Monday, July 31, 2006

Lillian Denton Memoirs

Lillian (Penny) is my Aunt who grew up in central Texas.

When I was growing up in the 30s and 40s times were pretty rough. At the time we didn't realize how difficult life was because we had nothing to compare it with. It was the only life we had ever known. We had no running water and we didn't have electricity until 1943, the year I turned 17.

I still recall those dreaded Mondays. It was our washday. Daddy would draw a barrel of water from the well, place it on a sled and pull it to the house. He would then pour the water into an old black cast iron wash pot and build a fire around it. Mother would take a bar of her homemade lye soap and start shaving it into thin strips and drop them into the pot. Then Daddy would fill two or three wash tubs with water. One was to wash the clothes in and the others for rinsing. Mother would scrub the clothes on a washboard while the white clothes were left in the pot to soak. She rinsed the clothes in one tub first and then into the second tub for another rinse while adding bluing to give the clothes a brighter look. I helped to rinse and hang the clothes on the line to dry.

When all the washing was done mother would use the wash water to scrub the floors of the house. I remember how fresh and clean the whole house would smell on those Monday wash days.

After the washing was complete came the chore of sprinkling the clothes to be ironed before placing them in a pillow case. Next day was ironing day. We used the old-fashioned "flat irons" heated on the top of a wood burning stove. Mother had three irons. When the one she was using started to cool she would put it back on the stove and exchange it for one of the hot ones. It took all day to do the ironing. She made our starch by mixing a powder with boiling water. Our clothes were so nice and stiff after ironing. I loved the way they felt.

We didn't have a lot of entertainment so we made up our own. We loved to play Jacks, Hang Man's Noose, and Dominoes inside the house and then on nice days we went outside to play Hide and go seek, Kick the Can and Throw the ball over the house. We also loved the simple pleasures of catching lightning bugs or taking turns on an old tire swing. I liked to play Follow the Leader. I was always the leader. The kids would do what ever I did and sometimes it was scary. I was a real dare devil. Somehow we never got hurt. I guess we were just lucky.

We didn't get a radio until about 1940. It was battery operated so Daddy limited our listening time. He didn't want us to run the batteries down. During those precious minutes we could listen we really enjoyed the radio serials such as "The Shadow", "Inner Sanctum", The Lone Ranger" and "Lump 'n Abner". For illumination we used kerosene lamps. They didn't give much light but that's all we had to do our homework by. I wonder why we didn't go blind.

My brother and I learned how to milk the cows. We had a cream separator. Daddy poured in the milk and we took turns turning the handle. It had two spouts. The skimmed milk came out one and the cream came out the other. I never did figure out how that worked. I liked catching a little cream and putting it on my oatmeal. Daddy wouldn't let me have much because he sold the cream. He would set it out each morning and the milkman would pick it up.

We walked to school each day, either a mile or two depending on where we lived at the time. It wasn't too bad until winter when it was wet and cold and the road became wetland muddy. Somehow we always made it O.K. Our school was a two-room building. One teacher taught first through the fourth in one room while the teacher-principal taught the fifth through the eighth in the other room. I went through all eight grades and then went to High School in Marlin.

Daddy always had an old car. The first one I remember was a Model T Ford. The next one was a Model A Ford. He taught me how to drive when I was about 12. I would work the clutch and he would shift the gears. I wanted to do the whole thing but he wouldn't allow it. One day when they were all in the field I got behind the wheel and drove out to where they were. Daddy came to meet me shouting, "What are you doing?" I said, "See, I told you I could drive by myself". From then on he let me drive solo. Sometimes I could drive to school and on Sundays I would pick up my girlfriends and we would go looking for boys. Ha!

Our school would put on stage plays and all the parents would come to see them. Once I had the role of a "Black Mammy" in a play. They blacked my face, painted on big red lips and tied a bandanna around my head. Then they stuffed pillows in front and back of my clothing. When I walked across the stage you should have heard the screams and laughter. Mother said my rear end was really jiggling.

Once our school had a box supper. Mother decorated a box and put a nice supper in it. The idea was to auction the boxes off to the highest bidder. I was hoping my boy friend, Jack Clements, would buy it so we could eat it together but my Uncle Walter was the highest bidder so I dined with my uncle instead. But anyway it was fun because we didn't have much excitement in those days.

This is related to her husband Lester's memoirs - Tales from Spunky Flats.

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