AS I REMEMBER IT
by Jane Christine Markle Rogers(1913-2006)
1991 AGE 72
Whee! And around and around she went, clasping Daddy's hands, her feet flying out. Soon they stopped and she was allowed to hold the hose and sprinkle the drying lawn (allowed maybe only once a week to conserve water during one of the rare dry spells). Their lot was perhaps the biggest in the neighborhood, their house the grandest (C. H. Markle, Builder, had erected it himself for a total sum of $4500 and it consisted of basement, kitchen, dining room, living room and three bedrooms and bath upstairs.) But C. H. Markle. Builder, though a master-carpenter, was a poor businessman. Finally he went into partnership with another contractor and eventually just became a hire by the day carpenter at the grand sum of $45 a week. His little daughter waited for him to get off the streetcar nightly and come in the back door to a meal that always started off with a soup bowl of hot milk and crackers. Similarly his breakfast was always oatmeal.
Jane was a tireless number up at dawn and cried when her parents coaxed her to go to bed when they did at 10 p.m. No nap even though her mother tried and tried to get her to snuggle up with her on the old couch with the faded red coverlet in the living room. Her days were spent making designs with crayons at her little roll top desk which was a replica of Daddy's huge roll top. Or she wandered the lot communing with the plants and weeds or throwing rocks in the pond at the back. Sometimes she just sat and watched for the streetcar to come clattering and swaying and sometimes dingdonging past the front steps. She cased the extra lot observing the spittle bugs on the yarrow and searching the centers of the Queen Anne's Lace to see what color the lone colored bract at the center was. But always within the confines of the Markle lot. If anyone wondered about the dangers of the passing streetcar or the canal at the back of the lot, at least she was unaware of it. Worry didn't seem to be part of life as far as she knew.
Daddy had built a small chicken coop and she often was given a scissors and pie pan to cut grass to feed the chickens. Big sister Ruth (seven years older) didn't seem to be a memory at this time except for a few times she brought her friend Helen to play dolls on the front porch. Jane didn't feel very welcome with them and usually just wandered off. Mother didn't seem to bother much with her either except for the hours Jane sat at the table and watched mother do the ironing.
Occasionally mother would recite a poem to her the only one Jane could remember was:
"The snow had begun in the gloaming and busily all the night
Had been heaping fields and highways with a silence deep and white.” This poem probably appealed to mother in memory of a child born and dead in August and now beneath the ground in winter. Occasionally Jane begged mother (never mom, mama, ma or mommy that was forbidden) to come out and play with her and once Mother did she came out, made three small snowballs, put them on the sled as a little snowman and then went back immediately into the house. Like all children then and now it was great fun to be out in the snow. On the side lot was wonderful sliding hill and all the neighborhood kids came to slide. The northeast window provided a wonderful viewing area and that provided a good pastime.
About four years of age, sitting the hillside next to the adjacent lot, a wonderful thing happened - a little blonde girl, Wanda, appeared and even though she spoke mostly Polish and they probably didn't understand each other, they became friends and had a gay time throwing rocks at her mother's chickens. Thus began a lifetime friendship that has lasted over 60 years. Jane's mother kept her on a tight leash. She was not allowed to go to the neighbors or have them to our place. Because Jane's mother went to work at an inn about this time and got Wanda's mother to work there as a cook, a relationship was established.
At 4 1/2 Jane was ready for kindergarten. She was taken with a paper she had made with all the block letters of the alphabet and all the numbers to l00 in her hand. She didn't remember learning them nor did she remember using them in any way in kindergarten. Big sister took Jane to school and when kindergarten let out early Jane was supposed to come home with a cousin Jean who was in the first grade. That cousin thought she was pretty smart.
Don't know what we did in kindergarten. Remember the kids' names. We made some Indians with shawls on their backs (the shawl was a folded piece of shiny colored paper). On my birthday my mother bought 21 hatchets (hard candy, red, cinnamon flavored - ugh) for the kids.
First grade - 45 kids, no books, charts and charts of sounds, pages and pages of penmanship (Palmer method). I still remember "Round and round we go, a hundred ovals in a row, if on your fingers you will glide, you will give the pen a ride". Then we did rows and rows of push pulls singing "It isn't any trouble just to S-M-I-L-E, it isn't any trouble just to S-M-I-L-E, all your troubles will vanish like a bubble if you only take the trouble just to S-M-I-L-E". And you had to sit just right, hold your pencil just right and the teacher paced the aisles to make sure you did, and once a week the penmanship teacher came by to check up on students and teacher alike. Recess was the big event everyone had bag of marbles and we played "Poppies" or "Bunny in the Hole". I don't remember much about my sister at that time but two of her friends (little sisterless) adopted Wanda and I and sort of loved us and took care of us.
Going home from school was a problem as we had to go through the "hollow" where some bullyish boys tormented us. I remember one day four or five of them confronted us with their penises out and tried to "squirt" us. Did we tell? I don't remember!
Second grade - that was the year Wanda and I played by the brook on the way to school and were often late. She had a house key and lost it in the brook one day. Then it got too much and we were called to the principal's office. The principal took out his flannel case with the dreaded "rubber tube" in it to warn us. Guess that convinced us! You see we used to go home to an empty house and get lunch. Sometimes my grandma would be there frustrated at the situation. Sometimes she was even hanging out the wash. Maybe she didn't think much of my mother working, I dunno. Mother didn't really have to work but she wanted nicer things (I couldn't have cared less - what we had, was good enough for me). She always had a bill at the department store and my dad was always accusing her of working for a dead horse. I used to meet mother when she got off the bus at the bottom of the hill and say "Please make popovers." Or creampuffs or cheese souffle. And she did it.
I was always a problem eater. Wouldn't drink milk and so mother made pudding and junket and anything that would get milk into me. I usually didn't eat anything available for supper and she would get up and fix me chicken noodle soup or scrambled eggs. My baby teeth were rotted out of my head, my second teeth had big cavities and my old age has been plagued with osteoporosis. What is more my big sister was going through a baking spree during my early primary days candy, cookies, cake, pie and we'd buy ice cream and potato chips and my mother would bring stuff from the bakery. Often we'd go to the store and buy six candy bars (and they were big in those days) for a quarter and eat them all right away. By fifth grade I weighed over a hundred pounds and went up to 150 by eighth grade (all of which I still have despite a lifetime of striving to get down to normal weight).
Guess I did O.K. in school, no report cards, PTA or parent-teacher conferences. But in second grade we had addition and subtraction carrying 10's and I couldn't understand it had to stay after school almost every nite. Must have mastered it - Finally I remember the struggle, not any victory
Every morning Mrs. Smith read for maybe 15 minutes from the Bobbsey Twin books. Some rich kid named Guy brought them from home one after the other. At Christmas we could bring ornaments for the tree my mother sent chains of glass beads; they got broken and she never forgot it. The teacher was French and she taught us to sing "Sur le pons, d'Avignon, l'on y dansa, l'on y dansa. Sur le pons, d'Avignon, l'on y dansa tout en ronde".
Third grade - that was the year I got sent out in the hall for singing off tune. The fourth grade teacher solved that; I sat in the front seat and was just a "listener". Highlight of third grade the teacher drew my name for a Christmas present and she gave me some rubber stamps. Then I had my 7th (and only) birthday party. One girl's mother wouldn't let her come because her father was a bar tender and she felt my family wouldn't welcome her. Funny - a few years later I thought people wouldn't welcome me because my father was a drunk. We had a spelling bee and played that game "What animal would you like to see?" Then they let you look in a box that had a mirror in it and the monkey or whatever-it-was-you-asked for was "you". Birthday parties were always the same - crepe paper streamers (no balloons), those crepe papers snappers with a party hat and a prize in them. Refreshments were always peanut butter and marshmallow-cream or jelly or cheese spread sandwiches. And to make them more festive they were cut out of the bread with cookie cutters fancy shapes like stars, animals and the like. These were served with grape juice and we ended up with birthday cake. Usually you invited all the girls in your class. My folks went all out for a birthday present that year. I wanted a green leather jacket and I got it. I wonder what size it was. I was still wearing it when I met Dad at Pullman it was a pretty faded green by then.
4th grade - ah, Mrs. Dolman was a member of the Audubon Society and gave us colored pictures of birds for prizes. And that was the year my health went haywire. I had whooping cough and was out of school for eleven weeks. It took the doctor six weeks to diagnose it. One day he was making a house call across the street, he heard me "whooping" it up through the upstairs window, came to the house and slapped a five week quarantine on. He came to the house every other day and gave me shots. Actually I think I've had sinus trouble ever since and colds often turn into long coughing spells. The last three weeks of school that year I was out with mumps. My Dad was out of work that winter and took me to and from school in the car. Naturally the neighbor kids got to ride along too popularity at last.
5th grade - catastrophe struck my mother. I was going to school in the adjacent district, because my mother wanted me and my sister to go to school with better kids than the "bloody fifth" provided. But the powers to be said "no more". So I to the Old Baystate School up the street a block. Two grades to a room. I liked it fine, was almost the smartest kid in the class for a change, but didn't like the kids calling me "teacher's pet". We were introduced to hygiene and history (ugh) that year, and the teacher was great. Well, then the school board decided to tear the school down and build a new one, so the last half of the year we attended school in the dance hall of the German American Association and even into the first half of the next year when the sixth grade did their learning in the "bar". But finally a nice new school with an auditorium and stage. My mother became president of the new PTA and as a consequence became friendly with a whole lot of people she had shunned previously. She became one of them for life - attended their ball games, played in their bridge club and even thought the kids were O.K. for me to speak to.
7th grade - we had a safety club (I was the president) and we put on a play. And we all sang "We are the safety crusaders, careful the live long day, always on lookout for duty, whether at work or play, etc, etc." The PTA put on military whist parties and I learned to play.
8th grade - back to my original school in the other district as the Bay State school had only seven grades. All the kids welcomed me with open arms - I was the new kid that they already knew - from early grades, Sunday school and Girl Scouts. Life there was fun except for "old lady Little" who taught English Lit (which I have always hated) and she was very hard of hearing. One day I was making my lips go a bit while I was reading to myself. She accused me of whispering and sent me to the principal. He smiled and told me to sit in the chair by the office door until the end of the period. It happened all the time and I guess he preferred to handle the kids instead of her. I suffered through English and history but was overjoyed at grammar (I must be wierd!). We diagrammed sentences on end for Miss Alice McCulloch.
Then in 9th grade I had her for Latin and ancient history. She was a real teacher - scarred face but cute and attractive otherwise so you hardly noticed. The kids all loved her - imagine me liking ancient history.
Imagine everyone in a class being enthusiastic about Latin and ancient history. No textbook - she just presented it all in simple terms slowly so everyone could grasp it. And we didn't read ancient history, she just gave us the highlights and had us make charts, maps and craft projects to help us understand the way of life in those periods. She wasn't showing off her knowledge, she was sharing it with us. I'll bet, not one of her students ever forgot her! Or maybe that is just what I think. I didn't know others very well then.
That year we had algebra, too - I liked that. And best of all a sewing class (boys had shop). It was also the year "Our Half Dozen" began. Those on the honor roll were allowed to study at a library table in the hall with access to an encyclopedia. Girls one period, boys the next. Study - it was a community workshop (cooperative homework) and chatterbox session, except when the principal was walking by. With one exception I have kept in touch with all those girls for over fifty years (two of them now deceased). There was no P.E. those days except for playing ball at recess. A new boy came in the middle of the year - his father, a missionary, had just been killed in Japan. Everyone thought the boy was a big sissy, but I defended him - my first crush though little good it ever did me. He grew up to be a biology professor - just like my husband. That year I talked my mother into letting me go to Miss Parker's dancing school because a friend of mine was going and wanted me to go, too. So every Saturday night my mother used the curling iron on my hair (a first) and alone I went (by car or bus) and had to stand on the street to wait for the bus home at 1O p.m. Sometimes in desperation I walked the two miles alone in the dark. My other friends walked home together but in another direction. One night a young man came up behind me and put his arm around me and walked me along. I was petrified. Finally we came to my home - my parent's bedroom light was on and I yelled, "Hi, mother, I'm home" and broke free and dashed across the street. A few days later I found out who the young man was. He had recently been released from a mental institution and was lonely.
As for the dancing school- it was mostly kids from the South Hill crowd. And my friend and I and two boys from our school mostly sat in the coatroom and talked about school. Every once in a while the boys would ask one of us to dance (some dancing, more walking on each other's toes). Oh there was one other boy with a "real high smell" who invited me occasionally to my displeasure. I can't remember any instruction and the couple who ran the outfit paid us no attention except to collect the weekly fee of $2. Then we had special parties where we were supposed to wear evening gowns - my mother bought two. It was obvious that I was never going to learn to dance - I was a loner and batted along with no thought for anyone else, meaning the partner. It was a mess! This was my first conscious experience with being an "outsider". Our four weren't part of the crowd - it was no place for us and we didn't try it a second year. I did later go to the German-American Citizen's dance hall and danced with my folks, neighbor's and a nice boy my own age but that was the only dancing I ever enjoyed in my life. My folks had a big part there for their 25th wedding anniversary. I had always been slightly plump but about this time I really took off to 150 and I had deep acne pimples on my face and picked them horribly. My father had started on drink and they were unhappy and tense years. My father's sister, Aunt Edith, welcomed me into her home every school vacation. I did well in school and that solaced me some.
The year I became l4 I was a sophomore in high school - walked there 2 miles and 2 miles back every day. The school was in two shifts - ours got out at 1 p.m. Latin and French were fun and one afternoon a week I went to a nearby vocational for a sewing class. I enjoyed it immensely - that was for me. How I would have loved to attend that vocational and become a dressmaker. I wonder what my life would have been like if I had. I also would have liked to take a business course and become a secretary. But my parents would have none of that - I was supposed to go to college.
Also in my sophomore year I began to wonder what I lacked that others had. Had this Miss Drummond for English Lit. (which I hated). She used to periodically go around the class and mention those whom she thought were college material. Never me, although I got as good grades as the rest of them. Why not me? Not that I wanted to go to college, but what was different about me - fat, acne, my father was a drunk? All in all it didn't bother me much - I was one of our little gang and they welcomed me. We were a clique of our own - got good grades - not one of the "much-maligned" South Street crowd who had money, nice clothes and parents who were in the social swirl.
Junior year presented two problems - one, Maude Linker for Latin. Supposedly we were reading Caesar, but mostly we were talking about the Hamp Lamp published by two boy classmates, protesters, fighting for causes. There were two bright kids in the class and when the principal came to the door they were supposed to, when called upon, start translating on page so and so and line so and so. Miss Linker supported the two protesters and their illegal newspapers. Eventually the school outlawed it and forbid its being passed out in school, so weekly it was passed out across the street from the school. I hated that teacher, didn't learn anything and lost my enthusiasm for Latin.
The other problem was American History. I disliked that teacher, too. She assigned so many pages in the book each day. Then she went around the class alphabetically. The student had to stand and recap what was in the section (usually about a half page). I only read the book when the M's for Markle were in the offering. We had a written test every six weeks just before cards came out. I can't remember what they were like or what grades I got (who cares?).
I liked geometry, but our 80 year old teacher had us proving stuff according to the book (one more or one less step than was printed there and you were a total failure even if you mostly understood).
Senior year we had review mathematics - I had her again. One day I got up, left the class, walked straight into the principal's office and told him I couldn't stand It - it wasn't required for college entrance and I was dropping it. He gave me a queer little smile and said "O.K." No argument.
Had chemistry senior year. The teacher was also ancient, said, "The electron theory, we'll skip it, I don't understand it". He was another go around the class alphabetically and recite on a section of the text. I didn't get much out of that. We had to go back to school one afternoon a week for lab. What I liked about that was getting to stay in town for lunch. I always went to Liggett's Drug Store for a ham and olive sandwich and a coke. First coke I ever had!
So you wonder what I liked about high school - the kids, the math, the French. I loved French and seeing I was being forced into college if I could get in, I decided I would be a French teacher. Me a teacher, I didn't know anything else you could do with French. I liked the reasoning part of math but was notoriously inaccurate with figures so was scared of that. I might mention one thing here. I myself had signed up for a commercial course in high school. My teacher at the time was a personal friend of my mother. She came to the house and talked to my mother about it - she thought it was a waste (she had an only child and it was retarded). Anyway that was the end of my commercial course.
To get into college you had to take College Boards. I took the Scholastic Aptitude Test and the Latin exam at the end of Junior year and passed. Then for Senior year if you were in the top ? % of your class you were admitted without any more exams. But again even though I had the grade point I had to take more tests. Why? I was too meek to ask - just took them. The college admitted me anyway - worse luck, so back to school I had to go.
Me go to college - wow! All I knew was that college girls smoked. So I bought a package of cigarettes and smoked one in front of the mirror every night to get used to it so I could be one of the crowd. And they wore sweaters - my sister knitted me two. And they wore saddle shoes - of course I had those. My only comfort was that some of my friends (three of them) were going, too. We got free tuition (because the college didn't pay taxes) as long as we maintained a B average. The Academy of Music (a local theater) hired the local Smith College as ushers to earn money as long as they were in college. I worked several times but simply could not endure standing that long and ushering is a lot of standing around. Not then or ever since have I been able to stand in one position for any length of time. There was a club for local college girls that lived at home - it didn't amount to much and I hardly ever attended.
Language happy I took French, German, Botany (easiest sounding science requirement), Government (social study requirement) and the required English Composition one semester and Hygiene the next. And gym - posture training. They took posture silhouettes (in the nude) and you had to keep taking that until you could produce an acceptable stance. Then you graduated to Fundamental Movement. After you passed that you could take fun things like tennis and canoeing.
My mother promised me $5 for every A I got. First semester I got four A's and a D (government). After that she didn't promise any more. I picked out the Frenchiest - sounding progessor for French - Mme. Imbault-Hoir - she talked a blue streak, not a word of English. I was in tears. I finally convinced them to set me back a class where I understood the teacher fine and the class was a breeze (oh, not without study!). If I had selected her in the first place it would have been fine. The girls who came from private schools were used to talking French, but our high school taught read it, write it, but speak it very slowly.
All in all, I always did well in three subjects and let the other two go - a normal load was too much for me. And I let the German go- paid strict and enjoyable attention in class, but let the homework slide. But by cramming a week before the exam, I got an A just the same. But that's no good. I didn't retain it and had a horrible time second semester.
In government class I was in tears about all the time, not the slightest idea of what was going on - somehow or other I got through it. The English Comp I did o.k. Mary Ellen Chase (a famous author) always had one section. She knew my mother through the White House Inn (my mother was a waitress there) and she decided she would have me in her class. I always remember the first assignment. She went through the papers in class. She came to mine "And here's one that is grammatically correct in every way, not very brilliant otherwise, but pretty good for the daughter of a carpenter". My reaction was "you snob", silently, not out loud, of course. She was English, very English ? had hired a neighborhood couple of mine for her maid and butler/chauffeur. I had to go to her house for a private conference about my work. Might have scared me to death if I hadn't known the people in those monkey suits. Actually she was pretty well liked by the working people in Northampton. She was famous, she gave them work and was kind to her employees. I think they in turn provided character studies for her. She wrote a book about a Polish family in the area - I enjoyed reading it because it was about the kind of people I knew.
Botany - I fell in love with it - it was my first course in science (except that muddled high school chemistry) and it opened up a whole new world to me. Forget the French, I was a botany major! First quiz I flunked - it was about osmosis. The teacher took me in hand at a private meeting and straightened me out - taught me how to reason a step at a time. She became my favorite teacher and friend for life. I took all the classes she taught - they weren't very popular but I liked them. She gave me rides home at time, luggage when I went off to graduate study and we wrote letters to each for years. She was the turning point in my life - at last I had something to live for. I wrote at the time of her retirement, thanked her and told her how much she meant to me - and she replied "You will never know how much that letter meant to me". She was single, never married and had children and really wasn't a very popular teacher. She spent l0 years on a research project to get Ph.D., decided the project wasn't worthy of a degree, dropped it and started on another - she finally got the degree. She was Norwegian - name Sara Bache/Wiig.
First year of college I took lunch at a dorm I picked out at random. It was supposed to get me acquainted - it didn't - a very lonely experience. We all had to go to the college doctor for a physical exam - I was told I was overweight (l54 lbs.). She said I was eating too much starchy dormitory food. That was the first I ever was concerned about my weight. No one told me anything to do about it, thought, and advice about weight control didn't abound in those days - I wasn't even aware it was from eating too much.
Second semester I took hygiene. We had to plan a menu for a week (we could spend $25 for the food). I got a D on mine, so I went to the teacher and asked, "What's wrong, this seems like a well- balanced diet according to the description in the book? She said, "Yes, but who would eat meat loaf when they had $25 a week to spend for food." Anyway in the course (page 71) I got my introduction to sex, reproduction and birth control - thankful for that!
I finally passed my posture picture and went on to swimming, tennis and canoeing - really enjoyed that even though I was never any good at any of it. In swimming I could never do more than three strokes of the crawl and couldn't really do arm stroke with my left arm at all. After years of baby care and a daughter who taught swimming I could use that arm and really enjoyed the crawl. That was one of the true joys of my life until I had a bout of bursitis for a couple of years. Wonder if I could have a second recovery!
So I was a "botany girl". Also took human anatomy and physiology and taxonomy and ecology in the zoo department. The bane of my existence was chemistry. They placed me in an advanced section because I had had high school chemistry (ha ha!). No background and it was an accelerated course ? more tears. I finally begged to drop it because if I flunked a course the college would drop me. So switched to plant ecology. The plant ecology course was fine, but the teacher - ick. She hired me to do her housework and help with a lab research she was doing and taught me to slop through everything. I wished I had never met her. By senior year I was getting sick of school. I was in the honors program and graduated "cum laude". Had to take an oral exam. This plant ecology teacher told me she was upset because I didn't answer a question on seed dispersal to her satisfaction. She told me she was so ashamed of me, that if I had known that I would have graduated "magna cum". I couldn't have cared less.
So there I was with a degree in botany. There was an opening at the New York Botanical Garden, and I was applying, and the faculty were backing me with recommendations. Then I was told that the girl who was quitting decided to stay on. Somebody showed me an opening for graduate work at WSU. I really didn't want to go on but had to do something, so I applied and was accepted. I had read of a professor there who was doing some interesting research. And, besides, it was a chance to get away from home.
The department gave me some summer work so I could earn the railroad fare. My aunt and uncle encouraged me. My mother said nothing. My father said, "If you leave, don't ever come back to this house again". Of course he didn't mean it, just didn't want me to go so far away alone. I was nervous about it and had weird ailments that summer, swellings around my mouth, rashes on my legs (never had them before). The doctor said it was just "nerves".
So off I went. I changed trains in Chicago where my Uncle Bert and Aunt Thelma took me to dinner at some ritzy restaurant (they said its creamed spinach was superb). I felt pretty lowly and inferior compared to their style, but they were kind. They put me on the sleeper and I went off toward "the wild, wild west". The people in the Pullman car were interesting and kind and rescued me from an astrologer who tried to attach himself to me. I got off the train at Yellowstone Park and had a three-day bus tour (gift from Uncle Carl and Aunt Edith) and again the tour people were friendly and kind.
In Spokane I spent the night at the downtown YWCA where the girls were very friendly. Walked around the Great Northern depot where I enjoyed the water and the ducks. And in Spokane I had my first taste of hard water - "ugh", I couldn't believe it.
Arrived in Pullman I checked out my bike from the baggage room and pumped up the hill to the WSU Dean's office. She gave me a list of "Rooms for rent". First lady said, "I want you to know we are Christian Scientists and you can only have one bath a week". I decided to go on. Next place was a house run by a lady whose daughter was in the Pharmacy School. Room $7 per month. Meals - I can't remember, but cheap. So there I stayed. I found out why her meals were so cheap - starchy, starchy. There were several other girls staying there and I enjoyed it. I played bridge and smoked. On Sundays I went to the Congregational Church on the corner and then to Catholic Mass with another girl. I had always wanted to be a Catholic. This girl was a good Catholic and, as I discovered a few months later, a prostitute, but she was a good friend.
Thanksgiving one girl offered to take me home for the holiday. It was a blizzard - cars in the ditch everywhere ? we went in, too. We spent some time in some small town cafe until the car could be pulled out. Everyone was sitting around in this cafe telling horror stories - one about this girl who had been in an accident and her eye was hanging out. We returned to Pullman for the night and I was afraid to go on when they tried again the next day. The girl's mother sent back the message that she wished her daughter was as sensible.
Another girl took me home to Eugene, OR for Christmas and she and her family were very kind to me. June had a bluish color but I liked her and never thought much about it. We became fast friends and corresponded for a few years. Then one of my letters came back. Her mother said she had died - the doctors said she had the heart of a seventy year old woman - explanation of the "blue". She was a brave girl, got a degree in social work and worked the day before she died.
After a while I moved across the street - there were nice girls there, too. I really enjoyed those two years. I was alone and on my own. No contact with my family except letters. My Aunt Edith sent me $l0 a month to supplement the $50 a month I got from the college. It was unnecessary - I didn't know how to spend money because I had never had any Phone calls - I wouldn't dream of a long distance phone call - that was an extravagance rich people indulged in. In emergencies my family sent a 10 word (minimum fee) telegram.
The day I started school (and work as the Botany department secretary - you know, work study, only it wasn't called that then) the department head introduced me around the place and I was introduced to Tom Rogers sawing a board to make something for the lab. He struck me as a pleasant guy. He was supposed to have a study station next to me in the main office, but he moved out when I came. Toward Christmas I was studying in the department library and was coughing a blue streak. He convinced me I should go home and he walked home with me. This started a habit. We'd end up sitting on the porch talking for a while. The girls really razzed me about it. Then we attended a department party and graduate club meetings and socialized that way.
Forgot to tell you about Graduate Club. There were l2 graduate students in botany that year, 11 boys and me. So when we attended the Graduate Club meeting (mostly new people unknown to each other) I was nominated and had 11 votes (enough to win) for secretary. That made me known a bit. One boy, a graduate teaching assistant in the chemistry department- he was especially attentive and helpful to me. I was grateful. Then at a club picnic he offered me a ride home. The ride was interrupted by a detour into the woods. And suddenly he was all over me. I was aghast that stuff had never been part of my life. I had talked with boys about school and stuff but I had never had any intimate contact. I said, "Let's go home", and fortunately he just said, "O.K. if that is the way you feel". I especially enjoyed the company of three other male graduate students - all of whom had a girl (one a wife) at home. I was safe company for a lonely soul as I was too naive to be a designing woman.
That summer the department had a field trip to Canada. And the graduate students got free tuition. I had saved enuf from my $50 a month to provide room and board during the vacation months. Frankly I was sick of school and thinking of going to Spokane and try to get a loan to attend Kinman University and get a job there. Well I went on the field trip - it was a very interesting time. What to do next? While I was still in the process of making up my mind Tom came through Pullman with his mother. And somehow or other we got engaged. I had never planned on getting married. When he suggested that maybe we could make a go of it together, two thoughts came to mind. He was a very nice fellow and I hated to cook. He said, "Well, I can cook." So I decided to stay on and finish my Master's degree while he went off to Indiana to do graduate work. We wrote letters all during the next year and in June he came for me. We went to his folks's farm and were married by Methodist minister in Kalispell. We honeymooned (camping) at Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park. That summer I got my introduction to farm life and enjoyed it, the life that Tom wanted to get away from. He worked for his brother putting up hay and we hiked in the mountains (an interesting experience, though I had trouble keeping up). Tom was just putting in time until his draft number came up. When it did I thought it would be nice for me to join the WAVES, but he didn't like that idea. Perhaps you have guessed by now, that I have always let other people make my decisions in a way. No guts, or any inborn inclination to be nice? Then I got pregnant and Tom went to work as a carpenter at the Farragut Naval Training Base in Idaho. We lived in a tent behind a pigpen. In November the draft finally caught up with Tom and he spent Thanksgiving Day on K.P. peeling potatoes and onions. I stayed with his mother until January and then took the train back to my folks in Massachusetts. Spent my time sewing and folding bandages for the Red Cross with a former friend. One day I heard a lady on the street say to another, "Oh, you should come and roll bandages. We sit in the back row and have a ball listening to those young girls talking about their pregnancies and their babies." Things at home were bad, my father drunk all the time and my sister in the hospital dying (she fooled them, lived nine more years). My mother worked. Finally Dad got the D.T.'s. I had moved out and remember walking down the river road to bring him pop.
Danny is Born
Tom got a furlough to come for the birth. I used to go walking with my mother - we did 8 miles two days before Dan was born. Mother's sister, Aunt Gen came to stay with me. One night I had a terrible rent down my right side in back - then nothing more. Aunt Gen insisted it was the start of labor. Next day I had severe pains off and on- nothing regular. Tom arrived at 5 p.m. At midnight Aunt Gen called the doctor and said I ought to be in the hospital. He said, "No, I've had too many with false labors lately" and she said, "I know what I am talking about, she is going to the hospital". So Tom and I took a cab to the hospital. They put me to bed, I moaned a bit and the nurse said "Shut up - it will be a long time before you have that baby". Half an hour later she came back and examined me - suddenly a lot of people were there, especially a semi-circle of student nurses with notebooks. Someone slapped something on my face and told me to take a deep breath. Bye-bye, I was gone. At 10:30 the next morning I came to, alone in the room. I looked around for the call bell. It was on the floor in the dust, so I climbed out and got it. They told me I had a boy. The doctor came, all glee, and told me it was a breech birth. He was a new, very young doctor and I learned later that he was home drunk that night someone else delivered the baby. I was very tired and in a lot of pain and really didn't enjoy it when they brought the baby to nurse - none of the great joy of a new mother. I was in the hospital two weeks (the custom in those days). Because Dad was in the army and about to go off to war, they let him stay with me all the time and of course I wanted him to. Also my mother's my sister's friends came in droves to visit me. No rest, I couldn't eat much and in terrible pain - I was sure glad when that two weeks was over.
So I went home to my apartment alone. Danny cried all the time. One night I was carrying him and fainted, fortunately toward the bed so the baby was deposited there instead of dropped. Aunt Edith came and spent the night with me several times. I nursed the baby until July - he put on 3 1/2 lbs. And then I gave up and put him on formula. Then the sand fleas came out of the rug and I was all bitten up. I decide to go live with Aunt Edith and Uncle Carl. They were very good to me. They had never had children and they really enjoyed that baby. Aunt Edith and I went for long walks with the baby carriage - not very good for her high blood pressure. She didn't seem to get off to work in the mornings and said she was staying on to enjoy the baby. Then one night I heard Uncle Carl on the phone to the doctor. It seems Aunt Edith had experienced a terrible pain that frightened him. The doctor came - blood pressure normal, a huge ovarian cyst. She was to go to the hospital and he would operate in the morning. By that time the pain was gone and she laughed and said she was all right, that she would be home in the morning. So they planned the surgery. On the way to the O.R. she went into shock. They opened her up, she was full of blood and they just sewed her back up. She died the next morning, conscious and mentally alert to the end. An autopsy revealed that the artery to one kidney had ruptured. They had known she had bad kidneys(c)(c) her family all had kidney problems (my father the exception). A.E. told me she was advised to drink some water every time she urinated. But I never knew of the kidney problem. She was just my loving, saintly Aunt Edith (47 when she died) who did everything she possibly could for me. I was just numb, never shed a tear, but went stoically on as usual. Two years later I was thinking about it and bawled and bawled and bawled.
I stayed on with Uncle Carl. He was very attached to us and suggested that if anything happened to Tom in the war that we could be a family. I told Tom and when he had a furlough he came and took us back to Ft. Omaha where he was stationed.
A lady who worked with Tom took us in. Her soldier son had been accidently killed by friendly fire in Hawaii. Daddy looked and looked for an apartment. "No kids". Finally he blew up at a lady over the phone and she reluctantly let us have an apartment. It was a big family home. We had the three rooms upstairs and shared the bath with the family. No water in the so-called Kitchen - we just carried it from the bathroom. No door between us and the downstairs hall.
I wanted Tom to enjoy Danny and arranged the baby's schedule so he would be awake in the evening when Tom came home from the base. We'd have dinner together - at ten months Danny everything including pickles and rhubarb. Then we would lie on the bed and Danny would crawl all over us. We had a Taylor Tot and weekends we would walk or ride the streetcar with it. Went to the swimming pool at the base, the stockyards, some model airplane contest. Occasionally the girl, about l5, babysat and we went to the movies at the base or once hiking in a nature preserve.
We loaned our apartment to a honeymooning couple and went to Montana on the train so Grandpa Rogers could see the baby. He took one look and that was it. He was 80. I couldn't understand his lack of interest then, but I can now. I remember Danny picked all the buds off Grandma Rogers's Christmas cactus! On second thought - that must have been a later time, he was too young then.
Mrs. Dimmick, our landlady, was very kind to us even if Danny did pull off all the old ragged wallpaper on the stairway. She gave us cookies, enjoyed the baby with us, and introduced us to the next-door neighbors. Recommended doctors to us. When we told her Lois was on the way she told us we had better look for another apartment because she was going to sell the house (she never did). We found an ad for an apartment 26 miles from Omaha, a remodeled CCC camp in the middle of an Iowa cornfield. Blair, Nebraska. It was nice - all our own private, kitchen, bath, living room, bedroom. Small, but I always loved that 5 by 5 kitchen - you could stand in the middle of it and reach everything. The apartments were full of young people and kids. Tom commuted to Omaha with Captain Miller from the Fort. Danny got to play out in the sandboxes and roam the place. I had made Danny a coat, leggings and cap, brown and brown check. One day the apartment manager brought Danny to me ? “Please put some bright colored clothes on this kid”. He was lying down in the road and I almost ran over him." The settlement was surrounded by a board fence, that separated it from the cornfield. One day I heard Danny crying. There was a missing board - he had gone through into the cornfield and got lost. Here I was big with Lois and couldn't get through the opening. Guess I sent some other child in after him and then requested the manager to repair the fence.
Lois is Born
Time for Lois to arrive. The doctor and hospital were in Omaha over 26 miles away. We had no car and the doctor vowed it would be a rapid delivery. Our former neighbor in Omaha let us stay with them so we should be nearer. We put Danny in the Child Saving Institute, an orphanage. But Lois didn't come and the neighbors had had enough. Another Omaha friend took us in. Still Lois didn't come. My mother arrived - no room, so Tom took us to the Wellington Hotel, 6 or 7 floors up. It was hot, vicinity of 100 degrees and no air conditioning (at least, I don't think so). Still Lois didn't come. Eighteen days overdue, the doctor was going to induce soon. One night I woke up I had a pain. Went to use the public bathroom, had another, wasn't sure it was labor, but when another came mother called the doctor. He said, "Take a taxi to the hospital". All the taxis were busy. We were told to call a police ambulance. They said "No way, we have taken too many people to the hospital with false labor". My mother decided to take a look and said, "Well, it's got hair". Two pains later Lois was on the bed. I told mother to hold her up and slap her behind. She said, "Why, she is already breathing and sucking her thumb". I told mother to tie the cord 1 inch away and 2 inches away and cut in between. We had a scissors and the selvage we had cut off some curtain material. After that another push and mother caught the afterbirth in a nightgown. The doctor came, called the police ambulance, they took me down the elevator in a tipped chair and I had a rough ride to the hospital over cobblestone streets. Some hospital - they had a diarrhea and impetigo epidemic and the laundry was on strike. Time to leave the hospital and Tom and I stood in the heat waiting for a bus to Blair - Lois was one solid of prickly heat. Mother was at home in Blair with Danny and I couldn't believe it was he- she had filled him full of cream pie, ice cream and buttered corn and he had gained five pounds while I was gone. We were all happy together with our new baby.
In August the neighbor came running with news, "V.J. Day ? the War was over". We got to move onto the base in a nice big apartment. The men drilled in front of the house for inspection in the morning. Danny went along the line and hugged their legs once and the guys chuckled "Inspection". He also wandered off and was intercepted by the M.P.'s at the gate and they bought him an ice cream cone. He was a little over two then.
Discharged From Army
In November Tom got his discharge. Lois was sick, on the verge of pneumonia - she got to travel in a basket. The doctor said she shouldn't be travelling - maybe it would be better to go by air. He called several airlines but couldn't get reservations. So we went -took the train to St. Paul. The coach had gas lights (an old one pressed into service during the war). It was hot and smoky. We rode through the night and the next morning our sick Loey was bright, alert, and seemingly cured. Can't remember - I think we got stranded in Bozeman and spent the night in a U.S.O. place. Travel during the war was something - no seats, people standing in the aisles. When Tom came to Massachusetts from Mississippi I think he rode on the back platform of the coach.
In Montana we stayed with Tom's folks (she, 65, he 80). Four extra people in the house, pretty stressful, so we moved back into Aunt Abby's cabin, bought an oil stove to keep warm and finally for some reason or other moved to Kalispell in a motel unit. Tom acquired a teaching certificate and was offered a job in Lambert, Montana, wherever that was. Small town, a very small town, trying to maintain a high school for its local kids.
Wheat country, treeless country, 26 miles from Sidney. We arrived and a good-natured widow, Mom Carter, took us in temporarily. The only fuel in the country was lignite that when it burned gave off a nasty soot that coated everything. We were shown a couple of empty houses and finally moved into a two-storied house with a cracked furnace. I wasn't going to burn that lignite, so we set up our recently purchased oil stove. There were crevices everywhere stuffed with rags. I didn't like the looks, but when the wind began to blow, and the house began to sway, I realized why the rags were there. An outhouse - of course. Only water from a cistern with a pump handle outside the kitchen door. Rain in that country being scant, the cistern was seldom, if ever, full. You bought water by the barrel from an old man with a pushcart- he got it from the town pump. The water was reddish and you could only use it for washing. Drinking water Tom carried from the school a few blocks away. We cooked on a hot plate and heated water on a kerosene stove. Water was so scarce we dried out Lois's wet diapers and used them twice before washing (I can't remember any diaper rash). The back yard was full of broken glass which I picked up piece by piece and put in pails in the basement so the babies wouldn't get at it. Outside we were neighbors to a pond which, when it was full, was frequented by birds I had never seen before (being from the East). It was a great joy to Tom amd me as well. I'll always remember the phalaropes spinning around on the water. And you didn't have to go anywhere, you could see them from our back steps.
The babies were happy there. I remember one February day when it was a freakish 80 degrees. Dan must have been about three. The people next door were fixing their roof and had an extension ladder against their two story house. I looked out and there was Danny up the ladder as far as the roof. My heart was in my mouth. Somehow or other we got him down safely. He had a little playmate, Georgie Dotson, who lived up the hill in back of us - an amazing family, a dozen kids, I think. That was a good hill, too, for sliding. I slid down with a kid on a sled, bounced up in the air, came down on the side of the sled and broke my tailbone.
The wind blew and blew. The water was hard. We bought milk that was questionally cared for - didn't give it to Lois, kept her on canned milk. There was no doctor or health care in the town had to go to Sidney - 26 rough driving miles away. People bought new cars every two years and turned the old ones in all worn out from the jouncing. Danny acquired a hard red swelling under his ear. A neighbor took us into town. Danny was put in a hospital for a week and given antibiotics. Antibiotics were reserved during the war for the soldiers. This was the first time they were available for civilian use. It really didn't help that much - the red on the swelling went away, but that lump remained for several years. Lois had a bad burn on her arm - fell against a stove pipe, but we treated that ourselves successfully. No one would think of doing that today, I don't think. Beside no car, we didn't have a telephone. Grandpa Rogers died soon after we got over there, but I wouldn't let Daddy go home - I felt I couldn't carry on very well alone with the conditions there and the two babies.
One thing Lambert was good for - kite flying - great wind. We bought a badminton set and played in the school gym, out of the wind. And we went to the school and fooled around with time tests on the typewriter. I got books by mail from the state library. Got two pairs of glasses - the kids were always pulling them off and breaking them. Dad hiked around and enjoyed the prairie vegetation and birds. And once he brought home a live rattlesnake - I'll never forgive him for that. Someone took me to me to an evangelistic crusade (my first) and I wondered where the preacher got his vitamins. We attended a town picnic in a rare alder grove a short distance away. Took the kids to a Lutheran Church once. Such an ordeal, I never want to go through again - they were used to being free.
Second year they hired some certified but not too good teachers. Tom went through hell being responsible for them. Two of them fought and years later someone told me about riding through the town on the Toonerville Trolley affair that went through the town daily (or was it just a few times a week?) and seeing one lady chasing another lady down the street with a pitchfork. Those were Tom's two new teachers, believe it or not!
I think back on those days. We were a family - only pull Daddy going off to school. I read to the kids, baked bread, tried to teach Danny to read (dumb me - he was only two or three!). We watched Lois grow - Tom and I always bet with each other on how soon a baby would walk. Loser had to bake an apple pie- and did. The kids didn't have many toys. Lois's fondest toys were shoes and shoelaces. She spent hours fooling with them. By three she could tie the laces into a professional bow. They had two American flags and pushed our new sofa out into the middle of the room and marched around it singing. I sang to them every song I knew. One I was taught at school as a child. "Soldier boy, soldier boy, Where are you going, waving so proudly the red, white and blue? I'm going to my country where duty awaits me, won't you be a soldier boy, too?" Imagine what the reaction to that would be nowadays. And of course Sunday School and Girl Scout songs.
And then one day the landlord knocked on the door and introduced the owner of the local bar who gave the kids candy bars and announced that he was buying the house for his family - meaning we would have to move. So we moved to a three-room place across the street from his bar. Immediate impression ? the outhouse was filled almost level with the ground, ugh! Danny found joy there collecting bottlecaps from the bar across the street.
Somewhere I had surgery. A young doctor, poor conditions, ignorance on our part - I was a mess. Grandma Rogers came. A help for sure. A funny thing happened. She insisting on removing the paint seal and opening the window only to find it was of no use. It just allowed the wind to blow thru the house and blow everything around. Just like the rags in the cracks I wanted to remove! It pays to get acquainted with the environment before you make changes in a new abode. Well. wouldn't you know! At last a job came through in Libby and we moved while I was trying to recuperate. All I remembered was that we got all settled down on the train and found that we had lost Lois. Finally we found her seated next to a stranger and babbling away like an adult (she could do that at 2 - we never could remember when she couldn't talk).
As the train pulled out of the plains and into the trees I felt sick. From that simple plains country into the mountains with all the green trees, it was dizzying - too fancy. And when we arrived, to see running water and letting it go down the Drain - it seemed so wasteful and sad. Needless to say we got over it, but it was a traumatic change.
In Libby we found an apartment along the highway. I mention highway - Later Lois with hardly any clothes on ran across the highway in front of a big logging truck. That girl lived a charmed life. Fact is, we all did - praise the Lord. Rented the apartment from Mrs. Krebs - a real character with whom we became fast friends. Again we had to share the bathroom, but it was a real up from the outhouses. The kids were happy there - kids are happy anywhere. Danny found a girlfriend in the neighborhood and finally the "twinners" who played a big part in our lives. Another memory, looking out the window one day I was looking out the window I saw Danny and he yelled " Look, I'm doing it in a can".
I was still a wreck from the surgeries and found a doctor who had just started a practice. And here I inject a warning - don't go to a doctor who has not been practicing for at least five years - i.e., if you can help it! Anyway this doctor knew a simple operation that would solve all my problems and I fell for it- rectoseal. After the surgery I ran a temperature and had a fit, probably because I had been through too much in too short a time and my body rebelled. It is the only time this has ever happened to me. Here I was seated on a chair with my arms and legs at odd angles - stiff, I couldn't move them. People all around talking - I could hear and understand them but I couldn't talk. An older doctor saying, "He shouldn't have done it!". Well, they got me in bed, gave me sulfa and made me drink water and water and water. The day before I was told to eat light, now I was to eat everything I could get my hands on. For once in my life I was suddenly thin. I think I lost 20 pounds almost over night. After I got home from the hospital I lay around, complained of pain. Everyone was exasperated with me and left me alone, because what else could they do? Finally I thought "God, if you are up there, help me". Immediately I was calm, but my temperature went up to l04 degrees. My sister, a nurse, immediately called the doctor, and he prescribed antibiotics and came every day for a week. I wasn't worried, I felt at peace and all the world looked rosy to me. I had been pushing so hard and trying so hard and had finally become desperate and just relaxed, and it felt good. Ruth, my sister and I talked - I was worried about the kids and she said, "Don't worry, God will take care of them". Nice idea, I decided, just leave it in his hands. Now, seeing I associated God and church, I decided I should go to church. I had always wanted to be a Catholic but that would have incurred wrath from both families, so I dolled up in a coat and hat and gloves and walked off alone to the Methodist Church. They welcomed me with open arms. Then Tom came, too, we joined the church and a neighbor took Danny off to Sunday School. And the church has helped us to grow and manage the vicissitudes of life ever since. Before that it was just a habit, now it really meant something. We attended an adult Bible class- I was in over my head, but stuck with it, liked the people and adopted that Bible verse "Perfect love casts out fear".
Tom wanted to buy a house, so we began looking. Finally found a small furnished house for $4500. Uncle Carl put up a down payment (Aunt Edith had willed me the money when he died, and he decided it was more important then than later). The payments on the mortgage were $25 a month. Nothing great but what we could afford - ours - no one could say we had to move. We spent a happy nine years there where Bill and Mary were born. You could walk to anything you needed, we had good neighbors, and the kids had lots of playmates and fun. Tom came home for lunch at noon and we all ate together. When school let out on Friday I let everything drop and we all relaxed until Saturday night when it was time to clean up for church and Sunday School.
After Mary was born we bought our first car for $75. I learned to drive in a car without seatbelts and two babies bouncing around in the back seat. There was church and Boy Scouts and paper routes and swimming at Schoolhouse Lake and picnics. Only fly in the ointment was that Bill was deaf and was not making good progress in the public school. Tom didn't want to send him off to Great Falls where there was a school for the deaf. We went to Spokane and visited the Edna Davis school, a day school, and decided we would have to move to Spokane. None of us were very happy about it but we wanted Bill to have the best education he could. I remember Mary, 8 or 9 then, asking, "Just one thing, do they have Christmas in Spokane?"
Tom resigned his teaching job in Libby without having another to go to in Spokane. It was well through the summer before two openings came up at once and we were destined to locate in the Spokane Valley. Our little old house sold readily and we purchased E10820 Maxwell with a horrendous mortgage ($l200 at 6 1/2 percent, payments $100 per month). Sold Grandma Rogers's little house down the street, too, and we, all seven of us took off for Spokane where we learned to cut the pie in seven pieces. I cried all the way to Bonners Ferry. It was quite a change from the trees of Libby to a barren lot in the hot summer sunshine of Spokane. Driving along Sprague Avenue in August- wow! Tom had to drive five miles to work. The kids arrived to playmates galore. The two adjacent houses across the street had ten kids. Only Dan didn't find immediate company and missed his "twinners". But he had great fun riding off around Spokane on his bicycle to carnivals where one night someone took his flashlight away from him. Lois found a Catholic family in back and eventually went to mass with them regularly. Of course Mary found friends everywhere. Bill rode the handicapped bus into Spokane to the Edna Davis School. They put him from fourth grade back into their first grade. They told me to get a storybook and teach him to spell every word in the book. I went at it intensely with a Little Golden Dictionary - 5 new words every night. Picked out all words he would be interested in like motor, lever - wonder if I tried sailboat? That lasted a while before he rebelled. Bill learned to make “Kraft Dinner” which I think will nourish him successfully until he is 90. And he got the bike habit - racing. I think he rode on most of the streets in Spokane - practically became an authority on them. He rode off into the country once, had a flat and some farmer brought him back in his truck. Or was it that he called from a farm for Tom to come and get him. (Please remember that what I write is what I can remember - it may not be exact fact). Once when I was home alone, perhaps for the first time in my life, I said, "Damn the telephone!" and did not answer it. When Tom called me again later he told me Bill had just gone over the handlebars and broken his collarbone. At Davis School Bill was famous as a magician. He and Mary put on quite an act. He put her in a box , closed it, tied it up securely, pulled a curtain around it briefly and when he opened it soon after there was Mary standing beside the bound box.
A couple of years later Tom transferred to the new University High School, only two miles from home. Both Bill and Mary graduated from there.
Tom Jr. is born
Two years after we moved to Maxwell House in Spokane I became pregnant. That lasted 7 1/2 months and Tom. Jr. arrived - 5 lbs. l4 oz. We had a grand game of "pass the baby". Lois was a great little mother and all the kids were old enough to be more or less responsible for him (Dan, l7, Bill, 11, and Mary, 10). That was one Rogers that was well taken care of.
At about that time Dan went off to WSU - financed by paper peddling money. (Our kids peddled papers for a period of 12 years). He graduated a chemistry major four years later and then went to Bozeman for graduate work.
Lois graduated from high school two years after Dan. She wanted badly to go to a Catholic College. I said "No, we can't afford an expensive college for four kids - it will have to be a state college". She said "NO!", so I sent her to Kinman Business College and told her she could work, save her money and then go to a Catholic College. She eventually went to Carroll College for 2 years. Later she went to Bolivia as a State Department Secretary for a couple of years. We gave Mary the plane fare to go visit her in Bolivia. It seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. The girls came back grateful for life in the U.S.A
Bill went to SFCC one year, then on to WSU. Vocational Rehabilitation would not help - didn't think he could make it. Computers were just beginning to come into their own then. The Vocational Rehabilitation man came to the house and I argued that Bill was good with computers - deafness couldn't prevent that, so they agreed to finance the rest of his education. Tom got him a job with the Park Department maintaining the parks for summer work.
To go back to the new Maxwell House and the new baby, I struggled along, had a hysterectomy and finally settled down to raising a child at 41. He was a good child, but the days were long, and there were no children his age in the neighborhood. Daily I walked him to the park with a lunch box full of little cars to play in the sand, walk a log and play in an old boat someone had placed there. There were two big vacant lots for him to roam in. Once a lady on the next street phoned and asked if I was missing a little boy with red shoes. I went and led him home through the tall grass and weeds. I fell down on the way home. After I had settled him down for a nap, I realized my glasses were missing. Started to look for them and far off I spied two lights - they had caught on the top of the grass and the sun reflected the light off the lenses. How lucky could I get!
When Tommy was 5 I enrolled him in cooperative kindergarten and was confronted with a transportation problem - car pool. I didn't think I could do it - 5 or 6 kids in the car and I don't feel too brave driving anyway. Finally put the biggest troublemaker next to me in the front seat and asked him questions all the way. That way he felt important and didn't have time to cause trouble. The rest of the kids were O.K. On the days when I didn't drive, I read the Wizard of Oz to Tommy while he awaited his ride.
Tommy liked to watch TV at the neighbors, so I talked Tom, Sr. into buying a television. We watched the TV coverage of Kennedy assassination and the actual murder of Lee Harvey Oswald. It made quite an impression on Tommy. Shortly later an acquaintance died, and 4 year old Tommy piped up, "Who shot him?".
Then the boy found Superman and Batman and he raced around the neighborhood with a cape with an "S" on it. I made him a Batman costume with an old housedress and some black cloth. The kindergarten teacher called, "I don't approve of that Batman show, but when Tommy brought that outfit to school the kids were really impressed, and shy Tommy became one of the gang." That was before the toy manufacturers made Batman stuff - Tommy was the first to have any.
I tried to keep him happy reading to him and teaching him to play games. Finally I went down the street and invited a boy to play with him. His big brother came with him. The boy I asked was a holy terror - it was no go, but the big brother (2 years older than Tommy) and Tommy became fast friends. That lasted years until the boy, Keith, started frequenting the pool halls and I wouldn't let Tommy go.
By second grade Tommy came into his own, and we had years of joy with his singing and games with his two friends Mike and Merv. Mary was a big help (recreation major) and got him swimming and skiing. Dan was away at college. Bill was into biking in a big way at that time. He fixed up his old bike for him, but it was too big and I eventually bought him the small size.
With all the big brothers and sisters, I had built in baby sitters and finally went out to an evening sewing class and a little life of my own. I spent a lot of time making clothes for myself, pajamas for the men and shirts and pants for Tommy. Tom Sr. said he wanted to cry when he saw me start to sew (the dishes piled up in the sink, no meals). Then Mary Imus and I started to go to YWCA classes. I think in course of time, we enjoyed everyone they had. Those were fun years. Guess the last one was bridge and I enjoyed that immensely for years until I couldn't sit comfortably for long periods of time any more.
At about l4 Tom Jr. started taking piano lessons and I tried to keep up with him. When he quit I went for lessons myself for a year. I'm not a musician, but I enjoyed the effort - it relaxed me. Grandma Rogers lived with us for six months at a time for three years and she said she enjoyed it, too. And years later my own mother lived with us for four years, put up with it and also said she enjoyed it.
And so endeth this account of my "early life". Lest it sound like too much of a struggle or a complaint, let me hasten to add - until now it has always been an interesting challenge and a joy. I have had a good life and a wonderful family and I do thank the good Lord for it. Much has, of course, been left out. Maybe some day I will feel inspired for some reason to add to it. Anyway here it is. Anyone want to try to write their autobiography, too. I have plenty of time to read it these days.
UNTIL ANOTHER INSPIRATION - AU REVOIR!