Old Man Hillen

“Are you gonna pay for that gum?”

Phyllis and I turned to see Billy’s cheek bulging. His eyes got big and a stream of purple drool ran out of the corner of his mouth. The three of us stood horrified before Old Man Hillen, the proprietor of the Variety Store. It was obvious the sour old geezer took no prisoners where pilfering children were concerned.

“Spit it out.” Phyllis demanded, her face as hard as the old man’s. She hurriedly paid for our purchases as Billy and I beat her out the door. We knew there would be Hell to pay. Phyllis aligned herself with our parents and could be depended upon to report any infraction. This one was huge.

The situation was made more ominous since our business in the first place was the purchase of Mother’s birthday gift. The three of us had walked to the Variety Store after school. Mother was to pick us up. The wait seemed endless, knowing the catastrophe that was brewing.

“Billy Ray stole a piece of gum!” she exploded before she even got the car door shut. “Mr. Hillen made me pay for it!”

Mother was appalled. “Oh no. I hope you’re ashamed of yourself. I’m gonna have to tell your daddy about this.” A pall hung over us, dreading what was to come.

Justice was swift and sure. Daddy was enraged as he railed at Billy, before strapping him with his belt, then pausing before giving him a few more. Worse yet was the pronouncement that they’d be going back tomorrow for Billy to apologize and make it right. It was a terrible night at our house. No one escaped Daddy’s black mood.

Daddy was waiting for Billy when the bus ran, always dependable when punishment was due. He led the small boy into the Variety Store and announced to Mr. Hillen, “My son has something to say to you.”

Humiliated, Billy managed to stammer an apology.

Rather than accepting Billy’s apology, the hateful old man launched into a tirade against thieving kids and the way sorry parents were raising them. Daddy was infuriated and told him they’d made it right and he wasn’t listening to anymore of his mouth. They left. We never went back in that store.

A Hog a Day Part 9

Daddy took pride in being strict.  “Spare the rod and spoil the child.”  He was certainly never accused of spoiling the child.  Many times I heard him say there wasn’t a kid or an animal he couldn’t conquer.  During his hog-hunting days he acquired a hog-dog he was incredibly proud of.  Sutter was a black lab/Catahoula Cur mix.  When sicced on a herd of hogs, Sutter plunged in and fearlessly latched onto the hog’s ear not to be dislodged until the hunter dispatched the hog.  The poor hog couldn’t slash Sutter as long as he hung on to the ear.  The dog was in the greatest danger of being bitten as he rushed the hog.   Hog-hunting was dangerous for men and dogs.  I’ve seen Daddy stitch his cut dogs a few times.  He  required stitches a time or two, but splurged on a doctor for himself.

Sutter worked cows with Daddy. One day, he chased a calf and pinned it to the ground where he held it by a mangled ear.  Expecting a kill, he wouldn’t release it.  Daddy pulled him off the calf, tied him off to a small sapling, and pulled off his belt to strap to him.  He got a couple of licks in before Sutter changed his belief system.  The enlarged dog ran Daddy up the sapling where he clung just out of the dog’s reach.   At six-foot three and two hundred forty pounds, Daddy was imposing on the tree.  It dipped from one side to the other as Daddy bounced side-to-side just beyond the snarling dog’s jaws.  I wondered if somebody would have to shoot Daddy if Sutter latched onto his ear. After a few minutes, Sutter’s temper cooled and he wagged his tail when Daddy spoke to him.  Daddy climbed down when Sutter seemed to have forgiven him.

Sitter was a very valuable dog.  Instead of shooting him as I expected, Daddy took the reasonable attitude that he’d handled things badly.  He and Sutter worked it out and the dog concentrated on hogs from that time forward.

Maybe I should have run Daddy up a tree.

“Spontaneous Combustion” or “Because I Love You”

Warning:. Post may trigger persons who have been victims of abuse.imagePop..pop..pop..pop..pop..pop..pop…the percussion of Daddy’s belt flying out of his belt loops would have brought me out of a coma. Of his various approaches to discipline, “Spontaneous Combustion” was my specialty and the one I experienced most, being both clumsy and a smart mouth. Things could be rocking along just fine till someone – usually me – broke a dish, made a smart remark, or embarrassed Daddy.   Though I never set out to be “smart-alecky”, I could always count on my big mouth.  What I thought was funny, didn’t always amuse him. I carefully memorized jokes, even if they were way over my head, to tell at just the right moment. My judgment of the right moment was poor, such as when we had the preacher’s family over to Sunday dinner and I told loudly a joke I’d overheard on the school bus.  Continue reading

Spilt Milk, Broken Dishes, and Trashy Girls

True 2 True confessions

Spilt milk or broken dishes were reason a’plenty to cry when I was a kid. Daddy was highly volatile. Nothing shattered his nerves like a broken dish. Life with him was like walking a delicate precipice. Catastrope could strike without provocation: milk spilled at breakfast, the crash of shattered glass, the shrill shriek of a child. Even when things were going their best, any startling or embarrassing incident could end in a conflagration with Daddy taking his belt to the unfortunate instigator and descending into an anger that could last for days.  Early on, we all learned we needed to keep Daddy happy.  He doted on babies and toddlers, but rowdy children with opinions and boisterous behavior easily triggered his thunderous disapproval. Talking too much was a sure way to blunder into trouble. I invariably repeated a joke or word I didn’t understand, much to my sorrow. Failure to be circumspect ensured punishment. Nothing triggered him faster than shame. He intended for his children to reflect well, never subject to the possibility of criticism, justified or not. He only had to suspect a behavioral rule for modest female behavior to exist for it to become law. For us older girls, that meant no shorts, no public swimming, no dancing, no talking to boys, or dating until sixteen. Fortunately for my younger sisters, the road to Hell was not so broad. The worst thing we could have done was “trashy” behavior, namely promiscuity. Drinking and smoking were too far beyond the pale to ever enter the conversation.

“Trashy” girls ran around with wild boys, smoked, drank, danced, skipped school, cursed, talked back, and of course, had sex. It was understood they were an abomination not to be tolerated. I had cousins who were “trashy” long before I knew the specifics of what it involved. I just knew Cousin Carly’s boyfriend honked the horn at the street. She ran right past my shouting aunt, jumped in the car, and the boy spun out. She stayed out late, smoked cigarettes, slipped out when grounded. She got a speeding ticket driving her boyfriend’s car sixty miles from home on a school day. There was no way this way going to end up any way but badly. Of course, she dropped out of high school.

Not long afterward, Aunt Lou announced Carly had married an Air Force guy. Nobody ever saw him. Carly had a baby. Aunt Lou went to the Air Force Base and got Carly a divorce one day while Carly was working at the Firestone Plant. Carly couldn’t get the day off. Shortly thereafter, Carly married Phil, had two more children, and became as dull as mud. Thereafter, her life was entirely unremarkable except for the excellent example of how “trashy” girls behave. Thank you, Carly.

Jimmy Sasses Sweet Miss Billie

Miss Billie                                                           Sweet Miss Billie School Pics enlargedThis is an excerpt from my book in progress.  It is a collaborative memoir of my mother’s memoirs of The Great Depression.Pictured above you can see Kathleen Holdaway, left to right from grades 1 through 5  Please don’t be too hard on Miss Billie.  Corporal punishment was an accepted part of education at that time.

I adored Miss Billie, my first grade teacher.  I hungered for her approval, strived for perfect work, and admired every thread she wore, her floral scent, her ladylike jewelry, and her kind, modest manner.  Heaven could have granted me no greater wish than to grow up and be just like her.  And above all this, Miss Billie was fair and gentle.  One day after lunch Jimmy Wilson shocked us all by “sassing” Miss Billie,  earning me the privilege of serving as message bearer to Mr. Kinnebrew, her husband and the principal. I proudly carried a note concealed beneath red and white checked napkin covering the lunch basket Miss Kinnebrew packed for them daily.  I almost felt like a member of the family, being on such intimate terms.  I knocked shyly, intimidated by the powerful man.  He opened the door just a crack, took the basket, and returned it to me moments later, without a word, to my great relief.  I returned the basket to Miss Billie, got her smiling nod in return, and scurried back to my seat.

She, Jimmy, and the covered basket exited the room.  The entire class gave the door just time enough swing closed before rushing to claim prime viewing spots at the large crack afforded by a missing panel, the faster, more aggressive kids and the lucky ones in the back rows getting the best views.  Despite our enthusiasm to see the show, we restrained ourselves sufficiently not to push the door open and fall out into the hall in harm’s way.  After a quick lecture on manners and respect, Miss Billie had Jimmy bend over, grasp his knees, pulled Mr. Kinnebrew’s belt from the dainty basket, doubled it and gave him three stinging licks across his backside.  As Jimmy rubbed his bottom, Miss Billie tucked the belt beneath the napkin, took Jimmy by the arm, and led him back to the classroom, just ahead of the thunderous sound of the class returning its seats, which she somehow failed to notice. No mention was made of how Mr. Kinnebrew was to keep his pants up the rest of the day, since neither the basket nor the incident was referred again, but Jimmy was respectful the rest of the year.  I think he’d seen a new side of Sweet Miss Billie.  It was an altogether edifying and satisfying experience for the rest of us.

Instrument of Torture

I grew up way back in the 1950s and 1960s before the days of “Time Outs.”  I think I would have loved time out.  My parents had five wild kids.  They were partial to the time-   honored switch and belt system.  If Mother wasn’t too serious about the point she was making, she was fairly likely to pull the plastic fly swat off the nail by the stove and give us Continue reading

Good Old Sue

Trouble had its own plan and always lurked in the shadows waiting to jump me.  The simplest thing could go wrong.  There was just no way to anticipate what was down the road.  Billy and Troy were out of pocket when Uncle Parnell was ready to leave.  Daddy sent me and Sue to look for them.  Jamey and Froggy told us they had seen Continue reading

Sylvia Faun ( A 1930s Memoir)

I adored  Miss Billie, my beautiful first grade teacher and hungered for her approval.   I strived for perfect work, admiring every thread she wore, her floral scent, her ladylike jewelryI, and her kind, modest manner.  Heaven could have granted me no greater wish than to grow up and be just like Miss Billie.  And above all this, Miss Billie was fair and Continue reading