I was over-the-top excited. It was May 6th, 1959. I was in the first grade and it was Rally Day. We didn’t have to go to school on Rally Day. Instead, we went to the football field, which at that time was near the high school and next to the auditorium. I knew I was going to run in races, participate in the sack race, and broad jump. Billy was 14 and I had been to watch his activities but today, I was going to participate.
There was another exciting thing. My number was pinned to my shirt and it was #36. It was May 6th, Mom’s birthday, and my number was 36. Guess what? That’s how old she was that day. (I have since recalculated Mom’s real age. I was 7 yrs old, which means Mom had turned 38. Maybe the number 38 was already taken and Mom didn’t want me to feel bad.)
From left: Harriet Parish, Loretta Gustafson (Mom), Elsa Peck, and Florence Murphy.
My first grade class with our teacher, Mrs Sandy. The future class of 1970
I remember as if it were yesterday, standing in the hallway of our house, waiting for Billy to walk me to the field. I was sure he was being slow just to make me nervous. Like always with our family, we were among the first ones to get there. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I couldn’t wait to win some blue ribbons. I was hoping Billy would watch me.
We experience many firsts in our lives. Some not planned or expected. Those events usually change everything.
I never planned to live anywhere but South Dakota, yet I have lived in 5 states. I would have called anyone crazy, if they had suggested I would spend 30 years (so far) in Texas. Mom once told me she had to get a new address book because she ran out of room under our name, and she knew we would move again. We’ve lived in 5 different houses in Texas.
I was talking to my cousin, Val, and she asked me if I had gotten 2 other cousin’s Christmas letters. Another cousin, Mark, brought up two more. I was feeling sad. My family must not like me. My cousin said, “No, that’s not it…they have no idea where you are.”
Our email address has changed and I’ve lost count of all the houses we’ve lived in. We tease that we don’t do windows, so when they get dirty, we have to move. We turn the mattresses then, too. It’s my fault, anyway, because I know where all my relatives live. I did send them all the Sanderson Christmas story a couple of years ago.
So here I am…in Texas. And I have the most wonderful friends anyone could ask for. As my thoughts and memories reach back over the years, I can see I’ve always been surrounded by genuinely amazing people.
I’m sure glad I wasn’t the one running things..
My Aunt Irma Sanderson’s house. L to R: Harriet Parrish, Marce Lillibridge, Florence Murphy, Marge Bork, Evie Johnson, and Mom…They have all been in my stories. The doctor, the banker, and the dentist’s wives, and the lady whose little boy fell from the slide…These lady’s stories, like everyone’s are about changes they weren’t expecting.
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 wall-eyed 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 looked 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 veerd a little. I was in one of the side lanes, and all of a sudden I banged my head really hard on the side of the pool. I think I came in last.
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.