Essentially Esther Banner

Friday, April 30, 2004


I was feeling a pull between working and being home. I could always think of things I wanted to get done but not before time to be at work. A senior citizen lived across the street from us and she would appear several times a week grooming her yard of flowers and pretty bushes. I wondered how she could spend that amount of time messing around in her yard.

Our yard was rough and rocky because of our new house and not much done to an old corner of ground. There was a small single garage separate but close to the house…..it was only large enough for one car, nothing else. We didn’t have money to buy a lawn-mower so we borrowed George’s dad’s. Of course it was a push mower and mowing the weeds over a bumpy yard was not much fun. I was thinking that George could do something about it but didn’t realize the amount of work and money it would take……..therefore not much was done. I rallied long enough to sow some marigold seed along the sidewalk because mom told me they could take the heat and wouldn’t require much water. Sounded like a plan to me. That was my sum and total of yard work.

Along about mid-May I had to miss work because of the stomach flu. I was really sick. It started one morning when I opened the refrigerator door and smelled bacon. I ate some cantaloupe and felt a little better. An hour later I lost the cantaloupe. I was home the rest of the week and my mother-in-law came to see me. When she heard my complaints she had a knowing smile on her face and I heard, “I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re pregnant.” I passed it off with…..”No, I can’t be pregnant !!” I had just been married and had the “curse” three days after our wedding. I couldn’t be pregnant. However, she planted a seed that began to sprout.

After she left I immediately went to the phone and called Dr. Hogg. He had been a military doctor and was the one everyone went to with their health problems. I told him I had the flu and needed something to get me over it. He said he would need to examine me and I went through what I figured to be ridiculous for a flu examination. When he finished he said, “Well, you are in the first month of pregnancy.” I stared at him in disbelief. I didn’t want to be pregnant. I wanted to work and have fun going places……..all the things I had missed out on before. How could I be pregnant? It didn’t make sense.

I asked if he was sure and he said, “Very sure.” He prescribed something to ease the morning sickness I was experiencing and some kind of pre-natal pills to be sure the baby was getting the right nutrition. I went straight home and bawled my eyes out. I had never been in any situation before that I couldn’t get out of if I didn’t like it. Now I was faced with being pregnant and there was no way out…..I was scared silly.

The pills didn’t work to alleviate my morning sickness. Mornings ran into afternoons and afternoons ran into evenings. I was miserable. Along the way somewhere I began to think this was all George’s fault. If I hadn’t married him I wouldn’t be pregnant. Somehow having someone to blame made me feel better. Of course the news flashed all over town and friends began calling with remedies for my problem. Eat soda crackers before you get out of bed, cut a grapefruit in half, put a peppermint stick in the center of it and suck the juice out of the grapefruit. I tried everything any one suggested. I was so nauseated that George called Dr. Hogg and asked him to make a house call.

After a through going over, he called George in the room and told both of us I would lose the baby. I was at the time of pregnancy where the continued vomiting would cause a miscarriage. He was so matter-of-fact about it that it made me mad. I said nothing but it was at that moment I decided I would not lose the baby.

I called Verl and told him I couldn’t work anymore. He had surmised as much because I had to run to the back and vomit quite a few times while I was still trying to work. He wished me well and that was the end of my working. It was also the end of a paycheck we needed to pay for some of the furniture we bought and the new car. George let the car go back to the Ford dealer and we lost what we had paid on it. With that behind us we were afoot but now we could manage our furniture bill. We figured I could have $30 a month for groceries and that left us with nothing.

What started out to be a lot of fun was beginning to look like problems I had never imagined. They say when the going gets tough the tough get going. I decided that was exactly what I needed to do….brace up to what was ahead and forget whatever I had imagined my future to be. The first thing I had to do was save my baby…..

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Thursday, April 29, 2004


When I tell you I was one sick little girl looking at her ruined laundry, believe me! George worked a “swing” shift at the plant so was home when all this transpired. The look on his face told the whole story. Trouble in Paradise. Yes there was trouble……I asked if he and his dad had set the posts in concrete and his answer was negative. My retort….“and why not?” to a “didn’t think it was necessary.”

I flew into an insane fit. All of the tension I had been feeling the past month gushed out in staccato time. My words hit as machine gun bullets at this person I had just married. “Do I have to draw a picture for you and your dad to get anything done right around HERE?” George made no reply but just had a sick look on his face. (Totally understandable, right?) I paced around the living room ranting over my disaster until there were no words, no energy and no idea of what to do next.

When I got quiet enough to think I picked up a couple of laundry baskets and went to the clothesline….speaking in general terms. George followed behind at a safe distance and we began picking up the items together. Our beautiful linens, ruined. The litany was the same for each piece I picked up. I mourned their untimely demise and doubted they would ever be the same. I was right about that.

We stopped at the grocery store and bought a large jug of bleach and some laundry powder. When we entered the launderette the owner looked at our mess and started filling the tubs. Our “launderette” was comprised of Maytag wringer washers and three rinse tubs that were on tables around the washer. She suggested before I began washing in earnest I should run them through the washer of clear water and the three rinses…..then wash in hot bleach water and follow through. She put “bluing” in the last rinse tubs for me as a sympathetic gesture.

George, realizing I had some support equal to the task, decided to go back home and dig holes to fill with concrete to reset the poles. Our poor clothes went from red mud to dirty, dingy and finally better but not great. (It took years to wash and bleach the stain out of them and it took years for me to shut up about the mess whenever it crossed my mind.) I folded them carefully from the dryer and took them home, placing them in our new linen closet.

I may be stupid once but usually not the second time. To make sure it never happened again after the poles were set I brought the clothes in religiously, dry or not. I apologized for my tirade and peace reigned supreme over the house.

In a small town women are judged as to what kind of housekeepers they are by the washing they hang on the lines. You drive by, notice the laundry flapping in the breeze and say, “Boy !! Mrs. So and So sure puts out a nice wash. I bet you could eat off her floors”…..or… “Wow !! Look at those dingy clothes. I’d be ashamed to hang them out where everyone could see them !! I can just imagine what kind of a housekeeper she is.”

Then there is the ironing thing. “I knew a woman who was such a good housekeeper she even ironed her rags…. and look at his jeans. His wife irons them. Can you believe that?” Knowing all this made my heart heavy as I hung my dingy clothes each week on my now sturdy lines. “She’s a new bride you know….she can’t be expected to know how to wash clothes properly……..she’s so young.” But you can never rebuttal an issue with old lady busy bodies……..you just hear it from the town gossip line and therefore…….you own their remarks.

A few days later I decided to cook some beans. I ate with my landlady before marriage and she was a wonderful cook. I loved her beans….cooked on a wood stove in an aluminum kettle that simmered for hours until the “juice” was thick and yummy. She always cooked pinto beans with either ham or bacon. They were the best beans I’d ever eaten (sorry Mom) even yet. She’d cooked beans all of her many years and had a handle on how to make them good.

We had been given a couple of pans with lids for wedding gifts so I bought the beans and rinsed them as I’d seen mom do. I poured what I wanted to cook in a pan and covered them with water like mom did. I was beginning to feel like a true married woman…….wash on the line, beans on the stove, working and coming home to our own house. Well…..back to the “bean thing.” I checked them as I knew I should and to my amazement they were already at the top of the pan. I grabbed our bigger sauce pan, poured them into it….added more water. I avoided disaster and was feeling good.

On my next look the beans had come to the top again. We had a new apartment size electric range and I didn’t want the beans to spill over the top. George was home that morning so I told him to go down to the Five and Dime to get a bigger pan. He came back just in time to pour again. He had to make a second trip down for a larger container…this time a 4-qt. Kettle. I didn’t know how long beans were supposed to cook so because it was time for a meal I put them on the table. After chasing them around on the plate we ended up eating peanut butter sandwiches for supper.

I thought I knew all about cooking but there were a lot of things experienced cooks know that a cook book never addresses. I set out to make myself as good a cook as my mother was…………..it took a long time.

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Wednesday, April 28, 2004


March is a month of sudden changes in weather. A very fickle month. I was worn out from vacillating over my own dilemma. Morning came and when I got up I mechanically put myself together for my wedding day. I had my packing done and was ready to go by 8:00 am. I just didn’t see how I could call it off at this late date. I thought of all the shower gifts to be returned and what people would say. In small towns news travels fast. I put it all off as bride’s jitters and decided I must go through with it.

George arrived on time with a spotless car and groomed to the nines. We put my luggage in the car and headed out of town. I’d already said my good-byes to my land-lady and Leola. We had decided to be married in Arkansas as Missouri had a 3-day wait period with blood test required. We drove south until we came to Hardy, AR. where we stopped to buy a license. It was in an old rock building just a side-walk away from the highway and when we inquired within an old gentleman said he could marry us as well as sell us the license.

We couldn’t afford a church wedding but I had my mind made up that I wanted to be married by a minister just the same. We were told there was a pastor over at Cave City and he told us how to get there. He directed us to the parsonage where he said the preacher married people at moment’s notice. Sure enough when we stopped at the house next to the church the preacher came to the door and agreed to marry us. I wanted to know if we could go next door to the church and he said we could.

Once inside the little empty church he opened his Bible and began reading scripture and we repeated the wedding vows normally spoken at weddings. The wind stirred outside the small building but other than that there was no sound except our pen writing our names on the marriage license. I asked if we shouldn’t have a witness and he said that he considered God to be the witness so none was needed. When we finished signing the document the old gentleman gave us quite a little talk on what makes a good marriage. I know in his wisdom he knew marriages had rough times for most people and ours would surely come.

Once we finished at the church we decided to drive to Batesville for lunch as it was the nearest town of any size. Our destination was Little Rock were we planned to stay two days. We were married on Friday and would have to come home Sunday in order to work on Monday. It was dinner time when we reached Little Rock. The roads were mostly gravel as well as hilly and curvy. We drove around until we saw a motel that looked nice and George went in to get us a room. It’s name was Magnolia Motel. I had never been further South and true to it’s name there were blooming magnolia’s around the motel. I felt I had gone a long ways from Cabool.

Once we unloaded our luggage we found a restaurant to have dinner and then drove around the area to see Little Rock. George asked what I would like to do with the evening and I gave a typical 17-year old answer. I wanted to go to the movies. I’m sure he was disappointed but I was still in the “dating” mode I guess. What does one do when they go anywhere? Go to a movie, of course.

Jumping forward to the next morning I decided I wanted to go home. George was an ex-serviceman and still had his option to borrow money to buy a house. One of the lumber yard owners in Cabool built a small 4-room house on part of his own city property. When thinking about where we would live we decided to try a loan so we could buy the house. It went through about a week before we were married and we had furniture bought and delivered in the next few days. We had set all the boxes of wedding gifts in the living room on the floor and I wanted to get home and make everything pretty.

So go home we did. We got home late afternoon and it was exciting to open the door and realize this was a place to call our own. I was busy putting everything in drawers and closets……and worked quite late that night and all the next day. When Monday came we both went to work and took the normal razzing newly weds go through. There was much to be done, still. I didn’t have a clothes line or a washer and dryer. I knew I would have to wash our clothes at the laundry mat and I was prepared for that but I did need the clothes line.

George’s dad was retired and offered to help. The two of them went to the lumber yard and got wire and 4 X 4’s, dug holes to put them in and strung the wire. I went to the laundry mat and washed all of the linens that were received at the showers. Sheets in those days were white and later pastels came in style. I hung all the clothes on the lines. The towels, table clothes, sheets and spread were beautiful blowing slightly in the breeze. They weren’t dry enough to take in before dark so I opted to let them hang all night and bring them in the next morning.

During the night we had a terrible Spring storm. It threw lightening like daggers and cannon-like thunder till dawn. The heavy rain blew against the house. When I was awake enough in the morning to look towards my clothes on the lines I saw the most unbelievable sight…….my beautiful linens were on the ground, the posts washed out of their places and the wires and pins were tangled in a horrible upheaval. As for the clothes, they were red !! RED !! There was no grass under the lines and the pelting rain had driven them into the red clay mud. At first I was in shock, disbelief and denial. Then I became angry. Really angry!! Tomorrow we shall look at the first volley fired in our new marriage………I shall sleep on this lest I become angry all over again. With a fresh day I will surely be able to get through this without unnecessary “mud slinging” (pardon the pun)…….

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Tuesday, April 27, 2004


The next morning we went through the necessary activity to pack, load our things on the bus and answer the roll call. Although there was a sense of eagerness and joviality after a few miles down the road most of us fell silent. We were all going home to different situations.

Some of the boys would be leaving for the service, some to help with the haying on the family farm, others would leave Cabool to find their fortunes in cities around the country. The girls would make it home in time to pick blackberries for canning and helping their mothers cook for haying crews. Some already had jobs, like me, and others were preparing to visit relatives in towns where work was more lucrative. There were a few who would be heading to college in August and then some who had no idea of what to do next.

I knew I would be back at Booker Drug full-time now. It would have been impossible for me to try college even with a job offer. Our nearest college was 80-miles away and with no transportation or bank account I didn’t even consider it. A few of the kids got married right away that summer after graduation but I was dating someone who would go to college in the fall. I was content with working because I enjoyed people and small town customers are the best. Familiar with most, they kept me laughing all through each shift.

Our drug store was the news center for good and bad occasions. Homes that burned, car accidents, babies born, jobs changed….marriages, divorces……..it was all right over the counter to me. People told me their troubles along with the good times. Since I was there 10-hours every day (except for my Sunday’s off) I was used much of the time for a dating service. I was asked to put in a good word for someone to “so and so” and see if they had a chance for a date with a special person. Of course that worked to my personal advantage as well. I dated more that summer because I no longer had to divide my time with school. That summer was one of the nicest to remember.

By fall dating came to a stop as college took most of the eligible guys away. I kept busy with female friends who were left behind as I was. An older man who had been dating a woman (who also left for college) began coming to the drug store after he got off work. He had been in the service and came back to Cabool after his military discharge. He worked at the local creamery, was always squeaky clean and wore nice clothes. He had a new Ford sedan and before long I began to expect him after work. His order was always the same. A bottle coke and a nickel package of Planters Peanuts. He would open the peanuts and pour them into the coke bottle. All the time he was drinking his mixture of coke and peanuts he would make small talk and later leave.

On Labor Day he asked me for a date to go to the movies. I accepted and we continued dating mostly because of the absence of our former choices. I guess you would say “dating on the rebound.” He was a good man, kind and reasonable. My boss, Verl, encouraged me to go with him because he was “solid” and since I knew Verl to be such a good person in his own right, his advice carried weight.

My own thinking was limiting my options. I was 17 ½ now and had worked long hours getting through school…the thoughts of working at the drug store and staying in a room somewhere stretched out before me. I longed for someone to love me and make a home for me…..I was emotionally starved for love.

In February he asked me to marry him and I accepted. He was 7 ½ years older than me and I appreciated his intelligence and good reasoning. We planned to marry on March 27th 1950. We chose a ring, a Keepsake Diamond (¼ ct) with a wedding ring to match. My picture and announcement was in the paper and two bridal showers followed.

My friend, Leola, whom I’ve recently written about was my room-mate at the time. The night before our wedding day I kept her awake all night muddling through the pros and cons of my marriage the next day. I felt I should have a special feeling for the man I was about to marry but all I really had was his good character and his calm manner. Dawn was breaking and my anxiety increased. Was I doing the right thing? Leola gave me no answers……..for the first time since leaving home I was unsure of my decision.

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Monday, April 26, 2004


An interesting thing happened when we left Lincoln’s Memorial. A funeral procession passed by the Memorial and the President’s car was noticed in the line following the hearse. We later learned it was Forrestal who passed away. He was Secretary of the Navy in 1944, the first Secretary of Defense in 1947 and had resigned because of ill health in 1949. He died a few days before we were at the Memorial and so we were seeing history play out before our eyes. He was only 57-years at time of death. Flags throughout the city were at half-mast.

From there we took the bus to Jefferson’s Memorial next to the Tidal Basin. It was a pretty setting because there was room enough for lawn and flowering bushes as well as flowers. It was a good tribute because of his love to garden and landscape.

We spent a little time at the Smithsonian Institute. We were told it would take 7 ½ years to see everything in the building and spend 2 minutes on each display. We saw a few famous exhibits and left for the next stop. We passed by Union Station, the Pentagon, Treasury Department and the Library of Congress. We had a brief tour where they print our currency and make the coins. It was interesting to see it handled as any ordinary object rather than the wealth of bills we saw printed.

Late afternoon we boarded a boat for a ride up the Potomac and we enjoyed dancing and some food. It was a wonderful, warm starry night and we were all in our best clothes. Truly a night to remember for a bunch of kids from the Mid-West. My friend, Leola, still has a flattened paper cup in her scrap book that held a coke a boy brought to her. I have a few mementoes of my own….and seeing them always brings magic to my heart.

The next morning we were on our way to Annapolis, Maryland to see the Naval Academy and Chesapeake Bay. When we arrived, there were many white sails on the Bay as boats bobbed about in the water. We toured the buildings on the grounds and learned a great deal about the U.S. Navy. When we entered the chapel the glee club was practicing and we enjoyed their music. At that time it was all male voices…..long before women were admitted to the Academy.

On the way back to D.C. we ate at a quaint place called The Back Bone Inn. It was in a picturesque setting. We were pretty tired when we returned to the hotel and most of us spent a quiet evening getting ready for the next day’s outing.

We were scheduled to go to Mt. Vernon so we left early for another full day. We were shown all of the grounds and the mansion, kitchen, slave quarters, stables, harness and leather shop…….it was all very interesting. The rooms in the house were small with furniture that looked uncomfortable. Original items were still in view behind the velvet ropes that kept visitors from handling things or damaging them.

In Martha’s bedroom was her bed, rocking chair, chest and a few pictures and rug. On her table by the bed was a brass candle holder. There were reproductions available in the gift shop on the grounds but buying a few post cards to mail home was the extent of most of our shopping. George’s bedroom was more masculine and there were false teeth on the table made of wood. The information next to the teeth said he tried having teeth made out of many materials but none had worked well. When he became very ill, the doctor attending him, “let blood” which was the medical thinking of the day. He did that several times which only weakened and drained his chances of recovery.

His and Martha’s graves were in a marble building on the grounds. Some slaves were also buried at the site. Slaves did well with good owners and were close to the family. The kitchen, where many of them worked was in a building apart from the main house where food was prepared before serving.

The picture we most see of the home is on the river side where the lawn slopes gracefully down to the water’s edge. The river is quite wide at this point and I doubt if George could have thrown a coin across it. I will just say he and his dad must have been further up river where it was a shorter distance to the other side.

We were a tired bunch when we returned that night. In the morning we would be heading home so most of us were gathering up our things and packing for the trip. We were full of images, sounds and emotions that had been pressed into a few days while there……..enough to last a lifetime……..

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Sunday, April 25, 2004


In thinking about yesterday’s post I need to insert a couple of things. When we visited the Capital Building our group was taken to our Missouri State Senator’s office. He wasn’t there, however, but we did see where he worked and met his impressive staff. Also, we were taken to a round room (like a small rotunda) which I think was called either the “Whispering Room” or the “Statue Room.” I may be thinking of two different rooms but it seems there were statues of early notable men who shaped our country ringed around the room. We were told that two of the opposing lawmakers were on opposite sides of the room whispering to their counterparts when one heard the other whisper his strategy; thereby enabling the other man to kill the bill. Naturally we had to try it (being from Missouri..the “Show Me State”) and the acoustics were indeed amazing.

We were also shown the scars on the original part of the building where the British actually were able to burn and harm part of the structure. My friend, Leola, thinks it was the war of 1812. If anyone has correct information on all this please feel free to comment as I am only writing from what I remember. Obviously some of the facts are missing so I’m only painting half a picture for you. I shall do a little research on the facts even I am wondering about……but I digress.

In 1949 we were allowed to climb the steep metal stairs up the dome of the Capital above the main rotunda. I cannot imagine that it is still possible to do so and I’m curious to know when they may have discontinued that part of the tour. It was quite a climb as we came nearer to the top and once we were in the observation area at the center of the dome we had one of the most frightening and fantastic views of our lives. We were hanging over the rotunda in a small cage while the interior walls rapidly descended outward and away from us. With nothing under us but the marble floor hundreds of feet below we didn’t tarry long. Scary as it was I’m glad I made the effort for I’m sure it would be impossible now. Having seen something that is no longer available makes the experience even more rewarding. Not many of the girls made the climb and some of the boys opted to stay behind but I feel they missed a once in a lifetime opportunity.

We were shown the dining room where dignitaries and members of congress could eat and then we were taken to the cafeteria where we were able to eat before moving on to the next location for the day.

We had a wait to go up into Washington’s Monument. Our class was ringed around the waiting area but eventually we were taken up in the elevator to the top. The guide told us it was best to ride the elevator up and then walk down. Each State had contributed a marble block with their State Seal and other information on it. There were also ones from national contributors and foreign countries as I remember. Once started down there was no way of catching the elevator later if you became tired. It was non-stop up and down only. There are over 400 steps to the bottom and the ones of us who walked down discovered the next day our leg muscles were very sore.

Lincoln’s Memorial was a challenge for our bus driver to work his way from the outer traffic circle to the curb. When he was able to do so we eagerly headed for the front of the monument. As we climbed the steps we were talking and laughing but only until we were able to see Lincoln in his chair. A reverent hush fell over our group as well as others who entered the building. It seemed his eyes followed you no matter where you walked in the presence of the statue. I remember to this day how affected I was by the experience. Somehow the sculptor had captured the extreme sorrow of him but with compassion in his gaze rather than for internal grief. I found it the most influential statue of any I had seen.

The front of Lincoln’s Memorial faces towards the Washington Monument so that is what you see when you come back down the steps. The Reflection Pool of Washington’s Monument lies between the two memorials and is lined with the cherry trees gifted by Japan years ago. During WW11 there was talk of removing them but I’m glad they didn’t. As a quarrel within a family eventually there is forgiveness and peace between countries. A gift should be remembered in the vein it was given and shown respect even when passions fail.

We will be spending more time on our trip than first planned. We were given a special rate for an extended 3-days and Mr. Schuster called back home to see if some of the businesses and organizations would donate for this opportunity. They did and so we were treated to greater expansion of our tour. Our class of ‘49 was the first class to attempt such a venture and the community was behind us from the beginning. Thanks to generous people, many of whom are now gone, they gave a bunch of kids some sights and memories that couldn’t have happened otherwise. We are in debt to their generosity………

Tomorrow we begin another day of sightseeing.
Until then,

Essentially Esther

Saturday, April 24, 2004


Fifty-five years ago after graduation we packed our bags and headed for Washington D.C. In that day and time it was like going to the moon. Most of us had only been in a nearby State and some had never been out of Cabool. It was a huge undertaking by any stretch of the imagination.

We met at school with our baggage on the day we were to leave. Two school buses were our transportation to St. Louis where we would load onto a commercial bus from an independent touring company. Our bus was driven by our math teacher and principal, Mr. Schuster. Miss Davis, our speech, English and dramatics teacher was the chaperone. Everyone was in high spirits and the ride to St. Louis was tolerated pretty well with all the bumps and hard seats.

I have conferred with my very good friend from school days, Leola, and my husband, Rocky…….between the three of us we have come up with the following itinerary, give or take a little. Age and time have gnawed away at our total recall.

We got off the busses at St. Louis to eat and board the bus that would take us to D.C. The luxury of it was welcome…..soft seats, more room and our luggage was stowed away in compartments underneath the bus. It was good because we were to drive night and day until reaching our destination. We had enough money to take each person in our class which cost $72 a head. A few chose not to go or were unable to go. In talking with Leola this morning we laughed at how much “spending” money we had. She had the total of $11 and I’m sure I didn’t have any more than that myself. Some meals were provided by the touring company but we had to pay for some ourselves.

After leaving St. Louis we ate an evening meal somewhere along the way and then slept as best we could in our seats. The next morning we stopped in Cincinnati for breakfast at the Purple Cow. It was a welcome sight after a long night. I remember the city looking pretty dirty at that time. Of course I’m sure we were in the downtown area which is usually the worst part of any city.

We traveled on to West Virginia and then Virginia where we stopped for a fallen tree in the highway. Our bus drivers had to get out to help clear the road along with some other motorists in order to continue. The company had one extra bus driver with us for relief so we could keep going. After getting past the problem we arrived in D.C. that evening late. We were booked at the Plaza Hotel in the downtown area. We were close to much of what we came to see. Everyone was glad to get assigned to a room where we could bathe, wash hair and unpack. We all slept soundly that night.

The next day after being gathered up by the teachers we boarded the bus to visit the Arlington Cemetery, Custis-Lee mansion, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Grant’s Tomb. We also went to the Capital Building and were seated in the balcony to observe the House of Representatives in session. We were surprised so few of them were present. Only a handful were there to argue a case in point that we knew nothing whatsoever about. The Library of Congress was only a few blocks from our Hotel, within walking distance.

After a full day of sight-seeing we were happy to get back to the hotel where we could freshen up and rest. I called my aunt Inabelle and uncle Tom who lived in a suburb of D.C. so he could come after me on his motorcycle (with a side-car) to take me to their home for the evening. I shall never forget riding in the little side-car through the streets of our capital city. We threaded our way past lighted monuments of every kind and their white marble beauty seemed endless. Important looking vehicles flowed with us and past us at every traffic light.

By the time we arrived at their home I was full of the sights and sounds I had just experienced. I was in love with our nation’s capital and wanted to stay forever. We had a wonderful visit and then it was time to go back to the hotel. My aunt worked at the Pentagon Building and uncle Tom worked at the Government Printing Office. I was very proud of them and their vocations. They were a long way from Blair now and I was a long way from Cabool. I was about to start a totally new aspect of my life now that I was graduated……I wanted to make it count for something special. In my young head I had no idea of the paths I would take in coming years.

Tomorrow is another busy day of sight-seeing.
Until then,

Essentially Esther

Friday, April 23, 2004


Since coming home I have only had time to cast an eye out each window to enjoy our Spring blooms. In the front we have pines, oaks, a pink dogwood, a beautiful pinoak (shaped perfectly), pink and red weigelas, fire-bushes and a pink flowering crab-apple.

In back we have a stone wall which diagonally separates the yard for a flower garden. I have wild wood-phlox, blue bonnets, iris of all kinds, creeping phlox, columbines of all sorts, lilacs and azaleas in bloom at this time.

The clematis are climbing skyward and will soon line the side fence with all manner of color. The red-buds are about spent now but the two in our yard were beautiful this year. There are many little friends awakening from their winter’s sleep that will soon be blooming as well. I have something flowering from daffodils to frost every year. It may sound like an overgrown yard but we have an acre and most of it blooms. One of these days I will have John put a picture on for me.

I meant to write about the ‘49’ers Senior trip to Washington D.C. today but I’ll have to confess ……..I went outside and pulled some weeds. The ground is saturated and the weeds are easy pulled right now…….and yes….I’m odd because I enjoy the job.

Becky has been writing about storms of the past and present which made me think of a poem I wrote some time ago. With all the rain there always has to be a rainbow somewhere. Tomorrow I will begin the Senior trip and work towards the D.C. destination.


For every dark and fearful hour
God calls on us to bear,
He gives us ways to praise Him
and blessings we can share.

He only takes the sun away
so we can see His stars;
The glory of His heavens
and the beauty that is ours.

He hangs the clouds along the sky
because we need the rain,
And then He sends a rainbow
till the sun comes out again.

So look for stars and rainbows
forget the clouds of gray,
They’re only with us for a while
and soon will roll away.

Our loving Father is sure to give
the faith we can receive,
So we can only take as much
as we are able to believe.

Believe with all the faith you have
and always look above,
He’ll send you stars and rainbows
and shower you with love.

Rocky is doing great and we are both getting rested up. We are so glad to be home and back in our own routine.

Tomorrow we shall get back to,

Essentially Esther

Thursday, April 22, 2004


Rocky and I wish to thank all of our cyber friends for the many prayers, love and concern during his surgery and time in the hospital. We certainly appreciated the time you took to comment and send messages. Knowing the busy lives you lead it was a gift of time.

We are some of the fortunate ones who take their cares to the surgeon and hospital and come home with a happy ending. There are so many who have to face far worse situations than ours. Today I removed the staples from Rocky’s incision with a tool they sent home with us. I’m happy to say we both survived……actually it was a very simple undertaking.

He won’t be allowed to drive for 4 - 6 months and only then if he doesn’t have any more seizures. That means his worst fear has come upon him……..having to ride in the passenger seat while I drive. I’m known to have a heavy foot so to ease his mind I will now have to drive the speed limit……and so…..that means we both have to give up something. I suppose that’s a fair thing.

We are humbled by the support we have had from family and friends and we love you all. I plan to be back with Essentially Esther tomorrow and so……for tonight….from us to all of you……thank you and we love you.

Rocky and Esther

Wednesday, April 14, 2004


The students received their “letters” for all Sports participation as well as Speech, Music and all the rest. Our ratings had been posted as to our scholastic standing with our class-mates so we knew how we “stacked up” with everyone else. There wasn’t much left to do but rehearse for Baccalaureate and Commencement.

We were assembled in the hall by alphabetical order……and boy with girl. The record was played over and over as we practiced walking into the auditorium. Baccalaureate was held on Sunday, May 15th, l949. It was well attended because at that time frame in every small community over the South, church and school activities took president.

I well remember school events were in accordance with every church calendar in town. However, on the night of Baccalaureate, churches gathered early so the members could attend the service. The high-school band played for our processional rather than the record we had rehearsed with.

Four days later we assembled for our last time as a class. Seventy-Two of us lined up in the hallway, waiting for the sound of Pomp and Circumstance. The auditorium was overflowing with parents, relatives and friends. It is one of those times in your life when you remember every little breath you take. Miss Davis had practiced with us for days so that when the music started we knew to begin our march with the right foot, with the whispered cadence of “step….step….step….”.

I can still hear that in my head after all these years. I knew it would be the last time we would all be together and I felt a pang of loss, somehow. It had been the order of my life for the past two years and tomorrow I would wake up to the demands of a world not yet traveled.

Again the auditorium was full and this time we received our diplomas. I must say it was a solemn occasion and most respectful. I have been horrified in recent years to attend both high-school and college level graduations where there was constant shouting, standing, clapping, air-horns and all manner of distraction carried out even when the guest speaker was talking. I am appalled at the total disrespectful public conduct. I am glad to have enjoyed proper respect for special occasions and public gatherings when I was growing up.

After the speeches, music and singing we were given our diplomas, presented by the President, of the Board of Education. Then the recessional and the greeting from our families. My mother and father attended and brought friends with them. After the customary greeting and congratulations I was offered a ride to my rooming house which I accepted. I got out of the car and thanked them…….again, Dad never spoke to me. I’m sure it was not noticed by anyone except by my mother and me…….

Until next time,

Essentially Esther

PS I would like to take this opportunity to tell my cyber readers that I will be absent for a few days. My husband, Rocky, is to undergo surgery early tomorrow for a brain tumor. We are told it is benign so that is one fear we won’t have to face. I have appreciated all of your comments and faithfulness to read my family’s journal. I shall be back on line when I am able to do so.

Until then…….we covet your prayers.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004


There were only a few days left before graduation. We had a Senior Sneak Day and toured a couple of natural springs in the area. Far enough away to feel we had an outing but close enough we could get there and back by school dismissal. It was a balmy Spring day and it seemed the whole world was in bloom. South Missouri is beautiful any time of year but Spring is the best with her blossoms sprinkled over the hills in every color. Fall is a close second with the vivid coloring of leaves competing with an azure sky and white, puffy clouds strolling by.

We traveled in a school bus and everyone paired off to sit with special friends. If you’ve ever ridden a school bus you are aware of the good natured frolicking that goes on. It’s hard to ignore for you are either a laughing spectator or the one perpetuating the fun. At times you might even be the target of someone’s joke but at least in our day it was all in good humor. The bus driver would glance up in the mirror occasionally but we never gave him a reason or need to exert discipline.

Seniors were given some loose reins the last month of school as the grades were pretty well settled and about all we had to do was show up and enjoy the dwindling days. We had good student-teacher relations. In a small town you know your teachers well. You’ve either sat close to them in church, waited on them at the drug store, seen them in the restaurants or waved as they drove by on the street. Many times they had been sponsors at Teen Town, helped with our parade floats, cheerleading, pep-club and so on. Every function was over-seen by teachers. They were so much a part of the community it was always tough saying good-bye when their career took them on to a bigger school.

I ate breakfast every morning at a small café just down the street from my rooming house. Each morning the coach would come in and order a 7-up and his breakfast. I on the other hand would order a cup of coffee and toast. It was practical and enjoyable as well as something hot to start the day. I never understood how coach could drink a 7-up so early in the morning but he did without fail.

At Booker Drug we had an older pharmacist, Mr. Smurr. He always had a scowl on his face and most of the kids (and some of the people) didn’t like him. He could be rather short and at times down right irritating. For some reason I was never afraid of him and when conversing I always gave him the benefit of the doubt. He had been a pharmacist in Kansas City in his younger days and I could tell he probably enjoyed a good life there. He kept himself spic and span and was very distinctive with wavy gray hair. For some reason he and his wife had ended up in Cabool and I supposed, weren’t too happy there. It was an end of the line thing and he yearned for those good old days. I could sympathize with that and always treated him respectfully.

One day he came to me with a small box and asked if I would wrap it so he could send it to his niece in Kansas City. She was graduating and he wanted her to receive a gift from him and his wife. I dutifully did as he asked, wrapped it in gift paper and again for mailing. He was pleased and said he would address it.

The next day when I went to the post office to inquire if I had any mail the clerk brought several cards and a small package. When I opened the parcel it was a billfold from Mr. and Mrs. Smurr for graduation. I was totally surprised and humbled by the gift.

In time he lost his beloved wife and finally had to quit working because of his own ill health. I always had a soft spot for Mr. Smurr…..he was misunderstood mainly because people couldn’t get past his gruffness but underneath he had a heart of gold. Life brings many people into our lives and if we stop long enough to truly see and hear who they are……..we find a friend.

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Monday, April 12, 2004


I had been dating a Senior boy for a few weeks before Easter. His parents had a dairy farm and he normally only came in on Friday or Saturday nights. I would see him on whichever night that happened to be. He was fun loving and hard working. Farm work is not easy but provides wonderful benefits for a feeling of self-worth and good health.

He asked me to the Senior Prom and said his friend was taking my best friend….and if it was OK we could double-date. Of course I gladly accepted. When the big night came I was at her home and we got ready for the prom together.

If you didn’t live through that era it would be hard for you to understand about Senior Proms at the time. Especially in a small town. For openers there was usually a pastor on the school board that strongly opposed a prom night. They did NOT approve of dancing any time for any reason. They felt it opened the door to all sorts of promiscuity and fought the prom being on school property. It never made sense to me…….if it caused the bad results they anticipated why would it be all right if it was off campus.

In the end the prom was allowed and decoration/refreshment committees were organized. Of course sponsors were required….always some of the teaching staff. The big thing for the girls was to be asked to the prom and hopefully by the boy they liked. After that, the dress was the big problem. Not many parents could provide anything very fancy so many were home sewn or borrowed.

The other problem to be faced…probably the biggest….was the “hair.” Bear in mind we didn’t have the array of products girls are accustomed to now. If it rained our “do” would wilt from the humidity….freshly washed hair seldom had any body to it and it was limp. The rollers were metal and looked like opening a crocodile’s mouth. The top clamp would hold the hair while you rolled it towards your head. Then a little rubber wheel of a thing secured it into place at the end of the curler. If you didn’t get it just right the ends came out like straight daggers from each curl. There was no help for this disaster. A girls biggest nightmare was her hair not “doing right” for a big date. And yes…..this was before hair spray.

LeEtta and I were picture perfect by the time the boys arrived. We didn’t dare sit down for fear we would wrinkle our dresses so we stood or walked around the house until time to leave. Excitement and anticipation ruled. When our dates knocked at the door we were presented with the customary corsage…..only this corsage was not customary. We were each given an orchid. At our young ages we knew this was very special….on one ever got an orchid. Corsage’s were usually carnations that had been dyed to match or enhance the dress.

Since our dates declined pinning the corsage LeEtta’s mother pinned them on for us. With that we left the house and my date drove us to the prom. The gym was beautifully decorated and a record player was playing the latest Tommy Dorsey or Glen Miller music. The girls were bedecked in every color of formals and looked like a bouquet spread over the gym floor. Hearts were light and happy…..friendships were formed that would last a lifetime and laughter prevailed throughout the evening. We were about to be cast in every direction after graduation so that night was a celebration of life, youth and the future.

It would live on the rest of our lives……..

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Saturday, April 10, 2004


Thanksgiving and Christmas came and went. I rode the bus home and spent the holidays with mom and dad. The only conversation was between mom and me. Dad couldn’t find a way out of his silence. I understood and let it go by. I rode the bus back to Cabool and returned to school.

Time was hurrying by and our class had to pick out graduation announcements, rings, caps and gowns….all the things to close out the Senior year. I had been working extra in Speech Class for the competition in our district and worked with the yearbook staff. Spring was coming up fast and we would soon be on our way to Washington D.C.

A good friend of mine had asked me to come to her church for a revival that was going on. I agreed to go and listened to a powerful and persuasive evangelist tell about Christ and why He had to die to atone for man’s sin. It was the only way we could be forgiven and in good standing with God. He went on to say the reason we have to make that decision public is because Christ had a very public death. By coming forward we show we are not ashamed to be called his followers. Baptism was explained as the old body being buried and rising in the newness of Christ.

I had never heard such doctrine before. The churches I had gone to as a little girl didn’t speak of this and not as much from the Bible. People were often asked to join the church and become members but so far as I knew people didn’t know if they were good enough to go to heaven or not. They hoped they would but said God would add up your good and bad at the resurrection and if you had more good than bad you would go to heaven.

Hearing a gospel that told me you could settle it right now and be sure of your salvation sounded like something I wanted. I went forward and told the preacher that I wanted to go to heaven and be forgiven of my sins. He prayed with me and on Easter Sunday I was baptized and became a church member. I was the first one in my family on either side to do so. It was the basic Billy Graham message that I recognize now but in 1949 I had never heard of Billy Graham. I am thankful to this day that a friend of mine cared enough to be concerned for my soul.

It was 55-years ago that I became a Christian and God has been my steady companion ever since. Without Him I would have been so lost……..but with Him I have had guidance, mercy, training, forgiveness and the hope of eternity. At this time of year I felt I should give due credit to the One who has been my constant companion over the years.

My hope is that you have a blessed Easter and that Christ is the light of your life.

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Friday, April 09, 2004


When school starts up in late summer it always breeds it’s own excitement. For a small town it is a calendar to live by until school is out in the Spring. Class mates re-kindle old friendships and check out the new kids that have come in over the summer. Our Senior Class was the largest registered in Cabool.

I had become very well acquainted my Junior year so the curriculum was not a total surprise my Senior year. Our class was something special from the time I became acquainted with it. A large group had been together since first grade and others had been grafted in and accepted as I was.

After organizing officers the class decided to go to Washington D.C. for our Senior trip. It would take a lot of money which no one had nor did the parents. We decided to work outside of school and put all earnings into the class fund. Along with the individual efforts we held bake sales, car washes, yard work, housework, whatever would make money for the trip. We had an aggressive group of kids who literally spent every extra moment working for the benefit of all.

The community became interested in it and had fund raisers and donation drives of their own. My boss, Verl Murr belonged to the Kiwanis Club and they were good contributors to our cause. Other organizations were just as generous.

Football season at the high-school and college level is the harbinger of Fall. Our Junior year the school team tied with a strong contender for the SCA Championship at our level. But the team we were tied with lost to a stronger team and because of the point system we were both knocked out of the running. Still, it was an honor to get so close for our small school. Sometimes winning isn’t everything….getting close can be just as exciting.

I continued working at Booker Drug and life was becoming more secure. On Saturday nights the school kids congregated at Teen Town which was a room above a business building. Most of us didn’t have cars or transportation so it was a good place to go. The school had a sponsor present and there were games, a ping-pong table, an old record player and some donated records.

When I stop and think about it I’m sure the teen-agers of today would think it pretty juvenile and generic. We ended up with all the boys throwing darts and playing ping-pong while the girls danced with each other. If a boy should agree to dance he was usually heckled by his buddies . Most of the boys came from farms and had little time to learn how to dance and didn’t see a lot of sense in it. I’m even surprised myself when I think how simple things seemed so grand at the time…..we were happy and satisfied with things the way they were.

I had moved from Mrs. Shepherd’s home during the summer of my Junior year. A nice family moved into our town and bought a grocery store. They bought a large house and rented the upstairs to one other person and myself. The other woman was older and had a wonderful kindly spirit. We had our own room and bathroom…it was wonderful staying there. Again, the rent was cheaper and I was in a very good situation.

I had always been an avid reader and began writing my thoughts and inspirational pieces. There was a cancer drive on and I wrote a piece for school. Our English/Drama/Speech teacher mentioned it to the editor of our town paper and he printed it. Needless to say it was a thrill for me and planted a need for writing throughout my life. It is a wonderful vehicle to test the waters of your own soul.

Reading and writing were my two best friends while away from home. I cannot measure the inner confidence it gave me and the determination to make my life better than it was. I suppose I was always a dreamer and star gazer. I knew somehow my life was going to count for more than just existing. I wanted to make a difference and set myself out to do it. I’ve never been sorry.

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Thursday, April 08, 2004


It was Spring in South Missouri and the new grass and flowers put everyone in high spirits. Miss Davis was auditioning parts for our Junior Play. I was selected for a lengthy part which required a lot of memorization and time. I asked Verl if I could be off a little after school for play practice so I could be in the play. He encouraged me to do so and made arrangements for those times when I would be late. He continued to pay my full wages and he and his wife came to see the opening night.

On week-ends I noticed a college student who came in regularly. The reason I began to look for him was because he lingered at the counter and talked with me instead of going to sit in the booths. He was good looking and witty. His conversations always made me laugh. After several weeks he asked me for a date and I accepted. He had an old 38-Chevy which was his transportation back and forth to SMS, the State College in Springfield. He was a Junior and very active in campus events.

I was invited to attend the Spring Prom with him and rode the bus to Springfield. I stayed at the Sorority House with some friends where I got ready for my date. He arrived to pick me up and we spent a wonderful evening at the dance. I took the bus back to Cabool the next day because I didn’t want someone having to work in my place. When Tom came home for the summer we dated on and off but when he went back to SMS in the fall we didn’t date anymore. He was much busier with his Senior year and didn’t come home as often. He was working towards being involved with radio and television and the future looked bright for him. Later his dreams were realized…..he married and had two children. They lived where his work took him. I was sad to read some time ago in our high school alumni paper that he had passed away. He was an exceptional person.

In May we had our high school junior prom and I went alone. Girls all over town were walking to the auditorium wearing their long dresses. A common sight in those days. No one had cars of their own and most parents didn’t trust the only family car to their children. And yes, girls danced with girls in those days mainly because the boys were too self-conscious and backward. There were refreshments, though humble, more dancing and afterwards I walked back to my room alone.

Summertime brought a lot of college kids back to Cabool and there was always a lot of activity going on at Booker Drug. Work was fun for me….Verl had me take charge of the cosmetic counter along with working at the soda fountain. I did the ordering and re-stalked the shelves after he priced it and checked the order. Life was wonderful for me that summer because I would be a Senior in the Fall and as a student that was the ultimate.

Tomorrow we will revisit the Senior year.
Until then,

Essentially Esther

Wednesday, April 07, 2004


It wasn’t long after my reinstatement with Mrs. Martin until I was called into the principal’s office one day. I had the normal amount of fear and trepidation at his summons. The principal, Don Edwards, was every woman’s dream. He was single, tall, dark and handsome. Young women all over town swooned over him. My interest this morning was one of curiosity.

As he asked me to sit down he told me that Verl Murr had called him for a recommendation of a student that would be good part-time help. As my curiosity grew he went on to say Mr. Murr was the manager of the Rexall Drug Store on Main Street.

He gave him my name and reiterated what he said to Mr. Murr. I was a good student who kept my grades up, that I worked at the café next to the movie theatre, that I didn’t live at home and I was honest and conscientious. He told him that anytime I had to be out of school for work I always came and squared it with him first. He had given me a high recommendation.

I sat with my eyes locked on him in disbelief. He went on to say that I was to go down after school and apply for the job if I would like to. My mind was racing in silence…… if I would LIKE to? Was he kidding? It was the hang-out for all the kids after school and the meeting place for date bait. I told him I would and I went promptly to the drug store when school was out.

I was afraid to count on it too much the way things had been going lately. I walked a fast pace to the drug store and asked to see Mr. Murr who was at work behind the prescription counter. When he finished, he motioned me to his office and offered me a chair. He had a kind, thoughtful face and I judged him to be in his early forties. He was impeccably clean and wore a white shirt and a tie. He had the crinkly kind of wavy hair sprinkled with gray. I liked him immediately.

He told me he needed a part-time employee and what the pay would be. It started at $15.50 per week and when school was out for the summer he would raise me to $18.50 for the longer hours I could work. He knew that I got my meals at the café which I wouldn’t have working for him but the hours would be much shorter and I wouldn’t have to work through my noon hours as I had at the café. I would work after school until 9:00pm with an hour off for supper during the week. If I worked the Saturday night shift I was off on Sunday’s. If I was off Saturday night….then I worked one-half day on Sunday. I couldn’t imagine having so much time off. The hours were cut in half with a little more pay.

To have “time off” was not in my imagination. I had worked from opening til closing with the Martin’s and ran down from school at noon to work during the lunch hour. I would eat a sandwich on the way back to school for afternoon classes and then back to work until closing. Naturally it was a vicious cycle. All I had known was work and school. I cannot express my gratitude with words at the turn of events. I was to start work the next week after giving notice to Mrs. Martin. My last days at the café were not very pleasant.

I had not dated up until this time for two reasons. The obvious one is I didn’t have any spare time to date. The other reason was because I grew up where girls didn’t think of dating until they were at least sixteen. After I went to work for Verl Murr I had exposure and location. School kids didn’t hang out at the café where I had worked but the drug store was the meeting place of choice for everyone.

All of a sudden I was beginning to feel like a normal kid again. I connected with some good friends at both school and work. I was appreciated by Mr. Murr who thought he had the best help in town. He laughingly told me (after I had worked for a few weeks) that when I had no customers he noticed I was always cleaning and shining the fountain. He told me I could relax because he wasn’t going to fire me.

He also told me when I began working for him that I could eat all the ice-cream I wanted……just help myself. I could also have potato chips and candy. Later on he told me I was the only soda jerk he ever had that he lost money on. He said most kids got tired of ice-cream after a week or two and couldn’t bear the thought of eating it anymore. I was the only one who could eat it every day and never get sick of it. Of course he was teasing and loved to rib me about my love affair with ice-cream.

It is true, I have always loved ice-cream. They say it is a comfort food and they might be right. All I know is after I worked for Mr. Murr a while I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. He was always looking after my best interest and guided me into safe decisions. He impacted my life with goodness and direction. I owe him a great debt of gratitude. He was truly a good Christian man who walked his talk. He was my hero……

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Tuesday, April 06, 2004


With Rosie dead I would have to find another place to rent. Rosie’s son lived next door and told me I could stay where I was for a while. By word of mouth I heard about a woman looking for a room-mate who lived across from the bus depot. Her name was Jewel Pitchford and was working in one of the beauty shops in town. Jewell was in her late 20’s and much more experienced with life than I was She seemed a little rough around the edges but I needed a room in a hurry. She had rented a large room in the front part of a house and had her own heating stove, bed, a table and some chairs. When I went to see her she said I could room with her for $1.50 a week. I was happy with the price and thought it would be fine.

I moved my things in and continued working for the Martin’s at the ice-cream parlor. I had a letter from mom near Christmas and she told me they were moving to Willow Springs over the holidays. They sold the farm at Tyrone and dad was working for the Highway Department. She said they had a phone and gave me the number….several days later I took the bus to Willow and called them. Mom and dad picked me up and I spent Christmas time off from school/work helping them move. Dad never spoke to me the whole time but I expected that….it was enough to be there. I knew in time dad would work it out. His pride made it impossible for him to say he was sorry.

On one of the coldest nights in January I walked back to our room after I got off work. It was late and when I turned on the light the room had been practically emptied. The only things remaining were my clothes piled up on the floor. I was in shock. Jewel hadn’t said a word about moving. I knew she dated one of the bus drivers but that was about all I knew of her private life. As I looked around I began missing some of my jewelry and my clothes. The jewelry I had was simple and inexpensive. I couldn’t imagine why she would take it. Some of my best clothes were also gone.

It was too late to do anything about my trouble. With the stove gone the room was frigid. I would have to stay there until morning and then try and find another place to stay. I put what clothes I had left in a bed-like fashion on the floor and lay down with my coat on. I managed to stay there until about 2:30 am but by then I was so cold and sleepy I knew I had to do something different. I got up and decided to go over to the bus station. The lights looked warm and inviting so I went in and found a chair to sit in. I dozed on and off until morning and then ordered some toast and coffee for breakfast. In 1948 it cost 15-cents. The lady who ran the place was nice and friendly. I’m sure she was aware of my problem but didn’t ask questions. She was no doubt aware of Jewell’s hurried exit as the front of the Bus Depot faced directly across to the house where we stayed. In a small town everybody knows every ones business.

I decided I would go back and ask about another room Mrs. Shepherd had for rent that was now empty. I hoped it would be reasonable but when I inquired the rent was more than I had ever paid. It was a nicely furnished bedroom but I was not given bath-tub privileges so I could only wash in the sink. I was also told I could not do laundry there so I would have to have my clothes laundered elsewhere. The rent was $5.00 per week. I knew I could only stay there for a short while. I felt very much unwanted but I had no choice at the time.

It was about this time Mrs. Martin told me she was cutting my wages to 10-cents an hour. She had learned the reason I was not living at home and I knew she was taking advantage of my situation. When they bought the business she cut me down from 35-cents to 25-cents per hour and now this last cut was going to be impossible for me to make my rent. We were very busy one night when the movie crowd came in and I was in the kitchen trying to get out all the orders. She came back where I was and angrily told me to hurry up or she would find someone else for my job. She was loud and the customers could hear her.

When she left the kitchen the tears I’d been pushing back for months came flooding out. I was humiliated to have her speak that way to me in front of customer’s and I knew I was working harder than she was. I took my coat and went out the back way and walked home. She didn’t see me leave. I tried to seem normal when I went back to Mrs. Shepherd’s house but it was obvious I had been crying and I was home early. Of course she wanted to know what had happened. I told her the whole story and she was very sympathetic but angry at Mrs. Martin. While we were talking, a knock came at the door, and when Mrs. Shepherd opened it, there stood Mrs. Martin. She apologized and wanted me to come back to work….she promised it would never happen again. She even told me she would put me back to 25-cents an hour. I’m sure Mr. Martin made her do it because he had always tried to make up for her sharp tongue. He was a very quiet, very nice man.

I knew I would have to go back for I had no other option but I also knew that the first chance I got I would find other work. Thankfully there were forces in play that I knew nothing about at the time. My life was about to take an upward turn.

I never knew where Jewel went or why. She was never seen or heard of again.
I just supposed she ran off with the bus driver.

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Monday, April 05, 2004


School was always a snap for me. I loved learning and had a great respect for teachers because of aunt Mary. I made friends easily because I had been moved so much prior to Cabool. I learned you have to jump out and get in the water if you want to swim. Of course working with the public soon gives you the ability to speak casually with people.

School was underway when I got some unpleasant news. Actually, it was more like disastrous news. Mr. Barrett was very sick and they had to sell the ice-cream parlor. He would require more medical attention than he could get at Cabool. I was sorry for them and scared about my job. What if they didn’t keep the help? Where would I go? What would I do? They said the new owners had promised to keep the help they had so my job would be secure. Still, I was concerned.

The new owners arrived at the first of the month and we were introduced. They came from San Diego where Mr. Martin had retired from the Navy. Mrs. Martin had relatives in Cabool and had been raised in the area so they had a connection in that way. Things went along fairly well for a while. Rosie was the first one to leave. She had cooked in restaurants most of her life and couldn’t/wouldn’t make the changes required.

A man was hired to take her place. He was supposedly a chef from Kansas City who was down on his luck. I don’t know where Mrs. Martin found him but he came in with a lot of big ideas that didn’t go well in a small town. He decided to quit and go back to Kansas City. He said he had a daughter my size and if I had any clothes to sell he would pay me later. I had a few things I could spare so I took them to him. He was to leave a check with Mrs. Martin for me to pick up after school. When I came to work and asked about it Mrs. Martin said he left on the bus that afternoon and hadn’t left anything for me.

I had worked hard to buy the few things I had but I knew he would never send the money. I was right. In order to save money on my rent I moved to another home with an older lady who was blind. Her rent was only $2.50 per week so I thought it would help my situation. However, she would come into the room every night and feel to see if my head was on the pillow…thereby knowing I was home. She knew I worked until 11:00 pm but it was just something she did. I grew to hate her fingers feeling for my head during the night. I also found my things had been “gone through” …..I suppose just a curiosity. I began looking for another room again.

Eventually I was made aware of a room that would be $3.50 again but Rosie Jones was the mother of the Postmaster in Cabool and had a lovely front bedroom she rented. Her husband died sometime prior to her decision to rent the room. I loved it and decided to make the monetary sacrifice to be in better surroundings. She told me I could put any food I would like in the refrigerator and for the first time since leaving Omaha I was able to use a bath-tub for bathing instead of a pan of water. I was very happy about my change. I was able to take meals at the ice-cream parlor during working hours but I bought a few things and put in the refrigerator for evenings at home. However, when I went to get some snacks, they had been opened and were partially gone. The second time it happened I quit buying anything.

One time Rosie left for the week-end and I was alone except for a married couple who rented a back apartment. Rosie, Mr. And Mrs. Nettles and myself all used the same bathroom. I took a bath before bedtime and was in the living room reading when the French doors opened leading to the living room. It was Mr. Nettles. He spoke to me and then came in the living room, shutting the door. I was a little uneasy but didn’t show it.

My uneasiness proved to be right. He wanted me to go back to his apartment and sleep with him because his wife was also gone. He said he knew I could use money and was willing to pay me because Mrs. Martin told him about the cook not paying for the clothes I gave him. Once I realized his wife was gone and just the two of us were in the house I became instantly defensive. When he realized I couldn’t be bribed he begged me not to tell his wife. I promised, because I didn’t intend to ever tell anyone. After he left the room I went to my bedroom and moved the chest of drawers against the door connected to the living room. I locked the outside door and closed the windows and locked them. I was afraid he might try and come back so I took all of the precautions I could think of. Finally I went to bed and covered up…….I spent a very warm night but as it turned out…….a safe one.

The longer I stayed with Rosie the more I knew she was in deep depression. She cried all the time and kept talking about how much she missed her husband. In my young mind the only thing I could think of was for her to get out and see people, go places with friends and “do things.” She would seem to perk up but when I came from work she would be down in the black hole again. She hadn’t called anyone or gone anywhere. No matter how much I tried she couldn’t climb out of her depths.

One day while I was at work, she poured gasoline on herself in the back yard and lit the fatal match. It was beyond my comprehension that a person could do that to themselves....no matter what the reason. I felt so sorry for Rosie…..she just didn’t get the help she needed.

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Saturday, April 03, 2004


I was up early the next morning and got ready to go back to work. I was able to use the bathroom downstairs to bathe and I had a change of clothes. I went to work early because I was so excited to have a job. In a few days I felt secure and comfortable with the routine and it was easy for me to deal with the public.

Mr. Barrett had been in the Army and had contracted an aliment while serving in WWII. As I remember, it was malaria. Sometimes he would not be to work for several days but Mrs. Barrett would come in during the busy times. More and more Amy and I were there alone and she began sitting down more and more in the booths with her friends. I didn’t think anything about it but when Rosie wasn’t working I would take the orders, fry the burgers, wait tables and do the dishes. It was still easier work than I was used to.

One night Mr. Barrett came in and told us he and Mrs. Barrett were going to the show and would be back when it was over. Amy took their absence for opportunity to sit with her friends again. After the movie was over the Barrett’s didn’t come back right away. The place was full but I managed to take care of everybody. After the rush was over, the Barrett’s came in and we cleaned up for the next day.

Mr. Barrett paid Amy and told her she could go home and asked me to stay a little longer. When they closed, Mr. Barrett told me they hadn’t gone to the movie. They went across the street to see what went on while they were gone. The sidewalk on the other side of the street was a good three feet higher than it was where the ice-cream parlor was so they could see through the whole shop.

He told me he had talked to Amy previously and asked how I was working out and why some of the work wasn’t done at times. She told him I didn’t do my part and she couldn’t get it all done, that I sat down when they weren’t there. I was dumb-founded to say the least. Amy was out of school and being older I had looked to her as a mentor. I had no idea she would say such a thing.

Mr. Barrett went on to say that he was going to fire Amy and give me her salary of 35-cents an hour because they hadn’t gone to the show at all but stood across the street and watched what went on. They did that every night during the week to see if Amy’s accusations were true. Instead they found it to be the other way around. He commended me on my good work ethic and told me I would have a job with them as long as I wanted.

To say the least it took me some time to absorb what had happened. I walked back to my room and felt very grateful I escaped being fired because of Amy’s lies. It was the first time my trust had been misplaced. It wouldn’t be the last time.

I wrote home routinely after I got my first pay so I could buy a tablet and envelopes. I wanted mom and dad to know I was OK and that I was working for the Barrett’s. Mom would write back and I’m sure was relieved to know I was doing well. I was too proud to mention anything negative in my letters. I sent glowing reports so mom wouldn’t worry about me. There was never any mention of dad or what happened when he came home and found me gone. It was something we were never able to talk about.

I went to work the first of August when it was miserably hot and humid. I stayed in the attic nights and worked from the noon rush til closing, usually around 11:00 pm. I went to church on Sunday’s with my land-lady and worked afterwards. It would soon be time for school to open so I walked up the hill to the high-school and found the Principal’s Office. I talked with Mr. Edwards and told him I had moved to Cabool recently and where I worked and roomed. I told him my records for my Freshman and Sophomore grades were at Summersville. He was very nice and said he would request my transfer and take care of it. I was told when school started and what I would need etc;

I was 15-years old May 28th that year and started school the last week of August. I was in the Junior class at Cabool High for the 1947-1948 term and I felt a great connection once I was back in school. Life seemed to be on track for me but not for long. I had a few unexpected surprises waiting for me…..but that’s a story for another day.

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Friday, April 02, 2004


Mr. Barrett came from the back room and said they would hire me. I would get 25-cents an hour and I was to “wait tables.” Amy, the other waitress could show me the ropes and Rosie, the cook, could show me the kitchen work. I was to wait tables, help with the dishes, keep the floor swept and run the register. I was always good with money so it was no problem to make “change.”

My heart soared. I had a job. Mr. Barrett asked Amy if she knew where I could get a room and she did, so he had her take me to see about it. I carried my brown sack and we walked the two blocks to the house. I don’t remember the lady’s name but she seemed nice, lived close to the Methodist Church, and showed me her “rent room.”

We climbed steep stairs to an attic room which had a bed and a dresser. The bed had a “straw tick” on an old iron bed. There was a window. The rest of the attic was filled with cast-offs of a life-time…….I felt I fit in just fine. I told her I couldn’t pay her until after I worked a week and she said that would be all right. The room rent would be $3.50 a week.

Amy and I walked back to the ice-cream shop and she showed me how things were done. Rosie told me how the kitchen was run and it all seemed logical so there was no anxiety on my part. There was always a rush before the movie and after so we were to have everything filled and ready. When Rosie was there she did all the cooking but when she was gone we did the “fry cooking.” It was a small but neat place…….the counter was at the front by the juke-box and then there were booths on each side wall back as far as the kitchen.

In no time I was taking orders and serving so the day went by quickly. We closed at 11:00pm. After the doors were locked Amy went her way and I walked to the house where I would be staying. The door was unlocked so I let myself in and climbed the steps to my room. I looked around in the dim light (a small lamp was on the dresser top) and got out of my clothes. There was no closet so I hung them over the wood chair near the bed. The heat was unbearable even at that time of night. I turned the light off and stretched out on the straw mattress…..it was uncomfortable but laying on my back I could see stars shining through the small window at the head of my bed.

I had a sudden surge of gratitude and peace…….the kind that passes all understanding. I thanked God and then offered the prayer I prayed every night at bedtime since I was a little girl. Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, But if I die before I wake……I pray the Lord my soul to take. God bless mama, God bless daddy and God bless brother Louis…..I had the overwhelming feeling that I was not alone.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, April 01, 2004


By June of 1947 Lewis had been gone a year. Things at home were not good. Dad was in his early 40’s and he was watching his dream and his money go down the tube. Life at best was down to the bare necessities and he was depressed and angry. He had worked hard and expected better returns on his efforts but it just wasn’t to be. Ulcers, anger and temper controlled him at that time. We had all run out of good expectations and mom and I were constant targets for his anger. It is hard to write this but in truth it set the course of my life.

Grandma Stricklett and aunt Mary were going to visit aunt Inabelle and uncle Tom in Virginia. They began their trip by coming to see us at Tyrone and asked if I would like to go with them. Of course I did and I could tell it didn’t set well with dad but at that time it was an opportunity to get away from the problems at home. When they left I was with them.

The long hours in the car seeing scenery go by my window State after State gave me new incite to the geography lessons from Miss Adams. When we arrived in Falls Church where aunt Inabelle and uncle Tom lived we settled in for a 5-week stay. Of course we toured the area surrounding Washington D.C. with their expert knowledge and experience. It was a wonderful education for me and provided a respite from the troubles of Tyrone. By mid-July we headed back to Missouri where grandma and aunt Mary would stay a few days before going home to Blair.

After they left dad’s anger re-emerged and was mostly directed at me. He didn’t like the fact I had gone off on a “vacation” and left all the work to him and mom. It got so bad that anything I did angered him. I was pouring my heart out to mom who was torn between it all and she told me she knew a place in Cabool where they wanted help. It was the ice-cream parlor next to the movie theatre and she said maybe I could get a job there and get away from it all. In my 15-year old mind it sounded like the perfect solution and I reasoned that if I left dad would no longer make mom so sad.

All the time we were growing up Louis and I heard the story over and over about how dad left home when he was 15-years old and never went back except to visit. Louis left home early to join the Army so I felt it was time for me to go as well. At that time there was a milk truck that made the rounds to pick up milk in the community and when his last pick-up for the day was made he drove into Cabool to empty at the Creamery. It was common for people who wanted a ride into “town” to flag him down and hop aboard.

The next day I was standing at the road waiting for him to come. Mom had 50 cents that she gave me and the few clothes I had were in a brown paper sack. Dad had gone for the day so my leaving was not an issue. I climbed into the truck and settled down for the 18-mile ride. My feelings were mixed with leaving what I had always known and looking forward to charting my own course. I hoped mom would have a better life with me gone and to this day I do not know if that was true. She wasn’t one to talk about her troubles so she never volunteered and I never asked.

Once we were at Cabool the driver stopped on Main Street for me to get out and I headed for the ice cream parlor. The man and wife who owned it were very nice and I had seen them a time or two when I was with mom and dad. I told them who I was and that mom had said they wanted help……. I came looking for a job. They looked sympathetic but told me they had decided to get along without another waitress.

Of course I was panic stricken. I couldn’t go back home to my father’s rage and I had no where else to go…….I was desperate. I pleaded my case, telling them I had left home and couldn’t go back……..I knew it would be worse for me and my mother as well.

They heard me out and decided to talk it over in the back of the shop. I waited on a stool at the counter with my heart in my throat……..I had to have a job…..

Tomorrow, the decision……..
Until then,

Essentially Esther