My sister-in-law wrote this. I'd have preferred more hard
facts, but this is what she wrote.
ï»¿ï»¿L o v e and L a u g h t e r...T e a r s and A n g e r
A Families Story by Barbara Graham/Flato/Hughes
Your Grandfather Tully Graham and Grandmother, Ada, were of Scotch-French descent. In a covered wagon they traveled to their home in New Sharon . On their way, they passed through an Indian village of Hopi. Grandpa saw a squaw sitting in front of her teepee trying to carve a pumpkin but not having much luck so he offered to help her. â€œHugâ€, she said and pointed to Grandma and said â€œSquaw do itâ€. You see, to them that was squaw work and not to be done by a man.
Grandpa was of frail stature and had a humpback as well, due to a childhood illness. He had to lie on one side so long that the other side didnâ€™t develop; however, he was extremely intelligent. He was, in fact, a well-known judge (??) in Iowa. He was so sweet. He used to hold me on his lap and tell me stories.
Grandma was a different story. She was a very strict school teacher. She parted her hair down the middle and pulled back into a bun. She was of the old school where children should be seen and not heard. There must have been some softness to her because they had four children, three boys and a girl.
The #1 oldest, Uncle Harry, was a tall drink of water with a sense of humor like Don Rickles. He told my mother when he first saw me that my feet stunk. She never forgave him. One day he was rough housing with me on the floor and started tickling me till I couldnâ€™t get my breath. I though I was going to die because I couldnâ€™t stop laughing long enough to yell at him to stop. Before that happened, when I had a nightmare, a lion would come and try to eat me. After that, it was Uncle Harry tickling me all over again. IT WAS MISERABLE but he was a nice guy, tho. One Christmas he gave me a doll. It was nice, all right, but Mom and Dad had given me a Patsy Ann doll that I had wanted so badly. Darn old Grandma, to create trouble she asked me, in front of him, which doll I liked best. Well, of course, I chose Patsy Ann. I will never forget the look on his face. She could be so cruel, but more on that later.
I didnâ€™t get to know #2 Uncle Kenny. I just remember that he was really cute.
Then there was Dad. Maybe it was because of his dadâ€™s infirmity that he walked as though he had a ramrod up his back.
#3 Aunt Betty was not pretty but she was striking...with jet black hair cut short and swingy and a terrific figure, and spoiled. Oh, was she a headache. She once gave me a nickel and told me to go buy a coke, but I didnâ€™t want a coke. I wanted an ice cream
sandwich and wanted it so badly I could taste it. But she insisted that a coke was the latest rage. At the store, I agonized over which to get. Well, I decided to try the coke and it was awful. That was back in the days when they used this strong syrup and a little carbonated water. â€œYyk!â€ I was mad at her for a long time after that. She was never very popular, but when she did get married, they made a big â€œta-dooâ€ over it. She was married in the Wee Kirk of the Heather in Forest Lawn. They strew rose petals in their path on their way out of the church. Her husband was a truck driver and when he got home at night, she would bathe his feet in cologne. About a year later she got
pregnant and ended up with a severe liver disease and died both she and the baby.
ï»¿Wee Kirk of the Heather Chapel in Forest Lawn Cemetery, 1712 S. Glendale Blvd Glendale,
They had the funeral at the Wee Kirk of the Heather. It was an open casket. There she lay, dressed in white chiffon and the baby in her arms, wrapped in blue chiffon. We sprinkled rose petals on her as we passed. When Grandma went up, she swooned and ï»¿lay on the floor moaning and crying. Thatâ€™s when I decided funerals are for the birds!
ï»¿Grandma Graham (Ada Long Graham) was always mean to mom. She told her the only reason she married dad was because she was afraid she wouldnâ€™t get another proposal.
I hated Christmas at their house. She had a big cactus that she used as a Christmas tree and, if that wasnâ€™t enough, she fed us goose instead of turkey (it was greasy) and gooseberry pie. I was the only grandchild, still, they gave my dad a complete set of very expensive Gladstone leather traveling bags, and mom and I got a pair of cotton bloomers each.
I remember one trick she pulled on mom. Mom was cooking some beans. Grandma said they were done and mom said they were not. So Grandma dished up a big tablespoon of those hot beans and shoved them toward momâ€™s mouth. Of course momâ€™s
reflex action was to open her mouth and swallow them. They burned the heck of out her mouth.
When she (Grandma Graham) was alone in Long Beach alifornia), we sure didnâ€™t visit her very often. Now I feel bad about it. She died of a heart attack.
I have to go back to the beginning to tell you about Grandma Bless your Heart. She was my dadâ€™s grandma --Great Grandma Graham (Lee?). I called her that because every time we went to see her, she would come to the door and give me a hug and say
â€œbless your heartâ€. She lived on a tree-lined street in Iowa. that had an iron black boy dressed in a livery outfit with a big iron ring in his outstretched hand so the horses could be tied up to it. Her house was a quaint little wooden thing with lots of plants around it. When you came in the front door, there was a small vestibule to the right of it was what she called the preacherâ€™s room because no one went in it unless they were very special
guests. You walked through beaded curtains to get into it. I donâ€™t remember much in it except the darling little pump organ. It had little holders on each side to hold candles. I was not allowed to play it. If you turned to the left, instead, you were in what we should call the family room. I only remember that she had a platform rocker in there and a pendulum clock.
I forgot to tell you what she looked like. She was about 5 feet tall and wore her hair, what there was of it, pulled tightly back into a small bun. Its color was a silvery white.
The dress she wore was down to her ankles and usually a small country print. She almost always wore an apron and would cross her arms under it.
The kitchen had a huge heavy wooden table, and along the back wall stood a heavy black wood stove where she cooked and baked the big round sugar cookies with a raisin the size of a very large prune in the center. To the back was a set of carpeted steps. The two bedrooms were up there. If I was a good girl, she would bring out her china-faced, leather-bodied dolls and let me dress them. Oh, the clothes they had! Pantaloons edged
with lace and ribbons......a fancy chamois top; a couple skirts all tucked and pleated...then the most beautiful dresses. One was pink with a lace bodice and standup collar, and leg-a-mouton sleeves. The skirt was gathered at the waist and down to her
shoes with a wide satin belt that tied in the back with a big bow. She had little pink leather shoes that fastened on a strap that had a button so tiny it had hard to fasten.
The garden to the left of the kitchen had flowers alore....bachelor buttons, bleeding hearts, and sun flowers lined the back garden from which she did a lot of canning tomatoes, spiced peaches and pears. She would use food coloring in them so they could
be used on special occasions like red on Valentineâ€™s Day and on Christmas. She even had a separate garden for herbs. When I got restless, she would set me in the corner of the family room and give me a piece of string that she had tied in all kinds of knots and tell me to undo them. Said I would never be a lady unless I had the patience to get them all out. I usually did. Her house was a peaceful, loving place. I still miss her.
Then there was little tiny Great Grandmother Long ?Lee on momâ€™s side (her mother's mother). She, too, had a pulled back hairdo, but as I recall she almost always wore long black dresses. We used to tease here that she had a boy friend in Sears. She would just grin a blush. Bless her heart, she would let me set her down and put makeup on her to get ready for a date, supposedly with him (didnâ€™t really know what I was doing, but she got a kick out of it. I have a hat that was Great Great Grandmotherâ€™s, but I donâ€™t which side. It is a dunkin(?) hat made with a wire frame and sheer black material pleated over it tied under the chin in a bow. I am going to try to take a picture of it so I can put it on the scanner so youâ€™ll at least have an idea what it looks like.
She also taught me how to make hollyhock dolls. (A flower). You take the bloom, turn it upside down with a little of the stem left on, then you take the bud just starting to open up and stick it on the bloom. The green leaves around the bud that would hold it has two little spaces on them that look like eyes. The upper blossom was like a fancy head dress, and the bloom like her dress. I donâ€™t remember their first names. Dadâ€™s grandmaâ€™s , of
course, Graham and momâ€™s was Long. I told you Grandpa Grahamâ€™s name was Tully, but Grandpa Leeâ€™s was Oliver.
Dad was always saying he wanted a red haired, freckle-faced boy, so when I was pregnant with Donna, I told him I would have that boy and call him Tully Oliver. Well when Donna turned out to be a girl, she sent me a telegram saying â€œcongratulations to Tully Oliveâ€. Dad had a good sense of humor and loved to tell jokes. I guess thatâ€™s where I get it from.
But now back to when mom was young. She had two brothers, #1 Uncle Adrian, a handsome devil that looked like Edward G. Robinson, (the famous movie star that usually played rough guy parts with a big cigar hanging in his mouth.)
Then there was Sister #1v Aunt Miama ( who Donna called Aunt Mother when she first met her as a little girl). She had beautiful red hair, naturally curly and it stayed red until she was in her late 70's.
Next was Aunt Mamie. I never got to meet her because she died of TB. They didnâ€™t know how to cure it then. I have seen pictures of her, tho. She was beautiful..all wrapped up in a fluffy white fur coat and matching tam.
Mom was darling, with bright red hair and a dimple in her chinâ€“which she emphasized by rolling an eyebrow pencil in it when she was going out stepping. By the way, her hair was such a pretty color that her girl fried asked her what # henna (an old-fashioned hair dye that a lot of the old ladies used as they turned gray and it would turn out an atrocious color). That made mom so mad she never forgave her. She was a regular little pixieâ€“determined to have her way. One afternoon she was supposed to help her two sisters clean the attic, but she wanted to go somewhere else...so she locked them in and took off. The sisterâ€™s had a heck of a time trying to get the window open to call for help. Another time she and her girl friend had an argument and the girl told her, â€œyour feet stink and you donâ€™t love Jesus!â€. Mother was crushed, but it has become a family saying.
Mom loved caramels so she asked her #2 brother Adrian (who she called Adie) for some money to get some. He gave here a dollar, expecting her to return the change,. But instead, she came home, eyes sparkling, with a huge bag of all kinds of candy. Addie made her take it back, except for a couple of caramels to get his money back. She was crushed.
There was a store where mom worked that had a raised platform in the middle of it with a piano. She would sit up there and people would hand her sheet music to play to see if they liked it or not. How about that! Dad didnâ€™t like music and when her dad left her $500, she wanted to buy a piano but he wouldnâ€™t let her. (She had to talk fast and furious to get him to let Bobbie have a clarinet.) She also worked in a candy factory dipping chocolates like Lucy on TV.
One day a friend of hers that was dating Uncle Harry (Graham) asked her to go on a blind date with his brother Bud (Fred Leon Graham). Both dad and Uncle Harry dressed very Dapper and dad had his own car, which was very important because he
lived in New Sheridan (NEW SHARON) Iowa which was not too far away from Ottumwa where mom lived. The date must have gone well because a short time later Dad took to his house for Sunday dinner....which was just fine, except he forgot to tell
his mom he was bringing her. The tension must have been heavy. As a matter of fact, dad dropped his fork and Grandpa told him, in his droll kind of way, that if he dropped something else, he could get under the table and they would hand it down to him. Poor mom didnâ€™t know he was kidding, tho. It scared her to death.
Dad had a friend that was a huge guy, and one night this guy and his date and mom and dad went out together. Dad brought mom a box of chocolates and left them at her house when they left. When they got back, mom invited them in and dad in his excitement sat on the candy. Well, mom got a knife at the big guyâ€™s request and he picked dad up, put him across his lap and proceeded to scrape it off him.
Did I tell you Grandpa Lee worked at Morrells Meat Packing Co.? When the wind was just right, we could smell that awful smell (he was a machinist) and Grandpa would just chuckle and say it was John Morrells feet we smelled. The retirement plan went into
effect a week before he retired. He got three cents. A reporter interviewed him and asked him what he was going to do with his retirement money, and he told him he guessed heâ€™d buy a farm.
[Newspaper clipping: Mr. And Mrs. O. B. Lee of 342 Richmond Avenue, observed their 58th wedding anniversary Monday evening at a picnic supper held in Memorial Park. The former Ellen Wilson and Mr. Lee were married in Fairfield on August 4,
1889, and have made their home in Ottumwa for the past 43 years. Mr. Lee, who is retired , was employed with John Morrell & Co. Attending the supper were a daughter and son, Mrs. Irvin Palmer and Howard W. Lee, both of Ottumwa, three randchildren and three great grandchildren. Another son, Adrian W. Lee of
Waukegan and a daughter, Mrs. F. L. Graham of Los Angeles, were unable to be in Ottumwa for the event.}
About a year later dad proposed and mom accepted. He gave her a beautiful diamond ring, the likes of which her friends did not possess. He took her home to show his folds and on the way him (which was a lonely dirt road) mom got worried about the car behind them that she thought was following them and took her ring off and put it in her mouth. Of course, dad went over a bump and she damn near swallowed it. But she was so
afraid they were after her gorgeous ring. They were married in Grandpa and Grandmaâ€™s (Leeâ€™s) front room (in Ottumwa). Grandma made her gown. It was of sheer material,
full length, with a cap-like thing that went over the bodice, and almost solidly beaded.
Later she cut it off (20's style) and dyed it red, of all things. It was prohibition days, so dad and mom would cross the Mississippi River by ferry boat to the state next door that
didnâ€™t adhere to that law, and go dancing....or they would go to the clubs in town and bring their own bottle. Then they had to pay a stiff price for the soft drinks to put in it and they were served in a cup. Mom could really do the Charleston, which was all right with dad, but she also could shake her shoulders, shimmy clear down to the floor and roll her tummy in and out. That didnâ€™t like THAT, and forbad her to do it in public. She
would do it for me sometimes. Boy was she good! One night while out dancing, Dad thought she was dancing with one guy too much, so when she came back to stand next to him, talking to another couple, he thought she was dancing with one guy too much, so when she came back to stand next to him, talking to another couple, he secretly pinched the hell out of her arm and she had to stand there and grin. The next day she had a heck
of a bruise. Now I am afraid Iâ€™m making Dad out to be a meany, but he wasnâ€™t he was strict and not affectionate, but he could surprise you with the sweetest presents.
They lived with Grandpa and Grandma Lee for quite a while. As a matter of fact, she was born in their house. One day Mom made some fudge and she was sampling it when Dad said to her, give me a bite.â€ So she leaned close to him so he could have a
part of hers and he got hold of her lip and, as well. She couldnâ€™t tell him to let go, and it hurt so much that she up and slapped him a good one. Then she cried because she hurt him.
I had a bunch of great cousins. Aunt Miamaâ€™s were Thelma; a beautiful girl with naturally curly long blond hair. In fact, she was voted the most beautiful in her high school class. In her teens she got acne. Oh, it was such a shame. Her sister and I used
to pester her a lot, just because we were so rambunkous.
One day Aunt Miama let us fix a picnic lunch and I carried out some stuff to the yard.
Well, I have to back up and tell you #Uncle Ernie and Aunt Miama had a cold cave to keep things in since they didnâ€™t have an ice box. They kept a toad in it to eat the insects
that might get in. As I said, I was carrying things out when Aunt Miama asked me to shut and lock the door someone had left open . The worst screaming you ever heard came out of the cave. It was my cousin Thelma. She had gone down there to get an apple to take to work. So I quick opened it up and let out. She flew at me and slapped me so hard I dropped my stuff and had her hand print on my cheek for a while. Well, I could hardly blame her. Imagine being locked in that dark hole with a toad.
Cousin Earl and Wayne were nice guys but I donâ€™t remember much about them.
Gwen and I were very close, but, oh, she used to make me so mad cause she could climb trees like a monkey. She would go clear to the top and hold on to one branch by her knees and then swing down and grab the text one with her hands and swing on
down. One day I got so mad because I couldnâ€™t climb trees and she wouldnâ€™t come down and play with me....so I ran in and told Aunt Miama about it. She came out and told Gwen to get down out of that tree right now and she did. But she climbed up
another one. The road in front of their house the city from the country and every time Gwen would hear me say she lived in the country she would get furious with me. But, heck, they had chickens and a cow and a big garden and fruit trees. That was country to me. They had a barn, too. Gwen and I would make up plays and hold them in the hay
loft and charge a straight pin to see it. She would put a piece of toilet paper over a comb
and hum through it and I would pull my nose and hum. I thought it sounded like a
guitar. We would go through the corn field, which for me was kind of scary because it
was so tall I couldnâ€™t see over it, to get to the crab apple tree and steal apples from the
crabby lady, we called her. We would also eat green apples out of her tree and Aunt
Miami would scold us for it because she said they would make us sick, but they didnâ€™t.
Someone gave Aunt Miama a weeping willow branch and she planted it upside down so
it would weep more and it sure did. They didnâ€™t have indoor plumbing, but they had a
two holler outhouse (that was a status symbol because most people had only one). It was
bad for me cause Gwen and her friend would get in it first and wouldnâ€™t come out till
they had tinkled twice cause they said they werenâ€™t through otherwise. Iâ€™d be jumping
up and down. That wasnâ€™t easy with your legs crossed.
Boy was Aunt Miama a good cook, especially fried chicken, that is. She would go out in
the pen and catch one and hold it by itâ€™s neck and whirl it around so fast that it broke itâ€™s
neck then sheâ€™d put it in a bucket of hot water and let it soak for awhile, then sheâ€™d sit
down with her apron on and begin plucking the feathers off. What a job! She and
Ervien were strict Baptist, too. As a matter of fact, mother showed her a see-through
nightie and peignoir set dad had given her and Auntie Miama was completely shocked.
â€œBessieâ€, she said, â€œwhere are the panties?â€ Gwen found out and told me years later that
she and Uncle Ervien never saw each other. She would undress at night in the closet and
he in the bathroom. Then they would turn the lights off and get into bed. They had the
four kids, though, so something must have gone on.Gwen and I used to go up in
Grandma and Grandpaâ€™s attic. Oh, every house should have an attic and a basement. It
was pretty dark and kind of spooky with the collection of baby buggies, boxes and
trunks, we would go through the trunks looking for clothes to dress up in and give a play
to Grandma and Grandpa. Of course they made us feel we were really good because they
would laugh and clap. One day we were messing around up there when I found a red
satin pouch, a small one. I untied the draw string and reached in to bring out the treasure
I was sure must be in it. It was a set of false teeth. Well, of course, I yelled and dropped
them. You should have heard little diddle laugh about that when we told me.
My Uncle Adrian was married to a beautiful woman called Florence. She was
dripping diamonds and raised Pekinese dogs. I must have been a caution, because one
day Mom was hanging a picture in the parlor about the davenport (Grandma called it a
dofold). Aunt Florence was setting on the couch and I picked up the hammer and
whacked her on the head with it. They must have thought it was funny because I h have
heard about it through them. Uncle Adrian came and got me one day to go see Aunt
Florence and I kept pestering them now many more streets, Uncle Adrian, how many
more streets. Of course it was miles.
We had a game we would always play when I was with them. Uncle Adrian would take
me into the kitchen and give me a bottle of beer to hid behind my back. Then we would
go in and I would tell Aunt Florence that I had a backache and she would sympathize
with me and start to rub my back and discover the beer. Then weâ€™d laugh. Uncle
Adrian and she divorced. Several years later he remarried a lady called Frances.
Mom really disliked her. She wasnâ€™t very pretty and she was Catholic. Mom told me the
priests made the bride sleep with them first so they could see if they really were virgins
and that you had to sign over your children so that they belonged to the Catholic
Church. At that time the Shriners would not allow any Catholic guys to join their group.
Uncle Adrien was very active in the Shriners and held a very high office. Later Mom
realized she was very wrong, but that was what she was told.
Aunt Frances took such good care of him and loved him so that Mom finally warmed
up to her some. They lived in Florida. Uncle Adrian died there and she went back
to Iowa, but she is gone too.
My Uncle Howard had one boy, named Jerry, and, oh my, what a crush I had on
him. He was at least 10 to 15 years older than me. He could whistle between his two
fingers and it would come out trilly.....like a bird. As a matter of fact, he could whistle
like a bird. My favorite song he did was the William Tell Overture. He and my
Cousin Earl live with us for a while..... and they things they could get in to. They tied
a couple of snakes tails together just to see them try to get loose, or put fire crackers
under tin cams to watch them blow up sky high. We had firecrackers back then. Sky
rockets that burst into the sky and lady fingers (little red crackers that were tied together
so that if you lit them still joined, the would go off in a row.....or you could separate
them and light them one at a time. We had crackers that were bigger around than your
thumb that were joined (4 of them) on to a piece of round cardboard. Dad would nail
them in the center of the cardboard to a tree and when lit they would whirl around and
around. I loved the little black pills that we would set on the sidewalk and light. They
would curl up and twist around like a snake. Of course sparklers were my favorite. We
would light all these with what was called a punk. It was a long stick with a packed
cottony end that stayed lit for a long time. That way you didnâ€™t get burned so easily.
Those were the days my friend. Momâ€™s folks were like saints to me. They were very
staunch Baptist. There were no funny papers allowed in Sunday and if you sang, it had
to be religious songs....but after all, Grandad was a deacon in the church and my
Great Grandpa was a preacher. They called him the marrying preacher because
couples from miles around came to him to be married. I never knew him, but there was
a picture of him in the parlor in an old fashioned heavy dark oval frame with convex
glass. He had long white hair and a long white beard. Mom said his SS whistled when
he spoke. He called her â€œMy Petâ€.
When Mom and Dad were first married, Dad scrapped his knee scuffling and it got
infected. It had to be operated on and the doctor told Mom just to fix him a light supper
the night before. So, bless her heart, she fixed him a hamburger. To her that was light.
That same night, Great Grandpa came to her in a dream and told her, â€œdonâ€™t worry my
pet, he will be all rightâ€. He came to her once more when she was in the hospital waiting
to have my brother Bobby, but thatâ€™s another story.
Grandma Lee was a tiny thing with rich brown hair that hung down to her waist when
she didnâ€™t have it braided and wound around her head like a crown. She wore her
dresses down to her ankles and usually had on an apron, heavy brown hose and heavy
ugly shoes (so ugly they would be in style now). We called her Little Diddle (I donâ€™t
know why). She was scared to death of snakes. To tease her Mom bought me a wooden
one that was hinged in sections so that when I held it by the tail and wiggled it, it looked
real. I chased the poor thing all over the house with the darn thing until she finally hid
under the big kitchen table. I loved that table because she left all the condiments on it
and then put a tea towel over it. But you see, there was almost always doughnuts under
there, too. She was clairvoyant. Weâ€™d try to surprise her by not telling her we were
coming, but she always met us at the door saying, â€œI knowâ€™d you was cominâ€, and sure
enough she had baked pies. My favorite was blue berry. If she had a dream about any
of us, it would come true...good or bad.
Grampa Lee would hold me on his lap and teach me funny sayings like â€œaketalope,
aketolope, a tally lally floma-famlama linke hommie.â€ I donâ€™t think it meant anything,
but I like the sound of it. They had a back yard that I just loved. It had a grape arbor
that ran almost the whole length. They grapes were the big purple ones that had a kind
of tough skin...so youâ€™d hold them up to your mouth and squeeze the grape. It was
slippery and juicy. They had an outdoor water pump, too, that you had to really pump
the handle for awhile before the water would come out. Hanging on the side of it was a
metal ladle. To this day I have not tasted water nearly as good as that. It was always
cold and pure.
Grandma (Graham) had grew a lot of vegetables, too. She grew too. (Speaking of
Grandma Graham). She would not let Aunt Betty have okra because it would make her
sexy. Inside, the kitchen had a large window above the sink with no glass so you could
look into the kitchenette and see the table. After washing many dished, Grandma would
close her eyes and say, â€œI donâ€™t see any more dishes and we gladly agreed with her.
Their bed had a huge feather mattress you sank into. She had a quilt on it that Great
Grandma Lee had made
Little Diddle didnâ€™t quilt, but, boy, she could crochet up a storm. Sheâ€™d make baskets
with ruffled edges (usually in pretty variegated colors) and a handle. Then she would
melt sugar in a little water and dip the basket in it, hand it upside down to drain and
when it was dry, it was stiff enough to stand by itself.
They had a cellar, not a basement, with a dirt floor and rickety old steps leading to it. It
had a wonderful musty smell. Bless Grandmaâ€™s heart, sheâ€™d haul a huge wicker basket
of dirty clothes down there to wash. I donâ€™t know how she did it. At first, before she got
her washing machine, she would put the clothes in a big bucket of hot water that she had
built a fire under and stir them with a big stick. Then she lifted them up one at a time
and put them on a washboard that was in another big bucket. Then sheâ€™d take a bar of
Fels Naptha soap and scrub the dickens out of them. Then in another bucket she would
rinse them then hang them out doors. I remember when we still lived in Iowa Mom
would hang the clothes out in the winter and they would freeze. Donâ€™t ask me how she
got them dry. Later, Grandma got a machine and it had a ringer on the side. It was made
of two rubber rollers with a lever on the side to release them so you could get the clothes
in between them. On the other side was another was another lever that tightened the
rollers. Then you take the handle on that side and crank it around and the clothes would
bo between the rollers and squeeze out the water. I used to love doing that, but you had
to catch the clothes as they came out, before they went on the floor and got dirty again,
and put them in the wicker basket. Mom teaser her and told her not to stand too close or
sheâ€™d get her boobs caught in them.
I used to love siting on the porch swing in the evening and count the cars that went by,
not many. Sometimes the kids next door would come over and we would catch lightning
bugs in a jar with holes in the top so they could breathe...or weâ€™d catch them and pull of
their light and put them on our fingers like rings.
One Sunday after church, Aunt Miama and her gang came to Grandmaâ€™s for lunch. She
had a big oak table that had leaves to extend it. One side had pegs and the other side had
holes to fit the pegs in. Well, bless her heart, she got so rattled that she put the extension
down with pegs next to the pegs and holes next to the holds. â€œOh, Lausy, me,â€ she said.
Picked it up and turned herself around and put it back down and couldnâ€™t figure out why
it didnâ€™t fit.
Grandpa had a little dog called Teddy, a wire haired Terrier. It would bring his
newspaper every night. They had friends that would come to visit and the women would
sit in the rockers and crochet and the fellows would talk and chew tobacco and spit in the
coffee can between them. Well, Grandpa taught Teddy to chew and spit in the can too.
One day we had a picnic in Aunt Miamaâ€™s back yard. We were going to have home
made ice cream for dessert. She had a wooden cylinder that had a metal one inside that
held the cream. Around the edge of that they packed chopped ice and rock salt. Then
you put the lid on it. That had the handle that you cranked. When the cream started to
freeze, it became really hard to turn it, but youâ€™ve never tasted anything as good as the
cream that stuck on the paddles. We used to fight over who would get to lick it. Well,
the guys decided they needed more salt and asked Grandpa to go with them. He was so
tickled he just took right off. After they had gone mom looked at Grandma and she had
a pouty look on her face. Mom finally got her to tell her what was wrong. She said, â€œhe
left and didnâ€™t kiss my good bye. They lived to be in their eighties and never spent one
Grandma Lee was very superstitious. See a pin, pick it up, all day have good luck; see
a pin let it lay, have bad luck the rest of the day.....that sort of thing. I was staying with
them one summer and Grandma saw a cobweb hanging from the front room ceiling. She
told me, â€œBarbara, get the broom and get that down cause where cobwebs grow, beaus
donâ€™t go.â€ I laughed at her, but got the broom anyway. The front door was open with
just the screen door shut; well, I started sweeping the web away when my current beau
called to me from the door. â€œWhat cha doinâ€™, sweeping the floor upside down?â€
Grandma just kept on rocking and said, â€œtold ya soâ€.
By the way, Mom claimed we are shirt tail relatives of Robert E. Lee. True or not, I
I think I have painted kind of a mean picture of Dad. (How did I get in this mode?) He
was really a softy in lots of ways. When I was about 6, I decided I was too old for an
Easter egg hunt. Instead, I wanted a Shirley Temple atomizer for my new dresser. It was
a cream colored embossed ceramic ball that separated in the middle and underneath was
a atomizer your squeezed to spray the perfume; but Easter morning Mom said I was
standing by the window crying....so dad rushed to the store and got me some eggs and
hid them for me. Bet you didnâ€™t know that Mom and I took tap dancing together. She
made all my costumes. On one tu-tu, she broke seven sewing machine needles trying to
When I was eight, they gave me the best present! A baby brother named Robert Lee
Graham. I honestly felt like he was mine. Mom had a hard time having him, tho. He
was premature and she had him â€œCâ€ section. We almost lost both of them. Grandma
Graham came to help but she was no help. She even took my big bows that I wore on
the top back of my hair and cut them in two. Said it was a waste to have them so big
when I could have twice as many this way. I was glad when she left, and so was mom. I
wish I had a picture of Bobby in his knit short pants , sweater and hat to match. Mom
would dress him all up and let me push him in the buggy. I was soooo proud. I was
tough for my folds because it was during the depression days. Mom told me once that
the closest she came to stealing was when she saw a double-boiler in the store window.
You see, they didnâ€™t have Gerber Baby Food back then. Mom had to cook and mash
everything herself. To make his cereal required a double boiler so it wouldnâ€™t stick and
burn. She did the best she could with a big pan under a smaller pan, but it wasnâ€™t easy.
I donâ€™t remember much about the depression except Mom would only let me use two
sheets of toilet paper at a time. I do remember going along the side walk looking in
gutters for a penny for candy. One day Mom asked me to go to the store to get a loaf of
bread and I begged and begged for a penney for the gum machine. Of course, she finally
said yes, but when I got home she discovered Iâ€™d put a dime in by mistake. She made
me chew that gum a week so I would remember after that the difference between a dime
and a penny. Do you remember the old song, â€œDoes the spearmint lose itâ€™s flavor on the
bed post over nightâ€. Well, let me tell you it does! She swears she didnâ€™t do that, but she
did. No harm done!
Uncle Adrian came over to the house for dinner one night so Mom baked him a lemon
meringue pie. Her meringues were always so pretty...quiet thick and sheâ€™d take a fork
and lift it up in little points that would curl over and when it was baked it would cry clear
golden tears from the sugar. She put it on the oven door to cool. When it was time to
serve it, she went into the kitchen to serve it and the meringue was gone just as through
someone had taken a knife and removed every speck of it. It was gone and so was
Bobby. She called the rest of us to come look. Then we went looking for the meringue
thief. We found him in his walker in the corner of the bedroom with the sticky stuff all
over his hands and face. It was so funny no one had the heart to scold him. Later when
he was just over two, I had him in the back yard playing when the little three year old girl
next door came over. They got alone pretty good for a while, but for some reason she got
mad at him and pushed him down. It made me so made that I slapped her. Not ten
minutes later there was a knock at the door and there stood her big sister and without a
word she hauled off and smacked me a good one. Well, I guess I deserved it.
We had a basement with a ping pong table that my friends and I used to make doll
clothes. Mom gave us scraps of material and lace and stuff. My doll was about three
inches high made of china and had moveable arms, We used to spend hours down there.
Besides, Dad took a big box and cut windows out of it and I made it into a doll house,
wall papered the walls and cut pictures out of magazines for pictures on the wall.
Covered match boxes were sofas and other little boxes were furniture, etc. I had as much
fun with it as I would have an expensive one, maybe more.
Dad could never fix anything without cussing a blue streak, One day Uncle Adrian saw
sitting on the floor with a worried look on his face. He asked what was wrong and
Bobby told him, â€œshit, damn it, daddy fix the damnit old radioâ€. Kids have big ears,
On Sundays Dad would make us go for a scenic drive. I wouldâ€™ve much rather have
stayed home and played, but some times we did fun things like steal walnuts. Dad
would get up in the tree and shake it good so they would fall down. Then we could
gather them. When we got home, we had to take the thick covering they had on them
off. It would turn our hands black! What a time we had getting it off. Or we would go
to an outdoor market so Mom could buy bushels of tomatoes to can....or cucumbers for
pickles. Dad got apples and when he got them home, he would wrap them each in
newspaper and put them in the basement. That way they stayed good all winter. Once
in a while we could get an ice cream cone and watch the dancing fountain. It would
spout out in different shapes and the colored lights under it would change too. Bobbie
call it the perly-perly. The only thing was that Dad could make his cone last long after
ours was gone and weâ€™d sit there drooling. Dad bought Bobbie a complete cowboy
outfit, from boots to hat, which was too big for him and came down and pushed his ears
out. Heâ€™d go around singing â€œIâ€™m an old cow hand from the Rio Grandâ€. He was so
cute. When he was about 4, Grandpa and Grandma Lee took us out to the country to
visit our shirt-tail relatives. I wore a 4-gored wool skirt of pale blue wool and a rich
brown velvet jacket and white blouse. I had a pill box hat that matched my skirt. Bobbie
wore knee six and short navy pants with a double-breasted jacket and white shirt. He
had a billed cap to match. We were walking around the yard when one of the geese took
a dislike to him and spread its wings, stuck its neck out and honked like mad as it chased
him. Bless his heart, you should have seen his little legs go and he kept looking over
shoulder to see if it was getting close enough to take a hunk out of his little butt. That
wasnâ€™t enough. One of the uncles took us into the barn to see the cows get milked. They
asked Bobbie if he wanted to try it and, of course, he said yes. They put him on a low 3
legged stool and put a bucket under the cowâ€™s udder. Then they showed him how you
take hold of one of the tits and squeeze it to get the milk out. They also told him that the
third tit was for chocolate milk. We, he tried and tried without success....soon of the
guys leaned down and took one of the tits and bent it so when he squeezed it, it squirted
milk in Bobbieâ€™s face. It startled him so, he fell off the stool and got hay all over his
outfit. (Well, what did we city slickers know?) Later one of the ladies came out and
rang the dinner bell. It was on top of the big post and rang so loud when he pulled rope
that, I swear, it would be heard for miles away. We all sent in there. There was a
makeshift table that looked to be a mile long, just crammed with more food than I had
ever seen at one time, and since, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and all kinds
of vegetables they had grow, and thick slices of home made bread. Pickles of all
kinds...spiced beets and pears.. Relished, including Grandma Leeâ€™s corn relish. I wish I
had the recipe for it now. Much to my surprise, we kids were ushered through to the
kitchen to sit out on the back porch till the adults were through eating. On the way out, I
spied a beautiful banana pie, I saw there the whole time just dying for fear theyâ€™d eat it
all. They had corn on the cob and home-grown sliced tomatoes, and you know how
good they tested! That was quite an experience!
When I was about 13 or 14 I had a crush on a guy with the longest eyelashes you ever
saw. He was extremely popular so that one day when he offered to carry my books home
I was thrilled. I invited him in and we sat and talked. Well, it got later and later and
dinner was ready and Bobbie was hungry, so he came into the front room and stood in
front of the boy with his hands on his hips and asked him, â€œdonâ€™t you know your mother
wants youâ€. I couldâ€™ve died, and naturally, he never asked again.
Sometimes I get ahead of myself in my story telling so I want to backtrack. Bobbie was
about 4 (1937?) and we lived in Perry, Iowa because the Telephone Co. transferred
Dad there. He was, however, still in the Army reserves. There was a big field in back
of us and every now and then Bobbie would bring a huge big bouquet of dandelions
home to Mom, as proud of himself as if they had been roses and, or course, she oooâ€™d
and aahâ€™d over them. One day he had been playing and came home with his pockets
jangling. Mom asked him where did he get the money. â€œOhâ€, he said, â€œI earned itâ€.
â€œHow did you do that?â€ mom asked. â€œI sold some stuffâ€, he replied. â€œWhat kind of
stuff?â€ she asked. â€œOh, just stuff,â€ he told her. She finally got it out of him that he sold
some rhubarb. She asked him where he got it , and after much stalling, she found out he
had picked it out of the little old ladyâ€™s yard that lived next door. Well, she took him by
his hand and dashed him to her front door and she made him tell her what he had done
and hand her the money he had made. She went into hysterics, â€œLausy meâ€ she
laughed, â€œhe done sold me some of my own rhubarbâ€. That was when we knew Bobbie
would always do well.
One summer Mom and Dad left us with Grandma and Grandpa Lee while they went on
vacation. Poor old Grandpa, we teased him to death when we found out how goosy he
was. Just come up behind him and pretend you were going to goose him and heâ€™d jump
a mile high. Oh, we though that was so funny. One evening as they were entertaining
their friends, crocheting and chewing as usual, and Bobbie was under the table, he shot
Grandpa between the legs with his trusty little pea shooter. Poor old Grandpa hit the
ceiling! It was funny to everyone but him, but when Bobbie finally realized it had hurt
Grandpa, he cried. Grandpa had a special name for him. He called him Robert Lee
Screwdrives Graham. I donâ€™t know why, but he made up all kinds of funny sayings.
When the Telephone Co. sent dad to Perry, Iowa where we rented a duplex from a
German lady with good looking twin boys my age. (Oh, heaven) She asked mom her
name and mom told her it was Bessie and she said, â€œOh, thatâ€™s awful. Donâ€™t you have a
middle nameâ€, and Mom told her Alma. â€œOhâ€, she says, â€œthatâ€™s worse. Donâ€™t you have
a nickname?â€ Mom told her it was Cindy....so she says, â€œIâ€™ll call you thatâ€. (Mom got
her nickname from her brother and sisters because she was always left behind when they
went out on days because she was too young. One day a friend of that lady asked Mom
how come she call her that and mom told. The friend went to hysterics. â€œSo you know
what her name is,â€ she asked. Mom told her it was Carrie. â€œOh, no, itâ€™s Carlina Counda
Gonda Resonbock Libbyâ€ And she didnâ€™t like Bessie Alma.
The Army called Dad into regular service. (He was reserve before that) and sent him
Fort Knox, KY. We couldnâ€™t get housing on base, so we rented a house twenty miles
from the base and the same from the next town called Elizabethtown. I had just started
taking shorthand and so when I showed up there, the teacher said, â€œwell, class, we must
do well today because we have a northerner whoâ€™s a Majorâ€™s daughter, so do well
because they think we southerners are so dumb. [all said in an accent so think I could
hardly understand her then she began dictating to us and she said hep and dainâ€™t and
yâ€™all. Well, that was another language to me, so, of course I didnâ€™t do well. Bobbie
really enjoyed living there because there were two kids about this age and a woods for
our back yard. They played cowboy and Indians.
My Grampa Graham had died not too long before that and the 2nd World War hard been
declared. Mom knew Dad would be gone on maneuvers so she asked him for a pair of
red long handled pajamas with feet so sheâ€™d be warm at night in bed without him. Sure
â€˜nuff, he got them for her, drop seat and all.
Well my Aunt Betty died and Dad left to go to the funeral. Bobbie was outdoors as usual
and mom was having coffee with the next door neighbor. Oh, mom tell her, I donâ€™t think
any thing else can go wrong. I hate to tell you, she said, but I smell smoke. Mom went
to the cellar door and opened it and smoke and heat rushed up at her. Well she call the
Fire Dept., put on her mink coat, took out the valuables before she realized I was still
upstairs. She hollered up to me to come down, there was a fire. I came down, but she
sent me back up for my clothes. I had to crawl up because the banister was so hot it was
blistering...but I made it. In the mean time, the Fire Dept. wasnâ€™t showing up, so mom
went out to the highway and started getting people to stop and come to the back yard to
start a bucket brigade from the water pump back there when the Fire Dept. finally did
show up. Guess what they came in? One of those machines that was propelled by two
guys pumping handles on each end of the thing. Can you believe it? Of course Bobbie
just thought it was really exciting.
A week later Mom answered the door and there stood a couple of high school boys and
they told her, â€œMam, We have voted you mascot for our basketball team, â€œThe Little Red
Devils of Rinyvilleâ€. Mom about died.
We finally got in base housing. First thing mom and dad had to do was call on the base
commander and leave their calling cards. We had a flunky [service man] to take care of
the yard, wash the car, polish dads shoes, etc. When we came to dinner at night, we had
to dress up and eat in the dining room. If we went out to the BX or the commissary,
Mom and I had to wear hats and gloves. When the flag went up, no matter where you
were...if in the car, we had to get out, or just anywhere ...you had to stand with you hand
over your heart and wait until the bugle music stopped. Bobbie, of course, copied dad
and stood at attention and saluted. They had dances for kids , even Bobâ€™s age, and we
had to dress formally. A chauffeur driven car would take us and when we arrived, we
had to go through the reception line which was made us of some of the big wigs and
their wives, and shake hands. Then we could go dance. Even the little kids, but they had
to go through the line again and thank the people and we were driven home before were.
I went to the only military school on a base in the U.S. there. When it came time for our
prom [I was a sophomore] my girl friend was a senior and she was a Majorâ€™s daughter,
too, and Vice President of our class. She had a crush on the President who was a
Sargentâ€™s son. He asked her to go t the prom with him, but she wasnâ€™t allowed to
because he was an enlisted manâ€™s son.
Mom and dad took me with them to go to the Kentucky Derby. We got there early
enough to have lunch. I had a chicken salad sandwich. It was bad and made me so sick
they had to take me home and miss the Derby. Mom never quite forgave me for that.
We had to learn what an amphibious jeep , a regular jeep, tank, half track, scout car, etc.,
looked like and name them. Dad was in the Armored Division then. Bob got to ride in a
tank. I always wished I could have.
I went to three different schools in two different states in my senior year cause we moved
after that to Fort Smith, Ark. We rented a house across from General Pattonâ€™s daughter
and her husband. What a character. She looked like a Dresden doll with beautiful rosy
cheeks, blond hair done up in a braid that wove around her head like a crown. But, oh,
like her dad, the oaths that rolled out of her mouth! Mom asked her what she though
about her dad going to Africa and she said....quote â€œOh, heâ€™s having a hell of a good time
for himself, the son of a bitch.â€ She invited me to my first cocktail party. Keep in mind
I was just 15 (1940). There were 30 bachelors there and I was the only single girl. She
hauled me down to where they were gathered and introduced me to every one of
them....and left me! Well, of course I worked my way back of my momâ€™s skirts, and did
she land into me What the hell are you doing back here - shit. My mother taught me that
any time there was a party that the men would gather together in the kitchen and the
women in the front room. What you have to do is head for the men. The women will
talk about you, but theyâ€™ll talk about you if popular anyway....so get your as back down
there. Of course I did.
One night mom woke Bob and had us come to the from door. It was one of those
moonlit night in the December winter. The snow was swirling down softly and each
branch of the trees were incase in ice, making them look like a delicate aft work. I
swear, when the wind blew, they tinkled like glass chimes. Coming down the street was
a horse drawn flat bed filled with carolers singing to a portable organ. Their voices
vibrated in the cold. That a memory, as you can see, Iâ€™ve never forgotten.
From Fort Smith we moved to North Carolina. The first time a guy passed me
saying â€œheyâ€, I turned around and looked all over to see what he was talking about, but
when mom and dad took me to a dance and a Lt. asked to carry me home I was aghast? I
told him I lived 20 miles away.
Mom had a black girl cleaning for her and she would come to the front door and mom
would let her in. Until 2 of her neighbors came to call and told her she was not to do that
anymore. The colored people were to come in the back door only. This particular one
liked her booze. Mom had to hid it upstairs in the attic under a loose board. She also
kept going to the kitchen window to look out. â€œWellâ€, she said I look at that fig tree out
to see if it done bloomed yet cause the bible done say when the fig tree blooms, it be the
end of the world. Mom asked her if she was afraid of dying. Noâ€™M, she says, â€œBut I got
a lot of unfinished business. Well, we discovered that she sure nuf did. The next
Saturday night her husband came to pick her up because she was supposed to be service
our dinner guests. But we didnâ€™t have any guests. Next Monday she came to work late
and limping. Mom asked what happened and she said â€œI donâ€™t hurt myself. I fell on the
foot scraper and cut my legâ€. A foot scraper, in case, you donâ€™t know, is a piece of metal
about 6 inches long and about 4 inches high. It stuck up and you could scrape the mud
off your shoes. She shoed mom where was cut on the inside of her thigh about 10!.
Pearl Harbor happened while we were there (December 7, 1941). Dad belonged to the
Armored Division and they got their orders to go overseas. Dad was like a little kid. He
kept singing a popular song at that time, â€œBye Bye Baby, Daddyâ€™s Off to the Seven
Seasâ€. It used to make mom so mad. Well, just before they left he was yanked out and
sent to China as a Liaison officer between the Air and ground troops. Boy was he upset.
He wanted to go with his gang. But thank God he did not, because they were sent to the
Battle of the Bulge. After the war we found out that all the guys either came home
injured or dead.
After he left, mom decided to move us to California because she figured that would be
where heâ€™d land when he came home. So she packed Bob and I and his darn dog. It
kept getting sick and most motels wouldnâ€™t allow dogs, so we had to stay in some pretty
bad places. One even had bed bugs. Mom thought it best to stop for awhile in an air
conditioned motel before crossing the desert that night, Bob disappeared. He wasnâ€™t
sleepy. Well, after a while he came back with money in his jeans again! Heâ€™d gone
down to the tracks were a load of G.I.s were on a troop train. He sold them cold drinks
because they were not allowed all.
Everything under the sun was rationed at that time. Darned if we didnâ€™t get a flat. Tires
were extremely hard to come by and we were worried we couldnâ€™t get one, but mom
found a guy who was a Mason and she showed him her card and he got us a brand new
We ended up in a nice beach front apartment in Seal Beach next door to Long Beach.
Bob love it because he could go swimming all the time, and once every year the tiny fish
call grunions came in on the waves laying eggs. Weâ€™d get Bob to run out and grab as
many as he could. Then we would build a fire and cook and eat them right there on the
beach along with a bunch of other people doing the same thing.
I started working in the California shipyards, which meant starting out at five in the
morning to catch a bus to Long Beach and then get on an electric train that took us to the
yards. I had to walk three very dark blocks to get to the bus stop. Mean while, all the
drunk sailors were coming back to bas. Mom didnâ€™t know this until years later. I was
afraid. I had a large metal lunch box and I would put it in my right hand and swing it
back and forth while saying the Lordâ€™s Prayer. I figured if one of the approached me, I
already had my swing going and I would conk him a good one. Later, I get a job in Seal
Beach at the Ammunition Depot. I worked nights, and after a while one of the gobs
would bring me a doughnut. We had a small cot next to the switch board to take a cat
nap on because we could set the bell to wake us up to answer calls. I was a PBX and
teletype operator, but one morning the manager found foot prints upside down on the
wall by the cot and that was the end of our doughnuts.
One moon lit night, mom was really missing dad, she asked me to go for a walk on the
beach with her. She had on a flowing hostess gon. She found a orange crate and sat on
it. Some sailors that worked where I did came up to say hello and mom stuck her nose
up in the air and wouldnâ€™t speak to them. Not much later a big wave came long and
swept her and the crate out into the swirling water. The guys went in and saved her.
Well, from that day on they were welcome to come over and have a drink. She made
friends with a couple of marine women. They made a pact that every time they went to a
bar they would snitch a glass and bring it to our house. The idea was that on V.J. Day
they would come over and have a drink in every glass and then throw it into the
fireplace. They did, and we were picking up glass for weeks after that. I was
downtown Long Beach when V. J. Day was declared and everyone was screaming and
crying and cheering and kissing. It was an afternoon to remember.
Dad wrote us letters telling us his experiences in China. He was invited to Madam
Chunk Chi Checkâ€™s house, along with a friend of his, for dinner. When they got there,
the maitre de greeted them with a head bowed and hands together saying, heh, he, heh
and they in turn had to mimic him. They were told that they were expected to pick out a
particular dish that they enjoyed, and as they leave, they are to tell him which one it was.
Well, there was those awful rotten eggs, and birdâ€™s nest soup, octopus, and all sorts of
dreadful things. But they found one beef dish in a good sauce and they gorged on it....so
after the round of heh hehâ€™s, they told him about this dish. His answer was...â€Ah so,
very fine delicacy, nice flesh dog.
Dad was honorary mayor of this town he was in. I canâ€™t remember now what itâ€™s name
was. He and a high Chinese official would make periodic runs in a jeep to out-of-limits
places to the G.I.s. One such place was called Mama Foo Whoâ€™s. She had a tall, really
tall, rock wall around her â€œhouseâ€ and on top of it was crushed glass. One night they
made a raid on Mama Foo Whoâ€™s. The next day a Captain came stomping in to dadâ€™s
office looking as though he had been in a cat fight. He cussed dad out royally for the
raid because he said, â€œdamn it, I had a VIP with me and you had to choose that night to
raid. We had to scramble over the GOD fence.
Dad told us about a superstition they had over there about sin. Each time they committed
one, a dragon attached itself behind them. So if they could crack their shirt tail past a
jeep going down the street, and just miss getting hit, there was much cheering and
dancing going on because he was now without sin. The sad thing about that was that
they were stupid enough to try to running front of the planeâ€™s propellers. They lost quite
a few Chinese that way.
Finally dad got to come home. Mom and Bob and I picked him up at the base. He, of
course, wanted to do the driving, but every time he went around a corner, heâ€™d land on
the wrong side of the road. They drove like the English over there. We went to Knotts
Berry Farm for lunch and had fried chicken. Dad was so excited to be home....and we
were all talking so fast that he didnâ€™t realize with every piece of chicken he finished eating, he would throw the gone over his shoulder. When he stopped laughing long enough, we pointed out to him what he was doing. Oh, he laughed. I am sorry, but over there thatâ€™s what we did and the dogs ate them.
This is the end of my story because the rest is not really the olden days. I hope you all have enjoyed my story and will pass it on.