Murdo Girl…The visit

Sanderson’s store is on the East side with the striped awning.

The day was overcast, the street almost empty, but then, it was early. Did I really want to do this, I thought? I was hesitant to walk through the door, but I wanted to see everything once more. It wasn’t even my own memories I was reliving, because there weren’t that many. It was mainly the generation before me that had occupied the rooms I was about to see for one last time.

When I finally opened the door, it was the scent of old wood I noticed first. The stairs seemed just as steep as when I was little, and there were a lot of them. I heard the sound of a little boy with his suitcase, climbing the stairs. As he struggled with each step, his suitcase banged the walls on either side of him.

The high voice could be heard, by the occupants of the rooms upstairs. “I get to stay all week-end,” he yelled!

He couldn’t hear the groans or see the rolling eyes, of the relatives he had come to visit. He assumed they would be as happy to see him, as he was to be there.

By the time I reached the top of the stairs, the image of the little boy, and the sounds he made, faded. I opened the door to the rooms in front of me. I saw a stout man, and fragile woman sitting at a table by the window. The man had his napkin tucked into the neck of his buttoned up shirt, in an effort to catch any spills. The little woman was fussing over the small dishes of leftovers she had placed on the table. She wore beads, and her hair looked like she had just been to the beauty shop.

M.E. and Mary Sanderson

Although none of the little saucers held fish, I could close my eyes and smell fish frying. The couple was talking, as they ate their meal, but I wasn’t listening. I was too busy observing. I had walked to the middle of the living room, which wasn’t quite as big as I had remembered. There was really no definitive separation between the living area and the dining room. Straight ahead, was a narrow opening to what I knew was a small kitchen.

As I stood in the kitchen doorway, I gazed out the window at the tar covered roof of the storage area below. I thought about how hot it got in the summertime. There was a door that led to the outside. My cousin and I went out there once to suntan of all things. We lasted about five minutes.

I turned to walk out into the hallway, and the strong scent of old wood came back. I looked in all the rooms. There was the room everyone called the “cat room,” and a room that had been used for storage.  I walked past another nicer bedroom that the couple I saw eating must have used. All these rooms were to my left. Next, was an old fashioned bathroom.

I came to the second living area. I walked through the door from the hallway into a bedroom, that adjoined a small living room. The living room had windows facing the street. I remembered all the furniture, including the piano that was against one of the walls. Next to the living room was another bedroom, and next to it, the kitchen, which also had a door that led to the hallway.

As I looked into the kitchen, I remembered a story I had heard. A young woman was making a chocolate cake, and visiting with her Mother. As she was getting to the end of mixing the cake, her Mother asked if it was time to put the chocolate in the batter. This aggitated the daughter, and she made it clear that she was the one making the cake. When she looked at the recipe, she discovered a slight breeze had ruffled the pages of her cookbook, and she was indeed making a white cake. I was told the conversation between Mother and Daughter had taken place in this kitchen.

I knew it was time for me to go back down the stairs. I looked into the large living area once more. This time, instead of the couple sharing a meal, I saw a tall, and sturdy, older woman. She was packing her things. It was obvious she was ever so slowly, preparing to move. She had a sad look on her face. She had spent many days and nights in the store below, and in these rooms above it.

1-IMG_0461 (1)
Tet Sanderson (center) back in Iowa with brother Sandy and sister Malitha

As I started down the stairs, I heard voices coming from the other living quarters. It was a young girl, talking with her parents. She was upset, because she didn’t want to leave.

There were many family gatherings within these walls, before I was even born. I knew those times must have been so very special.

I slowly walked back down the stairs. It would be awhile before the building would be torn down, but no one would be living at the top of the stairs ever again.

Don’t be sad, I told myself. I can always make these rooms come alive again, and nothing will have changed. After all, it’s been decades since I visited above Sanderson’s Store, yet I just spent an hour within those familiar walls.


9 thoughts on “Murdo Girl…The visit

  1. Teresa Palmer April 29, 2016 / 7:48 pm

    Your memories are so easy to picture-love the old photos!


  2. Billy Francis April 29, 2016 / 10:21 pm

    There was a vent on the floor of the apartment, above the counter at Sanderson’s store. I used to lower a string down to the counter. Uncle Al, who was working in the store at the time, would tie a piece of penny candy onto the bottom of the string, and I would pull it up through the vent! I worked at the store for four summers, starting when I was 11. Aunt Tet (grandpa’s sister) was always my favorite. I couldn’t wait for the next morning when we got to talk about the baseball game we had listened to on the radio the night before. Tet loved noon hour when the kids came in for penny candy. She did not go to lunch until 1:00 p.m. after the kids had gone back to school.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mary Francis McNinch April 29, 2016 / 10:31 pm

      That is a great memory Billy. Thanks for sharing it. I didn’t know Aunt Tet liked kids that much, and hadn’t heard about the candy caper.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. sanjuan831 April 29, 2016 / 11:21 pm

    Writing this from Los Angeles…what a lovely yet sad way to revisit those awesome old rooms and the wonderful people who lived there. It shows we can still go there in our dreams.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. lifelessons September 19, 2016 / 8:14 am

    It was always such a mystery. What world lay nestled above Sanderson’s store? For many years it was the only store in town except for Hammond’s dark and tiny store that was down near my Aunt Stella’s house. Do you remember it? Then they opened the store down the street by the locker. I think it was the same one that later moved and became the Super Value Store. I, too, really liked your Aunt Tet and your Uncle Sandy was a recruiter for Cornell College in Iowa. He recruited two of my sisters to go there, but he gave up on me. Ha.

    I loved Billy’s story! What fun. Don’t you wonder how that came about? How the first piece of candy came to be tied to the first string? I imagine Billy lying on his stomach up above, seeing the back of the clerk’s neck as he stood under the register, lowering the string as a joke to tickle him on the neck. The string getting closer and closer and the guy moving in the the nick of time so it misses his shirt collar. Then Billy getting intrigued and lowering it lower. Trying to make it swing so it will be noticed. The guy pretending not to notice it, but moving over to the candy box to get a penny tootsie roll, skinny enough to fit through the register. Then quickly tugging the string over out of sight of Billy, tying the candy on and then letting go so the candy swings back into Billy’s view.. Billy seeing it and pulling it up and through the register. So pleased with the surprise. The guy downstairs chuckling with the fun. What a happy place Sanderson’s Store always was.

    Liked by 1 person

      • lifelessons September 19, 2016 / 10:40 am

        Yes.. Stirs my memory but doesn’t seem to be how I remember her.


  5. Patti September 21, 2016 / 6:51 pm

    It’s not how I remember her, either. She looks more fragile. I wonder how old she was when she worked at the store? Adults seemed so old to me then.


    • Mary Francis McNinch September 21, 2016 / 9:42 pm

      I have one other photo of Tet, but she was older than this. She moved back to Iowa after Jeff sold the store. She had to have been around 80 when she left Murdo.


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