Thursday, May 26, 2016

Letters, Cards, Notes, and Stuff

My father saved "stuff."  He saved letters and cards and awards ribbons and souvenirs and photos and all kinds of STUFF. (Thank you, Dad!) These items help to tell the story of his young life.  

During the summer of 1930, Verne Troutman survived a ruptured appendix. He was sixteen. He saved some of the cards he received while in the hospital in Norfolk, Nebraska.

On 1 February 1931, he joined the Boy Scouts. I'm not sure why he joined so late at age 16, but he did.
Boy Scouts of America, membership card.

 Dad always said his nickname in high school was "Slim" because he was so skinny. This tells exactly how skinny. At 5'10", he weighed 138 pounds.
And here's his Boy Scout diary in which he kept track of his good deeds for the day. I think my favorite is "loaned a fellow a nickel."

He even saved his report cards from 11th and 12th grades. Not bad, Dad!

When he graduated from high school in 1932, Verne received a letter from Uncle Jim (aka James Henry Troutman), his father's brother in Virginia. Here it is, transcribed, errors and all, just a few edits for clarity:

"Marion Va, May 17 - 32
"Dear Verne
"Rec your picture and it sure does look good your are a good looking Chap I know. Say you know I hate to just send you 1 00 after sending the other kids 5 each but as Andy says I know you know the represion is on so you must not think hard of me for this is the hardest time I ever saw to make a dollar You know I wrote Clint about having a fine horse well I put [a] crazy man out with him and he fed him until he died It just made me sick he was so pretty and a fine one this fool fed him wheat and every thing. [H]ave been told since he died he would feed him 5 to 6 times a day do hope you all can come out this summer though [I know]you are not making [any] money for there is no one [ma]king any now uless [sic] its old Hover [sic] and his 53  Verne you all have one smart man in Nebr I know I read after him some and that is Senator Norris he says he dident vote for Hoover for he dident think he was the right man for President. To much Job for him & I cuse [sic] this pencil have lost my fountain pen could not find it any where would not of taken 5.00 for it[.]

"Well you and all of the famil try and come this summer would love to take you over the mountains into NC and down whar de water melon grow know you woud have a good time

"Your Uncle Jim"
Despite receiving only $1.00 from Uncle Jim, instead of $5.00, as his three siblings each received, and all at once, too, as they graduated the same year, Verne didn't seem to hold a grudge. He always chuckled at the straightforward way Uncle Jim addressed any issue.

This motto is another one of Dad's keepers. Since he was on the high school boxing team, it makes sense that a motto from a boxer would be meaningful to him.
And life goes on.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Winside: In My Memory

When I was growing up in the 1950s, Winside was the family gathering place. My grandparents, Mary and Clint, and uncles Carl and Jim and their families lived there. Before Grandpa died in 1949, we gathered at Grandma and Grandpa's house. Then the gatherings moved to the uncles' homes. Sometimes we went to Aunt Nevilles' home at Laurel in the next county north, or to our house (Verne's) at Stanton, in the next county south. I suppose we went to Aunt Virginia's house, too, but that's not clear in my memory. She lived farther away at Fremont and then Boys' Town. Mostly, I remember family gatherings at Winside.

That's also where the Old Settler's Picnic was held. It was a big event on our yearly calendar. There was a parade with floats and fire engines and bands and politicians. But mostly there was food and family fun. Everyone brought picnic baskets and we ate at the park located south of Main St. on the west end of town. My grandmother, mother, and aunts made the best fried chicken I've ever tasted, the best pies and cakes, too. The grown-ups sat at picnic tables or on blankets spread on the grass and talked. Sometimes the men stretched out on the blankets and napped. The children ran and chased each other and played games. The teenagers eyed each other and flirted. Sometimes there were organized games and prizes.

One year when I was five or six years old, I entered a foot race for children. I think it was a hundred-yard dash. I remember running has hard as I could on the course on that wide Main Street, pumping my little arms and legs and glimpsing the other children trying to catch up to me. I won! My daddy was pleased. His laughter rings in my ears. I think my prize was a silver dollar, which I probably spent on candy.

Free use map of Winside,, Nebraska.
The farm where I grew up in Stanton County in the 1950s was straight south of Winside about 17 miles. On the map above, you can see the road going south toward Stanton. Countless times we drove that gravel road to and from Winside, the dust flying behind our car on hot summer days, windows down letting the outside air blow on us, no air-conditioning. I looked forward to crossing Logan Creek (although I didn't know the name until I saw it on this map) and driving into Winside, past my Uncle Carl's grocery store on the corner of Main and Hunter (another street name I didn't know before this map), past Uncle Carl's big two-story house just a block past the store on the right, and straight on north through town to my grandparents' farm a mile and a half from town, east side of the road. Mostly, I remember driving a mile or so farther north to Uncle Jim's farm where we often gathered for holidays to feast and fellowship.

Winside's literary claim to fame can be attributed to Laura Ingalls Wilder. In her book, On the Way Home: The Diary of a Trip from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri, in 1894, she describes the route she and Almonzo and daughter Rose took through Winside: "Crops are poor since noon, country about as dry as Dakota. Went through Winside about 4 o'clock. Roads are awfully hilly. . . . The soil in Wayne County is very fine and close, not exactly clay, but clayey. The people here claim it is the best soil on earth to stand drought."1 In the very next paragraph, she describes going through Stanton. My imagination soars with thoughts of her and Manly bouncing along on the seat of their covered wagon on the very road we traveled from Winside to Stanton.

Main Street, Winside, c. 1949, a winter of heavy snows.
In college, I had a poster on the wall of my dorm room that said, "Part of you remains wherever you have been." If it's true, a part of me remains in Winside. For certain, I carry memories of Winside in heart.

1. Wilder, Laura Ingalls, On the Way Home: The Diary of a Trip from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri, in 1894 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1962), p. 32.