In my first blog, I mistakenly wrote I was 17 years old when we first moved to our little real estate on Rowe Hill. I missed a birthday, probably between cleaning wallpaper and polishing the little wood stove, in February of that year. I actually was a year older, but no wiser.
Furniture was scarce and in the first few months, we scrounge what little we needed here and there. Relatives probably fled when they saw us approaching their door yards. The bed was new with a built in bookcase at the headboard. Being a voracious reader, I thought this was the top of the line purchase! A black and white tv with rabbit ears came to us through a family member; our kitchen table came from Sears with its very classy cherry and ivory top and the padded cherry covered chairs. Such luxury!! But the old wood stove remained. It provided heat and was all I had to cook on for some time. A new electric stove was not in the budget nor was a washing machine.
I still worked at Ekco and sorted the rosewood that my Dad sawed on the other side of the gigantic wall separating us. The wood was from Brazil, so named because of its rosy color. After we sorted the trash from the good, my boss, Ansel Jordan came and carried the bag away to be taken to another part of the mill where my mother, one of many, put them on a machine to form the handles of knives and other Ekco cookware.
Each night, the husband and I came home dragging our feet and the little wood stove awaited my loving touch. One of my early surprises was finding the husband was not too adept at building a fire. I had early training from the age of seven, so it took me a few minutes to get a roaring fire going. Then there was the matter of getting food on the table. Do you know how long it takes for a couple of potatoes to boil ? How long it takes the water to get hot enough so they will boil?
I don’t want to say my enthusiasm for my little kingdom was becoming tarnished, but this princess was beginning to sense that life was not all roses and especially when the crispness of September rolled in. It was then I noticed that we would never be warmed by coal; any bank of coals the husband acquired faded out long before our feet hit the coldness of the hardwood floors at 5 a.m. Each cool night as I cooked supper, he was in the basement once again talking to the huge lumps of coal that were supposed to keep us as toasty warm as his father’s stove did the winter before. All we lacked was his father, who was not about to move in with us, when his toes were toasty warm in his own home.
The news came down that Ekco was laying off workers and I was one to go. Ah, but Penley’s was hiring in West Paris. So here I was at 18 and about to be indoctrinated into another skill..making spring clothespins. I could do this. It was a frosty morning when I made arrangements to meet with another worker in Bryant Pond to hitch a ride.
I was seated at a machine with a pedal that I was to kick or push…it was a matter of rhythm. Grab the spring and two pieces of wood and slap them on the machine. If I could make x number of gross a day, I’d get a dollar an hour…well, let me tell you. As soon as I got that rhythm down, no problem! Junior Farr was my boss and a good one.
I didn’t mind the new job at all, but I did mind when the husband forgot he was married. It seems this one particular night..dark, snowy, temperature close to zero..you get the picture, my friend left me off in Bryant Pond knowing that the husband would pick me up as he came home from his job at Ekco. I stood; I waited; I stomped my feet trying to keep warm on the corner. No husband, no car, no nothing. I started walking for home, figuring that eventually he would come or he had already come through and forgot about me. At least I would be warm if I kept walking. Well, let’s say I walked about a mile and suddenly a car came from behind and stopped. I don’t want to say that I was a trifle put out because I wasn’t. I was beyond that, way beyond that plus cold and tired.
“Where have you been?” I don’t think I shrieked but maybe the cold, frosty air made the words snap a bit.
“I went to the union meeting and forgot I was supposed to pick you up.”
Incredible. Just incredible that a husband could forget his wife standing in snow and cold after working all day. The ride home was a silent one, up one slippery hill, down Velvet Hollow, up another couple slippery hills until we stopped the sliding car in front of the castle I so admired just a few months ago.
I slammed into the kitchen, grabbed matches, half a newspaper and lit the wood stove. The husband made way for the basement, in a feeble attempt to once again secure the coal bank that would ease its way into oblivion in the early morning hours.
Meanwhile, I grabbed a sauce pan, opened two cans of chicken noodle soup and slammed that on top of the stove. In the next breath, I opened a package of saltine crackers and tossed them on the table with two bowls and two spoons.
The husband emerged from the cellar, hands black from the coal, took one look at the table and knew there would be no potatoes and meat this evening. The little princess had just lost her cool.