Your Mother's Hands (entry3)


It was late summer of 1951 that Bernie joined the Navy. His boot camp training was in San Diego, California. He left Loogootee by Greyhound bus. Dad and I took him and they "shook hands" ……..Bernie boarded the bus. Mom stayed home. He first went to Louisville, sent a post card telling us he was headed west and he'd write later. He sent a letter and his enlistment photo in a brown envelope. I remember Mom cried when she saw it. We bought a frame at the dime store in Washington and set it on the fireplace mantle.

I really missed Bernie a lot as I was closer to him. I wrote letters often, with my little hands. I'd tell him all I was doing at home and about my cats!

Now Gene had enlisted in the Air Force. (He was two years older) this was all during the Korean Conflict. We visited Camp Atterbury one time to visit him. It was a long trip by car. Mom made fried chicken and chocolate layer cake all in a green picnic basket. We had lemonade in a thermos jug and packed "real" glasses and wash cloths for napkins. Gene lived in a barracks. We ate under a shade tree on a blanket. Mom and I wore dresses and we had white "cut out" shoes with crepe soles. I could do the buckles with my little hands.

Dad wore seersucker dress pants and a white shirt with rolled back sleeves. ( I always remember Grandpa with a "farmer's tan". Dark brown tan halfway between his elbow and shoulder. I rarely even saw him undressed to a sleeveless undershirt. He would even put on a shirt to shave. He often wore a cap outside and his forehead would be noticeably paker.)

That was the first time that we had seen Gene in a while and it was a long time before we saw him again. He was later sent to Ft. Benning, Georgia. Gene did not write often, but I wrote to him. We finally got a photo in his uniform to add to the fireplace mantle.

Fall, 1951

When school started in the Fall, I did not continue at Whitfield but went to the Loogootee Public School. My teacher was Gladys Pate. She was such a wonderful teacher. She taught us all our required subjects but also ordered extra "workbooks" and read to us often. We had a special library area and reading tables. I think I read every book. The second and third were in the same room.

We had art, and I learned to use colored chalks, water colors and to paint on glass windows with tints put into "glass wax". We did this with brushes or our fingers. Mrs. Mathews was our music teacher. Oh, how I loved music and our programs. I learned how to play "jacks"......oh how I had quick little hands. When we were good, we were chosen to wash the blackboards, and even had to stand on a small little chair. We got to carry the chalk erasers downstairs to clean on the vacuum machine. At Whitfield we just "smacked" them together with our little hands.

My favorite SPORT was shooting marbles, and oh I was good. I had a favorite "cat's eye" shooting marble. I had a very strong shooting thumb on my little hand. I could shoot and shoot without missing and clean out the circle of marbles. I was a "hot-shot, knee-high" shooter. Other girls were not interested in shooting marbles, but I loved it. Some of the boys kept their marbles in their pants pockets. A few kept theirs in a sliding kitchen match box and others in a pipe tobacco box. At first I carried mine in a tied up handkerchief. Then Mom made me a draw string bag out of a flowered mash sack and that was my best treasure.

When Bernie came home from boot camp, he rode the bus. He had "learned" to smoke and brought Dad a little pack of 3 or 4 cigarettes. Dad could not smoke and had to "spit" the little flecks of cigarette tobacco in the coal bucker! Bernie bought me a jewelry box with a flip top and two sliding drawers. It was full of beautiful sea shells and wooden beads. It had an awl that he shoed me how to use. I made holes in the seashells and created bracelets and necklaces. Mom bought me some round elastic cord to thread the wooden beads. I thought I was pretty "hot stuff" with the jewelry that I had made myself.

A circus came to town and our class got to go by bus. It cost 25 cents. It was just west of Loogootee. This was pretty exciting.

Summers were boring for me. I really missed my school friends. I just had my cats and dogs---a pet calf named Miss Priss, that we raised by bottle.

Each year a street carnival came to town and we would go one of the evenings. Sometimes I'd meet up with friends. I would get to ride a couple of rides and get some cotton candy. If I got to go again on a Saturday, when Dad and I made egg delieveries, I might get money for a couple of rides and a snow cone. It seemed like I always had a little money and Dad would tell me not to spend it all, and I never did. I'd get a little change every week. I'd buy penny candy and bubble gum. Sometimes I'd buy Mom some Teaberry gum. She had indigestion a lot and it would help her stomach.

I worked hard to earn my money. I fed and watered by carrying buckets of it to hundreds of chickens. I could shell buckets of corn using a hand crank corn sheller, I fed hogs. I could throw down bales of hay from the loft. I gathered up corn cobs to build fires in the coal stove, hauled split wood in a wheelbarrow and stacked it on the porch. I could sneak up and catch chickens to be butchered. By now I was picking strawberries and blackberries just about as fast as Dad. As I got older, I would gather eggs in a small basket lined with a towel and would not break any. Then I was taught how to count 4 and 5 dozen for customers and how to put the rest in the big egg crates. These were delivered to grocery stores. I seldom had friends come to visit as I had too many chores to do. I had to work! I never slept in late. Chores started EARLY.

1952-53

I had Miss Pate again this year. She was again such a good teacher. She too encouraged everyone to have pretty handwriting. I loved writing so very much. Mom and Dad let me address al of the Christmas cards we mailed out. I wrote to my brothers and to my cousins Albert and Louise. Sometimes I got to write special things on the blackboard for Miss Pate. I made good grades in school. Through the first three grades I made all A's.

During my second and third grades, I was sick alot---measles, whooping cough, German measles, and mumps. I also had a very nervous stomach and threw up easily, or got the "trots". To this day I still get storm anxiety. I'd miss a lot of school parties because I'd get sick to my stomach and Dad would have to come and get me.

In the third grade, I was in a school play. I was Mother Rabbit and wore a long dress and "dusting cap" that Mom had made.

I sang, "I'm going to market today

And while I am away

You must be very good

As little boys should

And, remember to do as I say

Do up you work-

Then go out to play-

But, do not go in to the yard 'cross the way

No- Do Not go in to the yard "cross the way. That's Mr. McGregor's garden!"

As I sang I pointed my "little finger" at them, the little rabbits, and carried my own small egg basket.

The Juniors and Seniors did the art work and back drops. It was held on stage at the gum...…….BIG VELVET CURTAINS. I sang with no microphone and got a standing ovation!

Bernie bought me a plastic ukulele with a chord changer. I learned how to play and sing along. The upperclassmen held a talent show and I sang "Polly Wolly Doodle All Day" . Mom made me a special dress, and I still had short hair, with bangs.

By now I was wearing glasses. I'd done damage to my eyes when I had the German Measles. I learned to take really good care of my glasses as I could not see much at all without them.

It was time for Dad to trade the '47 Frazier on a farm pick up truck and Bernie was buying a new 1954 Ford car. He did not keep it on base, but drove it when he came home. He sent money home to pay for it. We drove it to church on Sundays and to Jasper to visit. It was maroon, had four doors and was very pretty.

Fourth grade became a little harder. Now we added Science, Geography and Health. I had to read and study much harder. Arithmetic was harder as was reading. Mrs. Robinson was my teacher. This year I made one B+ in Geography and it broke my heart. I'm beginning to figure out that it is NOT a perfect world. Things changed at Loogootee Schools this year. We had a new two story brick addition and some of the high school classes moved to it. There was Industrial Arts, Home Economics, a new library that we grade schoolers could also use with special permission. One thing that was special was a BAND ROOM, and even grade school was introduced to it. I wanted to play a saxophone, but Mrs. Lucas wanted me to play drums. I had a great sense of rhythm and practiced at home on a lard can in the basement. I got really good at playing the snare drums! Soon I was playing the bass drum at ballgames and concert band, but I was still too little to carry the big bass drum while in parades. It was about all I could do to carry a snare drum while strapped on me. Sometimes I played the cymbals.

Another wonderful things about the new addition was the cafeteria. Lunch tickets were $1.25 per week and we got really GOOD lunches. No more having to make and carry a lunch box everyday. I still had 5 cents a day to buy a Coke at recess time. We had a Coke machine in the hallway of the old building. I loved a good cold Coca Cola in a glass bottle. Coke is still my drink of choice! WE also had a candy machine. All candy bars were 5 cents. I preferred to buy a soda.

Loogootee had a PTA, parent teachers association. My Dad was the President for several years. Dad was a quiet man but people respected him. He was a good leader and always had good committees who did good work and were good organizers. We held Chili Suppers for fund raisers and the money was used for extra books, movies and sports equipment. We had a Spring Festival each year. Dad was usually in charge of the Money Box. Mom was not really active, but she made lots of things to donate: Angel food cakes, noodles, German Chocolate cake, jelly, homemade butter, peach preserves, embroidered pillow cases, aprons, pot holders, all kinds of fudge, divinity, cookies, homemade lye soap and, yes FRESH EGGS.

The PTA held pancake and sausage breakfasts to benefit the band. Dad was in charge of tickets and the Money Box for this too. Dad never missed a basketball game from my 4th grade on, as I was allowed to play in the band. I had rhythm in my little hands.

One of my "store bought" outfits was a gray and red plaid wool gathered skirt with pockets and an elastic waistband. Mom also bought me an orlon red sweater set. It was special. I had several jumpers and new blouses. Bernie gave me a wool pull over sweater and Mom sewed an "L" on it. She made a gold corduroy circular skirt. I wore it to ball games. I loved it.

Loogootee Centennial

It was in the early 1950's that Loogootee celebrated its 100th birthday. The store windows were all decorated with "antiques", many of which we still used at home. I don't remember that my Mom went to Loogootee often to shop so I don't recall her wearing a long dress and bonnet even one time to a Saturday evening Street Fair. I went to town almost every Saturday and I'd wear a long dress and bonnet to match. A couple were made of feed sacks but had lace and ruffles. Dad grew a moustache and long side-burns and they were reddish. He'd wear regular work clothes and a cloth thin black tie that had good lettering "Loogootee Centennial". He'd wear a black derby hat and sometimes he'd carry a cane. When you came into town you were required to dress in "old timey" clothes or you could be fined and "thrown in the blockade". Dad never had to pay a fine. Some people came to town on horseback and some by wagon. I remember seeing a couple of surreys. Often ladies had long sleeved blouses with "mutton" sleeves and cuffs, long skirts. They would wear hats. On Saturday nights there would be street dances on the Square with the band playing from a wagon bed. Jarvis Crays was playing then, I believe, but don't recall the rest. (Jarvis was my Dad's, Mom's cousin. In the 70's My Grandma and Grandpa Ellis had a live music venue in Loogootee with Jarvis and his wife Mary called "Ye Opry House". Live country, bluegrass and gospel every Saturday night for 2 shows. Mom had not yet met any of the Ellis family as their grade school was further south in Rutherford Township. I am sure that my Grandfathers were in some way acquainted through town business and farming.)

Mom and Dad did not dance, but we all dressed up and went several times. Melvin and Virginia Abel were great square dancers. (Virginia was my Grandma Aleva Ellis' sister. Mom knew them as their two daughter Terry and Linda were Mom's age and older and schooled in Loogootee.) I'm sure Aleva and Jesse went, and Patty and your Dad, but I did not know them then.

The dances were held in front of Kennedy's grocery store. The Centennial went on the entire summer and was a huge event. Each time Dad went to town for anything, he'd put on his tie, but sometimes he'd wear a regular straw hat and save the derby for Saturday night. I'd run and put on a long dress and bonnet, but I'd wear my summer sandals. It was so incredibly HOT! No air conditioning. Stores would prop their doors open. A few had fans. Grocery stores had a horse trough outside, chipped ice blocks, and sold Cokes, Pepsi, Nehi Orange or Grape......and REDPOP. An ice cold pop in a glass bottle is the best. It was a grand time. We'd gather on the square for drawings. There were ice cream socials and a little fireworks show on the 4th of July. I do not have any picture of this time. Just memories.

( I would later like to add pictures to all of this, as Mom took many. I have thousands and have become the keeper for most of those from my Grandparents and other relatives. I fear that the ease of taking and downloading photos now will actually lead to keeping fewer and fewer. I miss the days of the Kodak with the flash cube, and waiting days for the images to be developed at the Foto-Mat. It seemed more special and we cherished the process and the outcome.)