ANCESTRY: The LeGendre’s of Arkansas (7)
Vignette’s of life in Marianna, Arkansas, 1919 – 1921.
For new readers, these are my mothers notes. They’re retyped with all the errors and with her punctuation. Her memoirs were the gift she left my sister and me in 1992. She passed away June 1993 from sun stroke.
For parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 please look under “memorabilia” https://rantingalong.wordpress.com/
Christmas, 25 December 1919: I awoke sometime after midnight. Dad, was sitting in a chair reading a magazine. I was surprised to see him up.
- As I got up and went over to him, I noticed another chair beside his with long stockings, hanging on the back, a doll, toys and clothes on the seat, and other items on the floor.
- Dad said that Santa Claus had come to visit us and left some toys for us to play with.
- That is the first Christmas I actually remember, and it took me by surprise; although, I know we had many others.
Mother hired Ophelia, a black lady living in the house across the street from the apartment, to do our weekly washing and ironing. Ophelia took our dirty clothes over to her house, once a week to wash and iron.
January, 1920, or there about: we moved into a house, at 629 Liberty Street, a block south of the apartment. (I presume the first house vacant after World War I.)
There was a large vacant area, (several acres) in the business district – directly back of our house. On one side was an automobile show room, and at the other end, a large feed store. I often used the open land as a short cut to the business district, when running errands for Mother.
- After moving to the house on Liberty Street, we children looked forward to the days when Ophelia would come to wash and iron. Bring her children – Nellie Anne, Johnny and Sammy – with her. They were our ages and we had a great time playing together.
- Mother gave Ophelia all of our old clothes for her children.
- (Ophelia continued to do all of our washing, ironing, and heavy cleaning at the house, during our entire stay in the City of Marianna. We considered her a member of the family.)
During the summer, farm store employees would set traps – about a dozen large wooden boxes, approximate size 4’ x 6’, — out in the field, to catch some of the hundreds of pigeons flying in the area.
As soon as a large number of pigeons started eating under a box, a man, sitting in the rear-door of the store, would pull a string to remove the stick – propping up that particular box – to trap the birds inside.
Herbert, Harold, and I decided that we were going to catch some birds too: We found a box about 1’ x 2’ in size; tied together all the odds and ends of string we could find and tied it to a crooked stick == which we used to prop up one end of the bosx. Scattered some bread crumbs on the ground underneath the box, and hid behind the board fence to wait for “our” bird.
- Only one bird ventured near our box and began picking at our bait. We pulled the trigger, and ran in the house, joyfully announcing to Mother that we had caught a bird.
- Mother went out to see. When she saw the parrow, she suggested that we let it fly away.
This was the era when telegraph and telegrams were slowly becoming available to the general public.
Although we had a telephone hanging on the wall in our house, telephones were scarce. Each time a person wanted to make a local call on the telephone, a bell mounted on the side of the large telephone box, had to be hand cranked, to notify the operator in the telephone office that service was desired – long distance calls were a “wild dream” of the future.
- Upon picking up a receiver, the user would have to manually ring the operator for service;
- A voice would come on the line requesting, “number please”? In reply, the caller relayed, to the operator, the phone number of the house or business desired.
- The operator, in the office, had to manually pull a plug – attached to a long, heavy cord – up from the table of plugs in front of her; insert the plug into the desired phone number receptacle, which was located on wallboard, above the table of plugs; then manually ringing the bell of the telephone being called.
- Phones were so rare that seldom more than one operator was required for the entire town. Service was only available when the operator was on duty – usually during the daytime and early evening.
1920, Fall: I entered the first grade at the Marianna Grammar school. At first, I was shy, but soon became very interested in what the teacher – Miss Chisom? – was trying to relay to us.
- (That was the era when school officials believed that children were not capable of learning until after their sixth birthday and parents who attempted to teach their children were doing more harm than good.)
- First grade: I made all “A’s” except for reading and spelling which were “B”s.
- Marjorie Spivey, a classmate of mine, who lived several blocks up Liberty Street, and I often walked to and from school together. (We still exchange annual Christmas cards.)
- Jacks were a new fad. I enjoyed playing jacks and became popular as a jack partner.
Miss Chisom our teacher, was staying at the home of the owner of the Mixon Lumber Company. Who had a beautiful large house and considerable property on one of the main streets in Marianna.
Mother wrapped up a nice Christmas gift for me to give Miss Chisom; and I walked, several blocks, over to the Mixon home to give it to her.
When I rang the doorbell, a maid opened the door. I asked for Miss Chisom, and was ushered into a large room – which must have been 15’ x 20’ in size with a large number of people circled around the room, having a powwow.
I presumed that it was a family Christmas get-together. A servant brought in a chair, so I could sit next to Miss Chisom. I sat there for about 15 minutes – listening to the conversations or discussions, with not the vaguest idea as to what was going on.
Finally, I touched Miss Chisom on the arm, and said that I had to go home.
They were all polite and thanked me for coming; and wished me A happy new year.
A live-in lady was employed to do the housework and cooking, at our house. I noticed that Mother was staying in the dining room most of the time and doing a lot of sewing, and seldom going out of the house. (But didn’t have the vaguest idea as to why.)
- While George Herbert, William Harold, and I were confined to a room across the hall, on the other side of the house.
- It was wintertime and we had to plan and entertain ourselves in that room – day in and day out.
- We were called to the table at mealtimes and then sent back to the room after eating.
- Occasionally, Mother or the hired lady, (I think we call her Miss Fanny?), would come in to stoke the fire in the wood stove.
- Nevertheless, I had it better than Herbert and Harold, because I attended school for a half day and was occasionally called out to run an errand.
1921 February 15: I got up about 6:30AM, dressed for school and wen out into the large hall o my way to the dining room for breakfast. I was met, in the hall, by Dad and he ushered me into their bedroom.
Mother was still in bed and Dr. Bean, the family doctor was there. Mother smiled and said, “Look what the stork brought us last night?”
- Dad lead me over to the baby bed where I got my first glimpse of Robert Whitfield Le Gendre.
- The doctor was making out the birth certificate. Mother said she was going to name him Robert because she always liked the name of Bobby.
- Then she turned to the doctor, and asked, “What is your given name Dr. Bean?” He replied, “Whitfield.”
- Mother replied, “That will be his middle name.” (He was called Bobby for years, before the family shortened it to Bob.)
- Bobby was redheaded and remained Mother’s pride and joy throughout her life-time.
(I believe Mother had a favorite aunt, in Kansas, who was redheaded.)
- As I walked across the town park on my way to school that morning, I saw the Lee County Sheriff; and told him the good news that the “stork” had brought me another baby brother.
Bobby’s arrival produced a new chore for me. Each evening, about five PM, I had to take a pail and walk up to Ophelia’s house for a bucket of fresh milk for Bobby’s bottle. Ophelia had a cow and wanted to shared its milk with the “baby”.
Upon completion of the sale of the light plant to the City of Marianna, Dad accepted the city’s offer to stay and manage the light company.
- Couch told the city: He only sold them the plant “The engineer was not included.”
As manager of the “Peoples Power and Light Company”, dad was able to experiment with the latest mechanical and electrical products:
- First, was a hand operated violet-ray, and then a vibrator; which I loved and often ran up and down my arms and legs.
- Next Dad brought home an Edison Victrola, with the round – sleeve – records to try out.
- The Victrola was placed on top of a special cabinet that Dad had built for it; with many drawers, below to hold our huge supply of records.
- We enjoyed the Victrola for a while but soon lost interest in it.
Radios were just coming in.