Thursday, August 24, 2006

When We Were Young.....

Something Bev said in this post gave me an idea for a post. I don't suppose it's a Meme as much as it's a writing prompt. To-may-toes, to-mah-toes. Whatever. Just the phrase, "When we were young...", made memories flood my mind. I hope it does the same for many of you reading this and that you'll post about your childhood memories. If you do, please leave a comment so I can read yours.


When we were young.....I remember a three-room shotgun house in a small Northeast Arkansas mill town. A shotgun house has the rooms stacked one in front of the other, like train cars. You can stand in the front door and shoot straight out the back door. Three rooms for 7 people, now. All of the beds in one room, including Mama and Daddy's. I remember sleeping 3 to a bed with my sisters and cousins many a night, and sleeping crossways of the bed so more could sleep in the bed. Many times we slept on pallets of quilts and blankets on the floor so visitors could have our beds. No air conditioning in 1967 in our house, only a box fan or 2. I remember Mama going through the house spraying Black Flag in a pump sprayer to try to subdue the skeeters enough for us to sleep. I can remember that smell even now, almost 40 years later. Daddy worked at "Ma Singer", the Singer sewing machine plant. The Singer whistle was just down the street from us, and the plant was just behind our house, across the alley. The whistle was and is still mounted on the water tower even though the plant closed in 1982. That whistle was like a clock for people in our t0wn. It blew at 6:50, 6:55 and 7 am, when work started. There was a short whistle for mid-morning break, then a long one for 12 noon. Workers got an hour for dinner, the noon meal here, and Daddy and most of the workers went home for dinner. Mama always started a pot of brown or white beans around 9 am so they would be done for dinner, and then fried potatoes and some meat if we had it. Biscuits or cornbread rounded out the meal, and if someone gave us some garden stuff she might fix some of that. Ice for the iced tea had to be broken out of aluminum ice trays with metal grids in them. A lever in the center had to be pulled back to realease the ice cubes, but I wasn't stout enough to do that then. I watched my sister Donna or Mama do that, then put the trays back in our tiny refrigerator freezer to freeze for supper.Most of the time we didn't have ice for drinks between meals. At 10 and 5 minutes till 1 pm the whistle blew to call the workers back to the mill. Another short whistle for afternoon break, then at 4 pm the whistle blew to signal the work day was done. There were special whistle combinations for fires in the plant and some of the workers knew them well enough to be able to tell where the fire was in the plant by the long and short whistle combinations.

I'll never forget the smells the plant gave off. Daddy worked in Veneer Lay, usually on the hot press. He worked in glue sometimes and it had a peculiar smell all its own. In those days the EPA didn't exist and the plant burned a lot of the culls, or pieces of wood and parts of the cabinets, etc. that didn't pass inspection. The big smoke stack still stands at the old plant today, and I remember it belching out thick, acrid black smoke that could be seen from miles away.

When we were young....I remember when we moved from town to a tarpaper shack a couple of miles out in the country. Sue and Ducky had already married and left home at that time. Cecil and I were the youngest of the 5 girls and Donna is 10 years older than me. I was 5, Cecil was 4 and Donna was 15 when we moved to that old house. We had an outside toilet and a hand pump. Baths were taken in a double wash tub and clothes were washed in a Maytag wringer washing machine and hung out on the clothes lines. We had a cast iron wood stove but we also burned coal sometimes if we could afford it. I have pumped a many a bucket of water for washing clothes, baths and to carry in the house for dishes, cooking and drinking. Many times when we got up on cold mornings we'd have to break the ice in the buckets for a drink or to make coffee in the stove top percolator. I have literally watched chickens through the cracks in the floor boards, scratching under the house. That picture to the left was taken at that house, in the front yard under the huge sycamore tree where Daddy put us up a tire swing. That's Cecil on the left and me on the right. You can tell by her expression that she didn't particularly want her picture taken right then. That's my Daddy sitting on the steps, middle left, and a very ex-brother in law in the swing, right above the hood of our old Pontiac. Moving to that old house was like being set free from prison for me and Cecil. Our nearest neighbors were a quarter of a mile away and we knew all of them anyway. Farm fields surrounded us and we had the run of the place.

When we were young....Every day was a new adventure. We played house and begged old dishes and silverware from Mama to play with. We also scavenged cans and bottles from the burn pile for vases for our bouquets. There were all sorts of weeds and wildflowers to pick for bouquets and Mama received each one we picked for her like they were expensive florist arrangements. We had an old dog named Sissie and she slept in our storm house, which had a sand floor. Sissie had some wild ways with the neighboring boy dogs and turned up "with pup" regular as clockwork. She also had some personal hygiene problems and a neverending supply of fleas. The fleas infested the storm house, so every time Cecil and I played in there we got ate alive by the fleas. That was also a problem when it stormed and we had to utilize the facilities. For years flea bites and storms were linked in my mind.

When we were young....We had chickens. I remember when we first got the chickens and I observed a rooster servicing a hen. I ran into the house crying, wanting Ma
ma to make that big chicken quit being mean to that little chicken, and get off her! That was good for a few laughs, and led to a very simplified explanation of the "birds", if not the bees. I loved the chickens and gathering eggs, gathering the mama hens and their babies into a cardboard box and bringing them into the house for the night to keep the varmints from getting them. After a night or two, the mama hens would come looking for the box and be ready to get into it about sunset. If I could, I'd have chickens today. I just like the eggs and having chickens around. If you look very closely in that picture to the left, you'll see Penny, a hen Cecil named. I'm in that stylish white Easter outfit and Penny is just beyond my left elbow, half out of the picture. That's Donna in the swing with the big hair and her son, Frankie on her lap. Cecil is in the middle. Man, were we stylin' or what, now?!Donna has on bell bottom pants, which you can just see before they're cut off the bottom of the picture. Best I can figure, this was taken Easter Sunday, 1973. If so, I was 9, Cecil was 8, Donna was 19 and Frankie was 1 year old. This was taken at the same house in the country. Oh, the memories.....


Well, it's getting late and I still have to pack for my trip with Donna to Mountain View, among other things. I'm going to make my hubby a big pot of hamburger soup to munch on while I'm gone and I have to gather a few jars of pickles and salsa to take to my niece in Mountain View. I'll be leaving sometime tomorrow afternoon and I'm not sure if I'll be back on Saturday or Sunday.

Happy Friday to everyone, and may all your needs be met and may you love and be loved.


Granny said...

I remember when almost everyone there worked for Singer.

Your posts bring back memories although I was there just during the 70's. Most of my husband's family lived in Nettleton. Do they still call it that?

"The Glenifer" said...

Ahh, the good ol' days...

When Ryan and I were kids, we spent many of our waking moments in the creek behind our house. We'd catch crawdads and make dams so we'd have more water to play in. It was a subdivision, but that little strip of woods behind everyone's house seemed like a magical forest.

We also loved to visit our uncle because he had real woods with springs and wildlife. We'd play hide-and-seek in his corn field and argue over who got to kick back in his hammock.

Good times, good times....

Big Mama said...

Great post Diane. I can just picture everything the way you described it! I love that you got an explanation of "the birds, if not the bees".

Tammy said...

I loved reading through your childhood memories!! A lot of what you shared has a lot in common with my Hubby's memories of was seeing chickens though the floor cracks
Thanks so much for sharing the memories!!

Dick said...

Since it is still summer I'll talk about a summer memory. We used to go to Newman Lake in the summer. The cabin had electricity but in the early years, no running water. We carried drinking water from a community well with a manual pump in buckets, about a quarter of a mile away. Lake water was used for bathing, etc. and it was great when a pump was installed to provide that. We had the outhouse in the back. It really was great times. I think we started going there about the time I was in kindergarten or just before and went every summer until I was nearly through high school. Annie & I took our sons there for a week or two many summers while they were growing up so they also have fond memories of Sutton Bay, Newman Lake, Washington State.

Sue said...

I love reading about your early memories Diane. You tell it in such a way that it's very easy to visualize.
Although we grew up in very different ways, we share one very common thread in that we both so treasure our many memories.
Have a safe trip and enjoy your weekend.

Blessed Beyond Measure said...

Wow - am I glad my post triggered yours. This is probably my favorite thing you've ever written. I'd forgotten about those metal ice trays (we had them too) and we used to bathe - girls and boys together in a tub they'd carry into my grandma's kitchen. For all the water they'd have to heat you stuck in however many kids would fit at a time. My brothers and I were all skinny, so the three of us bathed together. Squished it was.

I so enjoyed this! Have a great trip - I'll be back later in the weekend to see what you're fixing for supper.

PEA said...

I enjoyed reading this post so much...I love reading or listening to people reminiscing about their childhood and at the same time it brings back a lot of memories to me. Loved the pictures were a sweetheart then and still are:-) Gosh I remember those ice cube trays, I could never pull hard enough on that middle lever! lol Terrific post!! Much love and hugs...have a safe trip!! xoxo

Barb said...

Thank you, Diane. From the very bottom of my heart, thank you...for reminding me where I come from.

I was born in 1950 and the only reason my day-to-day life wasn't exactly like you described it is because my mama tried so hard to make it better. In a lot of ways it was the same, especially when I went to Grandma's house, or Aunt JessieMae's, in Jasper, Texas. Yes, THAT Jasper. No running water in the house. No indoor bathroom - but a very soundly built outhouse.

I remember our ringer washer. A nightmare with six kids. But I also remember sleeping at Grandma's house and feeling so comforted because there were so many of us crammed into a double sized bed under humble handmade quilts, quilts made from flour sacks. Head to toe, toe to head, curled around each other, like puppies. Wonderful, wonderful.

And like Bev, the one thing that just hit me between the eyes, taking this trip down memory lane, was those aluminum ice trays. With the pull-up lever to pop the squares of ice out. I'm feeling a little ashamed of myself that I get irritated with my icemaker when it doesn't make the ice fast enough. How could I forget how hard it was to make ice in southeast Texas in the 60's?

You have a way, my friend, of bringing me back down to earth.

green eyed girl on planet earth said...

I enjoy your blog emensely, it is like chatting with an old friend , this post is by far my favorite! I love your writing style and your memories flooding back are so wonderful to share , I can Identify with alot of it ,the whistles for your Dads work , we have that and it still goes on today. This makes me feel even closer to you friend , thank you for sharing and the giggles .Chickens need love too !:}
Have a great trip , come back safe and did you think you look just like Jessica , with that white frock on Easter Pic ?
A great big Hug to you My friend
squishy and all

RennyBA said...

What a lovely story and great story from the good old days and thouse wondeful pictures - thank you so much for sharing, I really enjoy reading and looking!
Have a great trip and welcome back - I hope we'll kept posted:-)

Mountain Mama said...

Wonderful memories. I love chickens too and used to have banties all pover the place.
I hope you are having a great weekend Diane.

Autumn said...

Your post reminded me much of how life was at my grandmothers house. Thank you for some lovely memories.

Judith said...

"When we were young" would be a good title for your book about your childhood. You have such a way of making the past live on, and your naturalborn humor really spices it up. Hadn't thought of tire swings in years. Any child who never had one was truly poor.
Thanks for sharing a time when childhood was still innocent and more safe. We should revisit those memories more often.(That's why you should make it a book).

Judith said...

P.S. I just have to add this.......The cover page of your book should have an, you guessed it, old tire swing hanging from a tree.
Another could ask kindred bloggers to send pictures of tire swings in their areas, and scatter them throughout the book. This IDEA is growing!

But I cannot comment on the chickens, since I helped my sister murder one.

I am serious about the book. You may not realize how well you write.

Would love telling you about my childhood, but it would be a very long story, and this is long enough. Do the book!