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Posts Tagged ‘Mom’

For some reason, my mother’s thirty-third birthday (April 4, 1965) is a memory to me. I think it was the year I was first aware of her age. I remember her looking so pretty, made up with lipstick and dressed in a fancy brownish-taupe dress with a wide, darker brown silky bow tied at the neckline. I also remember going to Grandma’s for her party. I don’t seem to have a picture from that time, but I do have photos from other times she was all fancied up…

Mom and Barb

With every button buttoned and every press pressed
They’re dressed up, and aren’t they the best?!

Mom and Barb

Happy birthday, Mom. I love you!

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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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I’ve always enjoyed genealogy and sharing family stories with my kids. Now that I’m a Nana, it somehow seems even more urgent (and fun!) for me to record things for prosperity so that our descendants will know the people from whom they came — even if for the most part, they were very “ordinary” people, living very “ordinary” lives.

My parents were both good story-tellers about their early years. Dad has his own blog now, and with enough coaxing, perhaps Mom will do the same. There are three main stories I loved so much as a child that I gave them titles and have retold them to my own children. They may remember them, but it’s good to have them in writing. One of my favorites involved my dad as a child in the 1930s, when my grandparents decided to modernize the monstrous coal-burning furnace in the basement of their house. Dad often told me the story of “the mysterious furnace,” which he once used as a subject of a school paper. Unfortunately, the paper no longer exists, but to the best of my recollection, I will retell his story:

Young Dad

One winter, my father’s parents decided to convert their coal furnace to electricity. My grandmother’s cousin, Charlie Trimble, was an electrician in their small rural town. They asked him to come over and wire the furnace for electricity.

Granddad watched as Charlie finished up the job. The furnace worked well and soon the whole house was toasty warm. Granddad and Charlie climbed the stairs, turned off the light, and Charlie departed. Shortly after Charlie left, the house began to get chilly, so Granddad decided he had better check on the furnace. He flipped on the light switch at the top of the stairs and descended to the basement. Expecting to find something wrong with the furnace, he was puzzled to find it roaring away. Satisfied that the furnace appeared to be working properly, he went back up the stairs and flipped off the light.

Much time passed and still the house did not warm up so he called Charlie back to see what the trouble was. Charlie and Granddad returned to the basement, turning the light on as they climbed down the stairs. When they reached the furnace it was roaring loudly. Charlie could not figure out the problem—he checked it all over and could find nothing wrong. All the time he was there, the furnace ran perfectly and the house again grew warm, but shortly after Charlie left, the house cooled off once more.

While Charlie and Granddad had been working on the furnace, my dad had been playing outdoors. He knew they were having a lot of trouble getting the furnace to work right. When Dad decided to go into the house, he entered through the outside basement doors, thinking Granddad and Charlie might still be there. The basement was quiet as he stumbled in the darkness up the stairs to turn on the light. As he flipped on the switch, the furnace began to roar. Startled, he turned around to look, and then decided to run and tell Granddad that the furnace was working again. However, just as he flipped off the light switch, the furnace abruptly stopped! Wondering why it had stopped so suddenly, he turned the light back on to have a look and just as he did, the furnace started up. He turned the light off and the furnace quit. He turned the light on and the furnace roared—he did this several times in amazement, and then ran to tell Granddad about the weird goings-on.

XT Prentis

Granddad hurriedly went to the basement to check out my dad’s unexplained mystery. He discovered that by mistake, Charlie had hooked the furnace up to the light at the top of the stairs, so whenever someone had been in the basement the furnace worked beautifully and pumped out the heat, but as soon as they had gone back upstairs and turned off the light, the electricity to the furnace was disconnected and the furnace stopped working! My dad had solved the case of the mysterious furnace. Charlie returned to the house and rewired the electrical connection so that it would operate on a different circuit.

Whenever my dad told this amusing story, my mother would jokingly add, “That’s probably the only time in your life you remembered to turn off the light when you left a room!” Mom grew up in the same small town and even though Charlie really was a very good electrician, word must have gotten around about his goof, because she also recalled her own father saying, completely in jest, “If you want some electrical work done properly, for heaven’s sake, don’t call Charlie Trimble!”

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