Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hard Times 3 - October 23, 2013

As published in the White River Current - Thursday October 23, 2013

Continuing the saga of the Hard Times depression years of the thirties and early forties: The move to the Rock House at the foot of Red Lane was not without trauma. When we arrived with a load of our possessions, the first things we noticed were three large feed sacks in the front yard. Upon further examination, we discovered that the sacks were all full of empty liquor bottles that had been picked up out of the field next to our house. We later found out that the bottles had been tossed out into the field by the previous renter. Of course, I was not too happy moving away from my friends on First Street. This only lasted a day or two and we got settled into what became a seven+ year stay. The Rock House had three bedrooms. My sister, Janice, was awarded the larger front bedroom, my parents chose the back bedroom and my granddad and I slept in the small middle bedroom on a feather bed. Let me pause here and tell you about my granddad. He was the only living grandparent that I ever had. His name was Lucas and everyone but me called him “Uncle Luke.” He was my mother’s father who lived with us until he died at the age of 69 (I was 13). He was a great help to my mother and did most of the outside work because my dad left for work very early and did not get home until after dark most of the time. Arising before daylight, granddad would build a fire in the wood heating stove that was located in the living room (our primary source of heat during the winter months), then build a fire in the wood cookstove and then it was off to the barn to slop the hogs and milk our cow. When he came back to the house with the large galvanized bucket of fresh milk, my mother would have started cooking breakfast. We bought flour in large sacks, twenty-five pounds I think, and mother made biscuits every morning. Quite often she took a portion of the biscuit dough and make a small fried pie for my lunch (I liked cherry the best). Beside the pie, she made a sandwich of potted meat salad (a small can of potted meat, a chopped boiled egg and a little mayonnaise) spread between two slices of light bread, all wrapped in waxed paper and placed in a small brown paper sack. Yummie!! I had the best lunch of anyone in the first grade. My mom, with the help of my granddad, took good care of her little boy. After breakfast, my sister and I were off to school; we walked. Granddad and I were buddies and I really missed him when he was gone. He was really good to me and never seemed to tire playing baseball with me (he was always the pitcher, I was always the batter.) My mom also had a brother and two sisters who came the long distance from their homes for an occasional visit. One of the sisters was diagnosed with TB and spent almost a year at the sanatorium in Booneville. Her youngest daughter, who was three years old at the time, stayed with us during this period. I was assigned the task of keeping her occupied because she missed her mom. We played games and her favorite was the toy tea set that we used a lot. I drank a lot of make-believe tea during that time. Oh, I almost forgot about the rock house. Anyway, in addition to the bedrooms, the house had a living room (where the heating stove was), a dining room with a large, round, claw-footed dining table and six chairs and a kitchen with a wood burning cook stove. We were the last house on the highway to have electricity. We did not have indoor plumbing but had a two-holer outhouse. We did have a well. A wash stand that held a metal pan, water bucket and dipper were located just outside the back door. Baths were taken in a #2 galvanized wash tub. A few feet from the back door was a large kettle that my mother used to make lye soap and hominy (not at the same time.) Our house was built with cobble stones, a rough-textured material that was also used in constructing a rock fence that bordered the yard on two sides. A one-car garage was located on the north corner of the property. Also on our property was a smoke house where we kept our cured meat, a chicken house (eggs and fryers) and a small barn for our Guernsey milk cow. We had a large garden spot. I’m sure this is boring so I will pause and endeavor to describe growing up in the depression years in the next episode. See you in two weeks. Bye for now.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Hard Times No. 2 - October 11, 2013

As published in the White River Current - Thursday October 11, 2013 “Hey, Bill. Did you hear that John broke his leg this morning?” “No, I hadn’t heard that. How did it happen?” “Well, he fell out of the persimmon tree while he was eating breakfast.” I don’t know whether I should call this a humorous tale or not but I heard it repeated many times back in the depression years of the “thirties.” I had several comments on my last article about “Hard Times” so I thought I might continue with more stories about my early years. Some of this I may have written about before. Anyway, I was born in Calico Rock in the early thirties, in the small house across the street from the present library/city hall. In small towns (and sometime in larger towns), houses have names referring to present or past residents. Examples of this are the Mixon house or the Judge Hammett house. Anyway, I was born in the Copp house. When I was about six months old, we moved to a two-story frame house at the top of the hill on West First Street known as the Dr. Matthews house. This house was next door (West) to the Dr. Smith house and we lived there about a year then moved to the William Wayland house, a large two-store yellow house that was located on the corner of what is now Park Street and Highway 56. Hold your place here while I explain that in 1969 I purchased this house from the owners, Frank and Verneice, and moved my drug store from Main Street into a new building that I had built after moving the house (which Frank had converted to a single story home) to a location in East Calico Rock. OK, after a year or so in the Wayland house, we moved back to West First Street into a house that was next door and East of the Dr. Smith house. I remember a lot about this house. This was close to downtown and the railroad and we had hobos quite often come to the back door and ask for food. I mentioned this in the last article. I have heard that the hobos had a system of notifying other hungry travelers who were riding the rails about where they could get something to eat. There were several young children, about my age who lived nearby so I had a lot of playmates. The Marchants lived across the street and their youngest son, Wade, was closest to my age so we played together along with Max and Billy Charles. Very early every morning, Mr. Marchant could be seen leading his milk cow down the hill and over to the Rand pasture where she would graze until late afternoon when he would bring her back to the house to milk, an everyday routine. He worked long days as part of the section gang on the railroad, replacing old crossties and otherwise keeping the trains safely moving to their destination. Joe was a part of the citizenry of our country referred to as the “common people” but are anything but common. I prefer to call them the “Salt of the Earth.” Hard Times. During the day, Wade sometime would visit and sit on the front porch with his elderly neighbor, Aunt Sally. Their conversation might go like this: Someone would occasionally drive or walk down the street in front of the house and Aunt Sally would lean forward in her rocking chair and say “Well, who are we?” Wade, in the other rocking chair, would answer “Well, you’re Sally and I’m Wade.” Believe me, this was funny, so maybe you can conjure up a mental picture of it. I wrote about the Hagars in a previous article. To refresh your memory, the youngest daughter, Johnnie Fay, was about my age. We spent many hours sitting on the floor in front of her mother while she taught us our ABCs and numbers. I could read and do some simple math when I entered the first grade. Sometime the girls and boys would gather in our yard and play games such as tag, annie over, drop the handkerchief and “ring around the rosie.” If these were hard times, we kids didn’t know it. Great memories of our house on West First Street but after a couple of years, we moved to the rock house on Red Lane. I was five years old. We’ll continue the saga when I see you in two weeks. Bye for now!