Chapter 4 - Yes, Mom, I do Remember

WeedPatch, California: Land of Milk and Honey!

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.
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.
Family Friends
Family Friends
An "Oakie" ready to Pick cotton
An "Oakie" ready to Pick cotton

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.

Chapter 5: http://hubpages.com/hub/Chapter-5-Yes-Mom-I-do-Remember

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Comments 21 comments

Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS

Oh! how amazing! Your mother & I have a rather special little habit in common: inability to use a thimble and the way she describes that no matter what finger she put it on, she'd use another one is exactly the same with me. And I have loved sewing all my life! In fact, my mother promised her gold thimble to whichever daughter learned to sew best & my eldest sister was an expert & my middle sister was very good at making home decor, upholstering, etc. But I won the prize - but still couldn't use it! LOL.

Had to tell you that as soon as I read her words. Now I'm going back to reading the rest! LOL


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA Author

Nellieanna, Last year mom sold her "old" Singer for $25. She said it was too heavy!


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 6 years ago from South Africa

OMG.!, this was such a shock! I am crying my heart out over here! My two brothers (Phillip and Lucas) are 8-10 years younger than I, they were my responsibility, ‘my’ kids. So I saw them in the twins. Omg! This was a horrible thing that happened! This hub-series of yours, Dallas, make this Sunday morning for me really special. Voted UP!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS

I wonder, Dallas - what model Singer it was. I learned to sew on a treadle sewing machine. During the summers, my older sisters made their clothes for college while we were at the ranch. I'd get to practice on the machine when they or Mother weren't using it. Later when they became available and for town, we got motorized ones. When I went off to boarding school in the summer before my High School senior year, I made my entire school-year wardrobe by hand! I only took a piano course, so I had time to sew. I still enjoy sewing by hand. Guess it was all those quilt blocks I had to make to earn my dime for the Saturday shoot-em-up movies as a kid in Del Rio! But my prize was my graduation from high school present - a Singer portable "Featherlight", which I still have. I've had a lot of sewing machines, but that baby sewed the best, straightest seams ever, till I got my computerizied Pfaff, which I adore. That was my first-ever computer in fact. LOL. George bought it for me not long after we married.

But, Dallas, those old Singers are prized antiques now. Too bad she didn't offer it on E-Bay. She probably could have commanded a much higher price for it! Does she still sew?

My heart cries for those poor dears in that horrid fire. Such a tragedy. The descriptions are so vivid, it's truly like being there. I can't even imagine, though, the pain and anquish poor Phyllis must have suffered. Are they both still living? Our house burned once but it was when I was at school. Fire is such a gruesome thing.

When I was in Jr. High, sitting in class one morning I heard fire engines. That afternoon after school, a friend's mother picked us up to drive us home and when I got home, it was to find all the furniture that could be saved out in the yard. That lady didn't even warn me, though she knew our house had burned. It was a brick house with an asbestos roof so the damage was mostly inside. What wasn't burned or charred was smoked and/or water damaged from the firefighters. I still have music which was open on the piano with smoke stains on it and many of my salvaged treasures are smoke-stained. I guess I was 11 or 12. (I started school very young and then skipped a grade). It started in the back, where my room was, so many of my dolls & other childhood treasures were burned. But thank goodness, no one was inside so no one was hurt. Many of Mother's loveliest oil paintings were ruined, hand-made quilts were burned or charred. Awful. We lived in the garage for most of the school year while the repairs were being made. We stayed right there mostly to prevent looting. We'd only recently moved to San Angelo and I felt like an outsider already, uprooted from Del Rio where my freinds & roots were. Living in the garage seemed to further damage my status - or so I felt. Kids! So super-sensitive.

You know, this is the first time I've EVER heard anyone else mention "Guess What" candies! I used to spend my pennies on them. They consisted of a couple of little peanut-butter chewy candies wrapped in wax paper, with some sort of a "sur-prize" toy, all wrapped in a Guess-What wrapper which almost looked hand-wrapped. The paper wasn't even glued or fastened on, just wrapped in a clever way. The main thing was finding out what the surprize was! The other choice for a penny was a small Tootsie Roll. I wasn't allowed much candy so these were really treats. I'd walk to Lowe's filling station to shop for the treasures.


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA Author

MartieCoetser, Thanks! I first completed a hub sight about nostalgia - "Days of Remembering... Why Are They good For You?" I had talked to my mother and she told me about her notes she wrote when my grandmother died (94 years young). It made a big impact on my mother's idea and notion of mortality.... That conversation and a fellow "hubber's" comment prompted, "I will write about my background and then it segued into my mother's background.

Mom's voice is outstanding. She never finished high school. She was class president and had to quit school. She wanted to be a lawyer. Notwithstanding her lack of a "formal" education she is "smart as a whip (my grandmother's words). I am proud of her....


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA Author

Nellieanna, Both you and MartiCoetser get up early! The Singer sewing machine was an old electric model. It was in great condition. Mom took very good care of it. It was a source of much pride and handiwork. I do remember the Trindle Singer Sewing Machine. My mom's sister had one. My cousin and I would (when no adults around) see how fast we could "pump it" to make it go real fast. My cousin was rich. They had a "party telephone!" ...and a radio! We never had a TV, or a telephone. I left home at 17. That is another story... Nostalgia...

Phyllis had one of the most miserable lives of any person I know. Her scars created hardships for her. She married late in life... She "settled" for a bum and he made her life hell. She gave a stillborn birth in a toilet... Her death was a slow, agonizing cancer death... All but one of her 4 children are dead (suicide, cancer, and intestinal gangrene (no medical attention). Her brother, Phillip died of cancer last year... His death process was much quicker.

The fire you experienced gave you appreciation for what you had.

The "Guess Whats" sounds like the "no see-em" small gnats mom talked about that were a pest... Do you remember "Cracker Jacks?" They had a small, cheap "surprise" in the box of caramel popcorn. They were a nickel. Memories, good, bad, and the ugly. Life is what we do while we make plans...


saddlerider1 profile image

saddlerider1 6 years ago

I'm back I slipped for a bit there. I can remember the day we got our first vinyl flooring laid down in our flat. Us kids would slide across it and pull each other around slip and slide style on a blanket. Our mother would holler at us to stop it your all going to scratch our new floor:0))

My mother also had a treadstep sewing machine she use to make our clothes and we would stand by her side and watch her work that machine it was amazing how her legs would keep the needle a working.

A wind came up and blew the house crooked, that reads funny, however I realize it wasn't at the time:0)

That was very sad about the fire and getting her arms and hands and ears burnt. I had a friend who thankfully for the rubber boots he was wearing saved his life. He was climbing a telephone pole to fetch a kite that had wrapped itself around wire, he got himself electrocuted and I visited him in the hospital he was burnt from neck to toe. Both his elbows had grafts on them and skin removed from his butt to replace the burnt skin on his elbows, after that he could not bend his arms completely.

This is another very exciting hub, looking forward to the next chapter. I am enjoying your mother's history.


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA Author

saddlerider1, Even though this is my mother's story, I too was raised poor. I know what it feels like to step out of the outhouse in the hot, 105 degree summer heat and feel the cool, summer breeze. I read lots of Sears and Montgomery catalogs in the outhouse... (It was our toilet paper).

My aunt Phylliss's (mom's sister) burns were terrible. She never fully recovered. They would take the bandages off everyday while she screamed. She was wrapped head to toe in gauss... That house is still there in Weedpatch. People still live in it.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS

My Dad's early Ford truck's motor blew up and burnt his chest badly. He had to be wrapped in gauze too. They used Foille burn ointment. That was miraculous stuff - OTC, too.

Our outhouse at the ranch faced the view of the lovely mountains in Mexico - and no people out that direction often, so one could leave the door open and browse the Sears and "Monkey-Wards" catalogs, there for toilet paper too - but if one found good paper-doll figures, it was okay to tear them out and keep them for that. We didn't go out there at night, though. I know I didn't, but my brother described me first thing in the morning light as looking like a flight of fancy racing across the compound in my little flowing nightie, headed for the outhouse! I may have been barefoot too, - I can't believe it but I used to walk around on all those rocks barefoot! Now I'm such a tenderfoot, if I step on a penny barefoot, it hurts.

We had old blue linoleum on the kitchen floor in the ranch house. I can still see the trail of blood across that linolium from my toe after I stepped on a piece of broken glass & almost severed it but Mother took care of it & I still have the toe.

The 2 bedroom floors were just wood planks. The screened-in sleeping porch was smooth concrete. Nice and cool in hot weather. Mother & Dad built the house. It was thick rock from their own canyons, each set in a form & concrete poured around it to make regular sized blocks. They were over a foot thick so very good insulation in both hot and cold wearther. Sturdy too. The house was square with a pyramid-shaped roof.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS

We were and weren't "poor". We didn't have a lot of extra money. Everything possible went to pay for the ranches. Only by extreme frugality could a ranch with a debt against it be saved during the depression. Most people weren't up to managing what it took and lost theirs. The banks acquired the land. My parents were willing to sacrifice in order to "hold onto" it. Not that they had that much anyway - but they managed to hold on by really hard work & virtually no spending, though Mother managed to get a few art supplies. I think she sneaked a little out of the food budget, which was pretty small. She always said that Dad didn't believe in spending for luxuries and she didn't believe in spending for necessities so between the two of them, their expenses were small!

Education was a high priority for them both, though. They both had degrees - fairly unusual for when they got them, 1917, especially for a woman. Mother actually earned 2 bachelors' simultaneously, one @ the Univ. of Chicago in "Domestic Science" and one at the Chicago ARt Institute in Fine Art. Dad's was from the Univ. of Wisconsin in Animal Husbandry. He'd planned to be a dairy farmer! haha. They started out with nothing else - no money. But their main incentive & motivation was to be able to see all 4 of us through college - and to help worthy other kids who might not otherwise be able to go. They sacrificed a lot to do that. I value everything so greatly, knowing their dedication & spirits.


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA Author

Nellieanna, You have reflecting and traveling down "memory lane." Does not the "reminiscing" remind you of how grateful and thankful you are? The contrast of our past provides an appreciation of what is today... I can feel your pride of your parents! What wonderful parents you had. they provided a rich tapestry of life woven with threads of love...


saddlerider1 profile image

saddlerider1 6 years ago

It's amazing what parents will do for their children no matter how much or how little money they have. Sacrifice was a common thread growing up in my neck of the woods. My mom did so much of it for us kids. I don't even want to attempt to attempt here to write a list of her sacrifices.

All I know is that truly she was blessed by God and an angel stood by her through it all. RIP mom..you are never forgotten.

The out house, my goodness I remember not even having one. Instead we had a bucket with a toilet seat placed on top. One of my daily chores was having to go and toss it in a hole off to the back of the shack we lived in. Once a month a truck came by to empty the hole into some holding tank on his truck. Could you imagine the smell we lived with on a daily basis when the winds swept through on a hot humid day. Ewwwwwwwwwwwww.

Oh well another one of those hardships that tested our mettle and prepared us for life ahead.


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA Author

saddlerider1, Your past serves you well as mine does. It has put a steel rod down our backbone...


World-Traveler profile image

World-Traveler 6 years ago from USA

Your writing equals that of Sir John Steinbeck! Five Stars *****


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA Author

World-Traveler, I wish! Thanks.


katiem2 profile image

katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

This was a magical read and makes me think of two things; 1) My Grandpa always said, "Do what you gotta do to get what you need and make the best of it cause it aint worth doing if you don't do it right and with a joyful heart" The watering is a perfect example of that!

2) We here so much about how hard it is NOW, we could all learn to be grateful for all we have by reflecting on such stamina and hardworking folks like you all back then. In fact we have so much, probably to much! We could all learn to do better with less!

Great read!


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA Author

katiem2, Thanks! Grandpa has earned wisdom. My mother was reflecting about the good old days last week and she remembers how much time it took to do the "simple" household chores. Cooking on a kerosene stove, hand washing on a rub-board (hard work), hanging the clothes out on the clothes line, ironing, and etc...


ralwus 6 years ago

I do so admire the spunk those hard times gave people and the struggle made you all so much stronger than we are today, I think. Your poor sis getting burned like that, and by a little brat no less. heart wrenching. How is she now?


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA Author

Phyllis had a miserable life. She died a slow cancer death. Her daughter committed suicide, her son died of cancer, had a rotten husband... She never recovered from the burns... She screamed everyday when they took off the bandages.


onegoodwoman profile image

onegoodwoman 6 years ago from A small southern town

....turning the page....


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA Author

onegoodwoman, Thanks!

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