Saturday, August 17, 2013


After retiring from the military my wife and I attended college together – this was early 1980’s.   As part of a living history class we were required to interview and audio tape two people over seventy years old, collecting their reminiscence of their early days.  Tapes from this class were to become part of an oral history collection at the college. 

Thinking about this class I realize that I am now old enough to have been included in this collection. 

This has me thinking about the changes I have seen during my lifetime.  

My earliest memories are of a small town in western Kentucky where I lived with my grandmother (who I thought was my mother) until age eight when we moved to the Delta of Mississippi, which was my grandmother’s home. 

 Those Kentucky memories are sparse; but, I do remember that behind our house was a coal shed and my grandmother would bring in a scuttle of coal to feed into the fireplace on cold days.  I can remember when I started school, standing in front of the coal fire as my grandmother dressed me. 

The early 1940’s was war time and people hung small flags in their windows with stars for each son serving in the military.   My grandmother had a flag with two stars on it, for her son in the Army and her daughter (my mother) in the Waves (as women in the Navy were called back then.)

I have covered this before:  My grandmother raised me.  She did not like my birth name or my birth date so she changed both of them.  I was raised thinking my grandmother’s children were my sisters (including my mother) and brothers.  I did not find out about any of this until I tried to apply for a birth certificate to join the military.   

 I can remember going with my aunt/sister Odessa to the movie house in the town.  The show began with a cartoon, there was a news clips about the war, ending with the warning that there could be spies among us and that loose lips sank ships.  The movie was a Crosby and Hope road movie.

There was a western movie my aunt took me to see, and during the intermission the western actor (can’t remember his name) and his sidekick Al ‘Fuzzy’ St John came out on the stage for a live performance.   The cowboy did fast draws and rope tricks and Fuzzy did pratfalls.   I got their autographs on a popcorn box that has long since been lost in antiquity.     

My grandmother had a ration book, and you had to use ration stamps when you purchased anything that was considered necessary for the war effort.   I remember she gave her son-in-law, my aunt/sister Carroll’s husband, her stamp for an automobile tire and coffee (she drank tea.)

When my grandmother went to the store she had to use ration stamps to purchase sugar and cigarette, and it seems to me that you could break down a penny using tokens.   The tokens were plastic and some were made of a cheap metal.   I don’t remember exactly how they were used; but, sometimes my grandmother would receive them in change or use them for purchases. 

You had to be six before school started to enter first grade – there was no kindergarten.    I did not turn six until a few months later so I was delayed starting school until I was seven.  There was a family that would bring their children to school on a mule drawn wagon.   The kids wore hand made clothes or hand-me-downs and were barefooted.  I don’t remember thinking that they were unusual – this was a rural county.   Their youngest boy was in my first grade.   Later during the school year he fell off the back of the wagon and broke his neck.  That was the first time I realized that children could die – that I could die - and it really scared me.  

That pretty much covers my Kentucky memories.

Next post will be on a young Kentucky boy’s transition to the Mississippi Delta.


  1. Love this post. We have some similar experiences, but obviously with different details. I am looking forward to the next installment.

  2. OB,
    Great story! Thank you! Fringe popped in town last night and we had some beers - Do you still keep in contact with you service pals? I am down to four...


  3. You want to feel like an antique even faster? Volunteer at a historical museum and try explaining dial telephones to elementary school-age kids. "Where's the screen?" "What do you mean there was only one ring tone?" "Why is there a cord?" "How did people text?"

  4. I was born in 43 so don't have any war memories. Lived with my grand parents the first half of my youth, they were pretty poor but I enjoyed the life we lived as they hopped from place to place. I vaguely recall one place with a coal furnace in it, must have been on that ranch in Utah.

    Then I made the mistake of moving back in with family, it sucked.


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