We had a good life living as we did--a big family--so I always had
someone around. In spite of all the chores to be done, we had time to
read--READ--which I dearly loved. Papa always had books and magazines
(The Literary Digest, The Saturday Evening Post, The Times-Picayune, and
The Interim, the parish weekly paper). He sometimes discussed history or
everyday politics--we were always aware of what was going on in the
Remember fly-paper? It was a strip of paper with sticky
properties--that would tangle the flies' feet that were close enough to
touch it. We'd have 3 or 4 dangling over the kitchen table (at that time
we had no screen doors in the kitchen). The kitchen was large enough to
be the dining area for the whole family.
We also wrapped flannel cloths dipped in kerosene to tie around each
table leg (close to the floor) to catch the ants that would crawl in for
food and anything sweet. We had no pesticides at that time. The world
Remember, the world was young and we had lots and lots to learn
(practically 3/4 century).
On Mondays a washerwoman came to do the heavy washing--sheets, pants,
shirts and dresses, etc. During the rest of the week there was less
washing. And every Saturday--the rest of the towels--Remember Saturday
On Mondays that poor lady (a widow and always dressed in black) had to
hang out all that clothes; soak the sheets in large 3-legged black
kettles heating in the yard on a fire (she's put something blue in the
water to whiten the sheets). I don't know if that was every week. I
always felt sorry for that lady who worked so hard raising her children
(I just know she is in heaven).
By the way--her children did well--the boys would quit school early to
go to work in the fields. I know 2 daughters stayed in school up to the
7th grade. They are all fine respectable persons who did well and
achieved a good living.
Papa had an old Model T Ford that often broke down. Once we were riding
with him (the top was down). The car quit in front of a store (all the
country stores had big front porches with some men sitting around
relaxing after a hard day on the farm). Papa stood up in the car and
said, "Does anyone want to buy a car? You can have this one for 25
cents!" I was afraid somebody would buy the darn thing--"our beloved
Later on he taught me to drive another car. He had tried to teach mama
to drive, and they went all around the big yard and when he yelled, mama
quit trying. She said she was through learning to drive.
So Florence and I would drive--also Raymond. You know you don't have to
teach a boy how to drive. He can just get in and drive--amazing!
I had to worry about the brakes, the clutch, put it in neutral--so many
things: I did not have to crank the car. !! Luckily it had a starter!
Papa was a traveling salesman, so we could only get the car on Saturday
afternoons and of course, on Sundays when we went to church.
He went through many old cars. He bought a new car just once. We were
so proud of that car. We called it the sedan and it had glass windows
all around instead of isinglas(?). It looked like plastic (the
isinglas)--but that was before plastic was invented.
Reading was a skill I learned young, and it interested me completely for
the rest of my life.
The long summers we were happy to get books to read and re-read. I'm
sure I read "At the Mercy of Tiberius" every summer sitting under the
pecan trees or sitting by the shade of the house in the afternoon shade
protecting me. "The Last Days of Pompeii" was another favorite.
Remember we had no libraries even at school. We bought all the Zane Gray
cowboy stories for 80 cents or 90 cents. We'd pooled out nickels and
dimes for weeks until we could order from Sears, Roebuck.
Later in my second year of High School Miss Etta Brignac (our great
literature and French teacher) started ordering books for the school
library. We had the use of a tall bookshelf in the big central hall in
the front building at St. James. Then I was in glory land--getting as
many books as I was allowed and reading them all on time as often as Miss
Brignac stocked the shelves. We just had a card system. I'd write my
name and date--bring it back in 2 weeks. To make book reports I'd start
as soon as I started reading and I gave voluminous accounts of what I had
read. Every day was great!
On papa's travel day I was so happy when he called me at 5:30 in the
morning to take off on a 2-day journey. I'd have books, paper, pen and
had a great time traveling, seeing the country--meeting people, having
lunch in cafeterias or rooming houses, which I thought were great
I guess I was close to Papain those traveling days--because although at
times he wouldn't talk much, other times he would tell me about these
places and these people--these memories that he knew about the families.
Sometimes he'd say, "Did I every tell you this about this matter or
so"--I always listened more attentively because I was learning something
new. Sometimes I would jot that in my notes at night or when I had to
sit in the car for hours while he was doing business with the store
proprietor or farm manager. I enjoyed it all. We'd get home tired and
dusty, but ready to go again. Another day. How I treasured these days!
I'm trying to write my memories--because I'll be forgetting soon--and
did want my grandchildren to know how I lived, what happened around me,
how it was growing up in a big family with a new baby arriving every 2
years. I'd like them to know that I never, never felt deprived. I was
never envious of people or girls who had more. I always considered my
parents were working hard to give us all we needed. I would tell the
Lord this was a lot to be thankful for.