WINIGAN AND ME
Martha Cleeton Riddle - 1986
This little account will be of Winigan and me, together with some of the people who were a part of my life until I was sixteen. It will be told in the way that I remember and since it will be principally of my family, there is no reason that it should be of interest to anyone else.
Since some of the happenings to be recalled might be of things families have chosen for some reason to forget, or might be embarrassing to them or to their children or children’s' children, it is to be hoped that only my own will ever see this. The mistakes and misdeeds of "me and mine" have all been forgotten, forgiven or been paid for long ago. It may be that there will be enough good remembered to bring about some sort of balance.
For one who grew up with numerous uncles, aunts, Grandmas and Grandpas, I had surprisingly little inheritance.
It was considered by that particular generation to be very disrespectful to call anyone over fifty by their given names. And oddly enough only a few of the older people were called Mr. or Mrs.. For example, just across the street from us was Uncle John and Aunt Rachel Harl. No relation of course, and too old to be close friends of my parents, but the rule held. Their son Perry was my teacher through most of my eight grades.
Perry Harl was one of the most progressive teachers in rural Sullivan County. Our school, by virtue of being in town but including the same taxable farm area as the other rural schools, was a first class school, while most of those in the county were second or third class. Since there was more money available, we probably had a better chance of better qualified teachers. Perry was a strict disciplinarian, and a well-grounded student of the elementary subjects of "readin, ritin, and rithmetic." He was a beautiful writer, and many of his pupils grew up to be good writers just by his example. My brother Earl, for instance. Arithmetic was a subject to be understood from the beginning. Fractions were completely "dissected" and unless one was very thick-headed, made to be a means of solving the problems likely to be met in our simple lives. Decimals were only tenths after all.
We were expected, and some cases, were compelled, to memorize a quotation from any classic that we studied in the "A" class, which was the seventh and eighth grades. I can still recite from "A Man Without A Country," "The Merchant of Venice," the last stanza of "Thanatopsis" - things that students today would certainly consider a waste of time. Perry Harl received his education in a reform school. When he died of influenza during the epidemic in 1918, he was superintendent of the Sunday School that I attended.
I shall try to remember many more of my Winigan family as I go along, but if this is to be of and for my family, it must begin at the beginning.
My Papa and Mama were married when she was fifteen and he nineteen. No trial marriages in 1894. By the time most couples decided they were "incompatible," there were so many little "reasons" for them staying together that they hadn't much choice.
Mother's first little one was born in December just a year after their December marriage. He died the next summer from what was called "summer complaint," a disease, really a dreadful diarrhea, caused mostly because of unsanitary conditions. With no way to cool milk quickly, it soon soured. Bottles were not properly sterilized; how could a bottle baby survive? Formulas were of course far in the future, at least for country people. Mothers who could breast-feed their babies were most fortunate.
Little Elba was followed in two and a half years by Carl, then in two and half years by Earl, then Noel who was never called anything but Nick.
Then came Martha, the first girl. Since we were so regular in coming, it has always been easy to remember our ages.
Earl and I were five years apart, within three weeks, then Helen and I were five years, with Mike in between. Mike whose name was Olen, although no one seemed to know it after the first day of school when new teachers tried it.
By the time I came along it was 1905 and Floyd and Allie were living on a little farm south of Butte that they had bought. But soon after they moved to Greencastle where Papa worked in a saloon for six months. But in March of the next year they came to Winigan, so that I had my first birthday in Winigan.
We lived first in a little house where Velma Gall lives on the back street but is now Highway 129. Mama always said her furniture could almost place itself in the wagon by itself - since they moved almost every year, trying to find a little better house - an impossible job since people with good houses were owners and seldom moved.
Uncle Tom and Aunt Lucy Hoselton lived there later and I went there often. They milked a cow and sold milk, 10 cents for a quart of fresh milk and 5 cents for the half gallon of skimmed milk that we drank for supper. My Papa called it blue John.
Aunt Lucy's cellar was a cave that always felt cool and moist. The milk was strained into flat crocks and covered with a white cloth that had been wet and stretched tightly over the top, where it dried to a neat tight cover. The crock sat on a floor that always looked wet from scrubbing. I remember too that they made their own lye by filling a barrel with wood ashes and allowing water to drip through. Caught in a wooden "pan," this made a lye that was used in making soap. Combined with "cracklins" left when lard was rendered. Boiled in the back yard in the same big black kettle that had been used when the lard was cooked, this made a very effective soap. When the cracklings had been thoroughly dissolved and the mixture thickened, it was poured into a flat container to cool and harden. It was then cut into bars and allowed to "ripen." My mother sometimes made soap the same way except that she bought the lye. When we used to butcher our own, I sometimes tried it, but I never had a lot of success. It was all a far cry from my electric washer and dryer! And Tide!
By the time I was four we were living across from Harls. Their granddaughter lived with them, and she taught me to braid garlands of clover. Long strands, sweet smelling, with the white blossoms irregularly along the "rope."
In September of that year after I was four in April, my little Mama with three boys in school, and Mike under foot, decided it was time for me to be going with them. Carl, an unusually tall boy for his age, was quite capable, and as I remember, always willing, to carry a little sister if the going was too bad. Mud holes were to be expected often. Snow drifts happened, and snow plows were far in the future.
My first day at school must have been memorable! Isn't everyone's? The story books always say so, but there is really very little that I remember. My Mama certainly wanted to put my (our) best foot forward. My straight dark brown hair had been rolled on rag strips the night before and I appeared before the teacher with a nice set of long curls. But Mama apparently soon saw that she had started an impossible project, for eventually I went to school with my customary braids. The teacher, a lady of course, no man would have noticed, sent word to my Mama that it was a pity to spoil my lovely curls!
It would have been more of a pity for Mama to try to keep them up! Oh yes -- on my first day my biggest brother, Carl, "introduced" me to the teacher. When she asked my name, Carl said "Marthie." "Oh," the teacher said, "Martha. What a nice old fashioned name!" "No," said Carl, rather sharply I expect, "Her name ain't Martha, it's Marthie." And that was the way my family and friends of my age always spoke to, and of, me.
Two lady teachers, Gladys Millay and Ertel Dalzall Thorpe, always told me that they were each my first teacher. I really think that they were both probably right, since about that time, many schools had what was called a winter term of five months, followed by a spring term of three months. Later Bertha Morris was our teacher, John Milhoan once and Charley Tallman once. Someone kept me back one year so that I did the third grade twice. They said I was too young and too little for the rest of the class. I can remember yet how angry and how humiliated I was. But there certainly were no special classes in the early 1900s. The teacher probably had fifty or more pupils in grades 1 to 8. Some youngsters went to school until they were too old to be in school simply because high school was too far away. No one had to coax me to go to school. I loved it always, even the two years teaching in country school.
Mike was still a little fellow. Little and blond, a gentle boy who looked more like a girl (he would love me for this), and who always had to act belligerent to prove that he was a "male he-man." He didn't outgrow it until he was a man. He always swore like our Papa, and I always thought I understood that it was one more way to prove something. So much for my try at psychology.
When April of 1910 came, Mike and I were sent away one day and when we came home, Mama's younger sister, Norma, met us outside with the announcement, "You've got a baby sister!" Imagine, after all those boys! By that time Mama might have been more thrilled with a new puppy!
It has always seemed to me that Helen would have been the one of the family with any claim to beauty. With big brown eyes and hair, that although it was never in ringlets, never hung straight as mine and all the boys' did. We had definitely straight hair. And to complicate the terrible misfortune, I was also definitely dark. My mama's people were all dark complexioned on both sides. But -- my Grandma Cleeton was white -- and from the time I was very small, she made it very plain to me that there was something not quite -- no-- maybe only that being white was something to be proud of. Grandma Cleeton's family were, as she was quick to say, "rebels." One of her brothers was killed in the Civil War. Grandma Berry's family came to the middle west from Canada and Grandpa Berry's family from Illinois so they were probably not so rebellious. Missouri historically was divided between the North and the South, and the Cleetons were a divided family. It must have been a tragic time. Indeed, I think this has been in the nature of an explanation, perhaps only to myself, of the fact that Helen was Grandma Cleeton's favorite, and Martha the choice of Grandma Berry. By the time Kathleen came along, the last of the crop, she was probably everybody's favorite.
By this time, Carl and Earl were growing tall and were mostly out of the house. There was never a shortage of playmates. The Moffit boys, Buford and Manfred; the Thrasher boys, Wayne and Hubert; the Myers boys, Wade and Austin, were available at all times for games or just plain old horsing around, boy fashion. Swimming, climbing, tramping to the little creek (Winigan creek) that ran less than a mile west of town. We never spoke of "hiking," we just went to the creek! The Meyers brothers, whose sister Oletha was a friend of mine, and two years younger, and the Thrasher boys who were brothers of my girl friend, Faye, just two years older than I, and whose father ran the poultry house, which was a very necessary phase of business then. There, farmers brought their eggs and poultry for the ready cash needed for groceries.
The Moffett boys had a sister, Esther, as did the Thrasher boys. And the Myers boys too had a sister. So many youngsters lived and mostly grew up in Winigan, but these families seem to have always been there.
John R. Moffett, always called John R., was a well-to-do farmer whose house was on Main Street, but who had a good sized farm adjoining town. When I was a little older we bought milk from Moffetts. We had no cave so I went before breakfast for milk for the ever present gravy (the standard baby food), and cream for coffee. Many times Mrs. Moffett, Mary, was just making the biscuits. I remember she melted lard (no other shortening had been heard of in Winigan) in the baking pan, and turned over each biscuit in it. My mother I was sure made better ones, and SHE put all the shortening in the dough!
About this time my Uncle Charley came to town and bought the hotel. When all merchandise was bought through "traveling men" and most livestock bought and sold through stockbuyers, a hotel was necessity in a small town. Uncle Charley and Aunt Stell (after he died, she married Nove Beck) had just two boys, Lloyd and Orrin, to add to the busy bunch of youngsters. Lloyd a year older than I and Orrin younger. Uncle Charley's initials were C.F. and Papa's were O.F. (Oscar Floy). With C.F. in the hotel and O.F. in the drugstore, there was soon confusion in their signatures. It finally was so much trouble at the bank, that Papa changed his signature to Floyd and it remained that way all his life. Lloyd was the cousin who loved to tease a little girl with braids tied with ribbon. It was fun to pull the bow until it loosened and hear her storm! He was a year older and so much larger. It did no good to chase after him, but I tried!
Winigan had a building boom about this time. Someone had a brick kiln two or three miles west of town. Whether the kiln was started to make bricks for the building, or the buildings were built because of the availability of the bricks, I have no idea. But the Baptist church was built then. An imposing building indeed for a town used to wooden frame church and store fronts. The addition of educational rooms in the sixties made it a place worthy of the strong organization it grew into.
The Odd Fellows built the other structure. A large hall still in use (1978) by the I.O.O.F. and the auxiliary organizations, Rebekahs. My Papa and Mama being faithful members from the time we children were small until they were too old to climb the long steps. The lodge occupied the upper floor and downstairs was the post office and one of the two general stores, Roy Cable being both postmaster and owner of the store. When we needed groceries, shoes, yard goods, work shirts and pants, kerosene, anything used for sewing, or cooking, we went to the "Store." At that time, in addition to the two general stores, our town boasted a hardware, furniture store, two poultry houses, barber shop, millinery store, harness shop, bank, two churches, two lodges (I.O.O.F. and Masons), Papa's drugstore and restaurant combination, a grist mill, a movie, blacksmith shop, and hotel.
On Saturday afternoons when farmers came to town to do their trading, no one "shopped," probably because usually it was a trade. Produce for necessities. A hitching rack ran down the south side of the street, west toward the poultry house. On the north side of the street back of the hotel was the livery barn, kept for the care of horses driven by the hotel visitors. The hitching rack was made of a heavy chain ran through the posts spaced down the west side of the main street. Riding horses and those hitched to the various buggies, spring wagons, and farm wagons were tied there.
Four or five tremendous maple trees grew on the side of the street along the hitching racks on the west side, and in the blank space someone had hung a swing made of heavy chain. Suspended from a long two by six, this was the nearest thing to a park or children's playground available to us. Boys went swimming in the local ponds, but we girls never learned to swim. Something I tried hard to learn after middle age had caught up with me. Maybe I couldn't have learned even if I had started early!
The boys played what they called "shinny," a hazardous affair with tin cans and long sticks. There must have been rules of some kind. But girls were restricted to back yards and the house. Farm girls were lucky. We were together though every day. So many youngsters and such a small town. We were a clannish bunch though. Boys (and perhaps girls) seldom welcome boys from the "country" to share games when we were young. As we grew older, we were glad to welcome new acquaintances and made lots of friends.
One preacher lived in our town when I was small. Brother Chadwell. Growing old when I remember him, he was a tall man rather stooped, who wore a longtailed coat (a frock coat?) so old that the black had begun to show green. His wife was a tiny lady with snow white hair. Brother Chadwell preached at the Christ church - really the union church - but I think the only organized group. But all denominations held services there at times.
When the Baptists built their new building, I was sent there since Papa and Mama had been baptized at the Owasco church. Mama was always too busy then to attend services. Our store was open seven days a week, which kept Mama from attending, but since we were never involved in other things I usually won any reward for good attendance! I don't remember that the boys went. Do boys ever make a practice of going to Sunday School if their father doesn't? But I was always sent with my patent leather "Mary Janes" with long stockings and dressed in an eyelet embroidered dress and at least one and probably two starched petticoats. Reverend Jones lived a few miles south of town. Many of his descendants live around Winigan yet and are still a strong influence in the Christian church. "Uncle" Billy Crist might almost have been said to live in town. A preacher in the Holiness church, but more of him later.
It seems odd to me that there should have been more doctors living and practicing in an area small enough for me to know of them at that time. Dr. Shepler lived at Mystic, a small community about eight miles north. Dr. Pounds was at New Boston, ten miles south. Dr. Nevins at North Salem five miles west, and Dr. Boyles at Shelby a few miles south of North Salem. Changes!
But the Doctor who was a part of the lives of our family was a Dr. Baker who lived in Winigan. We didn't go to the Doctor. He was already there. He and Dell, his wife, and their three sons - Roscoe the age of my brother Nick, Raymond who was about the same age as Helen, and Paul about like Kathleen. Dr. Baker had a room set apart for his drugs and medicines, but he was usually to be found at our drugstore, where there were always loafers and where most strangers who came to town were sure to be found sooner or later. Doc never met a stranger that he didn't find a way to start a discussion on some topic. I don't think he cared particularly what the subject was - politics, religion, current events, local interests - anything that would make an interesting conversation. Papa and Doc took daily papers and although they were both St. Louis editions, they may have been different. Ours was the old St. Louis Republic, and one of the first things I can remember reading in the daily was O.O.McIntyres' column. I still read the syndicated columns first in the daily paper.
Besides Papa and Doc being very close friends, Mama and Dell were also close - a friendship that lasted all their lives. Even after they were both widows, they were very near one another. Mama lived to age 90 and Dell, who was a year older, went about a year earlier; it was a wonderful relationship. Someone to sit with you and help on the inevitable quilt that was being made to keep up the supply, when it took lots of covers on the beds in the cold bed rooms. Quilting was a way of entertainment for women of that day as well as being one of the good management practices. Scraps from their sewing were cut up and sewn into either simple patterns or more elaborate designs. With a layer of cotton batting and a lining of unbleached muslin, after it was quilted in the tiny stitches in a regular pattern it made an attractive cover for the bed. While being used for a spread, many of the heirloom quilts sold today for big prices were made for utility. A group of women gathered around a frame where a quilt was stretched spent a happy afternoon visiting, perhaps doing a little gossiping, enjoying a time of being away from the never ending chores. A long ways perhaps from a bridge party, but who knows - maybe it was even better therapy!
I remember twice when the nearness of our families worked to my advantage. A pair of little boots with red tops came to me because they were too small for Roscoe. And another time Doc and Steve Thrasher with some other men of the neighborhood were in St. Louis at a convention or ? and the other men were buying gifts to bring home for their little daughters, but Doc brought a little necklace for me. He, like most of the men who spent a lot of time at the store, teased me, calling me Blackie, etc., but children seem to know when it's done with love. When I see the little girls now in their little sunsuits and bare legs and heads, I feel sorry yet for that little dark girl who in spite of bonnets, long stockings, and long sleeves, never could have that dainty, fragile look that my little Mama admired.
Doc died of cancer after we were married, leaving Winigan without a doctor. He was the last MD to live there. Country doctors were one of the bulwarks of a small town. Small pay, sometimes none, for delivering babies, struggling through epidemics, caring for the old, treating the chronically ill, setting broken bones, even pulling teeth; all these sometimes serious treatments, without the help of anesthetics, no nurses, no chance for consultation with other doctors. They were to be found in all kinds of weather, in mud, snow, heat and cold on those dreadful country roads, many times at night. Most of us who grew up then owe them a debt.
Doc could always be depended on for the nickel that Papa sometimes refused even for the little "nickel" doll that never lasted. Probably my Papa did the same for his boys. Roscoe, the oldest, was the first boy in our neighborhood to go to school away from home. He went to Kirksville and was so young he wore knickerbockers. He became a doctor and died early of leukemia.
Dell's mother was "Aunt" Cindy Greenstreet, who lived next door to my Grandma Cleeton. Two strong minded old ladies, who had raised large families under hard circumstances. When their children were young this part of Missouri was no place for the delicate or the weak in spirit. I would guess that the Greenstreet family had more of "this world's goods," but even then there none of the things that were taken for granted in my mother's generation. My mother didn't even know how to knit, much less make the stockings, mittens, etc. that were necessary in Grandma's time. Grandma's generation with homemade lye soap kept her three older sons in white starched boomed (with pleats) shirts for dress up. Imagine if you can ironing them with flat irons heated on the old wood burning cook stove. My Papa wore them when I was small but they were sent to a laundry. Papa took them to the barber who shaved him each morning, to be sent to Brookfield. Papa at that time, too, wore a plug hat, the hard crowned hat sometimes seen in old time movies. Although starched white shirts went out of style long, long ago, he never liked colored shirts, and never wore them.
But this is a long way from Aunt Cindy. I still had "Aunts." Neighbors who were my parents' age we never called aunt and uncle. A proud old lady, tall, with her long swishing skirts and high collared "shirt-waists." Usually with a neat black velvet ribbon around her neck -- just like they have worn this past season.
She had twelve children and with her two sisters they produced a total of forty-two. I wonder what they would have thought of birth control devices and methods. And of abortions on demand. Some very fine people who were a part of my life might just possibly have never been born.
"Uncle Bill" Almond was a fixture around town. He had the grist mill where we bought our corn meal. Ground on stone "burrs" the meal was a very different quality from the packaged meal of today. The cornbread was sweeter, coarser textured, but much better flavored. I think the theory is that steel burrs of later years heated the grain. His wife "Aunt Marg" wove carpets. I loved to watch her at her loom. Since most women saved and made their old clothing, sheets, etc., into carpet rags, she was always busy. The "rags" were torn into narrow strips and sewn together, then wound into balls where they made the "woof" and colored twine made the "warp." Some of them were very pretty, depending of course upon the color and quality of the material. A few people, those with an extra room to use for a "parlor" had a rug. "Boughten." But families like ours always had a woven carpet. Carpeting was made in 36 inch strips sewn together to fit wall to wall. Each spring it was taken up and cleaned by beating or if necessary, ripped apart and washed and the strips sewed together again. Always it was replaced over a layer of straw. For a short time we were walking on a cushioned floor. It was my task to go across the street to the harness shop to borrow their tack-puller. The harness shop was filled with leather goods used about horses. Saddles, harness, straps, buckles, buggy-whips, all sorts of things common to farmers then, when motorized equipment was far in the future. The sewing machine used for sewing the leather for harness or for mending shoes, for that was also done there, fascinated me, although not like many others, I never liked to smell leather. But I'm wandering again.
Our drugstore was one of the more imposing store fronts in town, quite different from the one we had later. At the back was the prescription case, behind which were the drugs to be mixed using the old mortar and pestle, a wooden bowl with a wooden round mallet, and the drug scales with their little metal weights placed in one panlike side to balance the mixture opposite for accuracy. A full-length mirror was in front of the partition making the "case." Back there too, Mama and Papa mixed and froze the ice cream sold. I can remember the first commercial ice cream Papa hauled from Green City, where Alma(sp?) and Lizzie Anderson had an ice cream plant. It could be sold in a cone since it didn't melt so fast. Cones even then sold for 5 cents. For a while about the time of the first world war it was raised to 6 cents. So we grew to be more sophisticated. Later Anderson's bakery furnished the bread we sold. Carried in a basket-like crate the bread was in ten loaf pieces. These we broke apart and wrapped to sell at 10 cents or 3 or 25 cents. Government rules of sanitation had not been worked out. Behind the store was the ice-house. Each winter it was filled with blocks of ice cut from local ponds. Long cross-cut saws cut the blocks, perhaps 30 inches square and as thick as ice could be found, usually several inches, depending of course on the temperature. They were hauled on sleds and layered in the house with lots of sawdust packed about them. Pop was cooled in the big chest refrigerator and any not needed for this and to freeze and pack the ice cream freezers, was sold to people always glad to get enough to make "home-made" ice cream or cool drinks. When I was small we harvested ice in winter, much as we harvested hay in summer on the farm after I was married.
But when I was perhaps six, maybe seven, fire broke out in back of the store. It was learned later that small boys were making a bonfire, burning wooden packing boxes. All medicines, and most canned goods were shipped in boxes, bottles packed in excelsior (is it ever used anymore? Material made with wood shavings). Boxes were so plentiful that we used them for kindling; what a waste.
Our store burned plus the hardware store next door, the bank building and a dwelling. Fortunately the bank had just moved across the street. Much of the merchandise was burned in the street where it had been carried out. People worked so hard saving the patent medicines and the restaurant equipment, but of course the most valuable stock was the drugs behind the prescription case, and the fire was too close to get back there.
The little house where Mama lived in the years after Papa died was north of the store and across the alley. Volunteers poured water that had to be pumped and carried in buckets to save it. My only memory of the whole tragic affair is of being caught and held by some women where I was running frantically, screaming with fright.
My Papa was out of town. He still loved to go to Milan, "his" town while he was growing up, and he never lost his feeling for it. But that was the only time I had ever seen a grown man cry, and it made a tremendous impression on me. There was very little a small girl could understand.
With only $200 in insurance, it was necessary to start all over again. Papa and Perry Harl had bought in partnership a vacant store building which was to be our home. Papa then bought a small building next to it, that had been a barber shop. It became our living room and with the addition of two - no, three - small bedrooms and using one small room of the store, we moved in. Papa bought Perry's interest and we lived in the first home that was ours. We had space for a small garden and Papa even had a small "sty" where he sometimes fattened a couple of hogs to help out with the grocery bill.
My Papa had, I think, always drank some; some time after all this he had become a hard drinker, one of those who when he had too much came in and went to bed if he was in town. He was still a young man and I would imagine that alcohol helped him to carry burdens that must have been heavy. There was a day when he came home after an absence of several days. I don't remember him ever being away before. But I do remember that he was very pale and, with little "big ears and eyes" and the I suppose the normal curiosity of a little girl, I saw him showing Mama his upper arm covered with needle marks. So far as I know he never drank hard liquor again. All I remember was beer which he liked so well.
But -- Mama (like all the other women I knew) had no such "escape" or consolation. The "weaker sex" could only grit their teeth and bear it. Who would have taken care of the family and ran the store while they went to the hospital? Maybe there were women who drank but I never knew them. I do remember my Mama's cousin, Hazel Grisamer, to me just an old maid who with parents visited Grandma Berry who of course was Aunt Emma Grisamer's sister. Her lips were always a peculiar blue and her complexion mottled. I learned much later that she was a dope addict. Like present day doctors, they many times prescribed drugs for the very sick that the patients became addicted to, and there were no restrictions on the sale of drugs. When I was very young, perhaps twelve, I helped Papa in the store (very likely to avoid some of the everlasting dishwashing) and poured things like carbolic acid into bottles for sale. Most of the drugs we stocked were sold to us in sometimes quite large bottles and we of course kept a supply of smaller ones in a variety of sizes, with an equal variety of corks. We filled capsules too, with quinine, etc., things with such a disagreeable taste that it was difficult to swallow them I wonder which is the more foolish - indiscriminate sale or causing people to do without some of the medication because of the cost and trouble of securing a prescription.
But I wander. Steve Thrasher, the banker, a very dignified man, a pillar of his church and who had, and had earned the respect of everyone, was an alcoholic according to my folks, and he was one of my father's best friends. No one ever saw him drunk or showing the effects of drinking so probably few knew of it but one of his sons had the same trouble. Steve's father "laid out" the town of Winigan. No one seems to know where the name came from. The little creek that ran west of town had had the same name. I don't know if there exists a plat of the town, but it was carefully done with its streets and alleys all defined. Since abstracts do exist for most of the lots, many of them have been sold so many times without an abstract that it might be difficult to determine which alleys have been fenced for lots, but most of them are still fenced. Steve's brother Joe owned one of the two general stores. He and his wife Jennie had no children but one of the loveliest people I ever knew was a niece they raised, Nora Rulon. So pretty with big brown eyes, heavy brown hair worn in a pompadour with a rolled bun on top. She developed arthritis when still a girl and spent the rest of her rather short life in a wheelchair. Jennie had a powerful soprano voice and led the singing in the Holiness church, but more of that later.
Back to Steve's family. Wayne, Hubert and Faye, who married Wiley Taylor. Unusual at that time they all had piano lessons. Most boys then were like boys now, far too busy for such foolishness. Wayne, somewhat older than Carl was perhaps the best. To match his wife's soprano, Steve had a fine deep bass voice. He sang first bass in the male quartet, where my Papa sang second bass, Bill Coram a sometimes preacher was second tenor, and Roy Cable first tenor. When I was (very unhappily) too young, someone, I've forgotten who, taught a school of music (vocal). I can still hear Papa "do, re, mi" his part in the songs. I can't remember any funeral when the "quartet" didn't sing.
I mentioned that a preacher, Chadwell, lived in Winigan. But another one, even though he lived half a mile north of town, was very much a part of it. Uncle Billy Crist, many of whose descendants still live near, was a most outstanding personality. Of the Holiness church, and it was very much alive for many years, he preached with a zeal and fervor that not many could match. Not very tall, he stood very straight and his fat belly looked even larger because it was thrust forward, with a mustache that would perhaps be called "handlebar," I can see him yet. When Uncle Billy prayed he was on his knees, and with his head thrown back, he pounded the seat beside him for emphasis, for he was probably telling God where he might do better. Those were the days when the Holiness church believers shouted, waved their handkerchiefs, stood on the pews, and sometimes were so overcome that they were on the floor. But the thing I loved was to hear them sing. What joy! What enthusiasm! They didn't sing the sober, stately hymns of most churches, theirs were faster and sang with what might be called "a beat" by the modern description. They met in the old "Union" church and for years had a lady "preacher." Sister Hannah Johnson. Uncle Billy said many times that he hoped to die preaching. And he did exactly that. While preaching at Nind, a small town between Winigan and Kirksville, he had a fatal heart attack in the pulpit. Aunt Mandy was his wife and many times we stopped to warm by her wood burning kitchen range, on the way to school.
Our School was the usual one room rural school and sat about 3/4 of a mile north of town. In the center of the district, most of the pupils lived in town and it was a cold (or hot) walk to school. But even so where is there a pleasure for my children and great-grandchildren like this? Just at the edge of town lived Lon Turner and his wife, Mattie. With three girls, Mable who was about the age of my sister Helen, Sylvia who was a great friend of Kathleen and Helen, younger. Lon made sorghum molasses. In the fall just before frost time we could hardly wait to get there on our way home from school. How good natured he was! In a flat metal pan, probably two and one half by eight feet, he boiled the juice of the sugar cane. A special kind of cane was grown for this. Stripped of its leaves while standing, then cut and fed into a press with rollers, the sugar cane yielded a lot of juice. The pan sat on a stone, cement or brick furnace, kept burning with wood. With a long paddle made of wood, the juice had to be stirred almost continuously to prevent burning. After hours of slow cooking the juice was thick and sweet and the delicious syrup was taken up into jars and large cans. But Lon knew what fun it was to "lick the pan," and we all had little wooden paddles (he must have made them himself). These we carefully tucked into the edge of the roof that was built over the cooking vat. Now, I'm horrified at the thought of those little unwashed paddles used by whoever reached them first, but no such thought ever spoiled our pleasure then, and we were a remarkably healthy lot.
"Doc" kept us that way I suppose. He dispensed calomel and castor-oil for most headaches, coated tongues, colds, etc., to all. And since these remedies were so very disagreeable we mostly tried to ignore our discomforts. When one of Papa's children seemed in need of medicine, we were allowed to choose from the store's shelves. Calomel, in 1/4, 1/2 or whole grain, one hour apart, 1/2 hour, or every fifteen minutes. I usually chose the whole grain since it didn't require so many interruptions of my play. After the required number of pills we could wait one more period and take a dose of our choice of castor oil or salts. Is it any wonder that we rarely complained?!!
I was small for my age. One of the little girls who instead of compliments was usually told "pretty is as pretty does," a rather grim reminder that that was my only chance to be "pretty." My parents were like most of that day. We weren't exactly encouraged to do well, we were simply expected to. As I try to remember my life with my own children, I'm afraid that was perhaps too much my own attitude. I was loved (I know now) but rarely if ever petted or cuddled. Now I know that Mama must have spent many hours of time that she had to steal from the mean schedule necessary to maintain her home in making me the little dresses that other women envied for their little girls, but lacked the skills for making them.
Women who could not make the little dresses ordered them from Sears Roebuck. To me they looked finer.
I remember when the Coram family moved to town and ran the hotel. She evidently didn't sew, for when they started to school, Sarah, who was to become my special friend and at 81 and 83 in 1986 she still is, was dressed in a "ready made" dress with special metal buttons. Sophisticated, it seemed to me.
Mrs. Coram, "Aunt Duck," probably Dulcie, brought with her 6 children. Six older ones were married and gone. Twelve! The telephone switch board was in the hotel, and since very few people had their own phones, we went there to make necessary calls, and if an important long distance call came for us, one of the family came over for us to receive it. Usually nothing less than a death in the family warranted those calls.
My hair was always neatly braided and tied with bright ribbons. My dresses, made many times from dresses discarded by my two real aunts, Norma, mama's younger sister, and Ollie who was Grandma Cleeton's last child and only girl. Ollie, who taught school, was often at our house when she was teaching in that area. I guess our family rather "ran" to teaching. Uncle Will, although he later became a lawyer, Uncle Charlie, Lloyd and Orrin's father, and Ollie. Only Uncle Jim and Papa. Papa loved the law. Only poverty kept him from studying it seriously. Only the eldest was educated at a sacrifice when my Papa was growing up, and Uncle Will was the one. My grandfather had probably sixty acres of very ordinary land to support his family, and it must have taken some hard work and good management to send even one child to more than elementary school. For Papa, for all the years that I can remember, was Justice of the Peace in our township. JPs at that time were officers of the court, with authority to try minor cases, perform marriages, etc., but by the time I grew up the office was abolished and the county had a magistrate judge. I seemed to me that fathers did those things, and he was a member of the school board along with Roy Cable, who was postmaster and had one of the two general stores. Tom Crist who lived on a large farm just north of the school house - and sent 5 youngsters to school - was the other. School clerk was always A.P. Morton. "Odd" to us. He was the town barber and was handicapped. One leg was crippled so that he always used a cane. But he was the children’s' mentor. He always seemed to know where everyone was and usually why I think. We teased him and I'm sure were a nuisance to him, but he never lost interest in us all.
Grandma Cleeton moved to town when I was still small. After what my Mama always described as a stormy life (and five living children), she and Grandpa divorced. Uncle Charley and his family lived with him and she bought a home at Winigan. There was a barn there and Papa kept a "freight team" there. Our merchandise then came by train to the nearest railroad at Gifford 15 miles south east on the Chariton River. Carl and Earl took care of the team and drove them to Gifford. Later Grandma and Grandpa Berry bought that property and Grandma Cleeton bought the little house by the Union Church. She remodeled it, put a fancy fence around it, and like everything else she ever owned, she claimed there was nothing wrong with it. Her family - she could criticize or "chastise" severely, but no one else had that privilege.
Grandpa Berry had lived, when I can remember, in the house just east of the Owasco church. But before that they had lived in what Mrs. Brock called the "cottage" which was just across the road from here. Mrs. Brock, who came from Pennsylvania, was a very proud woman. Her home was much larger than anyone else's with 13 rooms, 2 of them upstairs (for hired help) with a separate stairway. Her yard was planted with flowers and shrubs that she brought west with her. The walks were of brick. With porches on four sides of the house it must have been outstanding. My Grandpa farmed for Mr. Brock for many years, since Mr. Brock was postmaster and had the general store. Grandpa drove a team to Brunswick to bring their goods and it was shipped there on the Missouri River.
But back to Winigan and me.
We had a movie. I can still see the close-ups of William S Hart. My! Those thin lips and piercing eyes. No rustler should have needed to die from gun shot -- Hart's face should have frightened him to death! And Mary Miles Minter! We had shows on Wednesday and Saturday nights; 10 cents admission for me. Of course I always had Kathleen with me for show night was a busy time for the store and I was the live-in baby sitter. There was a wait between each reel while they were being changed, and during this "intermission," we had live music - a banjo and a fiddle. No popcorn though.
One of the things we looked forward to was the traveling shows; Minstrel shows and sometimes dog and pony shows. Frank Halls I remember best for they had a girl, Pauline, my age. Since they stayed at the hotel across the street Pauline put in most of her time at our house - and I had a "pass" to the show - which probably made my friends jealous. Frank was the "blackface;" All the shows had one, did the comedy routines with his wife, Grace, as the "straight man." He sold soap between acts. That must be the original soap operas.
Many of the dog and pony shows had very well trained dogs and always a pony who could "count." Tap one hoof for a count of 1, 2 or three. I saw my first wolf hound at one of these. Mike thought they should be fed like all the stray dogs who came to town. They are so thin and long legged. One show brought an elephant once and once a bear. I'm sure there were kids around who never saw one otherwise. Our Papa took us to Brookfield to see Barnum and Bailey's circus when Helen was small.
I suppose the large attendance at the old fashioned revivals was the social occasion. And perhaps the size of the crowds encouraged the preachers and singers for we always had revival ministers and singers who probably did that kind of ministering exclusively. Anyway, for that two weeks the church was filled with zeal and enthusiasm. Good music and a good speaker accounted for the conviction and confessions of many of us I expect. When I was baptized a dozen or more of us, mostly girls, Oletha Myers was youngest, probably 10 and me 12, and the others older. We were all taken in horse drawn wagons to Mussel Fork Creek a couple of miles east of town to a lovely shaded spot where the water was clear and cool.
Mother told me that when she and Dad were baptized years before at Owasco that steps were cut in the ice for them. Imagine! But - she said no one caught cold or suffered any bad effects!
Chatauquas were our only chance for "culture." Each summer for several years Winigan was on a chautauqua circuit and for four days we had matinee and evening entertainment. Singers, soloists and groups, dancers, lecturers, magicians and any entertainment that could travel with a tent troupe was ours. It was not expensive and season tickets were sold in advance (mostly by we girls) to insure their coming.
But these things were all of short duration. Mostly our lives were by today's standards very dull. No radio or TV We got our first model T when I was about 11. Papa went to Kansas City and got it. We had two bodies for the chassis - a touring car and a truck. The touring body was mostly slung on pulleys in the local garage and we rode in the truck. Nick was only 14 when he died but he drove it. Usually full of the town's youngsters just to "take a ride."
Nick was a favorite of Charley and Emma Smith who had no children and lived on a farm near town. One time they suggested to our folks that they adopt him! They had moved to town and when one day Nick took a very severe pain in his stomach, Emma was frightened and told Mama that he had eaten some gooseberries that had been sprayed with Paris Green, an insecticide that was widely used. The Doctor treated him for this for a few days, but he grew worse and the pain grew more intense. A more complete examination convinced the Doctor that he had appendicitis even though the pain was in his stomach. To shorten the story - it was too late to get him to Kirksville to the hospital, and Doctor Grim and his nurse, Miss Vail, came to our home and operated on the kitchen (our dining) table. A nurse was brought from Kansas City to stay with us and care for him but it was all too late. With modern day antibiotics, ambulance service, etc., he might have been saved. He died in agony and I'll never forget his screams of pain. About all I could do was care for two year old Kathleen who was always my particular charge. Carl was somewhere in the West where he went each summer to follow the wheat harvest. Since he hated writing letters we seldom had an address for him.
Carl was always a roamer. He loved people and places. Never in awe of anyone, he talked to hoboes and "his honors" in his own rather engaging way. He loved to sing and usually had a guitar which made him popular with many people. Money to Slim (as everyone knew him) was always as long as he lived, just something he needed to spend. If his friends needed it he wouldn't have dreamed of withholding what he had. I remember one time when I was growing up, stocking caps long enough to wrap around the neck for a scarf were quite popular. Cables' store had a beautiful one - red with white stripes and a big white tassel. How I wanted that cap. But - I had a cap - so I naturally couldn't have it. But Carl had the $1.50, a lot for a cap then, and he spent it for me. No wonder I loved him.
When he came home in the fall he was full of stories of the places he'd been, and adventures galore. Carl "rode the rails" when he hadn't the price of a railroad ticket - it was much too early for hitchhikers - and he met all kinds of people and he found them interesting. New songs, too. That time in his life may have led to his being a "heavy" drinker.
As I grew up my grandparents, except for Grandpa Cleeton who stayed at Owasco with Uncle Charley, lived in Winigan. They were old to my mind then, but from this point I know they couldn't have been. They all died during the thirties and both Grandmas were somewhere in their 70's.
I sometimes stayed all night with them. Oftener with Grandma Cleeton since it took no planning and caused no extra trouble. I slept with her. When I woke in the morning Grandma was up and had a fire going in the wood burning range. The coffee mill ground our "Peaberry" coffee fresh every morning. Grandma loved to whistle and the sounds of the "busyness" is still in my memory. Grandma with her usual self-confidence/egotism (she always thought that anything of hers was right and always the best) made breakfast sound like a real treat. "Good" coffee, hot biscuits, butter she had made herself, which of course made it the best and strawberry jam from berries grown in her own garden. At home we had coffee, biscuits, butter, etc., plus eggs, usually meat, gravy, and oatmeal, but somehow it was different.
Mostly I remember Grandma Berry combing my hair! She sat in a chair and I on the floor between her knees, but on my knees. With a pan of water on the floor, she dipped the comb in the water and pulled it through my hair, so that my long braids were smooth and shiny. Parted on one side, I had a small braid on the left side to catch the shorter hair. Later I longed for bobbed hair. Rita Cable had hers cut, but my papa said, "no."
When I was 8 or 10 Earl taught me to whistle. He also earlier taught me a slick trick in writing the "nines." But when I was able to whistle a tune I attempted to impress my Grandpa Cleeton - who was making one of yearly visits - but he was far from impressed. He only said that "whistling girls like crowing hens always come to some bad end." But when I went to Grandpa Berrys with my new accomplishment my joy was restored. He said he always loved to hear a woman whistle. How, I wonder, if my Grandpa Cleeton probably had memories of Grandma's whistling! Both my Grandmas liked music. Grandma Berry taught many of the old English ballads and songs from early America to Mike and me. I didn't start this scribbling early enough. Those songs would be hard to find now, and I don't remember one of them.
Young parents now who have access to or own cameras or Kodaks, tape recorders, etc., have a wonderful opportunity to record sights and sounds of their children growing up that would be very precious to me if it could have been possible in my growing up years and later in the lives of our children.
Prohibition is another of the larger happenings of my pre-teens. Looking back, I wonder why it didn't work. Human nature is the same always. Now we dislike 55 miles speed! No smoking signs! Then - people who didn't drink - seemed to hate the idea that someone said they couldn't. Young people were in a "different" situation. Their folks seemed to be condoning something that they had always been taught was "bad."
My papa hadn't drank for years but I never heard him "preaching" against drinking. But, my papa knew just a few things men did that couldn't be excused or explained. He couldn't stand a liar, a thief, or a bully. Good women were a separate class from bad women, and the line was a very straight one.
So bootlegging was a thriving and prosperous business. Stills for making bad whiskey were easy to find. Many made their own beer and a few made it a profitable business. With boys buying lemon extract or anything else with a high alcoholic content. We sold wood alcohol for something - for one thing it was used to kindle carbide lights - but it was set on fire to burn off the gas and the rest drunk. Dangerous of course but some of the whiskey made was poison too. Stories were told of death, blindness, etc., but I knew of no one. They drank and perhaps even trafficked too for it was exciting to keep ahead of the law. Brookfield was the town where Winigan boys went. Tipperary, the little mining community west of Kirksville became well known as a place to find booze and always a rough and reckless crowd.
We sold a nonalcoholic drink called near beer. Brand names like "Bevo," "Neero." It was always my chore to clean up in the morning, case the pop and near beer bottles, clean the counter, etc. No wonder I hate the smell of beer. Those stale bottles!. Like I hate washing dishes. Stale ice cream dishes in summer and dried soup bowls in winter. Added to dishes for a large family! Always not enough hot water!
The winter of 1918 was the year of "The Flu." People had always had what was called the "grippe." A type of influenza - but this was different. It covered the United States - an epidemic that it seemed nothing could stop. Whole families came down at the same time and so many died that people were frightened knowing there was small possibility that they and their family could escape it. Called the "German flu" like every other evil of the times, it was worst through November and December. Our entire family except Carl had it in spite of the one drop of iodine in a teaspoon of water each day! Each family tried some preventative they had heard of and that was ours. Carl always said that some whiskey every day saved him! None of us was seriously sick.
Although some neighborhoods had several deaths, ours had only two. Clyde Martin, a young man, took pneumonia and our teacher Perry Harl, too. This left me in midterm, in the eighth grade with no teacher and teachers very scarce. But Mr. Silvey, a retired teacher, was found to finish the year. An interesting man and intelligent but who had never followed what was called "A Course of Study." A manual put out by the state prescribing the work to be done to prepare for a final examination also sent from the state Superintendent's office. Mr. Silvey who was from the south told us at once that he was there to "hep" us, but we would have to do the work "yoursef." He had also been a music teacher and managed to fit into that busy schedule lessons in vocal music. I was a mighty willing pupil and even though in that short time I didn't get far, it has been as much a help to enjoy music and appreciate harmony in others singing as it ever helped any effort of my own.
Ready then for High School, probably the worst disappointment of my life was that I couldn't go. Winigan of course had no High School and Green City was the nearest, where youngsters went and boarded. At 14 my papa thought it was too far for me to go. Only 18 miles but with dirt roads it was a long way. Probably I could have persuaded Papa but Earl who was 19 stated flatly that all the girls that he knew who were there were "bad."
It is very likely that he knew - but about that time just after the war girls were "reckless" as well as boys, and being in Green City probably hadn't much to do with it. Anyway, I went back to school at Winigan to take the same courses I had studied before.
Down the street west from our corner was a grist-mill. Tom Crowder who was later the blacksmith, was the miller. Tom, who was a widower with one son, Lon, lived with his brother Charley who had never married. Well liked and respected, their home was a favorite gathering place for the men of town. There they played "pitch" or pinochle every night if they liked. Charley made coffee for refreshment; I never heard the word, "liquor," mentioned. The men used to say that Tom drank his coffee boiling hot from the pot on the stove. Lon loved to read and had several books, and between the boys and me, we must have read them all for he was very generous with them. Women always said he was so shy that he never spoke to them, but I suppose because he saw me in the store every day, he made an exception.
But the mill was to be the place of a real tragedy for us. Butter we could buy from the store. Farm women sold it and it was packed in a barrel and shipped. But it was taking a big chance unless you could be there when some one who you knew brought some to sell. Some people made good butter to sell, and of course some were not interested in trying to make any better than something that would sell.
So Mama usually bought hers directly from friends in the country. Helen and I walked one summer to Elvis Martins, about one and a half miles south of town each week for a couple of pounds. There was a large family of Martins, too. Queen (her real name), who was my age, later was one of my "best" friends.
One Saturday morning we came back from our walk and Mama was of course busy as usual. It was always our busiest day. I was sent across to the hotel for a bucket of water. We had no well, and all of our water was carried. Helen went to the mill to fill a large "gunny" sack with cobs used as fuel in the cook stove. The big boys carried them up the hill, but they didn`t like to as it was below their dignity to fill the sack. I'm very sure Mama had no idea for any risk; many kids did it.
When the motor stopped suddenly Tom saw that the big belt had pulled something beneath it. He saw the small head of a child that had been pulled under it. Bill Myers lived just across the street, and their little grandson who lived with the, played many times at the mill. Poor Tom was horrified and ran up the street towards our store, the closest place, and called my Dad to help him get Clinton Myers out. When papa did get the child out he saw that it was our Helen.
I was still at the well and the horror of it all will be with me as long as I may live. Her little patent leather slippers with blood still on sat on a shelf where someone had placed them for days before anyone could put them away. My little mother probably did it quietly and alone. People who have never experienced sudden death of one of their family have no idea of the grief, the shock, the feeling of, "if only." There was five years between Helen and me, but we were very close since our one other sister was four years younger. Families who share experiences of such depth of feelings I think rarely react as novelists relate in their such vivid descriptions. Ours never did, although perhaps we were different. Writers can make us through words see and feel things in a way that personally I can't remember "living." The principal thing I can remember was shock. If the rest of the family discussed their reactions I didn't know it. We lived it together just as we did the other important happenings, and were brought closer together, but through we were a vocal and verbal family, our deepest feelings were rarely expressed. Perhaps we were unique. I do know that we were not demonstrative. I was forty years old before I ever saw my Papa kiss my Mama. But - it was no surprise. There never was any doubts of their deep affection for one another in my mind, and for it to be expressed after 50 years was just a very normal thing.
When I remembered the special events in Winigan, I left out the ones that meant most to the children. Christmas, the pie suppers, and the last day of school. No teacher would have been considered worth her salary if she had not made preparation for all these. Added to the tasks of teaching and janitoring all the things necessary to bring 30 or 40 youngsters through 8 months of "instruction" was the planning and directing of the "program!"
The program might be songs, readings, short plays - usually a combination of all three. Everyone of course wanted to be "in it." Casting could become quite a problem as I learned after becoming a teacher.
Usually about October most schools scheduled a pie supper. Since most districts expected money earned from the sale of the pies to be used to purchase library books, maps, or any equipment needed, teachers tried to put their best feet forward.
Our school had an organ and one of the older girls, Delpha Coram, played very well, so we had that advantage. Books of short plays were ordered early. Songs chosen. "Parts" were copied and practice began. Always on Friday in the last period and just before the date set sometimes every day we practiced.
When the time finally arrived sheets were brought from our homes to add to the calico or chintz curtains every school kept to be drawn across the front of the room. Oil lamps were provided too.
All girls in school brought a pie, in a box decorated with crepe paper, ribbon, artificial flowers, anything to catch the eye. Then all the young ladies of the neighborhood brought theirs too, usually a box fancier or more elaborate and you can be sure that their current boy friend was acquainted with her box so that he would be able to bid on the right one. Poor fellow. The crowd made sure that he paid well for the privilege of sharing that pie with his girl friend.
A box of candy was usually awarded to the most popular "young lady." This was decided by votes costing 1 cent. And a jar of pickles for the "sweetest couple." The auctioneer was usually local talent and most neighborhoods had at least one fellow able to chant the bids in rhythm. It was all fun and crowds were always too big to be contained in the little schoolhouses.
Back of our house, like all of the homes I knew, was a rather small building - not the toilet - much larger and very near the house. We called it the smoke house, a name that meant nothing really. People who butchered lots of meat did use a building for smoking meat, but for us and most people in Winigan, it was rather a utility building where things that overflowed the house were stored.
Some homes in addition to a "smoke house" had a summer kitchen where the wood burning cook stove could be set up and the heat taken out of the house making it much cooler during the hot weather. So at least one summer that's the way we operated. Our back porch was high enough for steps and the extra work of carrying food, dishes, etc., back and forth must have been a high price to pay for the additional comfort. I knew how to prepare one thing and as we always had them for supper, I fried the potatoes. An extra large sized skillet full!
One summer ours was a school room. People talk a lot of the plans and dreams of childhood. I have no consciousness of either, but something caused me to stock the little space with shipping boxes for desks and chairs, and organizing a school! We had classes every day - I'm sure there must have been some mothers grateful for a baby-sitter, and tutor for the kids. But now I wonder where we put the "clutter" usually there! In the corners probably. So if children do plan and dream, teaching must have been my dream.
Another year it had a very different use. When Carl began to "grow away from the nest," he really left going for west and working at anything or anywhere to support himself. Earl was more content to stay and work at most anything for his money. But he was crowded with all of us and he made himself a "den" in, you guessed it, the smoke house. He lined it with card board, put up a small heater and had a spot of privacy, a scarce commodity at our house. The only real memory I have is that he bought himself a large unabridged dictionary! But there he could read, draw, for which he had a rather wonderful talent, and grow into the independent, industrious man that he was. Quiet and reserved, he was of a far different temperament than Carl or me, with our noisy natural love for people.
The Fourth - we never mentioned the month of July. If the "Fourth" was spoken of in December no one would have questioned what day was meant. We celebrated in Winigan! There was no official organization in our town. No elected person could be blamed for things done or undone. On the other hand, who made plans for things like the "Fourth?" Christmas was taken care of by churches and schools. Teachers were mostly responsible for pie suppers, etc., but certainly I was too young to know that it took a lot of planning and no little labor to bring about that wonderful day.
We were awakened early with a tremendous "boom." Down at the blacksmith shop someone, surely more than one, "shot an anvil." I never saw the arrangement but some way gun powder was placed between anvils and lighted with a fuse. What a glorious noise to start such an exciting day for kids.
We had all been bathed - not an every day occurrence - our new fourth of July dresses laid out, shoes and of course long stockings for little feet used to being bare for every day. Mothers who had time had rolled long hair on strips of white cloth - "on rags" we called it - so that little girls could have curls to go with their other finery.
Winigan's activities were held "on the creek." Pasture land - the grass was short - trees grew tall and made beautiful shade so that it really was a park like place, and not much more than half a mile from town.
Refreshment stands were set up for "pop" and ice cream, cracker jacks, chewing gum, etc. We were given a whole quarter to spend. Since my folks always had a "stand," my quarter went farther than most. I can remember just one of the things I bought. A paper tube like gadget that was the size of and looked like a cigar, but when the end was pulled out it became a beautiful paper fan. I know there must have been things for boys and girls too. There was a platform stage set up for the band and the speaker. Always a speaker. Probably a politician who would be running for office later or county official or lawyer. Usually someone read all or a part of the Declaration of Independence. On the "stage" draped with red, white and blue bunting. My My.
And we had a merry-go-round too. The horses went up and down and round and round in great style but its power was in a horse! One year we had a balloon ascension. What a lot of excitement to watch the balloon fill with air and finally go - probably not very high.
No one would have considered buying food. Every family had brought a basket dinner. A cloth spread on the ground held, according to the skill of the cook, all of the good things possible. Fried chicken, potato salad, baked beans, pickles, pies, cakes - just like now.
My little Mama with her food basket, the baby, and what ever little ones that were current, rode to the picnic area in the same wagon used to haul the freight from Gifford. But one year Mike and I had a taste of glory. One of papa's friends from Milan was to be the speaker of the day and was in town with a buggy. He invited us to ride with him. We must have been the envy of our little friends since we were so happy and felt so important.
There's no point in mentioning the one awful year when it rained. That happened to be the last picnic I remember. I have no idea who, what, or why the idea was dropped. Probably the advent of the Ford. I do know that the year Nick died (I was 12), we went to Laclede. They were honoring their most distinguished citizen. General John J. Pershing and we went in the Ford.
Last week the surgeon general announced that science had found that cigarettes were definitely dangerous. Since all my brothers, my husband, both sons with most of their friends, have always smoked, although my father smoked cigars earlier and as he grew older a pipe, it may seem odd that I've never smoked. One experience I remember when I was probably 15. It was not a pleasant one and papa would have been very disgusted with me which may be the reason for my not being a smoker. If any of my three-four girls smoke they are very good at hiding the evidence from me. So many girls do smoke and I could understand - I think.
Which brings me to the point of my story - Evidence. Grandma Cleeton had a sister she called "Bet" for Elizabeth, I suppose. Her name was Woods - no relation to Grandma Berry's family. She visited Grandma at least once that I remember. Most women then wore what was called a string or lap apron. A straight piece of material gathered on a waist band and as long as their dresses. Aunt Bet was a rather chubby old lady whose apron made her look like a bag of meal with a sack tied around. I thought it odd that she usually kept her hand under her apron, but finally learned that she had hid her pipe - a little clay pipe holding about a thimble full. We kids thought it was very funny.
Fred's Grandma Riddle smoked the same kind of pipe and she smoked what called "long green." Tobacco probably grew in Kentucky in the area where they lived and it has been grown here. Her maiden name was Parmer; her children were all born in Kentucky. Fred's father, Lee, was the youngest, and he was sixteen when they came. He was very homesick in Missouri and longed for their home in Kentucky. He was growing old when Fred's brother, Winnie, took him and his brother Floyd to visit there. His oldest brother was a teacher and it seems strange now that since Lee the baby didn't like school - he went only when he liked. He could read but never learned to write more than his signature.
My Grandma Berry read her Bible faithfully but she could not write either and now we can return to Winigan. I wrote her letters although Grandpa must have been able to read them. Mama's brother Ernest who was born after she was married, was a soldier in World War I. Stationed in France, he re-enlisted after the war, so I wrote for a long time.
I did another little chore. One neighbor, the Myers who have been mentioned many times here, was another place I visited. Milly, the mother of a good sized family, was a little cricket of a woman who loved romantic novels. She evidently was not a good reader and I used to go there and read to her. She used to take me with her to the creek where we picked wild greens. I hated wild greens but Grandma Cleeton took me too, so that I was familiar with all of the plants that made "tasty" greens. When spring came anything fresh was appreciated. The fresh vegetables available to us now were unheard of in Winigan in the early 1900's.
When I had no chance to go to high school there never was any thought of anything but going back to school where I would take the very same classes from the same books as before.
That year our teacher was Ora Lile, later a very dear friend, even though ten years older. She, I suppose, thought that I was just wasting my time, so she fitted in extra classes for Fay Thrasher and me, when she taught us some ancient history, English literature, and algebra.
After about two months of this "glory," one of the mothers of a sixth grader objected, saying that her son was being robbed of teaching time. So of course that lovely opportunity was lost.
Next year our teacher was another college graduate who was too bright to overlook such an opportunity to catch up on his magazines, etc., so that I "recited" most of the younger classes. He really was very nice to me. I substituted for him while he went on a two week honeymoon. He gave me $25.00 which (like all girls of that age), I took home to my papa.
The teachers' examinations were given at Milan each year in March and June. Two days of written tests prepared by the state. Mr. Dudley, our teacher, thought it would be interesting for me to try it. My 16th birthday wasn't until April, so like any other kid of that age, I was very willing to try. He coached me now and then evenings. He boarded with John Milhoan, who was our banker then.
On the important day Papa took me and Nellie Turner, who was a few years older and of course hadn't been to school for some time, to Milan. Papa took us and settled us in a little hotel where he used to go for the two days.
Neither of us had ever stayed in a hotel nor ordered a restaurant meal, so that we were really "babes in the woods."
We took the list to our desks. One subject at a time and in two hours they must be turned in. No multiple choice then. Each answer was judged on its "merits." My desk was in front and touched the Superintendent's. I never even knew where Nellie sat!
But we went home and watched for the mail.
The only one of the girls from Winigan who did. But old egotistical Martha never expected to fail. I never had really thought of teaching yet.
Along about May directors from Butte (Rose Hill district) school came into the store and in a visit with Papa, they complained that they couldn't find a teacher and did he know of one who could teach the next year (1921-22)? Eventually he mentioned that Martha had a certificate. The conversation ended with them asking me if I would teach. Imagine how quickly I said, "yes."
So after reading just three required books on teaching methods and an OK from Superintendent Summers, I was ready.
My papa took me the 5 or 6 miles, and left me with an old friend to "board." Mrs. Anderson was past 80 and weighed at least 200 pounds. She agreed to keep me for $4.00 per week instead of the usual $5.00, if I would drive her cow from the field to the barn where she milked. Before spring I was carrying in the coal, too.
My papa, I am sure, established me with Mrs. Anderson thinking that I would be well chaperoned. Since I had as yet no one who could really be called my "boy friend," the precaution was lost. Mrs. Anderson was, of course, a poor housekeeper, and to my taste, a poor cook. We had plenty of meat and sweets - honey and preserved fruits. But she finally decided that I liked potatoes, so we had them for supper every evening.
I had 37 enrolled. One boy who was 16 in March (before me in April), and 3 or 4 girls larger than I, but they were good kids and I had no unusual problems.
I was lonely and homesick for my noisy and lively home, but too cowardly to face my family with a failure, so I stayed. Teaching was a work of love. My small ones sat on my lap to read. My older pupils loved for me to read aloud, saying they understood better that way. But going home for the weekend kept me with something to look forward to.
The school had no globe but a beautiful set of maps on rollers that seemed never to have been used. So on Fridays' last period, instead of the usual ciphering or spelling bee, we had geography. Miss Summers, our county school superintendent, was kind and helpful, even though many people had even suggested that she would never let me pass the examination since she was a Republican and of course "Floy" was always an active Democrat, but neither of them operated that way. My papa almost certainly hadn't voted for her.
But my 3rd grade certificate was renewable for one year on the recommendation of the county superintendent, so when the job was offered to me in 1922-23, I took it instead of going to high school. What was called a "subscription school" had been organized in Winigan by that time. Parents paid the expenses of one teacher to teach freshman and sophomore classes there. Most of my friends attended of course, but I didn't have that good judgment. Mike went, then took the other two years at Green City.
So after that, I was 18 and got married, and left the Winigan stage of my life.