Sunday, May 22, 2011

This Really Happened

This Really  Happened

    I will tell you about a few funny things that really happened to myself and other people.   I will start out with some things that happened in my early years.  One time my father went on a bus trip to Winona Minnesota where the Watkins Co  is located.  Watkins had sponsored the trip and it didn’t cost the people anything to go .  They handed out all the passengers a bottle of Watkins Liniment.  One of the men on the trip decided that the liniment would be good to drink so he took a big swig of it.  My Dad came home laughing about it.  I think he said the guy had been drinking before he got on the bus.

    My uncle Ernest had a farm in South Dakota and for some reason or another my Dad went out to where his farm was located on the pretense that he was interested in buying the place. Uncle Ernest had been having some trouble with the tenant.  So my dad  went out there and starts talking to the tenant.  The tenant did not know that he was Uncle Ernest’s brother in law.  He proceed to tell my Dad how he had cheated his landlord.  Seems he divided up a hog with Uncle Ernest and instead of giving him a good hog, he gave him one that had died of some disease.  My dad of course came back from South Dakota and told Uncle Ernest about it.  I don’t know what he did, but probably cancelled the rental contract.  More than one way to skin a pig.

    Uncle Ernest had owned that farm during the dust bowl days and guess it was a pain  to take care of it.  Uncle Ernest retired in about 1941 or 42 and he and my cousin Verna went to South Dakota and decided to farm that land.  Everything Uncle Ernest did turned out well.  They raised wheat and had good crops for a year or two and he sold the farm with a handsome profit.  He had never farmed in his life but did well with that investment.

     I started working on the railroad and was called a green horn and the first thing they pulled off on you was to send you out to the house track and get the seal off a flat car.  Of course the flat cars could not be sealed  like the regular cars and you could spend 30 mins looking for the seal and then you realized that it was a joke.  More fun.

    I was working 3rd trick here in Ponca City and at that time we had a local train that went to Blackwell and came back every day.  They spent the day switching the smelter in Blackwell.  The crew on this local were from the Panhandle division and they slept in the caboose at night.  Well one morning about 3 a m  one of the crew showed up at the ticket counter and wanted to cash a check for $40.00.  Seems 4 of the crew got in trouble with the law.  They had started on a small drinking spree after getting in here about 9 p m.  One of the crew got away before the police could pick him up and he was in the caboose under the covers.  The police knocked on the door and asked him where he had been.  He said, ” Oh I have been sleeping.”  The policeman said…”Well do you always sleep with your boots on?”

    In the late seventies  I along with some other drivers transported the High School Band to Okla City for a state contest.  We had been in the city for a couple of days and were getting ready to come back to Ponca City. There were several girls sitting in the bus and I was sitting in the drivers seat.  I had been looking straight ahead just killing time and the girls started to twitter in the seats behind me.  It was a real funny kind of laugh.  Soon they started doing that again and I looked out the window and a station wagon with a load of boys went by and one of the boys mooned us.  I was shocked out of my head and said ‘Oh my g  I don’t believe this.’  One of the girls had been on my route when she was in fourth grade and she went home and told her Mother.  She said I thought Mrs Pickens was going to have a heart attack..  Never a dull moment.

    In 1980 four of us decided to go to the national bowling tournament in Seattle Washington.  We were in Seattle for a couple of days and decided to take a tour of the harbor.  About the same thing happened.  We were out on a tour boat and a small boat went by and everyone started to laugh.  We were mooned by 3 people on the small boat.  For several years we had a running joke about when you were mooned last…

    In the early eighties we had several rent houses and that will really give you an education.  People show up to rent a place and they are so good at lying.  They have been lying all their lives and you have a hard time catching them at it.  It took me about a year to get smart to them.  I joined the retail credit and when you ask for a credit check before renting they do not come back.

    You can not believe the mess that some of the renters leave.  Dale rented a house one time to some people and he failed to ask it they had any animals.  Turns out that they had 6 pit bull dogs of all different sizes.  This particular rent house had a small fenced back yard but they didn’t keep the dogs in the back yard, they brought them into the house.  They failed to pay the rent so were only in the house about 3 months.  Well the house was carpeted and I had to steam clean the carpet. Steam cleaning did not take the odor out and there was a small screened in back porch  that had been used as a toilet.  The stench was terrible. I went down to the farm supply place and bought a bottle of creosote dip.  I remembered using it on the farm in the barn so I mixed it with water and  gave the porch a good cleaning.  Well it killed the smell but you could smell the creosote for ever.  Now the carpet was another story…I dumped baking soda on it, I dumped coffee on it, and neither did much to kill the smell.  Finally I went down and bought a couple of gallons of vinegar and I mopped the carpet with it.  That  almost killed all the smell.  What a mess.

    We had another renter that was not paying the rent and it was summer time.  The air conditioning went out and they wanted it fixed.  We refused to fix the air conditioning and they moved out owing us rent money.  That seemed to be the only way to get them out.

    Most of our rent houses had stoves, refrigerators and dish washers.  When they moved out I usually had a nice big job cleaning up the stoves.  I found it was easier to buy new liners for the heating elements than it was to try and clean up the mess.  The bathrooms were almost always dirty and I had to spiff them up also.  Sometimes it was easier to repaint than it was to get the walls clean. 

    The first day I drove the school bus the kids shot paper wads all over the bus in the evening.  The next day I told the kids that who ever was the last person on the bus that they had to pick up the mess. Needless to say I didn’t have any more trouble with that.  One day I was substituting  on a route and a senior high boy brought a small animal trap on the bus and was snapping it in the back of the bus.  I called him up to the front and made him give me the trap and when he got off the bus I gave it back to him.

    One of our drivers was taking kids home and she looked up and a boy was choking another child with a bolo tie.  The child  was starting to turn blue and of course she stopped the bus and took the tie away.  You could drive the bus for 6 weeks and know that a child would be poking other children with a pencil but it was heck to catch them in the act.  You can’t see everything and drive safely.  But usually you knew who was doing that kind of stuff.  And then of course parents don’t think their little angels do that kind of stuff.

    One day one of my former students came up to me in a restaurant and said ‘Mrs Pickens how did you ever drive that bus and keep order.  I have 3 children now and they almost drive me crazy.’  She had been one of my favorite students but she had twin sisters that were always trying to sneak a coke on the bus.

    I served on the board of the Okla State Quilters for several years and I was  secretary  when this happened.  Two women came up to the President and were complaining about something they didn’t like.  The President told them she had 2 vacancies on the board and she wanted to know which vacancy they wanted to serve on.  End of discussion and complaining as they didn’t want to do that..

    One thing I like about caller I D is that people used to tell me that they called about something and I wasn’t home.  They can’t try that old story any more and get away with it.  I feel sorry for the young people now.  I guess it is a good thing that their parents can keep close tabs on them but sometimes a person needs to get away from the telephone.

    Now I am going to tell you about one of the people on our bus route.  This happened in the early seventies and this woman was a little bit slow.  Dale had been driving the route for a few days and she had a young son that was a bit retarded riding the bus.  Well I happened to be driving the bus that morning and she came out to the bus in her robe and it was partly open and she had nothing on underneath.  I had a couple of 4th grade girls sitting up near the front of the bus and they just rolled their eyes.

    Then we found a woman to drive the route and the electricity went off one night and her alarm clock didn’t go off.  She got up and was a little late on the route that morning.  The next morning this same woman brought her an alarm clock so she would be there on time.  Wow.

    We handled part of the handicapped children the next year and a good friend of ours had the other handicapped route.  The first day of school we had a new principal at one of the grade schools. The other bus contractor called me that morning as he had been to the school getting children’s names and addresses so he could know where to drop off the children on his route.  Lo and behold this woman was in the office and she had brought the new principal  some after shaving lotion. He didn’t know what to think and the bus contractor was sitting there when it happened.  So as soon as he got home he called me and said you should have seen the principals face,  Well the principal had to call me that afternoon about some problem and so I asked him  ‘How did you like you gift this morning?’.  He couldn’t figure out how I knew about it.  We laughed about that for a long time.  Never know what goes on in school…

    Dale had another complaint about some children not getting on the bus.  He asked the bus driver about it and she said that the children stood on the front porch and would not ever be out at the bus stop even though they could see the bus coming for a  mile.  She had told them to be out there and they still would stand on the porch.  Well Mama called one day and complained again and Dale told her ‘Well you can’t catch the bus standing on the front porch.’

    Another time a child on one of the routes called the bus driver a nasty name.  The driver called Dale and told him what had happened.  That evening Mama called and complained about the bus driver mistreating her son.  Dale asked her if her son had told her what he had called the bus driver.  She said ‘No.’  Dale then proceeded to tell her and he had to tell her about 3 times before she believed him.  You never know what the little angels will do and parents don’t believe you.

    Then we had another parent that would get drunk and call Dale up at ten o clock at night and give him a blessing out over his child getting mistreated. Of course the child had done something and had to be corrected.

    The best one happened about 35 years ago and you  would get fired now for  taking care of problems this way.  Dale was on a out of town 10th grade football trip and was driving home from the game.  He looked out his left side mirror and a boy in the back of the bus was giving all the cars the finger.  Dale told the coach  who was sitting behind him to watch this boy.  The coach saw him do it again and he got up, walked to the back of the bus and hit the boy on the top of his head with his clipboard, didn’t say a word and came back and sat down.  End of problem…

    That’s about all I can remember right now.  Enjoy

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The War Years 1941 - 1945

The war Years 1941-1945

    I need to tell you some things about World War 2 as I remember that period of time.  I remember the day the Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.  We had a battery operated radio in our house and the only time my folks turned the radio on was for the world news.

    My brothers Lawrence and Don had taken the 1941 Plymouth out that Sunday.  They were probably out on dates or just driving around seeing friends.  They came home about 4 p.m. on that Sunday afternoon and said that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor that morning.  I was 14 years old at that time and in 10th grade at Owatonna High School.

    The next day or the day after President Roosevelt made a speech to everyone in America on the radio.  I think it was a declaration of War against Japan and Germany.  The speech was in the High School auditorium and it came over the radio.  An assembly was called and all the students in school listened to that speech.  Our life as we knew it would never be the same again.

    My brother Don enlisted in the navy and was sent to boot camp at I think Great Lakes.  He  was tested and then went to a training camp in Pennsylvania.  He  was tested and he learned the Morse Code and later he was selected to be the radioman on the submarine Robalo.  He was also trained at New London Conn.  I have a picture of him and the whole crew of the Robalo.   The submarine went down the Mississippi river to New Orleans and went through the Panama Canal and ended up at Freemantle Australia.  The submarine either hit a mine in the South China Sea or a torpedo from a  enemy destroyer  hit it.  Three men escaped and were later taken as prisoners of war.  No one survived from that submarine.  The submarine went down between June and August of 1944.

    My brother Lawrence stayed on the farm as he was also eligible to being drafted.  Lawrence had a 2 C draft deferment.  There were a lot of farm boys with that classification as they were needed on the farms to help the war effort. I remember that the farm boys around Owatonna formed a 2 C club and they sponsored dances to raise money for the War effort.

    We collected bacon  grease for the war effort and it was turned in and I don’t remember what it was used for.  Everybody pitches in and the car manufacturing plant were making jeeps and tanks and Boeing at Wichita was making airplanes.  Every one that was able bodied begin to help with the war effort.   Josten’s at Owatonna was making the Nordic bomb sight  and they were hiring16 year old young people to work in their plant.  When I was a senior in High School some of the boys were working part time at Jostens.  Young people of 16 were also working as fire fighters.  I remember one young man that would leave school whenever there was a fire.  The fire truck would come by the school to get him.

    Within a short period of time we were given ration books.  They had small red cardboard coins that said O P A  and numeral 1  and red point printed on it.  I don’t remember how much meat you could buy with that but it also included butter.  My Mother bought a butter churn and churned cream for us so we didn’t have to use the OPA point for butter.  We also butchered our own meat and chickens.

    My father could do almost anything and I remember how they butchered a hog.  First you had to shoot it and let it bleed out.  Then you had a contraption that you fastened the hogs legs to and then you dumped it into boiling hot water.  You then had to scrape all the hair off and then you had to cut it up just like butchers do.  My Mother rendered the lard by heating it and then she stored it in a 5 gal crock. 

I don’t remember if she used that lard for making soap or if she went to the butcher shop and got the suet after beef had been butchered.  There was a frozen food locker in Hope and my folks rented a locker and stored chickens and meat and strawberries in the locker.  When they went after groceries they would get the meat out of the locker.  The locker was located in the creamery at Hope and that creamery is one of the few in Steele County that is still in operation.  Hope butter is really something else.  They have their own label and also they sell butter  to Land O Lakes.

    We also had gasoline rationing and you had a book for that.  The farmers got the best rationing books and they also were able to get gasoline for their tractors.   Tires were another thing that it was difficult to obtain and I think they were also rationed.  For you speed nuts that think 55 miles per hour is slow,  well it was the law of the land that the speed limit on highways for everybody was 35 miles per hour.  It saved our precious tires and saved gasoline.

    Other things were also hard to obtain.  Material for clothing was difficult to find as well as many other products.  My Mother made a skirt for me out of light weight curtain material of some kind or other.  New sewing machines were non existent and so older machines were reconditioned and sold to people.  Almost all women at that time knew how to run a sewing machine.  I learned at 12 to start making clothes on my Mother’s 1912 Minnesota treadle machine.

    We were fortunate that my folks had purchased a new 1941 Plymouth car and so we had dependable transportation.  My Dad also had a 1937 tractor and he had the plow and other attachments for it.  I don’t remember if he ground oats with that tractor  but I think that he did.  You had a belt that attached to the tractor and then it ran a small grinding machine.  We fed our cattle  silage and then we top dressed it with ground oats, the cattle really liked that in the winter time.  You planted a late crop of corn and did not let it mature.  Some one in the neighborhood had a silage cutter.  You  cut the corn green and then hauled it to the silo .  The silage cutter had long spouts on it and it put the silage in the silo.  The cutter was ran by a tractor.  The silos were about  10 to 15 feet in diameter and were probably about 25 feet high.   The silo had doors  and the doors had rungs on them.  In the winter you would climb up the silo and pitch down the silage.  Then as you got silage out you would take that door off and be on the next level.  Their was an outside chute on the silo and you would pitch the silage down it into a cart of some kind or other.  Then you had to take it to the barn and feed the cattle.

    I was young at this time and didn’t pay all that much attention as to what went on at the farm.  I was helping Mother and watching Dick and picking eggs from the hen house so was plenty busy.

    People in town also raised victory gardens and they canned the excess and ate very well during this time.  We always had a big garden on the farm and part of my work was to pull weeds out of the garden.  One time my Mother went down to help my sister Dorothy with her new daughter Mary.  The tomatoes were ready to be canned and so I went down into the garden and picked the tomatoes and canned them.  I was 15 years old at that time.  My Mother came home and couldn’t believe that I had accomplished that.    I had helped my Mother can tomatoes and peaches and pears so I knew what had to be done.

    I remember cooking for us at that time also.  I can’t remember what I cooked but it was done on the cast iron wood burning cook stove and maybe a little on the two burner kerosene stove that we used in the summer time.  That kept me out of any mischief that I might have been thinking about.
    I want to tell you a little about chickens now.  We always bought baby pullets to raise for laying hens.  We had what is called a brooder house especially for the baby chicks.  The brooder house was a octagon shaped small building and had a door going into it and then a small trap door that you opened to let the chicks out when they got about 3 weeks old.  There was a kerosene heater in the center of the brooder house and it had a large lid on it.  When you brought the baby chicks in they had a warm place to stay under this lid.  You took the chicks out of the box that they came in and the first thing you did was to dip their bills in some water so they could learn how to drink water.  We had little feeders with little round holes on the top of them so the chicks could eat the feed.  The watering jars were fruit jars which had a pan like contraption fastened to the top of the jar.  You filled the jar with water and then turned it upside down and the baby chicks could then drink the water.  You had to keep the jars clean and that was one of my jobs.  You checked on the chicks several times a day and removed any that had died.  You usually lost a few chicks.

    We also bought 100 roosters.  The funny thing was if you bought 100 roosters they were all roosters but if you bought 100 pullets you always got 5 or 6 roosters.  Roosters were not considered that valuable back in the 40’s.   When the roosters got about 8 weeks old we would start eating them.  My Mother killed the roosters by cutting their head off with an axe.  We then let it bleed out and then my job was to pick the feathers off.  You dipped the bird in very hot water and then picked it.  My Mother then gutted the bird and cut it into pieces and then soaked it in salt water for about an hour and then fried it.  We ate lots of fried chicken in the summer time.  We also took some of the chickens to the locker in Hope and then could  use them later on.

    Later on when I was working for the Supt of our High school, the art teacher who was an avid hunter brought two pheasants by one Saturday afternoon when the Burt’s were gone and I was taking care of the little boys.  Now I had never cut up a chicken but I heated up the water and got the feathers off the pheasants and then I had to gut them and cut them up.  I had watched my Mother do it a hundred times and  I just cleaned them up but didn’t cut them up.  Mrs Burt was so surprised when I told her about the pheasants and she asked me what I did.  I told her they were all cleaned up and ready to be baked.  We didn’t fry pheasants, we usually baked them and stuffed them.  They were real good eating.

    The other job that I had on the farm was to pick the eggs and get them ready to go to the grocery store in exchange for other groceries.  Some of the hens were mean and they would like to peck you when you went to get the eggs.  I just slapped them lightly on the head and then they wouldn’t peck you any more.  I brought the eggs up to the house and cleaned them with vinegar water if they were dirty and then packed them in the egg case.  I think the big egg cases were 12 dozen and the small ones were 6 dozen.   We kept the eggs in the basement in the summer time as it was cool down there.

    By the time I was 13 I was doing all the ironing for the family.  We had came up in the world as we had a gas iron.  You had to buy white gasoline for it and then there was a pump of the back of the iron.  It was so much easier than using the old sad irons that you heated on the stove.  My Mother hated to iron so the job fell to me.  She would iron the silk things and I would do the rest.  We had silk clothing and silk stockings in the early 40’s.  The silk blouses had to be ironed on low heat and the silk had to be completely wet when you ironed it.  Oh ,yes we had lots of starched things to iron.  You made the starch and dipped your clothes in it.  Then you dried the clothing outside  and then you had to dampen the clothing.  A coke bottle with a top with holes in it was the favorite way to dampen clothing.    Automatic washing machines and steam irons were a few years in the future.

    This is just a little more about life in the good old days.