Saturday, January 12, 2008

Growing Up - Ages 13-14 – Part Two

When I was in the fourth grade I went to my first birthday party. It was for Jimmy Fox and his mother gave him a party at Oakdale School in the auditorium. The whole fourth grade was invited which was only ten students. This is the first time that I ate JELL-O! We had JELL-O, cookies, cake, and something to drink; later on I found out it was Kool-Aid. We all had little hats and those things that you blew out and made a sound. We played some games which surely made a fun day at school, what a party! We did not have to give him any presents, his mother must have known that most of us could not afford buy anything. It was best party that I had ever been to in my life!

The one book that I remember reading in elementary school was The White Indian Boy. It was about a boy that lived with the Shoshone Indians, Nick Wilson. He was a rider for the Pony Express and Wilson, Wyoming was named after him. He was one of my heroes; I think this is the first book that I had really read and definitely the one that impressed me more than any other book. In December 2007 I was able to get a copy of this book; it is as good today as it was when I was a little boy. We were unable to read many books along this time since we did not have a library in our school; the only books we read were ones that were borrowed from friends. One major problem is that our friends were in the same fix as us, they had no books to lend. Each year we received Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck catalogs and a Farmers Almanac. We read every page many times! We never did order anything from either of the catalogs. We had the Grit newspaper for two months. It had news from all around the world; I don't think we really believed all the things that were in it.

We had some classmates that came from near Statesville. I thought they had much more than most of us. I would trade some of my country ham biscuits for a peanut butter sandwich that had been back in the cloak room all morning and was a little soggy. I thought it was a great trade. Back before the lunch room we had to carry our lunches to school; some of the things I took included country ham, jelly, and plain biscuits. Sometime Mother would pack a piece of berry, peach, or apple pie. I also would take baked sweet potatoes. That was about it, so every chance I had I would trade some of this stuff for peanut butter crackers, store bought bread, cookies, or pieces of cake.

December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, is a day that I will never forget. There was fighting going on all over the world. We went to school on that Monday and one of our teachers had a radio turned on. I realized for the first time that our country was in big trouble when all the girls were crying and the boys were ready to go fight the Japanese. Our teacher told us just to be patient and we would have our turn but at this time it was up to the young men and women in the armed forces. I was glad my three brothers were in the Navy and I knew they could win that war for us. I was thirteen and Mark was almost sixteen. We started counting the day until we get in the Navy and fight for our country. Mark knew that when he reached seventeen he could join and that his departure would leave the farming to Mother and me.

Each spring at wheat and oats harvesting time, boys would follow the reapers. When they cut the grain, they would start at the outer edge of the fields and work to the middle. As the grain field got smaller, all of the little rabbits that were in the field would go to the middle of the field since they had no other place to go. The boys would hit them with long sticks and then we would take them home. The little rabbits were so tender and good; Mother would roll them in flour and fry them in old hog lard. They were tender and did not have to be boiled before frying. We would have them for breakfast, lunch, and supper. Now seventy years later I could not eat one even if I was real hungry, I guess that was Gods way to give us fresh meat to eat at that given time because the little chickens were just hatching out at this time of the year and were too young to eat. God knew that we needed some fresh meat at this time. We never killed any animals for sport; Mother always said if we killed it we would have to eat it. Of course this excluded snakes, tatter bugs, and rats. I know this doesn’t sound good but it was a part of my life, and I guess we have to take the bad along with the good. Right? Listen as I tell this story.

This is about the time that I learned how to make good brown gravy and biscuits. Almost every Sunday morning Mother would fry a young chicken and make brown gravy with flour, butter, and milk and make a big pan of biscuits. It made for the best Sunday breakfast! I have been making chicken gravy and biscuits for the last seventy years, soon after Hazel and I got married she took over the job of making the biscuits because she does a better job than me at cooking them.

The school I attended, Oakdale, came into being with consolidation of Simon and Beaver Schools in 1921. Beaver school building was abandoned as it was one and one-half miles north of I-40 in the middle of a farming area with poor roads; while Simon School was on a good highway and near Statesville. Oakdale School opened in the Simon School building. Another consolidation was ordered in 1943 and Oakdale School was abandoned with students going to either Cool Spring or Wayside School. The name Oakdale was probably given because of the many beautiful oak trees in the area. I graduated from Oakdale Elementary School the spring of 1942, a year before it closed. This is a graphic of pages from our graduation scrapbook; each student had a page. Click on the graphic to see twelve pages from my seventh grade graduation! The pages will flip automatically. Press the back button on your browser to return to this page. I wore my first pair of long dress pants and a homemade shirt. That fall I started Cool Spring High School which was nine miles east of Statesville, NC on US 64.

That summer was about the same as the rest; we worked, played, and fought probably harder than previous years. This same summer, Mark sent off to the U.S School of Music for guitar lessons. He would get one week’s worth of lessons mailed to him and he sent back how he was doing; the course cost him thirty dollars. He learned to play pretty good. His money ran out and so did the lessons! He thought that he could play and sing pretty well but no one else did, not even me, a guy that did not know one note of music.


Barb said...

Thanks Mr. Gurley for the blog. I really enjoy reading your blog.

Josh and Dana said...

Hey Mr. Gurley,
I think we've met before...a long time ago. My mom is Denise Harton. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to write this facinating story! I have absolutely loved reading it! I will definitely keep checking back to see what comes next!

Dana Hartness

Josh and Dana said...

That was it! My husband played sax with Steve! We have hung out with he and Betsy several times and loved them!

Glenn A.Gurley said...
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