Wednesday, November 04, 2009

random memories

My sister, the little girl who was five years old when my parents married, is still alive and well. She's on her way to spend the winter in Texas, as usual.
If you've been following my mom's story, you've seen what utter poverty my parents lived in. Hard to imagine, really, even for me. Because by the time I came along, they had moved up in the world. Oh, we were still lower-income; but we never had to worry about what we were going to eat; and Mother and Daddy started acquiring a few things they had not previously been able to afford. My sister told me, this past summer, the reason for our new-found prosperity.
Somewhere in the 194o's, Mother started wallpapering for extra income. Maxine was old enough to help (knowing her, she was old enough to help when she was five, but I digress). Daddy would stay home and take care of the switchboard while Maxine and Mother went paperhanging.
My sister listed several things acquired with this extra income: a new couch, a living room carpet, an Electrolux vacuum sweeper. They were living high on the hog!
Mother was still wallpapering for people after I came along, and I sometimes did the job of applying wallpaper paste onto the paper with a brush. I rather liked doing it, although I got tired of it if we spent a long day at it. If I close my eyes and think hard, I can still smell the wallpaper paste.

Mother had hundreds of friends and talked on the phone a lot, much to Daddy's dismay. I'm sure this picture was taken after she'd spent a hard day in the factory; notice the feet propped on a chair.
After we moved to Kansas City in 1955, Mother got a full-time job, so the only paperhanging she did was for herself... oh, and for some old man who had several rental houses. Let's face it, after spending eight hours a day on your feet in a chandelier factory and keeping the home fires burning, there isn't a lot of time and energy left for much else.
Another random memory: Mother told me that some relatives made fun of her, early in her marriage, for buying toilet paper; this was back when most people used old Sears and Wards catalogues as toilet paper. They laughed at her, she said, for spending money for something just to wipe her.... well, you know.
Reading this last installment of my mom's story and seeing how dirt-poor they were, I found myself wondering what Daddy did about his smoking habit. They had to pool their money to get three cents to buy yeast, so how would they afford cigarettes? Daddy rolled his own, which I'm sure was cheaper; still, did he have to do without smokes when things were that tough? By the time I came on the scene, he was practically a chain smoker. He quit the habit before we moved to the city in 1955. Perhaps not soon enough, since he still died of lung cancer, as did two of his brothers.
Mother mentioned her hope chest: I still have that, although it isn't in the best condition. Her dad made it for her out of walnut lumber when she was a girl. I was going to take a picture for my blog, but it's at the bottom of a stack of boxes.  
Added in 2015:  My cousin Pauline and her husband took the chest off my hands and made it like a new one again.  Click HERE to read about that, and see a picture.

One thing to keep in mind while reading my mom's autobiography: she wrote all this in 1996. So add thirteen years to any ages you see mentioned. Mother died in 2004. She would be absolutely delighted to know so many people are enjoying her story.


Anonymous said...

Hi Donna...your Mom made hard times seem almost good times...what an outlook she had!!! hugs...Ora may not have acquired her "cleaning" gene...but you did acquire her way of looking life in the face!!!

Lindie said...

What a hard time they had and I admire how they handled it. When my mother talked about the depression up in western Canada, I don't think they had such a hard time, but she was a little girl and maybe she didn't know. They had a garden and normally a chicken dinner every Sunday.

Sugar said...

i remember the old 'sears tp', lol.
i used it when we'd visit my granddad, he had an outhouse. :)
his shower was set up outside, you'd fill sev buckets of water from the well, then poor them over yourself. in winter time, he had a tub set up inside to fill & bathe, then you had to empty it. lots of work, just to get clean. lol

Jess said...

I have been reading, but not commenting...but today I wanted to tell you that this has really brought back so much to me. My grandparents would sit around and talk about these times and I was so intrigued....and some of it I had thank you so much for sharing this and stirring up so many wonderful memories.

Love, Jess

Hyperblogal said...

These posts are indeed very interesting... the history of day to day life is often more interesting than the really big events.

madcobug said...

I am glad that they moved up in the world and had things easier even though it was a lot of hard work for them. I am glad that you and your sister has it much easier. Helen

Karrie said...

I would like to invite you to join my recipe swap on Nov. 13 if you get a spare moment please swing by I would love for you to join!

Debbie said...

Maybe your Dad smoked or chewed tobacco right out of the barn like many others did in those days. I remember Dad telling us when he was a boy they'd smoke bark from grapevines and hemp being raised to make rope. We laughed about the hemp because he said he never recalled getting high off of smoking it. I've also heard they smoked cornsilks back then.

I don't think any of us can grasp how hard it must of been in those days.

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

I had been wondering if that was the sister in Texas with all that grapefruit you get to enjoy. The good old catalog sure was made good use of. My grandparents always had one in their outhouse too. I remember what a treat it was to have the real stuff. They were always happy and never seemed to want more so I guess that is what counts.

Lori said...

It really is like sitting down and listening to your mother tell her story. My mom was always a good paper hanger, and I always hated it. To this day I will not have wallpaper in my home (some borders, maybe, but no paper). The only time I tried helping her hang paper I absolutely hated it. It's paint for me.

Robbie said...

Your mother's work ethic is admirable!

Robbyn said...

Oh Donna, I just read this whole series your mother wrote, and then your series of posts reflecting on wonderful and familiar! My own grandparents had similar experiences, so many of her details were so like theirs as well, right down to being in the Church of Christ and an emphasis on right living, and by today's standards their being dirt poor...though I think they were rich in a lot of ways we've lost today. Thank you so much for putting this on your blog! I don't get much time to stop in, but every time I do, it's such a delight! Have a wonderful holiday season :)