My family lived in Arkansas when the second World War was declared. I remember very well how much our family was upset when my dad got his call to serve his country.
Our grandparents, aunts and uncles lived 70 miles away. My parents decided that Mama and her kids – all six of us – should move closer to our relatives. Mama knew it would be a struggle for all of us without Daddy.
It took most of the day traveling to reach our new home, which was an old farmhouse out in the country. The farmer who owned the old house was a very kind man. He had a large field of corn and black-eyed peas. He let my brother and me pick peas on the half. We also picked pumpkins and popcorn. We had quite a supply put away for the winter.
We went to a one-room country school. It was cold walking to school, even though Mama made me wear those long cotton socks, which I hated. After I got out of sight of my mom, I would roll them down around my ankles, trying to make them look like the pretty anklets that some of the girls were wearing. One day on the way home from school we were caught in a rain storm. I was wearing a purple crepe dress. The wetter I got, the more my dress shrank. It kept shrinking and shrinking, until it was far above my knees. I was very embarrassed.
During the war there was a shortage of rubber. We couldn’t buy elastic, even if we had the money. We cut strips of tire inner tubes for garters to hold our stockings up. We also used these strips of rubber for the elastic in our bloomers, which were made from feed sacks and white flour sacks. The printed flour sacks Mama saved, until she had enough of the same print to make a dress for one of us girls. We made our own hair curlers by cutting strips of tin from a Pet milk can. We wrapped these strips of tin with paper and we had curlers for our hair.
There was a stock pond behind my aunt’s house. We had fun going down there and finding duck eggs. One warm spring day, we decided to take my aunt’s washtubs and use them for boats. A tub turned over with my little sister in it. When we got her out from under the tub, she was gasping for breath. We got the scare of our lives.
Mama’s health began to fail. She was sick a lot. With the help of the Red Cross, Mama’s doctor got Daddy out of the service. My brother took the old truck to the bus station to pick up my dad. My little sister remembers wondering who that handsome man in uniform was with our brother when they drove up in front of our house. It was a happy homecoming. Daddy went to work as a machinist in an airplane plant. Mama regained her health. One year later we had a new little sister, and after her we had a new little brother.
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.