Don't let the difficulties of the present moments overshadow the reality of God's promises. God's promises still stand. And God's promises are stronger than our failures.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Letters From The Past - Number 2

Dear Family and Friends,
Good morning! I was just looking out my front window at the jonquils – they are more beautiful this year than I’ve ever seen them – and thought about how excited we were when we were children and the first signs of spring showed up. Spring meant playing outside after the long winter days when we were stuck inside the house. Spring meant summer was coming and summer meant…no school! And sometimes summer meant trips to see Grandma in California.

In my last letter I told you that we lived in the Ozark Mountains when I was born. It didn’t take long for Mama and Daddy to realize they couldn’t make a living there so when a buddy of Daddy’s from his army days called and asked him to run a sawmill in Rison, Arkansas, they took my brother, Freddie, and I down to this small town in the south central part of the state. Since I was only six months old I don’t remember a thing about that move! I do know that we lived next door to a couple there who became lifelong friends of Mama and Daddy and that they had 2 or 3 daughters I played with out in the yard. I know her name was Lucille King but I don’t remember her husband’s name. One of the girls, when she was grown, married a man who later was my boss at a high school where I was an assistant principal – small world! My brother tells me that Daddy nearly got into trouble there for allowing a 15 year old to work in the sawmill. That 15 year old was a man named J.E. Brown who went on to become a fairly successful singer in his adult years. While we were there Mama got pregnant again – surprise! And along came Terry, who was born in the hall of the hospital because Mama couldn’t make it all the way to the operating room. By that third baby she was an old hat at the baby thing and just had them very quickly. She only waited a little while after Terry was born and had her tubes tied. I don't remember that old sawmill but I bet it looked a lot like this old falling down one after it was closed.
When the saw mill closed the owner wanted Daddy to move to Memphis and run a mill there but Daddy didn’t think he wanted to raise his family in Memphis – too big for him – so instead we moved to Pine Bluff and he went to work for a farm equipment company. We lived in an apartment house for a while, I think upstairs, and it was there Mama ended up pregnant again. I know, I know, she had her tubes tied. It seems she was already pregnant when they did that and they didn’t know it! I was 17 months old when Terry was born, and then I was 28 months and Terry 11 months when Sherry was born. So that was four children in a small apartment – talk about going crazy! Mama and Daddy found a little 2 bedroom house they could afford to buy so when I was five we moved into our new house. It was crowded there but better than the apartment! They put the two girls in one bedroom, the two boys in one bedroom and made the living room into a bedroom for them. Those three rooms plus a kitchen and bathroom was what we had until Daddy could scrape up the money to add on to the house about 7 years later.

We are all so spoiled these days. We have not just everything we want, but often multiples of those things! We were grateful for one bathroom for six people, and sometimes even more when my grandparents came. When we got our first television it went into Mama and Daddy’s bedroom and we all piled up on their bed to watch. I remember when we got a telephone. I was in the 4th grade and the number was JE4-2202. It was one of those black rotary dial phones – back then that was the only phone there was. Later on they added wall phones and even some colors and then the princess phones – we thought that was amazing that you could have a choice. There was certainly was no need for a play room because the only toys we had were a doll, maybe a gun and holster, a bicycle. And the bicycles were really a necessity because we all rode our bikes to school.

Mama worked at an archery plant in Pine Bluff for a while and then for Kress – a dime store. She and Daddy together didn’t make much money but those were the best jobs they could get. Mama only got through the 10th grade and Daddy through the 6th before they had to quit school and go to work. We were poor and we knew it but until I was a teenager I don’t remember being too bothered by it. We didn’t always have enough food but we had some. It seems to me that folks just ate less then, and they ate cheaper. We had lots of beans, soft drinks were a very special once every six months maybe treat, and a sweet treat was Kool Aid powder mixed with sugar in the palm of your hand and licked off.

We weren’t called latch key kids, the term that I hear so often these days, but that’s what we were. With one exception. The door wasn’t locked – ever. We rode our bikes to school and we rode them home. We played outside till Mama and Daddy got home from work and whatever neighborhood mom who was at home would look out the window once in a while to check on whoever was playing in her yard. If we fell and scraped a knee we went in the house and put something on it and went back out. There was a ravine across the street and behind the houses there and we played there a lot. In the woods. Where no one could see us. They could probably hear us as we practiced our Tarzan screams while we swung back and forth across the ravine on an old rope someone hung on a tree. Sometimes we played Cowboys and Indians or Army. But my favorite game was playing with my sister and our dolls out in the backyard under the hickory nut tree. In the fall we would rake the leaves into squares and those squares were our houses. She lived next door to me – I wish we still did! We played for hours like that and got brown as berries. I never remember having a cold or being sick except I know I had my tonsils out when I was 5 so I guess I must have been.

Well I was going to tell you about our California trips in this letter but I’ve gotten long winded and now I’ve got to go. Next time I’ll tell you about that but in the meantime if anyone wants to write back I’d love to hear from you. You could tell me about your childhood memories and maybe it would trigger some memories in this tired brain of mine!
Give my love to the family.
Peace and Blessings,


Love Bears All Things said...

I really enjoyed reading this. It just brought back so many memories for me. Times were simpler then.
Mama Bear

Unknown said...

I love this post and what a wonderful series this will make. We should all live more like this than the way things have become today.

You grew up very rich indeed. I am looking forward to reading the next installment.

Marge said...

You're looking out your window at jonquils, and we're looking at the list of school closings as we wait for the latest winter storm! Maybe we left Florida too early!

Loved your story about your childhood. We, too, were poor, but we didn't know it because almost everyone else lived the same as we did. My dad was a pastor of two small country churches. Often a part of his salary was a couple of chickens, or a roast and some hamburger. My grandma sewed all of our clothes. We didn't have TV until I was a teenager. My favorite place to play was in the huge grove of lilac bushes. We would carve out rooms under the sweet smelling bushes and play house there with our dolls. Yup, we were poor, but we never knew it and I would give anything if my grandkids could experience that kind of childhood! Our world has become so fast paced and cluttered with stuff.....simple is better!

And I haven't heard a thing about my machine yet!!

Lori said...

The jonquils are beautiful. even more so as we are waiting for ice to hit here soon.

We used to make leaf houses too. Thanks for mentioning that as I had forgotten all about it. What a great memory to burble up again.

Susan said...

I enjoyed your letter. Such a way with the written word.

I remember those halcyon days well. (we are the same age)

Needled Mom said...

This was a beautiful read. Sometimes I, too, feel that we have compicated our lives way too much. Your parents dedication to their family was pure love for all of you. There should be more of that and less complaining these days and we'd all be better off.

Osage Bluff Quilter said...

I love you post today. It made me think of when times were less stressful. Only a few kinds of ceraal to choose from, corn flakes, rice crispies and puffed wheat. Not the 100's of boxes there are today.
One of my childhood memories is when I was 4 yrs old. Mom was the boy scout leader. She had gotten Army helmet liners for the cub scouts. One day my older brother (who was 6 yrs older)and I were in the back yard playing. Mom kept hearing a ping, ping, ping noise. When she looked out the window, I had the helmet liner on and was standing against the tree. Wesley was target practicing off my head. That was the last he saw of the BB gun for a long time!

Lena . . . said...

What a wonderful entry and so enjoyable. I think we're about the same age because I remember many of the same things. I've done some entries about my childhood also, but on a different blog. I think I'll have to do some reruns in the future.

Calamity Jane's Cottage, Bonnie said...

Hi Marlene,
Your letter brings back so many memories of my childhood. I was right there with you. I feel so for the kiddos now, not to experience what we had. Not much, but so meaningful.

Adrienne said...

Oh, I'm a bit jealous! You have jonquils already and we had a light blanket of snow this morning. I loved reading your story and I must tell you we have a friend who had a baby twenty years after her tubes were tied. Her children were grown, married and expecting babies at the same time. It happens but I know it's God who gives us our babies. We think we're in control - but we're not! Thanks for the trip down memory lane with the pictures of the TV, the phone and the bike. Oh did that remind me of younger days!

Sandy said...

I loved reading your memories today, as I also did the other day. We are the same age and so many of those things I remember also. The phone number was funny and so was the city and state without zipcodes. Mine was
Parma 29, Ohio. I think the older we get the more these memories mean so much. I treasure everything my Mother and Grandmother told me about their lives and mine when I was little. We need to do that to our Grandkids also so they will know about our lives!
Blessings, Sandy

Jacquie said...

Love Part II, Marlene!! Can't wait for more.

I'm a bit younger than you, but when we first moved to AR from CA, they still had party lines here... which was quite funny to me.

My parents didn't make much money, either. Dad was a policeman, and mom stayed home with 11 kids. We didn't have much, but I never really realized it until I was older. I am amazed at my parents now, as I look back on life, and how they provided for us in so many ways.

Looking forward to the next segment...

Tracy P. said...

I've got a blizzard where your jonquils are, Marlene!

This post reminds me of the book Roxaboxen that I loved to use when I was teaching! I love it. Cant' wait for more.

Amelia said...


I really enjoying walking with you down the memory trail today...lets do it again some time soon.


Mary L. Briggs said...

I love these posts your doing, Marlene! I remember that we only had one phone and it was in the hallway--black rotary--TE5-3481! I remember my best friend's number too. I was jealous because they had a wall phone in their kitchen. My folks still had that old black phone when I got married! (They've since advanced, LOL!)

We were watchng Life On Mars last night, and I wondered what it would be like to go back and live in 1973. I was in Junior High School then. I'm wondering what kinds of things I would think about getting or doing and then realize I couldn't because there would be no such thing!

I'm really enjoying hearing about your life growing up--I hope you keep sharing!

Val said...

This was so neat reading. I just went to visit my 95 year old granny today and used her rotary phone. Dialing was so different instead of pushing buttons. We have come a long way but it sure is a lot more complicated than it used to be. I remember playing in the woods and riding bikes everywhere. We can't let our children do that now. So sad. Such sweet memories.

Oma aka Meme said...

no real flowers for us yet- it is so cold here tonight that I keep crawling in my bed to get warm- last spring with papa hubby so sick we planted plastic flowers in our planters so that he could see some thing cherry looking out window- they are still there and have weathered the winter well- LOL
now papa hubby is in heaven's garden and we will always remember what blessing those flowers were for him- hugs from Meme

Journeying said...

I really enjoyed reading this. Keep the saga going.
And I was so tickled that you called the flowers "jonquils"!!! I'm the only person I know (except for my daughter who got it from me) to call them jonquils. My mother, who grew up mostly in Nashville, always called them that.

em's scrapbag said...

Sounds like a delightful childhood. Your memory of playing in the woods reminded me of this from my childhood. We had a hallow not to far from my home growing up and we played down in there. We made forts. My brother's had two stories. There was a creek that ran through it that you could wade in. It was great fun. Thanks for sparking the old memory. Have a great day!

Jan said...

Your jonquils are our daffodils I think ,I so enjoyed todays entry ,we are so privelidged ,to have started out with nothing and seen it all since then ,we were happy with so very little ,these storys should be told for future generations ,who will hardly believe it Jan xx

Grammy Staffy said...

What fun reading this post and recalling things from my childhood. You brought back many memories for me. I remember how excited we were when we got our first phone. It was a black rotary phone like the one you pictured. We could not afford a private line so we had a party line. We would have to take turns using the phone with 4 other families that shared our party line. I have not thought of that for years.

You should write a book.

Picket said...

Morning friend...ohhhh I did so enjoy reading this...brings to mind such a simplier time and so many memories...great post girl.
Hope all is well on your side fo the mountain...have a great weekend.

Janet, said...

Nice hearing about your childhood growing up. Those were the good old days. I remember our phone # began with YU4. And I loved the party lines -- sometimes. Of course we didn't love them when we needed to use the phone and couldn't. What I liked best about it was that me and my girlfriend (and cousin) were on the same party line and we would use it to make conference calls! One of us would plan to call someone at a particular time, the other would pick it up and we would all talk to each other (an early and free version of a conference call!)

Anonymous said...

I came by to say thank you for your visit and I'm so happy that I did. I read your story and it was like I had stepped back into my childhood. I only wish my grands could live like this. But, they would probably think they were being punished. :) I'm going to put you on my blog list, as I want to catch the next chapter. Come by anytime for a visit, you're always welcome. And pease sign my guestbook if you have the time.


Aunt Julie said...

Jonquils? We still have snow! And when I plant bulbs of any kind, the squirrels eat them you have a remedy for that? BTW, Aunt Julie has a couple more quilts to show off...I hope to get photos from her soon so I can post them!

Linda - Behind My Red Door said...

Your letter paints a wonderful picture as i read it. Looking forward to the next part!!

Susannah said...

Oh..How Wonderful! What memories I am reliving today because of your wonderful post. I, too had a house in the hedgerow and my sister and I had so much fun.

We lived on a farm and my parents turned a run down, dilapitated old farm and big farmhouse into a successful business and beautiful home. They worked really hard but they always took time out for us showing how to sew and to ride a to milk a cow..teaching us manners and respect and much more. Those were the days....I so wish it was like that now.

Your post was very enjoyable. I will keep looking ...I hope you write more.