Insights of Retirement Living

Living the first ten years of my life on a farm at the edge of a small town in Ohio, gave the best of two worlds, neighbors just across the street, next door, down the street, etc., school to where I could walk with the other neighborhood kids, roller skate in nice weather, plus living on a farm with chickens, pigs, and a dairy. There was a big lawn with lots of gardens and fruit trees.

Some of the best memories are those of the senior citizens who were a part of my life at an early age. (My extended family of relatives all lived in Pennsylvania.) Mrs. Schoffter* lived outside of town but just a short distance down the gravel road, easily walked. Her son was an engineer of a train that regularly puffed through the edge of our town. Evidently Mrs. Schoffter knew his schedule. If I was there at the right time, we would go outside and wave. Her son would wave and blow the whistle.

Mrs. Keiffer* lived across the street, catty-cornered. The earliest memory of being in her home was when my brother was born. I was taken there to stay overnight for that process. I remember lying on a cot upstairs, sobbing, not a happy time for either of us. There were other times. Memories include Mrs. Keiffer telling me of the son who died young after having some surgery. He was ready to die, planning the songs he wished used for his funeral. I would go over there just to amuse myself. I remember playing paper dolls on the floor in her home. She was a seamstress and every fall and spring she would make a dress for me for the season and church dresses. At that time patterns were shown in the newspapers. I would choose one, take the picture to Mrs. Keiffer; she would make the dress just by looking at the picture.

After we moved to a farm in the country, our family went back to visit Mrs. Keiffer. One time I went alone, just me. The neighbor boy, Edgar, and I had fun sitting in the empty fish pool, burning holes in a piece of paper with a magnifying glass. Mrs. Keiffer must have had to keep us busy doing something.

Mrs. Sowner* lived next door. She did not sew; she played the piano and taught me how to play the piano. Mrs. Sowner was diabetic. I watched her give herself shots of insulin in her hip. Later she died. That might have been the first time I had the experience of seeing someone in a casket. The casket was in their living room with a lacy net over the open casket. I can see it yet in my mind. The Sowner’s had an open lot/lawn on the other side of the house surrounded by maple trees. That was a great place to play with the leaves on the ground in the fall.

Mr. and Mrs. Lissey* lived next to the Sowner’s. Mr. Lissey had a large garden that extended to our pasture that was behind the houses on our side of the street. He grew little yellow pear tomatoes. As a child, I thought they were the best things. I think I spent a good bit of time there, also. I was a gadabout as a child to the exasperation of my mother. Mrs. Lissey gave me scraps of fabric to make clothes for my doll. I enjoyed that, my introduction to sewing.

Beside the older residents of the town, there were other children. Donna and Mary Ellen and I sometimes got together for dress up. Donna had an older sister who had wonderful grown up dresses, high heeled shoes, plus make-up. Playing dress-up with my mom’s clothes was definitely dull compared to the times we had dressing up at Donna’s house. The down side was getting rid of the make-up before I went home.

Edgar had a wonderful electric train that was set up every Christmas. It was a treat to spend time at his house to see that. Edgar also had two marvelous story books. I coveted those books. When I had children I bought those books and enjoyed reading the wonderful stories to them.

There were several other boys close by. We played soft ball in an open lot across the street from our house. Seems there was always something going on in a small town. If I managed to get a penny in some way, I could walk uptown to the grocery store for a small bag of assorted candies. What fun that was. Those were the days.

– Ruth Martin

The Hugo Mural

January 27th, 2014 | Posted by David Brenneman in All Posts | Just for Fun | Local History - (0 Comments)

Broken Tree

Reminiscing of the past, I ran across this story. The impact of this incident has had a lasting effect on my life. At the suggestion of my writing instructor at that time, I entered it into a senior writing contest and won first place in a special category, with a prize of one hundred dollars. I still feel the excitement of that day and how it encouraged me to keep on writing.

The heat made the cabin arid and steamy. The wind moaned like a hound dog on a moonlit night and sucked its way through every crevice of the cabin. I was alone and terrified. I pulled the drapes, but I could still hear the eerie banging of tree branches against the roof and the rain hammering against the windows.

It was reported that Hurricane Hugo would gain momentum by late afternoon. Warnings were given to batten down everything. What was I to do? I had already let down the 50 foot TV antenna, breaking three fingernails and almost a finger in the process. The front porch swing had been flung into the evergreen tree at the end of the house by violent wind. Not being strong enough to dislodge it, I left it dangling there, praying it wouldn’t fly through the living room window. There was nothing else to batten down. . .except my emotions.

I began to think about God as I did during the flood of ‘69, when our house was nearly washing away by flood water. God had my undivided attention then as I saw His awesome power and protection during that storm. I hadn’t thought much about God and how faith enters into life’s experiences until that time. Now my faith was being tested again. This time, I was alone, a widow on my own.

The moaning wind intensified and the torrential rains continued pelting the window panes. I walked from room to room, trying to muster enough courage to land somewhere.

The raging elements kept my nerves on edge. I paced. I couldn’t bring myself to settle in one spot. No place seemed safe. Remembering God’s past protection and knowing I could count on Him again, I felt a need to pray and devise a plan. I could not open myself up to fear. I gathered up all my painting supplies, a fan to circulate the still air, a radio to drown out the intense storm, and shut myself in the bathroom.

All I could hear was the music of the radio and the soft whir of the fan as I began to paint on the bathroom wall. I was thankful for a safe haven. As I immersed my energies in the mural that was unfolding on the wall before me, I forgot the fearful storm.

The scene I painted depicted country children standing in a line to go to the Johnny house. Their gestures and anguished positions indicated their anxiousness to get into the “john” as soon as possible. Bright red and yellow acrylics became little girls’ dresses and Amish blue was brushed into tattered overalls. Chiffon pink put rosy cheeks on the little children’s faces. Bare feet stood in muted green grass.

Many hours passed and my legs became stiff from sitting in a cramped position. My arms were tired from hours of continued painting, but distracted by my painting, my mind was no longer plagued by the tortuous sounds of the howling wind and torrential rain.

When my spirit shifted from its creative mode, to “now it’s time to quit”, I turned off the fan and radio, opened the bathroom door, and looked outside. Though the rain continued, the wind had calmed. Looking at the huge mass of debris in the yard, I noticed the swing was still lodged in the evergreen, and after a cursory look there seemed to be no damage to my property.

I returned to survey my bathroom painting. It was incomplete, but the story was there. I knew it would take almost another day to complete the mural, but the project achieved its purpose for me. The Lord had kept me safe as I calmly worked on the mural.

I never completed the work I started on that stormy day, but it stood as a constant reminder that God always watches over us.

I no longer live in that mountain home in Love, Virginia, and I don’t know if the mural still exists. At that time, everyone who visited my bathroom seemed to enjoy the scene that I called The Hugo Mural. I told them I would perhaps finish it someday during another hurricane, but mostly I told them of God’s protection through that storm and how grateful I was. . . and my gratitude always to Him.

-Bunny Stein

Many communities have individuals who, for some reason or other, stand out as unique and colorful characters. Years ago I wrote about some of those individuals in my hometown in Louisiana. As you read about this particular gentleman, perhaps you will recall some special individual that you knew years ago in your hometown.

A deaf and dumb gentleman by the nickname of “Dummy” was well-known and well-liked by many people in my Louisiana hometown for many years. His story is a most unusual and interesting one.

It was in the 1930s that an oil drilling crew outside of town kept seeing a young boy around their rig. The youngster was so wild that they could not approach him. The men set a trap for him, and to their amazement, discovered that he was deaf and dumb. He was dumb only in the sense that he could not talk — his mind was as “sharp as a tack.”

The oilmen took a liking to Dummy, took him to town, and bought him some nice clothes. The people of the town really took a liking to the young man and “adopted” him as one of their own. He made friends easily. A state senator and the town druggist became Dummy’s chief benefactors.

As Dummy grew into a young man, he became a well-known “fixture” in the town. He enjoyed visiting in the churches. Although he could not hear, he sat up front in the center section of the churches and paid rapt attention to the ministers. Evidently he could read lips well. The three largest churches in town were the Catholic, Methodist and Baptist. Dummy took turns visiting them. He was welcomed in all of them.

Dummy could speak only in gibberish, but some of us could carry on conversations with him using our own version of sign language. He would tell me about squirrel hunting with his dog that would tree a squirrel, come back to him, and lead him to the tree.

For a number of years Dummy enjoyed going up to the school during recess. He enjoyed serving as referee for some of the groups. In his last years Dummy was forced to use a walking cane. On Sunday mornings he could be seen walking right down the middle of the street going to and from church. The townspeople knew him and just went around him.

Dummy died in the late 1950s. There were many of us in my hometown who were proud to claim this colorful character as a friend. Dummy’s real name was Frank Rivers. I shall always remember my friend, Dummy.

-James Salter

Court House
Back in 1945 when I came home from overseas after World War II, two buddies and I went duck hunting in South Louisiana. This was to be the duck hunt that I had dreamed about. Little did I know that it would land me in Federal Court in Lake Charles where I would stand alone before the judge in front of a packed court room. At the time of the hunt I was on a forty-five day leave from the U.S. Army Air Force while waiting for my military discharge. My two hunting companions and I had just waded out of the marsh to our car with twenty-nine ducks. Each of my buddies had a limit of ten; I had nine.

Two Federal game wardens approached us to check us out. When one of them asked me about my hunting license I showed him my army dog tags. I said that I was sill in the army and understood that I was not required to have a hunting license.

That game warden let me know in no uncertain terms that I was required to have a Federal duck stamp — even though a state license was not required. He then started writing my citation and told me that I would have to stand trial. At that point, in all honesty, I must admit that I said some things that I should have left out. (About risking my life in thirty-two bombing missions over Japan, dreaming about a good South Louisiana duck hunt, and then running into this situation).

After a few weeks I enrolled in Northwestern State University. I received a summons to appear in Federal District Court in Lake Charles at 10:00 A.M. on a Monday morning. The time came and there
I was, standing in the back of the court room which was packed with spectators. In fact, there was standing room only, due to a big oil case on the docket. I did not know one person in that room.
I felt so little when I saw these words on my summons: “The United States of America vs. James Q. Salter.

I also remember the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when the Clerk of Court read my name so loud and clear and as I walked down that aisle all alone to face the judge. As I faced the judge, the Clerk read the charges against me and asked, “How do you plead?” I looked up at the judge and said, “Guilty, your honor, but I assure you that I violated the law unknowingly. I had been told that I was not required to have any kind of hunting license.” Judge Porterie asked me if I had been in the service at the time of the violation. I handed him my military papers which included my certificate of discharge and my combat record. After examining my papers, Judge Porterie asked, “What are you doing at this time, Mr. Salter?”

“Your honor, I am enrolled in Northwestern State University.”

“What do you plan to do after college?” asked the judge.

“I plan to teach, your honor,” I said.

“Congratulations, son,” the good Judge said. “Nine of the happiest years of my life were spent teaching school.”

He then read aloud several items from my military papers and said that in his case, sentence was suspended.

“Mr. Salter, if you will sign some papers on the way out, you may leave,” the good Judge said. I could not resist taking a hard look at that game warden as I walked right by him on the way out. When I got in my ‘36 Ford Coupe and headed for college, I said a prayer of thanksgiving for the kindness of Judge Porterie and his attitude toward my chosen profession. This, I hope, was the one and only time that I ever have to face a Federal Judge.

Note: I was saddened to read in the newspaper a few months after my trial that Judge Porterie had died.

James Q. Salter 

The rock house on Afton Mountain was my home for nearly 30 years. The green rocks came from this mountain. The house was built by the Hinton family in 1928. When we bought it in 1971 there were boxes of pictures and letters in the garage. Mr. Hinton was in the oil well drilling business. He had oil wells in the western states as well as Mexico and South America. During his years of drilling he wrote home often to his family. I believe that he owned a large portion of the Afton Mountain ridge. I recall during our first years on the mountain how pretty they looked and how sweet they smelled when the apple trees were in bloom.

We only bought 6 acres, the cottage and the main house. Mr. Hinton had a twin brother, named Ross, who used to live in the cottage. The estate was called Rossmont. The main house had a stone wall around it whose height varied, as high as 6 feet or more. In the top of the wall was an aqueduct to drain rain water away from the house. I cleaned this aqueduct many times. Above the wall were large rhododendrons which were beautiful in the month of May. We had many others around the cottage and the main house; I fertilized them twice a year. Mr. and Mrs. Hinton made Rossmont into a lovely home which we enjoyed living in. When Mrs. Hinton left the estate there were only a few things left behind. Large magazines of Peru, dated 1928, and a Coca-Cola glass. This antique glass had been my water glass since 1971. To para- phrase their famous lingo, things go better with water.

– Submitted by Margaret Sayre

“Our good friend Margaret Sayre had many a tale to tell with great care. Down through the years on beautiful mountains and well kept farms here and there. Her joys in their time described with such feeling let us join in her good life at the Rossmont Estate.” Don Markle

First let me say I had seven brothers. Two had left home when I was born. I also had two sisters, five and a half, and ten and a half years older. We were a very close and caring family. We grew up on a farm in a house one half mile from the main road, with only one neighbor, our uncle and aunt, who lived across the field.

I remember on a rare occasion when both parents had to be away from home, and the older children were in school. My younger brother and I were sent next door to stay. We played outside there awhile, but decided we would rather play at our house, so we sneaked across the field, and went home. We played behind the barn, and there was a big hollow log there. I decided I would crawl through the log. All went well until I was about half way through, and my leg got stuck. I think my knee went down in a hole and my foot stuck to the top of the log. I could not move. My brother said “Don’t cry, I will get the saw and saw you out.” You had better believe I managed to get free before he came back with a saw.

Another time when my older brother and sister were taking care of me, we went to the barn to play. They wanted to climb up to the loft to see the newly born kittens, but I was unable to climb the ladder that was built into the wall. They had a brilliant idea. They put me in a burlap bag, tied rope through two holes made at the top of the bag, and pulled me up. They continued to do this up and down game until the rope broke through the bag, and down I went. I remember them flapping my arms up and down like a chicken, and saying, “Don’t cry, Mama will hear you.”

One of my earliest memories was the times my oldest brother, Jack, would put me on the back of a horse he was taking to the pasture. He used to have me stiffen my knees, and he would hold me with one hand, walking around with me, much to my mother’s dismay. He also used to throw me on the top of the hay piled high on the wagon. I enjoyed the ride looking at the clouds.

With the three male cousins living next door, we had a baseball team. They would pick a field and the game was on. Jack often let me run the bases for him when we were at bat.

I did have chores. The earliest one I remember was ringing the dinner bell. It was on a pole with a rope. I would ring it at noon so the farm workers knew to come in for lunch and a rest. As I got older the chores got more like work. We all did our share. 

Mickie Rose