Your Mother's Hands (entry 2)


I remember this when I was 4 years old, before our old house was moved.

There were double window in Mom and Dad's bedroom, and outside that window was a large rose bush. I spotted a red bird's nest in there. Mom knew I had my eye on that nest.....and she told me that they would be hatching soon.

Yes, soon there were baby birds and they had fascinated me to death. I just HAD to see them closer. So I went outside, but I still could not see them like I could from when I looked down at them from inside the window. So, I found myself a long stick. Well, all I wanted to do was just "tip the nest a little bit". I wanted to look in their mouths and wouldn't you know , one of the little "goobers" fell out! I panicked! Now what was I going to do? I tried pitching it back up into the nest but I kept missing.

Finally I called "Kitty - Kitty -Kitty" and fed it to a mother cat. It was gone in an instant. Now Mom had probably witnessed the action through the bedroom door and window and I heard the kitchen screen door slam. I ran and hid under the spirea shrub by our garage, sprinkling white pedals everywhere. Now the big evidence was the tipped birds nest, an irate mother cardinal and my stick that I used. I can still hear my Mom saying in German, "Now, where did that little devil go?". Then she noticed the movement under the bush. BUT, my dog Scottie growled and my Mom did not whip me. Not then anyway! "Good Ole Scottie"

There was a wall mounted oak telephone with the receiver on a cord you held to your ear and spoke into the mouthpiece. I don not remember talking on it. Our "ring" was FOUR SHORT RINGS. We were on a party line. If we wanted to phone someone who was not on our party line, we had to ring the "exchange" and the lady would ring them up and make the connection. For some reason, I never bothered messing around with the telephone. The phone was used only for business. I never remember my parents every just "visiting" on the phone.

Our new house had a special nook built in the wall in the hall way between the two bedrooms. It still was used mainly for business. Our party line number was 0404. Later it was changed to 388L2. Our ring became two rings then. It was a black, rotary dial phone. My Dad would let me "dial the number" for him. That was a special delight for my little hands.

(When Grandma and Grandpa built their retirement home, it too had a black wall mount rotary phone in the hall between the two bedrooms. There was a small oak secretary desk and small, ladder back rush bottom chair to sit on. They were still on a party line and can remember Grandma easily and covertly raising the receiver to listen to the gossip of the neighborhood. They didn't have television, even through the 60's, only a radio, and I believe that this was part of their entertainment. I remember their phone number.....812-295-2776. Even through the 70's, we only dialed long distance for emergencies and special occasions, as it was considered wasteful.)

We had electricity in our new house and how wonderful after having only coal oil lamps for several months. I especially loved the light switches at the bottom of the stairs. I could turn on the light, go upstairs and be able to turn it off again. Now HOW did they do that?

The summer of 1950 went very fast. We were all very busy with all the other chores that needed to be done. We had a herd of Hereford cattle, many hogs, lots and lots of chickens, and we gathered and sold eggs. I could help "gather" eggs from the laying boxes, but I was not allowed to even attempt to carry an egg basket. I had a little woven basket and could gather up to 6 eggs. That was it. The cows did not come to the barns in the summertime. They grazed on grass in the pastures. They had spring fed water in the creek and a nice farm pond. The pigs stayed in the hog lot. We fed them there. They too could get fresh water. The chickens had to be fed and watered at least twice a day, and eggs gathered. There was gardening and canning. Mom was always busy, plus making three meals a day and many included feeding hired help. Mom washed on Mondays - hanging it all out on lines. Ironing was on Tuesdays. That's just the way it was!

Saturday was usually house cleaning day. My job was to DUST! I don't need to tell you that dusting was not my favorite chore. My hands were not made for it. I did not start "house cleaning" until after we moved into our new house. I was only 5 years old, but already I had my mind set to be outside. I really like being outside helping my Dad..., and my Dad loved having me with him.

(Even when I was older, Mom would always prefer to be outside. She could be a girly girl and "look pretty", but she would go fishing, work in the flowers or hunt for mushrooms any day of the week.)

New furniture - New house.

We got new furniture from Buck Lemon Furniture Store in Bedford, Indiana. We actually had a furniture delivery. I remember Dad giving "orders" on how to pull the truck up in the front yard so as no to hit our new front steps. Bernie helped unload and place everything on "rubber" furniture floor protectors! Mom did not want any marks on the beautiful hardwood floors. When it was all in place, Mom was so proud. We actually go to sit on it!

The couch was a soft green that made into a bed, but was not a hid-a-bed, with matching chair. Both in a vinyl to be cleaned easily. Mom had her platform rocker re-done. We had a magazine rack/table and Mom got a drum table that she had been wanting to set in front of the picture window. We had a new console radio/phonograph player that played 78 records. I remember getting an album of special Hawaiian music! Mom ordered "antique satin" drapes for the picture window, and each window on either side of the fireplace. They were floor length and pre-pleated. Bernie put up the hardware for the sliding pulls. Oh, how special those drapes were and they had to be hung "just so" so they would continue to keep their "folds" as we pulled them to open them, and to close. At first my little hands were NOT ALLOWED to open and close the drapes. We also got a new General Electric refrigerator with a separate upper freezer compartment. It had the "new" feature of magnetic doors and a pedal you could step on to open it without using your hands. We got the fridge from Hasler, Border and Pate. We got a new formica kitchen/dining table and six matching chairs. The kitchen counter tops were matching light gray pearl tones. Mom kept her wood/coal cook stove. Now we had this beautiful new house, but Mom wanted to keep her cookstove! Mom could cook in cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens, and food was so good. Also, the stove warmed the whole downstairs and we only used the furnace during really cold weather, usually November through March. Of course, it made the house really HOT during the summer time too!

All bedrooms, bath and kitchen windows had pull down roller blinds. Bernie put up all the hardware for these too. Mom ordered the curtains and blinds through Montgomery Ward. Mom and Dad got a new bedroom set. I got their bedroom furniture from the old house. The other bedroom set went upstairs.(Grandma and Grandpa got a few new pieces of "Danish Modern" furnishings for their retirement home that I remember, as so many of the previous pieces were still used, including the sofa that migrated to the open kitchen "hearth room" area that Grandpa would nap on after lunch while Grandma "cleaned up", then took her nap in the formal living room. I would nap on the floor with a home quilt and feather pillow. She still had the "old" fridge until she passed in '93 and it worked like a champ. In the same fashion that their bedroom suit was passed down to Mom, My parents gave me their set after moving here in '71 and replaced it with something more contemporary. Some things never change!)

Mom had a mantle clock to put on the fireplace mantle. Oh my gosh - "my little hands" were NEVER to touch that!!!!……..I never did! We got a gift from Hasler. It was an electric alarm clock. They kept it on the dresser in their bedroom. One spring season we had a lightening strike and "burned up" that alarm clock and scorched a place in the wood of the dresser. After that, we always used only a hand wound alarm clock.

We had many loom woven rag rugs that were made by Harry Baker in Haysville. We tore up old clothes, sheets and bedspreads and wound them into balls. Mom and Bernie taught me hot to "roll up carpet strips', with my little hands. I loved to figure out the color combinations to be used in the rugs. I especially liked the blue ones made out of denim material. We used those in our blue kitchen and blue bathroom.

( They too taught me too to make rugs, the basics of quilting, how to mend, sew on buttons, wash and starch clothes, iron and waste nothing.)

Fall of 1950.

In September, Bernie started his senior year at LHS (Loogootee), and I started the FIRST GRADE at Whitfield, a two room school house, coal stove, outside toilets and a ceramic water dispenser. One of the older kids was in charge of pumping and carrying the drinking water. Mary Fegan Hagerty was my teacher. She taught Jesse Ellis (my paternal Grandfather) her first year of her teaching career. She also taught both of my brother and was a wonderful teacher. ( Mrs. Hagerty was also my second grade teacher at Loogootee elementary in '71-72. We moved in the middle of that school year here to Waverly over Christmas break in '71. My second grade teacher here was Paula McKay at Waverly elementary, another absolutely wonderful woman.)

I was taught to read from the Dick and Jane books, Puff and Spot, our neighbor stories. I learned numbers. Addition and subtraction on a blackboard. And, I learned to print with the BIG red pencils...……….and then I learned to write cursive, the Palmer Method. Oh, that opened up a whole new world for me! I could write!!!! My "little hands" could WRITE!!! Oh, how I LOVED to write. I used up every sheet in every tablet I had - on both sides. If I used only one side of a piece of writing paper, I would use the other side to practice. I could buy additional tablets at the little grocery store or the "dime store" or Walker's Drug Store for only 5 cents. I would buy the ones with cowboy photos on the front like Roy Rogers and Trigger or the Lone Ranger and Tonto or Silver. I'd tape them up in my playroom or out in the smoke house. I would write my entire name over and over, until every letter was just perfect! To this day when I sign my name, I take great pride in my penmanship. Now there is talk that children will no longer be taught handwriting in school. I think that is so sad.

First Grade.

I was almost too short to be able to step up onto the school bus. My bus driver, for all 12 years of school, was Frisky Norris. Bernie helped me up on the bus, reaching down to my "little hands". I had a blue/beige book satchel with a beige plastic grip handle and beige leather straps to fasten it closed. Bernie printed my name with a ball point pen on the flap of it. This belongs to:

CHARLENE HILDA BRAUN

......that just fit my little hands.

I had a little metal lunch box, oval with a lid and two little handles that folded down so I could open it. It was beige with dark brown rope design. I loved all things with a cowboy theme. My lunch was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, wrapped in a napkin or sometimes in a Honey Crust bread wrapper. I might have a couple of homemade cookies, sometimes a store bough cookie---my favorite: Pecan marshmallow sandie!!!! Often, I'd have a banana, most often it was home canned fruit in a little plastic jar. Sometimes I'd have ham, a pork chop, a chicken leg or chicken livers! Yummy! My other favorite meat was FRIED SQUIRREL. We'd play outside for recess. I loved to teeter-totter and jump rope. On rainy days we would have extra things to color or Mrs. Hagerty would read to us. We'd play in the woods. We could take our cap guns to school. I was the only girl to have a cap gun and caps. Most girls took their dolls to play with at recess. I never took a doll to school. I'd rather play in the woods.

All my school dresses were sewn by my Mom from flowered mash sacks. Mom would buy a few patterns from the Farmer's Guide newspapers. From those patterns she would come up with her designs. She would make "yokes" from pique or eyelet; add lace and rick-rack, and decorative buttons and pockets. Mom would curl my hair and make long banana curls. I'd love to have my hair in French braids and pig tails most of all. Mom loved to put hair bows in my hair.

(The first clothes that I can remember were also little jumpers made from feed sacks by Grandma Braun. They were my favorites and too often had cowboy themes. And, nothing to this day dries a dish better than an all cotton/linen feed sack,)

I had two dolls and Mom made them dresses similar to mine, encouraging me to play with them, but-------I'd catch my cats, dressed them in my doll dresses, complete with little caps and tied ribbons under their chins. I'd feed my cats treats and they did not mind being dressed up and held. They were more fun than any doll!

At Christmas time, Whitfield School had a program in the "community room" in the large room on the second story. There were some chairs for parents and folding benches. I really don't remember and parts that each grade had except for Mary and Joseph. I do remember I sang "Away In a Manger" 1st verse---2nd verse, and after everyone clapped, I sang a verse of Silent Night in German. That part we had not done at practice and felt proud. They clapped and I SANG.........I had the crowd in the palm of my "little hands". I had a red corduroy dress with black looped cord forming a sweetheart neckline and loop around the skirt. I loved my Christmas dress!

(I still have that dress inside a pristine camel back trunk in the living room.)

May '51.

It was getting time for Bernie's graduation. One of Bernie's friends and classmates was killed in a car accident. I remember going to the funeral. Donnie Arvin. He had a little sister one year younger than me and every year before school started her parents would come by and buy my school books. I recall seeing her Mother cry, but she would ALWAYS ask about Bernie and how he was doing. At graduation there was an empty chair with his cap and gown. For these occasions, Bernie had a gray suit. On prom night, Bernie was in a wreck with Jesse Lee Parsons. He had a piece of chrome jabbed into his leg, which he pulled out and had a hole through his pants leg. Mom had it taken some place a had it rewoven in time for graduation. I was so proud to have a brother in a Cap and Gown!

A few months later, Mom was sick and had to be in the hospital for the summer. It was traumatic time for me. I went to spend a few days with my Godparents, Aunt Hilda and Uncle George Kieffner and my cousin Larry. They lived in Jasper. They treated me special. One of my first encounters with "city living" was cement sidewalks. I was pushing Larry's scooter- barefoot - and wanted to stop it with one foot and scraped the cap of skin right off my big toe. Talk about screaming bloody murder. Aunt Hilda bandaged it all up, and after enjoying a popsicle with Larry, we went out to play, again. And, of course, I got on the scooter, pumped it up, went scooting down the sidewalk, stuck out the other foot, and did it all again!

Before Mom came home from the hospitial, we went to Washington, before kids could go in to visit. I could wave to her as she sat in front of the window to her room. Sometime that summer, for whatever reason, I took Mom's good sewing scissors, went to the barn and cut two curls off my hair. RIGHT DOWN TO THE SCALP. Yep, with my own little hands. Well, at least I didn't get switched, Dad took me to Buck Green's Barber Shop and he cut my hair...."short". You know what? I liked it! I'm sure my Mom didn't..................

My cousin, Twala Jean.

In October, 1947, Aunt Eldena and Uncle Nelson Angerer adopted Twala Jean. She was 13 days old when we all went to Evansville Court House to "pick her up".

(Mom was about 2 1/2)

We put the pink and white bassinet in the back seat of our Frazer and she was placed in it. I sat next to it and "thought she was pretty cute". Not quite a "baby doll" but Better than a cat! My Mom and Dad became her "Boddies", another name for Godparents. Later she called them Mr. and Mrs. Boddie! Now my Mom had another litlle girl to sew for. Twala and I often had matching dresses, sometimes from the same pattern but different colors. Mom loved sewing for and dressing us. My little hands were learning how to sew buttons by now.