Who, me? Write a memoir? Believe it or not that has been suggested. I’ve spent my writing life telling other people’s stories. Some presented as the truth, others woven into fiction. But when I reached the age of 80 earlier this year, people kept asking me about stuff out of the past, and I found myself relating some stories. Then these same people urged me to write that memoir I’ve put off for so long. So I thought, hey, I write a blog every week, why not use it to write my memoir and it would be done. I wouldn’t have to worry about a cover, or an editor messing about with my southern words, or a publisher, or promotion. Gosh, to a writer with some 26 books in print, this sounds almost too good to be true.
Of course, there’s only one proven way to go about such a project. Put it in a blog. Sounds like a great idea. So, rather than begin at the beginning, the old boring line, “I was born…” I’m just going to tell my stories as they occur to me and hope to find some pictures to go along with the tales.
So where was I when my first story occurred? I was walking down the sidewalk of a small western town by the name of Wichita, Kansas, carrying an ice cream cone with one dip in it. It was a weekly thing, getting a nickel for ice cream. The sun was hot as blue blazes, as Kansas sun often was during ice cream eating season. The wind blew at least fifty miles an hour, cause it never blew any slower and often much faster.
I must’ve been ten because Daddy had come home from the war in the South Pacific, Mother had packed away his navy uniforms and his pea coat hung in the closet, and we had just moved into our first home since, well, since we left that little log cabin in Arkansas and started following Daddy around to construction jobs in 1941. He joined the navy in 1943 to keep from being drafted cause even men with families were now being called up to the army and he couldn’t see himself marching into battle, what we call today “boots on the ground.” So he became the radioman on the USS Attu, a flat top, today called an aircraft carrier.
We had a two bedroom house on Indianapolis, just off Patty and Kellogg (highway 54). I still remember the address was 1416 E. Indianapolis, our phone number was 4-6220. It was a neighborhood of older houses filled with kids, and though the street was not paved, on the other side was a brand new sidewalk cause some duplex apts had been built in the corner vacant lot. We were going to live in a small town that would soon spread out all over the prairie. Across the street lived this Catholic family with 12 kids, which amazed me because we were only two. Me and my little ornery brother Freddie.
And so, here I am, walking along with my ice cream cone that is melting faster than I can eat it. One big lick and a skip, skip, and the entire dip tumbles out onto the sidewalk. There was a moment there when I thought I’d cry. The ice cream cost me a nickel and Daddy had just started a new construction business and we didn’t have any money and I couldn’t afford to buy another one. The nickel was all I had.
I took a quick look around, always being the one to not be seen doing anything wrong or dumb or silly, saw no one and bending down, I pressed that cone into the ice cream and scooped it up. With one last glance around, I skipped on down the sidewalk eating the remainder of my ice cream. It’s one of those things that stands out in memory and is metaphorically fitting for the times. Kids today would not understand that at all, but those of you who’ve been around through the Great Depression and the time when money was tight, most certainly will.