My Childhood Memories-Page 1
Chapter 1: My Early Memories
On this page I would like to tell you about some of my memories of growing up as a boy on our farm in the 1940's and 1950's. I was born June 30, 1943. We didn't have the modern conveniences of today at that time. We had no electricity on our farm until about 1949 when I was about 6 years old. We had no running water until I was in high school. We packed our water in a bucket from a nearby spring about a 100 yards from the house. We had an outdoor toilet or outhouse. My father farmed with horses and mules until I was about 12. Then he sold them and bought a tractor.
I thought I had better write down my memories of those early years of my childhood before I forget them as I grow older. With the passing years the memories seem to get more vague and dim. I vaguely remember the years before electricity. That was probably the biggest single change in our lives at that time, when we got electricity for the first time. Most people can't imagine life without electricity today. It was a different kind of life altogether. I vaguely recall the kerosine lanterns at night, and the years before we had refrigerators, televisions, electric lights, and all the modern conveniences of today.
We heated our home with wood stoves, and one of my earliest memories was of the time my father brought a little calf who had just been born into the house and placed it behind our old wood stove in the living room to get warm. I was only about 3 years old at the time, but I still remember it vividly to this day. There was a snow storm outside. It must have been in late winter or early spring, because that was usually when our calves were born. My father had wrapped the little calf in a gunny sack, and he was all wet and shaking from the cold. I recall the calf laying there on the floor behind the wood stove while I was playing on the floor. The little calf never moved, but lay there really still. I guess he was just so glad to be in out the cold. I remember how fascinated I was by the little calf being in our house. and how I just kept looking at him and he was looking back at me. I believe the little calf stayed in the house most of the day, or at least until he dryed off and was good and warm.
Another of my earliest memories was of the honey tree. Again I was perhaps about 3 years old when my parents took me with them when they cut down a hollow tree which had honey in it. My mother laid me on a blanket some distance from the tree while she and my father cut the tree down and collected the honey. I think probably the reason I remember it so well even after all these years is because one of the honey bees came over and stung me on the face. As I recall I cried quite a lot at the time, but once we got home and I tasted some of the delicious honey combs I forgot about my bee sting.
Another of my earliest memories is a little bit embarrassing. I recall it happened when I had just barely learned to walk. My mother had placed a big blue crock filled with cream on the table, and I for some reason unknown to me to this day, reached up my hand and tipped the crock of cream all over myself and the floor. The cream was all over my hair, face, and clothes, and I was quite a mess to say the least. My mother I recall was just a bit upset with me at the time, for which I remember I couldn't seem to understand, because after all I had gotten the worst of the deal and was the one who was all covered with cream. I remember asking my mother years later, just a few years before she passed away, if she remembered the time I tipped the crock of cream all over myself. She said, yes, she still remembered it, but that she couldn't believe that I could remember it, because I was so little at the time.
I remember I got my first sled when I was about 5 years old for Christmas. I was very excited and couldn't wait to try it out. I took the sled out for a ride right after I got it on Christmas morning. There was a little hill just outside our kitchen door that I took the sled to ride down for the first time. The sled turned over about half way down the hill, and I fell into the snow getting snow all over my clothes and face.
I got up from the snow, and ran into the kitchen crying where my parents where sitting around the wood stove. My father said, "Why are you crying Walter? Didn't you enjoy your sleigh ride"? I said, "No I didn't, I got that old sleigh ride all over my face". My parents started laughing, and my father often told the story to others for years afterward about my first sled ride and what I said.
When I was a little boy growing up on the farm my parents would usually find and cut a little evergreen tree growing on our farm for our Christmas tree. One year when I was about 5 or 6 I remember my mother went to find a tree for our Christmas that year.
My mother was unable to find a small evergreen tree nearby, but there was a large cedar tree up on top of the big hill above our farmhouse, and so my mother climbed a little way up the big cedar tree and cut a small limb off the tree. After cutting off the limb, as my mother was climbing down the tree, she fell and hurt her leg.
My dear mother limped down the big hill carrying the little cedar tree limb, and set it up in the living room for me. Then we decorated it with some Christmas ornaments that were stored in an old trunk upstairs. That was the most beautiful Christmas tree we ever had.
Many years later when I spent Christmas day with my mother, then residing in a nursing home, for our last Christmas together before my mother's death a few months later, I thought back to all my mother's love, and what she did so that I could have a Christmas tree when I was a little boy.
I was about 6 years old when we first got electricity installed in our farmhouse. I still remember the day the rural electric workers came and set the big poles in the ground and strung the electric wires up the hollow to our house. Our house was off on a rural sideroad about a mile from any other farmhouse. We lived at the end of the sideroad and our farmhouse was the only house on the the road, and because of this we were one of the last in the area to have electricity lines strung up to our house.
Among the first appliances my father bought for the house was a refrigerator and a freezer. Before that we had put our perishable foods like milk, cream, butter, and meat in cans in the cold spring water to keep it from spoiling. My father also bought my mother an electric range to cook on. My mother had been cooking on a wood cook stove. He also bought my mother a washing machine, but we didn't have water piped to the house yet, so my mother didn't use it much, because we had to pack all the water from the spring to fill it. My mother continued to wash in washtubs using a washboard to rub the dirt out of the clothes. It was a few years later before we got a television. When we did get a television the reception was very bad, and the picture was really snowy. We put a big television antenna on the roof, but we still didn't get a good picture because of the big hills around our farmhouse. We could only get 2 channels out of St. Louis at the time.
My father did buy an electric radio just after the electricity was installed, and we didn't use the big old battery operated radio anymore. One of my earliest memories of the old battery radio was, once when I was about 3 or 4 I was playing on the living room floor, while my father was listening to the Lone Ranger on the old radio. We had an old victrola which played records by winding it up with a crank, but the spring was broken in it before I was born and it didn't work very good.
We often sat outside behind the house in the cool of the evening in the summertime when it was hot, because we didn't have air conditioning. My father did buy an electric fan after we got electricity, but we often continued to sit outside in the backyard during the cool of the evening. Some of my fondest memories are of sitting out there in the backyard with my parents of an evening. My parents are passed away now. Often in my memory I go back to those evenings sitting there with my parents watching the cattle, and the horses and mules in the cowlot, and viewing the mist as it sometimes arose from the spring just before dark.
"Memories Build A Special Bridge"
Our memories build a special bridge,
Our memories span the years we shared,
We are the chosen. In each family there is one who seems called to find the ancestors. To put flesh on their bones and make them live again. To tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know and approve. Doing genealogy is not a cold gathering of facts but, instead, breathing life into all who have gone before. We are the story tellers of the tribe. All tribes have one.
We have been called, as it were, by our genes. Those who have gone before cry out to us: Tell our story. So, we do. In finding them, we somehow find ourselves. How many graves have I stood before now and cried? I have lost count. How many times have I told the ancestors, "You have a wonderful family; you would be proud of us.". How many times have I walked up to a grave and felt somehow there was love there for me? I cannot say.
It goes beyond just documenting facts. It goes to who I am, and why I do the things I do. It goes to seeing a cemetery about to be lost forever to weeds and indifference and saying - I can't let this happen. The bones here are bones of my bone and flesh of my flesh. It goes to doing something about it. It goes to pride in what our ancestors were able to accomplish. How they contributed to what we are today. It goes to respecting their hardships and losses, their never giving in or giving up, their resoluteness to go on and build a life for their family. It goes to deep pride that the fathers fought and some died to make and keep us a nation. It goes to a deep and immense understanding that they were doing it for us.
It is of equal pride and love that our mothers struggled to give us birth, without them we could not exist, and so we love each one, as far back as we can reach. That we might be born who we are. That we might remember them. So we do. With love and caring and scribing each fact of their existence, because we are they and they are the sum of who we are. So, as a scribe called, I tell the story of my family. It is up to that one called in the next generation to answer the call and take my place in the long line of family storytellers. That is why I do my family genealogy, and that is what calls those young and old to step up and restore the memory or greet those who we had never known before. ~ "by Della M. Cummings Wright; Rewritten by her granddaughter Dell Jo Ann McGinnis Johnson; Edited and Reworded by Tom Dunn, 1943."
The Old Family Album
The old family album, the pages are worn,
Now picture the family, we're all having fun,
The camera is snapping while gifts we're unwrapping.
So stand all together, remember to smile.
HOPI PRAYER of The Soul's Graduation
Do not stand at my grave and weep