Friday, June 18, 2010

Butterflies and Memories Part 2

Butterfly on Abelia, 2009

Although I am unsure of the exact date, but probably in the summer of 1942, we moved to Albuquerque after my father went to Grand Junction, CO. Other than remembering that we came on the Trailways bus, I don't remember anything about the trip, nor of moving into the furnished house at 706 N. Second St. (now disappeared forever, along with many blocks surrounding it, to make way for big banks and other commercial buildings.)  The address, 706, placed the corner lot on which the red brick house stood at seven blocks north of Central Avenue, or Route 66, which was the "Main Street" of Albuquerque.  Mama's place of employment was also on Second Street, probably in about the 300 block, so it was very well placed so that she could walk to and from work.

 About all I remember of the house itself was that it had a few steps leading up to an open front porch, a living room which contained a piano (to our delight), probably a couple of bedrooms (although I remember only one), a kitchen, bathroom, and back porch.

 The bedroom that I remember contained a brass bed with a tall headboard. That bed is where I spent a great many days during my "Childhood Illness" about which I wrote at length last year.

My memories of "706" are somewhat limited, probably due to my being so sick most of the time we lived there.  But, I wasn't sick the entire time, and the memory butterflies have left me with a few snapshots.

At some time after moving from Las Vegas, we must have acquired a "wringer" washing machine, which was housed on the back porch.  I was too young to participate in the laundry process, other than probably hauling dirty clothes to the machine, but I do remember that I was fascinated by the wringer.  So much so that, at age 8, I considered it an appropriate instrument of punishment for the younger sister who simply would not mind me when I told her to do something. This torture (as she now describes it), which was applied only once, was to have her hand and arm inserted into the turning wringer until she agreed to comply.  I thought it was a dandy way to bring about cooperation, but she squealed on me, and my mother applied suitable persuasion upon another region of my body, which compelled me to abandon the practice.

It was in the yard of this home that I first explored smoking.  Real tobacco not being available in our house, my friend Helen and I discovered that Rabbit Tobacco, which grew in profusion, could be picked, dried, crumbled and rolled up in toilet paper to create a substitute cigarette.  This practice was not long continued because my father, upon one of his visits to Albuquerque from Colorado, caught us.

Another memory is of my mother's "Jewel Tea" dishes.  Jewel Tea dishes were a free gift, or at least of very low cost, that came with the purchase of Watkins products, such as vanilla, spices, and other food stuffs.  Watkins products were personally delivered to one's home by "the Watkins Man" who drove a small commercial van with "Watkins" emblazoned on the side.  I suppose Mama had been buying Watkins products for some time, for she had quite a collection of Jewel Tea "Autumn Leaf" dishes, probably a service for six. The dishes were glazed pottery, with red, brown, orange and gold designs.  I understand that they are quite "collectible" these days.  We used the Jewel Tea dishes on Sundays; I don't remember any other dishes, although we must have had them.
Example of "Jewel Tea" ware

On one fateful Sunday afternoon, Mama had washed the Jewel Tea dishes that had been used for dinner, as the noon meal was called in our household, and as she dried them, had placed them on the "drop leaf" kitchen table prior to putting them away in china cabinet.  Said table had the leaf extended and the leg to support the raised leaf was in place.   Younger sister, full of energy from lunch, was running through the house at breakneck speed, probably being chased by yours truly, and was just short enough to run under the table in her getaway efforts.  She ran under the table, all right, knocked the supporting leg from under the leaf and all the Jewel Tea dishes came crashing to the floor.  There may have been one or two surviving pieces, but that was it.  For all intents and purposes, Mama's hard won collection of Jewel Tea dishes was gone, gone, gone! 

Same sister had a penchant for playing with Mama's dishes, some of which, I learned later, were wedding presents.  At least two pieces that I remember suffered disaster at my sister's hands -- a platinum banded stemmed compote, and a peach-colored crystal sugar bowl.   She maintains to this day no memory of these occurrences, but I do!

Another thing I remember was a huge fire at a lumber yard which was located perhaps 6 blocks from the house.  The fire started after dark, and I recall standing outside in the front yard, hearing the fire truck sirens, smelling burning wood, and watching burning embers and smoke shooting into the sky.  The lumber yard was completely destroyed, and the fire believed to be arson.

One last memory before I wrap this segment up.  After my "illness" I was occasionally allowed to walk my sisters and baby brother, who was about 2 years old, to the neighborhood park. about three blocks away.  Exposure to sunshine was deemed to be a contributor to my recovery.  It was on one of these excursions that I found, lying next to a trash barrel, a copy of "Sunshine and Health" magazine, which had some very interesting photos in it.  Turns out it was a nudist publication.  I took it home with me, where it promptly disappeared.

It's funny what one remembers.

We moved from "706" to 607 N. Second during the summer of 1943, before I entered the third grade.  The new house was somewhat larger, and it was closer to Mama's workplace.  We lived there for over two years, and I have lots of memories of that place to share.

Until next time, I leave you with a few more 2010 lily photos.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Butterflies and Memories Part 1

I have decided that memories are quite a lot like butterflies. Some flit in and out again, darting between receptive brain cells but never staying long. However, others sit for a while and leave permanent impressions, light and airy as they may be.

It's amazing how many butterfly memories one can recall, given the opportunity.  Having recently undergone an extensive period of quiet, restful sitting and slumbering,  I have remembered quite a number of things that have occurred during my lifetime.  It's not that I've just remembered them, nor has my life "flashed before my eyes"; most have been floating in my brain cells for many years. However, I've been putting them in an order of sorts.

Most of these remembrances have no historical significance whatsoever, and will be boring in the extreme to most who read them, but they are occurrences that have shaped my life. Some memories are of historical happenings, and readers of similar age will have similar memories -- when I finally get to the historical stuff (H) -- but there is only one (H) in this Part 1.

My earliest memory (don't laugh or doubt) is of my first (as in one year old) birthday party, cake and all. At age 6 or 7, I began to describe it to my mother. She told me there was no way I could have remembered it, but my description of the room and the view from the window was so exact that she finally had to agree that it truly was a memory, as there were no photographs of the occasion, and our family lived in that house only a few months past that date.

I have lost any memories of things that happened from then until I was about 4, except discovering my first pet, a cat named Black Pepper, doing his "business" in a bushel of peanuts on our back porch. I must have been about 3 at that time.  

I have only  "snapshot" memories of happenings from age 4 to 6 when our family lived in El Paso, TX.   These include:

       * Mama taking me to the first movie I ever saw, starring Deanna Durbin. I still remember the melody and some of the words to a song she sang in the film.
       * seeing the lit-up 1938 community Christmas tree in downtown El Paso after we left the movie; it was a thrilling sight for a 4 year old, and seemed to reach to the vaults of the sky.
       * moving from a room in a rooming house to a big house on Hill Street, which had about 25 steps from street level to front door (I recall I fell down them several times).
        * visiting the little girl across the street even after Daddy told me not to (my little friend had German measles, and although I didn't know it at the time, Mama was pregnant with my baby sister, born 1/1/1939).
        * the spanking I got (with a razor strop) from Daddy when he found out I had played with my sick friend.
         * seeing my baby sister's bald head in bed with Mama.
         * my two year old sister putting Black Pepper in a dresser drawer, where he stayed all day. We could hear him crying, but didn't find him until bed time.
        * playing with the boy next door and getting stuck in the cactus bed between our houses.
        * losing my first tooth in a piece of apple during a supper with my parents' friends, Mr. and Mrs. Pollard.
        * Mr. Pollard teaching me to eat the skin of the potato because that's where all the vitamins are (I still do that);
       * Mrs. Pollard, "Podough," giving me the Minnie Mouse quilt blocks.
        * going to Juarez, Mexico on the bus with Mama when she went shopping for  groceries (Mama told me when I was in my 40's that Juarez was the only place she could afford to buy meat, and she didn't know if she bought beef, pork, horse, dog or cat, or something else entirely, and she didn't care - meat was meat).
      * seeing wild canaries nesting in the trellises over the patio of our home on Montana Street.
      * eating stucco sand with a spoon with my friend, Edna (is that called pica?)
      * starting kindergarten and my first school book, which was in Spanish, "Juan y Maria en Casa" (I've written about my first day in school in my diatribe against a certain brand of canned evaporated milk.)
      * a strange landlady who stood on a chair in our kitchen and stuck her finger in an open light socket -- on regular basis (I think we didn't live there very long).
       * packing up to move to Las Vegas, New Mexico, and Mama crying because she couldn't take our furniture.

I was almost six when we moved to Las Vegas. I don't remember the move at all, and I don't remember my first day at school, first grade, but I do remember:
       * my teacher, Mrs. Kole.
       * my good friend, Cherry, the only black girl in the class, perhaps in all of Las Vegas.
       * a boy named George, who called Cherry the "N" word and made her cry, and I punched him in the nose and made him cry, and bleed, and Mrs. Kole sent me home with a note.
       * Christmas of 1940 when I got a pair of roller skates and a doll with jointed legs and arms, held together inside with rubber bands. The doll was dressed in a red dotted swiss dress with a white apron, and had long black braids, tied on the ends with red ribbons. On that same day, my younger sister "wound up" her legs and arms until the rubber bands broke and the arms and legs fell off. Mama couldn't fix it. That was the last doll I ever got as a present. When I get to heaven, I want long black braids and a red dotted swiss dress with a white apron. Do you think God will let me dress that way, or will I be content with what I get?;
       * Mama accidently pushing a fine crochet hook through the palm of her hand, and having to cut off the hook end to pull it out.
       * getting a new baby brother in April, 1941.
       * having to move from our furnished apartment because the baby cried too much to suit the landlord, who lived upstairs.
       * our wonderful new landlords, Mr and Mrs. Carpenter, who loved all of us and the baby; we loved their big house, where we lived in the entire upstairs.
       * Daddy coming home from the CCC camp on a Friday night after dark and Mrs. Carpenter's Chihuahua bit him on the leg, tore his pants and drew blood.
 (H) * December 8, 1941. I sat on the stairs and listened to the radio when President Roosevelt announced that Congress had declared war on Japan.

I have posted earlier about my Daddy going to the Army sometime after Pearl Harbor. In reviewing some old documents just this past week, I discovered that he did not actually go to the Army until May, 1942.  He was sent to an Army base at Grand Junction, Colorado, to teach automotive mechanics.  Mama and the rest of us moved to Albuquerque, some 75 miles away, where Mama had obtained employment as a bookkeeper/secretary at a large electrical wholesale company, as there was no employment available in Las Vegas.  My memories of the actual move are sketchy, at best, but I remember that we "moved" on a Southwest Trailways bus, all of our household items (no furniture) in boxes in the luggage compartment. We rode together on the back seat of the bus, and my poor mother, who all her life suffered from motion sickness, had to manage 4 children age 7 and under and be sick at the same time. I cannot imagine how she did it.

End - Part 1

If you have endured this far, your reward is a photo or two of my 2010 day lilies which, for the most part, have bloomed without benefit of my hovering presence. Several varieties have already "shot their wad" and I'll have to wait until next year to enjoy watching them bloom.