The Good Old Days – Part 3

part-3-final-chapter

Okay, so I know I said I’d have Part 3 written and on my site by October 18, 2016. But, this last part was very hard for me to write. This was the most horrifically traumatic time in my entire life. During the four years I was married to Terry, I would say that three and one-half of them were horrifying. Maybe a total of six months; just a day, or days at a time, might have been decent. If he wasn’t drinking, Terry was a very pleasant man. He could be very nice and even sweet. But, those days were few and far between.

I ended Part 2 with us getting married on Saturday, August 14, 1971 in Jellico, Tennessee and then, after traveling back to Kentucky on Sunday, finally consummating our marriage on Monday morning, August 16th.

The Honeymoon is Soon Over

After going to Jeffersontown on Monday, August 16th and collecting my furniture and household items I’d been collecting for several years, we settled into our new apartment. However, the honeymoon was soon over, that’s for sure.

Our apartment was in half of an upstairs of an old Victorian house on the main street in Lawrenceburg. We entered the apartment from outside steps going up the back of the house. The other half of the upstairs was also an apartment and was rented to a little old lady who was the typical busy-body. She too entered through the back stairs. Once inside the upstairs, there was a large circular landing with a blocked grand staircase in the center leading to the downstairs, where the landlord lived. If you went to the left, there was a door to our kitchen, further down the left landing was a door to our living room and the last door on the left landing was the door to our bedroom. However, the living room and bedroom doors were always locked and never used as entry doors. To the right of the grand staircase was the right landing and the main entry to the old lady’s apartment, she too had two other doors as you looked down the right landing.

Once we caught the little old lady peeking into our apartment through a hairline crack in one of the massive wood doors that lead to our living room. Terry and I were laying on the couch watching TV and heard a noise outside the hallway of our living room door. As I said, the door leading into the living room was not used as a primary entry door and our couch actually backed up to the door. Terry very carefully and silently got up from the couch and peered through the small crack in the door and discovered the little old lady staring back at him. Upon being discovered, she audibly “eeked” and swiftly shuffled back to the entry door to her apartment.

We reported the incident to our landlord, but do not know what the landlord did. Although we never caught her looking into our apartment again, we were pretty sure that due to her curiosity she would probably keep on doing it. So, it wasn’t too long before we put a picture over the crack in the door.

The apartment consisted of only three rooms and a bath. There was an eat in kitchen, a living room and bedroom. The small bath, which had no shower, only a claw-footed tub, was between the kitchen and living room There were no laundry facilities, which meant that I had to go to the public laundry mat to wash clothes. That meant that I had to lug dirty clothes down steps and then lug clean clothes up the steps. That may not sound like much, but you don’t know how fastidious Terry was about his clothes. Everything had to be so-so. I mean, even the way his socks were folded had to be a certain way. Yes, folded socks, just the way his mother did it!

Terry was working at Rand McNally on 2nd shift. This meant that he did not go to work until 3:00 p.m. and got off of work at 11:00 p.m. I was still working at Belknap in Louisville from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. The commute was fifty miles in the morning and evening, which added a total of two hours to my eight-hour workday. This arrangement meant that we saw little of each other. I often had to stay up until he got home from work at 11:30 p.m., if he came directly home from work, in order to see him. However, he often did not come home from work, but would go out “with the boys” drinking. So, we saw little of each other during the week.

The weekends weren’t much better. Often he had other plans. On Friday, he may or may not even come home until sometime on Saturday morning sometime. Maybe it would be 4:00 a.m. or even 7:00 or 8:00 a.m. He would tell me that he was at his cousin or friend so-and-so’s home drinking or playing cards or something. I would cry and complain and he would become angry, telling me that ‘no wonder I don’t want to come home, look at you, all you do is harp and complain.” It was always my fault that he didn’t come home.

Soon, he lost his job at Rand McNally due to his failure to show up to work or reporting to work late. Therefore, I was the only one working and supporting us. Each morning, as I left to drive to Louisville, I would give him $0.35 for a pack of cigarettes. (Yes, in 1971, that’s what a pack of Marlboro cigarettes cost.) When I would come home from work at around 6:00 p.m., he would not be at the apartment. Again, he would rarely come home until sometime in the morning. Sometimes it would be 1:00 a.m.; sometimes it would be 4:00 a.m. Again, an argument would ensue as to his whereabouts and again, it would always be my fault that he didn’t stay at home.

You might think, how did he get drunk if I only gave him $0.35 each day and he wasn’t working? Well, Terry’s entire family and many of his friends were from Lawrenceburg. His family and friends would have and give him alcohol. In the four years we were married, I also had suspicions that there were drugs involved, but I never had any proof.

More and more he found fault in the way I kept house, the way I looked, the way I cooked, anything to indicate that I did not take care of him or myself up to his standards or the standards that he thought his mother had set. You see, his mother was an exceptional housekeeper. Heck, according to him, she was exceptional at everything. He should have just lived with her, but she would not put up with his drinking either. His father had been just like that and she had divorced him when Terry was just a child. Anyway, his mother had absolutely no speck of dirt in her home. Of course, her current husband also ensured that he cleaned up after himself too. Something that Terry didn’t, but that is something that Terry did not take into account. According to Terry, that was my job too. Here I was, working eight hours, commuting two hours and living in part of a very old house that had no laundry facilities, meaning that I had to load laundry into baskets and take it to a public laundry mat to do his dirty clothes. Fastidiously fold clothes and/or come back to the apartment and iron most everything…even his jeans. Yes, he expected that his jeans had a firm ironed seam down the front…just like his mom had done for him for 20-years of his life. Plus, I must clean, cook, do the shopping, and everything else, as he didn’t lift a finger, even though he didn’t work!

Let’s talk about the jeans. Some of you may like the seam down the front of jeans, which is okay. I do to a point. When I fold my jeans I fold them so that a seam is folded into the jean. BUT, I do not iron a seam down the front, nor does my current husband expect that I iron his jeans. He likes that I fold the seam down the front for him. If he wanted an ironed seam, he’s a big boy and would do it himself! He would not belittle me or tell me I’m no good if I didn’t do it for him.

Terry would call me ugly names. He would criticize my body, looks, the way I kept house, cooked…just every aspect of me. He would tell me that no other man would or could possibly put up with me or possibly like or love me. Therefore, he would often tell me that I was extremely lucky that he was willing to “put up with me.”

Soon, the arguments escalated and finally, Terry became physically abusive, slapping me when I would cry, complain and accuse him of seeing other women. I was advised of his infidelity by not only my friends, but by his family and friends as well.

After six-months of Terry not working, his drinking, his not coming home or being home when I came home from work, and the arguing and the escalation of him slapping me, I did not go home on a Friday night and instead went to my parents home. I told my parents that I’d made a terrible mistake marrying Terry and that I needed to get out of the marriage. Needless to say, my mother was thrilled that I was going to get rid of what she considered “trash.” My father, being the gentle soul he was, just wanted my happiness.

That Friday night was Belknap’s bowling league night. After I got married, I had quit the bowling league. However, I thought I would go and say ‘Hello’ to all of my friends, since I was in Louisville that night. It was a mistake, as I ran into Bobby.

If you remember from Part 2, I had been madly in love with Bobby, but he had broken my heart. I told Bobby that I had left Terry and that it had been a mistake to get married so young. Bobby and I went to a local restaurant after bowling and just talked. I then went back to the parents and went to bed. I was disappointed that I had wasted 6-months of my life and I felt like a failure, but I was totally reconciled that my marriage was over. The only thing I regretted was that I was going to have to live at home for a while. I was now used to living on my own.

At about 6:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, my parents household was awakened by loud banging at the front door. Upon my mom answering the door, it was Terry, drunk, begging to see me. Mom didn’t want to let him in, but daddy told her she had to let him see me.

It turns out someone had driven Terry to my parents that morning and had just left him. He’d first gone to my parent’s next door neighbor’s and banged on their door, waking them up, as he was too drunk to remember which house was my parent’s.

Terry begged for another chance and swore to me that things would be different if I would come back to him. He claimed he would get a job, stop drinking and that he didn’t want to lose me. So, dumb, gullible, stupid Jennie, at my mother’s pleading not to do so, got in my car with Terry and returned to Lawrenceburg with Terry to give him another chance.

Upon my return, I found out two disheartening things: 1) Terry had a rip-roaring party in our apartment Friday night and he was with a girl that I had gone to school with during the party. 2) On Saturday, Bobby called at my parents for me. So, Bobby was again interested in me.

After the Promises

Terry does attempt to be more attentive after I go back to Lawrenceburg. However, he does not stop drinking. He just says that we need to do things together when he drinks.

The following Friday night after I return, we go to the local dance at the Fairgrounds. Who do I see? My sister-in-law and I go into the ladies room and I see the girl he was allegedly with the Friday before in our apartment. She takes one look at me and sprints toward and out the door. I’m not sure if she thought I would attempt to pound her head in or not, but I wouldn’t have. I’m not the physical type.

Before long I realize the drive back and forth to Louisville for my job is just too much for me to continue. I am tiring on my drive home and found that I am dosing off, which is dangerous. Terry finally landed a job and I knew I would be able to obtain employment easy enough. So, I quit my job in Louisville.

It wasn’t long before I was able to find a job.  Actually, during the next several years, I actually had a variety of jobs, not because I wanted to, but because I was often too embarrassed to return to many of my jobs because of the way I looked. Terry’s drinking, infidelity and violent physical behavior began to increase and escalate. The slapping turned into beatings, with me ending up with black eyes, busted lips, and hand prints on my arms, neck, and other places where he either hit me or grabbed me in a vise-grip.

If you remember from Part 2, Terry was a big man. At this time, he was not only six foot 2 inches tall, but he now weighed about two hundred and twenty-five pounds to my five foot four inches, one hundred twenty pounds.

Because I had already returned to my parents home after the first six months of marriage and then had returned to Terry, I no longer felt that it was fair that I put my parents through any further worry. Therefore, I no longer told them what was happening in my marriage. I decided I had made my bed, so to speak. Therefore, I was going to have to lie in it.

I left Terry several more times. However, on my meager salary at various jobs that I was working at different times, I normally ended up in cheap, horrible apartments. Each time Terry would find me and beg me to return home to him. Each time, because I was only scraping by and felt I had no other choice financially and also that no one else would ever want me, I’d go back to him. It was a vicious cycle for me.

The crazy thing was, I kept thinking that if we had a child maybe he’d change for the child. I knew he wasn’t going to change for me, but maybe he’d change for a child of his own, so I did not take birth control for a couple of years. However, I never got pregnant. But, you have to have sex to have a child and Terry was rarely interested in having sex with me. Again, this was one way he had control over me.

To understand domestic violence you must understand that the abuser makes the abused depend totally on the abuser. Terry would call me ugly names. He would criticize my body, looks, the way I kept house, cooked…just every aspect of me. He would tell me that no other man would or could possibly put up with me or possibly like or love me. It was only him that would ever put up with me and I should be very thankful for that. But, on the other hand, he was also very jealous if any other man showed any interest in me or complimented me. He would often make sure that no other man would find me attractive as he would deny me the ability to look good by battering me.

I often had straggly hair, my eyes were normally red and swollen from crying. I consistently had dark circles under my eyes from lack of sleep due to him not being home at nights or due to me being up worried that he was drunk somewhere, in another woman’s arms, or crashed on the rode side somewhere. (I can’t remember how many cars he wrecked while driving intoxicated.) Or, if I was asleep, he’d come in and wake me so he could argue and bash me.

Image courtesy of [Ryan Arestegui] at FreeImages.com

Image courtesy of [Ryan Arestegui] at FreeImages.com

I tried to be what he wanted, but the more I tried, the more he appeared to be disgusted with me. If I complained one little bit as to why he didn’t notice I was trying, I received a sound beating. Yet, if I left, he would always come and find me and beg me to return, and like a fool, I would return.

In a domestic violence situation, this is the vicious cycle and life of the victim.

When I would leave him, you’d think he’d be glad that he was rid of me. He didn’t want me, he made that perfectly clear in every way. He didn’t like the way I looked, he told me so. He didn’t like the way I kept house, he told me so. He didn’t like the way I did his clothes, he told me so. I couldn’t talk or walk correctly, he told me so. Nothing was right about me, he told me so. But, when I’d leave, he’d find me and beg me to return. He would tell me he’d change and that things would be better. He would promise to quit drinking, treat me better, blah, blah, blah… If I wasn’t what he wanted, why would he keep finding me and begging me to come back? I told him at least a thousand times it must be that although he didn’t want me, he also didn’t want anyone else to want me either!  Well, I’d soon learn that he just didn’t have anything better at the time.

Into our third year of marriage I finally became pregnant. However, the drinking, infidelity and beatings did not stop. When our daughter was born, I had two black eyes and a busted lip as the result of a beating I’d gotten the prior weekend when he’d come home drunk and picked a fight. He had me in the floor hitting me. I had my feet in his stomach with my hands and arms protecting my stomach in order to keep his hands and arms away from my stomach and injuring the baby. So, all he could easily get to was my face.

Also, the month before our daughter was born, on April 3, 1974, Terry had been in another woman’s home when her husband had come home and found them together. The husband had gotten his gun and while Terry was running down the road away from the couple’s home, the husband shot Terry in the back. The bullet collapsed Terry’s lung as it exited through his chest in the front.

Terry had crawled to the front porch of a neighbor’s home and knocked on the door. The people had called 911 and had rushed Terry to the hospital. No charges were brought against the woman’s husband. As it turned out, the woman was a girl I had gone to high school with and the husband had once been a friend of Terry’s.

At about 9:00 a.m. on April 3, 1974, I awoke to loud banging on my front door. When I opened the door, my mother-in-law and a Kentucky State Trooper was standing at my door. They both entered and my mother-in-law told me that Terry had been shot and was in intensive care in the hospital. The police officer was just there to ensure that Terry’s next of kin was informed of the information.

My mother-in-law then drove me to the hospital so I could see Terry. He was awake and alert and of all things, was intent on telling me how to ensure that his jeans were properly cleaned.

It seemed that not only had he bled on his jeans, but getting shot had literally scared the shit out of him. Now, get this…here I was, over eight months pregnant with his child and he had been shot by another woman’s husband after inappropriately being caught in the woman’s home by the husband, and he was more concerned with instructing me on the cleaning of his clothes than explaining to me what the hell he was doing in this particular situation!

If that wasn’t bad enough, while in the waiting room, the woman that he was shot over had the gall to call the hospital and ask for me in order to find out how Terry was doing.

April 3, 1974 was not a good day, that evening there was a tornado that struck our town and several surrounding areas. Thankfully, no one’s home in our family was touched, but so many others were hurt and two people were killed in our town. While in the hospital, people started coming in injured to where the hospital was unable to keep up with the injured and the overflow started waiting in the stairways and halls. Since I was pregnant, my mother-in-law didn’t want me witnessing all of this and took me home with her for the night.

Terry stayed in the hospital for a week. Once he returned home, he did not change his ways like you would think someone would do after getting shot by another man for infidelity. He continued to drink and stay out all hours of the night. For me, the abuse continued.

Our Daughter Is Born

On the Monday morning that I went into labor, it was about 4:00 a.m. and he had just gotten home about an hour before, drunk. However, I woke him and made him take me to the hospital, as I was huge, in pain and couldn’t drive the 20 minutes to the next town where I was to deliver the baby.

Our daughter was born at 8:10 a.m. Soon after her birth, he left the hospital saying that he needed to go home and get some sleep. On the Wednesday his daughter and I were to come home, he sent his sister to come pick us up and bring us home. His sister told me that he’d been out “celebrating his daughter’s birth” the night before and was too drunk and hungover to come and pick us up. Yeah, so much for a child changing him. This was in May 1974.

In June 1974, we moved from a two bedroom trailer to a one bedroom apartment. On one particular night he didn’t come home until about 8:00 a.m. the next morning. I was, of course, fuming when he came home. I had been up all night with a newborn, alone, again. He lit into me like a wild man. Before I knew what was happening, he had a loaded double barrel shotgun up against my forehead, while I was cradling our daughter in my arms. I thought that morning was going to be my last morning to see daylight. Thankfully, after some begging, crying and reminding him that I was holding his month old daughter, he calmed down enough to put the shotgun down and I fled the apartment while he slept off the whiskey and/or drugs he was under.

While this was the last time he actually held a gun to my head, it was not the last time I suffered from domestic violence. That continued, as did his infidelity. In July or August of 1974, I discovered that a woman he worked with was pregnant with his child. She was expecting her baby in February 1975.

While he was a work one day, I packed up everything, even the toilet paper and left. I took everything I had brought into the marriage, leaving him only what he had prior to us getting married, which wasn’t much. This was the first time I had cleaned out everything.

I’m Free

Photo by Julian Jagtenberg at StockSnap

Photo by Julian Jagtenberg at StockSnap

This time, I was lucky. He now had something better. Because he had another woman pregnant now, he did not need me and did not come after me and beg for me to return. This was my saving grace to finally have the strength to get out from under his influence for good. I had a good job with the State of Kentucky and was able to find a small duplex. While it was not the greatest of places, it was large enough for my daughter and me and I could well afford the rent and utilities at the present time. I filed for divorce and in October 1974, I had a decree of divorce granted.

I was free. No more infidelity. No more beatings. No more dependence on Terry.

For a year Terry had every other weekend visitation rights with his daughter.

Strangely enough, I met my current husband and started dating him in October 1974 and we were married the next October of 1975. Once I married my current husband, Terry stated that he would no longer pay child support ($25.00 a week back then) for “that man” to spend. Like $25.00 was a large amount of money for my current husband to go out and blow on something. It didn’t even pay for my daughter’s childcare at the time. I told Terry that if he did not pay child support then he could not see his daughter. To my surprise, he agreed.

So, from the time our daughter was 17-months old, Terry did not see his daughter again until she was approximately eight years of age, when he called and stated that he was going through Alcoholic’s Anonymous (AA) and would like to see not only her, but me, in order to apologize for what he’d done in the past. I agreed to see him.

After that meeting, he did not attempt to see or speak to his daughter by phone after that time at any regular intervals. It was only once she became an adult and married that he made contact with her and then only occasionally spoke with her by phone and once or twice a year saw her.

My daughter always referred to my current husband as her “Dad”, as he raised her from the time she was 17-months old, and she referred to Terry as her “Biological Father.”

Sadly, Terry passed away in January 2016, at the age of 67. Terry had heart problems, along with other problems. Many of the health problems he experienced later in life were the result of his lifelong battle with alcoholism.

This is only a brief summary of the domestic violence I experienced during my four years marriage to Terry. A lot of other experiences have been blocked out of my mind. I only remember some of the abuse, which is probably a good thing. I would like to say that the abuse I refer to is not only the physical, but the mental as well. It has taken me years to get over the mental abuse I suffered. In some ways, I may never get over some of it. There are still some things that trigger memories. I still have some difficulties dealing with certain feelings if I hear that someone else is dealing with similar experiences.

Needless to say, the experience has left me somewhat scarred, but thankfully I have been blessed and have been able to overcome. Recovery has been as ongoing process.

Here’s my ending question for you.  Do you question my title?  Well, the good old days did start out that way.  But, they don’t always end up that way. I’m happy to say that after the above, very long four years, I was once again able to enjoy many more good old days.  I continue to be blessed with one after the other good old days.

This entry was posted in Stories.

The Good Old Days – Part 2

the-goodold-days2

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!

Nash, Rambler

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.

Blue Hills of Tennessee

Blue Hills of Tennessee

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.

This entry was posted in Stories.

The Good Old Days – Part I

the-goodold-days
For years, when I’ve told people about my life from the time I was born until about the time I divorced my first husband, for some reason, people have forever nagged me to write my stories down. Hell, I’m not sure if it’s because it’s so interesting or if it’s because my life had been so unusual and at times, so damn tragic. I’ll tell the story and leave it up to you to decide.

First, where do I start? Well, I’ll start at the earliest I can remember. Then, I’ll end when it becomes boring. That will be once I divorce my first husband, as my life became rather normal and ho-hum at that time, so I won’t go past then and bore you to tears.

So, Part I begins with me at  Zero – Six years of age, and what I can first remember.

I’m not gonna say that I can remember much that far back. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember what age I was when I can first remember anything specific. But, I can remember some things before I was six years of age. Can you?

In my early years, my family lived in what was called a “shotgun” house close to downtown Louisville, Kentucky. It was called that because the house had one room in the front, with another room behind it, another room behind that one, another room behind that one and so on. In other words, the house didn’t go to the side, it went backwards. The house was only as wide as the front room.

We lived just outside of downtown Louisville. It was convenient, since my daddy worked in Louisville and it was a short commute to work for him.

I remember the kitchen was the back room of the house. The kitchen table top was red and the table and chairs were metal, with the chairs covered in red and white plastic. I remember sitting at that table one time and daddy was trying to teach me how to whistle. However, he was feeding me crackers while trying to teach me and I remember him laughing at me. It’s down right weird the things you remember as a kid.

The other thing I remember while living in this house is when my younger sister was born. Mamma never worked and always stayed home with me and my older sister. When I was three years old, and my mamma was forty years old, she got pregnant and had my younger sister. So, I was only three years old and I can remember a couple of things about when my baby sister was born.

My sister was born three months premature and only weighted 3 pounds, 4 ounces. The story is that at her birth she had no eyelashes or fingernails. Mamma had to stay at the hospital with her a little longer than normal after her birth. Then, when mamma came home, my baby sister had to stay in the hospital longer. So, mamma would go to the hospital most days to be with my baby sister. It turned out that my baby sister stayed in the hospital for twenty-eight more days because she had to weigh at least five pounds before they would let her come home. So, while mom kept going to the hospital to be with my sister, I missed my mom.

Now, back to what I remember. I remember when my daddy took me to the hospital to see my baby sister. Shortly after she was born, they were going to allow me to look through the glass and see my little sister for the first time; just a brief moment. However, I don’t remember seeing my sister. What I remember is seeing my mother on the other side of the glass. I just wanted my mamma. That’s it. That’s what I remember. To hell with my baby sister, I wanted my mamma!

Now we’ll move to when I was six to nine years of age:

I can remember quite a bit more during this time in my life. Actually, these are probably some of the happiest years of my life. I was young, innocent, didn’t have a care, no stress, and thought everyone in the whole world loved me.

img_1093

Just before I was six years of age, my family moved from Louisville to the old house on our family farm in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, which was 50 miles from Louisville. However, my daddy continued to work in Louisville and commuted back and forth to work everyday.

Our farm had two houses on the land. We called one of the houses, the old house, since it had been built sometime much earlier than the other house on the land, which we called the new house, because it was built more recently. The older house had no running water to the house and no indoor plumbing. Yes, that means no bathroom. Water to the older house came from a water well that had a red pump that was about 30 paces from the back door of the old house. From that water pump, the old house would draw its drinking, cooking and bath water. The old house was heated with wood and coal burned in an old pot-belled stove in the living room. Also, there was no air conditioning in the house in the summer. To cool the house, big box fans would be placed in the windows. I might add, the windows were not storm windows and they did not have screens.

The old house sat way back off of the main highway and had a long gravel driveway. The house primarily consisted of four rooms, with a kitchen that sat separately off of one of those rooms. However, we generally just lived in three of the four main rooms of the house, as one of the rooms upstairs did not heat or cool easily. The kitchen was pretty much heated from the cooking stove. Off of the kitchen was an attached back porch. We never looked under the white wood framing of the old house, but according to family stories, the kitchen was originally a log cabin and the house was actually built onto the log cabin.

I don’t remember being too hot in the house during the summer. However, I was young then and could even play out in the blazing sun back then and not become too hot. It’s quite another story now. However, the winters were another story. The house was cold in the winter. At nighttime, daddy would take a bed blanket from each of our beds and hold it up in front of the pot-bellied stove to heat it up real good. He would then wrap each of us up in our heated blanket and carry us upstairs to our feather beds and then cover us up with layers of quilts. The only heat that we had in the one upstairs bedroom that all three of us shared (my two sisters and I), was what would naturally rise from the downstairs pot-bellied stove through a 12 inch by 12 inch vent that was cut into the floor above the stove. I can tell you that by morning it was a little crispy-cold in that upstairs bedroom. As my mother would say, “It was cold enough to freeze the boogers in your nose.” We certainly didn’t dilly-dally when dressing for school each morning.

As I said before, the windows on the house were not storm windows and if we had a particularly breezy snow that night, we would often find that some snow had accumulated on the inside pane and sill.

As you’ve probably heard tales about Kentucky people, some have household furniture or appliances on their front or back porches. Well, we weren’t too different, we had our washing machine on our back porch. However, our back porch was enclosed, so at least you couldn’t see ours and wouldn’t have known it was there. My poor mamma had to carry water from the well out in the yard to the kitchen stove to heat it up wash water. She would then carry that hot water back out onto the porch to the wringer washer. Once the wash was done, there was a hose from the washer that would then drain the water from the washer out into the yard. It was hard work, but by damn, we had clean clothes!

Also, we didn’t have a clothes dryer, so mom would hang our clothes on the clothes line outside in the summer. In the winter, she would hang the clothes up in the kitchen and back porch. My mom was a hard worker, as were most women back then.

Bathing was similar. Mamma would heat water drawn from the well and put it into a large silver tub for us to take a bath. We had a pitcher that we could use to pour water over our heads after we would shampoo our hair. Back then, I had very long hair that was almost to my waist, so I had to wash my hair often. So, yes, we took baths often…not just Saturday nights!

Are you curious about our bathroom? Well, mamma used to say we had a “bath and a path,” a pun from a bath and a half…get it? If you walked downhill from our well, another 20 feet or so, you would find our outhouse. We used to say we had a “two-holer”, meaning that there were two holes cut out for you to sit on. However, I can’t imagine that more than one would be in there at one time. My grandparents actually had a three-holer out back in their yard!

The outhouse backed up to our tobacco patch. It was a small wooden building…without the half-moon, thank you very much! I’m not good with dimensions, but if you’ve ever been in an airplane bathroom, it was twice that size. In the old days, my grandmother (grandma, as I called her) told me they did use Sears and Roebuck (what they used to be named) catalogs for tissue paper. However, we used regular toilet paper. But, you did not put paper down the hole, you put it in a garbage can. Toilet paper is not naturally biodegradable. Also, in the outhouse was a container of lime. After doing #2, it was necessary to sprinkle lime down the hole, which helps with naturally eliminating the smell and material itself.

Living in rural areas in the 1950’s and early 1960’s and not having indoor bathrooms was something that was fairly common. It was something that our generation and country-folk just took in stride. We didn’t really think too much about it. Certainly, I would have preferred an indoor bathroom, but it was just something that I didn’t worry or think that much about back then. We were able to make do with what we had. I know for generations now, it’s something they would find hard to believe and deal with.

My paternal grandparents lived in the new house that was closer to the main highway. There was a cow/tractor path that led from the old house to their house and I often walked to my grandparents house. The newer house had running water to the kitchen sink from a cistern and pump. However, as I mentioned above, the house did not have an indoor bathroom. The newer house was also much larger. It had a kitchen, downstairs bedroom, living room, parlor room and upstairs there were three more bedrooms. It also had a detached two car garage where granddaddy kept his car and tractor.

I loved being at my grandparents house. I’d help my grandma in the garden and collect eggs from the hen-house. I also loved to go to the corn crib and shuck corn in the little corn shucking machine that you had to turn the wheel in order to get the corn off of the cob. I’d then take the corn to grandma and help her feed the chickens.

Grandma would give me strawberries with fresh cream on top that she had just skimmed off of the top of the milk my granddaddy had brought in after milking the cows. You talk about good! There is nothing like fresh cream right out of a cow. People now-a-days don’t know what they are missing. Slightly chilled, it’s almost like thick, rich, whipping cream.

My granddaddy had a lot of milk cows and when we first moved to the farm he milked them by hand. However, after several years he got one of the new milking machines he could use. I would sometimes help him in the barn. My job would be to give the cows a scoop of grain and a little hay once he would put them in the milking stall. Granddaddy milked jersey cows as he considered them the best milk cows. I remember they had big brown eyes, just like me and my little sister. My granddaddy even named one cow Jennie and another Jayne. Back then I wasn’t even insulted by it!

We had a huge barn cat named, Tom, who took care of all of the mice. Tom loved it when granddaddy would spray milk at him. Old Tom would sit there and meticulously lick every bit of the sprayed milk off of him.

Once granddaddy was finished milking the cows, he’d put the big milk cans in a wagon and pull them up to the edge of the driveway to the main highway. Then, a big milk truck would come by and pick up the big milk cans and leave empty ones for the next day.

My granddaddy also raised tobacco and sold it each January or February. Granddaddy also raised corn. He also sold trees off of our land for lumber occasionally, if things were tight. He would also sell hay or allow other farmers to use one of his pastures to graze their cattle for extra money. To help out, my daddy would set traps out in our woods and trap fox, rabbit or mink for their hides. Many a time there were tanned hides hanging on the smokehouse door. These tanned hides also brought in extra money during lean times.

On Saturday mornings the whole family, grandparents too, would go into downtown Lawrenceburg. The town itself was tiny back then and only had two stop lights in the whole town. We would park behind E.A. Taylor’s general store and enter through the store’s back door. Granddaddy would stop and sit with the other farmers around the old pot-bellied stove in the back of the store to talk farming, while grandma did her shopping. Everyone else scattered to various other stores or sundries. Me, I always stopped at the general store’s candy counter where I would spend my 10 cent allowance on some sort of sweet.

Old Ben Wilson

Old Ben Wilson

Old Ben, pictured above, was an old man who lived in the poor house on the outskirts of town and walked the streets of Lawrenceburg barefooted. As you can see, Old Ben had whiskers like Santa and always wore grungy denim overalls. The bottom of his feet were like thick shoe leather. However, in the cold of the winter, he did wear some sort of combat boot looking shoes, grudgingly. The children loved Old Ben and he seemed fond of the children. However, I don’t remember, personally, ever hearing him speak. He would just wave and smile.

Mom never learned to drive, so she stayed at home during the day, unless someone offered to drive her somewhere. Daddy did buy her an old beat up Studebaker to try to learn to drive there on the farm. I remember her driving that old car all over the fields trying to learn to drive. Every now and then she’d stop and you’d see her get out and fiddle with something on the driver’s side floorboard. It turns out the gas foot-feed kept falling off and she’d have to stop and put it back on all the time.

To get out of our driveway, you had to back up toward our garden to turn around in order to point the car back up to the driveway and toward the main highway. To stop you from backing up into our garden when you were turning around, daddy had put a huge telephone pole to stop cars from rolling backward. Well, somehow my mamma got the Studebaker stuck on the telephone pole. When daddy got home, he found mamma had gotten one of the back wheels of the car on one side of the telephone pole and the other back wheel on the other side of the telephone pole. When daddy asked mamma how she’d done that, she wouldn’t tell him. She just told him to sell the car and that she wasn’t going to drive anymore…and she never did. Mamma passed away at 92 years of age in 2008 and never learned to drive.

Daddy got paid on Wednesday’s. Before he would come home, he would go and do the grocery shopping in Louisville. My little sister and I would be so excited on Wednesday’s and we called it “grocery nights.” We were excited because we were gonna eat hot dogs, pork and beans and have potato chips. This was a real treat for us.

Our normal diet consisted of living off of what we grew on the farm. We always had a large garden in the summer and mom would can beans, tomato’s, corn, etc. Granddaddy and daddy would split a beef every year and we would have a freezer full of meat for the year. Also, if we began to run out of meat, daddy would hunt rabbit and squirrel, which fried is very tasty; a bit like chicken. Plus, granddaddy and grandma raised chickens, so we always had eggs and fresh chickens, when needed. I do remember some days for lunch I’d have mayonnaise sandwiches. This would only be when we were running low on groceries. However, I loved mayonnaise sandwiches, so I didn’t mind at all.

Speaking of chickens, I remember granddaddy had a particularly mean rooster that spurred mamma on the ankle as she walked from my grandparents house to the milk barn one evening. It was a bad spur and mamma had to have stitches. Granddaddy was so mad at that rooster that he went out there and rung that rooster’s neck. We had him for dinner the following Sunday. My mamma said, “That’ll learn him, durn him!” (My mom was a comedian, one day I need to write about her!)

There are not many things I won’t eat, but brussel sprouts is one thing. Mamma was adamant that we had to eat everything that she put on our plates each night. We were made to sit at the table until we cleaned our plates. There were many a night that I’d be sitting at the table until bedtime with brussel sprouts still on my plate and mamma telling me to go ahead and go to bed. I’m still now a big fan of brussel sprouts even now.

The other food that everyone loves to hear about is pork brains, which I dearly love. (I know, you probably just threw up in your mouth, right?) If you don’t know, they can be scrambled in your eggs and you wouldn’t know you were eating them. That’s how I became a fan of them. Mamma tricked me and gave me scrambled eggs with pork brains scrambled in. It just makes the eggs taste like bacon has been added to your eggs. I did this to my children too. However, they caught on and then wouldn’t eat their eggs scrambled from then on, fearing that I’d added pork brains! If you ever get a chance, try them, you’ll like them. (People eat duck liver, fish eggs and snails…think about it!)

Right before it was time for us to go to school, daddy would take mamma and my two sisters and me to Louisville with him when he went to work. While daddy worked, mamma would take us to downtown Louisville to J. C. Penney and Sears and Roebuck to shop for school clothes. At lunchtime we would go to the lunch counter at Woolworth to eat. I’d normally get a grilled cheese with chips, a pickle and coke. I thought that was the best thing I’d ever eaten. After daddy got off work, he would meet us at a predetermined place and we would load up our purchases in the car and drive home. We couldn’t wait until next year to go back to downtown Louisville.

I went to Alton Elementary School. I ate lunch in the school lunchroom everyday and mamma would give me two cents each morning for extra milk. I remember the milk came in little glass bottles with aluminum peel-off lids. The milk was actually free, the two cents was payment because of the return on the little glass bottles.

I did not have milk in paper cartons until much later.

I did not have milk in paper cartons until much later.

To catch the bus to school, I had to walk from my house out the long gravel driveway to the main highway. I had a wonderful school bus driver, Mr. Cheek (I don’t remember his first name). He knew in the wintertime that I was very cold. Back then, girls were required to wear dresses to school. However, mom would put corduroy pants on me (under my dress) and tell me to go to the girls bathroom and take them off once I got to school and put them in my book satchel, which I did. But, Mr. Cheek knew that I was freezing cold from standing out there on that main highway with large 18-wheeler’s whizzing by. Mr. Cheek always saved me a seat on the bus by the bus’ heater everyday. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with a school bus heater, but it’s very small and is right next to and behind the driver’s seat. Or, at least it was back then.

When Mr. Cheek picked me up after school, before I would get off of the bus he would hand me a piece of Juicy Fruit gum. He knew that was a special treat for me, as I generally never got gum.

Several years after I graduated from high school I went to visit with Mr. Cheek, who was an elderly gentleman then. He knew exactly who I was. The first thing he did was give me a piece of Juicy Fruit gum. It’s these kind of adults in a young person’s life that make such an impact. Someone who shows just a little kindness to a child. I certainly remembered him fondly.

Now, for as long as I can remember I’ve always been a daddy’s girl. I don’t know why. I was just always drawn to be with my dad. He was more fun back then than my mom I guess. I liked to do things outside and with my hands and that’s what my daddy liked too.

Daddy didn’t get to finish school. Being a farmer’s kid back in the 20’s and 30’s and an only child, he was pulled from school to help with the farm. He only got to complete the 9th grade. However, he was the smartest man I ever knew, especially in math. I know that most people, me included, are not that great in math. However, my daddy was great at math. He was also a super carpenter, which needs great math skills. He could measure and figure angles of all kinds. Hell, even at his job they offered him an auditor’s job, so they also knew how good he was at math with only a 9th grade education!

I have a desk my dad made, which is my pride and joy. I also have a very old trunk he refurbished grandly, with a wallpapered interior and wooden veneer on the top with refinished leather straps and painted locks and latches. It’s been 43 years since his passing, so it has seen some wear, but to me it’s as beautiful as ever.

I used to go to church camp for a week every summer. I would miss my daddy, mamma and little sister. But, my daddy always wrote me at least one letter while I was at camp. It’s funny, I used to think that camp was way far away from home. As an adult I’ve found that the camp was about 25 miles from my home. Anyway, I still have one of the letters that my daddy wrote and sent me at camp. I have preserved it forever for me to keep and read over and over. It too is one of my prize possessions.

My daddy had pet names for my sister and me. My name was Buggs and my sister’s name was Buttons. I think he called us those names more than he ever called us Jennie and Jayne and that was fine with me. I miss being called Buggs.

When I was eight, my paternal grandmother got very sick. No one told me for sure what was wrong with her. My mom just said it was “female problems.” My mom took care of my grandma as best she could. However, it wasn’t too long after my grandma got sick that she passed away.

I loved my grandma. I loved watching and helping her cook. It was almost every day that you would find me on the path between the old house and the new house; going to visit and spend time with my grandma. Most times she would have to tell me to go home, as mamma would call her and tell her to send me home.

There is no one, even today, that can make rhubarb cobbler, or any cobbler for that matter, like my grandma Griffin.

I always heard my grandma had fire-engine red hair and a temper to go with it. However, I never saw it. She was always had snowy white hair and she was very kind and patient with me. Daddy was her only child and they used to say that I looked like daddy, so maybe I reminded her of daddy when he was little. It’s just sad that I only got to be with her for eight years, but I cherish my few memories.

When I was nine, my older sister, who was nine years older than me, got married to her boyfriend after she graduated high school and began to work. My older sister and her husband got a cute little duplex not far from downtown main street in Lawrenceburg after the wedding.

Soon after my older sister got married, my daddy decided that the drive back and forth from Lawrenceburg to Louisville was too hard on him and our vehicle. So, after looking at houses in the Louisville area, we found a cute little house in Jeffersontown, a suburb in Louisville. We moved from the farm the summer before I entered the 6th grade.

Part II, age 10 to 18. I plan to publish Part II on or before October 1, 2016, so stay tuned if you have enjoyed the story so far.

Hint: Although we just moved to the city, we end up moving back to the farm in the middle of Part II, so stay tuned.

Did you enjoy Part I? Was your early childhood similar? I’d love for you to comment.

This entry was posted in Stories.
Optimization WordPress Plugins & Solutions by W3 EDGE