I am certain my parents offered my brother instructions on how to deal with his sister at various stages of our lives. There were many memories of times we worked together, played tricks on one another and times he came to my rescue in bad situations. Even tho there were often 4 years between us, there were times we totally enjoyed, totally hated one another, and times I ached for my brother’s hurts. As adults we were totally different people anchored in memories. A stand out memory of Don and I were the fights we would have in the back seat of the car over who’s side of the car we were infringing on. One time my parents pulled the car over and said, “Get Out Of The Car !” We were on a main highway and they drove off - leaving us with one another. Guess they called that “tough love” in those days. I looked at Don, he immediately said in his wisdom, “Quit crying. Don’t worry, they will be back.” When they did arrive, they said you cannot ride in this car if you continue to argue. We did simmer down for awhile.
One of our continuing happy memories came from the day our parents took us to a farm home and we could each pick out a puppy. The beautiful Dalmatian puppies we chose were, a female Mickey for Don and a male Skippy for me. We adored and cared for, played with, taught tricks to, and I sang to my dog constantly. We enjoyed them, even tho they were not allowed in the house. (Mother’s Rule) To this day, I cannot fanthom how they endured the cold winter nights in their dog house barrels. My sweet dog died by someone’s cruel deed, (which is another story), but Don had to give his sweet Mickey away when we left Ohio.
Our parents worked very hard, and we both learned to work beside them. I am certain Don was given more duties than I, but we did help a great deal. They tore down buildings, put foundations under others. There were chickens, chickens, manure and more manure, vegetables planted and harvested, cold days outside and sweaty days too, We tore 5 layers of wallpaper off the house at 2515 Sunset Ave., Springfield, Ohio. The rewards were fantastic berry and cherry pies, fresh veggies and fruits and mother’s excellent cooking, canning, and jam making. We had an outhouse, so a bathroom went in, the pump went away from the kitchen sink and running water plus electricity went in. My parents took us to their favorite backroom restaurant for Saturday night sandwiches and we would then walk across the street to purchase our favorite comic books and my parents favorites to read when we got home..
We delighted in playing tricks on one another.We both learned to drive the tractor, just so we could dump the loose cobb from the baby chicks every season. One day, we had emptied the chick’s house of cobb and manure. It was stacked high on the trailer to pull out to the back six acres and spread. Don jumped on the seat and said he would drive. I jumped in the back with the pitch fork to plunk down into the soft cobb. That was all I had to hang on with….so what does he do??? Start the tractor in 3rd gear with a jolt I was face down in the mess. You could hear his laughter all the way out to the field. Winter’s were not too extreme in our area, yet we did have ice, snow and sometimes we were snowed in for a few days. Don and I took turns gathering the eggs when mother raised hens. The path to the barn would sometimes freeze over and it was hard to navigate. Carrying a large egg basket from the barn to the house was risky business. It was dusk and I had snuck out to the building near the path….yet I was hidden from view. It was getting dark and Don came along with about 50 eggs in the basket. I jumped out and yelled BOOO!! Eggs went everywhere as Don went down. Of course the price of the eggs came out of my allowance, not his….but it was worth it.
Don and I both loved Mr. Crosslin’s pond, just a few pastures over wire fences. We would take our sleds, check the ice to make certain it was hard all the way across. We would trudge up the snowy hill in back of the pond looking forward to the gleeful ride on our red flyers down that hill and clear across the pond. We equally loved the nearby Indian Mound for a long sled ride. I was not allowed to go to that spot until I was a fifth grader. It was wooded and much more dangerous a ride. During the winters, the train and village Don created on a flat board came out on his bedroom floor. He and his buddies would play for hours with the train. He built houses, water silos and tunnels. Summers were spent on bicycles riding everywhere with Mickey on a leash and and a gang of friends. Don was always careful to carry water and check his dog’s paws when he got home.
Our mother loved Canasta (a card game). We would find a spare minute to enjoy her attention at a good game. Our parents had friends, (Glady & Chet) who had a summer cottage on Indian Lake. We would drive the 2 hours and sleep on the floor with six other kids as our parents played poker all night. We all learned to play poker too. Our parents appreciated our help on the farm and would show it by taking us to Cincinnati once a year to the zoo, olympic sized swimming pool and at night we would enter a wonderful theme park with gardens and roller coasters we could not get enough of. Mom’s relatives were always eating dinner at our house, or we were visiting theirs. We often went to Chicago to visit with aunts, Uncles and Cousins. Both grandmothers had passed away before we were born, but both grandfathers were seen in their homes mostly. Two big trips were to visit Aunt Nellie, mother’s oldest sister. First she was in Washington DC and they moved to Cape Canaveral for his work. They lived in Orlando and would write about snakes and wildlife everywhere as the housing area was being developed.
Don was seventeen when we moved to Whittier in Southern California. He was very sad leaving Ohio in his senior year. He really missed his friends and those he made in his senior year, were on a different path. One of the first things our parents took us too was a 4th of July fireworks display in a major stadium. Los Angeles was beginning to exhibit racial issues. Leaving the stadium Don and I were walking ahead of our parents and he had the car keys. All of a sudden we were being pushed and shoved by black kids, they were calling us names, throwing paper cups, etc. and we began moving faster down the slope to the car on the street. Don shouted to me. “Keep hold of my hand and do not look back for any reason.” We both ran and managed to get to the car. The police moved in on the crowd and they dispersed. We had come from Ohio, were raised and played with kids just like these and saw them come to our home to buy chickens and vegetables. It did not make sense to us. Our parents were astonished at what they saw and praised Don many times for taking charge of me.
When my high school friend was killed, we got the call at 11:30 pm. I was so distressed, I started walking down the hill to get to her home. Don came running after me and kept talking me through it. He had just been through this with his girlfriend who had lost her brother to a cycle accident. He knew what to say. Don had to take charge of his sister many different times.
When I was learning to drive, mother demanded he take me in his car and teach me how to drive the stick shift. (which is what we learned on in the schools in the fifties.) We lived on a hill in Whittier, so this was probably one of the worst things my mother could have asked her son to do for his sister. I ground those gears so many times as he would cringe in the passenger seat, but I finally got it all down. You would think if I could drive a tractor, I could drive that old car, but it did take learning. As I began dating, I understood nothing about boys, their feelings, nor what a girl could do to a guy. I went out with an acquaintance of Dons from high school. Don was out of school, but somehow he had a conversation with him, and later my brother explained that to much kissing could lead to problems with a guy. He then told me the facts of life - which my mother nor father never did.
College was offered to Don. My parents had saved the money and he turned it down, rebel in many ways, he got jobs with construction and then with the telephone company. All of a sudden we were saying goodbye to him as he left for Marine Corps boot camp. My father would say, “He loved my brother - long before he fell in love with Lenora.” I just thought it was something he said. In Ohio, they would go on long walks with one another. I found my dad giving Don a great deal of space and time to be a boy. Something my Dad never had the luxury of. After Don went to boot camp, I knew he was coming for a visit. I came home from high school and walked through the front door. There was Don laying across my dad’s lap in his Marine Corps uniform, and my mother beaming over the two. Don was saying, “Dad I really missed you!”
Looking back I did appreciate having my brother in my life, and whenever I saw him, I always told him I loved him. Something he could not express to me in words, yet his former actions proved much love and protection was there.