Alanson, Mabel, Elizabeth and Lance
Bud, Elizabeth, Alanson, Mary and Helen, Mabel holding Forrest.
Lafayette, Indiana - about 1920
Memories Of My Dad
When we lived in Lafayette, Indiana we lived across the street from Purdue University. Steelys Woods was just a few blocks away. Forrest, Daddy and I would walk through the woods and learn the wild flowers and the birds. Daddy would hide behind a tree and when Forrest missed him, he would return and Daddy would try to scare him in fun. Mother belonged to a bird club. Early Saturday mornings she would take Forrest and me and we had to be quiet so they could identify certain birds by song or seeing them. The Saterwaites were the couple that had this group. The also had a class for young children in collecting bugs and butterflies one summer. I won first and Forrest second. These classes kept us out of Mother's hair.
On busy school mornings Mother would send me across the street to Mrs Aldriches and my folks were talking about building a garage. I piped up and said, “My Daddy can do anything.” I was helping Daddy shuck corn in the back yard and he could pull all the shucks off in one or two pulls. I could only pull one at a time. He said, “That's okay. You are still helping.”
I don't remember much about Indianapolis. One summer I was not feeling good. I think I had ear problems. I stayed in a crib by the windows upstairs. Next door they were building a new home and I watched them during the day. In that room was a fireplace and when Daddy came home at night he would take me out of the crib and rock and sing to me. The hurt left fast.
I also remember a pillow fight in the front room when the folks were gone. Of course the pillow hit the canary cage and released the door. I am sure we caught heck when Daddy got home.
He was a family man. Many summers we would go to Turkey Run, Indiana to spend a few days. They had high school boys to take you on nature walks. Mary and I would go, and we sometimes had to go up steeps hills or across a small stream. The guide would offer his hand to help you. I did not take it, but Mary always did. “Helen, let him take your hand.” No way. Early in the morning before breakfast we sat on the porch in the warm sun and enjoyed the birds until Mother got all the kids ready for breakfast. We ate in the lodge and it was fun times. They always had a jig-saw puzzle on a table for all to work.
Our Father had two deep wrinkles in his forehead which made you think he was a grouch. This was not true. He was a disciplinarian of a kind, but that is how it should be, then and now. He would let us goof a few times, then the next time he would lower the boom, either by letter or words. He loved little people. Too bad he did not live to see his wonderful grandchildren.
In Si Louis we all had to wait at the top of the stairs until all were dressed to go down and see what Santa had brought. The youngest got to go first when signal was given. Our things were in the front room in front of the fireplace. One Christmas Santa left me a two-story dolly house with all the furniture. Happy Days.
We would go to “Live show” as they were called in those days. One time we went to see Chic Sales and I sat on the arm of Daddy's chair. Sales made some joke and I said out loud, “Os Spuch.” We rode the streetcar to and from. I would sleep in his lap on the way home.
He would drive Mary and me to Principia in a seven passenger black convertible Packard. We sat way back in the seat covered with buffalo robes to keep us warm. We were living in a suburb of St Louis named Webster Groves. The house was a four-story home heated by coal in the furnace where our laundry room was. Mrs Scott was the colored woman that came once a week to help Mother with the washing and ironing. This was most thoughtful of him because she had so much to do. Forrest and I called her the Black Cloud, but not to her face.
At the bottom of the hill in Webster Groves Daddy put up a sixty-foot rope swing. I think Forrest, Mary and I could climb to the top. The fields were covered with wild flowers. Daddy built a tree house where Forrest and I could take our lunch on warm summer days. Mary and I could turn six or seven cartwheels down the lawn. He was proud of that. One time we had the neighbors over, Jimmy Hilton was one – and we played hide and seek. I told Jimmy to shut up for some reason. “Helen, come into the house. Young ladies do not say, 'shut up.'” I had to watch from my bedroom.
Every Sunday he would bring ice cream home for the weekend. In strawberry season he would have so many women on either side of a table on the second floor of Furnace Ice Cream Factory stemming these strawberries for the ice cream. He would take one or the other of us on Sunday morning to Chase Hotel on Kings Highway for breakfast. We were served by colored waiters in dark suits and with a white napkin on my lap, and I had Shredded Wheat and bananas, which I had at home. Then we would go to the factory where he worked behind a huge desk. He had pictures of friends on the walls. I could walk anywhere around the factory and we knew many of the people that worked there.
In the bay window in the dining room in Webster, he had a comfortable chair and he would listen to the radio. He enjoyed listening to preachers and laughing at some things they said. We usually had turkey for Thanksgiving and goose for Christmas. He would always put a large dish towel over his pants and stand up and carve. In the front room was the piano where he played and we all sang. “There's a Long, Long Trail a Winding” and many others. Cousin Alice and Elgin joined us many times. The four of them would take trips and leave us with colored Mattie. She was a great person. We grew up to like and respect colored people. Daddy would take us to downtown St Louis under the shadow of the Eads Bridge and we would see the colored people get baptized. From babies to old people. They would go under the water, held by four big men, and they came out dirty brown and yelling, “Hallelujah.” He would give ice cream to the Baptist Church Socials. They would have a lady negro escort Daddy down the aisle and a man escort Mother, then we followed. Some of those preachers shouted so loud I had to cover my ears.
Christmas of about 1926 he drove us to New Orleans. We stayed in a large hotel and went into shops and drove to the cotton acres. Here we saw them picking cotton dragging a five or ten foot bag behind them to put cotton in. They would be singing all day. We stopped at a dirty open air cabin where they were sitting on the porch. Daddy would get acquainted and even picked up one dirty little girl. She had bugs crawling on her. He loved little people.
In Webster in the winter I would put my shoe skates on at home and skate to school. Saturday Daddy would drop me off at a skating rink in St Louis and I stayed all day. I could do cartwheels on the ice and had fun days. We would sit on a sled behind the car and Daddy would take us around the block. Cold. Mother had hot chocolate for us when we got home. We had hot bricks wrapped in newspaper at the foot of the bed between the warm blankets. Daddy always did that. In the summer time if Mary and I got the giggles in bed, he would walk upstairs and put us under the bed until we quieted down.
In the summer from St Louis we would drive to Lake Prairy where some friends lived. Daddy enjoyed all people. The old man there made brooms and Daddy would buy them and take them back to work. They all played hillbilly tunes on violins. One summer he took some of us to Boston and we waded in the Atlantic Ocean, finding shells and things. One summer we took a trip to Mesa Verde and Carlsbad Cavern. He felt that traveling was a good education. I don't remember where we were going, but Mary and I were sitting up in front and the blanket sort of slipped over the gas pedal and we wound up in the field by the road. After we got back on the road, we sort of got a lecture.
We moved to Sunset Cliffs in 1931. He was retired and dabbled in stocks at the Grand Hotel in San Diego.
In 1936 I spent the summer with Elizabeth and Wally in Downers Grove outside of Chicago. Daddy came in August to pick me up. On the way back, we listened to baseball and we stopped in St Louis to see many old friends. Before 1936 my Mother went to Bristol, Indiana to see her mother. While she was gone we drove to find rock and built a rock fireplace in the cabin. He surprised her, and how he loved that fireplace. He would build a fire when we did not need one.
In August 1941 Don and I went to the Ranch to say goodbye to Daddy and Mother because we were driving to see Elizabeth and Wally. On the way home the last night in Phoenix I could not sleep for some unknown reason. I told Don I was disturbed. When we arrived at the ranch in Ramona, Lance met us at the cabin door, and said he had he had left yesterday. Gone from sight, but not mind.
Posted by Shannon Hillinger Sunday, March 8, 2009
– Helen Holly Brown