My Mother's Stories

Before my mother passed away, she wrote down many of the stories from her childhood. I post them here, out loud on the internet, because I found an entry in a SARK workbook where my mother specifically states that she wished to share her stories and her artwork.
Out of respect for my late mother, then, please enjoy. Please note these are my mother's words, from her own perspective, addressed to my sister and me. Any intrusions I make are in italics.

My mom's cryptic saying about clothes on a clearance rack, "There's a reason they're on the clearance rack"--meaning that the color is not flattering, it hangs funny when on, the material is too cheap or poorly sewn-that's why no one else is buying it.

My dad's saying when problems popped up, "You know it would have to be like that or else life would be too darn easy."

My Dad's saying (when a problem was almost resolved), "After that, easy Aces." If life was a card game it was looking good--easy aces from now on.

My Mom's Dad worked for the St. Louis county water department digging ditches. He was an alcoholic and would not drink during the work week, but would start drinking on Friday night until he passed out sometime Sat. You don't have to drink every day to be an alcoholic.

Grandpa Neely used his pay mostly for beer and gave Grandma Neely only a tiny amount for the family's food.

My mom said sometimes all they had to take to school for lunch was lard (animal fat shortening) sandwiches.

My mom said as a kid they would chew fresh bubbles of tar (when it had cooled down) when men were tarring roofs because they had no bubblegum and wanted to have something to chew like the rest of tthe kids. They all lived into their 80's so apparently it didn't hurt them.

My mom said they used to go in the trash at a potato chip factory and get the potato chips that had fallen on the floor and been swept up into bags. They thought that was a real treat.

My mom was the oldest of 6 children. Next was Wilma, Thelma & Jimmy (twins), Bill and Betty. My Mom was the fondest of Betty. Betty had the gift(?) of seeing the future but she would not reveal it if it was something bad. Jimmy died as a child.

My aunts on my Mom's side thought I was doomed to be an old maid because I was not engaged in my senior year of high school. I was engaged when I was 18, but I had missed the mark because I was out of high school.

I was the first person in my family to go to college and the first one to graduate from college. I was the first to be a nurse.

Your Dad was the first person to go to college in his nuclear family. Your Dad's Aunt and Uncle had gone to night school and graduated from college. Aunt Skeet was a gym teacher and Uncle Barry was a mechanical engineer.

Your dad started out studying to be a mechanical engineer but switched to electrical engineering his 2nd year of college because he like the courses better.

I stayed out of college for a year after high school and worked so I could have enough money to go to college for a year. And yes, Annie, I paid roo and board to my parents as was the rule in our house.

Your dad's parents (Grandma and Grandpa Roush) paid his college bills and gave him $5.00/week spending money --not much, even then. He began working for General Motors while a student (work 1 semester, go to school one semester) so we could get married. Once we were married he paid his own tuition. Grandma Roush was 17 when she ran off with Grandpa Roush to get married in Georgia. She stayed in a hotel where hookers hung out but she was so naive that she didn't know what was going on. They protected her from their "Johns". It took Grandpa 3 days to get a pass so they could get married and Grandma was beside herself because she thought her mother would think she was living in sin.

(My Grandma Roush used to hit people in the shins with a 4-pronged cane ON PURPOSE, so you can imagine how funny it is to think of her scared of anything!)
Grandma Roush bought herself a 2-piece bathing suit (not a bikini) but it was risque at the time. Grandpa took a picture of her and they sent it to her Mom.

My Mom dropped out of school, also, when she was 16 to work to help out her mother. She said she didn't mind--the school had 2 kinds of kids--wealthy and poor and she couldn't afford good clothes or material.

My Mom sewed all her life--even as a child. She made her dolls' clothes from her Mom's scrap material. Grandma Neely always sewed. She used to make doll clothes for my dolls before she died from a heart attack do to severe diabetes.

Grandma Neely loved to read and so did my Dad. He was so proud of woning an encyclopedia (World Book) and he loved to put the stereo on and read the encyclopedia. Mom read to me every night as a child. She only liked to read short stories or articles for herself because she was always on the move. She and her sisters all had high metabolisms

All 4 grandparents of you girls were smart enough to have graduated from college, they just didn't try. Grandpa Roush was very dyslexic but once he got it, he had it.

Grandpa Neely, I'm sure, was also very dyslexic. He never learned to read or write. He could write his name only because of rote practice, not because he understood the letters or sounds.

Grandma Neely was put into an orphanage when she was a girl because her Dad died and her mother had a new baby. Her and her brother were sent to a Lutheran orphanage because their mother couldn't make enough to feed them. Later, Grandma Swanson married another man but he didn't want the 2 older children so she left them in the orphanage. Grandma Neely stayed there through 8th grade and then "graduated". 2 female teacher took her in and she stayed with them until she got older. That's where she learned about place settings and other "finer" things.

Grandpa Neely was an orphan, too. His Mom and Dad died and he went to live with his Uncle Jess. He loved Uncle Jess, and that is why my mom was named Jessie. He left at 14 because money was tight and he was essentially homeless--he worked hard ans slept wherever he could.

My mom's real name is spelled Jesse, but that is usually spelled like that for a boy's name. She always spelled her name Jessie--even on legal document! She said the midwife was ignorant and spelled it that way. Ha ha.

Grandma Roush, when she was a girl, put an exploding device in her father's cigar. It blew up and blew up the cigar and scared him SO bad but he wasn't hurt. SHe thought it was incredibly funny but he didn't see the humor in it.

Grandma Roush was afraid of chickens so her older sisters would put a chicken feather in front of the door of a room they didn't want her to go in.

Grandma Roush had an older brother who liked to camp and hunt. She liked to take his clock apart, but then didn't know how to put it back together. So she would just stuff all the pieces back in. From the outside the face plate looked fine. He would get it out on a camping trip to wind it and set it and it wouldn't work. He would get so mad. He would holler at her but she said she couldn't resist and did it over and over. She didn't do it to make him mad. She was just fascinated by the inside of clocks. Her brother's name was Willard. She said he was born in the wrong century. He would have mad a good frontiersman.

My mom and Dad lived in the same neighborhood as kids. He played with her cousins so they knew each other. She didn't think of him as boyfriend material until he came home from the Navy on leave and he was no longer a boy but a man.

My Dad joined the Navy after Pearl Harbor. He family basement had flooded and his Dad made him work all day hauling buckets of water outside. The next day my dad joined up, even though he was only 18. He said he missed his Mom every day but didn't miss his father even once.

Great Grandpa Skouby had a fast and fierce temper. If the boys (Herbert, Russell, and Dad) tried to reach across the table he would hit their finger so hard with the handle of his knife that their fingers would go numb. On Sundays, he would make them sit on the sofa without moving in case they had company. My Dad said they would excuse themselves to go to the outside to use the outhouse and bang their bodies on the outside walls of the outhouse to get some feeling back because they had to sit up straight, not fidget, couldn't read or talk or play with toys.

Great Grandpa Skouby always had a soft spot for me because their 2 girls had died. One died at 11, and the other as an infant. I was the only girl on my side of Dad's family. It was the only time I felt special. He would sit me on his knee and talk to me. I was always kind of scared of him because he was such a big man but he was always sweet to me. The older girl's name was Edith and the younger baby's name also started with an E so they were thrilled when my Mom named me Elaine, after a friend of hers.

My name was supposed to be Nancy but our neighbor gave birth to a girl 2 months before me and named her Nancy. My Mom stayed mad about that her whole life because she thought her neighbor "took" the name on purpose (Mom doubted that). That was one of the unwritten rules for my Mom. After someone announced what they would name their baby if it was a girl or boy, no one close could "take" those names.

Grandma Roush's name was Bernice but she hated it and would only answer to Bonnie.

Aunt Chris's name is Carol Christina. All family called her Chris but she went by Carol at school and work.

When cousin Tim went to kindergarten he thought his name was Timothy Termichael as that is the name Chris called him. He made friends with a little boy who, when he met Chris, called her Mrs. Termichael.

Also when tim was little and Grandpa was driving he didn't put the brakes on as fast as Tim would like. He said, "Stop, Grandpa," and when Granpa kept approaching the stop light he blurted out "Stop, damn it!" He was barely 5. Everybody in the car laughed and laughed.

Both Grandma Skouby and Grandma Roush got their GED's. Both Grandpas finished high school. Grandma Roush's sisters, Eda and Lil only went through 8th grade. Aunt Eda became a floor manager at a shoe manufacturing plant and Aunt Lil was a housekeeper at the hospital in town. Uncle Gib (Aunt Lil's Husband) had a college degree in agriculture but worked in the cheese factory. Uncle Paul (Eda's husband) was farmer. Non of them had children. Aunt Eda couldn't conceive. Grandma Roush said Aunt Lil got pregnant out of wedlock and had an abortion and it was botched and that's why she couldn't have children. I doubt this because Aunt Lil was very religious and could have just married Uncle Gib--in Missouri girls can get married at 14 as long as a parent signs for her. Also, this was when Grandma Roush's MS was bad and she had a hate on for everybody. She had never mentioned this before.

Grandma Roush had to have a female operation in her teens. I think it just ran in the family. Except for Grandma Roush's sister who had 5 kids. Her name is Bede (Bee dee).

It was funny in that family (Grandma Roush's family): The oldest sister Eda was very neat. Lil was not. Grandma Roush was very neat and Bede was not-ha ha.

Grandma Roush's Dad died of the mumps. It was said they "dropped", meaning he had extremely painful testicles. For some reason he never got mumps as a child and it killed him as an adult.

After Grandma Roush's Dad died, her mother ran a boarding house. Perryville, MO, had a town square and sometime in the 1960's they changed the traffic pattern in the square. Your great Grandma Mueller (pronounced Miller) kept driving the old way. The police kept giving her warnings because she was an old lady no tickets). She would tell them "Don't tell me what to do--I used to change your diapers!" Ha ha. She drove that way around the square until she had to stop driving.

Your great Grandma Mueller also hated a man in town and whenever she saw him out walking and she was driving she would leave the road and drive up on the sidewalk trying to run over him. She did hit him once but he only had a minor injury. No one knew but her why she wanted to kill him. He never pressed charges or asked the police to arrest her! (Of course, if he had, she'd just tell the police, "Don't tell me I can't run that old bat over! I used to change your diapers!")

Grandpa Roush's Mom (your great-grandma Roush) was a bat, too. "Bat" being Ernie's term for crazy people. They had bats in the belfry I.e., a bat. She ran a boarding house, too, for old men in Arizona. Tuscon, I think. She had gobs of rules and one was no TV or radio could play after 10pm. When your Grandma and Grandpa visited her, one poor man didn't turn off the quietly playing radio at 10pm exactly and she screamed very loudly "TURN OFF THAT RADIO, NOW, YOU'LL WAKE EVERYBODY UP!"

Your grandpa's father (Great Grandpa Roush) wanted to study engineering but his mother liked the smell fo barbershops and told him he would be a barber and so he became one. (Why did these men put up with these women?) He used to go to the jail (or prison) and cut the men's hair for free (probably the jail). While waiting for men to show up in his barbershop in town he used to weave pillows. He used to use yarn and ribbons. They were so pretty. He did a careful and neat job. I used to have one but maybe your dad has it now.

Your Great Grandpa Skouby worked on the railroad but I don't know what he did there. He used to sing this ditty:

I walked up to the brake man
To give him a line of talk
He said if you have money
I'll see that you don't walk.

I haven't got a nickel,
Not a penny to my name.
Get off! Get off, you railroad bum
And he slammed that box car door.

I realize the 2nd stanza doesn't rhyme, At the university of MO Rolla I found a book on folk songs in Missouri and it was in there word for word.

It seems like a depression era song-railroad bums and all. But maybe it was before that. I also realize now that boxcar should be one word: boxcar. My mind goes faster with the story than the other part of my mind does with spelling and punctuation.

Your great Grandma Skouby was engaged to another man whom she loved very much. He broke up with her and she married great Grandpa skouby on the rebound. I'm sure she regretted it but she never said a word against him.

When great Grandma Skouby had her 1st child, Herbert, he weighed 12 lbs and separated her pubic symphysis.

One time great Grandma Skouby had bread cooking on the stove and great Grandpa Skouby, she knew, would tear off a chunk to eat instead of waiting for it to be sliced and served at dinner, so after he tore off a chunk and was eating it and hollering to her (she was in another room) "Good bread!", she cam running into the kitchen and said, "Oh, no, you didn't eat that, did you? It was the rat bread!"

(Rat bread was bread cooked with poison in it to kill rats that got in the house). He turned white, clasped his throat and said, "I'm poisoned! I'm Poisoned!" Except he pronounced it "pie-zenned". Even though she told him it wasn't true--she was just trying to teach him a lesson, he wouldn't eat supper and went right to bed. After that, he told people he had eaten rat bread and survived.

Great Grandpa Skouby also had odd home remedies: for a sore throat mix turpentine (poison) with Vaseline and put a lump of it on the back of your tongue and let it melt down your throat. (If Vaseline gets in your bronchial tubes and then lungs you'll get pneumonia). If the kids had a toothache he'd chew a lump of tocacco until it got soft and mushy and then put in on the tooth-Dad said ti was nasty tasting but worked. By the way, Granpa skouby (your great grandpa) never smoked or chewed tobacco except for toothaches. Nor did he drink He was Baptist.

My dad was a tee-totaler (no alcohol) but smoked in the Navy. The government gave them free cigarettes-as many as they wanted. If their ship (the USS Ellison-a destroyer) would be going into a battle the next day where they suspected casualties, the kitchen would cook up a great big steak dinner. These were young men who probably rarely had steak at home but Dad said once they knew what it meant they could hardly eat it. For some, it would be their last dinner.

My Dad said the Atom bombs saved his life and millions in Tokyo. They had orders to sail into Tokyo Bay and destroy mines in the harbor before the invasion by the US of Tokyo. After the 2 atom bombs hit the Japanese cities-Nagasaki and I can't think of the name of the more famous one, Japan surrendered. (Hiroshima was the 1st city hit--I remembered).

My Dad said in the Navy when you cross the Equator there is a party with King Neptune and all the new guys are harassed at the party (like college hazing). Once you cross the equator the 1st time then you can harass the new guys.

My dad loved baseball and heavy weight boxing. He would listen to the ballgames on the radio and listen to the fights on the radio. One time when I was at a party there was this game where my partner and I had to name heavy-weight boxers. He didn't know anyone but Mohammed Ali, but I was able to name 6 more boxers. Everyone was astounded. I knew the names because my Dad mentioned them all.

Mom and Dad could also dance. Our church was against dancing, but at my cousin Bobby's wedding, my Aunt Mildred and Uncle Russell got up and danced and then wanted my parents to get up and dance . . . And they did! I never knew they knew how to dance!

I was shocked.

But they were graceful. . .and good. It was as shocking as it would be for you girls to see me pick up a machine gun and know how to use it.

My mom had an aunt, Aunt Bertha, and another aunt (Bertha's sister) whose name I can't remember right now. When they were around 16 & 17, boys started to call at the house. The boys would ride their horses over. The girls were not interested in those 2 boys and would holler down to their Dad (My Grandmother's Aunt's Dad, so my great-great-great Uncle) that they needed time to freshen up. The Dad would sit with the boys in the parlor. Meanwhile, the 2 sisters would sneak out the upstairs windows, get on the boys' horses and go for a ride.

When they got back they'd sneak back in and try to splash water on their red and hot faces. They would go downstairs smelling like horses with their hair all frizzled up and red in the face from the heat.

Their dad would say "Well, here they are!" with relief and the boys would realize they hadn't been getting ready after all, but riding horses. The boys would only have about 30 min before they had to start home on their exhausted horses and after they left, the two girls would laugh and laugh.

These two sisters also had another funny thing happen when they were teenagers. One of the sisters bought a new corset in town and when she came home, she was telling her sister about it. Her sister said, "Go put it on and let me see it!" The girl decided just to put it on over her the dress she had on. They got to talking and laughing and forgot about it.

A young man came to visit and the mom (my Grandmother's grandmother) called upstairs for the girl to come down and visit with him. She ran down the stairs and saw him turn beet red and just stare at her. She looked down and realized she had her new corset on over her dress!

She started to laugh and ran upstairs, leaving him speechless and she and her sister just laughed and laughed harder and harder.

I just remembered the other sister's name was Viola--called Vi all the time.

They had another sister, who was older than them. I can't remember her name, either. When people would ask her what she wanted to be, she would tease them and say she wanted to be a widow with 10 children and have to take in washing to make money and that's exactly what did happen to her.

I wish I knew something about their mother --she must have been something to raise such funny daughters.

My Mom's sister, Aunt Thelma, had 4 husbands and a lover! Her first husband was Clifford--he was a maintenance man at a cemetery. He had blue-black hair (straight) and darker skin that would turn dark brown in the sun. I don't know what nationality he was. He was exotic looking. He and my Aunt Thelma never had kids.

She babysat a baby girl named Peggy. One day the mother never came for her and then wrote Aunt Thelma that she could have Peggy. So Aunt Thelma adopted Peggy. Then she had an affair with a college boy and got pregnant with twins. Naturally, Clifford knew the children weren't his and they got divorced.

Aunt Thelma then married one man and had twins. One of the twins died and I think she had another daughter, Nancy. When he died, she married his brother. She divorced the 2nd brother and married another man whom she lived happily with until he died. Aunt Thelma had a heart of gold and was flirtatious but never trashy. She had a great sense of humor. She worked as a waitress and that is how she met these men.

Aunt Thelma hand-sewed all the drapes and curtains in her whole house when she didn't have a sewing machine, and they were extremely well done with very small stitches like a machine. Can you imagine the hours it took her?

My Aunt Betty also sewed. She sewed men's suits in a factory and sewed her and my cousin Linda's clothes at home. She was married to my Uncle Whitey (he had platinum blond hair). He wan an alcoholic, too. My Aunt Betty was always on the lookout for a better apartment.

She also had to find an apartment for her in-laws in the same building. They were forever moving to a nicer or bigger apartment. Her in-laws took care of my cousin Linda while Aunt Betty worked. I don't know what Uncle Whitey did--I think he was a salesman. He was very good looking and liked to wear good clothes, but mostly he liked to drink. After Linda got married, Aunt Betty divorced Uncle Whitey and married Bob, the sweetest, kindest man.

All of mom's sisters and her brother, except Thelma, married alcoholics, divorced them and married better people. My Mom had resolved to never marry a man who crank at all and my Dad didn't.

One time my cousin Donny's Grandma came to visit overnight. She normally wore her gray hair in a bun, wore dentures and glasses. During the night, she got up to go down the hall to use the bathroom. She had her long gray hair down, her teeth out, her glasses off, and had on a long white nightgown. Coming from the other direction was her Grandson, also needing the bathroom. He looked at her with big eyes in the dim hallway and said, "Gee grandma, you're kind of scary looking." She just laughed and laughed thinking about how she did look.

My great Uncle Carl (My grandma's brother--whose mother sent them off to the orphanage) was 50 years old before he ever got married. He married Emma, a short woman with curly gray hair, blue eyes like his who was a tiny bit pudgy. They moved to California and he took his mother out there, too. They got her a house and them a house. Uncle Carl always took care of his mother, no matter how she had treated him. I called him Uncle Carl even though he was my great uncle. He was a house painter and she worked in a fancy ladies' store.

One summer they came to St. Louis to visit. St. Louis was having a terrible hot spell with awful high humidity. This was at our old house (I was about 4, Paul was about 1). Aunt Emma went upstairs to our room to rest and Paul and I were taking a nap on the living room floor. Mom went upstairs to use the bathroom and there was Aunt Emma in our room standing naked by the window (it was a high window) fanning herself and putting on perfume. My Mom nearly fell over in shock but Aunt Emma didn't care--she said "Oh, Jessie, I just had to cool down." When I think of her age--she was younger than Uncle Carl--she might have been having hot flashes, too.

We went out to California when Paul was almost 2 and he got real sick going through the mountains. Mom was really worried about him. Aunt Emma said, "We'll go to Gorgeous George's turkey farm, get a turkey and I'll make him some turkey broth. Gorgeous George was a fake wrestler--one of the first. He had a turkey farm where you could pick out a turkey--they'd kill it and clean it and remove the feathers and you could take it home. The visitors didn't see any of the icky stuff. Aunt Emma (even though she didn't have any kids) made up the broth and your Uncle Paul perked up immediately.

Aunt Emma and Uncle Carl ate cereal every day. They would save up all the toys in the cereal boxes until we came and then they'd give us a whole shoe box full of little special toys. We got so excited and hat to try them all out. Uncle Carl loved going through the junkyard and would fix up dolls for me and metal cars for Uncle Paul. These junk yards did not have rotten food or wastes-they were just for objects.

Aunt Emma and Uncle Carl's house had a big concrete patio, a barbecue pit and the backyard had 6 apricot trees and was sandy. The apricots were so sweet and Paul and I could eat all the fallen apricots as much as we wanted. Aunt Emma would lay rugs out under the trees for us to take naps on and she had solid foam rubber pillows which we had never felt before. Paul and I used to put our hands under the pillowcases and feel the foam rubber pillows. We had no way to describe the feel. We finally agreed that they might feel like fat women's stomachs, Ha ha.

Different psychologists have asked me when I ever felt the safest and to me it's always the same-lying on the rugs under the apricot trees with the breeze and sweet smell of the apricots. That still seems like heaven to me.

Uncle Carl had a one-car garage that he used for his tinkering and junk yard finds. One time the roof started to leak. Instead of fixing the roof, Uncle Carl installed interior gutters so the leak would go down one gutter, through a short downspout to another gutter on an angle, to another downspout to a bucket! When they came to St. Louis, my Dad would always have things for Uncle Carl to work on for him. He knew Uncle Carl would tire of "women talk" and would want to be helpful. He built a wall divider book case for us and did a lovely job. My Dad would have radios or clocks that needed fixing-Uncle Carl would fix them--happy as a lark.

Uncle Carl had an old car that he had taken the back seat out of so he had room for his paint cans and supples. When Uncle Carl took us on rides in California, I sat in the front seat and Paul sat on a paint can in the back. He said it was really tough on corners. One time, when Paul and I were older, Uncle Carl stopped *on* the freeway to point out a house he had painted. Paul and I were sure we'd be hit and killed but we made it.

Uncle Carl and Aunt Emma took us to their Pentecostal church. Sunday school was OK but during the church service people would jump up and speak in tongues and people would fall unconscious in the aisles--"touched by the spirit". Paul and I did not know what to think--it was like a spiritual circus. OUr parents didn't warn us about what to expect. It was definitely different. They went to that church (70 miles from their house)because Aunt Emma said she had been healed there from some abdominal problem.

On the way there (after 35 miles) they would stop for coffee and muffins and on the way back stop for a picnic lunch.

Aunt Emma and Uncle Carl told my parents we had to go to Disneyland the year after it opened. It did seem magic. There was no place like it. Aunt Emma made us all get pale blue cardboard "coolie" hats with "Disneyland" printed on them in dark blue to protect us from the sun. I kept mine for years. We rode on rides and looked at displays. It was exciting and spectacular--like being transported to another world. No one had ever seen anything like it before.

One summer in St. Louis the heat got to 108 degrees. Our old house was about 90 years old then--no insulation. All day it cooked in the sun and it was too hot to even stay inside. That night everyone in the neighborhood pulled their mattresses on the front lawns and we all slept outside! I don't even think we owned a fan! I thought it was great fun!

I remember several times my Mom making a pallet for Paul and I to lay on in the hall in front of the front door. Mom just locked the screen door because the upstairs was just too hot. Mom and Dad slept on the floor in the living room. At our new house (in Overland) we had an attic fan. You could turn it on and it would suck all the hot air out of the attic and then a couple of hours later you could pull open a door in the ceiling and it would pull all the hot air out of the house. The cooler night air would be pulled into the windows as the hot air got pulled out. So we had some breeze at night coming in the windows.

We could never get rid of all the mosquitoes, though. No matter how good the screens were, there were always a couple that managed to get in. We would get bitten and then they would whine around your face and ears. One night it got so bad that I crawled under my bed and laid on the wooden floor with just my pillow. I had an old fashioned "high" double bed. No mosquitoes down there, so I fell sound asleep. My Mom got up to check on me and screamed when I wasn't in the bed. She hollered "Lane, Lane, where are you" I stuck my arm out and I said "Under here," she made me get back in bed the right way even though I told her there were no mosquitoes under the bed-Ha ha.

Even though we had a TV (Black and white) Paul and I only got to watch it on Friday nights- 1/2 hour to watch Sea Hunt with Lloyd Bridges (Actor). He was a scuba diver who always had adventures catching bad guys underwater. With that, we got 6 oz of Pepsi to drink each. I learned a lot from that show about scuba diving. Years later, I showed your Dad exactly how to put a snorkeling tube in your mouth. He said, "How did you learn to do that?" I said, "I watched Sea Hunt!"

On Saturday mornings if our beds were made, our rooms neat and dusted, we could watch 2 hrs of cartoons and shows like the Lone Ranger, Fury (about a boy and a horse) or Rin Tin Tin (About a life-saving dog). Then that was it for another week. We only had 6 oz. Of Pepsi a week! My Mom used to say, "When you can pay for the Pepsi, you can have all you want." She would also say, "when you have your own home you can do what you want. Until then you do what we say!"

When Paul and I were old enough to have part-time jobs we would buy 6 packs of Pepsi for the family to enjoy.

When Paul and I were kids but old enough to walk a while, we would go swimming once a week at the American Legion Pool. It cost 50 cents and unlike pools today, once you paid you could stay all day. We only got 75 cents a week for an allowance so that's why we only could go once a week. About twice a summer fi it got unbearably hot, Mom would break down and give us 50 cents each to go an extra time. She wasn't being mean--we really didn't have the money. We would walk a mile to the swimming pool, play in the water all day (no lunch--we didn't have the money--we might get a candy bar for a nickel), get sunburned (no suntan lotion)--walk home at 4pm in the sun, with a sunburn, and collapse. My Mom would say, "I don't know why you stay so long," but she would put a little Noxema cream on our faces, shoulders, and chests and let us rest. That felt like heaven. I still like the smell of Noxema!

At other times if we got too hot Mom would let us sit in the bathtub in 2" of cool water and "swim". We couldn't play much with the hose because of the water bill.

Our bath water was only allowed to be 2" deep and no showers. In the winter we only took about 2-3 baths per week. In the summer we took a bath every day because of all the sweat and dirt from playing outside. In the winter we washed ourselves, just did not bathe every day.

My second cousins had a small dairy farm and they had no running water so you had to pump a bucket of water, heat 1/2 of it on the stove, take your bucket to the "bath house", stand in a galvanized tub, dip some over you and later up, dip some to rinse, dip some on your head, wash your hair, dip to rinse and then pour the rest all over you. Then you got dressed and pulled the tub outside and dumped the water, put the tub back and took the bucket back to the porch. That's why they only bathed once a week on Saturday night. In the winter you closed the kitchen door and bathed in the kitchen, same routine. To wash your face and hands and brush your teeth you had a porcelain bowl and pitcher like the antiques you see. You went outside to use the outhouse. I thought it was so much fun because it was different. My dear cousin, Bonnie, loved coming to St. Louis and having an inside bathroom. She though twe had the life and I thought she had the life!

When my Grandpa Skouby died, Paul and I had to sleep at Aunt Bertha's house. She was very sweet to us but when she showed us our bed we realized she had starched the pillowcases and sheets. They were as stiff as a board. She also had made wool quilts that were so heavy. We had to help each other to hold up the covers to roll over--you couldn't roll over by yourself!

Back in the day (when Paul and I were young) the summers seemed so long. We didn't get to watch TV, and we didn't have hardly any toys. Parents back then (in our economic class) didn't feel the need to entertain their children--ever! About once a summer Paul and I would forget what would happen and would tell my Mom we were bored. My Mom would say, "Oh, you're bored, are you?" and we would look at each other horror-stricken as we remembered what was about to happen. My Mother would stop whatever she was doing, get out the folding aluminum table and put it outside under the elm trees, get 3 chairs out and our workbooks out. Where she had these workbooks hidden we never found out. Then we would sit there and do workbooks for 4 hours while my Mom sat with us and did hand sewing. If our time involved lunchtime she would make us lunch and give us about a half hour to eat. We could only go in the house to use the bathroom. Then back to the workbooks. After 4 hours Mom would ask us, "Are yo still bored?" and we would quickly answer "No, we can think of lots to do!" Mom was never mean or sarcastic in her speech. She was always consistent with the "bored" routine. She would have done well in the Army. The workbooks always covered what we had just studied in school. I think she got them from our teachers.

Mom and Dad had a rule that if we wanted something (a toy) we could ask for it once but if we asked over and over or whined for it (please, please please) we would never get it.

One year at Christmas Mom put out our presents early on Christmas Eve (I think it was afternoon). We didn't see her put them out. I was 7 1/2 and Paul was 4. She told us not to touch them or we would get a lump of coal instead of a present. I knew she meant business but Paul was only 4. He just kept staring at it and trying to guess what was in it. Finally it got too much for him and he grabbed his big present and shook it and was still shaking it when Mom came running in. We were banished to our rooms and Mom got a lump of coal (from where I don't know), put a red ribbon on it, tied a bow and put a name tag on it (One of our Christmas ones) and put on it "To Paul". Then she took his big present away and put the piece of coal under the tree. When she said we could come out, Paul raced into the living room to look at his presents. When he saw the coal with the gift tag and ribbon on it and the big present gone he just burst into tears. After he cried about 15 minutes even I felt sorry for him and snuck out of the living room and went to see my Mom (who was sewing in her and Dad's room) and said, "Paul's still crying. He's learned his lesson. Please take the coal away and put his present back." She sent us to the basement to get something and when we came upstairs there was his big present back and he was so happy! No coal! He never touched anything until we were told we could open our presents!

Even writing this at this age it still makes me sad for him.

One time I was staying overnight with my friend Renee and we asked her Mom if we could walk down the road (dirt). She said yes but on an old barn there was a nasty word painted on the side ans we were to turn our heads when we passed it. Naturally I was curious but I saw it before we could turn our heads (we were so obedient) and it burnt its way into my brain because I had never seen or heard that word before. It was the F-bomb. I didn't know what it meant but her Mom had said ti was nasty. About a year later I got so mad at my Mom (she had punished me for something Paul did and wouldn't listen to me) that I hollered the F-bomb to her retreating back. She jumped around. (I knew I was now in big trouble) and she said, "Where did you hear that?" I knew not to lie, so I told her I didn't hear it, I saw it painted on a barn near the Weavers. She was totally shocked! She went and got on of her belts and hit me about 6 times on the back of my bare legs. Believe me, I was not a potty mouth after that.

Paul and I were not usually companions (I ignored him as much as possible because he was so charismatic and he got all the attention from people. All he wanted was my attention but I was so jealous that I determined I would pay him the least amount of attention humanly possible). In the summers we mostly had only each other so we had to amuse ourselves. We spent hours upon hours arguing whether we would rather be called Shagnasty Liquor or Liquor Shagnasty. We would try to convince the other one of our choice. I always went with Shagnasty first. Pual always went with Liquor first. We did this ofr at least 3 summers. Do you get an idea of how bored we were?

When I was little and asked my Mom about something and she gave me the explanation I would often say, "I see," instead of "I understand." Then Mom would always say, "'I see, I see,' said the blind man so they took away his cane." I'm sure this came from her Mom when she lived with the teachers.

When you girls were little and would answer every statement I made with "Huh?" I would ask you, "What did I just say?" You would always know. I would also always say, "And what did I mean?" You always knew that, too.

When your Dad and Chris were young and would say "Huh?" he would tell them "Huh, hell! Pay attention."

No comments:

Post a Comment