Monday, November 12, 2018

My summer of 1958, part 1

1958 ponytail
If you had said to me, “Remember the time you lived at the farm and the well was dry?” I would have responded, “I remember the farm, but don’t recall a problem with the water.”

That’s why it’s nice to have a diary, that retro pen and paper version of a blog, which stands for [world wide] web log. While searching for another notebook, I unpacked a box and found my diary from 1958, a stenographer’s notebook with green tint pages and perfect handwriting in real ink, telling about my days with my grandparents on their farm between Franklin Grove and Ashton, Illinois.  I was there from June 1 to July 12, 1958, and indeed, the water problems were a focus of the first few weeks. I’d totally forgotten that part about pumping water, using a bucket, and driving to my parents’ home to take a bath.

To back up a bit, you need to understand my mother.  Just the sweetest and dearest soul, and always had a solution to anyone’s problem, especially anyone in her family. After my freshman year at Manchester College I wasn’t happy, and wanted to transfer, but I also needed a job for the summer.  My Oakwood dorm friends had all secured something interesting or exciting, and I was faced with going back to Mt. Morris and perhaps working at the drug store where I worked in high school, if it had reopened by then (had been a fire), or fill in at the town library (yawn) where I’d also worked in high school.

The steno pad’s first 10 pages were filled with notes comparing Manchester with Murray--the history, religion connections, majors, costs (Manchester’s tuition and fees were higher, but room and board lower—and all laughable by today’s standards, ca. $1,000/year).  Also in the steno pad were notes about the University of Chicago in a fine arts curriculum and vocational guidance with a minor in Spanish. Expenses were higher—about $1,755, but student jobs looked plentiful.  And then notes about the University of Illinois, what would transfer, a major in Spanish and a minor in Russian.  The notes end there, but I did transfer to Illinois and just by coincidence, that’s where my boyfriend was.

So back to Mother.  I got a little sidetracked.  She knew I was unhappy and that I didn’t have a job;  she knew her parents who were 82 and 84 (b. 1876 and 1874) shouldn’t be alone in their big old farm house in very poor condition. Although Mother and her siblings Muriel and Leslie, and the neighbors checked in often, it wasn’t the same as someone in residence. Neither one of them would consider moving, although they did spend their winters in an apartment in Orlando, Florida. Somehow, Mother convinced me I’d be doing her a favor if I worked as a housekeeper for Grandma, and she also convinced Grandma that Norma needed a summer job. Perfect.  She was a master at this! My grandparents didn’t really want me there (weren’t convinced they needed any help) and I couldn’t have imagined a less inviting or a more lonely place to be (I had spent the summer of 1957 in California at a church mission in Fresno and a year at college with many friends), but my mother appealed to my “missionary” spirit which was still rather strong in those days. I was the 50’s version of the SJW—social justice warrior.

I arrived at the farm about 4:15 on June 1, 1958.  My brother drove me there and helped unload all my clothes. . . .Stay tuned for the next installment of the Summer of 1958 down on the farm.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

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