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Archive for October, 2009

My Mom couldn’t stand to have a question and not have the answer to it. Our small farm house had two sets of encyclopedias when I was growing up. We couldn’t afford the World Book from the salesman that came by, but my resourceful father found a Funk and Wagnall’s set at a garage sale. It was the subject of many jokes on Laugh-In, but in our household it was a prized possession The set was only 5 years old and had fairly recent information. Through the years, we acquired a used set of Encyclopedia Britannica as well. It was my mother’s treasure to have access to those books and, more importantly, the information contained on those pages.

My grandfather was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse (see The Story Part of Family History)  and he had the strong belief that education could change circumstances for people. They had no electricity in their household, so each night my mother, her brothers and her father would read by lamp light until bedtime. When they didn’t have resources for food, they somehow found a book to read. Perhaps my mother’s thirst for knowledge was part of my grandfather’s legacy.

Scan Photos

Library Contest Winner in First Grade - My essay about my favorite book

As a child, we frequented the library often. They knew us by first name there. All 5 of us would spend an hour picking out our best guess of a new favorite book. I knew how to use the card catalog many years before my peers. It contained the key to finding the next great book. Mom would leave us in the children’s section sometimes so that she could find books that interested her, mostly historical fiction. She actually read history textbooks. We all marched out of the library with a stack of books taller than we were. It was 30 miles to our library, so my mother arranged for the county bookmobile  – a large RV equipped with books – to park in our driveway twice a month. Essentially our books came to us. If we called the library, they would send books that we requested to our stop. My family was their best customer, for sure.

VHS to DVDs, Family Memories

Library contest winner for essay on Favorite Book - 1st Grade

I still surround myself with books, both fiction and non-fiction. They fill my shelves with great reading material, but they also provide comfort of my memories from my childhood. My night stand is filled with my next 15 books to read. It is the best pleasure to read in bed and devouring the story contained in those books. You’ll never find me with a Kindle. I love to hold the paper variety in my hands.

My sister has 4 children and has received a good number of “Why?” questions from her children. She answers them with a very simple statement. She says to them, “Look it up, Mary.”, meaning take after your Grandmother Mary and research it yourself. My nieces and nephew find their answers on the internet. My mother would have loved Google. But then maybe she wouldn’t have had the love affair with books that she enjoyed all her life. Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls.

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My mother and her College friends Fall 1941

My mother and her College friends Fall 1941

I distinctly remember my mother telling me about her life her first year of college at Tennessee Martin Teacher’s College. She started college when she was 16 and was one of the youngest there. She was on the school women’s basketball team and basketball was big in Tennessee. It was played with half-court rules then.  She had many friends and dated many different fellows during this first year. After her hard life in Appalachia, she was at her pinnacle at Tennessee Martin. She was carefree and enjoyed getting to know the young men and women in her classes.

How different it was from her second year there. This was 1942 – the first year of World War II. They started the year all together. But at semester break, war was declared against Japan. Instead of returning to school, all of the men reported to basic training. Her class was one-half the size that it was the preceding year. All of the men were gone. That year the fun and laughter was measured.

Uncle Warren entering WWII

Uncle Warren entering WWII

My mother’s older 3 brothers enlisted right away into the Navy. Her oldest brother Warren was seriously dating a young woman named Dimple (her real name!). And he left for the Pacific Ocean without making a commitment to their relationship. He was at war for three years and returned home to Tennessee when the war was over to find that Dimple was married to a fellow that was excused from participating in the war. As the story goes, my uncle either didn’t write to Dimple during those years or perhaps he did and the letters were not delivered. He was devastated to find his love was married.

A few years later, he married a young lady that he knew from the area and they moved to Indiana. We visited them often as they lived just a few hours from our family. My mother and her brother were very close. After 25 years of marriage, my Uncle Warren’s wife died from breast cancer. He had no family in Indiana and returned to Tennessee often to visit his brother there.

After one visit to Tennessee, he returned to Indiana alone. Almost after the instant that he opened the door to his empty home, the phone was ringing. It was his old girlfriend Dimple. Her husband died 19 years previously and she had heard that Warren was in Tennessee recently. Would he consider going to lunch with her the next time he came to visit his brother?

Uncle Warren, Dimple, and my mohter

Uncle Warren, Dimple, and my mother

Uncle Warren drove immediately to our home to talk to my mother about it. She knew Dimple from their growing up years. He asked my mother if she thought it would be OK if he returned to Tennessee to see his previous girlfriend. My mother gave her blessing and was in fact delighted to her that Dimple was interested in seeing him again. He then drove to Tennessee to visit his brother again and to rekindle the relationship with Dimple that he started 35 years earlier.

Uncle Warren and Dimple married a few weeks later. I wish you could have seen the love that they had for each other. You could observe it with their every action. It was mutual adoration for the 16 years they were married. He would talk and she would tilt her chin up to listen to his words while locking the gaze from his eyes. They would talk to each other and sometimes appearing to be unaware that others were in the room. She was ill toward the end of their marriage and he would cater to her every need. His purpose was to serve her. He did it with joy. They were kind and gentle and sweet to each other in every encounter I saw them have. If ever two people were meant to be together, I believe it was my Uncle Warren and his love Dimple.

Uncle Warren died November of 2000. I traveled to Tennessee for the funeral with my sister and we visited with Dimple who was hospitalized the day of the funeral. She was truly suffering from a broken heart. They didn’t spend their entire lives together. But it wasn’t the number of the years together that mattered. It was the amount of love during the time they had together that counted. How beautiful that they ended up together after being separated by war.

Committed to telling the Family Story.

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I grew up in a Brethren church or rather my parents dropped us off at a nearby Brethren church every Sunday morning. The Church of the Brethren is rather like a Mennonite church. Their “Thou Shalt Nots” number far more than the Ten Commandments. Most specifically, our church didn’t believe in war. There was a volunteer service available to any young men who would be drafted, as they could easily get a 4F status for being a conscientious objector.

Picture This Austin EasterWe felt very welcome there, even without our parents attending with us.  I was sure if I ever heard God talk, He would sound just like Pastor Fells sounded. He had a big booming voice that was clear and kind, deep and warm. His words made sense to me and I felt the community and God’s love that existed there.

It was a bit strange for us to be orphans in our church, orphans in the sense that our parents didn’t attend with us.  We attended Sunday school and then went directly into the church service. I was the oldest girl in our family, so I would round up my three younger sisters and find a place for us to sit together. Our aunt and uncle would include us in their pew, but sometimes we would get moved from one pew to another so that entire families could sit together. I don’t remember getting in trouble for talking or anything, but I’m sure our behavior wasn’t perfect for four young girls under the age of 11. My older brother attended with us sometimes, but he was five years older and probably sat with his teenage friends.

I remember one sermon when I was a teenager that stressed the importance of Baptism and being saved. I was ready to go to the altar to ask to be saved, baptized and then become a member of the church. But before I got the courage to do it, I wanted to ask my parents why they didn’t go to church. Because if they didn’t go to church, would they go to heaven? It concerned me greatly that if we went to church without them, we could also end up in heaven without them.

Campbell0011 - Version 2I asked my Mom  about it first. She had alluded to an incident that happened to her when she was young. She didn’t grow up with her mother as I have explained previously in the post Archive the Photo AND Tell the Story: Ruby. After her mother left their household, my mother attended a church and was surrounded by the women of her church who prayed for my mother. My mother was sensitive and ashamed that her mother was in prison and felt that she was being condemned by these women. She thought they expected her to also end up as her mother had. My mother avoided church all of her adult life because of this incident. She assured me that she didn’t think it was necessary to attend church. She didn’t like being “religious”, instead explained that she was spiritual and believed in Jesus.

It was harder to talk to my dad about it. He joked about everything, and this seemed a serious subject, one that we tended to avoid in our family. I approached him and simply asked him to go to church with us next Sunday, that I was going to be saved and I wanted him to be there. And I asked him if thought about getting into heaven. I will never forget his words and his tone. He was deeply serious and his voice trembled – I couldn’t tell if from anger  or conviction. He told me that it was impossible to dig  a foxhole one morning during WWII and know that while you were digging it that you would be wounded by enemy fire that day. And he was hit by enemy fire that day and hospitalized for 10 months for injuries sustained during that attack. (See The Front Line) He said he knew his relationship with God was solid and that he made his peace with God during that time. I replied “Yes Sir” and didn’t push the matter of him attending my baptism.

I knew that our family was not the usual church family. My parents didn’t feel the need for church. But for some reason, they dropped off us off every Sunday. They gave us the gift of deciding for ourselves. And I do think that it was part of God’s plan.

 

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My mother

My mother

My mother grew up on the edge. It was the edge of the Appalachian Mountains, but it was in reality it was the edge of society. She was the youngest of 4 children in a one-parent family. Her father was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse and her mother spent a few years in prison for robbing a train (See Archive the Photo AND Tell the Story:Ruby ).

As much as my mother told us what her life was growing up in poverty, I don’t think we ever fully grasped what her day-to-day tasks were like. There was no electricity and no inside plumbing. She washed the family clothing down at the spring. Her brothers made a fire in the stove in the kitchen every evening before my mother cooked dinner for the family. They all ate beans and cornbread every day for dinner. My mother reportedly never owned a dress, instead dressing in her brothers’ hand-me-downs. And these hardships were before the Depression started.

But even though there was extreme poverty in may parts of the Appalachian  Mountains, my mother’s family was set apart from the others in the area. They were children from a divorced family and their mother had been in prison. My mother and her siblings were seen as outcasts by some.

My grandmother came back to town when my mother was 5 years old. She was trying to get some of her children back to live with her and her future husband. My mother heard from her father that her mother was going to marry a “half-wit”. My mother sobbed for hours that night. When her father persisted to find out what was wrong. She admitted that she didn’t want her name changed to “Mary Half-Wit”. She told the story in a humorous way, but we could feel the pain of her childhood trying to come to grips with this situation.

Campbell0011 - Version 4My mother told us the story about going to church when she was about 13 years old. She attended with a girlfriend, even though she didn’t have the appropriate clothing. She felt scorned because of this. At some part of the service, all the women from the church gathered around her and prayed over my mother. It may have been a religious ceremony for young teenagers in her church. But in my mother’s eyes, she was being punished for her family’s situation and for her mother’s sins. She never returned to any church except for the few times her children were in Christmas pageants and when we got married. She didn’t belong.

My mother attended teacher’s college at the age of 16 and graduated the year after World War II started. She taught for a year and hated it. She tried different careers, and eventually in 1946 moved to Lima, Ohio where her brother and sister-in-law lived.

Lil - my mother's best friend

Lil - my mother's best friend

She didn’t try to fit in with society there. She worked in a factory and became friends with other women who were seen as “not proper”. She didn’t try to hide her differences and instead she and her friends created their own societal rules. (I later learned some amazing – even scandalous – stories about these women.) They became life-long friends, bound by their similar situations. With them she felt respected, valued and loved. When my mother was with them, she belonged and felt normal. When they were not around, she felt different from most.

They were with her when she gave birth to her first son, fathered by a railroad man who did not marry her. They were her family and part of our lives, becoming more like a grandmother to us than a family friend. Even with their support, I’m not sure my mother ever overcame this feeling of being on the outside looking in. She grew up in poverty without a mother. But with the help of her friends, she found a place to belong.

 

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Touchdown by Fred!

I love football. You can blame my Dad for that. You remember that he grew up in a family of 10 boys. (See Being a Middle Child – #7 of 14). Football was important to him and his brothers. He played in high school and from the stories I heard (from him), he was quite good his senior year. His younger brother was all-state.

There is an old family story about his letter  in football. His school colors were black and red and he was very proud of his big black letter ‘S’. But he never had a jacket or sweater to put it on. It always lived in his special box with his war commendations.

Check out this newspaper article that I found on http://www.newspaperarchives.com about a touchdown pass my Dad’s  senior year.

My dad coached Pee-Wee football for the Bath Cats – the precursor to Pop Warner. He was devoted, even though he didn’t have any boys playing. I got to be on the cheerleading squad. Our uniforms were corduroy pants with a white sweatshirt with a bright blue ‘B’ on the front. We wore white headbands. We did cheers like “Teams in a Huddle, Captain at the Head. Out comes the coach and this is what he says . . .”. My favorite though was Football Boogie. I still remember every word and all the dance motions. “Football Boogie, Yeah Man! Football helmet, football shoes. I’m gonna get ready for the football boogie . . .” I was all of 5 years old and loved it.

My cheerleading years

My cheerleading years

My Dad and my Uncle Jim attended every high school football game  – home and away. Since I was the oldest of 4 girls, I was allowed to go with them. My Mom stayed home with the younger girls, and it was pretty special for me to be able to travel with them to the football games. They talked football, the stats of the season, and during the quiet times, sang along with Johnny Cash and George Jones on the radio.

We took blankets to keep warm and bought popcorn to share. When we arrived home late at night, my Dad would make home-made hot chocolate. It had cocoa, sugar, salt, vanilla, and milk and the taste was exquisite. I still love football, and I still love his recipe for hot chocolate.  I now attend high school football games and have Texas season tickets. I just can’t get enough of football. My Dad would be proud.

*Complete Words to Football Boogie:

“Football Boogie, Yeah Man! Football Boogie, Yeah Man! Football helmet, Football shoes, We’re gonna get ready for some Football Boogie. It’s the football Boogie, Yeah Man! It’s the Football Boogie, Yeah Man! It’s the Football Boogie and we’re gonna win today, today, today. Yeah!

Sitting in the grandstand, beating on my tin can. Who can, We Can. Nobody else can.

Football Boogie, Yeah Man! Football Boogie, Yeah Man! Football Boogie and we’re gonna win Today, today, Today. Yeah!”

Picture This! will help you create the gift of a lifetime.

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Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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