24 March, 2012

The Beginning

Emma and Cleo Herrick at 18 years

I was born in a snow storm March 3, 1940 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  My due date was February 29, a leap year kid, but I refused meet the date.  Instead my mother almost didn't make it to the hospital, because when I decided it was time I was impatient.
Mary (Hopi) six months

My dad was working in Eau Claire. He had received his teaching certificate at Eau Claire State Teachers College and was teaching high school. After one year he decided it wasn't for him. So when I was a few months old, mom and dad moved to Madison. They moved into a rooming house near the university with a couple called Nedrys.  Mother helped clean the rooming house and cook the meals in order to have free room and board for us.  Dad started law school full time and after a year started working nights carrying hogs at Oscar Mayers in order to pay his tuition, books and keep us. 

Dad started chewing snuff  during this time. He told me that at the plant all the guys were allowed to take a smoke break---if they smoked---so Dad either smoked his pipe or chewed a chaw of snuff in order to get a break. Imagine, having to smoke to get a break that everyone else already had. Can you imagine the unions now?

Though it was hard work for my mother, when her work was finished she was downtown and could at least go to a movie or to the local drugstore for coffee or a shake. She said that she and I saw a lot of movies. My dad worked hard all week and on the weekends, he slept or went out drinking with his friends. My mother and I didn't see him much. 

When I was two and a half we moved out into the country in what is now called Monona Grove. We were a mile from any grocery store and my mother had no car. Not that it would have made any difference, because she couldn't drive. 

 The house had electricity but no water and the toilet was outside. My mother had to carry the water from a pump across the street.  But she was happy, because she wasn't cleaning someone else's house and she could have a little garden. The radio was on constantly listening to all the soap operas at that time: Backstage Wife, Ma Perkins, One Man's family, The Great Gildersleeve, etc. My mother cleaned and baked to the sound of those shows and I played out in the front yard.

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