School Days Part 2

Graduation 20030036It has been a long week. Even though this first week is only three days, as we start the Wednesday after Labor Day, it seems like it has lasted forever. I am not used to sitting at a desk for hour after hour. However, I do like Friday mornings as this is our day for assembly. All the grades from Primary through the fifth grade will file in to our room, right after the Pledge of Allegiance. Mrs. Lurvey will discuss a few items she has marked down through the week and then the fun will begin.

Today the music teacher comes. She travels from school to school and brings her talent with her. I think this must be a real challenge as the piano is old and some of the keys are chipped. We have the American Song Book handed to us and we are allowed to raise our hand and ask for a special song to sing. I don’t raise my hand as I like them all. However, once in awhile I get nervous as I am not used to Mrs. Lurvey yet and I haven’t discovered where she keeps the strap I’ve heard about for years. One of the bigger boys always raises his hands and requests “Tavern in the Town”. I bet we sound like a bunch of people in a tavern because the bigger boys really sing loud on the chorus, but the worst part is they substitute their own words for some of the words in the chorus. They hold their books in front of their faces and when it comes to “do not let our parting grieve thee”, well you just know what word they substitute and I look at Mrs. Lurvey to see if she has heard them. Her face looks the same, so I guess she has heard it all and nothing much bothers her, as long as everyone is singing.

Sometimes the boys and girls sing separately. The girls sing the part that says, “Rueben, Rueben I’ve been thinking” and we go through the chorus and then the boys sing back “Rachael, Rachael, I’ve been thinking” and of course, they sing as loud as they can to make as much noise as possible.If I dared raise my hand, I would request “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” because that is a pretty song, but I will go along with “Old Black Joe” and “Swanee River.” 

All this time, the music teacher has her back to us and only responds to requests by turning the pages of the song book. I wonder if she enjoys coming to our school as she says very little and I notice when the singing is done, she sweeps her songbook into a black bag, gives every teacher a brief smile and out the door she goes. She probably is thanking God she made it through another session.

This is the first time I have been at assembly and stayed right here in the big room when it was over. I look at the lower grades and remember how nervous I used to be when I had to march in here! Last year it seemed so simple. I was a Junior Crossing Guard and wore a white band across my shoulder that came to hook on the white band around my waist. I got out a little earlier at the closing of school to help the town kids cross the busy Route 26.  Last year when school came to a close, we walked single file to Terrill’s store along Route 26 and each of us got a Dixie cup with a movie star’s picture in the cover to celebrate. I think those days are gone forever.

However, I am no stranger to my new teacher. Mrs. Lurvey came into the middle room to teach writing last year. I sat in the front seat of the row and had my ink bottle in the little hole and that long dreaded pointed straight pen. I hated that day. I got so tired of making little ovals on a line and she kept walking up and down the aisle and always pointed out to me that my ovals were not even. Well, of course they weren’t even.  I couldn’t see what ovals and letters had to do with each other and besides that ink dripped everywhere. My writing class always ended the same way. She always stood in front of me, pointed at my ink covered hands and wrists and with a flourish, pointed in the direction of the hall fountain and basin, all the while shaking her head.

So here I sit in the big room, wishing I were sitting on a rock at Twitchell Pond with a fish pole. But I am not and as I look at Mrs. Lurvey, I know she is not the kind of teacher who forgets a thing. As I said, it may be a very loooong year.

School Days Part I

Graduation 20030036The day has come at last. Whether we want to or not, we have to leave the summer behind. My favorite books are piled on one end of my bureau and there they’ll stay until this afternoon.  Today I have to pull on a dress and my new shoes and get ready for the first day of school.

Ma and Dad left for work around six-thirty and it will be Tink’s job to make sure that Curt and I are clean and respectable for the school community.  Curt stands in front of the black iron sink where Tink has taken some hot water from the kettle and cooled it down with brook water so he can scrub Curt’s neck and ears and make sure he is clean. Curt is doing some sort of a dance and protesting, but Tink has a good grip on him and I can see the cloth scrubbing around his ears. Curt asks Tink if he is trying to kill him and Tink replies no, that he isn’t but he isn’t going to school carrying summer dirt with him.  There he is through with Curt and it is my turn to be inspected. He turns me round and round until I am almost dizzy and then he takes a comb to my hair. I think my hair looks fine, but he wants to make sure everything is “all evened out”. Rex takes care of himself and I am not sure what would happen if Tink tried to inspect him.

One by one, we go to the kitchen cupboard counter and take a brown bag. I saw Ma making them up last night before we went to bed. I know we will have a biscuit with peanut butter and jelly and a cookie. Perhaps we will have a couple peanut butter and crackers in there, too. You never know until you open it on the school grounds at noon.

Tink will ride on the bus as far as Locke Mills and then he will get a ride to the high school. Right now we are rushing down the driveway because our bus has gone by to pick up Henry Bowers, who lives down below us now. As soon as the bus comes back, we should be right out there and waiting. Our bus driver is “Cass” Howe.

The bus stops. I have seen pictures of big yellow buses, but ours is a van. We have a plank on each side of the van where we sit. My knees almost touch the knees of the one sitting across from me. Cass smokes cigars and I hate the smell of them, but I am not going to say anything, because he looks a little gruff. Maybe he hates mornings as much as the rest of us.

All the four miles past all the ponds, I keep thinking about school. I am ten years old and going into the sixth grade which is in the “big” room and I have Mrs. Olive Lurvey for a teacher. We have three rooms in our school. The primary room, the middle room and the big room. All the kids in the  Big” room have always looked so big to me and now I have kind of a butterfly chorus in my stomach. I have had Mrs. McAllister, Mrs. Ring and Mrs. Gunther but I have heard that Mrs. Lurvey is a wonderful teacher, but also very strict. There are tales of her using a strap on some of the big boys’ hands when they got out of line. I thought about that this summer and I do not intend to get out of line at all. I have a sense of humor that Ma says will put me in a jail cell some time if I don’t straighten out. I don’t think I will land in a jail cell, hopefully, but I know Mrs. Gunther had me by the hair last year because something struck me funny and I couldn’t stop laughing.

Well, Cass has delivered us to the little schoolhouse. We climb out and walk up the side walk. Most of the town kids are here already. The smell of the oiled floors hits us as we walk inside. I almost forgot to hang my sweater in the big room alcove . To the right of that is where the middle room kids leave their lunch bags and sweaters and the little room has the whole middle hallway with coat hooks and places to leave their lunches. The boys bathroom is at the end of the hallway on the right, but we girls have to go to the end of the hallway, through a shed and through another door to our bathroom.  That is located more conveniently for the little room kids, though.

Curt goes into the little room and Rex and I look at each other and go into the big room and sit way on the right where sixth graders sit. We are in the same grade, because Mrs. McAllister got tired of my being bored in sub-primary reading Dick, Jane and Spot and put me in first grade the same year. So when I went back to school the second year, she put me in the second grade with Rex. I have been reading some of Dad’s detective stories at home when he was not around and Dick and Jane were very boring. I didn’t know all the words in the magazines, but what I did know were enough to make it exciting.  I like to sit in the back seat and especially since I see a book case filled with great looking books to read!!  I wonder if Rex is nervous, but he looks pretty brave. There is only one other girl, Kay, in my class.  We always sit near each other and sometimes get in trouble. I do not think I will get in trouble this year.

Mrs. Lurvey has just entered the room. She is ready to teach and the first thing I notice are her long, very red fingernails. I can’t see it, but I know lurking somewhere in the shadows must be that strap I have heard so much about.  I have a feeling this is going to be a very productive year, but a very loooong one.





One Last Hurrah

dadIt came as a total surprise last night when Dad butted his cigarette in his gold colored cowboy hat ashtray , tipped his cup to get the last drop of coffee and announced we should have one last week-end at camp. Ma protested that she did not have any extra food to take except a few potatoes and such. Dad said it did not matter because he would catch enough fish to keep us going for a day and a half. Ma replied he had better because she had to be home by Sunday noon to get their clothes ready for work on Monday and if we were going to spend all week-end at camp, when would she get the washing done? Dad didn’t answer but started to gather his fishing gear together, so Ma just sighed. I heard her mutter that she would be scrubbing clothes until midnight Sunday. She does have it hard, with nothing but a big tub and a scrub board and always the brown Fels-Naptha soap. Her hands are awful red by the time she gets through.

Here we are, this Saturday morning, and Ma has the few blankets and odds and ends tucked into a huge blanket held together by what she calls a “horse pin” and we will soon be on our way. Dad has been revving the engine for what seems like forever. Curt and I are excited to go one more time before school, but Rex and Roland are working in the woods this week-end.

We turn at Dan Cole’s farm and up over Rowe Hill we go and soon we are by the Colby Ring house and we can see Indian Pond from the road. Down the Hobbs road we go, past Miss Hobbs’ house and Curt swears he sees her peeking out her window.

At last, we have come to the end of the trail. Ma is tired so she has gone in the boat with Dad while Curt and I take to the trail. The little camp is setting there just waiting for us. Dad has brought the boat in while Ma guides him  and ties it up. Soon we are inside and the smell of it being closed up kind of knocks us back on our heels.

As soon as we get everything stored, Dad is in his boat and off fishing for white perch. It is very quiet and the mornings are cool now. We know we only have this one day to explore, so Curt and I go down to the bog behind the camp to see if there are any cranberries yet. Dad told us it would be too early and he is right.  Egbert isn’t on his/her bed anymore so we’re not sure what we want to do, but Curt tells me there is no way we are walking to Winnie Hanscom’s house.  I guess he hasn’t forgotten the last time I took him and found her gone. He doesn’t forget easily.

There is a deck of cards in the camp, so we perch on the porch railing and play “Go Fish” for quite awhile until Ma asks us to carry some wood from the back so she can start the fire. She says Dad will be back with a mess of fish soon and by the time he has cleaned them, she wants the stove hot to cook them up nice and crisp. We each carry an arm full in and she says that is enough for tonight and the morning before we go home. 

Dad was lucky and caught four big white perch and cleaned them on what he calls his “flat cleaning rock” down by the edge of the bog. Ma pops them in the hot greasy frying pan and they snap and crackle as they get nice and brown. Curt and I are getting a little hungry as we just had peanut butter and saltine crackers for our lunch. Potatoes are all boiled and we sit down to a delicious supper. I wonder why it tastes so much better here at camp?

After Ma and I finish cleaning the dishes, she notices that the pail of spring water is way down and she wants to make sure there is enough for breakfast and coffee, so she grabs the pail to set off for the spring. Dad offers, but she says no, she likes the walk and will take her time.

Dad, Curt and I sit on the porch and when there is a sound in the woods, Dad tells us what it is. We learn a lot from him, especially at night when we lay on our mattresses and there are really weird night sounds. One night we thought we heard a baby crying and Dad said, no, it was a bear. He has told us about owls and night hawks and other animals and we usually fall asleep while he is still telling us all these things.

Right now we all hear a thrashing on the other side of the bog. Oh, no! It is a bull moose and this time my father sits still. He hushes us and tells us that it is just hungry and has come down for some pickerel weeds and water. Curt and I sit very still, but the moose still comes wading across the bog. It enters the woods on the other side of the bog and goes in the direction Ma has gone for the water!! OH NO! We look at each other and wonder if Ma will meet it on her way back from the spring. Dad says there is nothing we can do about it now and if worse comes to worse, Ma can climb a tree. Well, I will take his word for it because I have never seen her climb any trees in my life, but on the other hand maybe she has never met a moose nose to nose. We hear it lumber off and then nothing.

Dad just sits and I wonder how he can be so calm when our mother might be in danger. I guess he knows her better than we do.  Finally, he turns and tells us not to say anything to Ma when she returns unless she says something about the moose. We know we should obey Dad, so our lips are sealed.

About fifteen minutes later, Ma comes in sight carrying her bucket of spring water and climbs the stone steps to the porch and Dad relieves her of the weight. He asks her how her walk was and she said it was nice and peaceful and there are still some wildflowers in bloom at the spring. He tells her that is good and he is glad she had a nice walk.

I figure that is enough adventure for one day and glad it turned out the way it did. As Grammy always says, what people don’t know, won’t hurt them.  I think she is right. Maybe I will tell her about this and swear her to secrecy when we go home tomorrow.

It has been a good day at camp. We look at the lights from the two farms on the mountain and head up to the mattresses. Our last night at the foot of Indian Pond. Curt and I will miss it.

A Teaspoon of Sugar

DSC09981Oh boy, school is coming up fast and I am wondering what Ma will come up with to keep the sickness and germs away.  Ever since I can remember, she has all these home treatments for what ails us or for what might ail us.

Last spring, she lined us up in front of the kitchen cupboard and said she had some pills. Tink was first, Rex second and I was last. She said Curt was too small to swallow the pills. Tink and Rex got theirs and without a sound moved on. It would have been nice if Rex had warned me. Ma had this little white packet and out of it came the biggest pill I had ever seen in my entire life. Bright purple and huge. What’s it for, Ma? So you won’t have worms. I don’t have worms. This will keep you from having worms. And so it went for quite a few minutes until I opened my mouth for one short sentence and she dropped in the pill. There was no way that pill was going down my throat. She handed me water. I choked. She handed me more water. I kept choking. There was a ring of purple forming around my mouth but the pill just would not go down. Spit it out , she commanded and handed me a tissue. I spit it out. At this point, any mother in the world would have cast her child to the lions. Ma just looked at me and pointed a finger right under my nose..yes, under my nose..then I knew she was making a point and I had better listen. You, young lady, will be the only one who will have worms. Well when she says, young lady, I just know I am in for a world of hurt. No first name, middle name, last name calling, but always young lady.

The next day, I peeked out the window and there was Ma, taking some bark off a poplar tree or as pronounced  here in Maine…”popple” tree. I wondered why she was doing that because she has told us never to take bark off any tree. She came into the house, grabbed a saucepan, tossed in the bark and a couple cups of water. I didn’t say anything because I knew she was in no mood for conversation with her lips set in a fine line, determined to accomplish some mission.  About an hour later, I found out her mission and that the subject was me. I was summoned to the kitchen cupboard and there Ma stood with a spoon in her hand and a bowl in the other. Open wide, she commanded. Well, this young lady opened her mouth and got the most foul tasting liquid ever to ingest. What is that for, Ma? Remember the purple pill you couldn’t swallow? Yes. Did  you have any problem swallowing that? No. Good, and you won’t get worms either.  Short and to the point. Ma was part Native American and popple bark tea was a natural medicine to keep worms away. That was the spring tonic.

Dad wasn’t much help at times. When we all had chicken pox, Rex and I were late in breaking out. We would feel better once we broke out, Ma kept saying. I really felt fine, except for a couple little spots. No I have to break out all over, she kept saying. Rex broke out. Finally Dad said he had the perfect answer. He planned to go to Dan Cole’s farm. Why? He has sheep. Why do you want sheep? Because if I bring home the sheep’s droppings ( though he did not say droppings), your mother can brew it up and that sheep turd tea will make you break out overnight. I didn’t even wait overnight. By the time the sun went down, there were spots on me to connect and make a picture. Whew!

I do have a lot of ear aches. It seems that my left ear aches all the time. When it aches really bad, Dad comes up to me, takes a puff of his cigarette, and blows it in my ear and puts a piece of cotton in my ear. Really, that does take the ache out for quite awhile. He has a friend who said a drop of urine in the ear works wonder, but Ma said no way was any urine going in her kid’s ear.

If we get a tooth ache, Ma reaches in the cupboard and brings out the cloves and sprinkles some out and tells us to get a bunch and put it on a little piece of cotton and place it where it hurts. That does work and I like the taste of cloves!

Rex has the croup in the winter. He barks so the whole house is awake. Before he goes to bed, she takes the big jar of grease from under the stairs where we store things, and warms some. She finds a big piece of flannel cloth and puts it on the stove shelf until it has warmed through. Then she puts the warm grease on his chest and his back , lays the warm piece of flannel on his chest and pulls his pajama top over his head. That usually lets him sleep all night without coughing too bad.

If one of us gets a little cut, she sprinkles some sugar on it to stop the bleeding, slaps a band aid on it and tells us it will be fine and so far, so good. I notice sometimes if she works outside on a really hot day, she comes in and sprinkles some salt on her tongue. I asked her why and she said it made her feel better.

We have had all the usual diseases a kid picks up at school. The “old-fashioned” measles was the worse for me because the boys had it two weeks before, so I had it by myself and laid in a dark room while they were in school and my parents were at work. All I wanted was pineapple and when Ma brought some home from work, I ate just a teaspoon of it, but oh, it was good.

All in all, Ma is quite a germ killer, even though some of her methods are a bit strange. Now that school is almost upon us, I wonder what she will be boiling up next?  I hope it tastes sweet!



Beauty is a Beast

DSC07834It is Sunday morning and just getting light outside. My little window will provide enough light for me to read before I hear Ma get up and light the fire in the wood stove.  I reach for my Nancy Drew book. I love reading about her detective work .  There she is, crouched over with her spy glass on the cover. I took the nice paper cover off and put it in my little bureau drawer so it wouldn’t get torn or dirty. I know what is going to happen on the next page, because I have read it so many times since I got it last Christmas. I like the Bobbsey Twins books, too. My favorite is Bobbsey Twins on Blueberry Island. I keep all my books and read them over and over.

My oldest brother, Tink, buys the Hardy Boys books. He lets me read each book as soon as he is finished. Frank and Joe, the Hardy boys, and their good friend, Chet, are always on the track of some evil person.

One of my favorite books came in the mail on my seventh birthday. I was so excited! It was a red book entitled “Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories” and inside was written that it was from Glenda Waterhouse. I asked Ma and Dad who she was and they said she was Fred Waterhouse’s daughter. I think they must be relatives. I don’t know. Now there is a mystery that Nancy Drew can solve for me!

I hear Ma in the kitchen and can smell coffee, so it’s time to put the daydreaming and the books aside. Dad is up, too, as I can smell his cigarette smoke as he drinks his Maxwell House coffee.

I hurry because some Sundays Dad drives to Locke Mills to Ray Langway’s little store on the corner for kerosene. The potato and egg looks good that Ma hands me and Dad says if I hurry, I can ride with him.  We have a little blue container with a spout and cap we keep in the kitchen corner to hold the kerosene for building the fire. Dad says the price has gone up to seven cents a gallon. I like riding up with him as we talk about fishing and what he plans to do for hunting in the fall. Mr. Langway is always smiling and he and Dad get to talking while I just look around.

I like Sundays because Ma and Dad are home and right now Ma says we do not have to go to church or Sunday school because regular school starts soon. As we drive into the yard, I see Uncle Harold picking corn out of his big garden next door. Since he and Aunt Vi moved back with Grammy and Grandpa, he has done a lot of outside work. He cleared a path along the edge of the pasture woods and his cow wanders up and down behind the new fence he built. I like the fence, I don’t like the cow.

There’s a spot behind Grandpa’s barn where we dig worms for fishing. Just a few shovels of dirt and you have enough worms for the day. There is only one problem for me now. I have to keep an eye out for the cow and one eye on the ground to get my worms. I’ve never told Uncle Harold I do not care for cows. In fact, I am downright scared of the creatures. He named this beast of a cow Beauty for no reason whatsoever. It has a big round face with huge brown eyes. When I look at it chewing its cud, the eyes just kind of stare back at me. There is no sign of intelligence at all in her eyes. She is a moving tank on four legs and doesn’t even walk like most cows. She strolls or sash-shays from grass tuft to grass tuft and chews her cud. She has a swagger to her.

Tonight, my brothers and I are invited to a corn roast. Uncle Harold says the pasture is damp enough so he wants to burn the brush from clearing the cow’s path and at the same time we will have some fine corn to eat. That sounds like fun, as I love corn. 

The stars are out and a big old moon is shining down on the pasture. The bonfire is going and my older brothers help pile the brush on. The smell is wonderful as the corn roasts and Uncle Harold is going to take some in to Grammy and Grandpa when it is done. I ask Uncle where the cow is and he says she is down on the path and probably won’t come near the fire.

I bite in the ear of corn, so juicy the kernels are swimming. My shirtsleeve catches the juice as it runs down my chin. This is heaven! Hums of satisfaction are coming from my brothers as well.  Uncle has a great sense of humor and we are all laughing and eating at the same time.

What is that I hear? CRUMP CRUMP CRUMP ..this is the noise of a walking, stalking cow and it is coming in my direction. I eat faster, determined to devour the treat before Beauty comes near.  CRUMP CRUMP CRUMP I hear twigs breaking. The light from the bonfire reflects one wild, bulging eye and with a scream in my throat and an ear of corn in my hand, I run. I do not care if there is not a shred of pride left in my body, I vault the wire fence using the fence pole for balance. CRUMP CRUMP CRUMP, she is running right behind as I make the mad leap. She skids to a halt and if cows laugh, she is splitting her sides.

Uncle Harold tries to reassure me that Beauty is no menace, but I tell him my stomach is full and thank him. I don’t tell him it is also fluttering with nerves.

Beauty looks at me, swaggers down her path, stops to rub her back on an old tree and I swear, she turns and winks at me. I do not like cows.

Smell of Success

blogThe nights are feeling a bit chillier now and I pull the old quilt up a little more to warm my body before I climb out of bed.  The mornings are cool, but as the day goes on, the sun warms it enough so we are still going barefoot and have a swim in the afternoon.

There are still some summer people in their cottages, which means Rex, Curt and I are still performing a ritual twice a week. We wait in the hot sun at the end of our driveway on Tuesdays and Thursdays and look up the “flat” for the milkman to come. I hold the glass bottle from the last visit, all washed and shiny and we buy a quart of ice-cold milk to drink. Will it be strawberry or chocolate? Both of the boys like chocolate, but my favorite is strawberry, both for the color and the flavor.  This day is chocolate day as we take turns.  At last, we see him coming and before he stops his truck, we see his smile. His name is Ace, or at least that is what he tells us.  I wonder what he thinks when he sees the three of us, barefooted and this morning’s play dirt on us standing and waiting.  He takes the shiny, empty bottle and says, what will it be today?  Rex tells him we want chocolate and hands him the 35 cents.  Because we give him back the bottle, I think we get it cheaper. I don’t know; I just want to start drinking it. We thank him and he says I will see you next time and drives to the next cottage. I carry it to the house, my hand making an imprint on the frosty bottle. We sit at the table, each with our white enameled cup with the blue rim and divide it up equally and drink until it is gone. Ma is pleased that we spend our work money on milk and sometimes she will give us a few cents to make up the difference if we are a little short.  I think next week is the last week that Ace will be coming because most of the summer people will be gone.

But today is Saturday and Ma has a visitor.  She works at the mill, so doesn’t have time to have many, so we can see she is pleased. Her friend, Winnie Hanscom, walked over from Rowe Hill early this morning and Ma is going to give her a home permanent.  It is a Toni and Ma has the pink curlers and the end papers all laid out.  The waving stuff does smell awful and before Winnie came, Dad said he was going off for the day so he wouldn’t have to live in that stink. Ma said that suited her just fine. I know she wants to be able to visit as she says “woman to woman.” Winnie brought a cake to thank Ma for doing the perm and we kids are pleased to see that!! On Ma’s birthday, Winnie always bakes a cake and Johnny Howe, our mailman, picks it up at Winnie’s and drives it right up to the door and delivers it on his mail route. Now isn’t that something!  Johnny is really good, because if I want to send away for something and I don’t have a stamp, I just put three pennies in the mailbox and he takes them and puts the stamp on for me.

Winnie is sitting in the kitchen chair and hands Ma an end paper each time she gets some hair ready to be curled.  The kitchen is getting kind of smelly and Ma will be rinsing Winnie’s hair and all, so I think it is best if Curt and I just mosey outside and maybe go fishing. Rex has already gone because the smell got to him, he said.

Curt and I decide to just walk down the road a bit and see what is going on. We go by Grace and Charlie Day’s place. They are very nice people and sometimes take us to a show at the Locke Mills town hall. Once we saw Ken McKenzie and another time Lone Pine Mountaineer.  I loved that and sang the songs all week long.  One day I was walking by and Grace called for me to come and visit. We talked for awhile and she invited me to stay for lunch as Charlie would be coming home at noon. She was cooking something called Welsh Rarebit. I wondered if we were going to have a real rabbit. But no, it was really good with lots of cheese and stuff mixed together. Today their car is gone, so Curt and I stop by some rocks and I cast out my line to see if I can catch a perch. Dad says do not keep yellow perch in August as they are wormy.  Well I never catch anything else it seems, but it is fun to see the line tug and ripples around it.

Curt is a little worried as this will be his second year in school and he is always a little afraid and nervous. Ma has been to Brown’s Variety in Bethel and picked up some new socks for all of us and some pencils. She went to J.J. Newberry’s in Norway and got us each a pencil box. Mine is blue and it has a little snap on front. When I open it, there are the pencils, a pink eraser, a little ruler and a protractor. I don’t know why they stick that silvery thing in there because I never use one and don’t even know how to use it. But there is a little notch for it so it must be good for something.  I like the smell of the inside of the pencil box. Curt says he does too, but Rex says we are both crazy.

We have new shoes to last all school  year until we can go barefoot next summer. I hope our feet don’t grow too fast. The boys have new sneakers and mine are brown leather or something that looks like leather and they lace up. Rex calls them “girl’s shoes” and sniffs.

I haven’t had a tug on my fish line, so probably I’ve lost the worm off the hook. Curt is getting hungry and we’ve been gone quite awhile so maybe we should start home.

There is Winnie, looking very pretty with her hair all curled up. Ma is looking very satisfied that she has done such a good job.  I see a pile of wet towels and know Ma will be scrubbing them on her scrub board tomorrow with her Fels-Naptha brown soap and hanging them on her clothesline that runs from tree to tree.

The smell is mostly gone from the kitchen. Ma hands us the bread, peanut butter and jelly and tells us to help ourselves.  I plaster one together for Curt and one for me and we head outside to eat on the rocks.  That way Ma and Winnie can still talk “woman to woman” and enjoy whatever smell is left.

Remembering Greenwood Center, Maine

knifeGreenwood Center is where I live. Our little house is across from Twitchell Pond, but the summer people call it Twitchell Lake. Maybe it sounds fancier for them, but it’s a plain old pond to me. It’s where I go swimming and sometimes sit on a rock and “plug fish” for some perch.

My Uncle Roy lives about a half-mile down the road from our house. He is very talented and carves things out of wood and paints on toadstools. He would much rather work in the woods and log it with my Uncle Louis.

There is an old mill near his house, which I think Grammy’s father, Ransom Cole, owns. It has not been running for years and looks as though it won’t be standing much longer. Sometimes my brother and I sneak in there to look around at the rusty machines and there is one little room where we think perhaps someone filed the saws and fixed machinery. We are not supposed to in there because it is dangerous but sometimes curiosity gets the best of us. Ma would really punish us if she knew and as she always says..curiosity killed the cat. Once my brother said, yeah, but information brought him back and then we both ran. We heard her say something about being sassy , so we waited quite awhile before we went back home. She was busy, so we figured she had forgotten or else she figured we could pay the consequences if we got in trouble there.

Grammy and Grampa Martin live next door, so we can run over there any time we want. We get all our drinking water from their house because we have no well of our own. We can use the brook water for washing dishes and clothes, but it isn’t fit to drink. One night, Ma noticed we were almost out, so she sent Rex to get a jug. On the way home, he dropped it on the tarred road and cut his hand so badly Ma had to rush him to the doctor in Bethel for stitches. His hand hurt for a long time.

Uncle Glenn and Norma live on the other side of us and we have a path to their house as well, right through the woods, so we can play with our cousins.

A half-mile beyond their house is the Lester Cole farm and oh, how I love to see all their hens and chickens running around.  They have a big dump truck, their own gravel pit, cows  and everything.  It seems like they are rich!  Well, after all, they have the only telephone nearby in the neighborhood. The line has not been run far enough for Grammy to have a phone and many a time I have run “up the flat” to make a call for her. Lester and Netta are very good about our using it.

Laura Seames lives in a little white house that Dad says used to be a schoolhouse. She buys the Grit from me. Oh, that’s right! I didn’t tell you that I deliver the Grit because Rex started it, but decided he did not want to do it because it took too much time from his other money making plans.

Near Mrs. Seames, is my Grammy’s brother, my great-uncle Elmer Cole.  He is blind because of an accident using dynamite years ago.  Sometimes if Ma gets laid off at the mill, she works for him doing housework and helping out in general. He has a little store as you enter his house where he carries all kinds of cough drops and other helpful things like Vicks Vapor Rub and Cloverine Salve. If I have a nickel, I go to Uncle Elmer’s, pull on the long cord, which clangs a bell inside, and he comes to the door. Ma told me to announce loudly that I am Sandra, Ethel’s daughter. The minute I say that, he smiles and says, come in, come in. He knows I always get a box of Smith Bros. black cough drops. I don’t tell him that when Ma smells one, she says, get away from me. I can’t stand that smell. Well, they are my favorite cough drop and I don’t even have a cold. I always thank him and when I leave, I look at the wooden path to his shed…all little flat boards laid out in a path. There’s a rope hooked to posts along the way so that he can guide himself.  He always seems so cheerful even though he cannot see. I know that Grammy keeps sending away to try and find methods to help him see again and she pastes stories of those who have regained their sight into her scrapbook.

Hollis Cushman lives in his camp on the other side of the pond opposite Uncle Elmer. I see Hollie, as we call him, when I deliver his Grit. I have a little ivory jackknife he gave me, which he says is made for ladies. He is always glad to see me and makes me sit to rest. It is a mile to Dan Cole’s house and then I have to walk down back the pond to his camp. Hollie is a friend of the family and a very nice gentleman.

We don’t have electricity at our house, so we use kerosene lamps. We have a big Aladdin lamp with a fragile mantle for our kitchen table. Ma is always telling us to be careful not to break it so we sit and read by the table and try not to make any big movements. Dad always goes to bed and reads his western paperbacks by the lamp by his bed. He used to smoke in bed, too, until one night he set the mattress on fire and it had to be dragged out the front door. That was a real scene and we stayed right out of the way. Finally it looked safe to drag back inside. Ma really sputtered and I must say, he never did smoke again in bed!

With no running water, you can imagine we also use an outhouse at the edge of the woods. That is no fun at all, especially in the winter, but Ma says you do what you have to do …and she is right. Even Grammy has an outhouse, but hers is in a corner of the barn with pretty pictures from magazines all glued on the walls. Ours is a roof and four walls and we are glad for that much!

Well, this is a picture of the place I call home. I love seeing the water every day with the sun sparkling on it or smelling the rain when it is coming.  Sometimes we hear the train going up the grade on the other side of Rowe’s Ledge and that means the air is right for rain.

I guess Greenwood Center is just about perfect for me.

Cash Cow Comes Through

cloudThe summer is coming to a close and soon school days will be upon us. Today my Uncle Harold has his pick-up truck ready to roll and asks me if I would like to earn a little money. That is like music to my ears, so I hop in and here we are in my Uncle Roy’s field ready to rake and load the hay that has dried in the August sun. Uncle rakes and forks it on the truck and that is when my work begins. I tread it down from one corner of the truck body to the other and as soon as I have made it around to the beginning, another fork full hits me in the face. I wave my arms around and sputter it out of my mouth and keep treading. It has been about an hour now and the pile is getting higher. Each time Uncle Harold moves the truck, I cling on for dear life as he rolls it over ditches and rocks in his way. He has quite the sense of humor I guess. I wonder if he knows how much an eleven year old girl weighs? I could be bounced into the woods and he’d never know it! At last the load is above the roof of the cab and he says we are ready to drive it home and store it in Grampa and Grammy’s barn. I thought he was going to have me get off the hay and into the front seat, but no , I am clinging to the sides of the cab roof as we go up the road by Twitchell Pond and up the hill to the barn.

Finally, it is done. The hay is pitched and tread into the loft and I leave with the fifty cent piece in my pocket. Hay chaff is stuck to every part of my body in the sweat of the afternoon sun. I quickly run home, change and go to Grammy’s beach to wash it all off!

Rex and Roland have been working for Wilmer Bryant on Rowe Hill, picking cucumbers out of his garden to be shipped to Paris to a pickle factory, I think. That is hard work on the back, he says. While Rex is helping Wilmer, I have been in charge of his frog business. Rex catches little frogs in the bog and in the brook and sells them to bass fishermen who come to Birch Villa Inn, in Bryant Pond. When a car with an out of state license plate comes into the yard, I know it is a stranger who needs bait. I take him out back and lift the cage out of the water where Rex stores his frogs. I ask how many he wants for three cents each and grab them and put them in his bait container. 

The frog business has been going on for a few years. Rex is a business man, even though he is only 18 months older. Not long ago, he discovered our oldest cousin was selling frogs as well and selling them for a penny less!! Rex met our cousin on the road half way between his house and ours. It was a very tense moment!! Rex confronted him and he said that he would continue selling as long as he wanted. Then my brother grabbed him and threw him into the bog. Oh, no! Our cousin had on his new Sears overalls that he was planning to wear to school in a few weeks. Now I knew that Rex would really get it!! Well, my mother and our cousin’s mother met and talked the whole thing over, laughed and said kids will be kids and that was the end of it. But Rex said at least he was the only frog seller in our neighborhood again. Well, he is coming home today and probably will be concentrating on his trapping.

I don’t know how he gets up so early once his trap line is ready, but he does. The worse part is somewhere and I do not ask where, he skins out his muskrats and has special boards he puts them on to dry before he ships them somewhere. All I know is that he hangs them in a row at the head of the attic stairs and if I am not careful, I run my face into them in the dark mornings. He thinks it’s funny. I don’t.

But now Dad is calling to see if Curt and I want to ride to Greenwood City and look for bottles on the way .  Dad backs up the 1933 Chevy and Curt takes one window and I sit at the other. When we spot a bottle, we yell and Dad stops and backs the car up.  Out one of us jumps, grabs the bottle and puts it in the stash on the back seat floor. By the time we get to Wilbur Yates’ store, we have quite a few bottles and once we cash them in, the fun begins. Mr. Yates and Dad visit while Curt and I look over the candy counter and decide what we want. There are 2 for a penny, 3 for a penny and some are a penny each. We both decide and Mr. Yates puts them in two little brown bags. Curt and I sit in the car while Dad and Mr. Yates do some unfinished business and  we swap the candy back and forth until we are satisfied. I like the little wax bottles filled with the pretty tasting liquid and then I chew the wax after I drink the insides. Curt thinks the wax is awful. He has some bubble gum and I don’t like that. There are Mary Janes and oh, the little white candy sticks with the red tip that look like real cigarettes. We feel very grown up putting those in the corner of our mouths and laughing. We do not, however, do that when Ma is around!  I think my favorites are the Necco wafers because I save the white ones to snap under the blankets in the dark. They make a little spark!!! Soon we are on our way home. Dad toots the horn at Toivo Lehto’s house, a Finnish friend who comes to visit, to let him know we are in the area. Soon we are chugging up Falls Hills and past the Ames Place and tooting again by Uncle Roy’s house to let him know we are out and about.

No sooner have I got out the car and Uncle Louis is at the corner of Grammy’s house  calling to me. He calls me Bridget and I don’t know why, but guess it suits him to call me that. He has the most beautiful blue eyes I have ever seen and I always look at them. He needs someone to turn the handle of the grindstone so he can sharpen his axe. He pours some water in the bottom of what looks like part of an old car tire and I turn the handle of the grindstone, while he lays his axe very gingerly on it. It seems like forever and my arm is about to fall off when he says, Bridget, I think we have it and he feels the axe with the side of his thumb. He digs in his pocket and gives me a nickel. I thank him and he pats my head.

It has been a long day from haying to riding to turning the grindstone, but I have some money saved for school supplies. I know Grampa Martin will soon want Rex and me to walk the potato fields again, picking off the potato bugs and put them in jars. We get a nickel for each jar along with Grampa grumbling about the bugs. Grammy will want her lawn mowed with the little push mower and she insists on giving me a dime. Ma says no, you do not take money for helping your grandparents. I know that and I tell Gram but she puts it in my hand and says, now you take this and run along.

Sometimes life is very difficult for someone my age. Whew.

Remembering World War II

frontfan backfanI have been visiting Grammy Martin and am half way across the field to home when I hear the airplane’s roar. I run in terror, jump the brook, run inside and up the stairs to my bed where I pull the covers over my ears.  I am terrified of airplanes and I don’t dare tell my mother and father. I stick my head out of the blankets and it is quiet. The plane has gone. Last week, I was at the pond by Mr. Kenyon’s cottage when suddenly a big plane swooped down over the ledge and I thought it was going to drop bombs. I ran for the house and my bed. I could hear my heart pounding and knew it was going to pop through my shirt. I wonder if I will ever stop being afraid of airplanes.

I don’t think Ma and Dad realize that we hear when they talk about the war. I am only seven years old, but I know Dad is worried about his two brothers, Dwight and Glenn and feels guilty that he could not join in the fighting. The sawmill made a mess of his left hand so he can’t even play the guitar the way he used to. But you know my Dad! He just tunes it differently, lays it on his lap and holds a bar in his left hand.

Every night after work, Dad goes across the pasture to get the latest news of his brothers and to see if Grammy has heard.  Their letters are blacked out and holes punched in them, but they try to figure out where they are and what they are doing.

I have the stove going, coffee water hot and potatoes are boiling. Ma and Dad are stopping at the grocery store to get things “on the cuff” until they are paid on Friday. The only meat we ever buy is hamburg and hot dogs. Dad hates hot dogs so they aren’t on the table very often.

Groceries are brought in and Ma empties the few things on the tiny cupboard counter. There is the oleo..white in its little plastic bag with the yellow coloring tablet for one of us to squish with our hands to make sure it is an all even yellow color and looks like butter. While Ma gets the hamburg all in little patties, I sit and squish, squish until she is satisfied it “will do.”  There are the cans of milk. I am so tired of canned milk and on the days I can have cereal, it tastes awful. She mixes it one can of water to one can of milk. Ma buys Puffed Wheat for Curt and if there is enough money, the rest of us can have a box of Shredded Wheat. I call them hay bales but I like it because between each layer of bales are pictures to color. Most of the time we have fried potatoes and eggs, except for Curt, because Ma says he needs cereal and milk for his bones.

It is a treat when we have a piece of bread with some of the “butter” spread on it and just a tiny sprinkle of sugar on top. Ma says she won’t touch molasses as that is all she had when she was growing up, but she makes molasses cakes on weekends and we kids eat it.

Last year our teacher asked us to pick milkweed for the service men and it had something to do with making parachutes. I picked all one weekend. Ma gave Rex and me some change to buy stamps to put in a little booklet to help the war bond effort. We are saving metal, too. It seems everyone in the neighborhood is trying to help all the soldiers in the war. The newspapers have pictures of our villages’ soldiers and sailors and always report if they are wounded.

That is why I am afraid of airplanes.  I can’t understand where the bombing is going on. Some days there are lots in the sky and Grammy says they are doing some practicing for the war.  Dad seems very happy tonight and Ma says it won’t be long before we won’t be using ration stamps. Dad says he is going to Grammy’s to tell her the good news. What good news are they talking about, I wonder and why is Dad acting so happy? He says, Muff, the war is over. Your Uncle Dwight will be coming home soon. Does that mean the airplanes won’t come anymore, I ask myself. Does that mean I don’t have to be scared any more?

It is almost time for snow to fly again and many months have passed since Dad told me the war is over. A tall man comes into the house and we are in the kitchen. The Aladdin kerosene lamp is casting a glow on the painted sheetrock wall. The man is shaking Dad’s hand and Dad is slapping him on the back. He sits in one of our big chairs by the wall. Dad tells me this is my Uncle Dwight and to come meet him. I cannot remember him, but he is very handsome and smiles. He beckons to me and I go to him very slowly because I am shy. He hands me a beautiful fan and says that he brought it home just for me.  I thank him. This Uncle would never let the planes bomb me. I should have known. I sit next to him and hold the fan tightly. I am safe.

Remembering Grammy Martin

gram mAnother summer day and I want to visit Grammy Martin. Curt is playing with his trucks in the dirt again, and I hop the rocks across the brook and run the path across the field to my grandparents’ farm. Gram is always glad to see me and smile. She is the sweetest person and makes the best raisin-filled cookies I’ve ever tasted. She is on the way to gather the eggs, so she tells me she needs help. I know she doesn’t but that is the way Grammy is. We stop and she pulls some straight green narrow stalks from her garden. She hands me one and keeps one for herself to nibble on. It tastes like onions. She cautions me about the rooster, as she unlatches the hen house and tells me not to pick up the china eggs in the nests and then giggles because she tells me that every time. She scoots the rooster to the side of the coop and quickly gathers all the eggs in her basket and out the door we go before the rooster changes his mind.

I love the little blue sneakers she always wears and she wipes them over and over before we go into the kitchen, so I make sure I do the same. She has a woodbox, that actually has a cover on it so it can be used for a seat. Up on the shelf over the woodbox is a little log cabin that smells like pine if you light it. And oh, the cute little dutch boy and girl who tell what the weather is going to be!  I love this kitchen. It is so warm and cozy and the water comes out of the pipe running into the sink holding tank is so neat. That is where we get all our drinking water. There is a huge hole at the top of the tank where lightning hit once and Uncle Louis, who lives with Grammy says  it almost blew him across the kitchen. I guess it followed the pipe down from the spring in the pasture hill. He says that was sure a close call.

Grammy has a sewing machine on her porch and sometimes I sit out there with her while she sews on her quilts. We don’t have to say anything. She sews and I look out over the pond and watch the boats and fishermen going by.  I know she knits , too, because every Christmas she makes us hats and mittens and they are really warm!

The porch is always the gathering place for Sunday visitors. Frank and Leah Waterhouse come and visit and once in awhile a man named Fred Davis comes and brings his banjo. I love to come over and hear him play.  Grammy has so many of her family off fighting the war and I know she enjoys company. Grampa Martin doesn’t say much. He uses a cane, covered with blackjack gum and sometimes two canes. I think he has arthritis, but no one ever has said. I don’t think he likes kids that much, though he has eight of his own. He acts pretty grumpy but maybe because his sons Dwight and Glenn are off fighting the war and so is his grandson Junior Martin.  Sometimes I come over on a Sunday afternoon when there is company. Someone always wants me to sing “There’s a Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere” and each time I sing it, I get a quarter.  Grammy likes that song and I know it makes her think of her sons. She has a scrapbook and every time their names or pictures are in the newspaper, she cuts them out and pastes them in it.

Grammy doesn’t come to visit us very often, even though we are right next door. I think between waiting on Grampa and making butter and all the farm chores, she doesn’t have time. When Ma sees her coming up the driveway, she says, oh, no, even though she likes Grammy. Ma knows our house is not as nice or neat and clean as it should be or maybe that is just the way she thinks.  I think it is fine and Grammy always comes in and makes herself at home. She doesn’t stay long because she is so busy.

If I could choose to be like anyone, I would want to be like my Gram. She always smiles and never has a bad thing to say about anyone. When I told Ma that, she told me I have a lot of practicing to do. I guess she is right!