Monday, August 26, 2013

Our Childhood Visiting Our Grandparents by Linda Haworth Anderson

In the summer Jackie and I spent a lot if time in Keokuk, Iowa. We were pretty much free to roam even from an early age. We could walk the mile or so downtown to "spend" our two-totters, little plastic handles that hooked two quarts of milk together in the grocery.  These could be exchanged for two cents at the Kresge's store .  We would take our bag of two-totters that my grandmother had saved for us  to the back of the store where they did lay-aways...  and we would get a voucher. Jackie and I each got our own voucher and then wandered through the store seeing what we might buy. They were also  good at the soda fountain at Kresge's, though we could usually count on Aunt Marge to treat us to a sundae on her  break. She worked at Kresge's so all the sales clerks knew us.
Main Street, Keokuk 2010

 One year there was a drawing for a bike. I was so sure it  was mine. We got a  call one day at Nana and Papa's house for me to come to the store to claim my prize!  When I went, they called third place and it was another child, then second prize and it was me......a badminton set....we had fun with it, but it was not the bike.

Another thing we would do to amuse ourselves during the summer visits was plan somewhat elaborate silly hoaxes. One was to take our camera and wander the downtown getting people to pose for us. We explained we were' intern cub reporters' for the local paper and that there was going to be a "clean city" or "adorable pet" picture page.  We would have the person pose by a trash can tossing in some wad of paper or pose with their dog in the park. We could convince most anyone to cooperate... and what was the worst that could happen? Mother was very annoyed with us, but Nana thought it was funny. Another time we created Beatles posters advertising a concert in the local park. We assumed no one would take them seriously, but believe it or not, a half dozen or so people  showed up at the band shell on the advertised night!  We wandered by to overhear their conversations.

The house Nana and Papa lived in was  once the house of his parents. They had immigrated from Sweden in  1889, with their four children, Amanda, Sevrin, Clara, and Ertle, with my Papa Frank on the way. He was born in America a few months after they arrived so was the first natural born US citizen in the family.

Papa had a workshop/ studio down a little path from he back door. There was also a shed to the left of the path where Nana stored boxes and jars. On the far left a bit farther down the path was the garage where papa's fishing boat was stored and last was a sandbox area for us just before Papa's shop.
Jackie on left, Linda on right in sandbox area.
On the other side of the path was Nana's vegetable garden. She always planted tomatoes, peppers, green beans, radishes, carrots and turnips. Behind the shop was a deep ravine where we tossed all sorts of things. It was thick with trees and always felt cool and damp. Once I found a tiny gravestone shaped like a heart sticking out of the grass a few feet down the ravine. I was sure it was a secret grave of some long ago relative.  It turned out to be a "mistake" as Nana explained it: someone had ordered a tombstone and Papa had written the name down wrong! Not much to be done with a tombstone inscribed incorrectly!

Papa often would spend long hours in his shop, and it was not a place you just walked in, but he sometimes invited you. He might be using his lathe to make something, painting a landscape, or smoking his pipe. You never knew what you might find. It always smelled like turpentine and sawdust with a touch of cherry tobacco. There were graduated table vices you could clamp to hold scraps of wood. He always had old Currier And Ives calendars tacked to the wall and the windows were dense with the soot and grease from his stove and pipes. He had set up a buzzer system to the house so Nana could let him know when to come in for lunch or dinner.
Prayer time at Nana and Papa's

One summer when we were quite small we were left with Nana and Papa for several weeks. I had long hair that was always getting tangled and  messy. Nana did not enjoy trying to comb the hair of a fidgety child, so she asked me if I wanted  a permanent. I knew what that was, as I had spent many hours in the blue and white kitchen while my mom gave permanents to Nana, Marge and assorted relatives. The family stories  and gossip ( most of which I did not understand) they shared made it very exciting. I agreed that I wanted my hair short  and curly.

Linda with short curly hair, age 5.
Nana obliged. She also let me play in the sandbox dressed only in my shorts. By the end of my visit, when mom and dad came to collect us I was all but unrecognizable - my curly brown had bleached out in the sun and my skin was brown as could be. Papa had coached me to say when asked my name: "my name is Linda Lee Carlson and I live at1516 Park Street!" Needless to say, my mother was NOT amused with my metamorphosis! Nor was she happy that Jackie and I were not attired in our matching "outfits". Mother would pack our identical suitcases with identical or "coordinated" outfits for us to wear. We were to wear the matching outfits each day.
Here we are in our Maxine outfits...not quite matching, but coordinated.

Once Jackie so hated the puffy legged rompers with wide sashes that needed to be tied in the back, that she wore hers backward and inside out.
This is a little blurry, but you can see the puffy rompers.  This was in front of Nana and Papa's house.
The only matching sets we liked were the cow girl outfits decorated with embroidery and fringe and topped with felt cowboy hats.
Our mother, Maxine, Nana, Papa and Aunt Marge