Mina Christine Arnold Young -- AutobiographyJune 16, 1913 - February 26, 2010
Mina has lived in Montana, Wyoming, and Missouri. In 1950 she married Dayton Young, moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas, and raised 5 children. As a young woman, she worked a few years as THE school teacher at various rural schools. Calling these "one room school houses" would be too grand a description. School was held in places like a bunkhouse or an old cabin that was fixed up enough to hold class in.|
Mina's father was a Baptist, her mother a 7th Day Adventist, and Mina attended the Methodist church for several years. In her late teens she was the first charter member of the Newcastle, Wyoming Assembly of God Church. Her story (part 2) includes some of her memories of the church.
Mina worked at the Gospel Publishing House in Springfield, Missouri for about 7 years. She has done a lot of writing and has published a short novel -- Jeannie of the 2-Bar-A. Much of Mina's writing has been educational materials and learning games -- samples of which are here. Mina became a licensed Assemblies of God minister, and in the late 1960's reopened a small church that had been closed. She pastored the church for a couple of years until another preacher and his wife were willing to take over. Not long after that she reopened another small church. This one was closer to home, and she pastored that church for a few years before another young preacher and his wife were willing to take over the pastorate. Part 3 details that era in her life. Here is Mina's story -- Part 1.
PAPA'S STORY: Papa's hair was completely white ever since I was old enough to notice or remember. The story Papa told that I liked the very best was about Charlie Ross. Charlie Ross was a little boy who belonged to a very rich family in New York State, or at least somewhere "back east," a long time ago. When he was 4 or 5 years old he was kidnapped. No one ever heard of him again.
My Papa was born in Watertown, New York (map) a long time ago. He had been an orphan and had been adopted. His name was Charlie. Maybe my Papa was Charlie Ross! Maybe some relatives would find him and then we'd have lots of money!
Our family lived in Billings, Montana until I was maybe 2 and a half years old. The summer of 1914 Uncle Henry Stenberg came to visit. He was killed in an accident not long after that.
SHOTGUN HOUSE: We moved maybe a mile or so east of Billings. I remember that house. It was almost a city block north of the main road going from Billings. It was what is sometimes called a "shotgun house" with 5 rooms in a row. I did not hear that term until later in life. In the winter we only lived in two or three rooms to save fuel. Sometimes we would move to the other end of the house. We probably had a little less than an acre of land. We had a barn, some sheds, and an outdoor toilet. We got our water from a faucet on a pipe that stuck up at the southwest corner of the lot near the road that went in front of our house. Traffic in those days was mostly buggies, with once in a while a car. I remember sitting in a high chair while Mom was washing dishes. She would put a plate on the high chair tray and give me a dish towel and I would "help" by drying the plate.
OUR HORSE: We had a small horse named Barney that we drove with a buggy when we wanted to go somewhere. When I was about 4 years old we had been somewhere off the road, and the mud piled up on the buggy wheels. My Dad got out and walked, and I felt pretty big to be driving at 4 years of age. The horse couldn't have run away if he wanted to because there was so much mud on the wheels. Besides the horse and dog, we had chickens, sometimes rabbits, and assorted cats.
As I got a little older I really did drive the buggy. I had a little problem out on the road one time. A car was coming, and the horse was afraid of it. My Mother was afraid to drive Barney and I wasn't. That ended when I was 9 and moved to Newcastle, Wyoming.
PROSPERITY: Papa worked for the railroad and was prosperous for a while. Just before I left Wyoming, my uncle Fred said that when I was a year old we lived in a nice house in Billings. All I remember is the shotgun house out past the edge of town. I think that my father's business partner cheated him out of most of his property. He was suspicious of people -- probably because he had been cheated.
Papa quoted poetry and read lots of classical literature. He checked books out of the library and read to us from Jean Stratton Porter's books - Michael O'Haloren was one book I remember. Papa admired the classic poet / writer Milton. He did not have a middle name until he took Milton as his middle name.
HOME CHURCH: We did not go to church when we lived at Billings. Papa was a Baptist, and there was no Baptist church there. So we stayed at home and had our own services. We read the Bible and prayed every day anyway, but on Sunday we would often sing church songs too. Mama's folks were all Seventh Day Adventists, but it did not rub off on her. The neighbors took me to church one Sunday morning and they baptized a baby.
ONLY CHILD: I was a very lonesome little kid. There was one other house near us (just east), and it was usually empty or had only grownups, or maybe a couple with a baby in it. One time there was a family with girls, two or three of them a little older than me. Whenever I went to play with them they mostly told me tall tales about people who laid eggs and various other objects. I think my mother found out about it and was not too anxious for me to play with them.
NEIGHBORS: When I was 7 or 8 years old, about the time I started school, a couple named Burns moved into that house. They had a 5 year old boy named Bobby, and we were together every minute we possibly could be. We called ourselves the "Katzenjammer kids" after our favorite comic strip characters Hans and Fritz who were always getting into some kind of trouble. We convinced ourselves that we didn't have to mind anyone at those times, and it's a wonder we didn't get into serious trouble.
There was an old brick kiln just east of Bobby Burns' house, and although bricks hadn't been made there for years, there were still hundreds of them in big piles. Of course we were supposed to stay off the brick piles, but we didn't. Our parents soon found out what was going on and explained what could happen if the bricks started to fall. We realized that we could have been badly hurt or even killed. We found other ways to play. Wooden barrels had metal hoops at the top and bottom (and maybe in the middle). When the wood rotted, the metal hoops might become toys for children to roll down the street. I do not remember playing roll the hoop, but I do remember seeing other children do it.
For a while we attended Sunday School at the neighbor's house. Maybe that was when the Burns family lived there. Then one Sunday afternoon the neighbor hitched up a wagon and went after a load of hay. Dad didn't think much of them if they would work on Sunday, so we quit going to their Sunday School. They may have been the folks who had the team of sorrel horses named Ginger and May. Sometimes I was invited to ride in the wagon pulled by those horses.
MEAN ROOSTER: We had a very mean white rooster. I had to stop gathering the eggs for Mama, because every time I went into the barn he pecked my legs. He couldn't get at Mama's legs, because she wore long skirts down to her shoe tops. One day I was riding Barney around the yard and decided to get even with that rooster. I wanted to ride up close to him and yell at him, and laugh at him because he couldn't get at me. But Barney found something he wanted to eat, and when I slapped him with the reins he kicked up his heels and went on eating. I don't remember now whether I fell off or just wound up with my arms around Barney's neck hanging on. Anyway I didn't get to pester Whitey that day. But he got what was coming to him a little later. Mama was bending over a nest in the barn reaching for eggs, when Whitey flew up on her back and started pecking her. We had stewed chicken shortly after that. He was awfully tough!
HENS: Someone gave me a little yellow bantam hen. She sang a lot, "kee, kee, kee," so I called her Biddykeekee. One day I heard crowing, when we didn't have a rooster anywhere around. I checked it out, and my little hen was crowing! Mama told me there was an old saying, "Whistling girls and crowing hens always come to some bad ends." I decided that meant me and Biddykeekee.
We had a red hen (what you could call a pale red) that we called Rosey. She disappeared for a week, and we thought some dog had gotten her. Then one day I looked down the toilet hole, and she was walking around down there! Papa put the rake handle down by her, at a slant, and she walked up it. She was very thin, but in a few days she was her old cheerful self.
ELK: We lived about a quarter mile east of the edge of town. Perhaps a half mile east of us was the fairgrounds. They used to keep a few wild animals out there. They decided they couldn't afford to keep their elk, so they just turned her out to fend for herself. She stayed near our place quite a bit. I was fascinated by that big animal, and wanted her for a pet. I named her "Rosebud" and talked to her whenever I had a chance. She seemed to like the sound of my voice, and let me get quite close sometimes. She wouldn't eat out of my hand though.
CHIPMUNK: One day the dog caught a chipmunk. It wasn't very badly hurt, and we kept it for a pet. It looked so cute when it was eating, standing up and holding its food with those tiny paws. We'd let it run around the house sometimes. One day it didn't want to be caught and put back in its cage, so Papa put his hat on the floor, leaning against the wall, and the chipmunk ran behind it to hide. Papa put his hands down on both sides of the hat, but the little fellow had started on out, and Papa accidentally hit him and killed him. We all felt terrible about that.
PAPA THE TEACHER: Papa was always showing me something, or telling me something he thought I should know. He filled a pail full of water and swung it around and around to show me that the water wouldn't come out if it was swung fast enough. He told me it was centrifugal force that kept it in. He showed me how to siphon water from a container to a lower level by filling a piece of hose with water and holding his thumbs in both ends while he put one end in the high container and the other at the lower level. He took his thumbs out of the ends, and the water flowed through the hose, up over the edge of the container and down to the lower level.
Sometimes Papa quoted poems or sang songs that he had learned when he was a little boy. He sang a song about the Irish:
They kape the pig in the parlor, they kape the pig in the parlor,
they kape the pig in the parlor, and it was Irish too.
I had my own way of singing it. I like to make "Irish stew" of that pig!
Sometimes he quoted poems by Longfellow.
Tell me not in mournful numbers, Life is but an empty dream.
For the soul is dead that slumbers, and things are not what they seem.
Life is real, life is earnest, and the grave is not its goal.
'Dust thou art, to dust returnest' was not spoken of the soul.
Let us then be up and doing, with a heart for any fate.
Still achieving, still pursuing, learn to labor and to wait.
PETS: When I was little, my pets were my playmates. I can barely remember a black dog named Fido, but I have a picture taken with him when I was 5. Fido liked to shut doors that were part way open. If he was inside the house and the outside door needed to be shut, someone would say, "Shut the door Fido." He would rear up, put his front paws against the door, and push it shut.
After Fido died, we got Snowball, a roly poly white puppy. He didn't grow up into a very big dog, but he carried his tail over his back with a curl in it. He liked to go to town with Papa. Papa would hitch our little horse, Barney, to the buggy, and Snowball would run along under the buggy. It made good shade in the summer time. Sometime during almost every trip, some boy or girl would call out, "Hey Mister! There's a little dog under your wagon!" One time I hitched Snowball to the little red wagon, but he didn't want to be hitched. He ran under the fence and left the harness and wagon behind.
We always had cats. One of my earliest memories is a tug-of-war with Pussy Belle when I was very small. She tried to run under the heating stove to get away from me, and I was trying to pull her out by the tail. I don't know if Mama ever knew about me watching the cat have kittens. I didn't tell her.
I don't know how old I was when my parents first decided that I should have a pair of pet rabbits. They kept getting more, different kinds. Some were Dutch rabbits, black or blue with a broad white band around their forequarters and a white stripe down the middle of the face. Some of them got away, and soon we had more rabbits than we wanted. They lived under the house, under the barn, and under the shed. Sometimes we could sell one or two, but they were very hard to catch.
I wanted a shetland pony, but I had to be satisfied with a goat. Nanny followed us around and was lots of fun to play with, but I didn't like her so well after she chewed off most of Barney's tail. She disappeared after winter came, and I figured out that Papa had butchered her and the dog was having goat meat for dinner every day. My parents didn't tell me things like that. They thought it would hurt me less if I didn't know, but it would have been much easier for me if we had talked about it.
CARPENTER: I was a Daddy's girl. I followed him around wherever I could. Sometimes when he had a small carpentering job he would take me along. He called himself a jackknife carpenter, and I was the nearest thing he had to a son, so he taught me how to "toenail" two pieces of wood together, and how to put a block under my hammer when I was pulling a stubborn nail. I had my own hammer before I started to school, so I wouldn't be using Papa's when he wanted it.
DISCIPLINE: Sometimes Papa whipped me when I was naughty, but I'd grit my teeth and determine not to cry, so he wouldn't feel that the whipping was doing me much good. Usually he talked to me instead. That was much worse! He'd tell me that if I went on the way I had started, when I grew up I'd turn my old parents out of house and home, and made other dire predictions along the same line. I'd cry then, not because I was sorry for what I had done, but because I was so insulted at the idea of doing terrible things like he said.
One day Mama and I were sewing when Papa went to town. He came back without what he went for. The stores were closed. We had gotten mixed up on the days. Mama and I put our sewing away right away. Papa was very strict about what went on at our house on Sunday. I couldn't play with my dolls, and he wouldn't play ball with me. It was all right to read, or look at pictures, or go for a walk. Mama had a postcard album that I often looked at on Sundays. She had picture postcards from all over the country. When I got older I wished that she had watched me more closely, because I had taken the cards out and they got lost. So it wasn't available when I was old enough to really enjoy it.
SUNDAY WALKS: Papa and I often went for walks on nice Sunday afternoons. We went north across the railroad tracks and the bluffs were ahead of us maybe a mile or two. There was no close way to get to the top, but we could go around the east end, and then there was just a gentle slope to the top of the bluffs. We looked at trees and wild flowers and birds, but we also looked at the ground. Sometimes Daddy would find an agate, a light colored partly clear stone with black designs in it that sometimes looked like a row of trees. Sometimes he found Indian arrowheads. He might even find a jackknife, although he usually found them near the road. If there was a lost knife on the ground, it seemed that Papa would find it.
HOMEMADE COW: We had neighbors who lived in a house about a block east and a little south of us. Their house was also on the north side of the road, but was closer to the road than ours. For a while the neighbors had a cow. I hadn't been acquainted with a cow before this, and milking time fascinated me. I tried to talk my parents into buying a cow. When that didn't work, I decided it was up to me to provide my own cow. I took over one of Papa's saw horses, and found a big yellow rubber glove lying around among the junk in the house. I punched holes in the ends of the four fingers and then nailed the top under one end of the sawhorse. I left part of it loose so I could pour water in, and now I had a cow I could milk! I didn't worry about putting a head on the creature. That wasn't the end that interested me!
SLEEPING OUTSIDE: Sometimes in the summer the nights were so hot that it was hard to sleep. We had a couple of old beds that we kept out in the front yard in the summer time. When it started to get dark we would carry bedding out to them and sleep under the sky. I would lie and watch the bats and birds chasing insects through the air, and listen to their cries until I fell asleep. Sometimes in the morning I would find myself on my bed in the house. It had clouded up during the night and my parents had moved the bedding and me inside before it started to rain.
FOOLING MAMA: On certain days of the week Papa would sometimes drive to town to a cafe and bring back left over food that had been cooked and not used. Mama and I waited at home, guessing what we would get. It might be roast beef and mashed potatoes and gravy, or it might be just dried out fried potatoes. Once I took some of the boxes the food had been sent out in and filled them with rocks and dirt. I took them to Mama, letting her think that Papa had already come home. I knew better than to try to fool her that way again.
BIBLE / SALVATION: Every morning Papa read a chapter from the Bible and we repeated the Lord's Prayer. They read me a lot of Bible stories too. Papa talked a lot about being good, but never told me that I needed to ask God to forgive my sins and make me His child. It seemed as though he felt such subjects were too holy to be talked about. I would wake up sometimes at night and think that I was going to die, and I was afraid. I would call out and ask for a drink of water, and then try to keep Mama or Papa with me as long as possible. I was afraid to be left alone. If I had been taught and encouraged to submit my life to God at that early age, I wouldn't have been afraid to die.
CHILD ACTOR: Papa was very proud of me and loved to show me off. When we had company, he would ask me to stand up and recite a poem. I was a shy child, and this was torture for me. I couldn't get by with "Mary had a Little Lamb" either. I had to say a few lines of a real, grown-up poem:
"Across the sky, in wavy lines, o'er isle and reach and bay,And I was supposed to include appropriate gestures.
green belted with eternal pines, the mountains stretch away."
RICH FRIEND: Our family had a rich friend in Billings, named Mrs. O'Donald or O'Donnel. She helped us if we got into a tight spot, and she always saw to it that I got lots of toys for Christmas. She would invite us over for a meal occasionally. I remember eating shrimp there. It was probably the only time I ever ate it.
Oysters were quite popular when I was a little girl. Every now and then we had oyster stew. I ate them then, but I wouldn't touch one now! But I took picky streaks then. There was a time when I would eat the yolk of the egg, but not the white, and at another time it was the other way around. We had pork and beans quite often, and kept track of whose turn it was to get the pork. Sometimes Mama cooked rice for breakfast, and she'd tease me by telling me there were bugs in it. That was fine -- I liked raisins.
TRAINS: Trains were the main means of transportation in those days, and we lived a block or two south of the railroad tracks. I learned to count by counting freight cars that went by. Sometimes I would have to run in the house and ask Mama what comes after 39? I also knew the names of the main railroad lines, C B & Q (Chicago, Burlington & Quincy,) Great Northern, Southern Pacific, etc. Lots of coal was hauled by on those tracks, and quite a few pieces fell off the cars. In the winter Papa would put on his four-buckle overshoes and wrap gunny sacks around his legs above the overshoes, put on his overcoat and a scarf, a cap with earflaps and a pair of mittens, and take off with a gunny sack over his shoulder. He'd keep us stocked up on coal with what he picked up.
When Papa would start out to gather coal or look for a job, Mama would go to the door with him and say, "I wish you good success." And I would echo, "Good 'cess."
RAILROAD WORK: Sometimes Papa worked on the railroad, and then we got along pretty well. But he was always getting laid off when there was a younger man to take his place. Then he did any job he could find. He herded sheep. He built sheds, chicken coops, outhouses, and other buildings. He also fixed things.
One day Papa took us for a ride on that railroad to a neighboring town. I don't remember whether a regular passenger train ran that way, or whether they had passenger cars and freight cars on the same train. There are two small towns near Billings named Huntley and Shepherd. I'm almost sure we went to Huntley. Papa was probably working on the railroad at that time and could get us a free pass.
In the summer the trains would haul sugar beets from the beet fields out in the country to the sugar factory in Billings. The whistle at the sugarbeet factory always signaled the start of a new year by blowing for an hour. That whistle had a rather musical sound.
FISHING: Once or twice Papa took me fishing. I liked to watch the Yellowstone River roll by, but I didn't like sitting still for very long. I don't think we caught anything.
CLEANING HOUSE: I usually helped Mama wash windows. She used Bon Ami, which is French for "good friend." It was available in two forms -- powder in a can and a cake. We used the cake which was about the size and shape of regular soap, but it had a dull look, as though it had been whitewashed. Years later, when I was teaching school, I cleaned the schoolhouse windows with cake Bon Ami. One of the girls asked, "who painted that soap?" You wiped off some of the cake of Bon Ami with a wet cloth and spread it on the window. When the window pane was covered, you let it dry a few minutes and then, with a clean cloth, wiped off the white powder and the dirt with it.
Carpets literally took a beating before the days of vacuum cleaners. Once or twice a year we would hang the carpet over the clothesline and beat the dirt out of it. Some people had regular carpet beaters -- two loops of very thick wire overlapped to make a heart shape, with a handle on the small end. An old broom was pretty good too. Dad says they used to use a baseball bat.
INJURIES: When I was 8, I wanted a seesaw. It's a little hard to play on one by yourself, but I figured out a way. I suppose I got Papa to help me put the big plank across the log, or whatever it was. Then I collected some scrap iron that was lying around and fastened it with wire onto one end. It wasn't like having a live child on the other end from me, but it did give me a little boost up. After a while I got tired of it, and wanted to do something else with the board. It was too much trouble to undo all that wire, so I started cutting it off with an old ax head that was handy. The wire didn't stay put very well, so I held it down with my left hand. I wasn't careful enough and I cut off a tiny tip of my left forefinger. I think Mama took me to the doctor.
Another time I was "helping" Mama with the washing. She had a wringer fastened to the side for wringing the water out of the clothes. The clothes went between rollers in the middle, and there was a handle at one end that turned the rollers, and cogs at the other end that turned as the rollers went around. There was black grease in those cogs, and I've always liked to pick at things. Mama didn't see what I was doing, and started to turn the handle. My right forefinger was pretty sore for a while that time. I think it hurt Mama pretty bad too in a different way.
GROCERY STORE: When we went to the grocery store we didn't wander around and pick out the things we wanted. Canned goods were arranged on shelves around the walls of the store and the customer stopped in front of a counter and told the clerk what was wanted. There weren't very many different brands. A big stalk of bananas might be hung in the front window, and if the clerk was good natured you could point out the bananas you wanted him to cut off for you. Such things as beans and macaroni were loose in barrels and you ordered as many pounds as you wanted. You told the clerk how much cheese you wanted and he would cut it off a big round cheese. Flour came in cloth bags, 25, 50, or 100 pounds. The sacks made very good dishtowels. Sometimes Mama pieced some of the larger ones together to make sheets, and of course they were good for pillow cases. Sugar came in sacks made of a different material, finer and softer, especially after it had been washed several times. Mama made my underwear out of sugar sacks when I was small. Later flour and feed sacks were made of pretty print material.
CLOTHING: As far as I know, everyone wore long underwear in the winter when I was a little girl. We speak of "long handles" now, but the proper name for them was unionsuits. Winter ones were heavy, perhaps wool or part wool, and the sleeves came down to the wrists and the legs came down to the ankles. Girls wore long cotton stockings, mostly black, or perhaps white for Sunday. Some of the girls from rich families wore white stockings to school. Underwear legs had to be folded neatly around the ankle and held while the stockings were pulled up over them. It wasn't easy. Summer unionsuits were available for men and women, with short sleeves and short legs and made of a lighter material. Little girls wore underwaists with a reinforced strip around them where garters could be pinned on, to hold up those long stockings. Bloomers with elastic in the legs covered the garters and the stocking tops. Since there were no boys in our family, I don't know what kind of underwear little boys wore.
I don't remember wearing high topped buttoned shoes, but I suppose I did when I was quite small, because we had two or three buttonhooks around. I did have slippers with a strap or two that buttoned, and we used the buttonhook for that. You poked the buttonhook through the buttonhole on the strap of the shoe, snared the button, and pulled it through. Sometimes the buttons popped off and had to be sewed back on with needle and thread. Shoe buttons were little round black things with a wire loop on the back for sewing them on.
Papa could mend our shoes when we wore out the soles. He had several lasts -- pieces of metal shaped like a foot -- in several sizes. He would put the shoe on a last of the proper size, cut a piece of leather the right shape, and nail it on. I wore brown leather sandals in the summer time, often with no stockings. I never heard of short socks for little girls until later. I went barefoot a lot of the time in the summer too.
JULY 4TH: We always managed to have fireworks for the 4th of July. We had rockets and roman candles and sparklers and all sizes of firecrackers. There were little things that we put down on the ground and lit and they crawled all over the place, and other things that fizzed around in circles. We usually had a pinwheel or two that we nailed up on the side of the barn and watched it go around and around, spewing out sparks. Sometimes we could afford to go to the fairgrounds and see the fireworks display there. It doesn't seem as though today's fireworks displays show much improvement over those that we saw years ago.
SUPERSTITIONS: We weren't a superstitious family. We didn't worry about spilling salt and having black cats cross our path and things like that. But one superstition we did have. If the palm of your left hand itched, you were going to get some money! Also, just maybe, if it was your right hand, you were going to see someone you hadn't seen in a long time. I still catch myself thinking of that when my left hand itches.
HOMEMADE BREAD: Once in a while we bought bread at the store, but usually Mama made it. One time when she was making bread I wanted to make some too, so she helped me make a batch. I don't think it dawned on her until afterward that we would wind up with 12 loaves of bread!
BUTTER: We bought butter in solid one-pound cubes. In the summer, when the cows had fresh grass to eat, it was nice and yellow. In the winter, when they had to eat hay instead, the butter was a very pale yellow. After a while someone figured out how to make a butter substitute from vegetable oil. The first oleomargarine was put out in solid white cubes the size and shape of pounds of butter. Enclosed would be a little packet of orange coloring which you could mix in if you wanted to. The coloring didn't have any flavor, but for some reason, if the "oleo" was colored, you didn't think so much about it not being real butter. It was cheaper than butter, so lots of people used it.
MILK: Milk came in glass bottles in two sizes -- pints and quarts. The bottles had little grooves around the top and a flat cardboard disk was set into the groove for a cap. Most of them had a little tab stapled on to make it easier to pull the cap up, but if it didn't have the tab, you had to take the cap off with a paring knife.
TOASTER: Our toaster looked something like two sides of a bird cage, fastened together on one side with two rings. At the other side, the two middle bars stuck out. The middle bars were the ends of a loop of heavier wire, with the loop part sticking out perhaps 5 inches from the side opposite the rings. These two loops of wire formed the handle. Our toaster would hold 4 slices of bread. You raised one handle, laid the bread on the bottom rack, put the top rack down over it, and laid the whole thing on the stove. When the bread was browned on the lower side, you turned the toaster over and browned the other side. If you didn't watch closely the toast could burn, and someone would need to take it outside and scrape it. I seem to remember that toast burned on the stove smelled worse than toast does now when it gets burned in the toaster.
CREAM: Milk wasn't homogenized in those days, so when it stood a little while the cream came to the top. You could shake it up to mix the cream back in, or you could use the cream on your cereal and drink skim milk. If you didn't bring the milk in soon after the milkman brought it on a cold morning, it would freeze and push up out of the bottle, so there would be a column of frozen milk the size of the bottle neck sticking up an inch or more, with the cap on top. Sometimes we'd mix a little sugar with that frozen cream as a substitute for ice cream. It was too bad if a cat came along before you brought in the milk.
GARDEN: I don't remember much about the gardens we raised. I know there were potatoes and lettuce and radishes. The main thing I remember is the watermelons. Usually we had a lot of little ones, and I liked to brag about eating a whole watermelon by myself. We didn't know watermelons were supposed to be eaten cold. We had no way of cooling them anyway. So we just picked them out of the patch, cut them in wedges, and ate them "from ear to ear".
CHILDHOOD MISUNDERSTANDINGS: One time a young couple walked by our place with their arms around each other. Papa told me, "don't let any young man put his arm around you like that unless you are married or engaged to marry him." Perhaps I was too much of a "touch-me-not" in later life because that made such an impression on me. But on the other hand, perhaps it helped to keep me out of trouble.
It's not always easy to know what results there will be from something said to a child, I'm sure Papa didn't realize that because he sometimes said, "Get that silly grin off your face," I would grow up afraid to smile.
The population of Billings, Montana was mostly white in the second decade of the twentieth century. Sometimes I heard my parents mention colored people, and I thought of them as being pink and green and bright yellow -- Easter egg colors. I was very disappointed when I learned that their skins were just dark colored. There was a colored family that lived near town. I cannot remember them being treated any differently than anybody else.
Sometimes a water line would spring a leak and Papa would be hired to do the necessary digging down to the break so it could be repaired. He would talk about digging down to the water main, and I got strange ideas about that too. I thought there was a sort of floor so many feet below the surface of the ground, and a layer of water under that. I thought of a leak in the water main as a break in that floor. I also thought that all you had to do to get water was to dig down to that floor and make a hole in it.
I doubt that Papa knew the wrong ideas I had about getting water, but one day he helped me learn that my ideas were wrong. We went for a long walk one Sunday. We went up around the rimrocks and kept on until we found a road. We turned left on this, probably headed past Billings on the north side. After we had walked a long way, we began to hear a roaring noise. Finally, ahead of us, there was a huge pipe up over the road. Papa called it a flume and said that it carried water from a spring or a lake to the city. The roaring we heard was the water rushing through. As I remember it, the pipe was made of narrow strips of wood held together by metal bands, something like a barrel, but straight instead of rounded. This was held up, I believe, by huge cement pillars. Some water was leaking out and cascading down. So then we went home and told Mama about it. We must have walked several miles that day, and I was tired, but it was worth it to see something new. The Yellowstone River was not far from where we lived. We lived in Yellowstone County.
MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS: Mama had a little squeeze box push button accordion that she could play a few tunes on. She would play some fast tunes, and I would dance and whirl around. Papa picked up an old violin when he was older and started learning to play it. He never got very good at playing it. Later I learned to play violin too. I could play some tunes, but not real well.
STARTING SCHOOL: I was crazy to go to school when I was little, but for some reason I wanted people to know how I felt without me telling them. So I said I didn't want to go to school. Since I was a rather spoiled little outfit, my parents didn't send me to school until the law said they had to. I started school in February, 1921 before I was 8 in June.
One of the first things I learned in school was that it isn't proper to say "ain't". I immediately started a campaign to educate my parents along this line.
I was big for my age and didn't fit in very well with the others. My clothes weren't like those the other girls wore. Mama made my dresses and sewed them by hand with heavy number 12 thread. I felt very much out of place. I wasn't used to being with other children, and if someone did something I didn't like, my first reaction was to tell the teacher. If that didn't get results, I told Papa, and he would descend on the school in wrath.
I wasn't sick a lot, but any time I was sick, my parents made such a big thing about it, because their lives were just wrapped up in me. I must have been out of school more than I was in that first semester.
TONSILS: That spring (1921) I had my tonsils out. That morning we didn't have breakfast. They took me to the hospital and put me to sleep with chloroform which was a terrifying experience -- I thought they were going to smother me to death. The only good thing I saw about it was my folks got me some ice cream to eat. That went down pretty good.
We had a spell of wet, stormy weather, and I was considered too delicate to get out in it, so I missed 3 or 4 weeks of school.
FLU: There had been a terrible influenza pandemic in 1918. In 1922 when I was 8, a year after I started to school, everybody was having the flu. I had pneumonia in both lungs, and my Mom had pneumonia in one lung. My parents told me later they thought they were going to lose me. I remember the doctor trying to get me to take a spoon of castor oil with sugar in it. I didn't mind the castor oil so much, but I hated to have him spoil the sugar. Somebody came out from the Salvation Army or the Red Cross. They were supposed to help us, but what they did was pull out a kamona that only had one sleeve, give it to Mom, and say "here put this on." That wasn't very much help. The neighbors took care of our horse and chickens and rabbits. I missed school a month that time.
I probably missed just about as much school as I attended those first few years. I started out in 1B at Roosevelt School, pronounced Rosevelt, in Billings, Montana. Each grade had 2 sections. You started in the B section and the next semester went to the A section. It didn't matter whether you started school September or February. They skipped me through some sections. That school only had the first 4 grades. The school was a two-story building with a circular fire-escape which I detested. I was afraid to get into that dark tube and go around and around until I reached the bottom.
SCHOOL GAMES: In the first grade and perhaps in the second, we always played singing games at recess. "Farmer in the Dell" was a favorite. One child, the farmer, stood in the middle of a circle while the others pranced around him singing, "The farmer in the dell, the farmer in the dell, Hi ho the merry-o, the farmer in the dell." Then as we sang, "The farmer takes a wife" the "farmer" chose another child to join him in the circle. In succeeding verses, "The wife takes a child," "The child takes a nurse," "The nurse takes a dog" "The dog takes a cat" "The cat takes a rat" "The rat takes a cheese." Then all but the cheese joined the outside circle again as we sang, "The cheese stands alone," etc. Then the cheese was the farmer for the next game.
We also sang. "Looby Loo." All joined hands and danced around in a circle as we sang, "here we dance looby loo, here we dance looby light, here we dance looby lee, all on a Saturday night." We'd drop hands for the next verse, "I put my right hand in, I put my right hand out, I give my right hand a shake shake shake and turn myself about." Of course this was acted out. Then the circle danced again alternating with putting in the left hand, the right foot, the left foot, and the whole self.
PHONICS: I know I learned to read by the phonic method, but I don't remember much about the details. I remember that "C" represented a little boy who got a cherry stone stuck in his throat and he coughed "cuh" to get it out.
MOVE TO WYOMING: My Mother had been corresponding with her brother, Fred Stenberg in Wyoming. If we could come down there my Dad could help with the farm work. My Mother could help Aunt Tekla -- she had a small child and another one on the way. Tekla had taken over raising 3 nieces of hers. We moved from Billings to Pedro, Wyoming (map) October 9th, 1922. We had been living in a small rent house near Billings. Father sold most of our furniture before we moved. We took our horse, Barney, with us on the train along with the buggy. We lived with Uncle Fred Stenberg, also known as the little man of Pedro. He was short and they lived near the Pedro railroad siding about 8 miles northwest of Newcastle about halfway between Osage and Newcastle on the south side of the road. The location was probably a mile or so northwest of where the Mondell Airstrip is now.
Uncle Fred's name was really John Fredrick Stenberg. His wife was Tekla Elizabeth Carlotta Nelson. She was Swedish. Fred was also of Swedish descent. The 3 nieces were attending a country school and I went with them. School was in an old house at the old experiment farm about 5 miles west of Newcastle. The teacher was Ruth Williams. She rode a pony to school from Newcastle. The 4 of us and another girl, Fleurette Holst, were the only students. I probably only went to school half a year that year. Read more about that and see a photo of the house we lived in with Uncle Fred.
MOVE TO NEWCASTLE: March 1st, 1923 we moved to a little 3 room house 3 miles southwest of Newscastle, Wyoming (map) less than a mile off the regular road in Weston County, Wyoming. Uncle Fred and Father had not been getting along very well. Uncle Fred was Seventh Day Adventist, and Father was Baptist. Uncle Fred did not want anyone in his house doing work on Saturday. Sunday was wash day, but Father did not want our family to work on Sunday. Uncle Fred was not willing to change wash day to another day, and Father would not let us help with the laundry on Sunday. A few years later Father had a dream, and went and apologized to Uncle Fred.
I didn't go to school the rest of the year because it was too far to walk. Father started working on the railroad. He was sometimes gone for weeks at a time. Every 2 weeks Mother and I would go to town to buy groceries. Sometimes we pulled a little red wagon to take the groceries home, and sometimes we would walk to the highway and hitch a ride to town. If Papa was home, he would go to town with us. We always went to the library and checked out as many books as we were allowed. I would read my books, and then read my mother's. Father had gotten some books for me to study. I read everything I could get a hold of except I wasn't interested in math or history. That was a disadvantage for me later. We had to haul cans of drinking water from a neighbor's house about a mile away on the regular road. I think their road was paved. I think the neighbor's names were Coyle. We used the wagon to haul water.
One time when Dad was working up at Sheridan, Wyoming Snowball the dog was gone. We thought he went visiting at the neighbors. About dark we set out to get him. As we were going down the road, Mama screamed and jumped over a rattlesnake that she almost stepped on. We got Snowball and brought him home.
RENT HOUSE: The next summer, August 1923 we found a place in town to rent so that I could go to school. It was a large house with a big two story porch in front. Three families lived in different parts of the house. We rented the second story.
4TH GRADE: The school was up on a hill just a couple of blocks south of our house -- south west of the courthouse. I hadn't finished 3rd grade, but they started me in 4th grade. I had read a lot, and I tested as an 8th grader in some things, but I couldn't do long division. They put me with the kids where I could get individual attention and learn some math. After I learned long division they put me in 5B. Next year I started in 5A and wound up in 6th. I spent a year and a half in 8th grade. Even so, I went through 8 grades in 6 years, and graduated when I was 18 -- when I should have graduated. I learned more about math after I grew up.
HIGH SCHOOL: The high school was west of the grade school at the bottom of the hill. Our study hall in high school was a long room with windows all along one side. The shades were always at half mast. There was a platform at the front of the room with a couple of long tables on it and a blackboard at the back. I suppose there was also an ordinary teacher's desk, but I don't remember that. One day when the teacher had stepped out, Paul Smith, who was sitting at one of the tables up front, threw a blackboard eraser at the middle window. It hit the bottom of the window shade and snapped it up. I said, "bet you can't do that again!" He threw another and raised the one next to it.
PRANKS: I was pretty ornery sometimes. We had the same Home Ec. teacher for two years, and none of us liked her the first year. In sewing class I'd bend pins at a right angle and stick them in my pincushion. Then I'd ask for help with something. The teacher would reach for a pin, and the whole pincushion would come up.
One time we had a banquet which we cooked in cooking class. We had our tables end to end to make one long one, a nice tablecloth, and the tables set nicely. Two girls were waitresses while the rest of us ate. I got the bright idea of emptying our water glasses so one of the waitresses would be kept busy filling them, so I poured her water into my glass. Just then the teacher walked in. "Mina, you replenish the water from now on," she said.
One of my best friends in high school was Bernice Bettis. She moved away a few years later, and we lost track of each other for a while. Then we got in touch again and we exchanged cards and newsletters every Christmas for many years.
I cannot remember the names of very many of my teachers. I think one of my high school teachers was an older woman named Graham.
PART TIME WORK: For a year or 2 while I was in high school I worked in the principal's office -- I was paid $15 per month. I was able to buy a new coat with the money I made. Then I worked at the courthouse doing secretarial work for a judge. That was a government job, but as soon as my 18th birthday rolled around I was out of that.
There was a government women's work program. I worked in the cannery as long as they had something to can. The corn worms would crawl up my leg and take a bite out of my cotton stocking with every step.
METHODIST CHURCH: When we first moved to Newcastle we attended the Methodist church north of the main highway. I was young people's (Epworth league) leader for a few years. I was church janitor for a while and rang the church bell. That was a paid position. I liked a new pastor because he preached about salvation. After about a year, another pastor came. It seemed to me that the church was becoming more of a social club. The church was going to send me to a Methodist youth camp, but when they found that I had been attending the Assembly of God meetings at city hall, the pastor told me that I had to make a choice. I chose the A/G church and left the Methodists.
10093 since 1998