This Blog is Amazing!

I am so thrilled at the response of all of you reading this blog! So many childhood friends that I thought were lost to me forever have found this blog and gotten in touch after all these years. I feel blessed and honored.

I even have heard from the daughter of one of my neighborhood buddies due to posts on this blog.

Some of you have “friended” me on Facebook. It is so exciting to see what your lives are like now and to look at the photos you post.

Thank you all so much for emailing or leaving comments. I read every one. I try to respond but I am afraid I have missed some. Please know that I do read them all and I appreciate them all.

Again, thank you, thank you, thank you!!

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Posted in 1960, Cape Girardeau, Neighbors, Smelterville, Smothersville, South Cape, Sprigg Street | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Mr Hilderman’s Grocery Store

hildermans 001

There were 2 neighborhood grocery stores near my home in the 1200 block of South Sprigg; Sheepy’s (near Womack Drug Store, a few blocks away) and Hilderman’s on the corner of Ranney & Hackberry. Hilderman’s was only one block from my house. My neighborhood friend, Brenda Stafford, and I often went to Sheepy’s to pick up groceries for the Webers whom I have written posts about here &here.

Mr Hilderman’s store was closer to our houses, and we occasionally went to his store. He was an older man who seemed to have a distrust for us kids (probably with good reason). When we went into his store, he would stay right with us and watch every move we made. Perhaps he had been stolen from a few too many times but not by us. In any case, he wasn’t taking any chances so he stuck to us like glue. While we looked at the penny candy, he stood beside us tapping his foot and pulling on his suspenders which were stretched tightly across his rather large belly. He had an annoyed expression on his face like he wished we weren’t there.

We seldom had any actual money; we traded soda bottles for candy. Sheepy’s was fine with that but Mr Hilderman was not real keen on taking the soda bottles. He would take them but didn’t seem real pleased with the transaction. So, we didn’t go to his store real often.

However, Mr Hilderman did have something that Sheepy’s didn’t have. He had bologna in a case; and he would slice off a chunk and make a sandwich with soft white bread. He would put ketchup or mustard on it if we wanted. He charged 10¢ for a sandwich. So when we were hungry and didn’t have anything at home to eat, we went to see Mr Hilderman (that is, if we could find 10¢ worth of soda bottles to turn in – 5 bottles).

I think Mr Hilderman eventually trusted us but it took a while and then eventually, the store closed. I don’t know whatever happened to him.  Perhaps he moved in with his kids, if he had any, or maybe he went to a nursing home. In any case, the store closed and another family bought the place but they did not re-open the grocery store; they used the building as their residence.

Some of the Stafford girls are on Facebook and they may remember Mr Hilderman.

Perhaps you reading this have some memory of Hilderman’s Store. If so, please share your comments. It’s all rather fuzzy in my memory. It was located across from the beer warehouse at the very end of Ranney St. The street actually stopped there on that corner. We often had go-kart races down the hill there and would often end up in the field since we had no brakes to stop when the road stopped. We just flew across Hackberry and into the empty field. It was a good thing Hackberry only had a car go by once in a great while.

Posted in 1960, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Neighbors, Ranney Street, South Cape, Sprigg Street | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back at the keyboard again

cartoon me at keyboard 001Well, I am back again. I have been on an extended hiatus for many reasons, health being one of them. But this morning, I called my unofficial blog mentor, Ken Steinhoff, and he gave me my marching orders. He said to write, even if it is only one sentence. So I am following his advice since he has never steered me wrong.

My memories of Sprigg Street and South Cape grow sweeter as the years go by. And to add to the joy, I have been back in contact with many of my childhood neighborhood friends thanks to Ken’s blog, CapeCentralHigh.com and to the Facebook page, Growing Up in Cape Girardeau.

Since South Cape no longer exists, those of us who lived there are the ones who can record our memories so that it can be remembered.

My posts may be short but I will attempt to write what is on my mind and heart; hopefully some of you will find something interesting in my ramblings.

Posted in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Neighbors, Smelterville, Smothersville, South Cape, Sprigg Street | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Memories from Carole Avery Adams

A reader posted a comment recently which I felt should be published as an article on this blog. The following article is being published with her permission:

Memories from Carole Avery Adams:

I spent the first five years of my life (1946-50) living in Smelterville on a fairly large plot of land that my grandfather, Martin Luther Avery, had bought in probably the 1920′s and built two houses on. We lived across the dirt street from a lady named Cal Barnes, and near the central Packing Company. I remember names like Jess Bolen (sp?) and John Dieteker (again sp?) who were friends or acquaintances of my Grandpa and Dad. I know that they were all white. A favorite thing to do with my grandpa was to walk back across the railroad tracks to a little grocery store to buy strawberry soda. Being a small child, I don’t remember the color of anybody’s skin there. It was just fun.

We moved from Smelterville to South Henderson because my mother did not want to be a resident of “Smelterville” when I started school. My first year was at the old Jefferson School — teacher Miss Miskell. My spellings are all “as sounded”. When John Cobb School burned, all of us “white students” from Jefferson were sent to May Greene where I began 2nd grade. May Greene was a great school to go to. We loved Miss Alma, Miss Sanders, and in sixth grade, Mr. Charles Clippard, who was teaching his first year at May Greene. The teacher with the toughest job was my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Savings. If I remember my facts correctly, my class was supposed to have Mrs. Sanders again for fifth grade because she had moved up from 2nd. We were all so excited. She was killed (I remember a car wreck) that summer and Mrs. Savings was hired to take the class. What a position to be in — but we grew to love her as a teacher. Years later, I met her again when she attended the visitation at my mom’s funeral. How thoughtful. Fellow students I remember from May Greene are Connie Wills, Karen Lange, Louise and Lawanda Haynes, David Cotner, Isaac Wren, Carl Seabaugh, really, too many to list. I remember Isaac being a boy who, today, would have been in special classes. He and the teachers had to struggle along the best that they could.

Growing up in South Cape and going to May Greene, none of us realized that we didn’t really have a lot, or that the rest of Cape might think less of us —– until junior high school. Being fairly smart, I was thrown into classes with quite a few of the upper half kids. i became very reluctant to say that I had lived in Smelterville, or that on South Henderson, we still had a coal burning stove in our living room. Nobody was unkind or mean to me — we just did not understand each other and probably made assumptions that were not true for either of us.

Today I am certainly proud of where I grew up and, as for Smelterville, a little saddened that all of it is gone. I do hope that Ken Steinhoff publishes a book about it. I would love to hear from people I knew then, and would also like to have any faulty memories corrected if need be. End of novel. Carole Avery Adams

Note from Darlajune: Ken Steinhoff has a blog which has many extremely interesting articles about South Cape, as well as photographs he shot as a young photographer first for Central High School and then for the Southeast Missourian newspaper. Anyone who grew up in Cape would enjoy his writings. Here is a link to his blog: Cape Girardeau History and Photos

Thank you for your memories, Carole Avery Adams. Hopefully some of the people you named in your comment will see this and re-connect with you.

Posted in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Neighbors, School, Sprigg Street | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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Anybody Else Remember the Aluminum Christmas Tree?

When we moved to South Sprigg Street in the late 50’s, the new fad for Christmas at that time was the ALUMINUM CHRISTMAS TREE. We had one.

Aluminum Christmas Tree

Image by NCReedplayer via Flickr

We also had the light that sat next to it on the floor that shone on the tree to change the color from red to green to blue.

English: A Colortone, electric "roto-whee...

Image via Wikipedia

Any of you who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s are probably familiar with this type of tree. When I was a kid I thought it was cool. Now it sort of makes me laugh. It kinda’ looks like somebody went nuts with the Reynolds Wrap and a pair of scissors. But it was the “in” thing at the time. I think maybe those trees are making a come-back now, since the “in” thing now is to be “retro”. I guess maybe I am rather “retro” now too come to think of it – old, out of style, but interesting and cool.

I think we must have moved from Fairview Place to South Sprigg close to Christmas time because I was immediately added to a children’s choir at May Greene School to sing Christmas songs for the Christmas Program. I didn’t know any of the words to the songs and did not have time to learn them before the program was held. The music teacher just assumed that everyone knew the familiar Christmas songs. The night of the Christmas program I felt rather awkward, pretending I knew the words to the songs with the gym full of families and teachers watching. My lip-syncing did not match the music at all except on some of the choruses.

When we moved to South Sprigg Street, I began to attend Southside Baptist Church along with other kids from the neighborhood in those days. As I wrote in an earlier article, Charlie Dietiker picked us up on Sunday mornings and took us to church in his panel van. (Charlie Dietiker, Grocery Store Owner) There was a Christmas play every year and a visit from Santa. Santa gave each of us kids a stocking with an orange and some candy inside. But I wasn’t buying the Santa Claus thing.

I knew that Santa was a fake. I had figured that out long ago because the presents under the tree labeled “From Santa” were written in my mother’s hand-writing.

I still remember the moment I figured that out (I think I was about 5 or 6 yrs old). I was rather shocked to find out that my mother had been deceiving me about Santa. But, of course, I didn’t say anything because I was afraid I would quit getting Christmas presents. But, that discovery got me to thinking, “I wonder about some other stories Mom has told me.” Well, from there my child logic went like this:

  • Santa isn’t real. Mom just says he is real.
  • We never see him deliver the gifts.
  • He can see me when I’m sleeping or awake (yeah, right), he knows if I’ve been good or bad (right) and that’s how he decides if I get presents. (OK, so that little trick to get me to be good is over)

So from there my mind started going over my list of who was just make-believe, besides Santa. “Who else has Mom told me is real but that I have never seen?” Well, a few came to mind:

  • the Tooth Fairy (I could have sworn I saw her one night)
  • the Easter Bunny
  • Jesus

From then on I had all of those invisible characters categorized into one slot in my mind, “Made-Up Stories that we pretend are true”. I went along with the game. But I knew it was just all pretend.

Now it wouldn’t really have mattered so much knowing that Santa,  the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny were not real but losing my belief in Jesus was critical. It wasn’t until I was 25 years old that I came to believe in His existence again. It was Christmas time 1975 that I regained that knowledge. That year, Christmas was magical again. All of a sudden, that year it seemed that my eyes were opened to a reality that had been right under my nose for years.

Instead of being all wrapped up in Santa and presents and Christmas parties (actually drunken binges), the Christmas of 1975 seemed different than any other Christmas I had ever experienced in my entire life. There were many events that led to the change in my perspective of Christmas that year, which I will not attempt to explain in this post. To put it briefly, I decided to believe in Jesus again and I was looking at the holiday as a celebration of His birthday, which, as a matter of fact, it most certainly is.

Christmas has been magical for me ever since then. Although I do use a fake Christmas tree, the One whose birthday I celebrate is not fake nor pretend. And, by the way, I raised my kids pretending that Santa came with the presents but made sure they knew that it was pretend. They learned about St. Nicholas who was definitely a real person who loved Jesus and who was so generous with his gifts that the tradition of gift-giving began.

Merry Christmas to all of you! I hope that Christmas was magical for you this year and will always be so for you.

Posted in 1960, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, School, Sprigg Street | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Pet Chicken and His/Her Early Demise (Update 12/9/11: New Info Reported)

 

Ken Steinhoff’s article today about chickens (click here to read his article) brought back memories of the pet chicken I had when I was living on South Sprigg Street. Many of you have heard me tell this story so many times that you are sick of it. However, I am once again going to tell the story so, if you already have it memorized, you can just skip this post. (I have this sneaking suspicion that I will probably regret ever posting this article due to the unseemly comments that may will come forth from some of my family & friends–you know who you are. Be careful, because I may know a story or two about you too.)

Chickens were a big part of my life when we lived with Grandma on Cedar Lane. I was scared to death of them because they flogged me every time I went near the chicken house. And, at that time, I wasn’t much taller than they were so they seemed really dangerous with those beaks and claws coming at me. I would hold my hands over my face to get through the attacking fowl and into the chicken house to see if there were any eggs in the nests.

I did get my revenge on them on butchering day but that’s  a different story and a different place. The chicken I will write about today was my own personal pet chicken when we lived on South Sprigg. I loved that chicken.

When I lived on Sprigg Street with my mom, step-dad, and younger brothers, Mark and Jack, we only had 1 chicken and it was my own personal pet. Here’s how I happened to acquire my fine feathered friend, whose name I will tell you later.

Aunt Lela and Uncle Clarence were coming to visit. It was a long drive from their home in Clarence MO (near Hannibal) down to Cape.  As they were traveling to our house in Cape there was an accident on the highway. I don’t know the details of the accident. All I know is that a truckload of chickens was involved and there were chickens running loose. My Uncle Clarence, being born and raised a farmer, jumped out of the car and ran to capture one of the chickens, put it in his car and brought it to me for a pet. I was thrilled. I carried that chicken around in my arms and “loved on it”(as much as a chicken will allow “loving on”). If my chicken got out of my sight I would go out in the yard and yell for it. The neighbors would be out on their porches laughing at me trying to get that chicken to come to me. (I didn’t find out until 9th grade why they found that so comical)

My pet chicken laid eggs on the sidewalk. We never got to eat one of her eggs because, of course, the shell would crack when it hit the sidewalk. What a crazy chicken!

There came a day when my pet chicken was nowhere to be found. I searched the neighborhood calling for it but it never came. While we were eating supper I mentioned that my chicken was missing. Nobody said anything. They just looked down at their plates. I looked down at my plate and then suddenly it dawned on me…we were having fried chicken! I was horrified. As an adult I can laugh about it (sort of) but as a child I was heart-broken and I looked at my family as heartless cannibals for a long time after that. I still don’t think we should have eaten that chicken. It didn’t bother me to eat chicken….in fact, I loved fried chicken, but….THIS chicken trusted me. I carried that chicken around with me all the time. And it was, after all, a gift from Uncle Clarence. How dare they? Note: I probably should have had some kind of treatment for PTSD at the time but that disorder hadn’t been invented yet 🙂

As Radio Personality Paul Harvey Used to Say: “Now for the rest of the story:”

(This is the real kicker!!)

Years later, as a 9th Grader, I was sitting in Citizenship class at the new Junior High daydreaming, as usual. My thoughts wandered back to that pet chicken and the day Uncle Clarence brought him to me. I remembered Uncle Clarence placing that chicken lovingly into my arms. Then I remembered that chicken pecking my hand. I recalled that it kinda’ hurt. THEN, I REMEMBERED WHAT I HAD NAMED THAT CHICKEN (which was, by the way a HEN, not a rooster). Right then and there I named that chicken “Pecker” because it “pecked” me. No wonder the neighbors were falling off their porches laughing when I yelled for him/her. Now why didn’t somebody tell me that my name choice was inappropriate? I guess they must have been enjoying the entertainment so much that they didn’t want to spoil it. Now that I think of it, I wonder what they said when “Pecker” started laying eggs on the sidewalk.

Come to think of it, that may be why he/she suffered an untimely death. Maybe I was embarrassing the family when I went all over the neighborhood yelling “PECKER, COME HERE PECKER!!” (Oh, the shame of it all! Laughing-stock of the South Sprigg neighborhood)

Update 12/9/2011:

New Clues Reported by an Eyewitness of the crime – my brother, Mark, has brought new evidence to my attention regarding the untimely death of my pet chicken. Here is his statement:

“You could be right on the embarassment factor. If I remember right you also invited a pastor, who was going door to door visiting the neighborhood, to go around the side of the house to see your pet “Pecker”. Mom was talking to him at the time at the front door and went speechless. It wasn’t but a few days later that we had the best fried chicken!”

Mystery solved! It was that preacher’s fault!

 

 

Posted in 1960, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Neighbors, Sprigg Street | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

A Tree Tried to Kill Me

One of my favorite places to be when I was a kid was in a tree. One of my neighborhood friends had a pretty good climbing tree. One summer day I climbed up on the biggest branch I could find and proceeded to hang like a monkey with my arms and legs wrapped around that branch.

What I didn’t know was that the branch I was hanging from was actually deader than a doornail. Not long after I got myself positioned in my monkey pose, I heard a cracking sound. The branch I was hanging from broke off and I began to fall. Then I blacked out and don’t remember exactly what happened, until I woke up with my friends gathered around looking at me. They told me that the branch had broken off and that I had landed on my back with the branch on top of me. It must have knocked the breath out of me for a short time. Once I came to, I was fine and went back to playing.

That would be the end of the story except for the following details:

Next thing I know my mother arrives all out of breath from running over to my friend’s house. When I fell my brother Mark was there. He saw me blacked out on the ground and thought I was dead. He ran home and told mom I was dead!

Now I need to fill in some more details to explain why my mother was almost hysterical that day when she arrived at my friend’s house to retrieve “my body”.

There was a neighborhood girl who lived just a couple of doors from me. She never came out to play with the rest of  us kids for some reason. I guess her mom probably didn’t allow it. Now for some unknown reason, she had a grudge against me. I have no idea why because we had never so much as spoken to each other.

The day I fell out of the tree, that particular girl had decided to pay me back for whatever it was she was angry about. So, she called many phone numbers and sent many vehicles to my house, one of which was an ambulance. I wasn’t even home, so I had no idea that this was happening.

Evidently the ambulance must have arrived around the same time that Mark came running home all out of breath

Chorisia speciosa (Palo Borracho), also called...

Image via Wikipedia

screaming, “Help!! Darla’s dead!” My poor mother thought that the ambulance was there for me. And she believed Mark when he told her I had fallen out of a tree and that I was dead.

By the time Mom and Mark ran the half block to where I was, I had recovered and was just fine. I thought my mom was going to pass out right in front of my eyes. Once she recovered and realized that I was OK, she was fit to be tied! She proceeded to tell me how all of these different vehicles had been arriving at our house, a taxi cab, a typewriter salesman, and most importantly, an ambulance. I don’t remember how many other people had come to our house and I also can’t remember how we found out who had called all of them.

In any case, it was one of the strangest coincidences I have ever experienced and it does make for a good story, don’t you think? Well, anyway, that was the day a tree tried to kill me, but I survived in spite of it. And it didn’t stop me from climbing every tree I could find either. But I did start checking the branches before hanging upside down on them 🙂

Posted in 1960, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Ranney Street, Sprigg Street | Tagged , | 2 Comments

His Name Was Mr. Jesse Harris

I posted an article last month about a man called Sam, who often walked through the old South Sprigg neighborhood. He was the subject of false rumors spread by the adults who lived there, simply because he was a black man. Here is a link to that article: http://southsprigg.com/2011/10/09/does-anyone-remember-a-man-named-sam/

Gary Wren, a former schoolmate and reader of this blog, saw that article and was thoughtful enough to fill in some of the blanks about the man called Sam. First, his name was Mr. Jesse Harris. His nickname was Slim, not Sam.

The best news Gary provided was that Mr. Jesse Harris loved God and that he was, in fact a very kind man who had had a very rough life. He lived to be 100 years old and is buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery at Cape Girardeau, MO. He died in 1975 and, although he appeared to be extremely poor, he left his church $35,000 (a huge sum in 1975 when candy bars cost a nickel).

Thank you, Gary, for answering some of the questions that I never thought I would know the answers to. This information gives me hope that I may still one day meet Mr. Jesse Harris and give him the respect he should have received while he was living.

Not Mr. Jesse Harris, but resembles him.

Posted in 1960, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, racism, Ranney Street | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A Mosquito Bite Made an Invalid Out of Me (Temporarily)

A female mosquito of the Culicidae family (Cul...

Image via Wikipedia

The summer I turned 11, a health problem developed involving my blood and my kidneys. It all started out with a mosquito bite on my ankle. It itched, I scratched it, and of course the skin was broken and a sore appeared. Being a kid who lived within a block or 2 from the Mississippi back-waters, and having had multitudes of mosquito bites, it was no big deal.

Somehow this particular mosquito bite became a big deal. I suspect that the problem began when I went wading in a creek over at Olive Branch, Illinois, while visiting my cousins. We loved to wade in the creek across from their house to look for craw-dads and minnows. I don’t know for sure the source of the water and streams running into that creek, but back then there were no regulations regarding pollution. The open sore on my ankle was a prime target for germs and bacteria.

When I got home from visiting my cousins, Mom noticed that my ankle was swelled and that I was limping a little. She didn’t notice the open sore and assumed that I had somehow sprained my ankle. To give my ankle extra support, she put one of those thick, tan-colored ankle supports on my ankle. It stayed on my ankle for several days, maybe even a week, I don’t remember.

Meanwhile, underneath the support bandage, the mosquito bite had turned into an infected open wound, unbeknownst to me. I really didn’t pay that much attention to the situation.

Around this same time, I had noticed that my urine had turned a pretty pink color and did not realize that this was not a good sign. I just liked the pink color and did not mention it to anyone. As the days went by, the pink got darker and eventually turned a dark red. Still, I was not alarmed and did not make any mention of it.

One day I went into the bathroom and forgot to flush before leaving the bathroom. My mom went in immediately after me and then came back out and asked me about what she had just seen in the bathroom. I told her that that was the color of my urine. She immediately called a doctor and he told her to bring me over to his office right away.

We went to Dr. Seabaugh’s office (Russell Seabaugh, I think). He took one look at the urine specimen we brought in and told Mom to take me straight to the hospital and not to stop at home to get pajamas.

It turned out that, according to the doctor, that sore on my ankle was the source of the problem. It had become infected and then, being covered up, was not able to heal from the inside out; so, the infection entered my bloodstream causing blood poisoning. From there, the infection spread over my body through my bloodstream, and landed in the most susceptible part of my body, my kidneys. I was diagnosed with acute nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys.

Nowadays, an antibiotic would be given and the patient would be right back to normal within a short time, a few weeks maybe. But, back then, it was a totally different story. I was given sulfa drug, put on a salt-free diet, and restricted to bed-rest indefinitely, with absolutely no physical activity. I was not allowed to attend school for the entire school year – 6th grade

While I was in the hospital, I didn’t really feel all that bad, so I was up running around the halls bare-footed. The nurses were always sending me back to my room but I really didn’t want to stay put. After all the tests were finished Dr. Seabaugh came in one day and wanted to talk to me and my mom about what they had determined the problem was and what the prognosis was. I think maybe he wanted to get across to me how important it was that I be on complete bed-rest and follow all his directions in order to get well. He told me that there were 3 possible outcomes of the disease: 1. complete recovery, 2. chronic nephritis which I would have for the rest of my life, or 3. death. He assured me that he believed that I could completely recover IF I complied with his directions. When he put it that way, you better believe I was going to do whatever he said!

So, I stayed in my bed, I ate no salt, I took my medicine, and I rested for an entire year. And I was scared…..every night I would pull the covers up over my head and beg God to let me live. I promised Him that if He let me live I would be good for the rest of my life. (He did let me live but I didn’t keep up my end of that bargain…..bargaining with God is useless I found out later in life. Once I was better, I did try hard to be good, but failed miserably.)

As you may imagine, in a year’s time, I became as weak as a wet noodle. I couldn’t even walk from my bedroom to the kitchen without great difficulty. My recovery was extremely slow and I was isolated from the rest of the world for the most part.

Since I was not allowed to attend school during 6th grade(1961-62), a teacher was assigned to come to my home and give me my school lessons. Her name was Mrs. Slinkard. She was a very heavy-set woman who struggled to get up the steep flight of stairs in front of our house. I suppose she was middle-aged, because she had some gray hair. Her hair was cut short and she always wore a house dress, as most women did in those days. She had a very pleasant personality, and was a gentle soul. She and I became close and she spoiled me by bringing me gifts. She would often bring me cookies from the bakery and once she brought me candy made from maple syrup that she had bought when she went on vacation to another state. I looked forward to her visits. She didn’t come every day, maybe once or twice a week.

Mrs. Slinkard loved me and I loved her. My step-father had a dislike for Mrs. Slinkard. He always treated her nice to her face, but would call her names and make fun of her when she was on her way up the stairs to our front door or on her way back down the stairs when she left. He would also pretend to kick her in the rear end when she was going out the door. Of course she did not realize this because she had her back to him. (I seethed with anger silently every time this occurred, which was every time Mrs. Slinkard came to our house. I was too afraid of the consequences to confront him about it though. )

While I was on bed rest for the year of 1961-62, I listened to the radio –  KXOK St. Louis, MO. Johnny Rabbitt was the famous deejay for that station. I can still remember the station jingle: ♫Kay-ay-ay-ex-oh-kay-ay, Saint Lou-iss, Mizz-oor-ee♫. I listened to that transistor radio all day every day and into the night. If anybody wants to know the words to any hit rock n roll song of 1961 0r 62, just ask me. I memorized every word to every song that was played on that station for that entire year. If I could be guaranteed only questions about those songs, I could win Who Wants to Be a Millionaire easily. Unfortunately, this vast knowledge is pretty useless except for when I am with my buddies from Cape and we are doing the oldies but goodies sing-along. (Yes, I am talking about you, Patty Turner, and Donna Niemeier, my old dancing buddies) But I digress. Back to my sick bed story.

My mom’s old boss from Deneke Drug (on Broadway) had a daughter named Joy. At one time in the past we had lived in the summer house on their property at Fairview Place, aka Estesbrook (private drive). Joy had a set of Nancy Drew mystery books which she loaned to me while I was bed-ridden and I read an entire book every day. I was crazy about those stories and soon finished the entire series.

I learned how to paint by number and how to embroidery that year also. My mother purchased a china tea set (which I still have in my closet) for me that year and she served me my meals in those teeny, tiny dishes. I thought that was just about as good as it got having my very own set of dishes. They were so attractive too, with pink roses painted on them. I actually had a salt & pepper shaker that were about an inch long. Of course I couldn’t use the salt shaker since it was doctor’s orders that I eat no salt. Mom made sure that none of my food was salted when she was cooking.

I had a baton that I had found in a creek back at Fairview Place and I knew how to twirl it. During the year that I was supposed to be on bed-rest, I also would twirl that baton. Now I did it lying down so I thought that made it ok, but, alas, my baton disappeared when I was caught by my grandmother.

When summer came the doctor allowed me to lie outside in a lounge chair, then gradually  to take short walks. At first I had to stay in my own yard, but, eventually I was allowed to go for a walk down the alley 1 block. I was able to go back to school beginning in the 7th grade. For the next 4 years, I was allowed to attend school but was not allowed to eat salt and had to continue the medication.  P.E. was not allowed until I was 14 or 15.

Even while I was recovering from this illness there was both physical and emotional abuse at home. My mother was working every day but my step-father was a construction worker who was often on unemployment. Even when he had work it was dependent on the weather since his work was outdoors. When he was home, he was drinking.

One day soon after I came home from the hospital he came to the doorway of my room with some envelopes that had just come in the mail. He had been drinking and said to me with a disgusted look on his face and a snarl on his lips, “I wish you would hurry up and die so I could quit paying these medical bills.”

His words terrified me. I remembered the doctor telling me that I could die from the disease I had. When my step-father said those words to me I came to the conclusion that I was going to die and that my mother was too afraid to tell me. Until the doctor allowed me to start taking walks I really thought that I was slowly dying. That was the real reason I put the blankets over my head every night and that was the real reason that I started trying to bargain with God to let me live.

When I began taking walks down the alley, I cannot put into words how thrilled I was! I had been allowed to live and I was so very thankful. I no longer took for granted being able to be outdoors and to see nature in all its glory. I started noticing things that I hadn’t paid any attention to before, like the sky and the trees, flowers, birds, all the beauty that had always been there but that I had not really seen. It was exhilarating to be back among the living!

Posted in 1960, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Music, Sprigg Street | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments