Before I Entered 6th Grade
As I explained at the end of Part I, the summer before I entered the sixth grade we moved from the farm in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky to Jeffersontown, Kentucky, which is a suburb of Louisville.
We moved into a small three bedroom one bathroom (indoor) home in a large subdivision. Our neighbors were primarily Catholic, which was great! For me, this meant that they had lots of kids, so I had lots of children to play with; something I didn’t have while living on the farm. At the farm, all I had was my little sister; or go spend time with my grandma before she died when I was eight years old.
Our house was on the corner of the street. Next door they had five kids, next door to that house they had eight kids. Of those eight kids, there were twin girls who were just one year older than me and we became great friends. The twins were Donna and Denise. Like most girls, two can get along great, but three become a crowd, so actually, Donna and I were closer friends.
Being that Donna and Denise were Catholic, they went to a Catholic school, while I went to a regular public school. Therefore, I also had public school friends in the neighborhood. In the cul-de-sac at the top of the hill in the subdivision, I was friends with Mary and Debbie. Then, two streets over I was friends with Sarah. Sarah and I also went to the same church. So, I always had neighborhood, school and church friends close by.
Now, think back, for those of you who can remember this…do you remember November 22, 1963? The day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated? I was in the 6th grade at Jeffersontown Elementary and was in the gym when the lady in the school office made an announcement. She told all of us to return to our classrooms. I had a male teacher in the 6th grade (I can’t remember his name). However, I remember him counseling us and talking to us about what had just happened. I just couldn’t understand why anyone would want to kill our President. I remember feeling so sorry for little Caroline and John-John.
Living in Jeffersontown meant that on Saturday’s we had to load up the car and go visit my grandfather on the farm and then go to Frankfort to visit my mother’s mom. I didn’t tell you too much about my mother’s mom, who we all affectionately called, “Moma”.
Moma married my grandfather who was called, “Papa” when she was thirteen years old. I never knew Papa. He was much older than Moma when they got married. Papa died at the age of seventy-four years old when I was just three months old (in September 1952).
Moma had nine children, but only eight lived to adulthood. Grace died at two years of age of whooping-cough. She was several years younger than my mother. Mom was the fifth of Moma’s children. There was Mable, Ralph, Lewis, Edwin, my mom (Violet), Grace, Thelma, James (we called him Jay) and the baby, Edith (we called her Deedie). Mom said they didn’t have very much. She said the kids at school used to make fun of her clothes, which were hand-me-downs or were given to the family by other families. So, other school children would often see their own clothes worn by my mother. It must have been very embarrassing for my mom.
Mom also grew up during the depression, when she said there was even less, and they often had absolutely nothing.
As a kid, I remember that Moma lived with her youngest son, my uncle Jay, who never married. When we would visit with Moma, she would always have left over biscuits and sliced cucumbers in salt water on the kitchen table. I would go into the kitchen and put a cucumber on a biscuit. There was nothing quite so good.
I have Moma’s biscuit recipe, but I just can’t make them like she could. She used lard and would mix up the lard and flour with her hands before adding the buttermilk and then kneading the mixture on a floured surface and cutting the biscuits out and baking them. I used lard, mixed it the same way, everything, but I just can’t do it. I’ve decided that it was just my Moma’s hands that made her biscuits so good.
We would arrive at Moma’s house about 1:00 or 2:00 p.m. each Saturday and always stayed until after Lawrence Welk went off at around 8:00 p.m. (I hated Lawrence Welk.) As a pre-teen, it was a very long, boring time just to sit around at your grandmother’s house. Sometimes my uncle Jay would take me out to look at the flowers and yard. Sometimes he would take me out to look for arrowheads. He had a tin box full of Indian arrowheads in the basement that he had found over the years. The area was just full of them if you were diligent and really looked for them along the limestone cliffs and trails in the woods in Frankfort and surrounding areas.
Also, my aunt Thelma lived two houses up from Moma and Jay’s house and I liked going up there and doing things with her and her husband, uncle Bill. Sometimes she and uncle Bill made homemade ice cream in an old crank-style ice cream maker.
Sometimes my aunt Deedie and her husband uncle Marshall, who was my favorite story-teller, would come to Moma and uncle Jays and they would entertain me.
Additionally, both Marshall and Bill had speed boats. Sometimes Deedie, Thelma, Bill and Marshall would take both of their boats down to cruise the Kentucky River and I would get to go. Sometimes they would tie both boats together and let me steer both boats on the lowest speed down the river for them as they had a good time on the boats. I loved doing that. Those were such good, happy times for me.
When I went into the 7th grade I had to change schools. I had to start going to Eastern High School for Junior High. Jeffersontown did not have a Junior or High School at the time. So, that year, Jeffersontown decided to start building a junior and high school in the city. By the time I started the 9th grade, they had completed all of the freshman classrooms, the grounds and gymnasium.
Also, while I was in the 8th grade, mom and dad decided to build us a larger house in another, smaller subdivision. This subdivision was closer to the new high school, meaning that I would be able to walk to the new school. In the new house, while I did not have all of the neighborhood girls to be friends with, there were some cute guys in the neighborhood. Since I was older now, that seemed to be a little more important at the time anyway. However, mom was very strict and did not allow me to car-date at the time.
During the summer after the 9th grade, the school board began to build the classrooms for the 10th grade, so when I returned to school in the fall, all of my sophomore classrooms were completed. Then, during the summer, building would be done for my junior classrooms for the following fall. So, when I went back to school in the fall of 1968, all of my junior classrooms were completed.
Mid-Junior and Senior Years in High School, 1968-1979
In November 1968, my grandfather Griffin in Lawrenceburg passed away of a sudden heart attack. Mom and dad decided that we needed to move back to Lawrenceburg so dad could take care of the farm. However, dad wouldn’t be able to leave his full-time employment, so once again, he’d have to commute back and forth to Louisville. But, he also wouldn’t be able to do everything on the farm that needed to be done. So, it was decided that we would sell the milk cows and milking equipment, as neither mom or dad would be able to keep up with that. Additionally, daddy would not have time to raise the tobacco, so he would have to hire someone to raise that for us come spring. He would also have to hire someone in the spring to mow and bale hay.
In February 1969, we again moved back to Lawrenceburg. But, this time we moved into the new house. I transferred in my junior high school year to Anderson County High School. It wasn’t horrible, as I knew my friends from when I had gone to Alton Elementary School. I just didn’t know the kids from the grade schools in downtown Lawrenceburg.
Since we last lived at the farm, city water had been run along the main highway in front of the new house. Therefore, daddy decided to add an indoor bathroom and city water to the new house. As I explained in Part I, my daddy can do anything. The new house had a screened in back porch along the entire back of the house. So, daddy just took one-half of that porch and made it into a new indoor bathroom and laundry room. When he was finished, not only was it functional, but it was spa-like and beautiful. He, of course, added a large hot water heater so that we had lots of hot water in the bathroom and also, plumed it into the kitchen. So, we no longer had a “bath and a path” in the country. We were modernized!
Before moving back to Lawrenceburg, when I had turned 16 years old, I had learned to drive in Louisville. Daddy had bought me an old push-button automatic Nash, Rambler, that was red and white and had huge fins going off the back of it. Many of you probably won’t remember what that kind of car looks like. The image below is the exact color and look of the car I had. I found this picture of the car on the internet. It’s amazing that these old cars are still around!
The main reason daddy bought me this car was so I could chauffeur mom around. If you remember, my mom never learned to drive. I was never able to learn to drive a standard shift. My one attempt to try to learn to drive a standard shift ended in disaster. It was the day before I turned 16. Daddy had a three on the column Ford Falcon. (Some of you may remember them.) Our house in Jeffersontown had just a slight incline going up our small driveway. Well, I was concentrating on putting the car in first, pushing on the clutch and turning the steering wheel, while letting off the clutch and brake and it was just too much for my poor little right-sided brain. I ended up not straightening up the steering wheel and running into the wrought-iron light post my dad had made in our front yard. The car and occupants were fine, but the light post was toast! I was mortified and ran off into the house crying and screaming that I would never drive again. Well, I did, but it was a while before I did. Daddy had to buy the Rambler first!
In Lawrenceburg, after I got out of school every afternoon, I had to take my mom to Frankfort, about a ten to fifteen minute drive, to the nursing home. Moma had a stroke and had to be placed in the nursing home as she was paralyzed on her right side and had lost the ability to talk. My aunt Deedie went to the nursing home in the morning to feed Moma breakfast before she went to work. Aunt Thelma went to the nursing home and fed Moma lunch during her lunch-break at work. I took my mom at suppertime so my mom could feed Moma dinner. I would sit out in the nursing home waiting room and do my homework. This went on for months and months.
By now, I was old enough and mom allowed me to car-date. I dated various guys I went to school with. Even though I had just transferred to Anderson County High School in February, by May, I had landed a date for the Junior/Senior prom with a guy named Nathan. We were not regular boyfriend/girlfriend, just school mates.
My parents never took vacations. When daddy took vacations from work, he generally had a building project he worked on. But, my aunts and uncles always invited me to take vacations with them. I got to go to Florida, Tennessee and to visit my uncle Edwin and his family in Oklahoma. Jayne, my younger sister, would never go. She would never leave mom that long. She wouldn’t even go to camp over night. She is still much the same, even now. She just does not like to leave home overnight. Now, all my different travels were always by car. Heck, I was 35 years old before I ever flew in an airplane. That’s a totally different story.
During my senior year, I met a guy named Terry. He was the brother of a friend of mine at school that I went to church with. On Sunday, I noticed that my friend, Debbie, was sitting with a good-looking guy in an Army uniform in church. He was tall, about six-foot, two inches, with sandy blond hair and he had beautiful blue eyes. This was in 1969. If you remember, this was while the Vietnam War was going on.
At school on Monday, I asked Debbie who that good-looking guy was she was sitting with at church. She then told me that was her brother. I told her that I thought he was gorgeous. She said she’d introduce him to me the next Sunday. She told me he was currently on leave before being sent to basic training.
The next Sunday, Debbie introduced me to Terry. We were both shy and didn’t speak too much to one another. However, on Monday, Debbie told me that Terry was interested in me.
While Terry was in basic training over the summer and into the fall of my senior year, we began to write each other. I still dated other guys, but continued to write him. Then, over the Christmas Holidays, he had leave and we began to see each other. I then came down with a horrible case of bronchitis and became bedridden. He came to the house every night and as I would lay on the couch in the parlor room, he would visit with me for at least a couple of hours. Debbie would tell me he was smitten.
Before he was shipped off to Bamburg, Germany (no, he did not go to Vietnam), he asked me if I would wear his high school ring. That’s what guys did back in those days as a sign of “going steady”. This meant that you were the guy’s steady girl and no one else’s. This was in January 1970. I accepted it, not thinking about him being gone for the next nine months and me being there without a guy for the rest of my senior year.
As with any young 17-year-old girl, sitting home on Friday and Saturday nights became old. Terry and I wrote letters. Him telling me that when he came home he intended to marry me and we would begin a life together. But, here I was just 17 years old. He was two years older than me. I wasn’t sure if that was really what I wanted at this time in my life. What I wanted was to go out and have fun during my senior year.
Well, eventually, the inevitable happened. I wrote Terry the “Dear John” letter, enclosing his ring. Debbie and his mother understood. We were just too young to decide at this time if a future together was the right thing. I can tell you, Terry did not take it well. I got a letter back that called me everything.
The Move Back to Louisville
In May 1970, I graduated from high school. I really wanted to go to college, but my parents just didn’t have the money. I knew that. I had no one to really help me make any other type of plans or arrangements to attend college. I knew nothing about loans, scholarships or anything like this. The high school’s guidance counselor was a snobby lady who was no help and actually told me that I was better off getting married and having a family. Great advise for a 17-year old kid to hear, huh? It certainly busted any hopes I had, I can tell you that. I really wanted to attend Berea College and major in Art. However, thinking back now, I don’t know what I’d have done with that major, other than teaching. But, that’s not a bad thing!
Anyway, daddy once again decided that the drive back and forth to Louisville to work was just too much on our vehicle and him. We found a nice house in Jeffersontown, our community of choice and decided to sell the farm. Yes, we made the decision this time to sell the farm.
Several factors went into the decision of selling the farm. Moma passed away of another stroke, so mom no longer had to ensure that she was available to help take care of her. We were having to find people who wanted to raise the tobacco, cut the hay, etc., and it was a hassle, as fewer people wanted to do those types of things for others. So, we decided to split up the sale of the farm into two sales. We sold the new house, garage, smoke house and milk barn, plus 7 acres separate. Then, we sold the old house, tobacco barn, corn crib barn, tobacco plot and 70 acres.
A young couple bought the new house. They ended up building a brand new house on the 7 acres and then rented out what we called the new house. We were very pleased at what they did with the property.
A contractor bought the 70 acres. He tore down the old house, the tobacco barn and the corn crib. I realize that each needed quite a bit of work. It was just sad seeing them so. They all held so many fond memories. The contractor then began building a subdivision of brand new houses. The one saving grace was that the road leading into the subdivision was named Griffin Drive. That was my family name and made me very happy.
Back in Louisville, I went to work as a secretary at the same company my dad had worked for ever since I was born, Belknap Hardware. Older readers may know of the company name. It was a very large, family owned, 40 acre company in downtown Louisville at one time. The company also loved to hire the family of it’s employees.
It wasn’t long after I started working there that I began bowling on the Belknap bowling league. It was on the bowling league that I met Bobby. I was totally in love with Bobby from the beginning. Bobby was about four years older than me and had been married and divorced. He also had a child that had died in infancy. He and his wife had divorced after the death of the child. While Bobby and I had great times together, he was deeply affected by the death of his child. Our relationship just could not survive the emotional trauma he had suffered and we soon split. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I was crushed.
In the meantime, on the weekends I would go to Lawrenceburg to help my older sister with her two toddlers. She was growing a garden during the summer and doing a lot of canning while trying to take care of the children. I would go up on Friday nights and stay all weekend, going back to Louisville to work on Monday mornings.
It was during this summer that I once again started dating Terry again. He had returned from being in the Army and was living with his mother and step-father, while working at Rand-McNally. When he had gotten out of the Army, he had saved up enough to buy himself a 1971 Chevy Chevelle. While he still angry with me for breaking up with him while he was in Germany, I think he also understood. He told me that he also didn’t want to lose me.
I think a lot of my decisions from this time on have to do with the heartbreaking breakup between Bobby and I.
Despite my being aware that Terry had a severe drinking problem and had run-ins with law enforcement in the past for being under the influence of alcohol, I ignored my better judgment. I ignored my mother’s warnings as well. I ignored my friends and other family members warnings too. In August of 1971, I packed a bag and Terry and I, along with his cousin, Norman and his wife, Carol, drove to Jellico, Tennessee to get married. Jellico is just over the Kentucky line. The reason we went to Tennessee is that there was no three-day waiting period after having a blood test to get married, like there was in Kentucky.
You see, if my mother got wind that I was going to marry Terry, she would have done anything to stop it. Although I was just shy of 20 years old, she would have done anything to have stopped it. She hated Terry with a passion. She knew Terry drank, knew he had a past with being in trouble at school (he dropped out 2-weeks before graduation because he fought with a teacher, but he got his GED in the Army), and she knew he had trouble with the law and had been in jail for public intoxication. She had been through that with her first husband and she didn’t want that for me. But, I wouldn’t listen.
When I called her after I had gotten married and told her we were married, her first words were, “It’s not legal.” But, it was.
Our wedding and the couple of days following were funny. You should enjoy this.
At the hotel, when Terry and Norman went in to check in, they asked the clerk where we could find a Justice of the Peace. The clerk pointed them to the local A & P Grocery Store. So, we drove to the A & P and went in. We had to wait for the store manager to finish bagging groceries and then he took us to the back of the store, through the double doors and up the steps to his office. There in his back office he married us before Norman and Carol.
Now, if that wasn’t enough to give me a clue that something was terribly wrong, the rest of my wedding day and wedding night should have been a clue. But, hell no, naive little Jennie had narry a clue!
We then went to a bar and started drinking, or they did. I was 19. Terry and Norman were 21 years old and Carol was 23 years old. Then, after they were all drunk, I drove back to the hotel. I then find out that when Norman and Terry checked in, they only got one room with two double beds…for my wedding night. It was just as well, Terry was far too drunk for anything else that night anyway! So, on my wedding night, I remained a virgin.
Yes, I was a virgin on my wedding night. Despite Terry’s reputation with the ladies, I insisted that I was going to save myself for my husband. I actually think Terry thought that was pretty cool. However, he didn’t get to enjoy it that night, nor the next, as you’ll see.
The next day, Sunday, we drove back to Lawrenceburg. Because we had eloped, we had not yet furnished our apartment. I had been saving a lot of antique furniture and had a hope chest, in which I’d been saving numerous things for several years. Girls back then just did that kind of stuff. So, I had all that stuff, but as I said, I couldn’t let my mom know that I was marrying Terry. So, we’d not prepared an apartment yet. We’d rented one, but it was completely empty.
So, on Sunday night, we had to stay at Terry’s mother’s house. She was aware that we had gone to get married the day before and was all for it. Well, Terry only had a twin bed in his room and he insisted that it was too small for both of us. So, I had to sleep on the couch. Thus, the second night I was married, I’m still a virgin!
Ding, ding, ding! Jennie….get a clue….nope! No clue. What do I do? I should have gotten into my car and driven as fast as I could back to Louisville and gotten this farce of a marriage annulled. But noooooo……I wait until Terry’s mother and his step-father go to work and I go into Terry’s room and wake him. He looks at me in a sort of startled way and says, “Oh, I forgot I was married for a minute.” You can imagine the rest.
Part 3 is next – It gets worse and is no laughing matter.
I intend to publish Part 3 by October 18th.