that we placed the incubator in the back bedroom when we lived on the
farm. I wonder now about the source of heat, because that was before we had
electricity. When the old hen and baby
chicks were out in the chicken yard, we kept an eye out for a chicken hawk that
might suddenly swoop down and grab a baby chick. At night we were concerned
about a fox or possum getting into the chicken coop. Setting hens and raising
chickens was a lot of work, but it was important.
HOG KILLING IN THE 1920S
fter consulting all the weather signs and The Old Farmers Almanac, a clear, cold, frosty day was selected to butcher the hogs for the winter meat supply. Timing was everything. If the weather turned warm before the meat had time to cure, it would spoil.
A group of neighbors, who were going to help, warmed by the fire that heated the water in the scalding barrel. Knives sharpened razor sharp and a loaded gun were ready for the kill. In the meantime, a little girl crawled far back against the wall under the bed with a pillow over her head to muffle the sound of the squeal and the shot that stopped the squeal.
The men worked at dressing the meat and cutting it into its parts. The hams, shoulders and middling were packed in coarse meat salt in the meat box to cure. The ribs, backbones and organs were divided among the helpers. They were each given a mess of fresh meat for their help.
It took Mama days to work up the meat. The fat trimmings were cut into cubes and rendered for lard in the iron wash pot. That gave us lard for the year as well as cracklings for crackling bread. The lean trimmings and the tenderloin were seasoned and ground for sausage, which was packed into cloth casings and hung in the smokehouse. That left the head and feet that had to be cleaned and boiled. The meat was pulled off and seasoned with sage, salt and red pepper, then pressed into loaf pans to congeal for headcheese which we called souse. After the meat cured for a period of time it was removed from the salt and hung in the smokehouse where it was smoked with hickory chips. Years later when I was introduced to pork chops, I asked why we never had pork chops when I was growing up. I found out that when meat is cut into backbones, that takes the chops. As a vegetarian today, this memory was difficult to write, and I’m glad it’s a part of my past.
hanksgiving Day in 1926 was too warm to be November. The
wind was blowing in circles and swirling the dry leaves in every direction. Mama commented that she was afraid we might have a storm. Soon after sundown a dark cloud appeared southwest of Pangburn with streaks of lightning and rumbling thunder in the distance. Mama scanned the sky, then had Papa look to see what he thought. Papa said maybe we ought to go to the storm cellar. We had to walk about three blocks to get to the nearest cellar, at the home of Julius and Evia Albert. After the storm passed over us, word came that Heber Springs “had been blown away” and “was burning up.” People had been cooking supper with their wood stoves when the tornado hit and their fires were scattered among the ruins of many homes. A number of people were killed because there were no weather reports or warnings at that time.
The headline in the Arkansas Gazette on November 26, 1926, screamed 29 KNOWN DEAD AND OVER 50 INJURED IN SERIES OF SCATTERED TORNADOES IN VARIOUS PARTS OF THE STATE.
“Heaviest loss is suffered in Heber Springs. A scene of utter destruction was left by the storm that struck at 5:45. More than half of the town was wiped out. Streets were littered with the wreckage and it was impossible to move the debris without machinery. The electric light system was put out of commission and the town was left in darkness. At least 15 were killed and the list may mount to 30 when the search is finished. Fire added to the horror, cremating a number of bodies in the ruins. Volunteers from miles around came to aid in searching the ruins and rendering help to the victims. Emergency stations were established in buildings that were left and doctors and nurses from surrounding areas treated the injured.”
On Sunday, we were among the many people who went to see the ruins in the Cleburne County community, just 15 miles away, and it made a lasting impression on us. Soon after, Papa built a storm cellar for the family in the side yard. It was a simple hole dug in the ground with concrete sides and top, a dirt floor and dirt mounded over the concrete. There were three steps down and wooden benches around the sides where people sat. I kept my Sunday shoes and my dolls in that cellar.
Almost every time there was a rainstorm at night we lit the lantern and went to the cellar. Many neighbors frequently joined us. One night, we counted almost 20 of us huddled together. There are times now when I wish for a safe place like the storm cellar of my childhood.
hen I was growing up in Pangburn, the school and church were the center of community life. There was no picture show, swimming pool or library, and the school didn’t have a gym. People made their own recreation. The PTA had fund-raisers that everyone attended, like box suppers, woman-less weddings, square dance exhibitions, cake-walks and pie suppers.
The Baptist and Methodist churches each had services two Sundays a month. Two Sundays the Baptists attended the Methodist church and vice versa. On the fifth Sunday there would usually be an all-day singing with dinner on the ground. In the summertime after the crops were laid by, there would be a protracted meeting (revival) which the whole community attended. Converts were baptized in the Little Red River.
Pangburn had a baseball team, and games were played Sunday afternoons on the school ground. Papa was a big fan and took me to games out of town. There was a traveling lyceum that had programs at the school auditorium. I remember the whistler in particular. He could whistle like a bird singing. The big event of the year was the Fourth of July picnic, with stands in the park where you could buy balloons, ice cream or lemonade and ride the boat swings or the mule-drawn merry-go-round. I can still hear Gib Miller shouting, “Ice-cold lemonade! Made in the shade, stirred with a spade!” There would be a band concert in the band shell and a baseball game on the school ground.
At home, my parents played games with us. On long winter nights we would gather around the dining room table for a game of dominoes, checkers or cards. Papa taught us to play pitch and hearts, which were played with regular playing cards. Mama would only play card games such as Rook or Old Maid that were played with special cards, because regular cards could be used for betting and that was sinful. We would usually have a big bowl of popcorn or parched peanuts to help us think.
In the summertime the young folks would meet and make a freezer of ice cream. Chipping ice off the big block of ice and hand cranking the freezer was fun, to say nothing of the eating. In the fall we’d go for walks in the woods to look for walnuts, wild muscadines and pretty colored leaves.
We all had chores to keep us busy, like taking the cows to the pasture, shelling peas, stringing beans, peeling tomatoes and peaches, but we still had time for some homemade fun.
MAMA’S FLOWER GARDEN
y mother had such a green thumb she could get anything to grow. I’ve even said she could stick a dead stick in the ground and it would sprout. One Christmas when my parents were visiting my brother’s family in San Antonio, the children were playing in the yard and broke some limbs off the poinsettias. Mama picked up the limbs, wrapped them with a damp cloth and stuck them in her suitcase. From San Antonio they went to Houston, where they stayed for a couple of days. From there they stopped over in Dallas. An ice storm came and they had to stay longer than they had planned. By the time they finally got home she was sick. She took the poinsettia limbs out of her bag and just stuck them in a flower pot, not really caring whether they lived or not. Not only did they live, but also they bloomed for several years afterwards.
There was something blooming in Mama’s yard almost the year around. In the early spring the crocus popped up with yellow and blue blooms. They were followed by forsythia and flowering quince. Next came several varieties of jonquils and narcissus. She had a variety of flowering shrubs: purple lilacs, flowering almond with its delicate double pink blooms, white snowball, pink wygelia, several varieties of spyreia, including the red spyreia that bloomed all summer. There were Easter lilies, day lilies, tiger lilies and spider lilies that popped out of the ground with a red spider-like flower in September. There were blue hydrangeas and cape jasmine with its distinctive fragrance. Nasturtiums and sweet pea were early blooming annuals. She had a bed of bleeding heart with its heart-shaped blooms, and then there were pink and white peonies.
Mama saved flower seed to plant each year. She had four o’clocks that bloomed late in the afternoon and had a distinctive spicy odor. There was always a trellis covered with heavenly blue morning glories to screen the porch from the afternoon sun. There were bachelor buttons, zinnias, marigolds, prince’s feathers, coxcombs, asters, touch-me-nots, verbena, phlox and pinks. She had several varieties of dahlias and cannas, which came from tubers and came up each year if they were protected from the cold with heavy mulch. In the fall there were chrysanthemums with their yellow and bronze blooms. All these blooming flowers attracted bees, butterflies and hummingbirds as well as little children who smelled the flowers and picked bouquets of short-stemmed blooms.
Mama saved her butter and egg money to order flowers from the catalogs that came each spring. She and the neighbors exchanged a start of flowers with each other. Mama was an expert at rooting roses. She would take a cutting someone had given her and plant it in the garden then cover it with a glass fruit jar, which served as a little greenhouse.
In the winter there were all kinds of houseplants: begonias, geraniums, sultanas, Christmas cactus, amaryllis, several kinds of ferns, even an oleander. There was something blooming all winter.
Taking care of all these flowers was a lot of work. They had to be weeded and when it failed to rain they had to be watered, which meant drawing water from the well. Mama didn’t mind the work because of the pleasure she got from the bouquets she shared and the beauty of her yard.
One year when Mama was visiting me just before Easter I took her to Vestal’s greenhouse in North Little Rock. You would have thought she had died and gone to heaven, she had such a good time going up one aisle and down the other, seeing all the beautiful blooms.
Mama has been gone for 30 years now. I still have a houseplant that came from one of her plants. Somehow I’ve managed to keep it alive all these years. I credit Mama with giving her love of plants to me. I’ve been able to do one thing she couldn’t do – grow African violets.
I regret that I’ve been unable to get flowers to grow at the family plot in Henderson Cemetery at Pangburn. I planted crocus and jonquil bulbs and they bloomed awhile but are gone now, cut down by the mowers, no doubt. I planted a crepe myrtle bush but it didn’t live. Even though there are no blooming flowers at the cemetery I feel sure Mama is busy helping the Heavenly Gardener and enjoying a flower garden that defies description.
MISS AGNEW’S INFLUENCE
hen I was a little girl I can remember Mama taking me to home demonstration club meetings with her. She didn’t have anyone to leave me with and babysitters were unheard of in those days. I was old enough to be interested in what was going on, especially if a recipe was demonstrated and there were samples to taste.
As soon as I was old enough, I joined the 4H Club. We learned personal grooming tips, gardening, cooking, room improvement and embroidering. I remember embroidering a tea towel with lazy daisies. One of my most interesting projects was room improvement. I made a dressing table from two wooden orange crates. They were divided down the middle, and when they stood on end, there were four shelves. A piece of wood was attached to the top of the crates to make the table. I painted the dressing table and gathered a pretty piece of floral cretonne for a skirt. I padded the top of a nail keg and covered it with the same fabric for a dressing stool. I was so proud that I now had my own dressing table in my bedroom.
Miss Eunice Agnew was the home demonstration agent and I thought she was just wonderful. She selected me to be on the county council of 4H Clubs and took me to the meetings wherever they were held. One summer there was a county style show in Searcy. We were to wear an all-cotton outfit and were to make everything we wore, if possible. I made a dress, hat and purse, and with that outfit I wore cotton gloves and cotton stockings. I was awarded first place for my outfit and was supposed to represent White County at the state meeting in Fayetteville. It was the stormy time of year and my father wouldn’t let me attend. I was so disappointed.
Scraps from that dress were put in a quilt, which I pieced and Mama quilted. That quilt and the picture of me that is on the following page appear in the book Arkansas Quilts.
Because of the work I did in 4H, I couldn’t wait to take Home Economics in high school and even went on to major in Home Economics in college.
Miss Agnew transferred to Kansas where she worked with Extension Service until she retired. After retirement she came back to Arkansas and taught Home Economics in a high school in the northwest part of the state. By this time I was a nutritionist with the State Health Department in Little Rock. I attended a meeting of the State Home Economics Association and Miss Agnew was there. I had not heard from her since high school. I don’t remember how we got together at that meeting because I had no idea she would be there; in fact, I didn’t even know she was in the state. I helped with decorating the tables for a breakfast, and perhaps I saw her name on the reservation list. Anyway, we had a happy reunion, and when I told her she was the inspiration for my becoming a home economist, she cried.
I often wonder what career I would have chosen if Mama had not taken me to her home demonstration club meetings and Miss Agnew had not taken an interest in me.
SPRINGTIME IN THE COUNTRY
pringtime means the smell of freshly plowed ground and birds following the plow to pluck a worm from the newly turned soil.
Baby calves frolicking in the cow lot as their mothers graze in the nearby pasture.
Clucking hens and fluffy baby chicks playing tug-of-war with a long red worm.
April showers and rainbows when the sun comes out after the rain.
Croaking frogs at night down by the pond.
The gurgling, splashing brook as it goes rushing over the rocks after a sudden downpour.
Going barefoot and feeling the soft grass underfoot.
Ticks and chiggers on the weeds waiting for a victim to pass by.
Swarming flies on the screen door.
A green snake slithering through the grass.
Tender leaf lettuce wilted with green onions and red radishes fresh from the garden.
The first red ripe strawberries being counted out, four for me and four for my brother.
Hailstorms and thundershowers as nature in its indecision goes from cold to hot and back to cold.
The old sow with her brood of new piglets, scrambling and falling over each other as they try to find a place to suck.
The bird’s nest in the apple tree with three tiny pale blue eggs.
This is the picture my mind’s eye paints of spring when I was a child.
Chapter Three – Growing Up
ama had helped me learn my ABCs so I would be ready for school. She gave me Papa’s old ledger book from his country store, which I used to learn my letters and to count. She ordered my school shoes and a coat from the Montgomery Ward catalog. I remember she had me stand on a paper sack while she drew around my foot. She sent this drawing with the order blank to get a pair of shoes that would be my size. I remember I had only two pairs of shoes a year – a pair of high-top laced shoes for the winter and a pair of patent leather Mary Jane’s for Sunday wear in the spring and summer. In the summertime I went barefoot except on Sunday. I can remember using the inside of a biscuit to polish the patent shoes.
I was real excited and at the same time scared when it was time to go to school that first day. Papa hooked up the team and took me to school in the wagon. He took me to find my room and left me with Miss Fannie Wilkerson, my teacher. She was a sweet, kind person who made me feel at home. She told us about raising our hand to get permission to get a drink or go to the bathroom.
We had small desks that were bolted to the floor and were arranged in rows, one behind the other. The desk had a hole for an inkwell and a groove to hold a pencil, plus a place for our book satchel with our book and tablet. Of course, we didn’t use pen and ink in the first grade.
I was fascinated with the blackboard as Miss Fannie wrote our names on the board with chalk. The picture on the previous page is similar to the board we had in Pangburn school.
There was a cloakroom where our lunch pails and coats were kept. That is all I remember about that first day of school nearly 80 years ago, which was just the beginning of many first days of school.
hen I started to school in October 1922, we lived on a farm a mile south of Pangburn on a dirt road. Farther down the road Ellis and Della Moody lived with her three children, Herschel, Churchill and Lorene Faulkner, and their daughter Mildred, who was my age. We all walked to school together. Sometimes we walked through dust ankle deep; other times we walked through mud. My new school clothes were ordered from Montgomery Ward catalog, that is the ones Mama didn’t make. I wore my hair in one large braid down my back, tied with a large hair bow. There was no school lunch program, so we brought our lunch to school in a tin syrup pail. Our books, tablets and pencils were carried in a book satchel. When the weather was cold and the road muddy, we walked down the railroad. I was scared a train would come, so I walked on the edge of the track. In the winter the barrow pits along the railroad would freeze and Herschel and Churchill would skate on them. One time on the way home the ice was beginning to melt and when they were skating, the ice broke and they fell in. They were in no danger but got their feet and pants legs wet.
How I hated those overshoes I had to wear over my high-top shoes, but even worse was the long underwear stuffed down in my black cotton stockings. At school we had a cloakroom where we put our overshoes, lunch pail and coat. When it was time to go home at the end of the day, I invariably got my overshoes on the wrong feet and the big kids laughed at me. Miss Fannie Wilkerson taught the first and second grades, all in the same room. There was a first grade reader and a second grade reader. I read both of the books and did the other second grade work, so I was promoted to the third grade at the end of the year. Miss Fannie was a petite young person who stood at the door at the end of the day and kissed the children goodbye as they left. We all just loved her. She started teaching when she was 16, but when she was my teacher she was 20.
I remember the school was a red brick two-story building with the lower grades downstairs and high school upstairs. There was no running water and the toilet facilities were privies out back. There was no electricity; a wood-burning stove in each room with a stack of wood in the corner was the source of heat. The wooden floors were oiled to keep down dust. We had blackboards that were black, and people vied for the job of dusting erasers and washing the board.
Those are the memories of my first year of school.
odern medicine was non-existent in my early childhood. As a result, many home remedies were used to treat minor conditions.
If we had a chest cold, Mama would saturate a flannel cloth with Vicks salve, heat it blistering hot and apply it to the chest. For a cough she would give a spoon of sugar with a few drops of turpentine or coal oil on it. In the winter we would wear a piece of asafetida tied to a string around the neck. We would chew on it several times a day to prevent colds and the flu. If odor kept colds away, then this would surely work.
Every spring we took sulfur and molasses as a tonic, and we drank sassafras tea for something but I don’t remember what curative effect it was supposed to have. Everyone had to take a “round” of medicine. Mama gave us syrup pepsin (a purgative) followed by a big dose of Epsom salts or castor oil. I said if I lived to be grown, I’d never take another round of medicine like that. It was terrible!
A flaxseed poultice applied to a boil would bring it to a head and then it could be lanced. If we had chills and fever (malaria) we took quinine or Groves Chill Tonic. Women took Lydia Pinkham’s Compound for “female trouble.” The only immunization was a smallpox vaccination, which was required before one could enter school.
The only times I can remember the doctor being called when we lived on the farm were when C.E. had the croup and when I was kicked by a mule at age 5.
Mama wouldn’t let Papa give us our medicine. He thought if a little was good, more would be better and she was afraid he would give us too much.
To this day I wonder how we survived those horrible home remedies.
LEARNING TO SEW
tc \l1 "LEARNING TO SEW
y interest in sewing started when I was very young. Mama said when I was about 2 years old, she left the sewing machine to tend to something and I climbed up on the machine and promptly ran the needle through one of my fingers.
When I was 5, Mama helped me piece a quilt. I don’t remember anything about it except standing at the machine and turning the wheel to make it sew the pieces together. My legs wouldn’t reach the treadle to pedal it. I still have the quilt to prove that I did it. If prizes were given for ugly quilts, this one would win.
Mama taught me to embroider. I started on tea towels and graduated to pillowcases and dresser scarves. I learned the stem stitch, lazy daisy, French knot, satin stitch and feather stitch.
Mama tried to teach me to use a thimble, but all that thimble did was get in the way. I would put it on one finger and use another one to push the needle through. If the needle was hard to pull through there was always a wooden chair arm to help. I could sew anything I wanted to without using a thimble. Mama said I would never be able to quilt without a thimble. She said I would have to learn when I took Home Economics.
Well I didn’t. I would keep the thimble on while the teacher was standing by my table, and when she moved on to someone else, I took it off.
I majored in Home Economics in college and taught for six years without knowing how to use a thimble. I made my clothes and my children’s clothes, made curtains, slipcovers and other things for the house. When I retired and took up quilting, I finally taught myself to use a thimble but only when I’m quilting.
I wish there was some way I could tell Mama now I have learned to quilt, and, yes, I did have to use a thimble.
THE OLD RED HOUSE
rom the time I was 9 until I was 19, we lived in a barn-red house on the edge of Pangburn. Mama didn’t want Papa to buy that house, but it was on half a city block, and that much land appealed to Papa because he could have a big garden, cows, chickens and pigs. There were no laws prohibiting farm animals in town.
This was a dog-trot house with three rooms on one side of a wide hall and two on the other side. It was made of wide vertical unplaned boards with a narrow strip of lumber covering the crack between. I think today it would be called board and batten. It was the only red house in town, and I hated it – in fact I was ashamed of it. Why couldn’t we live in a white or gray house like my friends? Eventually part of the wide hall was closed to make another room. Mama did what she could to improve the place. She put up new wallpaper, painted the woodwork, put new linoleum rugs on the floor, put lace curtains and scalloped fringed shades at the windows. She planted flowers in the yard, and with her green thumb everything she planted flourished.
It was while living here in 1927 that we got electricity. No more dim lamplight or ironing with a sad iron.
We had a big, tree-shaded yard with a basketball goal attached to one of the trees, a croquet set and a place to play baseball, washers, hopscotch and horseshoes. All the kids in the neighborhood gathered in our yard to play.
The Kings lived across the street with Anna Mae my age, Hugh the age of C.E. and Doris, who was younger and considered a pest at times. Across the street from the Kings were the Johnstons – Velma, Morris, Raymond, Richard, Howard and Bossy. Up the street were George Allen and Tommy Lee Dailey, and across the street from them were the Whittens with Marie, who was the age of Doris.
Farther down the road toward the cemetery were the Van Pattens with Irving B., Herman, Leon and Dale, and across the street from them was Uncle Mike Doyle with J.L. Still farther down that road Oweta Staggs lived. She, Anna Mae and I played together because we were all the same age.
Down a lane near the cemetery, Uncle Luther Whitten lived and Lola and Mable played with us mostly on Sundays. It was about a mile to their house.
We made clover chains and strung them across the road at dark to stop the cars. Leaf hats and dresses were fashioned from oak leaves for style shows.
When we were in high school, the Johnstons, Kings and Doyles built a tennis court in a cotton field across the road. The Kings supplied the net and the Doyles provided chicken wire for backstops to keep the balls out of the cotton patch. Anna Mae and I picked strawberries and made enough money to order tennis racquets from the Sears catalog. That was the only tennis court in town so you can imagine how popular we were.
We were living in this house when I finished high school, when I had my first date, and when I went away to college.
My brother was bitten by a copperhead snake when we lived there. He was pulling some sweet potato vines to give to his pet rabbit and didn’t see the snake until it struck him. The Daileys called Dr. Peeler and he came to the rescue in a hurry.
That old red house is long gone.
There’s another house there today, so all that remains are some of the big trees and the memories.
hen I was 7 years old I started taking piano lessons from Mrs. Lelia Smith, the wife of the postmaster at Pangburn. We didn’t have a piano, but Mama had a pump organ so that’s what I practiced on – not exactly the same touch that you use when playing the piano.
When I was 9, Mama traded her organ for a piano and I started lessons with Nadine Brumlow. Mama furnished the Brumlows with milk, butter and eggs as payment for my lessons. At that time we were living in town next door to Mrs. Neeley Lewis, who gave me the sheet music her daughter Alma had left at home. One particular piece I remember was “Alexander’s Rag Time Band.” I didn’t learn to play it for several years. How I wish I had that piece now; it should be worth something, since it was an original.
My next teacher was Clarice Grammer from Searcy, who drove to Pangburn to teach two days a week. She taught for only one year because there were not enough students to justify the trip.
Oweta Staggs and I wanted to continue to study with Miss Grammer so we made arrangements to ride with Mr. I.B. Van Patten, who drove to Searcy every day to work. Mama gave me a quarter to pay Mr. Van Patten and a quarter for lunch. I could buy a grilled cheese sandwich for a quarter and be on the streets of Searcy all day, or I could skip lunch and go to the picture show where it was warm and dry. I saw many westerns and a newsreel plus all the teasers for the shows that were coming.
Oweta had a sister who lived in Searcy and sometimes she took me to her sister’s house for the day. Some of the time I would hang out in the Fair Store where Mr. Tont Chandler and Carol Bell worked. Other times I would go to my cousin Flossie Wilkerson’s house and help with her twin boys, Dean and Dale.
When I was in the 8th grade, the White County Contest and Track Meet were held in Bald Knob. Miss Grammer suggested that I enter the piano contest. There were four contestants in my age group and I came in third. I remember the name of my piece was “Tarantella,” but I don’t remember the composer.
Paderewski came to Little Rock for a concert and Miss Grammar wanted to take me, but Papa didn’t think I should go, so I missed hearing that master.
I never took lessons any more after the 10th grade, but I had enough lessons to give me an appreciation for music that I still enjoy.
I was able to play hymns for church and to play for my friends. Some of the popular pieces I played were “The Wedding of the Painted Doll,” “Shanty Town,” “Always,” “Shine On Harvest Moon,” “Red Sails In The Sunset,” “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” “Tip Toe Through The Tulips,” “April Showers” and “Moonlight Bay.”
It’s fortunate I didn’t major in music in college because I never could have made a living in the music field. But I’m thankful to have had the exposure to music, and as a result I’ve been able to pass on a love of music to my girls.
t was a cold snowy day in February when Midget had her pups. After several trips to the woodshed to check on her, we determined that she had four fluffy white spitz pups that looked like big snowflakes. My brother and I selected one each to keep. The others and Midget were given away.
My pup was named Muggins and C.E. named his Teddy. Those dogs were our constant companions. A man offered my brother five dollars for Teddy. That was a lot of money in those days and he considered the offer. He talked to Teddy and told him what a good dog he was and how he would miss him, then finally he said, “I’ll make my money some other way and keep you, Teddy.”
When we left for school in the mornings, those dogs would sit in the yard and howl until we were out of sight. In the afternoons they knew about what time we would be coming home and they would watch and wait until they saw us coming and would run to meet us.
We had other pets when we were growing up, but none compared to Teddy and Muggins.
PAPA RAN THE COUNTRY STORE
apa was the postmaster at the town of Little Red before I was born, and ran a country store there. This is the store that is featured as “the Little Red Store” at the Pioneer Village Museum in Searcy. Although I never saw the original building, I understand that the store at Pioneer Village is smaller but was built from lumber salvaged from Papa’s building.
Papa wasn’t encouraged to go to school, so he had only a third grade education. In spite of his limited schooling he could read and write and was good with figures. When he was a young man he rode to west Texas on horseback and farmed for a year or two, then returned to Arkansas and operated the country store which housed the post office at Little Red. He was postmaster from August 16, 1911, until December 20, 1916.
When Mama married the postmaster, she was able to help him in the store. Papa also farmed at Little Red and when he was in the field, Mama kept the store and post office. Papa hauled supplies for the store by wagon from Searcy, about 20 miles away.
I was born shortly before a new postmaster took over. Then we moved to Pangburn and lived on the farm a mile south of town. When I was about 10 years old, my father quit farming and opened a general store on Main Street in Pangburn.
My dad had a little bit of everything in the store – kegs of nails, sugar in 100-pound sacks, hard wheat and soft wheat flour in 25- and 50-pound sacks, crackers in big tin boxes, pure lard in 1- and 5-gallon cans. Apples and oranges came in wooden boxes that were divided in the middle, and bananas came in big stalks that hung from the ceiling.
I remember one man who came in every day and asked if there were any rotten apples he could have. He would go through the box of apples and pick out the ones with rotten spots. He would take out his pocketknife and peel and eat them around the pot-bellied stove where people gathered to pass the time of day.
Cheese came in round wheels, or hoops. There were twists of chewing tobacco and long compressed pieces that had to be cut with a tobacco cutter into plugs or half plugs. Vanilla wafers, oatmeal cookies and lemon cookies were in big glass jars with shiny lids. My very favorite part of the store was the big glass candy case across the front. There were all kinds of stick candy, jawbreakers, all-day suckers, chocolate drops and lemon drops, round peanut patties and all kinds of chocolate bars. My friends and I were the official candy samplers. Little children stood in front of the case gazing longingly at the candy inside. Papa, after awhile, would open the sliding glass door and hand a chocolate drop to them. The smiles on the children's faces were payment enough for my father.
In the back of the store were all kinds of livestock feeds – shorts, bran, cottonseed meal, oats, chicken scratch, bales of hay and bricks of salt. Then there was that big coal oil pump that I hated so much. I would stay at the store while Papa went home to plow the garden and how I hated to sell coal oil. You had to hold a 5-gallon can with your left hand and turn the crank on the pump with the right hand. I didn’t have enough strength to hold the can. When it had more than a gallon of coal oil, the can would slip and oil would splash all over me. Sometimes the customer would hold the can for me while I turned the crank.
In the fall of the year there were big long duck cotton sacks that people used for picking cotton and there were shorter ones for the children to use. About the only clothing in the store were chambray work shirts, overalls and denim jackets called jumpers.
My father sold groceries at cost and on credit to a blind man who peddled in the country. I remember how my mother complained about this, but I also remember some years later, after the store burned, the blind man’s widow was one of the few people who paid their bills in full.
The country store belongs to an era that is gone. But for me it is not forgotten because it holds some fond memories of my father and my childhood.
< p class="center">“HASN’T SCRATCHED YET”
his was the slogan for Bon Ami, which was used to clean and polish mirrors and windows. On washday P&G laundry soap, Argo laundry starch and Red Cross bluing were used along with the rub board and washpot to clean the clothes. Later when washing machines were available Super Suds or Rinso washing powder was used.
People ate Mother’s Oats to collect the pink or green glassware that came in the boxes. Clabber Girl baking powder was sure to make the biscuits rise. Watkins Vanilla sold door to door by the Watkins peddler was simply the best. Every medicine cabinet had Grove’s Chill Tonic, Syrup of Pepsin, Watkins Liniment, Lydia Pinkham’s Compound, Carter’s Liver Pills, and if there was a baby in the family, a bottle of Castoria. Women had round tins of Cloverine Salve with its rose fragrance, a tube of orange Tangee lipstick and a blue bottle of Evening-in-Paris perfume. These are some of the brand names of products of my childhood in White County.
A LITTLE PEACH TREE TEA NEVER HURT
fter the visit of my 2 ½-year-old granddaughter Lauren, who had never been told “No!” in her life, I started thinking about discipline today and comparing it to the time I was growing up. The philosophy then was “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” We knew if we disobeyed we would be punished and that meant a switching with a limb from the peach tree. The sting from that keen switch on bare legs was dreaded. I don’t remember too many times when I got switched but the anticipation of the switch was enough to ensure good behavior on my part.
My brother was a strong-willed child. When he was told not to do something, and it was something he really wanted to do, the switch was not a deterrent. I remember Mama saying that he was a hard child to conquer. He was curious and wanted to know how things worked and got spanked many times because he tore things up trying to find out how they worked. Lauren is also curious and wants to find out how things work and if she tears it up trying to find out, that’s okay – her creativity should not be stifled.
We were told when we went to school if we misbehaved and got a whipping, we would get another one when we got home. I remember one teacher punished the talkers by making them sit flat on the floor and touch their toes for long periods of time. I couldn’t touch my toes so I made sure I didn’t talk. Other times, the ones who acted up were banished to solitary confinement in the dark cloakroom. We were told we didn’t have to be smart, but we did have to behave and we were expected to get an A in deportment. I wonder what is going to happen when Lauren goes to pre-school and constantly gets down from the table when she’s eating. Will this be tolerated or will she go hungry because she left the table before she finished?
When I was in the sixth grade, Gladys McAdams was the teacher. I remember Vernice Nowell, Carthel Brooks, Winston Lowe and Foster Stewart were always causing trouble. In the wintertime they wore gum rubber boots and Gladys would make them sit on the woodpile behind the stove where it was so hot they roasted. Today that would be considered cruel and unusual punishment, and it really was. With the picture IDs, metal detectors and policemen, schools today are quite different from yesteryear. One wonders if peach tree tea would be effective today. Somehow there needs to be a happy medium between the permissiveness of today and the cruel punishment of the past. If children were disciplined with love and not punished, I wonder if it would make a difference in their behavior?
DREAMING OF THE WHITE CHRISTMAS
art of the Christmas tradition when I was growing up in Pangburn was going to the woods to look for a cedar that was just the right size and shape for our Christmas tree. During our trek through the forest we also looked for red berries and holly to use for decorations.
After returning home, we then decorated the tree with strings of popcorn, sweetgum balls covered with tinfoil and chains made with red and green construction paper. A cardboard star covered with tinfoil was placed on the top of the tree.
On Christmas Eve, someone in my family would open the Bible and read the Christmas story from the second chapter of Luke, as well as the poem “Twas the Night before Christmas.”
Then we gathered around the piano and sang Christmas carols. Our favorites were “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” “Joy to the World” and “Silent Night.”
Just before bedtime, we would hang our cotton stockings on the back of a rocking chair and wait for the visit of Santa Claus.
I vividly remember the Christmas I was 10 years old and my brother was 8. The Great Depression was in full swing and times were hard. We awakened to find a white Christmas and discover that my brother and I had received the same gifts. Mama had made each of us a white cotton flannel rabbit with pink button eyes and ears lined with pink material. We were each given a Bible that had been ordered from the Sears catalog and had our names stamped in gold. Years later, I took that Bible with me to Ouachita Baptist College (now University).
We discovered stockings filled with a big Red Delicious apple, a California orange, hard candy and nuts. We were proud of what we received and walked through the snow to show our neighbors across the street what Santa had brought.
Today when I smell the sweet, pungent aroma of a California navel orange, it reminds me of the Christmases of my childhood.
EIGHTH GRADE GRADUATION
angburn School operated on the 8-4 grade plan in the 1920s. Students graduated at the end of the 8th grade and at the end of high school. I remember that my 8th grade graduation almost meant more to me than high school graduation. Maybe it was because it was my first graduation.
We gathered honeysuckle vines to put on a trellis background on the stage, made purple crepe paper flowers that looked like wisteria blossoms to hang among the honeysuckle. The stage looked and smelled pretty with the fragrance of honeysuckle. We practiced marching. I remember Miss Howard directing us and telling us just where we should stand and sit. I had a new white dress for the occasion and I got Flossie Dailey to Marcel my hair. She heated the Marcel iron in the flame of the kerosene lamp and my hair was crimped and frizzed to perfection. Mr. Sharp took the class picture with our teachers. We were ready for high school and a new experience.
STORMY VISIT IN GREEN FOREST
n the spring of 1927 when I was 11 years old, I went with Uncle Morris Hartsell on the train to visit Mama’s cousins in Green Forest. Uncle Jim Donaldson, who lived there, had visited relatives in Pangburn many times, and he told me about two of his granddaughters who were about my age. We started writing to each other and that resulted in an invitation to visit.
I think Uncle Jim and Aunt Mary Hartsell were related to Grandpa Whitten. I know when Uncle Jim came to Pangburn he visited the Hartsells and Grandpa as well as Grandpa’s children.
Uncle Morris was at loose ends after the death of Aunt Mary, so he decided to go to Green Forest and Mama reluctantly agreed that I could go. I looked forward to the train ride on the M&NA. It would be my longest trip and first time to be away from home alone – and for a whole week. I looked out the window all the way as the train went along the edge of the Little Red River and gradually wound its way up the mountain over high trestles and through a tunnel or two. Sometimes, the steam engine sounded like the little engine in the book that said “I think I can, I think I can.” It barely made it.
I stayed with the Brasfields. Dorothy was about my age, maybe a year older. Her Dad had a watch and clock repair shop on Main Street, so we went to town a lot just to hang out. Another young cousin was Margaret Donaldson. One day Dorothy, Margaret and I went to Berryville to visit their Aunt Cora.
That’s about all I remember about the visit except that it stormed every night, and we went to the basement. This was in the spring after the big Thanksgiving Day tornado had hit Heber Springs. There had been a tornado in Berryville that year, too.
After about four days, Mama couldn’t stand it any longer. She called and told me to come home. She couldn’t stand the thought that I might be blown away.
The trip home wasn’t much fun. I hadn’t finished my visit. So I got off the train in Pangburn crying because I had to come home – and that hurt Mama.< p class="center">
PANGBURN TONSIL CLINIC
f I woulda known it woulda been so bad, I never woulda opened my mouth when the public health nurse came to school. Back in the ‘30s, tonsils and adenoids were thought to be useless and should be removed. Dr. Tapscott told my parents when I was 5 that mine should come out. But they didn’t comply. When I was in the 10th grade the county health doctor came to school and examined all children who had a history of sore throat. He made plans to set up a clinic at school to remove all the diseased tonsils.
The school became a hospital for a couple of days. Classrooms became operating rooms, army cots were brought in and the auditorium became the recovery room where the patients stayed overnight. Parents cared for their own children following surgery. High school boys were the litter bearers. Two doctors, assisted by medical students or interns, performed the surgery on the 60 or more students.
Anesthesia was administered by pouring ether on a sponge that covered the nose. I fought the anesthetic, so it took more ether to put me under, and I almost didn’t wake up. No one knew at that time that I had a heart murmur.
Many guardian angels were busy that day in October in 1930, watching over those children who were undergoing surgery under such primitive and unsanitary conditions. You just know they didn’t have 60 sets
of sterile instruments or any way to really sterilize them. There was no plumbing or running water. Tonsils were carried out by the bucketful and dumped in the woods back of the schoolhouse. I can imagine the animals of the night had a feast. Only by the grace of God did we survive such butchery to have a group picture taken later.
SUNDAY AFTERNOON BAPTIZING< p class="center">
n August after the crops were “laid by,” Pangburn Baptist Church had the annual revival meeting. Services were held twice a day for 10 days to two weeks, depending on the interest, the size of the crowds and the number of converts.
It was always hot, dry and dusty and at night all the bugs in town came to the light through the open windows. The funeral home fans did little more than stir the hot air around. One night the preacher swallowed a bug that flew by just as he was shouting his message of hellfire and damnation.
Each day the preacher went home with a different family for lunch. Everyone saved their best fryers to have the day the preacher came to their house. Mama said he was bound to get tired of chicken so she had a roast or meatloaf when it was her day to have the meal.
In 1930 when I was 14 there were four of us who were in Mrs. Annie Henderson’s Sunday school class who joined the church. We didn’t all join the same night but at different times, and on the last Sunday of the revival, we were baptized in the Little Red River, just below the swinging bridge.
Shown in the picture are Reverend Rodgers, Ruth Woodell, Lavern Collins, Christina Doyle and Anna Mae King. Mr. Sharp always took pictures of such events, and sold a print for 50 cents.
That day it was sprinkling rain during the baptismal service. I always said how appropriate that I should be sprinkled and baptized all at the same time. I had gone to the Baptist Church two Sundays each month and the Methodist Church the other Sundays. Neither church had a full-time minister. Today the swinging bridge is gone, the Little Red River has been dammed to form Greers Ferry Lake and the river at Pangburn is a cold-water trout stream. The church now has a baptistry, so the Sunday afternoon baptismal services in the river are a thing of the past.
< p class="center"> < p class="center">
PANGBURN EASTERN STAR
remember so well when the Pangburn Chapter of Eastern Star was organized. The women who had proved their relationship to a Mason and were going to constitute the new chapter, met in the home of Em Medlin to prepare refreshments for the occasion. That was April 30, 1928. Anna Mae King and I were only 12 years old but were right there in the middle of everything, talking about how we could join when we got to be 18. We thought it would be so neat to belong to a secret organization.
Minnie Lee Robbins and Lucy Dial from Heber Springs came to form the new chapter. I guess you could say that Heber Springs was the mother chapter or sponsoring chapter. I don’t remember all of the women at Mrs. Medlin’s that day, but I do know Mrs. Jewell King, Aunt Bart Sims, Mrs. Linnie Van Patten and Mama were there. Connie Yingling Patterson, who was in high school at the time, said Irene Sutherland Emde was a charter member. Connie joined five years later and has been a member 66 years.
Two pictures of the original group with the two ladies from Heber Springs hang in the Lodge Hall at Pangburn today. Connie said that as far as she knows, she’s the only active member left from the early days. (Irene is now 90 and living with her daughter in California, but no longer active in the Eastern Star.) Connie recalls a group would go to Heber Springs to attend their meetings and Icy Wood or Evie Crook would drive. The passengers paid them a quarter for the ride. Some of the Pangburn women went on to be officers of the Grand Chapter, Mrs. King in particular and others, too, but I don’t remember who. This is not an attempt to write the history of the Pangburn Eastern Star, but just my memories of it.
Anna Mae and I didn’t join when we became 18. I don’t think Anna Mae ever became a member. When I was in my 20s and Mama was the Conductress, I joined so Mama could take me through the stations, but I never became an active member. At the time there was no chapter in the town where I lived. I remember one time when I was taking a train trip, Papa told me to be sure to wear my Eastern Star pin so if I needed help a Mason would recognize the pin and help me.
The year Mama died she got her 40-year membership pin and it meant a lot to her. Papa was a Mason for more than 50 years.
These two pictures were among Mama’s pictures, but I don’t know the occasion for them, maybe the 25th anniversary. Too bad she didn’t write that on the back .
THE GIRL ACROSS THE STREET
was 10, my best friend’s family built a house across the street. We were inseparable. We played dolls and paper dolls, caught
lightning bugs at night and lay on the ground gazing into the sky watching
shooting stars. We sat in the grape
arbor and ate grapes until we could eat no more. We fashioned dresses and hats from oak leaves, made clover chain
necklaces and bracelets and had style shows. We looked for the elusive four-leaf clover to bring good luck. Her father was an avid hunter and went
fishing as often as possible. They were
very generous to share their bounty. I
remember one day I was invited to eat fish with them. When no one was looking, my friend and I drank a glass of milk to
test the old wives tale – “eating fish and drinking milk will kill you.” We lived to prove it false.
We were in the same Sunday school class at church and were there every time the church doors were open. We were even baptized in the river the same Sunday. I didn’t have a grandmother so I claimed her Mama King as mine. I always enjoyed watching her piece quilts each time she came for a visit. She lived with one daughter, but spent time visiting each of her children for extended periods of time. I spent as much time as possible with her when she was visiting. She was a kind and sweet person just the way I imagined my grandmother would be.
My friend finished high school in Heber Springs and I in Beebe, but when we went to college we were roommates. This was during the Great Depression and we both had to work. She waited tables in the dining hall and I was the janitor for the home economics department. We both majored in home economics and became teachers. When we left the teaching field we went into food service, she into the institutional food field and I into nutrition and clinical dietetics. We were separated by distance, but spent vacations and holidays at home and kept in touch through the years. When I was married she was my maid of honor, and I served cake at her wedding reception. She served cake at my 80th birthday party.
Today, some 75 years later and 70 miles apart, that girl across the street is still my best friend.
PEOPLE WHO HAVE INFLUENCED MY LIFE
number of people other than my parents have had a big influence on my life. Two in particular were high school teachers. Miss Francis Goodwin finished college and came home to teach English. Her family lived a mile from town so she boarded with us but went home on weekends. She was my English teacher in the 10th and 11th grades and she also taught 11th grade math. Before then I had been content to make B’s and C’s -- my brother was the smart one. Miss Frances inspired me to do my best rather than “just get by.” She told me how she had graduated from Arkansas College with all A’s except for a B+ in Trig at the same time she waited tables to help pay her way.
Pangburn school didn’t offer foreign language so Miss Frances organized a Spanish Club. We met after school to learn conversational Spanish. Sometimes on weekends we would hike out to her house and have a lesson while sitting on a big flat rock out in the woods. She often threw in a nature lesson on the side.
Miss Frances played the violin and piano and she gave me piano lessons. Because of her, I started making A’s, even in math, and I was made to believe I, too, could go to college.
The other teacher who inspired me was Miss Cranford, the Home Ec teacher. I had gone to Home Demonstration Club meeting with Mama and later joined 4H club so I could hardly wait to take Home Ec. Cooking, sewing, learning how to wait tables and serve banquets all were so much fun.
Miss Cranford was the class sponsor when I was a junior. There were two girls in the class who ran everything, so they decided who would get to act the different characters in the junior play. Of course they chose the main characters for themselves. Miss Cranford said, “If I’m going to sponsor the play, I’ll decide who is in it.”
She chose me for the leading part; I’m sure she knew that this shy, timid, skinny girl needed a boost in self-esteem. Needless to say, there were two very unhappy girls. When we met for the first rehearsal I knew all my lines, a good thing because my book disappeared and didn’t show up until after the play was over.
Because of the inspiration of Miss Frances and Miss Cranford, I went to college, majored in Home Ec and minored in English. No, I didn’t make all A’s but I did graduate with honors, and I did have a chance to tell both of these ladies what a difference they made in my life.
y cousins Alma and Grady Coffey, their daughter Freda and Alma’s brother Conley Doyle lived in Walnut Ridge. They visited us and other relatives in Pangburn about twice a year. They always came to our house first and then went to see the other relatives.
Freda never wanted to leave our house because we had a piano and she loved playing it. She was about six years younger than I. She would walk on tiptoe, cry and scream until her parents gave in and let her stay.
One time Mama fixed her a fried egg for breakfast. She told her mother that Aunt Effie cooked her an egg and she tried to eat it, but couldn’t “budge it.” We figured out that Mama didn’t cook it hard enough for her liking.
One summer when I was in high school my cousins asked me to go home with them for a visit. I had a good time – there was a lot more to do in Walnut Ridge than in Pangburn.
I remember we went to the picture show to see Janet Gaynor in “State Fair.” We went to the Current River near Pocahontas for a picnic and went wading in the river. When we got into our swimsuits Alma said she and I looked like “Before and After Taking.” Believe it or not, at that time I was skinny.
The whole family is gone, but the memories live on.
THE RUMBLE SEAT
he Model A Ford Coupe with rumble seat was the sports car of the 1930s. It was fun to sit in the rumble seat in the summertime with hair blowing in a cool breeze. In the winter, no one rode in the rumble seat.
I never shall forget New Year’s Day 1932 when Ray Baswell, my cousin Dorothy Brasfield and Maurice Daniel – all from Heber Springs – came to Pangburn in Ray’s car with the rumble seat. We stayed around the house for a while, but Ray wanted to take me riding in his car. It was too cold for someone to ride in the rumble seat, so all four of us rode in the front seat. Dorothy sat on Maurice’s lap and I sat in the middle next to Ray. We rode all over Pangburn and across the river.
I had a feeling Papa was going to be mad at me because a girl was sitting on a boy’s lap. Sure enough, when they left, he had a fit and told me how terrible it was for young people to be crowded up together like that. I told a little story and told him that Dorothy sat on my lap, but I don’t think I convinced him. That was my last time to ride in Ray’s car with the rumble seat.
“HENRY … HENRY ALDRIDGE!”
oming, Mother…” When we heard that announcement we knew one of our favorite radio shows was coming on the air. I was in college before we got our first radio and it was a used one at that. The Ghents were getting a new radio and sold their old Atwater Kent console to us for five dollars. We were glad to have it so we could keep up with the news and listen to the popular shows of the 1930s.
I liked the musical shows such as Kay Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge, The Lucky Strike Hit Parade and the Major Bowes Amateur Hour. Bob Burns from Van Buren played his bazooka, told corny jokes and gave Arkansas a bad name so I didn’t care for his program. There were comedies such as Lum and Abner with their Jottem Down store and Fibber McGee and Molly with a closet like mine where everything falls out when the door is opened. There was Jack Benny with his squeaky violin and Rochester the sidekick that kept us in stitches. We enjoyed the western shows like The Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with their horse Trigger. According to the McNeil Breakfast Club it was always “A Beautiful Day in Chicago.” I can’t remember the name of one program I particularly liked but I remember the announcer asked questions and if the person in the audience answered correctly he said, “Give that woman a box of Mars Bars.” [Dr. I.Q.]
Papa really enjoyed listening to the baseball games, especially the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Yankees. Mama listened to some of the soap operas – I can remember Ma Perkins in particular – and she kept up with the news. She also liked the Stamps-Baxter Melody Boys gospel music. Bob Buice from White County was the announcer and I believe the Light Crust Doughboys, a flour company, was the sponsor.
We really got our money’s worth out of that old second-hand radio. When it stopped working, Mama took the works out and used the cabinet as a piece of furniture. In 1965 I gave Papa a black and white television for his 90th birthday which was in October, in time for him to watch the World Series. Mama still liked her radio.
What a contrast today! With cable TV we can watch people going into space and everything that’s going on around the world is brought right into our living room.
hen Halloween approaches I think about some of the pranks the boys of Pangburn used to pull three-quarters of a century ago. The storefronts were always soaped – that was expected. But some of the other things came as a surprise. There was the time someone’s privy was put on Main Street in front of the bank with a sign saying, “Deposit Here.” Another time, Uncle Bart Sims’ mule was tied up on Main Street. People who lived on the edge of town frequently found a wagon or cultivator on top of their barn.
I felt sorry for my Uncle Mike Doyle, the town marshall. It was his job to keep the boys from destroying property, which was difficult for one person to do. While he was engaged with one group, another bunch would be somewhere else tearing up jack. He wanted them to have fun, but sometimes they got out of hand.
Another custom was the “Chivaree.” A week or so after a couple was married, a group of boys would surround their house late at night, ringing cowbells and making all sorts of noises. They usually ended up taking the blindfolded groom out of town, where they left him, several miles from home. He had to find his way back the best he could. The new bride was terrified and wondered if she would see her husband again.
Winston Lowe told the cruelest prank of all. He said there was a “Holy Roller” tent revival at Grubtown one summer. Wagons and teams were hitched around the perimeter of the tent with sleeping children on pallets in the wagons. He and some of the other boys in the community switched the sleeping children from one wagon to another. The parents didn’t discover the switch until they got home and found they had someone else’s child in their wagon. The frantic parents rushed back to the tent where the children were exchanged. When Winston told this story after he was grown, he said how ashamed he was that he would do such a thing. At the time it was just an innocent prank of some fun-loving boys.
SENIOR YEAR FOR THE BUS KIDS
s I look at the picture of the Class of 1933, my senior class at Beebe High School, I have mixed feelings. This was during the Depression and the school board at Pangburn did not think it would have money to open school in the fall of 1932. As a result, I rode a bus 70 miles round trip each day to Beebe and did not get to finish school with the students of my hometown. Riding such a long distance every day was a real hardship for me and my brother. School started in August when it was as hot as Hades. The road was rough, dusty gravel and by the time we got to school we were hot, windblown, sweaty and dust covered. The water fountains had tepid tap water, which did little to quench the thirst. In the winter we nearly froze – there was no heater in the bus. It started snowing in early December and we didn’t see the ground until some time in January.
It was a financial hardship for our parents to send my brother and me to Beebe. My father’s salary was $60 a month and by the time he paid the bus fare he had only $50 left. We had to buy our books and food suitable for a packed lunch. Mama was a genius at making a variety of peanut butter sandwiches.
There were two people from Pangburn in the class and there were three other people I had met previously. Louise Brown had visited relatives in Pangburn and Edwin and Ivan Gilliland I had met at County 4H Council meetings. I didn’t feel like a complete outsider but I was still a bus kid. If I had stayed in Pangburn I would have been the valedictorian. As it was, I wasn’t even considered for the honor.
I will always be grateful that I had Helen Bratton for my English teacher. She gave some kind of a quiz every day and you didn’t dare go to class unprepared. Because of her I developed a love for English literature and history that I still have today. Even the prologue to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in old English was fascinating to memorize.
I made some lasting friendships from this class. Louise Brown Schneider, Blanche Belew Hicks and Rebecca Pryor Bell are all in Little Rock and we see each other frequently. Lucille West Munzer became a very good friend after we met in the middle of the street in Memphis back in
the late 1930s. We visited each other in Tennessee, Alabama and Florida where she died a few years ago. Lucy was the class valedictorian. Louise Brown went to Japan as a civilian with the Army of Occupation. There she met and married Jim Schneider. They lived in Japan, New York City, Switzerland and St. Thomas, where Jim had a stroke. He was flown to Little Rock for treatment and later died in a nursing home. Louise is with her sister in Little Rock. Rebecca Pryor Bell was a bus kid too. She rode the Bald Knob bus from Kensett. We weren’t close friends until we both ended up in Little Rock and worked on our 25th class reunion. Blanche Belew Hicks moved to Little Rock after she married and there was a gap in our friendship until I moved to Little Rock. But in the 1950s we picked up where we left off in the ‘30s. We have quilting in common.
I wonder about some of the people in the class. Cy Williams and Lula Mae Copeland married and when they came to the class reunion they were living in Louisiana; haven’t heard about them since. Mary Claire Carothers died in Ohio. Elwin Gilliland was head of the Chamber of Commerce in Texarkana but he is deceased now. Govie Price was the chemistry teacher at Little Rock Central High School but she is now dead. Judon Vaughan from Pangburn is dead. Oleta Marsh married in Washington, DC. She and her husband moved back to Pangburn to retire.
Most members of the class are unknown to me. Many of them I never really knew and haven’t seen since that night April 28, 1933, when we were awarded diplomas. I am grateful I had the opportunity to graduate from an accredited high school, but regret that I didn’t get to graduate with the class from my hometown.
THE ONE-YEAR BUS RIDE
o far as I know, the year I went to Beebe was the only time anyone went from Pangburn to Beebe to high school. At the end of the school year in 1932 the school board in Pangburn told the teachers if they could find a job anywhere else to take it because they didn't think they would have money to open the schools the following year. In fact the teachers were given warrants instead of money which they held until the board could redeem them. The Beebe School was a part of the Jr. Agriculture College which was funded by the state and that's why so many people from the surrounding area went to school there. School was held in Pangburn in 1932-33, but it didn't start until November and there would be times when school would be closed for a few days because they ran out of wood. I think school was in session for seven months.
The bus I rode went from Heber Springs to Beebe. From Pangburn there was my brother C.E. and me, Judon Vaughan and Oleta Marsh. The college kids from Pangburn who went were Louis Crook Sr., Malcolm Peeler and Esther Marsh. We picked up Lula Mae Copeland in Searcy. From Searcy we went to Garner, McRae and Beebe. At that time the road was mostly gravel, however there was a stretch somewhere between Beebe and Searcy where half the road was paved and the other half was gravel. Everyone rode on the paved side, then when they would meet a car they would get on their side. If someone misjudged the speed of the approaching vehicle there would be a head-on collision. Guy Brady drove the bus; he was from Heber and was in college. In the wintertime it would be dark when we left and dark when we got home. It cost $5 a month to ride.
There were buses from Bald Knob that went through Judsonia and Kensett, another bus from Lonoke, and some time during the year the school in Jacksonville burned and those students were bussed to Beebe to finish the year. Fern Cowan, who later married Porter Rodgers Sr., was one of the teachers, Bro Erwin was the football coach and taught social studies, Miss Thomas was the Home Economics teacher, Lovard Davis was Agri teacher. His wife was Oleta Marsh's sister and sometimes Oleta stayed with them instead of riding the bus. Helen Bratton was my English teacher, Florence Nash was the senior class sponsor. Dr. Dale Alford's father was president of the college. There was a dormitory where some students and faculty lived, it cost $11 a month to live in the dorm. I saw my first football game while going to school there. The school didn't have a cafeteria, but they had a gym. Russel Bailey rode a horse or mule from Higginson to school.
ate one August afternoon a carload of Pangburn boys drove to Heber Springs to attend the Old Soldiers Reunion. They split up after they got there and agreed to meet at a certain place when they were ready to go home. My brother teamed up with Ottis Sanders. They rode the rides and did all the things that young people do at a place like that. Then they started looking for the Marsh boys when they thought it was time to go home. They looked everywhere and could not find them. After all, Spring Park wasn’t that big and how could they have missed them? They finally realized they had been left; they then started looking for anyone they knew who might give them a ride home. They didn’t see a single familiar face.
They decided to walk to where Highway 16 intersects Main Street to see if someone was going toward Pangburn and would give them a ride. This time it didn’t matter whether they knew the person or not, just anybody going their way.
In the meantime, Mama had decided C.E. should be home. She came into my room and said, “Your brother still isn’t home and it’s past midnight.” I tried to console her that everything was okay and he would soon be home. I went back to sleep but pretty soon she was back, wondering what to do. I said, “Well, what do you want to do? Should we go to the hospital in Heber or to the jail?” She didn’t think that was funny.
As soon as it was barely daylight she called Mrs. Marsh to see if her boys had gotten home. Mrs. Marsh said she didn’t know, her boys slept in a little house in the backyard and she hadn’t checked on them. She went out to see if they were there and if they knew what happened to my brother. They told her when they were ready to leave, they couldn’t find C.E. and Ottis and they just assumed they would get a ride with someone, so they left.
About 7 o’clock that morning, my brother made it home. He and Ottis had taken turns sleeping in the driveway of the hospital while watching for a ride. Finally a delivery truck came along and picked them up.
When I told my brother what I had said to Mama about looking for them at the hospital or the jail, he said, “Well, if you had come to the hospital you would have found us.”
utumn was harvest time when the crops were gathered and stored for winter and cotton was picked as the main money crop.
Mama took my brother C.E. and me to the field to pick cotton even after Papa stopped farming. We each had our own child-size cotton sack to put the cotton in. It was made of heavy duck with a wide strap to go over the shoulder and a metal ring on one corner of the bottom of the sack to hang over the hook of the scale when the cotton was weighed.
At first we picked on Mama’s row but when we were older we had our own row. When the sack was full we took it to the wagon where it was weighed on a beam scale with a weight called a pea. The weigher knocked off so many pounds for the weight of the sack. He kept a record of how much each person picked and paid us at the end of the week.
We were paid at the rate of a penny a pound. I tried very hard to pick 100 pounds a day so I would make a whole dollar but never was able to pick that much. I could pick more than 50 pounds in the morning but got too tired in the afternoon to pick enough to make 100 pounds.
School didn’t start until early October when most of the cotton was harvested. We never missed school to pick cotton but sometimes we picked on Saturday.
There were other chores to be done in connection with the harvest. When it rained we sat in the barn on a nail keg and picked off peanuts or shelled dried beans and peas, or shelled popcorn or corn to be taken to the mill for cornmeal. We picked up sweet potatoes and pulled gourds and pumpkins.
We never worked on Sunday. After church we went for walks in the woods to look for pretty colored leaves, wild muscadines, hickory nuts or black walnuts.
The fun things we did in autumn were to parch a pan of peanuts to eat while we played Rook or make popcorn balls or sorghum taffy.
These were happy times in spite of the hard work.
Chapter Four – Career Girl
n 1933 when I graduated from high school, we were in the midst of the Depression and college seemed out of the question. Galloway women’s college in Searcy had consolidated with Hendrix and there was no college near until some people from Little Rock started a school on the Galloway campus. My father bought an old second-hand Dodge and said my brother C.E. and I could commute from Pangburn to school, me to college and brother to high school. This college really struggled to last a year. Teachers were constantly leaving as better jobs became available.
I had three different French teachers and two chemistry teachers. When the founders of the school quit, Virgil Hunt, the last chemistry teacher, took over and held things together. Before the end of the year it was announced that Harding College in Morrilton had bought the Galloway property and would give us credit for the year’s work if we transferred to Harding, which was moved to Searcy.
At the end of my second year of college, my brother graduated from high school and now it was his turn to go to college. My father said there was no way he could send two kids to school at the same time. He said I could get a job teaching; it was more important for my brother to have an education – after all, girls just got married and their education was wasted!
That summer I got a job teaching in a one-room school with 15 students scattered in grades 1 through 8. The job paid $35 a month for two months. I had hoped the money I made that summer plus a scholarship and a job to pay room and board would be enough for a year at Ouachita, where my brother was going. My pastor said he thought I could borrow from the student loan fund if necessary. Anyway, arrangements were made for me to go to Ouachita, too. But when I was going through registration and went to the business office, I didn’t have enough money to pay all the fees and learned the loan fund was depleted.
I was sent to the office of the president who asked me what I could do, and I told him I would have to go home because that was all the money I had and my father couldn’t help me. He sat there awhile and finally said, “Miss Christine, you’re here – we’ll find a way for you to stay.” I didn’t hear any more about money or going home. I was the janitor for the Home Ec department. I worked hard keeping things clean and keeping up with my class work. Thanksgiving weekend, I had a call from the president telling me a woman had some money she wanted to give to a worthy student and it had been decided I was the student to receive the money. That year was taken care of. Now it was my senior year and money was still scarce. Papa sold the old Dodge and I sold candy in the dorm in addition to working for room and board. I graduated, but before I could teach home economics I had to go to the University of Arkansas to summer school to take some courses not offered at Ouachita. I still didn’t have a job, but before the end of the summer I was hired by Laura Conner High School in Augusta to teach two home economics classes, two health classes, a chemistry class and to serve the weekly Rotary Club dinner – all for $75 a month. After a year in Augusta I was offered a job as a Vocational Home Economics teacher at Dell in Mississippi County, where my salary was twice as much as it was in Augusta. I worked there for five years and helped my brother finish Ouachita, where he majored in chemistry and had a minor in math. He also took ROTC and was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the Army as soon as he became 21. He was just past 20 when he graduated. The job at Dell enabled me to give some money to Ouachita to help a worthy student. I felt that by doing so I repaid the woman who had helped me. My struggles continued. I was accepted at the University of Kansas Medical Center, where I served a dietetic internship. A $35 monthly stipend and the proceeds from the sale of my car financed 15 months in Kansas City. With the help of a Phi Mu nutrition scholarship and a job planning and supervising meals at the Cooperative House, I was able to pay for graduate work at the University of Alabama, where I earned a Masters degree in nutrition. I remained on the staff to do research in nutrition education which was financed by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.
It was a long trip from the one-room school to the nutrition staff of a state university, to teaching nutrition to nurses at St. Vincent Hospital School of Nursing, to providing nutrition classes for medical students and interns at VA Medical Center. But because I was too stubborn to give up, I made the journey. I had many experiences I never dreamed I’d have. When I was at the University of Alabama I went to the U.S. Office of Education in Washington, to the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and to the Harvard School of Public Health to observe nutrition education programs and bring back ideas for planning the nutrition study at the university. To meet Dr. Frederick Stare and Elizabeth Caso at Harvard, who were on the committee that developed the Diabetic Exchange Diet, was awesome. To observe Mrs. Bertha Burke in a maternity clinic at the Boston Lying In Hospital as she counseled expectant mothers was enlightening. It was there I discovered a soft drink in Boston is called a “tonic.” Later at Alabama I found it was called a “dope.”
I met Helen Walsh and other scientists at the NIH and even shared a cab with one of them back to Washington, which was an experience I still remember. It was on this trip that the people I read about in my textbooks came to life. To be able to attend the International Congress of Dietetics in Washington, to attend meetings of the American Dietetic Association in Boston and St. Louis, of the American Public Health Association in St. Louis, and seminars on nutrition and dietetics at the national level all were cherished activities. These experiences came as the result of being a determined person who would not give up and who was helped by many caring people along the way.
LEARNING TO TYPE
n the summer of 1934 I asked my brother, who had taken typing in high school, to teach me to type. He drew the keyboard on a piece of cardboard, and tacked it up on the wall by the Underwood upright typewriter. Then he covered the keys with adhesive tape and gave me his typing manual and said, “Get busy.” I spent the summer learning the keyboard and going through the manual until I could type pretty well. Being able to play the piano helped with my typing dexterity.
That fall when I entered Harding College, I asked Mr. Stapleton, the typing teacher, if I could go in the practice room with his class and practice. He said I would have to take the speed tests, and I would also have to take the final exam with the class. He said he didn’t want me to leave school and say that Ray Stapleton taught me to type and I didn’t know the parts of the typewriter. I agreed to his terms and faithfully attended the practice classes.
I never did make my living using the typewriter, but it did come in handy when I was teaching. I used a hectograph ribbon to type my tests, which were reproduced by imprinting the purple typed copy onto a pan of gelatin and then pressing the individual sheets of paper onto the gelatin copy. Later, I learned to cut a stencil, which was used on a mimeograph machine to produce multiple copies.
What a difference today! With copy machines, computers with printers and everything electronic, life is much easier. There is no need for correction fluid, a typewriter eraser, or carbon paper, when you can use the Delete key to correct mistakes, and the printer to make multiple copies. I once said I was going to invent a typewriter that could spell. Well, someone stole my idea. That computer with a mind of its own can still be intimidating as well as helpful.
THE LITTLE BROWN SCHOOLHOUSE
n 1935 C.E. finished high school and was ready for college. This was still during the Depression and Papa said there was no way he could send two kids to college at the same time. I had finished my second year of college and did a term of practice teaching so I could get a temporary teaching certificate.
In those days some of the small rural schools had two months of school in the summer and after the crops were gathered, they had a six-month winter term. I applied at two such schools and was hired by the Brown School. This school was on Highway 16, about nine miles from Pangburn and six miles from Heber Springs. This was a one-room school with grades 1-8. The salary was $35 per month. I was so excited about my new job. I went to the school and spent most of a day cleaning the room and getting it ready. I got copies of all the books so I could make lesson plans. C.E. worked with me teaching me to change a tire in case I had a flat while driving back and forth. There was a well with a pump for water and a privy. I don’t remember whether or not there was electricity in the building.
Finally the first day of school arrived and so did 15 students. There were students in every grade but two. David Spear, the young brother of Ruth and Paul, who were in high school with me, was the only child in the first grade. There were three Cathey children, and I don’t remember the names of the others. I passed David’s house, so I picked up him and three other students who lived on the way, and took them to school every day.
We started the day with a song, a Bible verse and a prayer. The ACLU didn’t exist and other teachers were doing the same. The public health nurse came to school to give smallpox vaccinations to the children who needed inoculation. There was one family with three children who objected, so they took their kids out of school. I ended the year with a dozen students. I really felt bad, but a smallpox vaccination was required in those days. I found a way to go to college that fall, so my experience as a one-room teacher lasted only two months. In case you wonder, the school building was painted brown.
QUIET TIME ON CAMPUS
hen I was a student at Ouachita College in the 1930s, we had to observe quiet hour every Sunday afternoon. We couldn’t even visit in someone’s room, but had to stay in our own room until the bell rang indicating that quiet hour was over. Every Sunday, we would come home from church, eat lunch in the dining hall and rush downtown to Hurd’s Drug Store and stay as long as we possibly could, before making it back to campus for that dreaded quiet time. On the way back to campus we would see Ouachita boys with Henderson girls on their way to the picture show. Or Claude Durrett might drive by in his car with a girl. Claude was the only person on campus with a car and Ouachita girls were not allowed to ride with him, or anyone else, for that matter, except a relative. We would pray that someone from out of town would come to visit so we could get out of our room on Sunday afternoon.
Lights were out in the dorm every night at 10:00 o’clock, no matter what. The lights were left on in the bathroom, and many times we had only the light in a small bathroom to enable us to complete our assignment for the next day. We had to sign out, showing the time leaving and where we were going, and then we had to sign in when we got back. If a person was caught signing in for someone else or if she forgot to sign out, she got demerits and when she got a certain number of demerits, she was campused. The names of the people who were confined to campus were posted on the bulletin board. There were a limited number of small parlors in the dorm, and each week all the people with dates on Friday or Saturday night would meet in the Dean’s office, to draw for a parlor to entertain her date.
Dancing was not allowed on campus or anywhere else for students. Four of us found out that the girl’s physical education teacher at Henderson College was teaching dancing in class. We went over and asked if we could take the class, but she said she couldn’t accept us since we weren’t enrolled at Henderson. She said she would teach us if we found a place. One of the girls was a speech major and she thought her teacher, who was a Presbyterian and lived in town, might let us use her house. When she asked, the teacher said, ”You know I would be glad to let you, but if Ouachita found out, I’d lose my job, and I have to work.” Well, we didn’t learn to dance. What a difference now! Some colleges have co-ed dorms, even co-ed bathrooms, and absolutely no rules. Girls can go anywhere any time with whomever they please. Our rules were too strict, but maybe a few might be in order today. Perhaps there wouldn’t be so many disastrous parties.
“DO YOU DANCE?”
hat was the question I was asked when I interviewed for the job as Vocational Home Economics teacher at Dell, Arkansas, in 1938. The member of the school board who asked the question said I would not have gotten the job had I answered “Yes.”
Dell was a small town with a population of 300-plus, located in Mississippi County 10 miles west of Blytheville on state highway 18. There were three cotton gins, three general stores, a post office, three churches, a service station and, of course, the school. This was a plantation-sharecropper community in the delta where cotton grew up to the front and back doors of the farmhands’ shacks. There was no city water system and the pump water was not drinkable. When people went to Blytheville to buy gas, they carried a five-gallon jug in the car and they would ask for five gallons of gas and five gallons of water. When people said they were going to town that meant they were going to Blytheville.
Finding a place to live in such a small town was a problem. The first year I boarded with the Methodist preacher’s family. The next year he was transferred to another church, so I had to find another place to live. This time the Math teacher and I boarded with the postmistress whose father operated one of the general stores.
Mr. Brownlee, his two sons and daughter lived next to one of the cotton gins. During the harvest season, that gin ran day and night. At first it was hard to sleep, but we finally got used to the noise. Easter that year, Warren Brownlee got married and that left two women teachers boarding with a man, his two sons and Jennie the cook. That was a rather awkward situation, but there was nowhere else for us to live, so we finished the year there. The next year, four teachers sublet a small apartment from Mrs. Greenway, who spent the winter with her son in California. We had three rooms with a coal stove for heat; there was a pump and a privy in the backyard. Two of us would buy groceries, plan menus and cook one week while the other two cleaned the house, pumped the water, brought in coal and built the fire, then the next week we would change duties. Mrs. Greenway came home at the end of the year, so we had to make other arrangements for the next year. This time a widow with a daughter in high school let us board with her. The last year I was in Dell I shared the house with Mamie Griffin, a teacher whose husband was away attending the seminary.
Living in the delta was an education to me; plantation life was so different from what I had been accustomed to in the hills of White County. This was before the time of mechanical cotton pickers to harvest the cotton and the use of herbicides to control the weeds. The landowner depended on the black field hands to chop and pick the cotton. They lived in shacks on the land and bought their goods on credit and at inflated prices at the plantation commissary. Some of the plantations had an overseer who rode a horse among the hordes of workers to keep them in line while they worked. There were separate schools for black children.
In my classes I had the plantation owners’ daughters and also the daughters of the sharecroppers so it was difficult to meet the needs of both groups in the same class. I decided that if I could teach them to make bread and cook good wholesome food that would be something both groups could use, so that would be our emphasis rather than party foods and entertaining.
As a vocational teacher I was on duty 10 months out of the year. The girls were required to do a home project that I supervised. That meant visiting in the homes at least twice during the year, which was an interesting experience. The agriculture teacher and I worked together on some community projects. We did a survey to see how many families had vegetable gardens and how many of them had chickens. We found that not many of the farm families had gardens or space for a garden, because all of the land was planted in cotton. We had a meeting of the plantation owners and urged them to give their tenants space for vegetable gardens. One plantation owner said he gave his families land for a garden and if they worked it, he didn’t charge them, but if they let it grow up in weeds, he charged them for the space. He said that land was too valuable to grow weeds.
Pearl Harbor occurred while I was teaching at Dell. I will always remember that Sunday. We had gone to Blytheville to the movies and when we came out we heard the news. The next day the whole school met in the auditorium to listen to the radio as President Roosevelt declared war on Japan. The agriculture teacher was drafted and a number of young men in the community either volunteered or were drafted. Many young people went right from high school to work at the air base in Blytheville making more money than the teachers made. I considered joining the Waves, but my family doctor discouraged me, so I continued to teach school.
I stayed at Dell for five years and when I left, it was like leaving home all over again. I had come to love the people, the church and the community in general. I often wondered if the teacher who followed me was asked if she danced, but I didn’t find out.
Today there is no longer a public school at Dell. It was consolidated with Gosnell near Blytheville and the public school buildings are being used by a private school. The town has changed. It has city water, a city hall, and there are new houses and other changes, but it is still a small town. Farming is mechanized so the plantation is not the same, but there are a few people remaining who are my friends and that hasn’t changed.
MY FIRST CARS
t was the summer of 1938. I had accepted the position of Vocational Home Economics teacher at Dell High School and a car was required to visit the homes to supervise the students’ home projects. Although I had taught school for a year at a salary of $75 a month, I had not been able to save enough money to go to the University of Arkansas that summer and buy a car too, and both were required for the job at Dell. Papa had sold the family car to finance my last year of college and my brother had two more years to go before he finished school. So Papa couldn’t help me. My cousin Wallace Whitten, who lived in Quitman, arranged for me to get a grey 1938 Plymouth two-door sedan from Manees Automobile Company in Quitman. Mr. Clark, the president of the bank who was my cousin’s brother-in-law, financ- ed the purchase. The total cost was $843 and my payments were $60 a month. During the summer vacation when I wasn’t paid, I didn’t have to make car payments.
The car had no heater or air conditioner, no radio, no automatic choke and no directional signals. To signal, you stuck your arm out the window to indicate which way you were going to turn. Straight up meant a right turn; horizontal meant a left turn, and if you dropped your arm down, that meant you were going to stop. The gear shift was in the floor, as were the clutch and brake pedals. The choke was on the dashboard. When you started the Plymouth, you pulled out the choke and stepped on the starter button in the floor. Sometimes, if you pulled the choke out too far or left it out too long, the car would flood and wouldn’t start until you let it sit for awhile.
All new cars came with governors to control the speed until they were broken in. I think they couldn’t be driven faster than 35 miles an hour. After the car was broken in, the governor was removed, but I left it on longer than was recommended so I wouldn’t be tempted to drive too fast.
Cars back then were better built than they are today. They had heavy chrome bumpers and running boards. They had tires with tubes and a full-size spare. I was able to drive on black gumbo roads and over ditch banks as I took the girls basketball team home after they played a game out of town. I found out that was one of my duties in addition to teaching. Sometimes I was given money for gas but not always.
Although the cars were well built, they weren’t very comfortable. I remember one year I was returning to school after the Christmas vacation, and it was bitter cold. Mama heated a brick and wrapped it in a piece of an old blanket and put it on the floor of the front seat to try to keep me warm. Not long after I started, it started raining and freezing on the windshield. I had to stop every few miles and try to scrape the ice off. A trip that should have taken three hours took all day. There was no de-icer and not a very good tool for scraping ice. I stopped at service stations along the way to get help. At one station the man cut an onion in half and rubbed it on the windshield. That was supposed to keep the ice from freezing, but it didn’t. By the time I got to Dell I felt like I was coated in ice, too. That brick lost its heat long before I reached my destination.
In 1940, my brother bought a new Studebaker, which went with him to maneuvers in Tennessee when he was in the Arkansas National Guard and took him home for weekends while he was stationed at Camp Robinson. When he got orders to go overseas he told me to take his car and he would store my Plymouth to have if he came back after the war. The Studebaker was more comfortable than the Plymouth. It had a heater and a radio. I drove it until I left to serve a dietetic internship in Kansas in 1944. I sold it to the Stapletons, who were on the faculty at Harding College and were going to graduate school in Iowa. They paid me as much as the car cost new. The Stapletons paid me $25 a month and that helped finance my internship. My brother did come home and he drove the old Plymouth a few more years. In 1949, I bought my next new car. Cars were still scarce. I was going to work at the State Health Department and needed a car to travel. Again, my cousin Wallace Whitten was able to help me. This time it was a 1949 Chevrolet and the down payment was more than my first car cost and it wasn’t nearly as well built.
BEATING THE HEAT IN OUR UNDERWEAR
esterday when my air conditioner was blowing hot air and I had to turn it off, I thought about the time before air conditioning. Before we had electricity, the only fans were the funeral home fans or a palm leaf fan, and all they did was move the hot air around. At night, doors and windows were left open. After we got electricity we had small oscillating fans that moved the hot air a little faster than the funeral home fans did.
In the summer of 1941 while attending Oklahoma A&M College, I lived on the third floor of Willard Hall with no air conditioning or electric fan. To stay cool while we studied, we sat in our underwear with a wet towel draped over our shoulders. In Biochemistry class we had to collect a 24-hour urine sample to test in the lab. If we had the windows open, the wind put out the flame of the Bunsen burner under the flask of boiling urine. Can you imagine the odor?
In 1943 I went back to A& M. The Waves had taken over the dormitories and I had to live in town with the Moore family. Six students lived there on the second floor with no air conditioning. My roommate and I slept most nights on an old day bed in the backyard. It had springs, but no mattress, so we took the bedding from our bed to soften it slightly. The family bulldog slept under our bed to protect us. We went back in the house before daylight. I lived in Alabama in the 1940s before air conditioning. One summer I lived on the third floor of the Alabama Apartments with a small electric fan. Somehow we managed to survive. My worst summer was probably in 1945 when I worked at Herman Hospital in Houston. I had to stand over a steam table in a hot kitchen, checking trays. When the tray line finished, I was so hot I could not eat lunch. That's when I learned to drink iced coffee. I took a glass of ice to the coffee urn and filled it with coffee, which refreshed me enough that I could eat.
It wasn't until I moved to Little Rock and was expecting my second baby in the summer of 1955 that we got two window air conditioners. Before then, I remember a good friend from Pangburn was a patient in St. Vincent Hospital and I took her an electric fan from our house, because there was no air conditioning at the hospital. When I went to work at the VA Hospital in 1959, the only part of the hospital to have air conditioning was the dog lab and the library. I would go to the library to plan menus and do my paperwork. The poor patients suffered from the heat and it really affected their appetite.
We are so spoiled today; we wonder how we lived in the past. We may be paying a big price for our air-conditioned comfort, if it results in global warming.
101 WAYS TO COOK CHICKEN
n 1943, during World War II, when I was director of food service at Ouachita College there were Army aviation students on the campus in addition to the college students and faculty who ate in the cafeteria. I was not really prepared for this job – I had never served a meal for more than 50 people and now there were more than 600 to be served three times a day in two shifts. The Army said feed the cadets until the administration gripes; the administration said feed them until the Army stops griping. As it worked out, 250 cadets could eat more than 250 students made up of both girls and boys.
Because it was wartime, sugar, meat and butter were rationed and we always ran out of points before the end of the month. That meant serving chicken that wasn’t rationed or killing a beef from the college herd, which didn’t require points. That worked pretty well until the meat cutter was drafted and I was left with the college carpenter to cut the meat. There I was in the kitchen, trying to tell him how to cut a beef into steaks and roasts; I can assure you, it was the blind leading the blind. Margarine was used as a butter substitute, but it had to have the color added; otherwise, it looked and tasted like shortening. When the sugar was gone, we served canned fruit for dessert. One time the kitchen boys opened unsweetened peaches and served them for dessert and filled the sugar containers with salt. They never did convince me it was an innocent mistake.
Chicken was served every way possible: fried, smothered, baked with dressing, as chicken a la king, chicken and dumplings and chicken pot pie. I said I could write a book on 101 ways to cook chicken.
Algie and Charlie were the two cooks; Claude was the campus handy man who drove a wagon and mule to haul off the garbage and trash. Algie was the cook when I was a student, so there wasn’t much I could tell him. Robert was a full-time kitchen manager and meat cutter until he was drafted. Oras Dotson was the head kitchen boy, and there were other students who ran the dishwasher, set up the cafeteria line and served the food. Some of them were very dependable, but some of the ministerial students seemed to think if they had a religious meeting to attend that excused them from their job. Opal Crutchfield, a home economics major, helped me with menu planning.
It was a problem to cook enough food. The cadets ate first, and it seemed the students got shortchanged. If the cadets ate all the meat, we had to serve cold cuts or some other meat substitute to the students. As time went on and I got more experience, I was able to do a better job of planning.
I tried really hard to make the dining room look good. There were muslin curtains for the windows, but they weren’t being used. I sent them to the college laundry and then hung them at the windows. We got pictures of airplanes to put on the wall, and on Thursday night we had dress-up night with white tablecloths and music.
I stayed in this job for only a year and I really did not feel I had done a good job at all. I was too young to know that I couldn’t do it, so I attempted it. I came to realize that I needed more training if I were to be a dietitian, so that’s when I applied for a dietetic internship.
Years later, someone gave me this clipping from the college newspaper written by a cadet about how good the food was. So maybe I wasn’t a failure after all.
MY FIRST CHRISTMAS AWAY FROM HOME
t was December 1943. I was director of food service for 350 Army aviation students and an equal number of college students at Ouachita College in Arkadelphia. Ordinarily, the campus and cafeteria would be closed for the Christmas holidays but there were about 70 cadets who lived too far away to go home on a five-day pass, so the cafeteria had to be kept open. That meant I had to stay on campus and recruit a skeleton crew of students who were willing to miss Christmas at home to serve the cadets.
I felt sorry for myself, the cadets, the students and my parents, who were all away from our loved ones at a time when families are usually together. My parents would be alone for the first time in 27 years. My brother, who was newly married, was in the Army stationed on an island off the coast of Alaska, while his bride was at home with her parents.
Miss Leila Watson, who had to leave China because of the war, was a missionary in residence at Ouachita and she, too, was on campus during the holidays. She suggested that we do something special for the cadets on campus so that Christmas would be more than just another day.
We got the cafeteria crew together and fixed stockings for all the cadets. We made fudge and cookies, got fruit and nuts for the stockings. On Christmas morning there were white tablecloths on the tables, the grapefruit had been cut around the segments and there was a red cherry in the middle of each one. A Christmas stocking hung on the back of each chair. At my place there was a doll from Miss Watson, who wanted to bring cheer to me.
When I saw how much the cadets appreciated our efforts, I forgot about feeling sorry for myself and the first Christmas away from home was one I remember as being very special. This was the first of many Christmases to be spent away from loved ones. Because of my work as a hospital dietitian, I spent a number of holidays bringing cheer to sick patients.
In 1944, I was a student dietitian at Kansas University Medical Center and I worked every holiday. I remember a little girl from a very poor family who had to spend Christmas in the hospital. She had been badly burned and was not able to be home and her family wasn’t able to be with her. The nurses and others tried to cheer her up. She had dolls and toys she would not have had at home, but she had that wistful faraway look that told you she missed her family.
I was home for Christmas in 1945 but my brother still wasn’t able to be there. The war was over but he was still in service and couldn’t get leave to come home.
In 1946, I was working in Houston at Herman Hospital and once again had to work on Christmas Day. We attended midnight Christmas Eve service at the Episcopal church near the hospital. After I got off duty on Christmas Day I visited my Doyle cousins in Houston and then my cousin Charlie took me to the train. I got home the following day for a late Christmas with the family. That year my brother was there with his little family. He had two small boys and when people asked them what Santa brought, they said, “Old Santa isn’t coming to see us until Aunt Chris gets home.” I had a fit when I found out they made the children wait. We had a good time being together as a family for the first time in six years. I guess Christmas can be any day as long as family is together.
Christmas Day in 1959, when my girls were four and five years old, I was working at the V.A. Medical Center in Little Rock. Two dietitians had to work, so we drew to see who it would be. Guess who was lucky? The person working with me said she would work the early shift so I could be home to see the girls open their gifts. Christmas had been ruined for them because the little girl down the street told them there was no Santa Claus. What a shame they had to find out so young!
Now that I’m a widow and the nest is empty, I spend most Christmases away from family. My girls are too far away to come home in the time they have off, so there are friends who see that I’m not alone. Or, I find someone who would be alone and invite them to share the day with me. After all, Christmas is in the heart and can be shared with anyone with a kindred spirit.
t was February 1947. I went to Boston to observe the nutrition education research programs conducted by Harvard School of Public Health to get ideas for a similar project at the University of Alabama. Betty Lockwood met my train and took me to my cousins Freda and John George’s apartment at Waltham, a suburb of Boston. The next morning I was supposed to meet Betty and go with her to the public schools where the nutrition study was being conducted. When we got up the next morning we couldn’t believe our eyes. The biggest snowfall of the season occurred while we slept. A white blanket covered everything. It looked to be a foot deep and I was not prepared for it. Snow boots were not needed in Alabama and my low-cut shoes were no match for such a deep snow. John said there was no way that he was going to class at MIT in that snow.
Freda and John had no telephone so Betty could not let me know the schools were closed. I felt compelled to try to make it to the appointed meeting place. I started out walking to the bus stop. Soon after I reached the street, a car stopped and a young Naval officer opened the door and asked where I was going. When I told him, he said he was going that way and would take me as far as he could. John and Freda were watching out the window and when they saw me get into that car they weren’t sure they would ever see me again. The fellow was a graduate student from Texas who was attending Harvard. When he let me out of the car I took the bus the rest of the way. When I arrived, Betty wasn’t there. When I called her office, I learned that school had been cancelled. She said I could take the subway downtown to her office if I wanted to. By that time I was so cold I said if she didn’t mind I thought I would go back to my cousin’s apartment.
We were snowed in for two days. By Sunday the snow had melted enough that we drove around to see the sights. We went to Worcester where I had my first glimpse of the rocky New England coast and the Atlantic Ocean. We saw the old North Church and other historical points of interest from the car. When we stopped for coffee I was so cold I hard a hard time deciding whether to drink the coffee or pour it on my feet.
By Monday I was able to go to the schools and see what I had come to see. That night we were invited to the home of Elizabeth Caso, the director of the nutrition research project. Her Italian husband cooked a real Italian meal for us and it was delicious. We had a very delightful evening. The next day I was able to observe a nutritionist at the Boston Lying in Hospital and to talk with a nutritionist at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine.
I came away with a lot of ideas for our project at the University of Alabama, and the New England snow was a bonus.
SOMETHING VENTURED, SOMETHING GAINED
he summer of 1944 was a time of anxiety and uncertainty. D-Day had occurred and World War II was raging in Europe and the Pacific. I had taught home economics for seven years but I resigned my job, sold my car and went to Kansas City, Kansas, where I would spend the next 16 months serving my dietetic internship at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
People in Pangburn thought I was crazy to give up a steady job at age 28 to return to school during this time.
While I was in Kansas City, Roosevelt died. Truman became President, the war ended in Europe, Ike came home to Kansas City, and Truman ordered the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end the war in the Pacific. I felt like I had a front seat to history.
Margaret Webb, a dietetic intern from Louisiana, had also come to Kansas City, and we were staying at the same hotel while looking for a place to live. Although we weren’t yet friends, we decided to look for a room together. Margaret fascinated people with her deep southern accent and expressions. She would say, “He carried me to the movies,” which meant a man had driven her to the movies. She pronounced mayonnaise “myannaise.”
We found a room with twin beds in a big house on Wyoming Street in Kansas City, Missouri, only a few blocks from the hospital, which was on the Kansas side of the Kansas-Missouri border.
I told people I walked from Missouri to Kansas and back every day! We each paid $20 per month for this room, which left us each $15 per month from our stipend for food. By eating in the hospital cafeteria and choosing carefully, we could stretch our food budget.
Five other people rented rooms in this house, and with the family that owned the house, that was a total of 10 people living there. We had only one bathroom, but because of our staggered schedules, the 10 of us managed.
There were six students in my class and six staff dietitians. Ruth Gordon was the Chief of Nutrition Service, and was the person who had approved my application for admission to the program. Older students beginning second careers were rare in those days, but Ms. Gordon’s pioneering went far beyond accepting older students; she integrated the employee cafeteria and accepted black dietetic interns when “separate but equal” was the norm.
Marian Jones was Ms. Gordon’s assistant and was in charge of food administration. Ruth Green was the therapeutic dietitian who innocently played an instrumental role in my career. Josephine Wilson was in charge of food service on the floors. Georgia Metarisan was in charge of the cafeteria. Sarah Snook was secretary of the department. Another woman was the head cook, a position that would have ordinarily been filled by a man, and the only cook in the diet kitchen was also a woman.
Every student spent two months on each of the different services. We could ask for help if we needed it; otherwise we had to live with our mistakes, such as the Sunday I didn’t order enough meals to feed the after-church crowd in the cafeteria and people had to wait while more food was cooked.
Because this was wartime, help was hard to get and keep. People would come to work one day and the next week they would leave for a better-paying defense job. As a result, students had to do many jobs they ordinarily would not do. One time I was busing dirty dishes from one of the floors to the dish room in the main kitchen because an employee didn’t show up. A doctor saw me and asked if I went to college four years to learn to do that.
Many foods were rationed, including meat, sugar and butter. We had two meatless days a week in the cafeteria. Desserts were usually fruit. Kansas had a law that prevented state institutions from using margarine because of influence of the dairy industry, so our rationed butter was even more in demand; we kept it under lock and key.
All the modified diets were prepared and served from the special diet kitchen. Student nurses, as well as student dietitians, were assigned to this service to prepare and weigh the food for the diabetic, reduction and ketogenic diets. This was before the diabetic exchanges had been devised, and the diet order would read X number of grams carbohydrates, protein and fat, as well as calories, divided into three meals with an H S feeding. Every diet had to be calculated every day. If a patient left any food, it was weighed, the available glucose was calculated, and a weighed amount of orange juice was given to replace the glucose in order to prevent an insulin reaction. Imagine weighing 60 grams of lettuce, 120 grams of orange juice, and every piece of food that was served on those trays.
When I was assigned to the diet kitchen, I had a patient who had been given permission to have beer. I was asked to buy the beer since I lived in Missouri and Kansas was a dry state. I became a reluctant bootlegger. This patient was a nuisance: after I calculated the beer in his diet, he decided he didn’t want it that day, and I had to recalculate the diet. Most of our patients were charity cases, but this man was private pay, and he was in the room we dubbed the “Holy of Holies,” saved for wealthy or celebrity patients. He could change his mind and get away with it. Another time he said he wasn’t going to drink that “g—d-m” orange juice or have an insulin reaction – and he didn’t.
We got many burn patients because of Dr. Padgett, a famous plastic surgeon on the staff. He ordered a very high protein diet for his patients to aid healing and reduce the number of transfusions needed. It was a real challenge to provide 150 to 200 grams of edible protein. We used Nutramigen and Casiac as supplements but it was difficult to make them acceptable to the patients.
The high-fat low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet had to be calculated to get the right ratio of fat to carbohydrate. Other diets prepared in the diet kitchen were the low purine diet for gout, the sippy diet for ulcers, and the alkaline ash diet for kidney stones. Then there was the celiac diet and the low-residue diets. Because of all the new drugs and the advances in medical science, many of these diets are forgotten today. However, the ketogenic diet has recently received mention in the press as a successful treatment in some pediatric epilepsy cases in which patients did not respond to conventional treatment with anticonvulsive drugs.
We were affiliated with Menorah Hospital, a Jewish hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, so we could observe centralized tray service and a kosher kitchen. When I was there for my month of service, I was asked if I could take a leave of absence from the intern program and work for one of the dietitians who was going to summer school. I worked for two additional months and the experience was very worthwhile. One of my jobs was to plan the menus for the kosher kitchen. A life-long Southern Baptist, I would invariably slip and give butter with bread or ice cream for dessert with a meat meal. This really upset the Jewish cook in that kitchen who was a refugee from Germany.
We had high school students to serve trays on the weekends. Some of them were dependable; others didn’t bother to come. This posed a problem. One Sunday night when the high school students didn’t feel like coming to work, I was responsible for simultaneously serving soup, checking trays and answering the phone. I finally took the receiver off the hook. The cook from the kosher kitchen came to help me, or I don’t think I would have ever gotten the trays out. People were calling to ask for chicken sandwiches and a malt in place of the tray they received.
Ruth Green asked me to work two months for her as the therapeutic dietitian so she could take a bicycle trip. As a result, I finished my internship four months after my classmates. That proved to be a real blessing. Virginia Monahan joined the staff as the dietitian in the clinic and I was the first student in the clinic. It was during that rotation that I found out what I really wanted to do. Virginia said I would need a masters degree if I wanted to be a clinical dietitian, and guided me as I applied for jobs that would allow me to go to school and work on my masters. The choices were many. The war had ended and dietitians were resigning to marry or join their husbands who were returning home. I narrowed the choices to two – a job and a fellowship at the University of Iowa to work with Dr. Daum, or a scholarship to work with Dr. Todhunter at the University of Alabama. I chose the latter because I would get my degree sooner.
Although I felt uncertain in the beginning about changing careers, I now know the decision was wise. I’ve had wonderful opportunities and experiences in the dietetic field as a clinician and educator in hospitals, classrooms, clinics and patients’ homes. I will be forever grateful to Ruth Gordon for taking a chance on an older student and giving me the opportunity to study. A friend told me when I was trying to decide what to do, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” I ventured and I gained.
A WOMAN NAMED NEIGE
y major professor in graduate school was a tall, large-boned, red-haired, stern Britisher from New Zealand. She was an avid reader; in fact, she read a different book in each room of her apartment. These were not novels but serious scientific or biographical works. She was a wonderful teacher who, in spite of her brilliance, could get down on the level of the student and make the science of nutrition relevant. Some students were intimidated by her, but she tried very hard to be understanding and patient. I remember her saying, “The head can absorb only so much as the seat can endure, so that’s enough for today.” Although she had lived in America for a number of years she never lost her British accent. I loved to hear her say “tomato” and “rozberry.” My introduction to her was through a scientific paper I read one summer in a survey course of nutrition literature. The Ascorbic Acid Content of the Red Raspberry by Neige Todhunter stood out for some reason. Never did I dream then that someday I would be her student and later on her staff. In fact, when I read the article I didn’t know it was written by a woman. When people, who didn’t know, saw her name in print she was mistaken for a man. She told about being assigned to a room with a man at a conference one time. Dr. Todhunter had a temper to go along with her red hair, and at times made it uncomfortable for students and staff alike. Often people who needed to talk to her would ask the secretary how the weather was that day and if she said “stormy,” then the problem would wait for better weather. Although she seemed untouchable with a wall around her, underneath that hard exterior was a “softie.” This woman named Neige will forever be my heroine. I feel fortunate to have studied with her and have her as a friend.
ne day while teaching at St. Vincent School of Nursing in Little Rock I met Dr. Sexton Lewis in the hall. He said, “Mrs. Spear, I’ve been wanting to talk to you.” I said, “Dr. Lewis, I’ve been wanting to talk to you, too.” “We need a dietitian at the Diagnostic Clinic to instruct Dr. Mitchell’s diabetic patients,” he replied. “That’s exactly what I wanted to talk to you about,” I said. “You have every service at the clinic except that of a dietitian.”
He arranged a meeting with Dr. Mitchell and plans were made for me to be at the clinic one day a week to counsel with patients who had dietary problems. As far as I know, this was the first dietitian in the state to have a private practice with a group of physicians. I didn’t have an office but used the space of whichever physician was off that day. When I joined the clinic in 1962 there were five physicians on staff. When I left to work full time at the V.A. Hospital in 1972, the clinic had 10 physicians.
The clinic paid to send me to the International Congress of Dietetics in Washington in 1969. At that meeting I heard Dr. Levy from the National Institutes of Health talk on diet and heart disease. He told about the low-fat diets he and Dr. Frederickson were developing. After the lecture I asked how I could get a set of the diets. He took my name and address and said a set would be sent as soon as it was available. Our clinic was the first group in Arkansas to use those diets. I really enjoyed the close relationship with that group of physicians and it makes me sad that only one of the group is left. The others are retired or deceased.
arly in the morning on the first day of the week, a group of Christians huddled in Denny Stadium to celebrate the resurrection. Instead of the Bama Fight Song and Roll Tide Roll, it was “Up from the grave He arose” and “Christ is risen today, Alleluia” – what a contrast!
As we walked back to the apartment following the sunrise service, the air was heavy with dew and the fragrance of the flowers. Every blade of grass sparkled in the early morning sun. The birds sang a heavenly chorus as all nature proclaimed the good news of the resurrection.
In Sunday School opening exercise at First Baptist Church, the 15th chapter of I Corinthians was read with much feeling and expression. “If Christ be not raised you are still in your sins … But Christ has been raised …. proclaiming the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The climax of the day was at the afternoon service of the Stained Glass Windows. First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was built in the 1800s, red brick, white steeple and beautiful old stained glass. It was the church where the old Baptist families worshipped. If Baptist churches had a high church, this would be one.
The minister wore a robe and the service was rather formal. The minister of music was an organ professor at the University, a short, stout, baldheaded, bespectacled man who could play the organ and direct the choir all at the same time without missing a beat. He exuded music from his whole being. He wrote the script and selected music to depict the message of each of the beautiful windows. What a high note on which to end this glorious Easter Day. Written 50 years later -- Easter 1998.
hen Gerry Waggener Getty and I were working together at the State Health Department in 1949, she introduced me to Melvin Spear, whom she had met at a State Medical Society Convention. She said she had been out with him a few times and he was a nice fellow, but she was trying to make up her mind about Hugh Getty and she had asked Melvin not to call her again.
Melvin did seem to be a very nice fellow. He liked to go dancing but I had not learned to dance and told him so. He suggested that I go to the Arthur Murray Studio and take some lessons. He said he had gone there to learn to Tango. I did enroll and I did learn how to dance, but not really well; however I could dance with Melvin. We went to Westwood where my cousin Dick Fikes and his band were playing and to Tiawana on West Markham Street where they had a wonderful big jukebox and dance floor. There was one certain waiter at Tiawana that always waited on us and we liked him very much. In the daytime he was the delivery person for Smith’s Drug Store and he would stop to visit with us on North Jackson Street after we were married.
One Sunday night I invited Melvin to come for a meal that I cooked. Just before we sat down to eat he unloaded his pockets. He had bought Alka Seltzer, Tums, aspirin and Lomotil just to tease me about my cooking. For Christmas he said he wanted a picture of me. Well, I found a picture of a big fat woman in a magazine which I cut out and matted. I wrapped it beautifully as a gift and gave it to him. That was my way of getting even for what he did when I invited him for that meal.
I met Melvin in late September of 1949, and I really had no intention of getting serious. I had never dated a Jewish person and I thought he would be just someone to go places with me. After all, I was a died-in-the-wool Baptist and whoever I married would have to be the same. For Christmas, he gave me a jewelry box with a note that said for “our jewels.” I thought, “I need to set something straight; we need to have a talk.” I went home for Christmas before having the talk. On New Year’s Eve, Melvin’s club members went dancing at the Star Light Club and one of them told me that Melvin was really nuts about me. The next day, we went to the Old Mill in North Little Rock and there we had the serious talk that resulted in our engagement. I told him how I could never give up my faith and I could never agree to have children brought up in the Jewish faith and that we needed to have a clear understanding before there could be any talk of marriage. We agreed that we would attend church services with each other, but that any children we had would be brought up in the Christian faith.
In January, we went to Houston where I met his sister and her family. I had met his father and cousin who lived in Little Rock and had taken him to Pangburn to meet my parents. Everyone seemed to approve – or if they didn’t, they did not let us know. In January, Melvin’s cousin went with him to Stifft’s Jewelers to get my ring. The night he gave it to me, we were in my apartment talking and he distracted me by pointing to something across the room. When I looked around, there was the ring. I was surprised and pleased. It was a pretty ring.
I had a conference with Dr. McKay, the pastor of Second Baptist Church where I was a member. He talked to me about some of the problems that might develop because of the difference in our religious beliefs, but he said if we had a clear understanding before hand there should be no problem.
We set Saturday, May 6, 1950, as our wedding date. We were to be married in the study of Second Baptist Church with just the immediate family members present. After all arrangements were made, it was pointed out that Jews don’t marry on the Sabbath. I told Melvin we could change the date, but he declined and we went ahead with the plans. Melvin’s sister came several days before the wedding to attend a party and to make arrangements for family dinner the night before the wedding. It was held at the Sam Peck Hotel, a nice affair with champagne sent by Melvin’s Uncle Danny Dreeban in San Antonio.
Of course, Mama and Papa came for the wedding along with C.E. and his family from San Antonio. Melvin’s relatives who attended were his father Henry and his cousins Mooch and Laura Safferstone from Little Rock, his aunt Rae and uncle Louis Rothenberg and uncle Harry Dreeben, all from San Antonio, and his sister Bunny Sartorius and her husband Si from Houston. My long-time friend Anna Mae King and Melvin’s friend George Franklin stood up with us. I wore a blue silk faille suit with white hat and white orchid corsage. A record player played soft background music during the ceremony. There was no reception or wedding cake. We left soon after the ceremony for our honeymoon in New Orleans.
In spite of the differences in religion, we had a good marriage. It wasn’t always easy but we had an understanding ahead of time and were willing to make compromises. I wanted to have the blessing at meals and Melvin asked that we not pray “in Jesus’ name.” He couldn’t understand why I wanted to go to church every Sunday but accepted the explanation that just as the body needs food every day for nourishment, the spiritual body needs to be fed regularly too.
Laura Safferstone invited me to join her sewing club. I was the only gentile member of the club, but I felt welcome and still consider those ladies my friends even though the club has not met in several years. Rabbi Sanders was very accepting of me and called me a Christian Jewess. My ashes will be buried in Oakland Jewish Cemetery in the Spear plot, but there will be no Christian service at the cemetery.
Incidentally, Gerry did make up her mind about Hugh Getty and our families have been friends these many years.
“POOR PEOPLE EAT BLACK-EYED PEAS”
he seven years my father-in-law lived with us he always said, “Sweetheart, poor folks eat black-eyed peas,” every time I served them. Melvin’s father Henry was affectionately called “Pop.”
He could be very kind and thoughtful or he could be a pain in the neck, especially about meals. He and his son didn’t like the same foods, which made it hard for me. I was not a Jewish cook, which made it hard for them. Melvin liked black-eyed peas and turnip greens; Pop liked spinach but not turnip greens or peas. Melvin liked stringbeans and Pop said, “When the good Lord was making stringbeans, why couldn’t He have made peaches?” Pop drank coffee but Melvin didn’t. Pop liked my fried apples and would say, “ Sweetheart, burn ‘em” – cook them until they were very brown. He asked if I could make muscadine preserves, so I got Mama’s recipe and purchased muscadines when I saw them in Terry’s Market. That was quite an ordeal. I made them once but not again.
Melvin and Pop did not follow the Jewish dietary laws, but they did like some of the Jewish dishes so I got the recipes from Melvin’s sister and learned to make them. They both liked cheesecake and Pop said my recipe was better than his daughter’s. He kept telling me about a “strawberry kiss tart” his wife had made for him. He said it was meringue with sweetened strawberries and whipped cream. I tried to make it but my arm nearly fell off from all the beating it took to gradually beat a cup of sugar into the egg whites. I didn’t have an electric mixer and used a rotary eggbeater. I proudly asked if that was the way “Mother” used to make it. Pop said the taste was similar but hers was higher. I asked Melvin’s sister to make “strawberry kiss tart” and let me watch. She had her mother’s pans and that’s where the secret was found. They were square spring-form pans and she made two layers of meringue, which is why Mother’s “strawberry kiss tart” was higher than mine. Melvin’s sister helped a lot and taught me to season things the way her mother did.
I still had problems with food. When Melvin was at home, I cooked the things that he liked. When he was on the road, I cooked what Pop liked. Seafood gumbo for Melvin, split pea soup for Pop, turnip greens for Melvin, spinach for Pop. I was asked to never cook liver or lamb. One time I cooked a leg of lamb and passed it off as roast beef and no one knew the difference. One problem I never solved was that of rare roast beef and brown gravy from the same piece of meat.
At the time, trying to please two people with such different tastes in food was a challenge. But today I would welcome someone to cook for and to eat with, even if they didn’t like what I like.
n the late 1890s in Poland a teenaged Jewish boy dreamed of leaving the ghetto and the prospect of serving in the Czar’s Army to follow his brother to America. In 1901 money arrived for him to sail steerage class on the Vaderland from Southampton, England, to New York, from there to make his way to Bradford, Pennsylvania, to live with his brother.
This short Jewish boy named Chaim Schischupski spoke no English and had several other strikes against him. He decided he could help the situation if his name was changed to Henry Spear and he learned English.
He and his brother went door to door mending umbrellas and doing other small repair jobs. They eventually moved to Selma, Alabama, where they opened a dry goods store. It was in Selma in 1909 at age 26 that Henry became an American citizen. That same year he married Mamie Dreeben of Texarkana. Eventually the family moved to Little Rock. Henry worked at a number of jobs to support his family, that now consisted of a son and daughter, but selling was his real talent.
In the 1920s he went door to door selling Apex Vacuum Cleaners. He had no car, so he traveled by train or walked. He took a box of vacuum cleaners and went by train to a small town in west Arkansas. He stopped at a house and asked if he could give a demonstration. A group of neighbors gathered to see the vacuum cleaner at work. He got everything set up and handed the cord to a little boy to plug in. The child looked perplexed -- they had no electricity in the town. He wondered what he could do with four vacuum cleaners until the train came back at the end of the day. He found out a power line was to be built in the near future, so he sold all of the vacuum cleaners before the day was over -- in a town with no power.
Another time he was in the lobby of a hotel where he saw a salesman writing up a bunch of orders. He engaged the person in conversation and found out he represented the Aloe Company in St. Louis, a surgical supply firm. Later he took the train to St. Louis and went to the Aloe Company to ask for a job. He was asked if he knew anything about surgical supplies and he said, “No, but just give me a catalog and a job and I’ll learn.” He became their top salesman in the whole country.
This Jewish boy from Suwalk, Poland, who went from mending umbrellas to the top salesman with a national company, lived the impossible dream -- only in America.
THE LOST FAMILY
y father-in-law Henry Spear died thinking his sister Bertha Hassid and her family perished in the Holocaust when Hitler marched across Poland in 1939. Henry grieved for his family, especially a nephew named Josef who was a very talented violinist.
In 1998 I received a telephone call from a Dr. Gerald Spear from California who was trying to locate some of his relatives. I told him I doubted we were related because my father-in-law came from Poland and changed his name in America. He asked if he came from Suwalki and was originally named Schischupski. When I replied, “Yes,” he said we were related. Dr. Spear’s father Alfred and Henry were first cousins.
He said that Bertha and her family did not perish in the Holocaust. She died of typhoid fever, he said, and Josef’s father took him to Belgium to study music. They were invited to London in 1938 by Carl Flesch so Josef could study with him. Flesch’s house was a gathering place for musical celebrities.
Kreisler, who heard Josef play, is reported to have said , “A violinist such as this is born every 200 years.” Kreisler helped him by lending him a violin by J.B. Vuillaume to play for the remainder of what turned out to be a short career.
One of the people who heard him play arranged for some recording tests to be made. In the summer of 1940, at age 17, Josef made two records which were made later into CDs. I have those CDs today. Josef appeared in a few BBC recital broadcasts and played some concerts in Queen’s Hall.
Tragically, in 1940, it became clear the young artist was suffering from a severe mental disorder which medical science at that time was not able to treat. He was examined by a number of London doctors, including Lord Horder, Churchill’s physician. He died in a Surrey hospital in 1950 after an unsuccessful brain operation.
This is the story of the lost family which was never found by my father-in-law and husband.
moved to 1816 North Jackson Street in Little Rock as a bride in 1950 and lived there for 35 years. Melvin’s mother died while he was in service and when he came home after World War II, he and his dad sold their house on 20th Street and bought the one on North Jackson. They moved things in but they really didn’t live there. They only slept there when they were in town. I will never forget the first time I saw that house. All I could see was a neutral beige-colored house inside and out. It was a seven-room buff brick with beige trim and beige paint inside. I could see possibilities but I could also see the need for an awful lot of changes and hard work to make it livable.
To begin with we had new paint inside and the trim outside painted brown. It was no longer a beige house. The hardwood floors were sanded and refinished. We bought a new couch for the living room, a round maple table and chairs for the breakfast room, an electric range for the kitchen and twin beds for the master bedroom. The water heater was moved from the kitchen to the pantry. Those were the major changes. Others were made later.
When this house was built in the 1920s lots of windows were used for ventilation. There was no other way to cool houses at that time. One bedroom had four windows. The master bedroom had five windows and four doors. You could place the furniture only one way in that room. There were casement windows over the sink in the kitchen and in the front of the living and dining rooms. There were burglar bars on all the windows. We had curtains only in the master bedroom. Melvin’s sister put up white ruffled crisscross organdy curtains with Shasta daisy tiebacks while we were on our honeymoon. They looked real pretty with the blue walls and white trim. The kitchen had a pantry and a service hall with a door to the outside. There wasn’t room for the refrigerator in the kitchen so it was in the service hall. There was a fireplace in the living room with an open gas stove in it. There were open gas heaters in each of the rooms.
The house faced east. It had a small porch next to the living room on the south, and there was a concrete slab across the front of the living room. In the front yard there were three large oak trees and in the back there was a large pine, an oak and a hickory. The yard had so much shade there was very little grass. The two-car garage and attached servants quarters were at the end of a long narrow driveway on the north side of the lot. The servants quarters were used for storage, and the garage was not large enough for two cars of the 1950s. There was a floored attic with a pull-down stairway, so there was plenty of storage space, except that Mr. Spear was a big pack rat. I would carry things out to the garage and Mr. Spear would slip half of it back into the house. We played a game until I found a man to haul junk. There was so much he had to make two trips.
When we turned the heat on that first year, the gas fumes were terrible. I said there was no way I could live with those open gas heaters, so we got floor furnaces installed. Many other improvements were made as time went on. In the summer of 1955 when I was pregnant with Diane we got window air conditioners. In January of 1957 we modernized the kitchen. The wall was knocked out between the pantry and service hall and that space was incorporated into the kitchen. Now the refrigerator was in the kitchen, the water heater moved to the attic, a dishwasher, garbage disposal and clothes dryer were also added and new cabinets built. It was during this remodeling that we discovered there were hardwood floors in the kitchen.
Later, central heat and air conditioning were added, and at that time we got new paint and carpet. Melanie and Diane asked to have their own rooms, so that meant new furniture. Melanie had an antique iron bed in her room and Diane had maple bedroom furniture. I made curtains and together we had fun fixing up their rooms. In the 1960s we had the garage and servants quarters converted into a guesthouse for my parents. Before the construction was finished they decided they didn’t want to leave Pangburn. We used this room for the girls to entertain their friends. The television and piano were moved out there, along with a game table and other furniture. After the girls left home it became my craft and sewing room. After Melvin’s death I had the bathrooms modernized, built a wooden fence across the back and side yards, and had the yard landscaped, both back and front.
I tried all the years I lived at that house to get grass to grow. I was the first person on the street to get St. Augustine grass. It grew pretty well for a while but gradually there would be less and less grass. We got someone to come in, dig up the whole yard and bring in new dirt and sod it solid with St. Augustine. Same story. I kept saying, “I’m going to try one more time to grow grass and if it doesn’t work this time, I’m going to pour concrete and paint it green.” The last thing I did was get the trees thinned so the sun could come through and this time we tried zoysia. When I sold the house the grass was still growing.
In 1985 I decided the time had come to downsize and sell my house. The yard and repairs were just too much. Besides, I was retired and alone. I wanted to be able to travel and not have to worry about a house. So that’s when I moved into my condo. I loved the house I lived in as a bride, where my children were born and lived until they left home. I loved the neighbors, but time marches on.
I still drive down the street as often as possible. I like to see if the Carolina jasmine I planted is still in bloom. In the fall I want to see if the burning bush hedge has turned fiery red. I wonder if the spider lilies from Mama’s yard are still there, and if the clematis is still living.
This house and the memories it holds will forever be a part of my life.
NORTH JACKSON NEIGHBORS
orth Jackson Street was surely a cow path at one time. It starts at West Markham, goes a few blocks and stops. Picks up again at Kavanaugh, goes for a few blocks and stops. It then starts at Cantrell and stops again after a few blocks. The portion I am writing about is the two-block area that starts at Cantrell and goes to Club Road. There are 22 houses beginning at 1800 and going through 1900.
Mrs. Nell Frost gave me much of the early information about the street. She and her husband Jack were among the first people to live on the street. They moved to 1811 North Jackson September 3, 1929, when the house was brand new. There were only about a dozen houses on the street at that time and there were many vacant lots. Their house cost $5,000 and their house payments were $35.17 per month. Mrs. Frost lived on the street for 61 years. Their only son was born in 1930 and Mr. Frost planted three pecan trees in the yard in honor of his birth. Dr. Percy Nordlinger lived at 1801 North Jackson. He and Mrs. Frost went up and down the street and collected $5 from each homeowner and had two pink dogwood trees planted in each yard. The street became known for those pink dogwoods. She watched the paving of Cantrell Road in 1930 and said the neighbors paid for the stoplight at Kavanaugh and Cantrell. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt came to town, the North Jackson neighbors got their lawn chairs and sat on the edge of Cantrell to watch him go by. The Stewarts’ dog Inarko chased FDR’s car.
Mrs. Frost is a remarkable person. She taught the sixth grade at Forest Park School for 20 years. And today at age 102 she goes to the schools to read to the children and they just love it. She tells them about remembering the sinking of the Titanic and so many things that happened back in the early part of the century. She still plays bridge several times a week and takes part in activities at the retirement facility where she lives. When you go to visit, you have to call first to find out if she will be home.
Dick Kelly, who married Virginia Clinton, the mother of the President, lived next door to the Frosts when he was a young man. But when I moved to the street, the Kellys were no longer there.
The Boyce sisters lived at 1800 North Jackson. They were old maid schoolteachers who drove a Packard. When they went out, they were all dressed up in their hats and gloves; they reminded me of Arsenic And Old Lace. When they sat on the front porch they kept their hats on to keep the wind from blowing their hair. On March 31, 1960, when the Air Force plane exploded over Little Rock, big pieces of debris fell on the street and they sat on the porch watching as workers from the Air Base came to pick up the debris. One day in the fall of the year I was working in my front yard when I suddenly realized someone had walked up behind me; it was Miss Grace Boyce. She said, “Come with me.” I went with her to her house. She led me to a chair in her dining room and invited me to sit, then she said, “Look out that window at your pretty tree.” The white oak in our front yard had turned a brilliant yellow orange and was perfectly framed in that window. She said, “Promise me you won’t ever cut it.” When she had to give up her house, she let me select a book from her library. I chose Lands of the Bible.
ob and Alta Curran lived next to the Boyce sisters. Mr. Curran was head of Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company. Their two daughters were married and living in town. Bunny, the older daughter, was married to Harry Freeze, and Catherine was married to Buster Bellingrath, whose family was one of the founders of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company in Arkansas. They and their grandchildren were frequent visitors. I remember attending the Currans’ lovely 50th wedding anniversary party at the Albert Pike Hotel.
Pete and Jean Garvin lived at 1812 North Jackson. Pete was a successful attorney. He and Jean had no children, and they more or less adopted our girls. Every time the girls rang their doorbell Jean had something for them. I threatened to have them wear a tag saying “Please Don’t Feed The Children.” The Garvins went fishing just about every weekend and kept us supplied with fish ready for the pan. Jean died and Pete was lost for some time. He married Marie, who had three daughters and a son, but only the two younger girls were at home. Pete loved children and seemed happy with his new family. When I moved in 1985, it was Pete and Marie who had a group of the neighbors in to tell me goodbye. Marie, who is a widow now, still lives on the street, one of the three I knew who are still there; all the others have died or moved.
Pete owned the house north of us which was used for rental property. When I moved to the street, George and Augusta Clark lived in the rent house while George was going to Law School. They had some beautiful antique furniture. I admired a large walnut armoire they had for their daughters’ doll collection. When George finished school they bought a house in Fort Worth, Texas, and couldn’t take that piece of furniture with them. I asked if they would sell it but they said if I wanted to keep it for them, I could send it if they ever got a house with tall ceilings. My last letter was returned marked “Address Unknown,” so I still have the armoire.
We had numerous other neighbors in that house; one was an
alcoholic who stayed drunk while her husband was out of town and whose children
I fed. Another time, a psychiatrist
lived there; they wanted the hedge between their house and
ours to grow to the roof so they could go without clothes. Another family rode a motorcycle. When one family moved out, Pete had to get the exterminators to kill the fleas that infested the house. He stopped by the house on his way to work, dressed in a white linen suit and his pants legs were black with fleas. By the time the Timmons moved to the house, I had had it with the renters and was determined that this time I wasn’t going to be friendly. This family joined my church, not because I invited them, and today they are some of my best friends.
George and Mary Lorraine Wyatt lived at 1824 with their three boys. Jarrell, the youngest son, was born on my birthday so I thought he was special. When I was pregnant with Melanie a couple of years later Mary Lorraine lent me maternity clothes and a baby buggy. George had acute rheumatoid arthritis and was unable to work for a period of time. He had a greenhouse built and grew orchids as therapy. I lived in fear that my girls would go into the greenhouse and pick some of the orchids, but thank goodness they didn’t. One day the doorbell rang and Jarrell was there with an orchid for me. He and Richard Moore, who lived in the rent house, were so cute. They played dress-up every day. Some days they were cowboys, other days they were soldiers; they would ring my doorbell, hide in the shrubbery and shoot me with their cap pistols when I came to the door.
Next to the Wyatts lived the Treadwells. They had no children; he worked for Missouri Pacific Railroad. Mrs. Treadwell kept a really neat, clean house and yard; the hardwood floors were waxed and shined to perfection and the hedge was always trimmed. I didn’t get to know them too well.
The Greens lived in the next house. Mrs. Green was a teacher. They had twin boys and a girl, Nancy, who was older than our girls and became their babysitter. They loved having a teenager for a sitter; she was someone they could model.
The Klarbergs lived at 1916 North Jackson. The postman frequently got our mail mixed up and our greatest contact was exchanging it. Mr. Klarberg was very active in the Jewish Temple and often filled in when the Rabbi was out of town.
The Leathermans lived in the next house. They had no children. Mr. Leatherman is an attorney and still lives on the street. His wife is dead. We never really knew them.
im and Corrine Beard with their children, little Jim and little Corrine, lived in the last house on the even-numbered side of the street, on the corner of North Jackson and Club Road. Jim operated Beard’s Furniture on Seventh Street; Corrine and Mary Holt started The Clothes Horse clothing store in the Heights. Little Corrine and Lyda and Melissa Holt, who lived across the street, practiced their cheerleading routines in the middle of the street.
Dr. Percy Nordlinger, a dentist, and his family lived in the first uneven-numbered house, on the corner of North Jackson and Cantrell. They didn’t live there long after I moved to the street, and I really did not know them. Mr. and Mrs. Eddie Sorrels lived there after the Nordlingers moved. They had no children and she didn’t like children. When the children walked to school and had to walk along the edge of her yard because there was no sidewalk, she turned the hose on them. On Halloween, their house was dark.
J.W. Littleton and his wife lived in the next house. They had no children and she was not well. She later died of a heart condition. J.W. worked for the Corps of Engineers and there was a widow with several children who worked there, too. In time, J.W. married her and all the neighbors were glad. He and Helen had a wonderful life together. He loved her children and grandchildren. His yard was beautiful with roses and prize daffodils. Helen didn’t dare pick the daffodils for the house except for very special occasions. One day when the grandchildren were visiting, one of the little girls picked some of the daffodils and brought them into the house and presented them to J.W. Helen held her breath while J.W. thanked her for his first bouquet from a little girl. One spring they discovered a rabbit’s nest in the rose bed. There were three babies in it and children came from all over the neighborhood to see them. Helen worked as a volunteer at Baptist Hospital and it was she who started the program for children to come visit the hospital, to see the operating room and become familiar with hospitals so they wouldn’t be afraid if they ever became a patient.
The Frost family lived at 1811, as I’ve mentioned earlier.
Jack and Mary Ellen Stewart lived at 1815 North Jackson. They moved to the street the same year the Frosts moved. Their children La Nell and Jack were married and gone when I moved to the street. Mr. Stewart traveled, as did Mr. Frost, so Mary Ellen and Nell had time to sew while their husbands were on the road. They both made beautiful garments. They bought the latest Vogue patterns from the front of the book and they always went to the August woolen sale at the Fabric Center to buy material for suits and coats. Nell Frost could always get a garment from less fabric than the pattern called for. Mary Ellen not only sewed for herself and her daughter, she also made ruffled curtains for her house. She loved working in her yard and it showed; it looked manicured. Both of these ladies were an inspiration and a big help to me.
could write a book about the person and her family who lived at 1819 North Jackson. Mrs. A.C. Remmel, known as Little Nell, was one of a kind. She had been married only 10 years when her husband died of malaria. In that 10 years she had six children. She told about buying a bolt of fabric when the children were small and how she would make dresses, called aprons, all just alike for all six of them. She did it like an assembly line. She would cut all of the aprons from one pattern and then sew them up.
All six of the children graduated from good colleges and married well. By the time I moved to the street all the children were married and on their own. Gus and his wife Beverly lived with Mrs. Remmel for a period of time; all the others except Harmon lived in town. Harmon was with Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City. Pratt had an insurance agency; his wife Catherine was Harvey Couch’s daughter. Later, Pratt became the first Republican mayor of Little Rock since Reconstruction days. Remmel Dam, Lake Catherine and hydroelectric power are associated with these two families. Rollie had a building supply company and his wife Ruth was the daughter of Raymond Rebsamen. Ruth the first elephant at the Little Rock Zoo was given by Mr. Rebsamen and was named for his daughter. Ellen the second elephant was also donated by Mr. Rebsamen and named for Ruth and Rollie’s daughter. Mr. Rebsamen had the Ford agency, an insurance company and was associated with the development of the Little Rock Air Force Base. Rollie is known for his Rollie Sticks, hand-carved walking sticks that he gives to dignitaries. Gus’ wife Bev was a well-known portrait artist. Gertrude the oldest daughter married Dick Butler, who was in high school with her. He was a prominent attorney, banker and real estate developer. He and Jay Hill developed River Ridge, which was outside the city limits when they built the first houses. They had to build the road from their property to Cantrell Road. When the Butlers needed dry cleaning done, they brought it to Mrs. Remmel’s house, where it was picked up and delivered, because the cleaners didn’t go outside the city.
he Butlers have left their mark on the city of Little Rock. There’s the Butler Genealogy Center at the City Library, the Gertrude Butler Child Development Center at the First Methodist Church, just to name a few of the institutions that have benefited from their generosity. Carrie married Tyndall Dickinson, who had a construction business; Tyndall and his father had the business and now Tyndall’s son Haskell is carrying it on. Mrs. Remmel was proud of her children and their accomplishments. This was a very loving, caring family; almost every day one or all of the children dropped by to see their mother. Every night before she went to sleep, she said, she called a roll as she prayed to God for each of them. The family got together for a meal to celebrate birthdays and all the holidays and other special occasions. They were at the home of Rollie to celebrate the Butlers’ 27th wedding anniversary when Mrs. Remmel died at the piano playing “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” Nellie Remmel was a vivacious ball of fire, a petite lady who stood on tiptoe to kiss General Eisenhower after he had been nominated for President at the Republican National Convention. She was a life-long Republican, and a National Commiteewoman from Arkansas. She held the record for being a Republican National Committeewoman longer than anyone else in the country. She was a trusting person who never locked her door day or night and when she went out of town she still didn’t lock the door, and she never lost anything.
After the death of Mrs. Remmel her house was kept by the family and was rented. Eventually Mrs. Remmel’s grandson Haskell Dickinson and his wife Peggy bought the house and once again a member of the Remmel family lived on the street.
The next two houses were rental property. Two sisters with their families lived in them, Mrs. Bobo in the first house and Mrs. Brown in the next one. Frank and Adrian Storey bought the house the Browns lived in. Mrs. Storey was active in Girl Scouts and Camp Storey in Hot Springs was named to honor her. She always made decorated cookies for the children at Halloween. Frank Storey, a life-long Democrat, voted Republican for the first time in his life when his son-in-law Sterling Cockrill ran for Lt. Governor on the ticket with Winthrop Rockefeller.
Mrs. Rebecca Moore, a widow, lived in the next house. I remember her telling about coming home from a trip to find a squirrel had taken over her house. She managed to get into her bedroom and call for help. It had come down the chimney and had chewed on the mantel and other wood in the house. When she opened the front door the squirrel wanted to attack her.
The Crawfords lived in the next house. They owned Alsopp and Chapel bookstore downtown. When they moved, the Dietz family moved to their house and Kathy Dietz was the little girl who told my girls there was no Santa Claus.
Mrs. Dupuy lived in the house next to the Crawfords. She was Ruby Jarrell, whose family owned Plunkett Jarrell, a wholesale grocery business. She was also Mary Lorraine Wyatt’s mother. Mrs. Dupuy loved to play bridge at the Little Rock Country Club, where she made her debut as a young woman.
The Hamilton Moses family lived in the next house. Mr. Moses was head of Arkansas Power and Light Company. When gaslights were popular in the 1960s, he had one installed in his front yard, to the surprise of his neighbors.
In the very last house on the street Mary and Frank Holt lived with their daughters Lyda and Melissa. Frank was an attorney who later was elected to the Supreme Court of Arkansas. Mary started the Clothes Horse clothing store, as was mentioned earlier. Today, Lyda and her husband own Et. Cetera, an upscale gift shop in the Heights, which they started a number of years ago.
Today the street has changed in appearance and only three people are left who were there when I lived on the street: Leland Leatherman, Evelyn Green and Marie Garvin. Property in this area seems to be very desirable and commands top prices. Young people have bought the old houses and have enlarged them, built rooms in the attics or added on in other ways. Some of the big old trees have died, and so the street has changed but it’s still a pretty street.
I first became a part of North Jackson Street in the spring and today when the pink dogwoods and azaleas are in bloom, I like to go back and remember those wonderful people. They welcomed me as a bride, celebrated the birth of my girls, and shared my sorrow when death took my parents, my father-in-law and my husband. They shared 35 years of my life and will forever be important to me.
THE MISSING SPONGE
bout the middle of the morning of January 28, 1954, I started having problems and called my obstetrician. He said he would rather I did my bleeding in the hospital, that he would call the hospital and tell them I was coming. Melvin had gone to Cabot that day, so he was located and told to come home to take me to the hospital.
I was admitted and put to bed, where I waited until the doctor finished seeing his office patients. He then came to the hospital, checked me and decided that he would have to do a Caesarean section. This was not a big surprise, because I was told in the beginning that this might happen because I was 37.
We had discussed the type of anesthetic, and it was decided the safest one for the baby would be spinal anesthesia. As a result, I was awake during the whole procedure and was aware of what was going on. I knew that my blood pressure was dropping and that a blood transfusion was started, but I don’t think I realized that things were as serious as they were. I ended up getting three units of blood, and later I found out they were concerned for both me and the baby. I was so happy when I got to hear the baby cry and was told I had a little girl. I said, “That’s just what Melvin wanted.”
When the procedure was over and they were counting the sponges, I was aware there was a sponge missing. The doctor kept teasing and telling me how much that little girl was going to cost, and I told him he wouldn’t be paid a cent until that sponge was found. Well, the sponge wasn’t found, and a student nurse was almost kicked out of nursing school because she had made a mistake in the count.
The next day my abdomen puffed up until I looked as if I had not had my baby. When people came in to see me, they would say, “Are you sure he didn’t leave one?” or “I thought you said you had your baby!” I was in a lot of pain so they took me to x-ray to check to see if the missing sponge could have been left in me. The x-ray didn’t show anything, so it was decided I was just one of those people who had bloating and pain following abdominal surgery.
I was determined to breast-feed the baby. The Catholic nun on the maternity ward told me if I would drink beer, that would produce milk. Since neither Melvin nor I imbibed, we didn’t have any beer at home and none could be bought because it was Sunday. Melvin saw a doctor friend as he was leaving the hospital and asked if he knew where he could get some beer for his wife. The doctor told him to go home with him and he would give him some. The nurse brought the beer to my bedside table and left it for me to drink after the bedtime medicine had been taken. The pastor and his wife came by after church to see me. It wasn’t until after they left that I realized the beer was on my nightstand and I was horrified at what they would think. I wrote a note thanking them for coming to see me and I also explained about the beer.
Sunday afternoon four people from the Young People’s Department of Sunday School came to see me. I told them if they had come sooner they could have seen the baby. They said they were busy earlier. It wasn’t until some time later that I found they were busy giving blood for me. One of those young people was Tom Bruce, who became a doctor and Dean of the Arkansas Medical School. Years later at a quilt workshop, I met another one of those young people, and she told me I had some of her quilting blood in me.
Back in those days people stayed in the hospital for a week or more after having a baby. Incidentally, the cost of a nine-day hospitalization then was less than a one-day stay today. A private corner room cost $14.50 a day in 1954. There were four of us who got to be friends while we were in the hospital. We visited back and forth between our rooms and the doctors teased us about being a bridge foursome. We had so much fun we said we would meet back there in about two years to have our next baby. Two of us were back in less than two years, but not at the same time. The doctor took a good look to see if there was any evidence of the missing sponge when I had the second baby, but none was found.
‘YOUR LITTLE GIRL IS PERFECT’
hen I was expecting my first baby at age 37, we were overjoyed. We had given up having a baby and had applied for adoption. Just as we were having the first visit from the social worker, the results of the rabbit test came back positive. I started calling myself Sarah.
I felt fine the whole nine months, didn’t lose a single meal and had an abundance of energy. It was so much fun making maternity clothes, day gowns and receiving blankets, knitting booties and sweaters and getting the nursery ready.
The doctor told me how much weight I could gain and if I gained more than he thought I should he said, “Didn’t you tell me you are a dietitian?” and that would cause me to be more careful.
Back in those days we didn’t have the benefit of sonograms or amniocenteses so there was that nagging thought, “I wonder if the baby will be all right?” and I also wondered if I would know how to take care of a baby. My neighbor across the street, Mrs. A.C. Remmel, said when she was a sweet young thing expecting her first child, she said, “Oh, my goodness, I don’t know a thing about taking care of a baby.” Her grandmother said, “Nellie, don’t worry about it; the directions come with them.” She tried to assure me that I would instinctively know what to do.
We selected Briggs, Crawley and Toombs as our pediatricians. One night I dreamed that I had a little girl and Dr. Crawley examined her and told me, “Mrs. Spear, I just examined your little girl and she is perfect.” He asked me if I knew how to take care of a baby and I said, “No, but my neighbor told me the instructions come with them.”
When I had the baby, it was indeed a little girl and Dr. Crawley was the attending physician. It could have been any one of the three in the practice, but Dr. Crawley was on call that night – January 28, 1954. When he came in, he said, “Mrs. Spear, I just examined your little girl and she’s perfect.” I said, “Dr. Crawley, six weeks ago I dreamed you told me just exactly that.”
I will always believe that dream was God’s way of letting me know everything was all right. Now, 46 years later, Melanie is still almost perfect.
STAMP COLLECTING – HOBBY OR DISEASE?
s I look at these old envelopes and two pages from one of Melvin’s many stamp albums, my mind is flooded with bittersweet memories. I must say I was never jealous of a person the years we were married, but there were times when I was jealous of all the time and money that went into the hobby of stamp collecting.
When we were first married we were paying off a debt for stamps Melvin contracted for that were worth less than the agreed price because of the drop in the English pound. He could have backed out of the deal, but because he was a person of his word, he paid the debt and accepted the loss.
We both worked and traveled when we were first married. We were home on weekends, but it seemed much of that time Melvin was working on his stamp collection. I thought “He will soon get it fixed the way he wants it and then we can do some things together.” I soon found out this was an unending project that would never be finished. When I needed to wash my hands there were stamps soaking in the lavatory that had to be fished out first. He had a mailbox at the post office for his stamp catalogs and other stamp publications. In our bedroom there was a four-drawer steel, fireproof filing cabinet just for his stamps; then there were several file boxes stacked on top of the file cabinet.
I didn’t realize there was so much involved in stamp collecting. A lot of special supplies were needed. Stamp hinges to mount the stamps in an album; glassine envelopes to keep the loose stamps in; a magnifying glass to closely examine the stamp; a special ruler to count the perforations; a dish and special solution for watermarking the stamp. Then there was the Scott Catalog to use in cataloging and organizing the stamps. I learned a lot. For example, some of the early stamps were not perforated and had to be cut apart with scissors. Cancellations were important; if they were too heavily cancelled it detracted from the value. Used stamps on envelopes were more valuable than if they were removed and the place of cancellation contributed to the value in some instances.
Stamp collectors were always coming over to get Melvin’s advice about their latest findings and they would spend hours talking and swapping stamps. Governor Winthrop Rockefeller’s daughter was a stamp collector and someone had shipped her some stamps on approval. Mrs. Rockefeller and the daughter contacted Alsopp and Chapel bookstore in Little Rock and asked who could appraise stamps for them. Melvin was recommended and as a result our whole family was invited to Petit Jean one Sunday afternoon. While Melvin helped Ann Bartlett with her stamps the children and I swam and visited with Mrs. Rockefeller at the lake house. We were asked to stay for the picnic supper they had each Sunday evening for their employees. I was disappointed that Mr. Rockefeller was out of town and that I didn’t get to see the main house, but it still was an interesting experience.
Melvin was always being asked to help people dispose of their stamp collections. He would spend hours organizing and appraising the stamps and contacting buyers, and for his pay he would get stamps to add to his collection, but no money. The summer before Diane was born a collector in Hot Springs died and his widow asked Melvin to help her sell his collection. He got a truck to bring the collection to our house. Boxes were stacked almost to the ceiling in our dining room. I kept saying, “These boxes have to be gone before this baby comes!” Most of that summer was spent with those stamps at a time when I had one baby and was expecting a second. All I saw for his work was a gift for the new baby.
Because of his years of stamp collecting Melvin had a good general education. He knew world geography and history as well as the culture of the countries of the world. He attempted to collect an envelope with the first stamp issued of every country in the world. He had an album of those covers, and on each page there was a map of the country and a neatly lettered description of the country along with the envelope. One of the hardest things I had to do after his death was to dismantle that album and sell those envelopes. I sat in the bank crying as I carefully took each envelope off the page and put it in a box to be shipped to a buyer.
I tried to learn to appreciate stamps so we would have a common hobby, but I just didn’t have the interest. All I knew about stamps was you had to have one to mail a letter, but I couldn’t use one of Melvin’s. I did attend some of the stamp shows and conventions and tried to be supportive.
I couldn’t get away from stamps, even when we were on vacation. When we were on our honeymoon in New Orleans we spent several hours at Raymond Weil’s stamp shop. In Philadelphia in 1966, Melvin spent several hours in a stamp shop while the girls and I went to Wanamakers. When Melanie was checking out colleges in Birmingham, Melvin was at a stamp shop while Melanie and I were at Stamford College.
After Melvin’s sudden death, I was left with not much insurance but more stamps than the post office – and two girls to educate. I was bombarded with calls from people wanting to buy the stamps, others giving me advice. Two people alerted me to the fact that Melvin had bought an expensive envelope that he had not told me about, and that I should watch out for it. Well, I never did find that envelope and I would always wonder what happened to it. I have wondered if he sent it off to be appraised and when the person heard of Melvin’s death he just kept it. A stamp dealer from Baltimore that I never heard of kept calling me, wanting to buy the stamps. I told him they could not be taken out of the lock box until they had been appraised, and when that didn’t stop him, I told him not to call me, I would call him.
Garrett Brown, who had collected stamps with Melvin, offered to help me dispose of the stamps. I worked until noon each day, ate my lunch in the car on the way to the bank where I met Garrett, and we would stay until the bank closed. We did this day after day until the stamps had been appraised. Garrett, who was head of Archer Wholesale Drug Company, went to New York on a buying trip and from New York he went to Boston and took the inventory of the stamps to a stamp dealer he knew. This dealer put some of the stamps in his auctions and advised Garrett how best to dispose of the others.
After several years the stamps were finally gone. Today I have two envelopes that appeared in a collection that a friend bought a few years ago. They were addressed to Melvin when the family lived on 20th Street. Looking at them gives me a strange feeling as if I’m not supposed to forget the stamps that meant so much to the person who was a part of my life for 22 years.
Stamp collecting – hobby or disease? You be the judge.
A DOUBLE WHAMMY
y father, who had been in Oakdale Nursing Home near Searcy for two years or so, was taken once again to the hospital in Searcy. This time we felt this might be the last time. When Mama and I talked with the doctor he wasn’t very hopeful that Papa would rally again. When I was alone with the doctor, I told him that the man in that bed was not my father as I knew him, and that I wanted him kept comfortable, but I didn’t want anything done to prolong his death. The doctor said he was glad to know how I felt, because he and his associate had discussed a blood transfusion for Papa, but were reluctant to give it unless I insisted. Mama and I spent the days at the hospital and the nights in Pangburn.
On Saturday October 12, when we got home from the hospital Mama had the usual pineapple cake for my birthday, and as we were eating, she said, “Papa won’t get to eat birthday cake with you this time.” The next afternoon I decided to go to Little Rock and spend the night with my family. The girls wanted to give me their birthday presents. I had been home but a few hours when a call from the hospital told us Papa was worse.
I felt in my heart that he was gone and, sure enough, when I entered the hospital the receptionist said, “Mrs. Spear, Dr. Palmer wants to talk to you.” I had to drive to Pangburn and break the news to Mama. Papa died three hours before his 93rd birthday. After the funeral I tried to get Mama to come home with me, but she insisted on staying home to write notes and return dishes to the people who had brought food.
I went back to work, and 11 days after Papa’s death, I got a call from Lois McAdams, Mama’s neighbor, telling me Mama was real sick. It sounded like she had had a heart attack. I asked if someone could take her to the doctor in Searcy, but Lois said she didn’t know of anyone. I left work as soon as I called Emmelou Hamilton to get my girls at school and keep them until Melvin returned from an out-of-town business trip. I didn’t even go home to get a toothbrush. I almost didn’t get Mama to the hospital in time. She had had a heart attack. I stayed in Mama’s room for three weeks. The staff at White County Memorial Hospital were really wonderful. They couldn’t believe we were back so soon after Papa’s death. They put a cot in the room for me to sleep and brought me a tray three times a day. We watched a tree outside Mama’s window turn from red-orange in autumn to a barren gray in winter. We were there long enough that we knew most of the hospital personnel, including the people who mopped the floors and emptied the trash. After Mama improved, I returned home and went back to work. Then, once again, I got another call at work telling me she was worse, and I left again without a toothbrush. Both times my friend Joan Chronister from Searcy went by my house and picked up a bag that Melvin packed for me. This time I didn’t have to stay as long; after a few days, Mama perked up and I went back home.
Mama’s 84th birthday was December 2 and she celebrated it in the hospital. I made a birthday cake and took it to the hospital for her and the nurses on her floor.
She remained in the hospital until about the middle of December. She wanted to go home, but finally realized this wasn’t possible, so she agreed to go to the nursing home where Papa had been. I got clothes from home and the things I thought she would need, and took her to Oakdale. I really hated to leave her, but she assured me she would be all right. I visited her every weekend and usually took her food that I had cooked. Her appetite wasn’t good and she didn’t care for the nursing home food. She spent Christmas in Oakdale. Mama was still very sharp and interested in what was happening. The last time I visited her she wanted to know who won the Cotton Bowl game and if Linda Bird Robb had her baby yet. I wanted to bring her radio so she could keep up with the news, but she said it might bother her roommate.
At 7 o’clock Saturday, January 11, 1969, I got a call from the nursing home telling me that Mama had died in her sleep. Instead of taking chicken and dumplings and the new bed jacket to Searcy, I went to make funeral arrangements. We had Mama’s funeral exactly three months after the death of Papa. To give up both parents in such a short time was really hard. About three years later I was making arrangements for my husband, so I guess you might say instead of a double whammy, I suffered a triple loss.
“HOW ARE THE GIRLS?”
hat’s what my friends say when they ask about my adult daughters. Melanie and Diane, who are 18 months apart, were born to older parents and as a result they were noticed. I had said people would probably think we were the grandparents. Still, it came as a shock when Melanie was with me in the grocery store one day and a woman who was admiring her curls asked, “Is she your granddaughter?” I said, “No, she’s mine.” I wished afterwards I had told her to go home with me and I would show her the baby.
When the girls were babies there were times when I wondered if we would make it. I had two in diapers at a time before there were disposable diapers; two who couldn’t walk, one who cried all the time, a husband who traveled and a sick father-in-law who lived with us. I did have a washing machine but no dryer.
The pediatrician decided I didn’t have enough milk for Diane and that’s why she cried. He switched her to cow’s milk, which caused her to break out. We then tried soy milk but she still cried, then we tried goat’s milk. No matter what we tried, she cried. I was a wreck and my hands broke out until they bled. The dermatologist gave up on me and referred me to an allergist. When the allergist heard my story he said he wasn’t looking for patients but he would be glad to see the baby, who was then seven months old, if the pediatrician would refer her.
When he tested her he found she was allergic to a number of things, including eggs and many other foods. She was so allergic to eggs we couldn’t have them in the house for nine months. He had her dad eat an egg at the restaurant, come home and kiss her on one cheek, and three days later that cheek was still red. I was exhausted from losing sleep and had asked the pediatrician to give us something for rest, but he refused. The allergist said, “This mother needs some rest, I’m going to give that baby some phenobarbital.”
New Year’s Eve that year people were talking about how they were going to celebrate. I said I’d be crawling on the floor looking for a pacifier to try to stop a crying baby when the clock strikes midnight. I never shall forget the first morning I woke up and realized I hadn’t been up with Diane. I rushed into her room to see if she was still breathing.
When Diane celebrated her first birthday, no one would eat her cake but her. It was made from rice flour, water, sugar, shortening, vanilla and baking powder. Those were the only ingredients I could use to make a cake. When she started to school we had a statement from the doctor saying there was no way she could have a smallpox vaccination.
I was concerned because Melanie wasn’t walking. The doctor said if she wasn’t walking by the time she was 20 months old I should take her to an orthopedist. The day I had an appointment, she started walking. I kept the appointment anyway, and he put her in corrective shoes.
By the time the girls were two and three years old they were almost the same size and people thought they were twins. I dressed them alike much of the time, especially if I made their dresses. I could use the same pattern for both of them. Melanie’s dress was usually red or rose and Diane’s blue or green. That would be the only difference in them. This picture shows them in their Easter dresses, which I made. Melanie’s is white and red dotted Swiss and Diane’s is white and blue dotted Swiss. They were about four and five years old when this picture was made.
They wanted to do the same things. When Melanie had her tonsils out, Diane cried because she wanted hers out too. Diane had to have glasses when she was 5 and Melanie wanted glasses too. Diane took piano lessons and Melanie wanted to take them too. They had the same teacher and she gave most of their time to Diane; that’s when Melanie wanted her own teacher. Eventually Melanie wanted to quit music and take art instead. She said, “I don’t want Diane to take art; I want art to be my thing.” About this time Melanie wanted her own room. Diane was messy and Melanie wanted things to be neat and orderly. They were now developing different interests and their own personalities but people still referred to them as “the girls” or “the Spear girls.”
They developed a sense of competition that turned out to be not very healthy. In junior high they tried out for choir and Diane was selected but Melanie wasn’t. In high school they tried out for Cheer-O-Kees and Diane made it but Melanie didn’t. I tried to help Melanie to see that she excelled in art and other things that Diane did not, and that we are each important in our own way. We were so proud of Melanie when one of her pictures was shown at the Art Center and traveled around the state with a children’s art exhibit. Melanie excelled in creative writing class and several of her stories were printed in the Inkwell, the creative writing publication of Hall High School.
The great sorrow of my life is that today my daughters are estranged and we have not been together as a family since Thanksgiving 1980. They both live in New York City and could spend time together if they were friends. I can only continue to pray that they will someday be reconciled. I love them both for the mature, caring and talented women they have become, but there are times when I wish they might still be my little girls.
YELLOW DOG DEMOCRAT
W hen I was growing up during the Great Depression I can remember the candidates attending the 4th of July picnic in Pangburn to give their campaign speeches. Some of the candidates handed out cardboard fans with their name and the office they were seeking. Others just handed out calling cards. Arkansas was a one-party state – whoever won the Democratic Party nomination was the winner. Only at the national level in the general election was there a choice of parties. My father prided himself on being for the man, and not the party, when there was a choice. He accused my Uncle Mike Doyle of being a “Yellow Dog Democrat.” They usually didn’t agree on who was the best man.
In order to vote you had to have a poll tax. It cost a dollar, which kept some minorities and poor people from voting. The poll tax was eliminated a number of years ago, but I can remember paying the tax even after I had graduated from college and was working. Someone wrote me a letter one time and informed me that a member of the school board in the community where I was teaching said I should vote for a particular candidate. I wrote back and said I paid my tax and felt I should vote for the candidate of my choice. I didn’t lose my job.
I never did any campaigning until after I married and lived across the street from Mrs. Remmel, the Republican National Committee Woman from Arkansas. She was such a vivacious and enthusiastic person, I had to help campaign for her son Pratt when he became the first Republican mayor of Little Rock since Reconstruction days. Then when Ike was running for president I attended rallies, handed out literature and even nailed up signs all the way from Little Rock to White County. The signs went up one Sunday when we drove to Pangburn. When we drove back that afternoon, we were dismayed to find that a number of the signs had been torn down.
When Winthrop Rockefeller ran for governor, we had one of his signs in our front yard and attended rallies to show our support. I never, ever voted for Orval Faubus. One time we were taking a trip to the eastern part of the United States when Faubus was governor and I said I wish I had a sign for the car that said, “I never voted for Faubus.”
In the summer of 1991 I took a trip to the west coast and the Canadian Rockies. That time I wore a button which said, “I’m from Arkansas – ask me about my governor,” and a number of people did. When I was in Seattle, I saw a person standing on the street corner handing out literature advertising a rally and speech by Bill Clinton who would be there after I was gone. She saw my button and we chatted for a few minutes.
In November, the day after the election, I flew from Little Rock to New York and on the plane were a number of young people who had been in Little Rock working in the Clinton campaign. They were on their way to Washington and it was interesting to talk to them about all that had happened during the campaign. I was wearing my Clinton-Gore button. After I got to New York I gave a check in a store and when the salesperson saw my address, he asked if I knew the president and I said, “Yes.” He then asked, “Does he know you?” I said I sat at the head table with him when he was attorney general one time, but he probably did not remember me.
Today, my father might call me a “Yellow Dog Democrat” but I consider that I still vote for the best person.
< p class="center"> < p class="center">A TRIP OF A LIFETIME
ne of the most interesting vacations our family ever had was in June 1966, when we went to West Point, New York, to attend the graduation of my nephew Jim Doyle from the Military Academy.
We joined Triple A and had them plan the trip to include as many historical sites as possible along the way. Holiday Inns were fairly new so we got reservations to stay there everywhere we stopped.
Clothes for two weeks had to be packed. We needed clothes for church, for a wedding, for the honors convocation, for graduation, travel and swimming. That took several bags – in fact, so many they would fit in the trunk only one way. Melvin was a good packer so it was his job to fit the bags in the trunk which he called “the turtle hull.”
Finally, the day arrived for us to leave. We got off work early and left in the afternoon, driving as far as Caruthersville, Missouri, the first night. From there we went to Lexington, Kentucky, after stopping at Bardstown for a picnic in the park and to see the home where Stephen Foster wrote “My Old Kentucky Home.” We had hoped to tour some of the stables and horse farms in Lexington but got there too late. So we had to be content seeing the horses grazing along the way in the white-fenced pastures of bluegrass.
Our next stop was somewhere in Ohio, just across the river from West Virginia. We stopped in Ohio only for gas, food and rest stops. We were impressed by the neat, clean road-sides, the manicured pastures, well-kept farms and big barns.
We had planned to go to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, but had to bypass it in order to make it to West Point for honors convocation. Instead, we stopped at Allentown, on the fringe of Pennsylvania Dutch country.
We left early the next day, headed for the New Jersey Turnpike, the beautiful Palisades, the Hudson River valley and West Point. After crossing the Hudson on the Bear Mt. Bridge we were almost there. The next hurdle was to find a place to park and find the right building. There were plenty of cadets to direct us. My brother C.E. and his family were already there and we were able to sit together. We were very proud when my nephew’s name was called twice. He received a silver tray from Gen. Leslie Groves as the top student in nuclear physics and a special rifle for being the top student in ordnance engineering.
In the afternoon we had a seat in the reviewing stand for the big parade on the Plain and the transfer of command from the first class to the next class. This was a very colorful and impressive display of precision marching. Trophy Point, the most photographed area at West Point, was facing the parade – a beautiful sight.
As we left C.E.’s family to go to Fishkill, New York, for the night, we agreed it would be impossible to plan a place to meet for graduation in Michie Stadium, so we would sit wherever we could find a place.
When we arrived at the stadium the next morning, it was crowded and we had to just move along with the crowd. We finally found seats for the four of us and sat down. When we looked around, we were sitting right next to my brother’s family. You would have thought they had saved seats for us. I will always believe that was more than just coincidence. Our girls Melanie and Diane, who were 13 and 11, sat with their cousin Betty, who was 13. The oldest Doyle son, Charles, was in the Army in Korea and unable to attend. But all the other Doyle children – Mary, 18, Bill, 15, and John, 5, as well as Jim’s fiancee Lois – were there to cheer when Jim received his diploma.
Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey was the graduation speaker. He had a lot to say about the war in Vietnam. We were so thankful that Jim was going to MIT for his master’s degree instead of to Vietnam, as so many of his classmates were.
The diplomas were awarded in order of class rank. Wesley Clark of Little Rock, who is now a general and commander of NATO, was the number one graduate. Jim was number eight. He and Wesley were friendly rivals for four years. Each had been number one in HIS high school but only one could be number one at West Point. The cadet who was last at number 579 received the most applause. He saluted the crowd and presented his hat to Vice President Humphrey.
I looked around and Melanie was gone. I asked where she was and Betty said she went to get a hat. She had gone down close to the area where the cadets were to throw their hats but she had no luck catching one. As the crowd dispersed we couldn’t find Melanie. Melvin went down and asked the man who was dismantling the PA system to page her. She was embarrassed at having her name called on the loud speaker but we found her.
Before leaving the West Point area we saw Washington’s headquarters and some other historic places. This area played an important role in the Revolutionary War. Our next stop was to see Valley Forge and the Washington Crossing painting in the museum there, a history lesson on the American Revolution.
On to Philadelphia and Freedom Square with the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross’ house, Ben Franklin’s church and the cemetery where Franklin is buried. Lunch at Bookbinders was all I had expected.
Baltimore and Jim’s wedding was next on the list of activities – a beautiful wedding and a marriage that produced two more West Point graduates.
From Baltimore we drove to Washington on Saturday afternoon. We called the Anders and Crooks and made plans to see them the following day. We met the Anders for church, followed by lunch at their home in Arlington. They took us on a driving tour of Washington which included the changing of the guard at the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier and seeing the Eternal Flame for President Kennedy. We drove past the monuments and through the Georgetown area. That night we visited the Crooks in Falls Church, Virginia. He grew up in Pangburn and was discharged from the Navy in Washington.
I could write about getting lost in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington. I ended up doing most of the driving, especially in the big cities. Melvin would say, “You drive, I’ve never been here before” – like I had.
On Monday Melvin and Melanie got a cab and went to the Smithsonian while Diane and I slept late and then took the laundry to the washeteria. Coming back to the hotel I got lost and ended up in Arlington Cemetery three times. When I finally found the hotel, it was too late to go to Mt. Vernon as we had planned.
Williamsburg was the next stop. We had a candlelight tour of the governor’s palace the first night. The next day we saw as many buildings as possible and Diane was thrilled with her souvenir horseshoe from the blacksmith shop. That night I wanted to attend a candlelight organ concert at Bruton Parish but was outvoted. As we were leaving Williamsburg, Melvin was studying the map and said it wouldn’t be much out of the way to go to Monticello, so that’s what we did and I think it was our very favorite place.
We drove through the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smokies; crossed the Hudson, Potomac and Delaware rivers and saw the Chesapeake Bay as we traveled over 3,000 miles.
Our only car trouble was a flat tire in the middle of Memphis when we were almost home.
After two weeks in the car, with one-niters, packing and unpacking daily, we were still speaking to each other and felt we had made a trip of a lifetime.
ate one night I was listening for the key to turn in the front door indicating that my youngest daughter was home. Instead the telephone rang and when I answered, a policeman told me he had picked up my daughter for DUI and that she was in jail. He went on to tell me how much cash it would take to bail her out. I said, “I don’t have that much cash.” He then told me there was a bail bondsman across the street from the jail.
I asked what had happened to my car that my daughter was driving. He told me it was locked and parked on Pine Street in Hillcrest. I called a cab to take me to pick up my car. I was so upset, I let the cab go before I found the car. I walked up and down the street in the dark, and never did find it. I wondered what on earth I could do. There was no telephone for me to call a cab to take me home, so I started walking. I was scared to death; dogs were barking at me. The only vehicles on the street were trucks bringing the morning paper to the carriers.
It was a long walk from Kavanaugh and Pine Street to 1816 North Jackson, but I finally got home. I called the policeman back to ask again where my car was, that I had been unable to find it, and he again told me it was in Hillcrest. I told him to tell my daughter I couldn’t get her out of jail until that afternoon; I had to go to work.
I took a shower and started getting ready for work. As soon as I saw a light in my neighbor’s house, I called Cindy and told her what happened and asked if she could take me to find my car. I told her I hated for Diane to spend the night in jail, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. She said she thought that it might be good for her, it might teach her a lesson. When I found the car I went on to work.
I told my supervisor I needed to leave early to take care of some business. When I finished my work I left at 2:30, went to the bank and withdrew money from Diane’s savings account and went to jail to bail her out. She had gone to trial and pleaded guilty, so I paid her fine. When I picked her up, the policeman said, “I don’t believe we’ll be seeing her here again,” and he didn’t.
I asked Diane what happened and she told me she stayed at Cajun’s Wharf until Art Porter stopped playing, then she and some friends went to the Wine Cellar. After that she was just driving down Kavanaugh when the policeman pulled her over and she didn’t pass the sobriety test. She also told me she had a packet of marijuana in her pocket and that she hid it under the seat of the patrol car. I still wish I had reported the Wine Cellar for selling alcohol to a minor.
Those were trying days for a widow who had to work to provide college for her daughters. I kept asking myself where I went wrong. Diane had been in church since she was an infant. Her father and I didn’t drink and we never served alcohol in the home. We had tried to bring her up to be a good moral person. She had to learn a lot of things the hard way, but she never went to jail again.
It was 20 years after high school before she graduated from college. Today she has a Master’s degree in social work and is a psychotherapist helping other people with their problems. And she is the mother of my only grandchild.
THE LONGEST NIGHT
n the late afternoon of September 27, 1972, when I went to the hospital to check on Melvin after work, I noticed his bed was rumpled indicating he had been restless. I asked how he felt and if he had rested any. I asked if he had taken any rest medicine. He said he had taken some medicine once and he had rested some. I asked if the doctor had been there and he said he hadn’t been there yet.
Not long after that the doctor did come. Melvin told him he had another heavy left arm, which is what he complained of before he came to the hospital. Melvin started telling the doctor he wasn’t going to get well. When the doctor left the room I followed him out to the nursing station. He then told me to prepare myself for a long night, that Melvin very well might not make it. He said the enzymes now showed that he did have a heart attack and that he now had extended it.
I went to the telephone and called Diane who was just recovering from mononucleosis and told her to come to the hospital to eat with me and to see her father. Soon after we finished eating, Melvin’s cousins Mooch and Laura Safferstone came by and once again Melvin started telling us he wasn’t going to get well. We decided to call Melanie, who was a freshman at the University of Alabama, and tell her to take the first plane home, which would not be until the next morning. We also called Melvin’s sister in Houston to tell her he was worse.
Laura decided to take Diane home with her to spend the night and Mooch stayed at the hospital with me. The nurses kept coming in to take Melvin’s blood pressure and to check on him. They told me how concerned they were about him. He kept telling me we had 22 wonderful years together and I told him we were going to have 22 more, too. I would not let myself believe he wasn’t going to make it. He said he didn’t want me to be concerned about him, that he had made his peace and he was all right. Not long after that the doctor on call from the Little Rock Diagnostic Clinic came in and Melvin told him he didn’t want him to use any extraordinary measures to save him if he would be an invalid. Soon I was shooed out of the room while a Code Blue was called and Mooch and I waited, fearing the worst. I will never forget the sound of people running from every direction as they converged on that room with the crash cart in an effort to save him.
Meanwhile, Melanie was in Tuscaloosa, unable to sleep and needing someone to talk to. She called friends of mine there and told them of her concern but they didn’t come to the dormitory to be with her, so she worried alone until time for her plane to leave the following morning.
Well, the worst did happen. The doctor came out and told me how sorry he was, that he did his best but it wasn’t enough. Mooch took me home just as the sun was coming up. The next two days were just a blur. I was in a state of shock as I greeted the hordes of people who came by to bring food and flowers; as Melanie and Melvin’s sister’s family came in and as the ministers came to plan the funeral service. I spent two days and one night in the same blue dress before I had a chance to shower and change clothes.
Melvin died early in the morning on Thursday and because he was Jewish, the funeral could not be held on the Sabbath, so it was decided to have the service on Friday. Otherwise we would have to wait until Monday. Everything happened too fast. Melanie went back to the University on Sunday. She didn’t want to go but I insisted that she go back with the Little Rock students who had been home for the weekend. That was a mistake on my part. She went back but she didn’t go to class but stayed in the dorm and cried by herself. Diane reluctantly went back to high school.
Melvin’s sister stayed for a week to help with writing notes and all the many things that had to be done. The chief dietitian, who was not at all sympathetic, kept asking when I was coming back to work. After 10 days I was back at work. Having a job and a reason to get out of bed was a lifesaver, but it was especially difficult for me to deal with the cardiac patients at the hospital.
Except for the longest night, we would have celebrated our 50th Anniversary the 6th of May 2000.
n looking back over my life I can associate rain with a number of events in everyday living. When I was a child and we had rain for two or three days straight, I would look out the window and say, “Rain, rain, go away, come again another day, I want to go out to play.”
We would say if you can see a piece of blue sky as big as a Dutchman’s britches it will stop raining soon. Another saying was “Start raining before 7 quit before 11.” In the summertime I can remember having so much fun wading in ditches that had been dry but were now filled to overflowing by a hard rain. I can also remember running out to snatch clothes off the line and grab dried peaches from the top of the shed to escape a sudden shower.
Mama would get so exasperated when the old hen huddled with the baby chickens in the yard instead of taking them to the dry chicken coop. Many were the times she brought some lifeless chicks in the house, wrapped them in a towel and put them in a box under the stove to revive them. She always complained about the dumb hen that didn’t have enough sense to come in out of the rain.
It seemed it always rained after the hay was cut and before it cured enough to be baled.
The last year Papa farmed, he rented land in the Little Red River bottoms. The cotton started opening in August when the temperature was 110 in the shade, or so it seemed. I can still remember how hot the sand was to my bare feet when we were picking cotton. One Monday when we came to the field so much cotton had opened that we couldn’t tell where we had left off picking Saturday. I started crying and said, “I don’t know why we have to pick the old stuff, it won’t stay picked.” The cotton we picked in August was all the crop we got because there was an overflow of the Little Red and the cotton left in the field was ruined.
Rain was also associated with some important dates in my life.
Friday May 13, 1943, my brother was being married in Texarkana. I was teaching school in Mississippi County at the time. The plan was for me to drive to Pangburn, pick up my parents and drive to Texarkana for the wedding. When I got to Judsonia the highway was closed because the Little Red River was flooding; the road between Searcy and Pangburn was also closed because the creeks were over the road. There was no way I could get to Pangburn or to Texarkana by car. I could drive back to Bald Knob and get a train, so I did that and represented the family at the wedding.
May 6, 1950 I was being married in Little Rock and didn’t have to contend with flooded highways – just a flood of rain. It was raining when we went to the church and still raining when we left. I think rain on your wedding day is supposed to be a bad omen; it marred the day but not the marriage.
September 29, 1972, was a muggy, threatening day, the day of Melvin’s funeral. We were just hoping we could get through the memorial service before the rain came. When we left the funeral chapel it still hadn’t rained, but soon after we got to the gravesite, a real thunderstorm erupted with thunder, lightning and blowing rain. People under the tent got wet and those outside were drenched. Melanie, my oldest daughter, said on the way home, “The Gods really gave daddy a rousing welcome.”
“Unto every life some rain must fall,” and without the rain there would be no rainbow of memories.
Chapter Six – The Good Life
hen I retired in 1982, I was determined that I would not become addicted to television and its soap operas. Because I wanted to do something I had not done before, I signed up to audit some courses at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. I sat in on What’s An Antique, Chemical Causes of Cancer and Principles of Peacemaking, taught by a Quaker who had a PhD in Peacemaking.
I attended 12 Elderhostel programs in the United States and Great Britain. For the past 16 years I have participated in the Adventures in Learning program organized by the Shepherd’s Center of Little Rock.
Soon after I retired, I joined a craft club and participated in craft shows, but after I got into quilting, crafts were out. Each month I attend two quilt guild meetings and I have attended three national quilt shows.
I have also traveled to New England, to the Canadian Rockies, to Florida several times and to New York. Twice, I drove to New York State by myself. The first time I stopped along the way and visited with friends I knew in school or had worked with. I took two cruises in the Caribbean, and went with church groups to North Carolina and New Mexico.
I could write about my Peace Center activities and the time I demonstrated across the street from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York while President Reagan was speaking. I held up a sign that said “Bread Not Bombs.” I could also write about speaking against putting missiles on railroad cars in Pulaski County. Or I could write about my efforts to get the City of Little Rock to start a recycling program. Time and space do not permit to write a story about each of these activities.
I said I might wear out but I sure didn’t want to rust out. I’ve stayed so busy since retirement that I wonder how I ever had time to work.
Retirement has been the good life. The only way it could have been better would be to have my husband share it with me.
FIRST BIRTHDAY PARTY
y first and only birthday party was a long time coming. It was on the occasion of my 80th birthday, a reception given by a friend and attended by 50 friends and relatives.
When I was growing up, children didn’t have birthday parties where friends came and brought gifts as they do today. They were celebrated with the family with a special meal and a cake. Since I was born two days before Papa’s 41st birthday, we celebrated together and that made it special for me. One custom was to give the person with the birthday a spanking, a love lick for each year and one to grow on.
When I studied the discovery of America in school, I found out I was born on Columbus Day. I tell people Columbus and I discovered America the same day, but not the same year.
Mama always made a pineapple cake for my birthday. It was a layer cake with pineapple juice in the batter, crushed pineapple filling between the layers and a fondant icing. I haven’t had one of those cakes for 30 years since Mama died. But I did find Mama’s recipe for my pineapple birthday cake and I’ve included it with this story.
Some people say they’ve stopped having birthdays but I say everyday is to be celebrated and when you consider the alternative, birthdays aren’t bad at all.
THE MODERN GOOD SAMARITANS
tc \l1 "THE MODERN GOOD SAMARITAN
pril 17, 1997, as I was driving down I-30 to Arkadelphia to attend the 60th anniversary of my graduation from Ouachita College, I happened to look at the temperature gauge and the needle was much too close to the red H. Now what could be wrong? I had just had the car in the shop for major work and servicing and everything should have been O.K. I turned off the air conditioner and slowed down, hoping the needle would start toward the blue C.
I started looking for road signs. One said Malvern 12 miles, another one was the 102 mile marker. Just after passing that sign, smoke started coming out from under the hood and I knew it was time to stop. After pulling onto the shoulder, I thought what should I do? I couldn’t get the hood up and wasn’t sure where the blinkers were, so I stood by the car and prayed that God would send the right person to help.
Soon a van slowed down and backed up to where I was standing. A woman got out and said, “I’m Maureen, do you need some help?” She took me to Malvern and stayed with me until the tow truck came. The tow truck driver told me he knew a garage that could get me fixed up and they wouldn’t charge me an arm and leg, said the owners were two black men.
When we arrived, they found the problem immediately -- a broken heater hose had let the water leak out of the radiator. While I was waiting for the work to be done, I saw a Bible on a table in the waiting room and I felt reassured that what the tow truck driver had told me was true. This man was honest, he worked hard under the car on his back for two hours and the bill was only $22.50.
I don’t know how many priests or Levites passed me by or looked the other way as they flew down the highway at 70 miles an hour, but in this story the good Samaritans drive a van, a tow truck and they are black men who work in a garage.
All of them took the time to help a person in need.
THE CLASS OF 1937
he class of 1937 at Ouachita College was a special class in that we had so much fun after graduation as we got together for class reunions. We had to work so hard just to stay in school during the depression years, we really didn’t have time or money to have a lot of fun.
Our first reunion in 1962 was the 25th Anniversary of our graduation. Bob Utley, the president of the class, was head of ROTC at the University of Arkansas and he organized the reunion. That was the beginning of many others to follow.
The next one was our 30th, then came the 40th, followed by the 50th when we were inducted into the Gold Tiger Club, a club of people who graduated 50 or more years ago. That year, people who had not attended any of the other reunions, came. We were together for two or three days and we literally took over the Holiday Inn at Arkadelphia, where we had a dinner. Tommy Mann from the class of 1939, Tommy Chinn and his wife Vesta Horne from another class and Cecil Sanders from the class of 1939 all joined us. The Gold Tiger lunch was on campus where the college presented each of us a Gold Tiger pin and a certificate. We had a class picture taken on the steps of the student center. We decided at that time, we should not wait ten years to get together again, so we decided we would meet every two years. Bob Utley had retired, but still lived in Fayetteville and he continued to organize the reunions.
I suggested that we should do something to honor Bob because of all the hard work he did in organizing the reunions. A committee composed of
Walter Brandon, Dewey Blackwood, Raymond Morris and me was appointed. It was decided that all the money contributed to Ouachita by our class would be given in honor of Bob, and that he would be given a plaque at out 54nd class reunion dinner. This was a complete surprise to Bob.
We continued to meet every two years until 1997, our 60th anniversary, when only nine class members were able to attend. Bob was very ill at the time, but bravely came. He told us they were moving to Williamsburg, VA to be nearer their children. He invited us to come to Virginia for the next reunion. We all knew in our hearts that the 60th would be our last reunion. Since then Bob and J. W. Sanges have died. This year, 64 years after our graduation, Ray Langley attended the Gold Tiger Luncheon and he was the only person from the class of 1937 to be present.
I took pictures at each of the reunions except for the first one, and have put them in an album, which I took to all of the reunions to show. I think the class of 1937 was, indeed, unique in that we had a total of nine class reunions and we have continued to stay in contact by mail and e-mail these many years.
MY BRIDGE TO THE 21ST CENTURY
veryone was talking about a bridge to the 21st century. I want to tell you about my bridge. The day arrived to bridge the gap left in my upper right mouth where two teeth were missing. After swallowing six antibiotic capsules an hour before the appointment, I sat down in the dentist chair where my mouth was deadened and the torture began.
First I had my mouth filled with thick glue to make an impression. Once was not enough, this was repeated two or three times. The last time hot wax was used. Then the grinding and drilling started. “Open wide, turn your head this way,” all the while a fine spray of water from the drill was covering my face and running down my neck.
The dentist finally said, “Angie, I’m getting her wet. Where is all this water coming from? There’s even water on the floor.” Angie asked the dentist, “Did you have an accident”? They kept feeling of the tubing and it wasn’t wet. “Well, something is leaking,” they said. Angie turned to me and said, “Do you need a bathroom break”? I was awfully glad when they finally found that one of the machines was leaking.
The grinding finally stopped, then this gadget was brought in. It had prongs on either side that went in the ears, a bar over the top of the head and another bar across the bridge of my nose. This contraption had a screw attached that tightened it to a vice-like grip. I thought, “All I need is a broken nose to go with the black eye the opthamologist gave me a week earlier from cataract surgery.”
While the dentist was working in the lab, Angie asked if I could tolerate having a filling done while I was there. It would save a trip back, and another round of antibiotics. I first said I thought I had endured enough, but decided to get it over with. That meant the other side of my mouth had to be deadened and more grinding.
We were now ready for the bridge. It was brought in and fitted into place. It didn’t want to go and had to be coaxed and hammered in. With each lick, I thought the top of my head was coming off. Then I had three weeks to worry about how he was going to remove this temporary bridge to put in the permanent one!
When the bridge was being discussed in the first place, the dentist told me what needed to be done and how much it would cost. I kept thinking how much longer am I going to need teeth any way! Why spend a fortune?
But I wanted to make it to the 21st Century, so we built the $2,400 bridge!
ON THE TRAIL OF SPRING
he day after Easter in early April of 1985, I left Little Rock to drive to Cornwall, New York. I hated to leave so soon after spring had arrived in all its beauty. I had enjoyed looking out my big windows at the wooded area back of my condo and watching the leaves unfold each day and change in color from light green to medium and then to dark green. Mixed in with the different shades of green were the white of wild cherry and dogwood blossoms and the pink of an occasional redbud. Out front there was a profusion of pink and white azaleas, and farther down the street jonquils, wisteria and forsythia were bursting forth in a riot of color.
Along the way I enjoyed the blooming flowers and trees. I thought maybe I would be driving through Virginia when the apple orchards were in bloom. The first day out, spring was evident everywhere. The second day I was driving between Knoxville and Bristol, Tennessee, when I suddenly realized it was still winter; the trees were leafless. There was no color, just grey and dark everywhere. It gave me a strange feeling and I immediately realized there would be no apple blossoms in Virginia.
From that point on, the only color I saw in the woods was the dark green of the evergreens and an occasional willow tree with its new light-green feathery foliage.
I had been in Cornwall several weeks before spring came, but what a show it was! It seemed the colors were brighter than they are here, the crab apple, tulips, azaleas, flowering weeping cherry were just gorgeous. There was a little stream that wound through the village of Cornwall and the trees and shrubs on either side were beautiful. I did get to see and enjoy an apple orchard in full bloom at Jones Farm where we went each week to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. They also had beautiful hanging baskets of fuchsia, which we bought for the wrap-around porch at my daughter’s home.
In early June that year I drove from Cornwall to Vermont, to attend an elderhostel. What a beautiful state with covered bridges and a profusion of wild flowers, shasta daisies, phlox and many that were unfamiliar to me. The last night of the elderhostel the European students had a dinner and program for us and each table had a centerpiece of beautiful Vermont wild flowers. When I left the east for home the last of June, the highways of Pennsylvania were covered with crown vetch. The barren areas left from coal strip mining were a mass of pink blossoms -- a beautiful sight and such a difference from a few months earlier when it was still winter.
I felt truly blessed to have had such a long beautiful spring that year.
PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION
his wall hanging was made to “paint” the heart of my adult daughter’s family tree. I called it “Pictures at an Exhibition” because that is my youngest daughter Diane’s favorite musical composition, and this hanging was made for her. An identical wall hanging for Melanie was called “Melanie’s Memories.” I transferred photographic portraits -- of their grandparents, their father (who died when they were teenagers), myself and them when they were toddlers – to fabric, then made accompanying quilt blocks expressing each individual’s personality. Blooming flowers show my mother Effie Doyle’s green thumb. Spools illustrate my mother-in-law Mamie Spear’s sewing talent. The corn and beans block represents my father Edgar Doyle’s life as a farmer complete with his 50-year Masonic pin. Bow-ties symbolize the natty style of my father-in-law Henry Spear. The basket becomes my “work basket” filled with 30 years of professional association pins. The envelope portrays my husband Melvin’s love for stamp collecting. The schoolhouse and graduation tassel are for my older daughter Melanie, who was the first granddaughter to graduate from college. The piano keyboard, choir pins and master’s degree tassel represent my younger daughter Diane’s love of music. Fabric transfers of family snapshots are centered in the quilt backing. This labor of love brought back fond memories, as I looked through decades of old photographs to represent the essence of each family member.
LAUREN, THE CROWN OF THE AGED
Proverbs 17:6tc \l1 "LAUREN, THE CROWN OF THE AGED PROVERBS 17:6
t 8:45 p.m., December 12, 1997, Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City recorded the birth of 8-pound, 10-ounce Lauren Sofia Puglisi. This news didn’t make the New York Times or any other newspaper, but as far as I am concerned it was headline news. I waited 81 years for the announcement of that birth.
Someone said that the day of labor would be the longest day of the year. No matter what I did, time seemed to stand still. Clothes were washed, floors were scrubbed, closets cleaned. Finally the call came and I got to hear her cry. Her dad said she was perfect and beautiful. I had to wait eight weeks to see her pictures.
The next longest day was February 15, 1998, when Lauren flew to Little Rock. The plane was due at 10 p.m.. Another day to pace the floor and wonder would they make connections in St. Louis, would her ears hurt, would there be an empty seat so she could spread out, would the car seat get lost in cargo. Well the plane was on time and the last person to get off was Lauren with her mother. The flight attendant said, “Come on down grandma and see your beautiful granddaughter.” I couldn’t wait to get her home so I could hold her, rock her, kiss her and tell her how wonderful she is.
She has long arms, legs and fingers, a tiny pug nose, a red heart-shaped mouth and almost almond-shaped eyes, so dark and deep like pools of navy blue water. Someone said with those legs she will surely be a dancer, someone else said she will surely be tall and a model, another person said with those long fingers she must be a pianist and with those strong lungs, she will have to be a singer. I won’t get to find out what she will be, but right now I’m just content for her to be the miracle grandchild, “The Crown of the Aged.”
She’s the grandchild I thought I would never have, who will add life to years and just maybe years to life.
THE LOST SUMMER
everal of the organizations that I participate in do not meet in the summertime, so I had planned to do a lot of writing and finish a quilt for my daughter’s step-son during the summer of 2000. I didn’t count on having the shingles or having to endure a heat wave that produced the hottest day in the world. Like bears, some people hibernate in the wintertime, but I hibernated that summer. I can’t tell you how many days I did not dress but spent the day in the house with the drapes drawn against the sunlight and heat. I guess you could say I was depressed. I wasn’t interested in writing or cooking; hot food didn’t appeal to me. For the first time in my life, I sat in front of the TV with no handwork in my hands.
It was too hot to enjoy the swimming pool; even in the morning the water was not refreshing. I spent a lot of time trying to keep things watered. The birdbath was constantly in need of refilling; not only did the birds drink and bathe in it, but the stray cats and squirrels drank from it too. The hummingbirds had to have sugar water and some of the plants in my container garden had to be watered twice a day. The sprinkler system didn’t reach the red bud tree and hosta and they had to be watered with the hose.
Reading the paper and listening to TV didn’t help the situation, but merely reinforced how miserably hot it was in Little Rock. People have compared the summer of 2000 with the summer of 1980. In 1980 there were more consecutive days with the temperature over 100 degrees, but at no time was the temperature as hot as it was Wednesday, August 30, 2000. It was 111 degrees that day and Little Rock was the hottest place in the world.
One afternoon in August we had a thunderstorm; the wind blew and it rained really hard for a short time, then the power went off. When the rain stopped, I opened the only two windows in my house that will open, and for a short time there was a rain-cooled breeze. Soon, though, the air was heavy, sticky and steamy. I kept thinking, “Surely this outage won’t last,” but time dragged on and it got dark. It was too hot to light a candle so I relied on my flashlight. When it was bedtime, still no power. I got undressed and tried the bed, but it was too hot to sleep. I spent the night going from bed to deck to front porch and back to bed. I finally dropped off to sleep and dreamed there was a cool breeze blowing. Half awake, I realized the breeze was the ceiling fan. I looked at my watch as I got up to put the windows down; the power had been off for 12 hours.
September came and it was still hot, but as October approached, it rained and was cool. The hot weather and long lost summer were over.
MY FAITH AND MY CHURCH
T here is no way I could bring this book to a close without writing about my faith and my church, which have been an important part of my whole life. I’ve gone to Sunday school and church for as long as I can remember. When we were growing up there was never a question about whether or not we would go. We started getting things ready on Saturday. Mama would kill a chicken and make a pie or cake and get as much done as possible for Sunday dinner the day before. If the preacher didn’t come home with us for dinner, then someone else usually did. The little church in Pangburn didn’t have a janitor and many times my family cleaned the building on Saturday so it would be ready for Sunday services. In the summertime Mama had a bouquet of flowers for the pulpit. In the wintertime Papa often went to church early and built the fire so the building would be warm in time for Sunday school, and he would ring the bell to call people to worship.
Wherever I’ve been, I’ve moved my church letter. I went to school at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater one summer and was there for only seven weeks, but I moved my church membership, and two summers later when I went back, the minister called me by name.
Just about everywhere I’ve been, I’ve found someone in the church that I knew at Ouachita College or someone with an Arkansas connection. At First Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the minister’s wife was from Arkansas, and the associate pastor and his wife were Ouachita graduates. At South Main Baptist Church in Houston, the minister’s wife was from Arkansas, and her sister-in-law was at Ouachita when I was there.
When I came to Little Rock to work for the State Health Department in September 1949, I was looking for a church like the one I left in Tuscaloosa. Second Baptist was the second church I visited and I said, “This is it,” and I looked no more. Fifty-two years later, I’m still a member. This is the church where I was married, where my girls were dedicated to the Lord as infants, where they were baptized and where I was made a member of the Heritage Club. The Heritage Club is made up of people who have been members for 50 years.
I’ve worked at many jobs in the church. I first taught senior high school girls in Sunday school, and years later I taught some of those same girls when they were newly married and young mothers. I was a leader of Sunbeams (a children’s mission group), a choir mother, president of a missionary circle, and I taught the oldest women in Sunday school. They said they were the last class before heaven. After I retired, I organized the Home Bound Department that ministered to those members who were no longer able to attend church services.
Second Baptist’s logo is: Little Rock’s Second Home. There have been times when it has almost been my first home.
Now that I’m alone, my faith and my church are even more important. My church friends are my family. Dr. Billy White, the pastor, and his family were just like my own children. I stayed with Corrie and Jessica many times, helped them with their homework, and thought of them as my grandchildren. That family was so good to me and saw to it that I was not alone for the holidays. When they left, I cried for days.
I often wonder, “What do people who don’t have a church home do in times of trouble?” My faith and my church have always been there for me, in the good times as well as the bad times.
s I gaze out my kitchen window this gray autumn morn, I see the golden canopy fast becoming a golden carpet as the leaves from the sugar maple come tumbling down. It causes me to wonder how long till the snowflakes, whipped by a cold winter wind, will be falling to form a white carpet.
This will be followed by the green carpet of springtime and the dry hot summer will come and the carpet will be withered, shriveled and brown.
The sage of old has said, “To every thing there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven, a time to be born and a time to die.” Ecc. 3-1
As I ponder the falling leaves of the autumn of life, I wonder, “How long before the snow falls?”
About the Author
Christina Doyle Spear was raised during the Great Depression in the farming community of Pangburn in North Central Arkansas. She graduated from Beebe High School, got a B.S. degree from Ouachita College, served a dietetic internship at University of Kansas Medical Center and received a Masters Degree in nutrition from the University of Alabama. After a career as a dietitian and educator, she now lives in West Little Rock.