She was my mother, she would talk about her life constantly … she had a lot to say, it was an exciting time to live.
They were one of the first families to own a television and a Ford. They didn’t suffer as much as others during the Great Depression, Helene was ten years old, they were well-to-do in comparison, living off the bounty of the farm. Pa even designated the outer two rows of corn to the needy who would be free to take their share. When the children notified pa about the chickens that were stolen he said.
” They need the chickens more than we do.”
They didn’t go to the beach in those years either, the threat of Polio was great and the fear was real. Helene survived an outbreak of small pox in the nursery at the hospital where she was born. She was also exposed to Tuberculous from an uncle that served in WWI, she would carry the scars on her lungs her entire life. Winnie had a scar that Helene would touch on her neck from surgery to remove part of her thyroid, there were some advances in medicine, but in the coming years the advances would multiply.
The neighboring city was bustling and Helene would go to visit her grandmother, trolley cars, department stores and amusement parks. In the winter the skating rink was worth the three mile walk with Arn. He was patient with her, especially on the long walk home — uphill.
Winnie would send Helene out to the field to collect buttons left by the rag man, she thought they grew there. This child was a mystery, full of life and adventure and many mishaps unlike the rest of the children.
She would ride the boys bike and put her feet on the handle bars and ride into the driveway of the bungalow in complete abandon. The pants-set mother made her served many other purposes than hanging upside down in the orchard. The sideboard of the Ford was a fun place to jump from as pa rolled home until she slipped and was run over, she was a clever child and shifted under the weight of the rear tire in the muddy driveway. Winnie watched in horror as Helene jumped up and ran into the orchard.
“She must be all right if she can jump up and run like that.”
Timing is everything and at thirteen her courses started and she thought she was internally damaged from the accident. She tried to handle it herself for days but finally went to her mother for the last rites.
Winnie laughed despite Helene’s fear. “You’re not dying dear, have Gertie show you what to do.”
“Well now you are a woman, welcome to the club.” A less than comforting reaction from sis.
Helene came down with pneumonia when she ran home from school after being unfairly scolded by the teacher. They thought they might lose her. Gertie was now a college student and drove the family car, Bud and Arn worked selling rags, papers and Mellins Food.
Helene wanted to be a gym teacher and set her sight on a college education like Gertie.
In 1935 the hopes and dreams of the family were dashed. Winnie died of kidney disease, pa went into a deep depression the boys had to get jobs, Gertie worked as a school teacher and Helene had to finish her last year of high school knowing her mother wouldn’t be there to see her graduate.
When Helene was in 8th grade she had me, her lifetime friend Velma, whose family was a great source of comfort when they mourned the loss of her mother. Someone should write a book about Velma who was an incredible person, invaluable and inseparable friend. Arn was friends with Warren, Velma’s brother and the four of them would continue the long walks to the skating rink and up the hill, separating at the base to their respective homes.
Four years later WWII broke out, boys whose lockers were to the left and right of hers died, her hometown held an active Air Force Base. There were USO dances and foreign prisoners riding in open trucks for KP duty.
Helene and Velma had several beau’s but Velmas lost her heart to a local boy and started a family. Helene went into nurses training, pa was feeling better but the funds for college were no longer available.
“I should have been kinder and more understanding.” pa was remorseful.
Winnie was a loving mother who was a soft place to fall, quite humorous and loved to read romance novels. Helene missed her dearly.
One day while in training, Helene was asked to assist in a home birth while she was walking back to the residence. The doc pulled up seeing she had her nurses bag and invited her along. It was an experience she never forgot, which was a good thing. Several months later she found her self at another birth, with no doctor or midwife. She had to handle the delivery and subsequent life saving efforts on the mother and child. The doctor eventually did arrive and laughed at the method she used to tie off the umbilical cord, and the expression on the exhausted young nursing student.