This page is dedicated to the|
Memory of my Mother
Verna Rae Freeman Herrington
(11 Sept 1923 - 19 Jan 1995)
I still remember my Mother saying "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." When I was a child, I thought this was silly. But now that I am grown, I believe there is something to this old folk wisdom, especially since I came down with really bad allergies and read a lot about them. Raw fruits and vegetables seem to have a much higher nutrition value than cooked fruits and vegetables.
I was born shortly after 1pm in the afternoon on 14 July 1944 in the small East Texas town of Palestine, Anderson County, Texas. Yep, I'm a "Moon Child" Cancerian. My mother said that she decided about 11am that morning that it was time to go to the hospital, and that my father got so nervous, he forgot her suitcase. :-) I came into the world with a shock of coal black hair and blue eyes; the hair soon turned cotton blond and the eyes brown. I was a "fat, sweet baby" (gee, thanks, Dad) according to a letter my father wrote his brother, then a Captain stationed overseas in the Air Force, who saved the letter and let me read it several years ago. Apparently my father was quite taken with my baby charm. :-) This may not have lasted long because I am told I didn't sleep the first two years of my life and nearly killed my parents. My Mother said they never had any more children after I totally exhausted them.
So I grew up an only child, which had many advantages. I didn't have to share my space with brothers or sisters, and I got all the attention..and all the toys, etc. Needless to say, I was rotten spoiled. :-(
I was also a terrible tomboy, preferring horses and guns and jeans to dolls and dresses, to my Mother's lasting chagrin. My father encouraged me to do anything I wanted, so I naturally thought there was nothing I could not do. When I was 10, this got both of us into a bit of trouble with Mother, when she discovered that he was letting me drive the car out to the country to our farm at whatever speed I chose to drive, under age and without a driver's license. :-) Men have a hard time saying no to their girl babies it seems. :-) The only thing I remember him ever saying about my driving was one time when I took a curve at about 65 (this was on a narrow country road), he said "well, might need to slow it down a little bit". Good thing Mother wasn't in the car to see this or both of us would have been skinned. :-)
I naturally had a tricycle and quickly progressed to bicycles. I remember my first bicycle had training wheels because my father was so afraid I would fall and hurt myself. I was very offended by the training wheels and did not stop protesting them until he took them off. I could ride extremely well, but...I was also a speed demon and reckless, so I had my share of accidents.
I grew up in the typical atmosphere of a small southern town, where people didn't bother to lock their houses or their cars and didn't worry about crime which mostly didn't happen around here. The milkman still delivered milk to the door, the iceman delivered ice, and doctors still made house calls. Clothes dryers weren't very common around here then and you saw a lot of wash hung on lines in back yards. I was reminded of this when I ran across a graphic that reminded me of clothes pins which I hated as they put crimps in clothes. Thank goodness for dryers! Even after the dryer became a household staple, my Mother, who could be a diehard about some things, preferred to open air dry certain items. As for me, gimme a Maytag dryer with dryer sheets that eliminate static electricity.
In those days, drug stores with soda fountains could still be found. We had three places here like that. In addition to the ambiance, I loved vanilla & chocolate milkshakes with sprinkles & cherries. You could also get fountain cokes, classic bottle cokes or a candy bar for a nickel, and the admission price was ten cents at the Ritz Theater, and you could stay all afternoon and see a double feature and cartoons. Fifty cents bought a lot of cokes and candy and popcorn at the movies back then. I'm sure it was then that I developed my life long love of Coca Cola, to my dentist's everlasting dismay. My cousin Don and I must have watched every Roy Rogers, Gene Autrey, Hopalong Cassidy and Lash LaRue movie that came to the screen during our childhood. In those days, they also had things called "serials", in which every episode ends with the hero in some terrible situation, and you had to wait a whole week until the next Saturday to find out how he escaped from the peril. The modern day equivalent would probably be The Adventures of Indiana Jones. We were also raised on Walt Disney stuff-- Looney Tunes cartoons with Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny, Tweety, Mickey Mouse, Daffy Duck, FogHorn Leghorn, Wiley Coyote, The RoadRunner, and not to forget those great old Disney movie classics. I loved "Lady and the Tramp", "Lassie", "Bambi", "Cinderella", "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves", and "Pinnochio". And who could ever forget Jimminy Crickett?
Another phenomenon of my youth was 3D movies, where they passed out these special cardboard glasses to view the movie. The only one I remember seeing was Bhwoni Junction with Clark Gable, set in Africa with man eating lions. I didn't sleep a wink that night after watching lions come thru the screen to devour me. :-)
It was in the early 50's when television made its debut around here with reception dependent on those roof mounted directional antennas that you had to try to adjust with a box thing which sat on top of the tv, kind of a best guess type deal. Nothing like today's super cable and pay tv. It was black and white, no color, and a lot of the time the picture was "snowy". Still, it was revolutionary, compared to the radio, which had been a big deal before that. I watched "Sky King", old westerns, and later 1-1/2 hours daily of American Bandstand when I had the tv to myself. At night the folks liked stuff like The Dick Powell Show, and PlayHouse 90, Red Skelton, Milton Berle and Jackie Gleason. Boy have things changed! Seems like we got a color tv when I was about 10, I really can't remember. That was a big improvement over black and white. Then you had "rainbow snow" if the picture was lousy. It's amazing how technology changes. Sitting here with a remote that flips thru channels, adjusts volume, and even controls the VCR, early tv was quite primitive by present standards. Anyway, I loved the Oscar Meyer weiners and Jello Instant Pudding commercials. ("Oh, I'd love to be an Oscar Meyer wiener, that is what I really want to be, because if I was an Oscar Meyer wiener, everyone would be in love with me")and ("Small Chinese Baby loves Jello Instant Pudding"). For some reason, I loved those commercials even though I didn't really give a hoot about the products.
Remember those red American Flyer wagons? Or am I confusing this with bicycles? It's terrible the way our memories get rusty on things we thought we would NEVER forget. ( Which is one reason I don't place total faith in verbal family histories. )
Remember Blue Horse notebook paper? I would just throw a fit if I couldn't have Blue Horse notebook paper and I always wanted my pencils to be #2 black. In later years, I remember I would not use anything except a #2 Black Warrior pencil for accounting work. Anything else was garbage as far as I was concerned and belonged in the trash. I guess I always had strong likes and dislikes even as a child. And apparently it didn't get better with age. *LOL*
In the summer I always pleaded for popsicles and snowcones. My favorite was grape and still is to this day. It has always gotten very hot in the summer here in east Texas, but it seems 10 times as hot now as it did when I was a kid. I could say that's it's just my age catching up with me, but I think it probably also has to do with the loss of the ozone layers. Thank goodness for that efficient, freezing cold Carrier air conditioning! My computer couldn't live without it.
I also loved berry pie and berries with sugar and cream. In the summers when I was young, it was quite common for young farm children to sell syrup buckets of strawberries in residential areas door to door, and my Mother always bought several buckets from them when they came around. My Mother was a very good cook and enjoyed puttering around in her kitchen making tasty treats.
One interesting treat was snow ice cream. It didn't snow very often here in East Texas when I was a kid, but when it did, I would go outside and scoop up a lot of clean snow, and Mother would make snow ice cream. I have no idea how she did it, but it was great! Given the pollutants in today's atmosphere, there is NO way I would eat it now, however.
I used to see a lot of these when I was a kid. I did this once, but as I recall it was mainly an excuse to get my Mother to make many pitchers of Lemonaide, and I think my cousin and I drank up all the product during the hot summer heat. :-) I told her that the Leprechauns had been very thirsty that day. She just smiled and said "Leprechauns are like that!" My Mother was very good about accepting childhood whimsy. She always retained the heart of a child, and enjoyed a good joke.
Christmas was wonderful at our house! My Mother loved Christmas and always dragged out oodles of decorations and decorated everything with Christmas spirit. I remember holly and green stuff and candy canes everywhere. She loved those Hallmark Christmas Tree Decorations and our tree was always loaded with lights and balls. She also loved to give presents and she went to a lot of trouble to find special presents. Santa Claus was very good to me.
I took art classes and piano classes at my Mother's insistence. I really didn't have any talent and knew it, but I indulged my Mother on this until I was about 12 and felt totally bored with the music my piano teacher insisted on. One day I went to class and I dropped my portfolio and out came all this sheet music for rock 'n roll and I thought she would swoon from the shock to her nervous system. I wanted to play a boogie woogie piano, not nocturns and stuff. :-) Then my Mother decided to "rat" on me and told the teacher that the only time I ever practiced the lessons were for about 30 minutes before my lessons, and that shocked the teacher because she had not detected this lack of purpose in our sessions. So, since the cat was out of the bag, I just decided to abandon piano lessons because it did not inspire me and I didn't want to play the kind of music the teacher insisted on. I wanted to play rock 'n roll and rhythm 'n blues, both anathema to my Mother at the time, although many years later she would become a big Elvis fan.
Both of my parents grew up in the country on large farms, their ancestors having been prosperous cattlemen & farmers who came to this East Texas county. My father & mother's patriarchial lines came from Mississippi in 1851 and Alabama about 1852, respectively. My parents were both fifth
generation Texans. My Mother died in January 1995 from complications of cardiovascular disease after a 4 year battle. I have really missed her. She was about 5'1" tall with red hair and loved every little animal on the planet and they loved her back.
I've had a succession of dogs during my life. The first was Smokey, a bird dog; then Leroy, a white terrier; Bimbo, an airedale; SugarBun, a tiny, tiny miniature toy terrier who lived to be almost 19; Bourbon (a.k.a. "Poodie"), a white poodle; Angel, a CockaPoo who looked totally Cocker except for the white poodle hair,who was THE SWEETEST DOG who ever lived.
We also had quite a few cats as my Mother adopted a lot of strays who appeared at her door and meyowed to be taken in. One of the funniest was "Old Mammy". The first time she had a litter she hid them in a hollow tree in the woods behind our house. My Mother was very annoyed and we heard her chastising Old Mammy. "Don't you ever do this again. If you have babies again, you come and tell me, and we'll fix you a box in the house." Well, I was laughing, I thought this was so amusing. But to my amazement the next time Old Mammy had kittens, she went to Mother and told her in cat talk, because I saw Mother making a bed for her, and she had those kittens right there in the house with Mother helping her.
At any rate, from my parents I inherited a lifelong love of animals, and I think that anyone who is mean to them is lacking something, some quality that would prevent this senseless behavior that creates rage in most of us who cannot imagine ever hurting an animal and are unable to understand how anyone could be so unkind and inconsiderate to our little friends.
My mother loved history and travel and always planned trips to view things she had read about. Below is a photo of the Old Stone Fort in Nacogdoches, Texas (about 80 miles from here), just one of the places we visited when I was a child. Being Texans we also naturally visited The Alamo in San Antonio and General Sam Houston's home. I remember the day I was 10, we were in Monterrey, Mexico, on vacation where I picked up some pesos for souvenirs. I think that one peso was equal to about ten cents in US currency then. Some tour guide in a black Cadillac chauffered us around to see a bunch of sights, and I think he charged about 100 pesos, or around $10. I remember this because when we returned to the hotel he told my Mother "100 dollars" and she looked him in the eye and said "I think you mean pesos because a hundred bucks would be a bit stiff for a taxi service, especially since ya'll just honk at intersections while going 80mph and my heart is still fluttering from the experience". Daddy turned beet red.
heh heh She was a corker.
The Old Stone Fort at Nacogdoches, Texas
We also visited a lot of other places. Almost every summer Mother packed us off to Southwestern places in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and points surrounding to see sights like the Grand Canyon, Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs, Estes Park, the Rocky Mountains, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Petrified Forest, White Sands, YellowStone National Park, Old Faithful Geyser, Riudoso, Alburquerque, Santa Fe, Taos, Roswell, Red River, Gallup, Phoenix, Tucson, Denver, Ouray, Carlsbad Cavern, and many other places I can't think of the names of right now. We drove a lot of miles on those trips, but I liked the car trips because you could be more spontaneous about amending travel plans. Mother was always equipped with travel atlases and maps of everything and a big ice chest full of drinks and sandwiches, just in case our plans didn't work out right. She was big on contingency plans which was good because some of the places we drove through were kind of remote and isolated back then. Fortunately we were lucky and didn't have any car troubles except for the car overheating going up Pikes Peak one time. But that was a common sight going up the auto road to the top of Pikes Peak.
It was up in YellowStone National Park that I first saw a moose. Those fellas are really big. It was also up in Yellowstone that Mother made the only mistake I remember. She somehow forgot to book us into the big inn at Old Faithful, which turned out to be full, and we had to hustle for a place to spend the night. The choices were limited, and, desperate, we found this cabin that had a Ben Franklin type heat source and access to only a community bath house. And it was C-O-L-D that night! And the bears got into the bath house! Needless to say I couldn't wait to get out of there. It just wasn't my cup of tea. The scenery was awesome, but the accomodations struck me as primitive. I like my creature comforts and roughing it is not my idea of a good time. If I can't have my hot shower every morning, well..forget it.
We took about a gazillion photos. The panoramic views up in the Rocky Mountains were awesome. Watching aspen trees dance in the mountain breezes was a fantastic sight. One could understand how the mountain men loved it up there. Also, the art galleries of Santa Fe and Taos were great! Coronado explored in this area in 1540 and Santa Fe was founded in 1609. New Mexico, having been colonized by the Spanish 25 years before the Pilgrims' arrival at Plymouth Rock, offers a multi cultural heritage for tourists with its native Indian and Spanish conquistadore history, ancient Indian pueblos, and native art.
In later years we took many tours of "The Old South", visiting New Orleans, Vicksburg, Mobile, Atlanta, Charleston, Savannah, Chattanooga, Memphis, Nashville, Gatlinburg, etc. The travel was very educational and interesting and I appreciate my Mother's efforts to make travel both fun and enlightening. We enjoyed the Cafe Du Monde's coffee and doughnuts, dressed-to-the-nines dinners at Antoine's, the ancient cobbled walks of Pirate's Alley, Confederate forts on the coast, Andrew Jackson's home at the Heritage, the lovely mists in the Smoky Mountains, so many interesting sights. My mind travels backwards wishing I could have witnessed all these places 200 years ago!
I attended Alamo Elementary School, which now houses the Palestine Public Library, from grades 1-6. My first grade teacher's name was Edna Terrell, who had also been my Mother's first grade teacher! As I recall we were very into yo-yo contests and shooting marbles during recess periods. After that I attended grades 7-8 at John H. Reagan Jr. School, which is now the Museum for East Texas Culture. The building was named for Judge Reagan who was a local attorney and had been postmaster of the Confederacy during the Civil War. I spent grades 9-12 and graduated from the old Palestine High School, which has since been demolished. The scenes of my childhood have changed quite a bit it seems. Anyway, I think children had more freedom when I was a child. And it all seemed so...
..wholesome... back then.
When I was in high school (1959-1962) Rock'n Roll was in its heyday. My friends and I spent a lot of time hanging out at "Buddie's DriveIn", which was the happening place back then, drinking cherry lime squeezes or cherry cokes or cherry dr peppers, and yakking and listening to the juke box which blasted out songs like Jimmie Reed's "Big Boss Man" and Fats Domino's "BlueBerry Hill". There were a lot of dances and sockhops, and crew sweaters, penny loafers, white crew socks were the "in" dress then. Every generation has its "thing" and I guess that was ours.
After high school I went off to Austin to attend the University of Texas, where I received my BBA in accounting and marketing. In those days (1963) freshmen were not allowed to have cars and they had to live on campus in University approved housing. So I lived in Kinsolving Dormitory, which was then the newest and biggest dorm on campus. I had a great time, met many new friends, some of whom have remained my friends for 30 years, and my blood naturally runs orange during football season.
I hope these memories from my garden haven't bored you. We all share the collective consciousness. We all dream the same dreams more or less. Childhood was a great time for me, although I guess mine might have been happier than some folks were. I am grateful I had my Mother as long as I did. She was always there for me. When I was little and got sick, I felt better just knowing she was there. She always made everything "okay". My Mother was a Virgo and very detail-oriented and very good at managing, and she was extremely honest, and she didn't gild the lily or mince words expressing her thoughts. I am told I am like this as well, but in my case perhaps sometimes I am a little TOO much so. Sometimes I worry about it, but, I guess I can't help being myself, especially at this late date.
I like this quote because it reminds me of all the good times that my family spent
together when I was young, when we were just having a good time together and
going places and seeing things. One thinks of things like this when one gets
older and loses a parent. Saying goodbye to my Mother was one of the worst
experiences of my life I think. She was a jewel among jewels.
Joan Didion authored a book entitled "A Book of Common Prayer" which I read about 20 years ago. In it her central character, Grace, says "on day minus one, we remember what our mothers taught us." Well, Momma, if you're listening, I remember everything. ;-)
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