Chapter 4 - Yes, Mom, I do Remember
WeedPatch, California: Land of Milk and Honey!
We have food on the table
Chapter 4 – Yes Mom, I do Remember
We have food on the table
During the Dust Bowl migration more than one million people left their homes and set out for California. The Weedpatch Camp near Lamont, became a safe place for them to live.
We are all settled and Mom has decided to grow a garden. We have been carrying all of our water from a community hydrant so now we are going to be kept busier than ever. We got two oil barrels from somewhere and we got on top of them and walk them down to the community hydrant and fill them with water. We always called them galloping barrels when filled with water. What was a job had now become a game to see who could get down there and back first. We walked enough water back and forth to plant a garden, four China-berry trees and some castor-bean trees and for our baths in the old #3 wash-tubs. We are busy all the time; it seemed as if we never had much time to play. Mom had begun to do some quilting and trying to get us to use thimbles so the needles wouldn't punch holes in our fingers. No matter what finger I put the thimble on, I would always use another finger. I still don't use one.
Somehow, we have managed to get linoleum on the main room and the kitchen floors; this has made the floor-scrubbing job lot easier.
One of the famous windstorms has blown so hard it has blown our house crooked. Dear faithful Laury is there again to help us get it straightened up again and then we find out we are on the wrong lot. Somehow, we get it moved to the correct lot and that same house after fifty years is still standing today (July, 2012).
Mom has begun to work at Di Georgio Farms with Esther in the packing shed, until now; Esther has been the main provider for the family. Evalee and I are given the responsibility of taking care of Phyllis and Phillip and the household chores plus the garden. I don't know where I learned to make soup (maybe experimenting) but I got to be pretty good at it. Evalee was all-ways so slow to get started at anything so out of frustration I would end up doing most of the work. I felt better doing the work than fighting and arguing with her about it.
Summer is over and this year of 1933. Phyllis and Phillip start to school. They are really cute kids, both have blonde hair and big beautiful blue eyes. Phillip is the Tom Sawyer type, Phyllis the calm cool collected stay out of trouble type. We all head for the bus stop and Phyllis is telling Phillip that she isn't scared and Phillip says, “if they scare me I will go to Evalees's room.” We all go to the same school, Vineland, located halfway between Weedpatch and Arvin. There are two first grades, Phillip is put in one and Phyllis the other (the school thought it best to separate twins). They got of school two hours earlier than we did so we were anxious to get home to see how they survived their first day. When our bus came to a stop, they were there waiting for us. Phillip was full of excitement and ready to take over the conversation, Phyllis interrupted and said, "All I did was scribble and scrawl."
Everything seems to be going along great, we have food on the table and clothes on our backs, and we own the roof over our heads. We were still in the depression years but things were getting a little better.
We have gotten a little dog and it has brought some joy and entertainment to the family. Mom was prone to have fainting spells and if she was there by herself, this little dog (POOCHIE) would run pell-mell to the neighbors down the street and bark and run in circles and have such a fit that finally the neighbor would investigate.
The sand storms so hard one time that it blew our house crooked. I think Laury came to our rescue again and helped straighten it up and the next thing I hear , we have our house on the wrong piece of ground I don't recall how we moved it , but finally we were all settled down again on the lot it should be on.
March 15, 1940 Esther and Laury decide to get married. I thought Mom would have a heart attack, Esther was her buddy, the only one that could make her laugh. She resented Laury for years for taking Esther away from her and getting married in Reno Nevada and moving to Dutch Flat, California They came back when school was out and took Evalee and I up there for the summer. They lived in a house that was built over a tree stump that had grown a little and made the living room floor rise in the middle. Boards were laid from the kitchen door to the back of the lot to the out-house over wild black-berry vines that grew everywhere. You didn't dare get off the boards for fear of being scratched from head to foot.
Dutch Flat was an old gold mining town and still had some board sidewalks. Laury worked in the mines while living there and used to have a rock that they used for a doorstop that had veins of gold in it.
We got some skates from somewhere and learned to roller-skate down the hill. We made some new skating friends and begin to enjoy the summer. Evalee became very contentious for some unknown reason, seems like she was scratching and clawing every time I turned around. One time I ran in the house and locked the door behind me, I thought she was going to break the door down.
Mom has gotten in touch with Esther and we are told," a terrible thing has happened, Phyllis and Phillip have gotten burned in a fire, and we are to come home immediately." We leave as soon as possible, when we arrive in Weedpatch. We are informed that Phyllis and Phillip had gone to the little grocery store in Weedpatch and had bought one of those “Guess What's" candies you got for a penny and had sat down between two gas pumps to open it and share the contents and watch the gasoline man fill the underground storage tanks full of gas. Meantime, one of the meanest little boys in camp has made a match shooter out of a wooden clothespin and shot it toward the gas tanks. The gas exploded and burned Phyllis over most of her body. Her ears were charred and wrinkled, all of her eyebrows and eyelashes were gone, and the skin was hanging from her hands and back. She was taken to the hospital in Arvin and was wrapped from head to foot. We could only see her eyes, nose, and mouth. Phillip was burned on one arm and so was the little boy that shot the match. Phyllis was in the hospital several months, Mom was with her constantly and always praying. When Phyllis was released from the hospital to come home, we discovered that the first joint of the fingers on her right hand had burned off. She had used it trying to fight the fire; it was curled in a half grip. Horrible scars covered both of her hands, arms and back, they looked as if huge blisters had risen and solidified and were a raw ugly looking red. Miracle of miracles, her ears were saved. Her face and ears were red for a long time.
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