Saturday, June 18, 2011

PLaces I've lived: The Houses that Built Me
Part two

I think we lived in that little house behind the feed store a year or so until we bought a house at 725 Custer Avenue. It was an aqua blue, two bedroom, house with a bar in the basement (which Mom used to store her canned goods), and a finished room suitable to be a bedroom and a laundry area. The spacious back yard had a nice, built in brick barbecue and a cement kiddie pool that was about two feet deep, five feet long and three feet wide. Mom had room for a vegetable garden here and planted some fruit trees. I remember going to school one morning from the little house by the feed store and my sister, Sue picking me up at the end of the school day to take me to the new house. This house was right across the street from a railroad track and when the trains rolled by, thundering and whistling, the windows rattled! Bob graduated from High School and was drafted into the army while we were living here and both he and Sue got married while we were living there. Grandpa and Grandma Gatewood lived with us occasionally in that house. I remember Shirley having slumber parties here and I had a Halloween party there one year, with a haunted house in the basement. Shirley and I both babysat the four neighbor kids pretty often and had other babysitting jobs around town. She had a paper route for awhile that I helped with once in a while.
I had the chicken pox while we were living here.

Sue was pretty much on her own by then, but came to visit on weekends. I remember her boyfriend, Jerry, coming to pick her up one Sunday afternoon to take her back to where ever it was she lived then. He carried her suitcase for her and opened the car door and called our parents Mrs. Gatewood and Mr. Gatewood. I think they liked him a lot and were glad to see them get married. I also remember once riding in the car with Sue & Jerry, back when the headlight dimmer switch was on the floor, but I didn’t know that, yet. So I asked Jerry (who looked a lot like James Dean) “How does the car know to dim it’s lights when we meet another car?” He and Sue cracked up laughing and then he said, “It’s magic.” And then he proceeded to hit the dimmer switch about a dozen times so the lights were blinking and he and Sue kept laughing….

While we lived at 725 Custer Ave, our family grew with nieces and nephews. Actually, nieces and nephews started coming in 1958 and 1961, but they lived way a long ways away, so I didn’t get to know them very well until later on. We drove to Mississippi for a visit one Christmas and I think Denise and I managed to get into plenty of trouble together while we were there. One thing I recall about that visit was that their neighbors had a rooster and it seemed like it crowed all through the night.

Chantelle (1963) was the first local one to make an appearance and I remember her being a cute little blonde thing, full of energy and whenever they came for a visit, “Aunt Janell, can we go out and play?” I remember once we were all going somewhere with Mick and he let her ‘drive’ – she’d sit in his lap in the driver’s seat and he’d let her steer, which she did with wild abandon. We were going down the street past the fairgrounds in Oakland swerving crazily from one side of the road to the other, until Mom yelled, “MICK!!” and he took over and assisted with the steering, making the ride considerably less exciting. Chantelle’s sister, Tina came in 1967 and their family was living in Lincoln at that time. I remember going to see her for the first time. She was s-o-o-o-o TINY I thought TINA was the perfect name for her. We didn’t stay very long, as I recall, because her mom was exhausted. When Chantelle & Tina’s parents divorced, I (sadly) lost touch with them until recently, although Mom and I went to Lincoln to Tina’s wedding and both girls visited Mom as often as they could. She adored those girls, as she did all of her grandchildren. She said Tina and her husband were doing very well because they were a couple of DINKS – Double Income No Kids for a long time.

Cindy joined us in 1965 and her sister, Tammie in 1967. Both were born while their family was living in Oakland and their mom, Sue would come to Lyons to bowl once a week, so we got to watch the girls. I remember watching Dad tickling Cindy and saying, “Gitchy gitchy goo!” and she’d giggle like crazy. After Cindy started walking, she had to wear a brace on her feet for awhile to correct her from being pigeon toed. It was a flat bar attached to her shoes that held her feet pointed straight out. So she had to go back to crawling and she’d pull herself around on our living room floor, dragging that brace behind her from side to side. It must have worked, because I don’t think she’s pigeon toed now. I wonder if they still treat it that way? Cindy and Tammie both called me Aunt Nell, because Janell was too much of a mouthful.

Deb, Bob’s firstborn, came in 1966. She was born while he was in the Army, stationed in Germany, so he didn’t get to see her until she was a toddler, and he finally got to come home with his discharge papers. Deb was a rough and tumble little girl and a biter. I remember once they were visiting us and Deb tackled me by the ankles, knocking me belly down to the floor and crawled up and was biting me on the back. Bob and his wife thought it was hilarious. I didn’t really see the humor in it, myself.

The next one whose birth I remember clearly is Paulette (1968). I happened to answer the phone when her dad called to give us the news and as soon as I heard his voice, (recognizable by his thick southern accent) I shouted into the phone, “Did Myrna have her baby?” He answered, “She shore di-ud.” And then I think Mom demanded I had the phone over to her so she could get the details first hand. I don’t remember seeing Paulette until 1969, when Dad died and she and Myrna came up from MS for several days. I remember her being a beautiful, delicate little thing.

We all lost a little baby girl named Carol Ann who lived only 6 days in January of 1969. Going to her funeral was one of the saddest things I’ve ever had to do and the only time I ever saw my dad cry. She was Deb’s little sister.

Meanwhile, Mick was starting a second family with Shannon being born in 1971. So my parents had eight granddaughters and only one grandson. We went to Shannon’s Christening in Lincoln and she had the longest, dark hair I’d ever seen on a baby. She was really a precious, beautiful thing.

We finally got some more boys in the family when Deb’s brother, Brad was born in 1972. We got another boy when Sean was born in 1973. I think their family was living in another state when Sean was born.

Cindy and Tammie welcomed a brother, Joe, in 1972 who was born on what would have been Dad’s 60th birthday.

Dad died in 1969 while Shirley and I were both still at home. At some point after Shirl graduated in 1970, Mom sold the blue house and she and I moved into a trailor home.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Places I’ve lived
Miranda Lambert's song The House That Built Me inspired me to record my memories of the places I've lived.

Here is Part One

When I was born in 1955, my family lived on a farm on Highway 51 a few miles east of Decatur, Nebraska. The house is right next door to the A T & T tower. I’m not sure when the tower was built, but I don’t think it was there when our family lived there. My siblings went to school at a nearby country school house called Edgington. If my sisters check in on this post, maybe they can tell more about that place. Did Shirley go to Kindergarten at Edgington? My dad’s sister and her family lived on a farm nearby and my sisters tell stories of our cousins, Paul D. and Jim coming over to play, hiding buried treasure in the woods. My brother told me about horseback riding with them and how Dad never used a stirrup to mount his horse – he’d grab the saddle horn and swing himself up and over to get on.

When I was two years old, we moved to a farm 2-3 miles north of Lyons, Nebraska. I don’t remember this, but Mom once told me that I cried and begged to “go home” the first night we stayed at our new home. I’m trying to imagine what a monstrous job it must have been to move this family in 1957 or so. There were six of us kids by then, ranging in age from two (me) to the eldest at 16. And now I’m wondering about all the farm machinery and livestock that must have been involved in addition to the household goods and possessions? OK, Sue? Myrna? Shirley? Got any details to add?

I have a few memories of living at this place in the Jefferson neighborhood – it is now occupied by Dwight Long. We bought it from Mom’s parents. I remember once I was with Mom in the chicken house and a small airplane buzzed over us. The roar of it scared me silly and I remember running into the chicken house and grabbing hold of Mom. It may have been our cousin Joe Gatewood, who did some flying for an insurance company and happened to be in the neighborhood, so he buzzed us. He became a pilot in the military and before he shipped out to Germany in 1944 or so, he flew up and buzzed Decatur. I also remember that we had a mean rooster for a time and I wasn’t allowed to go outside of our fenced in yard by myself. I was very ill the winter that I turned 4 with whooping cough. We went to see Dr. Tibbles so often that year and I had a navy blue sweater that I called my “doctor sweater” because I wore it every time we went to see him.

We didn’t have any horses when we lived on this place. I remember a dog named Lassie, who must have gotten exposed to rabies because we had to keep her tied up for a certain amount of time, after which she must have come down with the disease and had to be shot. I remember Bob bringing her into the yard so I could pet her a few times during her confinement. We also had a black and white sheepdog type of mutt we called Sport. I wonder where we got our dogs? Probably from a neighbor? Dad milked cows and farmed on this place. I think we also had some pigs. Mom had chickens, both laying hens and meat birds. Mom also took a job at Campbell Soup in Fremont while we were living here. I was sent to a babysitter in town, Mrs. Davis. I would ride in with my sibs and they dropped me off on their way to school. They must have picked me up to take me home, as well, though I remember Mom picking me up some times. One morning, I told my brother I was supposed to go to Grandma Anderson’s instead of the babysitter’s. I must have been a pretty good liar, because he believed me and left me there. Mom wasn’t too happy about that. Grandma was too old and frail to be a fill in babysitter for a (naughty) 4 year old. We were still living on the place north of Lyons when I started school a mile or so away at Jefferson. I learned to read using the Dick & Jane readers. The first word I learned was “Look.” And the page featured a picture of Sally putting on Dick’s galoshes, which were w-a-a-ay too big for her. Why do you suppose I remember that?

In the middle of my second grade year, (1962) we moved to a little house in the town of Lyons, right behind a feed and seed store. I think Dad went to work at the local creamery then. By that time, I think there may have only been three or four of us kids still at home. My brother, Bob and my sister, Shirl and me. Brother Mick got married and started his family around this time, which included a puppy named Chiefery. Sue had graduated high school and was off to the Lincoln School of Commerce. Myrna was an air force wife living in Colorado and then Mississippi and Hawaii, but those are her stories.

Being in town meant I could walk everywhere: to school every morning; to the swimming pool in the summers and to children’s choir practice at the Methodist church once a week. I don’t remember the address of this house, but we always got our mail at PO Box 338. Until they built the new post office when our new PO Box # was 165. When I was in 3rd or 4th grade, Mom taught my Sunday School class. I also joined a 4-H club when I turned 8 and learned how to cook, bake and sew from a lady named Nell Hightree. I don’t think I stayed in it very long, because I didn’t like getting things ready for the county fair every year and I really hated the fashion show, where we had to model something that we sewed. I always thought the things I sewed or baked or cooked weren’t as good as everyone else’s and I didn’t really want to put them on display.

I had the measles while we were living in this house. It might have been in the summer time, as I remember being very hot for a very long time.