Good news! Mr. Thune hired me to work at the Frosty. I start as soon as I get back from music camp, which is where I am right now.
Yes, Mr. Palmer talked me into music camp. Grandpa drove me all the way to Vermilion, because Mom is already busy with the Motel. I haven’t told her about my new job yet. Marlene’s going to help her out a little while I’m gone. She’s also going to help me find someone to take my place at the Motel this summer. I hate to leave my own Mom high and dry.
The best part is, I’ll get to work with Connie. I plan to ask her advice about how I can be more like her. She’ll probably take me under her wing and help me get myself together. My world is about to expand!
Another even more wonderful thing happened. I made cheerleader. I’ll be a sophomore, and the other three are going to be seniors; so it’s Connie Jackson, Eunice Elrod, Marilyn Kinsley, and me, Mary Francis! I still can’t believe I made it! Life could not be better! All of my dreams are coming true!
Well, I finally got my Connie like haircut. It’s very short and it’s even cut up around my ears. I shape little backwards curls in front of each ear and tape it down while it dries. I had a problem at first, because I used too much tape and left it on too long. I ended up with big red welts on my cheeks. That hurt a little. I still tape my bangs too. I’m sure that must be how Connie fixes her hair.
I thought I was finally firming up my style, then yesterday a bunch of us were standing in the stairwell outside the girls locker room and Mary Wier said, “Your hair is really shiny Mary. Have you ever thought about growing it out?” I didn’t know what to think. I just got it cut a week ago! The longest hair on my head is 2 1/2 inches from my scalp. Somehow I felt disappointed. I bet no one has ever said anything like that to Connie Jackson. You wouldn’t believe how much I look like her…except she’s got brown eyes, and she’s a little taller. She’s smarter, prettier, and has a few more Connie like clothes than I do. Other than that, we’re like twins.
I was the victim of a freak accident yesterday. I had a saxophone lesson, and when I came out of the auditorium, it was raining and I got pretty wet. I started down the stairs of the high school to put my horn away in the coat room, and I slipped on the steps. My saxophone and I went end over end all the way down to the bottom. Those steps are concrete and they’ve been painted with slick grey paint.
Everybody was in class when it happened, and I knew the racket my horn and I made must have echoed throughout the school. I expected to see people come running. As soon as I was sure my saxophone and I were okay, I yelled, “IT’S JUST ME.” I don’t know exactly why I yelled that instead of saying “I’m okay,” or just not say anything. I had to go up the stairs and walk into Mrs. Peter’s English class. She just smiled, but another Noname said, “Did you have a nice trip?” Everybody started laughing. I didn’t think it was a bit funny. I could have broken my neck.
Since freshmen can’t be cheerleaders, I couldn’t try out for that, so I decided to go out for girl’s basketball. I figured since my Dad and brother were good, I must be a natural. Mr. Haugland and Mr. Thune are the coaches.
It turns out I can shoot, but I can’t dribble. I can’t see where I’m going and dribble at the same time. I haven’t even tried to chew gum. In other words, I’m not any good. I was dribbling at practice and Mr. Haugland blew his whistle at me. He said, “What are you going to do with the ball over there Mary…peel it and eat it? I did kind of have myself backed into a corner. We play 1/2 court, so we won’t get so tired I guess. It doesn’t work.
I had one game that gave me hope at first. We played Draper and those girls are mean! I guess it would be nicer if I said aggressive. They have one aggressive girl named Sheila. She’s good, and she’s tough. I had to do a jump ball with her, and I swear she elbowed me and knocked my uncoordinated self on my rear. I did have a good run though and made 4 baskets in a row. After that, I lost the ball 4 times in a row, so I had to sit the rest of the game out. Too bad.
For a girl who considers herself athletic, I’m sure not good at much. I have scratched off tennis, skiing and basketball. You’re probably thinking I don’t stick with anything long enough, but I can figure out pretty fast if I’m going to be any good at something. I think I would be really good in track, but we don’t have girl’s track. (FYI…Connie Jackson is a good basketball player.)
I’m going to start practicing my cheerleader moves so I’ll be ready for tryouts in the spring, but in the meantime, Cynthia Bork is going to teach me how to play the guitar. I’ve already had a couple of lessons. I’ve learned two chords, which is enough to play “The House of the Rising Sun.”
I sing in the choir too. I’m an Alto. I think Mr. Palmer decided that I should be an Alto, because to harmonize you only need to hit three notes. It’s actually pretty boring to be an Alto. I can sing 2nd Soprano too if I stand by someone who’s good. Mr. Palmer even let me sing with a little group for a banquet at the Methodist Church. We sang, “April Showers.” Cynthia Bork and Jennifer Iverson were in the group and they both have beautiful singing voices.
Of course, I still play the saxophone, but after my last contest, I don’t know if Sydney will accompany me on the piano again.
That pretty much covers my current extra curricular activities.
The lady isn’t here right now so I’m writing this. When I was younger, my Dad told me about the first time Murdo had a Homecoming King. They had always just had a Queen. I don’t remember the name of the guy that got King, but he didn’t show up for Coronation. Someone found him and told him he had to go to the Coronation and crown the Queen. The guy said, “CROWN HER WITH A TWO BY FOUR!” next time I see Mr. Thune, I’m going to ask him if that’s true. Dad said it was just a one time thing and no King has ever done that since.
I think I’ve got more sense now that I’m 14, but Mom is getting very forgetful. She can never think of anyone’s name. She says, “I’ll never forget old what’s his name.” Someone told her to go through the alphabet to jog her memory. She was trying to remember my cousin’s name. The one I just visited in New York. I could have told her, but she didn’t ask me. She said, “A..B. Oh, her name is Abby.”
I’ve decided that it wouldn’t be a good idea for me to write about people’s personal business in my papers. I’ll just have to figure out another way to tell you about life in Murdo. I will practice by telling you about my first date. I just had it. Right when school started.
A boy who doesn’t have a name, asked me to go to the show with him. I really like Noname, and I have since the 8th grade. That’s when he handed me a pretty ring with my birthstone in it and a red stuffed bear. He didn’t say a word, he just handed it to me, and I took it. I tried to wear the ring a couple of times, but it just didn’t feel right. It would have been a commitment to keep liking him, and I didn’t want to do that. What if a new kid comes along and he’s slightly cuter than Noname?
I couldn’t give the ring back, because I didn’t want him to think I don’t like him forever. Anyway, I put the ring in the pencil holder inside my desk and left it there. One day, it came up missing. Do you think another girl took it? Or..maybe Noname took it back.
Whatever happened, he must have forgotten about the discomfort of the situation, because here he was, asking me for a date.
I said yes… I wore my Connie like Alden’s dress, nylons, and white Keds. He brought his sister to drive us, because he’s not old enough yet to get a license. She dropped us off at the show, and we sat behind all of our friends who were having a lot more fun than we were. His sister picked us up, and took us to the Frosty, where all our friends were having a lot more fun than we were.
I doubt Noname will ask me out ever again. It’s too bad it all got ruined. Things just weren’t right. I spent the whole time wishing I hadn’t worn those stupid nylons. They were way too hot. I shouldn’t talk about Mom, I can’t even remember the name of the movie we saw. I was too nervous. (Chitty, Chitty..Bang..Bang was at the Draper Theater)
See? I told you it wouldn’t take long to tell you about my first date.
I hope it gets cold soon. I know that sounds crazy, but I don’t have very many warm weather clothes, and I’m getting pretty sick of the Alden’s dress. I don’t care how Connie like it is. Oh yes. Here’s an update. I see her at school, and she hasn’t worn the same thing twice. Boy, that Frosty must really pay good. I’m for sure going to apply there for next summer, even though Mom will have a fit!
Homecoming is in a couple of weeks, and I can’t wait! On Thursday night we have Coronation in the auditorium. They crown the King and Queen, then a couple of older people in their 2o’s get up and tell where their old classmates are. (At least the ones they can find.) Next, we have a pep rally outside. The cheerleaders do some cheers, but the main thing is, they start a huge M on fire. When it’s all burned up pretty good, the cheerleaders lead a snake dance all over town. A snake dance is when all the kids clasp hands and then run in the shape of a snake. You don’t want to get toward the end of a snake dance, because to make it look like a snake you have to run back and forth and still keep up with the head of the snake.
Friday night is the football game, followed by the homecoming dance. I’m not saying that anyone will ask me anyway, but I’m not going to make eye contact or accept a note from any boy, because I’m still feeling the sting of my first date. I haven’t been to a homecoming dance yet, and I want to see what goes on.
I almost forgot. We also have a big parade down Main St. on Friday. Every class makes a float, which is really hard work, because you have to stuff tons and tons of napkins into chicken wire. We make our floats in someone’s garage. Let me tell you…It’s unbelievable how neat it looks when we’re all done.
I decided to do something a little different for today’s Murdo Girl, because my thoughts are on a very special person in my life, and he’s turning 85 in a couple of days.
Many of you Murdoites know Gus Gustafson. He and Mom had been married 38 years when she passed away on December 30, 2008. He had never been married before Mom, but he certainly knew how to be a great Husband, Second-Dad, and Grandpa.
Mom would be the first to say she was a challenge, but life with her was never dull. Billy and I will be eternally grateful for the love and caring spirit Gus unfailingly demonstrated in all the years he shared his life with Loretta. If patience is a virtue, then he is the most virtuous person I know.
Mom and Gus did some traveling during the months the motel was closed for the winter. On one of their trips a shaggy dog found them. Some local kids said they knew his name was Trouble, but his owners were no longer around. Trouble didn’t have tags and seemed to be in need of humans, so Mom and Gus invited him to be their permanent companion.
It was a two-day trip back to Murdo, so they stayed in a motel that first night. When they got up the next morning, Mom opened the door of the motel room and let Trouble out. Gus expressed some concern. Maybe their new friend wouldn’t find his way back. Mom said, “Any dog that doesn’t know how to get back to its owners is good for nothing anyway.” Trouble knew a good deal when he saw it, and was back in time, ready to occupy his new place in the front seat of the car with Gus. Mom liked to sit in the back anyway, so she could lay down and rest when she wanted to.
Trouble enjoyed life at the motel. He learned to recognize Aunt Elna’s car, because he loved the leftovers she brought him. In fact, when he saw her car coming, he would run and get his pan to greet her. In his excitement, he would jump up on the driver’s side with the pan in his mouth and bang it on her window. Fearful he would scratch her car door, she started driving by and throwing the food out the window. That was just fine with Trouble. He had it in a flash.
I looked everywhere for the picture of my son Mason, who was about 3, and Trouble. Mom loved the picture, because of the story behind it. Mason is playing with Trouble and holding a toy sheep. The sheep was part of a set of farm animals that belonged to David Edwards, who lived across the street. David’s parents owned the Graham Motor Lodge. Mom occasionally took Mason over to play with David, and it appeared that Mason had purloined the sheep. Mom said she didn’t realize what had happened until one day David’s Mom Cynthia, mentioned that David knew all the animal sounds…except the sheep.
It was almost as much fun to holler, “Here Trouble,” as it was to call for Berferd, plus we could always say, “Here comes Trouble!” In later years, if Mom wasn’t feeling well, Trouble would instinctively know, and didn’t leave her side until he could see she felt better.
mom with Mark and Marlene Gustafson
At the RV Park
Horse Creek spreading Mom’s Ashes
By the time I moved to Gillette, Wyoming, Mom and Gus had sold the motel and purchased a travel trailer. They moved to the Crazy Woman campground in Gillette where Gus worked construction, and Mom had a job she loved at the Rockpile Museum across the street. They soon befriended Charlie and Becky, who were from back East and also lived in the Crazy Woman Campground. One day Becky was out hosing down their parking area and a fellow camper sped by in his pickup. The dust and dirt flew. Becky was irritated, so she turned her hose on him. He had his driver’s side window open so he got doused pretty good.
Later that evening, Charlie was sitting in his favorite chair enjoying the daily newspaper, when the door to their motor home opened and some guy threw a bucket of water all over him. Imagine Charlie’s surprise.
Mom and Becky were quite a pair. They loved to shop with coupons. Mom was really excited about one of her coupons until the cashier told her it was expired. “But that’s my best one,”she said. It must have ruined their whole shopping experience.
I hope I have remembered a few of Gus’s favorite stories. He still talks about Trouble and what a good dog he was.
Eventually, Mom, Gus, and Trouble moved to Ontario, California. My brother Bill’s company managed the parking at the Ontario Airport, and they did some work counting the in and out traffic for him . One day Mom left the airport to go get some donuts and accidentally got on the freeway. She said she told God if he got her safely off that freeway, she would never drive again.
Gus still lives in Ontario and manages the RV park where the travel trailer has been parked for many years. He facilitates Bible study classes at the local Salvation Army, and also helps them distribute food to those in need. He enjoys steak night at the American Legion and helps out with their functions.
Every Saturday that Bill is in town, he meets Gus at the Pomona Fairplex, where they have simulcast horse racing. They always say they hope to break even, because they sure could use the money.
Gus comes to Texas once a year for Christmas or Thanksgiving, and we try to go see him at least once during the year. He spends other holidays with Bill and his family who live in Los Angeles. Gus’s nephew Mark and his wife Marlene live in Rapid City, so he visits them and their kids and grandkids.
He’s always interested in hearing news of the Sanderson family and other friends in Murdo. Gus was very saddened to hear of Dwight Hurst’s passing.
Gus is a stand-up guy and we love him very much. We hope you’ll join us in wishing him a happy 85th birthday (5/30), and continued good health. He shares the day with my Sister-in-law Liz, (Happy Birthday Liz.) Bill always takes them to the restaurant of their choice to celebrate.
I love this story. I’m sure many years from now, our miss Murdo Girl will remember all the fun times she had with cousins and friends. Many of their adventures would not have been possible if not for the Jeep.
We all love Uncle Jeff’s Jeep. It has taken us on some pretty great adventures. It has been stuck more than once, and driven where only rented cars and trucks should go. Although we have asked too much of it on more than one occasion, it keeps on providing fun transportation.
Not too long ago, we loaded it up for a trip to the cabin. The purpose of the trip was to spend a day skiing at Terry Peak, near Deadwood. The first stop is always McDonald’s in Rapid City. I get a big mac, fries, chocolate shake, and a hot apple pie. I guess that’s what everybody gets.
I didn’t have any money for this ski vacation, but at the time I still had the Texaco credit card Dad had given me to use in case of an emergency. In my book, a ski trip without cash is an emergency. It worked like this. I bought all the gas, and the other kids gave me cash for their share.
I consider myself athletic, and I’m pretty brave, so I was excited to have the opportunity to enjoy a day on the slopes. I should have remembered that I gave up on tennis after my very first try, so I can’t really consider myself an “all around” athlete. It only took one trip down the slope to realize that if I wanted myself and others to live, I shouldn’t pursue Olympic skiing…better stick to gymnastics.
I was the only one in our group of four who hadn’t skied before, and I was the only girl. I didn’t think I needed help, so I was willing to stay by myself at the beginner’s slope, while the other three went on to something more challenging. I told them I would join them after I got the hang of it. One of them said something about there being a lot of trees I could smash my face into, but I still wasn’t concerned.
I rented my skis, got a lift ticket, and up the mountain I went. It was a sunshine filled, ten degree day in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I was loving it! When I got to the top, I looked around for a minute, to see what everyone else was doing, and down the slope I went. I did okay until I got toward the bottom. It was then I realized that I was “alldumb.” Any fool would have gotten a little advice on how to stop.
After the fact, it reminds me of what my Dad says. “We must be getting closer to town, because we’re running over more people.” As I barreled toward a skier who was in line for the lift, the best I could do was aim to cross over the back of his skis and yell, “LOOK OUT!!”
After I got up from my fall, and made sure the other guy was alright, I noticed the lodge was right in front of me. I was already cold so I decided to take a break and get some hot chocolate. I rather liked being a spectator, so I watched everyone else from the inside. If you include the hot chocolate my half hour on the slopes was pretty pricey. I was hoping the Jeep would need some gas soon, because I was running low on funds. I wanted to have at least one more big mac before we headed for home.
The Jeep gets us where we want to go if we treat it right. One cold day, Mark and I went for a drive. We were hoping to find an abandoned farmhouse to explore. Well, we got distracted and we were farther out than we thought. After the ski trip, the Texaco card was removed from my possession, so we were pretty low on gas. Actually we were out of gas.
We had to walk about a mile before we even got to the highway, and we were still at least three miles from town. I didn’t even have to think about it. When the next car going our direction got close, I planned to stick my thumb out. Mark said that under no circumstances would he hitchhike. We argued about that for a while, and kept on walking. Neither of us had to worry either way, because it was a cold winter day, and there weren’t many people out for a drive. Wait! We saw a car approaching. Even Mark got excited because we knew the people. It was Eldon Davis and his wife. Eldon and Alma are janitors at the school. We started yelling and jumping up and down! Eldon and Alma, smiled, and waved, even honked the horn…and drove on by.
We could not believe it! We finally got back to town (just before dark), and went to the store to tell Uncle Jeff we were going to have to get a gas can and a ride back to the Jeep. Shortly after we got to the store, who came in but Eldon and his wife. Mark and I started yelling at them. “Eldon, why didn’t you stop?”
Eldon said, “I told Alma, why that’s Mark Sanderson and Mary Francis!” He said he thought we were just out for a stroll.
Mark said, “Eldon…We were three miles from town, and freezing!”
I guess all is well that ends well.
We try to plan our outings around any pending rain because if you’ve got the windshield wipers on, you can’t step on the gas. Yesterday after school, I talked Mark into taking me to Kennebec. My friend Josephine got some penny loafers there, and I wanted some exactly like them. If the apparel I buy isn’t Connie like, it’s somebody else like. I don’t know what my personal taste is until I see it on someone else. I have quite a few Connie like things, but I’ll have to tell you how that worked out for me in another paper.
Anyway, we got to Kennebec and I found the shoes. They didn’t have them in my size, but I didn’t let a little thing like “not fitting” bother me. They had some a size too big, so I got them.
On the way home, it started raining. It was really coming down, so here’s what we had to do. We gunned it, then let up on the gas so the wipers would work. As soon as we could see a little, we gunned it again. We had to do that all the way back to town. Can you imagine what that must have looked like to the other cars on the road? Its a good thing the cops didn’t see us. We sure don’t have a ticket fund going.
We really love that old Willys Jeep! Uncle Jeff is going to give it to Mark when he turns 24.
I had an interesting conversation with our miss Murdo Girl this morning. As I talked, she looked at me so intently, I thought I was really reaching her. She kept nodding in agreement to everything I was saying. She doesn’t normally give me her full attention. When I finished she said, “I wonder if my Alden’s dress is back from the dry cleaners.”
I guess the lady is worried. She wants to know what I’ll be writing about in my papers now that I’m in high school. I told her I’m not here to cause trouble, but just think about it. To write about what it’s like to grow up in Murdo without leaking a little gossip, is like saying go read your favorite encyclopedia and write a paper that everyone will want to read.
I know Mom gossips some, but she does not like to listen to complainers. She was on the phone yesterday and I heard her say, “Don’t tell me about your troubles, I’ve got problems of my own, and here he comes now.” Then Dad walked in.
I’ve heard people say, “Don’t say anything about someone that you wouldn’t say to their face.” I’m not sure I agree with that. I’ll give you an example. The other day, Danny Koester said to me, “I’ve always thought you were kind of pretty Mary, but my Mom doesn’t think so.”
Now what was I supposed to say to that? He went on to explain.”She says you have a funny looking mouth.”
I’ve never worried about the shape of my mouth, but now it bugs me too. I’ve always hated my legs below my knees, because they look like chicken legs, but I never once thought about how funny looking my mouth is.
I think sometimes it’s okay to hide certain things from people, if you don’t get too convoluted about it..like what happened when Kitty Reynolds still lived here. She made an appointment with a doctor in Rapid City, and Mom agreed to drive her. A problem occurred when Florence, Dr Murphy’s wife, got wind of it and invited herself along. Now they were going to have to figure out a way to get Kitty to the doctor’s appointment without Florence knowing. They would have to ditch Florence, and that would not be easy. You see, Mom and Kitty knew Florence would be mad, and it would hurt Doc Murphy’s feelings if they found out Kitty went all the way to Rapid City to see another doctor.
The three of them headed for Rapid, and it wasn’t long before the first dilemma arose. Every time the ladies go on shopping trips to Rapid City, they stop along the way for pie and coffee. Florence kept asking when they were going to stop. Well, Kitty was going to have one of those tests where you can’t eat anything after midnight. She couldn’t even have coffee, because she doesn’t like it without cream and sugar. Mom knew Florence would suspect something if Kitty didn’t have pie and coffee, so there was no way she was going to stop. She said something about being in a big hurry. I’m sure Florence was puzzled by that.
Mom said Florence fussed all the way to Rapid because she wanted pie so bad. Thankfully when they got there, they had a little time to figure out what to do with Florence while Mom took Kitty to the doctor. Well, Florence really wanted to go to a certain store in the Baken Shopping Strip. Mom said she would drop her off, but she had to go see her friend Jeri Olson, who was in the hospital. Florence doesn’t know Jeri, so that was a smart move on Mom’s part. She told Florence that Kitty had to go with her to see Jeri. Kitty has a bad leg, so it made sense for her to stay with Mom instead of walking all over the shopping strip. Florence didn’t question any of that, but she was getting extremely hungry, so she suggested they all have a bite to eat first.
Kitty said, “No, we can’t do that because Loretta and I are on an all liquid diet.” By this time, they were at the shopping strip. Then Florence tried to pin Mom down as to what time they would pick her up. Mom told her if she was finished with her shopping before they got back, to go to Woolworths in the shopping strip and have a piece of pie.
When Mom got home that night, she said it was the most exhausting day she had ever lived through. Florence remained upset, and Kitty was as nervous as a cat the whole time. They couldn’t even eat on the way back since Kitty said they were on a strict liquid diet. Mom feared Kitty, who can’t think on her feet, would say something to blow their cover.
Upon hearing all of this, I reminded Mom of what she always tells me. “What a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive.” She said, “Yes, and if you ever mention a word about it, I will hit you so hard you will starve to death bouncing.” Which is another thing she always says.
One more thing about gossip. (I was pretty little when this happened.) One night a friend of Mom’s and her husband came over. The husband and Dad talked in the living room, and Mom and the wife talked in the kitchen. Well, a few days before then, I had heard Mom say something unflattering about the wife. I whispered in Mom’s ear that I was going to tell the wife what she said about her. Mom said, “Just a minute.” Then she dragged me to my bedroom. She told me to kneel down by my bed and ask God for forgiveness for even thinking about intentionally hurting someone’s feelings. Now, every time I think about gossiping, I remember what Mom had me do.
So believe me when I say that you can tell me anything, and I will pray about it before I repeat it. If I repeat it anyway, I will pray about it some more.
When one thing doesn’t go according to plan, sometimes it feels like nothing is ever going to be right again. I’m sure that’s how our miss Murdo Girl must be feeling as she embarks on her long-awaited, and somewhat delayed first day of high school. I want to tell her so many things right now, but she will learn what she needs to know in her own time.
Well, high school is a different animal, and I just can’t seem to find my groove. As you know, I have been trying to firm up my style…
Since I had worn my Alden’s dress in New York, and spilled something on the white skirt, it had to go to the dry cleaners along with the motel sheets. The truck that comes every morning to pick up and deliver the sheets has big lettering on the back that says, “If your clothes aren’t becoming to you, they should be coming to us.” After all these years, John the driver feels like a friend.
(When we strip all the beds, we take one sheet and spread it out on the sidewalk. We bundle all the other sheets inside. There are two room cleaners and two bundles. I’m never late getting my sheets bundled in time for John due to my efficiency. I have a method which Mom hates, because I get done cleaning too fast.)
Anyway, I had to wear something different, and it had to be new. I chose another of my Connie like purchases and got myself ready. Dad would be completing his early morning drive around town, and pull up to the basement house at exactly 7:45 to take me to band practice.
It had only been a couple of days since I smashed my head into the side of a swimming pool, so I still had a black and blue goose egg on my forehead. My bangs hadn’t grown out overnight either, but I liked my new outfit.
Band hadn’t changed any since I’d become a freshman, and it was good to see everyone. Connie Jackson doesn’t play an instrument, in fact, neither do my best friends, Karen and Marlene. I like band, so I won’t be making any changes there.
The auditorium where we practice is just down a short hill from the high school, so after band, it only took me a couple of minutes to get to school. I walked inside, and all of a sudden I felt hot all over…panic stricken I guess. Now what was I supposed to do? Just then, I saw Karen and Marlene. They smiled big and said, “Hi, you’re back,” and took off for class.
I was still carrying my heavy saxophone. Where was I supposed to put it? I should have paid attention to where all the other band kids took theirs. I went to the office to get some help. Thankfully the secretary was there. (I can’t remember her name.) She showed me where to put my horn, where my locker was, and gave me a list of my classes. She showed me which classrooms were which, and pointed me in the direction of my next class. This whole time, I had a big lump in my throat to match the one on my head.
I walked in the room and I immediately felt better, although I still felt kind of feverish. There were a few new students, but most of my classmates were kids I had gone to school with for years.
When the whistle on top of the water tower blew at noon, we were all released to go home for dinner. I would normally walk with the kids who live south of 16, because it’s closer to home, but I hadn’t had a chance to talk to Karen and Marlene yet, so I caught up with them. They gave me the scoop as we walked and talked.
I had to keep wiping my forehead. It was hot, and I was sweating like a butcher. Karen stopped and looked me over. She hadn’t seen my new clothes yet. She said, “Boy, I can’t wait to see what you wear when it gets cold outside.” Karen has a very dry sense of humor. She and Marlene had on summer, Connie like skirts and tops with a pair of Keds. I was wearing a long-sleeved dark brown turtleneck with a beige wool vest, and a plaid wool skirt. When you considered my brown knee socks and brown loafers, I must have looked like the dead of winter. All that was missing was a stocking cap and some gloves.
I hadn’t seen Connie yet, so I had no idea what she was wearing. I was pretty sure she wouldn’t be dressed like me. Connie is colorful, and I’m beige. She has a cute short haircut. I have 5th grade bangs. I had really missed the mark, but I wasn’t ready to give up.
I went home and ate my chicken pot pie and baked potato. I didn’t have time to change clothes, but I did take off the wool vest and knee socks. Back at school, I continued to get the lay of the land. I love changing rooms and having a different teacher for each class. I have gotten behind the curve by missing the first week, but I’m a quick learner. Right now, I feel like a small fish in a big pond. Connie is a big fish in a small pond. Don’t get me wrong, she’s not a snob at all. She is very sweet, and everyone likes her.
After school, Karen, Marlene and I went to Mack’s Cafe and had a bing and a coke. If you don’t know what a bing candy bar is, you don’t know what you’re missing.
I’m home now. I have some homework, but that will wait until in the morning when I’m drying my hair. I think I’ll go look in my closet for some weather appropriate clothes. It’s possible I’ll have to put off my transformation for a little while. This isn’t how it was supposed to go, but it could be a whole lot worse. I could be starting school in New York like my cousins. Can you imagine what that would be like? No, I’ll take good old Murdo High School over anyplace I’ve ever been. All one of them.
They say life happens while we’re busy making plans. Our little miss Murdo Girl is experiencing just that. I’m sure as she gets older, she will have many opportunities to learn how to roll with the punches. Her parents advised her to be grateful for every second of every minute, and I think that’s pretty good advise. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.
You are not going to believe what happened!! Western Airlines went on strike. I had it made in the shade. I had worked really hard all summer, bought some Connie like clothes, and was almost ready for my transformation. All that remained was for me to get my hair cut. Murdo High School here I come! Even if Western Airlines resolved their problems, it was too late for me to make the trip to New York. My cousins would have to get to know me another time. Whew!!
Two weeks before school started the strike was over. My Uncle called my Mom and said he could get me on a flight. I could still come for two weeks, and I would only miss one week of school.
“What did you say? I would miss a whole week of school?”
Mom and Dad made the decision I should go. Mom called the Murdo High School Superintendent, Mr. Haugland, to let him know I would be missing school. Mom asked him if he thought the airplanes would be safe? “They have been sitting there for over two months,” she said.
To which Mr. Haugland replied, “I’m sure their planes will be ready to go, and they’ll be as safe as any other airplane.”
Mom said, “So you don’t think it will crash then?”
Mr. Haugland said, “Well Loretta, I’m not going to guarantee anything, I’d feel responsible if something did happen. You would say it was all my fault.”
Do you know what I did? I threw a walleyed fit. That’s what I did. No one was going to make me get on a broken down airplane, and no one was going to make me miss my very first week of high school.
This was not the way it was supposed to go.
Well, both Mom and Dad said I was going, and I had better appreciate every second of every minute. It was very nice of my Uncle to do this. It would be a wonderful experience they said; and that was the end of that!
A couple of days later, my Uncle called with the information about the trip. I would have a seven hour layover in Chicago, but he said not to worry because a guy he knows would pick me up and spend the whole seven hours with me. This was sounding worse and worse.
I made it to Chicago, and I wanted to kneel down and kiss the ground. My Uncle’s friend was really nice and even took me to a place called Shaky’s Pizza. It was a treat for me, because we don’t have any cafes in Murdo that make pizza. It even had a player piano and some other neat stuff. He was going to drive around and show me more of Chicago, but it was raining cats and dogs, a real downpour, and I had to get on another broken down airplane.
What do you know, I made it to New York. My Uncle Chuck met me and then told me to sit at this little table outside a restaurant and wait for him. He had to find a pay phone and make a couple of business calls before we left the airport. He asked me twice if I wanted a pop or something and I said no thank you.
Well, after he left, a waiter came and set a glass of pop on the table. It looked really good. It had a little umbrella in it and everything . I guessed my Uncle must have known he would be a while, so he decided he’d get me something to drink even though I said no thank you. I took a drink of it, and couldn’t decide what kind of pop it was, so I drank some more. About then, my uncle came back, picked up the glass, stared at it for a minute, then sat down and drank it while he made some notes on his little pad.
I think we both realized at the same time what had happened. It was his drink and it was spiked! He must have been wondering why his glass wasn’t full. Uncle Chuck didn’t say anything, and neither did I. It had been a long day, and suddenly I was so tired, I could barely keep my eyes open.
Well, my cousin’s house was really nice, and I had quite a bit of fun. We went to the Empire State Building, The United Nations Building, and a Broadway musical with Ginger Rogers called “Hello Dolly. Abby’s room is just full of Peter Pan stuff. Did you know the one who plays Peter Pan is a girl? Her name is Mary Martin. Both Hello Dolly and Peter Pan are stories where they sing instead of talk. I didn’t know that before.
We got to go to this huge place with an Olympic sized swimming pool and tennis courts. My cousins Abby and Paul are good tennis players. I tried it once and didn’t like it, so I swam all the time.
One night, they had a guy whose name is Ron Weiner, over for dinner. He is a photographer for Life Magazine. My Aunt Barbara fixed a fancy dinner because Mr. Weiner is such a big deal, I guess. I wore my Connie like dress and shoes because my Aunt said we had to dress up.
We started eating, and I wasn’t really listening to Mr. Weiner, because I was too busy watching everybody use their utensils. I had more forks than I had food, so I was trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with them all. Mr. Weiner asked me a question just as I was cutting a piece of roast, and it startled me so much, my fork slipped and my peas went flying all over the table. Some of them went over the table and landed in Mr. Weiner’s lap. I jumped up, and started cleaning up my peas, and he just calmly sat there and picked the peas off his clothes. When I started to crawl under the table to pick up the peas that rolled under there, my Aunt said, “That’s all right dear, we can do that when everyone is finished with dinner.” I was very embarrassed. I had no idea peas could roll that far. These were English peas. (I didn’t know you could get peas in different nationalities.)
My cousins were getting ready for their school to start too. Abby wanted her hair trimmed so I went with Aunt Barbara and Abby to the beauty shop. My Aunt asked me if I wanted my hair trimmed, too. I thought about getting a Connie like haircut, but I chickened out at the last minute. My Aunt said, “Would you like to get a little trim?” I did, and the hairdresser cut my bangs so short, I look like a 5th grader now
The last day I was there, they had a swimming contest in their big Olympic pool. It has lanes divided by rope and everything. Well I entered a race and I was even a little ahead of everybody for a while. I got excited and really put the pedal to the metal. I was splashing so much water I couldn’t see and veered a little. I was in one of the end lanes, and all of a sudden I banged my head really hard on the side of the pool. I came in last I think.
So, I’m sitting on the airplane now waiting to fly back. If I survive, I’ll be going to my first day of high school tomorrow. I have a huge black and blue knot on my head that my fifth grader bangs won’t cover up even if I scotch tape them to my forehead until they dry.
I don’t even know what to call this. Our miss Murdo Girl said she couldn’t have attention deficit disorder because she had been vaccinated for it at the Murdo Auditorium. I think it could be time for a booster shot. Maybe when she gets settled into her summer routine, she’ll be more focused…Maybe
I found some stuff in the Aldens catalog I want to buy. Next year I’ll be in high school so I need to start firming up my style. There’s a girl who’s a sophomore, that I’m going to model myself after. (I think.) She’s a cheerleader. I have been a cheerleader since the 4th grade, but I won’t be one next year, because they don’t let freshmen be cheerleaders. They vote in the spring for the next year, and they won’t let 8th graders run. I guess since we’re still 8th graders, we’re not considered high school cheerleading material.
Anyway, I’m not going to think about that now, I’m too busy dreading the summer. I have to rent Motel rooms at night, then clean them the next morning. I sometimes get a late start cleaning, because the tourists will have had some time to think about how much I charged them, or maybe their ice wasn’t cold enough. I don’t want to start cleaning until after they’re all gone. The last thing I need is to run into a mad tourist. I’ll make good money, but I know I will earn every penny.. I wish I could work at the Frosty like Connie Jackson. In the summer, all the kids hang out there at night and after the show on the week-ends.
Mom thinks I must not clean the rooms very good because I’m fast. I’ve told her I have a method. Even though she can’t find one thing wrong with the rooms I clean, she wants it to take me longer. I’m sure it bothers her because she pays by the room and not by the hour. She even has Gertie (Oldencamp) Smith, who cleans the other rooms, spy on me. I don’t think it’s really fair of Mom to ask that of Gertie, because she gets paid by the room too, and shouldn’t have to waste her time spying on me. Gertie has three kids to take care of, and two of them are a real handful.
We have a phone in the office/unit #1 now, which is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that if I need something to eat or a tourist needs ice, I can call Mom. The curse is, when Mom gets worried about the rent being too low. She calls me and if I’m too busy showing rooms to answer, she comes out of the basement house and signals to me.This is beyond confusing. Sometimes, when I’m walking a tourist to show them a room, she comes outside and motions thumbs up and 2 fingers. The room can be $22.00 when the people see it, and $24.00 by the time we get back to the office. Then I have to figure sales tax to add on. The tourists can get pretty frustrated, but I think they just chock it up to my obvious youthfulness and don’t complain. If their face starts getting really red, I tell them we take checks. I tell them they can give me a check if they try to pay with a credit card too, because Mom’s not messing with credit cards, she likes to deal in cash.
I get paid by the room when I rent them too. When the town is full of tourists in July and August, it’s like an invasion. Cars, cars, and more cars a far as you can see. I can fill -up, close- up, give Mom her money, get paid, and be at the Frosty by 8:30 or 9:00. The Frosty is hooked on to the Super Value, and it’s not very far to walk. My favorite thing to get at the Frosty is a barbecue sandwich, and a chocolate-cherry coke.
On the slow nights when I’m working too late to eat at the Frosty, Mom cooks. I have to say, I get a great meal. She fixes steak or fried chicken, corn on the cob, macaroni salad, and toast. I have to eat it in the bathroom area, so the tourists don’t see me, but I’m sure they can smell it and see the corn in my teeth. Sometimes, I have to tell myself, “Oh well, I’ll never see these people again, because no one ever comes back here.”
It’s hard work, and I don’t make the kind of money the waitresses at Cafe 16 do, but I’m too young to get hired on there anyway.
I don’t think Mom is going to let me have another dog. She says we live too close to the highway, and with all the tourists, it would surely meet it’s demise, just like Berferd. I don’t really like cats, and I got bit by an iguana once. I really didn’t want to hold it, because I don’t favor reptiles, but it was a kid of a friend of Mom’s, so I held it to be nice. I was sitting on the couch when I was holding it, and I leaned over to scoot up, and the stupid thing bit me on the nose. It was awful, because for awhile, my eyes picked up on the huge red teeth-marks and scabs. I couldn’t look at anything without seeing my nose. I feel sorry for people with great big noses or a wart they can’t get rid of. Can you imagine seeing that in your line of vision all the time? When It started to heal up and I didn’t see it so much, other people still noticed it. A man standing behind me in Super Value started staring at me. He finally said, “How does one do that to one’s nose?”
At the end of the summer, I have to fly on Western Airlines to New York. My Uncle Chuck Francis lives there and he’s arranging everything. He wants my cousins, Abby and Paul to get to know me. I don’t want to go. I hear the workers at Western Airlines might go on strike, which would be fine with me. What if I crash and burn in an airplane before I can even experience high school?
I had Mom hold some money out of my pay, and she wrote a check for me to send with my order to Aldens. I can’t wait for it to get here. I think the outfit and shoes I picked out look like something Connie Jackson would wear. I wonder how old she was when she firmed up her style. She is a trendsetter and always looks perfect. I don’t know if her style will work for me, and I’ll have to cut my hair short again, but I’m going to give it a try.
Well, I goofed up, because the lady wants me to write about more people and not always about myself. She also tells me to write what I know about, which is me, so she needs to cut me some slack.
Here are some more people. These are all the cousins that have worked for Mom at some time or another.
Mark Sanderson, Valerie Leckey, Stephanie Miller, and Andrea Miller all worked for Mom.
This lady worked there for a little while too, but she was a royal pain.
When I was growing up, and approaching my teenage years. My friends and I wanted to push the curfew just “one more hour.” Our Moms all told us the same thing. “Nothing good happens after midnight.” Our miss Murdo Girl has a couple of humorous tales she thinks will make you smile. Sometimes her stories might be a bit irreverent, but they’re fun to tell. Peter Marshall wrote, “God is at home in the play of His children. He loves to hear us laugh.”
Every year right before Mom closes the Motel for the summer, she let’s my girl cousins and me have a slumber party in room number ten. We have it in 10 because it has the TV. Remember, we only have one television in the whole motel.
Many different girls have participated over the years. There are two double beds and a roll away bed, which normally would sleep about six, but we cram as many in there as we can. It takes a lot of preparation to get ready for the party. Everyone brings chips, dips, candy, pop, and stuff for breakfast.
We eat all the junk, watch TV, take turns taking bubble baths, and goof around. The only problem is, we’re finished by 10:00, when the TV goes off the air, and we’re all so full we can hardly stay awake. We can’t really play monopoly or anything because there are too many of us.
You know how it takes so much time for our Moms to fix a huge Christmas dinner, and not even an hour to eat it? Well that’s what it’s like with the slumber party. It’s kind of like being stuck in your bedroom with a bunch of girls. There are no other rooms to go to. One year, we sneaked out and walked all over town which helped a little, but there’s not too much going on at midnight in Murdo.
It’s kind of interesting living along the highway. Especially if you’re like us and you don’t lock your doors. I don’t think very many people in Murdo do. One night when Dad was out-of-town, and it was just Mom and me, we had an unexpected visitor. He works for Dad and his name is Not Fred. It was around midnight, and Not Fred just walked into our house without knocking. Mom heard him and got up to see if Dad had come home early. She saw Not Fred sitting in a chair by Dad’s desk, and he was taking his boots off. Mom said, “Not Fred, what are you doing?”
Well, Not Fred just looked up at her and said, “Go to bed dumbhead.” Then he walked over to the kitchen booth, laid down, and went to sleep. The booth curves around, and the short part is against the wall our telephone hangs on, so we sit there when we talk. I heard Mom calling a guy that lives a little farther down the highway, who is also a friend of Not Fred’s . She told him she needed him to come and get Not Fred, because he was walking in his sleep or something and she couldn’t get him to leave. I guess the friend asked what Not Fred was doing, because Mom said, “He’s sleeping on my booth. His head is right here beside me.” Then, I heard Mom say, “Well, okay, I guess you’re right.”
Mom came into my room and got in bed with me so I wouldn’t be worried. She said, “I called a friend of Not Fred, and he told me to just let him sleep cause he won’t bother anything.”
Well, he didn’t bother anything, but he snored all night and kept us awake. Early the next morning the phone rang and Mom just went and sat by Not Fred’s head and answered it. While she was talking, Not Fred woke up, walked over to the door, put his boots on and left. Later that day, I was walking over to the motel, and Not Fred drove by in his work truck. I was going to wave at him, but he didn’t look my way. Mom said he doesn’t wave at her either.
When Dad got home and Mom told him about Not Fred sleeping here, he about laughed his head off. He said, “Well, it was really nice of him to take his boots off, but I’ve never heard Not Fred call anyone a dumbhead before.”
On a different occasion, another guy who works for Dad, whose name is Not Tom didn’t get home when he was supposed to, and his wife came and got Dad to go look for him. For some reason she thought Not Tom might be in Pierre. Well, a little ways out of Murdo, Dad saw Not Tom’s work truck, parked in the ditch. Well, the wife didn’t see it, and for some reason, Dad didn’t tell her, and they drove all the way to Pierre and back, and of course, no one had seen Not Tom.
Well, lo and behold, when they got back to Not Tom’s house, there was his work truck parked outside. Dad walked to the door with the wife just to make sure everything was alright. When they opened the door, Not Tom came running down the stairs, and when he got to the bottom, he slipped on a throw rug, and slid all the way to the door on his backside. Dad said, when he came to a stop he looked up at his wife and said, “Vere have you been?” (I don’t know why he said vere instead of where.) Dad broke the silence, by saying, “Well, I guess I’ll be on my way.” Dad said it was a pretty funny sight because Not Tom didn’t have any clothes on.
Dad has some characters working for him. He says the two in my story are loyal, hardworking, and good at what they do. Someone asked Dad the other day, how many men he has working for him now. He said, “About half of them.”
Bill Francis plumbing and heating
Dad with his cigar, Francis Plumbing and Heating,and Billy holding the FP&H toilet ashtray