The road from the highway to our house ended at Lake Charleston. Our house was the last one before the lake. We could see the lake from our house. School was a mile from our house, and we walked to school. Our closest neighbor was maybe one-eighth mile and the next house was on a hill—which we walked down going to school and walked up coming home. Houses were closer together the nearer they were to the highway.The schools were located on the same campus on the highway. I was in the fifth grade when we moved to Charleston. I learned to play dodge ball—once when I had the ball, someone yelled, “Chunk it!” I had no idea what that meant.
I began piano lessons in the sixth grade. Mrs. Ford was given access to a room on the campus where she taught piano lessons. I took two lessons a week because I was older. Don and Philip also took lessons. Sometimes when I practiced, my kitten Persia sat on my shoulder. (See blogs Grandma’s Cat Tales and Other Animal Stories, parts 1-4)
Mother wanted us to have some experience of farm life. This was the period when Dad was in Japan or Korea (1950-1958). Our nearest neighbors had a strawberry farm in the country. They needed help picking strawberries, so we helped them. That is hard work! You either bend over or get on your knees because the plants are close to the ground. One day I picked 40 quarts—made $4.00! Another time we experienced cotton picking. My best friend’s family grew cotton. So one fall Saturday we picked cotton. That is also backbreaking work. You drag a long bag that is on your shoulder. I was very meticulous and tried to put cotton only—no leaves and other debris—in the bag. I didn’t pick much but it was clean.
My best friend’s house had no electricity, running water, nor indoor plumbing. (This was 1948-1952.) I spent the night with her frequently. They had oil lamps, a pot-bellied stove, and an outhouse. An old Sears Roebuck catalog had its place in the outhouse. In the winter time the house was very cold at night, but we were warm with a lot of heavy quilts. I remember waking up to the mixed aromas of oil lamps, bacon, and biscuits. (For more country living see blog IF IT’S MONDAY, IT’S WASH DAY–IF IT’S SATURDAY, IT’S BATH NIGHT)
We had no television. Television hadn’t come to that part of Arkansas because of the Ozarks. Our entertainment was an occasional movie at the local movie house, game nights and radio. Game night was Friday night, when we played card games: Old Maid, Authors, Rook and such. We had Pepsi Cola and peanuts. My brothers and Dad liked to put their peanuts in their Pepsi bottles—I didn’t. We listened to Green Hornet, The Great Gilder sleeve, Fibber McGee and Molly, The Thin Man, Sam Spade, Life of Riley, Lone Ranger, Gene Autry, Dick Tracy, A Date with Judy, Blondie, Amos and Andy, Jack Benny, Dragnet, Archie, Perry Mason, Red Skelton, The Shadow, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Some children’s radio shows were Sgt. Preston, Sky King, Let’s Pretend, and Superman.
This was probably taken 1950-1952. Phil is my younger brother, Don the older, and Shirley my younger sister. Three more children came later–Teresa, Pamela, and Michael.
While Dad was in Japan, we began to play with face cards. When Mother was growing up, face cards were considered to be bad, because gamblers used face cards. After some thought Mother decided that the cards themselves were not bad if you didn’t gamble, so we learned to play Canasta, Hearts, and other games using face cards. We had many enjoyable times playing games together.
Even without television or electronic games, we made our own entertainment. We children played outside together, especially in the summer. In the backyard we made little roads for toy trucks and cars to travel on. We also played in the pasture. I don’t remember, but we probably played cowboys and Indians, army, and such. I don’t recall playing dolls at that time since I was ten plus. We also played in the loft of the barn.
One time the three younger ones were playing in the barn, and I decided to burn some trash in the trash barrel in a garden area that was not near the house. Mother had gone to town to get her hair done. It was a windy day and some bits of flaming paper were blowing out of the barrel. I tried to put the little fires out, but they got too big. I called the fire department. As mother was driving home, the fire truck passed her. She began to worry the further the fire truck went. Fortunately no damage was done and the fire was put out safely. The younger children didn’t know about the fire until the fire truck arrived.
Although Dad was in the Army, he also preached for small Churches of Christ. One in Arkansas was at Van Buren, near Fort Smith. Another was Sallisaw, Oklahoma, also near Fort Smith. Since we had to drive some distance, we usually were invited to Sunday dinner at church members’ homes. We had some good home cooking! Then there were evening services. When Dad went to Japan, we attended church at Midland Boulevard Church of Christ in Fort Smith.
In 1950 Dad left for Japan and we were to follow shortly. We had begun our immunizations when the Korean War broke out, so we didn’t get to go to Japan until two years later. These two years were hard on mother, with four children alone. She went to work at Fort Chaffee to help ends meet.
In 1952 we received orders to go to Japan. The Army packed up and stored our household goods. We left Charleston and went to Wichita Falls to see Mother’s family. Her sister Cleo went with us to California. We went by the Royal Gorge in Colorado where another of Mother’s sisters (Beatrice and family) joined us. We cooked meals outdoors weather permitting. I remember one supper in the Rockies by a cool stream. The 1950 Ford went to Japan, also.
My “country living” was pretty much finished in 1952, when we left for Japan. Dad returned to Fort Chaffee in 1955 so the family returned to our house in Charleston, but I left for college and in 1959 was married in Paris, Arkansas, near Charleston.