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FAITH OF A DREAMER By Myrtle Yvonne May

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This is my aunt Myrtle's autobiography she did for the family genealogy. Myrtle Yvonne May John William "Bill" Partridge


The Life Story of Myrtle Yvonne May

In the summer of 1922, Minnie Agnes MUSKAT and William Logan “Bill” MAY were expecting their eighth child. I am that child and this is the story of my life and my dreams. Although Dad wanted very much for the new baby to be a boy, having had only two sons out of the previous seven children, I don’t think he was disappointed by me.

It was a very hot summer. Mom sold a pig she had raised to buy herself a new Singer sewing machine. (I still have this sewing machine in my possession.) It made Mom very happy, just to think she would not have to make all the baby clothes by hand, and she kept the treadle flying all summer.

On the afternoon of September 18, 1922, Mom realized it was time for the baby to make an appearance. A lady friend came out from Newton to take care of mother during and after the birth and to act as “nurse.” The folks sent for the doctor and he arrived in the evening. The doctor was A. H. Nossaman from Whitewater. Mom and Dad lived three miles north and five and one half miles west of Whitewater, Kansas, and about a half mile east of the tiny, but bustling unincorporated town of McLain, in Harvey County. This town is three miles south and four miles east of the county seat of Newton. According to Mom, Doctor Nossaman had been drinking when he arrived at the house. After examining the patient, he proceeded to go upstairs and go to bed, where he slept soundly all night.

Mother was in hard labor all night and most of the next day. Late in the afternoon, Dr. Nossaman remarked to the “nurse” helper, he would have to take the baby with instruments. He then went out to the kitchen to sterilize the instruments. As soon as he was out of the room, the friend “nurse,” who knew Mom had been crippled from childhood, threw some newspaper pads on the floor and told mother to get out of bed and on her hands and knees. She then, proceeded to straddle Mom as though trying to mount a horse from the rear. Then, putting a large hand on either side of mother’s waist, with fingers spread wide over the stomach, she proceeded to squeeze and push down gently with each contraction. About the third or fourth time, at 4:00 p.m. on September 19, 1922, a baby girl made her appearance into the big, wide world. I was that baby girl, whom the folks named Myrtle after someone they had known years before, and Yvonne after a young lady (Yvonne Gates) who lived down the road and who went to school with my brothers and sisters.

I was a very healthy baby. Mom once told me, when I was only a few hours old, my grandfather, Thomas Walton MAY, came to her bedside. He held my tiny hands in his and said a silent prayer. He then said, “Minnie, this baby will live a long life and she will never have any really serious health problems.” To this day, I have never had a serious illness or accident. I have never had hypertension, even though I have been overweight for most of my adult life.

When I was eighteen months old, I was napping on the bed. Mom was busy and went outside for something. I awoke and stood up on the bed. I tottered on the wiggly bed and fell through the window cutting the end of my nose off all except for a small corner. Mom carefully put the nose back in place and secured it with adhesive tape. Before long, I was a good as new and ready for another escapade.

I was daddy’s little “boy” and followed him everywhere he went. When Dad went to work in the garden, he carried his tools in a large bucket. I would follow him out to the garden. When he was ready to go back to the house, I could not walk. Dad had nicknamed me “Squeekie,” when I was tiny, because when I cried, I squeeked. He would walk the floor with me, until I shut up and went to sleep. I could not say “squeekie” so when I wanted my dad to carry me back from the garden to the house I would say, “Pack a baby, keekie alk” while shaking my head no, meaning I couldn’t walk. (I always got carried back to the house in the bucket.)

While still quite young, perhaps two or three years old, I went with my adored daddy in the old Model T Ford. I do not know where we were going, but the road-grader had graded quite a deep ditch alongside the road building the road up high with loose dirt. We met the grader and we went into the ditch. In doing so, I went into the windshield, cutting a gash on my forehead. Again, Mom doctored me up and soon I was on the O.K. list again.

There was an old man, Jerry Lewis, who lived down the road from us. He always came over early on Sunday morning for my dad to cut his hair. Dad would not let the old man pay for the hair cut, so the old man would give me a handful of pennies. Then, Dad would hoist me to his shoulders and carry me the mile to Sunday school and church. After Sunday school, he would go to the basement and get a little red chair for me to sit on during the church service. Then, he would hoist me on his shoulders for the return trip home.

One time, when the folks were getting ready to go someplace, they could not find my new “Sunday School” shoes. Everyone looked high and low without locating my shoes. When tempers were at a fever pitch, I suddenly remembered taking them off while playing on the grain drill. I put them under the lid in the wheat. Soon the shoes were donned, tempers calmed and we were on our way.

I was always trying to do the same things the big folks did. I had seen Mom use the corn knife to chop up pumpkins and feed them to the cow. One day, Mom found me out on the east side of the house, where she had piled the good pumpkins. I was chopping them into little tiny pieces and feeding them to our old cow.

I had watched Mom and Dad chop wood with the axe. One day I was outside in the wood yard, trying my best to chop wood like I had seen them do. After a few whacks on the stick I was trying to butcher, the “stupid” axe came straight down between the second and third toes of my right foot. I have a good sized scar there to this very day. Mom never went to school to study nursing ─ she just studied in the “Myrtle May School of Practical Experience” and I trained her very well!

When I was four years old (1926), we moved to a house about one and a half miles east of Newton, Kansas, on First Street Road. I had a big, long-haired, white cat and when we moved, we got to the new house, when I realized my cat had been left behind. I cried and cried until someone went back and found my cat.

It was while we lived at this house, I went to school for the first time, not as a student, but my brother Virgil Thomas wanted to take me to visit. I could not talk plain and always called my brother Virgil “Bozo.” I had the complete run of the school that day and made my way from desk to desk. When I came to the young lady I had been named after, (Yvonne Gates), I grabbed her pencil and quite loudly announced, “Bozo, Bozo, here’s your pizzo.” The other students laughed hysterically, while Virgil and Yvonne blushed and felt very small. Then at lunch time, I walked up to the teacher’s desk, picked up a sandwich and took a big bite out of it. I chewed it up, swallowed it, snurled up my nose, laid the sandwich down, made a firm statement, “That ain’t fit to eat” and then walked away.

In the spring of 1927, Dad’s brother Jesse Earl May, his wife Hilda and their two children Ronald and Rowena, came for a visit from England. I remember sitting in the Model T car and Rowena telling us about their travels, and about their home in England. I thought these kids were real world travelers, because they came from the other side of the world.

While we lived at this house my sister, Velma Lee May, was born on June 15, 1927. She was the ninth child born to Mom and Dad. Velma was born when mother was 44 years old and it goes without saying she was the last child born to Minnie and Will May.

When Velma Lee was quite small, we moved closer to town, to a house still on East First Street, but just inside the city limits. It was at this house I saw my first black person. He was walking in the road, by our house. I was playing near the road with my dog “Fritz.” The man stopped and spoke to me and my dog really raised cane. I guess the combination of a strange person stopping and talking to me made the dog think the man was going to harm me. We did not live at this house very long. However, we did have a family reunion there at Christmas time. I have a picture taken at this reunion. I can remember spring house cleaning here for my first recollection of such activity. I was thrilled, when Mom opened all the windows on the first real warm day in spring, took the curtains down to wash and I thought that air smelled so good! You know, I still love the first spring air smell.

The next spring (1928), we moved to a house on West Second Street. It was here, Mom got a job at Hurst Poultry and Egg Company on East Fourth Street. She picked chickens for one and a half cents each. She also learned how to candle eggs. When Mom went to work, I had my first experience with a baby sitter who was the Mexican lady who lived next door to us. I loved to watch her make tortillas and better yet, I loved eating them. (I still love Mexican food.)

I was five years old in September 1927, but Mom wouldn’t send me to Kindergarten, because I would have to cross Main Street. She was afraid I would get hit by a car so she held me back and sent me to Kindergarten, when I was six years old.

We lived just around the corner from the Assembly of God Church and we started going to Sunday School and church there. We continued attending church there, until I was married in June of 1938.

My sisters Ida Wilma Lenora (Neufeld-Hausey) and Alma Daphine (Scott-Partridge) were in school and Ida, who was in junior high school at the old Lincoln School on West Fourth Street, brought home her good friend from school. This girl was a negro and was black as the ace of spades. Somewhere I had heard the word “nigger” and I asked the girl, “Are you a nigger?” She did not get mad or let her temper fly. She just sat me down and explained what a nigger was. She said to me, “Honey, a nigger doesn’t have to be black. A nigger is anyone who is a nasty, dirty, mean person who does bad things to people whether he is black or brown or white.” This was a very large and important lesson for a five year old, but it is one I have held to all my life and I have tried to instill this into my children and any other children I can teach.

I was always jumping and running as a child. I have always had the theory, if God meant for me to wear shoes, He would have put them on me. So I was always barefoot, or at least most of the time. Because of my love for going barefoot, I got, what the folks called, a “stone bruise” on the heel of my foot. It was like a boil under the skin. It continued to grow more painful, until Mom decided it need to be opened. Well, I had other ideas and I fought like a royal tiger. When she was exhausted, Mom rallied the help of all the older, bigger members of the family around to help her. I don’t remember who all helped. It seemed to my five-year-old mind, I was one lone rebel fighting against a whole army. The army finally won out! My big brother Earl (Albert Earl May) slipped me onto my stomach and held me down by sitting on me, while he held the infected foot so I could not move it. Another member of the “army” held the other foot so I could not kick. Mom proceeded with the “operation” using Dad’s straight-edged razor as a scalpel. The cutting really didn’t hurt much. I was just afraid it was going to hurt a lot more than it did. Now, the “nurse” was having another practical experience in her “nurse’s training.”

We lived in the house on West Second Street only a few months, then we moved to a house on East Second Street. It was only about four and a half blocks from where we lived, but I could then go to school without crossing Main Street. This house was only about a block and a half from the school and I started Kindergarten three weeks before I was six years old (1938).

My sister Alma was quite a “spit-fire” when she was a kid. One day, at noon, while coming home for lunch, a neighbor boy ran up behind me and pushed me down across the edge of our porch. It knocked the breath out of me. Before anyone knew what was happening, Alma, “Short” as we called her, chased him out onto the street where she threw him down and proceeded to beat him up.

It was while we lived here, I received my first real doll. It was a china doll and other than a toy sausage grinder, it was the only thing I remember getting that year for Christmas. The sausage grinder was the implement which caused me to get the first real whipping I can ever remember. You see, when Mom worked, Ida was in charge of the house and cooking. Short was in charge of taking care of the baby sister, Velma. I was in charge of just being me. While Ida peeled potatoes, I would fasten my grinder to a wooden kitchen chair and grind the peelings. This time, Short was being her most tormenting self. She would run up, grab my peelings and run. I kept telling her to stop, but she continued. Finally, she grabbed the peelings and ran out of the kitchen, through the archway to the dining room and into the living room. Meanwhile, I grabbed the grinder loose from the chair and as she turned to see if I was crying or chasing her, I let fly with the grinder. (Short carries a long scar on her forehead to this very day.)

Mom came home during the commotion and asked what happened. Being told only I had thrown the grinder at Short and with her bleeding like a “stuck pig,” I got the first razor strapping I had ever had. Mom never bothered to ask why I had done this thing, she just whipped. This was the first of several times, during my growing up years, Mom did not bother to ask, “Why?” Now, I ask “Why?”

I know children are not supposed to remember minor things in their life, but one very traumatic time for me happened, when I was about six years old. We lived on East Second Street, which was only about four blocks from downtown Newton. I was out for a “tag-along” walk one Sunday afternoon, with my sisters Ida and Short and one of their girl friends. Before we left home, we had each put an apple in our pocket for a snack. I did not eat my apple as soon as the other girls. When I did, I took one big bite and there in the raw bite spot, of the apple, lay my lovely tooth and some blood. It did not hurt, but it scared me! I just knew I would need to have false teeth like Mom’s. I found, given a little time, however, a new tooth grew in, and no false teeth were required.

It was also at this house my adored older brothers, Virgil Thomas and Albert Earl, left home for the first time. The Missouri Pacific train ran a half block from our house. My two brothers were betting which one could hop the freight first. Then, Virgil did it and it was a long, long time before we ever saw him again. It was not long afterward Earl, too, went away. It was hard for a little girl to understand things change, people change and time goes on.

Lots of things happened, while we lived at the East Second Street house in Newton. One incident happened the day I fell heir to a nickel. In fact, this was the first nickel I ever had. I got to go a whole block and a half to the store to buy myself some candy. The first half block was not exciting, but the next block was down the railroad tracks, then across the highway to the store. The “trip” to the store wasn’t so exciting, but coming home was a different story. As I went to the center of the tracks, a pretty blue snake, about a foot and a half long, started following me. I started running and he went faster. In spite of my speed, the snake managed to stay a respectful distance behind me. I stopped to look back and the pretty little snake stopped also. It was almost as though he was playing a game with me. I jumped out of the tracks and dashed up the street for home, never looking back again. I was afraid to go outside for several days afterward, for fear my pretty blue snake would be waiting to follow me into the house, where I would never get rid of him. Although I loved pets, I certainly did not want a snake for one!

Another incident happened here that was kind of funny, as I look back, but was not a bit funny at the time. My sisters Ida and Short decided it would be fun to play on the roof of the house. There was a place where the back porch was connected that was not quite so steep. They put a ladder up against the porch and up they went. I proceeded to follow. I guess Velma was asleep. I do not remember how long we were up there, but someone saw Mom coming home from work early. My older sisters scrambled down, leaving me high and dry on the roof and scared stiff I was going to fall. Mom missed me and I started hollering. She climbed up and helped me down.

About this time, I had my first experience with a contagious disease. I came down with whooping cough and had to stay in bed. This was very disgusting to a lively six-year-old. However, I soon found out I could get a lot of attention and some extra goodies by playing along with the “sick bit,” so I played it to the hilt. I really was not terribly sick except for a few days at the onset. However, I made the most of a bad situation and reaped some pretty good rewards.

Mom had a nasty way of coming home early from work. One day, she came home early and caught Ida and Short getting up onto the head of the bed. They were diving off onto the bed like into a swimming pool. They had only let me try it one time, so I was standing there watching, when Mom walked in and boy, did the sparks fly! It was here, on East Second Street in Newton, I had my first experience with Halloween. Mom let me go with Short and Ida for trick or treats. I cannot remember dressing up or even wearing a mask, but the treasure we brought home was fantastic. I was only allowed to go to the houses on our block, but to a little girl, out for the first time, it was a little bit of Heaven. That night, some boys dumped garbage on our porch. Boy, was Dad sore the next morning. Also, some bigger boys put an old lady’s rocking chair up on the town steeple.

Dad found two lots with some fruit trees on them out on the west side of town. He told Mom he could buy them for $200.00, so they decided to buy the lots. Dad borrowed the money from the Modern Woodmen of the World, with whom he was insured and bought these lots. There were pear, apricot, cherry and Bing cherry trees. There was a big grove of trees connecting our land which will give a few stores in future pages.

Dad and Granddad started building a one-room house on the lots. Nothing made me happier than to go out in the evening, after supper, while the men worked on the house. I loved smelling the freshly shaved pine lumber, and to make “curls” for my hair from the plane shavings. There was never a child, who ever lived, who had a happier, more carefree, childhood than mine. I loved life and learned, at a very early age, to make the most out of every single minute of “now.”

There was an Inter-urban, which was like an electric streetcar, which ran about a half block from where our house was being built. One of the prettiest sights, to my young eyes, was that beautiful red and yellow machine going down the track. The first time I saw it go by at night, with all the lights on in the passenger car, I really thought I would never see anything to equal it. I grew to love this machine and soon found, if I waved at the engineer, he would not only wave at me, but he would also blow that beautiful, blasty horn. I could hardly wait to move into our new home which set right smack in the center of “Heaven.” It did not matter, to me, that we would not have electricity, running water or we would have to go out back to the outside toilet. We were going back as close to the country as we could and still be in town, and it was exactly a mile from downtown Newton, Kansas. We moved, and my dream came true in March of 1930, when I was seven years old. The most outstanding thing I remember about that move was waking up the first morning with the glow of the sun shining through the rough pine boards and the knots glowing a lovely reddish amber.

As long as we lived in that house, which was until I got married (June 19, 1938), there was no sheetrock or finish of any kind on the walls inside. Only the boxing on the outside. Before winter set in that first year, Dad covered the outside with black tar paper and tacked slats over the seams in the wood. This was why we nicknamed it “the black house.” As I look back, I cannot see how we kept from freezing to death, with nothing but a wood stove for heat. But we never really did suffer very much. In fact, I was never happier, in any of the nicer homes we had lived in, as I never did like living right uptown.

The long lazy summer days seemed endlessly wonderful and I “lived” every single minute. There was very little idle time to think about the things we did not have and I never missed a thing. Besides, no one ever told me we were poor, so I did not realize I was underprivileged and it would not have mattered to me anyway. There were trees to climb which were imaginary mountains where I could look all the way around the world. Or the trees were tall buildings where I was a busy executive or maybe a big-time movie star in her penthouse apartment where she had many handsome men friends and beautiful ladies coming to call. Sometimes, it was a ballroom or a huge banquet hall where an almost endless table served up any number of delicious foods. Oh, I had an imagination that made up, many times, for the reality I lacked. Who knows, it may have helped to form my character, because “things” have never been the most important thing in my life.

From the time I can first remember, the absolute worst thing you could call anything, or anyone, was a “Son of a Bitch.” I heard my dad use this expression, when he lost his temper and it stood out in my mind if something or someone did you a big wrong, he was an “S.O.B.” This proved to be a very “painful” thing, as I received a very hard razor strapping, because I used that most taboo expression in retaliation for some wrong doings. It was very soon after we moved to our new home. We had to walk a mile to school. On the way to school, one day, Short and Ida kept taunting me. They kept putting their hands on my head and pretending to pray a so called “devil” out of me. I kept running away from them and they were afraid I would get lost. They would make me come back and walk with them, then proceed to do the same thing again. I got so mad, I started fighting back and they would pull me by my arms. Finally, I lay down on the ground and screamed at them, “You S.O.B., you’d better leave me alone!” Needless to say, when they got home, that night, they told Mom. The old story of not asking “why” followed by the razor strap, and I learned a serious lesson, not to call people bad names.

It was when, we moved into this neighborhood, called “Trousedale’s Addition” to Newton, Kansas, I met my first “best friend,” Erma Androes. We were inseparable for many years, until we both married and moved to separate towns. I had to walk right past her house to go to school. I finally had someone to walk with, so I did not have to be the “little sister who needed looking after” any more. It must have been about here, in my life, I started blossoming into a personality of my own. I became more independent and able to think for myself.

Life was one big round of fun, and I enjoyed every single minute of it. I was constantly running, jumping rope, climbing trees or something. There was not very much time to do “nothing.” Even when I was reading a book, I would climb up in a tree and as I read, I would live the story. I was the girl who made friends with the animals and had to wear old fashioned clothes in the Girl of the Limber Lost. I was one of the beloved Bobsy Twins. If I was reading my geography lesson, I was the famous Cleopatra floating down the Nile River, or I was one of a harem full of beautiful dancing girls. I grew up with a great imagination and I was never bored or had “nothing” to do. I do not think I ever once asked Mom “what can I do?” I just thought up something to do.

The first summer in our “new house” was a fairly exciting summer. One day Mom and Dad took us fishing. We went out somewhere near McLain and took a picnic lunch. It was the nearest thing to Heaven I could imagine. Even now, I would rather go camping than any other means of pleasure.

When I was a kid, I had many sore throats and colds. When I was about nine years old, I had quite an exciting experience. My sister Ida and I had to go to the hospital to have our tonsils taken out. Gee, I was a star, all of a sudden. I saw my first really new-born baby which was a little colored baby and the cutest little thing I had ever seen. The most exciting part of the two nights and one day stay in the hospital happened, when suppertime came and they brought me some soup, a glass of milk and some red stuff. The red stuff was something different from anything I had ever seen! It tasted good! It was sweet! It was red and clear! It sure was fun to eat! When I stuck my spoon into the pile of red stuff on the little plate, it wiggled, jiggled, and sometimes it would wiggle and jiggle its way right off the spoon. Then, when it was in my mouth, it melted into nothing. I do not think any other dessert has ever thrilled me so much as that little mound of red, jiggling Jello. The next morning I asked if I could have some more of the “wiggly stuff” and they sent me two bowls of it for breakfast. I soon recuperated from my “major surgery” and back into school and my everyday job of living life to the fullest.

School was a wonderful time. I loved school and had many good times connected with it. There were some bad times, but not many, and not very bad. My first year was Kindergarten and the first two thirds of my first grade which were spent in McKinley School on East First Street in Newton. The only thing I can remember about it was a party we had after a small class program. We were served refreshments afterwards, and since my mother had to work and could not be at the program and party, the teacher gave me some extra cookies (animal crackers) to take home with me. This was my first time to taste animal crackers, and the reason we were served animal crackers was because we sang a song called “Animal Crackers In My Soup.”

When we moved to Trousdale, in March of my first grade, I had to transfer to Lincoln School on West Sixth Street and the first grade teacher was Miss Short (really). She was quite tall and I was scared of her. We did not have desks in this class. We sat several students at a table. One afternoon, we were coloring and the boy who sat across the table from me took one of my crayons. I took it back and he yelled for the teacher. She cracked my knuckles with a ruler and made me give the crayon back to the boy. I made up my mind, right then, no boy was ever going to bully me around again. I only had to be in this class three months and I knew I would not have any more problems with the teacher. I learned, quite young, when to “cool it” and when to be aggressive. I must say, it was a valuable lesson well learned.

My second grade teacher was a real doll. She had a head of beautiful red curls and I thought she was the prettiest lady God had ever created. I really loved that woman, whose name was Miss Whitwam.

Third grade was under Miss Haury. She was as homely as she could be, but what she lacked in beauty she made up for in personality.

It was, while I was in the third grade, that I was running to school one very cold and snowy morning. When I got about two blocks from school, I came upon Rosella Heatwole. She was two or three years younger than me and was crying with the cold and going very slow. She had no cap, mittens or overshoes. I took off my stocking cap and hand-knitted mittens and put them on her and took hold of her hand and made her run the last two blocks to school. I told her, if her dad did not spend all of his money on drink, he could buy her some gloves, cap and boots. When she got home that night, she told her dad what I said. He came over and brought the cap and mittens back. He really gave my dad a cussing. He said I had only repeated what I had heard at home, and it was none of our business what he spent his money for. This was the only time, I can remember, Dad butting in, when Mom went to whip me. She said she was going to teach me not to say things to hurt others. I thought for sure the razor strap was going to do its nasty job again, but Dad jumped up and said, “Hell no! You’re not going to whip the kid for telling the truth.” Although I had not heard this in the home, I had figured it out all by myself. Dad saved my hide that time!

In the summer of 1931, I remember we all went out to Valley Center to pick strawberries. When we came home, I went to the toilet and when I passed the old car that was out behind the house, I heard a noise. I went to see what made the noise and there was my big brother, Virgil Thomas. I was thrilled to death. He told me not to say anything, so he could surprise the folks. He had been gone for, what seemed to me, was a terribly long time. I went in the house and Mom had found a loaf of bread cut and a new jar of jelly opened. When everything was at a fever pitch, Virgil walked in.

Third grade was an exciting year. This was the year of the tonsils and the time, when I got sick in the spring. I started running a real high fever on Saturday night. On Sunday, I had to stay in bed all day. I was so sick! Charlie (Charles Rankin Watkins) and Golda (Golda Victoria MAY Watkins) had just come home from California that day and I wanted so much to play with my nephew Raymond. It was just awful. In the first place, on Saturday evening, Mom had killed some chickens and had cooked up a fantastic supper. She had the white linen table cloth on, which was only used on special occasions, and the table was set with water glasses and everything looked really nice. Raymond and I were chasing each other around the table. You see, we were living in this one-room house, that only had a “lean-to” kitchen. The one big room was “living room,” Mom and Dad’s “bedroom,” us three girls’ “bedroom,” a “guest room,” and a “dining room.” It only stands to reason, we kids had no business, at all, running around the table ─ especially since the table was only far enough from the crude, unfinished wall to allow room for a long bench which served as dining room chairs for three or four of us kids. There was another bench on the outside, or front, of the table as well. There were only “real” chairs at the head of the table where Mom sat and at the foot of the table where the guest sat, when we had a guest.

If you can picture this scene, with two ornery kids jumping up on the rear bench, running the length of it then around the table and then doing it all over again until one of the water glasses overturned. Dad grabbed me by my shoulder and shook me. As he shook me, my head smacked the 2 x 4 stud of the wall. It sounded like an explosion and my head hit the board a couple of times before he could stop. Mom grabbed a stick of wood from the wood box and threatened to knock Dad’s head off. That was the only time, in my life, I can remember my dad punishing me in any way. I really did deserve it. He had not meant to strike my head as he shook me. That night, I got this high fever. It was early spring and the pot-belly stove was in the middle of the floor. We had all three beds well filled that night since Golda and Charlie slept in us girl’s bed and Raymond and Billy (William Rankin Watkins) slept in the “spare” bed. Mom made us girls a pallet on the floor. To top the whole situation off, Virgil came home in the night. The only place for him to sleep was at the end of us girl’s pallet.

In the middle of the night, when all was quiet, Virgil kicked the stove over and it had a big bed of red hot coals in it. Everyone scrambled out of bed, except me, to quickly do what they could to avoid a fire. I was so sick, I only just woke up, moved over and went back to sleep. Sunday morning, Mom discovered I had a raging fever. She blamed Dad. She said the blows on my head had given me “brain fever.” Golda went out to our oldest sister Ruth’s (Esther Ruth Belle MAY Brown) and borrowed a thermometer to take my temperature. I guess it was rather high. Mom bathed me all day with soda water, trying to lower my temperature, but to no avail. Sunday night, Golda went to a telephone and called Axtel Hospital. They sent the doctor on call out to the house. After checking me over, he told the folks I had scarlet fever. He then, proceeded to quarantine the house. Dad, Charlie and Virgil lied and said they had not been in the house, therefore, they were quarantined out and the rest of us in.

I did not stay sick for long, but I had to stay in bed for ten days. The last day in bed was Easter Sunday. A neighbor lady, Mrs. Peggy Collins, came over and brought a very big paper sack full of Easter goodies. There were Easter eggs and cupcakes decorated with coconut and jelly beans to look liked eggs in a grassy nest. I got out of bed and followed everyone else outside to see what Mrs. Collins had brought. It was the first time, I remember ever having celebrated Easter with eggs, etc.

Mrs. Collins was a good neighbor. She was always helping out and doing nice things for us. That summer, while Charlie and Golda still stayed with us, we girls had been invited to a birthday party for Margie Box. Well, Golda and Charlie had a big, old, two-seated touring car with a convertible top which was nearly always down. Golda was going to take us the two miles to the Box’s house. While waiting for time to go, Golda was fixing Mom’s wash tub which had sprung a leak. She had heated the soldering iron on the cook stove and had soldered the hole. She then, put the soldering iron, which was still quite hot, on the floorboard of the back seat of the car. Thinking she was getting ready to go, I ran out barefoot, jumped over the top and set my foot smack down, lengthwise on the hot iron. I screamed very loudly and kept it up for some time. Golda took the other kids to the party, but I could not go because my foot was burned so badly. Mom made me a pallet, just in front of the door, and kept my foot wrapped in towels which had been soaked in ice water. When the towel would warm up, I would cry again. Mrs. Collins, hearing my cries, came to see what was the matter. She knew we had no telephone to call for help. When she found out what had happened and I was crying as much, because I did not get to go to the party as I was from the hurt, she went home and made a freezer of ice cream and “robbed the cookie jar” so I would have some special treats. You guessed it, I felt much better after “my party,” and Mom had another lesson in the “Myrtle May School of Practical Nursing.”

The summer of 1932 had lots of excitement. One particular incident which happened still provides me with a good hearty laugh every time I think of it. When Charlie and Golda (Watkins) came back from California, Billy was just a baby starting to walk. The doctor said he had rickets and he should be fed goat’s milk. Dad bought a nanny goat who was just ready to kid. When she gave birth it was twins ─ a nanny and a Billy. As the Billy goat grew, we children named him Mr. Billy and taught him many things ─ one was to chase us. He would chase us, until we got tired and we would jump into the Model T car which had no door on it. Mr. Billy would jump up on the hood of the car and as soon as we caught our breath, we would start all over again.

One afternoon, Raymond (Watkins) and I were having a high time running from our beloved Billy goat. We would tease Mr. Billy, then run around the house with him in hot pursuit. We had done this several times and were getting quite tired, when Golda came out the front door. The front door was right at the southwest corner of the house. She realized her shoe was untied and put her foot upon the scraper to tie her shoe. (Dad had cut a ring about a foot wide from a 50 gallon drum and put it beside the front step to scrape the shoes on.) Just as she bent over, with her rear end right at the corner of the building, we kids came bounding around the corner cutting a wide berth so as to jump into the car. Mr. Billy also came around the house cutting a much shorter corner than we did. You guessed it ─ Bull’s Eye ─ he hit Golda with a shotgun like smack, dead center. It knocked her off balance, and being extremely obese, she rolled like a huge rubber ball ─ nearly the full length of the house. Mom ran out the back door in time to help Golda to her feet. We kids were laughing like fools. Although Mom tried very hard not to let it show, you could tell she wanted to laugh as much as we did. After the incident was over, even Golda enjoyed a good laugh at her own expense.

I started fourth grade without incident. However the teacher was a tall, large-boned woman who had a very stern way about herself and I was just a little bit afraid of her. I always went out of my way to be very polite to her and even to others whenever she was around. By this year (1932), we were deep into the heart of the depression era and money was very precious commodity. By the late fall, my shoes were badly worn. In fact, they were practically threadbare. I had put folded up pieces of cardboard in the bottoms to cover the holes in the soles. Dad had put half-soles on and they were worn out also. One night after school, the teacher, Miss Wilma Okerberg, told me to ask my mother if I could be late the next night. She did not say what she wanted and I just assumed she wanted me to help her clean the blackboards. Mom said it was alright.

When school was out the next evening, Miss Okerberg told me to get my coat. I reminded her she had asked me to stay late to help her. She then informed me we were going to town. Well, I was on Cloud Nine. No one ever went to town with a school teacher before, and for me to be the one she chose to take made me ─ the poor little kid from “Dog Patch” ─ feel very special. We went to town in another teacher’s car because it was raining and my teacher had no car. It was only four blocks from the school to the J. C. Penney store in downtown Newton, Kansas. It did not take long for me to realize it was me we were shopping for. When those two teachers took me home that night, I was wearing my first and only pair of black patent leather slippers. I never had anything but high-top shoes (clod hoppers) or plain brown oxfords with the thickest soles and heels available.

I was almost afraid to go home, because I was afraid I would have to give up my precious, beautiful, shining new shoes. I felt as if I would awaken and find it had all been a glorious dream. I made the man, who sold us those beautiful shoes, put my ragged old ones in a shoe box, so if I woke up and found I had dreamed, I would still have some shoes to wear. Needless to say, I was very careful to take good care of those shoes. You know something? That teacher never looked quite so stern to me after that and when I was polite to her from then on it was because I really liked her. I found her to be a good friend to the “poor little kid” who felt rich as could be, because she had a new friend. When school was out in May, I was sad to have to leave her.

One day, while in the fourth grade, Erma Androes and I were playing in the pear trees. Erma and I were “living” in one pear tree “apartment house,” in different “apartments.” My sister, Velma, and Linda Androes were “living” in another “apartment house.” Of course, our “apartment houses” were right next door to each other. We had parties, phone calls from friends, and were really having one grand time. I decided to go to the “neighborhood grocery” for some party refreshments to serve to our friends when they came over. I was taking the “elevator” (which was a jump to the ground instead of climbing down). When the “elevator” came to a stop on the ground floor, I landed smack on the tines of a garden rake someone had the audacity to leave on the “elevator floor.” Two tines ran almost clear through my foot. I screamed ─ Oh boy, did I scream! Mom and everyone else for blocks around came running to see who was murdering me. Virgil pulled the tines out of my foot and Dad poured the holes full of kerosene to kill the germs. You guessed it ─ another lesson in nursing and I had to stay home from school for a few days.

The summer of 1933 was when I got the measles. They were the big measles and not just the little three day ones. I never got very sick except for a day or two, but Mom made me stay in bed and ─ horror of horrors ─ I could not go outside. The window by my bed was darkened and Mom hung blankets around the bed curtain-style so it would stay dark to protect my eyes. I would sneak out of my blanket-walled “prison” every chance I got. One day while Mom was doing the washing outside and I was sneaking out of “jail,” Short started teasing me. I don’t remember exactly what it was she did, but I begged her to stop over and over again. She did not seem to care, that I had caught up to her in size, and could get the better of her. After some time of her teasing, I picked her up and threw her on the bed where she either rolled or bounced against the wall. She screamed and Mom came into the house. This was one time when Short got in trouble. Mom made her go outside and help with the washing.

I think this was about the last skirmish Short and I ever had. We were both growing up and it seemed Short grew up overnight. One day she was the worst pest a little sister ever had and the next day, she was a woman with lady ideas.

That fall, I entered the fifth grade, and the little girl in me was growing up. My teacher, Miss McPherson, treated each one of us kids as though we were her equal and this made us all feel very grown up. I was fast growing up in stature and was starting to look grown up as well. Miss McPherson was the first teacher I had who taught us with dignity. She read poetry to us. Almost every day she would say, “I was reading something last night and I want to share it with you.” Then, she would read us a poem. Maybe this is the root of my love for poetry and one of the nicest gifts I have ever received (and I have received many) is a notebook compiled by my beloved nephew, Dewey Donald Neufeld, of poetry he has collected over the years. I also received a book of poetry from my son, Sam (Michael Allen), and his wife, Tina.

It was some time during the latter part of 1933, when Owen Clarence Scott came to our house with my brothers. It did not take us long, to find out the man was loaded with musical talent. He played guitar, sang western songs and could yodel. I would sit and listen, until I nearly dropped off my chair from being sleepy. Sometimes his brother Clint would come with him and the two would harmonize. Somewhere during this time, Short fell in love with the “singin’ idol.” During this time, Owen taught me how to yodel. I would go out into the grove ─ climb a tree and practice. He was also the first person with whom I sang harmony, and here the roots of my love for western, country music sprouted into a growing plant.

The year of 1934 bloomed with a bang. Short and Owen Scott were married on April 7. My sister Ruth’s husband, Albert Leslie Brown, got sick and died very suddenly on April 29th. I had always been very fond of Albert and enjoyed the times when Mom would let me go out to the farm and spend a day or two. Albert had the patience of Job and when he went to the barn to milk, I would follow with a big tin cup. He would fill my cup with delicious, warm, milk. The foam on the top of the milk in my cup gave me a beautiful white moustache.

I loved Albert Brown almost as much as I did my father. When he died, it was terrible! It was a bad time for all of us. This was the first time in my life I saw my dad show serious emotion and the sight of my father’s grief nearly tore my heart from its moorings. He would walk the yard and wring his hands and cry. I was immature, so I had no idea what to say to comfort him. Short, Owen and Mom were with my sister Ruth who was expecting a baby just any day. (Alberta Mae Brown was born May 6, 1934.) Oh, yes, Dad suffered agony. I believe he really loved that son-in-law like a son. In fact, I think Dad was probably closer to Albert Brown, than he was to his own two sons. The summer of 1934 dragged by. After Albert died, Ruth moved to a house across the river from the park. It was not very far from where we lived, and although life had to go on ─ there were times when we kids had a lot of fun ─ there was an aura of sadness over all of us.

I spent a lot of time at my sister Ruth’s house that summer and she would take us kids over to the wading pool at Military Park. I would watch the little ones and we would splash and play while Ruth could have a little free time. It was not much, but it was all I could do for my oldest sister. Because of the difference in our ages, Ruth was more like an aunt than a sister to me, but I really looked up to her.

Just when everything seemed to be smoothing out, another tragedy struck our family. In August my grandfather, Thomas Walton May, whom I loved very much and who had spent so much time at our house had a stroke. It was a massive stroke and he lay in bed for many days. The summer was extremely hot. We had no electricity therefore, we had no cooling system such as air conditioning or even electric fans. Granddad was laid on an army cot near the door in our one-room house so any breeze which happened to blow would cool his hot, swollen face. We all took turns fanning him and wiping his face with cool, wet cloths. His tongue was so swollen he could not close his mouth. His lips were parched so he could hardly stand for us to touch them and he was having trouble breathing. I really cared for that old man! I would fan and sponge him until my arms ached. Then, I would hold my elbow in the other hand and go right on fanning. Everyone took turns, but poor Granddad just got worse. When the night of August 28th came, Mom sent Velma and I over to spend the night at Ruth’s house. Ruth went out to be with Mom and Dad. Sometime during the night Granddad passed away.

I started the sixth grade in September 1934. My teacher, Dorthea Welch, was a husky woman of about 200 pounds. She was a very good teacher and I enjoyed her class very much. I was five foot, five inches tall by this time and the boys were starting to look at me twice. One boy who sat behind me, Kenneth Altman, was always trying to get my attention, but I could not stand him. His eyes were always half closed, so I nicknamed him “Sleepy.” Soon all the kids were calling him by his new name. I did not have common sense enough to even use just a little tact. One day, as the class was on the way down the steps, he stuck his foot between my legs from behind. I did a complete somersault, striking the back of my head on the corner of the newel post which had an iron square on the top. I was knocked cold and split the back of my head open. Miss Welch bathed my face with cold water, bringing me back to consciousness. She cut the hair from around the wound and put a bandage on it. Then, she sent me home with a girl friend to accompany me.

Another incident happened during my sixth grade year. I was coming home from school one day and seeing we had company, I ran down the hill taking a short cut. I took a fall down a ravine where some broken glass was at the bottom. I got a nasty cut on my knee cap and my knee swelled terribly. My leg got stiff and I had to miss a couple of days of school.

Spring 1935, Wow! the excitement was overwhelming. First of all, Short was having a baby. On March 31st Mom sent me over to Ruth’s again. It seemed every time something “exciting” was about to happen, I was sent away somewhere. Short was ready. From what Mom told me, Short nearly died, but Mom prayed and Doctor Martin worked with her and she survived. She had the most beautiful baby girl I had ever seen and I wanted to get my hands on her so bad. My motherly instincts wanted to blossom, but I was treated like a two-year-old child. Every time I got close to that sweet little baby, I would reach down to touch her and someone would scream at me not to touch the baby. I wanted so much just to hold her close to me and cuddle her. Maybe this is why I have always had a special place in my heart for this girl, Shirley Ann Scott, Partridge, Leonard.

In April of 1935, Ruth told us she was moving to Missouri. I never will forget the day she left. The car was so full of things one wondered where the kids sat, but they managed somehow. I never did know how long it took her to get to her destination, but I would like to know. In August, Mom, Dad, Virgil, Velma and I decided to put the rest of Ruth's things on a 2-wheel trailer and take it to her. Velma and I were the only young ones left at home and we went on that journey of journeys. It was the trip to end all trips ─ especially for someone who had never been more than 25 or 30 miles from home.

We drove all day, only stopping for gas and oil, and to eat the food Mom had packed picnic-style or use the bathroom. When night came, we stopped at a service station somewhere in Missouri. We parked a little ways from the station. Mom laid supper out on a blanket. Dad made a fire and brewed some coffee. After supper, Velma and I went exploring along the dry river bed. We found pretty rocks, we imagined we could see wild animals and all kinds of things. This was one of the most fun trips I have ever taken. Maybe because I had finally got to the place where Mom was treating me like a grown up. There was no longer any sibling rivalry between Short and me and I enjoyed being treated like a person.

We were on our way again the next day and I do not know what road we finally ended up on, but we were going on a graveled road. Virgil was driving up a steep hill when the brakes gave out. The car started rolling backwards down the hill. Mom was yelling, “Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” However, Virgil quite adeptly turned the car so the trailer went into the ditch and stopped the car. Dad walked to a little town to get new brake shoes. Mom told Virgil to stay with the car. She, Velma and I crawled up the other side of the ditch, went through a barbed wire fence, across a field and through a little cemetery to go visit a little old lady Mom knew and figured she had died and hadn’t. When we went through that cemetery, we nearly had to bury Velma as she was scared half to death. After visiting awhile, we made the return trek ─ through the cemetery, across the field, under the fence and across the ditch to where Dad and Virgil had the car almost ready to go. By the time we were back to the car, I think Velma was fit to be tied. Once through a cemetery was bad enough, but twice was just about more than a little girl of eight could stand.

We were soon on our way again and before long we were at Ruth’s house. We had a very pleasant visit with Ruth and the kids. It was nice to see them after the months they had been gone.

On the way back to Kansas, we went to visit a family Mom and Dad had known for years. It was the Kohrmann family. Laura Kohrmann was one of Mom’s very best friends and she insisted we stay the night. When supper was on the table, there were two of everything on that big, long table. There were huge bowls of potatoes, two of the biggest platters of fried chicken I have ever seen. There were two huge platters of roasting ears. There were sliced tomatoes and platters of ham. I cannot tell you everything they had on that table, but it was loaded. There was a smaller table with just about every kind of pie you could imagine. Then, when supper was over, Mrs. Kohrmann remarked, “Minnie, if I would have known you were coming, I would have made something special.”

There were lots of things in these beautiful hills to impress a young girl who was just blooming into womanhood, and one of these impressions was a young man. It seems he was a little older than I, and drew quite a bit of my attention. Another thing which stands out in my memory about the Kohrmann visit, was the grape arbor out in front of the house. The grapes were in the largest clusters ever and were just ready to eat. Every time Mom came looking for me, she found me in the grape arbor eating grapes and talking to the good looking son of our hosts.

Another thing which struck me as strange about this visit, was a lady, we called her a girl, who sat in a dark room rocking in an old, high-back rocker. I know there must have been windows in that room, but it was so dark; it was like a dungeon. I had never seen a mentally disturbed person before and being in the nineteen thirties, the only word I had ever heard used for a person of this type was “crazy.” This was the way we kids referred to her. The poor girl was not dangerous. She would never hurt anyone. She would not even talk, but she could scream. If someone did something she did not like, she would scream so loud it made you think she may be dangerous. Then, about once or twice a day, if you did not watch her, she would go out to the grape arbor and pump the well. She did not try to get a drink or anything else, she just pumped. Sometimes, if they did not catch her in time, she would pump it dry, so they had to keep an eye on her. I had no fear of her whatsoever, but my little sister Velma was terrified every time she saw her. Everyone said the poor girl had lost her mind over some incident in her past. However, after studying psychology as I have and knowing what I do today, I know the term is “apathetic,” not “crazy.” Today, we would try to help her, rather than just ignore her condition as psychology has made great strides in the last 45 years, there really is hope now where then there was none ─ how sad.

The next day was Sunday and I do not recall going to Sunday School with the Kohrmann family, but I do remember after church, the entire community gathered at one home for a basket dinner in the yard. They set up “tables” made of saw horses and doors. These were covered with white clothes (either tablecloths or sheets). Everyone brought a basket or two of food, and this was the first church dinner I can remember attending as a youngster.

I remember going to this little town where Dad was born (Tea, Missouri) and I remember stopping in front of a big, open, garage-like building where a man was working under a big spreading tree. I thought of the poem we had learned in school called, “The Village Blacksmith,” which says, “. . . under the spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stood!” I remember thinking the poem must have been written about this man and place. The man was Newt (Newton T.) Blackwell and I did not know him, but Dad and Virgil were very glad to see him. Although he did not personally impress me, I remember thinking to myself, “Dad had not laughed this much in all of his life,” or at least the part of his life I had known. It sure sounded good to someone who laughed without provocation. When I think of it ─ I do not remember ever hearing him laugh like that again.

About the only other thing about the trip which struck in my memory was when we came to the top of this really high hill. We coasted down to the bottom where there was a little wooden bridge. Another steep hill was on the other side and there was a house with a big porch. Dad stopped at the bottom on the bridge. He, Mom and Virgil walked up to the house. I thought it was a store, because when the folks came back they had food for the return trip home. I know now it was the home of some folks Mom and Dad had known and worked for many years ago, before they moved to Kansas.

The rest of the trip was uneventful ─ except we could not camp out on the way home, because it rained and we had to drive all night and it seemed we were never going to get home. Seeing the world after dark, with the rain wet road shining in the dim head lights of the Model T sedan, and the spookiness of the shadows which passed by at the side of the road with silence made it seem like a scene from a silent movie mystery.

During the early spring of 1935, I was asked to do a dramatic reading for a meeting of the Townsend Club. This was a forerunner of Social Security. They were having meetings to get people to decide if they wanted to form a group to have some sort of retirement plan. I was “ham” through and through, so I went. I did a skit which was appropriate to the occasion and it went over with a bang. I was asked to do another which I did. After the entertainment part of the program was over and the older folks were in discussion and lecture, some of the young folks wanted to go out to the airport to take a ride in a “big” airplane. They asked me to go too and I said I did not have any money (the fare was fifty cents each). This young man whom I had just been introduced to that very day, told Margie Box he would like to take me as his guest. Margie asked me so, of course, I went. This “big” airplane was about a 15 or 16 passenger plane and it truly was a big plane for the day. We went up and rode all around Newton and tried to pick out places we knew. It sure was a thrill in more ways than one; my first date was also my first airplane ride.

This young man (Lester Koeneman) and I were soon dating steady once a week. Every Saturday night, we would go some place. Sometimes it was to a movie, or to someone’s house for a square dance party. Then, on Sunday afternoon, he would come to call and we would spend the afternoon either going riding or just visiting. He always treated me like a lady and never once tried to get smart or make a pass. In fact, one Saturday night we were all out at the Box’s house for a dance party. As we were all in game one of the guests, Truman Fisher, who was Mrs. Box’s brother, as his turn came to be my partner in a “do ce do,” took my hands in his and immediately scratched me in the palm of my hand. I jerked my hand out of his and slapped his face with a slap that echoed over the whole room, music and all. You see, Mom had told me when a boy scratched a girl in the palm, he was asking for sex except she did not use that word. (In fact, no one did in those days.) Well, I went right on dancing, but refused to partner with Truman. After the party was over, Virgil, Les and I went to take Les’s sister back to Goessel where she was a registered nurse. Virgil made me tell him what had happened and the next day he and Les both went looking for Truman. Needless to say, that was the last party he ever came to.

I did not go with Lester Koeneman very long ─ maybe six months. In August of 1934, a new family moved into our neighborhood and little by little, this family of nine boys got better looking. Mom only knew there was a big family of boys. Neighborhood gossips had said these people were all strange. The boys were hoodlums and the mother went to church on Saturday instead of Sunday. Mom was determined her girls (namely me) would not have anything to do with any of these wild boys. The first time a car load of those wild boys drove by, my friend Erma Androes, my cousin Esther Brainard and I were walking down the road. This was in the summer of ’35, they stopped to ask if we wanted to ride. Thinking myself quite grown up and very worldly-wise, I threw my head back and quite haughtily remarked, “Oh, go to Hell!” Then with the three of us giggling, and me feeling oh so proud of myself, we walked on down the road towards home. Many years later, my husband told me that he, as the driver of the car had remarked to his brothers, “Someday, I’m going to marry that girl.” However, it was sometime before we managed to get married.

Meanwhile, I was beginning to enjoy being around boys. With two brothers who played the harmonica and one of them also playing the guitar, and a brother-in-law who sang beautifully, and with a Mom and Dad who had been good dancers when young, it was only natural one of their girls would be a dancer. I must have inherited my love for dancing, because music always gives me “itchy feet.” Long before I was allowed to go to dances when Virgil and Owen (Scott) got to playing and singing, Virgil would get up ─ still playing his harp (as we called the harmonica) and put one arm around me and I would put my arm around him and hold the elbow of his arm that held the harp. We would dance, until the floor of our one-room house literally shook. Many times, we would dance like this to Virgil’s accompaniment. Sometimes, Virgil or Earl would take me to barn dances and I soon became quite adept at square dancing, round dancing and waltzing. I was extremely happy when one of my brothers would ask me to go to a dance, because I could not go otherwise.

I learned to roller skate and there was a new rink built in Newton. Velma and I went every Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Sometimes, Mom would let us go to a show, only when we went to the show we had to go at night. We would walk to the show, because it was not dark yet, but Mom would not let us walk home alone in the dark, so we would have to take a taxi cab home. We got into the show for ten cents each and it cost us fifteen cents to ride home in the cab. Believe me, as I look back, I realize how hard it must have been for Mom to let us have the fifty cents which allowed us to have popcorn or pop for treats.

During the fall of 1935, one of those “awful” Partridge boys (Henry Thomas “Hank”) asked me for a date. Much to my surprise, Mom let me go. My friend Erma Androes double dated with another of the brothers (John William “Bill”), and for about six months, me and Henry and Erma and Bill were an inseparable foursome. When spring (1936) came, the four of us started to go to Wichita one Saturday night to a show. Henry and I had a spat a couple of days before and he was acting rather odd this night, so we never did get to the show in Wichita. We drove back to Newton and stopped in front of the old Star Theater. Before anyone knew what was happening, Henry jumped out of the car and went into the theater. Bill, Erma and I sat in the car talking for awhile and in the course of the conversation I remarked I sure like to see the show that was coming to the Rex Theater on Tuesday, called “Horse Feathers” with the four Marx Brothers. We waited for quite some time for Henry to return and when he did not come back, we went home.

Tuesday evening I just happened to be outside the back door brushing my teeth, when Bill went home from work. He waved to me and I waved back. Shortly afterward, Bill’s younger sister, Mary Ann, came down on Bill’s bicycle and said Bill wanted to take me to see the show I wanted to see. We went out to the old Model T which had lost it’s right door to where Mom was reading her Bible. I asked the great question and you would have thought I had committed a cardinal sin. Mom had the idea if you went with one brother, you were not to go with another brother of the same family. However, I was very persuasive, and finally she gave in and I had a date with the boy I would end up marrying two years later. It may not have been love at first sight, but it surely was love at first date. That date was a very memorable occasion.

Bill’s mother was a quick tempered, fast tongued, little, Indian woman and was very afraid her boys were going to get in with the wrong friends. She sent Mary Ann along on the date with us as a chaperone. We walked into the theater and I went into a seat while Mary Ann slid in beside me leaving Bill to sit next to the aisle. He was extremely shy and did not know how to go about telling her to sit on the other side of me. Soon he sent her to the lobby to get some popcorn and while she was gone, he moved over into the seat next to me. From that moment on, he and I were a “close corporation,” and although life was to bring us a few years of problems we were so much in love we could not be separated. Bill’s shyness was a living situation and it was there to stay. We dated for several months and in trying to break us up, his mother even sent him to Colorado, to stay with his grandmother and grandfather Ruick. You see, in the spring of 1936, Short and Owen had split up and she was back home and pregnant again. Bill’s uncle had come to Kansas, and he became quite fond of Short. Since Short had one child by now, Mrs. Partridge sure did not want her baby brother tangling with this ex-married lady with a child. The many miles that were put between us for a few months could not keep us apart. We wrote constantly and then Bill came back leaving his uncle in Colorado, which pleased his mother very much.

We had been going together for several months, when one night we were walking home from a movie. Bill had got a job at Warren Motor Company, when he came home from Colorado, and the day of the night in question, he had found a bottle of fingernail polish in a used car he was working on and he had given it to me at the movie. I had no pocket in my dress, so I asked him to keep it, until we got home. There was a full moon and when we got to the corner of the yard, we stood and talked a few minutes and then Bill started home. I went around the corner of the house and answered the call of nature. Just as I was starting to go into the house, I saw Bill coming up the drive. I went to meet him and he handed me the bottle of polish, saying he had forgotten to take it out of his pocket. As he handed the bottle to me, he leaned over and kissed me on the cheek, then turned and ran all the way home (2 blocks). I stood there absolutely stunned, until I saw him go under the street light near his home before I went inside to bed. That was the first time he had ever even tried to kiss me. The next day he could hardly look at me. However, he soon got over that and our love grew stronger day by day.

We loved to roller skate and went nearly every night.

The winter of 1937 was a rough one. The ice and snow was so deep and hard, many kids wore ice skates and skated to school. We did lots of fun things. One Sunday, the sun came out after a big blizzard, then the rain had frozen on top of the snow making it just right to ice skate on everywhere. The Partridge boys, and I guess just about all the kids in the neighborhood had skates, so we rounded up a bunch of sleds and went over to the grove behind the house. There was a long hill right in the middle of the grove with a slope just right for sleds and skates. We played all day on the ice with the girls riding the sleds and the boys pushing. When we were all tuckered out, we disbanded and went home to a hot meal.

I always loved the outdoors, and from the time I was big enough to hang onto the end of a cross-cut saw, I helped Dad cut wood. The boys had already gone and I was all he had left to help. I could split a block of wood as good as a man.

We had a cow and when spring came, I spent many hours at the end of a 50 foot rope letting her graze along the Inter-urban tracks where the grass was always taller and greener. I spent many summer days and even evenings after school, sitting on the tracks reading while our cow feasted on the luscious grass. I read many books while I was playing cowgirl. One morning, quite early, I had just taken the cow out and she was acting very strange. I had heard Dad mention to Mom he would take the cow some place that very night, but I did not know where, or why. I had just sat down on the tracks, when Bossy took off with me on the end of the rope. I ran as fast as I could and then stumbled and fell, when we were about four blocks from home. I hung on to the rope, until she nearly dragged my knees and elbows off, and my dress was filthy and torn in several places, before I let go of that infernal rope. I followed her to a house about two blocks farther away. The man came out and told me to leave her there and have my dad come after her that night. He put her in a pen with a bull and I went home as mad as a fruitcake. I thought that man was going to keep my friend, Bossy. Oh, for the naiveté of the youth in my day!

No, I did not spend many hours in the house when I was growing up. I was running races, playing baseball, swimming, walking or just anything to keep me outside. I had cheeks which looked like they had been painted and lips which certainly needed no coloring, and all this on a background of a peaches and cream complexion. I never thought of doing anything to make myself pretty. When I got up, winter or summer, the first thing I did was wash my face and hands in cold water; in winter this can be quite shocking. I never had black- heads and it was several years after I was married, before I as much as even used a lipstick more than just to try it out. Now, I know the cold water wash tightened the pores so dirt could not get in to cause blackheads.

In the spring of 1937, just about two weeks before school (eighth grade) was out, Mom went to Missouri, to be with my sister Ruth, when she had her baby (Opal Agnes Brown born June 25). Short was home with Shirley and Marilyn Kay, who had just been born on April 9th and Ida was home with her husband Herb (Herbert Arthur) Neufeld. Mom sent me to Little River, Kansas, to stay with Golda and Charlie ─ my older sister and her husband. Most of the time, Golda and I got along O.K., but once in awhile we would clash. One day, after I had been there long enough to be homesick, we had a real clash. Bill came up that day, driving his brother Jack’s car since Jack had taken his mother and her little kids to Colorado to see her mother in his dad’s car.

We drove into Lyons and on the way back I remarked to Bill, “For two cents I’d go back home with you.” He reached into his pocket and took out two pennies and handed them to me. We went to Newton. When we got to my home, Ida and all of the family met me at the car and said Velma had the mumps and I could not stay. I said I did not care, I was not going back. We rode uptown and as we were on the way home, we saw Charlie’s car coming up the road. Bill and I took off. We drove to the far side of the grove and watched, until we saw their car leave, then went home the back way without any lights.

Golda wrote to Mom in Missouri, telling her I had run away to get married. Mom wrote home in a tizzy not knowing if I was at home or not. I answered her letter saying I had only come home because Golda and I could not get along ─ that I did not intend to run away and when I was ready to get married, she would be the first to know. From that day on, Mom trusted me completely and we got along fine. Mom never once accused me of doing wrong. She had us in Sunday School all our lives and I cannot speak for the other girls, but I would have died before I would have done anything to break her trust.

That summer was the only time in my life my dad ever sat me down and talked to me about life and Mom never did before I was married. It was like this, with Mom away at Ruth’s, Dad felt it was his duty to say something to me since I was the only single daughter left besides Velma and she was only ten years old. You see, my cousin who was only eight months older than me came up pregnant. Of course, in those days, this was a big disgrace, so Dad proceeded to perform an embarrassing chore. He said, “I suppose you know about the mess your cousin has gotten into?” I said, “Yes, I know.” Then Dad went on, “Well, I’m not going to scold or preach, I’m just going to say that your ’mammy’ has taught you right from wrong and we both trust you, so if you get yourself in that kind of mess, don’t expect any sympathy from us.” That’s all he said, but when he got through I felt as though I had listened to a sermon and I assured him he need not worry about it, because I was not going to do anything to get myself in trouble. It was not long afterward Mom came home and we sure were glad to get back into a normal routine. This gave me an insight into what life would be like if Mom were to die and leave us alone. Needless to say, it really made me appreciate my mother even more.

After Marilyn (Kay Scott-Partridge) was born on April 9, 1937, Short got a job at the old White Swan Laundry. Although the work was hard and the pay was small, so was the cost of living. While Mom was in Missouri, and after I came home from Golda’s, we were invited to one of the Neufeld girls wedding. I cannot remember if it was a double wedding or not, but it seems as though it was. At any rate, Short and I did not have a dress to wear, so Short bought enough dotted Swiss to make us each a dress. Her dress was white with tiny blue dots and mine was white with tiny yellow dots. They were made just alike and were ankle length with a flounce (ruffle) from the knees down and was cut up to a point about mid-thigh in front and down to a point about mid-calf in back. They fit well and we looked as nice as anyone at that huge wedding. Short also bought each of us a pair of white, high-heeled shoes. Wow! Were we ever snazzy!

In August of 1937 ─ just a month before my fifteenth birthday ─ I got a job at the White Swan Laundry where Short worked. It was one of the hottest jobs I have ever had, but I was young and very strong and I loved it. I started at the big wage of 17 cents an hour. In about 30 days, I got a penny raise. I was wallowing in money. I bought material and Mom made me some new dresses. I bought shoes. I bought the first tailor-made slips and panties I had ever had. I had no need for bras, so I never got any of those. Before Christmas, I got another penny raise. I was now up to 19 cents per hour and really feeling rich. I saw the prettiest little, bright yellow snow suit that was about the right size for Ruth’s little girl, Alberta, so I bought it. Short bought some things and Mom put some things in and sent Ruth and her kids a box for Christmas. It made me feel so good to be able to help and I was crazy about yellow. It really made me feel bad that I had not asked about colors before I bought it, when Mom told me Ruth did not like the color yellow.

When Bill was working at Warren Motor Company, he got me the first radio we ever had in our house. It was a console model that was powered by a car battery which sat on the floor beneath the radio. When Dad found out about it, he threw a fit. He said he was not having one of those things in our home. It was not long, until Dad was right beside the radio, when the news came on.

We worked from eight o'clock in the morning, until five o'clock in the afternoon and sometimes, until six or seven o’clock in the evening. Then, Bill would pick me up and I would go home, change clothes, eat supper and go skating most of the time. We would skate until midnight, get up at six A.M. and go back to work. But I never missed a day of work the whole time I worked there.

Short was a seamstress as far back as I can remember. One night that winter, after we got off work, she went to the apartment of one of the ladies who worked with us to do some sewing for her. Short had been divorced for a year or so and was dating Jack Lee Partridge. Jack was the oldest boy of those “awful” Partridges and my Bill was the second oldest. With Short and I dating brothers, we doubled dated most of the time. It had been snowing all day and during the evening it was coming down harder than ever. Bill, Jack and I drove Bill’s car to town to pick up Short about nine o’clock. We started home and when we were about a half mile from home, we were driving alongside the Inter-urban tracks which ran down the middle of the street. Then suddenly we hit a drift and could go no farther. We had hit a drift where the snowplow had shoved snow off the tracks. We got out of the car and walked home. By the time we got there, we were nearly frozen. The next morning there was about three feet of fresh soft snow on everything. No cars were running except for a very few on Main Street. The sun came out, but the world was so quiet and still and very beautiful.

Short stayed home from work and Mom tried to talk me into staying home too. However, I was afraid I would lose my job, so I put on some long-handled underwear and overalls of Dad’s. I put on an extra sweater under my coat and two pairs of mittens, and tied a wool scarf about my head. I walked the mile and a half to work, sometimes wading through snowdrifts hip deep. Being a lover of the outdoors, I was stupid enough to think I was having fun. I really did enjoy it. When I got to work, no one was there. I went across the street to the pharmacy and got a cup of coffee. I called the boss at his home to see if he intended to come in and he said he would be there as soon as he could get out, so I waited. After awhile, here came my Bill, walking all the way to town just to see if I made it or not. He had come down to our house and Mom told him I had gone, so he followed my footsteps all the way to town, just to make sure I had not stumbled and fallen into a drift. If I had not already fallen in love with this wonderful person, I certainly would have then.

It was on Christmas 1937 that we became engaged. The only thing we could afford was F. W. Woolworth “diamonds,” so that is what we got for starters. Christmas eve 1937 will live in my heart and mind forever. Our “gang” had gone skating until midnight. We then went to Charleston’s Market which was the only thing open in town and got popcorn, apples and stuff to make fudge. We proceeded on to our house and woke the folks up. The boys got Dad into a hot card game while some of us popped corn and others made fudge. We had a ball, until sometime about three A.M., when Dad decided to go back to bed. Some of us decided to go Christmas caroling. Several of us piled into Bill’s little 1928 Whippet car and off we went, singing at the top of our lungs. We drove all over town with the windows rolled down while we sang. We were so packed into that little car, we could not get cold. We finally ended up on West Broadway as far out of town as it went, where we ran out of gas. We all got out except my Bill and we pushed while Bill steered the car the rest of the way home (which was probably close to a mile) where we disbanded and each went his separate way to go to his own home and to bed. I think this was about the last big escapade we had. The winter went by with only the usual happenings, skating, movies, and work. We worked hard and played hard and enjoyed every minute of both.

Very early in the year 1938 a new 5 & 10 cent store went into business in Newton to give F. W. Woolworth’s a little competition. I loved to browse through the store and one evening after work, Bill and I were looking around in there when we saw this beautiful, long, white satin dress. Well, I fell in love with it and Bill did too. We made a down payment on the dress and had it “laid away.” The total price was $12.95 and with me making only 19 cents an hour and Bill making $1.00 a day working for his Dad, there was no way we could pay cash. The lady said I could pay what I could, then pay it out a little each week. I made the ridiculously high payment of $1.00 down and my lovely dress was assured. Sometimes, I only paid her fifty cents a week, but about a month before the wedding, when I got laid off from my job, I only owed $2.00 on the dress and the white, high-heeled shoes I had put own layaway. Bill paid the final two dollars and I took my treasure home with me. We had no certain date set for a wedding.

I did not know what to do and no one offered any help towards making plans, so we just waited, until we made up our minds and one Saturday afternoon that was it. We paid a month’s rent on an apartment. During the week, we took our clothes to the apartment and kept only enough at our respective homes to exist on. The next Saturday afternoon, my brother Albert Earl, his wife Lois (Olmstead), Bill and I drove to Wichita to get the license. Because I was not quite sixteen and Bill was not quite twenty, they would not issue the license without our parent’s consent, so we went back home. Bill got his mother and dad to sign a consent paper. My mom was not home so Bill and Earl got Dad a bottle of beer (which Dad didn’t drink very often) and then asked him to sign which he did. We went back to Wichita to the Judge’s house where Earl and Bill went in and to get the license ($3.00). By this time, it was quite late (about 9:30 P.M., so we went back home.

Sunday morning I got up and went to Sunday School as usual. After church was over, I went home. After dinner Earl, Lois, Bud Collins, some of Bill’s younger brothers and sisters, and Bill and I went over to our apartment. The guys went to get a preacher. Since Bill went to the Seventh Day Adventist Church sometimes, they went there first. This was when, we found out the man who preached at that church was not an ordained preacher and could not marry us. They came home and we wondered what we were going to do next. Finally, I told them to go get Pastor Safford from the Assembly of God Church where I went to church. They returned with Pastor C. W. Safford and his associate, Jess Jackson. At six o'clock on the evening of June 19, 1938 (Father’s Day), Bill and I took the vows that were to seal our love for eternity. There was no formality. There was no reception, no rice throwing and no honeymoon. The depression was still in progress and no one, but the rich, could afford such things. We went to church and after the service was over returned to our new home.

We were both so shy! We sat up until it was quite late. Neither one of us wanted to be the first to go to bed. Finally, I said I was going to take a bath and went into the bathroom. Bill sat in the living room. After my bath, I got into one of the two nightgowns Mom had made for me as a wedding gift. The only thing wrong with that nightgown was it was so thin (like baby dresses were made of) you could see right through it. I had no robe, so how was I to get down that hall, past the living room door and into the bedroom without him seeing me? I thought and thought about my situation. Finally, I wrapped a towel around me, ran down the hall to the bedroom and jumped into bed so quick it was really funny. After quite awhile, Bill came into the bedroom and just sat on the edge of the bed. He just could not force himself to take off his pants. By this time, I was quite “safe” all snuggled down under the sheet. Being a natural born tease and feeling secure in my snug bed, I started teasing that poor, shy boy until he finally turned off the light and took his pants and shirt off and crawled into bed. He laid as far to the side of the bed as he could get, while I laid rigid on my own side of the bed ─ worried sick and wondering what I would say if he wanted to make love. Yes, I am proud to say I was a virgin when I got married, and it was two weeks before my bashful husband gave me my first lesson in married life. By that time, neither one of us was so shy.

The night after we were married, the young folks we ran with decided we should be “shiv-a-reed.” They came to our apartment and borrowed a key from the landlord. When we realized what was going on, we crawled under the drop-side, couch bed in the living room. They nearly missed us, however, as a last minute thing, one of the boys raised the side of the couch bed and thinking the light gray plaid pants Bill had on was a suitcase dropped the side. Then he did a double-take, raised the side again and calmly said, “Come on out you guys.” We crawled out and they proceeded to put us in an old, rickety trailer and hauled us up and down the streets yelling like crazy and honking horns. They then, took us home where we had some light refreshments.

We were like a couple of kids playing house. We had a lot of fun. The folks from the Seventh Day Adventist Church gave us a lovely shower and we got many nice things for our home.

Life went on from day to day with the average amount of tiffs. Bill was outrageously jealous, but I only had eyes for him, so he really need not have been. It was not but about a month after our marriage, until I got pregnant and finished my carefree days of youth in exchange for the responsibility of motherhood.

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