Just a bit of background: During my entire childhood, my dad was a barber in the tiny, rural town where both he and I were reared. Also like me, my dad was a dreamer and a planner. As a side business, my dad kept bees and sold honey. At one point, my folks had a honey stand on a rural highway; and in order for customers to make change, they left a large jar full of cash on the stand. They were never shorted. In fact, they occasionally came out ahead of the game. That says a great deal about the time and place where I grew up–It also says much about the respect that people have for my parents.
My dad was so very inventive that he developed a way to use solar energy to extract honey from the wax. My mother published his work in Mother Earth News; and true to our luck, someone else patented it and got the money. That is why I copyright every word that is uttered from my mouth and made public.
From the Memoir of Laura Mae Dunscombe Baker,
Born December 6, 1926
Recorded by Jacki Kellum, Born 1950
If you have read other of this series of posts, you will remember that my mother actually said what I will share:
“Let me go back to where we were when we got married. We had a little shack of a house in behind his mom and dad’s garage….I was working for Gideon Anderson and so was Hank. He was an assistant sales manager. A good job, to be sure and could have easily worked himself into a very good one. But it was all travel and he hated that–and all drinking and parties. Having just gotten out of the air force [during World War II], he had had all of that kind of life he wanted, both the parties and the traveling. The guy he worked under was a heavy drinker and made scenes wherever they were and Hank hated that. So, he soon quit. I don’t think it was too hard for him to just up and quit, and I didn’t have sense enough to say otherwise.
“I was working there too as their first telephone operator. This entailed punching the things in, to connect the parties and was a lot to learn for a litle, old, dumb gal. But I did learn and loved it.”
“We moved to New York when [my brother]…was 8 months old. Let’s see he was born September of 1946, so about May of 1947, I would say. Hank answerd an ad he found in a sporting magazine (I think it was that kind because he was always reading about hunting and fishing). And I know it was spring up there and still pretty cool…
[Because of some adverse internal politics, my dad left his bank job.]
“Came walking in one midday. I was over in his folks yard stretching curtains on Mrs. Baker’s stretchers. Always the builder and planner, he answered the ad then started work on a big wooden box to pack our belongings to be shipped out there. We flew–my first time off the ground. Quite thrilling!!
“I never fought him on this. I guess I was young enough to think life was a lark still, even with a baby. And it was quite an experience.
“I am going to have to do some thinking back before I go on. I can’t even think of the name of the town we moved to. I know it was near Cornell University at Ithaca, New York, but I want to remember the little town. Actuallly, it was in the country. The bee keeper and family did not live in town.”
[My mother added this later]
“The name of the town was Trumansburg, New York, and it ws near Ithica, which is the home of Cornell University. Beautiful country called the fingerlakes area. But that was pretty much doomed from the start. We lived with them 3 or 4 weeks then moved into a little apartment these old people had developed in their home. It was a great big, old farm house. The furniture was massive dark wood with marble tops and to me, it was hideous. (Today most people would love it and pay grand prices for it).
“We had no car so could not get out at all. Someone had to fill our grocery orders for us. So one day Mart [my dad’s dad] called and said he could buy the house and furniture where we had lived when…[my brother] was born, and he asked if we wanted to come back home? It didn’t take long to say yes. I was lonesome and homesick, and Hank knew it. He resigned that very week. By June, we had moved back to Gideon.
“The beekeeper was so disgusted with us that he took us to the train station and dumped us out with our little belongings. I have no idea where that train went but it was really a rag-tag piece of machinery. People on the train were carrying chickens and what all. Just a farm to market operation. But it carried us to a city where we could get a flight out and go home.
“I remember…[my brother] screamed the whole time going home. The planes were small then and the chambers were not fixed so that you did not have ear trouble. So his ears were popping and hurting, and so were mine. The little flight attendant was as concerned as I was and would carry him as she attended her duties. To try and quieten him.”
“Anyway that was the end of another job. That was 3 jobs he had been through and we hadn’t been married much over 2 years. That’s when we came home and built the Snack Bar.”
There is much that I want to add to this post, but I’ll do it in another one.
Copyright Jacki Kellum October 17, 2015
As I have also said before, I have begun a 3-Way Memoir, where I’ll record some of my mother’s responses to some questions that I asked about her life. I hope to have the memoir published for my mother’s 90th birthday on December 6, 2016. It will be my grandmother’s story, my mother’s story, and mine–all told about our lives in the now very dusty and boarded-shut Bootheel of Southeast Missouri.
You can find excerpts from that memoir in various places on my blog, by searching:
What My Mother Said, Calico Cotton, Cotton Child, and When Cotton Was King.
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