Memories from 7 and 8 years old-1952 (7-8)
Hacking the school system (no janitors at our school)
At the beginning of my third year of school, the teacher announced that we must each choose which day of the week we would stay late after school to clean the schoolroom, dust the erasers and clean the floors. The teacher asked, “Who will stay after school on Mondays?” Several students volunteered. Then she asked, “Who will stay after school on Tuesdays?” I quickly noticed the system she was using. After the teacher had finished with “Who will stay after school on Fridays?,” I had not raised my hand for any day. The middle of the school year passed before the teacher discovered that I had escaped from my after-school cleaning obligations. I don’t remember any particular punishment except that I had to start helping out on Wednesdays after school.
Five proud stitches
My sister Karen, age five, and I were playing at the edge of the woods near my grandparent’s home. I had borrowed Beebe’s small ax. Everyone called my grandmother Beebe. A sapling, 1.5 inches in diameter, gave me a challenge. Placing my feet apart, I swung the ax...it missed the tree and sliced into my left foot since I went barefoot all summer long. Not noticing any pain, but seeing the blood gushing from my foot, I told my sister to run to the house to get help. As Boog, my grandfather's nickname, was soaking my foot in kerosene, a home remedy to prevent infection, I overheard him blaming himself for letting me use the ax. At the hospital, I got five stitches and a tetanus shot. I think I was the happiest one of the bunch...what an adventure!
My grandmother Beebe's official name was Grace Ingman and my grandfather was Ray Ingman. My brother was named Ray after my grandfather, whom my mother adored. My mother told me that if you addressed a letter to "Beebe and Boog, Tracy City, Tennessee," it would get to them.
First attempt at being a “businessman”
I wanted to make some money by selling something. My father suggested we use food coloring to dye some white rice. Then we could sell the colored rice to neighbors to put in their salt shakers to keep their salt from getting too damp.
I got my sister Karen to go with me. In our area, the homes were far apart. After almost two hours and five neighbors and no buyers, I gave up.
Taboo words and euphemisms
Somehow we kids never had any trouble abiding by the language guidelines set by our mother. We never called anyone stupid or any other demeaning word. Instead of saying damn it, it was fine if we said, darn it. If we needed to go to the bathroom, we would say, I need to toy or I need to have a BM. I was a young adult before I learned that the word “toy,” meaning “pee” in our home, was unknown outside our household.
Say “Funk and Wagnalls”
My teacher gave the assignment that, if we had a set of encyclopedias at home, we should find out the name and tell the teacher the name of our encyclopedias. When my mother told me the name was “Funk and Wagnalls,” she was quite careful to repeat it with an emphasis on the word “Funk.” In our home, we kids were taught, and Mama and Daddy followed these rules too, to not use any “swear” or “dirty” words. We could say darn it, but not damn it. If we ever talked about sex, we would use the word, “mate,” as in “a man and woman mate together.” We used the word “BM” (bowel movement) and “toy,” instead of “pee." When my mother put that special emphasis on “Funk,” I guessed that she wanted me to avoid using the word “fuck." Maybe I had heard it on the school grounds, but not at home.
I loved to get attention for “being smart.” I think we may have been learning some multiplication for some lower numbers, like 3x4 = 12. A classmate in the grade above me had a card showing the answers of all the numbers multiplied all the way up to 12x12. I memorized the answer: 144. Then I would