What My Mother Said about the Summer of High School that She Worked in St. Louis
Just a bit of background: When my mother was a young child, her mother died of tuberculosis–after a prolonged illness and stay at a sanatorium. During much of that time, my mother was just a bit better off than an orphan. Although her dad tried to keep the family together for a while, she was often shifted to one home after another. In the following account, my mother talks about the time that she left her tiny Bootheel town and traveled hours northward, to work in the city of St. Louis.
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–that is not in square brackets]:
[First, I asked my mom about a photo that I saw of her, wearing a fancy prom dress]:
“About me in the prom dress. Yes, that was my Junior prom and I was staying with one of my aunts and uncles….I don’t know where I got the dress to tell the truth. It is quite likely that…[my aunt] bought it for me….[My uncle] didn’t have any money and what he made he pretty much let her spend on…[my cousin], so she would just have likely spent it on me too. They were very good to me!
“Sometime after that, not sure when, I moved back to Gideon….[my sister had married and they had moved to California]. He was sent out there by the army and she went to be with him….[my mother’s friend who would later marry my mom’s brother] and some of her sisters were living in St. Louis and told me if I came up I could get a job. It was so easy because men were gone from the cities to be in the war. So women were doing about everything. But that summer I was not old enough to get much of a job so I went to work at a huge Ben Franklin store right downsown St. Louis….We lived in a residential area and had to ride street cars everywhere we went. So, I would just get on the street car and go to work.
“My job there was in the hosiery departments, anklets of every description, as well as ladies hose.
There weren’t many of the hose, though, because they had been rationed. Not because of lack of material but because every factory of any size had converted to something for the war. That was evident in the fact that all the service men sent their moms and girlfriends hose for a gift, all the time. They could get them overseas, but we couldn’t buy them here.”
Copyright Jacki Kellum October 18, 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.
All Rights Reserved