Monday, December 28, 2009

My First Memory...

My first memory is about an incident that happened in Arizona, probably about 1939 when I was three or so. My family lived in a tent on the desert and picked cotton, I think, for a living. I remember the tent was built so the sides would roll up and tie. I remember my mother sweeping out the tent each day.
The thing I remember most about the tent was a time, during the day, when my dad was lying on the bed, taking a nap. I was playing nearby and thought my dad was looking at me and wanted to play. I climbed onto the bedstead (an iron one, I recall) and jumped on his stomach, knocking the breath out of him. He got very mad and, after he regained his breath, grabbed me and started to whip me. (I never heard a whipping referred to as a 'spanking.' It was always a whipping.) My mother stopped him from whipping me and told him that I was just trying to play with him and didn't mean to hurt him. She was right, of course, but that didn't help my dad any. On orders from my mother, he didn't whip me, but he sure scared me. I don't remember ever trying to play with him again. I can't recall my dad being much for playing.

There was a hole in the ground near the tent where the men were digging a well. The top of the hole was about twice as wide as the bottom and a 55-gallon drum with the bottom cut out was in the bottom of the hole, about three feet from the top of the well. I imagine the drum would be lowered and another put on top of it each time the hole was dug deeper. This would allow the hole to be dug deeper by stopping the sides from caving in. Evidently the diggers knew about how deep they would have to go to reach water.

I was playing around the well and got too close and fell into the top part of the hole. I was down too far to reach anything (even if there had been anything there) to pull myself out. The sand was slippery and I thought I would fall into the deep part of the well. I was terrified and screamed at the top of my lungs. My sisters heard me and came to see what the problem was. When they saw me, they too became scared and one of them ran to get my brother, Thomas, (we called him,' Buddy,') to help. When he got there, he hopped down and picked me up and saved my life. It looked easy, the way he did it.

I remember we had two dogs there, Laddie and Lady. Lady had fits sometimes. I remember one time when Lady had a fit and two of the girls were there with me. (One was Joan and I don't remember which the other was, Mickey or Eva) There was a tree there with a forked trunk and we climbed up to the fork to get away from Lady. Joan pulled Laddie up with us and no one got bitten. I don't think Lady would have bitten us anyhow but we weren't sure so we took no chances.(I recall now that, in those days, many dogs had fits,-It wasn't rabies; it just seemed to be something that dogs did from time to time)

One time, I think at this same place or it could have been earlier at another canal, I fell into the canal and would have drowned if Mickey hadn’t pulled me out. The water was very swift, I recall. That is the last time I can remember being afraid of water.
(Buddy came running very fast and dove into the canal and hit his head on the bottom and became unconscious and the kids pulled him out. This was a very bad canal!)

I started talking at a very early age and, also, learned to sing early in my life. When I was about two or three years old, Dad or one of the kids would take me to a park and I would sing,” I Don’t Want Your Greenback Dollar,” and people would say what a good singer I was and give me pocket change. This went for food for the family. (One of my sisters said that was in Phoenix; she didn't say which year it was)

Another thing I remember is, one time the girls didn't show up at school. They climbed some giant Mulberry trees and ate mulberries all day and just played. They could see the bus stop from where they were and when the bus came from school, they went home as if they had gone to school. Mother gave Mickey and Eva a Whipping but not Joan because she was the littlest. They wanted to know how she knew they hadn’t gone to school and she told them, "A little bird told me.” The same little bird told on me many times after I got older. (I'll bet the blue stains on their clothes and hands from the Mulberries gave Mother a hint)

We used to have to walk a long ways across the desert to get water in gallon jugs for cooking and drinking because we had no water at our tent. On the way we passed a large house that had a swimming pool. Sometimes on the way back the folks at the house would let us swim in their pool. First we had to go on and ask Mother if we could then walk back across the hot desert sand to get back. Except for our burning feet, it was great.
I'll write more later.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Early Days...


Some of the early days are times I cannot remember about which my brother and sisters have told me.
I was born in Hondo, Texas. A friend there, Mrs. Cameron, was good to my mother and for her friendship, I was given her name, Cameron, as a middle name.
We lived in the house of my Grandpa and Grandma Johnson while mother was carrying me. Just before I was born, my grandparents found a house for us on the other side of the river and up a road a ways from them. There was a job for my dad when he got back from wherever he had been. As it turned out, he got back just in time to deliver me. Aunt Lola said dad was a heavy drinker then.

Right after I was born, Mother was very weak and Aunt Lola May Johnson, Mother’s sister, came to our house each day to see that the other kids got across the river all right to go to school. Then she would take care of me until the kids got back

. Where we moved from there, I don’t know. Eventually we reached Lamesa, Texas. In Lamesa we acquired a 1926 Ford Model T. After an amount of time we decided to move to Phoenix, Arizona. My Dad was acquainted with a man named Manual Stagg who owned a 1926 Dodge touring car. Our model T didn’t have a top so, when we all moved, we loaded the model T with all our belongings and towed it behind the Dodge like a trailer.

My dad worked on a Park restoration project in Phoenix and hired Vernon Bue to help him. As you will see later on, hiring Vernon Bue turned out to be a bad thing for Dad, the family and everyone else.
We first moved to Glendale then to Phoenix near a canal then to the desert near the city dump.

Chapter One… In the Beginning…

My memories are very vague of my early years. I have a few that are at my age of about two or three years. I haven't researched this with my brother or sisters; the memories are my own, as I recall, although, I will add a few things about what happened to me that were told to me by my siblings.

One of those things told to me was; once when my Dad was in California (or somewhere else) looking for work, my mother hitchhiked with me in tow to where my Dad was. Many times Dad would take Joan and Eva with him when he went places. Sometimes he would take Buddy and Eva and leave Joan, Mickey and me with Mother. She had hitchhiked before to be with Dad when he was gone to look for work.

Once she hitchhiked with all of the kids. Dad had gone to south Texas to the home of Grandpa Johnson, Mother’s Dad, to look for work. After he had been gone for a while, mother decided she should be with him so she took all of us kids and hitched a ride there. A man picked us up and fed us and told mother that any man who would leave his family like that should be whipped. Mother told me that after she was old so it might be a bit biased. I may recall more which was told to me later in this saga.

*As I said earlier, some things in this journal were told to me by someone else in the family. It is now October 10, 2003 and I just got an e-mail from my sister, Shike, with this story. It needs to be in my journal. I’ll copy it in as it was written by her.*

...Just got to looking at the picture on the wall and you were about 18 months old. The first xmas after that you had turned 2 the month after Christmas. I never will forget that one.
Mother never was a hand at making cakes but that year she made a white cake and it smelled so good like vanilla and she made a boiled frosting to go on it. Poured it on it. Made it all soft and juicy. We had it for supper with a pumpkin pie.

We couldn't open our presents till we ate breakfast so we all gobbled down our oatmeal fast as we could. You were still quite small.

We all got a huge orange and a big apple. Except you. We all had to give you two slices out of our orange. Mother fed them to you and saved some of yours.

We each got a little bag with Christmas candy in it. Some of those little ribbons and hard candy with soft centers.
Daddy got a big long present and when we all had a mouth full of candy we wanted to see what he got so we kept begging him to please open his present. When he opened it it was a huge peppermint stick. Wow did our eyes pop open!!
Of course we all stood around him until he finally said, well I guess I'd better give all of you some of my candy. That made all of us happy. I remember when he broke it up and gave all of us some of it. Daddy always loved peppermint forever after that.

I got a2 pink ribbons, Joan got 2 yellow ribbons. I think Mickey got a little necklace cause she never did have her hair in pigtails. also a little waist apron Mother had made her. I think Joan and I got a pair of anklets. Buddy got a new top and a new pair of overalls. I don't remember if mom or Daddy got anything but we all shared our candy with Mom.

We didn't have a turkey but had a big stewing hen. Mother made dressing with it.
We had a good time oh yes, you got a ball with4 colors on it. You could throw it clear across the room and chase it down. We would sit on the floor and roll it back and forth to you.

Well I just thought I would share these memories with you before I went to bed. Take care of my sister. Love to both of you. Shike.***


PS I did straighten the story out a bit with paragraphs. 'yay'

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Shike...Where Did You Get That Name?...

*Here is the story of how my sister, Eva, got her nickname, Shike or Shikey, as told in the words of my oldest sister, Mickey. After that is another piece from Mickey about Shike.

“there were three girls in our family. Joan was the younger one then Eva, the middle one .we all called her shypoke. she messed around when we went somewhere(shypoke) and picked flowers and daydreamed .we went to the woods one time ,with our folks realy looking around and finding things that seemed pretty to us, you know how 4 and 5 year olds are ,a toad , a little rock, a flower,etc. all at once we noticed how quiet it was. every one was gone but us. wow! I was so scared, I started yelling and pulling on her and yelling, come on shy come on shikey more scared, i started dragging her and crying, come on shike! come on shike! well it happened i was dragging her the wrong way. soon mom and dad found us and heard me still crying and pulling eva along by her dress. well from then on the new name stuck. from then on the family used the names of shikey and shike. another little story for our family history
oh!i was the oldest on doing the dragging mickey”



Family Stories...

Occasionally I will post stories told to me by members of my family. I think you will enjoy them. For the most part, I'll leave them as they were written, with little and sometimes no structure; paragraphs and such.

I hope you enjoy this true story. If you do, please comment on it occasionally.


It All Started In Hondo, Texas...

The Life and Times of James Cameron Alexander

This will be the life and times of me, James C. Alexander, sr. I need to add the sr because there are three Jim C. Alexanders; a senior (me), a junior and a third and we are all quite different from each other.

I was born at Hondo, Texas, at about 10:30 in the morning on Monday, January 27th, 1936. My Dad delivered me at home. My brother and sisters and maternal Grandparents, Alvha (Ab) and Lily Lorado Johnson were present. And, of course, my mother.

My family is my Mother, Georgia (Fae) Delilah Johnson-Alexander, my Dad, James Andrew (or Henry) Alexander, my brother, Thomas Alvha (or Buddy) and my sisters, Ramona Iona, (Mickey) Eva Mae, (Shi-Poke or Shike) and Alpha Joan. (Pronounced Jo Ann) Mother lost her first two babies. They were both girls. One was named Betty Fay and the other was Erma Lee.

I will tell of things that reflect my life and times. I will omit some things, which may not be pleasant, but are irrelevant and best left unsaid and unknown. I will insert an occasional comment about someone else if it will serve a good purpose in telling about me. I may omit but I will not lie.
It was suggested I write this account in ‘story’ form; i.e., ‘she said, he said,’ but I mean for it to be a journal rather than a story.

I will preface this with some facts that I think will be pertinent to this journal. The main one is the age difference between Mother and Dad.
When Dad and Mother were married, Mother was 17 years old and Dad was 34, I think. He had been married several times before and had children, at least two girls named Lit and Hodie. Lit was about three years younger than Mother. Grandpa and Grandma Johnson, Mother’s parents, agreed to the marriage. Dad was known to be an honorable and Godly man and Mother was the eldest of seven children.

The marriage was one of convenience, rather than any kind of love. Dad needed a strong woman and mother wanted her own home. The marriage was, by all accounts and evidences a mistake. Dad was uneducated and unskilled, able only to scratch out the meagerest of livings, and Mother was domineering and bossy and always wanted and needed more than my Dad could offer. Dad was turned to care for someone as a parent cares for a helpless child and Mother was turned to dominate everyone around her and to always manage everything. Still, she was a very protective Mother.

One of my sisters remembers Dad as a gentle, caring person and another sister remembers Dad as a wine drinking, gambling man who squandered his money instead of paying bills. My brother remembers Dad as an uneducated man who felt he could do no kind of work beyond menial labor.

Dad was old-fashioned about most things. One thing in particular was our demeanor at the dinner table. We were not allowed to chatter or sing or whistle. If there was something we needed to say, we could say it in a serious tone but foolishness of any kind wasn’t tolerated. My Dad was known to have slapped a child away from the table for singing or whistling. He was that way with the older kids more than he was with me because Mother would allow no one but herself to hit or slap me. I was her baby. My father was either good or bad, depending on to whom you spoke about him.

Everyone agrees that Mother was a bossy, domineering woman who would accept no sass from anyone. One of her favorite things to say when anyone disagreed with her was, “Don’t you sass me or I’ll slap the fire out of you!” Needless to say, Mom and Dad’s personalities clashed at every turn. Neither of them ever changed and the marriage was doomed to eventual failure. Neither of them should ever be considered either a success or a failure. They were just people.
None of these remarks are meant to be disrespectful or bias in any way. It is just the way it was.