Chapter 3: My Early Life at Home

I’ve told you about how my folks were so taken up with their activities at church. Well, that wasn’t all. They had activities that carried over into the home, too. From the time we were young, my mother was our “story teller” out on the front porch. In the evenings when there must not have been much else to do, she would take us out there, and then she’d tell us stories. She told about Daniel in the Lions’ Den, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, David and Goliath, and many other stories that she made almost literally come alive for us. She also told other stories that had a good moral to them like Snow White and Rose Red. We and the neighborhood kids who wanted to, would sit out there and listen with our most rapt attention to all she would tell.

My father had his Boys’ Bible School class, and he loved to have them over to our house for a party from time to time. When they came over, we played games, and Mother always went in the kitchen and baked chocolate chip cookies for us. They were always so nice and warm when she served them, and we kids loved that. Sometimes we’d play “Up Jack” where we’d put a nickel in one person’s hand, and all of us put our hands under the table. Then someone would say, “Up Jack!” and we’d all put our hands on the table. The person who was “it” would have to guess who had the nickel in his hand. We’d have to put our fists on the table, and then flatten our hands on it. If you had the nickel, you would have to put it down in such a way that you couldn’t hear it click when you made your hand flat. Otherwise, whoever was “it” would hear it and catch you with the nickel.

We played Up Jack sometimes when the neighborhood kids came over, too, and we invariably would play Monopoly, and the game would go on and on and on. We enjoyed playing Cootie, Perquacky and other games that we had that didn’t use playing cards, because that was one thing Mother and Dad did not allow in our house, playing cards! For them, these were things of the devil himself, and the symbols on the cards stood for evil things. Therefore, when we wanted to play with cards, we would go across the street to the Markles’ home, and we would play “War” there for hours and hours, sitting around on their cool cement front porch and enjoying ourselves tremendously.

Every month, the ladies of our church had a Ladies’ Missionary Meeting, and often it was held at our house. We had special missionaries come at such times, and they told about all kinds of wonderful things that they had experienced on the foreign field. One couple, Andrew and Birdie Uhlinger, was very influential in my decision to work on the mission field. The Uhlingers worked with the African Inland Mission in the Belgian Congo with people called pygmies, and they took pictures of themselves with the pygmies who were very small people. They themselves weren’t so big, but beside the pygmies, they looked quite tall. Not many people were able to work with the pygmies because they were very shy people and always ran away and hid when anyone not of their own tribe came near. But somehow, the Uhlingers were able to make friends of them, and then they ultimately came around and let them teach them about the Lord Jesus Christ.

They would tell many stories about the pygmies, and I thought perhaps some day I would want to go out there to work with them. They brought home small items from the Congo which they gave to us children to remind us of Africa. One thing I remember was a little part of an elephant’s tail which was curled around to make a bracelet. I had never seen anything like that before! Eadie, my youngest sister, even remembers them showing an elephant’s foot that had been hollowed out—I guess to be used as a trash container.

One time, a long time after that, when I was already grown and had gone to Bible college, married and had my own family, the Uhlingers loaned me a lovely huge painting of their area. It was a picture of the Congo River. Alongside the river was a huge tree with branches growing out over the river, the center of a picturesque scene. It appeared peaceful, despite the unseen crocodiles. Even though I didn’t end up being a missionary in Africa, it was the next best thing to have that picture hanging on our living room wall. When the couple finally retired and came home to the States, they lived in a little missionary center in Glendale, California. Then I took it back to grace their living room. What a joy it was to have had it for all of those years in our home. Now it was back in their home.

Mrs. Uhlinger had a physical problem with her leg. It was called Elephantiasis, and her leg was very much swollen and looked like the skin of an elephant. She had gotten that when she lived in the Congo, and it was something that could not be treated to make it go away. I have a story about one of those missionary meetings. I was just a tiny tot, not yet in school, and Mother had her group of ladies over for a missionary meeting. She always served something delicious for refreshments, and that day I decided to be her little helper. I got out my own tea set and began serving the ladies cups of tea. Of course, they all enjoyed seeing Mother’s little helper bringing them their tea in special tiny cups. It wasn’t long until Mother saw me and noted what I was doing. She called me to her in the kitchen and told me she was happy I wanted to help, but she also asked where I was getting the water. I took her into the bathroom and showed her the toilet. I couldn’t reach the pull chain, but I was just big enough to reach the water in the bowl. I’m not sure how that all ended up, but she made sure I never helped her like that again.

When I was in first grade, maybe a little younger, my mother got a new piano for my older sister,Violet. Violet was her favorite child. She got a piano teacher to come and teach Vi how to play. I decided I wanted to play, too, so my mother let me take lessons, too. While Vi was three years older, naturally, she did much better than I did and she practiced regularly every day. I practiced, too, but I got bored or tired of it quickly, and when I was in the second grade in the music book, I finally quit. My mother didn’t fret about my quitting, but as I grew older, I saw Vi got really good at playing the piano, and she became our church pianist. Meanwhile, I played the old fashioned organ for our Sunday School song service. For the choruses we sang, I could play fairly well. To this day, Vi plays both the piano and a lovely organ at her church in Arizona. She uses her talent in playing for several Senior Citizen residences in the Sun City area where she lives. With her minister husband, they would go to the senior citizen residences, where she led singing and played the instrument, and her husband brought the message. Though he passed away recently, she still plays and sings at one of those places.

When we went to the mission field, Vi and my younger sister, Midge, bought me an autoharp. I put it to good use by playing it in accompaniment for our Itawes song services for the many years we were there.

Violet and I used to fight a lot. She would pull my hair, and I would scratch her with my finger nails. When my mother found out about it, she would get angry with me, and she said if I did that again, she would cut off my finger nails. I can’t remember her actually doing that, but I’m sure she would have done it. I’m not sure if I stopped doing it after that, but I’ll never forget the fear I had of my mother’s threat. I remember going to my closet to find a dress I wanted to wear one day, and though I looked through the closet thoroughly, I could not see it. So I called my mother to see if she could find it for me. She came in and right away she saw it and picked it out. It was right where I should have seen it, too, but for some reason, I didn’t. It was almost like she had performed a miracle for me by finding that for me! I don’t know how old I was, but that happened more than once. I probably was going to school by then.

One night, my father and mother went somewhere and left my older brother, Bob, (nine years older than me) to take care of us girls. We had two beds in our bedroom where my younger sister, Margaret, and I slept in one double bed, and Violet slept in the single bed. There were three doors to our bedroom—the one to the living room, one to the bathroom, and the third one to the back porch.

My sisters and I were giggling and talking. My brother yelled at us to quiet down. We kept giggling and talking, so he yelled at us again (from the other room). Then all of a sudden, the back porch door opened and my brother came in very quietly with a pan of cold water, and he caught us by surprise when he poured the water on our heads. We never did that again.

On other nights when we were in bed but my mother had gone to prayer meeting and our father was left home with us, we would act up, giggle and talk after we should have been quiet. Our dad would come in with a yard stick and tell us to be quiet or he would hit us with the stick. However, we just pulled up the sheets very tight up around our necks, and when he hit at us, it didn’t hurt at all. One time I even slipped out of bed on the other side and got under the bed. We liked it when he was our baby sitter because he was a lot of fun.

At night, there were different sounds that I remember. One, of course, was the sound of a train going by down on Slauson, as I tell you in another chapter about our street. However, often at night I heard the chiming of our clock in the dining room next to our bedroom, one chime for each hour of the night and one little ding at the half-hour so I could tell what time it was if I lay awake for a long time. The rain had its own sound as it came off the roof between the house next door and our house. I could hear the patter of the rain as it fell to the ground outside the two windows in our bedroom.

Our mother was a seamstress. She made all of us girls’ clothes for school. Each year we would go downtown and choose the material we wanted for our dresses that year. We looked for the patterns, too. Then we would go home and she made them for us. Of course, our school clothes were always home made, but we envied the girls who could come to school in clothes that were obviously bought from a store. I, for one, was in awe of girls who could afford to have such clothing. However, even though our mother didn’t have a lot of money to work with, she always made some lovely school dresses for us, and we were usually very happy and satisfied with what she did.

At summer time, we went downtown when the sales were on, and we got yardage on sale—maybe remnants left over from the end of yardage bolts. These went on sale early, so we had to get there early in order to get the best ones. Being well advertised, everyone came. They came into the store ready to do battle, almost, in order to find the best pieces of yardage. We got pieces that were just the right size for making a pair of shorts or a halter, a skirt or whatever it was that we needed that summer. Mother always knew what was right. Sometimes we daughters did not always agree with her, but we got home with some really good bargains most of the time, and we were happy most of the time. She was a good seamstress, and we had plenty of things to wear. On Easter, Mother made us lovely dresses. She could do wonders with a bit of material, ribbon, and whatever she wanted to put on the dresses. We also got new shoes then and new socks. On Children’s Day, we all got new socks, panties, and shoes, too.

Besides that, we children got to go to the restaurant of our choice. We usually chose one of the Clifton’s Cafeterias. There was one where they had redwood trees all over the restaurant, and there was a little room where you could go and see a scene of trees in a forest. An organ music tape played the song, “Trees.” Another thing they had there was a mine. When you went to the mine, you put your hand in the door of the mine, and out would come a plate with sherbet on it. It was the most delicious sherbet I had ever tasted. Of course, as its name implies, it was a cafeteria, so when we went there, we got to choose everything on our tray, and we chose whatever we wanted. This was always fun. The food was always delicious. As we were seated, from time to time, we heard the voices of singers in different parts of the cafeteria, a large open room in which there were three balconies with tables on each one in addition to those on the main floor. Their lovely voices were singing only the most beautiful music, because the singers were people that were hired from the Church of the Open Door or the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. Clifton’s was run by Christian people.

The other Clifton’s was a cafeteria that was all decorated in a Hawaiian theme. It had lovely bamboo trees and other kinds of tropical flora all around the cafeteria. However, downstairs there was a little room that was like a typical living room in Bible days, with oil lamps used for lighting and other things you would expect to see there. Around the corner from that was a grotto where there was a figure of Jesus kneeling by a large rock with his hands clasped as in prayer. This was very awe-inspiring, and really got one to thinking about Jesus on that night in Gethsemane.

There was a bakery quite near to our house—just a couple of blocks away across Slauson and beyond the railroad tracks. You could buy day old bakery goods there, and even two or three day old bakery goods. Some days Dad would bring home small loaves, something like French bread, which we cut in half, spread with butter, and then fried in the frying pan. Really good with salt on it! Dad was so good at making breakfast. He loved fried or scrambled eggs, bacon, fried potatoes and hot Ghirardelli’s chocolate. So of course, that was one of my favorite breakfasts, too. At night, just before he went to bed, he would drink the juice of a lemon and say that that lemon was going to keep him well for many years to come. Oh, but I wish that that could have been true. But Dad did love his bakery goods, and he wore a size 44 belt, so when he died of his heart having turned into fibrous tissue when he was 65 years old, you could almost say you saw it coming. The only thing was, none of us knew all that much about such things at that time.

The Fink family, my father’s siblings, owned some old tenements on Trinity Street, of which my father was the caretaker. He went to collect the rents, and Midge would go with him. They could either go around the city dump or go the direct route. Midge always wanted to go the long way so she would have more time with him by herself. Later, after he died, she collected the rent herself for Mother once in a while besides seeing that other necessary things were done.

One thing we all remember about Dad was that when he sat in front of the radio in his rocking chair, he would kind of twiddle his fingers while listening to Amos and Andy and other programs he liked. I myself remember that when he took me to an evangelistic meeting, which he loved to do, as we sat there during the service, he would twiddle his fingers. I would reach my hand over and hold his hand, and then it would stop. That was about the closest I ever really got to be to my Dad, and it was a very nice feeling.

At night when Dad got home from work at the post office, he would sit down at his desk. It was one that was built into the wall, and he pulled the front of it down to form the surface on which to write. Dad was the church clerk, so he brought home the money and counted it. He put pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters into piles and rolled them in wrappers that he got from the bank. If he wasn’t doing that, he was working on his financial book. He kept track of everything in that book, so that when he passed away, all Mother had to do was go to that book, and she saw that everything was taken care of just perfectly. She was able to figure out everything that she had to do to take care of whatever business there was.

He also studied his Sunday School lessons at that desk using his Scofield Reference Bible. Besides that, after Sunday services, he checked that book to see if the scriptures were really there that the preacher had mentioned during the sermon. He was like the people in Berea who studied the scriptures to see if what they heard was true. As our family grew, my father built an addition on the front porch that was large enough to hold a single bed and a set of drawers. Midge stayed in that room after my sister, Violet, and I went to college. That room was next to my parents’ room in the front of the house. Midge remembers that on Sunday mornings, Dad would always yell through his bedroom window to her, “Time to get up, Moggot, time for church!”

He loved to do things around the church, fixing this or that so the church wouldn’t have to pay to have it fixed. Mother used to say that maybe she could get something fixed around our house if she told Dad it was for church. We all laughed about that. Kind of like the cobbler’s kids who never had good shoes.

Since this part of the story has been my Mom’s and Dad’s, as well as my own, I’ve been trying to let you see what they were like and how things were at our house. The Lord saw to it that we had some excellent examples to follow in our lives. It is true that many times I find myself doing exactly the same things that they did. Hopefully, it is for the glory and honor of the Lord. Our family and I were so blessed to have had them as our parents.

Probably, if I hadn’t had parents like that, I would have had a completely different way of life.

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