Tomorrow would have been my Gumpy's 95th birthday. While he passed in 2013, his stories live on. This is another extract from his collection of stories completed in 2000, titled "That's Life...and then some". The story below describes a visit by my Gumpy to the home of his Aunt Edna Florence Jones Hendrickson (twin sister of my great-grandfather Edgar Lawrence Jones) in Thorntown on a summer weekend in 1930. Gumpy was almost 10 years old at the time.
Chapter 5: Say Something Nice to the Ladies (1930)
Dedicated to my Aunt Edna
"If the reader had lived during the depression days on a Midwest farm with no electricity and no inside plumbling, then you would know the excitement and anticipation that I had when I got the opportunity to go to town and visit my uncles, aunts and cousins. Well, just such a day had arrived. It was mid-August and I was going to spend three days with my cousin Toad and he had a younger sister that I loved to tease."
"Going to Aunt Edna and Uncle Lee's house was great, nothing could be finer. They had electric lights, a radio so you could listen to Jack Armstrong, Kate Smith or Amos and Andy, and what a thrill it was to fill the huge bathtub with water and lay back and just soak. They even had a place where you could go to the toilet without going outside. Most of the streets in Thorntown were paved and they even had sidewalks.
That was what I enjoyed the most, being able to play with my cousin and so many new friends. They all had scooters, bikes, roller skates and all kinds of big city sidewalk toys. It sure was an improvement over our place in the country, where I only had dirt to play in, or play with my brother Bob and his stick horses.
The day was going along great. I could not wish for anymore. The sidewalk was full of kids and I had picked up some new playmates that I had not met before. One of my new friends was a boy that was a little older than I. He was such a nice guy and what impressed me was his ability to use big city words like I had not heard before. Each word he used was more impressive and I only wished to be able to speak with such authority and emphasis as my new friend did. The afternoon continued and I had to take a break to get a drink and also use that inside toilet that I told you about.
My Aunt Edna was entertaining a Ladies Aid church group on their large front porch. She had little tables all set up with flowers and her best tea set, and the ladies were setting in groups having cookies, tea or lemonade. What a pretty sight in the cool of the large front porch...Just as I was starting into the house my Aunt Edna stopped me and introduced me to the ladies as her nephew from the country. They smiled, and my Aunt said, "Keith, say something nice to the ladies."
I paused for a moment and then I thought this would be a perfect place to use some of those new words that my new friend was using so well. Without further adieu I said, "Hello you bastards," and ran on into the house.
My Aunt Edna was hot on my heels and without stopping she said, "Where did you get such language? You must have been playing with that bucktowner kid. Why, I declare, your mouth should be washed with soap. Now you get out there and apologize to those nice ladies at one and don't ever let me catch you playing with bucktowners again."
I hardly knew what had hit me, up till a few minutes ago everything was just fine. I dropped me head and went back out to the porch. They had just started to regain their composure. At my last sight of them, Ronald Leonard's wife was froze in shock with her mouth open as if she had a seizure of some kind. Aunt Emily choked on a cookie and was gasping for her breath. Dr. Spivey's wife coughed so hard that she busted a stave in her corset, and the Reverend Heimburger's wife was eating a cookie and drinking lemonade at the same time, she sputtered, inhaled, coughed and shot cookie and lemonade clear across the porch. She more resembled a John Deere tractor that had backfired while trying to start.
The party soon broke up and I was sent to bed, without supper or that hot bath I had looked forward to.
The next day was Sunday, I was not the most popular person and was not looking forward to my folks picking me up, nor was I looking forward to staying with my Aunt Edna. Such a dilemma.
As we got ready for Sunday School I was reminded to pay close attention to the lesson as it was going to be about Jesus when he was a little boy about my age.
I tried hard to concentrate on the Sunday School lesson, but all I could think about was "Say something nice to the ladies".
Aunt Edna "I am truly sorry".