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Archive for March 3rd, 2008

As politically incorrect as “Gypsy Gyp,” which I called this story growing up, and the description of the fortune teller would be today, this is another tale of my mother’s childhood. To be more appropriate for today, this story should probably be renamed “The Fortune Teller,” although I’ve retained Mom’s original words.

From the time I was in fourth grade I had been playing the cornet, and by the time I was in Jr. High I finally reached the level of being accepted into the MAHS Band. From that time on, I played at every city, county and often state events in which the band was invited to participate. Sometimes we even received a small pittance for our services. For all city and county appearances we each received the huge amount of fifty cents per concert! It was during one of these events that the following story took place.

Then, in her best Sophia Petrillo voice…

Picture it: the Ringgold County Fair, 1947.

Mom, high school senior photo

With events both at the Fair Grounds and all around the entire city square, it seemed as if the population of the entire county turned out in full glory for these celebrations, and large carnivals were one of the biggest attractions, especially for the younger set.

Each day during the County Fair our band played two concerts, one in the afternoon at the Fair Grounds, and another in the city bandstand located in the middle of the square in the courthouse lawn. After our evening concert, we each received our ‘pittance’ for the day, a whopping total of one dollar for the two concerts. This sum, naturally, was spent at the carnival or on refreshments, and was soon gone.

The summer before my junior year in high school, during the County Fair and following the evening concert, after receiving our ‘pay,’ a girlfriend and I decided to be really daring and go to the Gypsy tent and have our fortunes told. Standing outside her tent, this decrepit shriveled up old hag was chanting over and over, “Fortooooons I tell yooooo…just fifteeeeee cents!” Well, Phyllis and I each had our dollar, and since we had already made up our minds to learn the unknown… we each handed her a dollar. We were escorted into her tent, asked to sit at the table, and then told she would have to go to her trailer for our change, and she would be right back.

Well, you guessed it, an eternity passed, and not one sign of the old dilapidated shriveled up Gypsy, or our change; however, we were two naive rural bumpkins and still thought she would return. After waiting another ten or fifteen minutes, it finally ‘hit’ us… my gawd! She wasn’t coming back! We then went out the back entrance of the tent, and bravely knocked on her trailer door… Of course, no sound from the trailer, and no response to our constant pounding. It was then, that we became a bit wiser and realized we had been taken for a buck apiece, so we devised our revengeful tactics.

Now since neither of us had any money, and could do nothing else at the carnival, we spent the next hour or so standing in front of this Gypsy’s tent shouting constantly the following chant: “Fortooooons she tell yooooo…just fifteeeeee cents to get eeen and fifteeeeee cents to get out!” Naturally, no one attempted to enter the tent, and her business dropped off like a lead balloon. We were quite an attraction, and probably should have passed the hat among our appreciative audience. We were having the time of our lives, even though our money we ‘blew’ for had been blown!

Well, by coincidence, my neighbor (and good friend of the family who bore a striking resemblance to Gunsmoke’s Matt Dillon) was the Deputy Sheriff on duty that evening. As he strolled by us he hesitated, looked around at the crowd, then at us, winked and asked us if we were having fun. It was then we told him our sad story of being cheated out of a ‘day’s wages’ by this hag, and we were merely revengefully getting our money’s worth. He then burst into an uncontrollable roaring belly laugh. Finally, after what seemed forever, he composed himself enough to suggest we accompany him to the Gypsy’s tent and he would see that we were refunded all our money. Of course, when this towering 6’6″ pistol-packing Deputy Sheriff in full uniform pounded on her door and uttered the words…. “Open up in the name of the law!” she did not hesitate to answer the door. It took him about five seconds to retrieve our dollars and order her to remove her tent and trailer and to ‘get outta town.’ Even more amazing was that it seemed to take her no longer than the next five seconds to dismantle the tent and drive off with her trailer….

After we stood and watched her departure, our hero, the Deputy, escorted us both to one of our favorite hangouts — Barney Horne’s Drug Store — and bought us each a double dip ice cream cone with cherries on top as sort of a reward for being ‘crime stoppers.’ Well, we always assumed the ice cream was our reward, but I think it was that he was just a nice guy. I do know this — he enjoyed telling the story over and over to anyone who would listen, as I have enjoyed telling it to my children and grandchildren throughout the years.

To this day, I have never again desired to have my future told, but I sure do enjoy a double dip cone!

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A story about my mom — in her own words.

Much to my dislike, but because of my mother’s insistence, I was forced to endure one class of home economics each day of my four years of high school. Our class usually consisted of around twenty girls, which is not an uncommon class size; however, the home ec. department was not well endowed with appliances or other facilities needed for proper hands-on instruction. We were to share the four sewing machines during the times sewing was our project, and it was required you do all your sewing in class. With only three kitchen ranges, it became rather hectic when we were in the cooking or baking mode, but it was during one of those cooking and baking modes that caused the following event to evolve:

The Superintendent treated the entire teaching staff to a ‘Teacher’s Tea’ after school hours on the last Thursday of every month. And for this occasion each home ec. class baked cookies. Now, mind you, there were four classes of home ec. each day, and we all spent two class periods baking this humongous amount of cookies. All four classes spending two days baking cookies created several dishpans full of cookies, which were stored under lock and key in the department’s pantry. Now, if you can imagine, this little school had an entire teaching staff, grades K-12 of less than twenty-five….. Just how many cookies do they need? Needless to say, none of us were allowed even so much as a taste of these goodies, as ‘there wouldn’t be enough for the tea, if we were to eat any!’ I’m sure by now you have an inkling as to what followed.

It was to be the last ‘Teacher’s Tea’ of my senior year, and as usual, we were baking for two days, storing away in the pantry, and watching our instructor lock the door and then place the key in the middle drawer of her desk. Well, the entire class was completely fed up with the way we were made to bake all these goodies and never allowed to eat any, but only four of us would decide to correct that situation. We were well aware of our home ec. instructor’s free period time, and her daily habit of going to the hot lunch room to consume her little mid-afternoon snack, a Bermuda onion sandwich! We all had other classes or duties, but decided we would each ask to be excused for a restroom break at exactly five minutes after our home ec. instructor’s break began. With three of us in different classrooms and one serving as secretary for the Superintendent that hour, no one would be the wiser.

At the predesignated time, we all left our respective classrooms, and even though we each had to walk by the Superintendent’s office which was next to the home ec. department, we quickly made it to our destination, obtained the key from the desk, unlocked the pantry and began our ‘Great Cookie Caper’ in full swing! The pans of cookies were removed from the pantry, the door locked, and the key returned to the desk where we had found it. We each carried one of these huge pans heaping with a variety of delicious cookies and made our way to the tunnel under the stage in the gymnasium. As the side door of the home ec. department led directly to the stairs down to that tunnel, we successfully maneuvered without being seen by anyone. With the cookies safely in place, we returned to our respective classes or duties as if nothing had taken place except a long restroom break.

Now, you’re probably wondering just what ever happened to all those cookies, and what did the teachers nibble on during their ‘Tea. ‘Prior to our ‘Liberation Heist’ of the cookies, and even though we were not positive our plan would work, our ‘gang of four’ managed to successfully spread the word via the grapevine to every student in high school that there would be goodies in the tunnel after 2:30 p.m….free for the taking, compliments of the ‘Teacher’s Tea’ and home ec department!

By 3:00 p.m., as we passed through the halls going from class to class, it was very evident the cookies were being thoroughly enjoyed and consumed by all, as the halls were already strewn with cookie crumbs from end to end. Every pocket of every student was stuffed with cookies, but not a soul said a word about the cookies, where they came from, or how it was made possible — not even the Superintendent as he strolled the halls nibbling a chocolate chip cookie. However, he did have a twinkle in his eye, a huge grin on his face, and winked as we passed in the hall. And I heard him exclaim as he walked out of sight, “So much for the cookies at tea for tonight!”

Mom, high school senior

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