Christmas 1954

I was a high school student selling Christmas items door to door that senior year of 1954 but I was unprepared for what I saw when the door was opened. A one room house, filled with the smell of smoke from the open bucket of burning coals. Around the wall were six small children, dirty, poorly dressed and fed, eating bread dipped in syrup, using the tops of the syrup cans for plates?

I spoke to the lady, started to mention what I was selling, but paused long enough to catch a glimpse of the despair, poverty, and hopelessness of the moment.  I told her I was with Santa and wished to know what she needed for Christmas. She looked at my young white face in a tone of shock and uncertainty.  I said, “I really am, I would really like to know what you need for Christmas.” That was the start of one of the best Christ Seasons I shall ever know.

I entered the house with caution and some reservation. The children looked at me with wide eyes of wonder.  A small one came and hugged my leg.  I was surprised and a bit shaken. Remember this was West Tennessee in the fifties.  It was a different world, (wrong), but different. I am sometimes surprised that God did not remove all of us for our actions and attitudes. That is a message for another day. God is merciful even when we are not.

The mother said they did not have anything in the house to eat and very little coal left. Since I was 16, I was more interested in why there was no tree and no Christmas decorations. Time would answer that question. I said I knew where to get food and I thought I could get some coal.

I raided our home at 246 South Lindsey Street for food, got coal from the place where my father worked and headed back to the, smoke and children filled one room of a house. This was going to be a different Christmas!

I had worked hard that Christmas planning to make enough money to purchase a sport coat that I had seen Rock Hudson wear in a movie. It had leather patches on the elbows and I liked that coat.

I got a small tree from back of my house, some lights from my brother in law, purchased some other items for the tree and made my way to the New York store where I knew I could get some great toys. My father’s 48 dodge was filled to overflow as I parked in front of my now familiar new friend’s home.

They popped through the door like a coke being shaken when they heard me close the car door. Never had so many hands clutched so many packaged. The mother stood and smiled in a wondering way at the then slim, tall, very white boy. Her name was Marilee. I asked what she wanted for Christmas and she said quietly, “I’ve got it.”

It was cold that December day in 1954, cloudy, dark, everywhere except over that small house with smoke coming out of the open top of a window and six bright, beautiful children all speaking at once in wonder at what was in the packages. There might even have been a small heavenly light over its roof.

Herman Lindsey, owner of the New York store had told me to come back if I needed anything else. I noticed that the total he charged for the toys was a lot less than I expected. I went back in the store and asked him if he had some things to cook in and also a stove that would stick out the window so the house would not be so full of smoke.  He said for me to come back the next day and he would see what he could gather.  That next day we loaded his truck with a bed, several mattresses, cooking items, and a brand new stove with a chimney for the window.  This time the entire street turned out to help us unload the truck. Mr. Lindsey and I walked from the house with a bit of spunk in our step. It had been a great Christmas and it was only December 23rd.

I thanked Mr. Lindsey, gave him what money was left then turned and hugged him around his neck. I learned later that Mr. Lindsey returned with his truck loaded with toys and gave them to children up and down the street on Christmas Eve. I also realized later that Herman Lindsey was Jewish. But Mr. Lindsey knew who his neighbor was.

I never did get that patched coat, and I never missed it. I never talked with Mr. Lindsey again. The store closed some years later and I lost contact with the family.  But that Christmas of ’54 was wonderful.

Published in: on November 29, 2015 at 8:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

From My Son Vann

From My Son Vann

Memories 0f 246 South Lindsey Street

Yellow cake, chocolate pie, chicken and dumplings, and eating more hamburgers that I ever should.  Just first of many memories that jump out when I think of 246 South Lindsey.  Family, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends.  That long drive way to the shared garage/barn.  Wondering how it stood so long.  Waving at Maw through the kitchen window.  That funny swing seat thing on the front porch. Standing over the furnace, Jimmy Ayers dragging his knife on his plate and grinning at me (scared me to death), that funny powder puff thing in the bath room.  Playing on the stairs because I was too scared to go all the way to the basement.  But the wonderful things I discovered once I was brave enough to venture down.  Walking to the store on Lexington and getting gum or candy.  That back yard that went on forever.  The sewing machine next to Pop’s shop, the fire place next to the wall where Laurie and I fought off so many bad guys as soldiers, batman and robin, and whomever else was popular at the moment.  Playing with the rabbits not really realizing their fate, eating those green apples and hoping not to get a stomach ache.  Staring at the great wilderness beyond the back fence and never being brave enough to venture into the unknown (maw probably would have skinned us if we did).  Putting a stick through my ear and blaming some mysterious man.  Finally being old enough for Pop to let me roam the shop, him teaching me to use that lathe (I still have a Billy club I made).  Taking bathes and trying not to get water on the floor so it would not flood the basement, looking at photo albums, curling up in that great big bed in the front room and falling off to sleep knowing that after a wonderful breakfast in the morning the adventures at 246 South Lindsey Street would begin again.  Just a few of many.

Published in: on November 24, 2015 at 12:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Preparing For Thanksgiving

I know that most of you are busier than a one arm paper hanger in a wind storm trying to get ready for Thanksgiving.

Just think of all you have to do: make sure there is all the things you need on hand to complete your thanksgiving dinner, know the football schedule so you won’t have to have family member jumping up to check on the game, making your list for shopping on Black Friday, time and places you will need to be, families members and friends you must call, it is going to be a busy day and now I come along and add to your list.

Lead your family on Thursday to be thankful for: Sgt. William Story, standing watch on a hill in Afghanistan so that our lunch might go well, Lt. Page Whitehouse flying her helicopter into harm’s way to bring out those who have been wounded, even the enemy wounded, Petty Officer Steve Chandler aboard the USS Florida, deep under the ocean where not even those who know can tell anyone, his duty of silence makes our enemy aware that they can never win in a nuclear war against America.

Of course there is Pvt. George Simmons, somewhere near the neutral zone in South Korea standing his post, keeping the honor of America , Lt. John Fisher serving as duty officer aboard a ship at sea, Sgt. Marvin Suiter in a ditch looking across the landscape hoping the enemy will not come today, A mothers son or daughter, a wife, a husband, a father, all around the globe men and women keep watch today, not of a Football game, not a great meal around the table of their family but somewhere on the edge of conflict and terror. A police officer, a fireman, a medic, a trooper all away from home, missing family and friends in order for all of us to laugh, have a wonderful meal, enjoy a lot of football, eat too much, and fall safely asleep on our couch in this land of the free and home of the brave. Let us give our thanks to God and His abiding care upon one and all that make this day free for each of us.

Ivan

 

Published in: on November 22, 2015 at 11:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Response

Julia Pilgrim Love the memories of 246 south Lindsey. While the aunts worked in the kitchen w/ Maw, the uncles sat in those straight back chairs in the dining area & the laughter as they told story after story was glorious. I thought I had the greatest, funniest, smartest uncles & Daddy when all got together. Sometimes if I walked by too close, arms would reach out & grab me & smother me w/ kisses, then send me on my way. I loved standing on the front porch where the older boys would tease me about my darker complexion (called me chocolate milk) & I’d only grin & giggle. The older girls would be in the front bedroom listening & singing along to Pop’s Pat Boone or Ernie Ford records. That small house held a lot of people & so many wonderful memories. Nice to think about all who though living far apart now have these same memories. So very thankful & blessed. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Published in: on November 20, 2015 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Responses From My Blog

It is a joy to share my blog with my nieces:

Here are responses from two of my nieces. We will hear from another one tomorrow.

Beth Chandler I remember the rubber bands on the front door knob where Pop put them every time he opened the newspaper. After the grandkids left they were all over the house being used for rubber band wars. I remember pretending I was not scared by Kokomo (the gas mask) but secretly was for a couple of years. I loved going down to the basement and selecting a book to read from the beautiful book case. I am now the proud owner of that bookcase. I loved looking at all the Indian relics so carefully labeled and placed in the cases. Loved hearing Pop tell about them and wishing I was old enough to go out searching with him. I LOVED Ma’s homemade chocolate pie and reaching in the refrigerator for a small glass bottle that held the best tasting Coke I ever had. I remember pouring it in her oatmeal glasses and watching the tiny bubbles fizz above the rim. Loved hearing Pete say “Where’s Pop?” and “Pete’s a pretty bird!” Thinking Pop was asleep and walking too close to his chair, only to have him reach out and pop me with two of his fingers. I never have learned to do that! Loved going out to the shop with him and touching all his tools. I finally got old enough for him to teach me how to turn wood on the lathe. Loved playing around the fire place on the second level of the backyard and trying to like the green apples from the tree on the third backyard level. I only went past that level one or two time. Was fascinated by the Asparagus tree in the side yard. Wondered why they never ate it. Tired for years to figure out how he dug the basement after the house was already there. For some strange reason I liked to mow their yard when I visited in the spring and summer. Only tried one time to park his station wagon in that narrow garage. Lucky not to have hit anything. Had a blast playing with all my cousins in and out and around the house. Ate at the children’s table on the back porch for holiday meals. Slept on the couch bed on the front porch. Was too scared to sleep in the basement with the skeleton in the box. Tried to stand as long as I could on the floor furnace without burning my socks, enjoyed hearing the floor creak when someone walked through the house. My favorite was and still is the Tennessee Ernie Ford record. Remember playing with a dozen baby rabbits in the backyard only to find them in the freezer the next time I went. Listening to Ma’s stories, going to the TG&Y with them, Oh, I could go on and on and I guess I have! Thankful to have grown up in such a wonderful, loving, Christian family!!!! Thanks for the memories, Uncle Ivan.

CarolJim Sells, Beth, reading your great times with Pop and Ma brings back many memories I have. I loved playing in the back yard and all the levels we all played. These were such good times. I will never forget Pops smile and that famous thump he did. I think I wore that record out playing it and several more during the years I lived with them. Good memories!

Published in: on November 18, 2015 at 8:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Remembering

Watching the Sun – Remembering Things Past

I drove down to the shore one afternoon where I had one of those glorious views so that I could watch the sun dip itself into our beautiful Dale Hollow Lake.

I thought about my dad and how he loved the water, rivers, lakes, any kind of water. He talked for years about building a houseboat, but mother would have nothing of it, and that was enough excuse to keep him for starting the adventure.

I think it might have been a dream that he enjoyed talking about more than doing. I am grateful for my parents, God placed me in a wonderful home and I am deeply blessed because of it. I remember mom and thought about how busy and worried she would be this time of year, planning for a big feast on Thanksgiving and again for Christmas. She loved it but you never caught that in her talking and in her worry. It would have been a dark hour if her ‘children’ had not come home for the holidays.

I ran across my mind those events when we gather at the house at 246 South Lindsey Street, grownups talking, children playing, rooms full of people, but though it all the events of the day were all circled around our being a family and being together.

I remembered the Thursday night that mother died in that house, how it had changed even the aroma of the place. After mother left it was never the same, what she took with her could not be replaced.

I thought about dad as the years closed and he stopped dreaming of a houseboat and travel and adventures; it was like the sun I was watching, almost ready to dip itself into the darkening waters of our lake. I asked him one day if he ever thought about the houseboat and he said, “I think there is not enough time to finish it.” He was right for when dreams stop, time begins to run at its rapid pace and like the falling sun it is soon gone.

Darkness fell across me, I said a prayer of thanksgiving for the life that God has given to me; remembering the past was good but living today in now the task. I am grateful to live it among the people of the Upper Cumberland, good people, great life, I love it.

Ivan (Published before)

Published in: on November 17, 2015 at 10:05 am  Leave a Comment  

More Than His Duty

(The America we need to be once again.) I stood at this grave and on my knees thanked God for this man and the thousands of others. This man landed walking with the help of a cane on the beach and into the battle.}

A simple cross, like the more than 10,000 crosses in the American Cemetery at Normandy , France marks the grave of Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., son of a former president of the United States and cousin to the then Franklin Roosevelt, President of the United States. On the cross is the date of hisdeath, July 12, 1944 and the words Medal of Honor. There is much that it does not say; How he stayed after General Eisenhower to allow him to make the invasion, The President, not on good terms with his side of the family, did not want him in the action, but Gen. Eisenhower after a number of letters from Theodore allowed him to make the landing. He was the highest ranking officer to go onto the beach with the first wave and was surely among the oldest at 57 years of age. You may remember that Henry Fonda played him in the movie “The Longest Day”. When they landed at Utah Beach they were in the wrong cove and the men under the heavy fire of the Germans were confused, their maps were wrong, they were lost, but his personal leadership of directing them, sometimes by his own hand leading them, got them over the wall and into position to capture the area and move inland. If it had not been for that foresight and leadership on his part it is likely that most if not all of them would have been killed and the beach landing in that area would not have been successful. For his bravery under fire, with his own life in constant range of the enemy’s fire, Brigadier General Roosevelt received the Medal of Honor. A side note, his son Quentin, II, was also on that beach, they were the only father and son team in the landing. The son was named for Roosevelt ’s brother who had been killed in France during the First World War. Roosevelt and all three of his brother served and were wounded in the First World War and Brigadier General Roosevelt could have easily sat out this war, but his desire to served was greater than his fear and so June 6, 1944 saw him wading ashore at Utah Beach on the shore of Normandy leading the men under of his command while the enemy fired all they had at the son of a former president. Roosevelt died five weeks later in July of a heart attack, when they buried him at Normandy they moved his brother, Quentin’s body, so that it could be placed beside him. There in the green field of sacrifice a simple cross marks the grave of a dedicated American, his brother, and more than 10,000 other young American ‘boys.’ They paid the great price that we might have the greatest country in the history of man.

Ivan

Published in: on November 16, 2015 at 10:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Our Broken World

We have known for a long time that something was wrong. We watched our men come home from Vietnam, no one cheered, no one seemed to care. When my nephew, Danny, was killed in Nam the article in the paper was so small it was hard to find.

As I stood on the tarmac in Memphis waiting for his body it was like I was waiting for freight. I wept, it was so very sad to me to see that flag draped coffin and look around at those who were doing the unloading as if it was just another package of freight. It broke my heart.

America had changed we had become numb to the deaths of our men, weary of war, forgetful of freedom, we mocked those who gave their all, we decided that the world owed all of us something and we each were going to claim it without the responsibility of paying the price of liberty and freedom, let someone else do the job.

We revived for a few months when our twin towers fell, we almost returned, we could hear the call of danger, we could see the suffering that a few could cause, but soon our churches were empty again and our prayers were more for the market than for the plan and purpose of God.

France joined us on Friday night her people suffered, her great city fell victim to a few who believe that nothing counts, just their will their wishes.

God still stands before the world and calls for our attention, for us to receive His love, discover His will, live His way, and become a light so that others can find Him. Maybe someone will notice this week, maybe some life will change, some heart will listen, someone will pray and obey.

Our broken world can only be put together by the plan and love of Christ, He alone holds the healing of the Nations, will you listen?

Ivan

Published in: on November 15, 2015 at 10:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bobbie Jo

From Bobbie Jo

Bobbie Jo stood on the beautiful green grass of the cemetery at the Asbury Methodist Church near Arp west of Ripley, Tennessee. The lovely fall weather threw a blanket of peace and tranquility over the area.

She could remember the April morning that she had waited for Pete Carson to board the City of New Orleans as it made its southbound journey to that famous city and from there he would take a military train across the United States and find his ship, an LST, waiting for him in San Diego.

She remembered how proud she was of Hospital Corpsman Third Class Pete Carson as he stood there in his dress blues waiting for the long journey to begin. They were so in love, even the strangers who saw them knew.

She held in her hand all the letters they had exchanged and how she treasured each of them as she looked over that green hill of memories. His dad had come to tell her on that cold January day in 1945 that Pete would not come home, his LST 460 had been hit by a Japanese Kamikaze plane on December 21, 1944 at Mindoro and Pete was one of the 27 men who would not come home.

She looked at the bronze plaque the Navy had provided; Petty Officer 2nd Class Pete Carson July 17, 1921 – December 21, 1944 Corpsman United States Navy.

She said softly, ‘Pete, it is over, Japan Surrendered and most of your friends will be coming home. Honey I loved you when you left and I love you now. Rest in peace my love and thank you for your gift to all of us, our freedom.’  In Memory of the 416,800 who did not return from the Second World War.

Published in: on November 12, 2015 at 10:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Long, Long Ago

Long, long ago on Lexington Street in the second house from the corner where Camden meets Lexington I was born. It was on a Thursday, November the 11th: and the world in which I arrived was so very different. Less than half of the people had a phone or car and no one had even heard of television. My two younger sisters did not know that mother was going to have a baby; they were both over the age of nine. In fact my sister Peggy thought that Dr. Brown had brought me in the black bag he had when he came to take care of my birth.

Those were innocent years. Several people on the street had Ice Boxes, not refrigerators our rent was $10.00 a month so we moved to the house on the corner, larger, much nicer but still only $10.00. The year I turned four we purchased a home at 246 South Lindsey Street where I would live until I left home.

The price of the house was $1,375.00. That is not a mistake, one thousand three hundred and seventy five dollars. I grew up with three older sisters, one married by the time I was four. We listened to the radio as a family at night like it was a great magic box. On Saturdays we went to the ‘Moving Picture Show’, go figure, just the kids, mom and dad would shop. We always ate together always at home with a very few exceptions when we went to Dyersburg to see my grandparents, then in their home, I am sure I was a junior in High School before we ate in a restaurant. On Sundays we went to church. Calvary Baptist Church at the corner of Tomlin and Lexington was our church and we seldom missed.

I grew up loving church and knowing that I was loved by the people in that church. Sometimes it seems like a very long time ago for our world has changed so very much. As a community East Jackson and the whole of the city prayed for our men in ‘the service’ during the Second World War. We wept with our neighbors when it was learned that one of our ‘boys’ was being shipped out and too many times we wept pools of tears for those who would never come back to Jackson.

We wrote real letters, walked to a friend’s house and just ‘stayed’ a while. If it was a real emergency we would make a long distance call otherwise we put a three cent stamp on an envelope and mailed a letter. We didn’t seem like we were always in a rush and time seemed to move so slowly. But now after the long, long ago – time moves swiftly and now I am old and yesterday is forever gone. But I am grateful for my yesterday; for it gave me a family, a community, and a church that share the knowledge that in Jesus I would really never grow old.

Published in: on November 11, 2015 at 11:05 pm  Leave a Comment