It was the early 1940’s in our small town in America. The world was at war and there was a general feeling of restlessness in the Country and especially in the small towns across the United States. It seemed that way in my town anyway, maybe because everyone knew everyone else, or at least we thought we did. Things can change though, especially with a war raging and our boys away fighting that war. Families who had brothers and sons in the service had the most stress of course.
Our town had changed quite a bit since the war began. Soldiers, sailors and marines could be seen around the town now, home on leave wearing their uniforms. More people were flying flags in their yards and we were all more patriotic. The schools and the churches among other groups were having drives to collect scrap iron to be used in the war effort.
The movies now were all about the war, with people actually cheering in the movie houses when the Allies won a battle against the enemy. The newsreels would come on in the movies between the main movie and the previews. That’s the only way we actually saw some of the action in the war, the rest of the news was on the radio or in the newspapers.
At home in the evenings when FDR had his “Fireside Chats”, families were gathered around the radio listening with rapt attention. FDR was everyone’s hero during that time, even the children loved him. He had a spellbinding voice and he always had an uplifting message to deliver.
It was against this background that the murders in our town happened, to the shock and chagrin of all the people who lived there. I was fourteen years old at the time and very impressionable; I loved mysteries, especially murder mysteries, even though they scared me. My older sister, Marie, who was sixteen years old, and I would walk three miles to the library and then three miles back to get our library books. Some of the books were mandatory. The nuns at the Catholic school we went to required us to read a few of the classics each semester along with our other reading. So in between the murder mysteries which I loved, I managed to read a few classics. My sister liked romantic stories, so between us we had to carry quite a few books on the way home.
We would usually have car fare for one way and then have to decide whether to actually spend it on car fare home or spend it on a treat and end up walking back home also. It was sometimes a hard choice because we were pretty tired by the time we were ready to go home, carrying all those books.
Marie and I got along really well. She was a happy person always finding something to laugh about. Where I, on the other hand was quiet (out in public) but still friendly and we both had our own friends at school. Little did we know that our world as we knew it was about to be shattered and not connected to the war that was raging. It was up close and personal.
This is the first chapter of a story i am writing, based on real events. I may or may not write continuing chapters on Word Press as I continue writing the story.
Mom, who was our grandmother, but insisted that her grandchildren call her mom, was a major force in my mother’s family and therefore in our family as well. As a result of having to call her mom, we had to call my mother, mother.
When we were children, we often went to visit Mom with my mother. She lived several blocks away and since we did not have a car, walking would have to do. Three of mom’s daughters, she had eight, lived with her at the time. And a few had married and had their own homes and families. Two became teachers and the rest worked in the silk mills in the area and turned in their pay to mom as long as they were living at home. Mom used some of the money to send two of the youngest girls to Teacher’s College. Mom was very progressive especially being she was from the “Old Country”.
We, my sisters and I, were shy and would hide behind my mother if we were asked any questions when we visited. Mom would comment on how bashful we were and my mother would scoff and say, “They are not that way at home! Can’t keep them quiet there.” Which of course, made us more bashful when we were out..
We kids enjoyed playing in mom’s large backyard where she kept chickens and had a vegetable garden. We made up our own games and were usually pretty tired when mother would call us in for a snack of lemonade and cookies that mom had made. Usually oatmeal and raisin cookies and the lemonade was so cool and refreshing that we guzzled it down.
After all the playing and then walking home we kids were pretty tired and usually took a nap, giving mother a brief respite and maybe a visit with her friend and neighbor, Mrs. Kelly. Mrs. Kelly lived right next door to us and had a large yard in which were planted all manner of vegetables. She used to give us vegetables on a regular basis, anywhere from carrots to tomatoes and onions. My mother would make wonderful stews with chunks of meat and always potatoes added. My mother had a small garden and even some chickens but with four children, was always grateful for donations of food especially around the holidays.
Mrs. Kelly, in addition to being very helpful to us, was also a bad influence on my mother, teaching her to smoke and sometimes drink alcohol. But mother never became a big drinker and she never became a heavy smoker either, in spite of Mrs. Kelly. But they did have a good time when they got together. They both loved hearing and telling a good story. There was always a lot of laughing when they got together.
The word for today for the Daily Post today is sincere.
I really can’t think of anything to write, especially about this word. Guess I am kind of blocked! I haven’t been doing much writing for quite some time but recently I set up a special tablet dedicated to Creative Writing.
Since I already do what I call the A.M. notes of daily events and thoughts, I needed another tablet just for writing for my Blog. So I am getting there, also have had a story that’s been percolating in my brain for a long time now, years at least. About two weeks ago I actually started putting the story into writing. I think it is definitely going to be an interesting story and it is based on true events that happened in the small town where I grew up. It involves a murder that happened in the town which was very sensational. Also, it was during the time when WWII was raging. I have been meaning to write this story for a long time and the participants are old now or dead so it will be kind of difficult to get specific details.
I have done a lot of research but there is still a lot more that needs to be done. Especially since this happened so long ago and details are pretty fuzzy. In fact, one of my cousins told me he did not think I should write about it. But of course, I will not take his advice. Anyway, let me know what you think? Should I go ahead with my research and follow through with this dramatic story or leave it alone and pursue another storyline altogether?
I thought since it is National Cat’s Day I would write a poem about my cat, Lady. She is quite the character, with a mind of her own and set in her ways, not unlike myself! So I am going to write a poem which hopefully does her justice.
I am posting this story again as I just edited it and it is the first in a series. So it is kind of important that I post this one first and then continue the series as I go along. Hope you like it. Thanks for reading.
I had not seen my father in years. In fact, I really did not care if I ever saw him again. He left so long ago I barely remembered what he looked like. So the day he returned was more of a shock, than a surprise.
When I came home from school that day, the family was all excited about something. Mother, who was usually in an old house dress, was in her Sunday best. She had on one of her two good dresses. This one had big pink roses splashed on a field of black. It was my favorite. My mother was a good-looking woman and since dad had left us several years ago, she had finally started dating again. She said at that time that she considered him dead anyway.
So that day, when mother asked me to go upstairs and make the beds, I did not jump to do it.
“What’s with the cleaning”? I asked. I was told more than once, that I had a smart mouth. I never knew quite how to take that, whether I should be insulted or complimented. But mother seemed worried about getting the house cleaned and right away. It was not like her to be so concerned about the cleaning. Her usual attitude about it was, ‘It will get done when it gets done’, and it always got done.
“It is a surprise, will you please do what I asked?” Mother’s voice was getting a bit shrill.
“Ok, ok, but I don’t know what all the mystery is about. Is someone important coming”? I decided to go and do as she asked before she got mad and started yelling. When she started yelling, it never ended good.
I ran upstairs and started making beds. My two younger sisters were in their bedroom giggling and they were not doing any cleaning. But then they never did any of the cleaning anyway. I hoped maybe they could shed a little light on the situation but when I asked them, they just ignored me and kept on giggling. What can you expect from kids, I thought. I was fourteen and as second oldest in the family thought I was in control of things. I was blond and blue-eyed and rather scrawny yet the boys were beginning to notice me. My mother encouraged me in my independence, because she needed me to help at home while she was working. Since Dad had left us high and dry when I was seven, with no money to speak of; mom needed every penny she could get to raise her four girls.
I finished making the beds and as I entered my room, which I shared with my older sister, the smell of Summer drifted in through the window. The lace curtains fluttered lazily on the warm breeze as I flopped on the bed and lit a cigarette that I had swiped from Mother’s purse earlier. She did let me light hers for her once in a while so I thought it was okay to have one once in a while. I went off into a world of my own and saw myself as a dancer. Myself and Gene Kelly, who was my favorite movie star, swayed back and forth to the music and as we swung out and came together, I was lost in the moment.
I seemed to be day-dreaming more and more lately. It was a way to close out the real world and go to my own special place. Ever since dad had deserted us, there never was enough money, but now things were beginning to get better with myself and my older sister working. I only worked part-time because I was still in school but it was enough to buy my clothes and give a little to my mother. Dad had refused to send home any money to help support us from his Army allotment. So the decision was taken out of his hands and the Army sent money to us anyway. Yes, dad was a real nice guy.
Dad was drafted even though he was over forty because he was a deserter of his family and the Army needed all the men they could get. The second World War was in full progress at this time and that’s all that we heard about on the radio. The war! Rationing, black-outs, not enough sugar butter or gas. The sugar was what concerned me the most, I loved making candy, one thing dad had taught me. Fudge with peanut butter was my favorite.
Whenever mother spoke of dad her voice was bitter and I learned to despise his memory even though I didn’t remember him all that much. Mother managed to fill in the blanks with, “We wouldn’t be in this shack with hardly enough to eat if he were any good.” She called him “Mr. Rat” most of the time. And he managed to live up to that name.
I often wondered if dad would come back and how she would feel if it ever came to that. I knew however, with mother’s attitude, there was slim chance of that happening. As I stubbed out the cigarette, a train whistle blew in the distance and I wondered what it would be like to be on that train. I always dreamed of going to New York, which was not that far away and becoming an artist or a dancer.
“Are you finished yet?” Her mother’s voice broke her reverie.
“I’m all done.” I yelled back.
Mother worked hard trying to support the family. She did housework for several people. She was usually tired when she came home and so she put me in charge of watching the kids and cleaning the house in her absence. I liked being in charge. I could boss my younger sisters around whenever I felt like it. They rebelled of course and there was many an argument. They were eleven and nine at that time. They clashed loudly with me over who was “in charge”. “We’re going to tell mother,” was the usual refrain when I pushed too hard to make them do anything like their homework or make their beds.
The house we rented was a two bedroom over a shoemaker shop. Myself and my older sister, shared one bedroom and my two younger girls shared the other. Mother slept on the couch downstairs. She said she had to keep an eye on the coal stoves anyway, so they wouldn’t go out and then we would freeze in the winter. Of course we had to have the stoves going in the Summer also to do our cooking. Which made for a very warm house in the summer.
My older sister was sixteen and as the oldest had to quit high school to work and help support the family. As a result of her bringing money in, she became very independent. She assumed no duties at home and paid little or no attention to mother. The younger girls didn’t really remember their dad or if they did, it was just a fuzzy outline. Their lives consisted of going to school and playing with their friends.
My reverie was interrupted again when I heard my mother’s voice coming from the bottom of the stairs.
“Come on down girls, there’s someone here to see you”, mother said.
My sisters ran down the stairs giggling to see who it was but for some reason I hung back. I had a strange feeling come over me. I really didn’t want to come down and see who was there. I heard men’s voices that I did not recognize. So I stayed in my room until Mother finally came up and insisted that I come down and meet the visitors.
“I have been given unlimited funds to go and spend a day doing anything I normally couldn’t do!”
Well let me see now, I know what I would do if I was a kid and used to go to the movies as often as possible. My fervent wish was to get one of each of the boxes of candy in the machine at the movie house. Unfortunately or fortunately as the case may be, I never did have that wish fulfilled. I probably would have passed out from sugar shock or worse.
But now as an adult my wishes have changed quite a bit. Being an artist, I would like to travel to the great art centers of the world. Most of these places would require flying there in a plane. I am not too happy about traveling anymore, especially flying, since they have instituted the anti-terrorism rules and regulations. Which include taking your shoes off and having a body scan, which are certainly an invasion of privacy to say the least and unconstitutional at the worst. No, no flying anymore!
But I digress, the art museums I most want to visit would be in France and Italy, especially the Louvre. Also St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is something I have dreamed of visiting. But the crowds would be daunting I am sure. So, it is all wishful thinking for me I am afraid.