A Daguerreotype taken of Kevin and Jon Tossing a "football" on our front lawn. We couldn't afford
a real football so you see them using one of my old gym shoes instead :)
a real football so you see them using one of my old gym shoes instead :)
Sometime during my confinement in the 5th grade, the owners of our home at 210 N. 42nd Street, Rapid City decided to sell the home, and not to us. That meant packing up our few meager possessions into the Conestoga wagon, hitching up the oxen and seeking a new home on the prairies of South Dakota.
Our new home, 2214 38th Street, was located in the Canyon Lake section of Rapid City. It was a modest rambler build right after World War II. The term modest is relative to what you consider extravagant. My use of the term modest should be defined as modest, when modest is taken as extravagant. In other words, modest for South Dakota standards - remembering a sod home with a two hole outhouse in South Dakota was considered living high on the hog.
My first memory of our new digs involved food. We spent the entire day moving into the house and by nightfall we were dead tired and hungry. The kitchen was a mess and Luella refused to cook. That left one other choice for supper - McDonalds! Eating out for our family meant taking our hot dog and beans outside and eating under one of the half dead trees in the backyard. Our eating out meals were served on Safeway's Scotch Brand Super Flimsy and Quite Flushable Paper Plates, the kind that could double as napkins or bathroom tissue if necessary.
"Put those hot dogs down," Charles said to Luella. "We're going to McDonalds!"
The cheer that nearly lifted the roof off that house must have caught the neighbors by surprise. They already thought we were strange. I base that opinion on their reactions to us as we moved in. They stood by their fences and stared. The women kept counting us. You could see them with their index fingers up in the air tapping some invisible key as they counted us. The look of shock and disgust followed the final 8th tap.
"Eight in that little house!" were the words spoken in hushed tones and audible to someone with keen hearing like myself. Of course it all made sense to them when they found out we were Mormons. They seemed confused after that, always wondering where dad kept his other wife.
We were not allowed to accompany Charles and Luella to McDonalds that night. Kim and I had to babysit. Besides, they needed time away from us. I also think neither one had the energy to deal with our excitement. Can you imagine the frustration of taking this gaggle of underprivileged children into a McDonalds. Getting us to take our attention off the real tiled floors and onto the menu would be their first problem. Getting us to choose what we'd like to eat would be the next. How could we be expected to decide between a hamburger or cheese burger? How could we pick a chocolate shake over vanilla? Did we want fries? Of course we wanted fries but large or small? Have I painted the picture correctly? Can you just see all six of us kids standing there frozen with our fingers pointing in the general direction of the menu and mouths open wide, not saying one word due to the maddening array of choices?
Charles and Luella returned with the food. I had one hamburger and a few fries from the communal pile. My special treat was one of McDonald's hot Cherry Pies. I opened the pie and tried to shove the entire thing into my mouth at once knowing that if I didn't I'd have to share it with someone. What I didn't know was that the filling was hot. In those days companies assumed you were smart enough to understand that the name "Hot Cherry Pie" on the packaging meant the pie was to be considered Hot. Flash forward to today and you'll see a warning on the packaging telling you that the filling in the pie is hot.
Needless to say, I burned my mouth and was in misery for several hours. That pretty much sums up my first impressions of life at 2214 38th Street.
Shall I take you on a virtual tour of our home on 38th Street?
On Arrival by Car
Our teetering mail box was the first thing anyone noticed as they drove up to our home. The box once stood tall and proud until Luella backed into it with the car, breaking the metal pole off its base. The actual mailbox itself broke off as it fell. Not to worry, we were expects at fixing things with little money and little skill. We put a stick into the base and put the mailbox's pole over the stick. That kept the box upright in a drunken sort of way. The pole had an odd 80 degree angle. The mailbox itself was reattached to the pole with a coat hanger. It was fun to watch our mailbox in a good wind. The pole spun around and the box bobbled up and down sending our uncollected letters and bills every which way.
"What do you mean our electric bill hasn't been paid. Did you send it to us. We never got it,"
On Approach to the Front Door
There was an amusement park, Fun House feel to our front steps and porch. The porch had settled after being poured, thus giving you the slight feeling you were on the deck of a ship listing slightly to port. It was fun to see our two grandmothers navigate the porch when they'd come visiting. If they weren't careful, the tilt would take them off balance and straight into the prickly bushes surrounding the front of the house.
Our front door had a half circle window. In the window was a sticker with a question mark. Under the question mark it said, "Ask us the Golden Question". All good Mormons knew the Golden Questions.
"What do you know about the Mormon Church?"
"Would you like to know more?"
Funny, but in all the years I lived in that home I don't ever recall anyone asking me what that sticker meant. Besides, everyone in our neighborhood knew we were Mormons, which is why they kept their distance. No one was ever rude to us, they just couldn't be bothered. Our neighbors on one side were members of the Church of the Open Bible. I always thought that was the strangest name for a church. I wondered if there was a Church of the Closed Bible out there somewhere.
Our neighbors to the other side couldn't have children of their own and had adopted two boys. The lady was jealous of mom. They eventually warmed to us as their two boys became friendly toward Lisa.
Our front door's paint scheme was interesting. Luella went through a phase of antiquing things during the 1970's. Anything in that house that stood still for more than 30 minutes risked getting antiqued (children and pets included). The eight of us learned to keep moving, never laying in front of the TV for more than twenty minutes at a time.
The first step in her antiquing process was painting the object a shade of olive green. Mold is green and mold is found on old things, therefore it stood to Luella's reasoning that falsely antiquing any piece of furniture, wall or door would begin with olive green. The next step was taking black paint and streaking it over the green using patented hand and wrist motions learned from a correspondent's course easily obtained through the mail by sending in a coupon from the back of a comic book. Our front door was antiqued, along with the writing table and a large cabinet across from the piano. There were other things but my memory fails me.
Upon Entering the House
There was a small closet with a brown accordion folding door to your left as you entered our home. Closet are for coats and jackets, right? Wrong. Our closet was a closet of mysteries. It could have been a portal into another dimension of space time for all we knew. We rarely opened it, and when we did, it was usually to look for a missing toddler or the source of some lingering distasteful smell that couldn't be removed with burning incense and /or a good carpet clean. Another reason we rarely opened that closet was because the accordion door liked to skip off its track and fall forward onto the person pulling on the handle.
The mystery closet was set into a Willy Wonka milk chocolate colored wall. I always thought the dark brown wall gave the room a bit of class - a kind of two toned effect, perfect for the family with 8 Oompa Loompas.
Our color TV sat in front of you as you entered the living room. It was a large cabinet TV salvaged from the mud and muck left behind in the park down the street by the June 1972 Rapid City flood. We never found the original owners but we sure enjoyed their TV. Yes, leave it to the Williamson family of Rapid City to find a way to pick up a color TV cheap, free cheap. Remnants of the mud and muck were always visible the whole time we owned that TV if you looked closely at the plastic grill covering the speakers.
It was a miracle the set worked at all. Mind you, the color was never perfect, but having a TV that showed people with sea sick green skin and skies cast in light yellowish hues was as good as sliced bread after having lived most of our life in black and white.