Alanson P Holly
May 4, 1979
At 333 S Grant Street, Lafayette, Indiana, Helen and I slept in one room and Daddy would come up to put us to bed. He would stand in front of the light and make shadows of a rabbit going across the ceiling. One hot night Helen and I got the giggles and Daddy in the next room couldn't sleep. So he said “You girls be quiet!” Well, we couldn't stop. Next thing Daddy said, “Get under the bed you two girls!” So we took our pillows and got under the bed. Daddy told me years later that he had nightmares in those days wondering how he could pay the rent and keep his family on $13.00 a week.
He had a telescope given to him and we had great fun looking at the stars and learning about them. One time when Grandma Barbour was there, and she was cutting up, Daddy said in his severest voice, “Grandma, you go stand in the corner.” It delighted us kids that she could be punished too, and she obediently stood in the corner.
We would take walks with Daddy thru Purdue University grounds, thru agriculture part where the cattle were. Daddy always used a walking stick – the gold headed one – or the one that had a boar's tusk carved for a handle. I have that cane. (Mary Kay has the gold headed one.) Daddy would scratch the backs of the hogs in the pens. Dr Spendler, Daddy's boyhood friend from Woodland, Michigan, taught German at Purdue. They were great friends.
When Forrest was to be born, the Aldrich's lived near us – so Mother was to deliver at home. So Mr and Mrs Aldrich took Helen and me for the day. That day Mr Aldrich and neighbors were to turn a small building around so Mr Aldrich could use it for a garage for his new Ford. The men were huffing and laboring and stopped to see what to do. And Helen, 4 years old, said, “Oh my Daddy could do that easy as pie.”
Another time on Chauncey Avenue in Lafayette, Daddy took us to the “Live Show” (we called it vaudeville) and Helen sat on Daddy's lap. He always sat in the back row, he said, so he could watch the people. Well out on the stage came a large woman, gaudily dresses, and wearing a long feather boa. All was quiet for her to sing, and at that moment Helen called out, “Oh spusch!” -- one of Daddy's pet words.
I remember coming home from a sow floating on air because I loved the theater, and Daddy would take my hand on one side and Helen on the other and he would run with us and literally our feet would momentarily leave the ground. Such a feeling.
Then to Indianapolis for three years. He was Secretary and Treasurer of the Indiana Manufacturers of Dairy Products. That always stumped me in school when they would ask what Daddy's business was. Never room write it all.
In that house on Bancroft Street, there was a small closed-in back porch. A shade on the window on the door. One day I pulled it down and out fell a $10.00 bill. Daddy used it to buy a ton of coal.
One fall Daddy's cousin Emma came to visit. Very large woman, and she stayed and stayed. I marvel at my blessed1 (sic) mother – six children – one a baby – and this cousin just sitting around being waited on. It looked like she would stay the winter. Close to Thanksgiving, Daddy had just bought a new Ford Touring car. So he bought a ticket for cousin Emma to go home and told her he would take her to the train the next day, because we were all going to Grandma's for Thanksgiving. I said to Mother, “Don't we have to ask Grandma if you can come?” She said, “No, that is always one thing a daughter can do is go home to Mother.” So the car had the gas tank under the front seat. There were luggage racks on each running board – filled with luggage. On the floor of the back seat, all piled with luggage so that Helen, Mary, Elizabeth and Bud sat back there with legs stretched over the luggage. Dad drove, Forrest in the middle and Mother holding Alice. Off we went (but before leaving Dad admonished us all to be sure to go to the bathroom.) Well, not too long, some one had to stop. So he had to pick a station that had “facilities”. So he lifted Alice out, then Mother, then Forrest, then Mary and Helen - then the gas man put in gas. Daddy stood by with his thumbs in his pants pockets. Always a handsome man – and the gas man looked over the deal and finally said to Daddy, “Where are you going, Mister?” Dad said “We are going to see my mother-in-law.” The man said, “Mister, you are shore going o get even with her this time.”
St Louis, Webster Groves – 1923-1931 -- Our big old three story house that he rented for $80.00 a month. We arrived before the furniture did. So there were two elder maiden sisters who lived on Rockhill Road just off of 433 Foote Avenue. And they heard of our plight, and the took us all in over night. Big house. They were Southerners – and sang a song “We'll Hang Abe Lincoln on the Sour Apple Tree.” All I remember of that night.
Dad put up a wonderful swing for us on the lower part of the two acres. One picture I have of Dad on the steps of the front porch in his heavy overcoat – and his cheeks are all puffed out, and underneath it he wrote “The Old Buzzard.” We took many wonderful trips in those days. I can remember Dad coming home Friday night saying “Get all the things ready, we're going on a trip in the morning.” Then the next morning while Mother was trying tog et all together, he would sit in the car and honk the horn. Never could understand why it took so much stuff and so much time to get it all together.
He loved the Lilies of the Valley which blossomed in the Spring at that house.
I remember the fun things he would have for the 4th of July. Always did nice things for neighbors. We always had five gallons of ice cream every Sunday. Neighbors always got some. Couldn't keep it – no freezers. He was one of the first ice cream men to use dry ice. But even that would disappear after awhile. A lot better than ice and salt.
He would take us down to see Negroes baptized in muddy Mississippi, and took us to their church services. Visited the Baptist – and he knew the minister and he gave the BYPU (Baptist Young Peoples Union) five gallons of ice cream.
How he loved the lilacs at that house.
Before Elizabeth was married in May 1928, Daddy took us on our last trip as a family to New Orleans. We went on the train – had staterooms and stayed at the wonderful hotel in New Orleans. We stayed a week and what a ball we had. Fresh shrimp, fresh orange juice, went to famous restaurants. Went to a play – and all I remember was a lady sitting in a golden cage on the stage – but evidently it was not a good play for kids, so he took us out before it was over.
One day walking along the wharf, he saw a yacht for sale, so he went aboard and looked at it. He asked the owner how much it cost to run it. The man said, “Mister, if you have to ask that, you can't afford to buy it.”
He hired a limo and we drove along the levee and saw how the blacks lived – shacks with animals under the house. Went up to one house where Mammy was holding a shiny clean pickaninny, and I asked if I could hold her which I did, and Lance was indignant that I did that.
Everyone of the kids could get away from school for those two weeks. But I was a Senior in high school and I asked the principal and he said if Dr Schultz, my chemistry teacher, would let me go it would be all right. So I asked Doc and said, “You go right ahead. Don't even take your books with you. Two weeks of travel is worth two years in school.” I came back to take the exam in Chemistry and I made 30 - but he passed me because I tried.
The day the cyclone hit St Louis was a terrible day. We didn't know until late at night where Daddy was. He said he was on his way to his ice cream factory, saw this twisting cloud coming toward him. He turned right on to LaClede Avenue, passed Stephen Schunkle Shoe Co and two telephone poles fell just as he passed. Then just as he passed the brick chimney of his factory it collapsed and missed him. He was in his yellow Buick roadster. Then he turned right up the driveway alongside the factory, and go part way up but it was impossible to move against the wind. A brick went through the windshield and he said he first though, “Who will take care of the family?” But soon it let up and he got into the factory. His face was black from all the dirt and his glasses were gone. So we did a lot of praying that day. So wonderful to have him come home, finally.
Such fun we had nearly every Sunday. We would go out to dinner to places where they used his ice cream. My favorite was Bevo Mills. Learned to like frog legs there. Always a hustle when the eight of us came up. Had to push tables together to seat us all.
In 1929, as soon as school was out, Daddy took Helen, Mary, Forrest, Alice and Mother on a trip in the black Packard touring car – 8 passenger. He did it because Elizabeth was expecting her first baby and he wanted Mother to be away. Marvelous trip to El Paso, Texas, Saw her cousin Rob Rinehart and Aunt Zaida, cousin Ned's brother. They had had a store together as young men in Brisbee, Ariz. They had a fight over the price of a hat, and never spoke to each other the rest of their lives.
We went thru New Mexico and Arizona. Then home to St Louis after we had heard that Holly Walpole was born June 10th.
Then we went back to Woodland, Michigan. We met Dad's relatives, saw where they had lived, etc, and then to Lockport, New York, where we spent Labor Day, then home. 10,000 miles. Forrest would regale us with made up stories along the trip. All went down into the Grand Canyon, that is Mary, Helen and Forrest.
Daddy certainly encouraged us to learn and appreciate everything. He loved to travel, said he had always wanted to be an explorer.
His family always came first. He loved his children, even though he was very strict and severe. But he mellowed as years went on.
He had a beautiful, well-trained baritone. He could have been tops. A voice teacher in the east heard him and gave him free voice lessons and said he could have had a future, but he met mother.
Mary Holly Higgins
Alanson P Holly