We had a small refrigerator which held a fifty pound piece of ice—there was a second door on the left side for food. As might be expected, we opened the door of the refrigerator too often. Mama warned us about chipping on the ice. It was to be used for iced tea only. Mr. Smith delivered us fifty pounds every other day according to the ice card which was kept in the dining room window. All of the neighborhood children ran down the block chasing the ice truck. Mr. Smith managed to give us all a generous piece. This was really a treat for a bunch of barefoot kids standing ankle deep in dust.
Homemade ice cream was a special treat. I recall an evening in August when I was eleven years old. We were finishing our supper when Howard asked, “How would you like some ice cream for dessert?” We all said, “Fine,” knowing there was no ice cream. Well, Howard got up, went to the back yard and brought in a well-wrapped freezer of ice cream. He had prepared it while we were gone, froze it, and kept it hidden. To my delight it was pink. He used food coloring in it which was my first memory of pink ice cream. We could hardly believe that Howard dared use all the ice, but he did. We were so thrilled over the surprise treat that Mama forgave him.
Harold could make us laugh. He could talk Charles and me into tasting a green persimmon or sticking our tongues to a cold pump handle. Yet, he was the one who would run to town in the rain or snow when Mama needed a bottle of chill tonic or a jar of Vick's salve for us.
Mama was far from uninformed as a young lady. She had lived with her sister, Lulu, in Greenway and had attended Normal School after graduating from the eighth grade. She read the classics, listened to good music when she could, was an excellent Bible student and was a “learner” as long as she lived. She cultivated friendships easily and treasured old friendships. She and her old friends, Glennye Coats Brakefield and Mary Hicks Reed stayed in touch as long as Mama lived.
She had to punish us sometimes. I've seen her cry while whipping one of us. Howard and Charles got very few whippings. They got most of them for slipping off to the creek to swim. Most of the boys in town did this, but Mama had forbidden Howard and Charles to go for fear they would drown. She really worried when our safety was involved.
I got most of my punishments for overstaying when I went somewhere to play. My hour turned into two hours. I spent many hours playing with Inez and Helen Davis, Madeline Chiles, Lorece Mack and Cora Woolf.
Charles and Howard slept in the upstairs bedroom and I slept with Mama in the downstairs bedroom. So often at night there would be a thunderstorm. Immediately she would awaken the boys and bring them downstairs. They would protest but she would march us to Ola and George Joiner's storm cellar several times a year. As a result, I'm always scared when it storms.
Howard was athletic. He played basketball and baseball all during high school. Our big front lawn was the ball field. Mama was happy to have the neighborhood boys even though it meant that the grass and shrubs were all worn down and the fence sagged from being ridden down. There were plenty of boys around for a couple of ball teams—the Watson boys, the Davis boys and the O'Brien boys plus others. He realized his dream and played several years of professional baseball.
Charles was patient, gentle and spent a lot of time organizing his tools, drawings, books, etc. A cigar box held his treasures. He was a left-handed Mr. Fix-it. He was a dreamer and lived a private place. Mama let him turn our small corn crib into a little workshop. He cleaned it, nailed strips of wood over the cracks and moved his prized possessions into the small room. Here he spent many happy hours. Years later when he built an apartment complex in Little Rock he called it, The Steeplechase—A Greenway Enterprise.
Mama worked faithfully at keeping our ledgers posted each month. You can imagine how every happy we were when Mama decided to buy a car. She had waited until Howard was fourteen so he could be the chauffeur and the mechanic. He was able to change a flat tire and Mam thought he was an A-1 mechanic.
Mama purchased our car, a 1929 Model-A Ford, from the Crockett Motor Company in Rector. I think I could call it our “Beloved Ford.” Mama and Howard occupied the front seat with Charles and me in the back. Our “Beloved Ford” was dark blue. Of course, it was always dusty because there was no gravel on our streets in Greenway. We literally rubbed the paint off of it. Our new car made it possible for us to travel out of Eastern Clay County. We had ridden with friends and relatives on many occasions, but mainly we walked.
One day in 1930 Howard went bird hunting. He loaded two bird dogs into our “Beloved Ford” and drove out to the woods below the Frank Golden place. Since he took the dogs out to hunt one at a time he left one in the car. When he came back for number two dog, he found the upholstery literally torn off the seats and sides of the car. I'm sure this was the greatest dilemma of his young life. Mama was very upset when she saw the car. However she believed him when he explained that he was sorry and would never put a dog in the car again. After a major repair job, all was well.
I learned to drive when we had the '29 Ford. When the sun shone out, I would ask Mam to let me drive it up to the shade tree. You see, we really thought the car couldn't take the sun. When she would finally give me permission, I would drive up much too far and then I would back up. I'd have a driving lesson by the time I got it parked. Mama would be aggravated but soon forgot it. (to be continued)