Saturday, January 31, 2009

On My Soap Box

This morning I was searching for a tv station that had Gospel Music when I happened on to a channel that was all big band music. I closed my eyes and I could see myself dancing in a big ball room. I mean I looked really good. My dress had a full skirt, it was chiffon overlay of taffeta. I had high heels on and my hair was perfect. Then I closed my eyes and I saw Melanie come down stairs all ready for her first high school dance. She was wearing a sweater and blue jeans. I told her that I thought she was going to a dance why wasn't she dressed up. I got the traditional answer I was soon to find out was, "all the kids dress like this to go to a dance." I can remember that I was disappointed, but kept quiet. Proms are about the only dances that kids dress up for now days.
As I listened to Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, and of course, Harry James, my very favorite, I wondered what happened to those wonderful ball rooms. It really didn't take me very long to figure it out. The answer: blue jeans. Yup, those things used to be for women to work in. Not too long ago I found a pair of blue jeans I really liked. My husband about had a stroke. They were $385.00. I told him I wanted two pair. Of course, I was joking, but the blue jeans have taken over the chiffon ball gowns. How sad. Those days were so much fun. I can still hear the clarinets, the trombones, and the expertise of the drummer using his brushes more than the drums so that you could hear individual instruments. I never went home with a headache from listening to that dreamy music. Long live chiffon!

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Katzenjammer Twins

I have written lots of stories about my mother, but few about my father. Dad was very soft spoken, and liked quiet when he was in the house.
One day when he was gone I asked mother about dad when he was growing up. She smiled and told me that dad and his brother Roy were called the Katzenjammer Twins when they were little. Ray, my dad, and Roy were just a few months apart in age. The Katzenjammer Twins were cartoon characters in the newspaper at the time the boys were little. That cartoon originally started in 1897 in the Sunday paper. The way mom talked was that they got into everything and were very naughty and full of mischief.
One day my dad’s uncle was washing his car and waxing it getting ready to go into town on a date with his girlfriend. He worked on his car all afternoon. When he was done it just sparkled. He took his pail and his rags and put them in the shed and went to the house to get dressed for his date.
When he came out a short time later, his car was a disaster. Dad and his brother had taken hands full of muddy water and smeared their uncle’s car with their little hands until the whole car looked like it had gone through the Mississippi River. Not only did they put the muddy water on it, but they picked up gravel and put it in the mud and smeared the car until the car was all scratched.
They both got spankings.
The story of the Katzenjammer Twins and the muddy car survived many years of telling. I heard that story every time dad’s relatives got together for reunions and family gatherings. My dad was not always quiet.

So many Rules.....

From the time I was about 3 feet tall, I was gently but firmly fed from the family book of rules. Rules from my mother and father as well as my grandfather and grandmother. I was a happy child until rules were brought up and enforced. I would be happy that it was meal time until I was told that nice little girls did not sing at the table. Nice little girls did not talk when there were grownups at the table. Nice little girls ate with her left hand in her lap unless she needed to cut her meat.
Rules have been the vain of my existence my whole life. It is almost inevitable that if someone or something tells me that I can't do something that is exactly what I want to do. I remember when I was six years old, my mother made me a beautiful suit from a gold medal flour sack. The jacket covered up the words, Gold Medal. It was one hundred percent cotton and wrinkled easily. My mother taught me to smooth my skirt before I sat down, and cross my legs at the ankles. That was the rule.
I started taking piano lessons when I was six years old. That was what little girls did in those days. I enjoyed the lessons, however, there was a rule. That rule was that I had to practice my lesson for one half hour every day. I hated that rule. I would have rather read my books. My mother said that she had to pay a dollar for my lessons and she wanted me to be a pianist like she and her mother. I wanted to play the flute like my friend. Mother said when I was eighty I would play the piano, probably not the flute. I am sure she was right.
Our piano was in the parlor. It was completely removed from the hustle bustle of the household. I personally think they put it in there so I would practice like I was told to. Well boredom seemed to fall on my shoulders like a load of hay. The sun shone in on the window and I stared outside wishing I was anywhere but sitting on the piano bench. My mother's sewing machine was sitting not far from my piano. She had a pair of pinking shears on her machine. I had never used them before, so I thought I would see if I could make the lace curtains at the window pretty. I made several strips up and down the curtain. When I was done, I put the scissors back and played the piano some and then went to my favorite spot and read my Laura Ingall's Wilder books. A short time later I heard my mother sobbing. I, of course, looked to see what the problem was. In her hand she held the strips that I had cut with her pinking shears. She never said a word to me nor I to her. When I was grown I talked to my mother about it. She said, "it was just a childish mistake, but we were so poor I couldn't replace the curtains, so anytime we had company they either couldn't go to the parlor or had to look at the strips. The decision was quite simple. We had no more company in the parlor.
This last spring I was making curtains for our camper. I was looking for some scissors. There in the bottom of my mother's sewing basket lay those dreaded pinking shears.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Broken Ankle

By the time I was ten years old I had begun to like my brother better. At least he was someone to play with at times. I would rather read or play the piano, but at times I would go outside with him.
We had one old bike to share at that time. It was a big boys bike and difficult to ride, but I did master it. Keith thought it would be fun to take turns racing with it. He said he could get some twine out of the shed to make a goal line to see who could break it as we went whizzing through. He got the twine and we stretched it across our driveway. We were a long ways away from the house. Since I was the oldest I told him that I got first try. He didn't like it, but he let me. I was a lot bigger than him. I went quite a ways back from the twine and built up quite a bit of speed. I hit the twine and was so tickled for a split second. The twine got tangled up in the spokes of the bike and stopped me on a dime. I got thrown into the air and when I hit the hard ground I twisted my ankle and broke it. Keith went tearing to the house and told my mother and she got my dad. They came to see how bad it was. My dad got all excited and kept telling me to walk on it. Oh that made my mother so mad she yelled at him. I had never heard her yell at my dad. She said, "can't you see that it is broken?"
Well the next thing was that I was taken into town to the hospital in Cherokee. At the hosital they put my leg in a cast with a rubber thing that was sticking out from the bottom. It was called a walking cast. I thought to myself, "That just isn't going to happen." I was to walk with crutches for a few days then walk on the broken ankle in the cast.
My mother was talking to my dad and said, "I think we should buy a television. She (meaning me) is not going to be able to go outside until that leg heals and she needs something to do." Dad said ok. That was in 1954. The television cost two hundred dollars. I couldn't believe it. They had already spent eighty dollars on the doctor and hospital bill. I heard about that plenty, let me tell you. We true to form, I became addicted to television. I watched Two Gun Play House and Howdy Doodie until my mother wanted to scream. The day came when she said that I should start walking on my cast. Of course, I said no, I would not do that. She put a kitchen stool in the middle of the kitchen and told me to walk to the stool and sit on it. Again I said no because it would hurt too bad. She tried and tried to no avail. Finally she said (she must have taken psychology courses too) "ok, but you will have to stay on that stool because I have things to do. You just decide what you are going to do." I can remember Keith coming in to the kitchen grinning at me like I was some big coward. Finally, I said "ok but it's going to be all your fault if it breaks again" Well it did not hurt a bit and I found I could walk all over the place by myself. I had found myself chuckling kind of a sick chuckle because I could not believe that she had been right. My mother told that story for years.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My First Permanent

I was chubby, I was cute, but I had the straightest hair you can imagine. My hair was a light brown when I was six years old. About shoulder length. The only way my hair looked good was in braids. My mother braided my hair so tight, I can remember it was hard to close my eyes.
Mother had a friend from church whose name was Gladys also. She ran a beauty shop out of her home. Mother wanted me to have a permanent. She made a deal with Gladys to provide her with baked goods until my perm was paid for.
The day arrived that my mother took me to Gladys's home to get my perm. Oh, I will never forget that day as long as I live. The permanent machine was about five feet tall. It had all kinds of insulated electric wires that dangled down to chair height. On the end of the wires were metal clamps. The first thing that Gladys did was to wash my hair, then she put permanent solution on little strands of hair then rolled my hair on some kind of roller. After that was done, she clamped my hair onto the electric permanent machine. She did that to my whole head. The solution smelled so bad it was difficult to breathe. Then she turned on the electricity. It shot out sparks and made horrible noises. I thought for sure I was going to die. She left those clamps on my hair for several long minutes. She then looked at the curls and told me that I was going to be beautiful and that it was worth the trouble. I thought it was agony. She then put some other stuff on my hair, which I suppose was neutralizer. Then she dried my hair and fixed it in long curls. Long curls were wound around the ladies' fingers and either tied with strips of cloth or pins made for that purpose. I did look beautiful
The next week, my mother washed my hair in the kitchen sink. That's where we did the hair washing and the little "baths" that we took in between our weekly baths. When the hot water hit my hair that horrible smell came right back. Even my mother said, "Oh I don't think she rinsed out all of the permanent solution." There was no such thing as hair conditioner in those days. They had a hair oil that was called VO5. Mother used that on my hair because after it was washed and dried (no hair dryer) my hair swelled to the size of a bushel basket. I cried and cried. Mother wasn't too happy either. I told my mother I wasn't going to school, I wasn't going to church and I may have told her I hated her and the mean old lady that ruined my hair. Mother took me to another beauty shop and had my hair cut and then she took me again until the perm was gone. Then I was allowed to let my hair grow into a pony tail. I let my mother give me a Tony home perm just for my bangs. I thought that looked cute. You may think it's silly, but every time I get a perm and get a whiff of perm solution, that first visit to a beauty shop comes to my mind.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My Little Green Coat

I thought I looked so pretty that Sunday morning. I was careful not to tell my mother how pretty I looked, because she always gave me a lecture on "pretty is is pretty does." That's alright I thought preening in front of our old discolored mirror on my mama's dresser, "I know I look pretty in my little green coat." I loved my coat. I had worn it for two years now and it was getting pretty snug across my shoulders and my tummy. I didn't notice that the ends of the sleeves were getting threadbare. I knew that when I wore this coat we were going to church and that I looked pretty. My coat had a silver pin on it that was the shape of an airplane wing. I don't know where that pin came from but I remember thinking, "I wonder where the rest of it is."
One Saturday evening I heard my mother crying. That was unusal so I knew that something was very wrong. My mama was telling my daddy that she wasn't going to church the next day because she was embarrassed to wear her coat to church. I thought that was strange. I thought she always looked beautiful when she wore her coat. It was full length and gray. On her lapel she wore a gold leaf pin with an amethyst stone for a flower on it. Of course, she always wore just a little bit of lipstick on those days. It was a really light pink. I listened to them talking even though I knew it was very wrong to eavesdrop. She told my daddy that her coat was thirteen years old, and until she got a new coat she wasn't going anywhere. It made me sad to hear how sad she was. Then my name was mentioned. Mom said that I needed a new coat too because I had outgrown my little green coat. "Oh no, I thought. I don't want a new coat." Shortly after that sad day my daddy took us shopping for new coats. Oh, I hated that. My new coat was so ugly. It was a very heavy coat with lots of fur on it and it was light brown with dark brown fur. It did fit better and it was really warm, but really ugly. My new coat had a name. It was called a storm coat. I knew better than to complain, but I will never forget how I hated that coat. I can still see it in my mind's eye. My mama's new coat was all fake fur. I remember hearing it cost twenty five dollars. That was a terrible amount of money, but it made my mama happy and we went to church again.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

After my mother was put in a nursing home for a broken pelvis, it was my job to go through her house which she had lived in for thirty years. It was a pitch, save type situation which was agonizing to say the least. My mother lived in a mobile home which had a lot of storage space and she had used every inch of it. I found suitcases, boxes, and dresser drawers that I had never seen before.

One evening with tears in my eyes I found myself reading letters that my father had sent to my mother before they were married. I had no idea that my father was such a romantic. At the time he wrote the letters he was twenty seven and my mother was eighteen. He was working in the "Dakotas" combining. I felt like I was eavesdropping on a private conversation that I had no business doing. I couldn't help myself, I kept reading late into the night. I could not imagine how difficult it was for them to not only be separated, but for me to imagine the depression and the effects it had on young people. My father told her in one letter that he had found a cook stove for five dollars. The farmer told him he could have it if he worked for him for a month. He took the job. My mother and father married August,2,1930, My father could not find a job when he moved to Iowa to marry my mother so he hired on with my grandfather, G.D. Banister as a hired hand. There was a basement house on the acreage that surrounded the house yard. That is where my mother and father lived for some time.

While they lived there, my sister Rosella was born. My father needed to make more money than a farm hand paid, so he traveled to Minneapolis, Minnesota to Dunwoodie Institue to lean how to be a linotype operator. At Christmas time he hitchhiked home to be with my mother and sister. He brought with him a tube of lipstick called Tangee for my mother's Christmas present. She said it was the most dear gift she ever had been given because she knew he couldn't afford it. It cost him twenty five cents. I just looked up that lipstick to see if they still sell it. They do. The lipstick sells for fourteen dollars a tube. While they lived in the basement house another child was born to them, my sister Juanita. The love story continued for forty eight years when my father died. My mother continued to love him even though she remarried some years later. His memory lingers on to this day with fond memories of his quiet ways, his love of Bing Crosby, but the most important, the love of his wife and family.

When i was a little girl I lived in Iowa. This particular night that Poochie came to visit, there was a terrible blizzard happening outside. It was so cold outside, that my parents had closed off the parlor and only heated the dining room and kitchen and one bedroom downstairs.
We were sitting in the dining room which was being used as a living room also when we heard a scratching at the door. My mother wondered who could be out on such a terrible night. She did open the door a little and zip a little dog came running in and jumped up on what we called at time our davenport. She whined and inched herself over to mother begging her to let her stay. Poochie which my mom soon called her, had very short hair, a long nose and big brown eyes. We had had a farm dog a long time ago, but at this time we didn't have a dog. This little dog seemed to touch my mother's heart. Of course, I begged her to let the little dog stay. She said that we could keep her, but she belonged to someone because she had a collar around her neck. If someone came looking for her we would have to give her back.
Sometime later there was a knock at the door. My heart sank, I just knew that it was the people that had lost Poochie. When my dad opened the door it was two people who had been traveling and the blizzard had made them lose their way. They had walked from the highway down our lane. It was a quarter of a mile long, but our house sat in a valley and was not seen from the highway. They were very lucky that they had not frozen to death.
My mother of course, made them coffee and gave them food to eat. They stayed for two or three days until they could shovel out their car. My parents were amazed that not only a lost dog, but lost people made their way to our home.
Poochie stayed with us until she died, the travelers made their way home. If I remember right they lived in another state. Some time after the storm there was a package that arrived that had gifts for my parents, my brother and me in it. It also had a lovely thank you note that thanked my parents for being so nice to two strangers.

Friday, January 23, 2009

In Trouble Again!

When I was a little over four years old my brother was born. There was such a fuss over this baby just because he was a boy. I figured my life was just about perfect without him and couldn't figure out why "they" needed another child.
As time went by I decided that he needed to get into trouble like I seemed to be in all the time. Everyone was always fussing over his beautiful curls and how much he looked like my daddy. I had had enough. As he got older, I started teaching him his abc's. When he had learned a few letters I decided the time was right. In those days, many ladies embroidered dresser scarves and decorated their dressers with them. I found a pencil and printed his initials on the corner of my mom's dresser scarf, thinking that he would get into trouble for writing on her dresser scarf.
Didn't happen! I got into trouble again. I can remember my mom saying, Lu Anne, Keith doesn't know how to write. OOps, I forgot that part of my scheme. In trouble again!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I am sitting here at my desk looking out the window wishing for spring. Everything is brown and dead looking. But if I close my eyes I can almost smell lilacs and see green leaves and green grass growing. On my eleventh birthday I had my first birthday party with invited guests other than my family. I was so excited. I had a new store purchased dress, a new permanent, and six little girls to stay overnight.
Generally on my birthday, the lilacs would be in bloom. I have a picture of me with lilacs pinned to my new dress.
A trailer house was very uncommon in those days. Most people I knew lived in regular houses. The lady that lived in that trailer house I remember came to visit one day. My mother was very nice to her, but after she left, she said that it was alright if she didn't visit again. I thought that was unkind. I liked her and besides that she wore lipstick and makeup on her face. A day or two after my birthday party, I decided that I would find her house and take her a bouquet of lilacs. I walked up the lane and looked both directions before I crossed the highway. I had to be careful, because I had not told my mother where I was going. I was afraid that she would not let me go. I spotted the trailer house about a mile away. It probably wasn't that far, but it seemed like it. It was parked in the middle of a field. As I approached the trailer, I felt disappointment. There in her yard were lilac bushes in full bloom. I knocked on her door and she answered it with a smile. I think she was lonely all by herself with no one to talk to. She was very gracious and thanked me for the lilacs and immediately put them in a glass of water. I noticed how clean and pretty her house was. She had an embroidered table cloth on her little table and put the flowers in the middle so we could both enjoy them. I can remember how wonderful they smelled. We visited for a little while, and then she asked me if my mother knew where I was. i told her no, and she told me to hurry and go home so that my mother wouldn't worry. I did just that. I never told my mother what I had done that day. I wondered about that lady sometime afterwards because the trailer was gone. I hope she still picks lilacs for her table.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hello Everyone, I decided with my brother, Keith's suggestion that I tell stories on a blogger. I have decided to do this, so tomorrow I will tell my first story. Stay tuned!