Monday, August 17, 2020

The First Years

The Memory Bag

1938 to1955

When my dad was dying I remember him saying, “They can take everything away from me but they can’t take my memories.”  I have millions of them too, really! I’ve decided to write down a few. Some are good, bad, sad, happy, and all kinds. They are short, long, scant, detailed. Here are a variety, chronically, I think.

I remember…  stepping over a board between rooms when I was about   2 1/2 years old in 1938. I remember because we moved from one place to another before my brother was born when I was three. There was a shelf on the left side of the doorway with my large ball that had bumps all over it, and a brown floppy teddy bear.

• I remember having a doctor dig out the cherry pit I had stuffed up my nostril.

In first grade the teacher dropped a piece of chalk and asked me to pick it up. I refused, telling her that she dropped it and she should pick it up. I had to put my head down on my arms on the desk for punishment for disrespect. 

My siblings and I were placed with four different church families soon after my twin sisters were born until my mother got better. It wasn’t talked about but I believe she had postpartum depression. I was age six.

A mandatory teaspoonful of cod liver oil was how we kids started out the day before breakfast. YUK!

My dad took our yellow cat, “Goldie” and her litter of kittens to a farm far away after the twins were born. A couple of years later she returned, limping down the sidewalk with raw paws. I saw her coming. I knew it was her because she had half a tail from when he first got her as a kitten from a farm and her tail was stuck under a tractor tire so he cut it off. She often had kittens in my brother’s bed.

I remember desks with inkwells and the kid behind me (Gary Ducey) constantly pulling my braids.

The piano lesson teacher wheezed in my year as she sat on the bench with me and sometimes whacked my hands when I forgot to curl my fingers properly.

The neighbor across the street let me pluck on her harp. Another neighbor had a star hanging in her front door window because her son died in the war. Still another neighbor who had no children, was always a sure touch for a cookie when we knocked on her door.

The German wife of an American solder was given a place to live in our home during WW2. She took over my bed and bedroom. I didn’t like her at all. Her name was Olga.

I visited a hospital with a group of children to view patients in the iron lung. One of my classmates had a back and leg brace. His name was Daniel Brower.

I had a very bad infection in my foot from stepping on a nail without telling anyone about it. There were blood transfusions and many shots in my rump. I was a terror in the hall of the hospital, scaring the nuns as I whizzed down the hall in the wheelchair during recuperation. After I returned home the Good Humor Man gave me bubble gum to help me get better.

My dad usually took me to a particular farm that had horses when he was milk testing. He supplied me with a pack of Charm hard candies to hand feed the horses as treats. One time the groom found me sitting in a corner inside a stallion’s stall and, with his Scottish accent chewed me out something awful. There was a barrel of molasses by the barn door and I used to dip my finger in it and have a good lick.

My brother and I teased the caged turkeys at that farm, shouting “GOBBLE! GOBBLE!” and the entire flock would squawk it back at us. That was great fun.

Mom took in foster children. I did a lot of care of one little boy named Peter Cunningham. When he was taken away, I swore I’d find him again someday. I didn’t.

I got my first horse when I was around 12. She was age 25 and loaned. I gave rides around the baseball diamond to make money to pay for my feed store account, barn rent and blacksmith. I carried water a very long way from the firehouse to the barn for her twice a day. When I ran out of hay and straw, I raked and bagged leaves for bedding. Very often mother cooked up a warm grain mash with a raw egg and grated carrots to carry to the barn and feed her as her teeth were poor. I had a pump type kerosene can with fly spray to help her in the summer. She hated it.

I taught the minister’s son to smoke at that barn. Menthol Spuds were the brand. An older friend bought them for me. 

My girlfriend and I rode bareback double. She fell off one time and injured her tailbone. Her dad bought her her own horse. Her horse, who was in heat, kicked my horse in the field one day and her left hind leg had a compound fracture. We were devastated. Dad called the vet and sent us home.The vet shot her in the middle of her head where she had a small star. We were supposed to go home, but we snuck back and saw what he did. Then my mother had to notify the owner who lent her to me about the death. Fairly short after that another horse was loaned to me from a very big polo pony farm. 

My brother and I both purposely broke thermometers from the bathroom medicine cabinet to play with the mercury balls which rolled around in our hands and we coated coins with it.

When there was an air raid drill during school hours, we went to the basement and sat on the concrete floor with our heads tucked between our knees. The pipes overhead were all covered with white asbestos insulation.

The pipes in our home cellar were covered with it as well and so was the furnace. My brother and I would draw pictures and scratch our initials in it. We also melted lead and poured it into molds of soldiers on the floor down there as well.

Our neighborhood gang collected newspapers and tin cans to sell to the junk man so we could earn enough money to have a cookie and soda party in one of their garages. Trading comic books was our main activity then besides street games and bicycle riding.

My dad used to bring home wooden square-shaped full honeycombs. The idea was to break off a piece, suck out the honey and chew the wax as long as we could. 

• My grandmother spread her clean laundry out on a grassy bank behind her house to dry in the sun.

We were allowed to play in the street in the rain, popping tar bubbles. Sometimes we chewed tar cuds.

I found something hanging over the edge of the toilet bowl one morning and brought it to my mother, asking what it was. She took it away and walked out of the room saying, “Never mind.” A few years later I had it figured out.

In 5th grade my arithmetic teacher used to go down the aisle, lifting up desk tops and then letting them drop down with a bang to wake us up.

In 6th grade history class I wrote several facts on my palm and got caught cheating on a  test. Lesson learned. 

In 7th grade I was jealous of a new student who was very pretty. On the outdoor track during recess, I yanked her elastic waisted skirt down beyond her backside and felt better.  Then guilt set in but I didn’t apologize.

In 8th grade gym class I was embarrassed  because I was still wearing undershirts and other girls had bras. We had to take open group showers then. 

Our Sunday School teacher had some of us to her house to make lollypops in her animal shaped molds. She also taught us all to recite by memory and in order every book of the bible. 

Pounding the streets of New York City in the early 1950’s with my mother to get to the studio where I worked as a student photographers’ model was an effort, but after the sessions we ate at the automat before heading for the train back home. I often wonder if I helped supplement the family finances with my modeling.  

A high school counsellor ask me if I believed in God when I was sent to her office after skipping school with 3 other friends to explore the High Point Monument in a fairly local state park to see the spectacular view we had heard about. I retorted that her question had nothing to do with skipping school. I remember the shock on her face at my reply. My friends were suspended. I wasn’t. WHY? I wanted to be suspended too.

A girlfriend and I double-dated with older guys who took us to fun places in the city and larger towns. We saw Eddie Arnold on stage, He was drunk. We saw Carl Smith in a bar and his white leather shirt had very long fringes on the sleeves. We saw Gypsy Rose Lee strip on stage. We danced at Frank Dailey’s Meadowbrook Ballroom to live big bands. 

My current boyfriend and I saw Patsy Cline in Mt. Freedom, NJ singing in a small bar where we hung out drinking Coca Cola. I remember her vibrant strong voice and cowgirl outfit and she looked right at me. She wasn’t at all well known yet.

At age 17, two girlfriends and I took a trip to Florida in my 1940 Ford. We each put the same amount of money in a cup stuck to the dashboard and when it was gone, we each added more. We stayed at one of the girl’s aunt’s home in St. Petersburg. We all got the worst sunburn of our lives and the aunt had to care for us until we healed. I was introduced to Tupperware there as it was her only dishwear!

I have only once ever viewed a dead person and it was my only experience. My best friend’s father suddenly died of a brain thrombosis when we were mid teens. He was such fun and really nice. The body on display at the front of the church was awful to see - he was not there anymore. Gone. Bad, sad time.

When in high school there was a non-student who had a very bad reputation in town. He had lots of money, a nice car and was reputed to be a gangster with ties with bad guys. One time when I was waiting on the corner for the public service bus to come and take me home, he stopped by and asked me if I wanted a ride. I told him no, not this time. Another time I accepted. We drove about 35 miles away in his fancy big car to Newark NJ where he left me in the car for a while and went into a business on the street. On the way home, we stopped at a White Castle for hamburgers and a drink. He dropped me off - completely untouched, unmolested, and befuddled. Maybe he wasn’t a bad guy after all. It was the only time I ever went anywhere with him again and he never asked, either. I don’t remember our conversation.

My girlfriend’s dad brought us to the roller skating rink almost every Friday night and picked us up when it closed. There was a lady in the balcony who played the music live on an organ. I often met a fellow there who was a good skating partner but the best thing about him was he smelled like freshly baked bread. His name was Danny DeSarno. We never dated outside the rink. 

• I was in junior high and high school band, orchestra and chorus. I hated marching band because I didn't like football at all. Still don't. Too violent. 

My “love of my life” boyfriend and I headed for Elkton, MD early one morning to get married. We had already purchased gold wedding rings. We told our parents that we were going to the seashore for the day. The car blew its engine. His older brother came and got us. The car was left there. I kept the rings for many years until I was really needing the money and I sold them. I’m sorry about that.

He went into the Marines and wrote me to come, marry him and live in a trailer on the base in SC. I wrote back and told him I didn’t want to live in a trailer and I never heard from him again. I had no idea what the trailer he had in mind was but I thought it was one of the big boxes that is hauled behind a truck cab on the highway. I didn’t want to live in one of them.


There are more. I have only touched the tip of the iceberg. Enough.



  1. I love Patsy she one of my favorite was great to read about it memories 😁😘

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  3. How very interesting ! I smiled and laughed and felt sad for your Mom with post partum depression. I had that too when the doctors thought it was all in your head ! Looking forward to the next installment ❣

  4. This waz like reading a celebrity auto biography