Smooth roads, bumpy holes, rocks in the middle of the road and straight, unspectacular paths guide me for eight decades. How do I talk about faith in my life? I have lived a long time and I want to pause and think about that. It all began long ago, in March 1931.
“Life is amazing” resounds through my brain as I look back through the years. I can’t believe that our family didn’t suffer more. My parents met at Fairmount College (now Wichita State University) and moved to Arkansas City after Ranney-Davis Mercantile Company offered my Dad a job. This was a new type of industry. Wholesale groceries had not been a category very long.
My birth in 1931 coincides with the global depression. A small red brick house on North 4th becomes my first home after my birth in Mercy Hospital.
I only realize many years later that the Ranney-Davis Mercantile Company employing my father during the depression kept us comfortable. Employed as the buyer for the company, he frequently brought home samples to “taste”. A tall, wide cupboard built into the basement wall provides storage for cases of canned goods. Ninety percent of what we eat comes from cans, not only because that was our father’s business, but fresh foods flown into local areas were unheard of at that time. We were not wealthy, but never totally financially strapped.
My sister, Pam arrives three days after my fourth birthday. Our Dad’s purchase of a house at 119 North B Street for $5,000 becomes our home for the rest of my Ark City days.
When our parents buy an 8mm camera they begin capturing our every move. Some of the earliest movies feature darling two-year-old Pamela bouncing in her jumpy swing hung in the open garage door. Of course, I try to get in the picture. A large box provides another jumping place for her. I squeeze into the picture looking way too big for that box, wearing a feathered Indian headdress.
I assume we live like all small-town families. However, a series of three maids, Betty, Opal and Mrs. Cooper live with us and work for our family from 1935 to 1941. Room and board plus $5.00 a week hire these women to clean, cook and take care of us little girls. I suspect that was a luxury that few families enjoyed. But women available for this kind of a job ended with World War II. Much more lucrative jobs become available as all the men go off to war.
Does everyone in my generation remember where we were when we hear of the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941? Pam and I are upstairs in our room playing dolls when Daddy comes in to tell us the news of the attack. Even though I had attained the mature age of ten years old, I am not sure that the significance of that announcement sunk into my brain. No one in our family served in the armed forces so for us food stamp books and shortages become the most obvious signs of war. Probably I learned my love of maps during this time. On the wall of our small breakfast room, we hang a world map and mark the progress of our troops as the tide turns in the Allies favor.
Like so many children, learning to play the piano is part of my everyday life. Then when I reach high school I take organ lessons from Dr. Druly, an elderly, amazing organist. Before the church is unlocked for the day I used to climb in the window before school to practice on the organ. I study organ for two years, but stop when I leave for college. At the time someone told me that the First Presbyterian Church organ was the best organ in Kansas. I never knew if that was true, but that sounded great. Learning to play the organ seemed special because I didn’t know anyone else doing that.
Fortunately, the church was only a couple of blocks from the high school so it made it easy to get to school on time. I never become really good on the organ, but I enjoy playing it, and I am very much in awe of Mr. Druly.
Little did I realize, until many years later, how privileged I was to be born into such a loving, stable family.