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Full text of "Tales from two rivers"



m 




^ales ^rom '^wo T^<uers VI 



^ales ^rom ^<wo '^vers VI 



^ales ^rom ^wo T^i^ers VI 

edited by John E. Hallwas and Alfred J. Lindsey 



A Publication of 



Two Rivers Arts Council 

Spoon River College 

Macomb, Illinois 



Copyright 1995 by Two Rivers Arts Council 

Library of Congress Card No. 81-51362 

The cover photograph, "Saturday afternoon in Lima, Illinois, 1908," by John Thornton 

was donated to the Two Rivers Arts Council by Truman Waite. 

Other photographs in this book are courtesy of 

Archives and Special Collections, Western Illinois University Library. 



The stories contained in Tales from Two Rivers I, II, III, fV, V, and VI were selected from manuscripts submitted by 
Illinois authors, over sixty years of age, to annual Tales from Two Rivers writing contests. This documentation of the 
social history of Illinois as written by those who lived it is sponsored and published by the Two Rivers Arts Council, 
with partial funding by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. These books have been sold nationally beginning 
with Tales I in 1982, and are also available at local outlets and through the TRAC office. Phone 309/837-4413. 



Two Rivers Arts Council 



A consortium of western Illinois communities working 
to support the arts for the people of this region. 



Board of Directors 



President 

Yvonne Knapp 

Raritan 



1st Vice-President 

Steve Larimer 

Macomb 



2nd Vice-President 

Mary Kubasak 

Macomb 



3rd Vice-President 

Pam Carson Johnson 

Macomb 



Secretary 

June Marlette 

LaHarpe 



Treasurer 

Sharon Graham 

Biggsville 



Director 
Kim Funk 
Rushville 



Director 

Carolyn Strong 

Rushville 



Director 
Tim Schroll 
Colchester 



Director 

Dee Dee Pensinger 

Marietta 



Director 

Chester Lien 

Macomb 



Director 

Jim O'Toole 

Macomb 



Contents 

Acknowledgments i 

I People with a Lasting Influence i 

PEOPLE WITH A LASTING INFLUENCE John E. Hallwas 3 

MARY L. DIXSON OF STRONGHURST Martha K. Graham 5 

MEMORIES OF MRS. BREWER Avis L. Hutchins 7 

LEARNING TO SEE Zelda Hedden Sellman 9 

MY POOR VIOLIN TEACHER Signa Lorimer 10 

A LEGACY FROM MY MOTHER Eva Baker Watson 11 

REMARKABLE KITTIE SIMMONS James B. Jackson 13 

EVERYBODY CALLED HIM "FRIDAY" Truman W. Waite 14 

MORE THAN A FRIEND Shirley Ballard 16 

II Childhood Fun 19 

CHILDHOOD FUN Alfred J. Lindsey 21 

ANOTHER WORLD Bonnie Lee Berry 23 

HOMESPUN FUN Mane Freesmeyer 24 

LITTLE LADIES AT PLAY Mavis Alexander 26 

THE GAMES WE PLAYED Katherine Cravens 28 

SKATING ON THE MISSISSIPPI Florence Ourth 30 

SUMMERTIME— FUN-TIME Helen C. Earless 31 

THE BUILDERS Margaret E. Artman 33 

OUR COUNTRY LANE Helen E. Rilling 35 



SUMMERTIME FUN— HOOKED ON FISHING Ida P. Dunsing 37 

THE SNOW WAR Glenna Lamb 38 



III Starting Out in the Thirties 



STARTING OUT IN THE THIRTIES John E. Hallwas 43 

EARLY MARRIED LIFE IN THE GREAT DEPRESSION Rosemary Straw 45 

A MEAGER BEGINNING Mane Freesmeyer 46 

"FARM WIFERT' IN THE THIRTIES AND FORTIES Helen E. Rilling 48 

STRUGGLING TO MAKE IT WITH POULTRY Elsa E. Schmidt 49 

GETTING STARTED IN ICE CREAM Louise Parker Simms 51 

OUR THEATRE BUSINESS IN THE THIRTIES Catherine Gerrib 53 
COURTSHIP AND MARRIAGE IN THE EARLY THIRTIES 

Robert C. Richards Sr. 55 

MARRIED LIFE AT THE END OF THE DEPRESSION Myrtle Pierson 56 



IV Going to the Movies 59 

GOING TO THE MOVIES Alfred J. Lindsey 61 
GRANDPA AND THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON PICTURE SHOW 

D. R. Rockhill 63 

HOUND OF TERROR Jan Roberts 65 

GOLDEN MEMORIES OF THE SILVER SCREEN Eleanor Jontry Brown 67 

THE ISIS THEATRE IN ROSEVILLE Martha K. Graham 69 

SCENES BEHIND THE MOVIES Ruth C. Van Horn 71 

SATURDAY AT THE MOVIES Ruth Ferchow 73 

GOING TO THE MOVIES AT THE TIVOLI Phyllis T. Fenton 75 

DRIVE-IN MOVIES— 1940s STYLE Tony Cichoke 76 

YELLOW BRICK ROADS LEAD TO . . . ANYWHERE Dorothy M. Ross 78 



V Working Decades Ago 



WORKING DECADES AGO John E. Hallwas 83 

FAREWELL TO THE LINOTYPE Ruth Gash Taylor 85 

WORKING IN A HOSPITAL LAB Mary Deqmmpaul 86 

SELLING NEWSPAPERS IN JACKSONVILLE William L. Defrates 88 

BRINGING ELECTRICITY TO RURAL WESTERN ILLINOIS Ralph Eaton 90 

DISEASE FREE SEED CORN Robert Little 93 

A DAYS WORK IN CORN PICKING TIME Arthur Hawbaker 94 

A WOMAN'S WORK ON BUTCHERING DAY Lucille Ballmger 95 

WINE-MAKING IN MONROE COUNTY Al Hart man 97 



VI The Values of Father and Mother 



THE VALUES OF MOTHER AND FATHER Alfred J. Lindsey 101 

THE INSTRUMENT Jeanne Berman 103 

POP BobHulsen 105 

MY BELOVED PARENTS Floyd M. Lowary 107 

THE CUT GLASS PITCHER Evelyn Witter 108 

HATTIE HOWARD Glenna Lamb 109 

A TIME TO REAP Anns Christian 111 

MOTHER: MY BLESSING Norma Altum 112 

THE MAN WHO HAD NO VALUES Shirley Lewis 113 

MOTHER WASN'T SUPERSTITIOUS . . . BUT Betty Doubet 116 



V\l IsA-j Experience in High Sch 



OOl 119 

MY EXPERIENCE IN HIGH SCHOOL Alfred J. Lindsey 121 

PRAIRIE CITADELS Dorothy M. Ross 123 



MY HIGH SCHOOL YEARS Katherine (Nola Thornton) Cravens 125 

HOME ECONOMICS AND THE SLOGAN Lois I. Armstrong 127 

THE GATHERING OF THE NUTS Lvdia Jo Boston 128 

HIGH SCHOOL IN DEKON Lillian Schick Peterson 130 

HIGH SCHOOL THE HARD WAY Marie Freesmeyer 132 

MISTAKEN IDENTITY Ivan E. Prall 134 

INNOCENCE LOST AT TAYLORVILLE HIGH Martha Jean Wieland 136 

HIGH SCHOOL HERE I COME Anthony L. Siemer 138 



VIU Poetry 



POETRY John E. Hallwas 143 

POETRY AT HOME AND AT SCHOOL June Speer Chatterton 145 

MEMORIES OF MY HOME TOWN Marie Ostrander Brooks 146 

MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD Lorna G. Moore 147 

SUNDAY EVENING IN WINTER Faye Christian Perry 147 

AUTUMN HAZE Jack lorio 148 

SCHOOLMARM Bernice Lovekamp 148 

PAPA Jessie Lynch 149 

THE EYES OF LOVE Eleanor Schuett 149 

AN ODE TO THE NINETIES Martha "Gramma" Elven 150 



IX Neighbors 



NEIGHBORS Alfred J. Lindsey 153 

ED HULTING, NEIGHBOR AND FRIEND Margaret M. DeDecker 155 

THE OLD NEIGHBORS Mary Lou Adams 156 

FARM NEIGHBORS Florence Hesterberg 157 

A DIFFERENT CHRISTMAS Rosemary Rausch 159 

A SPECIAL FRIEND Louise E. Efnor ' 160 

MEMORIES OF NEIGHBORS Darlene Purdy 162 



A LESSON IN DIVERSITY Phyllis T. Fenton 163 

CHINESE-AMERICAN NEIGHBORS IN CHICAGO Bea Tholen 164 

WE LIVE AS NEIGHBORS John J. Coyle 166 



X Memories of Childhood and Youth 



MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH John E. Hallwas 171 

CAUGHT ON THE BRIDGE Wanda Gardner 173 

THE STORM OF 1918 Floy K. Chapman 174 

THE LESSON Hugh McMenamin 175 

MY CAREER AS A BOOTLEGGER Joe Mangieri 111 

PRAYER MEETING Wilber Sauer 179 

PEACE AT LAST Mildred Brooks 181 

GOING TO GRANDMA'S FOR CHRISTMAS Dorothy G. Thompson 182 

THE FOURTH OF JULY IN MILLSTADT Wilson M. Baltz 184 

WHEN "KID" GATTIS FOUGHT IN BUSHNELL Warren Wilson 185 

HOWARD AND ME AND THE MODEL T Russell Stump 188 

WORLD WAR II: THE HOME FRONT Betty L. Hardwick 189 



List of Authors 



^^^^^^^I^S^S^ ^^^^ ^^^^^^H^^^E^^^^ ^^^^E^^^^^^^^gg^t^j 




cAcknowledgments 



Acknowledgments 



The Two Rivers Arts Council is indebted to many people and agencies that made contributions to this sixth volume in our 
widely known memoir collection series. Within the TRAC organization, Vice President Steve Larimer and board member Pam 
Johnson made wide-ranging contributions to the administration of the book project, and TRAC also appreciates the efforts of past 
directors Helen Thomson and Lynda Howard. Several board members helped with the memoir-writing contests that provided the 
material for the book: Jane Boyd, Kim Funk, Sharon Graham, Pam Johnson, Cathy Null, Jim OToole, and Carolyn Strong. Of 
course, TRAC also appreciates the work of editors John Hallwas and Alfred Lindsey who selected and edited the manuscripts and 
wrote the introductions. The production of the book was handled by the Curriculum Publications Clearinghouse at Western Illinois 
University, and special thanks are due to Tammy Carson, Sandy Larimer, and Pam Mainland of that agency. TRAC is also indebted 
to Archives and Special Collections at Western Illinois University Library, which supplied the photographs. Finally, we are 
especially and continually grateful to the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency that contributes to the well-being of the arts in Illinois. 



Yvonne Knapp 




resident, Two Rivers Arts Council 



tggt^^^fe^^ag^taJ^^s^t^^^r^^ts^^gg^i^ti^'ggfa^^t^^^ 




I People with a (Lasting Influence 



PEOPLE WITH A LASTING INFLUENCE 

Everyone is influenced by a multitude of people — par- 
ents, siblings, teachers, friends, and others. One's sense of 
identity is, in fact, the product of social interaction. More than 
we realize, other people make us who we are. 

Often, it takes years of experience and some earnest 
reflection to determine who led us in a productive direction or 
who taught us the values that have shaped our lives. Perhaps 
for that reason we often reach middle age before we sort out the 
influences that made a difierence. 

One of the great influences on me was a young professor 
at Western Illinois University who taught my first college 
literature course more than thirty years ago. It was focused on 
medieval and Renaissance classics like Dante's Divine Comedy 
and Cervantes' Don Quixote, which are long and complicated 
works. The professor may or may not have been better informed 
than his colleagues, but he greatly enjoyed the books that we 
read together, and he provoked the class to enjoy them too. 
Better than any English teacher I had been exposed to, he knew 
that the purpose of reading great books was not more literary 
sophistication but more life, a deeper insight into ourselves and 
others. And he knew that the real focus of teaching was not the 
course content but the student's development, so he took the 
time to encourage his students, including me. As teachers often 
do, he became a role model. Later, he became a much-admired 
colleague and a friend as well. He was Alfred J. Lindsey, now 
retired, who co-edits the Tales from Two Rivers book series. 

Several of the memoirs in this section focus on remark- 
able teachers. Among them is Martha K. Graham's "Mary L. 
Dixson of Stronghurst," which depicts the author's eflbrt to 
comprehend the life of a former high school teacher. It is a fine 
narrative that deeply engages the reader as it provides insight 
into a talented, committed woman. Avis L. Hutchins' "Memo- 
ries of Mrs. Brewer" is a tribute to a remarkable country school 



teacher who was not only caring and demanding but energetic 
and inventive as well. Zelda Hedden Sellman's "Learning To 
See" is about a down-to-earth college art teacher who recog- 
nized that painting was not essentially a matter of skill, but of 
perception. And Signa Lorimer's "My Poor Violin Teacher" 
dramatizes a moment of insight when the author learned how 
richly satisfying her impoverished music teacher's life really 
was. 

Two of the memoirs depict the influence of family mem- 
bers. Eva Baker Watson's "A Legacy from My Mother" finds the 
foundation of her writing talent in her mother's imaginative 
storytelling, which is recreated in a vivid example. Like Martha 
K. Graham, Watson is one of the most talented writers who has 
appeared in the Tales from Two Rivers series over the years. 
James B. Jackson, also among the most talented Tales authors, 
pays tribute to his grandmother, a farm wife who used her wide- 
ranging interests to enrich the life of their grandson. Although 
Jackson does not mention it, he went on to become an educator 
who spent a lifetime influencing young people. 

Of course, friends can have a lasting influence, too, as 
the memoirs by Truman W. Waite and Shirley Ballard demon- 
strate. The first recalls an older man whose good advice was 
matched by his own good example, and whose integrity and 
helpfulness made him an outstanding neighbor. The second 
depicts a young woman whose unselfish commitment to others 
and radiant spirituality made her "more than a friend." One of 
the most touching stories in this collection, it succeeds partly 
because of the sensitive self-portrayal of the author, who mea- 
sured herself against a truly remarkable individual. 

All of the memoirs in this section remind us to take time 
for the people in our lives, especially the young, for our influence 
is apt to extend much further than we recognize. 

John E. Hallwas 



MARY L. DEXSON OF STRONGHURST 

Martha K. Graham 



What you are, root and all, and all in all, 
I should know what God and man is. 



As older people seem to do, I find myself thinking often 
of my teachers, from first grade through college, who have made 
a difference in my life. One of them was Mary L. Dixson of 
Stronghurst, who came to Roseville to teach biology and music 
in 1925, when I was a high school sophomore. 

Miss Dixson was a Knox College graduate, and Roseville 
High School was her first teaching position. When she left 
Roseville for a position in Rochelle, we kept in contact for 
several years, then lost track of each other. 

One day, thinking of Miss Dixson, I decided to go to 
Stronghurst to see what I could discover about her and her life 
after our Roseville teacher-student relationship. In her home 
town, my husband and I first stopped at an agricultural office 
where the secretary referred us to a cousin of Mary's, who now 
lived in the nursing home. There, the cousin could give me little 
information other than that Mary's parents, George and Edith, 
had lived all their lives in Stronghurst, and that Mary had died 
a few years ago of cancer, and was buried in Stronghurst 
cemetery. She smiled as she said, "Mary was quite a girl." 

Yes, Mary was "quite a girl." She had made a deep 
imprint on my life and the lives of many of my schoolmates. 

My first sight of Mary Dixson was on the opening day of 
biology class. She was tall and very straight, rather large- 
boned, well-built, and strong looking. She was confident and 
forceful, but in a friendly way. She introduced us to biology with 
a poem: 

Flower in the crannied wall, 

I pluck you out of the crannies, 

I hold you here, root and all, in my hand, 

Little flower — but if I could understand 



I have never forgotten that poem, which Tennyson 
wrote. With Miss Dixson's explanation, somehow it integrated 
people and nature in a way that was new to me. Many of my 
adolescent thoughts, questions, and feelings seemed to fall into 
place. I liked my new teacher, and I knew I would like biology 
with a teacher like that. 

I went to her music class. She wanted to teach the 
rudiments of music theory and harmony, music history, and 
appreciation. She said it wasn't enough to play instruments or 
to sing well. People needed to know how music was put 
together, how composers applied music's rules, and how and 
why they sometimes broke the rules, giving musicians new 
ideas. The new ideas resulted in the development and growth 
of music through the ages. That was a new and rather startling 
idea to me, and I wanted to know about it. In fact, Mary Dixson's 
biology and music classes interested me so much that in college 
I majored in biology, with music as a minor. 

Miss Dixson gave voice lessons and I enrolled. After a 
year I had improved enough to place third in the Military Tract 
Music contest, held in Galesburg at Beecher Chapel, Knox 
College. 

Mary Dixson was a whimsical, personally friendly 
teacher. Sometimes she called me "Martha Matilda." When I 
asked her why, she said, "It suits you. Certain names just seem 
to go with certain people. I guess my mother gave me such ideas. 
She named me Mary Leonora, and said that if I grew up plain 
and practical, Mary would fit me, and if I grew up to be kind of 
exotic, Leonora would be just right." They called her Mary. 

Sometimes when she returned from vacation trips she 
brought back things she thought her students would like. From 
Michigan she brought me rolls of white birchbark. From 
somewhere else, a small light green vase just big enough for 



violets. I kept it on my desk at college. From Virginia, a small 
photo of Mount Vernon. From Washington, DC, a framed photo 
of the cherry trees that Japan had given the U.S. and that had 
been planted along a waterway near the Jefferson and Lincoln 
Memorials. 

She had gone to Washington, DC as a page for a D.A.R. 
convention there. She felt it was an honor to be chosen, and her 
picture was taken on that occasion. It shows her to be a 
pleasant, intelligent, rather plain woman, who was smiling, but 
trying not to show a rather crooked front tooth. It is, indeed, the 
Mary Dixson I knew, and I treasure it. 

Her dress is one that my mother once said made her look 
"just like a fashion plate." Her stature and easy, erect bearing 
gave her the ability to "wear clothes," which was her best 
cosmetic feature. 

Biology and music were clearly her abiding interests, 
but she was always there for people, to help them if she could. 
One day in biology class we were to copy and label the parts of 
a grasshopper that she had drawn on the blackboard. Next day 
she confronted me with my drawing: "This doesn't look like the 
kind of work you would do — wrong spelling, very sketchy 
drawing. What was wrong? Did you not feel well? Couldn't you 
see the board? You must re-do it." 

I took a seat closer to the board and went to work. She 
looked at my completed drawing and said, "I think you must be 
near-sighted." She called my mother, and we made an appoint- 
ment with Frank Lee, our Roseville "eye doctor." I got my new 
glasses, which I didn't like but accepted because they opened up 
a new visual world for me. Now everything was so clear it was 
startling. The trees weren't feathery at all; every leaf was 
distinct. I had spent my freshman year straining to see the 
blackboard, and must have gotten some bad grades because of 
it. But no other teacher had noticed my problem. 

During my senior year, needing money for college that 
next year, I worked for Mrs. Edna Pratt, who was ill, expecting 



a second child, and needed help with her young son, Morton. 
She wanted me to "live in," and gave me a nice room across the 
hall from two teachers who roomed there. One was Mary 
Dixson, who had suggested me for the job. 

One afternoon a friend from my homemaking class was 
visiting me in my room to work on our homemaking projects. I 
remember complaining about having such a time-consuming 
assignment. My friend offered to do what she could to help. I 
must have refused her offer in what must have been a very self- 
pitying style, for from Mary's room across the hall came, "I'm 
crabbed. I want to be crabbed. Nobody can help me." 

We were shocked into silence. My friend gave me a little 
wave and tiptoed down the stairs. I got to work in earnest on my 
project. Nothing was ever mentioned by Mary Dixson or by me 
about that episode. The lesson had been taught. 

To return to my search for information concerning Mary 
Dixson, we went to the Stronghurst newspaper (the Quill) 
office, where they sent me to the woman who kept the cemetery 
records. She was very busy with her family, but brought out her 
heavy, ancient book and showed me the location of the Dixson 
plot. But Mary Dixson was not listed as having been buried 
there. The recorder felt somehow that the fault was hers, since 
such a record would have been noted during her term of office. 
She suggested that we follow her in her car to the cemetery 
where she would indicate the Dixson plot and return home. 

There at the corner of the Dixson plot was a small gray 
marble gravestone for Mary Dixson, next to two similar stones 
for a sister and a brother who had died in infancy. She had told 
me about them. 

I stood there trying silently to thank my teacher for the 
many ways in which she had helped me, and for the insights she 
had given me that had changed and enriched my life. She had 
been the very best kind of teacher because of her dedication to 
her work and because of the very real and freely expressed 
interest she had felt in her students. 



Since we now knew the date of her death, August 19, 
1985, it was easy to locate the obituary in the Quill office. It was 
very complete. 

From her position at Rochelle, Miss Dixson had joined 
the staff of Benton Harbor, Michigan, High School in 1938 as a 
biology teacher. She was also Dean of Girls. She retired from 
the high school in 1967. She had an interesting and useful life 
in Benton Harbor, being very active in organizations. 

The obituary also stated that Mary Dixson had donated 
her body to the University of Michigan Medical School. So that 
solved the mystery of the absence of her name in the Stronghurst 
Cemetery Record Book. She was not actually buried there. 

How very like Mary Dixson that she would do exactly as 
she had done. She had made sure that someone would set the 
stone inscribed "Mary L. Dixson, April 7, 1902-August 19, 
1985." She wanted that record of having lived, but she did not 
want to commit her body uselessly to the earth. Even in death, 
she had helped others — and had shown her commitment to the 
cause of science. 

I realize now that the example of her life was the 
greatest lesson that I learned from Mary Dixson. 



MEMORIES OF MRS. BREWER 

Avis L. Hutchins 

"Now tomorrow, students, I want you to wear your oldest 
shoes and, if possible, bring some old gloves with you," said the 
teacher with a mysterious smile as we headed home from school 
one autumn day. Well, we were simply bursting with curiosity 
as we rushed into our homes and told our mothers what the 
teacher had said. If our parents knew the secret, they weren't 
teUing. 



Next morning we arrived at school dressed as Mrs. 
Brewer had bid us do. But we weren't to learn the secret until 
the first recess. Then she assembled all of us in the yard north 
of the schoolhouse, among the numerous large old walnut trees. 
"I have a surprise for you," she smiled. "How would you like to 
have a new Softball and bat and some new books for the library?" 
Would we! This was soon after the Depression, and schools and 
teachers were still operating on a shoestring. She went on, 
"Look at all these fat walnuts just waiting to be gathered. Arlo 
has made a big wooden platform for us to put them on and tromp 
their hulls off. That's why I've asked you to wear your oldest 
shoes today, so they wouldn't get so badly stained." Most of us 
kids had only one pair of shoes, anyway. Even though they 
might get badly worn, we sometimes had to wait awhile for 
another pair. She continued, "Let's use these buckets and 
baskets to gather the walnuts, then we will take turns tromping 
their hulls off." 

Such laughing and scrambling about she probably had 
never seen before! The older boys were delighted to be allowed 
to climb high in the trees and shake the limbs to remove the last 
of the clinging nuts. The next classes were quickly postponed 
as we gathered every nut in the tall grass, poured them out onto 
the platform, and jumped on them with all our might. The 
brown juice squirted everywhere, not always accidentally, and 
our shoes, gloves, and hands were soon soaked with a stain 
which would last for weeks. "We'll let the nuts dry for a few 
days, and then we can put them out for sale. But first, we must 
make a big sign so people driving by will know we have them," 
she suggested. This was a project we older girls took to with 
enthusiasm, and the big white sign advertising "WALNUTS 
FOR SALE, $1.50 BUSHEL" was soon ready. 

By the end of the week we all agreed the walnuts were 
ready to be sold, and we enthusiastically piled them into boxes 
after measuring them carefully and generously in a big wooden 
bushel basket. Monday morning we set them out by the fence, 



along with our sign. Can you imagine doing that these days? 
The sign and nuts wouldn't be there for five minutes! Soon 
people were stopping, happy to buy nuts already hulled and 
ready to be cracked and picked out to make candy, or cookies, or 
cakes. The most memorable customers were from Ohio. Of 
course, it was quite an occasion to have "foreigners" pass by. 
This dear couple bought TWO bushels of nuts and insisted on 
paying $2.50 for each bushel. But the most wonderful thing 
happened about two weeks later. One day a large brown 
package was delivered by Mr. Crookham, the rural mail carrier. 
Mrs. Brewer could hardly open the box quickly enough to satisfy 
our curiosity. That sweet and thoughtful old couple from Ohio 
had sent a box full of penny candy, balloons, and other small 
inexpensive items. You would have thought we had received 
manna from heaven! There were enough goodies for all twenty- 
five of us, with enough left over to take home to younger sisters 
and brothers. What a time we did have! We all signed the 
thank-you letter we were encouraged to write. And the sturdy 
new bat and ball and wonderful books were enjoyed even more 
because WE had earned the money for them. 

This isjust one memorable example of the subtle nurtur- 
ing of our teacher. Mrs. Brewer always seemed to be bubbling 
over with enthusiasm and new ideas which would help us want 
to learn. Such patience she had! Her bright eyes could sparkle 
with love, or flash with indignation when the boisterous older 
boys did some unkind thing to the younger children or failed to 
have their lessons ready. Her smile would crinkle the comers 
of her eyes and encourage us, or it could be a stern warning to 
"straighten up and act right." As we all were in one room, every 
class seemed to learn something from the others. Her discipline 
was always fair, and we soon learned that we "got what we 
deserved," whether we were the school board president's son, or 
the shy kid from the new neighborhood hired-hand's family. We 
truly wondered if she had eyes in the back of her head as our 
mothers did! And when it came to discipline, we could not 



understand why our parents always sided with Mrs. Brewer, 
instead of accepting our biased versions. We now know that it 
was not authority alone prevailing, but truth and honesty as 
well. 

Mrs. Brewer quickly realized that our assorted metal 
lunch pails often contained meager lunches. She organized 
what may have been one of the first "hot lunches" in the county. 
Providing a large kettle from her kitchen and a chunk of meat, 
she encouraged us to bring fresh or homecanned vegetables to 
add to the pot when we first arrived at school in the morning. 
Set on the back of the fat, round furnace, the pot bubbled along, 
and when noon-time came and our tummies were growling 
alarmingly, a delicious soup was ready to be shared and eaten 
with our dry sandwiches. Oh, how good it tasted, especially on 
a crisp fall day, or during a snowy winter's day, or on a rainy 
spring day. We found it was a good feeling to share and to care 
about one another, no matter how little or how much we had to 
offer. 

Just over the fence, in Cunningham's pasture, by the 
huge old soft maple tree which was such daring fun to climb up 
and slide down, was a great area just perfect for ice skating. It 
was low and may have been a buffalo- wallow at some early time 
in our history, but we only knew that the water collected there 
and froze, just for us. Of course, no one had ice skates, but that 
didn't stop us, even though our parents admonished us daily not 
to wear out our shoes. Every winter's recess saw us out there, 
falling and sliding, and sliding and falling. 

How Mrs. Brewer found the time, and the energy, to play 
with us and get all her classroom work done, I can't imagine. We 
played fox-and-geese, and she showed us how to make "snow 
angels" by flopping backwards in the new-fallen snow. We 
played "andy-over" the high peaked roof of our schoolhouse. In 
rainy weather, or on bitterly cold days, she would stoke the huge 
coal furnace a little more, then we would play games, or have a 
spelling bee, or sing, or she would read to us. In nice weather, 



which meant any day it was not raining or snowing, there was 
always a ball game for the boys at recess, while the girls would 
sit behind the big walnut trees and share secrets with our 
current best friends, or copy assignments. Everyone climbed 
those trees like the monkeys we were, and Mrs. Brewer was the 
zoo-keeper. 

Her bespectacled, roly-poly husband, Arlo, helped with 
her many projects. He would start the fire in the old furnace, 
carry in coal and water, and do anything else he could to make 
her job easier. I shudder to think how small her salary was in 
those post-Depression days, and of everything she did to earn it, 
simply because it was a job she seemed to love. 

Mrs. Brewer was my teacher for the last three years of 
country grade school, and as I was the only pupil in my class, I 
must admit to receiving lots of individual attention. We became 
good friends, and I probably deserved the title of "teacher's pet," 
which I was called many times. 

At the end of my eighth year, Mrs. Brewer drilled me 
relentlessly on everything she thought I should know before I 
took the Eighth Grade Exam at Monmouth, the county seat. 
The exam was administered by the county school superinten- 
dent, and anyone who has taken that exam knows what fear and 
trepidation really mean. I'm not sure who had the broadest 
smile, my beloved teacher or me, when the grades were re- 
turned. But I think she would have beamed just as brightly on 
any of us, just as long as we had done our best. And that's all 
she ever asked. What a wonderful legacy she left us. 



LEARNING TO SEE 

Zelda Hedden Sellman 

For me, entering college as an art major was an almost 
reckless decision. Art instruction was not offered in Fulton 
County schools, and I left Farmington High School prepared in 
English and Latin. 

My first studio class at Normal was taught by Mary 
Parker. I remember the sinking feeling in my stomach as I sat 
directly in front of her. What if I couldn't draw a straight line? 

"I never lecture because 1 like to hear your ideas," Mrs. 
Parker said. "Teaching is an exchange of thoughts. Art is 
learning to see." 

She was short and plump, with dark chestnut hair 
combed in a bun to expose her high forehead and classic 
features. "In nature, design is the plan. And, by the way, there 
is no such thing as a straight line — or pure black — in nature. 
Rhythm in design leads our eye from one area to another." She 
illustrated her thoughts with roughly drawn sketches. "See? 
This can be achieved by continuous lines or by repetition." 
Suddenly she began singing in a lyrical voice, "Glow, little glow- 
worm, glim-mer, glim-mer," and she remarked, "Rhythm is 
easily apparent in music. Well, we can create the same effect 
visually." She spoke of the heartbeat, the patterns of the 
universe, the moon and tides. "See the organization in the 
petals of a flower, in the veins of a leaf. Rhythm is organization." 

Because of Mrs. Parker's informality, I lost my fear of the 
unknown; and because of her enthusiasm, I became suddenly 
aware of colors, their varied tints and shades, of shapes, con- 
trasts, light, and shadow. "Did you ever hug a tree?" she asked, 
long before the coming of modem environmentalists. "Feel the 
texture of the bark. Would you recognize the type of tree if you 
were blindfolded?" 

I registered for "Beginning Watercolor" with Mrs. Parker 
the next semester, and one day after class she said, "How would 



you like to work for me? I have a garden that needs to be weeded. 
If you work a few hours now and then, I could feed you at night." 

Her blue-green house was a two-story clapboard, which 
was built in the 1890s and fringed with gingerbread. The small 
porch, a mere cubicle, provided a fluted roof like an upside down 
morning glory over the front door. In the living room she had cut 
roses from wallpaper and pasted them trellis fashion crawling 
up one wall and encircling the light fixture in the ceiling. 

I pulled ragweed in the warm afternoons, and when I 
tore up a strawberry plant by mistake, I stuck it back in the dirt 
and tried to camouflage the error. Mrs. Parker never mentioned 
the brown shriveled leaves. She did insist that I watch her taffy- 
colored cocker spaniel perform on command, begging and speak- 
ing with a single shrill yap, and then rolling over and placing 
her nose between her paws for prayers. The dog also dutifully 
hopped in a circle on its hind legs and then, panting, dashed into 
the bathroom. "Go in and see her other trick. She drinks from 
the toilet bowl!" 

At times I not only admired, but envied, Mrs. Parker's 
down-to-earth and carefree spirit. She played Carmen in the 
faculty show. The night of the big production, she blacked out 
two teeth and, biting a rose, brought the house down with her 
stomping feet and swirling skirt in a real flamenco dance. 

Most of all I enjoyed painting on class field trips, espe- 
cially when she took us to a cabin at Lake Bloomington. I gained 
not only a new way of looking at things, but an inner perspec- 
tive. Sitting on the dock, Mrs. Parker identified yellow, orange, 
and lavender in seemingly colorless driftwood. "And look at the 
soft coral shades in that mackerel sky. Isn't it splendid? I hope, 
I do hope that I may see another sunset just like this one." 

The remark seemed eerie and I was reminded, at eigh- 
teen, of my mortality. "Every sunset is different," she contin- 
ued. "And we never know how many we're allotted. Did you ever 
think about it? Every sunset is a miracle, and yet we fail to 
notice it unless the sky is flaming, blazing. Anyway, this one is 



especially lovely, so gentle and muted and harmonious. I should 
like to experience this one again." 

Many years later I still hear the rhjdhmic water lap the 
shore and see art in all of nature. Mary Parker, my first art 
teacher, gave me a new vision, glasses to last a lifetime. 



MY POOR VIOLIN TEACHER 

Signa Larimer 

She walked down the main street of the little mid- 
western town with a masculine stride, the shabby violin case 
swinging rhythmically from her strong arm. Her clothes were 
plain and outmoded, but the violin case looked like a badge of 
courage with which to face the world. 

Lucy Exner was my violin teacher during my high school 
years, but only from the vantage point of later years have I 
discovered that what she taught me most about music were 
qualities what were intangible — the love of pure tone, absolute 
faithfulness to the composer's idea, and correct intonation. 

"Signa," she would say, "don't worry about speed and 
technique. That will take care of itself Get good tone. That's 
all that matters." And I, who had thought that a fast and tricky 
violin piece was the summum bonum, gradually came to see the 
value of having an idea worth expressing in as pure a tone as 
possible. Her highest commendation at lesson time would be, 
"Well, you didn't do so bad" or "you did pretty good." 

Miss Exner lived on a small farm just outside the town 
of Princeton, and she eked out a living from the soil, growing her 
own garden and raising a small flock of chickens. She cared for 
her older sister, who seemed ageless, as indeed did Miss Exner. 
Her house was badly in need of paint. When she was younger, 
she used to make violins to sell; and she had always repaired 



violins. But the town she Hved in was small and her pupils were 
few. When a new and more up-to-date violin teacher moved into 
town, most of Miss Exner's pupils deserted her. After all, it is 
hard to resist glamour, and Miss Exner did not have glamour. 

During my college years I decided to have my violin 
looked over. It hadn't been repaired for many years. When I 
knocked on Miss Exner's door, which needed a new screen, she 
welcomed me heartily and told me to come in. The room I 
entered was bare — no rug on the floor, no curtains in the 
window, but scrupulously clean. In one corner of the huge room 
was a porch couch, made of wooden slats, in another comer a 
plain chair. On one side was a large cupboard, made of poor 
wood. In the middle of the room was a table on which reposed 
the violin, hers, swathed in a silk cloth and lying in the shabby 
old case. Opposite the table was a wooden violin rack, which 
Miss Exner had made herself That was all of the furniture in 
that room. The surrounding rooms were equally bare. Tears 
came to my eyes when I saw such abject poverty surrounding my 
old violin teacher. How could she who had inspired others find 
inspiration in these bleak surroundings? (The answer, I'm sure 
now, is that she had the soul of an artist.) 

I found out that her home was without electrical power. 
"You see," she said, "we don't have electricity in the house. I had 
a battery radio once, but it didn't work right." 

By then. Miss Exner was talking spiritedly. I had never 
heard her speak so volubly. She was appreciative of my regard 
for her as a teacher. "There could be no better violin teacher," 
I had told her. And I sincerely meant it. 

"That's what my teacher in Chicago told me once, Signa," 
she said. "I always wanted to be a concert artist, but he told me, 
"You must teach. You are perfect and you must teach.'" This was 
not bragging. I knew what she meant by that word "perfect." 
Her intonation on the violin was perfect. There was no careless- 
ness or slovenliness in her playing. 



She handled my violin as if it were priceless, her work- 
worn hands skillfully turning it this way and that. "Signa," she 
finally said, "sometimes when I feel like being a child again I ask 
the Lord to send me a fiddle to repair. He always answers my 
prayer and sends me one, and then I am perfectly happy. But 
you have to have faith. You must have faith and then the Lord 
always helps you. I have everything I want, Signa. I've always 
had everything I want." 

As she grasped my hand and said good-bye, suddenly the 
thought came to me that I must not feel sorry for her. Rather, 
I should feel sorry for myself and others who are so dependent 
upon things that we are poor in spirit, much poorer than Miss 
Exner was poor in things. 



A LEGACY FROM MY MOTHER 

Eva Baker Watson 

Mama was a storyteller. 

The Bible, with its guidelines, its colorful figures, its 
fascinating stories, has lived in my mind because of my mother's 
paraphrasing when I was a child. It's not that she never quoted 
to us, verbatim, the beautiful King James version. She did, 
often and repetitiously. But it was her recounting those old 
scenarios and philosophies in our comfortable Pope County 
vernacular that imprinted them on my consciousness indelibly, 
so that time and trouble — and eventual, inevitable 
questionings — have not erased them. 

Sometimes then (probably most of the time) I failed to 
prepare my Sunday School lesson. So, as we rode along to 
services. Mama would briefly summarize the Bible text for the 
benefit of the whole family. This I recall much more vividly than 



all the pulpit expoundings I ever heard. (I should have remem- 
bered to thank her for that, but I'm too late, too late.) 

Storytelling was a natural for Mama. Our home was a 
farm near the remote country village of Brownfield. That was 
long before the advent of communication and entertainment 
wonders that thrill and threaten us today. A party line tele- 
phone hanging on the wall, the daily St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 
and the Illinois Central Railroad that brought it and our mail, 
were all that kept our little community in southernmost Illinois 
in touch with the outside world. As Mama worked, going about 
doing the household chores, she would tell us about our neigh- 
bors, and our kin, and the intrigue that interlaced the soap 
opera that went on around us then — and that had gone on 
around before my time. Her way of telling lifted those tales a 
step above the crassness of gossip. 

My mother knew how to live fully within the limits of our 
circumstances. She was interested in the people about whom 
she told us; therefore, she captured our interest in their stories. 
Genuine interest is contagious. Her technique in telling those 
stories was not lost on the fertile ground of my mind — the child's 
mind that already was beginning to feel the urge to compose, to 
write. 

I remember a neat-looking blind man who passed our 
house every Sunday morning, jolting his way to church in the 
farm wagon, along with his brother's family with whom he lived. 
Mama told us about the hunting accident that had taken his 
sight when he was a boy of thirteen. And she told of the touching 
scene after the tragedy where he had consoled his grieving 
mother, saying, "Aw Mom — it's not so bad!" She told of the 
compensating factors in his life, how useful he was to his 
brother, expertly cooking and doing housework and how — on 
his own — he had learned Braille. Because of Mama's stories he 
became an appealing and inspiring figure to me as I observed 
him lead his quiet, monkish, but worthwhile existence. 



She explained to us the bleak background of a music- 
loving farmer, a seemingly uncouth man, who lived at the top of 
a hill just north of us. Often in the evening after supper we could 
hear the oom-pahs of a German polka as he led the brass band 
comprised of his large family of children. As the strains of music 
wafted out over the community, a softer, more sensitive, and 
admirable side of this man was revealed. His very different- 
ness triggered my imagination as Mama told us about him. 

Mama sometimes made us shiver with her accounts of 
her own brushes with ESP, although she didn't call it that. She 
called it "mental telepathy," or just "a feeling that something 
was going to happen." She proved it dramatically when one 
night she dreamed of the drowning of an uncle of mine. Within 
hours word came that he had actually drowned. 

We heard the romantic story of how Mama's young 
schoolteacher mother, as a bride-to-be, had watched from a 
discreetly distant ridge while, in the valley below, her fiancee 
was building the house that was to be their home. No closer 
than that could my very proper grandmother go — not until after 
the sanctioning marriage rites had been performed. 

Summer days were filled with hard work on the farm, 
and at long day's end there was no air-conditioned house to 
relax in. So, after supper, the family would sit on the front porch 
to catch the evening breeze and watch darkness fall. Mama and 
Papa sat in the swing and we children lounged on the steps to 
listen to "The Frog Concert," narrated by Mama. 

The pond in the pasture down in front of the house was 
the stage. Lighting effects were supplied by a million fireflies, 
and the black sky twinkling with stars was the backdrop. 

Orchestral accompaniment for the comic operetta was 
furnished by katydids and dry weather flies. The frogs sang in 
a wide range of voices. Lyrics were, of course, in frog language, 
but Mama interpreted the fantasy for us: 



The old Bullfrog was giving a party on the far bank of the 
pond. In his Basso Profundo, he boomed a spirited invitation: 
"JUG-O'-RUM!" 

His subjects on the banks all around sang responses, one 
at a time. 

The First Tenors were afraid of water, so in their high 
voices they complained, "It's-knee-deep! Knee-deep!" 

The overcautious Baritones sang a worse warning, "It's- 
over-your-head!" Then they added a safe proposal, "Better-go- 
'round! Better-go-'round!" 

Second Tenors, fearful of missing the fun, were resource- 
ful. "Bring-over-your-boat," they sang. "Bring-over-your-boat!" 

The Chorus croaked a discouraging, "Boat's-sprung-a 
leak! Boat's-sprung-a leak!" 

In the finale, the entire cast joined in a crescendo filling 
the night air, while underneath it all the Bullfrog continued his 
rumbled enticement; "Jug-o'-rum, Jug-O'-Rum, JUG-O'-RUM- 
M-M-M!" 

Every night they sang throughout the summer and, 
because of Mama's imagination and storytelling, they weren't 
just frog noises, but a drama with actual words and a theme. 

Any success I've had with my hobby of writing is a gift 
from my mother. Unwittingly, and from the closeness she felt 
for her children and those living around her — plus her own 
creativity and need for self-expression — she left to me this 
legacy. It has inspired me, thrilled me, and been my "escape 
hatch" in troubled times. For this most fulfilling avocation, I 
thank her. 



REMARKABLE KITTIE SIMMONS 

James B. Jackson 

I left home for a year when I was six. Mother had 
tuberculosis. Complete rest was the only treatment known, and 
there was no sanatorium available. My older brother and I went 
to our maternal grandparents. My other brother, Bluford, went 
to Grandma Jackson. It was a terrible disruption, but none of 
us suffered any permanent damage and perhaps we all gained 
strength. 

Grandpa and Grandma Simmons lived in the ancestral 
home with Uncle Will, Aunt Maggie, and their three children, 
all several years older than me. They made a pet of me and I was 
surrounded with love. It was more than twenty-five years 
before I realized that there were people who disliked me! 

My grandmother, Kittie Simmons, was a tiny woman, 
perhaps five feet tall. Her hair was graying and she wore it 
pulled back into a bun. That, with her steel-rimmed glasses, 
gave her a misleading look of severity. Her skills were many 
and she was well-organized, but most importantly, she was 
kind, loving, and courageous. I bonded to her as to a second 
mother. 

Grandma filled many roles. She shared some household 
duties with Aunt Maggie, but she ran the kitchen garden; 
planned and oversaw the enormous truck-patch; and took care 
of the chickens, hundreds of them. In addition, she took care of 
everything inside the house, even to bringing in the kindling 
and the wood. She let me carry out the ashes. When I spilled 
a bucket full of eggs, there was a quick hand to comfort and to 
dry the tears. I learned to weed the tiny seedlings in the garden 
and was never scolded when one or two were pulled up with the 
weeds. 

That big pocket knife of hers was an "Easy Opener." It 
rode in her huge apron pocket secured by a length of stout cord. 
It was sharp enough for use as a surgical scalpel. She used it to 



prune plants, clean fish, put a sharp point on a bean pole, or dig 
a wild flower. Her bird glasses rested on the shelf with the bird 
book, but when we went beyond the chicken yard, both of them 
went in her apron pocket. She knew all the birds, even the 
migi-ant warblers. Within the year, I knew all the common birds 
on sight or by their call. Years later, I earned an "A" in Roy 
Bailee's ornithology class at Western Illinois State Teacher's 
College with the help of this early knowledge. 

Our favorite retreat was the woods on the other side of 
the farm. We had to drive the buggy to get there. We always 
came home loaded down. The woods were full of wonders like 
morel mushrooms and maidenhair ferns. We also found blue- 
bells and Dutchman's britches. And there were arrowheads and 
geodes and curious pieces of weathered wood. I met my first 
horned owl there and my first redstart. We watched the fox cubs 
play. Wild blackberries, raspberries, plums, and hickory nuts — 
all were there for the taking. We looked at the stones in the 
brook and at the stones in the tiny country cemetery, where a 
dozen early settlers were buried before the Civil War. 

Grandma's room was my delight. Originally it was the 
"great parlor" in the southern style house. There was a bed for 
each of the grandparents, one for me, several chairs, a heating 
stove, and a large wardrobe or armoire. I loved to lie on the 
sheepskin rug by the stove and listen to her fairy tales or stories 
of early times. 

Sometimes I watched silently as she sketched or painted. 
She painted lovely birthday cards in water color. The one I 
received on my tenth birthday is still in the original envelope. 
Grandma was a fine artist, who held her own show at the 
Chicago Art Institute when she was forty years old. She had 
been a teacher in Princeton, Illinois, before she married Grandpa 
a few years after he came home from the Civil War. 

After Grandpa died in the spring and Mother had re- 
gained her health, I returned home to the new farm Dad had 
bought a couple of miles from Grandma's. Then she could drive 



Pet over in a few minutes. She came often, usually for several 
days. She helped Mother with the housework, the washing, and 
the gardening. Once in a while she and I would slip away to fish 
in the creek or to the woods for flowers or bird watching. Once 
we caught a large soft-shelled turtle, and I learned about turtle 
soup. 

One day, as she came down the narrow stairs, she 
brushed against a bumble bee which stung her on the thigh. She 
knew her allergy to the sting would incapacitate her for a week. 
To me her next act was truly heroic. She whipped out her "Easy 
Opener" and cut out the area containing the venom. It was done 
in an instant. After she dressed it, she went about her work as 
if nothing had happened. 

My whole life has been influenced by my close and loving 
association with this unusual woman, Kittie Brady Simmons. 
My attitudes and my sense of values come largely from her. My 
whole spiritual outlook was shaped by her. I stayed close to her 
as long as she lived, and when she died, I helped to bury her. 



EVERYBODY CALLED HIM "FRIDAY" 

Truman W. Waite 

Fred Miller was bom on January 1, 1872, in a small log 
cabin in the vicinity where he spent all his life. His parents were 
Henry and Louisa Miller. His father was an immigrant from 
Germany who had settled near Bear Creek in western Illinois, 
where he operated a saw mill and sawed lumber from the native 
timber that was abundant there. At an early age, Fred helped 
in the timber and with the mill. 

Henry Miller passed away when Fred was twelve years 
old, and soon afterward fire destroyed their home. So, Fred 
spent much of his early life working, especially helping a Civil 



War veteran make charcoal near their home. The veteran's 
name was McClain, but he went by the name of "Friday," and 
after working with Friday for several months, Fred's family and 
friends called him Friday also. He was known by that nickname 
until his death when he was seventy-six years old. 

I first recall meeting Friday (I never called him Fred) 
when I was four years old. My father took me with him when 
he made a trip to buy the farm where I grew up and on which I 
now reside. Friday lived close by, and being a friend, my father 
went to see him. He lived with his mother a short distance away. 
At that time I was too young to realize what was in my future 
and what an influence Friday would have on my life. 

Friday didn't marry until after the death of his mother. 
He was a neighbor and friend to everyone in the community, 
and he especially liked all the children. We were his nearest 
neighbors, and I sometimes accompanied him when he went to 
work in the nearby woods, cutting saw logs and firewood. He 
taught me how to tell the names of the trees and showed me how 
to fell the trees in such a way that I would not get injured. 

Friday lived adjacent to the school yard, and one day he 
smelled smoke. Upon searching for the location, he found it 
coming from the boys' outdoor toilet. Curious to know the 
source of the smoke, he opened the door and found some of my 
school mates and myself experimenting with some corn silks 
and hay chaff (marijuana was many years in the future). 
Friday, once a boy himself, knew what would happen if he 
informed the teacher or our parents, although he gave us the 
impression that was what he was going to do. When he left, he 
told us that if the good Lord wanted us to smoke, we would have 
had a flue on us when we were born. 

Friday never informed the teacher or my parents. How- 
ever, that was my first and last experience with smoking, for I 
knew that eventually my parents would have suspected what I 
was doing, and I was well aware of what would have happened. 
As I grew up, although Friday was thirty years older, we became 



close friends. Friday had a dry sense of humor and was quite a 
philosopher, living day by day and taking everything favorable 
or unfavorable with calmness and composure. 

Later in my life he encouraged me. I was married then 
and had started farming, and the Great Depression was with 
us. Farm prices declined and money was practically nonexist- 
ent, and with the arrival of our children, the future was not too 
encouraging. At that time Friday provided good advice. He told 
me that I was still a young man and as long as I was able to work 
and secure three good meals a day for me and my family, and 
then go to bed and enjoy a good night's sleep, I was a rich man. 
Also, during that time, farms were being foreclosed, and people 
in bankruptcy were quite common. Friday told me many times 
never to go bankrupt, and to pay my honest debts if and when 
I could. 

He illustrated that point by telling of a businessman 
that he knew in a nearby town, who had the misfortune of being 
heavily in debt, but rather than taking bankruptcy, he had an 
auction and sold everything he had to satisfy his creditors. 
After he had done so, he asked if there was anyone else present 
that he owed. He was surprised when a man in the crowd spoke 
up and said he still owed him for a long-standing debt. After 
thinking a moment, he admitted the man was right and he 
wished to pay him. He then drew from his pocket his watch, the 
last thing of value that he owned, and told the auctioneer to sell 
it and pay the man. After the sale was over, a group of 
businessmen, seeing what an honest man he was, financed him 
again in business. The man succeeded, and when he died he was 
one of the wealthiest men in the community. 

I have always recalled that story and regarded Friday's 
advice as very good. It was a memorable day for me when the 
drought years and the Depression were over, and I was able to 
meet all my past financial obligations. 

Friday himself never accumulated much wealth, but he 
really enjoyed having his health and being able to work, and he 



cherished the fact that he was always ready and willing to help 
his neighbors — and always able to pay his creditors. 

Friday passed away many years ago. Few people today 
remember him, but those who do also must have respected and 
admired Friday for his philosophy and good advice. In my life 
he was a helpful neighbor, a true friend, and a lasting memory. 



MORE THAN A FRIEND 

Shirley Ballard 

Sister Teresa was not always called "Sister." She and I 
were roommates at St. Francis. We were starting our first year 
as novices. 

I remember the first time I saw her. She was such a tiny 
girl, weighing only ninety-eight pounds; standing only five feet, 
two inches tall; and having the biggest blue eyes I've ever seen. 
Her smile lit up her face and seemed to radiate a glow of beauty 
as she stepped into the tiny bare room that we were going to 
share and said, "Hello, I'm Teresa." 

Even in the beginning she would rise at four-thirty every 
morning and go to mass. Sister Clara never had to call more 
than once, while I always had to be reminded the second time. 

The days were hard and long, sometimes starting after 
breakfast at six and continuing until eight or nine at night. I 
would sometimes complain and resent all of the work, but not 
Sister Teresa. Never did an angry word cross her lips. At times, 
I resented her because she seemed to adjust to the life at St. 
Francis and I couldn't. 

I remember the time she found twenty dollars and 
quickly took it to Mother Superior's office. Twenty dollars was 
a lot of money in those days. I knew she could have used the 
money for new shoes, but she never gave it a thought. 



One day I was ill, and I couldn't seem to get my floors 
scrubbed fast enough. Teresa just happened to finish her 
scrubbing and, without a word, she quietly got down on her 
knees and helped me finish. 

As we walked back to our room each evening, we would 
pass the infirmary. This was where the sick and aged nuns were 
kept while they were recovering or dying. Sister Teresa would 
stop and chat with each and every nun, giving them a cheery 
smile and a kind word before we finally reached our destination. 

Whenever I would get in trouble with Mother Superior, 
Sister Teresa would be right by my side, interceding for me. It 
never seemed to fail that Mother Superior was always more 
gentle wdth me when Sister Teresa was around. I think she was 
charmed by her, just like everyone else. 

Even when I decided to leave St. Francis, she was at my 
side, encouraging me to be myself She told me that the Lord 
would be with me, and that her prayers went with me, always. 

I didn't realize how very good she was until years later. 
I received a letter telling me to come to St. Francis Infirmary as 
soon as possible. Sister Teresa was dying. I hadn't seen her 
since she had taken her vows ten years earlier. We had 
exchanged a few postcards, but I had never really gotten to see 
her. I had tried three times, but each time she was at a retreat 
and couldn't see anyone. 

The long walk to the infirmary seemed endless, but 
finally I reached the small bed at the end of the room. There lay 
Sister Teresa. Her eyes were still big and blue, but her frail body 
was wasted away with cancer. As she held my hand and smiled, 
I remembered the happy days gone by. We talked about the 
things we had done as novices. Even though I could see she was 
getting tired, she never said so, or gave a thought to herself; she 
just wanted to please me. Then I realized that this beautiful 
person was everything I had always wanted to be. She was 
always kind and considerate. Her honesty was beyond re- 
proach. Never in all the time I knew her did she ever do 



anything that was selfish. And her strength, even at the end, 
seemed to be sufficient. Not a whimper of complaint reached my 
ears. 

As I was about to leave. Sister Teresa said, "Will you be 
okay, Shirley?" I couldn't help it; tears ran down my face, and 
I began to shake. Once again Sister Teresa held my hand, and 
we prayed. 

I'll never forget Sister Teresa. Her loyalty, honesty, 
compassion, kindness, and love of God will always give her a 
very special place in my heart. More than a friend, she was an 
inspiration. 



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CHILDHOOD FUN 

Play is said to be a child's work, but such a claim might 
very well be tempered with the observation that work should 
also be play for the youths. The joy of play and the satisfaction 
of work that teaches responsibility were well-understood by 
parents and grandparents who were products of the Great 
Depression. The recollections in this section support these 
claims. First, there was work; then, there was play — and much 
inexpensive, creative, exercise-oriented joy. 

To parents of the present era and their children, too 
often addicted to television, electronic games, and expensive 
toys — all too often baby-sitting devices — it must be both per- 
plexing and informing that their forbears had more joy with 
simple games, activities, and toys than they are having. In one 
of the memoirs, a granddaughter lamented, "There is nothing to 
do." Another grandmother was asked, "When you were young, 
you didn't have television or even radio; weren't you bored?" 

The memoirs answer. No, they were not bored; there 
was much to do in their work and play. 

Simple games provided unforgettable experiences. 
Bonnie Lee Berry recalls jacks, tag, and treasure hunt, while 
Marie Freesmeyer remembers tic-tac-toe and paper games. 
Other writers included drop the handkerchief, softball, ring 
around the rosy, andy-over, hide and seek, marbles, hoops, may 
I?, and other games. 

Other writers of the recollections recalled activities. 
Margaret Artman enjoyed nature and shared the delightful 
experience of learning much about human nature in trying to 
build a clubhouse; and Helen Rilling spoke fondly of romping on 
bridges and of pony racing. Glenna Lamb told of an unforget- 
table snowball war in which the youth learned much. Fishing 
won the heart of Ida Dunsing, and Florence Ourth shared the 
thrill of skating on the Mississippi. Helen Harless found 
abiding pleasure in her playhouse; her swimming-fishing hole; 



and her pony, kites, and picnics. Mavis Alexander wrote a 
wonderfully amusing memoir about her experience wading in a 
pig sty, and she recalled, as did others, the joy in hearing stories. 
Reading, too, was mentioned; and Katherine Cravens recalled 
the fun she enjoyed in snow forts, volleyball, and swings. A huge 
event, according to several writers, was the trip to town on 
Saturday evenings. 

After the chores, after the work, the fun started and 
continued. These authors were, in some ways, very fortunate 
indeed. In those days of grinding poverty and social turmoil, 
families stayed together, living in close proximity, with mothers 
staying at home. Poor economic times joined solid consensus 
values in binding families with hoops of steel. Sons and 
daughters were blessed with a sense of family and belonging. 
The educative forces of the mass media, the peer group, social 
stratification, and other critical changes had not yet exacted 
their disastrous influences. In spite of the poverty, it was a good 
time to be children as work and fun combined, joining other 
positive influences to prepare them for citizenship and happi- 
ness in a manner that parents of the present time might well 
choose to emulate. 

"Mom and Dad," the lad watching a replay of a Walton 
family episode on television asks, "when vrill the Depression 
come so that we can have the fun that they are having?" 

Alfred J. Lindsey 



ANOTHER WORLD 

Bonnie Lee Berry 

My pre-teen granddaughter Adrienne and her cousin 
Amy walked to the couch, shoulders slouching, and plopped 
down with a groan and a sigh, "Grandma, there's nothing to do!" 
How many times do we hear this lament today? 

I couldn't resist saying, "Well, I can tell you some of the 
things I did when I was your age." I got the usual response — 
eyes rolling back, mouths drooping, and voices groaning. 

I recalled how it felt to have a new pair of three-dollar 
steel roller skates — to slip the clamps over the sole of my shoe, 
tighten them with the shiny metal key that hung from my neck 
by a string, fasten the sheepskin padded strap across the top of 
my foot; and stand, feeling the concrete vibrate under the steel, 
ball-bearing wheels. What a thrill! I spent hours and days 
learning to jump curbs and sidewalk cracks, to stride into the 
wind and coast downhill, and how to brake and turn around. 
Many of our physical activities in the 1930s were seasonal, and 
it seemed the whole neighborhood was skating. The boys would 
form teams and play street hockey with sticks and empty tin 
cans. There were few girls who wanted to join in with the boys 
for these rougher sports. 

In this time, every little girl owned a drawstring bag 
containing jacks and a small sponge ball. Usually twelve jacks 
were used in a game. The players would seat themselves 
Indian-style, facing one another, and the girl chosen as the 
starter would scatter the twelve jacks on the floor in the center. 
She would then toss the ball about two feet into the air, allowing 
it to bounce once and, before catching it, scoop up one jack at a 
time until all twelve were picked up. If you didn't "miss," then 
two at a time were picked up, then three, and finally twelve — 
as well as catching the ball with the same hand! If you missed, 
you had to start all over again. Jacks required skill, and the 
competition was always there. By the time the jack season was 



over, we players had calluses on the sides of our "scooping" 
hand. 

Every girl possessed a jump rope made of cotton 
clothesline(s). For individual jumping, the rope was cut long 
enough to wrap a couple times around each hand for holding and 
long enough to easily clear the girl's head when turning. 
Wrapping and judging the rope's length came with experience. 
Each girl jumped to rhymes such as "Johnny on the ocean, 
Johnny on the sea, Johnny stole a six-pence and gave it to me," 
reciting them over and over with many verses until she missed. 
The rhyme could indicate whether the jumper turned the rope 
forward or backward, and at the words, "Red Hot Pepper," the 
rope was turned as fast as could be while the jumper kept pace. 
All the while, others counted and kept score to see which girl 
could jump for the longest time. 

Sometimes a longer rope was used turned by two girls, 
one at each end, and the jumper had to "get in" while the rope 
was turning and jump to rhymed instructions: 

Old lady, old lady, turn around. 
Old lady, old lady, touch the ground 
Old lady, old lady, touch your shoe. 
Old lady, old lady, twenty-three skidoo 

We jumped Double Dutch when two ropes were turned 
simultaneously in opposite directions. The jumper then had to 
"get in" between two turning ropes and get out without missing. 
To miss meant that she took your turn turning the rope. We 
played Higher and Higher, in which the rope holders would 
start by placing the rope on the ground — then lifting it higher 
and higher to see how high the jumper could jump. 

In our box of playthings was a marvelous fifteen cent 
sponge ball about the size of an orange. My friends and I would 
take turns throwing the ball against the porch steps and having 
it bounce back high in the air to catch and throw again and 



again. Throwing it against a two-story house and having it 
bounce high in the air was fun, too. 

Every block had its yo-yo champions, and tournaments 
were part of our summer playground activities. 

In the daytime hours in summer we played treasure 
hunt. We would choose sides, hide an object, and direct the 
hunters with statements such as, "You're cold — cold — colder," 
meaning they were off course and "You're hot — hot — hotter" 
until shouts of victory were heard. 

We also played tag and guessing games. We organized 
"safaris" in many of the vacant lots where grasses and caster 
bean plants towered over our heads, and, like Tarzan, we 
explored the jungle and threw reed spears at imaginary ani- 
mals and enemies. 

My friends and I would walk in a group to the neighbor- 
hood movie and see two full-length features, a short comedy, 
and cartoons for a nickel or dime. I loved the movies and fantasy 
they wrought. Tap-dancer Ruby Keeler and the Busby Berkeley 
musicals were the rage then. On the screen, we saw hundreds 
of gorgeously costumed dancers who did routines on fantastic 
stages of gigantic wedding cakes, carousels, waterfalls — the 
works. 

Some of my friends and I took tap lessons. One day we 
were inspired to put our own show on. We rehearsed dance 
routines and learned a few songs such as "Looky Looky, Here 
Comes Cooky" and "Ain't She Sweet?" We printed our own 
tickets and sold them on our block for two cents each. Our 
smaller brothers and sisters were talked into selling lemonade 
and homemade cookies. My girlfriend's mother made us fantas- 
tic costumes of crepe paper and graciously donated her back- 
yard for our production. Our mothers and a few others attended 
and we made enough on the deal to treat ourselves to a big 
banana split at the corner confectionery! 

We cooled off on hot summer afternoons laying under 
and running through spray from the garden hose or dunking 



ourselves in filled washtubs. And on rainy days, a few of us from 
the neighborhood would gather in our old, dark, unfinished 
basement to make fudge and tell ghost stories. We constructed 
spaceships of overturned chairs, tables, and old covers. We 
drew pictures, colored them, and made paper dolls. On summer 
nights we played hide-and-seek games under the street lamp 
called Fly, Sheepie, Fly and we also played King of the Moun- 
tain. We would lie back on the cool, damp grass and marvel at 
the show of stars overhead. These were the games and activities 
of us city kids. Winter evenings were spent in the living room 
around the radio while Mom read or mended. Dad dozed or read 
the paper, and we did our homework. It was quiet and peaceful. 
I remember many things about my childhood and I don't 
recall ever being bored! It was truly another world. 



HOMESPUN FUN 

Marie Freesmeyer 

"Grandma, when you were young you didn't have televi- 
sion or even radio; weren't you bored?" 

This puzzling question was asked by more than one of 
my grandchildren. I'm sure that most youths of today wonder 
how we survived back in what they call the "horse-and-buggy 
days," without the mechanical entertainment they now have. 

My standard reply to the above question has been, "We 
didn't have much spare time in which to be bored; besides, we 
never used the word or felt the loss of something to do if we had 
some time to do as we pleased. In those days we had so many 
chores to be done that we had little time left for entertainment. 

By this lengthy reply, I did not mean that the youths in 
the early part of the century had no fun. "All work and no play 
makes Jack a dull boy" was an axiom often quoted by my father. 



We had fun — lots of fun — but we found it in common places and 
things. I call it a homespun variety. 

During the seven-month school terms, I and most of my 
peers spent the hours from eight in the morning until five in the 
evening walking to, attending, and returning from school. After 
that, there were many chores to be done: cows to bring in from 
the pasture, chickens to be fed, eggs to gather, canned fruit to 
be brought from the cellar, and the table set for supper. But I 
found most of these chores enjoyable and often made them into 
some kind of game. When the last dish had been dried and put 
away, I quickly did any studying that had to be done so that 
there might be some time left for games or reading. 

My father was an accomplished oral reader, so many 
delightful hours were spent listening to him read stories from 
The Youth s Companion or from humorous books such as Slow 
Train Through Arkansas or Huckleberry Finn. We could hardly 
wait for weekend evenings when he would read a longer time. 

There were many other things to be enjoyed during 
winter weekends and on holiday vacations. We played card 
games such as Flench and Rook, or other simple games using 
these numeral cards; playing-cards were not allowed in our 
home. Checkers was a popular game; members of the family 
and even the neighbors were always trying to dethrone the 
champion. 

Paper games were frequently played by the younger 
members of the family: the universal tic-tac-toe-three-in-a-row 
and another game in which we used a circle divided into 
segments containing numbers. In this game, each player in 
turn would say, "Tic-tac-toe around I go; when I stop, I stop at 
this." He would put his pencil down on one of the numbers. The 
player with the highest total, after all the numbers were taken, 
was the wdnner. There were many other games that required 
only pencils and scrap paper or a slate. 

From the time I learned to read, I had a book in my hand 
at every opportunity. I never lacked for entertainment if I could 



fmd a book. In fact, I reread many of them. I still recall some 
that I enjoyed when quite young: Bible Stories, Little People of 
Japan, Aunt Martha s Corner Cupboard, and my older brothers' 
school readers with their many informative articles and poetry. 

During the summer months, we could hardly wait to get 
supper over and our chores done so we could use the long 
evenings for playing outdoor games. These games such as 
Sheep-in-the-Pen, Ten Step, Andy-over, or Kick the Can kept us 
entertained and shouting with glee until we were called in to 
wash our feet and get ready for bed. 

As teenagers, we never lacked for entertainment. Dur- 
ing the winter season, we spent many afternoons and evenings 
skating on the smooth ice which formed early on the shoots and 
bays of the Mississippi River and on the ponds in the area. 
Skating parties with huge bonfires and wiener roasts were 
common. Sledding parties were thrilling and romantic. When 
a suitable snow fell, some farm lad would hitch his dad's team 
to the big sleigh, complete with wagon box, hay, and blankets, 
and gather up the neighboring youths for a moonlight ride. He 
usually managed to turn us over in a snow bank before it was 
over. 

The youth of today don't need to think that we lacked 
music in those days. Most homes had either an organ or a piano. 
We had a piano, and I spent many hours during the vacation 
months practicing my music lessons. ( The best part was getting 
to ride the horse some distance to take a lesson each week.) 
Many families had a victrola. We were a bit more modem; we 
had a cabinet Edison with many thick, disk records. This was 
a very practical form of entertainment, as we were able to be 
entertained while we worked. My brother played a few pieces 
on the piano; "Red Wing" and "The Black Hawk Waltz" are two 
of the pieces that I remember. I played mostly hymns to please 
my parents, but, also, some popular pieces, Christmas carols, 
and waltzes. Yes, we had our music back then! 



A popular entertainment for the older youths was buggy 
riding; this could be enjoyed the year around. The young men 
tried to outdo each other to see who could have the fastest horse 
and the fanciest buggy. Of course, these later gave way to the 
popular "Tin Lizzy" which excited the same competition. 
Whether it was a buggy or a car, the rides were both entertain- 
ing and romantic. They enabled the young folk to go farther and 
have a wider variety of entertainment. 

Frequent parties were held throughout the year: birth- 
day, valentine, homecoming, graduation, or just a Saturday 
night party. Kissing games and singing-and-swinging games 
were played at some parties. Most parents in our community 
objected to dancing, but these play-party games were just as 
much fun. 

When I was permitted to date, my boyfriend and I would 
usually sit either in the porch swing or in the parlor and talk 
until ten o'clock, my curfew hour. In order to attend high school, 
I boarded with a family in Hardin. There was no privacy in their 
living room, so when my boyfriend came we sat on the piano 
bench and played the player piano with the volume turned up 
loudly enough that we could talk without being heard. 

Living on a farm near Hamburg, I, like most of my 
contemporaries, found my own entertainment through the 
week; but on Saturday night we went into town. There was 
nothing much to do there except to walk the streets and gather 
into groups and talk. However, in the 1920s, two enterprising 
citizens changed that. They decided that the village of Ham- 
burg needed a movie house — it was never called a theater — 
where a feature film and a newsreel could be shown on Saturday 
night. Gus Beer owned a small building near his little cafe. 
With the addition of a projection room over the entrance, some 
hard benches, and a screen, the building was soon converted 
into Hamburg's first and only movie house. Louis Phillips 
procured and projected the films for a grateful audience, liter- 
ally a group of thrilled spectators. We eagerly waited for the 



lights to dim and for the pictures and dialogue to flash on the 
screen. We didn't even mind the delay when a new reel had to 
be put on, or the longer delay when one broke and had to be 
mended. Going to the movies with my date or my girlfriends 
was more fun than walking around town or even car riding. 

We certainly had entertainment before there was radio 
or television, but it wasn't the "canned" variety; it was truly 
homespun. We devised things to do and ways to do them. There 
was little or no distinction between entertainment for the poor 
or for the more affluent. Best of all, it was clean, wholesome fun. 



LITTLE LADIES AT PLAY 

Mavis Alexander 

Nature had so artfully arranged the personality of the 
old Furrow Place that it had all the right ingredients to give 
magical memories to three little sisters who in the early 1930s 
had few store-bought toys but great imaginations. The weath- 
ered but sturdy one-story, five-room house was shaded in the 
front by a couple of old maples with great sprawling limbs and 
a couple of spicy fragrant cedars. The large lawn was so 
luxuriously webbed with blue grass that even diligent dandeli- 
ons could scarcely get a foothold. An orchard of apple, peach, 
and pear trees, plus a grape arbor and, of course, a family-sized 
garden spot covered the land directly back of the house. Beyond 
that was a small timbered area with a stream crooking and 
curving its way to Buckhart Creek and eventually the Sangamon 
River. 

I was about five years old, Bernadine nine, and Arlene 
ten when the fairy-tale like adventures of my childhood play 
times at the Furrow Place began being indelibly imprinted in 
my mind. 



We learned early that we had to share in the family 
chores before we could play. Luckily, we girls thought of a lot 
of the tasks as fun instead of work. Dusting the furniture was 
to be avoided if possible and, if not, was done just as fast as 
possible. The spots hit were where others might spy the dust. 
Other "do it fast jobs" were such things as bringing in buckets 
of water from the well and carrying in firewood. We liked to 
gather eggs, but learned quickly to leave grouchy old "setting" 
hens alone. We also enjoyed feeding and watering the animals 
that had babies. Also, we helped mother gather "greens" such 
as lambs quarter, sour dock, and wild lettuce to be cooked with 
bacon and commeal dumplings. Sometimes while out picking 
"greens," we girls would get sidetracked and start hunting four- 
leaf clovers or dry fuzzy topped dandelions. We would blow 
really hard on the fuzzy tops of the dandelions singing, "He loves 
me; He loves me not" and whichever phrase we were on when 
the last of the fuzz blew away was our answer. Then a giggling 
we would go back to gathering "greens." As far as cleaning these 
vegetables, I couldn't wait until a machine would be invented to 
do that. If Dad smelled the "greens" cooking for supper, he 
would ask, "Been out picking weeds again, huh?" He knew it 
was a labor of love especially for him. 

One job I liked better than the other girls was helping 
Dad and Brownie, our old shepherd dog, bring in our herd of 
about ten jersey cows when they occasionally failed to come in 
for milking time. I learned to milk at an early age and, to add 
variety to my task, I sometimes tried aiming a stream of milk at 
a knothole in the bam wall. I eventually became rather 
accurate; however, nobody but God and I knew it. Dad always 
acted proud of me for helping him get the milking done. 

In our big square 1926 Dodge, we traveled about five 
miles south over dirt roads into Edinburg or on into Springfield 
to take our large cans of cream, which we collected each morning 
by hand-cranking the milk through our deLaval cream separa- 
tor. When our folks received the cream money, we would then 
all get an ice cream cone. 



Many a golden summer day, with chores behind us, we 
would each grab an old blanket and head back into our make- 
believe world in the orchard. Wherever we spread our blan- 
ket — whether on the ground or in the low sections of a tree — 
that was our home. Making mud pies using old pans and a stick 
for a spoon was our specialty. We would form them into smooth 
pretty shapes to be put out in the sun to bake or we would dig 
rather deep holes to put them in so they would stay cool like 
Mother putting her fruits and milk in the cave. We would use 
sticks for our telephones and carry on quite colorful conversa- 
tions with each other as we made up community news such as 
we had heard the ladies tell when they got together. 

If we got hungry while playing and any of the fruit was 
ripe, we just polished it up with our hands and ate it sun- 
warmed and fresh — except peaches, I couldn't handle that fuzz; 
it had to go. We were so quiet sometimes that Mother would call 
out, "Girls, are you all alright?" Dad always called us "Ladies," 
but, as you will see later on, we weren't always little ladies. 

With the coming of autumn. Dad stressed school and 
good grades. There was still plenty of time for winter fun. One 
time, Dad had to come through a blinding blizzard to walk 
several of us children home because the snow was deep and 
frozen so hard we could walk on top of it. Our one-room, one- 
teacher school was about one-half mile from our house. We 
hustled right along, but with Dad we felt secure — and it was 
sort of a daring experience. 

In the winter evenings our Aladdin lamp gave out its 
bright white light for our studying, for Dad reading his western 
stories, and for Mother darning. Mother was a good storyteller, 
and sometimes she took time for that. On the weekends, we did 
what most families did — make taffy. 

"Aunty" and "Unk" lived very comfortably in the city. 
One time Unk had come out with his business friends to go 
hunting. There was quite a snow, but we girls weren't aware 
that we were poor, so, right in front of him and his friends, we 
came out with our miserable looking makeshift sled. They 



always got us something very nice for Christmas so we got a 
superdeluxe sled for Christmas that year. My beloved Furrow 
Place set atop a steep hill. One day soon after we got our sled, 
a snow came that packed down just right for great sledding. My 
sister Bernadine said she would take me for a ride down the hill 
on the new sled. We started gliding down the incline quite 
nicely and swiftly, and she was able to guide it marvelously 
considering it was our maiden voyage. "Hold on," she called out, 
"I am going to turn it around so we can go back up." Of course, 
we went every way but up. It was another of life's lessons 
learned: When things are going down hill, ride it out! 

Our Furrow Place was blessed by being surrounded by 
loving neighbors who just seemed part of a big family. The 
Lashes, who lived about a quarter of a mile west of us, had three 
daughters who matched our ages of six, nine, and ten very 
closely. But in those days, mothers were careful that children 
didn't make pests of themselves to other people, so we got to play 
together only occasionally. On this particular day. Dad's three 
little ladies went up to visit Evelyn, Lois, and Virgie. We played 
around for awhile, then wandered out into their pasture. We 
were all sort of restless as it was unusually hot and sultry. 
Someone noticed the little pond nearby, and we wandered over 
there. The older girls decided we could cool off by going wading. 
As we walked in, we found the mud in the bottom was about 
ankle deep and it was very slick. It wasn't long before someone 
fell down and got soaked and muddy head to toe. Someone else 
let out a loud giggle; then, in domino fashion, first one went 
down, then another, until we were all flipping and flopping 
around in the mud-thickened water. Covered with slimy, 
smelly mud, someone shed an undergarment and hung it on a 
nearby post to dry; soon someone else shed her dress, but 
nobody took off both. The two nearby posts were hung full of 
mud-soaked clothes. Mr. Jones came down the road in his 
horse-drawn wagon. He came to a stop out in the road just a 
moment, then went on. In a short time, we saw our mothers 



coming — one from one direction — one from the other. Getting 
to within yelling distance, they called out angrily, "What are 
you girls doing in that hog wallow?" Mr. Jones had told on us. 
Mother scolded us all the way home, threatening to tell Dad as 
soon as possible. He was quite a strict disciplinarian, and we 
worried about that all the rest of the afternoon. Later, I did see 
Dad and Mother talking, out where we couldn't hear them, and 
they were just laughing. Still expecting the worst, I could not 
imagine what they were laughing about. 

Now, years later, what rich memories I have of my 
parents and the Furrow Place in those years of 1931-1936. 
Those weren't Depression years in my memory bank. 



THE GAMES WE PLAYED 

Katherine Cravens 

In the 1920s, the games we played were simple and often 
had an English influence. Among those games were London 
Bridge Is Falling Down and Ring around the Rosy, games 
performed to the tune of a little ditty. 

In the latter, "Rosy" referred to the Black Plaguel 

Ring around the Rosy, a pocket full of posy 
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down. 

Upon reciting the last line of the rhyme, while still 
holding hands, we would laughingly fall onto the grass. We 
were totally unaware that to "fall down" meant death from the 
Plague. Drop the Handkerchief, another child's game, also 
required a ring of children. The player who was "it" would skip 
around the outside of the circle and casually drop the handker- 
chief behind a child in the ring. A race around the circle in 



opposite directions to reach the open spot vacated by the 
recipient of the dropped cloth decided who would be the next 
child to drop the handkerchief. 

Still another game. Red Rover, consisted of two teams. 
Approximately thirty feet apart, the teams, holding hands, 
would face each other. At Miles Station School, the line of 
demarcation was the cement walkway leading from the porch of 
the building to the front gate of the playground. First one team, 
and then the other, would sing a challenging chant. "Red Rover, 
Red Rover, send Jack right on over." The challenged team 
would send the player over to break through the line formed by 
the opposing team. When the player was unable to break 
through the line, he became a captive of the opposing team. This 
challenging went on and on until recess ended or until one team 
had captured all the opposing team. 

Andy-over was another game in which we chose teams. 
In this game, we tossed a ball over the school building. Should 
the ball be caught, the receiving team would separate and 
invade the opposing team's territory from both sides of the 
building. The player with the concealed ball would tag as many 
of the opposing team as possible for his team. Needless to say, 
the team having the most players at the end of recess was the 
winner. ( The honor system decided whether or not the ball was 
caught before or after the ball touched the ground.) 

Hopscotch, jump rope, and marbles were played during 
that time. We also slid down straw stacks, climbed trees, flew 
down snowy slopes on sleds, and skated on icy creek beds. 

The years passed. The games we played became more 
competitive and more enjoyable. By the 1930s, we were playing 
Softball. A new game known as May I? was, without a doubt, 
invented by an English teacher. I believe the game was 
originally called "Mother, May I?" The object of May I? was for 
the players to get from one place to another with "elephant" or 
"baby" steps. The leader would give the orders, "Billy take ten 
elephant steps." In the event Billy forgot to say, "May I?" he 



forfeited his turn. The player reaching the designated destina- 
tion first was the winner. 

When heavy snow began to melt, we built forts and 
threw snowballs at each other. When the weather was too cold 
to play outside, we played indoor games, tic-tac-toe, connect the 
dots, and a guessing game, I See Something. Sometimes we 
played Simon Says, musical chairs, made paper chains, colored, 
sang, or read. At home, we played Parcheesi, rummy, and 
checkers. 

By the 1940s, we had added volleyball to our list of 
games and began to play Softball with other schools. We were 
also roller-skating on the hard roads. 

Almost every rural home had an old tire swing hanging 
from one rope securely tied to a large limb of an old maple tree. 
Although the tire pinched our legs, and its circumference made 
it difficult to cling to, the swing was almost always in use. Long 
after the tire was gone, the rope would often remain dangling 
from the limb; and it, too, would be used to swing upon. For 
many years afterwards, one could tell where an old swing had 
been by the exposed ground worn free of grass by bare feet, and 
by the obvious depression of the earth beneath the limb. 

People were not as outgoing in years gone by as they are 
today. A "bashful beau" occasionally became a "kissing cousin" 
when hide-and-seek was played at a summer's evening get- 
together. Innocent kissing games — Spin the Bottle and Post 
Office — encouraged the young men to display tender emotions 
toward the girls nearest their hearts. 

Because of the games, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves 
with innocent fun in the late '30s and early '40s. I often 
wondered if children today, surrounded by magical electronic 
games, really enjoy themselves as we did. 



30 



SKATING ON THE MISSISSIPPI 

Florence Ourth 

Our family had moved to Nauvoo in 1923 when I was a 
senior in high school. We loved the Mississippi. In the summer, 
we went swimming in the river every afternoon. In the winter, 
we spent all our free time at the river on the ice. 

In the late 1920s, the coast guard built a refuge harbor 
at Nauvoo so that boats could come in during a bad storm. 
Protected from the wind, the river would freeze smoothly in the 
harbor which made a favorite place to skate. When the ice was 
thick enough for the men to cut and store in ice-houses, it left 
open places that froze very smoothly. Sometimes snow covered 
the ice, then everyone would bring shovels and shove the snow 
until a clear space was made to skate. 

All our family skated — Mom and Dad, my sister, Mildred, 
and my brother. Jack. We skated not only in the daytime, but 
often after supper, especially if it was a moonlit night. But if 
there were no moon, we would take a lantern and set it on the 
ice to help us keep our bearings. 

Our skates were the kind that clamped on the soles of 
shoes and were tightened by skate keys which hung around our 
necks on strings. At the back of the skate, there was a strap that 
went around our ankles. In those days, we wore shoes that laced 
up about six inches above the ankle, and thus helped give 
support. There were a few people who were fortunate enough 
to have shoe skates, which fit better than clamp-ons. 

On a Saturday afternoon, a lot of young people gathered 
at the river. Some brought sleds to give their younger brothers 
and sisters a ride on the ice. A bonfire would be made on the 
shore of driftwood, and logs were found to sit on. 

The young fellows would get a game of "Shinny" going. 
This was similar to ice hockey, with a tin can as a puck and 
hockey sticks fashioned from driftwood from along the river. 



These games moved quickly, and one learned to stay out of the 
way of the players. 

Sometimes the skaters would skate in a line, holding 
hands and getting up speed. Then the pivot man on the lefthand 
end of the line would "crack the whip" by digging in his skates 
and stopping suddenly. The ones on the other end would be 
whirled around almost dangerously fast. Sometimes couples 
would skate facing each other, with hands on each other's 
shoulders — he skating backwards, she frontwards. 

But for me, the most fun was skating partners. In my 
high school class was a young man named Arnold Ourth, an 
excellent skater and one of the few who had ice skates. When 
he invited me to skate partners with him, I accepted. We 
crossed our hands in front of us so that my right hand was held 
firmly in his left and my left hand held in his right, which helped 
to hold me up. He taught me to take long strokes, while our 
bodies leaned in the direction of the stroke, first right, then left. 
There was a special rhythm to this as we gradually got up speed 
until we just sailed along — an exhilarating experience. 

Going longer distances up and down the river, we learned 
to watch for air holes where the ice was thin. One could usually 
tell where they were because the ice was whiter around them. 
Sometimes there were cracks in the ice, not too big, caused by 
the lowering of the water at the dam in Keokuk. But we got up 
speed enough to jump and be carried over them. 

Sometimes, if we were thirsty, we would stop, stoop, and 
drink the cold water out of the crack. We thought it was safe. 
We figured all the germs were frozen. Little did we know about 
pollution in those days. We even got brave enough to venture 
across the river, which is a mile wide at Nauvoo. With the swift 
current in the channel, one could not be sure how thick the ice 
was in the middle of the river, but we felt safe when we stayed 
near the trail made by the men who carried the mail. 

This trail began at the Parley Street boat landing where 
the Nauvoo ferry ran in the summertime to Montrose, which 



was across the river. In those days, everything came in and out 
of Nauvoo by ferry, including the daily mail. But just before the 
river was going to freeze, the ferry would be taken to the refuge 
harbor for safety because in the spring, when the ice went out, 
it took everything with it. Then the mail and passengers who 
wanted to board the train at Montrose were brought back and 
forth by motor boat, and, later, by a rowboat with runners on it 
that was pushed by two men ready to jump in the boat and use 
oars if the ice started to break through. 

When the ice was thick enough. Model T Ford trucks 
were used to carry the mail and, also, to haul the coal from the 
freight cars. Air holes were marked with bushes or small cedar 
trees. 

Some boys took chances by driving their cars on the 
river. They thought it was great fun to get up speed, put on the 
brakes, and then whirl around. Fortunately, none went through 
the ice. 

One winter, Raymond Repplinger tried to make an ice 
boat without sails. It was to be propelled by a radiator fan from 
a car that would hopefully work like an airplane; it was not, 
though, successful and sat mournfully on the ice all winter. 

One Christmas, my friend Arnold gave me a pair of shoe 
skates and skating was even more fun. Several years later, we 
were married and were able to buy the William Marks home 
right on the river, close to the refuge harbor. When our first 
baby came, I bundled him up, put him in the baby carriage, and 
took him down on the ice for his afternoon nap. Later there were 
four more sons, and they all learned to skate. 

I am a great-grandmother now. I was seventy years old 
when I went skating for the last time. That year my ankles were 
a little wobbly and my knees a little shaky. My husband had 
passed away, so I did not have the firm support of my former 
partner. At that age one does not know how brittle bones are. 
So, reluctantly, I made it my last skate. Looking back, some of 



my happiest memories are still the joys of skating on the 
Mississippi. 



SUMMERTIMEFUN-TIME 

Helen C. Harless 

I grew up when "fun" was generated principally in the 
local neighborhood, near Canton, Illinois. Times were "hard," 
money was scarce — but I was never bored, and it did not take 
much money for us to have fun. 

The Browns lived across the road. Three of them were 
friends of my sister, who was seven years older than I. Robert 
Brown was a year older than me, and Howard Brown was a year 
younger, so they were my playmates. I never lived in a 
neighborhood where there were girls with whom to play. As I 
look back, this was a plus. 

I had a playhouse equipped with a play stove, a doll bed, 
a table and chairs, and dolls. Bob and Howard and I played 
"house" almost daily. Bob would be the father, I was the mother, 
and the dolls were the children of our make-believe family. 
Howard was always the doctor because he could ride my pony 
to make his "calls," and one of the dolls would be in need of his 
"medical expertise" most of the time. 

From the playhouse, we ventured to the creek, which 
was our swimming pool, and to the woods where we held our 
picnics and swung on huge grapevines that hung from the big 
maple trees. The creek wound down between both the Brown 
farm and ours. We waded in it; skipped rocks in it; gleaned 
Indian beads from its shores; and tiny minnows from its clear, 
running water. To make it our ideal swimming hole, we often 
dammed it up with the bright, gooey clay from its banks. One 
day, we had just finished damming it up. The bank was slick, 



32 



and the water was getting deep. Bob attempted to climb up the 
bank, lost his footing, and slithered back into the swimming 
hole we had created. It all happened so fast that he ended up 
with lungs full of water. He went under once, and came up 
gasping, not able to get his breath. He was floundering. I saw 
that he was in trouble, so the second time he came up out of the 
water I grabbed him by the hair (that is all I could reach) and 
maneuvered him until I could drag him out on the bank. I got 
him on his stomach, lifted him up at his waist, and dropped him 
with a thud. In the meantime, I told Howard to run for his 
mother. Before his mother got to us, I had lifted Bob and 
dropped him three times, on the fourth thud, he coughed up 
water and was able to draw breath again. This was my first 
experience with CPR and, thank goodness, it worked. 

The creek was also our fishing place. Our poles were 
made from the maple trees and our string from kite string roll. 
Our hooks were large safety pins bent to our liking. This fishing 
gear, plus the juicy worms dug up from the chicken lot, helped 
us land a little sunfish once in awhile. Fishing for us usually 
meant damming up the creek and using our seine, made of two, 
one inch in diameter, maple limbs, a gunny sack, and string. We 
would open up the gunny sack and tie it to the limbs with the 
string. One of us would get on each side of the seine, and the 
third person would carry the bucket. We would go upstream 
against the current with our seine, and come up with a generous 
catch of minnows. Rather than turn them loose back into the 
stream, we would dump them into the horse tank where we 
could watch them. When Dad would turn the horses loose to get 
a drink from the tank after a long, hot day, they would stick 
their noses down into that maze of minnows and come up just 
as suddenly because of the annoyance of the catch of minnows 
we had deposited in the tank. I can still hear my Dad say, "Ifyou 
kids don't get those fish out of that tank, I'm going to spank all 
three of you!" He never did spank us, but we knew he meant us 



to get the fish out of the tank — at least until we got another good 
seine catch. This was an ongoing activity all summer long. 

The swimming hole had another fascination for us. 
Attached to the big maple trees along the creek bank were 
several long, wild grapevines. We swung back and forth on the 
grapevines until our arms held us no longer, and then we would 
swing out over the "hole" and drop into the water with quite a 
splash. We didn't need diving boards. Swinging on the grape- 
vines and dropping into the "hole" was much more fun. 

Besides Bob and Howard, my summertime fun included 
my little spotted pony Buster. He was so gentle and so talented. 
He could sit up, play dead, and shake hands just as well as any 
dog. We all rode him, and he pulled our little black buggy. He 
served as our transportation to carry drinking water to the men 
working in the hay fields or on the threshing "run"; and we drove 
him back and forth to school three miles away. 

The day of Buster's death was a blow to the whole family. 
Dad dug the grave down in the apple orchard, and the rest of us 
lined the grave with rose petals and tears when Buster was laid 
to rest. I am sure he resides in Heaven. A sweeter, more loved 
pony never lived. 

Besides Buster, we always had dogs and cats, but among 
our other farm friends were the baby rabbits and the orphaned 
piglets we raised on bottles. Our dog Shep was always following 
Dad on the binder in the oats field. Occasionally, Dad would 
accidentally uproot a rabbit nest. Shep would pick up any stray 
baby rabbits and carry them to the house. The babies would be 
well swathed in Shop's slobbers, but they were never hurt in any 
way. Mom would get a cardboard box and line it with straw or 
clover; then it was up to my sister and me to nurse the baby 
rabbits with doll bottles full of watered down cow's milk and 
fresh clover heads until they were big enough to live with 
Mother Nature. When that time came, we would hitch up 
Buster and take our little rabbits to the woods. They would 
always hop off happy. 



As a child living in the country, I made my first money 
by raising a runt piglet from a litter where there were not 
enough dinner buckets. At first, we would put the piglet in a 
cardboard box and keep him behind the kitchen stove. This 
meant keeping the box spotlessly clean. We also would feed him 
watered down cow's milk, and, after he grew considerably, we 
would put him in a pen at the barn and add oats to the milk and 
corn. With such tender, loving care, he would soon catch up with 
his litter mates, but he was always mine, kept separate, and 
marketed in my name. This money was put in my first savings 
account and eventually helped put me through college. Tending 
these little animals was both a caring and fun experience; they 
became real friends of mine. 

Our backyard was the croquet court. We had many 
family rounds, but my favorite competitor was Grandma Strawn. 
She was such a precious, tiny woman but a strong competitor 
when it came to croquet. 

Each summer meant kite flying time. Dad would make 
the frame for the kite, and Mamma would cover it with newspa- 
per and make the cloth tail out of scraps from her sewing basket. 
I can remember daydreaming about how it must feel to soar up 
there like that kite. Occasionally, the kite would hit a hard wind 
current and take a nose-dive, but I usually managed to "let out" 
all of the string of the ball — and the kite rose to a tiny speck up 
there in the sky. 

The picnic season always started with the school picnic 
in May. The mothers of the students would always bring well- 
laden baskets. Mother's favorite contributions were fried 
chicken, potato salad, and coconut cake. Following the school 
picnic were the family reunions or the neighborhood get-togethers 
at Big Creek Park in Canton. The adults would visit, and the 
kids would try out all the playground equipment. I remember 
one time when I was "working up" one of the swings. I was about 
at my peak, when a little kid ran under my swing and the board 
seat of the swing hit the child across the forehead. He was 



knocked down flat and a big goose-egg developed, but, thank 
goodness, there was no permanent damage or bleeding. 

My only conclusion is that living on a farm with loving 
parents, a sister, good neighbors, and little money made for a 
happy, fun-loving time, and there was always something to do. 
I never had time to be bored or lonely. 



THE BUILDERS 

Margaret E. Art man 

During the Great Depression, our family, and others like 
us who lived at the poverty level, moved often. When my father 
heard of a better opportunity to feed and clothe his family, we 
packed our few belongings and left. But the fall that my parents 
rented Jenkins Cabin was the beginning of the best four years 
of my childhood. 

Situated on a hill above the Salt Fork River, northwest 
of Fairmount, Illinois, the small acreage also had a sturdy barn; 
several sheds; a fenced garden plot; a peach orchard; bee hives; 
rolling pastureland; and two fields to grow corn for our horses, 
a milk cow, and the chickens. Since our two older brothers left 
home to find work and our sister was married, my brother 
Archie and I explored the farm by ourselves. 

In the bottomland below our hill, we discovered a solid 
mass of wild bluebells every spring. Their sweet fragrance 
greeted anyone who descended to the river. We located moist 
hillsides where the gray and yellow sponge mushrooms seemed 
to spring up overnight. We stumbled upon a great hollow tree 
in the center of the woods that had an opening so wide that we 
could both crawl inside and stand upright. We threw bridles on 
the old mares and rode bareback up and down the rolling hills. 



That first year, I was nine and Archie was twelve. We 
took a shortcut to the one-room Walnut Grove school. Even 
though we climbed over barbed wire fences, balanced our 
footing on a log to cross an icy stream, hurried through the 
woods and uphill again to Mr. Swaney's barn lot, then walked 
downhill and up again for another mile to the schoolhouse, we 
still saved time. Otherwise, we would have had to walk around 
gravel roads to the slab pavement and follow it to school. 

Before the school term ended, we had several friends. So 
that summer, we formed a neighborhood club. There were two 
Swaney brothers, Eugene and Dick. There was our closest 
neighbor, Ted Wolfe. Then down the road and around the bend 
from us lived the Hillard girls, Bonnie and Patty. Across the 
woods, on the gravel road to school, June Swaney lived. She was 
a cousin of the Swaney brothers. 

After forming the club, we needed a clubhouse. I don't 
know who suggested that we could build our own cabin, but we 
soon agreed to meet the next day at a tiny clearing not too far 
from our house. To this day, I don't know who owned the land. 
All along this hill above the Salt Fork River, people drove out 
and dumped trash and garbage with, evidently, no respect for 
nature's beauty. The land may have been public property 
connected to the river below because no one ever told us that we 
couldn't play in the clearing. 

Anyway, we each brought a hammer or nails or a rusty 
saw — whatever we could slip out of our fathers' tool boxes — 
because we visualized a neat log cabin on "our" land. 

Archie stood head and shoulders above most of the gang, 
so he did the heavy work. (At home, when Mom told us both to 
knock potato bugs off our potato vines and into a kerosene 
bucket, we thought that was hard work. But this work was for 
the clubhouse, and we toiled happily at our job to build it.) He 
dug four deep holes, eight feet apart, with Pop's spade. With 
help from the Swaney boys, he cut down four young saplings, 
trimmed them to the desired length, and dropped them into the 



holes. While we girls pushed the loose dirt into the holes, the 
boys tamped it down with round sticks. Then Archie and the 
boys cut down several more young trees, smaller than the first 
four. They trimmed each one into nine feet lengths and nailed 
them crosswise to the north side of two posts. 

As dusk approached, we all stood at the edge of the 
clearing, admired each other's blisters, and gazed lovingly at 
the one wall of our cabin. After taking a vow to meet there the 
next morning to continue the construction, we left in different 
directions, on bikes or on foot, toward home. 

Our heads had hardly hit the pillow, it seemed, when 
Mom called to us from the kitchen, "Roll out, you two. Eat your 
oatmeal and meet me in the strawberry patch. Mr. Jenkins will 
be out later for a crate of berries." Our landlord lived in 
Fairmount. We picked berries and he sold them, giving us part 
of the money. Mom was eager to earn a few dollars for groceries. 
Kids being kids, Archie and I were just eager to get done picking 
so we could head down the road to our cabin plans. We surely 
didn't hang around home, whining to Mom, "What can we do?" 

Racing barefoot along the dusty road, we stopped, sur- 
prised, to see no one at the clearing. The sun now shone high 
above our heads. Yet, everything stood as we had left it the past 
evening. Where were the others? Maybe they would be here 
later. 

We wandered around the clearing. We inspected our 
work. We discussed where to begin today. Finally, Archie 
grabbed Pop's old saw from its hiding place in tall weeds and 
trimmed three short poles to form a door frame. After nailing 
them in place, he pried loose a flat rock from the hillside and 
placed it before the door frame for a step. In the meantime, I had 
gathered several stones to form a walk. 

After dropping the flat rock on the ground, Archie sat 
dowTi on it and looked over our situation. I stood there, waiting 
for him to make his next move. Sweat beads dripped off the end 



of my nose. A tiny bee crawled along my upper arm. I slapped 
it away, but not before it stung me. 

Archie spit across the clearing and knocked a tumble 
bug offcourse. "Wonder what happened to the gang?" he asked. 

"Maybe they got into trouble for takin' their Dad's tools 
without askin'," I suggested. 

Suddenly, the one-sided cabin that had been so much fun 
yesterday with the club members now looked like long hours of 
hard work. 

"Ah — let's go home," Archie said. "I might go fishin'." 

As we moped back to the house, we met our mother on 
her way to the mailbox. "You two look like two miners after 
they've dug for coal all day. Go to the house, get my bar of Fels 
Naptha soap off the washboard, go to the river, and scrub 
yourselves clean!" 

The Salt Fork flowed east, downstream from Homer, 
Illinois, to wind past our place. Along the way, tributaries, clear 
cold creeks, tumbled out of wooded areas to join hands with the 
river. At the bottom of our hill there was one such creek. Daily 
wear and tear from the force of it into the river formed a deep 
sandy hole, large enough to swim in during the summer season. 
In the middle of this hole rested an enormous boulder. We kids 
took turns crawling up its slippery green sides to dive back into 
the water. 

When we reached the bottom of the hill, but out of sight 
from the river, we heard laughter and screams and constant 
splashing. Who had found our favorite swimming hole? 

Archie dashed towards the river bank. I ran a close 
second behind him. There — taking turns diving from the big 
rock — were several members of the neighborhood club. 

Four years later, as Pop drove past the clearing on our 
way to yet another small farm, I glanced from the back seat of 
the car at the one wall of our cabin. Several poles had worked 
loose and hung at an angle. My brother shrugged. "Fun while 
it lasted," he said. 



We had built friendships and dreams and part of a cabin 
during those years at the Jenkins farm above the Salt Fork 
River. The December before we left. World War II started. The 
following spring. Pop had rented the Grimes place, on down- 
stream near a spot in the Salt Fork called Mouth of Jordan. I 
finished the eighth grade at the one-room Jordan school. As 
teenagers, my brother and I now faced new challenges in our 
ever-widening horizon of life. 



OUR COUNTRY LANE 

Helen E. Rilling 

Country lanes are quiet, pretty little ways to reach 
hidden places, and they often pass by the homes we hold dear 
in our memories. 

Our lane was a mile long and reached to the Sangamon 
County line on the east. Our house sat in the middle on the 
south side. There were three other houses up and down the 
lane, and we passed them as we traveled both ways most every 
day. The rural route mailbox was at the west end, and we 
walked to the east end on our way to and from a one-room school . 
Of course, if the weather was bad we rode in a closed buggy, in 
a box wagon, or on a sled. 

The lane was enclosed mostly by Osage orange hedges. 
Some were quite tall and thick, serving as fences for cow 
pastures. Other sections were kept cut about waist high. The 
hedges were a haven for wild birds. Nests were tucked into 
every available crotch. Also sprinkled generously along the 
hedges were gooseberry bushes. We loved to pick and eat the 
sour puckery berry, and were happy when we found one that 
was purple and ripe. 



36 



In the early spring all along the hedge bottoms, shel- 
tered from bad weather and cow's hooves, were wild strawber- 
ries. These were a treat after a long winter of salted meat and 
canned foods. We spent hours along the hedges munching 
berries, watching fledgling birds, and peering at passersby who 
took our lane as a shortcut to New Berlin or Alexander. The lane 
was black dirt. It was inches deep in dust in the dry months and 
ankle deep in mud when it rained. My father had a homemade 
drag he used to smooth out the ruts in the spring. It was made 
of heavy boards set on their sides and covered with wide planks. 
Braces were added to hold it rigid. A team of strong horses were 
hitched to it and dragged it up and down the lane. Often loose 
dirt was smoothed over a seepy place, and when the first Model 
T car went through, it sunk into the ooze and was stuck until a 
team of horses pulled it out. Father rode the drag to add more 
weight. Large rocks and cement building blocks were also tied 
on the top. This contraption stood on its side in a fence corner 
the rest of the year. It was, however, a necessary piece of 
equipment used in maintaining lanes where the landowners 
had to keep their own road fit to travel over. 

We had one large iron girder bridge over Spring Creek 
and two wooden bridges over smaller branches. The wooden 
ones had heavy planks run crosswise and two wide planks run 
across for heavy vehicles to cross on. In July, when the big 
steam engines for threshing grain moved from farm to farm, 
even heavier planks were laid down for the cleated wheels of the 
engine. It was an exciting time for youngsters. We'd hear the 
toot of the engine way down our lane. They always signaled 
when moving to another farm. The men would move the big 
planks into position and the huge engine would slowly crawl 
across the bridge. We kids were always on hand for all the 
bridge crossings and would yell and leap in the air when the 
crossing was complete and the engine and long red separator 
were safe on the other side. 



The bridges were wonderful places to play. We'd lay on 
our stomachs and drop rocks through the cracks and watch the 
water ripple into many rings. Sometimes a turtle would be 
sleeping under the bridge in the shade. We'd pepper him with 
rocks until he pulled his head and tail under his shell. The lane 
was only one track wide, and when neighbors met, each had to 
take to the ditch to pass. It was a favorite place for friends to rest 
their horses and visit a spell. 

At times there were ten children up and down the lane. 
We held horse races with our ponies and tame horses. We also 
played with a wire wheel rim and a "t" stick used to guide it. 
We'd race each other up and down the smooth tracks from one 
end of the lane to the other. The object was to run the whole lane 
without our hoop falling over. 

The banks at the side of the lane were covered with tall 
grass. Rabbits hid their nests there. On a walk down the lane, 
we often had a dozen long-legged bunnies jump out of their fur- 
lined nest and hop through holes in the hedge to hide on the 
other side until we were gone. Sometimes we could still see 
their fuzzy tails trembling in fear. 

We met many friendly snakes and mud turtles near the 
creeks. Large hawks, black crows, and colorful pheasants 
dusted themselves in the wheel tracks. Coveys of quail scurried 
across the lane to eat in the wheat and oat fields. 

From May on, the banks of our lane were beautiful with 
pink and white wild roses. Mullen stalks and elderberry bushes 
were scattered up and down. Orange black-eyed Susans bloomed 
late in the summer. 

Apple orchards were also available along the lane. In 
the late summer, we kids would climb a tree and eat the juicy 
plump fruit. 

In the years of my childhood, we were always moving up 
and down the lane, keeping in touch with each other and 
sharing in the good times. 



SUMMERTIME FUNHOOKED ON FISHING 

Ida P. Dunsing 

Remembering summertime fun recalls the year I was 
ten and spent the vacation months with my newly wed Aunt 
Anna and Uncle John Schmidt. Though they worked in 
Jerseyville before their marriage, both were born and raised on 
farms. They decided farming was the life they wanted, and 
rented land in the Nutwood bottoms, about two miles from the 
embryo village of the same name. There they set to housekeep- 
ing in an old log house in the midst of a pecan grove. The only 
other buildings on the place were a horse barn and a stable with 
a spacious hayloft. 

After school was closed for the summer. Aunt Anna and 
Uncle John came to Grafton by horse and wagon for supplies. I 
begged to go home with them. I was warned that it was a long, 
tiring trip and that possibly I would have to stay the entire 
summer, as they would be too busy to make the twenty-five mile 
journey just to bring me home. I'd never been so far from home, 
nor separated from my brothers and sisters, but I persisted, 
finally winning out. 

The first days passed quickly; there were many new 
things to explore. But I was truly alone so far as playmates 
went, and the lack of companionship developed into homesick- 
ness. Aunt Anna did her best to keep me occupied with small 
household tasks and to invent entertainment. On the day 
before Easter, she sent me to the wheat field to gather a bundle 
of the lush green stems. She simmered the green wheat in a 
kettle of water for fifteen minutes, then boiled eggs in the 
solution until they were "hard cooked." The eggs were a 
brilliant canary yellow when dipped out and cooled. She worked 
the same magic with skins of red onions and produced rosy pink 
eggs. She wrapped other eggs in brightly colored calico and 
cooked till "hard." These eggs came out with flowers printed all 



over. No purchased dyes ever produced such gorgeous Easter 
eggs. 

Aunt Anna constantly admonished me to "be a lady," but 
she did not object when Uncle John decided to teach me the 
manly sport of fishing. The Nutwood Drainage District Associa- 
tion had completed a great levee to protect hundreds of acres of 
prime farm land from recurring Illinois river floods. The levee 
ditch was a little more than a quarter mile from the house. A 
crop of willows already grew on the bank. 

Uncle John showed me how to select and cut a willow 
sprout strong enough to use as a rod. He further showed me how 
to tie a cord securely to the pole and fasten a hook to the loose 
end. He must have contemplated some fishing on his own 
because he had a supply of hooks on hand. He made a bobber 
from an ordinary bottle cork. He taught me how to dig fish 
worms and how to thread them onto the hook. Then came the 
moment when we lowered the bait into the water with great 
care, so as not to frighten the fish, and waited. Great numbers 
of fish had made their way upstream from the river into the 
ditch waters — and they were hungry. Hardly had we cast, when 
the cork began to bob. Away it went as far out into the stream 
as the line would allow; then it disappeared entirely. 

My heart thumped. My breath ceased. The birds 
stopped singing. The frogs stopped croaking. The whole earth 
stood still. A fish was on my line! I could feel the tug, tug, tug, 
as it tried to free itself from the hook. Slowly I began to hear a 
voice from far, far away: "Lift the pole, Ida. Lift it straight up 
in front of you and swing the fish in toward you." My frozen 
arms began to respond. With both hands gripping the willow 
pole, I lifted it from the water. In my haste to save my catch, I 
heaved with all my ten-year-old might. That huge glistening 
blue gill literally flew over my head and landed in a clump of 
grass and willow. I had caught my first fish. 

There was then the problem of preserving the catch until 
we were ready to go home. Without a live net or creel of any 



kind, Uncle John demonstrated the simple technique of cutting 
a forked willow branch, one fork longer than the other. He 
slipped the short fork through the gill and out the mouth of the 
fish; then he embedded the long fork firmly in the mud bank 
with the fish dangling in the water. Sunfish and blue gill were 
abundant. Going home time might find a dozen or more 
"keepers" on the stringer. 

One more step remained in my first lesson. "You catch 
it; you clean it." Uncle John showed me each step of this 
operation. From there on, Aunt Anna took over. She seasoned 
all the fish, dredged them in flour and corn meal, and sizzled 
them in her big frying pan. Nothing ever tasted so good as those 
golden brown fillets. 

Uncle John never knew — I wish I had remembered to 
tell him — that when that homemade bobber went under the 
first time, I, too, was hooked for life on the great sport of fishing 
that for me began as a simple amusement on a summer day. 

From the day of that first lesson, there was no more 
worry about how to entertain me. I'd just say — like the lady I 
was supposed to be — "Aunt Anna, if you don't need me, I think 
I'll go fishing." 



THE SNOW WAR 

Glenna Lamb 

It was not just a battle; it was a war that lasted several 
weeks. It was fought at a one-room school with the strange 
name of Zion's Neck, three miles west of Glasgow, in Scott 
County, Illinois. It was an all out, fun-filled, friendly war, 
fought fiercely, enthusiastically, and with every intention of 
winning. It took place in the winter of 1927-'28 or 1928-'29. 



It snowed a lot that year. One snow had hardly melted 
when another would fall, supplying us with plenty of ammuni- 
tion. Our teacher, Mr. John P. Ward, approved of the war, but 
decided that only the older children, from fifth grade up, could 
participate. 

The captains were chosen from my class, which was 
either the seventh or eighth grade. I have no recollection of how 
they were chosen, but in thinking back I recall that both had 
leadership skills. Neither do I remember how we were divided 
into the two armies, but I do recall that I was in the celebrated 
Casey's Army. 

We agreed on a few simple rules: first, the snowballs 
could not be soaked in water, which would have made them too 
hard; second, when a soldier got hit, he became a prisoner of the 
other side and had to go over and fight with them; and third, the 
team which succeeded in capturing all of its opponents would be 
the winner. 

Each side built a snow fort, the size, strength, and style 
of which depended on their ingenuity. We entered into this 
activity with great gusto. Our side rolled huge snowballs and 
stacked them together, making a wall about a foot thick which 
was high enough for us to stand up without our heads showing. 
About eight-feet long, it had two or three peepholes for spying 
on the enemy. We then made a large stockpile of snowballs, 
which we replenished from time to time as they were needed. 
Usually various individuals would take time out from fighting 
and make a few snowballs when he saw that our ammunition 
was in short supply. This was very dangerous, however, for the 
snow behind the fort soon became too packed down to use. It was 
necessary to leave the safety of the fort to go where the snow was 
soft. It required great skill to keep moving and dodging, while 
scooping up snow and pressing it into a ball. When one was 
made, it was carried to the stockpile in order to free our hands 
for making arwther. Sometimes, when both sides were low on 
ammunition, the captains would call a truce for a few minutes, 



while each side made a fresh supply. However, if one side 
managed to have a good supply when the other side was low, 
they were in a very strategic position. They could refuse to call 
truce, and often capture several of the enemy as they were 
replenishing their stockpile. 

Whenever I was taken prisoner, I found it impossible to 
switch loyalties and fight enthusiastically for the other side. So, 
as soon as possible, I would let myself be recaptured by my own 
army. I suspect others did the same, for there was much 
switching back and forth. 

Our strategy was to spot one of the opposing team out of 
his fort, sock him with a snowball, yell, "Got-ch-ya," then dart 
back into our own stronghold before getting hit. 

The war lasted as long as the snow held out, which may 
have been anywhere from two to six weeks. Neither side ever 
captured all of the enemy, so there was no winner. But we spent 
both recesses and at least half of every noon hour each day 
having great fun. We had vigorous exercise and lots of fresh air. 
We learned teamwork, cooperation, loyalty, and enthusiasm. 
When it was time to go inside, we could do our schoolwork much 
more efficiently. I think I could say that both sides won. 
Wouldn't you agree? 




Ill Starting Gut in the thirties 



STARTING OUT IN THE THIRTIES 

America had experienced depressions before — notably 
in the 1830s, the 1870s, and the 1890s— but the Great Depres- 
sion of the 1930s was truly a national calamity. After the stock 
market crashed in October 1929, prices fell, unemployment 
soared, thousands of banks closed, and countless businesses 
declined or went bankrupt. 

There were over eight million unemployed workers in 
1931, and that figure continued to rise until one quarter of the 
workforce was without a job. By 1932, when Roosevelt was 
elected, masses of desperate people were imploring the federal 
government for help, and the homeless and hungry were appar- 
ent in every American city. Rural areas were hit hard, too, as 
the national agricultural income dropped that year to one half 
of what it had been in 1929, and mortgage foreclosures reached 
an all-time high. 

The Depression was an especially hard time to begin 
married life, for young adults had little or no financial reserves 
to fall back on, and their anxiety about the future made it hard 
for them to start a family or make long-term plans. But 
countless young couples persevered anyway, and the memoirs 
in this section record some of their struggles. 

Marie Freesmeyer's "A Meager Beginning" tells the 
ironic story of a young couple for whom 1929 was "a romantic 
year" that seemed like "an ideal time for marriage," but they 
were soon immersed in the hard times that eventually drove 
them off the farm. Rosemary Strow's memoir is a similar 
account, although it starts in the midst of the Depression. She 
chronicles the hard work and stress of that period, but like so 
many couples that lived in the 1930s, she and her husband 
almost sixty years later wouldn't trade their experience to- 
gether in that memorable decade. It was, after all, a special 
time in their lives. The same point is made by Helen E. Rilling 
in her account of "'Farm Wifery' in the Thirties and Forties." 



Faced with a small income, many people had to strike 
out in new directions in order to prosper during the Depression. 
Elsa E. Schmidt recounts in some detail the launching of a 
poultry business that helped her and her husband make it on 
the farm. 

Two of the memoirs focus on nonfarm businesses. Louise 
Parker Simms recalls with some pride the effort she and her 
husband made to start an ice cream store in Abingdon, and 
Catherine Gerrib depicts the opening and operation of a small 
movie theatre in Georgetown. Both businesses did well and 
survived the Depression. 

The memoir by Robert C. Richards is replete with details 
about living expenses as he recalls "Courtship and Marriage in 
the Early Thirties." A worker in a boiler factory in Kewanee, he 
knew what it was like to lose his job because of the hard times 
and to have to relocate in order to find employment. He finally 
combined factory work with the operation of a small farm at 
Neponset, and that allowed the family to get along. 

Perhaps the most severe struggle depicted in these 
memoirs is the closing item, "Married Life at the End of the 
Depression," by Myrtle Pierson. She and her husband Lyle 
faced poverty, illness, unemployment, and much else — includ- 
ing rat-infested living quarters — in a truly heroic effort to get 
established and start a family. Ending as it does with the 
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the memoir shows too that 
another crisis — America's coming involvement in World War 
II — played a big role in bringing the hard times to an end. 

All of these accounts remind us of how deeply the 
Depression marked the generation of people who were young 
adults then. For the rest of their lives they had confidence in 
their ability to cope. They were survivors of what one historian 
has called "the desperate years." 

John E. Hallwas 



EARLY MARRIED LIFE IN THE GREAT DEPRESSION 

Rosemary Straw 

It was August 25th, 1934, a warm, clear, and sunshiny 
day. I was excited as any seventeen-year-old could possibly be, 
for on this day I was to become the wife of Claude Strow, a 
neighbor boy whom I had met the year before. My father went 
with us to the courthouse to get our marriage license and we 
barely made it before the courthouse closed, with only ten 
minutes to spare. For our wedding, our guest list was small: my 
father, Claude's nephew and his wife, and the boy who drove us 
to town in his car. We didn't have a church wedding, but instead 
were married in a parsonage. 

My mother and a neighbor lady cooked a wonderful 
chicken dinner with all of the trimmings for us. We also had a 
wedding cake which had been baked at home for our small 
wedding party. It was a plain cake without any decorations to 
celebrate our day. After dinner, we went to Claude's parents to 
stay until we could find employment and a house. We stayed 
there until fall when com husking began and Claude went to 
Metcalf, Illinois, to husk com for a fellow he had worked for 
before. I went back to Hume, Illinois, to work in the cafe where 
I had worked before. In December, we returned to Claude's 
parents and again started looking for steady employment. In 
those days, jobs couldn't even be bought. Finally, after some 
time, Claude found employment with a farmer on a grain and 
livestock farm. 

We were eventually able to move into a three-room home 
with no electricity or plumbing, but we were proud to finally 
have a home to call our own. We had a few pieces of furniture, 
which consisted of a three-piece bedroom suite, a leather daven- 
port, two small end tables, a cabinet, a three-foot-square drop 
leaf table, and four chairs. We cooked on a coal cook stove and 
heated our home with a small pot belly stove. We worked three 
weeks to pay our $15 a month payment for our furniture, and 



the fourth bought groceries, as well as the money order and 
stamp to mail our payment. Our first furniture payment was 
lost in the mail; thank goodness the mail carrier had told me to 
keep the receipt. 

Our first Christmas was celebrated at home vdth my 
mother's sister and her family. My aunt brought me a pink 
depression glass dish, which I gave to our youngest daughter 
when it was fifty years old. I hope she always remembers what 
it meant to me to receive that gift in the midst of hard times. 

It was three years into our marriage before we had our 
first car, so grocery needs were met by canning vegetables from 
our garden and from a man who had turned an old school bus 
into a grocery store. Occasionally we bought leghorn roosters 
from Claude's employer, two for 25c. We paid our bills when 
they came due, and if we had any money left, I would buy a Clark 
candy bar. They were delicious. 

Laundry was a big task. I washed clothes twice a week 
on a washboard and in a tub of hot water which had been heated 
in a large black butchering kettle. Ironing was done with the 
flat irons heated on the kitchen stove. Since we didn't have an 
ironing board, I laid a sheet on my kitchen table and ironed. 
Usually washing and ironing was done the same day. 

Each morning we trimmed the wicks and cleaned the 
globes on the lamps before we filled them with kerosene for the 
day. Kerosene was 10c a gallon, so it was an important 
expenditure, and again, we purchased it from Claude's 
employer. 

Our first car was an old Chevy which a car dealer 
brought to us. He said we could pay for it when we could. Well, 
fifty dollars wasn't much, but we didn't have it at the time. And 
we had to have the car. Much later, we were finally able to pay 
for it. 

I remember one evening I was out of lard to fry eggs for 
breakfast and Claude wouldn't go to his employer to borrow a 
cup of lard until the grocery man came the next morning. My 



46 



husband was a proud man and would not accept handouts. I 
was pregnant and didn't know enough to poach eggs, so I just sat 
down and cried. After I had cried for awhile, a car pulled up in 
front of our house. It was the couple Claude had husked corn for, 
with a three-gallon jar of lard. They brought it, thinking we 
might have chickens to fry, not knowing I needed to fry eggs 
first. I believe we must have had a guardian angel. 

On Decoration Day in May 1935, 1 was taken to my bed 
for two weeks with kidney poison. Even though we still had no 
money, the doctor continued to come to the house to see me two 
times a day for awhile, as doctors did in those days. 

August 16, 1935, was a happy day for us. I delivered a 
little baby girl and named her Joyce Ann. Claude's employer's 
wife, Nora, was with me at the time of the birth. She was a sweet 
lady with a lot of good advice. On August 30, 1937, we had our 
second child, a son, and named him Claude Robert. 

Our clothing needs, which were few, came from a 
Chicago mail order catalog. Claude's shoes were $1.99 and his 
overalls were $1.49. I purchased yard material and sewed for 
my little girl and myself on an old treadle Singer sewing 
machine that was given to me by my grandmothers. 

We worked for the same couple until they retired and 
their son, who had been employed at the University of Illinois, 
came to take care of the farm. At that time, we moved into 
Indiana just across the state line for two years, and then we 
moved back to Edgar County in Illinois. We have been here ever 
since, farming for ourselves. 

We have lived a good life and raised three girls and two 
boys. We now have fourteen grandchildren and seven great 
grandchildren. 

At this time, I am 75 and Claude is 82. We have been 
married 58 years, and we wouldn't trade any part of the life we 
have shared together — even the hard years during the 
Depression. 



A MEAGER BEGINNING 

Marie Freesmeyer 

At a later date folk might say that 1929 was a bad year 
for a couple to set sail on the sea of matrimony because they 
remember it as the year the stock market crashed and the 
beginning of those Depression years. But for a couple in their 
twenties, who had been "keeping company" for four years, it was 
a romantic year and an ideal time for marriage. 

Frank had rented his parents' farm that spring and I had 
completed my fourth term teaching in a rural school. We chose 
July as the most convenient month for our wedding; therefore, 
we were married and busy getting settled into our new way of 
life when we heard the news of the stock market crash in New 
York. For us, that catastrophe was as far removed as Timbuktu 
and of no more concern. In fact, the wave of economic difficulties 
triggered by that event did not reach Calhoun County until two 
years later. 

The farm on which we lived had a small orchard, a few 
small fields for raising corn and hay, and large areas of rough 
land used for pastures. Frank also worked for neighboring 
farmers who had larger orchards. I continued to teach a country 
school near our home for two terms after our marriage. When 
I refused to sign a contract for another term, I was thinking only 
of my plans for a family and not what the future might have in 
store for us. 

We knew from reading the St. Louis paper that the 
economy was precarious. We also knew that the price we 
received for anything we sold was declining. But we were young 
and healthy and we had a small "nest-egg" in the bank, so we 
could see no cause for worry. 

Since I no longer had the education of forty or more 
pupils on my mind, I became just a frugal farmer's wife — 
pregnant and proud. My husband prepared a large plot for a 
garden and a larger one for a truck patch so that we might have 



our own fresh vegetables from early spring until late fall. Too, 
with suitable growing conditions, there would be plenty for 
canning and storing for the winter months. I was able to gather 
and can almost every type of fruit — either tame or wild — to such 
an extent that buying mason jars became one of our chief 
investments. 

My parents gave me a Singer sewing machine which I 
put in a west window, making it hum nearly every afternoon. I 
still can see the two calico maternity dresses which I made and 
wore on alternate weeks. Thank goodness they had reversible, 
vn-ap-around front panels. From yards and yards of flannelette 
and batiste I made all the baby garments and embroidered them 
at night while we listened to our battery radio. (I remember 
Kate Smith's deep clear voice as she sang "When the Moon 
Comes Over the Mountain."') Hemming all those diapers made 
from bird-eye material was no small job. I can't say, as many of 
my peers can, that I nearly broke my back over the washboard. 
My parents, who lived only three miles from us, had electricity, 
so they insisted that I bring the laundry there and use their 
electric washing machine. 

My husband worked long hours pruning and spraying 
the orchard; planting, tilling, and shucking corn; cutting and 
putting up hay; and sawing, chopping, and splitting wood for 
fuel. His share of the income from the apple crop was not 
sufficient to cover the cost of spray materials and harvesting. 
The money for purchasing seed, chemicals for spraying, and 
other farming expenses had to be taken from our dwindling 
bank account. However, it was just as well that we did use our 
savings because the Hamburg Bank closed its doors in 1931, 
wiping out everyone's savings. After that it was nip and tuck, 
make do or do without. 

In the fall, Frank worked for farmers with large or- 
chards, sometimes as a picker, but more often he took truck- 
loads of the fruit to St. Louis or Chicago. In these cities, he 
parked the truck along with many others in a space called "The 



Farmers' Market" or as they called it, "The Bull Pen." Parked 
there for two or more days, he sold the apples bushel by bushel 
for whatever he could get for them. 

We always managed to find enough to eat, but it was 
common food which was obtained by our own efforts. We had 
our own meat, milk, and eggs, supplemented by the home- 
grown vegetables and fruit. The surplus of these commodities 
was traded for staples such as sugar, coffee, flour, and spices. 

In 1932, the doctor charged the hard-to-come-by sum of 
$25 for prior consultation and driving twenty miles to deliver 
our baby daughter. He probably had to wait for his money until 
we sold a calf or hog. 

I remember the attractive bassinet we made in prepara- 
tion for our baby. My husband made a frame from scraps of 
wood he found in the shed. He put casters on the legs and 
attached our rectangular clothes basket securely to the top. I 
lined the basket with flannelette and made a skirt of printed 
batiste with ruffles extended to the floor. With a fluffy pillow 
made from Mother's endless supply of chicken feathers, we had 
a comfortable and convenient bed for our baby. 

Cod-liver oil and a few yards of material were about the 
only extra expense we had for that baby or our other one. They 
were given tomato juice instead of orange juice and their baby 
food was made by pressing vegetables and fruit through a 
sieve — no canned baby food and disposable diapers in those 
days. 

Something that hurt us, as well as all those living in 
rural areas of Illinois and surrounding states, as bad or worse 
than the Depression was the terrible drought that occurred 
each summer during the early Thirties. Each year the hot days 
prevailed from the first of June, with the wind and clouds 
bringing nothing but dust. By the first of August, the cornstalks 
drooped, and they were bare of anything that might become ears 
of corn; the garden which had produced a few early vegetables 
was now only rows of parched plants rattling in the wind. Dust 



from as far away as Kansas and Oklahoma settled on the 
window sills and furniture. The heat was intense. We didn't 
lack for water, but many folk did. 

The hot summers and severe droughts of the Thirties 
made everything we worked for come to naught. The com 
produced only nubbins; the apples were of inferior quality; the 
potatoes were scarce and small; only a few vegetables matured; 
even the pastures became so dry that our supply of milk 
dwindled. One such year wouldn't have been so bad, but, for a 
time, each summer seemed to be hotter and drier than the 
preceding one. 

Meager times during the Thirties were endured chiefly 
through optimism: each year we thought the next one would be 
better. But the Depression went on and on. There was little 
demand for farm produce, especially apples, which we sold at 
almost give-away prices. It became imperative that we find 
additional income to live on, so in 1935 we hired a girl for five 
dollars a week to do the housework and take care of our two 
small children and I resumed my career as a teacher. Thus, we 
lived for the next four years. 

By 1938, my husband, like many other farmers who 
rented, gave up the idea that one could make a living that way 
at that time. I found a school in Jersey County to teach at for 
the coming term, and Frank obtained work at one of the 
elevators in Jerseyville. 

Thus, Frank and I did not realize our early hopes. It was 
a meager beginning for us. But we survived the hard times and 
kept on going. 



"FARM WIFERY" IN THE THIRTIES AND FORTIES 

Helen E. Rilling 

In the late Twenties, the farm depression had sent our 
family to St. Louis in search of work. After a few years we 
returned to farm again. I attended high school at Waverly, and 
by the time of graduation in 1932 I knew life would be best as 
the wife of a farmer. 

My husband and I started out in eastern Morgan County 
with a few pieces of furniture given to us by family and friends. 
My husband was a hired hand. His salary was $2 1 a month from 
March 1st until the corn was shucked and in the crib. The man 
we worked for gave us a cow to milk, provided one fat hog to 
butcher, and fed some chickens for us. We had to grow a garden 
and preserve food for the months with no paychecks. 

One winter, when times were growing even worse, we 
burned corn cobs, corn damaged by the drought, and shale given 
away at the coal mines for heat and cooking. Our car, a 1928 
Ford, was put up on concrete blocks all winter. Trips to the 
nearest town, Alexander, were by horse and wagon, and those 
were taken only once a month. For entertainment, we walked 
across the fields to a neighbor's house to play cards. 

The year the banks closed was difficult for everyone. 
Our boss had a few head of calves he sold to another farmer who 
had some cash at home. He divided the money vnth us. Country 
people were generous and helped each other. 

The next year was better and we bought a small kero- 
sene burning cookstove. It kept the house cool in summer, but 
in winter a coal-burning cookstove and heaters were a must in 
houses with no storm windows or doors. Bedrooms had no heat. 
Double blankets and quilts were piled high to keep warm at 
night. 

A few years later, in 1937, we were lucky to find a farm 
to rent. A brother-in-law, who was a machinery dealer, loaned 
us the horses to use that were traded in on Allis Chalmers 



49 



tractors and other machinery. These were not the best horses, 
and we had many runaways and balky mules to contend with. 

There we were — owners of a few pieces of furniture, a 
car, and one cow given to us by my father. But, what an 
adventure that was, to gradually build up our livestock, ma- 
chinery, cattle, and household items. We soon had hogs, cattle, 
sheep, and even a few goats. There was a brooder house filled 
with fluffy yellow chicks, and we had a few guinea hens to keep 
varmints and crows away with their incessant cackling. 

After the dark days of World War II descended upon 
America, we were blessed with the arrival of two babies. My 
husband wasn't called for military duty, but he faced long days 
of hard labor in the fields. Farm help was hard to come by, so 
I was designated the number-one helper. That meant milking 
when field work lasted into the dark night. I soon learned how 
to feed chickens, gather eggs, feed the livestock, and pump 
water while babies napped. 

One spring during the birth of multiple pig litters, we 
took shifts allowing the large number of baby pigs to take turns 
at nursing. Many a night in the shadowy barn by a flickering 
lantern hung high on the wall I fell asleep, leaning against the 
warm body of a mother sow. I became a pro at cleaning pig pens, 
bam stalls, and hen houses. I mastered driving tractors and 
could run all the machinery except the combine and com picker. 
All in all I earned a master's degree in "Farm Wifery." 

One fall day my husband and I were riding across the 
pasture back to the barn on a frame wagon filled with green com 
we had cut to feed the cows. Suddenly, the wagon wheel hit a 
ditch and flipped the entire wagon load over on top of me. I can 
still see the horrified look on my husband's face when he dug 
through the stalks and found me quite alive. 

Life on a farm in the Thirties and Forties was indeed 
hard work. One spring we sheared our own sheep with a hand- 
cranked machine. I turned the crank and my husband sheared. 
Those poor animals had more than a few bad nicks in their skin, 



but we felt proud of a hard job well done. Afterward we collapsed 
under a shade tree, resting to the bleating of the lambs trying 
to recognize their newly sheared mother ewes. 

We survived the use of coupons during the war by 
trading shoe coupons to my sister in St. Louis for sugar coupons, 
which we needed to use in canning and preserving. Our food 
was plentiful. A large garden; cows to produce milk, butter, 
cream, and cottage cheese; fruit trees filled with cherries, 
apricots, and apples; and a big strawberry patch kept the 
cupboards and cellar filled. I made homemade soap from 
surplus grease and lye to wash the many dirty overalls and blue 
chambray shirts. 

Gradually, we acquired our own tractor, combine, and 
other machinery. We furnished our home with new pieces a few 
at a time. After the war ended and electric lines reached our 
farm, we had a modem refrigerator and television. Yellow 
school busses began to crawl along our country roads and the 
one-room schools closed their doors. Our lives improved. 

Yet our memories of those earlier years are not filled 
only with the hard struggles of the Depression and the war, but 
with the tranquil days on the farm as well. There was time for 
friends and leisure back then, and for love and merriment too. 



STRUGGLING TO MAKE IT WITH POULTRY 

Elsa E. Schmidt 

My husband and I were married in October 1933 at 
Lenzburg, Illinois. I had been clerking in my father's general 
merchandise store since high school graduation in 1926. My 
only brother graduated from high school in 1930 and went on to 
college, graduating in three years. It was tough going for Dad 
and me to keep him there during those three years. 



50 



My brother didn't teach the first year after college 
graduation, as he was only twenty, so he clerked for my dad. 
The next year he was principal of Lenzburg grade school. Later 
he became the high school principal at Lenzburg. 

Now it was my time. I had been going with Walt, a 
farmer's only child, for five years. He farmed in a small way, 
using horses for power, keeping four or five cows to milk, and 
raising hogs and chickens. He was a high school graduate and 
had hoped to go on to college, but his father died and there was 
no money for school, so he stayed on the farm and farmed. In 
1933, his mother went to work as a housekeeper. This left Walt 
alone, and we decided to marry despite bank failures and the 
Depression. 

Walt's great grandfather had built the family house in 
about 1850. He, his mother, and his dad moved in when he was 
three years old, after his grandfather died. Walter's father had 
worked in the mines and farmed until he had become too ill with 
TB. Walt and his mother had just recently had three rooms torn 
off the west side of the house, which covered a twelve foot-deep 
beer cellar. It had to be filled in. The newer part of the house 
had been home and store, with two rooms down and two rooms 
up, and a staircase between. Walt and I remodeled the kitchen 
and one bedroom. 

My husband had no car, but he had a bicycle. My dad had 
given us a second-hand Ford Coupe when we married, so we 
didn't have to walk or use a buggy and horse to get to town. The 
roads were bad, and often I had to walk three miles to get to 
Sunday School. I also continued to teach and I delivered 
whipping cream to customers in Lenzburg. 

I had helped dig and store potatoes. We had hens that 
were laying, and some had stolen nests and hatched out about 
fifty chicks. These became part of our diet, and Walt also shot 
some rabbits. We had small pigs, but not enough feed and corn, 
so we butchered them when they were about 100 pounds and 



sold sausage and hams to customers. Mother and I canned 
vegetables during the summer. 

I had bought a gasoline engine wringer washer before we 
married. Dad sold them and he needed one to demonstrate at 
picnics. I also bought a gasoline iron, a bedroom suite, a couch, 
and kitchen supplies. I had an insurance policy, which had a 
cash value of $727, so I turned it in, after giving a good excuse 
for doing so (getting married and the banks being closed). We 
made that money go far. 

I learned to milk cows. We had a separator, so we had 
cream to sell. I also made butter with a small hand churn. 

In the spring, we had a large garden, which I spaded and 
took care of Walt continued to farm until the second year, when 
he sold the horses and bought a garden tractor and tried to farm 
20 acres with that for awhile. He was clerking for my dad by 
that time ( for $ 10 a week ), but didn't like that and finally bought 
a larger tractor and tools and farmed full-time with more 
ground. 

I washed in the summer kitchen, which we moved closer 
to the well and cistern. Water was pumped by hand and packed 
by bucket to the boiler to heat on a coal range. For washing, I 
used homemade soap, which my husband and I made, cooking 
it in a large kettle outdoors. In those days, I soaked all the wash 
the night before, rubbing the dirty spots, and the next day I 
washed in a washer with hot water. Boiling all the white clothes 
in a boiler on the range, I took them out of the boiler with a wash 
stick, wringing them after washing in the machine, then put- 
ting them in rinsing water, then in bluing water. I had a wash 
bench that held three tubs. Finally, I hung them outdoors to 
dry. 

We went into the poultry business by getting 300 baby 
chicks every three months. We built a new brooder house with 
a fuel oil brooder. Also, we got a range shelter with a wire floor 
through which the manure fell, and the shelter was moved after 
each batch of chickens. It had wire sides with large lift up doors 



to put down for protection. Besides their food and water, we fed 
skim milk to them from the separator. We killed and dressed 
the fryers as they reached three pounds and delivered them to 
customers in adjoining towns. I also sold to several restaurants. 
I used our Ford Coupe to deliver the fryers three days a week, 
about 50 a week. We also sold eggs. 

Walt and I caught ones to be dressed the evening before, 
and we put them in a coop on the wheelbarrow. I heated the 
water in kettles on the coal oil range. When it was hot, I put it 
in a galvanized bucket, added a little cold water, and carried it 
outdoors to where I was to work. I immersed the chicken, which 
I had previously killed by cutting off its head with a large knife 
by putting its head between two nails on a stump. I also scalded 
the legs. I used a piece of binder twine to tie the legs together, 
then hung the chicken on a nail on a piece of wood nailed to a 
large tree. I did three or four at a time. With a big box under 
them, I pulled of the feathers. Later we used chore girl to take 
off the pin feathers. In the winter, we did this in the garage. 

The drawing of the chickens was done in the kitchen. I 
only made one insertion, pulling all entrails through to rear. 
Then I cleaned the gizzard and washed the chicken, hanging it 
to dry and cutting off the feet. Some customers wanted the feet; 
some didn't. With so many, I made chicken soup from the feet. 
The chickens were wrapped for delivery. Of course I had to 
clean up myself and my kitchen before I could deliver the 
chickens. We got 50? a pound or more for the chickens. We also 
had to report sales and sales tax. 

I canned everything I could, cold packed, and used a 
pressure cooker. I also fried down meat, did my own sewing, cut 
the grass, and carried out ashes from the stoves. We also had 
a coal heater in the living room. 

Our toilet was behind the washhouse, where we built a 
new combination toilet, wood shed, and coal shed. I was used to 
a house that was centrally heated, with a bathroom and full 
basement, plus water indoors and electricity. But love came 



first. We did have a battery radio, gasoline lights, a lantern, and 
telephone. 

We struggled hard in those years, but we made it. 



GETTING STARTED IN ICE CREAM 

Louise Parker Simnis 

James O. Simms and I were married on October 4, 1930. 
Our engagement had been long because we wanted to have 
some money saved before we married. Luckily, both of us had 
jobs. "Shorty" (as he was called by his coworkers and friends) 
worked at Bond Dairy, and I worked in the office of American 
Sanitary Manufacturing company — better known locally, in 
Abingdon, as "The Brass Factory." 

Each of us had a savings account which we planned to 
use when we got married. However, things don't always work 
out as planned. 

During the period of our engagement, we saw the only 
bank in town close, and our money ( even our checking accounts ) 
were unavailable to us. After some time, the bank was reorga- 
nized and reopened, but we had to sign a waiver giving up 
twenty-five percent of the amount we had in the bank when it 
closed. 

We later decided it would be safer to buy something we 
could use when we set up housekeeping rather than risk losing 
cash in a bank account again. So I bought a set of "good" dishes 
and Shorty bought a bedroom suite, which he put in my bedroom 
in my parents' home, where I lived. 

Bond Dairy, like many other businesses, experienced 
hard times and could not produce enough cash to pay their 
employees. Shorty kept on working for a while but was finally 
forced to return to his parents' farm in southeastern Illinois. 



George Bond gave him a note for the $364 in wages owed to him. 
Bond planned to pay the note when he received the money from 
the sale of his business, which he hoped would be in the near 
future. This he eventually did, and at the same time he called 
Shorty back so he would have a job with the new owner — which 
turned out to be College City Dairy in Galesburg. 

All processing operations were moved to the Galesburg 
plant. The Abingdon dairy became a buying station for milk and 
cream and a retail outlet for College City's finished products. 
Shorty's job included the necessary trucking between Abingdon 
and Galesburg. And he had a regular paycheck coming in — 
which was great! 

We were married with the help of Paul and Miriam 
Snyder — friends who had a car (which we didn't have). They 
took us to the parsonage of the Christian Church in Galesburg 
where Reverand S. H. Zendt made us husband and wife. 
Church weddings were the exception rather than the rule in 
those days because few people had the money to spend on a big 
wedding. 

We lived with my parents at 401 East Martin Street and 
paid rent for our bedroom and half of the grocery bill. 

After a few months we could see that Shorty's job was not 
very secure since this arrangement did not seem to be very 
profitable for the owners. We decided to strike out on our own 
by opening an ice cream store. We rented a small building 
(formerly a grocery store) just east of the Methodist Church on 
West Latimer Street. 

We were able to pay cash for the ice cream freezer and 
cabinets (both of which used salt and ice for the refrigerant) and 
also got four unpainted tables with chairs from Sears-Roebuck. 
Then we painted the furniture, hung curtains at the windows — 
and we had us an ice cream parlor! 

We opened on May 2, 1931, and did a good business that 
summer, featuring two-dip cones of homemade ice cream for a 
nickel. I kept my office job and worked at our store in the 
evenings and on weekends. 



We realized the ice cream business alone would not 
sustain us through the winter, so when we learned that Bond 
Dairy was going to close, we rented the building and signed a 
contract to buy the fixtures and equipment. 

We operated both places the remainder of the summer, 
and when fall arrived , we closed the little store and moved to the 
building on Martin Street. 

The east room in the front of the building was our retail 
room. The west room we made into a "living" room for us (in one 
comer), with the addition of a pot-bellied stove, a linoleum rug, 
a wicker davenport, and a rocker from Sears-Roebuck. We also 
bought a used library table. 

An open window about two feet square was made in the 
wall connecting the two front rooms, providing a visual connec- 
tion with the retail room when we were in our living room 
between customers on cold winter nights. We built a kitchen 
about the size of a walk-in closet and equipped it with a three 
burner kerosene stove and removable oven, and a refrigerator. 

We bought a used Chevrolet Coupe (with a rimible seat) 
and started a milk route with about a half dozen customers, 
whom we charged 6(2 a quart for unpasteurized milk. But things 
didn't go very well. The problem was that we sold on credit, 
expecting each customer to pay at the end of every month. But 
many people were without jobs during these years of the Great 
Depression, so we were forced to carry their accounts more than 
a month, and we did not have the capital to do this. The number 
of our customers grew but our profits did not. 

I kept working, and often my paycheck went into our 
store account to keep the place going. 

By the time fall arrived, we had bought a small panel 
truck because we were wholesaling milk to local grocery stores, 
ice cream parlors, and restaurants. (At least this wholesale 
business was cash.) We also were hauling pasteurized milk 
from Meadow Gold Dairy in Galesburg. Some of our retail route 
customers were now on "relier (what we now know as public 



aid), and the government niled that these customers had to 
have only pasteurized milk. 

By the summer of 1934 we had decided that Illinois 
Route 41, which was two blocks west of Main Street, would be 
a good location because it was getting the most traffic through 
town, as well as a lot of local traffic. We took the plunge and 
bought a house on the comer of Jackson and Monroe ( Route 41 ) 
Streets. We paid one hundred dollars down and monthly 
payments of fifty dollars. We bought it from my boss, H. C. 
Bulkeley, and he knew very well we could not afford to pay 
more! 

There were three men on our milk route who were 
carpenters and brick masons. Through no fault of their own 
they had been unable to pay their milk bills for some time 
because of lack of work. They were Ernest Roberson, Ray 
Heikes, and Harry Hooker. We hired them to build a small store 
onto the northwest corner of our house, facing the highway on 
the west. Our house faced Jackson Street on the south so it did 
not spoil the looks of our house. The store portion was built of 
used brick to match our brick house. 

At the end of every week we paid each man $10 in cash. 
The balance of what we owed them was applied against their 
milk bill. $10 bought much more in 1934 than it does today, and 
the men gladly agreed to this arrangement. 

During the winter of 1934-1935, we continued only our 
retail and wholesale milk routes while the interior of our ice 
cream and dairy store was being finished. 

In the spring of 1935, we opened Simms Homemade Ice 
Cream Store at our new location. We operated it only through 
the summer until we added two kinds of sandwiches, coffee, 
donuts, and homemade pie to our menu, as the result of having 
so many requests for lunch items. We did well at that location. 

The first time we were able to buy a car (besides the 
truck we used for business) was in 1937, when we purchased a 
new two-door Pontiac for $833 in cash. We were certainly proud 



of that car — and proud of doing well enough to be able to afford 
it. We had launched a successful business in the middle of the 
Great Depression. 



OUR THEATRE BUSINESS IN THE THIRTIES 

Catherine Gerrib 

Those of us who lived during the Depression and were 
able to graduate from high school were very fortunate. My 
family lived in Westville, a small town in east central Illinois 
near the Indiana border. My sister and I walked about three 
miles both morning and evening to Westville High School. 
There were no school buses; everyone walked. 

I graduated in 1931 and was lucky to have a friend who 
drove to Danville to work in a cafeteria and was able to help my 
sister and me get a job in the cafeteria too. We worked for our 
meals and little pay. We also worked serving various business 
clubs for special dinners held there. All of us who served them 
were able to split the tips. We looked forward to that because 
we were able to make a little extra money; of course, there were 
a lot of dishes to wash afterward! Our parents stressed one 
thing about working. Take any job that you can get — as long as 
it is honest and honorable. We passed that on to our children. 

While in high school I started dating a wonderful young 
man who became my husband in 1934. His father had a movie 
theatre in Westville. In fact, my husband had been born in the 
back of the theatre where they had living quarters. All of his 
growing up years were spent working, playing, and living in the 
theatre. As he grew older he was taught to run the machines 
longbefore sound was on the film. In 1932, his father bought an 
old building in Georgetown, a town about six miles south of 
Westville, tore down the building, and built the Georgetown 



Theatre. It opened in November of 1933. His folks offered me 
a job in the ticket office and, of course, I accepted. 

In May 1934 we were married. We both had been saving 
what httle bit we could for our furniture. When the folks in 
Georgetown found out we were married, a lot of young people 
came to the show and kept yelling, "Free show!" My father-in- 
law said, "Let them in." We had 468 seats in the theatre, and 
we let over 900 people in free that night. I never knew how the 
word spread so fast. 

We rented a nice house in Georgetown for $12 a month. 
It was a cozy home with five rooms and a fireplace. We had a coal 
stove in the dining room for heat. My kitchen stove was a 
kerosene range. I had a nice ice box, an electric washing 
machine, and a handy kitchen. We started with living room 
furniture, then bedroom furniture, and finally the kitchen. Our 
salary at the show was $25 a week for the two of us. With careful 
planning, we could handle it. I also allowed $3 per week for 
groceries, and we ate well. 

When first opening the theatre, we charged 20e for 
adults and 10c for children. When children became twelve 
years old, we charged full fare for them. You would never 
believe how many twelve year old kids there were in Georgetown. 
It did not take too long to learn who had a birthday. We also let 
all the aldermen and their families in free; it helped to do extra 
little favors now and then. 

The movies were rented from a place in Chicago. They 
were brought down by truck three times a week. Our show 
schedule was Sunday-Monday, Tuesday- Wednesday -Thursday , 
and Friday-Saturday. At times there would be a checker sent 
in. He would check the first and last ticket each evening. 
Besides paying to rent the film, we would also pay a percent of 
the income on particular films — such as Gone With the Wind, for 
instance. All other times we hired a boy to take tickets and tear 
them up and deposit them in a ticket chopper. He worked for $3 
a week — and that was big money then for a boy in school. 



We worked every night from 6:00 p.m. until 11:30 or 
later, depending upon how long the show lasted and when the 
last person came in. We started on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. and 
worked late. We did not have a vacation at any time. The one 
big thing we did get to do was attend the World's Fair in Chicago 
in 1934 or 1935. In about 1937, we built an apartment on the 
second floor of the theatre, so it became our home. 

We used to have very good business at the theatre. Our 
weekends were the best. At that time farmers used to come in 
town on Saturday evening to shop. We would have a line of 
people waiting to get in for the second show. It was not unusual 
to have about one full house and a half again. During the week, 
the drawing cards were the serials and Westerns. 

To have a show open on Sunday was unheard of until we 
opened up. It was not accepted well at first. There were a few 
people who would cross the street to keep from walking in front 
of the show. It was called, by a few, the "Devil's playhouse." But 
we continued to be friendly to people, and we made many 
friends. At Christmas time we always had a free show for the 
children, plus apples and some candy. That continued until our 
insurance company said that unless we charged a fee the 
children would not be covered in case of fire, so we had to stop 
that. We tried many things as time went by. We bought a 
popcorn machine and had a candy case in the lobby. Candy bars 
were 5c and popcorn was lOc and 15(2 per box. We could get kids 
to work for about $3 a week. 

The work in a theatre did not stop at just showdng the 
movie. The place had to be swept out every night after the 
people left. The restrooms had to be cleaned, and about every 
two months the theatre was scrubbed out from back to front. 
The show was heated by a coal furnace which took a lot of work. 
There was no air conditioning then, and the show was cooled by 
a large attic fan which had to be turned on in the early afternoon 
in order to make it halfway comfortable by evening. 



We were able to make a living in the theatre until 
television came in. Although business declined then, and we 
turned to other things, I have many good memories of our early 
years at the Georgetown Theatre. 



COURTSHIP AND MARRIAGE IN THE EARLY 
THIRTIES 

Robert C. Richards Sr. 

I first started to dance when my sister, Genevieve, and 
I went to a dance at the Kewanee Odd Fellows Hall. After that, 
I went to quite a few dances in neighboring counties. A barn was 
built at Camp Grove, and its owner decided to hold a dance in 
the hayloft. It was common to do that when a new barn was built 
years ago. So many people came to that dance that the owner 
decided to hold a dance every Tuesday night. In the summer of 
1930, I started to go there with my friend, Clarence Mear. 

In August of that year, I saw a beautiful girl, Marcella 
Routh, at one of those dances. I was not normally a shy person, 
but I waited until they had a tag dance. That's when a man 
tagged the fellow dancing with a girl on the shoulder, and then 
he could dance with that girl. Marcella and I danced several 
dances after that, and she proved to be my future wife. 

Marcella went to high school in Chillicothe and lived 
with a doctor's family. I wrote letters to her in the fall of 1930 
and the following winter and spring. In June, we started to 
date, and we went to various shows and dances. Show tickets 
cost 15(2 to 25c then, and dance tickets for a couple were 
anywhere from 40c to a dollar. Marcella graduated from high 
school in 1932, and in November of that year I got down on one 
knee and proposed. She said "yes," but then I had to ask the 
consent of her father, Charles Routh. He gave his consent, but 



he was very concerned about the Great Depression that had 
come along and was getting worse. Farmers, workers, and 
businesses were all having problems, and the future did not look 
too bright. 

We made plans to be married on Valentine's Day of 1933, 
but Marcella's two sisters, Mildred and Helen, worked at a 
Montgomery Ward store in Chicago and were unable to get off 
work, so the date was changed to Saturday, February 18. 

After purchasing the engagement ring and wedding 
band, I had $50 left to buy flowers, pay the priest, and furnish 
refreshments for the wedding reception. I borrowed my friend's 
1931 Pontiac to pick up Marcella and her sister Helen, who was 
the bridesmaid. My brother, Melvin, was the best man. 
Marcella's home was on a farm thirty-one miles away from 
Neponset. Her brother followed us in another car, with Marcella's 
parents and her brother Leo. We stopped at Park's Greenhouse 
in Kewanee to pick up the flowers, and then went to my 
grandparents' home, where all the relatives had arranged to 
meet. On the way I hit a large spot of ice and spun around. 
Richard, in the other car, thought I did it on purpose, so he also 
hit the ice and spun around. He thought it was fun, but it made 
his mother very upset. 

Just before 8:00 p.m., we all went to the Visitation 
Rectory, where Father Burke was waiting to perform the 
ceremony. Afterward, the wedding party proceeded to Neponset, 
to my father and mother's home, where we had the wedding 
reception. 

At that time, people could not afford regular wedding 
cards but wrote their congratulations and names on pieces of 
paper. Instead of presents, they gave us a grocery shower. My 
sisters, my parents, and Marcella's parents furnished the food. 
I furnished the refreshments: forty-eight quarts of home brew 
beer, made by my Uncle Clarence; one gallon of Steve's Best 
Whiskey, which was $2; and a gallon of 186 proof alcohol, which 
was $2.50. I forgot to cut it to 93 proof, with water, and some 



people got drunk. My two brothers-in-law drank too much of the 
potent alcohol, and we had to go hunt for them. One had walked 
two miles away before we found him. We gave them lots of coffee 
and they soon felt better. 

We rented a two-room apartment in Kewanee. The heat, 
light, and water were all furnished for $2.50 a week. There were 
five apartments in that house and ten people to use the one 
bathroom. On Monday I would light the laundry stove in the 
basement so Marcella could heat the water to do the week's 
washing. The bed bugs were rampant in the house, and they bit 
Marcella but, for some reason, did not bother me. 

Marcella kept a record of our budget during the first 
week we were married. My weekly pay at the Kewanee Boiler 
Company was $5.37, but for the year we eventually made $607. 
The Depression was very bad by then, and we had to struggle to 
make ends meet. Coffee was 19c a pound, milk 5c a pint, eggs 
12(Z a dozen, and bread 5c a loaf We bought a Philco Table 
Model Radio, so we had to pay 500 a month extra for electricity. 
We went to church and put 10? in the basket, and we went to ball 
games twice a week and donated 20c. Things were very bad 
when President Roosevelt closed the banks on March 6, 1933. 
Since I had about $7, we were the only ones in that house who 
could pay their rent for that week. 

For entertainment, we played cards, such as poker and 
nimmy, for matches. We had two good friends, Fred and Shirley 
Klein, that we chummed with, going to ball games, shows, band 
concerts, and lots of free places. We did a lot of walking then, 
as gas cost a dollar for seven gallons. 

During that period, many hardships were taking place. 
Farmers lost their farms, stores went bankrupt, and people 
went hungry. As a result, government programs started, such 
as the C.C.C. camps for young men, and there were co-op 
gardens and canning centers. Churches and the Red Cross 
furnished clothing for many people. 



We soon moved to 217 Hollis Street, where we had a 
large garden with a small chicken house. Unfortunately, the 
chicken house caught fire from a defective brooder stove, so that 
put us out of the chicken business. 

Worse than that, the Kewanee Boiler Company did not 
have any boiler sales to speak of, so I soon had no work. About 
eleven million others were unemployed at that time, too. For- 
tunately, however, my brother-in-law, Durand Hand, worked 
for Rozells Ice Cream Company in Peoria, so he got me a job 
working in the cooler there. I washed ice cream cans in near 
zero temperatures, but I was glad to have the job. The National 
Recovery Act was put into law, so I got 40c an hour, or $16 a 
week. 

When we first moved to Peoria, we stayed with my sister 
and her husband. Then we got an apartment. 

I worked at Rozells until August when Caterpillar hired 
me as a welder on the second shift, at 60c an hour. I felt pretty 
lucky to have the increased income. 

Soon, the boiler company called me back to work, in the 
fall of 1934, so we returned to the Kewanee area. We eventually 
lived in Neponset on a seven-acre place where we had a large 
garden, two milk cows, and about 200 chickens. The first of our 
three children was bom in 1935. 

So, we made it after all, but it was a hard time to get 
started. 



MARRIED LIFE AT THE END OF THE DEPRESSION 

Myrtle Pierson 

The tag end of the Depression was not a good time for 
people to marry. But marry we did, on November 30, 1938. The 
harvest was finished and we had $85 in the bank! 



My fiance had a large carbuncle on the back of his neck, 
and it was in the process of healing when we said our "I do"s in 
the Presbyterian Manse at Monticello, Illinois. Neither of us 
had a job, and we had spent part of our slim savings for a blanket 
and six dining chairs to use with the small oak table his mother 
generously furnished. We had also spent $6 for a very small coal 
heater to warm our downstairs kitchen-sitting room. Parents 
and friends had furnished a day bed, an oil stove for cooking, bed 
linens and pillows, a couple of rag rugs, and a kitchen cabinet. 
Our bedstead was an iron refugee from the trash heap in the 
pasture back of Lyle's boss's home. It graced our upstairs 
bedroom along with a refurbished dresser from Lyle's parents' 
smoke house. The bed was furnished with a straw "tick" and a 
feather bed. We shared a bath with the landlady. 

In early winter, Lyle contracted bronchitis. With our 
funds shrinking alarmingly, and with $ 10 a month rent, we had 
to find a doctor. He and the grocer had to carry us on their books. 
Parents supplied what they could, but mine were 140 miles 
away, and fighting it out with the Depression themselves — Dad 
having to sell out his farm equipment, and Mom working night 
and day to keep three younger children in school and fed. Dad 
had part-time work in the new oil fields around Olney, and 
Lyle's father had a steady job on a farm near Monticello. 
Although I didn't know it at the time, I'm sure his parents bailed 
us out whenever they could. They had a couple of younger kids 
at home, too. 

Necessity forced me to find work as a maid with a family 
on Monticello's one-time "Millionaire Row." I owned one pair of 
shoes, and Lyle owned one pair of "Sunday" shoes and a pair of 
two-buckle overshoes, besides his heavy work shoes. For 
everyday, he wore overalls and chambray shirts. I wore print 
dresses and cotton or rayon stockings. Neither of us had enough 
clothes to fill the two drawers of the dresser. I did laundry in a 
dishpan or the bathtub. A rope across the living area was our 
dryer. 



From $5 a week as a hired girl on a farm, my wages 
jumped to $8 for a ten-hour day, plus two meals in the pantry 
after the family was served. I was second maid under a very 
pleasant first maid who had worked there for several years. We 
limped along on my wages, which did not allow for any frivoli- 
ties like shoes, until my new husband landed work with the 
township road crews, clearing snow off the country roads. 

In the spring, we moved to a farm near Lodge, Illinois, 
into a huge old house. From the luxury of a single electric light 
bulb, we were back to kerosene lamps. We bought an enameled 
wood-and-coal kitchen range from my aunt for $5, and added a 
little battery radio to our possessions. We could afford to 
splurge a little now. From $30 a month as a single hired hand, 
my husband now earned the handsome wage of $35. He owned 
a '32 V-8 Ford sedan with a leaky radiator when we were 
married, and I owned an old Underwood typewriter my father 
had given me for graduation. We began paying the doctor a 
little, and got the grocery bill under control. We had a couple of 
cows to milk now, and cream to sell occasionally. We had a huge 
garden which we planted full, and sold some of the produce from 
it. 

My parents moved to a farm near DeLand, Illinois, not 
far from Lodge, and so my mother was near to coach me when 
I found myself pregnant. They gave us a second bed, which we 
installed in one of the great empty rooms of that once-fine old 
house with its ornate parlor fireplace. We got apple boxes and 
orange crates from the grocery and constructed odd bits of 
furnishings. We bought a galvanized tub and a washboard 
when we moved, and from somewhere came an old boiler in 
which to heat wash water. 

Unfortunately, my husband's carbuncle was only the 
beginningof a long series of boils which plagued him for months. 
One side of his body was covered with 21 of them at one time; not 
little pesky things, but virulent eruptions which incapacitated 
him. Once more we were in debt to the doctor and the grocer. 



The car broke down and Lyle took it apart, when he was able, 
and bit by bit put it back together. 

The cistern for holding rain water was fouled and it was 
left to me to clean it out. A chicken fell in the well where we 
pumped our drinking water, and we had to use the well some 
fifty feet from the house. Irritated by Lyle's frequent illness, his 
boss fired him when the crops were in. 

Our daughter was born at home on December 15, 1939. 
How we got through that winter is rather hazy in my memory. 
We couldn't have done it without the backing of our parents and 
other relatives. With no money for coal , we had only cobs to bum 
for heat. At least we had plenty of them! With a new baby, we 
hired a young woman to help, but even at $5 a week we had to 
let her go after the second week. 

We were living on beans and biscuits for the most part, 
with some pork thrown in. I had canned a lot of tomatoes, so we 
did have those to help out. 

While I tried to keep the baby warm and clean, Lyle went 
job hunting. After a really heartbreaking winter, we moved to 
another farm several miles away. The house there was filthy 
and rat infested. Getting it livable and rid of the rats took too 
much out of me. I had to put the baby on the bottle. The working 
conditions were more than my weakened husband could handle, 
too. Two months ofit were all we could take. We rented a small 
house near my in-laws, and Lyle went to work with his father. 

Here we kept the few hens we had collected on the farm 
at Lodge, and had a big garden and a good well. There was only 
enough milk supplied for the baby, and it came out of her 
grandparents' quota. By this time, we had managed to acquire 
shoes all around and a few luxuries like a second wash tub and 
another lamp. Money was still in short supply, and when the 
crops were in, Lyle was again without a job. 

That fall, we moved again, this time to the farm home of 
a widowed man who allowed us two rooms in his big house in 
exchange for my services as housekeeper. The doll bed our 



daughter used as a bassinet was now outgrown, and we found 
a good used metal crib at the second-hand store. It had no 
mattress so I scrounged material to make one. I hemmed the 
good ends of worn sheets and blankets our mothers donated to 
fit it. 

Then a man came by with two new mattresses on top of 
his car. He owned a mattress factory in Champaign, but 
business was slow, so he was peddling them in the countryside. 
The grandparents had put $5 in the baby's piggy bank. I took 
it and bought one of those mattresses to replace our battered 
straw tick. It cost $10 and our old mattress. How heavenly it 
was to sleep on that mattress topped with our feather bed! 

The next peddler who stopped was selling sewing ma- 
chines — Singers with the latest gadgets. Lyle shut his eyes and 
plunged. It took us most ofthe year to pay off that $125. We still 
had our hens, which our landlord graciously fed for us, but eggs 
brought only a few cents per dozen. We spent the winter there, 
while Lyle searched for work. This farmer had no need for a 
hired man. March came, and we moved to the estate of Robert 
Allerton, one ofthe richest men in Piatt County. In return for 
work as a gardener and groundskeeper, we were furnished a 
large seven-room house with out buildings and an enormous 
garden plot. We also had a place for the hens. There was a wood 
range in the kitchen and all the fuel we needed, a large 
basement with a furnace and built-in laundry tubs, running 
water up- and downstairs, but no bathroom. 

The Ford was traded for a Plymouth, of which we were 
very proud. The Depression was pretty well over. Then it was 
December 7, 1941. Mr. Robert Allerton closed his mansion, 
packed up most of his treasures, and gave most ofthe help their 
notices. 

Then, with our feet under us, we just kept moving on! 



SE>^^^S<^^:^^g£^^»<^^<^^^^gS<^KS^^^^USfi^S^^ i^>S^^4^^» 




JV Qoing to the Movies 



GOING TO THE MOVIES 

The advent of movies and their quite amazing effect on 
the nation and its people must confound those born in the last 
four decades. Not only did these films provide wonderful 
entertainment but they were also promoters of morality. Youth 
of the 1920s, '30s, '40s, and '50s were profoundly influenced and 
highly entertained by the movies, first silent, then talkies; and 
the medium was usually a force for good. 

The memoirs had very good things to say about the 
movies. In her delightful reminiscence, Phyllis T. Fenton 
described well the importance of films to her: 

I could go from the world of the humdrum to one 
of sheer magic . . ., escape from reality, and, 
through all the changes over the years, going to 
the movies was always a grand occasion. 

D. R. Rockhill wrote that "the most exciting place in to wn 
to spend some time was the Saturday afternoon picture show." 
"Hollywood had given us, " explained Eleanor Jontry Brown, 
"escape for a few hours from the hardships of the Big Depression 
and the realities and sorrows of our wars." Dorothy M. Ross 
shared her feeling that the films "lent the ambiance found when 
we searched for adventure and romance, for our hopes and 
dreams, by stepping through those doors." 

Anthony Cichoke wrote of his town's combination movie 
and talent night: 

These weekly movies were not just an evening 
of entertainment; they were an event, a 
happening, an integral part of the very social 
fiber of the community. They functioned as a 
combined Irish stew of community picnic, carni- 
val, amusement park, political gathering, and 



all-round opportunity to reinforce traditional 
values of God, family, and country. 

Others wrote marvelous recollections. D. R. Rockhill 
spoke hilariously and lovingly of attending Westerns with his 
grandfather. Jan Roberts wrote beautifully of being terrorized 
by the movies. Ruth Van Horn explained what it was like to own 
and operate a theatre, while Martha Graham shared the won- 
derful emotions engendered by her hometown theatre. 

But a somber note was sounded by Eleanor Gentry 
Brown in comparing current films to what she so enjoyed in 
earlier days: "Along the way, movies have changed. Hollywood 
spews out movie after movie, filled with gutter language, sex, 
and violence. I don't watch them." 

This concern with the decadence and depravity of Holly- 
wood did not emerge as a primary theme in most of the memoirs. 
Instead, the recollections focused on fond memories of experi- 
ences at the movies long ago that thrilled and excited. Magni- 
fied by the exuberance of youth, filled by sweet reverie, the 
memoirs shared beautiful experiences centered around the 
exciting new medium — it, too, in its youth. 

Even more, however, the writers exposited values, 
dreams, and behaviors of their respective eras in which the 
films were both significant educators and entertainers of the 
youth. Blemished far less by the serious breakdown of values 
typical in the present time, the movies reflected a social order 
that, at its highest levels, was the foundation of the American 
Dream. The films most often reflected the high-level values, 
positively influencing and formulating high moral purpose, 
and, as important, provided entertainment that lingers as 
joyful memories, lovely, magical interludes, in the lives of the 
vmters. 

Alfred J. Lindsey 



63 



GRANDPA AND THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON 
PICTURE SHOW 

D. R. Rockhill 

As a small boy growing up in Effingham, Illinois, in the 
1930s, the most exciting place in town to spend some time was 
the Saturday afternoon picture show, accompanied by my 
Grandpa. 

On one typical Saturday in the summer of 1939, the 
warm August sun had about reached its midpoint, when I ran 
to the old man dozing under the shade tree, shouting for him to 
wake up so we could leave for the picture show. Grandpa opened 
his eyes, shifted his position in the rocking chair we kept under 
the tree just for him, took off his hat, and carefully wiped its 
sweatband and then the top of his head with a faded bandana. 

He removed his morning chew of Levi Garrett, replaced 
it with a wad of rough cut about the size of a hen's egg, adjusted 
his suspenders, and reached for his crutches. He rose to his feet 
with difficulty, pained by arthritis, or "rumatiz" as he called it, 
and began walking the few feet to the car, grumbling all the way 
about some kids always being in such a damned hurry. His 
complaining didn't fool me, however — not one little bit. Grandpa 
was as great a fan of the Saturday afternoon Westerns as I 
was — and each Saturday found us mounting an expedition to 
the matinee at the Effingham Theater. 

I loved that old man. He was my hero. He was profane 
and sometimes careless in his personal habits, but I loved him, 
and I knew he loved me. Grandpa was the only honest-to-john 
Westerner I had ever met in my brief eight years; and he had led 
a fascinating life. He was born in Missouri in 1859, of Scots- 
Irish and Cherokee parents, and had moved to Texas at the age 
of fourteen to be his own man. During the next fifty years, he 
had worked variously as a cowhand, buffalo hunter, Indian 
scout for the railroad, gold prospector, oilman, gambler (he 
seldom discussed this), and rancher. 



A lifetime of travels and adventures had provided him 
with a wealth of stories and tall tales which, coupled with his 
exceptional abilities as a spinner of yams and his colorful 
language ( he cussed like a muleskinner ), made him a delight for 
any little boy. As far as I was concerned, my Grandpa was cast 
from the same mold as my Saturday afternoon heroes: Buck 
Jones, Tim McCoy, Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson, Tom Mix, and 
John Wayne. 

On this typical Saturday afternoon, as always, my Dad 
drove us to town and deposited us at the Effingham Theater. I 
crawled out of the car first, and Grandpa handed me a brown 
paper bag to carry, containing an empty half pound coffee can 
he used to spit tobacco juice in during the picture. Then he 
extended his crutches and laboriously disembarked, and Dad 
pulled away, promising to pick us up when the picture was over. 
We crossed the sidewalk, and examined the colored posters on 
the front of the theatre to see what pictures were showing. Each 
Saturday afternoon, the theatre offered a double feature, along 
with one or two chapters of the latest serial. At least one of the 
features, and frequently the serial, were Westerns. If not 
Westerns, they were usually action or adventure films featur- 
ing African explorers, wars and spies, or gangsters. On a rare 
occasion, they would feature a musical or, worse, a love story — 
which was sure to generate considerable negative comment 
from the Saturday afternoon patrons. Grandpa enjoyed, but 
critiqued, the Westerns; tolerated the adventure films; and 
complained bitterly about the others. 

This Saturday they offered a mixed bill, with two chap- 
ters of a popular jungle epic, "Tim Tylers Luck," and a rerun of 
a Buck Jones film. They were also showing the latest Gene 
Autry picture. This was unfortunate because neither Grandpa 
nor I appreciated any of the singing cowboys like Gene Autry or 
Roy Rogers; we liked our Western heroes to be two-fisted, not 
sissified warblers. 



64 



Grandpa had already developed an interest in Tim 
Tyler's adventures and was always satisfied with Buck Jones, 
even reruns; but I feared the worst when he saw the Gene Autry 
bill — and he didn't disappoint me. 

"Damnation! Gene Autry! He ain't worth driving in to 
town to see," he mumbled, shaking his head as we bought our 
tickets and an enormous five cent bag of popcorn. 

We entered the theatre, Grandpa still cussing under his 
breath about Gene Autry. We settled in our seats; the lights 
dimmed and the picture started. The two chapters of Tim 
Tyler's serial and the Buck Jones film held everyone's interest, 
including Grandpa's, and he made several favorable comments 
to that effect during the show. I joined the other little boys who 
had smuggled our cap guns into the theatre, repeatedly shoot- 
ing at all the outlaws and wild animals. 

The opening scene of the Gene Autry film flashed on the 
screen, with Gene riding along, singing in his nasal whine, and 
all the boys leaned forward in anticipation, waiting for Grandpa's 
opening salvo. They knew when something in a film didn't ring 
true, or displeased him, he would lean over and whisper an 
editorial comment in my ear. Unfortunately, since he was hard 
of hearing, he whispered at a pitch and volume best suited for 
his hearing level — or for calling hogs — and many of his scathing 
comments were aimed at the sartorial splendor of singing 
cowboys like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. 

He didn't disappoint us this time, either! 

'Who in hell ever saw a cowboy wear a gitup like that? 
He looks like a damn sissy with all them flowers and fringes." 

Needless to say, the other small boys in the theatre 
giggled and cheered as his whisper echoed through the hall. 

Grandpa fidgeted in his seat as the movie continued, 
muttering, under his breath, his disapproval of Gene and his 
wardrobe. Then about midway through the picture, he dropped 
another bombshell. Gene had been captured by a group of 
Indians and they were discussing his fate. Indian dialects, as 



spoken in the Republic or Monogram films, were among 
Grandpa's pet peeves. Since he spoke several Indian dialects 
himself, he was particularly sulphurous in his remarks when a 
film lacked authenticity. 

As expected. Grandpa struck again. 

"Hell's fire, boy. That ain't Indian they're talkin' — that 
ain't nothing' but jabber. They wouldn't know Indian talk if it 
jumped up and bit them on the ass!" 

This brought another round of applause from the small 
fry in the audience. Of course, I was not sure how a language 
could jump up and bite one on the backside, but, knowing 
Grandpa's mood at the time, I thought it wise not to ask. 

The picture droned on to its conclusion, with Grandpa 
continuing to mutter his displeasure under his breath. Then, as 
the head outlaw tried to escape in the night, Gene rode full 
speed in pursuit, made a flying tackle from his horse, caught the 
outlaw by the shoulders, and they both rolled down the conve- 
niently located slope. As they jumped to their feet for the 
obligatory fist fight, the outlaw's black hat lay in the dirt. 
Gene's hat, however, miraculously remained in place, firmly 
anchored to his head, gleaming pure white in the Hollywood 
moonlight. 

At that. Grandpa fired both barrels. 

"Well, son of a bitch! Look at that. He falls off his horse, 
wallers around in the dirt, and don't even lose his hat or get it 
dirty. Now who in hell's gonna believe that? We ought to ask 
for our damn money back." 

This final sally brought a standing ovation ft-om the 
entire audience — kids and adults. 

Gene won the fight, of course, and rode off with the girl, 
followed by a full Western band, on horseback, complete with 
musical instruments, singing the same sorry song that had 
opened the picture. 

As the theatre lights came on and we walked up the 
aisle. Grandpa shook his head in disgust, incoherent by this 



65 



time. We exited the theatre to find my Dad waiting patiently at 
the curb to drive us home. 

"How was the picture show?" he asked. 

"Great," I said. 

"It was damn good," Grandpa replied, quickly changing 
his mood. "Boy, let's go again next week." 

And we did. 

Now, over fifty years later, I try to explain my fond 
memories of these times to my grandchildren; but, jaded by all 
the conveniences that modern technology provides them, they 
don't understand. They smile politely and pretend to be inter- 
ested, but they just don't understand. They can't imagine the 
magic and excited anticipation that was there, in a more simple 
time, when an old man and a small boy would spend all week 
discussing last Saturday's adventure and laying plans for the 
next expedition, when we would take each other to the picture 
show. 



HOUND OF TERROR 

Jan Roberts 

I couldn't wait! It was my fourth birthday, and I was 
going to spend my very first "overnight" away from home. 
Mother and Dad had agreed to let me spend Saturday night on 
the farm with my aunt and uncle who had promised to take me 
into Wapella, Illinois, to see the street movie, which was a 
weekly social event. The farm families and the townspeople 
exchanged news and views on current events, and everybody's 
kids mingled. 

At age four, I held onto Aunt Vide's hand and listened to 
grown-up conversation until dusk. The sky was barely dark 
enough to see the picture on the screen when the cartoons 



started. We hurried back to the parked car to watch the show. 
I sat in the back seat — alone. 

Aunt Vide read the words to me as they appeared on the 
bottom of the screen. The picture was so graphic that spoken 
words weren't needed. The sky's fading light behind the screen 
created a dim story image, both on the screen and in my 
memory. I remember that a lot of people were gathered in an old 
eerie mansion to await the reading of a will. I recall spacious, 
neglected grounds with lots of trees. Fine roadsters arrived and 
paused on a circular driveway long enough to deposit beautiful 
women and elegantly attired gentlemen. It seemed to be a 
bizarre reunion of antagonistic relatives. Everybody quarreled, 
and nobody liked or trusted anybody. 

The mood of the movie was becoming as black and 
sinister as the night which framed the black and white movie 
screen. As the guests arrived, they were assigned to formal 
bedrooms where they deposited their luggage. Following that, 
they returned to a foreboding drawing room to exchange re- 
strained pleasantries while awaiting the butler's summons to 
dinner. 

The increasing tempo of the impending storm outside 
pervaded the household atmosphere like heavy fog and created 
a ghoulish inconsistency with the guests facade of detached 
placidity. The devil-maestro who conducted this evil concert 
whipped the jagged lightning through the sky with his fiery 
baton, forcing the wind to wail and the thunder to boom hellish 
ovations. Although the movie was silent, the pictures created 
a fiend-like horror that stunned my childish imagination. To 
lend credibility to the plot, a stoic guest would pull back the 
heavy drapes to reveal a window-framed view of stark, light- 
ning-lit trees succumbing to the unleashed fury of the storm. 
They were dancing, bending, and breaking like tortured balle- 
rinas enslaved by the winds and whipped beyond endurance. 
And there, exposed by flashes of lightning, was the silhouette of 



the ravenous hound with its vicious teeth bared, howHng a 
prophesy of death! 

I knew all those people were going to die! / knew I was 
going to die! But I was a good little girl who was "seen and not 
heard," so I kept really quiet and didn't fuss. I even tried very 
hard not to breathe. 

Wide-eyed, I watched the movie. I watched the people go 
to bed. I watched them being murdered in their beds. I never 
actually saw them being murdered but / knew that's what 
happened. Right after that horrible hound's head peered 
around their bedroom door — they were DEAJD. They were 
BLOODY DEAD! After finding a victim, the rest of the fright- 
ened guests would scurry up and down the hallways talking in 
hushed whispers. They gathered in the drawing room in small, 
protective groups to question and accuse each other and to 
share their own fears. They went back to bed reluctantly, 
knowing that sleep was the catalyst for the Hound of the 
Baskervilles. 

It didn't relieve me one bit when they discovered that the 
hound's head was a puppet contrived to fit over the real 
murderer's hand. I knew that dog did it! That dog's head came 
around the bedroom door every time before someone was killed 
and you knew they were dead when he howled. The guests 
would cringe in terror and look around to see who was missing. 
Together, they would find the dead body vnth its fixed eyes open 
and staring. 

He was going to kill me tonight and I knew it. 

I won't close my eyes! I won't go to sleep! 

I want my mama! I want to go home! 

And, / don 't want to die!" 

I wished I could sit in the front seat with Aunt Vide and 
Uncle Charlie. If I said anything, I'd be a bad girl and that old 
dog would kill me for sure. The movie ended and I had to go 
home — with Aunt Vide and Uncle Charlie. 



There is no way to describe dark in the country. It gets 
dark in towns with streetlights. In the country, it gets BLACK. 
It's the kind of black that penetrates every pore of your being 
and blots out your soul. You can't see your hand in front of your 
face, and the only way you can tell what you've stumbled over 
is to feel it with your hands and pray, "Please, God, don't let it 
move!" 

The ride home was BLACK. The car's headlights cut 
narrow yellow-white ribbons in the black. I knew there were 
dense trees on each side of the road because we were going up 
and down those same hills that had been so beautiful in the 
sunshine. There were all kinds of wild animals in those trees, 
and I hoped they were all asleep so they couldn't see us. 

Uncle Charlie got out of the car, opened the gate, and 
drove through. Then he stopped and got out, leaving us helpless 
in the car while he walked behind, out of sight, and closed it. We 
drove up the lane to the house and found our way to the door in 
the darkness. We got inside but there was no light switch to flip. 
Aunt Vide struck a big match and lit a kerosene lamp. 

Electricity doesn't mean much until it gets dark, and you 
don't have any. I was afraid of the shadows moving around on 
the kitchen walls. My aunt put the lamp on the table and helped 
me dress in my pajamas. She held my hand while we walked 
through the dining room and the living room. She opened a 
door, and we started up the steep, narrow staircase to the 
bedroom where I was going to sleep — Alone?! 

I knew that dirty, mean, old dog was waiting at the top 
of those steps. The lamp barely lit the bottom steps, and it was 
pitch black at the top. Each step groaned a creaky warning as 
we made our way to the top. A narrow bed was pushed sideways 
against the wall, barely leaving enough wall space beyond its 
head to allow room for the half-door that opened into the storage 
attic. "That's where HE'S hiding," I thought, "HE'S in there!" 

My aunt tucked me in and said, "Good-night." Then she 
started walking away, carrying the lamp with her! As she 



67 



withdrew, the big, black-dog shadows got bigger and bigger and 
leaped about menacingly on the walls. "Aunt Vide," I called out 
weakly, "Where are you going to sleep?" As she continued down 
the steps she answered, "On the back porch downstairs." I was 
. . . all alone! 

I could hear the wind blowing the trees through the open 
windows, but I couldn't see anything at all. I knew that the 
hound was hiding behind the attic door right next to my head. 
I pulled the covers over my head, thinking, "I won't move! I'll 
stay awake all night! I won't breathe either! Maybe he won't see 
me! 

I won't close my eyes! 

I hurt all over, but I won't move! 

If I move, he'll hear me and murder me! 

I wish I was home! 

I won't close my eyes. ... I won't close my eyes. ... I won't 
move. ... I won't go to sleep. ... I won't .... I won't. . . . 
I . . won't " 

The sun was shining through the windows and the 
curtains were blowing gently in the morning breeze. I WAS 
ALIVE! I ached all over, but I really was alive. 

I went downstairs and into the kitchen where my aunt 
and uncle were having breakfast. I couldn't eat. I wasn't 
hungry. I took my pajama sack outside and waited in the front 
yard for Mamma and Daddy to come. When they finally drove 
up, I climbed into the car and onto the back seat and refused to 
move. 

Nobody was going to get me out of the car. 

"I'm going homer 



GOLDEN MEMORIES OF THE SILVER SCREEN 

Eleanor Jontry Brown 

I'm not sure when I saw my first movie, but I must have 
beenjust a toddler. My first recollection is that I cried. Later, 
I knew that "Fatty" Arbuckle had meant me no harm, but his 
huge image on the screen scared me. I'm glad that it was not a 
permanent dislike of the movies. What a lot of pleasure I would 
have missed. 

Being bom in 1918 put me in the midst of the silent 
screen era. There was already a moviehouse in the business 
district of our town, Chenoa, Illinois, when I was born. It was 
called the Rex and showed many Westerns. At least that is what 
I saw the few times my babysitter took me there. I remember 
the last owner, John Pittman, who closed the Rex in 1925. 

Silent movies were also shown at the Lyceum in St. 
Joseph's Parish Hall. Leo Twomey ran the projector, and 
movies were shown midweek and Saturday nights. 

I enjoyed those incompetent Keystone Kops and laughed 
at cross-eyed Ben Turpin and poker-faced Buster Keaton. I 
remember the antics of Harold Lloyd with his trademark, horn- 
rimmed glasses. I can still see him hanging from the hands of 
a giant clock on the side of a building, high above the street. He 
gave me more than one hair-raising moment. His character 
portrayed the NERD of that era, but Mr. Lloyd knew what he 
was doing. He became a millionaire. 

Ah, Clara Bow, the IT girl — ingenues Colleen Moore and 
Janet Gaynor — the VAMPS, Gloria Swanson, Pola Negri, Lupe 
Velez — I saw them all and many more. 

There were my favorite male stars of that era, too — 
Ramon Navarro, Richard Dix, Ronald Colman, and Richard 
Arlen, to name a few. 

My cousin Bemadine (Twomey) Elson played the piano 
when I attended the silent movies at the Lyceum. I often sat 
beside her. In the exciting parts, I used to jump up from the 



chair. One time, a boy twice my age pulled the chair away and 
I sat on the floor. You can bet that cured me. 

I don't know if the movie reels arrived with instructions 
or a synopsis for the pianist, but somehow Bernadine easily 
changed the music to fit the story. Only about one-third of the 
story was action — when she played eerie music as the actors 
entered a cave, or some soft romantic music for the love scenes. 
Of course, she had staccato music for the mounted riders 
chasing trains. Those old locomotives must have been very 
slow, the bandits always caught them. She used mood music to 
show the actors' emotions of rage, sadness, or fear. There were 
also parts of the movie where there was a minimum of action or 
emoting, such as a change of scene or views of the countryside, 
where she played a background music to fill the gaps. 

Occasionally, Bernadine would get some new sheet 
music from the studio, and there was a little glass slide for the 
projector. When Leo put it in place and flashed it on the screen, 
it would list the title of the new song and below the title, "Miss 
B. Twomey at the piano." Bernadine then would play the song. 
Presumably, it had something to do with the movie. 

In 1927, Al Jolson starred in the first full-length talking 
movie. The Jazz Singer. The sound synchronized with the 
action and voice, was a wonderful improvement. People no 
longer had to read the captions at the bottom of the screen. 
Maybe if the "silents" were still around, we would have a nation 
of readers instead of so many illiterate Americans. 

We were unlucky in Chenoa. The "talkies" were the 
death knell for the silent films. The supply of those films 
dwindled, and we were in for a big surprise. 

One evening, there appeared on the screen a rather droll 
message composed by our pastor. Father Hogben. I still remem- 
ber the first two sentences: "The hens won't lay. The cows went 
dry." It went on to say that due to the continued depression and 
prohibitive cost for the Vitaphone equipment, this was the last 
movie at the Lyceum. 



We were devastated. Few people had cars — or money for 
gas, if they did. The nearest theatre showing "talkies" was at 
Pontiac, ten miles away. 

But life goes on, even without movies. I was fortunate 
that from age ten I spent part of my summer vacations with 
relatives in Chicago. Most of my time was with Aunt Stasia 
Knight, who was the best. She took me all over the city but 
especially to many movies. I can remember going to morning 
movies at the McVickers Theatre in the Loop. After lunch, we 
might go to the Oriental to see the stage show and another 
movie. Other days we took in the State Lake or the Chicago 
Theatre, which also had a stage show. 

Sometimes a message would appear on the screen, 
inviting us to sing along with the bouncing ball to the accompa- 
niment of the huge theatre organ. As the words appeared on the 
screen, the bouncing ball (a white dot) did indeed bounce from 
word to word as we sang. I loved it! 

We also went to movies outside the Loop, like the ornate 
Granada on Sheridan Road and the new Southtown at 63rd and 
Halsted. In the lobby, there was a fountain and pool with 
goldfish. 

Only one other Chicago relative shared my love for the 
movies. When I went to the films with Cousin Bud McCormick, 
he always sat through the movie twice. I could not leave because 
I didn't know how to get back to my uncle's apartment. Even 
knowing this, I never turned down a chance to go to the movies 
with Bud. 

Through the movieless years in Chenoa, there were a 
few bright spots. One summer we had free movies weekly in the 
business district. The screen was hung from the roof of the Flat 
Iron Building and, for a short time, we enjoyed the movies 
again. On rare occasions, my older brothers or my sister took me 
along on the their dates to see a movie in Pontiac or Bloomington. 

Times got better, and there were nmiors that Chenoa 
was going to have a moviehouse again. It became a reality when 



69 



Elmer Larson opened the Ritz in the old Rex location, with the 
same original neighbors as the Rex, namely Balbach and 
Dorman Grocery and Parenti's Ice Cream Parlor. It was 
February 8, 1938, and the temperatures were in the sub-zero 
numbers that evening. You couldn't keep the crowds away for 
such a little thing as the weather. Having endured such a dry 
spell of no movies, it took a long time for local citizens to shake 
their thirst for movies. Mr. Larson kept them coming with his 
Bank Nights and Dish Nights. I was glad to have movies once 
more in town during the four years I lived in Chenoa after 
college. 

I took my love of the movies to those other Illinois towns 
where I lived. Later, my husband Edward and I used to take our 
children to the drive-in near LaSalle, Illinois. By the time they 
played on the playground equipment and had their sweet 
treats, it was dark enough for the movie to start. Usually, the 
kids would quiet down and fall asleep, and we could enjoy the 
movie together. We never got back in the movie habit when the 
children were older. There were school activities, and we had 
television then. 

Along the way, movies have changed. Although there 
are still some well-made movies that do not offend my sense of 
decency, there aren't enough. Hollywood spews out movie after 
movie filled with gutter language, sex, and violence. I don't 
watch them at the movies or on TV. 

For me, the glory days of the silver screen and the magic 
of Hollywood has passed. Hollywood had given us an escape for 
a few hours from the hardships of the Big Depression and the 
realities and sorrows of our wars. The new movies don't offer 
that escape from today's troubles. 

But all is not lost. I have only to pick out an "oldie" movie 
to watch on television. There they are: my favorite stars, 
captured forever in the best of their screen performances. In 
this way, I still continue my love affair with the movies. 



THE ISIS THEATRE IN ROSEVILLE 

Martha K. Graham 

In the early 1900s, before most of the inhabitants of 
Roseville were able to enjoy the wonders of Thomas A. Edison's 
electric lighting in their own homes, the facade of Roseville's 
Isis Theatre glittered with a brilliance that attracted crowds of 
people like honey attracts flies. Other than the public library, 
which was always there for those who found books to be 
entertaining, the Isis Theatre was the only regularly open, 
organized, for-everyone-source-of-entertainment in Roseville. 
It vied for attention with the churches . . . Baptist, Christian, 
Congregational, and Methodist Episcopal. Probably most 
Roseville people spent more time per week sitting in the uncom- 
fortable theatre seats than in the even more uncomfortable 
pews in the churches. 

The Isis Theatre was in the center of town. It stood on 
the west side of Roseville's Main Street, just south of the 
intersection of Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, near the 
present location of the bank. 

The theatre entrance was flanked by two tall wooden 
pillars painted green and gold, each topped by a crown that 
looked like a circle of brightly painted feathers. The glassed-in 
box office had a cut-out semicircle through which one pushed 
the price of admission, usually a dime, and received from the 
lady attendant a ticket torn from a huge roll of tickets. This bit 
of green paper was really a magic token permitting entry into 
a paradise. The interior was long, narrow, and sloping, v/ith 
about four wooden, mahogany-colored, fold-down seats on each 
side of a center aisle. The stage at the far end had a roll-down 
white screen on which, when the show began, a stream of light 
from a machine in a balcony shown over our heads and projected 
the pictures from large rolls of film. 

My older brother Richard was at one time employed to 
show the films, and I was sometimes allowed to climb up into the 



cramped balcony to watch. Constant vigilance was necessary 
because the machines were erratic, sometimes showing a fine 
picture, sometimes making the images jitter uncontrollably, 
and sometimes blacking out completely. Cat-calls and loud 
remarks from the frustrated audience did not help the operator 
get the pictures going again. It took time to change reels. 
Sometimes the film had been rewound by the last operator in 
such a way that one saw the happy ending first. In that case, 
the film had to be rewound correctly, which took time. Too often 
the film broke and had to be spliced. No operator was willing to 
keep this job very long. 

The Isis Theatre showed all the popular films of the 
time. I remember seeing The Birth of a Nation, Robin Hood, 
Tarzan, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Robinson Crusoe, The 
Sheik, Ben-Hur, and The Ten Commandments there, to name 
only a few. Among the actors and actresses were Colleen Moore, 
Norma Talmadege, Tom Mix, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, 
Douglas Fairbanks, Johnny Weismuller, Clara Bow, Janet 
Gaynor, and Rudolph Valentino. 

The action was always too quick and jerky, and the 
actors' facial expressions and gestures were much exaggerated 
in order to project the emotion or idea to the audience. This was 
the era of the silent screen. The only sounds (besides the 
hissing, booing, and sometimes happy sighing of the audience) 
came from the "orchestra pit," where the pianist endeavored to 
play music that corresponded to, and enhanced, the action on 
the screen, an utterly impossible task. It was not unusual for 
a stage coach hold-up to be accompanied by a love song on the 
wretched piano. 

I think sound movies came to the Isis Theatre about 
1930, but I was in college in Macomb then, and heard my first 
soundmovieat the Illinois Theater there. ItwasSunnyside Up, 
starring Janet Gaynor, and one song was "If I had a Talking 
Picture of You, I would Play it Every Time I felt Blue." 



The Isis stage, when the movie screen was rolled up out 
of the way, was surprisingly large and deep. Live entertain- 
ment was sometimes offered, but it was rarely as interesting as 
the movies. It was usually slapstick comedy and unmemorable 
song-and-dance routines. Later, the stage was the setting for 
our Roseville Township High School operettas and class plays. 
By that time, red, yellow-fringed stage curtains had been 
installed, operated by ropes backstage that were hard to keep 
from tripping over. The stage was ill-ventilated, except for the 
stage door that opened on the north onto a vacant lot near 
which, at one time, the big, bamlike Roseville Opera House had 
stood. 

My first experience on the Isis stage was as an eighth 
grader in an operetta In Old Louisiana, directed by our school 
music teacher Miss Julia Anderson. Grace Gawthrope ( Peterson) 
a violinist from Monmouth accompanied our songs. In leading 
roles were Robert Von Dissen, Nedra Kidder, Leah Enfield, and 
Vernon Marston, and others were in the cast and chorus. Our 
ante-bellum costumes and scenery were impressive. Just as 
Vernon Marston prepared to sing his first solo, his mother in the 
audience was heard to moan, "Oh! Oh! He'll never be able to do 
it!" and his father answered, "Now calm yourself, Maggie. He's 
already doing it!" 

Other operettas we gave were China Town, Torreador, 
and In Ireland. In the last named, Marie Burright (now Mrs. 
Charles Hamilton of Macomb) sang the lead with Rolland 
Truitt. At those school performances, the backstage reeked 
with odors of grease-paint and nervous sweat. But it was all 
very much fun. 

On the corner, next door to the Isis Theatre, was an ice- 
cream parlor with a marble soda fountain backed by a huge, 
long mirror. The tables were small and round, with metal- 
backed ice-cream chairs drawn up. We could order hot choco- 
late, all flavors of soda, double-chocolate sodas, lemonade, 
banana splits, and a delicious confection I have never found 



anywhere else. It was called Chocolate Food, and was made of 
scoops of ice cream sprinkled with malt and topped with 
chocolate and marshmallow sjTup and nuts. The ice cream 
parlor was the ideal place for young and old to round out an 
evening at the Isis Theatre. 

At the time the Isis Theatre opened, there seemed to be 
a custom of giving a fanciful, rather enigmatic name to a 
theatre. A movie theatre was, after all, a fanciful kind of place 
where fantastic things happened on the screen, so a custom 
emphasizing its magical characteristics was not surprising. 
But "Isis" . . . why choose such a name for our Roseville theatre? 
That word didn't even have a pretty sound. It wasn't fanciful, 
and it didn't have any meaning, or so I thought. 

However, omnivorous readers acquire by accident a 
great amount of information, and among the trivia I discovered 
was that Isis was the name of the most important Goddess of the 
Egyptians. She dealt in magic, and she was knowledgeable 
about farming, and she taught farming to the Egyptians, 
making them prosperous. 

So the puzzle fell into place. Roseville was a farming 
community. How better to honor the farmers who were the 
backbone of this community, who came to town regularly on 
Saturday nights to talk, shop, and enjoy the magic of movies 
with their families and friends. Whoever named the Roseville 
theatre "Isis" knew what they was doing, whether anyone else 
recognized the magic and the significance of the name or not. 

As long as the Isis Theatre kept its Egyptian-pillar- 
decorated doors open, and its Egyptian Farmer-Goddess's name 
in lights, the people of Roseville and the surrounding commu- 
nity had no real need to go out of town for a movie . . . nor to 
Galesburg's beautiful Orpheum Theatre ( named for Orpheus, a 
romantic musician and poet of Greek Mythology), nor to 
Monmouth's lovely Bijou Theatre ( named for Rialto Bridge that 
curves over a Venetian canal, and over which one could travel 



to enjoy the ancient beauty and the romantic delights of Venice 
in Italy). 

So, you see, the theatre owner in the village of Roseville 
was no back number when it came to choosing a fanciful, magic, 
and highly significant name for Roseville's main source of 
entertainment — the Isis Theatre. 



SCENES BEHIND THE MOVIES 

Ruth C. Van Horn 

Can you imagine watching over 200 movies a year for 
over twenty years? Such a thought never entered my mind 
when I was a child, although we children did get to go to the 
movies once in awhile. I lived with my parents and brothers and 
sister on a farm six miles southwest of Macomb. It was owned 
by Dr. H. B. Cale. Sometimes when our parents went to town 
to buy groceries and shop, we children were sent to the movies. 
I don't remember our parents ever going. We usually went to 
Macomb's Illinois Theatre, although there was a theatre on the 
west side of the square and one on the south side. I think the one 
on the west side was named the Grand and the other one was 
called the Royal. 

My husband, too, loved films, and he picked up old iron 
to sell to get money to go to the picture show in Augusta. 

Rex Van Horn and I were married in 1935, in the post 
office in Augusta. About the same time, the theatre in Augusta 
was sold to the Better Theatres Circuit, which was owned by 
A. L. Hainline of Macomb, who also owned the Illinois Theatre 
and the Macomb Journal. Later, he started the Lamoine 
Theatre. When he purchased the theatre in Augusta, he also 
bought a number of others in the area, including theatres in 



Hamilton, Canton, and Lexington. He renamed the one in 
Augusta the Cozy Theatre. 

A few months after we were married, the postmaster 
died, and the political nature of the time meant that my 
husband's job disappeared. The Democrats had come into 
power. My husband did assist the new postmaster for a time, 
but, in the meantime, he had applied for a job at the Augusta 
theatre. Mr. Hainline told him to go to the theatre free and learn 
the business, including how to operate the machines. Then, if 
there was an opening later, he would be ready. 

At that time, Joe Si Smith was the manager. His father, 
Tom Smith, owned the theatre in Colchester. Later, Joe Si was 
transferred to another theatre in the northern part of the state, 
and Rex was given the job as manager in Augusta. He worked 
there for four years, and then one day Mr. Hainline called us in 
and said he wanted us to buy the theatre. We explained that we 
did not have the money, but he made an agreement that we were 
to pay a certain amount each month. We could also pay more 
when and if we could. There was no time limit set. He sold 
several of his other theatres the same way. We did not know 
that he was ill at the time, and in the fall, he died. 

Mr. Hainline would not allow candy or popcorn in his 
theatres, but the first thing we did was to buy candy and 
popcorn machines. The seventy percent profit in popcorn stood 
us in good stead. 

After owning the theatre for two years, Rex was called to 
service in World War IL We hired a man to do the janitor work, 
and I took care of the buying and booking of the pictures. We 
already had a projectionist, cashier, and ushers. The janitor 
learned how to operate the machines, if necessary. Rex served 
almost two years in the Army and, while there, he showed 
training films to the soldiers, since he already knew how to 
operate the machines. 

When the war was over, business improved because 
husbands and wives were both earning incomes. Also, there 



had been little on which to spend money, and the enthusiasm of 
victory led to celebration. The majority of our business came 
from working class people, who watched all of the movies, while 
those who had more money picked mainly what they thought 
was best. 

Most people think a picture can be selected by the 
theatre owner and that only the films he thinks can be money- 
makers will be selected. That is not so. The film companies, 
having ofiices in Chicago, sent salesmen out to sell their 
pictures. There was considerable protocol in this business. 
Macomb could run a picture only after it had been shown in 
Chicago. Then Augusta could show it after Macomb. Macomb, 
having two theatres, the Illinois and the Lamoine, used more 
pictures, so the theatres could rent from more companies. 
When you leased from MGM, 20th-century Fox, Paramount, 
Warner Brothers, United Artists, Republic, or any other com- 
pany, you were expected to stay with them. If the Plymouth or 
Bowen theatre owners rented from the same company, they 
could not show the same picture until after we had. 

The pictures were rented in groups of four or five, and 
there was usually just one top picture. Actually, you worked for 
the film company. Everything had to be paid for a week in 
advance, including the short subjects such as the comedy films 
and newsreels. The top pictures were sold with a guarantee, 
plus a percentage of forty to sixty percent. Gone with the Wind 
demanded sixty percent. The companies sent checkers to count 
the people. Sometimes they made themselves known, and 
sometimes they lurked outside the theatre counting customers. 
Not all the percentage pictures were checked, just the ones with 
the highest rental fees. 

We took a trade magazine which gave reviews of the 
different movies, and some exhibitors sent in reports. One 
theatre owner was so ashamed of attendance at a certain 
picture that he increased the total, not knowing that he was 
being checked at the time. 



We always had to think of a way to advertise a picture to 
make as much profit as possible from it. We took handbills and 
posters to different towns twice a week, besides advertising in 
newspapers, and we also had a large personal mailing list. 

To advertise one Shirley Temple picture, we bought 
cards on which Shirley had written a special invitation to attend 
the picture. We addressed them in local children's names and 
sent them to Hollywood, where they were mailed and post- 
marked. Then they were sent out like personal invitations. 

When we showed Hamlet, Rex wrote to the English 
teachers in the area, offering them a special price to come to a 
matinee and bring their students. They came, and were lined 
up and down the street waiting to get in. The salesman who had 
rented the picture happened to come that day. He was amazed, 
and we were all so sorry we didn't have a camera to take a 
picture of the crowd so he could use it as a selling feature in 
approaching some other exhibitor. 

When we ran Gone with the Wind, we started at 11:00 
a.m. on Sunday and ran it through Tuesday at advanced prices. 
There was, of course, a man to count the people. In fact, a second 
man came to make sure that the first man was there. 

We had serials after school for kids and charged a dime. 
When we bought the theatre in 194 1 , we charged 25c on Sunday 
and Monday, and 20c on other days for adults. Some short 
subjects could be seen only by wearing what were called 3D 
glasses, similar to colored glasses. They were a novelty to help 
sell the picture. Another group we had to pay money to was 
ASCAP, the union of music composers and publishers. 

We sometimes had stage shows, too, which included 
talent from the radio station WLS in Chicago. Although Smiley 
Burdette never appeared on stage in person, he was a favorite 
in the Saturday night movies, along with Gene Autry. Smiley 
lived in Augusta for two years when he was a teenager, and his 
father was the minister at the Christian Church. 



When TV came along, the movie business was destroyed 
in the small towns. Movie customers were the first to buy a TV. 
As a result, we decided to sell the theatre and build a drive-in 
restaurant with carhops for service. The theatre buyer put in 
a bowling alley, which is still there. We operated Rex's Drive- 
in for twelve years after selling the theatre, and then we retired. 

Because Mr. Hainline had used the name Cozy Theatre, 
and we retained it all those years, many of our patrons did not 
know our last name. Years later, people would often say, 
"Where have I seen you before?" And we would identify 
ourselves as the people who had run the Cozy Theatre in 
Augusta. 



SATURDAY AT THE MOVIES 

Ruth Ferchow 

Going to the movies on Saturday afternoon was a big 
part of growing up in the 1930s in Taylorville, Illinois. My 
friends and I looked forward to this all week; a good part of our 
free time during that period was spent in trying to figure out 
how Hoot Gibson could possibly get out of the mine shack that 
the evil Slade had blown to smithereens with a charge of 
dynamite at the end of Chapter Eight of the serial. 

There were two theatres in Taylorville: the large, 
modem Capitol on the square which showed the first-run 
pictures, and the smaller Ritz, one half block east, where lesser 
pictures were featured during the week, but which, on Saturday 
afternoons, was the mecca for every boy and girl who could 
scrape up the 10c admission fee. 

My little brother Bill and I started out from home 
together, but about a block down the street I'd meet up w^ith 
Jean. Then Bill would stop by for Eddie, and we would go on. 



either walking and running, depending on how much time we 
thought we had in separate groups with us joining another girl 
or two and then gathering boys until we reached the Ritz. 

We always walked — to the show, to school, to church — 
everywhere — in those days. Our family had to walk because we 
didn't own a car. But even those who did have cars didn't use 
them to drive kids anywhere. The father used the car to go to 
work, and maybe the family used it to go to church or for the 
weekly Saturday night shopping trip. Whatever the weather, 
we always walked to the show. 

Often, Mom popped com and we each took a brown paper 
sack of it along. Sometimes, we got a nickel in addition to our 
dime admission fee. Then we had a big decision to make. Should 
we get a box of Crackerjacks wath a prize inside? Probably the 
Holloway All-Day Sucker was the best buy because it would last 
almost halfway through the show. They also had hot buttered 
popcorn which smelled so good and somehow tasted better than 
that we brought from home. Or, the Three Musketeers candy 
bar with its three separate pieces, each a different kind of 
chocolate, drew our attention. Or maybe we should buy Jaw- 
breakers at three for nickel. How hard it was to decide. 

The show started at two o'clock; the ticket office opened 
at 1:30. We wanted to be first in line because, once inside, we 
could race for the front row of seats. There was a railing in front 
of that row. If you slid way down in the seat and stretched your 
legs as far as they would go, you could put your feet up on the 
rail. 

But if Mary and her brother went wath us, we had to sit 
in the balcony. We couldn't understand why they couldn't sit 
downstairs just because their skin was darker. I asked my Dad, 
and he said, "Because it's the law," and, since he was a police- 
man, he knew all about the law! Anyway, it was almost more 
fun to sit up there. We could look down into the theatre and 
holler at anyone we knew as they came in, or maybe even throw 
a few kernels of popcorn down at them — until the usher came up 



and told us we'd have to leave if we didn't sit dovra and keep 
quiet. 

Then it was two o'clock and the theatre darkened. 
Expectantly we waited. First came the local ads which we knew 
by heart. When the ad for Luster's Ford came on, we all 
chorused together with the announcer, "Just call 9-9-9." 

Oh boy, the "selected short subject" today is a cartoon! 
How we laugh at the antics of the characters. Then — this is 
what we have been waiting for — Chapter Eleven of the serial. 
There's "Hoot," trying desperately to break loose from the ropes 
tying him to the chair. They switch to a scene showing Slade — 
oh, he was a big, mean-looking man with a perpetual sneer on 
his face, and (you guessed it) he wore a black hat. He's running 
up behind the rocks to set off the dynamite. Then, back we go 
to Hoot. He gets the ropes untied. In a flash, he dives through 
a small rear window (they hadn't shown that scene last week), 
rolls down the hill and away from the shackjust as Slade pushes 
the plunger, and the shack explodes with boards and glass 
flying in all directions. Hoot whistles and his horse comes 
running, and he's off to warn the ranchers that Slade is going to 
blow up the dam and flood the whole valley and town. About 
fifteen minutes later, after a few more adventures. Hoot is in an 
even tougher spot; then the "To Be Continued" comes up on 
screen. 

Then we could relax a little as the "Previews of Coming 
Attractions" began. This was a good time to go the restroom or 
get a drink of water from the fountain in the lobby. 

Finally, the feature picture, always a cowboy show on 
Saturday, began. Today it's my favorite — Gene Autry, the 
singing cowboy! My brother joins the other boys in not liking 
him, seeing him as a sissy with all that singing and stuff. He 
prefers Buck Jones or Hopalong Cassidy. I like them, too, but 
Gene's my favorite. Do you know, he even came to Taylorville 
once, but that was before he was so famous — back when he was 



singing on the radio. I was too young then to know about him. 
How I regret that! 

I was lucky today; I got a seat in the front row. I sat 
enthralled watching Gene, his comic sidekick Froggie, and his 
wonder horse Champion. At the end, Gene sings a song of 
farewell to the lovely rancher's daughter and rides off with 
Frog, who either falls off his horse or says or does something 
funny. We leave laughing. 

I take my feet off the rail and slide up in my seat. My 
foot's gone to sleep; I hop up the aisle. How bright the sun is 
after two hours in the darkened theatre! 

We start walking home, discussing Hoot's current di- 
lemma and how exciting the Buck Jones movie will be next 
week. At each block, one or more of our friends "peel off' to go 
in a different direction, until, at last, we leave Jean and Eddie; 
then there's just Bill and me. We race into the house, calling, 
"Mom, we're home," and start to tell her and our two little sisters 
the whole story of how Gene Autry saved the ranch. She's baked 
cupcakes, so we each have one with a glass of milk — a perfect 
ending to a perfect day! 



GOING TO THE MOVIES AT THE TIVOLI 

Phyllis T. Pent on 

Going to the movies at the Tivoli Theatre in Chicago was 
always a very grand occasion. On a Saturday afternoon, when 
I was a child during the middle 1920s, I could go from the world 
of humdrum to one of sheer magic at the Tivoli. Furthermore, 
since it was only two miles from home, we could walk there and 
save the carfare for ice cream. 

The Tivoli was located on the south side at 64th Street 
and Cottage Grove Avenue. Built in the early 1920s, it was one 



of the five or so movie pleasure palaces in Chicago, and seated 
four thousand people. The movies, of course, were silent. Sub- 
titles and organ music moved the plot along. Some films I 
especially remember are the Philo Vance mysteries and the 
Janet Gaynor-Charles Farrell romances. I'll never forget The 
Bat, spooky and scary, nor Douglas Fairbanks as the audacious 
rebel "Robin Hood." Always, too, there was great vaudeville. 

Otherwise, you might as well go to the Harvard, the local 
theatre, which every Saturday ran a cowboy-Indian cliffhanger 
as bait for the kids to come back next week. You might also see 
"B" quality serials like Dr. Fu Manchu or tales of people 
stranded in the African jungle surrounded by spear-carrying 
cannibals. 

The Harvard, small and drab, cost 10c, and kids could 
bring popcorn. At the Tivoli, on the other hand, which cost 15c 
because it was such a grand place, with a lobby of marble floors 
and Greek style pillars decorated with gold leaf, splashing 
fountains, and ornate sculpture, along with a stairway covered 
with carpet so thick your feet sank into it, popcorn was not 
allowed. For refreshment, we waited until the show was over; 
and then, if we had the extra dime, we went to the ice cream 
parlor next door and selected either a chocolate or strawberry 
ice cream soda. 

This happened because the Tivoli was a grown-ups' 
theatre, and, when going there, we acted like grown-ups. We 
dressed up and sometimes wore hats. We talked in adult-like 
whispers to decide whether to sit on the main floor or in the 
mezzanine or balcony; then, we walked slowly, like dignified 
grown-ups, past the heavy fabric and velvet wall hangings and 
sculpture, over the thick carpets, to our preferred first row 
balcony. Once seated in the wide, cushioned, and roomy seats, 
we looked into a deep, dark void until gradually the dim sparkle 
from the overhead chandeliers illumined this vast interior. 

Behavior rules were strict, unlike at the Harvard where 
my younger brother could stamp his feet and bang the seat 



when the army ran up the American flag over a field of dead 
Indians. Once at the Tivoh, when he started to whistle at a 
kissing scene, the uniformed usher hustled over and flashed a 
light in his face and demanded he either leave or be quiet. Once 
was enough. 

Included in our 15c admission was a newsreel — either 
Time Marches On or Paramount's Eyes and Ears of the World — 
documenting world events such as the Jack Dempsey fights or 
Queen Marie of Rumania visiting Chicago. Felix the Cat or 
Keystone Cops, along with other short subjects, entertained us, 
but most loved of all was an Our Gang comedy from which I 
recall only Spanky, Farina, and a little blonde girl named Jean 
Darling. 

While the house lights remained dark and the screen 
still in view, the theatre organist, Jesse Crawford, entertained 
us by playing popular hits like "Smilin' Thru" and "Peg O' My 
Heart." By following the bouncing ball as it indicated each word 
to be sung, the audience joined in a 1920s style singalong. 

When the drapes closed over the screen, and the foot- 
lights lit up the orchestra, the enchanted world of vaudeville 
began. The live dance band played more songs like "Let a Smile 
be Your Umbrella" and "Toot-Toot-Tootsie Goodbye" and the 
spotlight focused on the young, handsome band leader Frankie 
Masters, who dazzled us with his all-white suit. 

When the layers of filmy curtains parted and opened up 
the large stage, the orchestra continued as background music 
for the jugglers, tumblers, and acrobats; it also accompanied the 
girls' ballet, their gauzy dresses illuminated by pink and laven- 
der lights. Sometimes a ventriloquist or magician led us into 
the world of "marvelous wonders." Comedians amused us, 
while others delighted us with a soft shoe and strut, balancing 
a cane and straw hat with a running patter of chuckles. 
Sometimes we went to a smaller theatre, the Stratford, where 
an unknown straw hat and cane man called Bob Hope per- 
formed. 



By the time I was twelve years old, the Vitaphone sound 
system was added to film and the "talkies" were bom. New stars 
emerged. Others like the magnificent John Gilbert faded away. 
Broadway revues were created, technicolor arrived, and as a 
consequence. Vaudeville died a very sudden death. 

A matinee at the Tivoli, however, was still a very special 
occasion. Enveloped in the grotto blue darkness of the mezza- 
nine seats, we thrilled to new stars like Maurice Chevalier, the 
singing boulevardier; we adored Katherine Hepburn as she 
played out the fantasy of the modern woman; and we felt the 
lump in the throat when Bogart waved goodbye to Bergman in 
Casablanca. The magic of the movies still floated us away to an 
escape from reality and, through all the changes over the years, 
going to the movies at the Tivoli on a Saturday afternoon was 
always a very grand occasion. 



DRIVE-IN MOVIES1940 s STYLE 

Tony Cichoke 

Before the dawn of drive-in movies, with their huge 
screens, their poled sound boxes firmly fixed in concrete foun- 
dations, and their neverending hills and furrows of gravel (laid 
out like so many rows of corn), each small town had its combi- 
nation amateur night and outdoor movie. 

In the summers of the 1940s, a central Illinois small 
town tradition was the combination amateur night and two-reel 
movie. This once-a-week production, proudly sponsored by the 
local Chamber of Commerce, was situated in the town center or 
in a neighboring field. A white, double-bed sheet effectively 
functioned as the screen. The screen (2x4 wooden frame) was 
secured to a wooden stage or small flat-bed trailer truck. Two 
large loudspeakers, borrowed from a local merchant and flank- 



ing the screens, provided the sound. The sheet bellowed in the 
warm summer breeze and gave increased action to even the 
most boring film. 

The night's program would inevitably begin with a 
welcome from the town mayor, who, each week, seemed to be 
giving a campaign speech more than introducing the evening's 
program. The difficulty and expense in obtaining the films were 
always recounted. Finally, the film (usually of ancient vintage) 
would begin. 

We marveled at Johnny Weismuller, as he swung from 
tree to tree (with his faithful companion, Cheeta) from impos- 
sible heights into raging waters, swimming tortuous rivers or 
shark-infested waters to rescue his "Jane." What viewer didn't 
tingle on hearing, "Me, Tarzan - You, Jane." Or we thrilled at 
the sight of the incredibly handsome Errol Flynn in Robin Hood . 
Could any human be so suave, so courageous, so incredibly good 
looking? If we had a Robin Hood in our town, he'd surely change 
things!! We watched in wide-eyed, open-mouthed admiration 
as the Lone Ranger or Zorro or Roy Rogers raced down a canyon 
in hot pursuit, or rescued terrified, defenseless maidens from 
the clutches of some evil villain, or snatched a crying baby from 
a runaway, horseless, stage coach just before it careened over a 
rocky cliff to destruction and sure death. 

But no event was met with greater anticipation than the 
weekly episode of the current serial. How we loved to cheer for 
Superman or Flash Gordon and to loudly hiss and boo the 
enemies of Grotham City or the Universe. Each monumental 
struggle was our struggle, each victory our victory. 

We laughed with Laurel and Hardy in their ridiculously 
funny adventures. We identified with Mickey Rooney and Judy 
Garland as "Andy Hardy" met each small town challenge of life 
and love. 

Carloads of young people and families flocked to the 
summer movies/entertainment program. Blankets were inter- 
mittently spread out between cars, pick-up trucks, and in the 



tall grass along the edges of the clearing. From above, this 
random color pattern was like one of Grandma's gigantic patch- 
work quilts. Baskets of cold chicken, sandwiches, jars of 
pickles, and quarts of lemonade anchored the blankets from 
wind or the dancing feet of children in random chase. The night 
air was filled with the fragrant aromas from various tantalizing 
foods, freshly cut hay, and the smell of sprouting corn bursting 
from the rich black dirt of middle America. A gentle breeze 
caressed those present and bathed them with a sensual feast. 

This was a time for friends to meet, children to share 
their summer experiences, and for the flower of youth to strut 
around — the girls parading their beauty, the boys flexing their 
muscles, bragging of future football conquests. Last year's 
disappointing season was a thing of the past. It was future 
challenges which were now most important. 

Young people cruised from one car to another, exchang- 
ing gossip of who was going with whom, who had moved into 
town this summer, who had taken trips to faraway places, who 
had the lead in next year's class play, and so on. 

Young mothers swapped tips on child rearing. Men 
loudly argued the differential values of a John Deere, a Case, or 
a Caterpillar tractor. And the silver-haired reminisced their 
neverending past tales which seemed to grow in magnitude 
with each retelling. 

Ayoung man leaned casually against his highly polished 
red Chevy, picking his teeth with a long straw, and dreamily 
related his amorous experiences at the old sand quarry. 

While they set up for the movie's second reel, the mayor, 
with much fanfare and gusto, took the stage and emceed the 
evening's talent show. Each week, the best young performers 
would compete for prizes from local merchants and the 
opportunity to return the following week. Aspiring singers, 
musicians, magicians, and acrobats all strove for first place and 
bragging rights for the next week. The contestants were judged 
by the cream of local society and politics. At times, a beauty 



contest was substituted for the talent show. On some nights, 
there were both. 

Some of the more memorable attractions for the summer 
season included the Steppel family and their famous acrobatic 
pantomime acts; Josephine and her troop of educated dogs; and 
Cecilia, the song bird of central Illinois. Culture was offered, 
too, in the appearance of Count Jerome Bogatowski, "the Great- 
est of Male Violinists," straight from triumphs in Oskaloosa 
(Iowa), Galesburg (Ilhnois), Keokuk (Iowa), and Saint Cloud 
(Minnesota). But, the sight of the three-hundred pound gym- 
nast (in undersized tights) Gertrude Hempelmeyer, standing 
on her hands, her body arching backwards, feet dangling over 
her shoulders (and flanking her face), while singing an impas- 
sioned version of "The Star Spangled Banner," was always the 
sure-fire show stopper and was guaranteed to bring feelings of 
pride, dismay, and patriotism to swell in the teary souls of those 
in attendance. The stage seemed to rise and fall with her high 
or low notes, swaying to and from with her rhythmic rendition. 

The crowds attending the summer festivities were not 
reluctant to register their feelings. At one performance, the 
Simpson sisters sang their hearts out to a decidedly disap- 
pointed crowd of onlookers, causing witnesses of the event to 
note that, although no one threw any cabbages, tomatoes, or 
eggs, one ear of com was seen to traverse the stage (reaching it 
with an audible thump). However, the desire to yell in a sort of 
wavy, boisterous chorus possessed all those in attendance. The 
somewhat rhythmic eruption was about as musical as the songs 
attempted on the stage and might even be considered as a more 
artistic triumph of sound. 

A tremendous response from all gathered was noted 
when aspiring actors from local colleges or theatre groups 
would give abbreviated versions of Shakespeare's As You Like 
It, or Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore. But the ground 
would shake when husky Miss Josephine Klutz donned her 
highly-worn, rented Spanish costume and mantilla, stained 



her face (with brown shoe polish), pinned on her black wig 
of homemade horse hair, and sang arias from the opera 
Carmen ... a yearly ritual. 

These weekly movies and other activities were not just 
an evening of entertainment; they were an event, a happening, 
an integral part of the very social fiber of the community. They 
functioned as a combined Irish stew of community picnic, 
carnival, amusement park, political gathering, and all-around 
opportunity to reinforce traditional values of God, family, 
community, and country. 

Those were the days when life was slower and filled with 
simple joys. It was a period when young people had time to 
make mistakes and to discover who they were. I look back on 
those days with feelings of warmth, peace, and contentment. It 
was a good time to be alive! It was a good place to be! 



YELLOW BRICK ROADS LEAD TO . . . ANYWHERE 

Dorothy M. Ross 

The Orpheum Theatre in Springfield was once the most 
splendid in all of central Illinois. Located just north of the 
Sangamon County Courthouse (now the "Old State Capitol"), it 
took up much of the block. The Illinois National Bank was its 
neighbor to the south, and small shops were situated to the 
north. In a small, triangular patch of earth to the south sat a 
beautiful popcorn wagon from which emanated wondrous smells 
that permeated the air during movie hours, luring late after- 
noon shoppers to partake. 

The fabulous Orpheum opened its doors in 1927, and fell 
to the ground in 1965, victim of the wrecking ball. The period 
between was one that local residents both reveled in and took 
for granted. Sadly, drive-in theatres helped bring its demise; 



79 



parents could take the entire family for one price. Other factors 
were television in every home, offering a wide variety of enjoy- 
ment for the simple tastes of the community; and malls on the 
perimeter of the city that had their own theatres and could offer 
a sort of baby-sitting service along with myriad shopping 
opportunities. It was perhaps inevitable that the mighty 
Orpheum should fall. 

The first movie I recall seeing ( I'm not sure if I was in 
school yet) was Angels with Dirty Faces, the story of two slum 
brothers. If memory serves, Jimmy Cagney played the bad 
brother who ended up getting shot by the police; the good 
brother — Pat O'Brien, of course — grew up to be the parish 
priest. 

The slum setting intrigued me. We didn't call them 
ghettos yet, and, as a very young child who had helped her 
mother pin wet laundry onto the clothesline, I couldn't figure 
out how the lines that stretched from balcony to balcony of the 
walk-up flats functioned. The clotheslines in our backyard 
stretched between two T-shaped poles that looked like tele- 
phone poles, and we used both sides to hang the washing. There 
were two lines between those balconies, too, which worked on a 
pulley system. Naively assuming the indigent occupants of 
those slum apartments used both sides of the line, just as we 
did, I had visions of wooden clothes pins flying into the air when 
they reached the pulley, releasing the laundry to drop to the 
dirty streets below. It never occurred to me that those lines 
were not used to capacity. 

The next movie I remember was The Wizard ofOz. My 
best friend's mother took Betty and me on a Saturday afternoon. 
It was a special "dress up" affair for two six-year-olds. Vivian 
purchased the tickets, and we entered the wide, double doors 
into the main lobby of the Orpheum, popcorn bags clutched in 
hot little hands. Our eyes widened as we took in the grandeur 
of that lobby: tall ceilings, an enormous winding stairway 
covered with thick carpeting that led to the balcony, and a decor 



that appeared as though a Sultan, at the very least, might soon 
materialize to welcome us. Huge crystal chandeliers glistened, 
sending rays of light bouncing off the padded gilt benches and 
other furnishings, permitting us to walk in our own small 
shadows. It was a far cry from our own rural homes with their 
Olson rugs made of used woolen clothing we bundled up and 
sent to be woven into room-size carpets, the table-top Philco 
radios, and that ever-present heating stove in the corner. 

Led by the handsomely uniformed usher and the small 
flashlight he held as carefully as though it were a magic beacon, 
we walked the dimly lit aisle and took our seats about midway 
down. I remember sitting on the aisle, with Vivian to my right, 
watching seemingly headless, bodiless feet pass by me, lit by the 
small bulbs in the side of each aisle seat that threw light into the 
carpeted path. 

Soon the lights went down, and, before long, I was flying 
through the air with Dorothy from black-and-white Kansas to 
colorful Oz. That my name was the same as hers made it even 
more enthralling. But as the minutes went by and Dorothy was 
threatened by the wicked witch, I tensed, small fingers gripping 
the arms of my seat. Then, as the sands ran through the 
hourglass, apparently sealing that other Dorothy's doom, I 
could no longer watch. I hid my eyes with my hands, knowing 
that the witch would prevail. I was almost afraid to listen; the 
seconds ticked by like centuries until, suddenly, I was aware 
that all was well once more. Dorothy was safe, and the bad old 
witch had melted away! It was a glorious feeling of safety 
regained, that wonderful knowledge that Dorothy and her trio 
of unlikely friends had triumphed over the evil espoused by the 
witch and all her cohorts. I walked out of that theatre at Betty's 
side, never once mentioning my moment of doubt, my fears. 
Besides, Betty had been seated at Vivian's right, and I was 
pretty darned sure she'd hidden her eyes too. Betty was always 
a "scairdy-cat"! 



The Orpheum was where I first saw Gone with the Wind 
with my grandparents one Sunday afternoon. I was not at all 
convinced that Clark Gable was as wonderful as my mother, 
aunts, and grandmother thought, but Rhett Butler quickly 
made me a believer. Years later, my own daughters were as 
reluctant as I had been with regard to the charms of Mr. Gable. 
It was my very distinct pleasure to introduce them, on two 
separate occasions, approximately seven years apart, to the 
magnificent actor. 

When I was old enough to date, it was always a special 
thrill to see a movie at the Orpheum, second only to holding 
hands in the balcony. The popcorn still came from the wagon 
outside, a lobstertail dinner could be enjoyed ( not that I ever had 
the opportunity at that stage in my life) at the nearby Leland 
Hotel's Red Lion Room for three dollars and fifty cents, and a 
five dollar bill was a fortune, indeed! 

Sometimes when I came home from college on week- 
ends, a girlfriend who had a car and was a dedicated movie 
addict would pick me up on Sunday afternoon; we would drive 
into Springfield and see movies — always two, and sometimes 
three — but not always at theatres as plush as the Orpheum. 
Then she'd leave me and my luggage at the bus station for my 
ride back to Macomb. After three movies, I usually had a 
horrible headache, which took several aspirin and a good sleep 
to get over. 

The drive-in theatres could be the answer to a family's 
dream, or their worst nightmare. Two adults with two or more 
children penned up in the confines of the family Ford for several 
hours often turned into complete chaos. If Junior didn't behave, 
there was no way to send him to his room; if Sissy spilled the 
homemade lemonade all over the seat, an invasion of flying, 
crawling creatures would come to partake of the goodies. If the 
baby was fussy, he could easily outdo the speaker hooked over 
the window glass in decibels, drowning out the sweetest of love 
scenes or the rowdiest of John Wayne fights. On the other hand. 



some cars soon had windows so steamed over it was impossible 
to see in or out — which was probably just as well. 

But these drive-in theatres signaled the end of the glory 
days of such beautiful edifices as the Orpheum Theatre. When 
such splendid "real" theatres disappeared, they took with them 
much of the aura that surrounded those wonderful old films in 
black and white or living color. Somehow, sitting in a modem 
four-screen theatre at the edge of the mall just doesn't lend the 
ambiance found when we searched for adventure and romance, 
for our hopes and dreams, by stepping through those beautiful 
doors of the old Orpheum. Something very grand, gracious, and 
beautiful was lost forever. 



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V Working T^ecades cAgo 



83 



WORKING DECADES AGO 

Except for their families, nothing is more important to 
most people than their work. And it isn't just because of the 
money. As psychoanalyst and social critic Erich Fromm said in 
The Sane Society, "In the process of work . . . man molds and 
changes himself" 

People develop as individuals by filling a role demanded 
by their work. A woman who has spent years as a doctor has 
learned to fulfill and express herself through that role, and she 
is different in some ways from the woman she might have been 
as a store clerk, librarian, or politician. In short, our work has 
lasting psychological consequences for us, shaping our sense of 
identity, contributing to our outlook on life. 

The memoirs in this section depict various jobs that 
people held or accomplished decades ago, and in the process 
they reveal something about the people who did them. Ruth 
Gash Taylor's "Farewell to the Linotype" is a good example. In 
the process of reading about the typesetting machine that had 
such a big impact on newspaper production, we encounter a 
woman whose "days were long and boring" until she taught 
herself to operate a Model 4 Linotype and started "a lifelong love 
affair with printing." She was clearly good at her job and proud 
of her skill, but she also realized that problems like "etaoin" and 
"shrdlu" were part of life, too. 

Her memoir also reminds us that machines have pro- 
gressively invaded the workplace, creating jobs that are more 
disagreeable and meaningless than the labor-intensive ones 
they eliminated. So, work in the twentieth century is commonly 
less satisfying than it used to be. But Taylor obviously devel- 
oped an emotional bond with her machine, even if it sometimes 
spattered her with hot lead. 

By contrast, Mary Dequimpaul's work in a hospital lab 
was directly related to people's lives, yet it could be frustrating, 
too. It called for dedication and resilience. But it is notable that 



she uses "we" to tell her story, thereby revealing the intense 
feeling of cooperation in a worthwhile effort that gave meaning 
to her work. 

The memoirs of William L. Defrates, Ralph Eaton, and 
Robert Little chronicle early work experiences. The first depicts 
a common childhood job, selling newspapers, and perhaps none 
of the memoirs more clearly shows how selfhood is gradually 
constructed by meeting the challenges of work. The items by 
Eaton and Little are both pervaded by a sense of change, but 
Eaton is proud of participating in the transition to electrical 
power that meant so much to rural people while Little was, in 
a sense, the victim of change, as his expertise in producing 
disease-free seed com became obsolete. 

Farm work is vividly recalled in two of the memoirs. The 
long, hard day of the farmer in corn picking time is recalled in 
detail by Arthur Hawbaker, and although he avoids self-praise, 
there is an almost heroic quality about the life he once lived, so 
completely centered as it was around exhausting physical 
labor. Lucille Ballinger's account of a woman's work on butch- 
ering day reminds us that women also labored mightily on the 
farm — and that certain jobs just couldn't be hurried. 

Finally, Al Hartman's account of "Wine-Making in Mon- 
roe County" depicts a successful but socially doomed family 
enterprise, in which even the children had a role to play. His 
fine memoir was trimmed considerably by the editors to fit the 
format of this section, but in his typescript, now available with 
hundreds of other "Tales from Two Rivers" contest entries in 
Archives and Special Collections at the WIU Library, he pro- 
vides an extensive discussion of the arched wine cellars that are 
a unique heritage in Monroe County. 

In all of these memoirs it is clear that a myriad of positive 
values arise from the struggles and satisfactions of work. 

John E. Hallwas 



FAREWELL TO THE LINOTYPE 

Ruth Gash Taylor 

So long, "etaoin" and "shrdlu." Although you didn't 
mean anything, you showed up in print often enough to merit an 
explanation in some of the fatter dictionaries. You'll probably 
disappear even from the dictionaries one of these days. 

Your demise will parallel that of the Linotype, the 
machine that made you an enigma for generations of newspaper 
readers who have been confounded by such sentences as "A 
major apartment building fire illustrated how dangerous etaoin 
shrdlu." 

For people who have seen etaoin and shrdlu in print, but 
never understood why, this is the explanation: 

Etaoin and shrdlu are the letters on the first two rows of 
keys on the Linotype, the machine that set the type for newspa- 
pers, books, and magazines for nine decades. If a Linotype 
operator goofed in the first words of a line, the line would be 
completed by running the fingers down the first and second 
rows of keys, getting first etaoin, and then shrdlu. 

In theory, the line would be thrown into a metal con- 
tainer called a "bucket" — the operator's wastebasket. In prac- 
tice, however, lines containing the gibberish got into print 
thousands of times in the small country weekly newspapers as 
well as the metropolitan giants. The juiciest detail of many a 
story was lost in etaoin and shrdlu. 

I came under the spell of the Linotype September 8, 
1941, when I went to work at The Hamilton Press, Hamilton, 
Illinois, as office girl. Answering the telephone and typing news 
items did not take much time. The days were long and boring 
until the newspaper's owner permitted me to teach myself how 
to operate his Model 14 Linotype. Thus began a lifelong love 
affair with printing. 

The Linotype clicked and clacked as brass matrices fell 
into line to receive the molten metal that made a line of letters. 



Its cogs and belts moved synchronously; its robot arm returned 
the matrices to their ingenious sorting system. 

One peril of Linotype operation was that, if something 
went wrong in the casting process, the operator "had a squirt." 
That meant the melted lead — all 550 degrees of it — flew every 
which way, often landing on the operator's person or clothes. 
When this happened, some accomplished typesetters could 
swear for five minutes straight and never use the same epithet 
more than once. 

Mr. C. had a squirt into his mustache and nose. He sat 
squirming for long painful minutes while his wife plucked out 
the hardened metal. He lost his mustache, but otherwise was 
not seriously harmed. 

I have white scars on my hands and arms, souvenirs of 
long ago squirts. 

Linotype operators were often a colorful lot. Sometimes 
they settled down in one town and became solid citizens. Others 
wandered from newspaper to newspaper, anxious for a change 
of scenery, a slightly larger paycheck, an opportunity to see how 
they did things in the shop beyond the next horizon. 

The onset of World War II curbed travel, but sometimes 
tramp printers would stop in Hamilton. Usually, they wanted 
only a day's work to pay for meals and a night's lodging before 
they crossed the Mississippi to seek work at the Daily Gate City 
in Keokuk, Iowa. 

One was "The Hat," who always appeared in a top hat 
and tuxedo. Another was "Big Marie," who came to work in a 
mink cape and diamond earrings — provided they had not been 
hocked to keep Marie going until the next paycheck. 

A perennial visitor was a character who claimed to be 
related to a family associated with a famous ball park. He never 
lasted over three hours. He needed to gargle away a parched 
throat so often that, by the end of three hours, he couldn't 
distinguish a Linotype from a chihuahua. 



One time, he claimed to be on the wagon. He proudly 
displayed his deterrent — a Turkish pipe. It was a complicated 
affair with a large bowl over a small urn. Water filled the urn; 
tobacco was placed in the bowl and lighted. Later, Mr. C. missed 
the clatter of the Linotype, and investigated. He found his new 
operator fast asleep. The water in the urn of the Turkish pipe 
had been replaced with rum. 

Except for these spasmodic intervals, I was the full-time 
operator after the war effort claimed the man in that job. L in 
turn, gave way to Mr. C.'s son when he was home on vacation 
from college. 

I very soon ran afoul of the son. He scattered hyphens 
like confetti. When he came to the end of a line, he didn't worry 
about the correct division of a word, or whether a word could be 
divided at all. He dropped in a hyphen — as in b-rown — and the 
rest of the word was on the next line. 

As proofreader, I marked all the incorrect divisions. He 
was furious. Who was this country jake to challenge the BOSS's 
SON? 

I guess he has been vindicated. He went on to hold a very 
prestigious position. Today, computers divide words as haphaz- 
ardly as he did. 

My Linotype keyboard did not engrave in stone the life 
of the community, yet it was an integral part of the something 
"black and white and read all over." But in the process of 
making that contribution, I probably also contributed incom- 
prehensible lines of etaoin and shrdlu. 

Now computers envelop us, and it is difficult for a 
younger generation to understand how anyone got out a news- 
paper without them. 



WORKING IN A HOSPITAL LAB 

Mary Dequimpaul 

As green as the proverbial grass, I was deeply impressed 
by the surroundings on entering the medical laboratory of St. 
Elizabeth Hospital back in the 1940s. Needless to say, the 
aforementioned surroundings have changed drastically ( but for 
the better) over the years. Counters were then lined with glass 
vials holding blood and other unappealing forms of body juices, 
microscopes, sterilizers and other objects that were unidentifi- 
able to my untrained eye. In the center of this, set on a one-plate 
burner, was a copper pan filled with water. Stained, battered, 
discolored, it resembled an object straight out of a moonshiner's 
still. But, as I soon found out, it was important and played a 
vital role in analysis. 

Our days began at seven a.m., when we stepped out of 
the elevator onto the fifth floor, which was to become my domain 
for the next nine years. In the summer, our entrance was 
greeted by a blast of such hot air as could only be described as 
coming from the deepest part of the earth. This temperature 
continued for the entire summer and made working very 
uncomfortable. 

Orientation was a catch-as-catch-can. I was given an 
enamel tray which no doubt began its life as a baking tin in the 
kitchen and was "promoted" elsewhere when its baking use was 
exhausted. In this instance, it provided a receptacle for sy- 
ringes and other paraphernalia for drawing blood, venous and 
otherwise. Other items on the tray were shot glasses to hold 
oxalated blood to keep it from clotting, tubes for serum, etc. 
Prominently in view was a yard of rubber tubing used as a 
tourniquet. Before using our expertise on patients, blood- 
drawing was on a volunteer basis. Since volunteers were 
in short supply, our expertise (and I use the term loosely) 
was questionable, but patients seldom realized just how 



87 



inexperienced we were. (On the other hand, they might have 
strongly suspected.) 

Returning from the floors with our samples, we started 
our real work. A drop of blood on a special calibration slide 
placed under the microscope showed the red and white cor- 
puscles. There were no computers, no adding machines to tally 
the millions of red cells and the thousands of their brethren, the 
white cells. A pencil, paper, and headwork tabulated the 
critters. A smear of whole blood on a slide, stained and 
examined under the scope, revealed other creatures, some 
normal, some otherwise. For blood chemistry, whole blood was 
reduced to a thick, jelly-like substance, then filtered to a clear 
liquid. Then the copper kettle earned its keep. The filtrate, 
combined with another chemical, was placed in a tube and set 
to boil for eight minutes. After a cooling period, we provided 
other additives, and then comparison with normal findings 
proved the results. To this day, I shudder to think how many 
diabetics gave up the ghost while waiting for the results of their 
blood sugar done by the above Folin-Wu procedure. I have been 
told that in recent years a drop of blood goes into a glucometer 
and the results pop out. So be it. 

One of the tests using serum was the Wasserman for 
syphilis. It was a long, drawn-out affair, but surprisingly 
accurate. Positive results were rare, probably due to a society 
which had not yet reached the low level of today's morals. 
Supposedly, only lower social class members were afflicted with 
the above, so when a patient of high standing tested positive, 
the results were scoffed in disbelief by his attending doctor. 
Later, the disbelief turned to belief when an autopsy on the 
individual turned up calcified placques in the lining of the aorta, 
a definite sign of the disease and the primary cause of death. 

Afler completion of the tests, results were recorded and 
carefully reported on the patients' charts. After completion of 
the above, clean-up time followed. Tubes, glassware, syringes, 
and needles had to be washed, and blood had to be discarded. If 



the current clean-up lady called in sick ( sick of this dandy little 
chore, no doubt), any lab tech unfortunate enough to be idle at 
the time was designated. Obviously, there were never any 
volunteers. Washing the dozens of tiny tubes seldom put any of 
us in ecstasy; sometimes we wore rubber gloves, since it was 
awkward to handle the tiny items. Syringes were not easy to 
clean, nor were the needles, which were later sharpened on 
stone. Sterilization was done by a monstrous piece of equip- 
ment resembling an iron lung. 

The war years brought changes in the lab. Penicillin 
made its appearance, and there was no hesitancy among the 
staff in its use. Previous to this, the only and best recourse was 
sulfathiazole, but because of its toxicity, dosage was extremely 
cautious and required daily sulfa blood levels. Another new- 
comer during this time was the pap smear, named after its 
founder, Dr. Papaniicolaou. Its initial use was on possible 
cancer patients, but it later became routine for all females. 

I might add a word about an unpleasant but necessary 
section of our facility, the morgue. It was definitely not the elite 
place seen in the "Quincy" television series. Located at the end 
of the emergency entrance, its size was comparable to a walk- 
in closet. No windows, no ventilation, no fans. Student nurses 
who were jammed in the tiny area did little to ease the situation. 
The only one not gasping for air was the cadaver. 

It was the attending pathologist's job to perform the 
unsavory task. In his absence, Dr. English is to be remembered 
and respected for doing it. Organs were removed and refriger- 
ated to await the pathologist's final diagnosis. Strangely 
enough, at rare instances, there was no discernible cause of 
death. Skeptics may wonder how no obvious cause of death is 
evident when a body is examined "stem to stern," but it is 
possible. Death can be from a disease discernible only by 
microscopic examination of blood or tissue, which was generally 
not available from cadavers in those days. Lab personnel 



facetiously termed these deaths G.O.K. (God only knows). 
Professionally they were often labeled "heart disease." 

We worked hard in the 1940s. There was no overtime 
pay, nor recompense for night calls when we were called from 
sleep two and three times a night for "stat" blood work on 
emergency patients. There was no air conditioning, no fan, and 
only one elevator. The emergency one was located too far from 
our quarters, so our option, if the elevator for our use was held 
up elsewhere, was to mush-mush five stories down and usually 
five stories back up to our domain. What kept us from ending 
up in the closet-like room adjacent to the emergency room, God 
only knows, but we were a hardy, dedicated crew. Back then, we 
had to be. 



SELLING NEWSPAPERS IN JACKSONVILLE 

William L. Defrates 

When I was nine back in the early 1930s, my father said, 
as he had to my brothers and sisters before me, that I was old 
enough to get a job and earn a little money "to help out here at 
home." By this I took him to mean that I should sell newspapers 
since there were no other jobs available for nine year olds that 
I was aware of 

Not that he would ask for or even accept any money we 
earned on our own, but it sort of eased his mind to know we had 
pocket money when he could not come up with a dime to give us 
for the movies or a nickel for a candy bar. 

I was to become a street hawker. The home delivery 
routes were all taken by the big, rich kids who owned bicycles. 

"Be a hustler," advised my father, a word I have hated 
ever since. 



The only equipment needed was a canvas bag which the 
company provided. The paper sold for three cents a copy. We 
could keep a penny from each sale, and turn the balance over 
when we checked in at 6:00 p.m. On Christmas Eve, we could 
keep the entire proceeds as a bonus. 

I sold papers on the public square for several years. It 
was an engaging way to spend a boyhood. There were always 
new friends to make, old alleys to explore, and friendly custom- 
ers to talk with. 

In the taverns, the men sat at tables drinking beer and 
playing cards. Tobacco smoke fouled the air. If one of these 
gents bought a paper, he would usually pay you with a tavern 
chit. This was a small cardboard ticket with the tavern name 
printed on it used in lieu of cash. You could redeem it in trade 
only. So if you got one of these in payment, you could exchange 
it at the bar for a hot dog or root beer. That meant these 
refreshments cost you only three cents. Not a bad deal even for 
those times. 

Sometimes a car would pull up, and the driver yell for a 
paper. You had to dash out into the street to take it to him. My 
brother was once struck by an auto doing this. Thankfully his 
injuries were slight. The risks were high, but usually the driver 
was in a hurry, would not fumble about for pennies, but would 
toss you a nickel or a dime with a nonchalant, "Keep the change, 
kid," and drive off. So our pay was augmented by these "tips." 
If you ever got a quarter for a tip, you felt wealthy. It was like 
selling twenty-three papers at one time. 

Whenever a news story broke of wide public interest, the 
paper would bring out an extra. This happened several times 
while I was a paper boy and the large bold face headlines still 
live in my memory. 

I recall the single largest day's sale I made occurred 
hawking an "extra." The event was not of immediate interest, 
like "TORNADO STRIKES JACKSONVILLE," or sensational, 
like "LINDBERGH BABY KIDNAPPED," but only the story of 



a tragic accident involving two much loved people. The headline 
read, "WILL ROGERS AND WILEY POST KILLED IN AIR- 
PLANE CRASH." I sold 117 papers that day and with my tips 
earned two and a half dollars. 

Will Rogers, the cowboy philosopher turned actor and 
columnist, was a down-to-earth, plain-spoken man. He could 
spin a yam while spinning a lariat. His droll humor was a tonic 
for America's blues. Wiley Post, one of our earliest aviation 
heroes, made the first solo flight around the world. Their deaths 
brought tears to many eyes. 

There was an alley just north of the Journal-Courier. 
The building then faced South West Street. Next to the alley 
was Sid Caldwell's barber shop. 

Sid was a balding gentleman with a pot belly. When 
there was no patron in his chair, he used to leave the shop and 
watch the newsboys fistfight in the alley. We always arrived 
about fifteen minutes before press time, but since mechanical 
breakdowns almost daily caused a forty minute delay, we had 
quite a bit of time to kill. We either pitched pennies or held 
fistfights. 

There was nothing organized in these bouts. We simply 
decided whom would take on whom, and had at it. Bloody noses, 
blackened eyes, and loose teeth were all part of the game. Only 
one bout at a time was the rule, and all but the pugilists stood 
on the side and cheered or jeered. 

A good crowd gathered for these affairs. Many folks 
waited anxiously for the press to roll, so they would have first 
shot at the Help Wanted Section. The year was 1935. They 
usually watched the kids slug it out. 

One day a customer said to Sid, "Do you know what's 
going on out there? Somebody's going to get killed. They ought 
to put a stop to it." 

Sid nodded. He knew that the alley was a public place 
and no law was being broken that he could tell. "But I can't have 



my customers complaining," he thought. "Might not come back. 
And I need the business." 

Sid went around the comer to Lane's Book Store, which 
sold everything under the sun, including books, and ordered 
two pairs of the largest size boxing gloves that he could find 
listed in the catalog. 

When they arrived, he called us together and said, 
"Boys. There's been complaints. Now if you're going to fight 
here, you've got to wear these." He opened the box and held the 
shiny maroon-colored gloves in front of us. 

He was greeted by a chorus of "All rights" and we rushed 
to examine and feel the new gift that had entered our lives. We 
knew what they were, though none of us had ever owned a pair. 
No matter that there was only one size for all. No matter that 
you could flay away at your opponent all night and inflict no 
more damage than you could if you had a couple of pillows tied 
to your hands. They were beautiful and we loved them. We 
began to feel like professionals. All that happened was that the 
sharp whacks inflicted on cheekbones turned to dull thuds, and 
blood ceased to flow in Sid's alley. 

As a reward for showing up faithfully, and treating 
customers kindly, the paper office would assign ideal spots or 
comers to deserving newsboys so they wouldn't have to walk 
constantly to sell their papers. 

I was finally assigned the corner of East State and the 
public square. Elliott State Bank stood on one side and the 
Piggly Wiggly market on the other. This was the largest and 
most popular grocery store in town and it was my spot exclu- 
sively. No other paper boy could sell there. I planted myself in 
front of the market's main door and made my pitch as the 
customers entered or left. My sales picked up at once, and I was 
pleased that I could always duck into the store to escape the 
heat and buy soda pop. 

My Utopia was soon to end, however. A new seller on the 
force began to stalk me. He would stop every evening around 



90 



five o'clock, plant his body squarely in front of me, and proceed 
to inch forward. I would step back but he would press forward 
until eventually I would find myself standing in the gutter. 

He was a head taller than I, with broad shoulders, and 
a head like a bull. He wore a perpetual sneer on his lips and 
carried a perpetual chip on his shoulder. The look in his eyes 
dared me to knock it off so he could flatten me. In this respect, 
he anticipated Dirty Harry by about fifty years. 

I never knew if he resented my assigned advantage or 
was just enraged by my puniness. I think it may just have been 
hate at first sight. He never said anything — ^just crowded me, 
pressed me. 

My humiliation and anger grew every day. By the end 
of three weeks, I could take it no longer. On a sweltering August 
afternoon, he appeared as usual and advanced toward me. 

In front of the Piggly Wiggly stood a lamp post, and 
attached to it a green, metal mail box. I do not remember doing 
this, but I must have removed my paperbag and draped it over 
the mailbox. I lowered my head, and viith all the force I could 
muster, I rammed it into the pit of his stomach. I saw the 
startled look in his eyes, and heard the "oomph!" as the wind 
went out of him, and he toppled over backwards. I straddled his 
body at the waist, and began pummeling his head with both 
fists. When I was pulled ofFhim a few minutes later by shocked 
passers-by, his face was a bloody pulp and he was spitting out 
teeth like watermelon seeds. 

In a very short time, Kack Carson, the paper's circula- 
tion manager was there. Someone had phoned the paper office 
to tell them that two of their paper boys were killing each other 
on the public square. 

We were both fired on the spot. Our papers were taken, 
and we were told to check out at the office. But when I got there, 
a man was explaining that he waited in his car every night for 
his wife to get ofT work at the bank, and had witnessed the 
bullying and provoking I had been subjected to. 



"I don't see how you can blame the little kid," he told 
them. "There's just so much a body can take." 

The upshot of it was that I was given my job back, while 
The Hulk lost his for good. 

"If you ever have a problem like this again," Kack said to 
me, "you come to me with it. We can't have the paper carry a 
story about one of our boys murdering another." And he winked 
at me. 

When my father had heard all the details, his reaction 
was typical. 

"You're a real tiger," he said. "Maybe you can use some 
of that energy splitting kindling and weeding the garden." 

But even my father's sardonic approval could not daunt 
my soaring spirit. Like Tony the Tiger, I felt "G-R-E-A-T." 



BRINGING ELECTRICITY TO 
RURAL WESTERN ILLINOIS 

Ralph Eaton 

Rural America has changed dramatically during the 
twentieth century, as we all know. The transition from the use 
of horses to tractors and automobiles as the primary source of 
power and transportation was perhaps the greatest change. 
Free rural mail delivery was also a great advance. The improve- 
ment of farm-to-market roads was another. Hybrid seeds and 
commercial fertilizers were significant improvements, too. But 
perhaps no development brought about such a dramatic change 
in a short period of time as that of making electricity available 
to over 5,000,000 farms across the USA. I had a very small part 
in that activity in our region, and it was a very exciting time. 

Electricity is so available to all Americans today that it 
is taken for granted unless we experience a power outage, which 



at its worst is a very temporary inconvenience which someone 
else fixes for us. Electricity is today the primary energy source 
of our world, and we are highly dependent upon it. But during 
the first one-third of the twentieth century, rural folks all over 
America overcame the dark by using coal oil lamps and lan- 
terns, and before that, tallow candles. They cooked and heated 
their homes by burning wood and coal. They could not move 
from one room to another after dark without carrying their light 
with them. I can recall when coal oil lamps and lanterns were 
replaced by gasoline ones, making a brighter light. But, this 
was just a few degrees better and only a few brief years before 
rural electricity. 

The great improvement was initiated on May 11, 1935. 
On that day. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into being 
the Rural Electrification Administration, later to be called the 
REA. This established a ten-year program for "lighting up 
America" and authorized a fund of $4 10,000,000 for the first five 
years, from which loans could be obtained for installing rural 
electricity lines. 

It became the responsibility of the rural people them- 
selves to initiate efforts to obtain these loans. One such group 
of interested farmers — around 450 of them — met at Quincy, 
Illinois, on April 20, 1938, and formed an organization which 
they named Adams Electric Cooperative. At a subsequent 
meeting, they engaged a construction firm — Monroe Electric 
Company of Chicago, Illinois — to build the power lines. By June 
of that same year, over 500 farms in Adams County had 
electricity! This rapid success created additional interest. 
Adams Electric Cooperative decided to expand into Brown and 
Schuyler Counties. My father, located in Schuyler County, 
signed a membership and paid his $5 dues on September 15, 
1938. His minimum monthly service rate would be $3.50 per 
month. Construction in that area was to begin in the spring. 

And so it was that this nineteen-year-old applied for a 
common laborer's job vrith Monroe Electric Company, which 



had set up headquarters at Camden for this phase of their 
operation. I was told that before I could be hired I must have a 
Social Security Card. Social Security? What was that? I had 
never heard of it. I was told to obtain one through a U.S. Post 
Office, so I went to the little post office in Huntsville and, sure 
enough, obtained a small cardboard with a number on it, and I 
was all set! 

I was called to start working around mid-March of 1939. 
I was issued two long handled shovels — these were really long, 
about eight feet — with wooden handles about two inches in 
diameter. The blade on one was of an ordinary shape, with a 
point. I later learned that this was referred to as a "banjo." The 
other shovel had no point, being rounded. But it was also bent. 
It was like nothing I had ever seen, and it didn't look like it 
would do much. It was called a "spoon," and I soon learned how 
useful it really was. I was to be paid a minimum of $4 per day 
for eight hours, and I was going to dig holes for the tall highline 
poles. We were expected to dig at least eight holes per day, but 
if I could dig more than eight, I would receive a bonus of 50? per 
hole for them. 

I climbed onto the back of a flatbed truck with seven 
other fellows, each of whom had a "banjo" and a "spoon." We 
were taken a few miles into the country where we were dropped 
off along a road one at a time, each by a stake on the bank driven 
earlier by the foreman. Each stake was marked with the depth 
to which the hole was to be dug. Most of the "in line" holes were 
to be five-and-a-half feet deep and about eighteen inches in 
diameter. If the line of the poles was not straight, some holes 
had to be six feet deep. If the highline was to cross a road or 
make a sharp bend, the hole was to be six-and-a-half feet deep. 
When we had finished a hole, we would shoulder our banjo and 
spoon and walk past the seven other fellows to the next stake. 
Since the poles were a considerable distance apart, this meant 
a walk of about three fourths of a mile. The foreman usually had 
gone elsewhere to do something after dropping us off. The first 



couple of days were a real learning experience, but we soon 
became quite proficient. 

I don't recall all of the members of our work crew, and of 
course, there were some changes, but I do remember most of 
those who stuck with it all spring. There were the two Agans 
boys (Ora and Tom) from Camden, Sterling Vaughn from 
Camden, Herschel Anderson and Bill Irwin from Brooklyn, 
Frank Croxton from LaPrairie, and myself Sterling Vaughn 
was my age; the Agans boys were a couple of years older. The 
others ranged upward to Mr. Croxton, who was, perhaps, in his 
forties. He was the stabilizing influence in our group. I can 
remember Tom Agans and Sterling Vaughn setting a heavy 
pace as the days went on. Each wanted to dig the most holes. 
They would run, with their shovels on their shoulders, from one 
hole to the next, usually over a half mile. Of course, they would 
get a closer hole to dig, which would make our next one farther 
away! I could not keep pace with them, though I tried. Some 
days I could dig nine or even ten holes, but I can recall Tom 
Agans getting as many as twelve in one day. 

We got other assignments as well. We spent weeks 
clearing trees and brush from the right of way. I lost a 
wristwatch (my first one) while cutting brush along Crooked 
Creek east of Irwin. I searched and searched after work that 
night, but to no avail. We also helped set the poles and tamp 
them in. The flatbed truck had an A-frame attached to it, so as 
the pole was hoisted by the A-frame, three or four of us would 
guide the base into the hole. We also set anchor braces after the 
poles were in. These holes had to be dug at an angle. We would 
go to where the stakes were set, angle the hole toward the top 
of the pole, then drop in the anchor and rod and hit the anchor 
to spread it. These anchors were not the type that twisted their 
own into the soil — they were wider and were set deeper. Even 
today, I can remember the location of a few of the holes that I 
dug and the anchors that I set. 



Work went rapidly. By late June, most of the common 
labor work was done. All that remained was stringing the wire 
and hooking it up to the houses, which had to be done by union 
labor. Most of my crew had other work to go to. Many of them 
farmed. Monroe Electric moved their office from Camden to 
Camp Point. There was still some labor type work to be done in 
Adams County, and I was willing, so they kept me on. 

A husky lad from Camp Point and I were made a crew of 
two. He was a year older than I and had red hair and freckles, 
but his name escapes me. We were provided an old pickup 
truck, a map of the area, and some tools. Our job was to finish 
out "problem holes" — those that couldn't be dug with a banjo 
and spoon because they were usually solid rock and often on a 
hillside. They had been skipped when the regular digging was 
going on. So, we used dynamite on most of them. We would take 
a long iron bar with a chisel tip on it and work a hole in the rock 
deep enough for a stick of dynamite. We would set that off, then 
clean out the debris and start another dynamite hole until the 
post hole was deep enough. Most of the debris (rock chips) had 
to be removed by hand. If you have never hung your head into 
a hole filled with dynamite smoke, I can assure you that it is a 
good way to get a splitting headache. Also, I shudder when I 
recall that we banged around in that old pickup with a box of 
caps in the glove compartment and a box of dynamite in the 
rear! And, in preparing the dynamite, we used to insert the fuse 
cord into the cap, place the cap inside our mouth, and crimp it 
on with our teeth. It's a wonder I'm around to tell about it! 

The two of us would complete from two to four holes in 
a day, depending on how much rock there was. There were 
enough of these to keep us busy for four or five weeks. By early 
August, there was no more common labor work, so we were laid 
off. 

In the meantime, during July, the lines had been com- 
pleted to my folks' home and the power had been turned on. 
What a thrill! But, like most people, my folks had been 



93 



conservative in wiring their home and didn't provide enough 
outlets. They had no real idea of the many ways that they would 
be able to use this wonderful new miracle. It was a completely 
new experience for them. 

Gradually, many of the drudgeries of farm life began to 
fall away. As farm families could afford them, many "miracle 
gadgets" began to fill the home — even the barn! The quality of 
life on the farm had taken a giant stride forward. 



DISEASE FREE SEED CORN 

Robert Little 

It was early in March, 1922, when my mother, my dad, 
and I moved from the town of Macomb to my grandmother's 
farm about five miles north of town. Dad had to quit his job as 
a rural mail carrier because of failing eyesight, and I was happy 
to start farming. During the summers before my grandfather 
died, he had taught me how to farm, and I had just completed 
two quarters at the Teachers College in Macomb. I was 
nineteen years old and ready to start my life work, which was 
soon centered around seed com. 

That first year I picked seed com out of Grandmother's 
com crib, looking to see that the germ in the kernel was bright. 
I did not germinate it, but it grew and made a good stand. A close 
neighbor, E. J. Wetzel, was selling disease free seed com at ten 
dollars per bushel. He showed me how to make a germinator 
and what to look for after the corn germinated. So, I made a box 
about ten inches wide, a foot long, and six inches deep, and I 
lined it with metal so it would hold water. Then I got Mom to 
cut up an old pair of overalls into six inch squares and hem two 
opposite sides. I stuck wires through, and when folded, they 
would lie in the box with the wires resting on the sides of the box. 



Next, I nailed two y, inch square strips of wood down the center 
of a six inch board, spaced about V, of an inch apart, and when 
I folded the cloth squares, the folded center fit in the groove 
between the strips and made an easy place to put the kernels for 
germination. Each cloth held fifteen kernels or five ears, for 
three kernels were taken from each ear. Then I made crates to 
hold the ears. They were just wide enough, long enough, and 
deep enough to hold seventy-five ears of com. There were five 
rows of fifteen ears. Each row was separated by a strip of cloth 
nailed at one end. We always started at the same end and 
reversed the procedure when testing. 

When the germinating box was filled with fifteen folded 
square cloths, each with a row of fifteen kernels, I wet them 
thoroughly with warm water and set the box on the warming 
oven, over the cook stove. In about ten days, the com would be 
several inches above the top of the box and ready to be tested. 
When the cloths were spread out, the entire root system was 
visible as well as the molds on the diseased kernels. The three 
most common diseases were diplodia, fusarium, and aspergilis. 
Diplodia had a white mold, fusarium had a pink mold, and 
aspergilis had a black mold. When testing, the com was put in 
the three grades: No. 1, being disease free. No. 2, which was 
slightly diseased, and No. 3, which was dead or badly diseased 
and was discarded. The No. 2 grade was only used when the No. 
1 was all planted. Sometimes, just to make sure that we were 
testing correctly, a re-test was made of the No. 1 grade. Every 
time the roots were clean, white, and vigorous, it gave me a good 
feeling of confidence and satisfaction. 

About 1926, the McDonough County Farm Bureau built 
a new office building with a full basement. In part of the 
basement, they made a corn germination room to test patrons' 
seed com. The temperature and humidity were controlled. The 
purpose was to test for disease. Ernest Runkel was hired to 
manage the project, and I was hired to help since the project 
only operated in the winter months. The method of testing was 



different from mine as three feet square frames were used to 
hold the kernels. All the frames were wet down daily. The 
temperature was kept at 85 degrees, and in about ten days the 
corn was ready to test. The crates to hold the ears were the same 
as the ones I used at home. A pocket knife with the end of the 
blade broken off made a good tool to extract kernels. 

In those days farming was done with horses, and farms 
were much smaller than they are now. Therefore, each farm 
required less seed. Also, the rows were farther apart and the 
plants farther apart in the row. Most com was planted with a 
wire which had buttons spaced about thirty-eight or forty 
inches apart, which tripped the fork on the planter to drop two, 
three, or four kernels. By the use of a wire, the corn was planted 
in hills the same distance apart and farmers prided themselves 
in making straight rows crossways to the field. The purpose of 
cross rows was so the corn could be cultivated both ways and 
that would do more good killing weeds. 

After two years helping test com at the Farm Bureau, 
Lawrence McGrew, a farmer near Adair, purchased an aban- 
doned school house in the town of Vermont and converted it into 
seed corn storage. He built a germinating room similar to the 
one in the Farm Bureau building and hired me to test the seed. 
I worked two winters at Vermont, and then a bad fire destroyed 
the building and put Mr. McGrew out of business. 

Hybrid seed corn was coming into use at about that time, 
and the need to test farmers' seed was over. Hybrid seed com 
is gathered early in the fall and artificially dried down to where 
disease does not grow and is not a problem any more. 

I planted my disease-free seed alongside hybrid com but 
it never yielded as much, so I got a job selling hybrid seed. In 
my life, at least, the era of disease-free seed corn was over. 



A DAY'S WORK IN CORN PICKING TIME 

Arthur Hawbaker 

I well remember corn picking time in the early 1930s, 
when I lived on a farm in Lee County, near the town of Scarboro 
in northern Illinois, with my mother, Ethel, and my older 
brother, John. My day was long, and the work was hard, but I 
was proud to be a farmer. 

The day started when my alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. I 
got out of bed, lit the kerosene lamp on my night stand, and got 
dressed. I carried the lamp to the kitchen and placed it on the 
table where my mother would use it to prepare the family 
breakfast. From there I went to the lean-to, which is where my 
mother did the family washing. We called it the "laundry room." 
In that room there was a lantern hanging on a nail. I would light 
it and go out to a small building called the "cob house," which 
held corn cobs which were used to start the fires in the cooking 
stove and heating stoves in the winter. I would take the milk 
pail, milk strainer and pad, and milk can from the cob house and 
carry them out to the barn. It was a red barn about sixty feet 
long with a wire stretched from one end to the other inside. I 
would hang the lantern on this wire and move it along as I went 
about the task of milking. I cleaned the manure from behind the 
cows and went around in front of them and put down a generous 
supply of ground com and oats to each. I would then be ready 
to do the milking by hand, which yielded about two gallons of 
milk per cow. 

By the time I was through milking, the cows were 
through eating, so I gave them a big forkful of timothy and 
clover hay. They liked that! I then poured the fresh milk into 
the strainer, and threw the strainer pad into the milk can. The 
milk can went into the horse water tank by the windmill, where 
it was cooled by the time the milk truck came to pick it up later 
in the morning. I would go back to the barn then to take care of 
the eight head of horses we owned. I fed them several ears of 



com and some oats and cleaned out the manure. Then I would 
curry and brush the team which I would hitch to my com picking 
wagon after breakfast. 

My mother would have breakfast ready by the time I was 
done in the bam, so I would go back to the house to see what was 
on the menu for that day. There was always plenty to eat: 
bacon, eggs, homemade bread, oatmeal, and coffee. 

After breakfast I was ready to go to the field to pick com 
by hand, so I would take my lantern and go back to the bam 
where I would get my team of matched sorrel mares ready for 
the day in the field. By the time I was ready to go to the field, 
it would be daylight. I put the harness on the sorrels and bridled 
them. I would then take them outside and hitch them to the 
wagon. The wagon was wooden-wheeled, had a forty-inch-high 
side, and was ten feet long. On the righthand side of the box was 
a "bang board," which was three feet high and went the full 
length of the ten-foot box. Next, I put the team astraddle of the 
wagon tongue. On the front of the horses there was what was 
known as the neck yoke, with a ring in the middle. I put the end 
of the wagon tongue through the ring on the neck yoke to hold 
the tongue up. Then I went back to hook the team to the 
whippletree, which is on the back end of the tongue. On each 
end of the whippletree there was a singletree. I would hitch 
each mare to one of the singletrees, and I would then be ready 
to go the field, so I climbed up onto the wagon and drove out 
there. 

It was about daylight by then, so I put my team astraddle 
of a row of com stalks which had already been picked. To pick 
the corn, I used a husking hook, which I put on over a glove on 
my right hand and fastened with a strap behind the palm of my 
hand. To pick an ear of corn, I grabbed it at the butt end, then 
I drew the hook towards me across the center part of the ear. 
That motion cleared the husks from that side. Then I pulled the 
husks down on the other side of ear with my left hand, then 
grabbed the butt of the ear in the wagon against the bang board. 



The horses pulled the wagon along the rows as I moved through 
the field. 

I picked eight rows of com eighty rods long, which is 
about fifty bushels, from daylight until about 10:00 a.m. The 
wagon was full then, so I drove the load to the corn crib where 
I would unload it with the elevator. This machine was held in 
place by iron stakes driven in the ground. From the machine 
there was a tumbling rod which connected to the bottom of the 
elevator to make it operate to unload my load of com. Also, there 
was a hoist which raised the front of the wagon up and down so 
the corn slid out into the elevator. I hitched my team to the 
"horse power," where they went around in a circle to operate the 
elevator and the hoist. After I emptied my wagon, I unhitched 
my team from the "horse power" and backed up to the wagon. 
Then I was ready to go out to the field to pick the next eight rows 
of corn. I got those rows picked and was unloaded by 4:00 p.m. 
and would be ready to do my evening chores in reverse of the 
morning order. 

It was almost dark by then, and I would be ready for a 
good home-cooked supper. After supper, we would listen to the 
radio or sometimes go into Scarboro to the General Store that 
my Uncle John owned and sit around and talk to friends about 
the events of the world. At about 9:00 p.m. it was time to go 
home and go to bed. Tomorrow would be another long day. 



A WOMAN'S WORK ON BUTCHERING DAY 

Lucille Ballinger 

When I was a girl growing up in the Depression days on 
a small farm near Womac, things were different than now. 
Better in some ways, worse in others. There were six children 
in the family, three boys and three girls, besides my parents. 



Clara and Otto Klaus, and we lived in a four-room house. 
Throughout the year there were several big work days at our 
home — for apple butter making, threshing, and butchering, 
among other activities. 

My dad butchered several times a year, but the big 
butchering day came always on a weekday, when from six to 
eight hogs were killed. Being the oldest daughter, I was always 
kept at home that day to help Mom. That did not please me 
because if we had a monthly perfect attendance at school we 
were given a little pink certificate. Then after so many of them, 
we were given another bigger booklet that even had a ribbon 
down the middle. I loved these and looked forward to them, but 
it was just expected that I stayed home on butchering day to 
help. I never asked questions or argued about it, for we only did 
as our parents told us to. 

Prior to butchering day one of my jobs was to scrub the 
board floor with a lye substance that had been left in the bottom 
of our soap making big black iron kettle and saved for the floor 
scrubbing. A big scrub brush was used for this. The board floor 
had to be very clean as the ladies who came would all see it, my 
mother said. When the big day came, we got up early in the near 
zero temperature, and we knew we had a big job ahead. A 
dinner was always enjoyed by the large crowd of neighbor men, 
women, and children. By night, my floor that I had scrubbed so 
hard on was a total mess. It is hard to keep from dropping small 
bits of meat. My heart ached as I realized that on Saturday it 
would have to be rescrubbed, but I never disclosed my thoughts. 

Our rooms were small and so crowded at times. I hoped 
and prayed that when I got married there would be more room. 
I did not blame my parents; it just was that way. We were a 
happy, close family, and my dear dad had a pleasant way of 
explaining many factors that made them easier to accept. 

Putting the meat away during the next few days was a 
real experience, involving lots of hard work. After walking to 
and from school two miles away, we would help in any way we 



could. We did this besides our nightly chores of feeding and 
watering the chickens, gathering eggs, getting in a supply of 
wood, and carrying buckets of chips and com cobs. There were 
also milking time chores our father needed help with. But the 
fact that we would have lots of good tasting meat in the weeks 
and months to come always made the extra work worthwhile. 

Time went on, and at the age of twenty-one I became the 
bride of George Ballinger, and we had a home with so much 
more room than I had ever known. I was very happy. In the 
Atwater neighborhood, we had butchering days that were very 
similar to the Womac tradition. The Crouchs, Ralph and Arthur 
Neighbors, the Groves, George's parents, and the Herschelman 
families gathered for the work, and it was always a fun day. A 
tasty noon meal was served to the big, happy, himgry bunch. 
Much of the fresh meats were used in the preparations. Liver 
stew was a must, as were breaded brains, sweet breads, and 
other good things. 

On some days butchering went better than others, 
depending on the weather conditions and the way the hogs 
worked up. Generally, by 2:30 p.m., two chairs put together in 
the kitchen held a new, thoroughly clean wash tub full of ground 
meat, called sausage, that the men brought in. One man, 
Arthur Groves, our dear eldest of the group, was the one who did 
the seasoning. His years of experience perfected this job. 

I remember one particular butchering day when the 
men had gotten along great. They had the sausage ground, lard 
rendered, and much of the meat cut up early. The women had 
the dishes done and were visiting, swapping recipes, and 
watching the youngsters, when they decided they would help 
me can that sausage — probably thirty-five or so pounds, sitting 
in the big tub. This was always my job for the next few days, and 
I did not want to do it then, mainly because the jars were in the 
smoke house covered with lint and cobwebs, as we had no 
basement, and I also had no jar lids. The little village store at 
Atwater had lots of them, the ladies said. 



Their plea was that I could have it all done with their 
help on that day. So the lids were bought; the jars were washed, 
scalded, and sterilized; and every lady pitched in. It was just 
like an assembly line. Four big iron skillets on the hot wood 
stove were kept busy until sixty some quarts of good looking 
sausage were canned. We always saved a lot out so as to send 
home with each family a big amount of the fresh meat. At their 
butchering day, they did the same. We were pleased that our 
canning job went so fast, and was soon all done. 

We put the canned meat in a store room, just off the 
kitchen. We hardly used that room in the winter months as it 
was not heated. We had a sixteen-year-old girl named Pearl 
staying with us, as we were sending her to high school because 
her parents could not afford to. She and I moved the canned 
meat into the store room, remarking about each box how good 
that would taste in the summer months. 

Several days went by and the weather turned warmer. 
We began to get a strong odor once in a while, and my husband 
swore it was a dead mouse, but I looked and found none. One 
day Pearl went to get some books in the spare room and quickly 
remarked it was coming from that room. I stepped in and fully 



We found, to our great surprise and disgust, that the 
sixty some quarts of meat had spoiled. A dead horse would not 
have smelled worse. The job of emptying those cans was almost 
unbearable. My husband's stomach was weak anyway, so we 
ended up burying the meat, jars and all. 

What we found out was that all of the body heat has to 
be out of meat before it can be canned. So, the women's work was 
wasted that time, but we learned an important lesson — not to 
hurry a process that had to be done right. And there were other 
butchering days to come. 



WINE-MAKING IN MONROE COUNTY 

Al Hartman 

When I was seven or eight years old and lived on a farm 
east of Waterloo, Illinois, I helped my sister, Frieda, stomp 
grapes to extract the juice to make wine. We took ofFour shoes 
and stockings, climbed into the big, grape-filled tubs, and 
trampled the skins and pulp for fifteen minutes or so. 

Several days before, the grapes had been picked off the 
stems and collected into the wooden tubs. After standing 
around in late summer temperatures, the grapes were redolent 
with a pleasant "stitchy" fragrance that stung my nostrils, or at 
least tickled them a little. 

After Frieda and I finished oiu- stomping. Mother strained 
out the juice through a cheese cloth, and transferred it to 
twenty-gallon crocks, where she stirred in a little sugar. It had 
a nice purple color. Mother then covered the filled crocks with 
clean cloths, and let them stand in the outer cellar for another 
day or two. The pulp and seeds were fed to the chickens and 
pigs. As a reminder of the part my sister and I had played, our 
feet stayed blue for a week! 

The juice was later funneled into barrels and my father 
performed the chemistry of wine making. He used a U-tube 
vent in the top hole spigots, rubber hose siphons, and bung 
starters, etc. We had twelve barrels, each about three feet in 
diameter by four feet long, with three or four iron hoops. They 
were supported horizontally on a sixteen-inch high wooden rack 
against the south wall of the arch cellar. We called the cellar by 
its German name, "gewoelbte keller." The following spring, 
Father would siphon the nascent wine into a cleaned barrel 
alongside. It took two years to make wane. 

Our arch cellar was under the west side of our house, and 
it was four to five feet deeper than the outer cellar. Back in the 
1920s, the outer cellar had our central hot air furnace and 
carbide mixing tank for our gas lights. Grandpa built our old 



house in about 1870, together with a big barn and a combined 
summer kitchen and buggy shed. He had come to the USA in 
1852 as a seventeen-year-old boy with 35c in his pockets. 

Our vineyard, which Grandpa had estabUshed in the 
1870s, had eight rows, each 175 feet long. Four strands of wire 
were stretched between posts at ten foot intervals, on which the 
grapevines were trained. Most of the grapes were Niagaras, but 
there were some Concords, and a thirty-foot south row was for 
blackberries, to make blackberry wine. During the winter. Dad 
pruned the grapevines, tying them back on the wires, and 
leaving the one and two-year growths, to bear the coming year's 
grapes. 

Our vineyards and others in Monroe County produced 
good grapes and good wine, but alas, the national mood turned 
slowly against the manufacture and sale of liquor. Prohibition 
was the culmination of widespread, long-term indignation about 
drinking. Families and communities were appalled by the 
dreadful deaths and other problems caused by alcohol abuse, so 
anti-liquor legislation came along as a part of a moral crusade. 
We had no choice but to comply. 

So, our wine barrels were emptied. The staves were 
knocked out of their hoops, and the barrel ends were split up. 
The staves and pieces were then stacked outside for firewood. 
The family wine-making business was discontinued. 

Our vineyard nevertheless became a haven for townfolks, 
who came out when the grapes were in season, to fill their 
baskets with grapes to make jelly. Finally, after some years, 
there were no grapes at all. The wdres and posts and the vines 
were removed. Now, there is just a grassy area east of the house. 

Sic transit gloria vino! 



^ijss^a^ijgs^i^i^>^a^ijgs>i^@ij^8^g^ii^jg^g@i®^^s<^i^s^^sjs?ijgj<^s<sii;g^^ 




VI '^he Values of Mother and father 



101 



THE VALUES OF MOTHER AND FATHER 

No institution is more important than the home. With- 
out it operating as it should, America's deepest problems are 
bound to become increasingly worse. Any lasting solutions 
must begin in the home, where parents comprehend that 
rearing their children with sound values is the triumph of their 
lives, far superseding their own personal plans, pleasures, and 
inadequacies. 

The most grim symptom of the current social crisis is the 
breakdown of the consensus system of values that had united 
Americans, more or less, in a sense of what is right and true. 
Such accord, though diminished in the present era, remains the 
political and social hope of the nation, although dedicated 
attacks at the consensus values, more accurately identified as 
the American Creed, have born bitter fruit. 

If the home fails to teach the Creed and a process of 
decision making to use it in solving problems, other powerful 
educators may very well teach other ruinous ideals. If the mass 
media, peer groups, politics, and other forces of education are 
the instructors of behavior and change, an impending crisis 
could damage seriously the American experiment. Among the 
forces that can parry this thrust are the home, church, and 
school, but the failure of the home to teach the Creed properly 
will doom the school to failure and make the church's job more 
difficult. 

Mom and Dad are the critical part of the answer, as they 
raise their children with love and discipline; and, as a cardinal 
principle of parenting, teach them to be good, decent people 
sharing the values and behaviors demanded by the Creed. 
Every child should be taught the moral worth of people; free- 
dom, coupled with the restraints necessary to maintain it; equal 
opportunity (not results) for all; a union one and inseparable; 
representative government; the right to life, liberty, and the 
pursuit of happiness; freedom of religion; sanctity of the historic 



family which stays married; honesty and integrity; the work 
ethic; responsibility; dramatic limiting of government; an equi- 
table system of law; due process; free economic enterprise 
within the bounds of fair play; belief in the preeminence of the 
American republic with the willingness to participate in the 
democratic process for improving it; help for those absolutely 
unable to assist themselves; murder and cruelty as wrong; 
violence as wrong; honoring mother, father, and family; fair- 
ness; courage; willingness to forgive; disdain for arrogance; and 
loyalty to family, church, and nation. 

Time was when families labored day and night to teach 
the planks of the American Creed; today such efforts are much 
diminished. But for parents and youth affected by the Great 
Depression, this consensus accord was a major goal. The 
memoirs in this section allow a wonderful view of why mothers 
and fathers were admired and loved, and they should surely be 
instructive to parents today as to the values their progeny 
should learn. 

The youth of the baby boom, now parents, are often 
playing to the tune of a different drummer. Such homes as those 
portrayed in the memoirs are crucial to both the children and 
the nation, for the family is the cornerstone of society, and its 
legacy can provide a dimension of incalculable value. It can 
promote a sense of continuity and stability. It can teach the 
values by which to live. In the end, only the family is important; 
most everything else tends to become irrelevant. When hopes 
and dreams fade, and plans go awry, and sickness and misfor- 
tune intrude, and old age casts its lengthening shadows, the 
family will remain the great refuge. This the writers of the 
memoirs shared. What splendid parents they had. 

Alfred J. Lindsey 



THE INSTRUMENT 

Jeanne Berman 

Our newcomer rabbi is an ecumenical activist, bringing 
fresh ideas into our conservative congregation in Peoria. Peri- 
odically, he invites members of outlying Christian churches to 
attend our services. They come as strangers to see how the Jews 
worship, many never having been in a synagogue before. 

They listen awestruck as Rabbi points out the bimah 
(where the cantor or reader officiates); the Sacred Ark (where 
the Torah, the parchment scroll of the Pentateuch, the Book of 
Law, resides); the eternal light forever lit directly above. 

But the cynosure, as eyes gaze altar-ward, is the front 
wall, Hebrew letters naming the Ten Commandments and the 
Shemah, the watchword of our faith. Rabbi points and states: 
"One of our late members designed them freehand. Hear O 
Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one," he intones quietly. 
"Those who read know their significance — as do those who can't 
read the Hebrew," he adds. 

I saw those letters being created. I saw the artist, my 
father, toying with his writing paraphernalia and his Siddur 
( Hebrew prayer book ) when I came to fix his lunch everyday, as 
he was already ailing. Seeing him working with Hebrew 
calligraphy was no surprise to me, for he had designed the 
Hebrew inscriptions on many headstones above the graves of 
traditional Jews in Hebrew Cemetery, for many wished them in 
Hebrew and English. 

"What're you doing?" I asked him. 

"They're for the new Shul" (synagogue), he replied 
proudly. "Nobody asked me, but, when they see them, I know 
they'll use them." 

Yes, the Rabbi, board members, and architect approved, 
and the patterns were sent to Chicago to be cast in stainless 
steel. Papa never saw the finished product, as he passed away 
before the synagogue was dedicated in 1958. 



Father was nineteen, a young lad in Pajuris, Kovno 
Guberneh (Lithuania), when he was tapped to serve in the 
Czar's army, Cossacks riding into the distant shtetlech (vil- 
lages) of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia — satellites of the 
Fatherland. Because of quotas to be filled, many a youngster 
was shanghaied to serve in the Russian army. 

No misfortune was too great to endure in attempts to 
escape the Czar's monolithic tyranny. Records exist of self- 
mutilation of a hand, a toe, an eye, an ear; nocturnal fleeing 
from home; buying a muzjik (peasant) substitute if one had the 
wherewithal; and brothers changing surnames, pretending to 
be only sons, for single sons were immune. 

But it was Papa's destiny to go "see the world" he could 
never have dreamed existed. Now he would fraternize with 
countless countrymen from the farms, the mines, the steppes, 
and the mountains; they were often ignorant louts, drunken 
satyrs, unkempt peasants, and hardly a man among them could 
read or write. 

At first. Father spoke only Yiddish (the vernacular of 
Hebrew and the language of the land) to the Jewish recruits, for 
he knew no Russian. When he prayed each morning in a silent 
undertone enunciating every word, he was noticed by others — 
as he was when he abstained from certain camp ribaldries. 

Already his assignment was taking a different slant. 
Without aptitude tests, those who watched picked him to be 
trained as a musician! Thus he would be spared the mountain 
maneuvers in merciless weather, marching in mud or snow, and 
lying on the frozen ground to repair the huge vans for those 
lucky enough to ride in them. He would be spared caring for 
horses and mules or animals to be slaughtered; spared carpen- 
try, blacksmithing, preparation of huge vats of food that looked, 
smelled, and tasted like garbage; and even arms handling for, 
as it turned out, Papa never carried a gun. 

Now when they put a slim metal horn into his untutored 
hands, he was completely bewildered. When he heard the 



104 



melody, the piercing tone of the cornet, he was electrified! His 
heart jumped into his mouth. The blood rushed like a waterfall 
through his arms and to his cheeks. Him — they were picking 
him to play, to learn to play this magic reed: to make music, to 
be a soldier who would carry a cornet instead of a gun! 

Thus he started his education, that inexplicable, grow- 
ing, aching longing whereby his mind would encompass new 
stimuli and develop into a serviceable instrument of its own. 
The comet opened a new world of training and learning. How 
different from the cattle-like existence in the shtetll What 
satisfying fulfillment to practice toward a unified goal with 
others! It was the university he had never been privileged to 
attend. It was his enfranchisement from the locked dam of 
ignorance. 

Now he was learning to read and write a strange new 
hieroglyphics: black circles with tails on a five-line score that 
said the same thing to anyone who could read music. How he 
loved the music: the melody, rhythm, mood. It was transform- 
ing his very soul! 

But there were also other things to do in the barracks: 
trimming the hair of his buddies, sewing buttons on their 
uniforms, and mending socks and even the shoes of his friends. 
He also wrote letters home in Hebrew for his illiterate brothers. 
He was orderly and proud, and those around him recognized the 
gifts in his hands! Thus, he became the confidant of his 
regiment. 

One night Yitzhak, a fellow Jew from a neighboring 
guberneh (county) crept into his barracks. "I'm afraid," he said, 
"to go on maneuvers tomorrow. I couldn't stand it yesterday, so 
I'm going to try to get out." 

Papa shook his head helplessly. "Ah," he sympathized, 
"if I could only help you! What the officers say, we do," he added 
resignedly. 

The next day a soldier's boots and coat were found 
outside the barracks. In the snow about fifty feet away, they 



found Yitzhak unable to move. A short time later he died, a 
recruit of less than a year, a casualty of war though not a shot 
had been fired. 

On the side of the mountain, a grave was dug. They 
stripped the body, for usable clothing could not be "wasted." 
Sans shroud, sans coffin, sans ceremony — for there was no 
Hebrew chaplain, nor m in ion ( the required body often worship- 
pers), Yitzhak was placed into the frozen earth. 

Next day the infantry would begin its trek up the 
majestic Caucusus. Soldiers with their instruments would be 
riding in the huge wagon transports, hardly aware of the little 
Jew's demise, all except Papa. While others slept, there was 
work to do. A marker was needed for the departed. Outside the 
barracks, he found a piece of wood. He remembered a short 
crayon near the baton the director used to mark off players' 
positions; he also remembered the black paint used on the 
wagons. These supplies had to be collected. 

Though he had never before printed an aleph ( first letter 
of the Hebrew alphabet), with the help of his tattered Siddur as 
guide for letter formation, he created a memorial to his buddy 
Yitzhak. Flanked by the Star of David, he patterned in Hebrew 
the identifying words of a tombstone: 

SKOLZIK (family name) 

Here lies 

Yitzhak, son of Abraham 

December 20, 1903 

The Hebrew blessing: May he rest in peace. 

Then he painted the inscription with black paint to show 
against the wood. In nocturnal silence, he hammered the board 
onto a support to place into the ground. Then he said his lonely 
Kaddish (mourner's prayer) for his fallen comrade. That was 
the origin of Father's gift in designing inscriptions for the 
headstones in our Hebrew Cemetery. 



The next day the troops and vans moved on, proceeding 
near the newly dug grave. For those who could read, there it 
was: a manmade monolith on the panorama of the Caucusus. 
Soldiers had fallen before along the path of moving troops, but 
internment was a perfunctory task with the deceased unsung 
and forgotten. To Father, his artwork signaled his farewell to 
an unfortunate buddy. Russian peasants had no birth certifi- 
cates, so Father's statement was a cry to the world to say 
Yitzhak had indeed lived and served! 

As the captive troops passed by, some stared unmoved. 
Only the Jews could read it as they marched slowly by — that is, 
if they could read, walking over the frozen earth or squashed 
like sardines in the huge lumbering vans. Those who could not 
read, but recognized the distinctive letters of their culture, wept 
as they passed, or wept over their own illiteracy, for the Czar 
they served had made them servile, ignorant paupers. 

Horses' hooves, marching feet, and wagon tracks soon 
flattened the marker and furrowed the earth. Only in Father's 
heart would Yitzhak lie undisturbedly. Recurring snows, then 
melting ice blankets, would water the earth and decompose the 
muddy debris until the grave and the years would become one 
with the mountainside. Only Mosheh, the compassionate youth 
who would one day be my father, knew that Yitzhak Skolzik had 
once served the Czar. 

There Papa's talent was born: he would be the instru- 
ment for communicating that exquisite feeling of love for his 
fellow man! Compassion breeds it; learning nurtures it; and 
art, the recognition of indestructible beauty in the universe, 
seeks the medium for its expression. 

Yitzhak would forever be the symbol for hatred of op- 
pression, and as his grace was left forever behind. Papa was 
galvanized into one cataclysmic decision: HIS FUTURE WOULD 
BE IN THE NEW WORLD: AMERICA! Unlike some of his 
compatriots who had eluded service, Papa had broken the 



confines of the shtetl forever! He would follow the comet's 
clarion call to freedom! 

But tonight the officers must dance. 



POP 

Bob Hulsen 

My sisters called him "Daddy," but Mother, my brother, 
and I always called him "Pop." Hundreds of citizens in western 
Illinois and eastern Iowa referred to him as "Brother Ben" or 
"Reverend Hulsen." And everyone thought he was an aggres- 
sive, dedicated personal evangelist. 

Benny Hulsen was one of eight children of German 
immigrant parents at Depue, Illinois, whose father died when 
he was four years old. Helping to support his widowed mother 
dictated the end of his formal education at the 4th grade. A 
grocery wagon driver at twelve, a Depue Zinc Works employee 
at fourteen, a paper mill worker at Marseilles at sixteen ( when 
his mother died), and a Marseilles Spreader Company em- 
ployee at seventeen, Ben already had a long work record when 
Deere and Company brought the Marseilles Spreader Company 
to East Moline and he came along. He was an apprentice 
machinist, and on that limited salary he married Maggie 
Sullivan, the waitress daughter at Mrs. Isabelle Sullivan's 
boarding house. She, who had finished 6th grade at Moline, was 
twenty-one. Somewhere in his youth, Ben had attended an 
evangelist meeting conducted by the famous Billy Sunday, 
where he promised to read one chapter of the Bible every day. 
Although not a church member, his daily Bible reading later 
prompted him to begin memorizing Scriptures. He once con- 
fessed to knovdng over 3,000 passages — and not only the words. 



but also the book, chapter, and number of each verse. Folks 
often referred to him as "The Walking Bible." 

The writings of St. Paul inspired Ben, and he deter- 
mined to be a personal evangelist. His work was handing out 
gospel tracts in public places, explaining Christianity to fellow 
citizens, and visiting the sick and disabled in nursing homes 
and hospitals. He was the leader of a group that persuaded 
Reverend Kortkamp to move from Alton to Moline and that also 
built The Full Gospel Temple. In 1935, Ben was ordained by the 
Full Gospel Assembly and licensed to preach and perform 
associated duties. He called himself an Interdenominational 
Minister. 

Although with no pastorate, he was often the last and 
only friend of the outcast and forgotten. Mortuaries knew him 
and called him to officiate at scores of funerals for transients, 
accident victims, ex-offenders, people with no church affilia- 
tion, prostitutes, and elderly citizens with no survivors. He was 
often at the bedside of fellow citizens helping them and their 
families face the prospect of death. At his urging, hundreds 
changed their lives. Many joined churches of their choice, and 
he baptized dozens of converts in the Green, Rock, and 
Mississippi Rivers. 

In 1937, he volunteered to assume leadership in restor- 
ing and revitalizing the Edgewood Baptist Church in Rock 
Island. By 1943, both the building and congregation had been 
rebuilt. However, because of a lack of academic credentials. Pop 
could not qualify as a minister in the Northern Baptist Conven- 
tion with which the church was affiliated. An accredited 
minister was chosen. 

Until almost middle age. Pop never used his given name, 
Bennard. Because it is unusual, he suspected that his German 
parents may have intended Bernard or Benjamin. One happy 
day he discovered that the author of the hymn "The Old Rugged 
Cross" was George Bennard. "The Old Rugged Cross" was Pop's 
favorite hymn and, in 1944, when he was ordained by the 



Southern Baptist Convention, he proudly became Reverend 
Bennard Hulsen. 

The last 37 years of his employment were as a skilled 
machinist at the Locomotive Repair Shops of the Rock Island 
Railroad at Silvis. He retired when eligible at age 62. Having 
lived on the edge of poverty for much of his life, retirement was 
very special for him. It was a mark of success. More impor- 
tantly, he could devote himself full-time to what he termed "The 
Lord's Work." 

Fortunately, Pop and Mother were able to purchase a 
mobile home and park it at one of the fine mobile home parks in 
Mesa, Arizona. For the last fourteen years of his life, Pop spent 
his winters in the Valley of the Sun and his summers in East 
Moline. He soon became a familiar figure at Mesa's hospitals 
and at nursing homes in the Phoenix area. He also handed out 
tracts in public places. Hundreds of retirees waiting in their 
cars for wives to do the shopping met Rev. Bennard and had 
conversations and prayers with him. 

He conducted Sunday church services at the Mobile 
Park Recreation Center, and he and Mother participated in the 
programs residents devised to entertain each other. In one 
affair, Reverend Bennard was instructed to come dressed as a 
hobo and was given a small harmonica on which to practice. It 
struck him like a flash of lightning. In his youth he had learned 
to play a harmonica, but had not had one in his hand for over 50 
years. He played at the party and so pleased his neighbors that 
they presented him with a new larger and more versatile 
instrument. Frequently, disabled residents of nursing homes 
wanted to hear and sing old familiar hymns. Reverend Bennard 
now had an instrument to supply both the pitch and the tunes. 
Astonishingly, he played all that Christian music with a single 
beat. He was perhaps the only person who played "The Old 
Rugged Cross" and other hymns in ragtime! 

How proud he was to be a free American! There were no 
days when he did not pray for the President of the United States 



and his helpers. Although uneducated, Pop understood democ- 
racy and the value of justice, private property, and human 
freedom. And he was fearlessly committed to helping others. As 
a poverty-stricken youth, he had learned to fight and had then 
taken up the art of boxing, so he was not afraid of the Devil — or 
any man. He would go any place under any circumstances 
where he thought there was a soul to be saved. 

Pop's great heart stopped in Mesa on October 31, 1970. 
Friends remarked that he must have had a glimpse of Heaven 
because even in his coffin his face wore its familiar smile. 
Significantly, among the hundreds who attended Memorial 
Services in Mesa and Moline, even his physician, the minister, 
and the undertaker wept. Pop was a minister with an inspiring 
sense of commitment and a man who influenced countless 
others — including me. He has always been my special hero. 



MY BELOVED PARENTS 

Floyd M. Lowary 

I found the picture today of my father and mother on 
their wedding day. I knew the picture was around somewhere 
because, as a younger person, I had seen it, glanced at it, maybe 
commented on it, and then put it away. 

Now, today, at eighty-plus, I study it, and realize that I 
could and should have been a better, more appreciative, prouder 
son. I put myself in the position of these fine people who had 
little opportunity or need for education, who lived remotely 
from what we consider sophistication or at least modem life 
style, who had all the emotions and feelings of people today, and 
who, dressed as they were in this picture, were completely out 
of their element. 



And as I look in fond remembrance at the photograph, I 
see my father, standing tall in his three button, too large suit, 
with a high starched white collar and a white tie, hair combed 
and parted exactly in the center of his head, slicked shiningly 
and correctly down, handsome and clear eyed, as any "Senior of 
the Month" in today's college newspaper. Nor, can I help 
noticing, knowing in later years his habit of unpolished shoes, 
the highlight on his left shoe, and, knowing his shyness, won- 
dering where his right hand was. Was it holding the left hand 
of mother? Was it joining his other hand behind his back? His 
serious countenance and his piercing dark eyes indicated that 
he took his marriage seriously, and resolved to do his best now, 
and in the future, to be a good husband. 

My mother looks small and shorter than I realize she 
ever was. She never did gain a lot of weight, in comparison to 
her husband's later weight of 325 pounds. I wonder who helped 
her arrange her glowing, reddish hair ( from which my pre-gray 
came) in such a beautiful and becoming way? Who made the 
arch of flowers and pinned it in place? Who helped her so neatly 
roll her naturally curly hair? Maybe new love makes all things 
possible, but I doubt that Dad was much help. Her long white 
dress (which I never saw) must have been made stitch-by- 
careful-stitch by a friend to fit so neatly and charmingly on her 
mature twenty-four-year-old body, and she, too, stands tall 
beside her man. Her high neckline and single strand of white 
beads hints at her character, spotless and stern, we can be sure. 
The white shoes were probably laced with white laces, high over 
her ankles. Her hand, later to be twisted by arthritis, shows 
long joints indicative of past and future usefulness. These 
hands did much for me, many times, not appreciated enough 
then. I am so sorry. 

The people who married on that long ago day probably 
never again appeared as they did that day. But the values that 
they brought to their union continued for all their lives. Simple 
honesty and character were the only things they knew, and, as 



I remember it, there was never a lock on any door of our house 
because my parents expected everyone else to have their honest 
values. 

The same honesty and character displayed by them 
became a part of my daily life and continues to this day. I must 
confess that I have not always kept their standards and fre- 
quently have been less than they were, but to this day, through 
no credit to myself, I retain many of the character lessons 
learned from the uncomplicated integrity of Mom and Dad. 

My wife and I successfully attempted to pass on the 
ideals and truths in our children and grandchildren, but I am 
sure we are not the example, or the teachers, our parents were. 
We do have the satisfaction that these descendants of the 
second and third generations realize and appreciate the truths 
these wonderful people lived by. I sit gazing at the wedding 
picture, and I remember the mom and dad who provided a 
magnificent example grounded in love and utter concern. I 
remember — and I am humbled. 



THE CUT GLASS PITCHER 

Evelyn Witter 

Mama's cut glass pitcher which had been added to the 
items to be auctioned was the next item to go under the 
auctioneer's hammer. It looked elegant on the stand, as it 
played coquettishly with the sunlight streaming through the 
west window. It should never have been placed with the auction 
goods. If I could only have returned from Europe a day or two 
sooner, it would not have been put up for sale! 

As I looked at the pitcher, I thought of the time Mama 
poured special punch for the congressman. She told him that 
she had organized three groups of women with the state who 



would work for his election because of his interests in schools 
and libraries. The Congressman said: "I'm impressed with your 
leadership." As Mama poured another cup of punch, the sparkle 
from her eyes and the warmth of her smile were reflected in the 
curved handle of the pitcher. 

"Do I hear $40.00?" the auctioneer asked. 

As he lifted the pitcher high into the air for everyone to 
see and went on extolling its beauty, I thought of the time Mama 
had promised to take me to a matinee. That day I napped longer 
than usual. When I woke up. Grandpa, who lived with us, told 
me Mama had gone on without me. 

Fury unfurled her sails within me, and I stormed around 
the house, kicking one door and slamming two others. Finally, 
in the dining room, the light-catching cut glass on the sideboard 
darted light signals to me. Moving in lightning flashes, I placed 
two bowls, a vase, and two compotes in upside down positions 
on the floor. The last piece I handled was the cut glass pitcher. 
I laid it on its side in a helpless-looking position. 

When Mama came home, I stood between the kitchen 
and the dining room, legs astride, arms folded, and face frown- 
ing. She looked dazedly at the cut glass strewn on the floor, 
slowly removing her hat and placing it on the table. I waited for 
an avalanche of words. Mama began talking. "I'm sorry I broke 
a promise," she said. "I didn't realize you'd be so angry. When 
I came to take you, you were sleeping so soundly . . . oh, you poor 
little dear!" I ran into Mama's open arms and buried my face in 
her neck. Even as I sobbed, I enjoyed the soft smell of her 
perfume and the hard protective shield of her arms. 

"Do I hear $50.00 for this fine old pitcher?," the 
auctioneer's rasping voice cut into my reverie. 

"Fifty dollars!" I repeated to myself. That was the exact 
amount Mama gave me for my sixteenth birthday. That was 
travel money. I was going to travel to my Aunt Minnie's for my 
vacation. Mama also gave me a birthday party. I invited four 
of my favorite friends, and Mama poured lemonade from the cut 



109 



glass pitcher. As she poured lemonade from the sparkling 
pitcher, she made sure that each girl was made to feel welcome. 

How gracious she was when she said to Sue Englehart: 
"This is for you, Sue. Your mother tells me you are doing well 
with your music lessons. She is very proud of you." 

"And here's a glass of lemonade for you. Daphne. I never 
knew you could sew so well until I realized you made the pretty 
dress you're wearing!" 

"And this glass is for you, Helen . . . our famous 
gardener." 

As each girl was given an honest compliment, she 
glowed like the glass pitcher. I remember the sunlight caught 
the colors prismed by the cut glass and made a halo around the 
rim of the pitcher. 

"My last bid was sixty dollars." The auctioneer's voice 
was distorted over the P. A. system. "Do I hear seventy?" 

Lights glinted off the pitcher and the bidding continued. 

On cleaning days, when Mama submerged the cut glass 
in high soap suds and used the toothbrush to clean deep into the 
cuts of the glass, she held the pitcher up to the sun and she dried 
it with a special lint-free cloth. She turned the pitcher this way, 
then that way, in order to enjoy each sparkle of color. 

It was on these days that Mama enjoyed telling how 
Grandma brought the cut glass pitcher all the way from Czecho- 
slovakia wrapped in a quilt. Many things had to be left behind, 
but Grandma would never part with the pitcher that a fine 
craftsman in Prague had made especially for her. It was fun to 
hear Mama tell the story because her face flushed pink with 
pleasure like a rose opening to the sun, and her voice became as 
animated as a meadowlark flinging his song to the sky. 

"Do I hear eighty?" the auctioneer asked as a loose 
connection in the P.A. system's electrical hookup cracked his 
voice into shattered bits. 



I watched the auctioneer's assistant turn the pitcher 
around and around. An arch of prisms reflected on the opposite 
wall. 

The sparkles brought back the memories of a sparkling 
night. It was a night when the stars twinkled in a blue velvet 
sky, snowflakes fell like gems in an already white landscape, 
and I was bringing my college sweetheart home for the holidays 
to meet Mama. 

Bill and I were as tense as performers waiting for the 
curtain to go up. Mama served a turkey dinner and studied Bill 
as intently as she did the stock market. 

But Mama hid her thoughts about this young man who 
could become an important person in our lives. Mama hid 
behind a mask of small talk. Even I couldn't see under that 
mask. And when the silver water pitcher was empty. Mama 
went to the sideboard and took out the cut glass pitcher to be 
filled with fresh ice water. It was then I knew she approved of 
Bill. 

"Now I want to hear a bid of ninety-five dollars? Do I 
hear ninety-five?" the auctioneer persisted. 

"Yes," I said. 

As I returned to my seat clutching the cut glass pitcher, 
I murmured: "Oh Mama, I love you so." 



HATTIE HOWARD 

Glenna Lamb 

Certain images inevitably form in my mind when I think 
of my mother. I see a dug-out cellar, walls lined with tiers of 
shelves, each laden with glass jars filled with fruit and veg- 
etables canned for our food supply during the winter. I remem- 
ber the huge garden plot, the planting, weeding, and hoeing to 



no 



raise the vegetables. I recall her patience in teaching "us kids" 
to help with the gardening. I see the hot steamy kitchen where 
the canning took place: jars sterilized on a wood burning cook 
stove, then filled with the vegetables and processed for some- 
thing like three hours, and then submerged in boiling water in 
a canner or copper wash boiler. I can still see the look of pride 
and satisfaction on her face when she looked at the full jars 
properly sealed at the end of a day of canning. Two of her 
specialties were peach pickles and saccharin pickles made from 
baby cucumbers. I'm sure her canning was to her, as it was to 
me, an art. 

I remember the feel of having my chest rubbed when I 
had a cold with an ointment made from goose grease, turpen- 
tine, and mentholatum. The ointment was penetrating and 
really did help, but equally healing was her tender touch and 
concern. I also remember a cough syrup made from wild cherry 
bark, horehound, glycerine, and perhaps some other ingredi- 
ents. I believed in it as a child and, for years after I was grown, 
I always wished for mother whenever I was sick. 

I can see "new" dresses, made from my two older sisters' 
discarded ones for almost every Christmas program at school. 
They were pretty and never resembled the ones from which the 
cloth came. I know that many times she sewed well into the 
night in order to have the dress ready on the day it was needed. 

She had a wonderful sense of humor. I'm thinking of a 
time when she had made me a new pair of pajamas. When I tried 
them on, they were too tight in the crotch. She cut a piece of 
cloth and attempted to set it into the place that needed expand- 
ing. It didn't turn out the way she had hoped. In fact, it sort of 
resembled a pocket between my legs. I can still hear her 
laughter as she looked at her creation. 

Sunday afternoons were a day of rest and spiritual 
refreshment for her. She spent most of every Sunday afternoon 
reading her Bible. Her days through the week were so full — up 
at 4:00 a.m. and busy until 8:00 p.m., with an hour to relax with 



family before going to bed at 9:00 — that she didn't read her 
Bible on weekdays. Still, I've seen her on her knees in prayer 
on those days, and Sunday afternoon was her time to spend with 
God. Her relationships to family and neighbors reflected her 
deep faith in and relationship with God. 

At the cemetery on the day she was buried, at least three 
people came to me and told of acts of kindness she had done for 
them. One man told how she had come to their home every day 
when they were all sick with the flu during World War I. She 
had brought homemade soup and did whatever else she could 
for them. Another, more recent neighbor told how she had 
organized and taught a neighborhood Bible class in their 
community, and how much everyone had enjoyed it. 

My mother was not a businesswoman. She never bought 
or sold a field, but, except for that, I think she came as close to 
fitting the description of a virtuous woman in Proverbs 31:10- 
31 as anyone I've ever known. 

What were her values? I would sum them up thusly: 
love for her family, deep faith in God, belief in hard work, 
acceptance of life as it came to her without complaint, belief that 
one must do the best one can with what one has, kindness and 
concern for others, acceptance of responsibility for herself and 
her family, a strong sense of morality, and a good sense of 
humor. 

I have thanked God many times for giving me the very 
mother that He allowed me to have. 



A TIME TO REAP 

Arvis Christian 

First and foremost, he was a farmer. He always had 
been, and, if he had any choice in the matter, he always would 
be. He was a farmer — a black-dirt, Illinois farmer — and he 
loved his land, his life, and his family, not necessarily in that 
order. Actually, I think, he loved them all pretty much the 
same, which was very much indeed. 

He loved the damp, dark smell of the earth as it broke 
under his plow, the sound of the wind in the corn, and the warm 
stillness of the barn on a winter night. And he loved the wobbly- 
legged little calves, the evening light laying long and level 
across the land, and each new day that dawned crisp and clear 
over his world. 

He was good at what he did. His fence-rows ran arrow- 
straight. His corn stood tall and proud beneath the prairie sky. 
His roofs held tight against the prairie winds. During his long 
years as a farmer, he saw the old ways change; watched horses 
give way to tractors; saw kerosene lamps replaced by electric 
bulbs; and learned about hybrid com, hi-yield beans, pesticides, 
herbicides, and all the technicalities of modem farming. But 
the basics remained the same. Newly plowed earth smelled 
dark and sweet, the evening light lay level across the land, and 
the corn still sang softly in the wind. 

Too soon he grew old. Arthritis knotted his fingers and 
gripped his knees, making climbing off the tractor sheer agony. 
He had trouble with his stomach, and his heart began to beat 
erratically. It was all getting to be too much. He sold out and 
four hundred acres dwindled to ten. Then he got diabetes and 
lost his leg, and even ten acres were too much. 

He was in a nursing home now. As nursing homes go, it 
was one ofthe better ones. The staff cared. They kept the rooms 
clean and their patients as coiftfortable as possible. Since the 
place was on the edge of a small town, he could look out and see 



the corn growing green in the sunlight and sometimes, in the 
spring, before they turned on the air-conditioning and closed all 
the windows, he could catch the faint scent of newly plowed 
earth. But he was old and tired. His farm was gone and so was 
most of his family, and I don't think he loved his life very much 
any more. 

And I also think that somewhere beyond all the golden 
streets and marble palaces ofthe Celestial City, God has a back 
forty. Or maybe, being God and being Heaven, it's closer to forty 
thousand, I don't know. Anyway, I'm sure that somewhere up 
there, He's got some acres of green and growing things where He 
can walk when the evening is cool and find a minute's respite 
from all the cares and turmoil ofthe worlds. 

And I think one evening about that time He was taking 
a look around, and He noticed the com needed plowing and 
beans were full of weeds. The oats didn't look too healthy either. 

And so He said, "I have got to get me an Illinois farmer 
up here, one ofthe real old timers who grew up with a pitchfork 
in one hand and a ball of binder twine in the other. I need a man 
who knows when to sow and when to reap, who can lay a furrow 
straight as an arrow and mend a machine with two bolts and a 
bit of baling wire, and who sets comer post so it vvall stand 
forever. 

He stroked his beard for a minute and took another look 
at those weedy beans and He said, "Now, there's George Fuchs 
lying down there in the Shabbona Nursing Home. He's not been 
doing too well lately, had a lot of pain and trouble, and he's 
getting just too tired to fight any more. And every night he 
dreams he can walk again, and he's shocking oats or making hay 
or maybe just sitting on the back porch watching the corn grow. 
I need a farmer and he needs a farm." 

And then God leaned down and said gently, "Come on 
home, George. The corn needs plowing." 



112 



MOTHER: MY BLESSING 

Norma Altum 

That my dear mother had a strong faith and admirable 
courage, I knew by her actions and her httle sayings. These 
sayings proved to be so valuable to me. What I remember most 
was her getting up early in the morning and working until late 
at night. There were always things that needed to be done. 
Though life treated her harshly, she never said, "What's the 
use," even after having been left alone to raise four children. 

After our father had passed away, she was overwhelmed 
Wfith doctor and hospital bills. Neighbors and friends wondered 
what she would do, how she would raise us. She said, "Where 
there is a will, there's a way." She was really putting her faith 
to work, as she didn't have any insurance or other financial 
assistance. 

The answer for her was her utter faith in God. She saw 
to it that we had a way to Sunday School, even when our father 
was in the hospital. We had to do without so many things, but 
the important things we had. We wore hand-me-down clothes, 
half-soled shoes, and cut our own hair. When we would often 
complain about doing without or that others had things we 
didn't, Mother would tell us that we had what we needed, and 
it was what you are that counts. When we complained about 
working so hard. Mom would say that it would build character, 
whatever that was. 

My memories of my mother are of her being a happy and 
caring person. When she was sad, she would go off by herself, 
and when she came back she would talk to us, telling us about 
our father. When I hear about the Prince and Princess on 
television or read about them to my granddaughter, I think I 
have already heard the best love story of them all. When my 
mother would share her courting days with my father, she told 
how he played the fiddle for house dances. At one of the dances, 
he asked her to dance while someone played the fiddle for him. 



She was so happy because he wanted her to go with him when 
he played at other dances. He loved playing "Turkey in the 
Straw" and "My Pretty Red Wing"; they were Mom's favorites, 
too. 

She would tell of going places in his horse and buggy. 
What a spirited horse he had! One time the horse was spooked 
by a bobcat and took off at a full gallop. My father finally got the 
horse under control. How brave he was. We liked listening to 
these stories and wanted them over and over again. Mom would 
tell us tales of her early days with our father and, later, how they 
worked together. She also sang songs to us. All of these gave 
us self-esteem and pride in our heritage. 

My parents rented a two-hundred acre farm, and that is 
where we were bom. Mom said it was our Dad's wish that she 
keep all the children together after he was gone. He wanted us 
to stay on the farm, as we could help when we got older. That 
way she could be with us. We got to do a lot of fun things, too. 
We would visit neighbors and go to community school meetings, 
along wdth other activities that didn't cost money. We enjoyed 
picnics, hikes in the woods, and fishing. Oftentimes, when we 
wanted to go someplace, we would have work to do and Mom 
would say, "no." If we asked again and she knew it meant a great 
deal to us, she'd say, "Let's go; the work vv^ll wait for us." We 
would all work hard and get caught up later. 

We were not always obedient, and Mother had her hands 
full with us. Neighbors would tell her that she should find 
another man so she wouldn't have to work so hard. She said she 
had one good man, and that was enough. She told us again 
about her promise to our Dad to raise us children, and said that 
that is what she wanted to do. She was unwilling to take a 
chance that another husband would possibly mistreat her 
children. The value of keeping a promise is still very important 
to our family. 

We loved having company for a meal. Mother always 
said, "Food tastes better when you share it with someone." She 



113 



would often fix food for neighbors who had sickness in the 
family, saying that they had been so good to us and that they 
needed a helping hand. 

There were other activities that were special. I 
remember the joy of quilting bees. We'd have a quilt frame in 
the crowded living room. We caught up on all the news, and we'd 
always have a special dessert. Everyone was so proud of her 
tiny stitches. Then there was butchering day. I remember 
rendering lard in the big black kettle with a wooden paddle. The 
casings were cleaned for the sausage, and someone would 
season it to make it tasty. Mom would fry some of it, so that we 
all could taste it. Sausage had to pass the taste test. I don't 
imagine that the children were much help, but we got to share 
in all the excitement. Threshing day was another fun time. 
Neighbors came — the men to help in the fields and some of the 
women folks to help with the cooking and baking. They would 
bring their children along, and we had great fun playing and 
helping some. 

My older brothers helped with the farmwork. Then war 
was declared in 1942. This was very shocking, especially if you 
had boys of draft age. One of my brothers could have been 
deferred to help on the farm, but both of them wanted to go and 
do their part. As a result. Mom decided to sell out and move to 
town; she was around forty-five years old at this time. 

After moving to town, mother took in washing and 
ironing, but she could barely make a go of it. Then she got on at 
the A.B.C. plant in East Peoria making washing machines, but, 
as in so many plants, they converted to the war effort, making 
bullets. Mom painted the inside of the shells. When the war was 
over, she was laid off. 

Though she wondered what she would do next. Mom had 
a strong faith and said, "God watches over us." Later, she got 
a job at the American Distillery in Pekin. She was worried 
about whether or not she would be able to do it, but she said, "If 



they can do it, I can learn it too," and she did, working there until 
she retired. 

I believe mother lived life one day at a time. She kept her 
faith, worked hard, and was kind to people. She wasn't one to 
complain, but often said, "Life is too short." She gave us what 
she could: her magnificent values, memories of our father, self- 
esteem, the desire to share with others, the importance of being 
thankful, and the value of a strong faith. These were the ideals 
she instilled in us without the knowledge that she was doing 
so — and they have sustained us for a lifetime. 

Even now, in my golden years, I get a warm glow 
knowing that my mother loved me enough to work hard and 
sacrifice so much to raise me. I didn't know what values my 
mother was teaching me at that time. I was really wishing for 
an easier life. But what I got from that dear woman has blessed 
me for all my days. 

Blessed is he, or she, who has made footsteps worthy of 
others to follow. I've been so pleased to have had her footsteps 
to follow, and I taught my children those same precious values, 
and they, in turn, have taught them to my grandchildren. Mom 
has given us all a magnificent legacy. 



THE MAN WHO HAD NO VALUES 

Shirley Lewis 

When I first thought of writing a story about my father, 
I thought, "Just what values did my father really have?" The 
reply was, "He had none." I then asked my sister, who is six 
years younger than I, this question. She thought awhile and 
said, "He didn't have any." We shared the same impression of 
a person who had to have influenced our lives greatly. 



114 



This struck me as so sad, that a man lived and died, 
leaving so little impression that we, his children, found no 
particular value or legacy in his lifetime. Several days passed 
with this in my mind and, finally, I sat in the shade of an old tree. 
I got comfortable and began making a list, a list of memories. 

My Dad was a big man in stature, a tall Irishman with 
a barrel chest and long legs. He was Kojak before his time. He 
had soft brown eyes, no hair (which he had lost in WWI from 
being gassed ), but he was still handsome without his thick dark 
hair. His eyes sparkled at times, especially if he could find 
something to tease about. His language was not for me to learn; 
truthfully, he could take an ordinary word and twist it to sound 
like the worst swear word. He drank and periodically became 
violent. At these times, he refought a war in France, in which 
he served as a young man barely seventeen. Everyone became 
his enemy; his nightmare again was lived. He remembered over 
and over again. We call them flashbacks now, but it is nothing 
new to any young man who has ever gone to war. 

In the late 1920s, he married my mother, started a 
family, and the Depression came. He lost his home, worked for 
a little, and became embittered. He eventually worked for the 
railroad which was not to his liking either, for he was a farmer 
at heart. It was about this time my memories of him began. 

Before I write of these memories, I must say that I 
cannot write only of my father because my mother, who was as 
tiny as he was large, controlled him completely — or tried. She 
guided him, this lovely, stern Methodist woman, as a tug boat 
steers an ocean liner. She was the flip side of the coin. They 
were totally opposites, yet completely dependent upon each 
other. She yelled; he sulked. He bellowed; she smoldered. 
There were no dull moments in our lives. Love? Hate? I don't 
know what kept them together, but stay they did. They kept 
their commitment to each other. They were both such strong 
personalities. 



My memories go farther back than when I was six years 
old, but that was the age I remember most clearly. We had 
moved into an old rambling house about a half mile outside of 
town, no running water, an outhouse, and an old black kitchen 
stove that burned cobs, coal, or wood. The problems were many: 
cold bedrooms I especially remember; sandstorms when the 
sand blew under the doors and window sills; snowstorms that 
iced us indoors; and the hot, hot summers of the 1930s which 
have become legendary. It didn't seem like much to work with, 
I'm sure. 

In the Depression years, many people turned back to the 
land to survive. That is what my father eventually did. He 
worked on the railroad daily, or nightly, with his head stuck out 
the window of a steam engine, in the heat or bitter cold, but the 
land was what kept us going. 

Dad was inventive. One year he decided we should have 
running water in the kitchen at least. He built a large platform 
on the side of the house, put a huge rain barrel on it, screened 
the top, piped the rain water into the house to a faucet in the 
sink, and, lo and behold, he gave us running soft water. My, he 
was proud. No matter that it was always cold; we could add 
heated water from the stove. No matter that it drained into a 
cornfield. No matter. Another time, he installed a generator 
which gave us electricity. It did need to charge a lot, so listening 
to the radio was done only at certain times. We certainly 
learned many lessons in economy growing up with my father. 

Of course, we had a large garden which was his world. 
Having been raised on a farm, one of six children, he knew what 
he was doing, but sometimes went to extremes. We carried 
water in buckets in a wagon to water the plants. He checked the 
size and color of the tomatoes and cucumbers daily. He grew 
everything. We had kraut made from big green cabbages put in 
great stone jars in the storm cellar, cucumbers became delicious 
pickles, and all vegetables were canned. Melons, beans of many 
kinds, radishes, onions, peas, even big fat tomato worms, 



abounded. Corn often came from a field next door. We had a cow 
that could really kick, and the air turned a shade of blue when 
she connected with one of my dad's body parts. But she was 
worth it, as the milk provided cottage cheese, butter, and thick 
heavy cream for our table. 

Chickens were always part of this life. A very mean 
white goose brought gales of laughter from Dad; he never 
warned anyone that the goose was mean, better they should 
learn on their own. He raised ducks, but didn't hesitate to eat 
them, beautiful as they were. He made a point of the beauty but 
also made their ultimate use clear. Even my pet rabbits were 
occasionally threatened by a twinkling eye, but he did spare 
them, preferring to hunt wild ones. Our Thanksgiving dinners 
were always duck or goose. These were very good, especially 
when we knew Dad had been out in the fields hunting. We 
always loved to watch the ducks and geese migrate and kept a 
sharp eye open for the first flight, that beautiful V formation in 
the sky. 

Years passed so quickly, and two things have remained 
in my memory — not big important impressions but particularly 
good and humorous ones. The time came when he decided he did 
not like going to the outhouse and sitting on a cold seat. Did he 
put an indoor bathroom in the house. NO. NO. NO. He came 
in one day and said, "Turn that switch on before you go out, will 
you." Well, I did, of course, and went on out to that little house 
where morning glories climbed up the lattice work. There, in 
the comer on a shelf, was a space heater, aimed at the seat. It 
made sitting there warm and cozy! We all sparkled and doubled 
over with laughter at that one. 

If I could take a picture of this man to keep for the rest 
of my life, it would be when he was in the garden digging 
potatoes. This, indeed, was a production. He had his pitchfork, 
I had a bucket, barefoot kid that I was, and away we went. I 
guess we Irish consider potatoes the staff of life like some 
consider bread or rice, so when he put his foot upon the fork for 



leverage, and the earth turned over, rich and brown, revealing 
those beautiful spuds, his smile was something to see. He 
couldn't wait to get to the next hill. 

I had been so wrong. I had taken his values for granted, 
so well-integrated into daily life, so woven, so casual they were. 
He taught me survival in times of trouble. From him I learned 
tenacity. I learned the love of nature and the workings of the 
creatures in this world. I learned love, humor, jaded as it was 
at times. I learned love of heritage, as his family had been early 
pioneers with their own school, church, and extensive farm- 
lands in the Illinois river valley at one time. The graveyard is 
still there, and I see our name on all the many markers and 
stones. I also learned sorrow and sensitivity. He often hurt for 
himself and others; he was sometimes very kind and giving to 
any in greater need. 

My father was a product of the social-economic condi- 
tions of the country at that time. He was, in some ways, a heroic 
casualty of World War I. There had been this war to end all 
wars, prohibition, the stock market crash, and the Great 
Depression. While some were jumping out of windows, not able 
to face adversity, my father dug in his heels and went to work. 
His edges were a little rough, but, like a diamond, there was a 
great deal of strength and beauty beneath those edges. He and 
his kind were the solid foundation upon which this country 
continued to thrive. I can only be proud of him and pleased that 
I have some of his strengths and many values. 



116 



MOTHER WASNT SUPERSTITIOUS . 

Betty Doubet 



BUT 



I knew it was Monday! The minute I woke up, I heard 
Mother (Neva Smith) at the door of my brother Robert's room 
loudly proclaiming: "Robert, get up. It's Monday. I need your 
sheets to put in the wash. Get up now or I'll pull those sheets 
right out from under you." Then I would hear her starting for 
our door. Ishookmysister Jeanandwehoppedoutofbed. From 
past experience, we knew that there is no more sleep after the 
sheets are pulled off the top and out from under us. 

On washday, it was my job to help with our breakfasts, 
Dad and Mother having long since eaten. Robert wandered out 
muttering about a bad dream he had about a mad dog. Mother 
looked at him and said, "Don't tell it before breakfast! If you do, 
it's a sign it will come true before it's nine days old." 

That shut him up. But I told him about my dream of 
Grandpa Nelson. He had passed away several years ago, but I 
still remembered him quite well. "Dream of the dead and you 
will hear from the living," Mother quoted from somewhere or 
other. 

Then she looked at Jean: "You have your blouse on 
wrong side out. Come here and 1 will help you change it." As 
Mother worked with the blouse, I heard her tell my sister to say 
"bread and butter" before they put it on right. It's a sign she 
would have bad luck all day if she didn't say it to break the spell. 
She said it. 

Robert wanted an egg for his breakfast. When I reached 
for the salt shaker, it slipped from my fingers and fell to the floor 
just as Mother came through the kitchen with her armload of 
sheets. 

"Did any of that salt spill?" she asked me. 

"Yes, a little, but I'll wipe it up," I answered. 



Mother came back sharply, "Be sure to bum a little on 
the stove top. It's a sure sign if you spill salt and don't bum 
some, you'll have a fight with someone before night." 

Well, I really didn't mind a little row with my brother 
now and then; however, I dutifully burned a little just to make 
things go smoothly. After all, it was Monday. 

After breakfast, I washed our dishes and wiped off the 
table. It was fun to flip the dishcloth around a little with no one 
to watch. Just as it flipped once too hard and landed on the floor. 
Mother came in to make the starch. 

"Did that leave a damp spot on the floor?" she asked as 
I quickly retrieved the thing. Well, it had been "flipped" quite 
a few times and because there wasn't much water left in it, there 
wasn't a visible spot. 

"No, but what difference does that make?" I inquired. 

"If you drop a dishcloth, it's a sign you're going to have 
company. If it leaves a spot, they are dirtier than you are. Just 
an old superstition, but you never know," explained my Mother. 
It's a good thing that dishcloth didn't leave a spot because, soon 
after, our neighbor. Villa Jones, came to the door, and I knew 
she was immaculately clean. 

Villa asked Mother if she could borrow our potato fork. 
She explained that husband Bill thought she could get a few 
new potatoes to cook with the peas she had picked that morning. 
Mother invited her in; they sat and visited for a few minutes and 
then went out the back door to get the fork. This must have been 
quite a challenge to Mother. Villa must go back through the 
house and out the same door she had entered, a sure sign of bad 
luck if she didn't. On the other hand, if she carried the fork (or 
any tool) through the house that was a sign of death in the 
family. She solved it very neatly by getting Robert to carry that 
fork out to her car. As Mother and Villa came through the house, 
I heard her explaining that she really wasn't superstitious, 
but 



117 



The rest of the morning went pretty well. Dad came in 
and, as we sat around the table eating our "washday dinner" of 
goulash and cottage pudding, he made the remark that he had 
hitched Old Queen up with the new colt Buster, who seemed to 
be settling down pretty good. 

Mother exploded, "Lloyd Smith (she always called him 
by his full name when she was exasperated with him ) you know 
that colt's name is Black Beauty. Pearl Murdock told you that 
when he sold him to you. It's a sure sign, if you change 
anything's name, it will never amount to a hill of beans." 

Dad sort of smiled with a twinkle in his eye and said, 
"Black Beauty isn't a handy name and I'm going to call him 
Buster. We will just have to wait and see how much he amounts 
to." Buster became very much a part of our family for a good 
many years and he did turn out to be a very good workhorse. 

Before Dad went back to work, he sat down on the back 
step and took off his shoe. Mother, thinking he had hurt his foot, 
went out to investigate. "No, my foot was itching and I just had 
to take off my shoe to get at it," he responded. 

"Oh, Lloyd, you know if your foot itches, that's a sign you 
are going to walk on strange ground. Do you think it might 
mean we could go to the Springfield State Fair?" Mother was 
definitely excited. 

"Now Toot (Dad's term of endearment for her), you know 
we can't afford that anyway and the tires on our old car would 
never make it." 

"Yes, I know," Mother sadly replied. "But you'll go 
somewhere. Just wait and see." 

After dinner, as Mother and I were washing up the 
dishes, she said to me, "Betty, your dress hem is turned up. 
That's a sign you will get a letter. If you kiss it before you turn 
it down, you will get a love letter." Mother smiled and I was 
embarrassed. I had never had a love letter, hardly knew what 
one would be, but when she wasn't looking, I quickly kissed it 
and turned it down. I never got my letter — let alone a love letter. 



Mother said her tooth hadn't ached now for two weeks, 
but she would knock wood for saying that because she surely 
didn't want it to come back. I had heard that a lot of times — 
knock on wood or your thoughts will come true. 

When we went to the clothesline to bring in the sheets, 
the breeze hit my ears, and I complained that they were 
burning. Mother asked, "Is it your right or left ear?" 

I said, "My right one, why did you ask?" 

She replied, "If your ears bum, it's a sign someone is 
talking about you: Left for love; right for spite." 

Just as Mother walked into her bedroom with her arms 
full of clean sheets, I heard her call for me, "Betty, come quick!" 

I ran to see what was up, and there, on the floor, sat Jean 
admiring herself in Mother's good hand mirror. "Get that 
mirror and put it back on the dresser! For goodness sakes, don't 
let it get broken. Sure sign of seven years of bad luck, if you 
break a mirror." I carefully took the mirror and substituted it 
with one of my dolls. She seemed happy and I saved our family 
seven years of bad luck — I think. 

We put the clean sheets on the beds and went out to the 
backyard to see what my Dad was doing. Piling up some 
branches that had blown off during a storm, he had a fire going. 
As we walked around the comer of the house, there was Dad on 
a ladder working on the eaves that had blown loose. 

Robert came running by, tagged me, and I started to 
chase him; he started to run under the ladder. Mother grabbed 
him and she sternly admonished him never to run under a 
ladder — a sign of bad luck. (I got to tag him back.) 

A bonfire of any kind will draw children. All three of us 
ran to the fire and began to poke sticks in it. Mother called, 
"Betty, Robert, Jean, get out of that fire. Don't you know it's a 
sign if you play in the fire you will wet the bed? We just put on 
clean sheets." 

Well, I was insulted. I couldn't remember when any- 
thing like that happened to me or my sister who slept with me. 



118 



I just gathered up the kids and we went around the house to play 
in the swing and the sandbox. 

But Mom's delightful superstitious ways only made her 
more dear. So we watched and waited. What wonderful 
superstitions would surface next? 

After all, it was only Monday. 



3 <S^&g<S)MS^^^M^S^g<S) LJ^^^^ j^^^^ ^^^@ JSS^S^g^ ii^ 




iBia^^fe>^gs^^[g^^^[^^^E^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^i^^^[^^^^^&^^^^ii 



VU IsAy Experience in ^^igh School 



MY EXPERIENCE IN HIGH SCHOOL 

Schooling has fallen on bad times, as people are increas- 
ingly distressed and disappointed with America's education. 
These strong emotions are, beyond a doubt, unique in the 
nation's history, and they raise the critical question: Are the 
schools failing? 

The public schools are handy. Owning them, the taxpay- 
ers are able to vent their social, political, and theological 
frustrations by pointing the accusing finger at the institution 
they can control. Often, then, public schools, particularly high 
schools, are held responsible for such issues as poverty, racial 
inequities and prejudice, disappointing test scores, discipline 
problems, violence, sexual deviance, alcohol and narcotic dilem- 
mas, family dysfunctions, immoral behavior, lack of patriotism, 
and a host of other problems. 

But the schools are only a little culpable, for they are but 
one of a host of educators, their efforts paling before the force 
and power of television, adolescent music, movies, crumbling 
families, humanistic theology, peer group influences, psycho- 
logical effects, politics, ethnic and racial influences, and socio- 
economic factors. Moreover, the authority of the secondary 
schools is limited (and this is very important) to reflecting the 
social order financing and thus controlling them. A primary 
objective of the schools is to housebreak the students for a full 
and successful membership in the society and majority culture. 
If the schools have faltered, it is that they have failed to reflect 
the best of the social order, thus empowering the forces that are 
in conflict with America's very creed. 

The high schools, then, have failed to the degree that the 
social order has come up short; they are a predictable scapegoat 
for an ailing nation, perhaps caught in an epochal social change, 
more surely involved in a time when the very American Way is 
under siege, as groups and people seek to fulfill personal whims 



and desires at the cost of what earlier was perceived as right and 
true. 

But what about schooling in earlier days? Was schooling 
far better in the days prior to and following the Great Depres- 
sion? An examination of the memoirs is very useful, indeed, in 
examining these questions. 

Whatever the era in history, youth will be youth and 
focus on fun, and this is as it should be. In this regard, some 
wonderful memoirs were shared. Dorothy Ross recalled the 
humor involved in school breathing lessons and chuckled that 
her fellow band members polished their musical instruments to 
a high gloss so they could see under her skirt, something she 
learned many years after graduation. Katherine Cravens was 
amused when one of her teachers extolled many petticoats as a 
means of sexual virtue, and Lillian Peterson chortled at an 
early attempt for women's liberation. Sharing a hilarious 
memoir concerning a bogus copy of the school newspaper, Ivan 
Prall demonstrated the mood and behavior of many youth, 
whether it be today or yesterday, while Anthony Seimer smiled 
about being hoodwinked in what he wore to school. 

Beyond these humorous escapades, however, were the 
mood and values of the time. Many of the writers viewed 
schooling as a privilege, a position taken by Lydia Boston and 
shared by others. To attend school, some boarded in town, while 
others trod long distances. Martha Jean Wieland identified 
students as "innocent" and "provincial." The teachers were said 
to be both insistent and caring, and the courses were demand- 
ing. Home economics, practical and useful, were extolled. 
Cheating was dealt with harshly, but it existed even in the 
schools of yesteryear. 

As they must do to exist, the schools written about in the 
memoirs followed the values and practices of the time, and the 
eras represented in this section were profoundly affected by the 
consensus value system shared by the majority of Americans. 
Few would argue that these values have not eroded in the 



122 



present time. It is no wonder that school was more successful 
in satisfying the taxpayers, for it mirrored a more admirable 
social order and system of values. Nonetheless, a cardinal 
principle of schooling is to select and teach the best values of the 
current social order, an admirable truth to be gleaned from the 
memoirs. 

Alfred J. Lindsey 



PRAIRIE CITADELS 

Dorothy M. Ross 

After one-room schools, Pleasant Plains Township High 
School in western Sangamon County seemed truly enormous. I 
was enthralled by the library — a niche at the front of the study 
hall. As with most high schools, a certain amount of reading 
was required, evidenced by book reports; and I was frothing 
invisibly, wondering how soon I could get at all those books. 
Heaven was the opportunity to read something more than the 
daily paper. The Saturday Evening Post, and other magazines 
the mailman shoved in our big mailbox. 

High school was more than shelves of books; it was a 
whole new life for this country girl. Basketball was one of the 
most exciting activities. Our gym was small, with a stage on one 
side and a solid bank of bleachers opposite. Boys' basketball 
games were the highlight of community socializing. 

Mother, quite a seamstress, was often commissioned to 
make the cheerleaders' lined circular skirts and other regalia. 
With leftover red and blue satin, I dressed a small Kewpi doll 
that soon became the cheerleaders' mascot. I would run out, 
place her on the gym floor just before a cheer, then the living 
dolls did their acrobatics behind her. It was a beautiful and 
simple world. 

My piano/vocal teacher during grade school was the high 
school music teacher. Even though I was a freshman, I was 
always involved in the annual Christmas cantata and other 
musical events. In my sophomore year, I had a lead role in the 
operetta, with its theme Christmas Around the World. I was in 
another world because my partner was the senior I had a very 
big crush on. Representing Holland, we clogged (oh, so wood- 
enly) in wooden shoes. It was then I gained true compassion for 
Hans Brinker and that other stubborn little fellow with his 
thumb in the dam. Wooden shoes are not for the weak of spirit. 



The end of January was special. First, it was my 
birthday; second, it signaled the Sangamon County Basketball 
Tourney. A classmate and I shared birthdays, so we had a 
combined party/dinner after school before heading for the 
game. Players, coaches, and male students rode one bus; we 
girls were allocated to the fan bus. I quickly learned that the 
most fun could be had near the rear of the big yellow vehicle, 
away from the lone adult driver. This was where the girls could 
do the unspeakable: tellsuggestivejokes. We were so naive; our 
jokes, for the most part, tended toward naughty puns. Those we 
might have been a little ashamed of would barely bring a shrug 
today, and some we didn't understand anyway. But it certainly 
made the thirty-five miles seem shorter, and lent us a hint of 
something we wouldn't grow into for some time. 

Some teachers stand out: The principal with his thick 
glasses; the ag teacher, who was also the leader of the agricul- 
tural 4-H Club; and the girls' gym teacher. Also, there was Miss 
Willie Viola Harris. 

Miss Harris was Missouri born; legend was that her 
father wanted a son and, after being disappointed several 
times, finally named his last daughter Willie. Miss Harris was 
short and rather dumpy, and she dyed her hair. Drugstore dyes 
often left much to be desired, and we never quite knew what to 
expect as the old wore off and we knew a new bottle would soon 
be put to use. 

But Miss Harris was a teacher. She put up with little 
flack from her students, and they respected her for it. She 
taught four levels of English, two of Latin, and coached the 
speech team. 

If you wanted to compete in speech, you began by taking 
her famous "breathing lesson." This consisted primarily, and 
most importantly, of learning to breathe with your diaphragm 
instead of depending on your puny lungs. Miss Harris had a 
sure-fire way to show the difference. Off went the books , papers, 
and pencils from the top of her desk. On YOU went. Flat on your 



124 



back, legs dangling over the end, you reposed on Miss Harris' 
desk, her hand flat on your lower chest, while you struggled to 
breathe the proper way. This, she said, was the way orators and 
singers must learn if they are to sustain tones. At her insis- 
tence, you learned to push out your belly because that was the 
closest spot to your wonderful diaphragm. And, at last, you 
realized your chest didn't have to heave and rise with each 
breath. With a little practice, you could push your middle out 
while your chest remained immobile. And you could breathe. 
The proper way. Years later, at eighty. Miss Harris was still 
sharing her talents in Quincy, Illinois. 

In March of my sophomore year, my world came to an 
end. We moved to the other side of the county, to the very 
community where the county tourney was held, to the biggest 
basketball floor in the county, not counting the state armory. 

But it didn't seem enough. I was leaving fifteen years of 
friends behind, walking blindly into the hollowed halls of yet 
another citadel of learning. Williamsville High School didn't 
even have a Latin teacher, which meant I had to complete my 
lessons by correspondence with Miss Harris. 

It was a school that had won only three basketball games 
all season, an institution full of students and teachers who 
might determine whether they like me by the clothes I wore and 
the things I did. Never mind that I could walk through the 
unlocked doors of most of the homes of Pleasant Plains and be 
welcome. Never mind that I, a lowly freshman, had been given 
select roles in vocal music events at PPTHS. Never mind that 
I had been a fairly big duck in a little puddle. 

WHS seemed an enormous, deep puddle; and I was sure 
I'd never learn to swim, let alone walk on water once in a while. 
The first inkling that I might survive came in band. The WHS 
band was long on small brass , so they didn't need my third-chair 
talents and the cornet I'd inherited from my uncle. Third-chair 
was strictly nonmelody, so I'd never practiced much, figuring 



that in the cacophony the other band members made, they'd 
never hear my boo-boos, anyway. 

WHS owned a baritone horn that wasn't being used, so 
I ended up in the back row, between the cute JV center/tuba 
player and the very shy trombonist. The position had other 
endearing qualities. At last I was playing something recogniz- 
able, the wonderful "ta ta ta' ta ta ta" counterpoint notes at the 
end of musical phrases that everyone could hear. 

I tried to keep the chrome of my baritone polished as 
brightly as my fellow band members' trombones and tubas; the 
bell on my neighbor's sousaphone was often so shiny when 
placed on the floor beside his chair that reflections from the 
overhead lights almost put out my eyes. 

It was much harder to accomplish what I had taken for 
granted before: vocal solo work. Several good sopranos, includ- 
ing Cathy in my class, were already on board at WHS, and I felt 
pretty much out in the cold. That turned around when my 
parents joined the local community club where neighboring 
families took turns providing refreshments and entertainment 
before enjoying square dancing. On these occasions, I was soon 
playing for Cathy's solos, and she, mine. We organized duets 
and trios with talented students to entertain the "old folks"— 
our parents and grandparents as well as all our neighbors 
within a five-mile radius. And, with the sharing of talents at 
these small events, I soon realized that a new home had been 
found. 

In those days, we high school students lived in special 
worlds all our own; we didn't have our own cars, and prom night 
transportation relied on many fathers sharing the family car 
keys for the occasion. Prom gowns were often homemade, while 
rented tuxedos and limos were unheard of Floral corsages were 
treasured for what they were: a once-a-year gift from someone 
special. 

Pleated sldrts and sweater sets were our primary outfit. 
Jeans were seldom seen, even on the boys, except at 4-H 



125 



livestock shows. We wore those skirts so long the hems were 
about four inches over the top of our bobby socks and saddle 
shoes. 

It was not until our thirty-fifth class reunion that my 
fellow band members, grinning sheepishly, surprised me with 
their confession: They had kept those band instruments so 
shiny on the chance they might be able to see more than that 
standard four inches of feminine leg reflected in chrome. 

Yes, our hearts were young and gay, and we were more 
than a little naive. But it was a wonderful time, one I wish my 
children might have had, too. 



MY HIGH SCHOOL YEARS 

Katherine (Nola Thornton) Cravens 

The decade of the 1930s was not the most ideal time to 
be pursuing ambitious dreams. Without interruption, the 
Great Depression not only kept a firm grip over our land like a 
disease, but spread its unpleasant influence far and wide. 
Money, in many cases, was almost nonexistent. Still, those 
dismal years may have been the best of times to take stock of our 
lives and prepare ourselves for the future, which was, at best, 
almost totally obscured in economic darkness. With little 
profitable work and plenty of time on our hands, staying in 
school was, without a doubt, one of the best decisions a member 
of our generation could have made. 

Our family of eight people lived on the paved highway 
two miles north of Gillespie in Macoupin County, Illinois. The 
younger children attended William's School located only two 
blocks from our house. Most of the students in that small 
community, who lived within walking distance, went home for 
Iimch. Since lunch boxes and sandwiches were unnecessary. 



the nearness of the school was a blessing in those bleak days. At 
noon hour, the Thornton children returned home to hot veg- 
etables. The menu seldom varied. 

Although a bright yellow school bus transported stu- 
dents from the southern most parts of the school district in 
Wilsonville, Eagerville, and Mt. Clair, there were no accommo- 
dations in other areas of the community. During my freshman 
and sophomore years, I walked the two miles into town, then 
another mile across town to the high school. In those days, the 
girls did not wear blue jeans or slacks to school. Neither did we 
wear long cotton stockings. We wore anklets the year around. 
Sometimes, when Dad was not working, he would drive me to 
school providing there was enough gasoline in the car. 

In all kinds of weather, I left home at 7:30 a.m. so I would 
not be late for school. My warm navy blue coat extended below 
my knees. My rubber galoshes reached above my ankles. 
Between the two articles of wearing apparel only a small 
portion of my bare legs was exposed to the bitter cold. Each 
afternoon as I walked homeward, I watched the days grow 
longer. The pleasant spring weather lifted our morale. In a 
cheerful mood, we would count the days until summer vacation. 

Luckily, each year I found a part-time job to help me 
financially. The summer I was sixteen, I cared for an elderly 
ailing woman. The following spring, my sister Treva and I 
earned considerable compensation working with a crew in the 
strawberry fields. Near the end of the season, when the fruit 
had passed its peak of commercial value, we were given permis- 
sion to pick the berries for our personal use. Our family enjoyed 
the free treat. 

When I was a junior, my sister was a freshman. That 
year, rain or shine, on school days a brand-new school bus began 
a regular stop in front of our house. At two-year intervals, a 
brother or sister graduated from GCHS until all six of the 
Thornton offspring had passed through its portals. 



126 



In May, 1940, 1 paid $2.98 for a pink moire taffeta formal 
at the Rifkin Shop in Gillespie. The Junior-Senior Banquet and 
Prom was only two weeks away. My white sandals had one-inch 
heels. Rayon hose were held up with elastic garters. My small 
white purse held a lipstick, a handkerchief, and a comb. The 
beautifully decorated tables, the twinkling candles, and the 
delicious food added to the festivities of the evening. Everyone 
present, including the teachers, was dressed like royalty. Prom 
dates were few and since the available boys seemed too bashful 
to ask a young lady for a dance, we girls moved to the rhythm 
of the lively dances Miss Kulsinski had taught us in P.E. class. 
For one evening, I was "Cinderella at the ball." 

The dozen or more women teachers at GCHS had been 
well-chosen. They were respected for their teaching abilities 
and for their years of service. They were all unmarried, as was 
the norm in those days. 

My favorite of all the teachers, male or female, was Miss 
Betty Burrough, the junior and senior English and literature 
instructor. Miss Burrough was a plump lady with bird-like legs. 
A permanent concentration line was etched between her brows. 
She was not only an excellent teacher, but was also well ahead 
of the conventional teaching standards of the day. Often the 
literature being studied portrayed arousing tales of love and 
devotion. In a professional manner. Miss B talked freely about 
love and the attraction of one sex to another. Little by little over 
the months, we learned Miss B had given up the man she loved 
to be a school teacher. Her advice was, "If you love someone, tell 
him." 

One day for some forgotten reason, old-fashioned petti- 
coats were the subject of conversation. In her time. Miss B 
recalled, girls wore as many as seven such garments, even on 
the hottest days. The more petticoats a girl wore, the more 
fashionable she was, and only the more wealthy girls could 
afford so many. With that certain smile her students had come 



to recognize. Miss B added, "Very few girls got into trouble in 
those days. No man could get near enough." 

Jack Johnson, an eighteen-year-old senior student, was 
naive enough to raise his hand. "Miss Burrough? I don't 
understand. How could they get into trouble?" When the sound 
of laughter went up among the students. Jack looked innocently 
around the room. Over her rimless glasses, Miss B calmly 
considered the question. The right answer required profes- 
sional skill. After what seemed like a very long time, she said, 
"Let me put it this way. Jack. You will know when you are too 
close to a girl. Keep a respectable distance and you won't have 
to worry about a thing." 

Miss Evelyn Firth, commercial arts instructor, often 
gave her students advice on office etiquette, poise, and confi- 
dence. Her old-maidish attitude toward any man, especially the 
office supervisor, often sent her all-girl class into bouts of 
restrained laughter. Miss Firth once told us about one such 
"boss" who had the audacity to invite her to lunch. She had 
solved the undesirable situation by promptly quitting her newly 
acquired position. 

During my junior and senior years, I was employed as a 
library assistant. Those of us who helped in the library were 
paid six dollars per month. The project was known as the 
National Youth Administration (NYA), one of the programs 
initiated by President Roosevelt to help the distressed economy. 

Attending Gillespie High School had been a privilege. 
Music, chorus, drama, sports, and daily doses of pleasant 
humor provided spice to our otherwise monotonous routine. 
Within one year after graduation, young men were leaving 
GCHS for the military service. Some of them would not return. 
As World War II escalated, the Depression, the effects of which 
had hindered our goals, gradually reduced its level of intensity. 

On September 21, 1991, thirty-six members of our class 
of 1941, celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of our graduation at 
the Holidome Motel near Carlinville, Illinois. At that time, Miss 



Marcia McKee, the only remaining teacher of those years, was 
hving in a care center. 

This year, 1993, a new modern edifice is being erected to 
replace the old high school in Gillespie, a building where new 
generations will live and relive the unforgettable events of their 
high school experience. 



HOME ECONOMICS AND THE SLOGAN 

Lois I. Armstrong 

Let me first take you back to January, 1936, when our 
close-knit group of eighth graders had the unique distinction of 
being the last class to leave Grant Grade School in the cold of 
winter. I had spent seven and one-half years being taught the 
three Rs in the best elementary school in Streator. Illinois, after 
moving there from central Iowa with my parents and two 
sisters. I was the middle and smallest child, but I was the best 
at playing ball and was the tomboy of the family. Daddy said I 
should have been a boy. I could outrun most of the fellows my 
age. 

The suggestion was made, with all agreeing, that we 
should have a class song to sing for our parents at the com- 
mencement program on Friday afternoon. I thought we should 
use the tune "It's June in January" because we were graduating. 
My chum Maxine Nelson volunteered to help me with the task 
of choosingjust the right words. I'm sure there are no copies of 
that ditty floating around today, but I did hang on to my hard- 
earned diploma. Incidentally, I was the only girl who made her 
graduation dress. I chose maroon-checked material for the 
shirt-waist pattern, with long sleeves and a rounded collar. The 
soft maroon-satin bow pinned at the neckline was just the right 
touch to complement my blonde hair. 



So then, only eight days later, one shy little country girl 
reported as a freshman at Streator Township High School. 
Since we lived several miles beyond the north edge of town, and 
there were no school buses back then, we had to depend on the 
family car. Until we learned to drive, our parents made a lot of 
trips to get us a good education. My older sister Ruth, a 
seasoned sophomore, gave me comfort and support until I 
became oriented to the large school. 

My family was well-known in the community. Ella, our 
mother, was a self-taught cook and caterer. We often helped her 
serve delicious meals at dinner parties and social functions 
around town. Of course, we entertained a lot at home also. I 
should tell you that my big experience has something to do with 
food. 

It seemed natural that I would follow the four-year home 
economics course of study. Our school had a very fine home 
economics department and great teachers. By April 1937, a 
section of classrooms and a beautiful auditorium were com- 
pleted. The first outside event scheduled was a cooking school. 
It was sponsored by the Streator Daily Times-Press in conjunc- 
tion wdth the Modern Equipment Company, the local Kelvinator 
dealer. It was advertised that a new refrigerator would be 
presented to the person whom the three judges determined had 
written the best slogan (in 25 words or less) describing the 
appliance. All home economics students were privileged to 
attend the three afternoon sessions. We sat in the balcony, and 
each day there was a sea of women below us. 

The economist in charge of the very successful school, 
Miss Mary Eggers, was gracious. We soon made a hit with 
everyone. Tickets were drawn each day to give away the tasty 
dishes which she had prepared before our arrival. 

It was Friday, the final session, and I should have 
already been in my seat, but I still had to drop my entry for the 
contest into the box at the front door. As I almost ran to reach 
the inside entrance to the auditorium, I passed by my Spanish 



classroom. My teacher Mrs. Daley was alone; so I went in to ask 
her if she had a minute to hear my fourteen-word slogan. She 
thought I had a splendid chance to win. I found it hard to 
concentrate on the program, and the time seemed to drag. I was 
hungry and tired, but I had to stay until the end. 

Finally, Mr. Denehe, advertising manager of the Times- 
Press, stepped to the microphone with the envelope containing 
the judges' choice held in his raised hand. He made a few 
remarks, then opened the envelope. As the first word reached 
my ears, I was sure it was mine. I let out a gasp! He went on 
reading: Deluxe in design; Dependable in quality; Delightful to 
use; And plus-powered to make it exclusive." 

Ruth, who was sitting two rows behind me, saw my 
reaction and asked what was wrong. I tried to tell her through 
my happy tears that I had won! They were calling from the state 
for Lois Scroggins to come on down. My teacher Miss Riegel 
helped me manage the stairs. For a stunned fifteen-year-old 
girl, it was almost more than she could handle. All I could hear 
over the applause was, "Oh, the poor dear, she's crying!" Mother 
and sister Alice were in shock as they watched me arrive on the 
stage. 

I received many phone calls when I got home. The whole 
town had read it in the paper. The anticipation and excitement 
didn't wear off until the Kelvinator was delivered four days 
later to our home out in Marilla Park. 

At the first opportunity, I invited my teacher and the 
girls in the class to my home for a special viewing. I tried some 
of the fancy recipes found in the cookbook which came with my 
beautiful refrigerator. I think I may still have the book after 55 
years. 

When I graduated in June of '40, we moved my great 
prize with us to Minnesota. We lived there only one year, 
however, moving right back to Streator. This time my folks 
bought a house in town. Soon both sisters were married. I was 
the last one to leave the nest. 



Years later, we sold that well-used appliance to my first 
husband's cousin who hved in Peoria. It served us very well, and 
I shall never forget that exciting experience at good old Streator 
High. 



THE GATHERING OF THE NUTS 
Lydia Jo Boston 

The gymnasiujn separated the high school from the 
grade school in Nauvoo. In spite of this proximity and the fact 
that I had fi-iends and cousins in high school, it remained for me 
an exciting mystery. Carrying your books and notebooks and 
walking from class to class sounded much more intriguing than 
just sitting at a desk and waiting for the teacher to begin class- 
whatever it might be. Going from room to room with a different 
teacher in each one was an adventure! Being able to visit with 
friends on the way to class was a freedom to be taken advantage 
of. It was so much better than having to wait until recess as in 
grade school. 

The initiation enlightened me as to how freshmen were 
regarded in these hallowed halls of intellectual endeavor. We 
were invited to a wiener roast at Tyson Creek. After the picnic, 
we were to take part in a play. As your name was called, you 
joined the group; we were to play the parts of living room 
furniture — sofa, chair, table, and lamp. After all were as- 
sembled, we were told the name of this theatrical production: 
The Gathering of the Nuts\ 

Some of the classes were much harder than expected and 
to this day algebra remains for me an "unsolved mystery." 
Homework took on new meaning. It no longer meant carrying 
in wood, coal, or kindling or running errands at home. Rather, 
it had to do with studies, those important lessons for the next 
day. 



129 



I did feel privileged to be able to attend high school. By 
this time most kids did, but in preceding generations it was not 
always so. Dad had been encouraged to quit high school after 
his junior year to learn the carpentry trade with his uncle. 
Mother, being the oldest girl in her family, was expected to 
work, and apparently high school was never a consideration. 
No one in Mother's immediate family had ever graduated from 
high school, so I was destined to be a first. It was assumed I'd 
have to study extra hard for having skipped grade four in grade 
school. 

When I was a sophomore, I made the big decision to 
study Latin I. Regarded by most students as a strict disciplinar- 
ian, Leona Burmeister was a patient teacher trying hard to 
make her love of Latin rub off on us. She allowed us to study in 
couples or in groups if we wished, so we would find an empty 
classroom or go to the balcony over the gym to rehearse Latin 
phrases. Occasionally, she rewarded our work with a party. In 
Latin class, I finally realized how important it was to know 
those boring parts of speech we had to learn in English. It was 
an interesting discovery to learn that many English words had 
their source in Latin. 

The school hired a new principal the year I was a junior. 
He made it a point to visit as many of the students as he could 
before school started. I remember telling him (he was also the 
math teacher) that I couldn't see any reason for having had to 
study geometry. He asked for a piece of paper and then cut a 
square, folding it into a triangle, then he said I needed to know 
the relationship of triangles to squares in order to cut quilt 
blocks. 

The evening we were to register for classes in our junior 
year, I was greeted by my cousin Marjorie who was also in my 
class. She had learned we were to have a new boy in our class. 
We excitedly watched for a glimpse of the new student. We were 
astonished and disappointed when we saw this young-looking 
fellow. Surely, we decided, he must be a freshman, and we 



wouldn't be having a new classmate after all. But he was a 
junior. He played the part of my son in our junior play, and I had 
the privilege of dragging him across the stage by his ear. (Was 
this an early indication of a lifetime arrangement?) I married 
Raymond Boston in 1946. 

We still laugh about the time returning from the junior- 
senior bus trip to Chicago when the single seating booths in the 
eating place where we stopped weren't sufficient for our crowd. 
Another cousin, Margaret, a senior, didn't have a place to sit. 
Raymond was sitting alone and she was left standing. Since she 
preferred not to sit with him, I gave her my seat and I sat across 
from him. When the waitress took my order, she asked if I 
wanted onions on my hamburger; but before I could get a word 
out, Raymond quickly answered, "No." Then he asked me to sit 
by him on the bus for the rest of the way home. 

I joined the chorus and tried hard to learn to sing. I took 
part in some of the plays and all four years participated in the 
declamatory contests. I joined the Girl Reserves which was a 
high school organization associated with the YWCA. On a few 
occasions I went to Quincy to the "Y" for special meetings with 
the GRs. I was thrilled when my mother was asked to serve on 
the GR board, and, when I was an officer, I went to the monthly 
board meetings with her. The Girl Reserves Mother-Daughter 
Banquet was the big event of the year. 

There were parties and fun times to remember. Once we 
had a bobsled party, with the sleds being pulled by tractors. The 
one I was in had an inebriated driver who landed us in the ditch. 
By the time we were rescued and back to town, the rest of the, 
students had enjoyed the soup supper, and we got the leftovers! 

After an indoor party where the sponsoring class had us 
playing hide and seek, Marjorie had a surprise when she opened 
her locker to get her coat to go home. She found a student fast 
asleep. No one had found his hiding place. He had missed the 
rest of the party — refreshments and all; our laughter awakened 
him! 



One day, the quiet of the study hall suddenly erupted in 
laughter as a girl who had taken all she could endure of the 
teasing and tormenting from the boy sitting behind her, rose to 
her feet, turned around, and banged her literature book repeat- 
edly on the head of the offender! 

I recall coming home for lunch laughing about a student 
who had sat on a tack that someone had placed on her seat. I 
thought it was hilarious that this somewhat arrogant girl "had 
got what was coming to her." Dad was quick to say that just 
because everyone else in school had laughed, it did not give me 
a license to do so. All my life that incident has reminded me that 
I am responsible for what I do, regardless of what everyone else 
does. 

When Thanksgiving was being jostled between the third 
and fourth Thursdays of November, the kids circulated a 
petition in favor of their favorite day, which wasn't the one 
designated by the school for the holiday. When some of the 
signers walked out of school, it called for diplomacy on the part 
of the administration, and all was settled peacefully. 

Some thought the fun thing was carried too far when it 
was decided to name the first issue of the school annual Ye Olde 
Jug in commemoration of Nauvoo's reputation of wane making. 
The Principal said that if someone who had voted for that name 
wanted to reconsider and would come forward, he would call for 
another vote to determine the name. Many were glad to see it 
changed to The Purple Banner. 

High school had fast become a way of life and all too soon 
we would be engaged in senior activities and planning our 
futures. Our 1941 class was the first to have a Class Night for 
the reading of the class prophecy and will and other reminisc- 
ing. As salutatorian for the class, I gave the welcome at 
graduation. 

The camera I received from Aunt Mary for a graduation 
gift was put to use taking lots of pictures — family pictures and 
snapshots of me in my cap and gown. Mother was so excited 



about the whole event that she tried on the cap and gown. One 
of my treasured pictures is of her in it. She passed away two 
years later and didn't see the rest of her children graduate. 

I always wished graduation had been ten days earlier so 
I could say I graduated from high school at sixteen, but, alas, I 
was seventeen. College was out of the question, although that 
is what I really wanted. My second option of training to be a 
nurse was also an impossibility. By fall, cutting grapes and 
clerking in the dime store was all the work I could find. As a 
result, I went back to high school. I picked up the business 
classes not worked into my schedule during high school. By 
then, home economics had been added to the curriculum for the 
first time, so I enrolled in that class. The things I learned in it 
have served me well through the years of raising a family. I 
have probably used those skills more than many of the others, 
and I still enjoy sewing and cooking. 

I started high school as a "nut" and enjoyed lots of 
"nutty" times, but there was much more to my high school 
experience. Those wonderful days represent some of the most 
cherished memories I have. 



HIGH SCHOOL IN DIXON 

Lillian Schick Peterson 

The city of Dixon is divided by the Rock River. Those 
students who lived on the north side of the river attended North 
Central School, while those of us who resided south of the river 
attended South Central School. The main office was at South 
Central, as well as eight grades of elementary students. All four 
floors on the west end of the building were classrooms for the 
high school. There was a large assembly room on the second 
floor, and the gym was on the fourth floor. 



When my older brother and sister came in from the 
country to go to high school from 1922 to 1926, they rode in a 
horse-sized buggy pulled by our pony. One teacher remarked 
that she wondered who that boy was who drove to school with 
that little horse. 

School started at 9:00 and was dismissed at 3:30. An 
hour and fifteen minutes were scheduled at noon, allowing time 
for pupils living in town to walk home for lunch. We rural pupils 
brought our lunch, which was often sandwiches, an apple, and 
cookies. Lunch was wrapped in several sheets of the Tribune 
and tied with a string. In good weather, we grouped ourselves 
with friends and ate our lunches in our cars. I was lucky that 
Dad bought a used Ford coupe when I started to high school in 
the fall of 1926. Elsie Toot, a friend from our rural school, often 
ate with me in our car. One day as we were eating, some boys 
came walking past. Elsie wanted to attract their attention, so 
she slammed her door as hard as she could. Immediately the 
glass in the door broke and scattered over the pavement! The 
boys just took one look and walked right on. We were both 
worried about who would have to pay for the broken window. 

After eating, we often walked the three blocks to town 
where we could browse around the Woolworth and Newberry 
stores. When cold weather arrived, we went to the top floor of 
the school where long tables and benches were set up in the hall 
for us to eat. The girls gathered at the west end and the boys on 
the east. 

After eating, the boys slipped into their gym shoes and 
ran into the gym to play basketball, while the girls sat ourselves 
on the bleachers to watch the boys play. A teacher was usually 
assigned to take noon duty and supervise us. One noon, Miss 
White, the math teacher, was on duty. She watched the boys for 
awhile and then asked, "When do you girls play?" We answered, 
"We never play. We just watch the boys." 

She decided that some changes should be made and that 
the girls would have their turns, too. She told us to have our gym 



shoes available so that we would be ready when our turn came. 
In a day or so, we girls took over the gym floor with our style of 
basketball. It must have been a sorry sight to watch. Few knew 
how to dribble the ball. We threw the ball toward the basket, 
but it seldom went in. Rules of the game were poorly followed. 
But we did have fun running around. 

After we had several turns at playing basketball at noon, 
the afternoon classroom teachers began to complain. Since no 
showers followed the play, the girls were bringing a most 
unpleasant aroma to their classrooms. Even Miss White de- 
cided that we would have to give up on our "female rights." 

At that time, the school day was divided into seven forty- 
five minute periods. Four were planned for class instruction, 
and the other three were study hall periods. These took place 
in the large assembly hall with one teacher in charge. Disci- 
pline was no problem, so the teacher could spend the time 
correcting papers or doing some reading. I used to really put my 
time to good use in the study hall because I didn't want to take 
home any schoolwork. Occasionally, the math teacher would 
give us some challenging study problem which I enjoyed solving 
in the evening. The following morning, I was sometimes met at 
the school door by a classmate wanting to know if I had the 
solution to the problems, and asking if I would share it. I did 
have it and, yes, I did share it. It was a great satisfaction to me 
to have a friend say, "I can understand it better when you 
explain it to me than when the teacher does." 

In 1930, we needed sixteen credits to graduate. We were 
required to have three in English, two in math, two in history, 
one in science, and one in government. Home Ec was offered for 
three years. Mother had her daughters take advantage of that 
program. In my junior year, the sewing teacher challenged us 
to cut out a dress and finish it in one class period, which was one 
hour and a half I planned a very simple dress with no waistline 
and no set-in sleeves. I finished it but was required to wear it 
to school the next day ... a little embarrassing. 



132 



Extracurricular activities took place after 3:30. I took 
art from Miss Guernsey, who came out from the Art Institute in 
Chicago every other week. She gave me a lot of guidance and put 
me in charge of the artwork in the Dixonian, the yearbook of 
1930. Miss Lawson had the Girls' Glee Club, which met every 
week. Once we were invited to sing for the PTA. Being very 
short, I was placed near the end of the front row. I was 
embarrassed when during one number, a sheet of my music fell 
to the stage floor. I paused for a moment, then quickly scooped 
it up. I was most grateful that Miss Lawson completely ignored 
my goof The Home Economic girls had a club that met monthly. 
During my senior year, I was president of that group. 

Each class had a dance once a year. There was very little 
dating in the freshman and sophomore classes. The party 
would have been very dull if it weren't for Mr. Bowers, the coach, 
who came up to the gym and did some calling. He got all the boys 
and girls out on the floor. Then he gave us instructions on 
formations that we should take as we marched around to the 
music. Suddenly, he would shout out "dance" and everyone was 
to dance with the person with whom they were lined up. Since 
the boys were bashful about asking the girls to dance, Mr. 
Bowers would call out "girls' choice." It worked every time. 

The junior and senior classes gave a play every year. 
They were allowed to give a portion of the play at both high 
schools to advertise their production. In January 1928, the 
senior class from North Central came to our assembly to 
advertise their play. Captain Applejack. Pirates stormed upon 
the stage and gave a very exciting performance. Later, I found 
out that one of the pirates was Ronald Reagan. Most of us knew 
him as Dutch Reagan, the popular lifeguard out at Lowell Park. 

During 1929 and 1930, a new high school was built on 
the north bank of the Rock River. Enough of the construction 
was completed in January 1930, so that both of the schools 
moved in and started the second semester together. So, in June 
1930, we were the first class to graduate from the new school. 



Our graduation exercises were held in the huge circular pavil- 
ion in Assembly Park, the main building on the historic 
Chataugua grounds. 

The North Central School is now the site of Heritage 
Square, a lovely retirement center. South Central School is now 
in the process of becoming a historic museum. It was purchased 
by the Ronald Reagan Home Preservation Foundation. The 
classroom where Ronald Reagan attended fifth grade will be 
restored and school children will be invited to visit, hopefully to 
be thrilled and influenced by the character and attainments of 
the beloved American president. 



fflGH SCHOOL THE HARD WAY 

Marie Freesmeyer 

In the early twenties, very fevv^ boys or girls who lived in 
the Hamburg Precinct of Calhoim County attended high school. 
The only such school in the county was a three-year one at 
Hardin, the county seat. For me to graduate from a four-year 
high school was very unusual and not an easy task. 

Because of the short term in all rural schools, the 1918 
influenza epidemic, and having had three different teachers, 
my year in the seventh grade had been lacking in both quantity 
and quality. Hence, my parents, realizing my interest in 
learning, permitted me to board in Hardin to complete my 
elementary education. That year, I spent long hours studying 
diligently in order to successfully compete with the smartest 
students in a large class. The year provided me with many 
valuable learning experiences and was excellent preparation 
for the four years ahead. 

Enrolling as a freshman in the same school was only a 
matter of moving upstairs with the upper classmen. There, in 



133 



what seemed like a giant leap into the academic world, our class 
was almost doubled by the addition of students from surround- 
ing rural schools. Like me, many of these students boarded in 
town but returned home on weekends. Three of these farm girls 
and I boarded in the same home and became close and congenial 
friends. 

The principal knew that I needed to be challenged so he 
suggested that I take Latin I with the sophomores. Even with 
four additional classes, I did not have to work as hard as I had 
the previous year. I found time for fun and friendships. Being 
a healthy teenager with few worries, I found the carefree life of 
a freshman student a wonderful experience. 

One thing that made life less frustrating for teenagers at 
that time was our nonchalant attitude toward the clothes we 
wore. Mothers insisted that we should always be clean and 
neat; however, little or no emphasis was placed on style. I can 
scarcely recall the typical wardrobe of teenage girls at that time, 
but I'm sure it was meager and serviceable. There were many 
kinds of skirts, and middies of different colors besides the usual 
white and navy ones. The colorful dresses of gingham or 
worsted were usually made at home or by a seamstress. We 
wore comfortable, well-polished oxfords with either black or 
white stockings. It was essential that we have a sweater, a 
raincoat, and plenty of warm wraps for our treks to and from 
school. Those students whose parents were more affluent, 
dressed no differently from those of poorer families; no one was 
judged by the clothes that he or she wore. 

For my sophomore year, I transferred to Jersey Town- 
ship High School in Jerseyville, where I could complete my four 
years. One reason was that a brother lived just three miles west 
of town, so I planned to stay there or, at least, be with him and 
his family on weekends. For the first few months, I stayed with 
my brother and rode to and from school with a neighbor girl who 
drove a horse and buggy; yes, I lived in the so-called "horse-and- 
buggy days." 



It seemed strange, indeed, to be in such a large building 
with so many classrooms. The number of students completely 
overwhelmed this country girl. I felt lost in that sea of human- 
ity. With some difficulty, I managed to find all my classrooms 
the first day, but was totally unprepared for all the questioning 
stares which I received when my name was called. It gave me 
considerable concern until some kind soul explained to me that 
a mentally handicapped girl in town had the same name as 
mine. 

It didn't take long for me to win favorable recognition in 
class and with my teachers, but it was more difficult for me to 
win friends — probably because I was more interested in study- 
ing and competing than I was in forming friendships. Also, 
friendship groups among sophomores, from both town and 
surrounding communities, had been formed during the fresh- 
man year. Since I was from another county, perhaps there was 
some resentment; even the teachers kidded me occasionally 
about being from Calhoun, where the hillsides were so steep 
that the cows were said to develop longer legs on one side in 
order to graze. 

During my junior year, I boarded in town, as I had done 
most of the preceding year — but continued to spend most of my 
weekends with my brother. Because only two years were left for 
me to take the many interesting subjects offered, I signed up for 
so many courses that I scarcely had a free period for study. 
Frequently, I used the noon hour for preparing lessons instead 
of going home for lunch. For me, the P.E. period seemed a waste 
of precious time. One of the highlights of the year was the 
privilege of having a role in the plays. It didn't matter to me that 
I was given the part of an elderly character each time. 

A two-day weekend was not long enough for someone to 
make the thirty-mile trip in order that I might spend a few 
hours with my family, so I seldom got there. In March, when 
school was dismissed for a couple of days for a teachers' meeting, 
I was determined to get home. The roads in the Illinois bottom 



were too muddy for any car to get through, but my girlfriend and 
I found a way. We hitchhiked to Carrollton. (That was my usual 
way of getting to my brother's home on Friday evening and back 
to school on Monday morning). There we caught the local train 
which used a spur into East Hardin a few times each week. 
There was no passenger car, so we rode with the engineer. He 
even allowed us to blow the whistle for the crossings. A half- 
mile east of the river was a triangular track which enabled the 
short train to turn around and back into the station. We 
thanked our kind friend and took the ferry across the Illinois 
River where we were met by my younger brother in his Model- 
T. It had taken a bit of doing to get home, but it was worth the 
effort. I hadn't been there since the Christmas vacation. 

Now that my last year of high school had arrived, I 
wanted to enroll in as many classes as I possibly could. In fact, 
I attempted so many that I soon had to drop typing for lack of 
time. Math was my favorite subject, but I had already taken 
every math course, except trigonometry. I signed up for the 
course, though I would be the only girl in the class. Those boys 
proved to be stiff competition, but, again, hard work allowed 
success. Thankful that I boarded near the school that year, I 
rushed home for my noon meal and hurried back to study for my 
afternoon classes. 

Having been chosen Literary Editor for the school's 
annual, I found it to be a time-consuming but enjoyable task. 
Having an important role in the class plays was for me a 
challenge and pure delight. However, being a member of the 
debating team was the real highlight of the year. The teacher 
of our public speaking class entered us in the state contest 
which was to debate the proposition supplied by the Illinois 
Debating League: "Resolved, That the United States and 
Canada should immediately set about constructing the St. 
Lawrence Deep Water Way." Two boys and I were given the 
positive side. After a practice debate in our own school, each 
team met an opposing team of other high school students from 



other places in a series of district contests. Both our positive 
and negative teams continued to win, finally meeting the other 
district winners in the state contest at Normal. We returned 
with two trophies. 

At some point during my four years in high school , I had 
decided that instead of going on to college. I would begin my 
teaching career. In March of my senior year, I signed a contract 
with the directors of a large rural school in Calhoun County. 
After mastering Bagley's text Classroom Management, taught 
by the principal, I wrote the State Teachers' Examination to 
secure my certificate. 

The decision to teach instead of going on to college was, 
perhaps, not a wise one, as it meant several summers in college, 
then continuing to acquire college credits by correspondence 
and extension courses for many years. As one of my brothers 
once remarked to me, "You have a knack for doing things the 
hard way." Maybe so, but I did work with diligence to make 
school as exciting and meaningful for my students as it was for 
me. 



MISTAKEN IDENTITY 

Ivan E. Prall 

If you have ever been suspected of something you did not 
do, you'll sympathize with my predicament in my senior year of 
high school. Actually, the basis for my trouble started in my 
junior year. A journalism class was being offered for the first 
time, and having read of Floyd Gibbons and other renowned 
foreign correspondents, I decided that journalism was to be my 
future. 

A weekly newspaper dubbed the Barblet was started, 
and I found myself appointed editor. All went well through the 



135 



year until March. At that time, due to a tight school budget and 
some critical news stories in our Barblet, Mr. Beals, Superin- 
tendent of DeKalb High School, stopped all funding. Bertha 
Rutledge, our journalism teacher, suggested that our class go 
forth and sell subscriptions to finance our school paper. This we 
did, and it was successful. 

Starting the fall session of my senior year, our Barblet 
was doing well, but Mr. Beals had installed a number of 
restrictions, which, in an editorial, we compared to rules like 
those in Hitler's Germany. This was the fall of 1939. Abruptly, 
the boom was lowered; and, although the students had paid 
their subscriptions, the Barblet was banned. Students congre- 
gated in front of the school office, and when Mr. Beals emerged 
with a megaphone shouting, "Clear the halls!" they bombarded 
him with wadded up copies of the newspaper. 

Obviously, this left a sour feeling in the journalism class. 
Actually, I was probably the least upset. For several years, I 
had been delivering the DeKalb Chronicle after school and was 
well-acquainted with its editor. Consequently, I approached 
him with the idea of carrying a high school news column once a 
week, since there would be no other coverage of school news. He 
was agreeable, and I not only wrote it — but I was paid for the job 
as well. 

Things went smoothly the remainder of the year, and, 
with my added income, I acquired a car and became interested 
in a girl across the lab bench in my chemistry class. Gone with 
the Wind was coming to a local theater. I asked Marjorie if she 
would accompany me to see it. It was my first date. 

After the movie, we drifted to the Prince Castle for 
sundaes. A school friend entered and congratulated me on the 
paper I had put out that night. "What paper?" I asked. "You 
know," he laughed and walked away. 

The Varsity Club dance was in progress that night, and 
someone had climbed the roof of the school and, opening the 
skylights, dropped copies of a paper similar to the old Barblet 



down on the dance floor. The same person had then proceeded 
to distribute copies on street corners in DeKalb and in neighbor- 
ing towns. By morning, these were selling at more than a dollar 
per copy. 

This look-alike publication was labeled The Liberator 
and was filled with off-color stories aimed at the school admin- 
istration and various teachers who had offended the students 
producing it. 

All day Sunday I tried to learn the identities of The 
Liberator publishers, but with no success. 

Arriving at school Monday morning with considerable 
trepidation, I was met with acclaim by most of the student body. 
Literally no one believed I knew nothing of this publication. The 
trepidation was well-justified, as news soon reached me that the 
maligned teachers planned to bring libel suits against me or my 
parents. 

Around 9:00 a.m., as I sat in study hall trying to force 
myself to concentrate on a lesson, a secretary arrived from the 
office requesting that I report there immediately. As I ap- 
proached, though some distance away, I could hear a teacher 
shouting at Mr. Beals, demanding my name be removed from 
the National Honor Society. The Liberator had carried a news 
item that her clothes were purchased at the Aurora Tent and 
Awning Company. 

Arriving at the office, I was ushered into an inner room. 
Seated around the table were the Chief of Police, a county 
deputy, and another officer. The thought crossed my mind that 
someone was making a major issue out of what seemed more 
like an example of student spring horseplay. 

Surprisingly, my answers to their questions seemed to 
satisfy them, and there was no threatening with rubber hoses 
or strong lights. One question did puzzle me, however. They 
asked if I had seen or heard anyone mention a cornet. I was 
allowed to return to my study hall and, throughout the day. 



136 



other students and teachers continued to tie the pubUcation of 
The Liberator to me. 

That evening my assistant editor from the Barblet and 
a friend of his were arrested for steahng an expensive comet. 
My assistant was a junior in high school, as was his crony. 
Proceeds from selHng the cornet was used to purchase mimeo- 
graph paper and to rent a machine to run off The Liberator. 
They had induced several girls from the old Barblet staff to type 
and lay out the publication. 

The father of the assistant editor was president of a local 
bank. Consequently, both boys were soon out on bail and 
received rather light sentences. 

Unfortunately for me, many of the teachers and stu- 
dents still eyed me as the mastermind behind the publication. 
Three years ago, my graduating class held its fiftieth anniver- 
sary reunion. Several members broached the matter. No 
matter what I answered, they smiled and winked. I shall, it 
seems, never be vindicated. 



INNOCENCE LOST AT TAYLORVILLE HIGH 

Martha Jean Wieland 

In the city of Taylorville, Illinois, my old Taylorville 
Township High School is no more. The building itself has given 
way to a building housing apartments. A section of the two rail 
black iron fence now graces a lawn in the heart of the city. The 
term "Township" does not appear in the name of a new structure 
built on a campus a mile or two away. We of the class of 1934 
remember fondly our solid red brick edifice with its wide, worn 
wooden staircases, huge windows, wooden floors and wainscot- 
ing, the pervasive combined odor of floor-sweeping compound 
and sweaty gym shoes, drab metal lockers occupying every 



possible space, and the tower that was in the original section of 
the building. 

My father graduated from TTHS just before the turn of 
the century. He was prone to regale us with tales of boyish 
pranks, including the story of one Halloween when a group of 
boys (nameless, of course!) managed to coax a cow to the top of 
that tower. History does not record how she was gotten down 
from her precarious perch. 

Despite all the changes, "high school" still conjures a 
picture of the educational facility I knew in my youth. In 
memory, I wander those spacious halls, calling off the rooms as 
I pass the doors: Miss Ashbrook's room, Mrs. DeHart's senior 
English room, Mr. Cole's Biology room, Mr. Oliver's history 
room, the library where Mrs. Hill reigned supreme, Mr. 
Thornton's math room, Miss Orr's home economics room, the 
gym where Miss Baker and Coach McAdams blew whistles and 
Mr. Asbury held band practice, Mr. Card's manual training 
shop, and Mr. Clausen's ag room. We made every possible effort 
not to be invited for an official visit to Principal Walters' office. 

At the top of the north stairway to the second floor was 
the big study hall wdth two sections of desks. On one of these, 
someone, in a burst of patriotic enthusiasm, had engraved the 
hallowed date of Lindbergh's historic flight. I remember teach- 
ers pacing through study hall aisles to keep order and provide 
assistance. For some reason, I remember sophomore Paul 
Schneider swaggering past, wearing "plus fours," and freshman 
George Wilcockson, a white area of zinc oxide ointment masking 
an enormous fever blister on his chin. 

As I think back to that time, I am struck by a sense of our 
innocence and provincialism, especially mine. I was a farm girl, 
two years younger than my classmates, which may have made 
a difference. We were far from sophisticated. We had little or 
no experience outside our own small worlds — a condition 
abruptly and harshly changed when many of the boys and some 
of the girls became world travelers for Uncle Sam during World 



War II. Scarcely anyone had his own transportation. I use the 
word "his" advisedly. It would have been unthinkable i^or a girl 
to own a car. A Saturday night movie at the Capitol Theatre on 
the square was the height of excitement. The Junior-Senior 
Prom was just that: no freshmen, sophomores, or nonstudents 
allowed. The affair was held in the gym. One went whether he 
or she had a date or not, and many did not. One went when the 
dance started, stayed until the band stopped playing, and then 
went home. 

Teenage hormones raged as fiercely as always, of course, 
but not overtly. There was a great deal of whispering and 
giggling going on all of the time, but everything sexual seemed 
veiled in secrecy. I remember a pretty little girl in one of my 
freshman classes who one day simply stopped coming to school. 
It was a long, long time before I found that she had died 
following an abortion. At the time, I probably didn't know what 
one was. 

It was tremendously exciting for me to enter high school. 
I came from a little country school in which there was one room 
for all eight grades, one teacher, more pupils than desks, 
outdoor "necessaries," a pump for drinking water, and boys' and 
girls' cloakrooms in which to deposit outer wraps and lunch 
pails. Instead of walking to high school, I rode with my older 
sister when she drove to work from our farm home. No yellow 
school buses then! I could scarcely believe the freedom of 
moving from room to room for my classes, having a locker where 
I stored my belongings, and having the opportunity to interact 
with so many other students. I relished the entire experience, 
with one notable exception — Freshman English. 

The first six weeks of school were truly distressing for 
me. In English, we had a dark green paperback workbook 
known familiarly as the M.O.S. Book. That stood for Mainte- 
nance of Skill. The skill referred to was the use of proper 
grammar. I had a very real problem in that I had no skill to 
maintain. Nearly every student in that class came from the city 



school and had been rather well-grounded in grammar basics, 
but I was woefully lacking, scarcely able to recognize even a 
noun or a verb. In fact, grammar as a subject had barely been 
touched upon while I attended elementary school. I think it may 
have been mentioned in passing once or twice in eighth grade; 
I was so shy that I never once thought of asking the instructor 
for help in my dilemma, and she failed to recognize my desper- 
ate need. 

Every one of the days we were plowing through the 
hated book, I died a thousand deaths, becoming physically ill 
when I had to enter the room. Even now, I am not sure how I 
managed to pass the first six weeks. The entire time spent in 
"maintaining our skills" was so traumatic for me that I have 
always disliked the shade of green used for the book cover. If the 
old M.O.S. Book had comprised the entire curriculum in Fresh- 
man English, I'm sure I'd still be back there in Taylorville 
Township High School, dejectedly trying to pass the course. 

Fortunately for me, the lesson plan contained other 
elements for which I was better prepared. We soon left behind 
the pedantic M.O.S. period, getting down to facets of English 
that I enjoyed. We read some classics, wrote some of our own, 
and I did some extra fun work. Thus, I managed to skim 
through. A few years later, I successfully maneuvered to pass 
college English courses without any real knowledge of grammar 
or sentence construction. Even now I depend upon instinct that 
something sounds or looks right! M.O.S. didn't help me at all. 

In this freshman English class, I first became aware that 
one cannot be totally trusting in the real world. To demonstrate 
how much (or how little) we were able to make use of those 
mythical skills we were "maintaining," we were required to do 
a considerable amount of writing. I'd written an essay in 
response to an early assignment and it was ready to turn in on 
time. The day before the essays were due, Marjorie D. (who sat 
behind me in study hall) asked to see my effort. I was perfectly 



138 



willing to pass my paper to her, not even thinking it strange 
when she was a bit tardy in handing it back. 

A few days later, the essays were returned to us by our 
teacher. Miss Aileen Ashbrook, who demanded to see Marjorie 
and me after class. I was totally unaware of what was going to 
transpire and was thunderstruck when I was accused of plagia- 
rism. At that time in my life, I did not even know there was such 
a thing as plagiarism, much less that there was a word to 
describe it. I couldn't have found the word in the dictionary 
because I had no idea how to spell it. 

Marjorie's essay and mine were identical. To this day, I 
can't imagine why she did not make at least a few changes in 
order that the copying not be so obvious. My astonishment and 
consternation were genuine. They must also have been convinc- 
ing because I was finally the one who got the grade — a good one, 
as I recall. 

This was a bitter lesson, one I have never forgotten. Yet 
I cannot bring myself to distrust the entire world. 1 am 
acquainted with people who assign ulterior motives to everyone 
in everything said or done. I feel sorry for those wary, tiresome 
individuals in their barren and ugly worlds. If one cannot feel 
at ease among one's fellow men, there is not much joy in life. So 
I shall continue to pass my essay to the person who asks to see 
it. But I think that perhaps I shall set a limit to the time he or 
she may ; 



HIGH SCHOOL HERE I COME 

Anthony L. Siemer 

My decision to attend high school was based on likes and 
dislikes. I liked school and books, and I disliked the thought of 
farming all my life. Because our farm was not very large and I 



had three older brothers, I could not foresee a future for me on 
the farm. So the alternative was to get at least a high school 
education. 

I talked to Vernon Knese, who had graduated from 
Brussels Community High School in 1940, the same year I 
graduated from St. Joseph's Grade School in Meppen. He had 
been the valedictorian of his class, so naturally he thought high 
school was not too difficult. He also said that the boys wore 
dress pants, shirts, and ties. The thought of wearing a tie to 
school didn't thrill me. 

We must have sent an order to Sears and Roebuck for 
new school clothes because, when the first day of high school 
arrived, I was neatly dressed in what I had previously consid- 
ered "Sunday clothes." Part ofmy outfit was a colorful tie. My 
sister Cathy drove me to school in our 1935 Ford. 

Our St. Louis consign, Lorraine McClimens, had mar- 
ried Willard Kamp, a local young man, and they were living in 
Brussels at the time. Cathy was going to help Lorraine wallpa- 
per that particular day. When she let me off in the church 
parking lot across from the school, I got out of the car with mixed 
emotions and waved goodbye as she drove off. I would be the 
only student from Meppen attending Brussels High School that 
year. Just a little hesitant, I walked slowly up the sidewalk 
towards that large stone structure. 

The first person I met was Joe "Ford" Klockenkemper 
from Batchtown. We already knew each other because of our 
mutual love of baseball. I had played ball against his brothers 
the previous summer. I noticed that Ford's collar was not 
buttoned and he was tieless. I was thrilled when he announced, 
"You don't have to wear a tie." Ford was a senior; 1 thought he 
should know. Besides, the day was going to get hot and the tie 
already felt uncomfortable. Off it came and I delightedly stuffed 
it into my hand-carried book bag. 

Ford showed me to my classroom. Walking through the 
door, I saw my future classmates for the first time. To my 



horror, though, I was the only boy in the room not wearing a tie! 
I was to find out later that Ford was a happy-go-lucky type of 
student, a nonconformist and one of the sloppiest dressers in 
school. On the positive side, Ford was popular, outgoing, 
helpful, and fun to have as a friend. Just for the record, on my 
second day of school, I wore a tie. 

Freshmen at Brussels Community High School had no 
choice of subjects in the fall of 1940. Everyone was assigned to 
four classes: English, Algebra I, Latin I, and General Science. 
I had purchased a used set of books from a girl who had been a 
freshman the previous year. 

The first day of school had been an orientation day. 
Informed of the rules and regulations, we met all our teachers, 
a different one for each subject, which was quite a revelation for 
me. At St. Joseph's there had been one teacher for four grades. 
One thing didn't change, though: I still had nuns for teachers. 
Although BCHS was a public high school, it had been staffed 
exclusively by the Sisters of Divine Providence from Normandy, 
Missouri, since the school opened in 1932. 

The Latin teacher, Sr, Consilia, gave me the impression 
the first day that she was the sternest disciplinarian, although 
her sister, Sr. Benigna, was the principal. My first impression 
proved correct. Sr. Consilia carried a little black notebook in her 
pocket that contained the names of all students in the school, 
listed alphabetically by classes. 

Every time she saw an infraction of a rule such as talking 
in study hall or running in the hallway, she would make a black 
mark in her book behind the offender's name. The more black 
marks you had, the lower your deportment grade. She had a 
favorite saying, "I don't see everything, but what I see, I see." Sr. 
Consilia seemed to enjoy her role as chief disciplinarian. Smil- 
ing and repeating her saying almost every time she made a 
black mark. 

Sr. Consilia gave us the first lesson in our Latin book as 
an assignment for the next day. The book was divided into 



lessons rather than chapters, and she kept on with the routine 
of a new lesson each day except on days we were having a major 
test. Unfortunately for me, my used Latin book had the first 
several pages missing, including the first lesson. I went to 
school the next day totally unprepared for the first assignment 
of my high school career. Then, to my dismay, Sr. Consilia said 
that each class member had to come up to her desk, read each 
often Latin sentences, and then give the English translation. 
Luckily she asked for volunteers, and several eager students 
responded, lining up across the front of the room. Ever the lover 
of black marks, Sr. Consilia used the same system for grading. 
She would make a black mark for each mispronunciation or 
wrong translation. Watching those black marks piling up 
caused some students to get flustered and make still more 
errors. 

I had three things going for me. I had been a Mass server 
for five years and, back then, our responses were said in Latin. 
Also, I could remember what I heard and, lastly, I stayed near 
the end of the line. 

Before my turn came, I had listened to that lesson being 
red from Sr. Consilia's Latin book twenty times. When my turn 
finally came, I recited rather than read the Latin sentences and 
was able to give the English translations quite accurately. 

Fortunately those were the only pages missing from my 
Latin book. After taking three years of Latin, I still remember 
that first lesson best of all. The first sentence was "Pictura 
spectatae." Translation: Look at the picture. Perhaps if more 
pages had been missing from the book, I would have a greater 
knowledge of Latin today. 

After two weeks of school, our English teacher informed 
us we were going to learn about parliamentary procedure and 
then elect class officers. We had a total of twenty-five students 
at the start of our freshman year. I knew the first names of all 
the boys in my class, but I hadn't made an effort to learn the 
names of the girls. As the nominations were made for vice- 



140 



president, the names were written on the board; all were girls. 
Since I couldn't associate the girls' names with a particular 
person, I voted for a name that most appealed to me: a girl 
whose last name was Arnold. The girl elected vice-president 
had the surname of Schmidt. The boy elected for president of 
the class was named Robert. I was to learn later that this 
Schmidt girl had harbored a "crush" on Robert since the days 
when they were in grade school. Robert was to become one of my 
best friends, as was the Schmidt girl. I was quite surprised 
when I was nominated for treasurer, and even more shocked 
when elected. I guess this was the students' way of saying that 
the kid from Meppen was accepted. Then we held our first 
formal meeting. The newly elected secretary was told that her 
position included taking the minutes of each meeting. That our 
secretary didn't fully comprehend the duties of her office was 
evident when we held our second meeting several weeks later. 
After the president called the meeting to order, he asked the 
secretary to read the minutes of the previous meeting. She read, 
"The minutes of the first meeting of the freshman class of BCHS 
were 23." 

In retrospect, my attending Brussels Community High 
School was a very wise decision. Not only did I obtain an 
excellent high school education but I also met my future wife, 
the Schmidt girl. Marcy and I were married in 1949. 

After graduating from Western Illinois University in 
1950, 1 obtained a high school teaching position in Kampsville. 
The following year, I signed a contract to teach at Brussels 
Community High School. On the first day of school in 1951, 1 
walked toward the same stone building that I had entered so 
apprehensively as a beginning student in 1940. Although I was 
again filled with apprehension, this time I did not remove my 
tie. 




Vlll I'oetry 



POETRY 

Poetry no longer has the cultural significance that it 
once had in America. The coming of movies, radio, television, 
and computers in our century has deflected public interest away 
from serious literature, and modern poetry has also become 
more difficult to understand. The best poems of Hart Crane, 
John Berryman, Adrienne Rich, and Sylvia Plath may be 
brilliant, but they have few readers outside of our colleges and 
universities. 

In past generations, however, things were different. 
Many people enjoyed poetry, and they often memorized favorite 
poems and passed them along. Reading textbooks such as the 
famous McGuffey Eclectic Readers included poetry, and many a 
student memorized and recited such classroom favorites as 
Eugene Field's "The Duel" (better known as "The Gingham Dog 
and the Calico Cat"), Whittier's "The Barefoot Boy," and 
Longfellow's "Paul Revere's Ride." 

The one prose memoir in this section, June Speer 
Chatterton's "Poetry at Home and at School," reflects an expo- 
sure to poetry that was typical many decades ago, and it shows, 
too, how lasting the impact of poems learned in childhood can 
be. She closes by mentioning that her early reading has even 
prompted her to write poetry, and that has surely been true of 
many other people as well. 

The other authors in this section are poets, too, and their 
writing reveals the capacity of poems to record memories, 
display insight, and delight the reader. 

Most of the poems are traditional in form. Marie 
Ostrander Brooks' "Memories of My Home Town," for example, 
employs couplets in four-line stanzas. Her subject is conven- 
tional — the vanished small-town world of her childhood — but 
the nicely wrought poem also suggests the power of memory to 
anchor us to the landscape of our past. Loma G. Moore's 
"Memories of Childhood" is similar but is focused on the more 



intimate world of the family farm — which is now so distant in 
time, but is still recoverable through memory. 

That free verse works equally well to reflect the remem- 
bered past is evident in a few of the poems. Faye Christian 
Perry's "Sunday Evening in Winter" uses well-chosen details to 
depict the simple world of her home many years ago, when the 
family was apt to be kept indoors by a heavy snowfall. Jack 
lorio's "Autumn Haze" is a more complex poem that employs a 
vivid fall memory to symbolize the end of boyhood, with its 
rituals of togetherness. His precisely worded piece is developed 
in a single long sentence. 

Two of the poems focus on people of the past. Bemice 
Lovekamp's "Schoolmarm" is a celebration of the hardworking 
country school teacher of "the good old days" — which were not 
so good for her — before consolidation brought that era to an end. 
Jessie Lynch's "Papa" is a vivid recollection of her father. 
Starting with a sudden reversal of the opening line, it depicts a 
"quiet man" who was nevertheless excitable and outspoken 
when it came to Roosevelt and the Democrats. A free verse 
poem, for the most part, it employs occasional rhyme to help 
bring the piece to a close. 

Two of the poems are not recollective, but focus instead 
on the process of aging. Eleanor Schuett's "The Eyes of Love" is 
a gently humorous testament to love's impact on our perception, 
while Martha Elven's "Ode to the Nineties" captures a special 
moment in a very long life. The latter effectively balances the 
elderly speaker's awareness of the passing of time with her 
almost childlike anticipation of the party in her honor. 

All of the poems in this section of the book, especially 
"Gramma" Elven's, demonstrate that writing poetry is not just 
for the young. It is a demanding kind of mental exercise that can 
be done effectively at any age — if you have the talent. 

John E. Hall was 



POETRY AT HOME AND AT SCHOOL 

June Speer Chatterton 

I am eighty years old but I remember well my mother 
reading poems to me and my two sisters, and I remember too 
some of the poems we read in school. 

We did not have many books at home, but my mother had 
an amazing memory. She could recite poems and sing songs 
that her mother had taught her. Since my grandmother was 
bom just after the Civil War, one sad song that was passed from 
her to mother and then to me reflected the sorrow of that period. 
I remember that it started, "The shot and the shell were falling," 
and it ended, "Tell mother I won't be coming home." 

Some of the ditties Mother sang when we were very 
young were fun poems. We especially loved to hear mother sing 
"Little Birdie in the tree, in the tree, in the tree. / Little birdie 
in the tree sing a song to me." We would ask to have it sung over 
and over with perhaps "bluebird," "robin," or "red-bird" substi- 
tuted for "birdie." 

By the flickering light of a kerosene lamp, mother taught 
me my first prayer in 19 14, when I was two years old. I still have 
the copy Mr. Frew, a friend ofmother's, had given her for me. He 
and his wife did not have any children, but they later adopted 
a little girl who learned the same prayer. It is a poem that goes 
Hke this: 

Now I wake and see the light. 

Twas God who kept me through the night. 

To him, I lift my voice and pray 

That He will keep me through the day. 

If I should die before it's done 

Oh, God accept me through your Son. 

When I was five years old I started to Centerville, a 
country school. My teacher, Miss Frae McClelland, gave me my 



first reader, called T/ie Suns/line Pn'mer. It cost 40(2. It had a 
picture of a little boy and girl sitting under a tree with a bright 
yellow sun shining in the background. 

Birds seemed to be a favorite topic, and among the 
poems in that book I read the following: 

The north wind doth blow 

And we shall have snow. 

And what will the Robin do then? Poor thing! 

He will sit in the barn 

And keep himself warm, 

And hide his head under his wing. Poor thing! 

As years went by. Mother read us the poetry of James 
Whitcomb Riley. How proud I was when in fourth grade at 
school I recited all four stanzas of "The Raggedy Man," which is 
written in the dialect of a child. The first stanza is this: 

O the Raggedy Man! He works for Pa. 

An' he's the goodest man ever you saw! 

He comes to our house every day 

An' waters the horses an' feeds 'em hay. 

An' he opens the shed — an' we all jist laugh 

When he drives out our little old wobble-ly calf; 

An'nen-ef our hired girl says he can. 

He milks the cow for 'Lizabuth Ann — 

Ain't he a' awful good Raggedy Man? 

Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man! 

As I progressed through school, I read from the Studies 
in Reading series — red-bound books by Searson and Martin. 
My teacher had us memorize poems like this: 

There are many flags in many lands. 
There are flags of every hue. 



146 



But there is no flag, however grand, 
Like our own "Red, White, and Blue." 

In seventh grade we learned famous poems like "Excel- 
sior" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. There was also the great 
British poem by Thomas Gray, "Elegy Written in a Country 
Churchyard," which was proclaimed to be "the most widely 
known poem in our language." It is certainly one of the most 
well-known. At the beginning it reads, 

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, 
The lowing herd winds slowly over the lea, 
The plowman homeward plods his weary way. 
And leaves the world to darkness and to me. 

It is a meditation on the lives of little known people who are 
buried in a country cemetery. 

Since I read and heard beautiful poetry in my early 
years, both at home and at school, it has left me with such an 
appreciation that at age eighty I continue to put my own 
thoughts into poetry for a very enjoyable pastime. 



MEMORIES OF MY HOME TOWN 

Marie Ostrander Brooks 

I remember on this spot there stood 
The largest tree in the neighborhood. 
Nearby, there was a small clear brook 
Where I'd pretend to bait my hook. 

Railroad tracks ran through the town; 
Everyone stopped when gates went down. 
There were no local billiard halls; 
We'd never heard of shopping malls. 

Druggist and grocer filled our need 
And most folks lived as the law decreed. 
Life was simple, as was our fare. 
And those who had would gladly share. 

Now concrete covers familiar land. 
No trees remain where buildings stand. 
No sight or sound of the small clear brook. 
I close my eyes for one more look. 



MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD 

Lorna G. Moore 



In the quiet hush of the evening 
When all the world seems at rest, 
I think of my happy yesterdays 
And the things that I loved best. 
I recall the trees in the orchard. 
The groan of the old windmill, 
A cool drink of water at the spring. 
And cattle standing on the hill; 
My mother at the kitchen window. 
My father at the old bam door, 
The flickering flame of the oil lamp 
Like a beacon from a distant shore. 



SUNDAY EVEMNG IN WINTER 

Faye Christian Perry 



On cold Sunday evenings 

after the wood box had been filled 

and two lumps of coal fetched 

to hold the fire overnight 

we'd have supper of sliced and fried 

cold boiled potatoes and scrambled eggs 

and a pot of orange-pekoe tea 

(we had never heard of any other kind). 

When the dishes were washed and dried 

and another chunk of wood 

put in the stove 

we rested and talked awhile; 

then we popped com in a 

cast iron skillet on the 

old black cook stove 

'till we had a dishpan full. 

All six of us took a soup bowl 

full of popcorn, and then 

another if we were a-mind to, 

and all the while outside it was 

snowing like blue-blazes. 



148 



AUTUMN HAZE 

Jack lorio 



Catalpas are rare now. 

We say the big leaves kill 

the lawn grass in the fall 

and in the spring 

its white flowers 

are a sweep-up chore. 

We have forgotten 

the old times 

and tribal ways 

when fall began 

with guarded ritual 

that spelled the end of summer 

— boy summer — 

as we sat 

cross-legged and somber 

in unbroken circle 

smoking the slender pod 

— brown and tree dried — 

tears rolling down our cheeks 

as we blew out acrid smoke 

that was to be 

the autumn haze 

of that 

our Indian Summer! 



SCHOOLMARM 

Bern ice Lovekamp 



Before consolidation, on a plot near our farm, 
Stood a country schoolhouse with its country 

schoolmarm. 
She taught all the classes from one up through 

eight. 
Planning and grading kept her working till 

late. 
She filled many roles, a "Jill of all trades" — 
Custodian, counselor, recorder of grades. 
She was the music teacher, and plays she'd 

rehearse. 
She was the art teacher, too, and also school 

nurse. 
She carried in coal from the shed outdoors. 
And she carried out ashes and swept the floors. 
When a snowstorm came, she scooped a track 
Up to the front door — and to the houses out 

back. 
She went to school early when winter days 

came 
To coax the fire to a warming flame. 
She had no tenure, sick days, or insurance. 
She deserved a medal for her endurance. 
For all this labor, how much was her pay? 
Perhaps fifty dollars — per month, not per day. 
Few teachers today would care for the ways 
That schoolmarms worked in "the good old 

days." 



PAPA 

Jessie Lynch 



THE EYES OF LOVE 

Eleanor Schuett 



Papa was a quiet man — 

Until someone berated the Democrats, 

And then he'd fly into a rage 

And fill the house with arguing. 

It was the era of the Great Depression, 

And according to Papa, 

Roosevelt saved the nation. 

What with the W.P.A. and the C.C.C, 

Fireside chats and polio pleas, 

I can't deny my Papa's view that 

Roosevelt came and helped our nation 

Lick the terrible, awful Depression. 

But he wasn't perfect; 

Twas plain to see 

His long, drawn out speeches 

Were torture to me. 

But Papa sat to the radio glued, 

And nobody could talk or make a sound 

Without him getting ready to pound 

On the culprit who blurred the words 

Of the greatest president he'd ever heard. 

Papa is gone now, placed in his grave; 

Roosevelt, too, is in the ground laid. 

Nostalgia comes over me once in awhile. 

And I'd give a lot to see my Papa smile 

As he sat by the radio listening and praying 

To hear what the great president was saying. 



He doesn't look romantic 

To other girls, I know; 

He's just a guy who's growing old — 

And perhaps a little slow — 

Whose hair is now a memory 

And who's sporting store-bought teeth; 

Yes, other gals could pass him by 

And miss the guy beneath. 

But I, ah, when I look at him 

His age just disappears. 

And I marvel at the youth of him 

Who's loved me through the years. 



150 



AN ODE TO THE ND^TIES 

Martha "Gramma" Eluen 

The seasons come, the seasons go, 
Faster and faster the older we grow. 
Sitting by my window I watch them go by; 
Snow softly falls from a late Winter sky 
People are coming up our lane; 
I know each one and call them by name. 
Sigrid, my daughter, planned this big party 
For her old Mom, and I'm still hale and hearty. 
There will be food and a very big cake 
With ninety-five candles — what a blaze that 
will make! 




IX Neighbors 



NEIGHBORS 

The neighborhood is a crucial American institution, and 
much that is praiseworthy results from neighbors. In Martin 
Chuzzlewit, Dickins wrote, "What we've got to do is to keep up 
our spirits, and be neighborly. We shall come out in the end, 
never fear." And the biblical admonition is that we should "love 
thy neighbor as thyself 

In earlier times, particularly in the agrarian society, 
friendship between neighbors was a shared value and, often, an 
economic necessity. Close friendships were often formed, and 
in the best sense of the word, neighbors often represented 
extended families. But after the Industrial Revolution, when 
farming gave way to manufacturing, less need for neighbors 
seemed to exist. Long hours laboring in the factories were the 
norm; increasingly, mothers worked outside the home. Later, 
the women's movement held grudging disdain for the mother- 
ing, nurturing role. Crime flourished, and narcissism increas- 
ingly isolated people. Some neighbors were close, particularly 
in ethnic neighborhoods; however, distrust and disinterest in 
neighbors was a byproduct of the time. Many people have never 
been in their neighbors' houses; others just nod at each other. 
Neighborly civility too often was gone, a development that has 
yet to reach its most serious levels. America is poorer because 
of this serious and grave social change. Something of great 
moment in the nation is terribly diminished. It is well, indeed, 
to look back and admire how neighbors helped and loved each 
other. 

These memoirs well demonstrate the power and influ- 
ence of neighbors, whether they are local or from elsewhere in 
the world. Phyllis T. Fenton shared her experiences living 
among Jewish, Japanese, and Chinese people, and learned well 
that minority people were, indeed, neighbors. Writing of 
encounters with Chinese people, Bea Tholen explained her 
experiences and her "lifelong interest in Chinese." Rosemary 



Rausch shared a wonderful Christmas story in which her 
valued neighbors many miles from her home welcomed her in a 
special manner. 

Other writers shared memoirs of neighbors who en- 
riched their lives. In this regard, Florence Hoffman Hesterberg 
wrote: "People worked very hard, but you seldom heard them 
grumble. They never rushed; they took time to talk." Explain- 
ing the positive influence on both her and the community in 
which she lived of a successful businessman, she shared the 
wonderful effect such a person can have on others. Louise Efnor 
demonstrated so very well how a friend and neighbor can bring 
lifelong pleasure; and lifelong friends and neighbors hugely 
enriched the life of Darlene Purdy. Older neighbors, Mary Lou 
Adams explained, were never to be forgotten, as the spinsters 
"opened their doors and hearts to me when I was lonely and 
needed someone." 

Times change, not always for the best. The neighborli- 
ness of earlier and better days had a superb effect on the nation 
and its system of values and behaviors. We are, in fact, to be our 
brother's keeper. It is in a social order of valuing the concept of 
good neighbors that America can help realize the greatness of 
the American Creed, the political hope of humankind. 

Alfred J. Lindsey 



155 



ED HULTING, NEIGHBOR AND FRIEND 

Margaret M. DeDecker 

Thinking back to my teenage years, I did not foresee that 
one of our neighbors in the striped bib overalls and beat-up hat 
would become Ed Hulting, noted founder of Hulting Hybrids. 

I graduated from Gilbert School, a one-room school 
located in Geneseo Township, with Mr. Hulting's daughter 
Edith and two other relatives of his. Our teacher was Doris 
Morrow from town. Amelia, Ed's wife, had surgery, and they 
were in the process of moving into the new brick house on their 
farm. Being a good neighbor, my father offered them my help. 
I was all of sixteen and totally inexperienced. I cooked breakfast 
for the hired man, serving him one piece of bacon, one egg, and 
toast. I later learned that he went into town for more to eat. No 
one told me to do any different. 

Ed was full of sage advice for me such as, "Remember, 
Margaret, it is just as easy to love a rich man as it is to love a poor 
man." I listened to him just as much as I listened to my father's 
advice — very little, indeed no different than teenagers today. 

Just before we moved into the neighborhood, we had a 
year of fighting the chinch bugs and drought. On his farm, Ed 
Hulting poured tar in strips throughout the com fields that he 
and his son Cyril were developing. They sprayed outside of the 
first fields of hybrid com. The regular com went 20 bushels to 
the acre, and the seed com went to 60 bushels. Cyril worked for 
his dad for $20 a month. Ed did not know if he could pay him, 
so he told him to go to the University of Illinois for a year. Cyril 
did go to the university and spent a year in the engineering 
department. He worked for his room and board which was $192 
a year, and his tuition was $38 that year. 

The economy was very bad. Corn was selling for 13c a 
bushel. Ed hauled 2,000 bushels in his Model T truck to feed his 
cattle and hogs. Corn was also burned in the cook stove. You 
could get a lot of BTUs out of a little com. All of us in the 



neighborhood were using com in the cook stove. That winter, 
Ed bought the seed house in town and the ground up to East 
North Street. The ground was planted in com. Nothing went 
to waste for these frugal people. 

Geneseo wanted a swimming pool in the early 1950s. 
The pool was built with much cooperation of the people of 
Geneseo and the surrounding area. Ed donated part of his land 
for it. After the pool was built, you could see Ed drive by in the 
evenings, usually with his grandson Wayne beside him in his 
pickup truck. Ed really enjoyed watching the youngsters of the 
community enjoying the pool. 

Later, Geneseo wanted a community center and, again, 
Ed donated the land. In the later 1970s, this land was dedicated 
and named G. E. Hulting Park. Ed was to become the first 
president of the Park Board. Now there is a day care center on 
that land, and there is talk of building an indoor swimming pool 
there. 

During the years since 1929, Ed started an experiment 
with one field far back from the public where he pulled tassels 
and tried to improve his com. By 1931, he had seed ready for 
sale. No one was interested in buying it, so he traded 200 bags 
to an implement dealer for farm equipment. In 1933, Ed and 
another grower consulted with Lester Phiester and became 
Phiester dealers; soon, though, he broke away to develop the 
Hulting Hybrids trademark. He employed many area people for 
detasseling in the hot, sticky days and, later, to harvest the 
com. The com was taken to town to be sorted, shelled, and 
bagged. My father was a corn sorter until he was in his eighties. 
There were also salesmen and clerical help in the seed house, so 
many people were employed in this industry. 

Ed and his family had great faith in the Lord and were 
members of the Swedish Lutheran now known as the First 
Lutheran Church on Main Street. His memory will be pre- 
served in the church by a large stained glass window facing 
Main Street. It is known as the Hulting Window, dedicated in 



his memory by the family. Hulting Hybrids was sold to Ferry- 
Morse on October 15, 1972. Ed passed away a month after the 
sale, and you can see the three ears of com and the Hulting 
Hybrids' emblem on his gravestone in Oakwood Cemetary not 
far from our plot. As I recall all of this and feel both joy and 
sadness, I am comforted by beheving firmly that we shall indeed 
be neighbors again. 



THE OLD NEIGHBORS 

Mary Lou Adams 

My entry into this world, as I understand it, was not 
planned; it just happened. My sister was nine years old and my 
brother was fourteen when this bundle (me) was added to the 
household. It was October of 1924. 

I was born in Pekin, Illinois. My grandmother lived with 
us, so I established a relationship with older people when I was 
quite young. I still have a fondness for such people. I apparently 
was a lonely child. Before the age of ten, I hadn't gained any 
special skills in making friendships, so I must have found 
comfort in the older neighbors. 

Although I was really very young, I remember the lady 
who lived across the street. I called her Grandma Leach; she 
was blind and very old. We often had tea together at my httle 
table, and we drank from my doll cups. I can see her now (How 
did she get onto that small chair beside me?); and what we 
talked about I have no idea. 

Another neighbor who had a bird in a cage fascinated 
me, and I visited her and the pet quite often. 

I was just going into second grade when we moved to 
Peoria, where I soon sought more good neighbors. They had to 
be kindly and friendly to put up with a skinny, insecure little 



girl who was often showing up at their doors, which were always 
open. 

Three widowed sisters lived around the comer. I sat 
writh them on their front porch, which ran the full length of the 
house. I remember feeling so small in such big chairs. When it 
was cold outside, I was invited into the sun room. There I was 
offered and enjoyed many cookies and candies. 

Right across the street from that house was a grand- 
mother who lived alone. She had a swing on her porch. I spent 
much time vdth her, too, although I remember her the least. I 
must have spent so much time with the three ladies because I 
was sure I'd be offered sweets at their house, and I was never 
disappointed. 

Around the corner and up the street I discovered what 
they called shirt-tail relations, usually related through mar- 
riage, I guess. There were three ladies who had never been 
married, and a brother who drank a lot. They were the sweetest 
people. I spent much time with them; except, little as I was, I 
was aware there was always fear the brother would come home 
belligerent and cause a scene. This household possessed a great 
hbrary of books, including the whole series of Nancy Drew 
works and many more that I borrowed. I spent hours of 
enjoyment at that time in my life by living the fantasy of those 
book people. 

Eventually, these older neighbors all passed away. I 
grew up and cultivated a few of those "how-to-make-friends" 
skills, but the friends I will never forget are those older neigh- 
bors who opened their doors and hearts to me when I was lonely 
and needed someone to pay attention to me and to sincerely 
enjoy my company. They were a form of caregivers long before 
the word became popular. 



157 



FARM NEIGHBORS 

Florence Hesterberg 

Years ago when I was growing up, neighbors were not 
just acquaintances who Hved down the road, but dear friends 
who shared good and bad times with each other. They were 
characterized by always lending a helping hand when it was 
needed. 

I lived on a farm three miles from Maeystown, Ilhnois, 
all through my childhood and until I got married. My family's 
relationship with our neighbors was special. Several times a 
week we would visit at each other's houses, especially in the 
winter. No one traveled much by car in the winter because the 
roads were just plain dirt and, when it rained, snowed, or 
frosted, they were muddy and practically impassable. Most of 
the travel was done on foot, and usually there was a path across 
the fields to the neighboring houses. When it snowed or was 
bitter cold. Mom would bundle my brother and me up and away 
we'd go. I remember her telling me about the time when I was 
a baby wrapped in blankets, and my dad carried me across the 
fields of one of our neighbors for an evening visit. When my 
mother unwrapped me, she discovered that he had carried me 
upside-down all the way. 

When someone in the neighborhood had a birthday, all 
the neighbors gathered for the celebration. Often one of the 
rooms was cleared of furniture, and one of the neighbors would 
play the accordion or the violin as the grownups danced. The 
youngsters would play games or just sit around and watch them 
dance. About midnight, the woman of the house prepared a 
lunch of sausage, homemade bread and butter, apple butter, 
cottage cheese, cake, or pie, along with hot coffee which had 
simmered in a large granite coffee pot on the kitchen range all 
evening. This coffee pot was unique, for it was filled with water 
and the coffee grounds were poured directly into the water. 
When the brew was almost ready, the grounds settled to the 



bottom of the pot. Sometimes, instead of the usual lunch, the 
hostess would make a huge pot of chicken soup or chili for the 
occasion. 

It usually cooked in a cold packer or a wash boiler, it 
would bubble away on the cook stove until serving time. I 
remember that one of the men would complain that the soup or 
chili was too hot to eat, and he exclaimed, "You eat that old hot 
stuff and sweat it right back in the bowl!" Two of the ladies 
decided to teach him a lesson; When the next birthday party 
came, they set a bowl of chili in the snow about a half hour before 
lunch. When this fellow sat down to eat, they brought in that 
icy bowl of chili. He was surely angry, but he did not complain 
ever again. 

The favorite pastime for the men on long winter eve- 
nings was playing pinochle. One of the gentlemen was a hard 
loser, and several times he became so frustrated when he and 
his partners lost the game that he'd take the deck of cards, lift 
the iron lid of the cook stove, and throw them into the fire. While 
the men played pinochle, the ladies chatted. If the lady of the 
house had a quilt in a frame, they would all quilt. 

Once when the neighbors gathered at our house for a 
birthday, I was warned ahead of time that I should not get out 
the new pair of skates that I had gotten for Christmas. A new 
pair of ice skates were something special and really a luxury, so, 
of course, I just couldn't resist the temptation to show them off 
I decided to sneak them out of the closet when I knew Mom was 
too busy to notice. One of the lads, who was always a little 
naughty at these neighborhood gatherings, decided to see how 
sharp the skates were by pushing them across my mother's 
dressing table. I didn't have to tell Mom what happened 
because the next morning she immediately discovered the cuts 
and knew exactly what had taken place. Needless to say, she 
wasn't too happy with me. I think I even got a few swats on my 
backside. 



158 



One March evening it began to snow, and there was a 
bad bhzzard which resulted in drifting. Our neighbor who hved 
on a farm about a mile away had pushed his son's car out of a 
snowdrift. The son and his family proceeded to their home 
about ten miles away, and the father went back to his house. He 
was warming his hands over the kitchen range when suddenly 
he dropped dead. When one of his children telephoned Dad to 
come over right away, he bundled up and ran most of the way 
to this neighbor's house in the blinding snowstorm. He told us 
afterwards that half of the time he couldn't tell if he was on the 
road or in the fields. Never once did he think of the danger of 
him having a heart attack on the way. He knew his neighbors 
needed him, and that was all that mattered. He stayed through- 
out the night with this family. The wife had a serious heart 
condition and the shock of her husband's death was almost too 
much for her. She became very ill, and the family feared for her 
life. The undertaker was unable to get through the roads until 
almost noon the next day, when the snow plow finally cleared 
them. By the next morning, the news of the tragedy had spread 
to other neighbors via the old crank telephone, and more of them 
arrived to lend a helping hand. Because the wife was confined 
to her bed, the doctor had to come to the house to treat her, and 
because she was unable to attend the two days of funeral home 
visitation or the funeral, the neighbors took turns staying with 
her. They also all brought food for the family. The day of the 
funeral the undertaker brought the husband's body back to our 
neighbors house so the wife could see him; then they took him 
to the church. It was a traumatic experience for the family, and 
they were so appreciative of the neighbors' help and concern for 
them. 

Neighboring farmers typically helped each other with 
various chores. In the fall of the year, they would assist each 
other saw down trees with a two man crosscut saw. Then they 
would haul the logs on a horse-drawn wagon to a place on the 
premises where they were set up teepee style. When the stack 



was large enough, they sawed the logs into shorter pieces which 
were used to feed the heating stoves and the kitchen ranges 
throughout the winter. They would also cut corn fodder for the 
horses and hay for the cows, a job accomplished by a gas- 
powered machine called a cutting box or a "hexal bonk." 

Butchering day was always a big event. Most farmers 
slaughtered two or three hogs shortly before Christmas so there 
would be plenty of fresh pork sausage, liver sausage, blood 
sausage, head cheese, and summer sausage for holiday visitors. 
The ladies all gathered on butchering day to help prepare 
morning lunch, noon meal, and another lunch later in the 
afternoon. It was their job to fry samples of the sausage before 
it was stuffed to make sure it was seasoned right. They were 
also designated to wash all the greasy utensils when the 
butchering was completed. Most of the time, the women 
rendered the lard, too. 

In the summer threshing, many helping hands were 
required; neighborhood men and their wives would help each 
other with this chore. The men would bring their rack wagons 
pulled by a team of horses to haul the bundles of wheat from the 
fields to the threshing machine, while the ladies helped the 
farmer's wife prepare the food. Sometimes, they plucked six or 
seven spring chickens, and got them ready for the noon meal. 
They also peeled peaches and apples which came from the farm 
orchard and baked homemade pies. Loaves and loaves of 
homemade bread had to be baked, no matter how hot the 
kitchen got from the wood-burning cook stove. Vegetables were 
harvested from the garden and had to be peeled and washed. 
Sometimes one of the ladies even had to go to the potato patch 
and dig some potatoes for the dinner. Fresh butter had to be 
churned. Remember, there was no refrigeration in those days, 
so most of the food could not be prepared the day before. The 
cream for the butter was put in a tin bucket with a lid and hung 
in the well or cistern until it was ready to be churned. 



Sometimes, a storm would stop the threshing for two or 
three days until the shocks of wheat were dried out. The food 
usually diminished pretty fast as the threshing crew often 
stayed with the farm family until the threshing started again, 
which sometimes took two or three days. When the threshing 
began again, the ladies had to start all over again with their 
cooking. Can you imagine how tired they must have been? But 
I can remember that they rarely complained. Having so much 
fun doing things together, they didn't seem to mind the work. 

The ladies pieced many beautiful quilts during the long 
winter evenings. The patches were all sewn together by hand. 
When the quilt top was completed, it was put into a wooden 
frame and the neighbor ladies were invited for a quilting. Of 
course, there was much good food served again at these quilt- 
ings. No matter what people did in those early days, food and 
fellowship were very important. 

People worked very hard, but you seldom heard them 
grumble. They never rushed; they took time to wave when they 
met their neighbors; and they took the time to talk to them. 
There was love and concern for one another, and I look back to 
those days with warmth in my heart. I am very proud and 
fortunate to have been a part of this era of neighborliness. 



A DIFFERENT CHRISTMAS 

Rosemary Rausch 

I was 23 when the call came in early November for me: 
The organist at St. Irene's Church in Warrenville, the neighbor- 
ing town, was ill and had to get away for a rest. Could I play the 
organ for Sunday Mass and direct the children's choir? It was 
November, and she hoped to recover by Christmas. I accepted 
the challenge. 



Each Saturday morning I took the Chicago, Aurora, and 
Elgin train from Aurora to Warrenville and walked from the 
train stop to the church. There I met with a dozen youngsters — 
boys and girls — to practice music for Sunday morning Mass. 
One of the mothers was there to help me get acquamted and 
"encourage the kids to sing." Barbara was a great help. 

A few weeks before Christmas, the pastor informed me 
that the regular organist would not be returning, and I was 
needed to prepare, rehearse, and play the Christmas Eve 
Midnight Mass. Another challenge! So with Barbara's help, we 
rehearsed Saturdays for Christmas. 

It was Christmas Eve. My mother suggested that I take 
our little ten-year-old friend Monica along for the trip and 
Midnight Mass. As we walked down the hill through the thickly 
falling snow, I felt that Monica and I were "on the way to 
Bethlehem." When we boarded the train, I noticed a young 
couple with a baby. "How fitting," I thought. 

When our train arrived in Warrenville, the snow was 
already deep. Still, people from the village were walking, too, 
all going to St. Irene's for Midnight Mass. At church, the 
children were wide-awake with enthusiasm, eager to sing. 

After checking our music and a brief rehearsal, we were 
ready to begin our carols, followed by the Mass, complete with 
"Gloria" and "Alleluias." The kids did their best. They looked 
like the shepherds' children, but they sang like angels. The 
Mass was beautiful, and the church was packed with warm-clad 
people in festive spirits. 

When the services were over and the people left for 
home, Barbara drove Monica and me through the deep snow to 
the train station. Snow was accumulating at a rapid rate, and 
it was 2:30 a.m. It was no surprise that the train from Chicago 
could not get through the snow. The station agent told us there 
would be no trains from Chicago to Aurora going through 
Warrenville until noon Christmas Day! 



160 



"Then you'll have to come to our house tonight," 
informed Monica and me. Her Christian hospitality was over- 
flowing. There was truly "room in the inn" — the Garceaus' 
home — for us that night. Barbara's husband John, the baby, 
and little Mary-Monica Garceau gave us the same welcome that 
Barbara and her other three children had shared when we 
arrived at their home. We were snowbound! 

The first thing I did was to call my mother in Aurora. She 
would be waiting for me. I told her that because of the blizzard, 
no trains from Chicago would be coming until Christmas Day. 
My mother told me she had already gone out to shovel the 
sidewalk several times. She was happy to hear the Garceaus 
were befriending Monica and me. 

We slept "soon and fast" — Monica and I. The Garceau 
children, whose rooms we shared, loved us. At breakfast 
Christmas morn, we were one big happy family. Since I was 
scheduled to help serve Christmas Day dinner at St. Charles 
Hospital in Aurora, Barbara and John decided to drive me to 
Aurora so I could get home and to work on time. And they did — 
the whole family! 

Often I've been asked to tell about my most memorable 
Christmas. I remember this "different Christmas," 1951, when 
I was snowbound in Warrenville, and the wonderful Christian 
"neighbors," the Garceaus, who welcomed me into their home. 



A SPECIAL FRIEND 

Louise E. Efnor 

Thoughts of yesteryear swept through my mind as I 
traveled home after visiting my good friend and neighbor at the 
hospital. I remembered that day a number of years ago when 
my husband was in the hospital and this neighbor had 



answered my call for help. My plea came after the laundry tub 
came tumbling from the wall, spilling its entire contents of 
clean clothes and water over the entire floor. Tears were flowing 
freely, mingling with all the spilled water, when Mary came 
rushing over to help. Together, we wrung the clothes out (and 
had to rinse them again), mopped up all of the water, and talked 
about what should be done about that laundry tub. Things are 
just much better when you have a friend with whom to talk the 
problem out! We have shared many such experiences over the 
forty-four years of being neighbors — baby-sitting each others 
children, carpooling them to various activities at school, and 
sharing in their 4-H years by being co-4-H leaders. 

Both of our sons played football, so we attended most of 
their home games when they performed on the home field. One 
particular game we will never forget. We always went prepared 
for all kinds of weather, with blankets to sit on and wrap up in 
and warm jackets, too. It was just starting to sprinkle rain 
when we arrived at the field this one particular time. We 
thought it was just a light shower and would soon clear up, so 
we found our favorite place on the bleachers and prepared to 
cheer on our team. As the game started and progressed, so did 
the rain. That light sprinkle turned into a downpour! A canopy 
was formed with one of our blankets, and we sat huddled 
together, undaunted, until the end of the game, which, I might 
add, was worth it because our team won the game! 

Our 4-H years, as both leaders and parents of 4-Hers, is 
a "book yet to be written" — so much fun helping youngsters find 
just the right project to fit themselves, locating the right 
animals for their environment, and filling out endless records. 
Then there were the many trips to the Fulton County Fair to 
show these many projects and to exhibit the products of their 
creation. We sat through many livestock shows — our children 
started out showing Cheviot sheep and rabbits. Competition 
was keen among them and other 4-Hers, so we gave a smile of 



encouragement to all participants — no playing favorites, you 
know, even if we did think our childrens' were the best. 

My neighbor and I quite often packed a picnic lunch to 
take with us to the fair, but on one such occasion we decided to 
eat our lunch at one of the many food stands on the fairgrounds. 
By the time we had made the rounds of our youngsters' exhibits, 
and toured the livestock barns where we watched the grooming 
of the many animals to show that afternoon, it was time for a 
bite to eat. Hamburgers seemed to be the popular food for most 
of the lunch stands, so these we chose — mine with lots and lots 
of onion piled on it along with all the other essentials making for 
a really super sandwich. It was soooo good! Later in the 
afternoon, my thoughts about that hamburger changed a great 
deal and, evidently, so did my countenance because Mary kept 
asking me if I felt all right. She finally took me to the first aid 
tent and asked if they would help me. After giving me some- 
thing for my "very upset stomach" and making sure I was on the 
road to recovery, the nurse thought I was well enough to make 
the trip home. What an experience! Mary and I have laughed 
about this a good many times. 

I stopped by my neighbor's coming from town one day, 
and, as we were going to visit awhile, I had her put some ice 
cream which I had bought in her freezer, thinking that when I 
went home after our visiting that I would take it home. The day 
passed quickly — as it often does when good friends are visit- 
ing — and it was time to get home before the school bus arrived. 
So, leaving in a hurry, I forgot the ice cream — no big problem, 
though, for I could get it the next day and have another chat 
with my neighbor. The only problem was Mary's son who found 
the ice cream and, thinking it was his Mom's, ate quite a bit of 
it. Oh, well, what are neighbors for but to share with one 
another! 

Sometimes Mary and her sister took vacations together. 
During these times, Mary left baked goods for her husband. 
One year she made several pies before she left, one of which she 



sent to be used by a particular organization which was serving 
refreshments. Another neighbor and I didn't know if she had 
sent her pie or not, so I thought I'd better check at her house and 
see about it. Her husband was not at home, but on the kitchen 
table was the most luscious-looking pie. So, packing it up in its 
container, I took it to the other neighbor's house for her to take 
along with hers to a meeting that night. All would have been 
well if the container for the pie had not been returned two weeks 
later. Mary wondered how her container had gotten there, 
when she had sent her pie in a disposable pie tin. Her husband 
had not mentioned anything about the dessert she had left for 
him, and she thought that strange because it was his favorite 
kind of pie. I had to admit that I was the culprit who had 
whisked that favorite confection away. 

When seat belts became a standard feature of our cars, 
my neighbor and I had many discussions about them and just 
did not know if we liked them very much. I always feared being 
held by them while the car burned or was turned upside down 
in a body of water. We just did not trust them, so I was greatly 
surprised one day when Mary came to pick me up to go to a craft 
workshop at Lewistown. As I got in the car, she told me to fasten 
my seat belt. Looking at her to see if she really meant it, I saw 
that she also had her belt fastened ( a first for both of us ). It was 
a beautiful fall day when we traveled to Lewistown and both of 
us looked forward to an enjoyable day of working on crafts. I had 
a lovely piece of tapestry with which to make a tote bag, plus all 
the other essentials to go with it. We were busily chatting away 
about the crafts when we saw a state "line" machine coming 
across the bridge in front of us. To give the machine more room, 
Mary just pulled over to the side of the road and stopped her car. 
As she did this, we heard a loud noise from behind us and a 
CRUNCH. We had been hit squarely in the back by a loaded 
grain semi-truck. We really could tell people after this just how 
it felt to be hit by a truck! Very little damage was done to Mary's 
car, but we spent so much time getting affairs straightened out 



162 



and finding a doctor that we never did get to our workshop. 
Never mind, we both thanked God to be ahve. The doctor said 
that my seat belt had probably kept me from having a broken 
neck; Mary's had also protected her. You can be sure that when 
we travel now, we fasten our seat belts and caution our passen- 
gers to get theirs fastened, too. 

Many years have passed since we became neighbors, 
and through all of our experiences — the sharing, joys, sorrow 
( and the borrowing, too ) — Mary and I are still good friends. This 
special neighbor has enriched my life immeasurably. 



MEMORIES OF NEIGHBORS 

Darlene Purdy 

Neighbors. What a nice thought. It brings back so many 
memories. They start from the time you are married and have 
your own home and responsibilities. In our case, that was fifty- 
two years ago in LaHarpe, Illinois, when we became Murrell 
and Darlene Purdy. We identified people by their first names 
and knew they would be there for us in times of joy and sadness. 
During the first years, our two children were born. Our 
neighbor Dr. Mueller watched over us during the accidents, 
childhood diseases, and other problems. 

After ten years, in 1951, we moved near Macomb to the 
Harvey Hunter farm in Emmet Township, McDonough County, 
where we found more friends and neighbors. On a cold day, the 
house was filled with people moving things in, unpacking boxes, 
and making beds. By night, most things seemed to be in place. 
What a great feeling — all because of our family, friends, and 
neighbors! 

Then it was time to get the children into a new school. 
But we didn't need to fear. The teacher at the one-room Yard 



School was Mrs. Isla Johnson who made the children feel right 
at home. Soon the children were enjoying new friends, many 
who lived "just down the road." Community programs at the 
school soon got us acquainted with parents and the whole 
neighborhood. 

One spring when Murrell was sick. Bill Lewis came with 
his "chore" tractor to milk, take care of the hogs, and do 
whatever was needed. Dale Kitch passed the word around, and 
many neighbors came to till and plant most of the fields. Bishop 
and Eithel Hughes were always there to teach us "young folks" 
a thing or two. Eithel and I would hunt mushrooms in the 
spring — she watched for the snakes! Our cherry tree provided 
a great time to get together. When Eithel, Minnie Lewis, and 
Betty Hunter came, we picked cherries all morning. If we 
couldn't reach some, Murrell put us in the bucket loader on the 
tractor and "carefully" took us up to where the big ones were. In 
the afternoon, we gathered around the table to pit cherries and 
visit. By mid-afternoon, the cherries were ready for freezing. 

We raised ponies when the children were in grade 
school. That was fun for us and all the children around. Who 
could resist a pony colt! When we were preparing to show them, 
we had plenty of help in grooming them and cleaning the 
harness and carts. Some children went to the shows and 
parades with us. Murrell's dad, Lou Purdy, was with us at the 
time and really enjoyed the ponies along with his grandchildren 
and the neighborhood children. 

Baling hay was a big event. It always seemed to come on 
the hottest, most-humid days. The hay crews didn't seem to 
mind. It was hard work handling the bales, but the boys liked 
being together and earning extra money. 

Voting time in Emmet Township was not just another 
day; it was a special event. Going to the town hall on the top of 
the hill, you not only voted, but you sat on the old benches and 
chatted with neighbors. If Portia Hodges were around, she 
would play some familiar tunes on the piano. During that time, 



Murrell served as a justice of the peace, what they call a trustee 
now. Then he became town clerk and served in that capacity for 
many years. The town officials held many of their meetings in 
our home. 

Community gatherings in our pasture will long be 
remembered by young and old alike. We sat on bales of straw 
and put our food on hayracks. In the fall, the big iron kettle held 
the chili soup, and Jesse Byerly stirred it well with his hand- 
made paddle. Philip Lewis brought his pickup truck full of 
home grown watermelons. We counted 125 of us at one time. On 
one occasion, Ralph Fox brought the sweet corn for the iron 
kettle, and the rest of us furnished the finishing touches for that 
meal. On a July 4, when we had the food all set out and plates 
mostly filled, the clouds rolled in and it poured! When the clouds 
moved on, the men went to the top of the pasture hill, and we had 
a great fireworks display! The little tots, teenagers with 
boyfriends and girlfriends, and the "old folks" all thought that 
was an evening to remember. In later years, the "get-togethers" 
were moved to Bill and Minnie Lewis's yard where it was easier 
for us older folks to move around. Then, one by one, we lost 
many of our dear neighbors, but not our precious memories. 

Times have changed, the children have grown, and all 
but a few are out of the "neighborhood." A new generation is 
here, but that is how God planned it. Things get quiet so I sit 
and reminisce, or call someone and chat. Minnie Lewis and I 
still have some good visits. Murrell, Ralph Hunter, and Gaylord 
Hoke keep up on the latest in farming over the phone. Or I 
might call Helen Sperry with a "Hi, how have you been?" It's 
good to keep in touch, and it brightens my day. 



A LESSON IN DIVERSITY 

Phyllis T. Fen ton 

Back in the middle 1920s, when I was growing up in 
Chicago in the south side neighborhood called Englewood, most 
of our neighbors were middle-class Americans who lived and 
thought and looked pretty much like each other. 

That was true until the sixth grade when the teacher, 
during a lesson on immigration, pointed out that there were two 
Jewish boys in our classroom whose families were new immi- 
grants to America. Each family owned and operated a tailor 
shop on 67th Street and handled the neighborhood dry cleaning 
and fur storage, as well. Each family lived in back of its stores, 
and the boys seemed to need friends and social life beyond their 
contacts during school hours. 

The teacher's point was not to identify strange neigh- 
bors among us, but to illustrate the variety of Americans who 
came to this country. When each boy told the class why his 
parents had emigrated, the stories were similar. Leaving 
Russia because of the pogroms against the Jews, they traveled 
across Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railroad to Vladivostok, 
then boarded a ship to San Francisco, went on to Chicago by 
train, and came to our Englewood neighborhood where they 
continued to work in their old world trade as tailors. Selecting 
Englewood for business, and not one of the city's Jewish 
enclaves, probably accounted for the social isolation of the 
children. 

Also from a faraway world were the Japanese who ran 
an import store on 63rd Street. When my mother wanted 
something very artistic for a special gift, we would walk down 
there and wonder at the fabulous collection of small ivory 
carvings, delicate wooden boxes, and paper and silk wares from 
this exotic land. My mother usually selected a beautifully 
colored butterfly brooch. 



164 



We never saw the family of the poHte and sober looking 
Japanese clerk, nor did we know why he was there in our 
middle-class neighborhood where there was such a slim de- 
mand for Japanese merchandise. By the early 1930 Depression 
days, however, he had closed shop. I can only conjecture in 
retrospect that he was an outpost of the Yamanaka Import 
Company whose headquarters were at North Michigan Avenue 
and the Chicago River. Eventually the organization was iden- 
tified as masters of a spy ring. 

However, the neighbors who gave us drama and sus- 
pense were the Chinese who ran a hand laundry across the 
street from the Jewish tailors. They spoke a minimal pigeon 
English. You took your laundry to their cubby hole of a shop, or 
they came to your home to collect it, carrying it in a sack the way 
Santa Claus carried his bag full of toys. 

But the Chinese created shivers of dread through the 
children up and down Yale Avenue. Whenever the Chinese 
man — dressed in his pantaloons, his queue trailing down his 
back all the way to his ankles — shuffled down the street, his 
pack slung over his back, a voice signal traveled from child to 
child to warn of his approach. Each child in turn ran and hid 
under a porch or behind walls until the Chinese man passed by, 
and the all clear rang out. Only then was everyone safe. 

The dread of it all was in the contents of his sack. His 
purpose, we knew, was to grab children off the streets, stuff 
them in his sack, and then carry them back to his den where 
they met a fate too horrible to talk about. 

Such mythology ended when my mother explained he 
carried laundry in his sack, at which time the myth was passed 
on to younger, more gullible children. 

Eventually, these few streets of my local neighborhood, 
expanded into the city of Chicago which I found was a great 
place to live and learn about the diverse world I lived in. I finally 
understood that all people are my neighbors in a world that has 
since become smaller and smaller. 



CHINESE-AMERICAN NEIGHBORS IN CHICAGO 

Bea Tholen 

One of the most exotic memories of my childhood in 
Chicago took place sometime in the late twenties or early 
thirties when each Sunday morning I traveled from the south 
side of the city where we lived in Englewood to Chinatown 
which was then and is now centered around 22nd Street and 
Wentworth Avenue. It may be stretching a point to say the 
Chinese there were "neighbors," but, in a larger sense, they 
were part of a network of "neighbors" throughout the city. I was 
fourteen years old at the time and in the company of "Mrs. 
Aitkin," who, though not related, lived with us and was like a 
grandmother. The reason for the Sunday excursions was that 
there had been a government regulation of some kind which 
would permit Chinese immigrants to apply for something of 
benefit to them. At the time I did not know the details and have 
not been able to learn them since. At any rate, there was a 
deadline involved and, in order to apply, the Chinese had to 
have a certain minimum knowledge of English. 

Suddenly there was a crisis in the Chinese community 
and it turned out that there were many who needed to learn 
some rudimentary English in a hurry. An appeal was made 
through the churches and my "grandmother" Aitkin, a Quaker, 
was a member of one of them. Hence, our Sunday morning 
excursions for, as I recall, several weeks, or perhaps months. 

As a young teenager, I had only a vague notion of how to 
teach, but materials were provided, and we did the best we 
could. Teaching was one-on-one, and Mrs. Aitkin and I were 
each assigned a student. We sat at tables in a church basement. 
My student was a young man in his early twenties, black haired, 
almond-eyed, and, to me who had never met a Chinese man 
before, exotic in the extreme. He was very shy and spoke no 
English. With the language barrier, we never got to know each 
other very well despite many Sundays of poring together over 



an English language primer, in which I would place my finger 
under a word and pronounce it, and he would try to say it after 
me. Looking back, I've wondered how much he got out of it, and 
hoped it was helpful. It didn't aid in our endeavor that there was 
a limited amount of time for applying. 

Those Sunday mornings are a cherished memory for me. 
It was my first introduction to Chinatown, to me a mysterious 
and fascinating place. To get off the streetcar and walk though 
the crowded streets past the red and green gateway on 
Wentworth Avenue was a great adventure. On each side of the 
streets, as we walked to the church, were restaurants, grocery 
stores, shops of all sorts, and red brick buildings which housed 
living quarters and businesses. From one of the buildings on a 
comer, there usually emanated the sound of a child crying. We 
learned later that it was a little girl whose feet were bound, the 
bandages being adjusted on Sunday mornings about the time 
we passed. I remember my horror when I heard this. We did 
occasionally see an old woman or two walking in a crippled way, 
whose feet had probably been bound in China. 

In the restaurants, preparations were underway for the 
day's influx of customers. There seemed to be many older people 
on the streets, or maybe, to me at fourteen, they only seemed 
old. There was much use of red in the Chinese signs that were 
everjrwhere, but what I remember best was the general feeling 
of being in a strange and wonderful place. 

In the '50s and '60s, as a claims representative working 
for the Social Security Administration, I took claims from 
Chinese-Americans applying for benefits and, as a result, 
became interested in the history of the Chinese in America. I 
learned that Chinese immigrants began arriving in Chicago 
about 1870, first settling around Van Buren and Clark Streets 
and then spreading south to around Cermac Road and 
Wentworth. Known as Chinatown, the area eventually became 
a tourist attraction and, for Chinese in the Midwest, a mecca. 



The first influx of Chinese in the United States was in 
the 1850s when cheap labor was needed to build the transcon- 
tinental railroad system. It has been estimated that 9,000 of the 
10,000 laborers who built the Union Pacific were Chinese. 
Immigration continued until 1869, when the Central Pacific 
met the Union Pacific at Ogden, Utah, at which time thousands 
of Chinese were thrown out of work. Many settled in California 
and New York, and some came to Chicago. In the mining camps 
of the west, laundry, tailoring, and cooking were considered to 
be "women's work," and, since there were no women to do these 
things, opportunities existed for thousands of unemployed 
Chinese. 

The unskilled workers who came early on were mostly 
Cantonese. Later, Mandarin immigrants were usually mer- 
chants and businesspeople. Many of the descendants of these 
early, as well as later, Chinese became educated professionals 
of exceptional accomplishment. The work of Chinese-Ameri- 
cans in the sciences, arts, technology, literature, and other 
fields has enriched the lives of all Americans. 

In my social security work in the Chicago area, I learned 
a little about the inner workings of the city's Chinatown. For 
example, I heard of the Chinese Benevolent Association and 
also of the "tongs," secret societies which helped the Chinese 
obtain proof of age for benefits and aided in other ways, too. I 
remember one heartbreaking case: an elderly man who never 
did establish his age because he thought the tong was charging 
him too much for its assistance and he wasn't going to pay it. 
Another was a Chinese man who had never become a citizen and 
was in the country illegally. He had worked for many years 
doing ironing in the back room of a Chinese laundry, where he 
also lived, emerging only at night when he wouldn't be detected. 
What a miserable life he had, living in fear all the while and 
spending his days, perhaps twelve hours each, in a steam-filled 
room doing endless ironing of shirts. 



166 



Before the adventure of teaching English in Chinatown, 
I had only a slight but remote knowledge of the Chinese in 
Chicago, as Mt. Auburn Cemetary, where my father was buried, 
had a section of Chinese graves. The inscriptions were in 
Chinese characters. I can remember as a little girl wandering 
among them and puzzling over the meanings. 

Perhaps because of my Sunday excursions to Chinatown, 
I always retained a fondness for Chinese restaurants. After my 
family moved to the suburbs, my two close south-side school 
friends and I met regularly in "Nankin's," a Chinese restaurant 
in the Loop. 

Living now in Jacksonville, Illinois, my husband and I 
have enjoyed friendships with two MacMurray College foreign 
students, one of whom lived with us for her last year of school. 
One is Chinese-Malaysian and the other Chinese-Thai. Both 
are married now, and we keep in touch. The children of one of 
them call us "Grandpa" and "Grandma." 

While I may not have accomplished much in the way of 
helping my first Chinese student to learn English, he and the 
whole experiences of the Sunday morning excursions to our 
Chinese "neighbors" in Chicago did much for me. It acquainted 
me with Chinese-American culture and awakened a lifelong 
interest in the Chinese of Illinois. 



WE LIVE AS NEIGHBORS 

John J. Coyle 

Once when camping at a state park, we visited with a 
woman from a small town in Illinois. Like all campers, she was 
extremely friendly and told us all about her family, town, and 
people. She used a term to describe the people who lived close 
to her: "We live neighbors to them." Very interesting! She was 



using the noun "neighbor" as an adverb — a colloquialism per- 
haps but it implies much more. It was a "we"-"they" reciprocal 
union that encompassed everything from the exchange of friend- 
ship to the borrowing of a cup of sugar. 

It wasn't the borrowing of a cup of sugar that opened the 
concept of being neighbors with the people who lived across our 
street. We had just moved to our present home and had met 
several of the families on the block in a casual way. One evening 
when I returned from work, I started to mix a martini and found 
I was out of gin. I took a coffee cup and walked across the street 
and rang the bell. When Barbara opened the door, I asked if I 
could borrow a cup of gin. She laughed, agreed, and a neighbor 
was born. 

At the time, both Barbara and my wife Ann were preg- 
nant and due within a matter of days. Barbara's baby, a girl, 
was born first, and ours, also a girl, a few days later. Our baby 
was healthy. Barbara's child Alison was born with Down's 
Syndrome. When doctors encouraged Barbara and her hus- 
band Tim to put Alison in a home for exceptional children, they 
refused. Ann sided with Barbara and Tim, who raised Alison at 
home. That was over thirty-three years ago, and Alison has 
repaid their love in kind and wonderfully. 

The concept of neighbors isn't limited to surrounding 
houses. We found neighbors at the Chicago Symphony at 
Orchestra Hall. For twelve years, we have had seats number 
three and four in the upper balcony, and seats number one and 
two were occupied by the same couple. Symphony people tend 
to be rather aloof, smiling, nodding, muttering, "Lovely evening, 
isn't it?" and, at the end of the concert saying, "Wasn't that 
stimulating?" As the years passed, we opened the season with, 
"Did you have a lovely summer?" and at the conclusion of the 
season, "We will see you next fall." So it went for four years. 
Then one evening a priest from the Shell Center at Northwest- 
ern University was walking up the aisle and said, "Well, I see 
that the Coyles know the Brannigans." They were from Evanston 



and went to the eleven o'clock Mass, while we went to the nine 
o'clock one. Later we exchanged notes. They had us living in 
Wayne, the fox-hunting area near the Fox River. We weren't 
quite as complimentary, placing them in Hinsdale. Ever since 
that ice breaker, we have met for cocktails and dinner before 
every concert. 

One of the funnier spin offs of "living" neighbors was the 
red plastic flamingos, or, as my five-year-old granddaughter 
pronounced it, "flambingos." We had purchased two of these 
plastic birds standing on wire legs and placed them on our 
neighbor Sally's front lawn on the morning of her fiftieth 
birthday. That started a tradition. Birthdays, weddings, 
graduations, promotions, and homecomings were saluted by 
the flamingos being placed on either their front lawn or ours. I, 
being somewhat stuffy when humor is directed at me, have been 
quick to remove the flamingos if they are on my lawn. I am being 
butted by my own billy goat. 

The neighborhood and the neighbors have changed, and 
that's as it should be. Younger people have moved in and baby 
carriages and three-wheel tricycles and two-wheelers with 
training wheels are on the sidewalk. Little children establish 
the friendships that cement a neighborhood. Barbara and Tim 
join my wife and me as the oldest families remaining on the 
block. The neighborhood still has vitality, but there is a 
difference. Because most of the husbands and wives work, they 
are seldom seen on the street. It used to be that the children 
played while the mothers watched and talked, encouraging 
friendship and camaraderie. Today, economics and fashion 
dictate two incomes. The older homes are being renovated and 
enlarged. Huge family rooms with sprawling decks and six-foot 
privacy fences have made the houses cocoons isolating the 
people from the outside — not exactly the places to go to borrow 
a cup of gin. 







X Memories of Childhood and Youth 



MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH 

It is hard to say exactly why we remember what we do 
from our early years, but our memories are surely related to our 
sense of identity. We recall certain things from our childhood 
in order to know who we are, and to sustain a sense of self that 
allows us to face the challenges of the present. In a life marked 
by incredible changes, we all need to maintain some continuity 
with even the earliest versions of ourselves. 

The memoirs in this section are all focused on adven- 
tures in a small world of close relationships and intense feel- 
ings, where larger forces often have a disturbing impact and 
lessons are sometimes learned the hard way. A good example 
is Wanda Gardner's "Caught on a Bridge," which sweeps us into 
the mind of a ten-year-old girl whose hopes for a big impression 
in the school play fade after a desperate encounter with a 
locomotive. She ends up with more to ponder than a career on 
the stage. Similarly, Floy K. Chapman depicts an unforgettable 
lesson about the power of nature in "The Storm of 1918." 

Some of the most stressful childhood experiences in- 
volve running afoul of adults, who set the expectations that 
youngsters must measure up to — or suffer the consequences. 
Hugh McMenamin's The Lesson" is a vivid account of school 
punishment back when teachers didn't spare the rod, and Joe 
Mangieri's seriocomic memoir, "My Career as a Bootlegger," 
closes with some thoughtful comments on the impact of a razor 
strapping. 

Childhood observations of serious matters are featured 
in Wilbur Sauer's "Prayer Meeting" and Mildred Brooks' "Peace 
at Last." Despite his forced attendance at Wednesday night 
church services, young Wilbur does manage to see their enor- 
mous importance to the small group of people who come, and 
during a time of intense anxiety, young Mildred makes a 
touching bargain with God in an effort to save her brother. The 
Brooks memoir also features a poem carried in the author's 



mind for more than seventy years, which expresses the tragedy 
that came to so many families during World War I. 

Four of the memoirs focus on the good times of childhood, 
at very different ages. Dorothy G. Thompson's "Going to 
Grandma's for Christmas" is a remarkably vivid account of the 
close family world of a five-year-old, while "The 4th of July in 
Millstadt" by Wilson N. Baltz and "When 'Kid' Gattis Fought in 
Bushnell" by Warren Wilson portray school-age youngsters 
within a community setting. The Wilson memoir is a fine story 
that has a plot worthy of a short, made-for-television film. And 
Russell Stump's account of "Howard and Me and the Model T" 
captures the wild fun and near tragedy of a fifteen-year-old boy 
and his "Whoopie Car." 

Perhaps the most complex of these memoirs is Betty L. 
Hardwick's "World War II: The Home Front," which is a 
sensitive coming-of-age story that depicts a girl's growing 
awareness of the impact of war. As young Betty gets older and 
the war continues, her narrow personal focus gradually broad- 
ens to embrace her community and, at the close, her country. 
She finally realizes that life is a tough challenge that spares no 
one, but it can become enormously meaningful when people 
struggle together with a sense of common cause. 

Taken together, these memoirs of childhood and adoles- 
cence remind us that the world of the young is a special place, 
filled with distinctive pleasures, threats, hopes, and adven- 
tures. And profoundly meaningful things can happen there. 

John E. Hallwas 



173 



CAUGHT ON THE BRIDGE 

Wanda Gardner 

Life had a lovely hue for me that early summer day 
almost 66 years ago. It was the second day of June and I was on 
my way to practice for the Children's Day program at church. I 
had a part— six whole lines to speak. My Sunday School teacher 
had given me a slip of paper on the Sunday before, asking if I 
would come for practice the next Tuesday afternoon, and this 
was that day! Wild horses could not have kept me away. 

I had a part; I, Wanda Kirby, was going to get up on the 
big stage at church the next Sunday and, before God and 
everybody, say my six lines, hold up my flowers, and bow. Then 
I would sing "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam" with the other 
children. I debated on whether I would be told to bow or curtsey 
or merely walk off. I mulled it over in my mind. I thought, 
"There will be people there who will say, 'That child has a lovely 
voice; she should take up acting. She would go far.' Maybe I 
would take up acting. When they all gathered around me after 
the program and told me how well I did my part and sang, I 
would thank them graciously. When I became a famous actress, 
I would say I got my start appearing in Sunday School plays and 
that the audience had encouraged me. Then they could boast, 
"We knew her then, and we knew she was going far.'" 

I was doubly blessed that summer day because I had, of 
all good things, a new pair of slippers — black patent leather 
with big, brass buckles and a slightly cuban heel — my very first 
pair of "high heels." Also, I had on rayon hose. For a ten-year- 
old, life could hold no lovelier gifts. The shoes I had kept 
wrapped in tissue paper, taking them out two or three times a 
day to rub Vaseline into the leather so they would not crack. The 
hose I'd kept wrapped in tissue also, tucked into the toe of my 
new shoes. 

The morning had dragged to dinner time. I ate but was 
too excited to eat much, took a long bath, then put on a pink and 



white checked dress and my new footwear. Rayon has a sheen 
and could break into runners easily, but I had carefully pulled 
them on, adjusted my garters, then stepped into the new 
pumps. I had deliberated wearing my old ones until I got to the 
church, but decided not to; the town girls had a habit of making 
fun of us from the country, and if they had seen me with a paper 
bag holding my slippers, they would have teased me. I carried 
a small, white purse. In it I had a comb, a handkerchief, the 
folded and creased slip of paper with my piece, and a whole 
nickel for a treat — maybe a bottle of strawberry pop, a pack of 
grape gum, or two sticks of gum and three jawbreakers. 

Church was in Kenney, Illinois— the Christian Church. 
Kenney was (I know now) a very small town four miles from our 
home if we went around the road, but three miles if we walked 
the railroad track. I debated whether to go by the road or the 
track. My mother said, "I do not know for sure what time the 
next train is due, so you had better go by the road." We always 
had to worry about getting caught on the trestle over Salt Creek, 
and in all of my ten years, I had never walked that trestle alone. 
I was always in the company of my father, older sisters, or 
brothers. They knew the timetable of the trains and, also, by 
peering up and around the grade, they could see the signal. The 
signal had a long arm which swung up and down. When the arm 
was down, it meant there was a train in the "block," and you had 
better wait until it had passed before getting on the trestle. I did 
not think about the fact that the trees were in full leaf and that 
I would be unable to see if the arm was up or down. I tried to see, 
but I couldn't. I listened and could not hear a train, so I started 
across. There were one-hundred and forty ties from one end to 
the other. (I knew because I had counted them when walking 
the trestle before, being sure not to step between the ties. ) One 
could see the creek running way down below, and if you looked 
too long, you would get dizzy — especially if the water was high 
and it was dirty, swirling, and frightening. This day it was high 
and in an ugly mood; the spring rains had put it out of its banks. 



174 



I tried not looking down and, instead, thinking about something 
else. I even recited my lines out loud, testing to hear if I had the 
right emphasis on each word. 

I was about ninety ties onto that trestle when my ears 
picked up the sound of an approaching train, coming full-speed 
behind me. It was the Green Diamond Special, a fast passenger 
train. When I looked back, 1 saw that train bearing down on me, 
blowing its whistle. I started running, but my new shoes were 
slick on the bottom, and I kept sliding them between the ties. I 
thought, "Jesus wants me for a sunbeam; I don't want to be 
chopped up by a train." 

Some instinct of self-preservation told me to get out to 
the side; 1 knew that I was not going to beat the train. I threw 
myself down; rolled to the end of the ties; and hung suspended 
over Salt Creek, with its dirty, angry, swirling water, as the 
train roared by. I was near enough to almost touch the big, black 
wheels turning as they passed by me, with the pistons pumping. 
It seemed that I was practically under them and that any 
minute they would suck me to oblivion. I smelled the creosote 
in the ties and felt the sharp edges digging into my ribs. After 
what seemed like an eternity, the train was gone — clickity- 
clacking down the track. I pulled myself up and walked to the 
end of the trestle, where I inspected myself I had ruined my 
hose, skinning my shin from knee to ankle. Dusting myself off, 
I looked at my hands: tar and cinders were ground into them. 
But I combed my hair and straightened my clothes as best I 
could and continued on to practice. If Jesus wanted me for a 
sunbeam, then I was not going to let Him down. 

I told no one of my escape; to this day, I think I was more 
concerned that I had ruined my hose than anything else. I had 
to get up on the stage with big runners in my hose, with blood 
dried on my knees, and speak my six lines, and then sing with 
the rest of the children, "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam." I 
walked home by the road, saying nothing to my family when I 
got there, cleaning myself as best I could, and hiding my torn 



hose. I hated to upset my parents and thought my family would 
think I was dumb for getting caught on the bridge. The next day, 
some of the trainmen checked through the neighborhood, ask- 
ing if the neighbors knew who the little girl was who had been 
on the trestle and if she was injured, so the story got out and I 
had to tell. 

I have thought of this a good many times. I can imagine 
that poor conductor and fireman watching me running and 
falling ahead of their train. I can imagine that they closed their 
eyes and turned their heads, saying, "Oh My God in Heaven," or 
some such phrase. I do not know if they did, but I hope they saw 
that I had gotten across safely and did not have to finish the 
"run" thinking they had chopped up a little girl in a pink and 
white checked dress. 

I went on to speak in other places and sing other songs, 
and I have tried to be a sunbeam. However, I never became an 
actress, I never sang well, and other than a dim glimmer, I never 
made too much light in the world. 

I have wondered why I was not killed that day, and what 
instinct told me what to do to survive. To this day, although I 
am 76 years old, I never see a train but I remember those big 
wheels; and if I smell creosote, like there was on those railroad 
ties, I get goose bumps, and shivers run up my spine. 



THE STORM OF 1918 

Floy K. Chapman 

It was the morning of January 11,1918. My brother and 
I were on our way to high school in a buggy, pulled by a faithful 
old horse. 

It had been a mild winter. The roads were muddy and 
slow, but the air was balmy. There was a vague uneasiness in 



the air, and the sky was black with fast-flying wild ducks and 
geese. 

"Look at those birds," my brother remarked. "They 
worry me. They fly as if for their lives." Looking back, I suppose 
they were. 

We got to school and left the horse in the livery stable, as 
usual. There was still the uneasy feeling we could not explain. 

At 1 o'clock, the school superintendent called an assem- 
bly and told us he had received word of a bad Arctic storm 
moving into the area. He had already called the livery stable 
and told them to get our horses ready for the trip home. "Go at 
once," he said. "Do not stop for anything." 

Sensing the worry in his voice, we left quickly and found 
that a very cold wind was already coming from the north. 
Although we had warm clothing, a hot soapstone at our feet, and 
a bearskin laprobe, the cold was becoming worse by the minute. 
The two miles east were terribly disagreeable, but when we 
turned north, it was well-nigh unbearable. The horse tried to 
turn from facing the bitter wind, and my brother had to use the 
whip many times to keep the horse headed homeward. 

When we finally drove into a covered driveway between 
our two big corn cribs, the poor horse was exhausted. A hired 
man met us and took the horse to the bam. 

"Thank God you are home," he said. "We were afraid you 
would not make it. I never saw anything like this." 

The storm lasted for three days. Snow fell all day on 
Saturday, January 12, and Sunday, January 13. It was a 
general storm throughout the Midwest. The fine snow drifted 
like a desert sandstorm. North and south roads filled to a depth 
often feet, and everyone was completely blocked in. Tempera- 
tures in Carrollton on January 13 ranged from 20 to 26 degrees 
below zero. The storm gradually abated Sunday night and 
Monday. 

Carrollton was without trains and newspapers for three 
days. We stayed home and fed the fire continually. We shut off 



all the rooms we could and slept close to the fire. The men 
struggled in an effort to keep the livestock fed and as warm as 
possible. Even so, some pigs and chickens froze. All the next 
summer, we found wild animals that had perished. Many trees 
died, too. 

The schoolchildren had all arrived home safely, al- 
though the ones who rode horseback had it even harder than we 
did. One boy, although protected by horse blankets and warm 
clothing, nearly froze to death. 

Even the coal dealers had failed to lay in enough stock to 
handle the great demand for fuel. Some people were so desper- 
ate, they started out with handcarts in search of something to 
burn. 

The city authorities confiscated a car of coal headed for 
Kansas City that had been sidetracked by mistake at the depot. 
The precious fuel was doled out in small quantities to needy 
families. 

In late February, the men in the community were finally 
able to dig out the snowbound train east of Carrollton. 

There have been other storms since then, but the people 
were better prepared. From this one bad blizzard, they learned 
to prepare for the worst. 

And I developed a new sense of respect for the impact 
nature could have on people's lives. 



THE LESSON 

Hugh McMenamm 

We drove past what used to be Brush Point School in 
DeKalb County after a wedding last week. It brought back 
memories of-fifty years ago. The one-room school was on the 
single acre my grandfather sold to the budding school district so 



many years ago. It had been converted to a dwelling and 
modernized. But like an aging harridan, all the layers of paint 
and facelifts could never alter the lady. 

The ghost of Pa Munson returned. It's funny but, of all 
my teachers, I remember him the most vividly. The most 
learned professors in the college and medical school pale in 
comparison. He taught more than education. He taught 
discipline and responsibility. He taught life. 

I recall one episode in particular. It had been a cold, late 
fall day on which this third-grade boy left the warm farm 
kitchen with the admonition of my mother to take an apple from 
the orchard on my way to school. Of course, I had to find the 
largest of the Mackintoshes. It was easily the size of two fists 
together. It would be sweet and juicy at noon. 

As the day began, I sat at my desk in front of Imogene 
Wilkinson. Although I didn't know it at the time, I think she 
was sweet on me. Of course, I hated her. She was bigger than 
me and I was sure she wasn't very pretty. She always wore her 
long red hair in a braid. She teased me unmercifully. The rest 
of the kids always taunted me about her being my girlfriend, 
which I frequently and profusely denied. Why, she would walk 
a mile out of her way to tell my mother what I did wrong in 
school. 

It was not a good day for Pa Munson. He was a tall, 
corpulent man wdth gout and a switch. A willow switch, freshly 
cut and very limber. Only after I developed gout myself could 
I appreciate the misery he was going through that day. There 
were no sick days in a one-room country school in the middle of 
the Depression. 

As a teacher he taught us to help each other while he 
supervised from his desk. There would be a normal buzz of 
industry while we were working at the studies. In fact, visitors 
would be amazed at the level of noise and learning in a single 
classroom of twenty-five kids divided into the eight grades. It 
was an unwritten rule among us that you knew your lessons 



well because you might be embarrassed if a lower grade student 
knew your lesson better than you. The shame would have been 
intolerable. 

The morning passed uneventfully, with Mr. Munson 
sitting at the desk in the front of the room with his right foot 
elevated and the straight-backed chair at the side of his desk 
reserved for any miscreant deserving public humiliation. Read- 
ing, recess, and arithmetic passed. At lunch, the usual swappings 
of delights were attempted, and our jealousies of the lunches 
packed by the other mothers were suppressed. My own lunch 
was more than ample without the great Mackintosh, so the 
apple was secreted in the chaos of my desk along with books and 
returned papers stored for an uncaring posterity. 

It was j ust before the afternoon recess when I got hungry 
again. I surreptitiously slipped the apple from the desk and 
glanced back at Imogene. She laughed at me a little. Defiantly, 
I took a small bite. 

The wrath exploded. 

Although he had hardly moved throughout the morning, 
this gigantic teacher was standing in the small aisle by my desk 
glowering at me. I cringed as I noticed his purple face. 

"What ARE you doing?" 

I had no answer. I had no voice. 

"Come up here!" 

I set the apple on the desk and started forward. 

"Bring that apple!" 

I glanced at the others in the room. Terror was apparent 
on all their faces. 

"Turn around!" 

I turned and pressed my buttocks against the desk. At 
least he wouldn't hit my legs with the switch. I saw Imogene's 
face. She was laughing at me. 

"Eat!" he demanded. 

I took a small bite. 



Whaap! The switch bounced off the desk and hit my 
backside. 

"Eat more!" 

I took a bigger bite. 

Whaap again! I remember being grateful for the cold 
day. I was wearing corduroy pants under the big overalls that 
were a de facto uniform for farm kids in the Depression. The 
switch would bound off the table and hit on the leather belt of 
the corduroys. 

"Again!" 

I took a bigger bite. Why had I picked such a big apple? 

Whaap! 

It really didn't hurt, but that damned Imogene was still 
laughing. And she would probably follow me home to tell Mom. 

"DON'T STOP NOW!!" 

I never knew I could get so much apple in my mouth. I 
choked and sputtered. 

Whaap! 

With another bite, I had consumed about half of the 
monstrous apple. I continued to press against the desk for 
protection. The whole room was looking at me. I braced for the 
next flight of the switch. 

"Now, go sit down, and don't show off again!" 

I don't remember setting the apple on his desk. I knew 
I was white and I could feel my legs shaking. What was worse, 
I knew I had been punished justly. Today, there would be 
allegations of child abuse and brutality. But I wasn't injured. 

I found my desk and sat. 

When Pa Munson dismissed us for afternoon recess, I 
remained sitting. He looked at me and motioned me forward. 
As I came, he took the remaining half of the damned apple and 
threw it in the wastebasket. 

I stood before him. Then he opened his arms. I reached 
for him and he held me. 

I cried. 



MY CAREER AS A BOOTLEGGER 

Joe Mangieri 

In late September my dad, Angelo, would announce to 
my mother and everyone else that come this weekend no one 
was to make plans other than to assist in the harvesting of the 
blue grapes that were now ripe and ready. This annual 
announcement carried such a ring of authority that it went 
without saying that on Saturday morning all hands were 
available and ready to pick grapes. 

Over the years at 309 East Martin in Abingdon, Dad had 
continued to enlarge his grape arbor to what became a mini 
vineyard. He had planted, cultivated, and pruned his vines so 
that total production translated to four barrels of wine and ten 
or twelve pints of jelly. Each barrel measured 60 gallons. Not 
bad. 

In those days, all of the Italians had substantial grape 
arbors, and all claimed to make high-quality wine. Among his 
peers, Dad had the reputation of making a superb quality wine. 
He used to say that the others could have had a high-quality 
wine, too, if they would only invest in more sugar. He said that 
sugar was what determined good wine. Acquiring a high 
alcoholic content was not difficult, but in order to arrive at a 
wine with a clear, clean, and resonant taste, there had to be an 
articulate use of sugar. He said that it wasn't necessary to drink 
wine to determine the quality. Sniffing the wine was adequate. 
If the aroma did not suggest conversation and good fellowship, 
it failed to pass the test of good wine. 

I'm sure Dad had some failures. However, I'm not aware 
of any time when he threw the stufFout. I can recall times when 
things did not go right and the anticipated wine did not develop, 
but in its place a kind of vinegar-like tasting product would 
emerge. Then Mom would get busy and try to use it up in 
cooking — preparing salads and stuff. Wow, what an assign- 
ment. In retrospect, we kids had to be experiencing a kind of 



perpetual "high." Vinegar or whatever, there had to be some 
alcohoHc content in there. 

As we grew older and the need for money emerged, it 
followed that siphoning a fruit jar of wine off the top of the barrel 
and then selling it for 20c or 25(Z was a nifty way to keep in 
spending money. In my case, I had an outlet who was totally 
reliable. His name was "Tulip" Harris. Tulip was a barber and 
he operated out of that part of the old Pool Hall which was set 
aside for that purpose. Tulip liked sports and sporting events. 
He also liked all kinds of alcoholic beverages — especially "Dago 
Red" wine. It was inevitable that he was to become my best 
customer. 

You see, as we were growing up, Dad cut our hair. It 
normally was an acceptable haircut, but when you reach age 
fourteen and start looking at girls and they start looking back, 
you begin to wonder if the recent haircut is as good as it used to 
be. Making the decision to siphon off a jar of wine and then 
trading it to Tulip for an uptown haircut was the way to go. 

At fourteen I was the youngest bootlegger in town. 

I had another outlet who was also reliable. His name 
was John Davis. John had a contact who preferred to remain 
anonymous. Periodically Mr. Mystery Man would order ajar of 
wane from John. He, in turn, would notify me, and in due time 
I would procure and deliver ajar of wine for 200. John delivered 
for 40(Z and everyone was happy. 

To this day I have not been able to determine who the 
mystery man was. 

The wine stealing continued for some time, and then one 
night my dad made an announcement to my mother. "Rosa," he 
said, "Tomorrow I will tap my best barrel of wine." And then he 
did a kind of soft-shoe dance in anticipated joy. 

The time of year was mid-February and the aging in 
wood process was nearly complete. Upon going to bed that night 
I found it impossible to fall asleep. My mind kept reviewing how 
many jars of wine I had stolen and were they enough that he 



would notice. What I failed to calculate was that I had four other 
brothers who were servicing their preferred customers from the 
same barrel. The most notorious of them was brother Nunzi. 
His most valued customer was a guy named Jim "Peg" Long, a 
prime consumer. Incidentally, when Peg died at age 94, people 
were to say that booze killed him. 

Anyway, Dad made the tap like he said, and all he got 
was a tiny trickle and then nothing. Horror of horrors, the 
barrel was dry. 

In my Dad's house, the democratic process did not 
prevail. He quickly concluded that his five sons had stolen a 
barrel of wine, and he immediately prepared himself to admin- 
ister the necessary corrective measures. 

Mom later told me that as soon as he fetched the razor 
strap he took a position on a chair next to the back door with the 
strap across his lap and waited for us to come home from school. 
She said it was the longest afternoon of her married life. She 
told me that every ten minutes he would ask, "What time is it?" 

Very precisely and very methodically each strapping 
was efficiently delivered. I entered through the back door to be 
confronted by a grim figure who looked seven feet tall, who 
asked in a strange voice, "You steal my wine?" I nodded in the 
affirmative and took the licks, after which I sulked off to another 
part of the house to brood and contemplate. 

Of course the best performance came about when brother 
Nunzi arrived wearing what was called a sheep-lined coat. (It 
had lots of wool padding. ) Dad knew where to deliver the strap 
to get the loudest noise — right across the back. The timing was 
excellent, especially when you consider that nothing was re- 
hearsed. Dad swung, and Nunzi let out a howl of feigned pain. 
In fact, father and son were doing so well that Mom couldn't 
contain herself any longer, and she came running out, scream- 
ing, "Angelo, stop, stop you are killing him." Of course, by now 
Dad was on a roll, and his response was, "That's exactly what I 
intend to do," and kept right on flailing away. Meanwhile, 



brother Nunzi was keeping his face covered so as not to reveal 
his laughter. 

In this episode, three things were accomplished. 

First, Angelo reaffirmed his role as head of the house- 
hold by taking charge and meeting a family problem head on. 

Second, the accumulation of guilt was quickly exorcised 
with the above-mentioned corrective measures, thereby allow- 
ing the natural healing process to function. 

Third, the stealing of wane came to an abrupt halt. My 
career as a bootlegger was over. 



PRAYER MEETING 

Wilber Sauer 

Until recent years, Wednesday night in many small 
towns was reserved for church meetings. School boards, lodges, 
and other groups did not have gatherings scheduled then as 
that was the time for choir practice and an evening when the 
most faithful could be found at prayer meetings. 

Many ministers did not consider the midweek service to 
be the high point of the church week. Some preachers even 
viewed the event as a "thorn in the flesh," to be borne as part of 
the calling. At times they were candid in their comments. As 
one pastor wrote in an 1890 report, "Try as I might, I do not seem 
to be able to generate much interest in the Wednesday night 
prayer meeting." Usually there was little formal preparation by 
the pastor, and those who came seemed to be satisfied with the 
same format week after week. Often their presence seemed to 
be a part of a web of comfortable routine. 

My first exposure to prayer meetings occurred in a small 
central Illinois town in the mid- 1920s. My father was minister 



of the Methodist Church, which espoused the prayer meeting as 
an important part of the legacy of John Wesley. 

My attendance was not entirely voluntary, but, rather, 
a method of allowing my mother the luxury of one less child for 
an hour. Being the oldest, I was appointed to be a regular 
communicant. 

As the parsonage was two blocks from the church, my 
father and I would set out a few minutes before seven to open the 
church door, ringthebell, and turn on the lights. In the meeting 
room, the four bare lightbulbs, which hung by twisted green 
wires from the ceiling, threw harsh shadows on the drab walls. 
The old and thin carpet in the middle of the floor bore only the 
memory of color and pattern. A dozen or so very common 
wooden chairs stood before a small table. The piano, its veneer 
darkened and crazed, presented an uneven row of ivory keys, all 
showing evidence of the many fingers that had coaxed sound 
from the patient and forgiving instrument. My first job of the 
evening was to place a frayed copy of the paperbacked Sunday 
School Hymns on each chair. 

By 7:20, five to ten people had arrived. The bell was rung 
again at 7:30, and a verse of a hymn on the piano suggested that 
the meeting was about to begin. The pianist, a very large and 
serious lady, was handicapped by a limited repertoire and the 
odd habit of playing the bass part of a chord a fraction of a second 
before the treble was struck. The result was an echo effect, 
unnerving to the sensitive listener. 

Because of the limitations of the pianist and the singers, 
we sang a rotation of hymns which included "In the Garden," 
"The Old Rugged Cross," and other well-known songs that had 
stood the test of time and untrained voices. My brother, who did 
not attend prayer meetings, had heard a variation of the first 
verse of "The Old Rugged Cross" which changed the words to 
read, "On a hill far away stood an old Chevrolet, but the Ford is 
still running- today." This version lessened the spirit of the 
hymn for me. 



Other thoughts that crossed my mind during the singing 
often centered on the piano stool. How could three small wooden 
legs support such a large pianist? Thoughts about this engi- 
neering wonder and the possible consequences of a collapse 
could take up several verses of "Let the Lower Lights Be 
Burning." 

Other thoughts flickered through the songs, too. Why 
did Simon wear two pairs of glasses to see the hymnal, which he 
held at the tip of his nose? And why did my father, who had a 
loud voice, sing a few bars of the bass notes, then suddenly shift 
to the melody line? Just listening to the singing was an auditory 
adventure for a young boy, as most of the people mumbled the 
words, unaware of notation or key. However poor it may have 
been, the singing was an effort that reflected the commitment 
of those who attended. 

After the opening hymn, there was time for "sentence" 
prayers. There was a reason for stressing brevity because there 
were those present who could, and would, take advantage of a 
public forum and continue to pray until there was a noticeable 
lack of interest on the part of the listeners. The prayers 
were usually serious and heartfelt statements of thanks and 
intercession. 

After the prayers were finished, there was a time for 
testimonies. My favorite participant in this part of the service 
was a man with the wonderful name of John Silvernail. Mr. 
Silvernail was a short, square man with hands that were rough, 
and with a face that was wind-torn and creased from years of 
railroad work. The muscles of his arms seemed ready to split his 
well-worn suit coat. For years John Silvernail had been a 
drunkard, but a religious experience had changed his life, and 
he never tired of telling how his family had suffered and of the 
sorrow he felt for his misdeeds. His simple and elegant state- 
ment varied little from week to week, but the sight of that squat, 
rough man standing with his huge hands grasping the back of 
a simple wooden chair in that gray and somber room had a 



lasting effect on all who cared to listen. There were those who 
never spoke, but seemed to take succor and encouragement 
from the words of others. Compressed into the testimonies of 
that small group were expressions of grief, despair, lost oppor- 
tunity, and acceptance of life's unfairness, but there were also 
words of encouragement and hope and final victory. Even for a 
young boy, the spoken words and heartfelt examples had 
meaning. 

After the testimonies, my father would ask those present 
to recite a favorite Bible verse. I alternated between the only 
two I knew, "God is love" and "Jesus wept." Others displayed 
their ability to memorize long passages, and this was done with 
pride and feeling. After the recitation, my father would spend 
a few minutes on some particular passage, and then the meet- 
ing would always end with his favorite hymn, "Sweet Hour of 
Prayer." 

A few minutes for visiting followed, but the faithful, 
again blessed and renewed, soon left. While there was no 
system for arrival, there was a definite order of departure. Mr. 
and Mrs. Eli were the first to leave. They drove a Buick Light 
Six — the only one in the congregation. Mr. Allison was next; 
then the pianist whose husband had been homebound for years. 
Together, and the last to go, were John Silvernail and Simon. 
Mr. Silvernail led Simon all the way to Mrs. Webb's house where 
he roomed. At night he was nearly blind, and vrithout help his 
contact with other people was severely limited. John Silvernail's 
nearly square body and his rolling gait contrasted with Simon's 
very tall, thin build and hesitant steps, as the two figures 
quickly faded in the nearly darkened street. 

Then my father and I would collect the songbooks and 
straighten the chairs, and at the door I would reach high to turn 
the old rotary switch, leaving the quiet building in soft dark- 
ness. We would close the outside door, walk down the steps, and 
turn toward home. Prayer meeting was over for another week. 



PEACE AT LAST 

Mildred Brooks 

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh 
month. Not too many can remember now what happened on 
November 11, 1918, the day that World War I ended, which was 
celebrated for many years as Armistice Day. 

I wasjust ten years old then, but I rememberthat day as 
if it were yesterday. All the bells in town were ringing, and 
everyone was hugging everyone else and dancing around. 

That night, there were many bonfires. Our hometown 
band came to the house of every family that had a son, a brother, 
or a father overseas. In the chilly darkness they played "Keep 
the Home Fires Burning," and everyone was happy. 

When they came to our home, my father, mother, sister, 
and I went to the door. Although we appreciated their reason 
for celebrating, my mother told them why we couldn't share 
their joy. We had just received a letter from the War Depart- 
ment saying that my brother was "missing in action, some- 
where in the Argonne Forest." That's all it said, except that "if 
he was found," they would notify us. 

My mother knelt right there, and we all joined her, 
praying that he would be found alive and returned to us. It was 
a very stressful time for us all. 

When I had the time to reflect on it, I thought that if I 
would join our church, which I had not yet made an effort to do, 
my brother would be found. So, the next evening I went to our 
minister's home and knocked on his back door. He asked what 
I wanted, so I told him: "I want to join the church, so God will 
find my brother." 

The next Sunday I was baptized. 

We waited many months, hearing nothing, and then we 
finally received another letter from the War Department. It 
said that my brother had been found. He was not dead, but he 



had been wounded and gassed and was in a hospital somewhere 
in France. The letter did not say exactly where he was. 

Thrilled and full of hope, we waited many more months. 
Then, one day in 1919, my brother finally came home. I was so 
excited to see him — and so grateful. For my family, the war was 
finally over. 

I helped him to unload his big, old, worn-out knapsack, 
and after he had gotten settled, he handed me a rumpled piece 
of paper that he had treasured for many months, and he said, 
"My buddy from Chicago wrote this poem for me. He was killed 
the next day." 

I read it, and I loved that poem so much that I memorized 
it. To this day, more than seventy years later, I remember every 
word of it. It is a poem that expresses the tragedy that came to 
so many families — and almost came to mine: 

Peace at Last 

There is peace, tonight, in the Verdun Hills, 
But, oh God, what a terrible toll! 
It isn't the war but the aftermath 
That burns and sears the soul. 

I joined with Jim; I drilled with Tom; 
I carried a pack with Joe. 
We were buddies when we left the "States"; 
It seems like a week ago. 

I stood with them, in the front line trench. 
Just before the "Verdun Drive." 
We laughed and joked in confidence 
That we'd all come out alive. 

Then over the top, in the first mad rush, 
Through gas and wire and din; 



A "75" got Tom and Joe, 
And a sniper's shell got Jim. 

I saw them fall but that was all, 
Then on with the charging wave. 
On into the wilds of the Argonne 
While they rest in their shell-hole graves. 

We'll soon return to the "States" again, 

But without Tom, Joe, and Jim. 

When we meet the mothers of the ones who died. 

How will we answer them? 

Will it ease the pain in their mothers' hearts 
To point to the east and say, 
"They rest over there in the hills of France; 
They died for the U.S.A."? 



GOING TO GRANDMA'S FOR CHRISTMAS 

Dorothy G. Thompson 

A Christmas I remember was when I was five. My world 
consisted primarily of my family then, and we did so much 
together. My mother had long dark hair that she braided and 
pinned up in a roll at the back of her head, and she had brown 
eyes and a sweet smile. I thought she was the prettiest mother 
ever. 

My father was tall and slim, with black curly hair and 
grey eyes with long lashes. He was a very gentle and honest 
man. He told us to never steal or lie, and then people would 
respect and trust us, even if we were poor. 



My older sister Esther was seven and in school. I 
thought she was very smart to be able to read. She was in a 
Christmas play, and I was so proud when she got up and said, 

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat; 
Please put a penny in the old man's hat. 
If you don't have a penny, a half cent will do. 
If you don't have a half cent, "God Bless You." 

My younger sister Frances looked like a doll with her 
black hair, blue eyes, and sunny smile. She was just three years 
old. 

We were very happy in the big old farm house we lived 
in, seven miles south of Virginia, Illinois. It was almost 
Christmas; we were all so excited we were going to Grandma 
Lane's, my mother's family. They lived eight miles north of 
Virginia. 

When I saw some birds fly up on the window sill, I said, 
"Mama, why is that bird watching me?" She said, "That is one 
of Santa's helpers. It is watching to see if you are good; then he 
tells Santa." So after that, every time a bird flew on the window 
sill, I'd say, "Mama, do you want me to help with the dishes, or 
dust the furniture," and then I would look back over my 
shoulder to see if the bird was listening. 

Mama had us children bring in some bricks before 
Christmas. I said, "What do you want them for?" and she 
replied, "I will put them in the bottom of the oven in the 
morning, while I bake biscuits for breakfast. They will get hot 
and we vnll wrap old rugs around them to keep your feet warm 
when we go to Grandma and Grandpa's tomorrow for Christmas 
Eve." 

It was a very cold Christmas Eve. When Daddy hitched 
up Bess and Bob, our big black team, to the green farm wagon, 
he put some sleigh bells on the harness so they would jingle as 
we drove down the road. He then placed loose straw in the 



183 



bottom of the wagon for us to sit on. He put in the hot bricks for 
us to put our feet on and Mama wrapped us up in heavy 
comforters to keep us warm on our long journey. 

Despite his efforts, we were getting pretty cold by the 
time we got to Grandma's house. She met us at the door with 
a big hug and kiss, and Grandpa helped us off with our coats, 
mittens, and caps. Then Grandma gave us some hot chocolate 
and hot gingerbread men. We soon felt warm again. Grandma 
said, "As soon as you get warmed up, you can help with 
decorating the sugar cookies." Of course, we children thought 
Grandma couldn't decorate the cookies without our help. 

After a big supper. Grandpa, with a twinkle in his eyes, 
said, "I don't suppose you children would care to help put up the 
Christmas tree?" We almost knocked over the table getting up 
so fast. 

The tree was set up in the dining room. We all helped 
string cranberries and popcorn, and cut stars out of the silver 
paper from cigarette packages. Then Mom's brothers. Uncle 
Morrie and Uncle Rudy, clipped the candle holders on the tree, 
and put the candles in them. When they lit all the candles, we 
just knew it was the most beautiful tree in the whole world. 

Grandma always baked raisin bread on Christmas Eve, 
and I always wondered why it took so long for it to bake. I was 
afraid that if Santa saw her up he wouldn't stop and leave any 
toys for us. 

We always put out cookies and a glass of milk for Santa. 
That year we put out some hay for the reindeer, too, and the next 
morning we had a note from Santa. He thanked us for being so 
thoughtful. He said he was hungry and tired and so were his 
reindeer, and he appreciated us thinking of him. We were 
thrilled to get a personal letter from Santa; that was really 
something to brag about. I was a big girl before I found out who 
wrote the letter. It was Grandpa. We had never seen his 
writing, so that was why he wrote it. 



We awoke about four o'clock Christmas morning. Mom 
and Dad slept in the bed upstairs, and we children slept on the 
floor. If one of us woke up, we would wake up the other two, and 
downstairs we would run to see what Santa had brought us. 

Oh! It was so exciting to see all the wonderful things we 
got. A beautiful doll that went to sleep when you laid her down, 
a new dress and a string of beads, my own hairbrush, and lots 
of candy. We would grab a handful of candy and run back 
upstairs to bed, and then we would talk about all the things 
Santa had brought us, and giggle about how surprised Mom and 
Dad would be at all the things we got. As soon as they woke up, 
we would all three jump in bed with them and tell them how 
good Santa had been. Mom and Dad would say, "You must have 
been very good for Santa to bring you so much." 

Then we all went downstairs together and looked again 
at what Santa had brought us. We always found so many things 
we had missed when we came down the first time. 

Then there were our stockings hanging on the mantle, 
which had gifts from Grandma and Grandpa. We would get 
oranges, apples, and nuts, which we only got at Christmas time. 
They always tasted so much sweeter because we just got them 
once a year. We were so excited that we couldn't eat breakfast, 
but we could always eat cookies on the run. 

Then we watched Grandma and Mom stuff a goose and 
some ducks they were baking for dinner and make homemade 
mince meat and pumpkin pies. There was never anything that 
smelled as good as Grandma's kitchen at Christmas time. 

After dinner they would light up the Christmas tree 
again. Uncle Morrie would take down his fiddle. Uncle Rudy 
would play the piano, and Grandma would play the French 
Harp. She also would teach us the Irish jig. We would dance and 
sing; it was really a great time. 

All too soon Daddy would say, "It's a long drive home. If 
we expect to get home before dark we had better be getting 
ready to go." The horses were rested and ready to trot going 



184 



home. It was so cold you could see their breath like they were 
blowing out smoke. 

We huddled down in our comforters, saying it was the 
best Christmas we had ever had. We dozed off to sleep, so Daddy 
had to carry us in the house when we got home. 

He built a big fire in the heating stove to get us all warm 
and cozy again, and then we kissed Mom and Daddy good night 
and said our prayers, and snuggled down in our warm bed, still 
talking about our Christmas presents and the good time we had 
at Grandma's. 



THE FOURTH OF JULY IN MmLSTADT 

Wilson M. Baltz 

The 4th of July holiday in Millstadt, St. Clair County, 
used to be, literally, a bang-up time. Youngsters and the not-so- 
young voiced "Happy Birthday, America" in noisy, unrestrained 
ways. 

Today, throughout the nation, the 4th is quiet, more 
subdued, not much different than other July days. There is 
little personal expression in proclaiming our nation's most 
important and meaningful holiday. Celebrations are the 
en masse, family-economy-size-package kind, but things used to 
be different. 

Back in Millstadt, on one memorable 4th of July, I rose 
early, wanting to live as much of the day as possible. Mother 
sent me on an errand to the Home Bakery for breakfast pastries. 
The time was six o'clock; the village, sleepy-eyed, was beginning 
to stir from its slumber. The morning air was cool and crisp, 
before the July sun would warm it. Padding barefooted along 
the town's sidewalks I became aware of music seemingly com- 
ing from Heaven! This couldn't be, I reasoned. It turned out 



that the sound came from the roof of the brewery building on 
West Oak Street, where the Enterprise Band was serenading 
the townspeople with patriotic and martial tunes. "The Stars 
and Stripes Forever," "America, The Beautiful," "The Battle 
Hymn of the Republic," and others have never sounded better 
than on that early morning, many years ago. It was a most 
inspiring and glorious July 4th morning! 

Extra money was scarce in those years, but most young- 
sters had the initiative to earn money for firecrackers, spar- 
klers, caps, and novelties of the day. Weeks before the 4th, 
strawberries were picked, lawns mowed, garages tidied, chicken 
coops cleaned and whitewashed, garden weeds pulled, and 
other menial tasks cheerfully done with the promise of money 
for the 4th. 

One novelty was in the form of a small croquet mallet. 
The top half of the head would be separated from the bottom 
half, explosive caps inserted, and the head re-assembled. To 
activate it, the mallet was slammed on the sidewalk, and the 
force of the exploding caps would send the top half skyward. 
Naturally, I increased the powder charge each time to send the 
projectile higher and higher. "Just how high can I send it?" I 
asked myself. I loaded the mallet head with an extra-heavy 
charge, knelt on the sidewalk for better leverage, raised the 
mallet over my head, gathered my strength, and pounded it on 
the sidewalk. A deafening explosion of orange flame and acrid 
smoke boomed the projectile into the air. I never saw it again. 
When Voyager II, billions and billions of miles into intergalactic 
flight, relays to Earth photos of a red and yellow-plumed object 
zipping along, I can tell the astounded NASA scientists that it 
was launched by a ten-year-old boy at the intersection of East 
Washington and North Mulberry Streets in Millstadt on July 4, 
1928. 

Sporadic explosions of firecrackers would be heard a few 
days before the 4th. Some people simply had to scratch their 
"itch" for fireworks. The banging increased day by day until by 



the time the big day arrived, there was an incessant banging, 
popping, and booming. 

Very small firecrackers, called "lady fingers," were fired 
individually or in strands of 100 or more. They were rather 
harmless, but caution was exercised, nevertheless. 

Medium-sized firecrackers would send an empty bean 
can a-flying into the air. Carefiilly placed in rotten tomatoes, 
firecrackers would also send juice and pulp over a wide area. 
More fun! A trick worth mentioning was to load a homemade 
slingshot with a 'cracker and stretch the elastic to the limit; 
then another would light the fuse, yell "Now," and release the 
slingshot to send the "bomb" over the rooftops. 

Exploding firecrackers under piles of powdery dust 
created the likeness of artillery shells exploding in Flanders as 
seen in silent World War I movies at ice cream socials in the 
churchyard. Little did we know that within twenty years we 
would be in a greater war. 

"Torpedoes" were popular with boys with strong throw- 
ing arms. The hollow papier mache balls, the size of hulled 
walnuts, when thrown against a brick wall, exploded with a 
loud report. No doubt, they contained fulminate of mercury, the 
active substance in shell primers. Also, "Sons of Guns," dark red 
wafers, nickel-size, would spit fire, crackle, and emit smoke 
when ground under a leather heel. All kinds of cap guns were 
universally popular with small celebrants. Exciting shoot-outs 
between "cops" and "robbers" were staged in and around out- 
buildings. "Injuns" and "cowboys" stalked each other in com 
and bean plots in the back gardens. 

Uptown, the big boys rocked the village with booming 
"cannon crackers." No lady fingers for them. No sir! 

An older brother and a cousin made a lot of racket 
blowing the lid off a molasses can with acetylene gas and a 
flame. No British Redcoats were routed, but our dog, "Trix," 
cowered in his house all day, thinking his last day had come. 



Our arsenal was a newsstand/confectionery at what is 
now 13 West Washington Street. The shopkeepers displayed 
the huge inventory openly on tables and in boxes, apparently 
unmindful of the danger. Had a flame been dropped acciden- 
tally, Millstadt would have had a real big bang, never to be 
forgotten. 

It seemed that every yard, every house, displayed the 
Stars and Stripes on the 4th. Automobiles sported flags in sets 
of 2, 3, 4, and 5 on the radiator caps. That was the time when 
radiator caps were not under the hood. The young decorated 
their bikes with flags, bunting, and streamers. It was a time to 
celebrate and have fun. 

Lawn parties were in vogue. Ice cream, strawberries, 
and soft drinks were served and, after dark, fireworks were the 
big attraction. I liked the big sky rockets which whooooshed 
from their launching pads, arcing high, to leave a trail of red and 
to die at their zenith with a soft bang, amid a shower of 
multicolored sparkles. 

Fourth of July celebrations as we experienced them in 
the Millstadt years are gone forever. But, thank goodness we 
have the memories. 



WHEN "KID" GATTIS FOUGHT IN BUSHNELL 

Warren Wilson 

Vagrants found walking along the roads or hitching a 
ride into Bushnell on a haywagon were called "tramps," but 
those arriving illegally on a freight train, or found in the vicinity 
of either of the two railroad rights-of-way, were called "hobos." 
The large number of both in 1931 was due to the fact that we 
were well into the grit and gristle of the Great Depression. 
Hobos outnumbered tramps in Bushnell because it was bisected 



by two railroads: the Chicago, Burhngton, & Quincy (CB&Q), 
running north and south through the center of town; and the 
TP&W, which stood for Toledo, Peoria, & Western, passing 
through at right angles from east to west. So many good men 
were out of work that being a hobo was no longer a presumption 
of worthlessness, although various degrees of suspicion re- 
mained. My father, Samuel A. Wilson, then the local Justice of 
the Peace, was highly distrustful of them all. 

Because we lived on a dirt road in the southern edge of 
town — a road called Front Street, which ran near and parallel 
to the CB&Q railroad — we had more than our share of visiting 
hobos asking for food. They were seldom successful at our house 
since we had few leftovers, and those were fed to the two or three 
dogs we had around the place. The dogs' only other food source 
were the rabbits, squirrels, or rodents they could catch during 
their forays along the creeks and gullies outside of town. Trying 
to buy food prepared for dogs in a grocery store would have been 
as strange as trying to buy a saddle in a jewelry store. As a few 
hobos discovered, however, there were exceptions. If my mother 
had made Hungarian goulash, or her own style of pork and 
beans (she always made enough for 3 or 4 days), and the hobo 
didn't look too dirty, and the wood stove fire was already going, 
and we could be pretty sure my father would not show up 
unexpectedly, she would most likely tell the man that, if he 
would wait on the rear porch steps for a few minutes, he could 
have a bowl full and some bread. The man of course always 
waited, but none were invited into the house. 

One of the things that my younger brother, Maurice 
(who was seven), and I never mentioned, even to our mother, 
was that we and the Ross brothers had discovered the hobo 
camp about a mile and a half south of town. The camp was only 
a clearing in the tall brush near the edge of the railroad right- 
of-way, out of sight from the trains. The story around town was 
that many of the hobos were dangerous — some with prison 
records. We talked to a number of them, but none seemed 



dangerous to us. A few that were very quiet would act mean and 
unfriendly when we tried to talk to them. In those cases, one of 
the other men would usually say something like, "Don't you 
fellers mind old Charlie (or whatever his name was ); he just got 
up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. Didn't ya', 
Charlie?" Most of them had great stories to tell about faraway 
places, but did not talk a great deal about their families. They 
hked especially to tell us about fun things when they were our 
age and times were better. 

Once in a while, if we hadn't been gone from home for too 
long, and had found a hobo showing signs of starvation, or 
perhaps one that we especially liked, we would try to get him to 
promise not to leave for a half hour or so. Then we would run 
home as fast as we could, pretending to be famished, fill our 
pockets with apples, bananas, sandwiches, cookies or whatever 
we could talk our mother out of, and run back to the hobo camp. 

One of our favorites was a man considerably different 
from the others, the only hobo who somehow didn't look the 
part, and who never seemed to be broke. Through the late 1920s 
and start of the 1930s he had been a prizefighter and his name 
was "Kid" Gattis. He was quiet but friendly. It seemed to me 
that he was quiet only until he was sure that you were actually 
interested in him and in what he had to say. Then he would talk 
for a long time about his fights, his travels, and his adventures. 
He stayed around the camp for three days — we preferred to 
think it was because he liked us as much as we liked him. He 
would not accept food or any kind of hand out, but gave us money 
to buy such things as soda, crackers, a ring of bologna, and 
cheese to bring back to the camp, which we did gladly. 

"Kid" Gattis was not only an unusual hobo, he was the 
only one we were to see again, a year later. As before, it was 
springtime and only a few days after the beginning of summer 
vacation — but he found us this time. He knew we lived some- 
place on Front Street, which was only four blocks long, so he 
strolled up and down until one of us came out. 



We had a great time getting reacquainted. He had 
fought in three matches while away — two in Chicago the sum- 
mer before, and one later in New Orleans. In his mid-thirties 
then, he told us that he had only won one of the three matches, 
and that his fighting days were now over. But we were to change 
his mind. 

A carnival had arrived in town three days earlier. The 
rides and shows had been set up on Kom's Lot, where they 
would be through tomorrow. Maurice and I had not been able 
to go, but the Ross brothers had been there and had told us how 
everybody disliked the men at the boxing concession. The 
hawker's job must have been to infiltrate the men in the 
audience so much that they would agree to fight the carnival's 
boxer. If the local challenger won, he would get to keep all of the 
gate receipts for that fight, but the local man never won. Dave 
said their boxer was a brute they called "Cyclone," and there 
was no referee for the fight. The fight was over when one or the 
other was unconscious, admitted defeat, or for any reason 
couldn't answer the bell. The rounds were three minutes each, 
but if Cyclone hadn't been defeated in three rounds, the fight 
was over and they kept the receipts. Most of the fights didn't go 
three rounds, Dave said, because Cyclone cheated. While in a 
clinch, he would butt the challenger in the face with his head so 
that our man was often blinded by his own blood. Or he would 
knee our man in the groin and then pound him senseless while 
he was bent over in agony. 

In spite of our pleading, "Kid" Gattis would not agree to 
challenge Cyclone. He said that the carnival's man was obvi- 
ously a brawling street fighter, and that he probably wouldn't 
do any better than the others. We didn't believe that and finally 
got him to agree to go with us after our supper, just to "look the 
carnival over." As agreed, he met us at the corner near the tiny 
store run by Mr. Fugate's widow, and from there all five of us 
walked the four or five blocks to Korn's Lot and the carnival. 



By 7:00 p.m. the carnival was fairly crowded and most of 
the men and boys were at the tent that housed the boxing ring. 
The hawker was up on the narrow platform out front. He was 
saying that there were rumors in Macomb, Galesburg, and 
other parts of the state that Bushnell was full of blowhards, 
with the backbones of mice. "Your town is full of gutless 
wonders," he yelled at the crowd. Then the hawker spotted us 
and immediately went to work on our hobo friend ( looknig neat, 
and not at all like a hobo), asking him if he wanted his young 
buddies to find out what a coward he really was. After a little 
more of that kind of talk, "Kid" Gattis motioned us to the edge 
of the crowd for a huddle so that he could talk to us. He said that 
he should have more sense, but that he had decided to fight the 
Cyclone after all. 

When our excitement finally subsided a little, the barker 
was saying, "Okay, Mr. Ross, your cousins will be admitted 
without charge and we agree to announce the gate before the 
first round." 

I'm going to omit my recollection of the details because 
it was indeed a brutal fight — which the "Kid" (alias John Ross) 
won in the 3rd round. There were no more fights during the 
carnival's remaining stay. The Cyclone was literally out-of- 
commission. 

The tent had been packed with townspeople and nearby 
farmers, who almost demolished the place in their wild joy at 
having been avenged. Many crowded around "Mr. Ross" after 
the fight to pound him on the back and urge Dave and Don to 
bring him by their shops, or their houses, during his visit. As 
we left Korn's Lot, the four of us kids were so proud we each 
could have exploded into a million pieces with no regrets. Our 
gallant friend also insisted on sharing the gate receipts before 
he left for camp. 

With all the excitement, my brother and I got very little 
sleep that night and, first thing the next morning, we ran to the 
hobo camp — without waiting for Dave or Don. But the only hobo 



there, warming coffee over a Stemo can, said that Gattis had 
caught the "Twelve-ten" north last night, and that he was 
"probably halfway to Chicago by now." 

We never saw him again, although we kept hoping that 
he would reappear throughout the Depression years. We made 
friends ( secretly ) with other hobos during those years, but now, 
after sixty more summers have gone by, none stand out in our 
memory as clearly as our friend, and our hero, the great "Kid" 
Gattis. 



HOWARD AND ME AND THE MODEL T 

Russell Stump 

In 1933, I was a sophomore at Plymouth High School, 
fifteen years old, and had a part-time job at Ralph Armstrong's 
Shell Filling Station. Putting in gasoline and checking oil gave 
me a chance to look under the hoods of many different models 
and makes of cars at a time when improvements were coming 
thick and fast. Up until this time, heaters and radios were extra 
equipment that didn't work very well, and every car came 
equipped with a crank for starting when the battery was low, 
which was most of the time. 

Ralph's mechanic, "Happy" Williams, let me help him 
take engines apart, and do other maintenance work on the cars 
that were brought there for repair. I was fascinated with 
engines, and I wanted a car so badly that I decided to put one 
together myself 

A close friend, Howard Rigsbee, equally eager, agreed to 
help me, and the search began. The frame was found in one 
place, the rear axle assembly in another, and the front axle with 
wheels from yet another abandoned or wrecked Model T Ford. 
These T-Models had been in production from 1914 till 1927 with 



very little change in design, and the derelicts were rusting in 
fence corners and bams all across the fruited plain. 

We got a complete engine, which included the transmis- 
sion, from an old ice truck, and a radiator, too. With a gas tank 
bolted to the frame, a seat cushion wired to the frame, and the 
engine bolted in place, our creation was beginning to show a 
little promise. We were putting it together in my father's barn, 
across the alley from the filling station. All gasoline stations 
were called filling stations at this time. And self service was 
unthinkable. The gasoline pump had a see-through glass 
container at the top that held ten gallons of gas. There were 
graduated marks to indicate how many gallons drained into the 
car. Then you pumped it back up to the full ten gallons by a hand 
pump. 

We took hacksaws and cold chisels to cut the front part 
of a touring car body so we could mount the steering column 
down low to give the car a racy look. There was no battery as the 
engine had its own built-in magneto. Neither did we put on 
fenders or running boards, hardly any floorboards, and no doors 
on this collection of salvaged parts that we called our Whoopie 
Car. It took awhile to get four tires and inner tubes, but all this 
assembling was done in high spirits and with higher expecta- 
tions. One of the greatest thrills was when we started the 
engine for the first time. It was very temperamental, and took 
many adjustments of the carburetor, the timer, the choke, and 
the throttle, but we did not despair. "Happy" Williams had told 
us we would never learn anything until we had trouble. We 
learned plenty. It had no muffler, and blue flame came out of the 
short exhaust pipe. It was loud and beautiful. 

Howard and I were very happy with our Whoopie Car, 
and drove it with reckless abandon on back roads without a 
license to fishing holes, swimming holes, and watermelon 
patches. No girls, though — I guess they knew the danger. 

When we got our car fine-tuned, we couldjust give a little 
push in gear and it would start right away. We had lots of fun, 



but never had an accident in spite of the crazy things we did, like 
hit the brake ( rear wheels only) and spin around, or go fast over 
a hill to get airborne. 

There was one trip to the Rigsbee farm that put an end 
to this foolishness. Howard's father, Everett Rigsbee, mistak- 
enly agreed to let us take him to the farm, for want of any other 
means at the time. It could have been fatal. I drove going out; 
it was about ten miles. On the way I could hear the differential 
gears jumping a cog now and then, but it didn't seem serious. 

Coming back, Howard was driving. Everett sat beside 
him on the bench seat, while I was perched on the bare frame 
behind them, holding onto the gas tank. 

We were whistling right along, and skidding a little on 
the comers, which were square on those narrow country roads. 
As we approached Snake Branch Hill, a near perpendicular 
stretch of country lane, Howard did a broadslide into the first 
turn of an S-curve at the top of the hill. He came down hard on 
the brake pedal, and the teeth began stripping off the ring gear 
like a row of falling dominoes. The brakes on a Model T are on 
the transmission, not the wheels. When the rear end goes, there 
go the brakes, too. We had been cut loose. 

As we slung into the second turn, I was getting worried. 
Everett had one leg out already as he clutched the cowl with one 
hand and his hat with the other. As we topped the crest, that 
one lane plank bridge at the bottom of the hill looked to be about 
two inches wide. Everett yelled, "jump boys, jump, jump!" I 
bailed off the back end and tumbled like a rag doll in the rocks 
and weeds of the roadside. It is a wonder that I did not break 
every bone in my body. Howard sat, frozen to the steering wheel 
like a dive bomber pilot on a suicide mission. He had his cap on 
backwards, squinting in the wind. They disappeared over the 
crest in a cloud of dust. Moments later I heard the clatter- 
clatter, and knew they had crossed the bridge — or fallen through 
it. 



Painfully I got to my feet and limped down the hill. They 
were way out in the bottom, but I heard Howard's father say, 
"When I say jump, I mean right now." Howard replied, "Bu, Bu, 
Bu, But Dad, I was waitin' for you." 

That episode ended our fun with the Whoopie Car — but 
only for a httle while. We bought Mr. Nussman's 1914 Model T 
touring car that had a classic brass radiator. It cost us $15.00. 
(In that condition now it would be worth thousands.) We 
stripped it down to look like a Whoopie Car, and we were on the 
road again. 



WORLD WAR II: THE HOME FRONT 

Betty L. Hardwick 

World War II really began for our family the warm day 
in 1941 when my brother walked away down our country lane 
to go into the army. None of us realized then just how close war 
was hovering. 

I was fourteen and a freshman in a small-town high 
school. We lived in the country and had no radio, and on that 
weekend, no visitors. The first I knew of the attack on Pearl 
Harbor was on Monday morning at school when the principal's 
newspaper headhne blackly stated, "WAR DECLARED." My 
first thought was of my brother, who had finished his basic 
training by then. 

Fast on the heels of that drastic news came the changes. 
There were hard, heart-wrenching but exciting occasions when 
our "boys" left for service, and our whole school would go down 
to the depot to meet the troop train as it came through, to say 
our good-byes. The high school boys looked solemn, probably 
thinking of how soon they too would be riding a troop train, and 



190 



the girls tearfully tried to keep smiling at those going away to 
service. 

Rationing became a way of life. It seemed as if every- 
thing from shoes, to food, to sugar, to some types of clothing was 
rationed or hard to get. But the rationing of food did not bother 
us much as we raised our own. Except for sugar and coffee, that 
is. We never had enough sugar. My folks used to trade meat 
stamps for sugar stamps. 

Rationing of gasoline and tires created a real problem for 
some. We young ones walked back and forth to school or to 
church. I often rode or drove a horse. The weather had to be 
really bad for me to be taken to school in the car. In the winter 
when the walk into town was too harsh, I worked for my board 
in town so that I could continue my education. 

During my senior year of high school, I went to school at 
the county seat — approximately fifteen miles away — and, for a 
time, boarded in the country with friends. We always had to 
start early for school as my friends' old car had tread-bare tires. 
It was a rare day that we didn't have at least one "flat," and 
sometimes we had more. 

I recall the inanity of myself and my friend scrambling 
around in the rain changing a tire while her older sister tried to 
hold an umbrella over us both. I also learned firsthand about 
the rationing business that year as I took my turn working in 
the Ration Office at the county seat. 

Rain! Rain! Lordy, how it did rain during those years. 
It was as if the big guns blasted the heavens apart and they 
couldn't stop crying. Rivers and creeks were bank full and 
overflowing. Soldiers were sent into the area to sandbag levees 
and help those fleeing the lowlands. Getting the crops in 
became an ordeal, and once they were finally in and up, 
cultivating them was another ordeal as the wet ground couldn't 
be worked. 

Manpower was "scarce as hen's teeth." Nearly all the 
young men (and many not-so-young) were in service or war 



work. Women took their places everywhere — in factories, on 
machines, in the hospitals, behind desks (both military and 
civilian), in stores, in airplanes, and on the farms. I and many 
other farm girls and wives worked beside our fathers or hus- 
bands. We put in the crops, pitched hay, shocked wheat, took 
care of animals, helped with the milking, etc. Personally, the 
chore I hated was milking, and probably the cow hated to see me 
coming at her with a milk pail. 

The days were long and often the work was monotonous. 
One day, as I drove a three-horse team to a harrow, I dozed off. 
When I awoke, I was lying directly underneath their heels. 
Well-trained and gentle as they were, they had just stopped the 
instant I fell. After that, I made an effort to stay awake. 

Our dimes and quarters went mostly for victory stamps. 
The filled booklets were then traded in for bonds. We joined in 
"Scrap Drives." No pile of old iron was left unmolested. Uncle 
Sam needed it all. Posters were everywhere warning us that 
"Loose talk sinks ships." Enemy ears could be anywhere — even 
in our little country town. 

Our family acquired a radio soon after the war began. I 
well remember the deep voice of Gabriel Heater, the news- 
caster, as he would begin his nightly news account. "Ah, yes," 
he'd intone, "there is grim (or good) news tonight." My brother 
had been sent overseas among the first troops. We, like every 
other serviceman's family, lived in dread of a telegram begin- 
ning with "The War Department regrets " When it did come, 

it said he was wounded — terrifying news, and there was no way 
to know how badly. Yet, it was better news than many others 
around us were receiving. 

Late in the war, my eldest brother had to leave his wife 
and brood of small children to report for duty with the Navy. We 
were a saddened family that went to meet him on his way to the 
Great Lakes Training Center. Fortunately, he was kept in the 
states in the postal department at Great Lakes. 



During those winters I spent in town, in the homes of 
servicemen's famihes, I saw a lot of what the war meant to them. 
It was a time of just waiting the war out. Women, alone with 
little ones, were valiantly trying to keep the home going and 
lived on hope and prayers. Mothers and fathers prayerfully 
worked and waited. Girls waited for the return of sweethearts. 
Loneliness became a way of life for many. They lived on hopes 
and letters from camps across the land and over the water, and 
they sent return letters with pictures showing how much j unior 
had grown and planning for "after the war." 

The war was especially tough on some couples. I remem- 
ber writing a letter to President Roosevelt for a friend who had 
a child destined to die, asking that her husband be kept 
stateside. She received a courteous reply, but her husband was 
soon sent overseas. I recall, too, how helpless I felt as I held a 
friend who cried bitterly when her fiance was killed. 

The war overshadowed everything. Not even going to 
the movies did a great deal to take one's mind off it. There was 
always a newscast of battles that preceded the movie and 
cartoons. We cringed in our seats as the screen lit up with the 
exploding bombs, ships, or planes. Those newscasts really 
brought the war home. 

One of the saddest and hardest parts of those years at 
our house really wasn't much related to the war. It was during 
those years that Mom, so lively and once involved in everything 
going on in the neighborhood, began to slip deeper and deeper 
into the shadowy maze of Alzheimer's Disease. At that time, no 
one called it that. We only knew that the doctors said there was 
no way to help her. Fifty plus years later, I can still picture her 
on a cold winter's night, sitting beside the heating stove con- 
versing with the darkened window, convinced that she was 
visiting with her soldier son. 

Still, there were some good times, in spite of it all. When 
the boys came home on furloughs or weekend passes, we 
laughed and pretended it was all going to be over soon. These 



were the high spots for families and friends, as well as for the 
servicemen. There were times when we'd dance in the old KC 
Hall until the walls shook, and we would temporarily forget our 
anxiety. 

There were also times when we bowed our heads in 
church to say, "Thank you. Lord" that the battles weren't in our 
land, and other times when just being united in a common cause 
with other Americans gave us a warm feeling of a struggle made 
worthwhile. 

It was a tough time to come of age. 




(List of cAuthors 



LIST OF AUTHORS 

Tales from Two Rivers VI is comprised of manuscripts selected from Tales from Two Rivers writing contests XI, XII, XIII, and 
XrV. The following is a listing of all authors who submitted stories to these writing contests. Their manuscripts are part of 
the Tales from Two Rivers collection at Archives and Special Collections, Western Illinois University Library. 



Adams 

Bloom, Kathryn M. 

Cox, Georgia A. 

Dodson, Madge Bates 

Ehrhardt, Florence 

Geraci, Nicasio "Cass" 

Hulsen, Bob 

Luckett, Josephine J. 

Lyter, Carol A. 

Morrison, Fritzi Morhenstecher 

Pobanz, Rev. Phil R. 

Politsch, Leroy J. 

Rice, Vera L. 

Rittler, Bessie 

Schaberg, Betty A. 

Seger, Mildred Davis 

Shelton, Helen Shepherd 

Sparks, Ruby 

Tenhouse, Bonnie Sue 

Turner, Helen B. 

Ufkes, Albertus F. 

Waite, Truman W. 

Ward, Harvey E. 

Zimmerman, Robert 

Boone 

Kelly, Ame 

Brown 

Geisler, Milly 



Keyes, Velma 
Miller, Billie 
Roe, Nellie F. 
Wronski, Edward A. 

Bureau 

Dunn, James J. 
Ickes, Helen Arnold 

Calhoun 

Anderson, Elizabeth Bloomer 
Siemer, Anthony L. 

Cass 

Kirchner, Janette 
Miller, Hazel 
Pate, Vivian May 
Peck, Marie C. 
Thompson, Dorothy G. 

Champaign 

Clark, Marlys R. 
Ijams, Ethel W. 

Christian 

Durbin, Mary Anne 
Ferchow, Ruth 
Trapp, Alice Rountree 



Clinton 

Goodwin, Catherine 
Fitzpatrick, Peggy 

Coles 

Otto, Don H. 

Cook 

Bridges, Mary 
Coyle, John J. 
Holmberg, C. L. 
Howard, Jeanette 
lorio. Jack 
Jurkovich, Sister M. 
Koeroesi, Dorothy Suzanne 
Lopienski, Olga 
Loss, Martha B. 
Nugent, Ed 
Olsen, Lil 
Simpson, Vera B. 
Sorokin, Florence 

Crawford 

Watt, Arlene 

Cumberland 

Rollings, Frieda Schoby 

DeKalb 

Elven, Martha 



196 



Hatcher, Betty L. (Grimes) 
Hawbaker, Arthur 
Johnson, WiUiam R. 
Mankus, Antoinette 
Prall, Elizabeth 
Prall, Ivan E. 
Snyder, Vera M. 
Wetzel, Martha E. 
Wiltberger, Grace E. 
Woodstrups, Thomas E. 
Wright, Vivian I. 

DuPage 

Fink, Alfred 
Kett, Edward T. 
Lorimer, Signa 
Forth, Surella 
Simonson, Alice M. 
Zinn, Wilbur Odbert 

Edgar 

Artman, Margaret E. (Lamb) 
Strow, Rosemary 

Edwards 

Server, Lela Jaggers 

Effingham 

Shadwell, Nelle 

Fayette 

Johnson, Helen E. 

Ford 

Sauer, Wilber 



Fulton 

Bultemeier, Ruth 
Conrad, Betty J. 
Davis, F. Eugene 
Efnor, Louise E. 
Hickerson, Margaret 
Hickerson, Maurice J. 
Kost, Betty Flynn 
Lafferty, Mahala Y. 
Lowary, Floyd M. 
McCarty, Donald 
Myers, Helen M. 
Neal, Neva 
Pickel, Gladys Gard 
Pyles, Phealty Edward 
Reffett, Annabelle 
Sallee, Dorothy Logan 
Thomson, Esmarelda Tatham 
Thomson, William E. 
Webb, Floyd L. 
Welch, M.D., James K. 
Workman, Garnet 
Wright, Mary Ruth 

Greene 

Anderson, Helen Hoehn 
Chapman, Floy K. 
Costello, Lou 
Cunningham, A. Eileen 
Dawdy, Lucille 
Ford, Helen (Clanton) 
Hanback, Louise 
Hardwick, Betty L. 
Stout, Viola 



Grundy 

Hertenstein, Les 
Lyons, Raymond E. 

Hancock 

Boston, Lydia Jo 
Cowdery, Olaf 
Curtis, Loren S. 
Howard, Dorothy Stoneking 
Kerberick, Dorothy Boyer 
McClintock, Elden L. 
Ourth, Florence 
Scheuermann, Mattie F. 
Snyder, Lillian M. 
Terry, Lyle G. 
Van Horn, Ruth C. 

Henderson 

Grafton, Nellie 
Perry, Faye Christian 

Henry 

Bevington, Shirley 
Brown, Norma P. 
DeDecker, Margaret M. 
Gillespie, Pearl A. 
Magerkurth, Charlotte 
Nash, Marilyn Hade 
Nelson, Dorothy M. 
Palm, Donna J. 
Rasmussen, Marvis 
Richards, Sr., Robert C. 

Jackson 

Guida, Mary L. 



Kupel, Claudia 
Russell, Margaret C. 

Jersey 

Berry, Bonnie Lee 
Bohannon, Audrey 
Cravens, Katherine N. 
Dintelmann, Marjorie R. 
Dunsing, Ida P. 
Fester, Maurita 
Freesmeyer, Marie 
Wagenblast, Mildred 
Wieland, Martha Jean 

Kane 

Grove, Shirley 
Houghton, Lois 
Johnsen, Ruth 
Rausch, Rosemary 
Robinson, Marilyn 
Schuett, Eleanor 
Springbom, W. T. 
Thomas, Mary Ahrens 
Turner, Mary E. 

Kankakee 

Carpenter, Fran 

KendaU 

Christian, Arvis 

Knox 

Beaty, Eileen 
Bouseman, Maurice 
Colbert, Virginia M. 



Hawkinson, Maxine 
Lewis, Shirley Mooney 
Lopeman, Mary Inez Beamer 
Lowman, Mary Cullen 
Mangieri, Guisseppi 
Noecker, Duane 
Reagor, Rena M. 
Schisler, Doris 
Simms, Louise Parker 
Taylor, Lolabel Walden 
Verene, Eleanor Grant 

Lake 

Dahlmann, Eleanora 
Hain, Thea 
Kopochis, Martha A. 
Lincoln, Marjorie H. 
Prokaski, Jarmila 
Sharvy, Ruth B. 

LaSalle 

Berry, Dorothy Benedict 
Brown, Eleanor Jontry 
Bums, Robert Taylor 
Johnson, Goldie Taylor 
Thompson, Marguerite 

Lawrence 

Shoultz, Doris T. 

Lee 

Lutz, Delbert 
Peterson, Lillian Schick 
Weitzel, Wilbert 



Livingston 

Kennedy, Ann 
Martens, Louis C. 
Mossberger, M. J. 
Stoutmeyer, Louise Plaster 

Logan 

Bryson, WilhamE. (Bill) 
Gardner, Wanda Kirby 
Kopatz, Betty Lou Aderman 
Larson, Marjorie E. Griffith 
Lynch, Eugenia 

Macon 

Buckmaster, Elsie E. 
Rainey, Mary 

Macoupin 

Ballinger, Lucille 
Loveless, Marie McWilliams 
Lynn, Gertrude K. 
Nimmons, Maxine I. 
Schmidt, Helen T. 
Scott, Laura J. 
Steinmeyer, Nancy S. 

Madison 

Allen, Mary J. Pearson 
Best, Eleanor 
Blackledge, Ethel H. 
Bonnell, Dorothy J. 
Bramstedt, Christine 
Chappell, Loraine 
Falkenheim, Nellie Bushong 
Henson, Mary E. 



Iberg, Grace C. 
Luber, Herbert A. 
McCalla, Alice 
Murrie, Natalie 
Patchet, Frances E. 
Schiber, Anne (Granny) 
Weaver, Dolores M. 
Wenzel, Anita C. 

Marion 

Holsapple, Phyllis 
Oliver, Frances 

Marshall 

Bussell, Eleanor H. 
Kuhn, Grayce E. 

Mason 

Dierker, Elizabeth 
Garlisch Joann (Whiteley) 
Powers, HoUis Sheldon 
Riggins, Franklin M. 

Massac 

Green, Beulah Pearl 

McDonough 

Abbot, Betty 
Bartlett, Jesse D. 
Beck, Vivian 
Bricker, Harriet 
Campbell, Effie L. 
Cordell, Harriet (Wetzel) 
Foster, Pearl Jackson 
Frankenberger, R. L. 



Graham, Burdette 
Graham, Martha K. 
Hammond, Ruth Reynolds 
Little, Robert 
Morley, Juanita Jordan 
Purdy, Darlene 
Robeson, Glen M. 
Rogers, Ruth 
Sharp, Richard 
Stevens, Mary Cecile 
Thompson, Billie 
Toland, Rosann Smith 
Vaughn, Jessie "McNeeley" 
Viar, Betty B. 
Waller, Ray J. 
Willey, Esther Fowler 
Wisslead, Marjorie 

McHenry 

Wittrock, Edwin C. 

McLean 

Baltz, Wilson M. 
Hancock, Fern 
Morris, Bettina M. 
Yoder, Marguerite 

Menard 

Albritton, Jack 
Grosboll, Clara Jean 
Sullivan, William H. 

Mercer 

Lipton, Fred 
Nelson, Marilyn S. 



Simpson, Louis 

Monroe 

Brown, Ura Eisenbart 
Hartman, Albert E. 
Hartman, Emil C. 
Hesterberg, Florence 
Spytek, Sue 

Montgomery 

Miller, Chester 
Moore, Loma G. 

Morgan 

Defrates, William L. 
Fenton, Phyllis T. 
Hardy, Elizabeth 
Koehler, Olive Orris 
Pacatte, Sr., Marcel E. 
Sievers, Emily McCuUough 
Stephenson, Kathryn 
Tholen, Bea 

Ogle 

Buskohl, Esther E. 
Jacobs, Leonard J. 
Knol, Kathryn P. 
Millhouse, Ann 

Peoria 

Adams, Mary Lou 
Altum, Norma 
Athen, Joan F. 
Beall, Marjorie J. 
Berman, Jeanne 



199 



Bliss, Helen C. 
Chaffee, George 
Conlan, Mary Jane 
Dahlheim, EfTie D. 
Doubet, Betty 
Feuchter, Harriet Lucy 
Fruehauf, Jean Maticka 
Hannah, Margaret 
Hutt, June Thomason 
Kamalick, Joe 
Keyster, Erwin 
Kohrs, Walter E. 
Lamb, Glenna Howard 
Malmgren, Darline 
McMenamin, Hugh 
Meister, Lucy 
Meyer, Elaine 
Pope, June K. 
Russell, Bessie M. 
Simmons, Mary Jane 
Smith, Marjorie M. 
Sperling, Edwardine 
Van Dyke, Farol M. 
Wahl, Jean Anne 
White, John G. 

Piatt 

Meyer, Ethel R. 
Pierson, Myrtle 
Walker, Guyneth 
Weber, Suzanne 
Wood, Barbara W. 

Pike 

Bartelt, Ellen M. 



Brim, Genevieve Dorsey 
Brooks, Mildred 
Brown, Ruby 
Ervin, Viola 
Grimes, Velva A. 
Howdeshell, Gene 

Pope 

Watson, Eva Baker 

Randolph 

Rittenhouse, Ethel Anna Kessel 

Rock Island 

Chatterton, June Speer 
Chatterton, Keith 
Cleek, Erma Martin 
Lashbrook, Blondelle 
Minteer, Ruth 
Nash, Dorris Taylor 
Pierce, Anne C. 
Rowe, Eleanor R. 
Witter, Evelyn 

St. Clair 

Bauer, Doris M. 
Brooks, Marie Ostrander 
Gedda, Marilyn Horner 
Hall, Clarence Gore 
Holcomb, Cyrus 
Oliver, Charles C. 
Rhodes, Virginia Roy 
Schmidt, Elsa E. 
Sturman, Lavem 
Welch, Grace R. 



Sangamon 

Alexander, Mavis M. 
Bennett, Virginia Haenig 
Boesdorfer, Doris 
Chopp, Sr. M. Thaddine 
Frantzreb, Marjorie H. 
Kelly, Marti Oughton 
Kish, Ruby Davenport 
Kotner, Vivian Barton 
Lane, Mary 
Mann, Bert 
Mclntyre, Max N. 
Midden, Dr. Mary L. W. 
Newcome, Violet P. 
Rilling, Helen E. 
Ross, Dorothy Marcussen 
Rowe, Max L. 
Rowe, Maxine M. 
Spring, Clariece 
Stanfield, Wilmogene 
Stickney, Virginia T. 
Taft, Jean "Jack" 
Urban, Bill 

Schuyler 

Baker, Larry D. 
Bartlett, Jess D. 
Bartlow, William P. 
Turner, Nell Marie Dace 
Vaughn, Esther 

Scott 

Howard, Evelyn 
Hutchings, Stella Howard 
Lovekamp, Bernice 



Shelby 

Harless, Helen C. 

Tazewell 

Armstrong, Lois I. 
Ballard, Shirley G. 
Eaton, Ralph 
Keely, Jean 
Kumpf, Gertrude E. 
Livingston, Grace Bishop 
Makurat, Bemice F. 
Norton, St., Ralph C. 
Richmond, Ruey 
Roberts, Jan 
Rockhill, D. R. 
Schott, Deloria 
Smith, Laston L. 
Stormer, Mary C. 
Stump, Russell L. 

Union 

Cowan, James E. 

Vermilion 

Anders, Dorothy 
Blakey, Opal E. Burge 
Bollar, L. Jean 
Dequimpaul, Mary 
Freymiller, Ed 
Gerrib, Catherine Lynch 
Knight, Irene E. 
Lynch, Jessie Beaver 
Messner, Mary Gamett 
Morrow, Edna R. 
Sheppard, Edna Ruth 



Underwood, Edna 
Vandenberg, Phyllis Bray 

Warren 

Fitch, Mary L. 
Hutchins, Avis Lawhom 
Keller, Nanthea Wallace 
Ray, Dorothy E. 
Speer, Dick 

Whiteside 

Beckstrom, Frances C. 
Cichoke, Anthony J. 

Will 

Bazzarone, Lillian 

Blessent, Dolores 

Bourrie, Catherine Shuster 

Buffo, Ellen 

Fletcher, Dorothy Nolden 

Hameister, Zephyrine Werner 

Lind, Irene M. 

Matheis, Elsie 

Mavrich, Dorothy 

McDonald, Cecilia 

McKee, Grace 

McNabb, Jessie E. 

Wagner, Louise 

Williamson 

Bouman, Geraldine 

Winnebago 

Lorimer, Signa 



Woodford 

Sellman, Zelda Hedden 

Out of State 

Ames, Lois L. (New Mexico) 
Becker, Carl F. (California) 
Brasel, Kenneth R. (Arizona) 
Brownlee, Robert L. (Florida) 
Danielson, Ernest E. (Iowa) 
Hilton, Geraldine (Florida) 
Jackson, James B. (Florida) 
Miller, N. Suzanne (Iowa) 
Nau, Jennie B. (Colorado) 
Taylor, Ruth Gash (Iowa) 
Wilson, Warren W. (California) 



;i L^'>^5g^<s^ [g:^5^1 t^^agSSL<aqt^^fe^<^ 



"The long walk to the infirmary seemed endless, but finally I 
reached the smalt bed at the end of the room. There lay Sister 
Teresa. Her eyes were still big and blue, but her frail body was 
wasted away with cancer. As she held my hand and smiled, I 
remembered the happy days gone by. We talked about the things we 
had done as novices. Even though I could see she was getting tired, 
she never said so, or gave a thought to herself; she just wanted to 
please me. Then I realized that this beautiful person was everything 
I had always wanted to be. " 

More Than a Friend 
Shirley Ballard 

"I remember on this spot there stood 
The largest tree in the neighborhood. 
Nearby, there was a small clear brook 
Where I'd pretend to bait my hook. " 

Memories of My Home Town 
Marie Ostrander Brooks 

"While I tried to keep the baby warm and clean, Lyle went job 
hunting. After a really heartbreaking winter, we moved to another 
farm several miles away. The house there was filthy and rat 
infested. Getting it livable and rid of the rats took too much out of 
me. I had to put the baby on the bottle. The working conditions were 
more than my weakened husband could handle, too. Two months 
of it were all we could take. " 

Married Life at the End of the Depression 
Myrtle Pierson 

"My father was a product of the social-economic conditions of 
the country at that time. He was, in some ways, a heroic casualty 
ofWorldWarl. There had been this war toendall wars, prohibition, 
the stock market crash, and the Great Depression. While some were 
jumping out of windows, not able to face adversity, my father dug 
in his heels and went to work. His edges were a tittle rough, but, like 
a diamond, there was a great deal of strength and beauty beneath 
thoseedges. He and his kind were the solid foundation upon which 
this country continued to thrive. I can only be proud of him and 
pleased that I have some of his strengths and many values. " 

The Man Who Had No Values 
Shirley Lewis 



"In the early 1900s, before most of the inhabitants ofRoseville 
were able to enjoy the wonders of Thomas A. Edison's electric 
lighting in their own homes, the faqade of Roseville's Isis Theatre 
glittered with a brilliance that attracted crowds of people like honey 
attracts flies. Other than the public library, which was always there 
for those who found books to be en tertaining, the Isis Theatre was the 
only regularly open, organized, for-everyone-source-of entertainment 
in Roseville. It vied for attention with the churches . . . Baptist, 
Christian, Congregational, and Methodist Episcopal. Probably 



most Roseville people spent m 
uncomfortable theatre seats tha 
pews in the churches." 



time per week sitting in the 
1 the even more uncomfortable 



The Isis Theatre in Roseville 
Martha K. Graham 



"She walked down the mam street of the little midwestern town 
with a masculine stride, the shabby violin case swinging rhythmically 
from her strong arm. Her clothes were plain and outmoded, but the 
violin case looked like a badge of courage with which to face the 
world. " 

My Poor Violin Teacher 
Signa Larimer 

"The decade of the 1930s was not the most ideal time to be 
pursuing ambitious dreams. Without interruption, the Great 
Depression not only kept a firm grip over our land like a disease, but 
spread its unpleasant influence far and wide. Money, in many 
cases, was almost nonexistent. Still, those dismal years may have 
been the best of times to take stock of our lives and prepare ourselves 
for the future, which was. at best, almost totally obscured in 
economic darkness. With little profitable work and plenty of time on 
our hands, staying in school was, without a doubt, one of the best 
decisions a member of our generation could have made. " 

My High School Years 
Katherine (Nola Thornton) Cravens 

"Years ago when I was growing up, neighbors were not just 
acquaintances who lived down the road, but dear friends who 
sharedgoodand bad times with each other. They were characterized 
by always lending a helping hand when it was needed." 

Farm Neighbors 
Florence Hesterberg