My First Decade - 1944

1944 - In February I started my fourth year. Momma was 24 and Jeanne was two. We still lived in Lake Charles. I remember Sunday afternoon drives perhaps around the lake of Lake Charles. I remember Dad singing "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" from the musical "Oklahoma!" which was new then. Of course, I didn't know the song was from "Oklahoma!" at the time. Momma said he used to sing Hoagy Carmical's "Stardust" to her. In my mind there is a scene of the interior of a car with the car window frames framing a view of the park we were driving through. The memories I mentioned previously probably date from the summer of 1944 when I was 3 1/2.

This Kodacolor print was dated April 11, 1944. Jeanne was two years old and I was three, but we look older than that to me. The date was printed on the back of the photographic paper along with other information by the processor, which was probably Kodak back then. Uncle Irving made the picture at his home on Pearl Street in Little Rock. He was still working for Sterling Stores doing 'silk screen' signs and other art work. He also set up the electric train displays and that sort of thing. At an early age he had learned photography and audio systems. Of course those things were pretty primitive when he started out in the mid-20's as a teenager. He went on to have his own professional photography business, VideoTone Productions. He did commercials, animations, filmstrip productions, newsreel movies, and custom film and print processing. Uncle Irving had titled this photo "Brother & Sister" and had prepared it for submission to the Color Photo Editor of Mechanix Illustrated. I don't know whether he actually sent it in or not.

This photo of Jeanne and me obviously was taken at the same time. I believe the original was in B&W. This must have been a time when we had traveled back from Louisiana to visit the relatives in Arkansas.

Jame Luther, Jeanne, Jim, Marvine, Sammie Lou I'm not sure of the date of this photo but, based on the apparent ages and the sun angle, it may have been in May 1944 on Decoration Day. The young teen is Aunt Dove's youngest child, James Luther Martin. He would have been almost 12 years old. Jeanne is standing by him and she would have been two in 1944. I'm standing by Marvine, who was Aunt Kate's only child and as close as a sister to Momma. She would have been 19. That looks like Sammie Lou Maxwell in Marvine's lap. She would have been a little over a year old in 1944. Sammie Lou was Uncle Noah's youngest child. His oldest child was a daughter a year older than Momma. Those two sisters formed the 'bookends' of Alvus Maxwell's grandchildren. The fact that all these cars were parked in the yard is another clue that some big family event was taking place. Marvine, James Luther, and Sammie Lou were first cousins. James died in the late 20th century while still a young man. Marvine and Sammie Lou were still living in 2005.

Since the earlier picture were made in April of 1944, this occasion would surely have been during a later trip to Arkansas. Decoration Day (now designated Memorial Day in most places) was a family reunion time. We met at the Lanty Methodist Church for a morning worhips service on a Sunday in May (currently the Sunday after Mother's Day), then had 'dinner-on-the-grounds' of the church and then assembled in the decorated cemetery to remember and honor our ancestors. There was often a short program at the cemetery. I can still remember how Aunt Grace and Uncle Duncan sang When the Ring Those Golden Bells as an a capella duet. Following that, the family would assemble at Grandpa Maxwell's house.

Back in Lake Charles the summer of 1944, Momma and Dad sent this letter to Uncle Irving and Aunt Nila:

  Sunday night

Dearest Nila & Irving,

     Guess you think we aren’t going to write, but time does fly you know.

     Needless to say we think the pictures are very sweet. Nearly everyone who sees them asks, “Who colored them?” Dumb friends we have, eh? James will tell you which shots we want prints of.

     I know you enjoyed your flowers. Am anxious to see the ones you have. Do you have your screened porch fixed up yet?

     Mama and Daddy are fine as for as we know. They probably wouldn’t tell us if they were sick. They are ready for us to visit them or them us. Mama has her teeth now.

     Glad to hear your mother is well. How is she standing the hot weather?

     I don’t do much except house work. I’ve made several sun suits for the children but nothing nice. We’ve already started buying winter clothes for Jimmie & Jeanne.

     I weigh 124 lbs. Can you imagine? That’s more than I’ve weighed since we’ve been married. James only weighs 131 lbs. I think he’s been worrying more than he let’s on.

     We’re giving Jimmie & Jeanne a series of shots. The Doctor says there is nothing at all wrong with them. He gave each an examination.

     I must hush. James will finish in the morning. He is on the swing shift.

  Answer soon,

Dear Bud & Sis

     How ya doing? We’ve been doing pretty good. We want two each of the good prints and am sending $4.00 to pay for them. I wish you could send the movies so we could see them.

     I’ve sure been lucky since I’ve been here. I received two promotions. The first was to $1.27 per hr. and the second to $1.35 per hor. I do the actual operating on one unit that is making the different products at certain specified requirements. This job gives me grounds for a deferment, but it looks as if I’m not getting one. Well, guess I hush


     Dad was apparently torn between his desire to do his patriotic duty and join the Army and his desire to stay home and care for his family. I think that he could have had a family exemption to the draft, but he and Momma may have agreed on a compromise; he wouldn't volunteer, but he wouldn't claim an exemption either. So, about his 23rd birthday, he received an order to report for induction on November 13, 1944. There was a standard option to report to another induction board, if it would be a serious hardship to report to his local board in Little Rock, Arkansas.
     He turned in his resignation effective Monday, November 6, 1944, and prepared to move the family back to Momma's parents near Lanty, Arkansas. I think the following photographs were made while Daddy and Grandpa were building a new outhouse.

Dad's induction notice had been dated November 2nd so they had probably been making plans to get the family moved back to Arkansas before he was to report on the 13th. These photographs seem to have been made at about that time. I believe that they built the ‘outhouse’ at that time to serve as an alternative to a ‘pot’. I think Grandpa usually went to the barn or behind the smokehouse and Grandma used the pot, which was then dumped behind the smokehouse. I had to dump it a few times myself over the years! The addition of three more members to the household would have made this method difficult. They probably expected to have visitors too. They also boxed-in the northwest corner of the front bedroom to make a closet for Momma’s clothes. It did not go all the way to the ceiling, but had a top on which boxes and things were stored.

The Martins and Us
The Martins, Skippers, and Grandma Maxwell
It seems that this photo was taken at the old Alvus Maxwell place where Aunt Dove Martin and her children lived. It appears to be at a location in the field south of the house, perhaps even south of the barn. They are facing west with a setting sun late in the year. I now think that this photo was made in late 1944.
James Luther is holding me on the homemade coaster. George Wayne is holding Jeanne. Grandma Maxwell, who was 44, is wearing a bonnet behind James Luther, Hattie Pearl is standing, Momma is in the middle, and Aunt Dove is on the right with a cloth done up on her head.

    Dad was inducted into the Army at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in Little Rock on November 13th. He must have gone from there to Camp Chaffee in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, because his pay and insurance papers were prepared there on November 16th. I have his handwritten note that says, "Honey, put these papers where they won't be lost. Love, James" She kept them faithfully until she turned them over to me. He then went to the INFANTRY REPLACEMENT TRAINING CENTER at Camp Hood, Texas. His training began on Sunday, November 26, 1944.

    The nearby relatives were Grandpa’s widowed sister, Dove, and her three younger children. Her oldest son, Wendell, was grown and off to war. Her daughter, Hattie Pearl was about 19 and was like a sister to Momma because they had all lived near each other most of their lives. Momma was six years old when Hattie Pearl was born and she ran all the way from Grandpa's house to her Grandpa's house when they got word that Aunt Dove had had a little girl. They were all close and attended school together until Momma went to stay with her Uncle Noah's family so that she'd be in the Morrilton High School district. Hattie Pearl was on the basketball team and graduated in May of 1944. There were two younger boys who were like little brothers to Momma. George Wayne was 16 and James Luther was 13 This photo shows most of us over in the field in front of their house. We visited with them a lot at the old home place during 1944, 1945, and 1946. Years later James Luther later gave us his old 26" standard bicyle for me to ride, but that's another story. I originally guessed that this photo was taken in the fall of 1945, but I'm pretty sure now that it was in the winter of late 1944.

     I remember a Christmas when Christmas Eve fell on Sunday. We were to go to a church service and I was afraid that Santa would pass us by if he came while we were gone. They put Jeanne and me into the car and then had an excuse for going back into the house for something. They soon returned and we went on. When we got home, we found that Santa had already been there! Christmas Eve 1944 was on Sunday.

The House and Its Furnishings – The house had been built in 1922 and so it was 22 years old in 1944. Momma once said that Grandpa had never repainted it. It’s obvious from the pictures that the front porch was in bad shape. The porch was soon replaced with a stone faced, concrete surfaced porch.
     I think Grandma was still using her wood cookstove when we moved back. It was in the northeast corner of the kitchen to connect to the flue. The chimney was located at the intersection of the walls that divided the house into four square rooms. There was an icebox near the back door of the kitchen. Someone delivered ice occasionally. The kitchen cabinet unit was on the south wall just west of the window. There was usually an Old Farmer’s Almanac hanging from the cuphook on the side of the cabinet by the window. There was a built-in storage cabinet in the southeast corner of the kitchen and a cabinet with work surface along the west wall.
     They fixed up the front (northeast) bedroom for us. Momma once told me that that had been her bedroom when she was a child at home. Her bed was in the northeast corner with the head against the north wall. I usually slept with her and Jeanne had to sleep in a baby bed which was located in the southwest corner of the room. A dresser was on the east wall between the window and the door to the porch.
     There was a wood heater in the corner of the front room. Grandpa had a rocking chair just west of the south windows beside the magazine table that Dad had built in high school shop. The clock was on a wall shelf above the magazine table.
     The house was a square divided into four square rooms. Each room had a door to the outside. The doors were located near the center of the house on the front and back walls. Each room had a door to each adjacent room. The front room doors to the adjacent rooms were near the outside walls and the back bedroom doors were in the center of the walls. Thus the front bedroom had a door at the center of one wall and near the outside of the other. The kitchen did also.
     Grandpa and Grandma’s bed was usually placed diagonally with the head in the northwest corner of the room. It was centered between windows, one each wall adjacent to the bed. A quilt compress was in the southeast corner along the east wall. The quilt compress was homemade of rough lumber stained a dark color. It served as a linen closet, chest, and clothes closet all in one I think. There were shelves for canned goods along the south wall of the bedroom on the right side of the door to the kitchen. the shelves served as a ladder to the attic.
     There was no electricity and no running water. Light was provided by simple kerosene lamps and two ‘Aladdin’ lamps. The only modern device was a battery powered radio. This was no simple low powered radio using transistors since transistor had not been invented then. It had vacuum tubes that required pretty hefty batteries to heat their filaments and a high voltage battery to provide ‘plate’ voltage. I enjoyed tearing up the old batteries to see what they were made of.
     Water was drawn from a ‘drilled’ well on the south side of the house. The water had reddish mineral in it that gave it a distinct taste and left rusty stains on things. It was not good for washing or for coffee, but they had to use it most of the time. Grandma sometimes collected rainwater for her hair and other uses.

1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949 1950
1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960

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Originally Posted 1/28/01
Revised 1/15/05 w/counter at 322