I was going through some pictures yesterday and ran across this one of my mother and some friends. I don’t remember seeing it, before. I have tons of photographs and I go through them constantly for the blog, so I don’t know how I could have missed it. I wish I had a dollar for every hour I have spent looking at pictures. I love them.
Judging from Mom’s hair and clothes, (notice the corsage), I think it must have been taken in the early forties. My parents were married in Rapid City in February of 1942 and Dad was inducted into the army in June of 1942. He didn’t go overseas until 9/20/1944. Mom lived in California for part of the time Dad was overseas and it looks like she was at some sort of show. If you look closely, you can see performers on a stage in the background. I don’t have any idea who the two people with her are. Dad was either overseas, or taking the picture. This is another reason why people should write on the back of any printed picture. I want to know if I’m guessing correctly, and now there is no one to ask. I doubt my brother will know, but if he does, he’ll let me know when he reads the blog.
Regardless, this photograph has survived as many as 80 years. Many of our family photos were destroyed when a storage unit Gus and Mom rented flooded. Gus retrieved the little wooden box that we stored pictures in for years and gave it to me. I have lived in five states. Thankfully, I’ve had houses with attics. The boxes of pictures sometimes weren’t opened for years. This has to be a record for anything I have managed to hang on to.
When I look at this picture, I see a beautiful young woman with great expectations. She must have been in her early twenties with her whole life ahead of her. A small town girl weaving her threads of life through the unknown realities of wartime. Those years had to be both exciting and terrifying. It’s hard to think about all of the young couples who had to put off family life and careers during their time in the service. My brother, Billy, was born in July of 1944. Dad was there when he was born, but didn’t see him again until he came back from overseas January 4th of 1946. Billy was 17 months old.
Dad had family in California and Mom’s older sister, Ella was there, too. I believe they shared an apartment with their friend, Sugar Nyquist Parker. I don’t know when Sugar married George Parker. I think Aunt Ella met Uncle Al when he was stationed in California, but I don’t think they got married until after the war. These people are/were Murdoites. So many people from the area settled in California that for years the had a Jones County Picnic. The rhythm of life…
After Dad was discharged, they went back to Murdo and Dad started his plumbing business. In 1947, they had a baby girl they named Vickie Lane. She had underdeveloped lungs and only lived for three days. After her death, my dad wrote a very touching letter to his mother who had moved from Murdo to California after she sold the hardware store. In the letter, Dad refers to Mrs. Parker. She was George Parker’s mother (Sugar’s mother-in-law) and a good friend to my Grandmother Francis.
Dad sent a telegram and then he sent this letter. He said there was little one could say. He wrote that the baby cried normally at first, but then started to have trouble breathing. She seemed to be doing better the next day. Later, she got worse again and that time she didn’t pull out of it.. He said Mom seemed to be doing well. She had good color and a world of nerve and courage to go on. He said they were going to have a funeral the next day and that Mom had asked that Mary Parker be there. He also said he was grateful they had little Billy at home because that would make it easier on Mom than if they had no children. I couldn’t help but notice that he was writing to his mother, yet he only talked about how Mom was doing and not about his own feelings. I often wonder how Mom got the courage to go through that long nine months again. She must have wondered if the outcome would be the same.
I know this might be too sad for some, but I included it because it is all part of the rhythm of life.
I came along at the end of 1951. Our family had some tough times to navigate through, but there are two things I appreciated the whole time and they were 1) living in Murdo, and 2) having wonderful grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins surrounding me…Oh yes, and teachers and friends.
If things weren’t going right with Dad’s business or other difficulties arose, Dad would always say, “Well, we’ve always had a roof over our heads.”
I wrote the following the day Uncle Jerry died. It will help you understand how I feel about small town living and family…
Dad and Uncle Jerry were out driving around today like they do sometimes when they’re talking about jobs. Dad is a plumber and Uncle Jerry builds houses. Dad said they pulled up to a stop sign and there was my cousin, Greg (Uncle Jerry’s son), throwing rocks. He was hitting a sign and causing it to dent all up. Well, Uncle Jerry wasn’t too happy about it, so he rolled down the window and was about to call Greg over to the car.
Before he had a chance to say anything, Greg ran over to the car and said, “Dad, I want to have a talk with you when we get home.” Dad said Uncle Jerry didn’t know what to say then, so he just rolled up the window and they drove off.
Uncle Jerry doesn’t talk much, which might be kind of good, because there are plenty of people in our family who do. Two weeks ago we had a little mix-up at my house. Mom went to Pierre, to buy flowers for the motel planters, and to spend the night with a friend. She thought Dad was taking care of me. Well, Dad thought Mom was going the next day, so he went out-of-town to check on a job.
Spaghetti at Mom and Dad’s (Bill and Loretta Francis) Mom and Dad, Elsa Peck, Uncle Jerry and Aunt Elna (Miller) I’ve seen Aunt Elna laugh like that a hundred times. I don’t think the man on the end is Harold Peck, Elsa’s husband. He might be taking the picture.
When I got home after school, no one was there. (Billy was gone somewhere too.) I waited until suppertime and started getting hungry. Murdo is a small town. If your Mom and Dad get mixed up, there is always somewhere to go. I started walking and headed South of Hwy 16. I was really hungry by then, so I stopped at the first relative’s house I came to. Aunt Elna is a good cook, and I like to play with my cousins, Andrea, Stephanie, and Greg. Aunt Elna said, “Sure you can stay here, and we’ll just keep calling your house in case someone gets home.” Then, we all had chicken pot pies.
Al Leckey, Bill Francis, Jerry Miller
I ended up spending the night and the next morning, Uncle Jerry got me up early and took me to my house so I could change my clothes and get my saxophone for band practice. I thought that was pretty nice. He even gave me a ride to band practice.
Since I’m writing about Uncle Jerry, I will tell you about his office. My other cousins and I don’t go in there, because that’s where all his house plans, and other work stuff are kept.
Guess what? My cousin Andrea, (Jerry’s daughter), invited my cousin Valerie to go into Uncle Jerry’s office. She said there’s a really nice stereo in there. She got to listen to a Gene Pitney album. I love Gene Pitney. He sings “A Town without Pity.”
I’ m going to ask Stephanie if I can hear it too.
Uncle Jerry does a lot of work on the Cabin
The Days were Splendid, Every One
The past never stays in the past. God gave us memories so that we could have roses in December…