(I received a letter and a memory of life growing up on a family farm in the 1940s from former Leachville resident, Gayle Kirksey Jetton of Paragould. She is sharing a memory most of us can relate to and I thought the Town Crier readers will enjoy taking a stroll down memory lane.)
Growing up on a family farm was the simplicity of life. Able to create excitement from the mundane, we kids lived happily within our own entertainment.
Long summer days stretched into endless hours of play. A ride to Leachville town to get a block of ice for the ice box was exciting. A bag of jelly beans from the Dime Store was a marvelous treat!
Long ago, during the 1940 years, Leachville and other small farm towns thrived and bustled on Saturday nights. Farm folks went to town to buy groceries and visit. Friends and neighbors gathered on the street to talk of crops and daily life. Many went to the Gem Theater to see a "moving picture show."
Here is a short memory from my life during that wonderful time.
Gayle Kirksey Jetton
A Sweet Summer Memory
In 1947 the crops were laid by and the days grew hot and long. The blue-green cotton leaves drooped under the brassy sun as the cotton bolls grew fat and speckled then began to crack. It was a time of hopeful expectation and waiting.
Though I now live in the chigger-tick hills of Paragould, I will forever be a Leachville sand burr. Growing up on the farm during the 1940 years, our livelihood was meager but we were rich without money! My life on Happy Corner and Childress Roads was sweet and good.
My baby sister, Pat and I played away the long beautiful days on Happy Corner road, located about three miles from Leachville. We made gourmet mud pies and baked them in the sun. We gathered green cypress balls from the tree in our yard and "canned" them in mama's fruit jars. After they had set for a few days in the sun we opened the jars in our play kitchen. The odors were frightful! To our despair, mama discovered our wonderful jars of canned goods and strongly ordered us to cease and desist any more canning in her fruit jars! So ended a happy era.
Inside that simple farm life were simple pleasures as the long sweet days brewed excitement. Often, when daddy had the money, my two older sisters would flag down the Bread Man as he passed on his way to Happy Corner Store. During this time in the 1940 years the bread man delivered his bread and pastries in a fast little Kaiser or Studebaker car. My sisters would stand beside the dirt road and flag him down as he came flying toward us, dust plume trailing! The excitement was almost too great. Treats were rare and special, especially twelve doughnuts crusted with sweet glaze, nestled inside a cardboard box. It was a magical feat for little country girls!
When you grow up on the land the soil becomes your soul-mate. You learn quickly the feel of earth beneath your bare feet. Your life is governed by the seasons, rain, sun, heat and cold. Though unaware at the time, the soil, the scents and the heart of the land permeated my soul, embedding itself there. When I was a kid I felt this great kinship to the land but I did not know I felt it.
There was no television, no electricity! We kids listened to many programs on our battery radio, my favorite being Gunsmoke and The Lone Ranger. Those radio shows were as interesting as movies are today. We used our imagination to see what was described. It was wonderful!
Often, on Saturday nights daddy took us to the "show" in the Gem Theater. With great anticipation and excitement I would wait patiently for time to go. My mother didn't care for movies so daddy would buy her a Coke and a Mounds candy bar. As we watched Tim Holt and Johnny Mack Brown chase outlaws mamma sat in the car enjoying her treat, visiting with neighbors and friends who stopped to talk on a Saturday night in town!
On many Saturday nights daddy drove to the "show house" in Manila. I loved that theater and we always sat in the balcony. Mama accompanied us when we went to Manila.
On a few occasions the movie would foretell the coming of an unsavory event. My dad, forever health and germ conscious, would sometime hear a child coughing inside the theater. He would listen, then tell mama that the child had whooping cough and that he's have to take Pat and me to old Doc Fox. His murmured words ruined the movie and my joy faded to dread. I thought unhappily of the trip to see Doc Fox and a needle being stuck into my arm. How I hated needles!
Come Monday Pat and I sat in Doc Fox's office waiting to get a shot to prevent us contracting whooping cough. How utterly miserable I was and how dearly I hated that office! Once inside the doctor's office I would sit quietly gazing at all the instruments of horror. I was a very small, frail and frightened little girl.
I remember sitting there like a scared little mouse, fear welling. On the wall hung a picture I learned to hate. The print depicted an Indian girl lying on a big boulder looking down into her village below. No doubt it was a lovely image but not for me!
Every time I went to see Doc Fox, which was often enough over the years, my eyes would go to that picture. Had it not been hanging on old Doc Fox's office wall I might have liked it. As it was, I associated it with my fear.
It seems, if memory has not failed me after more than sixty years, that Doc Fox was a large man. Perhaps I am wrong as I was just a little girl at the time.
So, somehow I endured the shot in my arm without tears, though I was crying inside. For a while the whole ordeal dulled my love of "shows" but after a few days of play the fear diminished until the next visit occurred.
These memories are only a smattering of the whole. To have grown up on a 40 acre farm was a blessing. I witnessed the roots of life form seed to harvest. I saw the most magnificent sunrises and sunsets. I saw the cold, lonely, empty winter fields as we waiting for spring. I saw Nature unfold in wonder and beauty and sometimes raw fury.
There is a lifetime of memories. There was old Boynton School as I sat watching the big kids swing on the swings. There were black boards and chalk and Christmas plays on the old stage. There were long days of sweet happiness playing jacks. There were days of sitting on the grass at recess watching trains chug down the tracks, running past old Boynton Store. There was the lunch room and the big pots of mashed potatoes and beans. There were golden perfect days and wild gritty sandstorms that stung my legs with sand. These are the memories of a grand old Old Boynton School.
The old places are gone now. My home on Happy Corner Road is gone. My home on Childress Road is gone. The Gem Theater is gone. A few days ago I drove to manila to look at the old theater. Sadly, it was falling down. I drove past old Doc Fox's office and saw ghosts from the past!
I looked through the years, past the ghosts and saw us there again in old Doc Fox's office. Once again we sat in the Manila theater balcony.
As I drove back through Leachville the Gem was noisy with Johnny Mack Brown and Tim Holt memories! I turned west, into the sunset, searching the Happy Corner fields to see in vivid memory, my family toiling under the waning sun! Pausing, I searched for the old cypress tree with its little green balls, but I already knew it was forever gone!