Tag Archives: growing up 50’s

The Salvagers


Yvonnes Musings

imagesMy father, a major restorer of order and tidiness to all things within his reach, had done an amazing thing for a man with his character traits. He had taken something built by someone else’s hands and torn it down. One day it stood as a testament to the hard work of the many hands that had made it, and the next day it was a scattered heap, lying across the ground.

The enormous elevated barrel— the water tower next to the CNR tracks, in nearby Strathroy, was where steam locomotives had filled their tanks with water for generations. It was no longer necessary when diesel engines took over. The tower was up for grabs, and our dad’s bid won. After careful planning and consultation with his Uncle Fred, a lifelong railroad man with many skills himself, the measurements were all worked out, and the distance of the fall was calculated…

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The Girls In Yellow Dresses

Janice and Kathy (on right)

Janice and Kathy (on right)

There is nothing better than having baby sisters. I was blessed with three of them, Jeannie,  Kathy, and Janice. I also have another treasured sister, Marsha, who is almost a year older than me as well as three younger brothers, Keith, Jim, and Don.

I wanted to write a little here about a sweet memory of my two  youngest sisters,Kathy and Janice, after I found this picture of them in their matching yellow flower girl dresses. These were the little girls who were born after I’d finally grown up enough to be able to help with baby care, which happens very young in large families.

Disposable diapers weren’t commonly used in the  50’s or early 60’s,  so changing diapers involved using those very large diaper pins which could really inflict a painful injury if not handled deftly. Our Mom was of the two-pin school of thought— one on either side, rather than just one in the front. This involved twice the risk of injury, but by placing a couple of fingers inside the diaper, between the pin and the baby, the sharp pin would always hit your fingers first, rather than the baby’s torso if you were clumsy. It ensured a very speedy learning process. Of course, Mom didn’t just hand us a baby and say “Go to it!” She knew that Marsha and I had already learned to be extra cautious, by pinning diapers on our own baby dolls first.

Baby bottles, in those years, were limited to those simple glass bottles with the measurements stamped into them and rubber nipples attached with plastic rings. There were no high-tech bottles containing plastic bag inserts or special tube and valve systems then, to avoid the baby sucking in a lot of air if fed improperly. So even under the best circumstances, much more frequent burping was necessary.

While it might be much easier for a five year-old today, to properly bottle feed a baby sibling for his or her busy mother, back then we quickly learned the more complicated method in a big hurry. Our reasons were selfish. If we didn’t hold the bottle up high enough the baby would suck in and swallow air. If she swallowed air she would need to be burped a lot more often. If she wasn’t burped often enough she would scream a lot. If she screamed a lot, nobody would be having any fun! So each of us girls, in turn, learned to be little mothers to somebody younger, as the new babies came along.

The two pretty  little flower girls, in their flouncy yellow dresses, were like tiny princesses that day at our cousin Donna Lynne’s wedding. As a concession to agreeing to do the “very grown up job” of serving coffee and tea to the wedding guests, Marsha and I were each finally allowed to wear our first pair of nylon stockings. On the same day, Kathy and Janice were wearing their very last pair of fancy ruffled baby bloomers, under their bouncy crinolines.

Kathy and Janice at Donna Lynne and Reg Smith's wedding

Kathy and Janice at Donna Lynne and Reg Smith’s wedding

Marsha and I were probably as proud of them as Mom was that day. We too, felt a maternal pride in their angelic appearance and sweet conduct—and of our role in teaching them to hold their bouquets just so, and to step ever so lightly down the aisle in time to the music —neither too fast nor too slow— and to not pull off their fancy head bands because they were “Too scratchy!” or yank off their little white gloves because they were “Too tight!”

Yes, Janice Mary and Katherine Marie, I for one was very proud of both of  you on that day— just as much as I was when each of you joined me in the role of real motherhood a few decades later.

And now that you are both grandmothers… I find it almost impossible to believe, because in some ways you will always be my babies too!

What The Church Mouse Saw On Thursday! Heaven Forbid! Part 2


Part 2. Hit the "Previous Post icon at the bottom of the page for Part 1

This is part 2 of the story. If you have not read part 1 already, just hit the “Previous Post” icon on the bottom of this page.Because it is a true story it ended when it ended, which was 2000 words. That surprised even me, so I have chosen to split it in half for you.

Just what could three girls find to do in an unoccupied church anyhow? Pretty much what we did at other times and in other places. We pretended. As we hummed the tunes that we thought  might suit the occasion, mostly the intro music to TV shows we were fond of , or the odd fast classical piece we picked up from cartoons,we enjoyed pretending that we were chorus girls kicking our legs up high, in our little knee-length skirts. This dancing was also something we learned from cartoons, which seemed to be geared to the lascivious thoughts of old geezer cartoonists at the time. We wore skirts then because wearing pants to school was unthinkable in those years, unless you were a boy of course. Sliding into home plate in a dress or skirt, as some of the older ball playing girls had discovered, was well worth the muddy undies if they won the game. As long as  their outward appearance of  femininity remained unsmudged in “modest” womanly attire!

imagesAfter chorus girl dancing started to bore us Marsha took the doilies out from somewhere (that my guilt seems to have buried too deeply for the adult me to remember.) From under the silver Communion chalice and the Communion bread dish? Or were they from under the large open Bible and a nearby candelabra? Where they had come from is perhaps best  left forgotten, as we then placed them on our heads, because it was important to adhere to proper church behavior. Hats must surely be mandatory for us in any church, now that we were Holy-communioned young ladies! Christine broke one of her own denomination’s rules though, by standing up to give a pretend sermon! No women in  the pulpit ever, even if all the guys were abducted by aliens!  Then we folded our hands and prayed— pretend or not— depending on whether we heard any cars slowing down on the gravel road outside. Were they stopping in at the church, or braking for the  a stop sign? (We prayed it was the latter.)

After that we headed downstairs and walked around the perimeter of the big open room, on top of the seats of the dark varnished church chairs lining  all the walls. It looked as if it was a nice cozy dance hall waiting for all  the people to arrive. While Christine was up there on a chair, just  underneath the big old church clock with its Roman numerals and pendulum,  Marsha and I urged her to wind the clock up again and get it going. We thought it would be nice to hear it strike out some hour or other. We didn’t care much which one. Just as she turned the little wind up key and gave the pendulum a nice big Heave! Ho!  Bong!

“Is that the high school bus?”  Bong!  Christine half -yelled, half -whispered (or whatever you call it when you think to whisper at mid-panic) Bong! “Jack is on that bus!” (Jack was her brother.) 

Bong! “Stop it Christine! Stop it!” Marsha whisper-begged.

Bong! “I can’t!” Christine panic- mimed!

” Just hold the bonger!” I squeaked, (assuming the pendulum was the cause), and she did…

A very similar church clock to one we were playing with.

A very similar church clock to one we were playing with.

It stopped, but not without a seismic wobble forward towards a cataclysmic fall. She  forced it firmly back into position, on whatever 100-year-old square- headed hand-made nail held it. With a full hand to its 100-year-old face  she held back time! (Sorry) I for one, judging by the definite super elasticity in my knee joints, and the quivering  jelly that would hardly pass for leg muscles, felt that an earthquake would have been no more frightening than that. Perhaps  it was from all the dancing on the raised platform in the church sanctuary, perhaps it was from walking around on the pews and chair seats, perhaps it was from running up and downstairs, but I was as limp as a wet dish rag. After we unjumbled ourselves from the huddle in the dark corner of the church basement, where we hid until we thought we were safe from Jack coming in to check things out in the church— you could never tell when people might try to earn some good  Samaritan points— I could barely walk.

We opened the back door a crack and checked for onlookers, and when we saw no one we came out and shut the door behind us. Then the three of us dragged ourselves on home, our mothers none the wiser, because they were so used to our dawdling. I lay in my bed that night with shooting pains in my legs, which my mother would have just told me were growing pains so I didn’t bother to ask. I know she would have been right anyhow. That would have been a good time to sing that last part of Abide With Me. —”When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me.” I don’t remember if I did that night or not, but I know I did some time later because He does… Abide with me, I mean.

I am going to leave this post for my husband the head trustee of Poplar Hill Christian Church to read in his own good time. It  just might be a lot for a guy who worries about little footprints on the carpet in church to process all at once. Love you Honey! 🙂

What The Church Mouse Saw On Thursday! Heaven Forbid! Part One


Part One

Hi readers,

Just a little advanced warning. Because this story originally ran to 2000 words before it’s conclusion I have chosen to split it into two parts.  You can read it that way on two successive days. If you can’t stand a “To be continued…” then “Save” this one, or else  hold off until tomorrow’s post —Part 2 When you open it just go to the “Previous Post”  icon on the very bottom of the page to get Part 1, to begin reading at the beginning. Sorry for any inconvenience.

“There were little footprints all over the carpet at the front of the church, leading in and out behind the organ.” my husband Rolly said in a rather perturbed voice, as he came across the room to where I was typing away.

“Maybe it was mice.” I said, rather distractedly. “Set some traps.”

“No! Kid’s footprints! How would I see mouse footprints anyway?” he said in an exasperated tone.

“I don’t know. I guess I wasn’t thinking.” I answered as I scanned the line I had just typed and deleted the word “mice” from the list of ingredients for  “Carol’s Delicious Pot Luck Casserole”  I was transcribing at the time.

“It’s not church kids.” he added. “They’ve been put there since last Sunday, because the carpets have all been vacuumed since then, when Sarah cleaned.”

Our cleaner, Sarah, is very fastidious about vacuuming carpets, even all  those areas that aren’t usually ever walked on. As head trustee of our old country church, Rolly  is constantly moving things in and out of hidden storage places. Because he is particular he always notices when things are out of place  or not as they should be. Little footprints leading behind the big old pipe organ (another hidden storage space) is not something he wants to see.

“It has to be those cub scouts. They meet on Thursday nights after Sarah cleans. They must be running up there and playing hide and seek. They shouldn’t be doing that. They could wreck something!” he exclaims… “or have something fall on them, or get hurt in the dark.”— he tempers his initial pronouncement with a side of care and concern.

Immediately I feel a little blush of redness creep up from my neck to my face. It is guilt. It is embarrassment. It is over 50 years late—  so it isn’t terribly obvious (the colour change anyway). But the far away look in my eyes and the silence (a rare thing for me) as I immediately stop typing and say nothing, catches Rolly’s attention.

“What?” he says. I am still silent. “What?”

“Oh… I was just remembering.”

The little yellow brick church was across the road from the one room school that my sister Marsha, my brother Keith and I attended for the earliest part of our educations. At the end of our school day all of us the kids in all eight grades put our heads down on our desks in unison. Then we sang very softly together ,as a kind of prayer and a request for blessing over us, the first verse of  Abide With Me.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;

The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.

When other helpers fail and comforts flee,

Help of the helpless, O Abide with me.

At first I thought we were singing about a  cup of Tide laundry detergent somebody had measured out.  It somehow falls off the side of the washer too fast for anyone to catch. After awhile I picked up on hymn book lingo. Probably at just about the same time some Maritime kid was wondering where it was in Canada that the tide ever went out not only “fast”, but “even” enough to make mention of it in a song. Some quirky little place in the Bay of Fundy maybe? Something could be said for updating archaic language for the sake of juvenile comprehension here, but I digress.

When I finally realized that we were singing about night, and it getting dark fast, I still occasionally rebelled mentally at words that only seemed to fit all of us in the wintertime . That was when it started getting dark even before we began walking home— not on those nice long June afternoons!. For the most part though, the words were a comforting assurance that God was going to look after us if we ever felt helpless, because He would be there with us always.

No locks were the normal way of doing things in the 50's in the country.

No locks were the normal way of doing things in the 50’s in the country.

But the last place that we wanted Him to be, on some of those long June afternoons on our way home from school, was in church. At least not in the little yellow brick church that Marsha and I, and our friend Christine broke into on more than one occasion. It  was an easy thing to do. Sometimes the back door was unlocked and if we dawdled long enough to be left behind, the mob of younger and older kids  who were going down the Fourth side road that ran beside the church’s side yard would pass out of sight. Any day that our brother Keith was not at school, when we would not have to hurry him on home, we felt free to do as we pleased. Inside the little old church we ran amok— down to the basement, or up the stairs to the  sanctuary, even around, and under, and over the pews if we felt like it— or maybe it was only me who did that. Marsha and Christine were older and more sophisticated. We didn’t do any damage of course, as vandalism was as far from our hearts as murder would have been at the time.We didn’t want to break any of the Ten Commandments. As far as we were concerned, we had only just opened the door and then walked in. We hadn’t knocked of course, and maybe we should have because Jesus  said “Knock, and the door will be opened unto you.” in his words in the Bible, but  still he had left the church door unlocked anyway, so I don’t think he would have minded  that we  just walked in. The only fear I really had was that if we were discovered somebody would probably break a commandment then… and lie.

“What are you girls doing in church?” the Church Trustee would ask.

“We came in here because we thought we saw a Raby dog!’ Marsha would say ( We had just been taught about rabies at school , so that might work.)

“We came in here because I think I forgot to put money in the collection plate on Sunday.” Christine would say. Generosity always is such a good thing. Who would question that!

images“We came in here because Mother Lucia asked us to pray that she might one day become a Saint.” is what I would honestly tell the Church Trustee ( in my imagination anyway. I was excruciatingly shy and likely wouldn’t be able to answer at all.) I would not need to break any commandment about “baring a false witness” —letting God see what a naked liar I really was— if I said that. Because I really had been faithful to Mother Lucia! Ever since her request for personal Saint-seeking prayers at Preparation for Holy Communion classes a few weeks before, I had been praying for her, but up until then usually just at bed time. A church seemed like a pretty good place for an extra prayer as long as we were in there anyway, and then I’d be all prepared with an alibi if we got caught.        (to be continued in tomorrow’s post)