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When I was six, we moved two blocks to Ryder Avenue. Daddy bought a cow named Blue Ribbon, so we had a lot of milk and butter. We took turns helping Mama churn butter. She would make hot rolls and let us eat them as they came out of the oven. All the neighbor kids would have to have some too. We didn't have a bathtub, so we took turns behind the kitchen stove in a washtub. I remember when Walter burned his butt in there one time. Daddy put in the first bathroom on the street and all the neighbor kids wanted to come over and take a bath too. Gene was born in this house. He always had playmates cause we all took turns taking care of him. One day, I was playing with him near a window and I let him roll out. He landed in a bush and it held him until I ran outside to get him. Mama had a fit but Gene didn't seem to mind. It was while we lived here that Daddy bought a Model-T Ford with the isonglass curtains you could roll down in case of a change in the weather (just like the song says). That too was a first in the neighborhood, like the bath tub.
My Daddy's brother, Uncle Arthur, lived by us and I wondered if they were competing because he and Aunt Birdie had Thurmon and Thelma and Mama had Gladys about the same time. They had Cecil and Mama had Nolen. They had Maurice and Mama had me. Then they had Joseph and Mama had Walter. Finally, they had Murry and Mama had Gene. During the depression, they made candied apples and sold them on the street corner for a long time. I can still smell their kitchen with all those apples ready to sell. Years later, Arthur borrowed money from Daddy to start a furniture repair business and did quite well with it. Then he bought some land and it sold for a shopping center and made them a bunch of money but he never paid Daddy back and none of them ever helped with Grandpa either.
Maude was quiet and sweet-natured, and Gladys was quick-tempered and always looked mad in all her pictures when she was little, but they were very close to each other and to me. Maude went to Drahan's Business College and Gladys graduated from Tech High and they both went to work at P.F. Collier's Publishing in Memphis. Walter and I went to Cummings School. I was in the second grade and Walter in the first. My teacher was Miss Cook. Every time we had recess Walter went home. Every time they let him out, he left. Someone would come to my room and tell me to go get him. This went on everyday for a long time. We all went home for lunch everyday and Nolen and I liked Campbell's Pork and Beans. It was a real treat when Mama let us split a can between us for lunch. I still like them today.
One day we were sitting on the porch, helping Mama shell butter beans and Walter put one in his mouth and it hung in his windpipe. We rushed him to the hospital to remove it and fortunately, he was none the worse for wear. Another time, Mama had flowerbeds lined with fruit jars turned upside down and Walter and I were playing and rolling each other on a tire when he fell on one of the jars and cut his hand very bad. Rushed again to the hospital and seem by a doctor that didn't know his tail from a hole in the ground who sewed it together and wrapped into a fist. When the bandages came off weeks later, he couldn't open his hand. He has coped wonderfully well with his crippled hand but it has hurt me a lot. I can still smell the odor of the Ochner's liniment that we poured on his hand everyday.
When I was in the third grade, I had a red headed teacher named Miss Ezell. I liked her all right until one day she lined us all up along the window to read aloud. I had asked to go to the bathroom and she said "NO.” I held it as long as I could, but then away it went along the floor and under a boys seat. Then she said I could go and I did,I went home. I was always embarrassed when ever I saw the boy and I never liked Miss Ezell again after that.
Walter and Dorothy
Walter and I played together a lot. We were almost like twins. We lived close to Elmwood cemetery and there was a path between the cemetery and the field beyond it. We would get Mama to give us two potatoes and a skillet and we would cook them out there, eat, and play. Sometimes we would watch the gypsies who camped there each summer and could listen to their music. We played until Daddy got off work and then we would walk home with him. I'm so thankful for the parents that I had. They were good hardworking people and if we lacked for anything, we sure didn't know it.
Our Grandma, Mama's mother, lived in Nashville. When Walter and I were about six and seven, Mama took us to the old Union Station and put us on the train to visit her. Mama fixed us a shoebox lunch with fried chicken, biscuits, cakes and cookies and we could hardly wait until we could get into that box. We had an Aunt and Uncle there in Nashville also named Uncle Short and Aunt Hester. He worked for the railroad and they didn't have any kids, so they would take us and spoil us with ice cream, candy, and things that we didn't get much. When I was about twelve, they adopted a baby girl named Mildred and dressed her like a doll. She could never get dirty like us. Aunt Hester wouldn't let her do anything so she grew up to be the worst housekeeper I ever saw. She later married and had 5 children. Uncle Short would come home from work, sit, and drink until bedtime. He wouldn't quit for Hester but after she died, he married Allie and gave it up completely.
When we were growing up all we had was the radio and we gathered around to hear the Waltons, Jack Benny and the soaps. My favorite things were books. I read all the time (still do). Sometimes Maude and Gladys brought books home from work and Mama got them at the library. One night I was reading and Daddy took the book and flipped through it and said "Wid, don't let me catch you reading books like that anymore." I obeyed him. I made sure that he never CAUGHT me again.
It often seemed as if my Mama's middle name was "Go" (I got that from her too). Daddy took us riding every Sunday afternoon. We would go home after church, get all the food, stuffed eggs, sandwiches, and cookies, and off we'd go to find a good picnic place. We went to Raleigh several times and stopped by the Mississippi River to watch the black people in white robes baptizing. We watched the kids swing out on ropes and drop in the water and then we'd ride over the old trestle, over the river bottoms and cotton fields. It was a wooden bridge then that went to West Memphis and we went clackity-clack all the way across.
Another time we rode the streetcar to Overton Park Zoo and after looking at everything, Walter and I went in the wading pool. We hung our clothes on hooks , put on panties (we were only four or five), and played in the water. When we got out, Walter's clothes were gone and there was nothing to do but for him to wear my bloomers. Then mama called Gladys's boyfriend to come and get us. I'm sure glad they didn't steal my dress. There was also the Circus and the parades. Mama didn't want to miss anything (remember I said I got this from her). Mama loved them and we did too. Most times, we would ride the streetcar to town early to sit on the curb and watch the parades - Memphis had wonderful long ones. One time we were so late getting back home that my Daddy was having a fit wondering where we were, but Mama could work harder, go longer, and enjoy herself more than anyone I ever knew. Mama was a WMU'er (Women's Missionary Union) from the word "go" (I got that too). The most exciting thing she ever got to do was when she went to Atlanta to a World-Wide WMU meeting.
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© 2000 Patty Garrison
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