This is for the Yrams who don’t get their vitamin D from the sun. I surely don’t want to presume your childhood was not amazing. I personally know many families who have navigated through the information overload years successfully. If nothing else, this story might help you understand your parents or grandparents, and how it was in the olden days.
I wish I could remember every fun day we all had playing in the trees between Uncle Jeff ‘s and Grandpa Sanderson’s houses. We were never at a loss for things to do. In Uncle Jeff’s backyard, there were two forts that were really like cabins. They were made from weathered old wood and had dirt floors. They each had two rooms. The smaller fort had two beds attached to the walls like bunks. They were so much fun to play in, even though we had to chase off an occasional spider. We made mud pies with old kitchen bowls and used spoons or sticks, to stir the dirt and water. We made up our names, what we did for a living, and visited each other’s cabins. There was also a tree house that was used as a secret clubhouse or whatever else we wanted it to be.
I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all. Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Grandpa had a pop-up camper that could easily sleep 6 kids. It even had a built-in ice chest where we stored our snacks and food for breakfast. I remember I always brought V-8 juice. We had a lantern for light and there was no shortage of entertainment. We played Old Maid and other games, and there were always ghost stories to tell.
There was a garage that was more like a big shed. That’s where we had our Miss America Pageants. The judges were the boys who happened to show up. Sometimes there would be more cousins from out of town or other friends. Mark was in charge of the record player so we could sing with the 45 records. I guess it was like the original karaoke. We all paraded in front of the judges, who took their jobs very seriously. You couldn’t get a clue from looking at their faces who the winner would be. We really performed our hearts out. The competition was intense. (This was before anyone used the word stress.)
We sang songs by the Everly Brothers like “Wake up a little Suzie,” and, Oh little Playmate come out and play with me, and bring your dollies three…..by? (I don’t know who.) We had dozens of records and songs to choose from. Occasionally someone would twirl a baton or perform magic for the talent part of the contest, but usually, singing won out. “The Purple People Eater,” was a song cousin Valerie taught us all. We always had dress-up clothes provided by Aunt Irma or one of the other Moms.
When we got tired of Miss America, we put on carnivals. They were quite a bit of work. We had to make our own paper tickets and signs, set up all our stands, make Kool-aid and popcorn, and get all the horses ready to give rides and pull carts.
I wish I had more and better pictures of those times, The top left is Uncle Jeff and Gus Gustafson in Aunt Irma and Uncle Jeff’s “The room built on.” (That’s what we always called that room.)
Someone, (probably Uncle Jeff), tied a barrel with ropes between two of Grandpa’s trees. We played bucking bronco and rocked back and forth on it. I don’t remember too many arguments or indecision about what everyone wanted to do. I guess we had a ringleader like Suzanne, or Andrea. Mark was high up in the hierarchy too. We really all worked together for the enjoyment of the participants and the spectators. The Borks, Sandersons, Weigants, and Millers, were among those in on all the fun. I usually had the longest walk unless other kids from North of 16 found us.
Even the long days of summer weren’t long enough to do it all. It’s almost laughable to imagine what we all would have done if someone had come and plopped cell phones, and video games in front of us. There are just no limits to the fun you can have with imagination and pretending. The things that have no cost are usually the most priceless.
I know I’ve written about some of this before. What started me back on this trip down memory lane was a picture of our 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Parks. The chain of thought went like this. I saw the picture, and thought about all of us lining up to go through the door to the 2nd grade classroom to get our milk. We were allowed to have a little snack with our white or chocolate milk.. (Like a graham cracker.)
On the particular day I’m remembering, one of the boys dropped his cookie on the floor and without knowing it, Mrs. Parks stepped on it. The little boy said, “Mrs. Parks, you stepped on my cookie.” To which Mrs. Parks replied, “Yes, and that’s what you will look like if I step on you! Just a little grease spot on the floor.” (Stay with me here, we’ve got a ways to go.) So then I thought about Mrs. Parks reading to us every day from 1:00 to 1:30. Sometimes if we were in the middle of a good part she would read a little longer. Of course as I’ve said before, and everyone Mrs. Parks taught knows, she always read from the Laura Ingalls Wilder series.
Those books affected me in a couple of important ways. It trained my mind to vividly imagine everything Mrs. Parks read about. I loved seeing (in my head) the little house in the big woods the family lived in. I pictured the wooden ladder the kids climbed to get to their beds in the loft. They slept under heavy quilts and wore night caps. I imagined all of the get togethers with neighbors who helped them build their barns and plant their crops.
(We’re getting close to the final connection now.) The Ingalls family grew or hunted almost all of their own food. Things like sugar were a real treat. They made their own syrup from tree sap. As Mrs. Parks read, I could almost taste all the delicious food she described. Ma would make all their clothes from fabric they bought or traded for on rare trips to town. I could picture the bolts of colorful, gingham material.
From that time on, I always wished I could go back in time and live like they did, even though Laura didn’t always make it sound easy. She told of harsh winter storms, lost crops, and health problems, like Mary going blind. The family survived and worked together to get it all done.
Look at all the books Laura wrote about what she and her family experienced. I was encouraged to write my own stories when I learned Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her first novel at the age of 65. (Especially when I read that she didn’t get it right the first time.)
Now do you see how I got from the picture of Mrs. Parks to playing under Grandpa’s trees? You don’t? It was the little cabins in Uncle Jeff’s backyard I eventually thought about. Yes, the cabins and the memory of how we all worked together to create all of that fun.
Here are some of the “Under Grandpa’s trees kids.” We are a little more grown- up in these photos. I included Billy and Terry, because, even though they were a little older, they are cousins and I’m sure they must have played under the trees. I know they had many adventures with Grandpa and Grandma. Jeff H. And Brad Bork (I don’t have a picture of Brad), were in on building the go carts. The Haverberg family lived in Michigan and Valerie Leckey (except for the 7th and 8th grades,) lived in Pennsylvania and California. They were there for summer visits and the Murdo cousins loved it when they were there to join in on all the fun.
Top L, Suzanne Bork Brost, Trice Haverberg Bushhouse, Sue Haverberg Hayes, Blake Haverberg, Bobby Haverberg, Jeff H. Sanderson, Greg Miller, Stephanie Miller-Davis, Billy Francis, Andrea Miller Sheehan, Terry Sanderson, Valerie Leckey Halla, Mark Sanderson, Cynthia Bork Edwards, and Mary Francis McNinch