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

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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

Posted in Bloggers, Blogs, Business, Current Events, Ecology, Editorial, Family, Food, Holidays, Money, Nature, Observances, Photos, Stone County History, The Ozarks, Tourism

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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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