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The Queen Of Christmas Cousin Donna by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

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The Queen

of

Christmas

Cousin Donna

Christmas Stars in Tacloban City 2012 Nikon D 70 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr 021

Christmas Star

Cousin Donna DeLong has always been kind of camera shy, so here is and arts and crafts project that she can relate to. The blue rice paper covers a bamboo framework to create this Christmas Star that was for sale in Tacloban City , Leyte, Republic of the Philippines for the holidays of 2012. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

 

by Samuel E. Warren Jr,

Martha Lou Marcum DeLong was the Matriarch of the Charley Herman DeLong Family,

 

christmas-tree-logo-photo-two-thumbnail_thumb[1]In my childhood, my grandmother, allowed those matriarchal duties to pass to my mother, Opal M. DeLong Warren. Momma inherited the task of planning and preparing for the family social celebrations like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

 

While I was on active duty in the United States Air Force, the matriarchal duties of the DeLong Family were passed to my cousin, Donna DeLong.

 

Momma had used the training of her life experiences in Texas to plan and host the annual family Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations.

 

Likewise Donna used her life experiences that made the annual family Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations a big hit with Aunt Mary and Momma.

 

Once I experienced Donna’s interpetation of the annual holidays, I christened her:“The Queen Of Christmas.:

 

While I was in the US Air Force, momma would tell me about “Christmas at Donna’s” over the telephone.

 

Life after the United States Air Force meant I returned to “my home of record” and retirement in Stone County, Missouri.

 

Momma’s “Polio Syndrome” from her younger years had returned. Her cane gave way to a walker that eventually had her in a wheel chair by the end of the 1980s.

 

 

 

Aunt Mary DeLong

 

Aunt Mary” DeLong, Donna’s mother was always a creative person. When Donna and I were kids we would walk along the shoulder of the road and pick up pop bottles and Hamm’s aluminum beer cans.

 

We took the empty pop bottles to the Keithley General Store in Abesville, Missouri and got some “spendin’ money.”

 

The Hamm’s aluminum beer cans went to Aunt Mary, who would take her scissors and cut the aluminum into strips to curl to create a Louis XIV chair for a pin cushion.

 

Aunt Mary used dark purple yarn to crochet over pop bottle caps and connected them together to create a bunch of grapes to hang on the wall.

 

Aunt Mary really was one of those Ozarks’ women who could make ‘a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.’

 

When I would come home “On Leave” from the US Air Force , I would hear stories of Cousin Donna doing crafts type projects. Momma always made a point to brief me at length about “Christmas at Donna’s.”

 

Just Another Day

 

My mother was one of those people who always referred to “a holiday – any holiday — as just another day.”

 

Momma always “pretended” not to be interested in holidays and social events. When you watched her reaction; it was obvious that Momma actually enjoyed birthday parites, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day celebrations.

 

A few minutes into any celebration, Momma would say, “Son, get in the cupboard there and get my little camera and take some pictures.” Momma always kept an inexpensive 35 millimeter camera loaded with film in a kitchen cupboard to take pictures of family celebrations.

 

The Kitchen Table Magick

 

At Grandma DeLong’s house conversations always began at the kitchen table over a cup of coffee. Entire afternoons and evenings would pass with family discussing and conversing about the day’s events at the kitchen table.

 

When family came Home For The Holiday, family members would settle at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and would talk about their trip and things that had happened in their lives over a cup of coffee at the kitchen table.

 

In the Opal M. DeLong Warren Family Home, the kitchen table still had the “magick” that allowed family and friends to sit down at the kitchen table and talk about the events of the day.

 

Momma’s Review

 

When I made my telephone calls from overseas back home, Momma would tell me what was going on back in Stone County. But, when she took the time to comment on an event at length I knew it had made an impression.

 

Momma would tell me the smallest details that she could remember about Christmas Dinner at Donna’s. It was obvious that she had enjoyed the day and was already looking forward to next year.

 

Momma always enjoyed her Birthday Party” planned and hosted by Christy. She always looked forward to “Christmas At Donna’s.”

 

Snowed In

 

One year, while I was in the Air Force, Momma had went to Donna’s for a Thanksgiving or Christmas and the weather turned so bad, so suddenly, that she had to call for a ride home over the icy roads and through the deep snow.

 

Momma candy apple red 1980 Chrevrolet fleet side pickup did not have chains on the tires. Sometimes in the winter, in the southwest Missouri Ozarks, rain or a light snow will freeze on the pavement and before the road completely “thaws out” then, inches of snow will fall and blanket the road, which hides the icy layer that is still slick and slippery underneath the snow.

 

According to Momma’s story, the road was clear and free of ice, but, the sudden snow fall came so fast and heavy that the county road plows did not even have a chance to get out on the highways before a thick blanket of snow had covered the highway and had drifted in the hollers.

 

Momma was one of those Ozarkers who always remarked, “I like to sleep in my own bed at night.” Thus, she called for a ride home.

 

Christmas Creativity

 

Cousin Donna, I describe as a “Christmas person.”

 

As kids, Donna was always the person who would raise a runt pig or baby goat on a bottle. And, she taught some of Grandma DeLong’s baby goslings to swim. . .sort of. I decided to help and I accidentally “drown” one. Obviously, Donna knew more about baby geese than I did.

 

As kids, Donna had a “Green Thumb” and she is only person I know who raised “A Pineapple In Missouri.” I never would of thought it possible. Pineapples are a tropical vegetable and Missouri’s moody temperate climate can be a challenge for plants that normally grow under the southwest Missouri Ozarks sunshine. I saw the pineapple, so I know it is possible.

 

Donna’s Decorations

 

When Christy and I returned home after the Air Force, Donna showed Christy how to make floral arrangements for Memorial Day. Donna showed Christy how to wire wrap stones to create fashionable jewelry. And, then, Donna and Christy went Christmas shopping for Christmas decorations.

 

Inspired by Donna’s decorations, Christy soon had her own way to use crafts materials to transform the sun room into a branch of Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole and a small Christmas Cathedral style in the living room.

 

It would not be right to reveal Cousin Donna’s “Christmas Secrets.” The reader will simply have to meet and talk to Cousin Donna.

 

It is fair to say Donna always decorated a huge Christmas Tree. And, Donna always arranged the activities that would keep guests talking and entertained until dinner.

 

Donna understood her mother and her “Aunt Opal”, so in her Christmas shopping Donna would find “bargain items” to wrap as “gag Christmas gifts”, while she cooked dinner. Aunt Mary and momma would open a couple of their gag gifts.

 

The sheer genius of this Christmas activity allowed Aunt Mary and momma to always be surprised. They would talk and compare their gifts for several minutes. Usually the process would remind them of a Christmas story of earlier celebrations.

 

Christmas Cuisine

 

Food is one area of life people should always talk about. Cousin Donna is a great cook.

 

I am a food critic at heart. I love to eat. I enjoy food.

 

Anyone can “nuke” food.

 

I “nuke” TV dinners and noodles in the microwave – that isn’t cooking – that is snacking.

 

My mother was a good cook.

 

I make no distinction between chefs and “great cooks.” Cousin Donna is a great cook.

 

Cousin Donna’s Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinners always featured the traditional Ozarks cuisine of mashed potatoes, candied yams, i.e., sweet potatoes, green beans, turkey and honey glazed ham cooked with pineapple slices on top.

 

Donna would add homemade biscuits or rolls and usually add a pecan or pumpkin pie. Donna made a wonderful fruit salad that I could never get enough of. She made a green pea casserole that my wife, Christy loved.

 

The Secret Of A Delicious Turkey

 

One clue of a great cook is Turkey. Many cooks serve up a “dry turkey.” One taste and you dash for a glass of water.

 

A great cook knows the turkey is never dry.

 

And a great cook, usually has their own way to keep the turkey juicy or moist. A great cook knows turkey has to be moist, tasty and the meat falls apart on your fork and in your mouth.

 

Donna always serves a turkey that is “Ambrosia – the food of the gods.” I have always been a “picky eater.” Often at social functions, I nibble on food like a baby bird.

 

At Donna’s house, I always “pig out.” I go back for “seconds,” “thirds” and sometimes “fourths” in the number of servings of food.

 

Leftovers Left Over

 

The nice thing about the Texas’ Warren Women and the Missouri Ozarks’ DeLong Women is they always put enough food on the table to serve a platoon of hungry United States Marines, just in case, for whatever reason, Uncle Sam sends the troops through the door on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day.

 

Usually food is always left over. But, the Warren and DeLong food motto is food never goes to waste. Thus, the food goes in the ice box and ends up as ham sandwiches and turkey sandwiches, which usually last a week.

 

Momma was right.

 

From 1997 to 2010, I always looked forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinners at Donna’s house. I always had to loosen at least one notch in my belt to accommodate my full stomach.

 

Donna’s Christmas Dinners

 

One major factor of Cousin Donna’s Christmas Dinners were she continued the DeLong Family Traditions “For The Next Generation.”

 

Someday in the future, her grandson,Michael can tell people about his Grandma DeLong’s great Christmas dinners and traditions. And, Michael’s Grandma DeLong, will be called, “Donna.”

 

In our lifetimes, as kids, Cousin Donna and I had those Ozarks family dinners that read like a movie script straight out of the 1800s. The small rustic house in the country, with no indoor plumbing. The outhouse was down on the hill side.

 

Donna,Ronnie, Bert and I could climb up on the old tree in the yard and sit on the trunk or climb up the branches and play, while the grown-ups would talk and cook dinner inside the house.

 

By the time, I retired from the Air Force and returned home, the natural processes of life was removing the family members of our parents generation.

 

Donna like my Grandma DeLong makes great biscuits from scratch. Momma had added black-eyed peas to the traditional Christmas menu. I always looked forward to Donna’s “Fruit Salad” and my wife, Christy, always looked forward to her “Green Pea Salad.”

 

What I always appreciated about Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinner’s at Cousin Donna’s Home is like the Ozarks Christmas Dinners at Grandma and Uncle Richards’ I always felt “Home For The Holidays.”

 

Christmas Eve, Monday, December 24, 2012, Barangay Baras, Republic of the Philippines, members of the Saldana Family have come to our home for the annual Christmas Eve Dinner celebration, “Noche Buena”, which is a part of the Filipino culture’s traditional Christmas Celebration.

 

I am dining on a large plate of steaming white rice and deviled eggs. Leneil Saldana, sits to my left, and my wife, Christy Warren sits to my right, at the table.

 

I glance at Christy’s watch and notice it is 9:30 pm.

 

It is already Christmas Eve in the States,” Christy tells Leneil. “Donna will be fixing Christmas Dinner. She usually cooks food for two days before Christmas. Umm. I love her green pea salad. Then, she would have a fruit salad. And, pie. If I know, Donna, she will bake a pie. Pecan pie. Pumpkin pie. And, if she has time, maybe, another pie. I always loved Christmas Dinner at Donna’s,” said Christy.

christy sets the table_resized

 

 

Christy Warren sets the Christmas Eve Dinner Table. In this photograph, in the foreground, banana pancakes are shown, In addition to the steaming platters of rice is the octopus in the white bowls. The Ozarks’ Christmas Dishes of macaroni salad and potato salad will find their way to the table along with pork before the table setting is finished. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

Family Traditions” is when you can travel half-way around the world and sit down to dinner on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and have a crisp, sharp memory of the “Home For The Holidays” celebration underway on the other side of the globe.

 

In my mind, Cousin Donna will always be:

 

The Queen Of Christmas.”

 

Merry Christmas, Donna !

 

Sam

 

Christmas Links

 

One estimate states 400 million people each year worldwide celebrate Christmas. Here are some links to get you started on your search for more information about Christmas and holiday menus.

Christmas Stars in Tacloban City 2012 Nikon D 70 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr 007_resized_resized

 

This Christmas Star that is a series of star was on display for sale in Tacloban City, Leyte, Republic of the Philippines, during the Holiday Season of 2012. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

Holiday Menu Food Network

http://www.foodnetwork.com/holiday-central-menus/package/index.html

 

Holiday Menu Kraft Foods

http://www.kraftrecipes.com/recipes/holidays-and-entertaining/holidays/holiday-how-to-center/holidayrecipesmenus.aspx

 

Holiday Dinners Southern Living

http://www.southernliving.com/food/holidays-occasions/holiday-dinners-00400000033202/

 

Christmas Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas

 

All Things Christmas

http://www.allthingschristmas.com/

 

Christmas.com

http://www.christmas.com/

 

North Pole. com

http://www.northpole.com/

 

Merry Christmas.com

http://www.merry-christmas.com/

 

My Merry Christmas.com

http://mymerrychristmas.com/

 

Christmas Catholic Encyclopedia

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03724b.htm

 

Hanukkah Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanukkah

 

Kwanzaa Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kwanzaa

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Too Old For Toys by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

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Too Old For Toys

TOY ROBOT PHOTO ONE_resized

Toy Robot

I bought this toy robot in the 1990s. I was amazed at all the fuctions. It can walk, talk and grumble. It can dance. It doesn’t do “Gangnam Style” dancing, but, it does a nice “Ah, ha” and moves in a robotic dance fashion. There comes a time, when adults tell kids, “You’re Too Old For Toys.” What the adults are trying to explain to kids is when you get ready to go to the “Prom” your prom date isn’t going to want to sit down on the floor in her ball gown, while you set down on the floor in your tuxedo “to play with your toy plastic Army men.” Adults “forget” that “Toys Are Tools Of Imagination And Creativity” that keep toy companies in business, are symbols of your childhood, and are models that inspire stories, novels, movies, and creations in “The Real World.” Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

 

by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

christmas-tree-logo-photo-two-thumbnail_thumb[1]In living Life we learn many lessons. Grandparents, parents and other relatives pass on their wisdom and advice by their stories and their actions. A person’s actions does not always match his or her words.

 

Listen to what people say and always pay attention to what they do.

 

In school, teachers, coaches and professors are paid to teach children basic knowledge as well as specialized knowledge that is used to earn a living working a job.

 

Community leaders usually represent some level of authority. Authority, as a rule, is a system that gets the majority of people to be able to live together in a manner of “public order”, i.e., people learn to get along and live with one another in a fairly friendly and helpful manner.

 

Life overall never plays by society’s rules.

 

On a day to day basis, we all have our place in the global status quo and we live our lives.

 

The 12th Christmas

THE TOOL TRAY OF MY ANTIQUE TOOL BOX_4979_resized

 

Tool Chest

This is the tool chest that I got for My 12th Christmas. It came in handy for minor projects around the house and the farm, but I never built a house with it. I never renovated a house with it. I never even worked on an automobile engine with it. When we decided to move to the Republic of the Philippines it was one of the items that ended up in a yard sale, rather than, the household goods. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

In childhood, my greatest disappointment was when I was told, “Your are ‘Too Old For Toys.”

My 12th Christmas would be “The Greatest Disappointment Of My Childhood.”

 

No organization on the planet currently publishes a global instruction that states: “Children Of The World you will be required by law to give up your toys at age______.” Of course, some level of authority will decide a number to put in the blank.

 

In The History Of The World, apparently global society had been “winging it” for centuries, when the time comes to tell children to “Give Up Your Toys.”

 

I had turned 12.

 

Maybe, there is an “age” when a child is suppose to quit playing with toys, but it isn’t publicized.

 

Maybe, parents know. Then, again, maybe, parents just “wing it” and decide on an age.

 

In life, people usually only give up actions, when they become tired or those acts or some level of authority “forces” someone to change.

 

In farming, farmers learn when to “wean” livestock. There comes a time based on the Real World financial reality of the farmer.

 

Sometimes the parental livestock know when the time has come to “wean” their kids. In my childhood, young farmers starting out would talk to older farmers to determine how to go about “weaning” different types of livestock. One method is to learn to read an almanac and use the information.

 

Kids aren’t livestock. Parents try to learn how to help their kids made important decisions in life.

 

Perhaps, people just assume when you start looking at “The Big 1 – 3”, you are suppose to know this.

 

This Kid Loved His Toys

 

I was a kid, who loved his toys. I was a kid, who enjoyed playing with his toys.

 

I was an ‘only child’ so it wasn’t like I had brothers and sisters teasing me because I still played with toys. I was an ‘only child’ so I didn’t always have other kids to play with, especially when I moved to the country.

 

As the 12th Christmas approached, Momma hinted that I was becoming “too big for toys.” I didn’t take the hint.

 

Finally, she said, “Son, you are becoming too big for toys.”

 

I didn’t think I had grown that much, during the previous year. “Son, you are becoming too ‘old’ for toys.”

 

There is an age,” I thought ?

 

One of the wonderful characteristics about my mother is if I didn’t understand something, I could ask her a question and she would always give me an honest answer.

 

Teenagers Don’t Play With Toys”

 

You will be a teenager soon. Teenagers don’t play with toys,” she explained.

 

As a child, I knew many teenagers. I saw none of them as a future Einstein. I missed Momma’s point entirely.

 

Of course, I had no doubt that she was right. It is just, when you are young there are things you take for granted. You know the day will come when you quit playing with toys, but, it is not some issue that gets publicized and advertised.

 

What Do You Want For Christmas ?

 

A day or two passed. “What do you want for Christmas ?”

 

Ah, the irony of life, first, you tell a kid, he has to give up ‘toys” and then you ask him what he wants on: “The Biggest Toy Day Of All Creation ? “

 

I had wanted an electric train set for Christmas.

 

Now, I didn’t know what I wanted.

 

Christmas is the global holiday about toys, presents and gifts.

 

People will tell you Christmas is about many things. Listen to their words, watch their actions and make your own decision.

 

To me, Christmas is a day about toys for kids. When I was told I was “too big for toys” the significance of the holiday quickly began to loose personal meaning for me.

 

Without toys, What Is Christmas Good For ?”

 

Without toys, What Is Christmas Good For ?”

 

Christmas was coming. People give presents at Christmas.

 

What kind of holiday is Christmas without toys ?

 

Kids focus on the toys at Christmas. The other information about Christmas is ether that will over time be absorbed into their gray matter. In the 1960s, there were no electronic sources of information like computers or the Internet to turn to.

 

The Suggestion

 

Momma suggested “A tool chest.” Daddy worked at the plant and he was an electrician. He had lots of tools. He should have been a “Craftsman” stockholder, because he was a loyal Craftsman tool buyer.

 

I didn’t really think about the tool chest suggestion I just kind of nodded and went with the flow.

 

Psychology In The Ether

 

Dr. Benjamin Spock had written his popular “baby” book that parents used in the 1950s.

 

But, I didn’t know of any books written by any doctors entitled: “The Kid’s Guide To Growing Up”?

 

People were still “experimenting” with psychology in the 1960s. Sigmund Freud looked very official. He was a snazzy dresser for his day and age. The cigar was a nice prominent publicity prop to get people’s attention. Throughout history, the successful showman always needs a working gimmick or prop to serve as a logo.

 

Freud choose to “work with the mind” to earn a living. A risky job choice.

 

Before Freud, people who tried to understand and work with the human mind were usually labeled: charlatans, frauds, confidence men, confidence women, bunko artists, scammers, grifters, snake-oil salesmen, and phonies – just to mention a few of the terms.

 

Fortune tellers, psychics and mediums were usually considered frauds. Society expects educators to educate and certify people for jobs. God is not suppose to interfere with the global education process, otherwise words like “superstition” and “religion” get tossed around.

 

In the early 1960s, in the United States, people would notice psychiatrists on talk shows, but society wasn’t jumping up and down to to create a new profession, especially one that throughout history had been controversial.

 

Psychiatrists were doing the talk show circuit and making public appearances to ensure the population at large that psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists were just “Fortune Tellers In Business Suits.”

 

The “Know It All Psychiatrists” wouldn’t start to be popular until the 1970s.

 

And the idea of support groups would have to wait until around the 1980s and allow the psychiatrist and psychologists of the 1970s to prove they weren’t just fortune tellers in business suits.

 

In the 1960s, Americans weren’t rushing to “shrinks” for advice or to be patients.

 

Newspaper Advice Columnists

 

There were newspaper advice columnists, In the 1800s, a girl named Virginia had wrote an editor a letter about Christmas. He had answered.

 

In the 1960s, newspaper advice columnists seemed to focus on place settings and matters of the heart from letter writers like “Heart-broken In Houston.”

 

I couldn’t see a columnist choosing to answer “Toyless In Galena.”

 

When you are a kid, you do not have the “Adult Thought Processes.” Thank God for Gut Instinct.

 

The initial shock to my mind of no toys for Christmas was: “Now, what ?”

The surprise became confusion, which became numbness as I tried to imagine life without toys. When you are a kid, your toys are important symbols and realities of your day to day life.

 

In a few days of trying to think through the situation, I came to grips with the idea of “No More Toys.”

 

Still. “Once you take away the fun stuff of Christmas; what is left ?”

 

Trading Tools For A Train

 

A bright, shiny, new crescent wrench just didn’t seem as exciting as flat cars, box cars, locomotives, cabooses, transformers, tracks, and scenery layouts.

 

I would tell myself the tools would come in handy. I couldn’t get a picture of me looking at blueprints, in front of the rising wood skeleton of a house.

 

I could not get a visual imagine in my mind of me lying under a Plymouth Barracuda with socket wrenches spread out on the ground by my head. I ease out from under the car stare down at the engine and wipe my hands on the oily pink work rag. “Yep. I need to see if I can’t get a bigger motor.”

 

My mind kept blurring the image of me in a crawl space, wearing a tool belt, reaching up to look in the junction box at the electrical wires. My mind just would not “light up that image.”

 

I’ll learn to use the tools I told myself.

 

A faint voice in my mind, snickers, “Yeah, right.”

 

Dreaded Derailment Day

 

 

Wednesday, December 25, 1968

 

My 12th Christmas

 

The dreaded 12th Christmas arrived.

 

The Christmas Tree was another brightly decorated cedar tree. Daddy had used his Thanksgiving vacation. At least, he would not have to witness my disappointment at the packages under the tree.

 

The days of the Dick Tracy Cop Mobile, the Wham-O Monster Magnet, the Batman Utility Belt and all the other great toys and games were all behind me.

 

The whole adolescent issue is rough on a kid.

 

You open the Christmas presents. There is no need to rip into the boxes. The childish excitement and expectation is gone. After 12 years of being a devoted player of toys; what can possibly replace them ?

 

Of course, in the 1960s all the electronic gadgets, gizmos and golly gee-whiz devices are still about 20 years in the future.

 

You smile.

 

Clothes.

 

I did my best “Thank you.” It was right to be polite. I just didn’t have the energy to make it seem heartfelt.

 

When your heart and your emotions are numb, it is dumb to even try to “wing it.”

I was a closing Broadway play that never even bothered to open. I just wanted the day to end.  I always remember Christmas Dinner.  That year, I don’t even remember Christmas Dinner.

 

Clothes Controversial Choice ?

 

In the 21st Century, I still hear parents and relatives talk about giving kids clothes for Christmas.

Yes, we all wear clothes.

 

Clothes are a part of society. Parents and relatives buy kids clothes. Christmas is a holiday that focuses on a child’s reaction at the Christmas Tree. The Christmas Tree is a family theater production of drama and comedy.

 

In my lifetime, I have never seen clothes work as a Christmas present on Christmas Day under a Christmas Tree.

 

The reaction of the child is like an adult , who gets an expensive bill in the mail. You know it is coming and the arrival is always annoying, frustrating and usually devastates you based on the large amount of money demanded by a utility company, phone company or other business.

 

Personally, I never give clothes to children for Christmas. A gift should have meaning and mean something to the person giving it to the child. Clothes are a necessity; not a gift. Unless a child asked me for clothes for Christmas, I would not consider it as an option for a Christmas present.

 

A Big Deal

 

The whole “Too Old For Toys” and “No More Toys For Christmas” became “A Big Deal” for me because in adolescence being a kid you do not grasp the meaning of concepts like “roll with the flow” and be “flexible.”

 

When you are a kid and someone tells you that “Effective Immediately, this major change is being made to your life. Oh, and, incidentally, you have absolutely, no say, in the matter.” I remember as a kid, “I would freak out.” My mind and my emotions would rocket into the stratosphere as I tried to understand, “why would a grown-up do this to a kid ?”

 

In my mind, the whole issue became a “Big Deal” because I did not understand, “Toys Are Tools.” Your Tools that you work with changes over the course of life.

 

The natural flow of humanity forces us to give up our “toys”. But, life relies on us to keep a flame of imagination and creativity burning. We keep our fantasies in our minds, read them in books, watch them on TV and in theaters.

 

Yet, imagination and creativity is important in our adult lives because it reminds us to have hope and have faith in ourselves in our lives.

 

Toys To Tools ; Tools To Toys

 

The 12th Christmas served notice I would no longer get toys for Christmas to play with.

 

I had come to understood the 12th Christmas to be “The Death Of My Imagination And Creativity.” My toys had been taken away.

 

I had really wanted an electric train. I never got the electric train as a toy for Christmas.

 

I would be in the military before I realized I had a couple of great “toys to play with: a typewriter and a camera.”

 

Christmas Epiphany

 

December 1989, in the Republic of the Philippines at Clark Air Base I was strolling through the Branch Exchange not looking forward to a “Single G.I.’s Christmas” as the days of December counted down to the “Big 2-5”. I had a girlfriend, Christy, this year.

 

It would not be an “alone” Christmas.

 

I had no idea where the Christmas celebration would go on Christmas Day.

 

The Republic of the Philippines is on the global record of breaking out the big, brass bands and doing their best to make Christmas, “The Day Of Days.”

 

Over The Top,” is the way many Americans would describe the traditional celebration of Christmas in the Philippines. As early as October1, Filipino children in Angeles City, outside the gates of Clark Air Base, would begin “Christmas Caroling” and expect a few pesos for their songs.

 

After My 12th Christmas, I had become Ebenezer Scrooge incarnate. My solution to Christmas in college and the military was usually to get through it as quickly and as painlessly as possible.

 

Walking Wounded

 

Christmas Day celebrations as a single man from college into the military had left me “Walking Wounded.”

 

Christmas Day had to be dealt with like a hangover the morning after.

 

I knew Christy wasn’t going to let me “86 out the side door on this celebration,” at some point, I would have to “Be Present And Be Accounted For.”

 

I looked up and noticed my stroll of boredom in the BX had taken me into the toy section. I smiled and turned. My eyes were awash in gaudy, glitzy, over the top, attention designed colors and artwork of toy boxes designed to get a kid’s attention.

 

My eyes scanned a familiar looking word in the distance. I walk toward the word :T-R-A-I-N.

I pick up the box off the shelf and read the descriptions. Meanwhile, my mind remembered “You never got the train as a toy.”

 

Inside Sam’s Head

 

I could imagine the tiny employees of my mind scrambling around their enclosed mental work stations. No doubt, the klaxon horn was blaring loudly. The huge red interior warning light would have been in strobe mode and flashing erratically.

 

The tiny civilian commander, she would have yelled, “Flash, Level 1 ! Unsatisfied childhood desire ! Strap in ! This will be a bumpy ride !”

 

She slams her palm on the big red button to stop the annoying klaxon blaring.

 

The data input from my optic nerves would of flooded the gray matter circuits. The tiny civilian employees would be earning their mental pay.

 

Bio systems ? On line “

 

Heightened state of awareness !”

 

Emotional systems ?”

 

Lit up like a Christmas Tree !”

 

Emotional,” emphasizes the commander. “Mam. . .he is intently reading the description on the box. Emotions maxed out, but maintained. How is that even possible ?”

 

The tiny mental executive looks around her. “Relax. Sam is in his curious mode. Back to your stations.” She presses the button to stop the mental strobe warning light.

 

I start to place the box back on the shelf.

 

Then, my feet move me toward the checkout counter.

 

I imagine the tiniest female voice in my head, “Christmas is coming.”

 

I pay for the American Flyer train set at the register and smile.

 

I get to my off base quarters and set up the train underneath the Christmas Tree.

 

All Aboard !

 

Since 1989, a Warren train of some kind, size, color description, with an alternating cargo of cars has made the Christmas run around the tree.

 

In 2011, we had to pack away the train for shipping. Christmas 2012, I have yet to discover, where I put it.

 

In life, you get too old to sit on the floor and “play with toys.”

 

But, in life, you should NEVER get too old to rely on your imagination and creativity to move you through the daily tasks of life.

 

By Christmas 2013, I expect: “The Train and Christmas will be back on track.”

 

Merry Christmas !

 

Sam

TOY ROBOT THUMBNAIL ONE

Toy Train

Tracks

 

Kids – Here are some links to get you started if you are interested in researching “toy” and “model” trains and railroads.

 

IF you ever have the opportunity to go to a “Toy Show” – go.

 

Try to talk to one of the toy dealers and ask them questions about the different types of scale like HO and O.

 

If you are interested in model cars, trucks and tractors, then, ask the toy dealer questions about the types of “scales” like 1/16th, 1/32nd, and 1/43rd.

 

Kids, take care of your toys. Some of the toys from my childhood in the 1950s and 1960s have been sold through the years and have resulted in some people being able to put a nice amount of money in the bank for the future.

 

Yes, toys can be an investment in your future.

 

Sam

 

Lionel

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lionel_Corporation

American Flyer

http://www.americanflyertrains.com/

 

Lehmann Gross Bahn

LGB Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGB_(Lehmann_Gross_Bahn)

 

Bachmann Trains

http://www.bachmanntrains.com/home-usa/index.php

 

Bachmann Big Hauler

Trainweb.org

http://www.trainweb.org/girr/tips/tips1/big_hauler_tips.html

 

Aristocraft Toy Trains

http://www.aristocraft.com/

Collectors Weekly American Flyer

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/model-trains/american-flyer

 

Collectors Weekly Marx Toy Trains

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/model-trains/marx

 

Model Railroader Magazine

http://mrr.trains.com/

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

The Toy I Lost . . .At Sea by Samuel E. Warren Jr

with 8 comments

Common Sense procedures will protect your fleet of toys

 

The Toy

I Lost . . . At Sea

TEXACO TOY TANKER_1961_resized

Texaco S.S.North Dakota

Toy oil tanker by Wen Mac Company

In 1961, the Wen Mac Company produced this wonderful toy for kids. I got to enjoy my ship for about two hours. The majority of that “play time” was worry. I watched it bob about on the waters of the “Wild Warren Sea” in the southwest Missouri Ozarks.

 

These fleets of wonderful toy ships sometimes ride anchor on the virtual ebay sea. Aspiring young captains and first mates set course to surf or sail the cyber sea over to ebay for more information.

 

by Samuel E. Warren Jr,

 

The beauty of my childhood is there were great and affordable toys that parents could buy for their kids. There were numerous toy companies in the United States and toy companies overseas that shipped toys to the United States.

 

There were all types of great and interesting toys. The toys were rubber, pressed tin, metal, plastic, battery operated and early remote control toys. The electronic toys, gadgets, gizmos and computer games were still 20 to 30 years in the future.

 

Kids in the 1950s and 1960s still had to rely on their imaginations, creativity and the manual labor of sitting on the kitchen floor or in the yard to play with your toys.

 

My toy box in the garage had become a miniature salvage yard of toy cars and trucks that had failed the child stress test of playtime. I didn’t abuse or misuse my toys. Like Real World automobiles and aircraft, sometimes the advertising does not live up to the realities of day to day use.

 

I had some toys that I was particular about because I enjoyed playing with them and they were fun to use. Usually those toys, ended up in the house. The toys I was extremely particular with went in a refrigerator-sized cardboard box in a corner of the laundry room. Those were the special toys that I only brought out when other kids came to play or at special times. The games were on top.

 

I knew I was a lucky kid. I was also an only child, which meant I didn’t share my toys on a day to day basis. I did not have a lot of ships in my toy inventory.

 

When we moved to the farm in Missouri, I “forward deployed” the toys I didn’t want to live without. The yearly trip to Texas, more toys ended up “deployed to Missouri.” The pedal car, pedal tractor and the tricycle, eventually got “reassigned” to Missouri.

Daddy’s two trips a year, he would bring me toys, especially as presents at Christmas.

 

Samuel E. Warren arrived in Galena for his Fourth of July visit in 1961. Daddy brought me a beautiful plastic toy ship. I opened the box. It was a beautiful Texaco tanker ship, the .S.S. North Dakota.

 

The red body wide hull displayed a wide ribbon of black around the top of the vessel. The white wheelhouse and accessories on the deck made the ship look like a real ship.

 

I put the D batteries in the ship and rushed over the rocks to the farm pond.

 

Common sense means I should have taken the time to read over the manual. I should of waited until I had “brand new” D size batteries for the ship. I should of gotten a good night’s sleep and then went to the pond to “christen” the ship with her maiden voyage.

 

I turned the ship on, the tiny propellers spin. I set the ship in the water. Ripples of water stream around the ship.

 

On her maiden voyage she was underway across the wide cow pond. I watched proudly. In the middle of the pond, the ship slows and seems to drop anchor. The engine had quit. The batteries were wore out. The ship sat in the middle of the pond, “dead in the water.”

 

I should of used new D batteries. I made a dumb decision.

 

In childhood, patience is not something that comes naturally.

 

Momma had always told me not to throw rocks in the pond. After all, you pay someone to dig a deep hole to let the rain fill up for cattle, so you don’t want rocks back in the water. Sometimes lime would have to be added to the soil to help maintain the water in the pond.

 

This pond had always been a problem. It just didn’t seem to want to hold water. I looked at my “elite of the fleet” vessel “lost at sea” in the middle of the pond. The afternoon sun was thrusting out the last rays of daylight. I tried to weigh my options.

The pond was deep enough to swim a horse, I couldn’t walk out and get the ship. From time to time, in this farm pond,you would see a snake swimming along.

 

 

A ripple effect should generate enough energy to push the ship forward toward the shore. The theory seemed practical.

 

I threw rocks in the water to create ripples to guide the ship to shore. The ship bobbed about on the artificial waves I kept picking up and tossing in rocks. The ripple effect worked for awhile.

 

Black Angus and Polled Hereford cattle strolled to the pond to drink. Some wondered out into the pond and created ripples that helped to sail the ship. Then, the cattle went back ashore.

 

I became anxious and picked up bigger rocks to toss in the water. Unfortunately, some of those rocks generated intense ripples. My rock shelling of the ship was a bad decision.

 

My rescue operation had turned into an accidental aerial bombardment. The rocks plopped into the water and generated large exploded splashes of water around the ship’s bow and stern.

 

The rock flak wasn’t generating ripples; it was creating seismic tsunamis that were lashing into the toy ship’s hull. The plastic tanker was bobbing about. I didn’t think it would be a problem. I thought, the toys was naturally correcting it’s course based on the nature of the water.

 

I should have relied more on science and my common sense than my optimism. I saw the ship was shifting in the water. I made the bad decision to keep “shelling” rocks at the toy ship.

 

Wide webs of water splashed against the ship’s hull a few more times. Then, the ship listed over on it’s side. I stopped throwing rocks into the water. The ship laid on it’s side in the water for a few moments. I hoped it would move closer to the shore.

 

A few moments passed. Suddenly, I watched the toy ship slip beneath the waves.

 

My North Dakota tanker slipped beneath the water of The Wild Warren Sea.

 

As of December 2011, the toy Texaco tanker ship the .S.S. North Dakota still rests on the bottom of that farm pond in Missouri.

 

The moral to the story is: “Play with your toys and enjoy them.” If you take care of your toys like any tool, you will have them for years to come. If you abuse or misuse your toys, then, all you will be left with is a memory.

 

Sam

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Written by samwarren55

December 24, 2012 at 7:29 PM

The Ozarks Christmas Dinner 1966 by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

with 2 comments

Grandma DeLong and Uncle Richard’s House

The Ozarks

Christmas Dinner

1966

GRANDMA DELONGS BUTTER MOLD

 

Grandma DeLong’s Butter Mold

Grandma Martha Lou Marcum DeLong taught me “How To Milk A Cow,”when I was five years old. No fancy milking machine. I used my thumb and finger on the cow’s udder. Most of the stream of the milk went on me and not in the bucket. I knew I would never be a dairy farmer. Grandma used the milk to churn butter. Once the butter was churned, she used this butter mold to imprint a design into the cake of butter. She used “Clabber Girl” baking powder to make her biscuits from scratch. Once you added the butter to the fresh biscuits out of the old wood cook stove, “It was good eatin’ ! Every breakfast was like a Christmas Day Breakfast !” Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

christmas-tree-logo-photo-two-thumbnail_thumb[1]Home is where I kick my shoes off and feel, “This is where I belong.”

 

In childhood, I felt at home in the big, white clapboard house in Houston. It had an extremely narrow driveway that ended at the garage in the backyard. The property was surrounded by a cyclone fence.

 

In Missouri, home was always Grandma and Uncle Richard’s house. You turned off the state highway and rose up a wide gravel driveway to the top of the knoll. To the left was the traditional worn wood country barn with the hay loft. The driveway ended near the power pole.

 

Home To Grandma’s House

 

To the right of the power pole sat a small house with a built on porch. The yard hadTHUMBNAIL 2 THE OZARKS OLD HOUSE_PHOTO BY SAMUEL E WARREN JR three Tonka trees and a huge snowball bush. The yard tapered down into a ditch beside the highway.

 

Brief traces of white paint were visible on the porch, which sagged under the weight of age. A huge flat rock served as a step on to the porch. In autumn, ricks of wood occupied the porch. In spring and summer,

Grandma DeLong would sit on the porch and look up the road toward Abesville.  If she wasn’t peeling potatoes on the porch, then, she would be sitting outside with her fly swatter ready to swat flies.

There was always a string of hot red peppers that hung on the porch like a string of forgotten Christmas lights. Through the year, people would sit on the porch and “visit” with grandma or Uncle Richard. 

Grandma had quite a few chickens that she shut up in the hen house at night.  I would go with her to “gather up the eggs.”  She would put some of the eggs in cartons in the ice box and sell some of the eggs to people who wanted “farm fresh” eggs.

In the 1960s, grandma also raised rabbits.  Every two or three weeks, “The Old Rabbit Man” would stop by to buy some of the rabbits that she had raised.

 

The Kitchen

 

As dusk began to settle, you would stroll across the creaking wooden porch into the kitchen. To your left was a long wooden table that held two white enamel buckets of water.

 

The bucket nearest the door usually had the dipper in it, in case you wanted a drink of water.

 

There was an old battered gray dishpan that sat on the table and it’s function was that of a sink. You dipped water into the pan and washed your hands. Then, you tossed the dirty dish water out the door into the yard.

 

The white cupboard beside the door held the dishes. The huge white refrigerator sat next to the cupboard.

 

By the wood table was the wood box that held the wood for the cook stove. A white enamel dishpan hung on a nail by the cook stove. Grandma usually sat on her tall, wooden swivel stool by the cook stove. Her stool was at the end of the loud, gaudy, yellow art deco formica topped table, which was the kitchen table,

 

Living Room

 

When you got up from the table you stepped into the living room, which was also Grandma’s bedroom. Her cast iron headboard and footboard were set up against the wall.

 

In the center of the room, in the autumn and winter was the pot bellied cast iron heating stove. A doorway beside the heating stove lead into Uncle Richard’s bedroom.

 

The entire house had three rooms and in the early 1970s a laundry room was built on the back of the house. There was no indoor plumbing, The natural call of nature were answered by a trip down to the hillside.

 

Uncle Joe had built an outhouse behind the house. The house had a gable roof. Siding was a brown brick pattern of tar paper over black tar paper.

 

THUMBNAIL 1 THE OZARKS OLD HOUSE_PHOTO BY SAMUEL E WARREN JRMomma once told me the entire house once sat in the head of a holler, across the road, where Uncle Richard later built a goat house and corral for his wool goats.

In the 1940s,daddy, Uncle Richard and Uncle Hobert moved the house from the holler to the location across the road.

 

The Charley Herman and Martha Lou Marcum DeLong Family had lived on this land since the early 1930s.

 

Rock Porch

 

The back of the house faced the state highway. The two screen doors, near the center, opened out on to a strange rock porch. The concrete foundation of the porch rose up about four feet and the top of the porch was a crude rock garden floor of rocks.

The rocks were, probably, used because they had been picked up out of the yard.  There was nothing special about these rocks.  They were just big,old,sharp, flint rocks of different sizes. Grandma had about six four o’clock plants planted around the porch.

 

Old Tree

 

One of the most amazing feature of the front yard was the ancient tree that set a few yards to the left of the house. It was wide and easy to crawl up into. Cousin Donna, I and our cousins, Bert and Ronnie could easily climb into the tree and sit or play on the branches.

 

Grandma’s house was the center of family social functions. Birthdays, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations everyone made the journey to grandma’s house.

 

The house was small and the kitchen had limitations to timely food preparation. Momma was a good cook, but it took Thanksgiving and Christmas for her to reveal her cooking skills.

 

My childhood house I called the “Hen House” because of the backward slanted shed roof. It was like a badly designed house trailer. However, the house did have indoor plumbing and a working gas stove.

 

The Chores

 

Uncle Richard had his farm chores that involved checking on his 25 head of Black Angus cattle and feeding three sows. He had two Clydesdale work horses, Bob and Fred that he used to plow the corn field.

In the 1960s, Uncle Richard had between 50 and 100 head of wool goats.  In the spring, they would pin up the goats and shear off the wool to put into sacks to take to Crane to sell to a wool buyer.  It usually took two to five days to shear the goats because instead of electric clippers, the scissors were sharp metal.

I always felt sorry for the goats because they looked so funny afterwards.  They had beautiful sets of regal looking horns, but without their wool they looked like they were wearing the type of pink thermal underwear that had the trap door in the back.

 

By the 1970s, Bob and Fred were gone and Kate the old white mule and Hazel the young brown mule inherited the plowing duties.

 

The John Deere Model A tractor had a side starter that was a nuisance to try to start, so it usually sat in the field, near the road, like a forgotten road sign.

 

Whenever some wood had to be sawed there was a long rubber belt that could be put around the starter to operate a saw device, which was another use for the neglected tractor that witnessed Kate and Hazel doing the serious plowing.

 

Momma had her farm chores to do everyday, which involved checking on her 50 head of Black Angus cattle and her growing herd of hogs.

 

Holiday Menu

 

Around the holidays, once her chores were done, then, Momma would start a day before the holiday to cook dinner.

 

Mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, green beans, honey glazed ham with the Dole pineapple rings were the food items on the Thanksgiving and Christmas menus. Black eyed peas were considered “Good Luck” in Texas, so Momma always added the black-eyed peas to the Missouri menu.

 

The DeLong Family all loved the orange sweet potatoes. Momma would always load up a long wide Pyrex dish with the candied yams. The yams are one of the foods that always seemed to disappear quickly.

 

Momma like fried okra, cooked cabbage,spinach and fried green tomatoes She usually found the time to add these dishes to the table.

 

Uncle Richard and I loved pinto beans, so Momma would always cook a big pot, Uncle Richard liked the soup and I liked the beans. Momma always cooked the beans until they just melted in your mouth.

 

Grandma DeLong always used Clabber Girl baking power to make her biscuits from scratch. Momma would begin cooking dishes on our gas stove and in the gas oven at home. Then, she would take the cooked food and more food to cook on the cook stove up to grandmas.

 

Aunt Mary DeLong would usually show up early in the morning of a holiday to help with the cooking.

 

The Cook Stove

 

Grandma DeLong used a cast iron “cook stove”, which was a huge oblong piece of metal that look like an unfinished robot. It had an oblong head supported by a slender throat of metal over a flat cooking surface. In the stomach of the metal beast was a door to an oven. The whole contrapcion sit on four cast iron legs.

 

There were four circular lids that contained an indentation for a metal handle that would be inserted to raise any one of the lids. Once the lid was raised then a stick of wood about six to eight inches was inserted into the iron beast.

 

Kindling, the smaller pieces of wood, and paper were added and lit with a match or a cigarette lighter to get the fire started. One the flames were leaping up between the sticks of wood, then, you put the cover back over the opening.

 

A cast iron skillet was added to the flat surface. And,the metal coffee pot usually rested on the stove. Cooking wasn’t fast on the old “cook stove.” Preparing Thanksgiving Dinner or Christmas Dinner was an all day affair.

 

Frying bacon in the cast iron skillet on the flat surface was done to come up with bacon grease. In the 1960s, before cooking oil and vegetable oil became popular farm housewives used what they had, which was bacon grease to cook with.

 

The hot grease could be poured into a container to cool and it solidified, When you needed it, you would spoon out some into a hot skillet and the grease once again became liquid and like cooking oil.

The Stories

Grandma DeLong was the family storyteller,  Whenever Cousin Donna or I got the chance to spend the day at grandma’s we took the opportunity.  She would sit at the end of the kitchen table on her swivel wooden stool and tell us stories about the early days of Stone County,  She would relate her experiences in The Great Depression.

Thanksgiving and Christmas were usually the days that she got to sit in the kitchen and have people tell her stories about their lives.  Grandma was a “good listener.”  And, Grandma DeLong was a curious person. 

She would ask a question that would sometimes catch someone totally off guard.  They would see the small woman with her silver hair in a French bun and think of her as a “sweet, little old lady.”  But. this sweet, little old lady was always curious and had a sense of humor and would ask her question.

The person being questioned might blush, but Grandma DeLong didn’t get embarrassed.

Thanksgiving and Christmas Days were usually the days that grandma didn’t have to cook. She sat at the end of the bright yellow art deco formica topped kitchen table“supervised” and “visited” with friends who stopped by and family members who sat down at the table.

One of the most comfortable features of being at Grandma’s house was how people would get them a cup of coffee and sit down at the kitchen to talk,  Everyone always seemed to feel at home.  People were always at ease,

Friends, family and neighbors would sit down at the kitchen table and just casually speak about their day and the events that were going on in their lives.

The beauty of childhood is when you observe some actions, you are willing to allow your imagination to supply the rationale.I had a suspicion that the loud, gaudy, yellow kitchen table was actually a scientific, sophisticated gizmo that simply encouraged people to freely express their thoughts and views.

In 1960, Papa Warren, Mama Warren, Aunt Bill and Uncle Audrey came to Missouri to visit for a couple of weeks. When daddy would sit down at the table, grandma would have all kinds of questions to ask about the family in Texas and the job.

 

1958 CHEVROLET _Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr. 0215_resized

American Classic

1958 Chevrolet

This 1958 Chevrolet circles the square, during Stone County, Missouri’s 160th Anniversary Celebration. My Uncle Audrey and Aunt Bill Warren Irwin owned a beautiful emerald green 1958 Chevrolet. Uncle Audrey was meticulous about the automobile. In 1960, Uncle Audrey, Aunt Bill, Papa Warren and Mama Warren came up to The Ozarks from Simpsonville, Texas for a couple of weeks in Uncle Audrey’s ’58 Chevy. As a child one of the factors that I always appreciated about the 1950s General Motors Corporation automobiles were how the designers used the grilles to create a facial expression for the vehicle.   Every time I see a ‘58 Chevy, I smile because it always reminds me of Aunt Bill and Uncle Audrey, Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

Home For The Holidays

 

Every two or three years, Aunt Reva DeLong and her husband, Uncle Dennis would arrive to celebrate Christmas.

 

Uncle Dennis served in the United States Marine Corps. They would bring their two sons, Bert and Ronnie. Bert grew up to serve in the United States Air Force. Ronnie grew up to serve in the United States Navy.

 

Of course, when family returned for the holiday, friends and neighbors would stop by to visit. While the adults would sit down to visit over a cup of coffee, we kids would go outside and go into the woods to play.

On Thanksgiving and Christmas Days we didn’t stray that far from the kitchen, so we would go out and play on the old tree.

 

Every Christmas, daddy would bring Uncle Richard a fifth of Seagram’s Seven. Uncle Richard would smile and then go hide it under his bed.

Uncle Richard knew Uncle Joe was suppose to be coming home for the holidays, then, Uncle Richard would take his fifth of Seagram’s out to the barn to hide it.

 

Sometimes Uncle Joe would get time off from the Burlington Northern railroad and come home to celebrate Christmas.

 

Momma, Opal M. DeLong Warren, would of pulled out all the stops and been in her Christmas mode. Once Momma and Aunt Mary was done with the cooking the food would be sat on the table. Everyone would get them a plate and help themselves.

 

Once the dishes were cleared away into the dish pan on the corner of the cook stove, then, the adults would sit with there coffee at the kitchen table and talk.

 

Grandma Delong “went to bed with the chickens”, which meant by 6 pm or 8 pm she would go to bed and the rest of the adults would sit in the kitchen and talk usually until midnight.

 

The family coming home for the holidays. The vast amount of food on the table. The conversations throughout the day until the evening. All of these observations on Thanksgiving and Christmas Days were what I understood to be the meaning of the family getting together for the holidays.

 

Throughout the year, Momma would remind me that, “Family is everything.” Christmas Dinner at Grandma DeLong’s always seem to bring family together from around the United States.  There was always the feeling that everyone who walked through the door looked forward to the opportunity to come back “home for the holidays.”

 

Merry Christmas !

 

Sam

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Written by samwarren55

December 24, 2012 at 1:43 AM

Posted in Bloggers, Blogs, Business, Ecology, Family, Food, Money, Nature, Observances, Opinion, Stone County History, The Ozarks, Tourism

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Christmas Day in the Ozarks 1966 by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

with 8 comments

 

Childhood Christmas Celebration

 

Christmas Day in the Ozarks

1966

COUNTRY LAMPS

 

The Ozarks’

Kerosene Lamps

The Ozarks Electric Cooperative and White River Electric Cooperative were two Ozarks power companies that were working to provide consistent, stable electricity to the farms and homes of Stone County, Missouri in the 1960s. In the winter, Ozark’s snowfall would bring trees and limbs down on power lines and families would have to resort to kerosene lamps at night until the power companies could get back into the rural hills and hollers to repair or replace the power poles. In the southwest Missouri Ozarks’ snow is usually on the ground for Christmas Day,so these decorative “coal-oil” lamps were always an important functional holiday decoration to have ready throughout the winter. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

 

by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

Friday December 9, 1966

I come back home from school and Momma has a four foot Christmas Tree set up. The cedar tree looks impressive sitting in the three pound Folgers Coffee can in the center of the wooden office desk.

 

The heavy wooden desk had originally belonged to J. Frank Couch, of Gilmer, Texas. Papa Warren had bought it from J. Frank and given it to Momma, “for Sam Junior to do his school work on.” It is a beautiful, heavy flat top wooden desk, with a slender middle drawer and three deep side drawers on each side.

 

Gravel from the driveway is packed tightly around the trunk of the tree. This year, like the years before, Momma had walked into the woods, across the road, with her ax and cut down the tree.

 

I know I will have to “water” the tree to try and keep it alive until Christmas.

 

christmas-tree-logo-photo-two-thumbnail_thumb[1]The nice thing about our Christmas Trees is they were “FREE”. One plant, other than ragweed, that seems to appreciate Stone County, Missouri’s rocky soil is cedar trees.

 

Momma’s “Warren Land” and Uncle Richard’s “DeLong Land” kept the Stone County courthouse in Christmas Trees for more than a decade.

 

Late November or early December, someone from the county would “stop by” and ask Momma if the county could get a Christmas Tree off of her land or Uncle Richard’s. Momma’s standard response: “Take an ax and cut as many as you want.”

 

Momma had her box of Christmas decorations sitting on the floor by the desk. I reached in and got the little strips of flimsy aluminum that is suppose to represent icicles and put it on the branches.

 

Later, Reynolds Wrap aluminum from the kitchen will swaddle the coffee can to become the tree skirt. It will give me something to do after I finish my homework.

 

When I got home from school, the old white Chevrolet pickup was parked in the driveway, which meant Momma was home. I suspect that she is down on the hillside in one of the hog houses, which means one of the old sows is probably ready to have pigs.

 

A few minutes later, Momma came in and said, “One of the old sows is acting up. I put her in the shed. She will probably have pigs tonight or in the morning. Do you have homework ?”

 

Yes, mam. I know, take off your school clothes and get on your homework.”

 

She smiles and nods.

 

Sam Junior’s Hot Dog Sandwiches

 

A couple of hours pass. I go in the kitchen and take wieners out of the ice box.

 

I know how to cook one thing – hot dogs.

 

I turn on the gas stove and heat up the water in a white enamel quart sauce pan. Once the water, steams and boils like a witches’ cauldron,then, I would dump in the wieners.

I come from a family that does not believe in “Raw Meat.” We cook our food. I would always wait until the steaming water bubbled like sulphuric acid.

 

I would watch the wieners boiled in the pan. Usually, I would take them out before they ruptured. Sometimes I would allow the hot water to rupture the wiener. Then, I would pour the hot water down the sink.

 

I had laid out slices of bread on the counter. With a layer of mayonnaise or Miracle Whip on the bread. If the wieners had not ruptured, then, I would take a butcher knife and slice the wieners lengthwise.

 

Once sliced, I would position the wieners on he bread and fold out the sides so that the wieners looked like tall, pink butterflies.

 

Two wieners on a slice of bread would fill the slice. I would spoon on relish. Then, I squirted on catsup and added a slice of cheese before using the other slice of bread as a top. On Momma’s hot dog sandwiches, I would add a squirt of French’s mustard.

 

In the dark ages, before the invention of the microwave, you had to be able to at least cook a little.

 

Hillbilly Hog Hospital

 

HOG HOUSE LANTERN THUMBNAIL 1Momma comes back to the house. She had a couple of hot dog sandwiches. Since the first grade, Momma has asked me what we had for lunch at school today. Usually, I remember. Today, I can’t remember.

“It is Friday, which means it is the weekend. She tells me about her day and I really don’t have anything interesting to tell about my school day. After a few minutes she heads back down on the hill to wait for the old sow to have the pigs.”

 

When you have three or four old sows, there is the likelihood that a couple of old sows may “pig” on the same night. When your herd is expanding toward the number 25, rest assured there will be days and nights when you feel like a nurse in a maternity ward rushing from one sow to another.

 

If Momma had a couple of old sows in “delivery mode”, she would keep an eye on one and I would “play doctor” for the other.

 

When a pig is born, the important function is to clear away the afterbirth from the nostrils so the little squealer can breath. Keep an eye on the sow, because a squeal from the newborn pig will have the old sow trying to get up to check on her baby.

 

Every now and then, Momma would have a “mean old sow” that would rather fight than have her pigs. You always kept your distance from an old sow in labor.

 

Momma comes back to the house. She has another old sow that will probably haveHOG HOUSE LANTERN THUMBNAIL 1 pigs tonight. She has already got that old sow in the lower shed. I just need to get ready and go down on the hill. She will keep an eye on the old sow in the upper shed. I get to watch the old sow in the lower shed. Daddy has the sheds wired for lights. The light in that shed usually works.

 

My old sow is not suppose to be mean. The sow Momma is watching is usually mean, when she starts to pig. I will just have to watch my old sow and make sure she doesn’t lay down on any of her pigs by accident.

 

A severe labor pain can cause an old sow to “jump up.” When an old sow jumps up from labor, she is fighting the pain and anything nearby that could be the source of her pain becomes the target.

 

Snorting and grunting the old sow will come at you. I was taught there is only one way to “Stop” an old sow or boar that is charging at you.

 

Farm stores don’t sell tranquilizer guns. Pharmacies don’t sell farmers Novocain or any type of livestock muscle relaxer drugs. The farmer has to rely on his God-given common sense and the shared knowledge from other farmers.

 

You pick up a stick of wood, a shovel, a hoe, an ax handle or any type of tool handle you can get your hands on. Then, you swing it down as hard as you can across the hog’s snout, That will stop the hog in it’s tracks” Momma told me time and again.

 

HOG HOUSE LANTERN THUMBNAIL 1Momma explained that you busted the item over the hog’s snout to stop it from charging at you. You can slap a hog on the side and it will shrug off the blow like a nuisance house fly. Hogs go through brush and saplings in the woods, so they just shrug off the scrapes and keep going.

 

I don’t know if the procedure would work for everyone, but the procedure always worked for me to stop our Yorkshire, Duroc and Hampshire sows. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do it too often.

 

My old sow had 12 pigs. Momma’s old sow had 15. My old sow had a runt, but he looks okay.

 

Momma’s old sows averaged 12 to 18 pigs by the time she put the two bulk hog feeders out in the field. The bulk hog feeders were the science fiction equipment on any hog farm.

 

Take Me To Your Feeder”

 

By the early 1970s, Momma had bought two bulk hog feeders. The two fat, cylindrical tubes were connected to their respective oversized metal bowls that had a series of lids that hogs could raise with their noses.

 

Whenever I stood out in the field and looked at the bulk hog feeders they always looked like two strange fat, short, landed UFOs.

 

I could always imagine a tiny green man asking me to take him to my leader. I just always hoped I got to the little alien before one of the old sows went rooting around and decided that he looked more like a root than an alien.

 

Sunday, December 18, 1966

 

Daddy arrived from Houston early this morning. I love it when I see that blue and white fleet side half ton pickup pulling into the driveway. It means daddy is home for a couple of weeks.

 

Aunt Bill sent me one of her German Chocolate Cakes. And, the white coffee can tin with the gold shape of the state of Texas was packed to the brim with Aunt Bill’s Chocolate Chip Cookies. She packed the cookies in wax paper in the can,so they did not crumble. I love these cookies.

 

When daddy came home for the Fourth of July, he didn’t go by Aunt Bill’s house before he headed for Missouri. Daddy said Aunt Bill got on to him for not stopping at her house first, because she had some chocolate chip cookies to send to me. This time, daddy said, Aunt Bill didn’t take any chances. She made sure she and Uncle Audrey went by the house the night before daddy left out for Missouri. Thanks to Aunt Bill, we got the cake and the cookies.

 

I don’t know if we will go Christmas shopping in Springfield tonight. I know daddy is tired from the drive, but I hope we get to go.

 

I did get to go Christmas shopping, The trip from Houston to Galena always wore you out. I know daddy had to be tired, but he knew that I looked forward to him coming home for the holidays. We looked everywhere for the Operation game. We spent every night going shopping before Christmas.

 

Monday, December 19, 1966

 

I didn’t have to ride the bus from school tonight. Daddy and Momma picked me up once school let out and we headed to Springfield to do more Christmas shopping. I really want the “Operation” game for Christmas. Store after store in Springfield said they had it, but it sold out fast.

 

Last weekend, I even talked Momma into going to Springfield and going “down on the square.” Momma doesn’t like shopping on the square. It is always a pain for her or daddy trying to find a place to park to shop on the square.

 

Earlier in the month. Momma and I went to Aurora to the stores, to try and find the game. No luck.

 

I didn’t get the Operation game for Christmas. That year we left no stone unturned trying to find the game.

 

In the 1960s, The Ozarks seemed a remote location “right smack dab in the center of the United States.: If something “new” in terms of fashion, toys or technology got released or announced in New York City or Los Angeles it meant that it would be at least six months and probably a year before the item would be released and available for purchase in The Ozarks.

 

December 2011, I was curious about the types of toys the stores are selling for kids at Christmas. I strolled into the toy aisle of the Wal-Mart store in Branson West Missouri, there in the games section were plenty of brand new “Operation” games waiting for parent and grandparents to purchase them.

 

 

Home Sweet Hen House

 

I started school at Abesville Elementary in 1960. Momma and I arrived and she was looking for a small place to buy, so I could go to school in Missouri. If I started school in Missouri I could start at age five. If I were to start school in Texas I would have to wait until age six.

 

Momma already owned her land in Missouri that she and daddy planned to build their “Dream Home” on when he retired. Time and again, I heard her tell people we were just looking for a place we could, “batch.” I understood it to mean a “temporary” location.

 

We ended up with a house about a quarter of a mile down the road from Grandma and Uncle Richard. It was a weird house. It had a weird design. US houses in Missouri had gabled roofs.

Our house had a “Hen House” roof. Technically, the roof style is called a, “Shed Roof.” However, in Missouri in the 1960s, when people built their chicken houses they seemed to use the slanted roof.

 

Ernest Cloud build our house. Everyone always talked about the beautiful work Ernest did as a cabinet maker. The story is that whenever there were leftover pieces from construction jobs that he worked on, he would use those materials and built the house that we lived in.

 

In The Ozarks, in the 1960s people were building homes out of beautiful red brick. Older homes that used the giant rocks belonged to the 1930s, 1940s and a few to the 1950s. The rock houses had huge rock and a wide white line between the stones.

 

Alas, our hen house was a rock house. It had a garage attached, which only served to continue the hen house look.

 

In the beginning, even though we lived by the state highway, there were so many trees in the yard, the house was almost completely hidden from the highway.

 

A slight pig trail through the trees was the only indication that there was something in the woods.

 

At dusk, the slender, anorexic trees blocking the way looked like a Hollywood movie setting for a horror flick. In the sunlight, we were still so far back in the boonies from the main highway, “God had to pump in sunshine.”

 

Momma bought some hair goats for the brush and sprouts. Then, she bought a chain saw and the trees began to disappear. Suddenly, the hen house sat close enough for everyone going by to see.

 

While I was in the United States Air Force in the early 1980s, the roof of the hen house fell in. Momma got a trailer and put it on the property until she could get what she wanted. The remains of the hen house got bulldozed down on the hillside.

 

Thank God for the invention of the bulldozer.

 

I never liked the house that we lived in because most of the rooms seemed slightly larger than a Ma Bell phone booth. These series of phone booths had simply been joined together to resemble something like a house. The kitchen was so small you had to go outside to change your mind,

 

The fireplace collected soot and weary birds. In the winter time, the fireplace was more of a huge draft that let in cold air, rather than a fireplace. Momma finally blocked off the fireplace and got a large gas heater stove to shut out the cold.

 

If you have ever saw the 1986 movie, “The Money Pit” with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long, then, you have an idea of the hen house that we batched in. The movie house was a nice, prestigious looking building; our house didn’t look that good and it had the hen house roof.

 

Operation Christmas Tree

 

Sunday, December 25, 1966

 

In Houston, I would bolt out of bed and rush through our huge old house toward the Christmas Tree. The house had cathedral ceilings. It was an old home, but it was majestic.

You rushed down the hallways and it was like being a kid and running through Westminster Cathedral. You were celebrating being alive and you wanted all of God’s creatures to know it.

 

In Galena, the house was small. It was cozy because it was cramped. The still green Christmas Tree sat on the desk. Brightly wrapped boxes were positioned around the tree.

 

Tonka Pink Surrey Jeep

 

Aunt Bill and Uncle Audrey always sent me something for Christmas. I ripped open theTONKA PINK SURREY JEEP THUMBNAIL 1 wrapping paper and got through the outer box to the toy box. I got the Tonka Pink Surrey Jeep that I had wanted since I had seen it.

 

Elvis Presley in the movie, “Blue Hawaii” had drove this type of jeep. I learned to dance watching Elvis Presley on TV as a kid.

On a family outing to Galveston, Texas, a couple of years later, a Pink Surrey Jeep had passed us on the highway.

 

Aunt Bill always listened to me. I had told her about the Elvis-type jeep that had passed us on the way to Galveston. Of course, I told her I had seen the jeep toy in a store. I had even forgotten about the jeep until I saw the box. As always, Aunt Bill came through.

 

1960s Secret Agents

 

Once I saw Patrick McGoohan in the TV show, “Secret Agent”, I became intrigued with the ideas of “secret agents.” Roger Moore was “The Saint.” Sean Connery became “James Bond” the famous “007.” Dean Martin did the tongue in cheek, “Matt Helm” movies. James Coburn was “Flint.”

 

While the 1960s were about “The Space Race,” The Cold War remained a reality. The Americans didn’t trust the Russians. The Russians didn’t trust the Americans. Nobody trusted “The Red Chinese.”

 

In America, China was a Communist country and the location meant it was the “Far East”, which meant, “The Orient” and in the 1960s there weren’t that many Americans, other than Chinese-Americans, who spoke Chinese.

 

The Russians didn’t seem in the Cold War days to trust the Chinese. Russia had Lenin Communism. China had went with Trotsky Communism under Mao Tse tung. Trotsky had to flee the Soviet Union and the Russians, evidently didn’t appreciate the fact that one of their “political exiles” had influenced a neighboring government.

 

Of course, in the never-ending debate of forms of government, “The A-Bomb Paranoia” loomed large in the back of everyone’s mind. The Americans were afraid the Soviets would launch their Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles. The Russians were afraid the Americans would launch their ICBMs. Then, around 1964, China announced they had “Nukes.”

 

Spy flicks and novels were all the rage in the 1960s because “The Nuclear Politics Of The Cold War” had every country worried about their neighbors. Of course, the “spies” were the guys who always brought the world back from the brink on TV and in the movies.

 

Secret Sam

 

Topper Toys came out with one of the best “secret agent” toys, “Secret Sam.” Instead of using suave, debonair,handsome men to advertise their toy, Topper put kids in trench coats. Suddenly, America had legions of the worlds smallest spies ready to save the world.

 

I was ecstatic when I opened the wrapping and saw my “Secret Sam” briefcase.

 

MY SECRET SAM BRIEFCASE_Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

Secret Sam

The Atomic Bomb fallout of World War II created a Global Paranoia that pitted every nation in the world against one another in a never-ending Olympics of Cold War politics in which countries were suppose to choose up sides and go with one of the Super Powers: The Americans, The Soviets, or The Red Chinese. The only escape from the persistent paranoia was television and movie stories of brave espionage agents, who were always battling in the shadows,“The Bad Guys.” Topper Toys noticed that kids wanted to be “Secret Agents”, so they started selling this toy espionage kit with the periscope, message missile, pistol, silencer and the camera, Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

 

Secret Sam is a futuristic looking pistol with several attachments like a periscope. There is the message missile, where you can put a message inside and slip the orange sleeve on the rod. Then, you shoot the missile. The whole briefcase amazed me. I liked the function that you could push the circular button to shoot a plastic bullet out of the briefcase. The plastic peg on one end you press down to take a picture with the camera concealed in the briefcase.

 

Secret Sam quickly became one of those toys that allowed kids to become Peter Graves or one of the “operatives” in the “Mission Impossible” TV show.

 

MY SECRET SAM BRIEFCASE _closed_Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

In this photograph the “Secret Sam” briefcase toy is closed. The circular indentation is the side button you pushed to launch plastic bullets. There is a plastic peg that you push down to take a picture with the concealed camera in the case. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

Operation Christmas Tree 1966 is over. You carefully replace your equipment in your briefcase. You hum the theme to “Secret Agent” and stroll confident toward the door. Your next port of call ?

 

Bucharest ? Budapest ? London ? Moscow ? Beijing ? Tel Aviv ?

 

Grandma’s house for Christmas Dinner.

 

Sam

 

Sam’s Wonderful World

of Toys Links

 

The robot that my mother and father bought me for Christmas 1959 was the Marx Electric Robot. It was not a handsome robot, but, the Morse Code functions and it’s ability to move amazed me. Of course, I was only about four years old at the time. The website below has more information on this unique robot toy. The other toy links are to remind you there should always be “a little child inside of all of us, when it comes to toys.”

 

Doc Atomic’s Attic Of Amazing Artifacts

http://astoundingartifacts.blogspot.com/2009/09/electric-robot-marx-1955.html

 

Toy Robot History

Daryl aka The Robotnut

http://www.robotnut.com/history/

 

Toys You Had

http://www.toysyouhad.com/

 

Antique Toys

http://www.antiquetoys.com/

 

Collectors Weekly

Toy Robots

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/attack-of-the-vintage-toy-robots-justin-pinchot-on-japans-coolest-postwar-export/

 

 

Alphadrome Toy Space Helmets

http://danefield.com/alpha/forums/topic/13898-toy-space-helmets/

 

Tootsie Toy Company

http://www.tootsietoy.com/

 

Louis Marx and Company Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Marx_and_Company

 

MARX Toy Museum

http://www.marxtoymuseum.com/

 

Mattel Toy Store

http://www.matteltoystore.com/

 

Hasbro United States

http://www.hasbro.com/?US

 

Hubley Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubley_Manufacturing_Company

 

ERTL Farm Toys

http://www.rcertl.com/

 

Scale Model

http://www.scalemodeltoys.com/

Toy Farmer Magazine

http://www.toyfarmer.com/

 

Kenner Products Wikipedia

http://www.antiquetoys.com/

 

Dinky Toys Dinky Site

http://www.dinkysite.com/

 

Toy Collector Magazine

http://www.toycollectormagazine.com/

 

Auburn Rubber Company Auburn Toys Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auburn_Rubber_Company

 

Tonka Trucks Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonka

 

Buddy L Toy Company Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddy_L

 

Structo Toy Trucks TNT Toy Trucks

http://www.tnttoytrucks.com/Structo.html

 

Toy Trucker & Contractor

http://www.toytrucker.com/

 

Wham-O Toys Inc.

http://www.wham-o.com/

 

Ideal Toy Company Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideal_Toy_Company

 

Remco Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remco

 

Topper Toys Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topper_Toys

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Written by samwarren55

December 23, 2012 at 9:32 PM

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Christmas Cash,Costs,Challenges of The Ozarks 1960s

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Christmas Cash,Costs, Challenges

of

The

Ozarks’

1960s

THE OZARKS OLD HOUSE_Photo by Samuel E Warren Jr_resized

The Old House

Of The Ozarks

This small house beside Missouri State Highway 176 in Stone County, Missouri in The Ozarks can go unnoticed by passing motorists. This Old House served as The DeLong Family Home in the 1960s. Birthday parties, Fourth of July, Halloween Trick or Treat events,Thanksgiving Supper and Christmas Day Dinner celebrations were held in the three – room house, which had a Laundry Room built on in the 1970s. There was no inside plumbing. Uncle Joe built an Outhouse down on the hillside. While the house did not have the social comforts of some 20th Century homes in The Ozarks; it always felt like “Home” to DeLong family members, who returned to Stone County and the Missouri Ozarks anytime of the year. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

christmas-tree-logo-photo-two-thumbnail_thumb[1]Home in my childhood was “The Ozarks.”

 

The Ozarks is one of the places in the world, where myth and reality live side by side.

 

You live your life in The Real World and sometimes it seems like you look up and see a wild,white-haired Mark Twain smiling down at you with his pen in hand.

 

The heavy snows of winter fall. The scene looks like a Currier and Ives lithograph on a china plate and then you feel the “bone chilling cold” enter your body. You see your breath. You trudge out of the knee-high snow into the warmth of your home.

 

You “warm” by the large, rectangular, dark brown “Warm Morning” gas stove and realize winter in The Ozarks means Christmas is usually just days away.

 

You get a hot cup of coffee and wonder why people think The Ozarks is “permanently stuck in an 1800s Time Warp.”

 

MV5BMTUzNzE1MjY0MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDE3MjU1MQ@@._V1._SX359_SY500_If you ever watched an episode of “The Beverly Hillbillies” you may believe the fictional characters represent “Life In The Ozarks.”

 

You would be wrong.

 

I grew up in the Ozarks and I never ate possum.

 

I have ate squirrel.

 

Uncle Hobert DeLong was a “dead on shot” with a rifle. Every time he went into the woods, he came back with a “mess of squirrels” and sometimes “a mess of rabbits.”

 

Of course, no one remembers Jed, granny and the rest of the Clampett were supposed to have been from Bugtussel, Tennessee and the characters get associated with The Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks.

 

Cartoonist Al Capp made a large fortune drawing the comic strip of Lil’ Abner for 43th years that reached 60 million readers in more than 900 American newspapers.

 

Capp’s newspaper comic strip was one of my mother’s favorites. Capp put the characters in Dogpatch, Kentucky, but as a kid everyone though if you were from The Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks, then, you must be like Lil’ Abner.

 

I never went to a Sadie Hawkin’s Day dance.

 

Dancing wasn’t allowed at Galena High School in the 1960s. It was an issue that came up with every senior class wanting a “Prom.” The Baptist and Pentecostal churches of the 1960s in Stone County were vocal in their objections and they kept the prom dance out of school.

 

I graduated in 1973 in a “Graduation Exercises” ceremony, but there was “No Prom” because the churches still didn’t allow dancing in school.

 

 

 

The Ozarks Hillbilly Stereotype

 

No matter how incorrect the “hillbilly” stereotype is about The Ozarks. Americans and foreigners seem to cling to the dumb hayseed and lazy cartoon and television stereotypes of “The Ozarks Hillbilly.”

 

The irony is that the Ozarks is pretty close to the center of the United States and it has always seemed like an “undiscovered country” to foreigners and other Americans.

 

My geographical calculations of “The Ozarks” begins from the southern city limits sign of Jefferson City to the southern city limits sign of Little Rock, Arkansas, which is what I always considered to be, “The Ozarks.”

 

Stone County, Missouri is in the southwest section of the state and borders Arkansas, which means, “reckon I grew up one of them thar’ Ozarks’ country boys.”

 

Missourians in the Ozarks joke, “If you don’t like the weather just wait 15 minutes and it will change.” There is truth to that joke. The weather doesn’t always change every 15 minutes, but in a 24-hour day, the weather can change several times in a day.

 

Pen To Paper

 

To put pen to paper and write a story about Christmas in The Ozarks, I will have to set the stage.

 

There are many famous Missourians from United States Army Generals of the Armies John Joseph “Blackjack” Pershing to “The Most Trusted Man In America” Walter Cronkite, but, usually the celebrities are known as Missourians and not necessarily, “Ozarkers.”

 

Neosho, Missouri’s Thomas Hart Benton put his brush strokes on canvas to paint pictures; I will try to paint a word picture of life in The Ozarks in the 1960s.

 

Tom Sawyer Childhood

 

Life in “The Ozarks” in Stone County, Missouri in the 1960s was like “Tom Sawyer on a tractor and in a pickup truck.” Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Midwest buckboards and stagecoaches were replaced by 18-wheelers, Greyhound and Continental Trailways buses.

 

Rose O’Neill’s Kewpie dolls could be still found in toy stores in the Ozarks. Overall, Life in southern Missouri had not changed all that much since the days of Mark Twain, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose O’Neill.

 

The Tomato Factories” of Reeds Spring, Abesville, and Galena in the 1930s had been replaced with “The Garment Factory” in Reeds Spring and Crane and Crane had a “Casket Factory.”

 

Fasco in Springfield, Missouri employed several people from Stone County. In 1960, Silver Dollar City was just beginning operations. Branson, Missouri in 1960 was “no threat” to country music in Nashville, but, Nashville musicians would begin to head for Branson, during the 1960s. In the area of economics, “times were tough”, in Stone County and southwest Missouri in 1960.

 

Blood Out Of A Turnip

 

Every nation has an economy. Money flows around in the metropolitan and urban areas, but in rural areas the ocean of money flows into a narrow stream that sometimes becomes a dry creek bed. In Stone County, it seemed even the rocks in the creek bed were usually “bone dry.”

 

After The Great Depression and World War II, the United States economy was strengthening. In the rural areas of the Ozarks, being “poor” is still a way of life.

 

In the early 1960s, the local power companies were working hard to provide, stable and reliable electricity.

 

Stone County, Missouri had a reputation of being one of the poorest counties in The Show Me State.

 

Traditionally in Missouri, statistics reveal “Mining” is the major source of manual labor income for the state. Farming comes in second. There were caves in Stone County, but no working mines.

 

Farming is hard work. Even with good weather and the money to buy seeds, livestock and equipment, farming is a full-time job to make a living.

 

Gardening maybe a hobby; Farming is a job.

 

Grandma DeLong like to sum up an economic situation as, “I couldn’t afford to make a down payment on an old settin’ hen with all her eggs rotten.” The purpose of this country statement was to point out that someone was “financially broke.” It was a common financial phrase that you heard in The Ozarks in the 1960s.

 

By 1960s, some farmers in Stone County had had it with “life on the farm.” Some people sold their farms and moved to other states. Some people stayed on their farms, but tried to get a “public job” at Silver Dollar City.

 

When it came to money in Stone County, Missouri and The Ozarks in the 1960s “people minded their Ps and Qs” and sometimes the lack of money was described as “Trying to get blood out of a turnip.”

 

Ozarks Hills And Hollers

 

Corn and tomatoes were the big income producing crops in Stone County, Missouri in my childhood in the 1960s. There were always stories of some of the corn being used to produce “moonshine” and “white lightning.”

 

In the early 1980s, I was “home on leave” from the military and a family friend unscrewed the lid on a Mason jar and asked me if I wanted some of the clear liquid.

 

I thanked him, but decided not to drink the “white lightning.”

 

The geography of Stone County had some cliffs and bluffs in the landscape of the hills and hollers. When the soil was too rough, rocky or poor to raise any other crop, usually the farmer would sew cane and other pasture grasses.

 

Fertilize was not all that expensive, but, the amount needed to nourish the soil and get crops to grow was sometimes too big a chunk of money out of a farmer’s budget.

 

Uncle Richard had one field beside State Highway 176, that the family called, “The Cane Field” because it was too rocky and the soil too poor for any other crop. The cane was used to feed to the cattle in the winter time,

 

Spring and summer usually the crops grew well and there was plenty of pasture to feed the livestock. Farmers didn’t get rich, but they made “the ends meet.”

 

Deep Freeze

 

Winter in southwest Missouri in the 1960s was always Armageddon. Fields were buried under blankets of deep snow. The important contribution of the deep snow and cold temperatures is the weather would kill off chiggers, ticks and snakes as long as farmers burned the brush in their fields and hollers in the early falls.

 

Burning the tree leaves in the hollers that fell kept deep leave beds from filling up the hollers. In the winter time, chigger, ticks and snakes would burrow into the deep leaves to try and wait out the winter until spring.

 

Southwest Missouri’s picture postcard “snows” were efficient in freezing farm ponds, which stayed frozen unless you broke the ice with an ax for the cattle to get a drink.

 

The weight of a Black Angus, Polled Hereford, Jersey or Holstein cow would sometimes shatter the ice and a cow could drown trying to get a drink of water in the winter.

 

Later in the 1960s, someone invented a device to stick in farm ponds in the winter to keep the water from freezing.

 

The deep freeze of the Ozarks in winter would freeze trees. The weight of ice on the limbs would cause the limbs to fall and take down electric lines. If you were lucky, you would be without electricity for a day.

 

On average people usually went without electricity for two to three days usually two to three times,during winter from October through April. The worst case scenario meant you would go without electricity for one to two weeks during the winter.

 

A Country Mile

 

The strength of my childhood came from my family in the Ozarks. Momma, Grandma DeLong, Uncle Richard, Uncle Hobert, Aunt Mary, and Cousin Donna were my family in the Ozarks.

 

In Houston, Texas, I could step out in my front yard. Donna and Debbie Brinkley from the house next door only had to walk out their gate and a few feet to walk into my yard for us to play.

 

In the Ozarks, neighbors always seemed to live a country mile from your front door.

 

Thelma Thomas was my closet neighbor in 1960 and she lived about a tenth of a mile from my front door on top of a hill. Her kids were grown with families of their own.

 

The Galena School District usually included Jenkins and Wheelerville, Missouri, which was only a few miles from Crane, Missouri. And, Crane, Missouri was 10 miles from Galena.The district would extend south to almost Reeds Spring, which was about 15 miles from Galena.

 

Many of my classmates would have to do chores before catching the school bus in the morning. The bus ride for some of the kids meant they were on the school bus for two hours before they arrived at Galena Elementary or Galena High School. After school, they would spend two hours on the bus once it left the school.

 

You would see classmates in school, but the distances and the rural road conditions to their parents’ farms meant that “visits” and social interaction was almost impossible, except for possibly on the weekend.

 

Crane, Missouri was only 10 miles from Galena and we usually only went grocery shopping in Crane on Saturdays.

 

 

 

Life On Planet Earth Before Electronics”

 

Children of the 21st Century will think I grew up in The Dark Ages because there was no Internet, no facebook, no twitter, no computers, no X box, no play station and no cell phones.

 

Yes, there was “Life On Planet Earth Before Electronics.”

 

Fire had been discovered. My father always carried his Zippo cigarette lighter.

 

We didn’t have to use stone tablets and chisels because there was an archaic device called, a typewriter that used ribbons, bond paper and carbon paper that helped people put words on paper for future generations.

 

Telephones Come To Stone County

 

Telephones were being installed in homes, near Galena and Abesville, Missouri.

 

In order to have a telephone in your home if you lived near State Highway 176, you had to be willing to be on “a party line”, which meant when your phone rang, your neighbors telephone gave off a jangle sound,

 

There was one public telephone booth in Galena, Missouri. The phone booth was on the sidewalk by the US Post Office, next to Floyd’s Barber shop, which was next to Rose’s beauty shop, which was next to the Hillbilly Cafe and sat across the street from the courthouse. In 2011, that area is now a parking lot for The Stone County Judicial Center.

 

The reason why the telephone was so important in 1960 was it allowed Momma to call Daddy in Texas and he could call her from Texas. Grandma and Uncle Richard never had a telephone. DeLong and Warren family members, who lived in other states could call us and we could call them.

 

In the 21st Century, when it seems children own a cell phone as soon as they learn to speak; it may be hard to imagine the importance of a telephone in your home, but, imagine for a moment that you lived in the snow and ice of the South Pole and you were trying to make a phone call to your grandparents in the United States.

 

If your grandparents lived in a city like Houston, Atlanta, Los Angeles or New York City, it would be easy for them to place a call. But, if you lived in a remote location at the South Pole, there might not be phone lines or cell phone towers, so you might not get the phone call.

Old Missouri Spring Photo by Junior Warren1

Old Missouri Spring

This old spring is on Warren Land in Stone County, Missouri. The Ozarks area of the United States has always been difficult for “people to live off the land” because the soil is poor and rocky. If you need rain; you will get a drought. If you need sunshine;you will get a flood. Nature seems to enjoy working against farmers. Wildlife and insect pest can have a negative effect on crops. The Old Traditional Ozarks Hillbilly concept portrays citizens as dumb and lazy. The truth is an Ozarks Hillbilly is one of the smartest and hard working people, you will ever meet because they use their elbow grease and common sense to work a “Miracle” on stubborn pieces of land to earn a living and raise their families. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

 

The Miracle Of Life In The Ozarks

 

When you think of “The Ozarks” in the 1960s; you understand the word, “Miracle” is a reality.

 

The Ozarks’ lunar style geography of cliffs and bluffs, poor soil, an over abundance of rocks, moody weather, predator wildlife like wolves and coyotes as well as insect pests; it is a “Miracle” that people were able to live, earn a living, and sometimes prosper in this section of the United States.

 

When you are a child, you open your toys on Christmas Day. Underneath the Christmas Tree, you begin to play with the toys.

 

As a young man, you can find yourself trying to decide if you want to go “Home For The Holidays.”

 

As a senior citizen you can sit back with a cup of coffee or a glass of egg nog and remember the toys and the celebrations. When you look back long enough at your childhood, you really begin to understand and appreciate the sacrifices that your parents made for you.

 

At last, you can understand, the challenges, costs,hard work and the effort that your parents made to make Christmas seem like a “Magickal Holiday” that simply happens.

Sam

thumbnail 1 old missouri spring

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Written by samwarren55

December 23, 2012 at 4:23 PM

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“Opal” The Hog Farmer by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

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Parental Portrait for Christmas

 

Opal

The Hog Farmer

OPAL M DELONG WARREN_resized

 

Opal

Missouri Hillbilly

Opal M. DeLong Warren, would proudly proclaim to someone she had just met, “ I am a Missouri Hillbilly.” Opal may not be The Show Me State’s First Woman Hog Farmer, but, she should certainly be in the rankings as “One Of Missouri’s Most Prolific Women Hog Farmers.” From 1960 until 1982, Opal had 25 sows of the Yorkshire, Hampshire and Duroc breeds that raised litters of pigs that averaged 12 to 18 pigs per litter. Of the awards that she earned in her lifetime, one of her favorites was the year, the Galena Chapter of the Future Farmers of America presented her with a Chapter Farmer Award.

by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

In 1960, momma and I moved to a farm in Missouri. Through the years, her herd of hogs would expand to 25 sows of Yorkshire, Hampshire and Duroc breeds.

 

Our United Nations of Pork would welcome litters of 10 to 18 pigs, running, rooting and squealing over the landscape for 20 years.

 

In the process, the 10 acres of land would come to resemble the lunar landscape thanks to the dedicated snouts of hogs rooting into the soil. The air was always fresh and clean.

 

Of course, when the wind shifted and the aroma of hog manure assaulted your nostrils, people would always reconsider their “Tom Sawyer” and “Little House On The Prairie” philosophies of “Life In The Country.”

 

The Good Ole’ Days Of Pork Production”

 

Hogs always got the “bad publicity” for the smell of livestock manure in the country. Every time people “pushed” to implement “Planning and Zoning” one of the favorite fairy tales that the critics would shout is, “You don’t want your neighbor to put in a ‘hog farm’, next to your property.”

 

The Planning and Zoning argument is silly. If you have a “sensitive nose” – stay the hell away from a farm !

 

Hogs always got the bad publicity. Yet, all farms have barns, barnyards and feed lots. It does not matter if the farm is a dairy farm, a cattle farm, a mule farm, a horse farm, or a horse ranch, livestock takes care of their daily body functions. When the breeze shifts, your nose will notice. Manure is manure and it always smells bad.

 

Nonetheless, the 1960s through the early 1980s were “The Good Ole’ Days Of Pork Production,” when hog buyers through the country would stop by and pay you top dollar for a litter of well-fed feeder pigs ready for market.

 

Lost In Place

 

Green Acres” was one of my favorite television shows as a kid. Eddie Albert played the New York City lawyer, who moves to the “boonies” to live the simple life of a farmer. There was a major element of truth to the script; you really do need “a successful lawyer’s salary if you want to be a farmer in the United States.”

 

Hungarian bombshell actress, Eva Gabor played the role of the New York City socialite wife, who was miserable living out in the “boonies” on a farm. The actresses discontent is another major element of “truth”: rural life is not as convenient as city life.

 

In Galena, Missouri in 2011, the nearest hospital was at least 40 miles away in Springfield, Missouri and Aurora, Missouri. There is also a hospital about 25 miles away in Branson, Missouri. Medical emergencies rely on the ambulances and sometimes medical helicopter flights.

 

The nearest pizza in the rural area around Galena in 2011 was about five miles away at Speedee’s in Galena or 10 miles away in Crane, Missouri.

 

In the rural surroundings of Galena, Missouri, after 8 p.m., you will have to wait to the next day or get in the car and drive to Springfield, Branson West or Branson if you want a pizza, taco or movie.

 

The Biggest Gamblers In The World

 

A curious irony of life in the Midwest is the conservative, religious culture is against “gambling”; yet, farmers are some of the ‘Biggest Gamblers In The World” because nature and weather always seems to be “rigging the deck” against farmers.

 

Everyday is a “Gamble” for a farmer because nature, weather, falling crop and livestock prices can leave a farmer and his or her family homeless in a couple of years.

 

Cash Cows Of Farm Finances

 

ARMCHAIR FARMER Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr._resizedA cow will have one calf a year, while an old sow can have two to three litters a year with the number of pigs ranging from six to 18.

 

In farming, cattle are usually considered as the “Cash Cows of Farm Finances” in raising livestock, but, in southwest Missouri in the 1960s, it was easier to get into hog farming. Hogs provided a stable, consistent revenue stream which allowed a farmer to expand into other areas of livestock production like beef cattle. Momma’s hogs provided the money for her to get a herd of about 50 Black Angus cattle. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

It takes about a year to raise a beef heifer or steer to the size to send to market. It takes a few months to raise a pork litter of pigs to the size to send to market.

 

If you have the land and the money then buy your Stetson, boots, high priced tractors, babe magnet farm pickups, fancy stock trailers and invest in a herd of horses or cattle.

 

If you have a small budget and need to get into livestock farming quickly, buy you a couple of sows, rent you a couple of acres of land away from nosy neighbors and planning and zoning bureaucrats and get into hog farming.

 

Farming is a business like any business with it’s own up and downs. Cattle and horse farming is like trying to build a multinational, global corporation overnight. Hog farming is like realizing you need a small business to build into a global corporation.

 

Momma grew up on a farm, so she knew that hogs is your best overall money-making agricultural investment.

 

Chicken farming and turkey farming makes money, but, there is a sizable investment in building the big, long chicken and turkey houses for poultry. Raccoons, foxes, wolves and snakes love chicken and turkey, perhaps, more than people, so the “hen house” and turkey houses have to be designed to keep out these types of wildlife.

 

Crop farming takes a lot of land and you have to rely on the weather to give you the right amount of rainfall and sunshine at the right time. Weather never cooperates with farmers.

 

Plus crop farming takes several months to get the seeds in the ground up to a harvest height. If the weather doesn’t get you, then, falling prices and insect pests will. After the American Civil War, a small pest,called the “boll weevil” kept cotton crop production down in the south until during the 1980s.

 

Hog farmers usually stand a greater chance of success than other types of farmers based on the investment needed to get up and running and the ability to keep things up and running over time.

 

As you make money, then, you can invest in cattle or crops and consider setting aside your rubber boots for the hand tooled leather cowboy boots to wear to the stockman’s club.

KEROSENE LANTERN 3505 STATE HWY 176 YARD SALE_resized

The Coal Oil Lantern

Farmers in the Missouri Ozarks usually called the lanterns, “coal oil lanterns”, instead of kerosene. In the 1960s, in southwest Missouri, electricity wasn’t always stable, especially when heavy snowfall had tree limbs freezing, breaking off and taking down power lines for two to three days at a time. The lanterns provided light in a hog shed at night, which came in handy when an old sow was giving birth to a litter of pigs. By the mid-1960s, Samuel E. Warren, my father, used his electrician skills to put lights in momma’s hog sheds. Still, we kept a lantern, in the corner of the sheds, just in case the lights went out. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Thank God For Hogs

 

Momma’s hogs put me through grade school, high school and let me chill out in college until I signed up for a military career.  

 

Around 1965, momma got some Black Angus cattle, which made money. But, the real dollars and sense of southwest Missouri farming for our family from the 1960s through 1980 came from the hogs.

 

Opal M. DeLong Warren, my mother, the business woman, knew the secret of financial success is saving and managing your money whether you work in public or are self employed. I should of learned these lessons earlier in life.

 

Perhaps, now, that I have written down these lessons, people will read and understand the common sense Ozarks logic, so that you never go hungry or thirsty and you don’t always have to worry about the roof over your head at night.

 

As long as people enjoy a good steak or a slice of ham, farmers will have jobs. In my country boy opinion, vegans and vegetarians are welcome to their plants and pasture grasses.

 

Keep in mind, though on any farm I live on, “The cattle have first choice at the pasture grasses. The vegans and vegetarians will just have to settle for the blades of grass in my front yard.”

 

And, come breakfast, I usually have a “hankerin’” for some pork chops, ham,sausage,and bacon.

Sam

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December 20, 2012 at 9:35 AM

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Opal The Business Woman Welder by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

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Parental Portrait for Christmas

 

Opal

The Business Woman

Welder

OPAL M DELONG WARREN_resized

 

Opal

Opal M. DeLong Warren was born in 1920, the year women got the “right to vote” in Missouri. Opal never claimed to be a feminist or a women’s libber, but, she bought land in Missouri in her own name at a time, when a woman usually had to buy land in her father’s name or a husband’s name. She bought land in Texas in her own name, when usually a woman had to purhase land in a father or husband’s name. When it came to “business”, Opal didn’t take risk. Her financial secret was, “she learned to save and manage her money.” During World War II, Opal worked as a welder in the Todd-Houston shipyard.

 

by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

Opal M. DeLong Warren, my mother, began telling me her “business stories” as soon as my young ears could add meaning to sound.

 

Like my father, Samuel, my mother, Opal, had grew up “dirt poor.”

 

Aries Entrepreneur Grandfather

 

Charley Herman DeLong, my mother’s father, had been born an Aries. He apparently was an Aries man, who never succeeded in a business of any kind.

 

He had tried several different business enterprises in his life and never found his niche.

 

Grandpa DeLong didn’t make it as a farmer, but, his eldest son, Richard the Capricorn learned how to plant crops and raise livestock.

 

Grandpa had a short career as a fur trapper. But, he never made any money selling animal pelts, so his old animal traps got inherited by momma.

 

Missouri Moonshine Manufacturer

 

 

Grandpa DeLong even tried his hand at alcohol production. Not a wise decision, in the years, when “Prohibition” was “The Law Of The Land” in the United States.

 

One of momma’s earliest memories is that her father would have her stay in a holler, during the day, while he went to work deeper in the holler at an undisclosed location,

 

Of course, if their was any “commotion” in the woods, young Opal had been told to yell and run frantically through the woods screaming.

 

Grandpa like other “moonshiners” kept his still hidden in the woods. Unfortunately, the brewing process creates smoke that rises into the sky and can be seen for miles away, especially by the sheriff and deputies looking for the still.  THE LITTLE BROWN JUG OF STONE COUNTY MISSOURI_4584_resized

 

Momma told me she did remember Grandpa staying for a time in the courthouse at Galena. As a young girl, she got to “visit” him for awhile.    

This little brown jug belonged to Charley Herman DeLong, who tried his hand at making Missouri “Moonshine.” Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

Stone County, Missouri courthouse records reveal “Grandpa DeLong” was a “guest of Stone County and The State Of Missouri.” He had been caught at his still and didn’t have money for bail.

 

Momma always told me she was “a daddy’s girl.” While momma respected and admired her father, she must of known in her heart that his lack of success in a legal business had to be one of the reasons it was difficult for the family to “make ends meet.”

 

Grandpa DeLong’s

Great Business Decision

 

Grandpa DeLong tried throughout his life to find a successful way to make money for his family. He made one great business decision that stood the test of time.

 

His signature is on the yellowing Bank of Reeds Spring “loan” paperwork where he signed for five dollars to “buy” a pear orchard. The Land joined Land already owned by the DeLong Family.

 

In The Great Depression, the purchase of the pear orchard was a “wise” decision. Commercial cattle and hog feed had not been introduced into rural southwest Missouri farms beyond Greene County. Even if farmers knew about the feed, they would not of had the money to buy it. Cattle had to live off acorns and the pasture grasses and perhaps, some hay in the winter.

 

Hogs find food by routing their snouts in the soil and finding what they want to eat like roots, worms and snakes that slither away too slow.

 

The Slop Bucket

 

In the country, before the 1970s, homes didn’t have waste cans and trash cans. The Slop Bucket sit on the floor. Old dishwater, vegetable peelings, fruit rinds and old meat got dumped into the slop bucket.

 

Before nightfall, the slop bucket was taken down on the hill to the hog pen and poured into the trough. Hogs, “The Almighty’s Ultimate Shredding And Recycle Machines” would consume the kitchen garbage.

 

Hogs are “Bulldozers With An Appetite” because they drop their snouts in the soil and bulldoze away at anything that slips between their teeth.

 

Like people, hogs eat pears. While people pick the pears to eat right off the trees. The pears can also be chilled for use in a dessert. Grandma and other women, would save the pears for the “canning” process to save the pears in Mason jars.

 

Ozarks women were skilled at canning the fruit and using different fruits for preserves, jams and jellies.

 

Through the years, the pear orchard provided the DeLong Family, the hogs, and local neighbors with bushel baskets of pears for food. While the DeLong Family, to my knowledge, never charged anyone for picking pears, there are commercial orchards in the United States where the farmers charge people to pick the fruit,

 

The pear orchard is an excellent example of a piece of land that always paid for itself several times over until it was sold with the rest of the land in 2007.

 

Martha

My Virgo Agribusiness Grandmother

 

Grandma DeLong, a Virgo woman had to earn a daily living for the family. She would gather the chicken eggs, milk the cows to churn butter and then walk miles to a local store at Sack And All City, a rural grist mill and country store, or to Reeds Spring to sell them to a larger grocer.

 

In spring through autumn, Grandma and Uncle Richard would take the buckboard wagon into the woods to cut down trees for two weeks at a time, They would take the logs on the wagon to Reeds Spring to sell to the Union Pacific buyer, who bought the logs for railroad ties.

 

On the DeLong Land in Stone County, Missouri, Grandma DeLong always “put out” a large “truck patch” garden. She would use her “Ladies’ Birthday Almanac” to plant the vegetable seeds in the “sign.”

 

Blackberry Season and Gooseberry Season, Grandma DeLong would “fetch” her bucket and head off down over the hill into the hollers to pick the berries for pies, cobblers and canning.

 

The Tree Tragedy

 

On one of these annual berry-picking trips, one of grandma’s sisters from Springfield had come to visit for the day. Grandma’s sister went into the woods with the rest of the women to pick berries. A tree fell on the woman.

 

An obituary in the Springfield newspaper recounts the tragic accident. The old tree simply fell and the woman was unable to move out of the path of the falling tree.

 

The Land Plan

 

My Virgo grandmother with the help of Richard, her eldest Capricorn son always made the ends meet to raise the rest of the family whether they lived in a holler, near Reeds Spring, or out on the highway between Galena and Abesville.

 

Grandma and Uncle Richard raised the livestock and the crops that paid for the DeLong Land between Galena and Abesville. Uncle Richard worked with an extension agent to get two ponds dug and stocked on the farm with catfish.

 

Human Shock Absorbers

In his younger years, Uncle Richard would break the ground by Highway A and plant rows of corn. One year, Cousin Donna and I sat on the disk harrow that was attached to the back of the John Deere A Model tractor.

 

A huge rock surrounded by bailing wire was tied to each end of the harrow to try to keep the metal frame weighed down close to the soil. I and Cousin Donna were the human weights that sat on the plow.

 

The slender metal disc points went down into the soil and kept digging up rocks of all sizes from Stone County’s rocky, dusty, light gray soil. By day’s end, Cousin Donna and I looked like we were covered by the volcanic ash of Mount Pinatubo.

 

The soil had been broke to plant the corn. We had sat on the plow, which had been dragged over the acreage to break the soil. The Life Of A Human Shock Absorber is not a job I ever wanted after being bounced around over the countryside for 12 hours.

 

Farm Ponds For Fishing

 

The ponds provided water for the cattle, hogs and a few head of horses and mules. Uncle Charley Ball, of Springfield, Missouri, always looked forward to the visits to “Richard and Marthy” because he could take the fishing rod out of the back of his green 1952 Chevrolet sedan and go sit on the pond bank to fish and smoke his pipe.

 

Grandma and Uncle Richard’s agricultural business decisions allowed the DeLong Family to farm and own 360 acres, on both sides of State Highway 176 in Stone County, in southwest Missouri from the 1930s until 2007.

 

Opal’s First Public Job

 

Opal had always been tall for her age. She went to school and learned to cook for her brothers, who were out in the fields farming, near Reeds Spring and later, near Abesville, Missouri.

 

At a young age, Opal worked for a few weeks cleaning house for a woman in Galena, known as “Grandma Stewart.” She lived in a white house, across the road, in front of the Warren Lumber Yard. “I made 25 cents a week. I got paid to clean her house,” said Opal.

 

Opal’s First Public Job of earning a regular salary was in northern Missouri.

 

Brother Willie decided to become an “outdoors man” and lived off the land, near Reeds Spring and James River, hunting and fishing. Willie had a son, Harold, and a daughter, Reva. His life ended abruptly at a country wedding reception, near Reeds Spring, in the early 1930s.

 

A gunman began shooting people and Uncle Willie was fatally wounded.

 

Brother Hobert moved to a farm near Abesville. He and his wife, Mary had two sons, Bill, Bob and a daughter, Donna. Uncle Hobert always had the reputation of being a “marksman” and an excellent hunter. He would always return from the woods with “a mess of squirrels or rabbits” for dinner.

 

Brother Joe went to work for the Burlington Northern railroad and later retired back to Stone County, Missouri. He had a daughter, named Darlene, who lives in Michigan.

 

Opal, my Pisces mother, learned how to drive by sitting in a Ford Model T and having one of her brothers push the vehicle at the top of a hill. “As the vehicle rushed down off over the hill on the rough, gravel farm road, the engine would start. I would hold on to the steering wheel and turn it to keep the Model T in the road. That is how I learned to drive,” said Opal.

 

At about age 16, Opal hitchhiked up to northern Missouri and got a job on the Illinois and Missouri border, near St. Charles, Missouri. She was tall for her age, so no one asked for an I.D., and momma got her first job as a clerk in a “liquor store.”

 

She only worked at that job a few months, but, in the process, discovered “relatives” on her mother’s side that she never knew existed.

 

Carol Jane Bellamy

Sagittarian Family Banker

 

My great-grandmother and my mother’s grandmother,Carol Jane Bellamy, a Sagittarius woman, had left northern Missouri and moved to Stone County, Missouri sometime near 1900.

 

Great-grandmother Bellamy the Sagittarian, outlived her first husband. When her second husband didn’t want to leave northern Missouri. My great-grandmother embraced the Sagittarian passion for travel and the maternal love for her daughters and son and left her husband for a chance at a better life in Stone County, Missouri.

 

It was the right decision. Grandma Bellamy raised her children and became a financial role model for her Pisces granddaughter, Opal.

 

Momma always remembered, everyone was poor, but, Grandma Bellamy never went hungry and she kept her children from going hungry by always having enough money for food.

 

Long Lost Relatives

 

A woman who walked past the liquor store thought my mother looked familiar. She went in and talked to her, A few days later, the woman returned with a photo album. She asked momma if any of the people in the photographs looked familiar. Momma recognized a maternal aunt in one of the photos. Suddenly the family connections to northern Missouri cousins became clear and obvious.

 

You Have To Earn Your Way In The World

 

A young woman of The Great Depression, momma knew “You have to earn your way in the world,” Momma loved to remind me, “The world will not ‘give’ you a living; you have to ‘earn’ your way in the world. Work for what you have and want. No one is going to give you anything other than a hard time.”

 

Hospital Cook

 

Opal left northern Missouri and returned to Greene County, in southwest Missouri. For a brief time, she worked as one of the cooks at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield.

 

The old nuns on staff at the hospital were jealous of all the young girls on the staff and in the nursing school. They had all kinds of rules that made work and life difficult because they were always looking over your shoulder,” said Opal.

 

The cooking job at St. John’s didn’t pay enough to put up with that kind of silliness from the old nuns. I quit and found another better paying job that allowed me to make my own decisions about my life,” said Opal.

 

Railroad Bar And Grill Waitress

 

Then, momma went to work at a bar for railroad men, near Commercial Street in Springfield Missouri, and close to the Frisco railroad yard.

 

The railroad men worked hard and would come into the bar for something to eat or drink. I never had any problems being a young girl and working there. Times were tough. No one really had any money. You usually made enough just to get by from week to week,” said Opal.

 

The Bombing Of Pearl Harbor

 

I’ll never forget the day World War II started for the United States. I was sitting in a theater in Springfield, Missouri. They stopped the movie. The house lights came on. They made the announcement over the loud speaker that Pearl Harbor had just been bombed,” Momma said.

 

I was a young woman in Springfield. At the time, I was engaged to Lowell Wilson, a young Marine. His parents owned the Cortez Motor Court in Springfield. I really wasn’t ready to get married.”

 

When the war broke out, I talked to some other young women, who had joined the Army and the Navy in Springfield. I had my heart set on joining the Army for a time. There was an Army camp in Springfield. You could join up and serve, without ever leaving Springfield they told me,” said Opal.

 

Opal and another waitress at the railroad bar talked about the war. Then, on a whim, they went to the Greyhound bus station. They looked up at the destinations and chose Texas.

 

Momma and her friend, knew no one in Texas.

 

The Bus Trip

 

The decision was one of the craziest things I have ever done. I still don’t know why I did it. My friend and I were just tired of living and working in Springfield. We had no idea where we were going or what we were doing. We just went for a bus ride. We got on and off at the different stops,” said Opal.

 

We got off the Greyhound in Dallas. We looked around. She liked the look of Dallas and didn’t get back on the bus. I got back on the bus. When the bus, stopped in Houston, I got off and decided I liked the looks of Houston,”said Momma.

 

I walked out of the bus station and had no idea what I was going to do. I only had a few dollars left in my purse. I got a room at a boarding house, near the bus station for two dollars a week. The next day, I went out looking for work. I saw a newspaper ad that they were hiring welders at the Todd-Houston shipyard,” said Opal.

 

Bread And Water

 

I didn’t have any money for food. I just had a few cents left in my wallet, so I bought a couple of slices of bread. Water was free. I got a glass at the boarding house and got me a glass of water to have with my bread,”said Opal.

 

The heat in Houston would wear you out just walking up the street. There was an old electric fan in the room. I drew a tub of cool water and took my clothes off. I got in the tub, ate my bread and drank my water,” said Momma.

 

She had an overnight bag and a small suitcase to put in the boarding room closet. “I got up and got dressed the next day to go out looking for a job. I had a nice white satin blouse I wore. I got the job and they sent me straight to welding school the same day,” said Opal.

 

The Satin Blouse

 

Arc welding throws off sparks that hit my blouse all over. By the end of the day, I had all these tiny burnt pinholes all over my blouse. I was so embarrassed. I hunkered over in the bus seat. I kept my head down and my arms folded hoping that no one would notice how my skin was showing through the blouse. That was the longest bus ride home that night,” frowns Momma.

 

Anyone who ever met Opal M. DeLong Warren knew she was not the type of woman to act on a “whim.”

 

Youth can trump logic and common sense. The optimism of youth can shrug off the “Fear Of The Unknown.” Young people don’t fear the future; they challenge it.

 

Opal stayed on the job at the shipyard throughout the war building ships for the United States Navy, United States Merchant Marine, United States Coast Guard and welding on the “liberty ships.”

 

We were always so proud whenever we finished one of those big, beautiful ships. We would attend the christening and watch the ship slip down the rails of the dry dock into the water. Then, I would get sad. I would think about all the boys, who were going to sail on that ship into war,” said Momma.

 

The FBI Special Agent

 

Another welder at the shipyard, introduced himself to Opal. “He was a lousy welder. You would always have to go back, chip away at his welds and brush away the slag metal. Then, you would have to run a good bead of metal over the work. I couldn’t imagine why the bosses at the shipyard didn’t fire this man. We always had to go back over his work,” said Opal.

 

FBI LOGO_resizedHe invited me for a cup of coffee a couple of times. I always turned him down. “Then, one day, he came clean. He admitted he was an FBI agent working under cover. At first, I thought he was pulling my leg.”

 

A few days later, he did show me his badge. During the war, there was always the fear of saboteurs. There were posters all around the shipyard and the bosses and the foremen would always remind you, ‘Loose Lips Sinks Ships,’”said Momma.

 

He told me he had been sent there to look for someone. He didn’t get specific. I didn’t ask questions. He wanted me to introduce him to some of the workers around the shipyard and I did. He must of got whoever he was looking for. A few weeks later, we gave him a going away party as a welder, who was leaving,” said Momma.

 

Dollar Document

 

She reaches into her purse and takes out a one dollar bill. Carefully, she holds it and a portion of the dollar folds back. “I had never seen anyone split a dollar bill this way. At the party, he asked me for a dollar. I watched him move it between his fingers, until it started to separate. Then, he had people at the party sign the inside of the dollar bill. He laughed and told me, now, I had a souvenir to remember him by.” Momma laughs,”I still remember, he was a lousy welder.”

 

Lousy Painter

 

Opal became a shop steward at the shipyard. “I met your daddy at the shipyard. After he got his honorable discharge from the Army, he got on out at Todd-Houston as a painter. A friend set me up on a blind date for Thanksgiving. I wasn’t impressed.

 

Your daddy was a lousy painter. A friend told me later that the first time Sammy seen me, he told his friend, ‘I’m going to marry that woman.’ I accepted his invitation for a second date. We started dating. Then, in January of 1947, we got married,” said Momma.

 

Samuel E. Warren made a smart decision to marry Opal M. DeLong. His second smart decision was to marry her on his birthday, which meant he would never “forget” his anniversary.

 

Family Is Everything

 

Momma always stressed the importance of family to me in her business conversations. “You get many things in life. The only thing that matters is family. You get one mother. You get one father. Your brothers and sisters can’t be replaced. Once they are gone – they are gone. Always love and take care of your family. Family Is Everything,” she would emphasize time and again.

 

Momma told me that wherever she worked, she always sent money home to her mother. The psychology of the Ozarks at that time would never view the money as “charity.”

 

People in the Ozarks have a stubborn “work ethic.” The money was simply money from family for the family. And, family always takes care of one another.

 

Balancing The Books

 

As a kid, I would always smile whenever money changed hands in the DeLong Family. They always took a simple act of human kindness in the family and made it seem like Federal Reserve bankers accounting for each coin and currency in a US Mint shipment.

 

If Momma went to a grocery store and saw food or drink that grandma and Uncle Richard liked, she would buy it. Grandma DeLong always made Momma get her “change purse” and take out the money to pay for the groceries.

 

Uncle Richard always did the same thing if Momma picked up groceries or farm supplies for him.

 

It never mattered if the cost was a few cents or several dollars, Grandma and Uncle Richard always made sure Momma got paid back any money she spent for them.

 

Birthdays and Christmas were the only times that you could give Grandma DeLong or Uncle Richard a “gift” because they had the Ozarks belief that “You Pay Your Way In Life.”

 

Save And Manage Your Money

 

When Sammy and Opal got married,for a time, they lived at Opal’s apartment at 1414 Austin, Houston Texas. Opal M. DeLong Warren in her business stories always emphasized “Family” and “Save Your Money And Learn To Manage Your Money.”

Sam

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December 20, 2012 at 7:35 AM

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“Have A Green Christmas” by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

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Have

A

Green Christmas”

GREEN CHRISTMAS LEAD PHOTO_Nikon D 70 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

Have Yourself A Green Christmas !

If Christmas Day this year is “too close” to put the”green” in your stockings and brighten up the gifts under your Christmas Tree,then, a simple act of “saving” should be the shine on your Christmas tree and keep more bills in your wallet for next Christmas. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

I always got my “Letter to Santa Claus” request.

 

Regardless of the economic conditions at the North Pole and in “The Lone Star State”, Mom and Dad always made sure I had a “Merry Christmas.

As a child, I simply came to expect that I would have a wonderful Christmas. After all, both of my parents were workaholics.

 

My mother left “public work” to stay at home and “raise me.” I appreciate her decision. Throughout my childhood, my dad ALWAYS worked a second job. In 1960, momma and I moved to the farm in Missouri.

 

My mother was one of the few “Women Hog Farmers In The United States Of America”, especially in 1960. Momma raised hogs and used the money to provide for my every need from grade school through college.

 

Daddy stayed on the job in Houston, Texas to “maintain his seniority” and continue working toward a retirement plan.

 

Like most kids, I knew, the vast majority of my toys on Christmas morning came from the money in daddy’s wallet and the cash in momma’s purse.

 

The Big Picture

 

What I never saw was “The Big Picture” of earning a living on a daily basis.

 

The reason the wrapped, brightly colored boxes, sporting bright bows, under the Christmas Tree made my home look like Santa Claus’ North Pole Showroom and a Toys R Us store is because my mom and dad were “bound and determined” that I would have a better childhood than they had.

 

I did.

 

Dirt Poor Childhoods

 

Opal M. DeLong Warren, my mother, was born in a small house in Peach Tree Holler, near Reeds Springs, Missouri. Opal’s mother, Martha, and father, Charley, loaded their personal belongings and their son, Richard, into the covered wagon and moved from Versailles, Missouri to a place, near Reeds Spring in Stone County in 1907.

 

All the rest of the DeLong children were born in Stone County. Richard began farming as soon as he was big enough to do the farm chores. The other boys: Willie, Hobert and Joe didn’t go to school very long.

 

Opal DeLong liked school and graduated from the 8th Grade. Every year, Martha, her mother ordered three dresses a year for Opal out of the Sears and Roebuck catalog to wear to school. She rode a pinto-mix horse, named,”Shorty” to the Wilson’s Creek School in Bear Den Holler.

 

Samuel E. Warren, my father, went to school in Perryville in east Texas. Joseph Samuel Warren, his father, was a tenant farmer, which meant J. Frank Couch, owned the land that “Papa” Warren farmed.

 

Dirt Poor” is an accurate financial description of my parent’s childhood years.

 

To add insult to injury, Fate unleashed The Great Depression around the time of their teenager years.

 

Daddy’s Short Range Financial Plan

 

Daddy adopted the policy of “Live For Today ;Tomorrow Will Take Care Of Itself.” The major flaw in his long-range financial plan is “In Order To Spend Money – You Have To Earn Money. The More Money You Spend, The More Money You Need To Earn To Keep Your Comfortable Lifestyle Going.”

 

Green Christmas Photo 2 by Samuel E. Warren Jr.At the end of the day, Daddy’s financial plan meant, “He had to be a ‘workaholic’, in order to keep earning money to spend. The irony is you spend so much time working,you never have “any fun” spending your money.

 

I remember, Monday through Friday, he would arrive home from work at about 4:30 p.m. He would sit down for supper and talk about his day. He could only relax a few moments and then, he would have to start getting ready for his “night job” as a bartender or bouncer.

 

His gray pressed Cameron uniforms would hang in the wardrobe beside his double breasted suits and neckties. By about 6:30 or 7 p,m,, the pickup would ease down the narrow driveway to take him to his “part-time job.”

 

Sometimes momma would wake me up about 2:30 or 3 am, so I would be waiting for daddy to come home from work. The headlight beams would dance down the narrow driveway and in a few minutes I would smell the aroma from a box of a dozen Dunkin’ Donuts, which daddy usually would stop and pickup on the way home.

 

Daddy did make a lot of money. But, he met himself coming and going.

 

Daddy always had “a wad of bills” rolled tightly that looked like a short, fat, pill bottle, with a rubber band around them that he carried in his front jeans pocket. In addition, to the roll of bills in his front pocket, he always had several bills in his wallet.

 

The roll of bills was one of those “Games Of Life” that when you take it out to pay a bill, people notice and they just naturally assume you are some kind of financial genius.

 

The stated “Big Picture” was daddy and momma were working to build their “Dream Home” on land momma bought in 1938, near her mother and father.

 

The Coffee Service

 

Daddy told me he offered the coffee service in his shop “at the plant.”

 

From 1960 until his death in 1978, daddy always made two trips a year to Missouri. One vacation trip always came for the Fourth of July. The second vacation trip depended on the vacation schedule at Cameron’s, which meant his two weeks began either at Thanksgiving or Christmas.

 

Whenever he came to Missouri, he would stock up on three-pound cans of Folgers coffee. He said it was cheaper to buy the coffee in Missouri. About once a year, he would buy a huge coffee pot that could make about 50 cups of coffee. Daddy wasn’t a shopper. He went into a store, picked up what he needed and paid the cashier at the checkout register.

 

However, if Sammy walked past Craftsman tools, he would stop and browse slowly at all the tools. Daddy loved Craftsman tools and bought all kinds of Craftsman wrenches, vise grips and other tools.

 

One trip each year, daddy would “shop” for a new coffee pot to take “to the plant.” He would shop around at the different stores and compare the features of the coffee pots.

 

I have, no doubt, there are people who bought bass boats with less research than daddy put into buying the right coffee pot. Despite his dedicated “shopping around for the right coffee pot”, he always ended up with the same type. And, he would buy a huge cardboard box full of Styrofoam cups to take back to Texas.

 

I remember the huge coffee pots because their shiny silver cylindrical design made them look like huge vacuum tubes that went into the back of a radio.

 

I get to the plant in the morning and I make the coffee for the shop. I have a coffee can with a slit in the lid. The guys know that coffee is 25 cents a cup. They put a quarter in the can. If they don’t have a quarter, then, they put in some change. I don’t really worry about it because the guys are honest. At the end of the week, I take the coffee can of coins home. Monday morning I always bring in a new empty coffee can for that week’s coins,” said Daddy,

 

In 1978, daddy was suppose to leave at the end of June for his Fourth of July trip to Missouri. He never arrived. The Houston Police Department notified momma of daddy’s death at home.

 

A few days after daddy’s funeral, momma and I made the trip to Houston. We found Folgers coffee cans stored in rooms around the house. Each can was filled to the plastic lid with mixed change from pennies to half dollars and a few silver dollars. The cans all had coins and none of the coins had been wrapped.

 

Momma asked Wanda Brinkley, a next door neighbor for help in wrapping the coins. Wanda had momma take the coins next door to her mom and dad’s house, Mr. and Mrs. Pete Pippins. Momma ordered the pizzas.

 

All day until after midnight, Momma, Wanda, Mr and Mrs Pete and I wrapped coins. Wanda’s two daughters, Donna and Debbie also joined the coin wrapping adventure. At this point in US history, American banks did not accept coins unless they were wrapped in bank wrappers.

 

Using the bank coin wrappers that daddy had on hand and some of the wrappers that Wanda had, we all wrapped coins all day and until well past midnight, It was after 2 am, when we finished.

 

Bank Robbery ?

 

The next day, Wanda, Momma and I went to the drive thru lane of the local Reagan State Bank. Wanda would put about 10 rolls of coins at a time up to the drive thru teller’s window.

 

You have a lot of coins,” remarked the teller.

 

My husband, Sammy had the coffee concession where he worked. He died recently. We just discovered, he never wrapped any of the coins from the coffee fund,” explained Momma.

 

The teller nodded. A bank guard showed up with a dolly. The teller seemed to slow,at one point, in tallying the amount of coins. We sat in the car at the drive thru for a couple of hours.

 

After about an hour, the bank guard emerged from a side door with the rolls of coins in the familiar purple bank sacks stacked neatly on the dolly. He pushed the dolly slowly across the several lanes of the drive thru into the rear entrance of the main bank.

 

The bank guard made about four more trips with his dolly from the drive thru to the bank.

 

A couple of days later Wanda spoke to a friend, who worked at the bank. The friend had heard about all those sacks of coins that came through the drive thru. The friend laughed and told Wanda it was not uncommon for people to drop of rolls of coins at the drive thru and she told Wanda the rest of the story.

 

Then, Wanda Brinkley, telephoned momma.

 

When we dropped those coins off at the bank. The bank got worried and called the local office of the FBI. They told the FBI why they were calling and asked the bureau to check for recent bank robberies because they could not believe that anyone would save that amount of coins.  

 

      FBI LOGO_resizedWhile we were waiting in the drive thru lane and the teller seemed to be taking the time tallying up the coins, they were waiting for a call back from the FBI to tell them if there were any reports of bank robberies where a large amount of coins had been taken,” Wanda explained and laughed.

 

We wrapped about 20 three-pound coffee cans of coins to take to the bank. Momma also brought about 10 cans of unwrapped coins with her back to Missouri. It was two or three years before I ever wanted to wrap rolls of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters,half dollars and silver dollars.

 

My father died at age 52. The Harris County, Texas Corner’s Report listed the cause of death as a “possible ‘double heart attack.’” Daddy had literally “worked himself to death” through the years.

 

Momma’s Big Picture Financial Reality

 

 

Momma would never be a “Victim Of A Global Financial Crisis.” She had a poor childhood and realized ”Money Has To Be Managed.”

 

Momma always put aside a few dollars to have when she needed it. “Save” wasn’t a word, it was a philosophy and a way of life.

 

People would tease my mother that she probably had the “First Dollar” she ever earned. Momma would smile and shrug off the comment.

 

Opal M. DeLong Warren was “never broke.” Maybe, she didn’t have a lot of money in her wallet or handbag, but, Momma was “never broke” financially.       

 

Momma loved to remind me “I bought the first car, your daddy and I ever owned. And, I paid cash for it. I bought the first home, your daddy and I ever owned. I bought the land in Missouri, under my own name with my own money, before I ever met your daddy.”     

 

All the claims were true statements. Momma’s message was not that she was a Green Christmas Photo 3 by Samuel E. Warren Jr.suffragette or a women’s libber, but that she knew “How To Spend And Save Her Money.”

 

Opal M. DeLong Warren is the woman, who went to the Reagan State Bank in Houston and arranged for the money to “buy the home in Houston at 313 East 26th Street.”

 

Stubborn Sammy

 

During World War II, US Army doctors had told daddy that he had contracted “malaria in the Philippines.” In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Veterans’ Administration wasn’t always able to convince Congress to provide medical care and decent pensions to veterans.

 

In the early 1950s, momma found out that daddy was eligible for VA medical care payments thanks to the hard-nosed efforts of Texas Congressman and Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Sam Rayburn.

 

Daddy told Momma, Uncle Sam had sent him into World War II and, “I don’t want nothing else to do with the ‘Damn Government.’”

 

Momma reminded Daddy that some days it seemed difficult for him to get out of bed to go to work. Grudgingly, Daddy did the paperwork and accepted “Uncle Sam’s Official Help”, which didn’t last that long. By then, daddy’s health had improved and he did go to work everyday.

 

Momma The Family Banker

 

Martha Lou Marcum DeLong, my grandmother, kept her coins in a coin purse and her dollar bills in a sugar bowl in a plain white dish cabinet in the living room.

 

Everyone knew Grandma DeLong had worked hard all her life, but, Missouri’s “old age pension” provided her the money to live out her senior citizen years.

 

Opal M. DeLong Warren had the reputation in the DeLong Family, Stone County, Missouri, Upshur County, Texas and among neighbors in Harris County – Houston, Texas of “Saving For A Rainy Day.”

 

The Burial And The Banker

 

When daddy died in Texas, I asked momma if we could bring his body back to Missouri for burial. I went to the bank with momma. She told the banker, “I need money to bring my husband’s body back to Missouri for burial. I don’t know, when or how I will pay you. But, you will get your money back.” I watched momma tell the banker those words.

 

In the 21st Century, most bankers would find a polite way to show the widow to the door out of their office.

 

In 1978, the banker nodded, “Okay, Opal. When you know how much you need for sure, let me know. You’ll get the money,” I heard the banker tell momma.

 

I was already a college student, so I was impressed that a banker would listen to a widow without demanding various forms of collateral.

 

The banker was not going out on a limb. He knew momma owned her “80 acres” of land and owned the other “10 acres” of land that she lived on. He knew she still “owned her home in Houston, Texas.”

 

The banker wasn’t gambling; he was investing.

 

The worst case scenario would be the bank would end up with Missouri real estate and maybe Texas real estate. Real estate in a city is usually more valuable than farm real estate,

 

In the late 1970s and early 1980s there was an active real estate market in Missouri and Texas.

 

But, everyone from Stone County, Missouri throughout southwest Missouri knew “Opal Warren always pays her bills.”

 

Samuel E. Warren was laid to rest in Yocum Pond Cemetery, near Reeds Spring Missouri. The financial cost of moving daddy’s body from Texas to Missouri was $7,000. The bank let momma borrow the money. Momma paid the bank off ahead of time.

 

Momma used money she already had saved for the associated funeral expenses and the double headstone. Uncle Sam provided the “foot marker” that was placed at daddy’s grave.

 

Save And Manage Your Money

 

Through the years, relatives would have financial issues come up in their lives. When they had no one to turn to, they would turn to “Opal.”

 

If a relative was out to buy a big screen TV, then, they were on their own.

 

But, if it was a valid emergency like a mortgage, insurance, food for their kids or medical bills then momma would “loan” the money. A few of my relatives paid Momma back. The majority did not.

 

Momma had a better financial plan than daddy. Momma never invested in the stock market. I had the debate with her several times and she always told me, “Son, I hang on to my money.”

 

Momma quit farming around 1982. The only “risky investment,” momma ever made, other than her son, was in Land.

 

Land That Pays For Itself

 

But, she always said, “Invest in Land, that will pay for itself.” Her Land did pay for itself because she “rented the pasture to other farmers for their cattle to graze on” and “loggers would cut some trees off the Land every three or four years for lumber.”

 

The Other Land

Through the years, momma would tell me that people had called her and tried to sell her land in Galena or elsewhere in southwest Missouri. I asked momma why she passed on the offers.

 

I have the land I want. The land I have been offered isn’t land I would want to buy at any price,” Momma would answer. Momma lived on one parcel of land. She could open her front door and look across the road to see the land that she had bought back in the 1930s.

 

Momma is one of the few people in the world, I know of, where bankers would call her and try to persuade her to move her money to their bank. She would smile, “The Bank Of Crane has always done right by me. Until something changes, I will stay with my bank.”

 

At age 84, momma left “The Real World” in 2004. She had a double wide home that had central heating and air conditioning. She never went hungry and there was always food in the ice box and the pantry. She always had her coffee and cigarettes. When she went to the doctor or the hospital, she could always pay her medical bills.

 

Momma’s Financial Secret, “She Learned To Save Money And Manage Her Money.”

 

Momma and daddy made sure I always had a wonderful Christmas. I got enough toys to outfit a museum.

 

I was an “Only Child”, which meant I had to play by myself most of the time, but, I had a huge wooden toy box in the garage full of toys to choose from each day.

 

In Missouri, every other weekend or so, my Cousin Donna would be at Grandma DeLong’s and Uncle Richard’s. I would of brought toys with me or we would go off in the woods to play. In Missouri, the toys were in a big cardboard box in the garage.

 

Samuel E. Warren Jr., the senior citizen, realizes now, Momma’s ability to always put “The Green In My Christmas” came from her daily financial sense of saving and managing her money. Thanks to my mother, “My Merry Christmas” was always “A Green Christmas.”

 

Merry Christmas, Momma .”

GREEN CHRISTMAS LEAD PHOTO_Nikon D 70 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Written by samwarren55

December 20, 2012 at 1:53 AM

Posted in Bloggers, Blogs, Business, Current Events, Ecology, Family, Holidays, Money, Observances, Stone County History

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The Warren Christmas Chronicles

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The Warren Christmas Chronicles

DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS_JEWELRY BY CHRISTY PROMO PHOTO_1A_resized

 

Christmas Shopping

During 2010, my wife, Christy Warren decided to try an online business. She made jewelry to sell over the Internet. She had a shop on Etsy. Christy diligently worked using the various stone cabachons and wrapping them in gold filled wire to create necklaces and earrings. I would photograph the various types of merchandise she had for sale in her “Jewelry by Christy” shop. This photograph is an example of one of the photographs that I took to promote and advertise her jewelry. There are many “success” stories related to Etsy. We tried different cabachons. She tried to wrap the stones in different styles. I tried many different ways to photograph the merchandise. She did sell a few items through her Etsy shop, but, ours was not a success story. In 2011, she went “off line.” The photograph is a reminder that sometimes in life you try some business ideas and no matter what you try; sometimes, you simply do not succeed. Photo by Samuel E, Warren Jr.

by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

Christmas is the time of year, when writers write several stories. Often the stories range from holiday decorating and recopies to the “I remember when. . .childhood Christmas story.

 

I take pride in not being a traditional writer.

 

I try to write about events and situations that people don’t normally consider.

 

This Christmas season, I sat down at the laptop to write “a” Christmas story. I thought I would write “one Christmas story” and be done with the holiday.

 

I was not in a Charles Dickens mood. I started typing and the story started to expand to epic proportions like Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.”

 

I have always been a “wordy” writer.

DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS_JEWELRY BY CHRISTY PROMO PHOTO_3A_resized

 

Unfortunately, the story was becoming an entity. I was beginning to feel more like an expectant father than a writer.

 

The story was taking on a life of it’s own on the electronic page before my eyes.

 

The story had begun to read like a child Christmas laundry list of toys beginning at October 30, 1955 and growing before my eyes to December 25, 2011.

 

I stopped writing and read over what I had written.

 

What had started as a story was now a three volume manuscript for Encyclopedia Britannica on the word, “Christmas.”

 

Rather than post my Library Of Congress collection of Christmas novellas to my blog, I decided it was time to cut, paste and delete. Before I hit the delete key, I looked at the writing one last time.

 

Sections !

 

I realized my fingers in “type” mode and my mind on “flow” had yielded different periods of time in my life that came down to different Christmas Days in different locations at different times.

 

Wordsmith Warren word work time !

 

I read over and decided the sections were a series of articles on Christmas through the years of my life. The end result is there should be something in “The Warren Christmas Chronicles” for readers with different taste in literature.

 

The first articles in “The Warren Christmas Chronicles” are: “Have A Green Christmas”, “Sammy, The East Texas Country Boy Workaholic,” “Opal, The Business Woman Welder”, “Opal The Hog Farmer,” and “My Lone Star Christmas Story.”

 

My faithful readers should check back everyday until Christmas for a new story in the “Warren Christmas Chronicles.”

Sam

DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS_JEWELRY BY CHRISTY PROMO PHOTO_3A_resized

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.
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