The Dreadful Vocabulary Drill

SC Family Memories

School was back in full swing across the county with big yellow buses, crossing guards and football games. Even though summer was way too short, I was ready for fourth grade at McKenzie in September 1952. I knew nearly all my classmates, the nooks and crannies of the old brick building, and I actually looked forward to learning new stuff.

My after-school piano lessons with Mrs. Myrtie Berry Westcott would soon start up again, and mama had even enrolled me in dancing class one afternoon a week. I loved reading, I loved music and I loved drawing, so as long as we had library books, singing and art classes school would be okay. Who knows, I might even enjoy tap, ballet, and ballroom dancing. (Not; those classes were very short-lived.)

School went fine for the first few weeks but gradually I figured out that my teacher didn’t like me. She…

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Mimi, My Ordinary Grandmother, Part II

SC Family Memories

MimiDaOnFrontPorchCroppedOr, Why I Love Murder Mysteries.

The summers I spent with my grandmother Mimi and my grandfather Da weren’t all ordinary work in the house, yard, garden or farm. I did my share of exploring and excavating the sand hill dirt for arrowheads. Found a few, too.

My brother Bud, young uncle Mike and I climbed our share of chinaberry trees, stringing tobacco twine and tin cans for telephones or walkie-talkies. Police detectives! Soldiers! Spies! We quarreled over who’d be the good guys since no-one wanted to be the enemy – they always lost.

I felt my share of itchy sawdust inside my jeans from zooming down the sawdust piles on makeshift sleds of pine bark. I received my fair share of maypop hand grenade blasts, coating the outside of my jeans with more sawdust. Red bugs loved sawdust as much as I did, I discovered. Kerosene in the bathwater!

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Mimi, My Ordinary Grandmother, Part I

SC Family Memories

Growing up I seldom got to have interesting vacations like other kids did, like up at Blue Ridge, down at Myrtle Beach, or over at Santee. All we could afford was ordinary vacations, and as their firstborn grandchild I spent a lot of summers with my mother’s parents (D.W. and Marena Powers) on their farm outside of Florence.

Mother was a black-haired Irish beauty married to a handsome blue-eyed Englishman. Her parents were called Mimi and Da, nicknames for Grandma and Grandpa. I loved her, but Mimi was just an ordinary grandma. She was just under five feet tall and maybe weighed a hundred pounds. She had fair skin, twinkling brown eyes, and grayish-auburn hair never styled except for funerals when she let a neighbor give her a curl.

Bright and early in the mornings, Mimi put on an ordinary housedress that she’d hand-sewn herself from flower-printed feed sacks. Theirs…

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After Supper Activities

SC Family Memories

After-supper activities around our house in the 1950’s didn’t include video games, surfing the web, cell phones or i-pods, and very little television. It did include things like board games of Monopoly, Scrabble, Chinese or regular checkers.

Now, I was pretty good at Scrabble. After all, I was my class spelling champ, I studied words right along with math and geography. As long as my opponents were other kids I did just fine. But if Mama got into the game, she’d have to spot us so many points – she subscribed to crossword puzzle books!

Mama could use a handful of z’s and q’s and u’s to make the most outlandish combinations and we’d cry foul. “Look it up,” she’d say with a smile, totaling up her score. “Look it up.” Flipping through the pages of our oversize dictionary, we’d do our best to prove her wrong. Naturally she’d turn…

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Department Store Browsing in the 1950’s

SC Family Memories

By the time I was nine or ten years old, I found department stores could be just as much fun as dime stores for browsing, the great pastime for kids in pre-television days.

McCown-Smith Department Store was located on Dargan Street right where Evans runs into it. One entrance was on Dargan and a second one on East Evans — another two-main door store.

McCown-Smith sold a lot of blue and white enamel basins and cast aluminum cook pots, but they seemed to specialize in linens. You know, cotton sheets and chenille bedspreads.

They also featured crocheted antimacassars, tatted doilies, lace-edged dresser scarves, and embroidered table runners. My grandmother Mimi took me shopping for those in McCown-Smith one time. I’d never heard the word “antimacassar” before that day — but most folks had one on the back of every armchair and couch. Those were the days of Wildroot Cream Oil…

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Memory triggers

SC Family Memories

OverstuffedArmchairThe other day I caught a glimpse of a flowered, overstuffed chair on a TV sitcom and my mind flashed back more than 50 years, to my grandparents’ living room. Clear as day, I saw again Mimi’s flowered, overstuffed armchair, backed against the wall between her living room and dining room.

Just over the chair hung a large framed photo of the U.S.S. Trepang, Uncle Ponk’s submarine home during WWII. I heard again Mimi’s matter-of-fact voice recounting his wartime adventures, not realizing until years later how terrifying those days in the Pacific must have been for him, a young sailor just out of high school.  (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Trepang_%28SS-412%29 for a little history of that ship.)

In my mind’s eye I saw the swinging french-style doors separating the two rooms and heard the little squeak one made when pushed. On the living room side the doors were faced with sheer, not quite…

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Jealous of mother’s hair

SC Family Memories

MotteBerthaAndBetty1944“Black, black, black is the color of my true love’s hair…”*

Black-haired and hazel-eyed, my Irish mother was the only girl in a family with four brothers. All her brothers’ hair began to turn gray at an early age, but mama’s didn’t. She just had a narrow streak of white from her right temple straight back through her lush, black waves.

Unfortunately, my hair took after my English daddy, who had brown hair and blue eyes. I was always jealous of mother’s hair.

When I was fifteen years old or so, mama took me to her hairdresser. The shop was centrally located in a storefront beside Sears, Roebuck and Company on North Irby Street. I thought I was getting a hair permanent, an event I dreaded. Frizzy, smelly, itchy curls for Easter. More frizzy, smelly, itchy curls for Christmas.

I pouted as I was draped in plastic and the leather chair pumped up to the appropriate level. My…

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