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Chapter 3 - Yes, Mom, I do Remember
Mom Made Our Dresses From Flour Sacks
My Mother's Words About Her Struggle to Survive
My Mother's Words About Her Struggle to Survive
When the fruit was all over for the season, people would head for the cotton fields. You had to hustle or you may not even get a get a job picking cotton. Sometimes it seemed like there was a hundred people there .
We pulled canvas cotton sacks twelve feet long with the bottom cut out so that when we got it full with ninety to a hundred pounds we could stand in the cotton trailer and dump from both ends of the sack. If you picked three hundred plus pounds from sun up to sun down, you were a good cotton picker. Our wages were a dollar per hundred pounds. Esther and my dad picked cotton seven days a week and Evalee and I would pick on Saturday and Sunday with them. All the money went to support the family.
We would put cardboard in our shoes until it wouldn't work anymore and then mom would glue on some half soles. These would last for a while, but the glue not being what it is today, they soon came lose and we would go around kicking our feet and making these loud slapping noises. The school would give us some shoes when they could find some to fit us and we got some clothes from some kind of relief fund. We moved out of the two-roomed cabin in to a cabin that had two rooms and a side room. The windows had screens and canvas covers with a board across the bottom so that it could be rolled up in warm weather and let down an nailed down in cold weather. When the wind we would have this constant flapping and knocking sound Esther and Laury started going together while we lived here. Laury was a bachelor and lived across from us. He would visit us and I would listen to him tell some of the funniest stories and sing some of the funniest songs I have ever heard to this day. It is too bad he didn't write them down. Esther would play her banjo she got in get in Oklahoma, early in the morning before she went to work. I thought it was the prettiest music I ever heard.
We used to spend many of our summer evenings at the canals swimming. It was the only way to keep cool. Evalee and I used to fill these #3 wash tubs with water and sit in them to keep cool. There wasn't any trees or grass to keep things cool.
They, don't have entertainment like they used to, you've heard that old expression about things not as good as they used to be. We have too much these days to stop and appreciate the small things that pass most of us by before we really realize what we missed. Anybody and everybody gathered at this little old church in Weedpatch with the sawdust floors a wooden platform where the people with their guitars, banjo's tambourines with sheepskin on them so that you could really get a rhythm, French Harps, mandolins any instrument anyone wanted to bring. The preachers would preach hellfire and brimstone and damnation. One preacher got so excited that he jumped up and swung from the rafters. The brothers and sisters would shout their amens and hallelujahs and clap their hands in approval. When the acrobatic preacher finished his damnation sermon, he would say, do as I say not as I do. All these people that shouted their approval and shouted out their frustrations, sang and danced to their hearts content, were ready to go home and to go on with their lives and wait for the next revival.
In between revivals there were fights with knives and fist over wives, husbands, sweethearts, and religion, and adultery was committed all around. Someone burned the church down and the next rival was held in a huge tent. All these same people are back at the rival, saying , Oh God please forgive me, I've been mean and rotten, I promise I'll be good this time, and here we go again. I don't remember the police being called about all these fights and stabbings.
I think the closest sheriff was in Arvin, seven or eight miles away. The church seemed to be the center of entertainment and social life.
It didn't take too much to make us happy or entertain us. We would invent our own games. Writing secrets on pieces of paper, putting them in a can, digging a hole and burying them, and all you had to do was just mention having a secret buried, and all the kids were curious and wanted to know where it was and what it said. Just the special few got to know. It was a small thing, a can in a hole, but very entertaining. We played all kinds of games with marbles. We had special cat’s eye marbles and steelies (steel bearings) that we prized and horseshoes, bean flips (sling shots), rubber guns that looked like rifles and shot several shots and some looked like pistols. We put wire thru tin cans and used them as stilts and also make wooden stilts from three inches to three feet off the ground. We would get old car tires and one of us would curl up inside of it and the other would roll the tire all around everywhere, eventually we would get so dizzy we would fall out. The old sears catalogue was useful in many ways. The two main purposes were outhouses and paper dolls. We would spend hours cutting out paper dolls and making furniture out of matchboxes and any other kind of cardboard we could find. It was a source of entertainment just getting it together.
Mom and Esther decided we needed to improve our mode of living. My dad was always taking trips to Arkansas and Ed was in the Army, so it was left up to Mom and Eshter to change our life style. Esther and Laury had been going together quite a while and he was going to be a great help to us in building our new house when we got enough money saved. Somehow we got old boxcar and got all the nails out and got a house built. It had three large rooms. It was boxcar lumber inside and outside. We still used coal oil (kerosene) to cook with and a potbellied stove that really ate up the wood. Mom and Eshter decided we were going to Sacramento so they could work in the canneries to pay for the house. A large woman, her daughter, and sister were going also. We crawled in an old 1931 Chevy and off we went. At thirty-five miles an hour and stopping to camp overnight, it took us two days to get there. We found a place to camp along the American River, green grass, trees, and water everywhere. Mom and Esther went to work in the canneries in Sacramento and worked from midnight to eight in the morning. Evalee and I took care of Phyllis and Phillip and explored all the nooks and crannies along the American River. Somehow, we managed to get aboard one of the Paddle wheelers. We felt like we were on one of the greatest adventures of our lives. As our good luck or bad luck would have it, we got caught before we could experience our great adventure.
A man with a long beard lived in a covered wagon and was always trying to entice us to come in and look at something he had made. We were much too frightened to go anywhere near him. We always referred to him as the bearded monster. He would throw out rolls of crepe paper to get us to come closer. We would grab the rolls farthest away from him and run. Our imaginations really went to work. We made all kinds of costumes, hats, purses, clothes for us and our cotton sock dolls and decided to make a platform for a stage to perform on out of some cardboard boxes. The boxes were constantly collapsing. We must have done all right; I remember some change we couldn't wait to spend. Cardboard boxes were in great demand to be used to cover the dirt floors in the tents we lived in. When the cardboard got dirty, we threw it away and got more boxes to break down and spread over the dirt. We had three-burner kerosene stove outside the tent to cook on. If it wasn't level it smoked the pans black, after the food was cooked, and we were tough with the pan, we would rub the pan back and forth in the dirt to get most all of the black off and then wash with soap and water.
Gypsies would come by and look in our garbage hunting for food. They never found anything in ours, we always cleaned our plates. They would eat food directly from the garbage cans in the middle of the summer. I don't know how they survived. The children would beg for pennies and the adults would beg to tell your fortune for food or money.
Seems as if Mom and Esther were all-ways working, they finally get a day off and we all go to Sacramento. Aside from being in Bakersfield one time, this is the only town of any size we have been in. We have great expectations of what we are going to get with our few coins. Mom has persuaded us to give her our money to put with hers and she will buy us each a dress for $1.98. Evalee and I are elated, it is unbelievable, we are getting a ready-made dress and being able to help gave us an extra good felling.
Iva Penrod, the big fat lady that came to Sacramento with us claims she has the divine calling from God to go preach the Gospel. She persuades all of us to go to the Rescue Mission where she expounds them to leave their sinful ways and jumps up and down and says her “praise the Lords, hallelujahs” and then sits down. We then listen to more singing, shouting and preaching and have withstood all the begging and pleading to go to the alter to escape damnation and suffering forever in the fires of hell. If you stayed until the service was over you were invited to eat, which of course was the reason behind Iva's getting a call to preach. It is a wonder our appetites weren't scared out of us. I guess our appetites were enduring. We have been babysitting Iva's little girl and Evalee and I get another ready-make dress for babysitting all summer. We felt pretty good, now we had two new ready-made dresses.
We have spent a great summer along the Sacramento River. Mom and Esther have decided it is time to go back to Weedpatch and start building the house we have been talking about, they have scavenged railroad lumber from these old boxcars and we are busy getting nails out and hauling lumber.
Esthers boyfriend, Laury Rose was busy helping us, I don't know what we would have, done without him. Here we are, all trying to put this house together. I don't remember if my dad was there to help us or not, he had gone to Arkansas while we were in Sacramento. Laury is the only man remember being around. The house is finally built with boxcar lumber inside and out. It has three large rooms. One room is a long room for cooking, eating and a cot at one end for Pop to sleep on. Another room for the main room with a dresser, a potbellied stove, a rocking chair and a bed that Mom, Esther and Phyllis slept on. Our room had a cot for Phillip to sleep on a double bed for Evalee and I, a dresser we made out of apple crates and a skirt put around it to hide everything but the top. I don't remember any closets; everything was folded and put in shelves. When I saw my Dad sleeping on the cot in the kitchen, I finally realized my dad and mom had not slept together for several years. I remember them talking once while living in this house. Pop would sit in the rocking chair and read his bible and I would comb what hair he had and put tin curlers in it.
I guess to literally get me out of his hair; he would go out, sit in the car, and read his bible. This house has cost us a total of $60.00. People still live in today!
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