Category Archives: Kentucky

Energy and Determination

Tisn’t spring anymore; I don’t care what the calendar says.

It’s June in Texas and it’s hot.

So – it’s summer.

Since I missed spring cleaning, I’m doing it now. However, the deep cleaning will have to wait because currently I’m working on clutter.

Every so often it hits me how negligent I’ve been in keeping an even-handed approach to bringing stuff in vs. hauling stuff out. The recycling gets taken care of often (because it will run you out of the house if you don’t), but the other things (clothes, shoes, magazines, books, etc.) tend to mushroom because I simply don’t deal with them on a regular basis.

My sister and I were talking about this yesterday, and I commented that for the first many years of our married life, I was better at sorting through stuff and dispensing with it. Every so often I’d clean out a closet or a drawer and send anything salable to Goodwill or Salvation Army, and throw away junk and generally clean. Sadly enough, I’ve grown lax.

I could probably look around for excuses such illness or busyness, but that’s all they’d be: excuses. Because I know that, except for the worst days (like recovering from surgery), something can be done. Doing anything is better than doing nothing.

My genetics didn’t bestow upon me the whirl of energy that my brother got, or the drive that my sister has, but I have enough of those traits to get by.

Our dad was a real go-getter. All his life, he worked manual labor jobs. Even during the last few years when he owned his own businesses, he left the office/bookwork duties to my mother.

His first job was hauling drinking water to the oil field hands in Oklahoma when he was 6 years old. He left school at a very young age to help care for his mother who was dying of tuberculosis. He rodeoed, worked in a Nabisco cracker factory, assembled Fords on the line in Detroit, learned welding and worked at Douglas Aircraft in the foundry, built houses, and a whole lot more. In his 50s, he roofed houses then he and my brother started their own business building service station canopies from Louisiana to west Texas, and north to Indiana.

At the age of 61, they bought a small local grocery/gas station/car repair business. Daddy was there at 6:00 every morning to open up, and washed down the concrete pad. Closing was at 8:00 p.m., after the shelves had been stocked and the floor mopped. He worked like that until the store was sold when he was 65. My brother has that kind of energy.

My mother was a hard worker, too, but mostly she was just determined. She graduated from high school at the age of 21 because it took that long to convince her dad that she really wanted a diploma; the nearest high school to their rural Kentucky home was far enough away that she had to go live with an uncle.

For her graduation, she wanted to look nice, so she earned money by picking strawberries to pay for her first permanent wave. It would’ve been the kind that had the curlers hooked by wires to a machine. ( And she looked lovely with that new perm.)

Daddy and Mama married when she was 28 and he was 34. I was born 11 years later. When she was 43, Mama developed a heart problem that required a lot of rest. But even so, she cooked breakfast and supper every day, sewed most of our clothes, hung the laundry out to dry and ironed it.

She did what she could as she could.

That’s the way both my parents were. They put one foot in front of the other when something had to be done. Neither one went out in search of extra work but they always did what had to/needed to be done and they didn’t complain about it. I have the idea that many, many people of my generation can say the same about their parents.

For instance, our yard was not landscaped – but it was mown every week.

Meals weren’t innovative and gourmet – but they were prepared every night.

My mother used to tell the story about learning to knit. My sister, Fran, had enrolled the two of them in a knitting class at the old Sears store at 21st and Yale. Although she’d been crocheting since she was a little girl, knitting was totally foreign to her.

She’d say that she knew she’d been the dumbest one in the class and she forced herself to concentrate on the stitches until her eyes watered and a tear dropped from her eye. The determination to not stop until she had mastered that stitch kept her from even wiping the tear away, but she learned it. It gave her such a feeling of accomplishment when teacher asked her to help one of the other students later on.

That happened when she was 50 years old. I would never call my mother an old dog – but she definitely learned new tricks!

Fran has that determination with getting things done. She used to work at one of the big petroleum companies in Tulsa typing in information for oil leases. Whole pages of nothing but numbers. Yikes! I’m doing good to handle phone numbers (and usually without area codes). Can you imagine sitting all day doing that?!

So, I’m not a dusk ’til dawn worker like my dad, and determination and I have more work to do on our relationship

but

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13

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Filed under 1960's, Faith, Family, Housekeeping, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Scripture, Summer, Texas

It’s What You Do With What You’ve Got That Counts

Sometimes I get a little behind reading my favorite blogs. I was doing a little catch-up yesterday when I discovered this poem on Sandra’s “Add Humor to Faith…mix well”.

Sandra’s mother had written a book of her own memories and at the back of it had recorded songs and poems she’d learned as a girl. This one her father had taught her and it’s a very clever play on words.

One comment on the post mentioned that children don’t seem to commit things to memory as they did in past days. My own public schooling began in 1960 and we seemed to be at the tail-end of that method of learning. We were assigned to memorize the first bit of the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution and the Gettysburg address. To my discredit, I don’t think I ever completely memorized any of these except the Preamble.

In this science fiction age of instant internet information (not all of which is accurate), some think that memorization is passe. I disagree.

My mother has been a good example to me all my life,- in the importance of memorization, as well as many other things. Even at 95, legally blind and suffering from Alzheimer’s, she’s still a good example.

She was always a great reader and I treasure that legacy from her. Sadly, her ability to comprehend started failing about the same time as her eyesight. Her memory has a lot of holes in it, but she has retained the songs and poems she learned as a child. The thieving Alzheimer’s may cloud her recognition of me at times, but she can still recite “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” and praise God with hymns. It’s amazing and I rejoice at her memory which remains.

A pleasant childhood memory of mine, is hearing her singing hymns in her sweet soprano voice as she went about her housework. (She worked in a faded housedress and an apron because you took care of your better clothes and saved them for visiting or going to town. But the cotton work dresses and aprons were always clean and ironed.)

She was full of old sayings for every occasion. My sister recalls that they were sometimes contradictory. Mama would say “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” as well as “Out of sight, out of mind.”

The one that Mama always lived by was “It’s what you do with what you’ve got that counts.” Make the best of the situation. (I doubt she ever heard the phrase “if life gives you lemons – make lemonade” but it surely fit) Even if you don’t have what you need to do the optimum, do something; do what you can.

That attitude kept her going when her home in Kentucky was under water (up to the roof) for 2 weeks in 1937. She and her parents lost almost everything due to the severe flooding and they became homeless. She had recently married and her husband had gone to Indiana to find work. Shortly after the flood, he wrote her that he didn’t want to be married anymore. She brushed off the river mud and moved to Texas, which required a one year’s residency before filing for divorce.

She stayed with relatives until she found a job at a Mexican restaurant. A uniform was required, so she sewed her own and hand washed and ironed it every night in the room she rented. And even though the salary was only $1.00 a day + tips (and she always said that during the Depression you didn’t get many tips), her rent was $3.00 a week. After a year, she had bought new clothes, saved money and obtained her divorce and moved on to California. About 5 years later, she married my dad who had also been kicked around by life, but he had the same confidant, forward-looking attitude that she had.

So although Stella Sexton had lost all her worldly goods in the flood and was left homeless and rejected by her first husband, she didn’t spend any time feeling sorry for herself. She did what she could with what she had.

And that’s what my mother is still doing.

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Filed under 1930s, 1937, Aging, Alzheimer's, Faith, Family, Heros, Internet links, Kentucky, Making Do, Thrift, Using What You Have, Vicissitudes of Life

1968 Paper Dolls (from television programs)

Family Affair

Buffy

Julia Paper Dolls, 1968

The Flying Nun

All of the above are from the book “Paper Dolls of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s Identification and Value Guide” by Carol Nichols.
Copyright 2005
Printed by Collector Books
P.O. Box 3009
Paducah, Kentucky 42002-3009
www.collectorbooks.com

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Filed under 1960's, 1968, Books, Childhood pastimes, Internet links, Kentucky, Paper Dolls

Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday

H.T. Webster was an editorial cartoonist and his most famous drawing was reprinted in the Tulsa Tribune newspaper every February 12. He drew it in 1918 when he was worked for Associated Newspapers. It’s titled “Hardin County- 1809”.

(After an exhaustive search on the internet, I can’t find even one depiction, but I did find the caption.)

Picture this: 2 Kentucky farmers are talking.

“Any news down t’ th’ village, Ezry?”

“Well, Squire McLean’s gone t’ Washington t’ see Madison swore in and ol’ Spellman tells me this Bonaparte fella has captured most o’ Spain. What’s new out here, neighbor?”

“Nuthin’ a tall, nuthin’ a tall ‘cept for a new baby down’t Tom Lincoln’s. Nuthin’ ever happens out here.”

Abraham Lincoln was a beloved president when I was a child. He and George Washington were acknowledged as the two greatest presidents in our American history.

They were given a place of honor in our history books and schools. At Mingo School, our 7th grade class was assigned by Mrs. Sappington to memorize the Gettysburg Address. Unfortunately, I only got about 3/4 to memory.

Are public school children still given that assignment? Do they even know about the Gettysburg Address? Somehow, I imagine home schooled children all across the country today are at least reading it.

On November 19, 1863
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The occasion was the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg where just less than 5 months previously 165, 620 men of the Union and Confederate armies fought. On that Pennsylvania field, 7,863 American men lost their lives during the 3 day battle. The wounded count was 27, 224, captured and missing: 11,199.

The day following the dedication, the Chicago Times, a newspaper run by Democrats, published the following comment:
“”The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat and dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States.”

Political cartoonists, in the north, viciously portrayed him as an ape.

In his lifetime, he was loved and he was despised.

Abraham Lincoln, April 10,1865


With the weight of the war on his shoulders, he posed for this portrait on April 10, 1865.

Four days later he was killed by an assassin’s bullet.

Abraham Lincoln honorably led our country in a time of incredible divisiveness and hatred among our people. He did the difficult but right thing in putting an end to slavery.

I honor his memory.

Apparently, Google does not. They chose to commemorate the winter olympics on their homepage today instead of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

They’re young. Perhaps they don’t know who he was or that what we owe him. Maybe they’re only familiar with what’s happening now. But then again, maybe it’s just their values system.

Information for this post was gathered from:

Gettysburg Address
, Wikipedia
Battle of Gettysburg, Wikpedia
Stripper’s Guide (a blog discussing the history of the American newspaper comic strip)
Library of Congress

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Filed under America, History, Kentucky, Lincoln's Birthday, Mingo, Vicissitudes of Life

Easy-No-Need-To-Buy-A-Mix Cornbread


CORNBREAD

(This recipe is for an 8″ x 8″ pan; for the large cake pan or skillet size, just double everything.)

1 egg, beaten
1 c. cornmeal
1 c. flour
1 c. milk
1/2 t. salt
3 t. baking powder
1 T. sugar
1 – 2 T. oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (toaster oven 350-375 degrees).
2. Mix all ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl with a spoon.
3. Butter or Pam baking pan.
4. Use a spatula to transfer batter from bowl to baking pan – it wants to stick to the sides of the bowl.
5. Bake for about 20 minutes until brown on top and knife inserted into middle comes out clean.
6. Serve hot with butter.
7. If you have any left, store it in an airtight container in the freezer until you make cornbread dressing. Or feed it to the birds.

This is a fairly basic recipe and easy to mix up. It came from a regional cookbook we got as a wedding present over 30 years ago. I’ve altered it a bit: lessened the baking powder and oil and added the sugar. I don’t like sweet cornbread, but if you do, add a little more sugar until it suits your taste.

Since I’m from the south, cornbread is like one of the 4 food groups. Beans (pintos) and cornbread is actually my favorite meal. If there’s fried potatoes, greens and chopped onion,
to go with it, well…I’m real happy.

My mother grew up out in the country during the 1920s and didn’t have access to store bought white bread, but she said that her mother made biscuits every morning and cornbread every day at noon (“dinner” to Mama). This must have seemed strange to my Philadelphia-born grandmother, but she adapted to kentucky ways.

The best cornbread I’ve ever eaten was made by Mrs. Hickson, head of the cafeteria at Mingo School. Tuesday was Beans & Cornbread day. Even kids like me (who took their lunch every other day of the week) bought their lunches on Tuesday. I think my friend, Carol, has the recipe. I hope so because I’d love to have it.

This post is linked to Food on Fridays @ annkroeker

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Filed under Cooking, Family, Kentucky, Mingo, Oklahoma

Some Family History & Shopping Locally


Both sides of my family have roots in small business. In the past it was groceries – the kind of stores that are now called “Mom & Pop”. My brother has always had his own business but is now retiring; my sister’s family has their own. Joe and I seem to be the only ones who’ve stayed solely in the corporate world.

My maternal grandfather had several different country stores – not at the same time – in western Kentucky. The last one was in Iuka; in 1937 there was a massive flood (I think 7 states were affected); when everything they had, including the store, stood under flood water for 2 weeks, he retired.

1937 flood at Iuka,Kentucky; White building is Sexton's 2 story grocery store

Bart Sexton at Sexton's Grocery, Los Angeles 1930s


My mother went to Arkansas briefly and worked in her cousin’s store in Wiener. Then a year in Texas and on to California to work in her Uncle Bart’s grocery store in Los Angeles.

 

Stella Sexton at Uncle Bart's store, Los Angeles circa 1939


There she met an attractive young man who would come in to buy a Coke. She said he would lean against the pop box and make one of those little 6 1/2 ounce Cokes last a long time. I can scarcely believe that Daddy was ever that shy, but he must have been because he got a friend to ask her if she would go out with him. Mama told Maxine that she couldn’t go out with him until he asked her. Daddy was back over there in 5 minutes. A few years later he proposed to her riggt before they went to the Rose Bowl parade and the rest is history. Well, family history, anyway.

 

Johnnie Edens at Mingo store,circa 1945


Eventually Daddy wanted to move back to Oklahoma. After a few years they bought the little store in Mingo that my Uncle Johnnie had built, but had gone through a couple of different owners by then. Even though poor by today’s standards, my parents were able to buy the business to provide a second income. People could do that sort of thing back then. My mother said that she let my 6 year-old brother mark the items which cost a nickel with a 5 and the cents sign. Now I don’t think you can even buy anything at a store for a nickel. This was about 1949. (Funny thing about that little frame building: it’s about the only structure left standing in Mingo after the airport bought everything and demolished the community.)

 

Then in 1970, my dad and brother quit their construction business to buy a grocery store and station across from the school in Mingo. Cortez Carnathan had built it a few years previously to replace his old wooden structure. It reminded me of Wally’s Filling Station in Mayberry. The new one was very modern looking with glass walls all along the front. It had several DX gas pumps (full service only, this was before self-service), a mechanics bay with a lift and a good sized grocery area. I was in high school and worked there off and on until it was sold a few years later.

It seems to me that I have a fairly good understanding of and sympathy for local businesses. I know that having his own business made the difference between scary lay-offs that Daddy had suffered at McDonnell Douglas Aircraft and finally, prosperity. He worked hard at that store, getting there to open at 6:00 a.m., washing down the concrete pad every morning; staying there all day until we closed at 8:00 p.m. But the day was not over until all the shelves were stocked and the floor swept and mopped. Every day. He was 61 years old when they bought it and I can’t imagine working that hard when I’m that age.

So, I have a real empathy for local business and try to shop at them whenever I can. There are bonuses for both the owner and me. The local hardware store here is a good example. A can of Bon Ami costs about 70 cents more there than it does at the IGA. But, when I called to ask the proprietor if she knew anyone locally that sold firewood, she said we could have all we wanted – free – from their acreage. They even gave us a key to the gate. My friend, Patti told me they opened up the store after hours one night for an emergency plumbing repair part that cost less than $5.00. Try getting a major chain to do that for you.

Now, we’ve bought a lot more in there over the years than merely tub cleanser. We’ve bought paint and plywood, a few gifts and some things for the kitchen. Joe buys as many car parts there as he can. We could get cheaper prices at Home Depot or Autozone – and we still shop at those stores when we can’t get it here, but we want our local store to stay in business. Home Depot is never going to build a store in this town, it’s too small. If we want the store to survive, we have to decide whether saving a few dollars is worth them going out of business because they can’t compete.

The produce stand down the road is struggling. Honestly I hadn’t shopped there in a good while, but I’ve started to again. Okay, their prices are a little higher on some things than the grocery store, but generally the quality is much higher. A few weeks ago I bought the best grapes there that I’ve ever had. When I was checking out, the owner gently pointed out that the cucumbers I’d bought were past prime and she asked if she could substitute 2 others. Then she said she’d give me the first ones if I wanted them. Joe was there buying some things one night about closing and she offered him a large bag (probably 5 pounds) of West Texas tomatoes for $2.00. They were good ones, just a little overripe. He came home and made some really wonderful hot sauce (salsa).

Now, I wish that all the local businesses were like that, but they aren’t. The feedstore owner doesn’t care if I shop there or not, so I usually don’t for anything but the occasional bale of hay. I had a really horrible experience at the local beauty shop and will never go back (I was with a friend who had just lost a son, and the yacky beautician would not shut up complaining about kids). The scrapbook store owner in a nearby town is so rude that she has a reputation as far as 50 miles away. Some of the shop owners in Decatur won’t even wait on me when I go in, so I don’t go back.

This is a mystery to me and I can guarantee you my dad wouldn’t have understood it. He was always polite to customers because he knew he wouldn’t have a business without them. As Dave Ramsey says, “If you’re not making money – it’s a hobby, not a business”. It took a lot for my dad to get cranky with a customer.

Local businesses are vital to a community. I’ve read that small business is the backbone of American employment.

All that said, I still love Wal-Mart; I’ve been shopping there for over 35 years. I can’t imagine all the money I’ve saved in that amount of time.

It’s so tres chic to denigrate Wal-Mart. And the funny thing about it is
that most of the critics I hear, shop at Target or buy Microsoft or pay way too much for a cup of coffee at Starbucks. You get the picture. The media, New York and California hate Wal-Mart and make the rest of us look like cousin-marrying rubes if we shop there.

Do they honestly believe that shopping at Costco instead of Sam’s makes them superior? One major corporation over another?

If major corporations are so evil, then maybe those critics should stop buying gasoline of any kind and walk everywhere. No more clothes unless they grown the cotton (no tractors) or wool and weave it themselves.

To sum it up: both small business and big business have vital roles in the American economy and life. I support them both.

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Filed under 1930s, America, Current Events, Family, Kentucky, Mingo, Oklahoma, Thrift