Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I was a true believer! If ever there was a believer in Santa Claus it was, and is, me! In the weeks leading up to Christmas the days passed ever so slowly. While other families had their trees up and decorated, my mother refused to put our tree up until a week before Christmas. This only added to the agony! Once the tree was up the whole house seemed to fill with heavenly scent of fresh evergreen. We could "feel" the cold of the tree as it was brought in from outdoors and placed in that old red and green metal stand. The entire family helped decorate it, but my mother always insisted that she do the icicles (I find that a lot of kids today don't know what icicles are--they're long, slender strands of shiny silver that hang over the tree branches). She wanted them to hang perfectly. Of course we had Christmas music playing on the old stereo and my joy was complete. Then--more waiting!
On Christmas Eve I could hardly stand it. The minute it started getting dark I was perched at the living room window watching the night sky for any signs of Rudolph's blinking red nose. I think Rudolph must be pretty sneaky, because as hard as I tried, I never could see him. My father or mother would read from the scriptures about the birth of the Christ Child--the Savior of us all. We'd have a quick gift exchange and then back to the window I went. When it was time for bed, we'd all quickly find the biggest stocking (always my father's) and set it on the couch for Santa to fill. I remember laying in bed trying so hard to fall asleep, but no sleep would come. In the middle of the night I'd get up to see if Santa had come. I'd quietly turn on the tree lights and lo and behold--what a glorious spread! Each gift was wrapped (some were partially wrapped and the exposed side was pushed up against the wall), but I'd scurry around the tree trying to find a package addressed to "Deonne". Then I'd hear, "Get back in bed." Snooping time was over--I had to wait until we got the "ok" to get up. We each got our own apple, orange, tangerine, nuts, and candy--now that was generosity! That Santa Claus--he's quite an amazing fellow. Can't wait for him to show up this year! Merry Christmas to All . . .

Friday, December 11, 2009

Gift of a Lifetime

When I was growing up stores didn't carry toys year round like they do now. The toys came in after Thanksgiving and were deemed as seasonal items. So when the toys hit the shelves you knew it wouldn't be long before Santa Claus made his grand journey. It made Christmas so much more exciting. I remember going to Huntsman's grocery store in Shelley (then located on main street) with my mother. Right above the produce sat the most fantastic creation ever--my dream doll. She was 28" tall and came with her own hair dryer, brushes, combs, and curlers. Each time we went to the store I stood and stared at the doll while my mother shopped. To my great joy dream dolly was waiting under the tree for me on Christmas morning. I quickly pulled her out of the box, grabbed a cup of water, wet her hair and started rolling it in curlers. My father (being typically male) snapped at me--something about "ruining" the new doll. My mother grabbed dad by the elbow, whispered something in his ear, at which he quickly mellowed. He came, gave me a big hug, and told me to "have fun." I will never forget that doll, the incident and that Christmas as it was to be the last Christmas we ever had with my father. To my surprise, I came upon dream dolly on ebay this morning. You can bet I placed a bid for her and am anxiously awaiting the response of the seller. They say you can't buy memories--but I'm certainly going to try. Wish me luck!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Karl, Ed & Billie

Now anyone who's lived in Firth during the last few decades will know about Karl, Ed, & Billie. These three were the Jenkins brothers and lived in Basalt for years. For whatever reason, all three of these grown men were mentally handicapped. They also became known as the town "characters" and many a story was passed along regarding them. Each brother had his own quirks and personality. After someone told Karl that he'd go to hell if he didn't go to church he started attending regularly. He wasn't always happy with what he heard however, and occasionally would stand up and shout "You're a damn liar!" (I suspect others in the congregation may have had similar thoughts.) You rarely saw him without a big old cigar in his mouth and he was the more intimidating of the three brothers for me.

Billie was in love with his bicycle--I never saw him without it. He was of slender build, sat with his legs crossed at the knees, and while smoking his cigarettes, often observed those around him as if they were inferior to him. He was the quieter of the three brothers and I don't remember much about him.

And then there was Ed. Now Ed and I had a personal relationship--unbeknownst to me. I worked at the Tree House when I was a teenager and Ed came into the restaurant on a frequent basis. He usually came in for a cup of coffee and some chatter. Mostly he ranted and raved about how he was "gonna get DRUNK!" Apparently that statement got a "rise" out of people so I think he said it often for that intended purpose. Being the only young girl working at the Tree House, Ed developed a crush on me. He would often order his cup of coffee, give a quarter tip to the waitress with express instructions to give this to "that other girl". I got razzed about it from my friends and co-workers. Then came Valentine's Day. Ed went all over town telling people that he had given his girlfriend "chocolates" for Valentine's Day. Girlfriend--being me! Well, I got no chocolates from Ed--nor from anyone else for that matter. But I got the teasing! A few weeks later I was talking to my Aunt Loraine and she was telling me that her best friend Wanda was surprised on Valentine's Day to open her front door and find a box of chocolates sitting on the step. Wanda had gotten MY CHOCOLATES! What's more--Wanda had eaten those chocolates. I got the razzing--Wanda got the chocolates! The only consolation I got from that situation was the knowledge that Crazy Ed had no idea where I actually lived! Thank heaven for BIG favors!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Woodward Brothers Potatoes

My mother worked in Firth as a bookkeeper working for two brothers, Jay & Glenn Woodward, at their potato packaging business. Mom always loved numbers. From the time she was a small child she loved to watch her grandfather *work the numbers* at the Dye Mercantile in Basalt--numbers fascinated her. Once I was old enough to work (age 14), she was able to secure a job for me after school and on weekends. Since my mother was widowed at age 36 I think the Woodward brothers saw this as an opportunity to help her.

I actually enjoyed the work there--it wasn't bad and the pay was good. It gave me cash to buy school clothes and other things I needed. Woodward's was located east of the railroad tracks right across from the current taxidermy shop. It consisted of several small old wooden buildings--one housed the office--the rest of them housed the equipment and machinery. Trucks loaded with potatoes would empty onto a belt which transported the spuds into a water spray for cleaning, on to another bed to be sorted and then routed to their packaging destination. That's where I came in. I stood at a hopper filled with potatoes. I pushed a button until the potatoes filled my bucket which also determined their weight. We usually filled 10# bags. If too many potatoes filled my bucket I had to throw some back until the weight was approximately ten pounds. The bags were placed on a belt behind me where another person would staple or tie the bags shut. They were then placed into a larger 50# paper bag and loaded onto a waiting railroad boxcar outside the front double doors. All of this was done manually--and with a large amount of "chatter". We often rotated positions so no one got too tired doing one thing. The first hopper naturally filled faster and was more work. We rotated down the line and then got to work behind the line stapling. This was a nice change as it could be done while sitting. Then on to "flipping" the bags into the larger paper bag. There was quite an art to getting five smaller bags into that larger one and it took a bit of practice until I could get it right. Sounds easy and it was (kind of) until we were busy and the potatoes were coming faster than we could keep up. Occasionally they would have to stop the whole operation and give us time to empty our hoppers--then on we went again. What I remember most about Woodward's was the musty, earthy smell of wet potatoes. To this day--some 45 years later--I can still smell Woodward's Potatoes and with it comes many pleasant memories. I enjoyed the people I worked with, enjoyed the work, and loved being able to see my mom during breaks and at lunchtime. Thank you Glenn and Jay--thank you so very much!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Melba Theatre

Ok folks, this movie theatre was before my time but I feel I need to include what "little" I know about it. My mother always spoke of a theatre in Firth. It was hard for me to imagine any building large enough to provide entertainment on that level. The building was owned by Grant Collet and shared a common wall with Collet's Bar. It sat north of the bar and was in operation during the 1940's. Admission to the movies was probably about ten cents and it was a rare treat for the children in the community to be able to attend. Mr. Davis operated the Virginia Theatre in the neighboring town of Shelley. He agreed to bring movies to Firth and show them at the Melba (named after Grant Collet's wife) once they had already been viewed at the Virginia Theatre. I'm not sure how long the Melba was in operation but I know that it was not operating when I was a child in the 1950's. The building sits vacant to this day.

When I was a teenager some of my schoolmates decided that the old theatre would make a great place to hold dances. They formed a band and needed a place other than the school (too many rules and regulations) where they could rock and roll to their hearts delight! I can't honestly say they were good, but I remember they were LOUD--and they had fun. The building was "cleaned" and the old seats were removed to provide space for dancing. I went to a couple of these dances and while they were fun there was one persistent problem. The floor was slanted to accommodate movie viewing! I remember constantly having to "correct" my position on the dance floor. Everyone kept migrating to the bottom of the stage. The top half of the dance floor was conspicuously empty.

The building serves as a sad reminder of days gone by where a very active social life thrived in "downtown" Firth--wish I'd been there then!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Business of Our Own!

My cousin Karan and I were inseparable as children--we played together, slept together, talked on the phone together, and drove our mothers crazy together. Unfortunately for my Aunt Loraine, my mother worked--which meant Loraine had us most of the time. I remember one particular day Karan and I crossed the irrigation ditch and ventured out further than we normally did. As we came up over the canal bank we saw the most spectacular field of pretty purple flowers. There were tiny purple flowers everywhere. We sat ourselves down right in the middle of them and marveled at the glorious spectacle we'd stumbled upon. Surely others would appreciate these beautiful creations if they could just see them. Then we hit upon a brilliant idea! What if we could sell the flowers? We'd be rich! We ran back to the house, grabbed my little red wagon and a couple of big spoons, and headed back to that glorious field. We dug up as many clumps of "flowered" dirt as we could fit into the wagon and headed off to sell our goods. We pulled that wagon all over the neighborhood but nobody was buying! Couldn't they see the overwhelming beauty for themselves? Apparently not. As the afternoon progressed, the wind began to blow, the dirt dried out, the flowers wilted, and our business venture came to a disappointing and dismal end. Apparently some people just have no vision!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Oolee's Burger Hut

During my childhood there was no such place as McDonald's, Burger King or Taco Bell. The nearest place to buy fast-food was Mertz' Bar in the neighboring town of Shelley. I believe we went there, hmmm . . . let me see. . . once! That all changed when one of the local boys returned from his mission to the Polynesian Islands and decided to purchase an old abandoned gas station and turn it into a "hamburger joint". I clearly remember the building "pre-Wilford Chapman". It was a run-down wooden building (located right on the corner where the current Firth Plaza now resides). There were old rusty gas pumps out front, and a "not a snowball's chance in hell" attitude! But Wilford was a fine businessman and he saw a nitch in Firth that no one else was attempting to fill. He cleaned the place up, removed the gas pumps, put in a sliding window for ordering, and he was in business! He named his new venture "Oolee's Burger Hut"--Oolee being the nick-name he acquired will serving in the Tongan Islands. Now I don't recall ever actually eating there; we just didn't have the money. But years later I worked there as a teenager. By this time Wilford had sold the business and moved on to bigger and better things. He sold to the Simpson family from Shelley and they ran the restaurant for years. I worked for June Simpson and her mother--two of the kindest, sweetest, hard-workin'-est women you'd ever want to meet.
Along with new owners, the burger joint also go a new name--The Tree House. Now the food at The Tree House was F.A.N.T.A.S.T.I.C.! They had the best french fries ever (naturally so--since we were in the heart of potato country). Each morning they'd wash, peel, and slice boxes of potatoes which then got an ice cold soak in buckets of water and stored in a fridge in the back room. They had terrific milkshakes (lime was my favorite), burgers, sandwiches, popcorn shrimp (gourment for Firth) and desserts. The thing I remember the most was the great Coca-Cola served there. Back then we measured out the coke syrup, filled it with soda water, stirred it, loaded it with ice and it was ready to go. The best Coke on the planet.
The building sported two short, L-shaped, counters with bar stools. On the south side was a very small dining room with approximately three booths and two sets of table & chairs. The Tree House managed to do a good business and was particularly busy during the lunch and dinner hours. Kids would stop in after school for some of those tasty fries with that creamy, rich fry sauce. On one wall sat an old juke box which played 45's. (For all you "sprouts"--a 45 is a small record which held only one song on each side). Sometimes, if it was slow, June would let us take dimes out of the machine and listen to music. Songs like "Abraham, Martin, & John," "I Heard it Through the Grape Vine", "Louis, Louis", and "I Want to Hold Your Hand" sounded through that small old 'gas station' while we scrubbed the place getting ready to close for the night. I've always been fortunate enough in life to have been able to secure a job when I needed one. Oolee's may not have been the best job I've ever had, but it certainly was the tastiest! Mmmm . . . I think I'm gonna go fry up some spuds!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Firth Post Office

Since Firth had a population of approximatley 400, there was no mail delivery service. Rather, there was a small old Post Office sitting right in the middle of Firth (currently the south end of Anthony's Auto Parts). It was rather unremarkable in appearance but nearly every resident in Firth visited it daily. My mother was a working woman and had little free time so she would send one of us children to retrieve the mail. Our mail box number was "Box 32" and it sat rather high in the row of mail boxes. It also had a combination lock on it which mattered not to me as I couldn't reach the mail box anyway.

The Postmaster at that time was a man by the name of Glenn Pratt. As I recall, he had white, balding hair, wore a work apron, and was a grump! Now I'm sure that family and friends of old Glenn would disagree with me--but these are my recollections and they are what they are. Glenn did not like to see the little McCracken children peeking over the top of his counter as he knew it would interfere with his reading of the daily newspaper. He deliberately rose from his chair, got our mail, tossed it on the counter with a stern "admonition" something to the effect of "Tell your mother to come and get her own mail." And that was it! I dreaded getting the mail, I knew the dialogue would always be the same, and I knew I would once again be asked to "go get the mail." Children--just pawns in the game of life, eh? (Happy Lisa?)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Collet's Bar

Now, I would never frequent such a place, but I cannot write of Firth without mentioning Collet's Bar. It was owned by a man named Grant Collet and has been doing a fine business since (don't quote me on this) the 1930's. As a child I was always afraid of the bar. If my mother sent me to post office to retrieve the mail, I had to walk right in front of Collet's. If you looked in the windows it was always dark, smelled of stale tobacco, and wasn't very appealing to me at all. I was always afraid someone was going to come walking out of there, snatch me up, and I'd never be seen again. So as I passed this fine establishment, I kept my eyes straight ahead, walked quickly, and breathed a sigh of relief when past it.

Collet's may not have been appealing to me, but others must have found it to be there home away from home. There were always cars parked in front, and the neon "OPEN" sign was always prominently displayed. Grant Collet made a mean hamburger. Since the restaurant choices in Firth were nil, if you wanted "take-out"--Collet's was it. I have to admit the burgers were good. They were the biggest hamburgers I'd ever seen, had mustard, catsup, sweet relish, and were loaded with plenty of flavorful onion slices. There was one trick to eating the hamburgers, however. You had to get the napkin off the bun, and quickly. The napkins smelled (and tasted) of stale tobacco. If you left it on the hamburger for long--you had your own personally smoked bun! I've heard it said (although I cannot confirm this), that Grant tested the heat of his grill by spitting on it. Now this scientific method has been around for years and is proven to be fail-safe! This may be why the burgers were so flavorful--Grant gave them his own "personal" touch.

It was always fun to see "who" was at Collet's. A couple of "the boys" from the neighboring town of Basalt had their driving privileges removed (not sure why). However, in the state of Idaho you may drive a tractor without a license. So each Saturday night "the boys" drove their tractors into town, parked on the south end parking lot, and had themselves a great time. Occasionally a fight would break out at the old bar & grill. I remember watching one particular fight where there was lots of punching, yelling, and kicking. The inebriated customer fought one heck of a fight--with h.i.m.s.e.l.f. It went on for quite a while--not sure who won!

Many of the farmers arrive at Collet's early in the morning for their cup of coffee and lively conversation. They discuss politics, the price of potatoes, city business, the weather, and their neighbors. Although it was never for me, Collet's has been around for a long, long time--so they must be doing something right! They've filled a "nitch" in Firth that no one else ever has. So hop on that tractor, fire up that grill, and enjoy one of the best hamburgers Firth has to offer!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Johnson's Fruit Stand

One of my favorite places to visit while on my bicycle was Johnson's Fruit Stand. It was an old wooden "hut/shack" that sat in the sweltering heat on the north side of town. Ez & Ada Johnson (who happen to be my great aunt and uncle) owned the fruit stand for years. I don't remember Ez at all, but no one could ever forget Aunt Ada. She was a wonderful woman who disguised herself as an intimidating, all business, stern and sometimes grouchy gal. The whole front of the fruit stand stood open facing highway 91. The tables were covered with bushel baskets (or boxes) of ripe fruit in need of a quick sale. The minute you entered the stand you could smell the sweet scent of apricots, peaches, plums, apples, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes and "spuds". Ada also carried a small assortment of candy--my favorite was "banana taffy" which came in a long flat slab wrapped in waxed paper (seems I'm always writing about candy . . . hmmm). The floor was cement, daily swept, with an occasional smashed raspberry or scattered fruit leaves. In the very front of the stand was an old chest-type pop cooler filled with the most wonderfully cold assortment of great pop! There was an assortment of "Nehi" flavors, grape, orange crush, wild cherry, lemon/lime, root beer, and of course 7-Up. And they all came in glass bottles. Once you purchased your drink for a total of TEN CENTS, you went back to the cooler where you popped off the lid on the bottle opener at the front of the machine. A little to the north of the fruit stand stood a couple of picnic tables where you could sit and drink your pop and watch the traffic go by. I didn't venture up to the fruit stand very often but when I did, I truly loved it.
As I got older and moved back to Firth, the Fruit Stand was still open for business. I remember one time I was looking for raspberries to make some fresh jam. The berries on the table appeared to be overly ripe and I asked Aunt Ada if she had any in the back that were fresher. She thought for half a second and said, "Well if you don't buy these--who will?" Who will indeed? I bought the raspberries, picked out the rotten ones and grinned as I made my "ripe" raspberry jam! She was one in a million!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ye Old Drugstore/Soda Fountain!

One of the "classier" stores in Firth was Warren's Drug Store. It sat smack dab in the middle of town and sported a large glass show window. I suppose it was as close to a "department store" as you could get, and still live in Firth. I never felt particularly comfortable in the drugstore for some reason. Mrs. Warren was an intimidating personality and always seemed to be watching me whenever I was in the shop--which was rare. The only time I ventured in was when it was my Cousin Karan's birthday and my mother gave me money to purchase a gift for her. I usually ended up buying her a bottle of finger nail polish or a small, blue, heart-shaped bottle of "Evening in Paris" perfume. But it was still fun to browse the shelves in the long and narrow shop. Mrs. Warren had a fondness for "crystal" and proudly displayed it in their drugstore and at home. Behind the shelves were mirrors which gave the crystal that extra sparkle.

There were a few mysteries for me in the drugstore. First, I don't remember ever seeing Mr. Warren--the druggist. I'm not sure if he was deceased by the time I shopped there, or if Mrs. Warren had him hidden away somewhere. I just don't recall ever seeing a druggist behind the counter. The second mystery--and it was a big one--was this: Just what were all those "gifts" wrapped in brown paper that lined the very top of Mrs. Warren's shelves--and who were they for? Each time I went into the shop I noticed boxes wrapped in brown paper and they were sitting on the uppermost shelves. I suppose you'd need a ladder to reach them. The mystery was solved years later when I myself was in need of the contents of those "gifts". They were items of a rather private nature and used only by women. It then became clear why those boxes were so discreetly wrapped (I wish we'd go back to that system today--I get sick of the barrage of "feminine" products that we see everywhere.) That being solved I must tell you about my most favorite part of the drugstore . . . the SODA FOUNTAIN!

Yes, Warren's Drug Store possessed an amazingly exotic Soda Fountain. I myself, was never able to sample any of the delicacies which passed over it's counter; I could only imagine how sweet and delicious they must be. At the counter there were silver bar stools which were attached to the floor. From the top of the counter I could see the soda fountain--a fancy spigot which spewed forth white, fizzy water. Mrs. Warren would fill the fancy stemware approximately 2/3 full with that fizzy water, then she'd stir in some red syrup, add a scoop of snowy white vanilla ice cream, which made that fizzy water fizz all the more! Soon there were bubbles floating up and over the top of the fancy glass! Mrs. Warren was a magician! The water at my house never fizzed the way hers did! In retrospect, it's funny! Never once did I ever expect to taste one of her amazing concoctions. It's like I always knew that those exquisite creations were only for others. Don't feel bad for me--I'm thrilled to simply have the memory of such a place, at such a time, as Ponce-a-Time.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Laundry Day

I grew up in the home of a liberated woman. Now, this was before the word "liberated" had meaning in regards to women. My mother was never one to let anyone tell her what to do. She worked outside of the home while all the other mothers I knew stayed at home every day. Consequently, she had to play "catch up" on the weekend. One of the things that stands out in my mind is laundry day. Mom had an old double tub washing machine with a ringer between the two tubs. The tubs were filled with water from a garden hose out the back door; in one tub she poured Borax laundry soap and the machine would "agitate" to clean the clothes. Then she fed the clothes through the ringer with a yardstick (yardstick being the machine's only safety feature. I was always cautioned to avoid getting my fingers caught in the ringer as it could "pull your arm off") to squeeze out any excess soapy water. Next the the laundry went into the tub with clear water for the rinse cycle. If the clothes were white, she added a touch of "liquid blue". This was a bluing agent that made whites appear whiter. I never could figure out how something so blue, could make something look whiter--but it did! Then the clothing was fed through the ringers to once again squeeze out the excess water. Since she used the same wash water for all the laundry, she naturally washed the whites first, then colors, and then darks. Once all the clothes had been washed, the plug came out of the bottom of the laundry tubs and the water drained through a hose running out the back door. The laundry was then loaded into a bushel basket and carted to the back yard where it was hung in the sun to dry. I loved to be with my mom while she did the laundry and thought the whole process was particularly fascinating. We chatted and played word games while mom hung the clothes. I pretended to be her best friend "Mrs. Peterson" and the banter continued. When the clothes were retrieved from outdoors they were stiff and maintained the same shape as they had held on the clothesline.

Years later my mother was able to purchase her first automatic washing machine. The laundry room was next to my bedroom and as I laid in bed at night I had a terrific view of the washroom. My mother stood at the washing machine and stared in amazement as the machine did all the work. A light in the control panel illuminated the small washroom and I was able to view mom as she admired the machine that was going to simplify her life. Even as a child I was happy for my mom. I knew she loved it.

Friday, June 5, 2009

You Can Trust Your Car . . .

Right next to Howard's Market Basket was the old Texaco gas station. It was located in the same building now occupied by Hard Times. In those days the gas stations were called "service stations" because you actually got service there. There was a long rubber hose that ran from the service station across the entire driveway. When you drove over that hose a bell would ring inside the station to alert the gas station attendant that someone was in need of assistance. In the Firth Texaco station that attendant was none other than Frank Lyon. He usually had his head under the hood of a car but would stop what he was doing, wipe his hands on a greasy rag, place it in his back coverall pants pocket and come outside to pump your gas for you. He would also check your oil, check the air pressure in your tires, and wash your windshield. It was all part of the service. You could take your car to Frank for small repairs, lube jobs, and to get your tires rotated. It was the only business like it in town. Others had tried and failed at sustaining a gas station in Firth; they just didn't quite offer the amenities that Frank did.

Now for me as a child, Frank's service station supplied something that no one else in Firth offered. In the front corner of his little shop there was a water fountain. The funny part about that water fountain was that it ran continually. I don't know if it was in need of repair or if Frank simply liked his fountain that way. But no matter how hot the day, you could always slip into the gas station for a "cool" (mostly lukewarm) sip of water from that never ending fountain. Having run continually month after month, the water bowl developed it's own fauna and flora--namely, green moss--and a lovely shade at that. It gave you something to look at while you stole Frank's water. It didn't take a rocket scientest to know that Frank was annoyed at supplying water to all of the kids in the neighborhood. Since we were not paying customers he likely considered us as pure nuisance. And most likely we were! In order to avoid Frank's wrath I usually tried to slip in and out very quietly so as not to disturb him. But others--ahh--they were much braver than I. Some of the kids would get their drink and on their way out they would jump on the rubber hose and run! From inside the shop we'd hear Frank yelling "You kids get out of here." Can you imagine? Frank went to the same church as I did and everytime I'd see him at church I'd duck. I didn't want him telling my mom what a rotten kid I was. He never did. It makes me sad that Frank is gone now, as is the big red shiny Texaco star. They just don't make 'em like that anymore.

As the saying goes . . . "You can trust your car to the man who wear the star--the big bright Texaco Star". Quite a slogan!

Dee-Onn Mack-o-wacky!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Harold Brighton's Barber Shop

While Firth may have had a small population it supported several small businesses. One of those businesses was Harold Brighton's Barber Shop. Harold and his wife (can't remember her name) lived on the corner just through that old weedy, scratchy field. Their home was one of the nicer homes in Firth and I thought they must be rich. I played with their Granddaughter Michelle (who lived with her parents in a small apt. in the Brighton's basement) and I loved to play in their yard as they had the most amazing glider swing. We sat on benches facing each other and by pushing our feet could send the swing soaring. I loved it. Eh-hmmm . . . back to the barber shop.
When it was time for a haircut my father would walk to the barbershop to "get 'er done". Occasionally I got to go with him. Dad probably took me just to get me out of my mother's hair for a few minutes. Harold's small brick shop sported a handsome red, white and blue barber pole. He also owned one of the most elaborate barber chairs ever seen. The rich dark brown leather was surrounded by ornate, intricate silver work--it must have weighed a ton. As you entered the sunny barber shop you were treated to the sweet smell of shaving creams, cologne, and musty male smells. I sat in the waiting chairs and watched as dad, draped in a white cover, got his haircut. Snippets of Dad's dark hair soon covered the cape. Dad seemed to enjoy his time in the chair and there was always lively conversation which continued until we walked out the door. We weren't there for very long, but it made a lasting memory for me--one which included my father who died when I was ten years old. Even now, whenever I see a barber pole it takes me back to those treasured times when I alone, got to go with my father.
BTW: I was suprised years later to see that old barber chair sitting in the garage of my good friend Tonya. It was still just as big, just as ornate, as I had remembered it. I recently asked her what became of the chair. She thought for a minute, consulted with her husband, and said they had given it to their "hairdresser" daughter Wendy. Who knows where it is now?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Crime-fightin' Cowboys!

My cousin Karan (one year/4 months my junior) and I were joined at the hip as children. I cannot think of my childhood without thinking of her. She was my best friend, closest ally, and co-conspirator on a lot of adventures. She was born without a hip socket. Consequently the doctor placed her in corrective shoes which were attached to a board on wheels--the prototype for today's skateboard. I was extremely jealous of her unique mode of transportation and wished that I too had been born without a hip socket so I could could have my own set of wheels. This apparatus was supposed to force her leg into the hip bone in hopes of creating it's own socket. As an adult I realize that must have been painful, but at the time I thought she was the luckiest girl on wheels (pardon the pun).

Anyway, she and I used to gallop around the barnyard pretending to be Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. (For those of you too young to know--Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were the fastest husband/wife crime-fighting cowboys ever to blaze our old black and white TV set.) Karan and I would take turns being Trigger--a white and noble steed. Trigger naturally needed reigns so we would borrow twine from grandpa's hay bales and tie it around our waists. Two clicks of the tongue and we were off on our cowboy adventure. Naturally our cap pistols hung closely by our side just in case we ran into Indians--who always turned out to be my little brother Merrill, and Karan's little sister Connie. A cap-pistol battle would ensue and of course we won as we were Roy Rogers and Dale Evans--who always stood four-square on the right side of the law. Not to mention Karan and I were older and could probably "whoop up" on Merrill and Connie. Yep, for them it probably safer to loose!

De-Onn Mack-o-wacky

For those of a curious nature, Karan is the daughter of John and Loraine Chapman a.k.a. the best aunt and uncle in the world. Catch ya later!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hot, Dirty, and Scratchy!

I suppose that my brother Merrill and I must have looked like street orphans growing up. We lived behind the old grocery store, a.k.a. Howard's Market Basket. Between our house and the store was a weedy old field (it seemed huge but in reality it was not). Our mother would occasionally send us to the grocery store for a few items and we would trudge through the field. I remember it being hot, dirty, and the weeds would stick to my clothes and scratch my legs. We were not the only children to pass through that field; there was a well-worn path leading to the side of the grocery store. There were however a few bonuses in making that trek. If we were lucky we would find a discarded pop bottle (in those days pop came in a sealed glass bottle--and I kid you not--the pop actually tasted much better) which we could trade for a total of 2 cents. Children today seeing a penny in the parking lot will hardly give it a second thought--let alone take the time to pick it up and put it in their pocket. But 50 years ago 2 cents would buy you several delicious sweet treats. After purchasing the item on our mother's list, we were free to spend our newly found fortune. Behind the counter were boxes of "penny-candy". Each sweet treasure could be purchased for one penny. My absolute favorite were "nigger-babies (no offense to anyone but that is really what they were called). Nigger babies were the sweetest, softest, black licorice shaped like a sleeping baby. So my penny usually went for that. Needless to say they have quit making them, but it still makes my mouth water to remember how yummy those candies were. Candy was a rarity in my childhood, something we only got on special occasions, or at Christmas. Our choices for that grand penny were bubblegum, red licorice, pixy sticks, taffy, candy dots stuck to paper, and other delicacies that are rumbling around in my head but not retrievable. I hated the walk to the store, but the loved the reward. I loved Howard's Market Basket. It smelled of "furnace" smells, was somewhat dark, but always there were fantastic things there. One thing was for sure, you didn't have to walk through aisles of clothing, housewares, and paint, just to buy a carton of milk.

Dee-Onn Mack-o-Wacky!

I specifically remember my mother sending Merrill to the grocery store with money for a particular item called "sanitary napkins". She wrote the item on a piece of paper and told him to give it to the clerk and have her get the item. She knew her instructions were ignored when he proudly came home with a package of dinner napkins. Ahh Merrill--he always was one for doing it his way!