Saturday, March 31, 2012

Someday, As I'm Sitting In My Studio

One of the stories written by Mom for her first 1990s writing class. This one looks forward, with Mom seeing herself years in the future as a successful writer on sewing.

The photo is of Mom at her sewing machine in 1979.

Someday, as I'm sitting in my studio completing my latest assignment for my editor, I will look back and consider what I have accomplished to this point in my life. There were many years when I wondered if my struggles would be rewarded.

The years of working a very stressful job at the hospital, plus creating an image of the expert in construction and altering clothing (were worthwhile, as was) the time spent in the classroom to drill into me the dos and don't of writing. Old habits die hard.

Now I've started a new career altogether. I'm well known around the country as an expert in my field. I have written a simple manual for beginning sewers, any age, that is used in many classrooms. I hold class in my studio for anyone who wants to attend. I am contracted for wedding ensembles, making the bride's dress and the attendants' dresses.

I have been asked to conduct seminars on tailoring. I am now working on a manual for tailoring made easy. Regularly, I have a column appearing in the newspaper on sewing and alterations. Each week time is set aside for answering my mail.

I now employ two assistants to help with much of the routine. One of them helps me with some of the paperwork, the other assists me with the sewing.

The Public Television Network has asked me to set up a series of programs on sewing and the money to be saved. I've worked on my outline, but I've not settled on anything for sure.

I enjoy my life now. I really feel like people look up to me. That is important in a strange sort of way. I need to contribute, and with the sort of clothing these days, if I can help people look good at a smaller investment, then I have done what I set out to do. Yes, the struggles were worthwhile.

Connie, Nov. 14, 1991

Friday, March 30, 2012

Raising Children: A Hair-Raising Experience

A story from the start of one of Mom's first writing classes, talking about her role as a parent and her worries.

The photo is of Mom and my sister and I in September 1979.

Raising children can be a hair-raising experience for both the child and the parents. Life has changed so rapidly in the past 40 years since I was a child. The same rules will not apply today as they did when I was growing up.

I grew up on a farm in South Dakota, number 13 of 14 children. My parents were already in their early forties. In many ways, my older brothers and sisters raised me. But we were always aware that Mom and Dad were there to discipline when needed. There were battles, but somehow there was also plenty of love. The love was not openly displayed with the kissing and hugging, but we knew it was there. We learned to be our own person to make decisions to fall flat on our face, if necessary.

Now with two children of my own, I realize what a difficult job Mom must have had. I've made it through the very young years with what I hope was a good foundation. The teen years are now upon us. I don't feel we can pull the reins in too tightly, yet they need to be aware the reins are there. We need to give confidence in yourself.

My biggest fear is drugs and Aids. One mistake can scar a young child for life. A strong foundation, roots, if you will, is so important in making decisions and realizing the consequences of those decisions. A parent cannot be too critical unless there is also a suggested solution followed by praise.

In short, there are no absolute rules for a parent to follow. If there were, we would all be alike. Plenty of love, goodness and understanding are important. Treat everyone with respect, this includes your own children. Their opinion is very important as well as yours. Husband and wife must be strong together. The key word should always be family.

Connie, Aug. 27, 1991

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Return To The Classroom

This story from Mom's very first writing class in the fall of 1991. In it, she actually explains why these stories are here and why she took her classes.

The photo is from a family portrait from about 1991.

Kirkwood is a Community College. It is a college for all people. It is accredited, so if you wish, you can get a degree. If you need special help, such as reading help or writing help, there is a place for you. If you need to bring your grade point average up to qualify for something specific, the help is there. Or, if you are just looking for a push with a specialized career, and all you want is a few courses to help you, there is also a place for you.

I am 48 years old, and I have worked the same job for twenty years. I have this feeling inside that I want to write. I feel there are stories in me that I want to get out. I want to expand my horizons before I retire. I am handicapped and have worked very hard to get where I am. This disease process I have will continue to progress so that I may not be able to work this hard for long. Yet I feel there are some things I should still be able to do, even when I'm not able to get around very well.

Kirkwood is accessible. I walk with braces and crutches and have all my life. I've had all the struggles that go along with school. I wanted to take a class where I could park and get to the classroom easily on my own. Registration is also simple. Kirkwood caters to the adult students who want help keeping up their skills. It is inexpensive compared to the University.

I feel we have lived much over the years. I have lived through experiences as a handicapped child in a large farm family. The struggles as a student faced with ordinary obstacles like stairs, long walks to class and carrying books. Now as a mother of two, working in the real world, I want more. I want to be able to distinguish myself in some way. I want to become a real inspiration to someone. I want to help. I want to show that handicapped individuals are bright people worth knowing.

I also have this yearning to teach. For four years, I have taught a sewing class through the Community Education Department of Kirkwood. I started sewing when I was very young. I followed my sister, who was my mentor. Much of what I have learned didn't come from a book. Many of my students have told me to write it all down. My hope is to some day do just that. I want to put it down in plain language so people won't be frightened by the instructions.

I hope my time spent here in the classroom will help me achieve my goals, or tell me to forget them. I have the creative spirit. Now I need to learn the mechanics of writing. Some day people will know me more by what I'm doing, not what I can't do.

Connie, Nov. 4, 1991

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

In My Dreams

One of Mom's favorite shows was Oprah's show. It was practically the only show she recorded. This is a story she wrote for one of her early 90s writing classes, apparently on an assignment to write a descriptive story about a dream of hers. The story centers around Mom's dream of being a guest on the show to talk about problems faced by people who are handicapped.

The photo is of Mom and I outside the Adler Planetarium in Chicago in 1985. Chicago, of course, was the home to the Oprah show.

In my dreams I find myself an outstanding authority for the handicapped. I conduct seminars for businesses. I gear more toward the educational, rather than the barriers issue. I don't like to see anybody "put off" because of a disability, rather, I want them to see an individual's ability. I want them to be relaxed with the disability. Eventually, it won't even be seen or taken into consideration.

I am a business woman in my own right. I run my own sewing and designing studio. I have conducted seminars in a variety of cities on both subjects and seem to be well received.

Today I have been invited to be on a panel discussion of the Oprah Winfrey Show. The topic today is handicapped business people. We hope to dispel some myths about disabilities.

It begins off stage. The make-up artist skillfully gives me a new face - or so it seems. The hair dresser does things to my hair I never thought were possible. It feels so good to be pampered like this. The wardrobe artist helps pick out a new dress. These outfits feel so expensive. I choose a light green suit with rich looking buttons. The blouse has green and yellow flowers. A gold chain necklace goes around my neck with small gold dangle earrings. It hardly looks like me in the mirror. I almost forgot that my shoes, because of my braces, don't match.

I get to meet some of the other guests. There is John, a businessman from Ohio, who wears a three-piece suit and sits in a wheelchair. He sits there with so much authority that it seems like the natural way to travel.

Kim is a beautiful girl about 22 years old. She is wearing a one-piece red dress, flattering to her gorgeous figure and long, blonde hair. I looked at her and wondered why she is here - then I realized she is blind. Wow! She handles herself so well; then I found out she is a model.

Paul is a small-built man around 30 I guess. He wears a beautiful charcoal sweater and wool slacks. He runs a very expensive restaurant downtown. I was talking with him quite a while before I realized he was deaf.

My handicapped struggles seem so minor compared to some of these accomplishments. I hope some day to reach some of these goals.

Here comes Oprah. Now I really get nervous, with sweaty palms, hot face - the whole bit. She is gorgeous, a little heavier than on TV. She wears a pale blue linen suit with a paisley print blouse. She has low heals but flattering for her stature. She wears a little jewelry. Her hair is casual with soft waves. She introduces herself, and speaks with each one of us, shaking our hand and putting her arm around us individually, making us relaxed. She speaks with us about the purpose of the show - educating Americans about the humanness of a disabled person. She explains how the show will be conducted. I feel relaxed and nervous at the same time. Oprah has so much confidence and self assurance. If I can just not think about all those people, I will be okay.

The curtain is up and we are introduced. One at a time we discuss our lives briefly. I'm the author of "Sewing for the Business Woman," a best-selling craft book. I have also written many articles for magazines on the "Handicapped American" a series of stories written about a young handicapped girl and the problems she faces in the "real" world.

I see all those faces but I concentrate on only one, Oprah's, and pretend it is just us talking. They clap and laugh as I say something funny. I hope it didn't sound stupid.

The others are talking. They seem so successful. The questions begin. Many are directed at me. The show goes fast. Oprah carries it off so well. She thanks us as everyone applauds. She says we helped many people realize that we are people first, then handicapped people.

Connie, about 1994

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

1994 From Dependence to Independence (Part 4)

The conclusion of Mom's 1994 paper on mainstreaming of disabled students. Mom concludes the paper with a great story from 1969, where she references her goals then and what she did with them. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

The photo is of the fulfillment of one of those dreams, from a trip to St. Louis in 1991.

The advances in prosthetics alone has improved life of the artificial limb user. Many times they can simulate the actual limb. Sometimes they can get so proficient at walking that it is difficult to tell that it is an artificial limb, if you don't know already. There are still many areas of improvement that we don't know about.

Not the least of which is the exposure. They are responsible for bringing disabilities to the forefront. We missed an excellent chance with President Roosevelt, as no one knew of the extent of his disability. Even today, it is difficult for me to realize what he must have gone through from his critics. Maybe it was too early in the game for some discussion with him about his disability. Maybe the country wasn't ready. Disabled people were still viewed as helpless and with no brain. I might add that Mr. Roosevelt was educated before his disease incapacitated him, and would qualify as a newly disabled.

A report on the Working Group with The Department of Veteran Affairs, states:
Our society has always had a tendency to shun those who are different. The disabled create fear, make us uncomfortable and may even embarrass us. In recent years society as a whole has become much more accepting of the disabled individual. Great strides have been made to allow the disabled individual to become an acceptable member of mainstream society. As professionals and individuals we would like to think we have made similar strides as well. (P14)
Due to the Vietnam vets' persistence, I feel that they are responsible for getting much of the needed legislation passed. In 1973, The Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) was passed (Least Restrictive Environment, 8.2). This act helped place the student in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Because of this law, all new public buildings being built had to have accessibility features. Unfortunately, it has taken years to get the "trickle down effect" to show up in many smaller towns and smaller buildings.

In 1990, The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed (Family Support Bulletin). This included businesses and concentrated on employment. It covered in detail what questions can be asked on an interview and what an employer will be expected to offer a perspective employee. The employer must make reasonable accommodations for the disabled employee. Again the vets are responsible for bringing all of this to the forefront.

I feel that disabled people for a long time have been shut up. We have been put on the shelf to live out the days, much like many elderly persons are written off as old and of no value. The unfortunate part is that the disabled have been written off sooner, when the person is much younger. There is no source of confidence building here. Many times we have to prove ourselves to be worthy of an interview, to say nothing of the job itself. Most employers are very uncomfortable with this kind of interview.

One thing that I have learned through this research is that it is okay for us to feel sorry for someone worse off than we are. Even I tend to feel sorry for these children who seem to be in another world. All I can imagine is the life or opportunities that these kids must miss, like communicating with family and friends, or thinking and reading about something of interest. How can they tell you what interests them? There are many disabled children who do grow up and learn to communicate with others.

Love and discipline can do wonders for seemingly hopeless situations. The thing to remember is that there is always something that can be tried. We have to keep an open mind. There may be some teachers who have a little trouble with these students in their classroom. Just remember, treat them as children. After all, that is what they are. In some cases, they know much more than what you are trying to teach them. They cannot communicate in the ordinary ways. Their methods will be extraordinary. After the year is finished you may wonder who has done the teaching, and who has done the learning. This child may have taught you a lot that you had not planned on.

Lastly, when you meet a disabled person at your workplace or anywhere, treat them with respect. That is all we ask. We need to get rid of the stereotypes of the "poor little child in the wheelchair." We have identities, we are people, and we are productive citizens.

I was reminded recently of a conversation I had with a friend in approximately 1969. I had done some sewing for her and she was there to pick it up. We got to talking and I told her that I had three goals for my life: one that I wanted to marry, two that I wanted to have children, and three, that I wanted to go to college. To me, these were not unrealistic goals. She, I learned later, cried on the way home thinking I would never reach any of these goals. Well, I not only reached them, but I now have even loftier goals. The sky's the limit, as they say.

Connie, 1994

Monday, March 26, 2012

1994 From Dependence to Independence (Part 3)

Part 3 of Mom's 1994 From Dependence to Independence paper. Here, she talks about mainstreaming disabled students and the benefits of that, using an example of a student in one of her religion classes. Part 1, Part 2

The photo is of Mom about 1993 with her new knitting machine.

There is much to say about mainstreaming and inclusion. No one really knows what a small child can learn from just being in a classroom with normal children, watching what normal children are doing. One student in particular has watched the progress of his religion class throughout this year with seemingly little recognition from the student. I happen to be the volunteer teacher of this class. He can't talk, so we don't know exactly what he is even hearing. In the last couple weeks, however, I have noticed a little bit of excitement. I begin to wonder what is locked in that brain of his. What is he thinking of us? He obviously can hear us, or he wouldn't get so excited when he sees us. This little boy in my religion class, has been a real inspiration to me.

I was talking about this with my sister-in-law Peggy and was reminded of a neighbor of ours years ago. They had this little girl who was birth injured or born retarded. I was never sure of which it was as it was never talked about. I only saw this girl once, although I knew she existed. At that point in time, no one talked about these things. From what I observed, she was unable to get around on her own. Her bed was put on the floor so she would not roll out, I'm sure. When I saw her briefly, she looked to be in her early teens, which made her a little older than myself. She never, of course, went to school. That would have been unheard of for that day and age. She eventually was institutionalized.

I got to thinking about the little boy in my classroom. This little boy has so many advantages because he was born more recently and not at that time. That little girl from years ago could have been in a classroom soaking up life by osmosis, if you will. It is truly amazing how the other children adapt to these children in the classroom. The other children actually fight over whose turn it is to help the student, whether it be helping with the books, or holding the door open. They become more tolerant of each other and are more helpful. They become used to seeing this little person in the wheelchair as no different from themselves. They talk to this individual and help him or her. What a wonderful world this would be if these kids would grow up and keep this feeling of tolerance in their adult life.

When these children are in the classroom, the teacher needs a teacher's aide. The teacher needs to acknowledge that the students are there and give them that special attention, but the teacher's aide has to do most of the work involved with the student, under the watchful eye of the special education teacher and therapist, who makes regular rounds of the rooms with her students.

While I credit the polio epidemic and drugs like thalidomide with helping the country think about educating our disabled young people, I also credit the Vietnam veterans for bringing the government backing and research to the programs of higher education and getting the legislation for us to use. Much of the "hardware" that the disabled use, has been perfected by and for the veterans, like bracing, streamlined wheelchairs, and hand controls used to drive the car. The VA has furnished many wheelchair accessible vans for the vets, complete with lifts and hand controls.

Mr. Phil Ross, readjustment counselor at the Vet Center in Cedar Rapids, agreed with me on the differences I described between the recently disabled and the individual like myself, who has come up through the system as a born disabled. The newly disabled have a before-and-after approach: before, I could walk and take care of myself and felt good about myself, now: after, I am confined to this misshapen body and feel helpless and useless. The disabled from birth have no flashback, no delusions. They have the preconceived attitude, put there by well-meaning adults, that they have a place in this world and it is not in a leadership role. Many times it isn't even in the follower's role. Most times, unfortunately, they weren't in the running at all.

Without the original chance to try our intelligence, so to speak, we lost ground before the battle began. Now, with the vets, we have some strong individuals in the forefront showing what they can do. These young men and women are the newly disabled. These are the ones who have already had their formal education, have come through the ranks of the educational system. I feel very strongly that I have seen both worlds. Having the good fortune of a strong family education ethic, I was able to get that good basic education. Unfortunately, though, great things were never expected of me. My mother felt that if I passed, or "got by," that was good enough.

Mr. Ross added that the Vietnam War left so many disabled young men and women, ironically, because of the capable medical personnel sent to the front lines and the quick evacuation methods; men and women lived when perhaps they shouldn't have and wouldn't have in earlier wars. With government backing and Congressional sympathies in their direction, money was no object when it came to inventiveness in the appliances created for these men. Much of the bracing and the new wheelchairs were invented through the military for the military. Some of these new wheelchairs can fold quickly and easily then stored in the back seat by the person in the chair. Years ago, when they were folded, they were too heavy and difficult to handle. They have also become narrower, and so easy to maneuver anywhere. The severely disabled have really advanced with the electronic chairs and chair lifts for vans. Much of this has also progressed through the military out of necessity, I'm sure, because the vets knew how to drive and knew about cars, so it wouldn't take long to get very inventive.

Part 4 of 1994 From Dependence to Independence

Sunday, March 25, 2012

1994 From Dependence to Independence (Part 2)

This second part of Mom's story contains some good details on the year she spent at the local Crippled Children Hospital and School. The story was likely written in 1994, for one of Mom's writing classes. The overall message of the story is including children with disabilities in regular classrooms. Part 1 is here.

Mentioned in this story is a visit the school received from Hall of Fame baseball pitcher and Cleveland Indian Bob Feller. The photo is from a 2010 trip to the Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter, Iowa.

The summer that I was to turn 13 and entered the eighth grade, I had surgery on both feet to correct a deformity that was still there from childhood. This could not be corrected earlier as any surgery done on my limbs too early in growth development would stop growth in that area. About this same time, the curvature in my spine had become more apparent, so my back was casted. This took most of the summer so when school started, I was still in a wheelchair and was unable to attend school because of all the stairs.

The school I finally attended that year was called The Crippled Children Hospital and School (CCHS). I stayed there during the week and came home on weekends. This was the first time away from home without any of my family. There were some kids there from across the state. Some from so far that they could only go home on holidays or long vacations. I met many interesting people there. I really had to sort out some feelings of my own. Never had I been put into a situation with kids so much worse off than myself physically. Part of me didn't want to be with them because then I felt like them, and I didn't want to feel like them. I wanted to feel "normal," whatever that was.

We did a number of interesting things at school, many of which I hadn't done before or since. We went bowling at a nearby bowling alley, we played wheelchair basketball, baseball and tennis. We learned to score all these games. We had a wheelchair square dance group, for which I was a substitute, cause by that time, I was no longer in a wheelchair. We had visits from famous people. One I remember was a visit from Bob Feller, a famous baseball pitcher, who gave encouragement and excitement to everyone there.

We had our regular classes in the morning. Here I feel that the school let me down. I do not feel that I was challenged academically. The pace was slow. Maybe it was just me as I was used to the fast pace of the regular kids. I was glad that I only went one year, so that I didn't fall too far behind my old classmates. Looking back, I did benefit from the exposure to all those new things. Like I said, it was the first time that I was really exposed to these "kinds" of kids that were far worse off physically than myself. Over the years, I have kept in touch with some of them and I still feel fortunate.

I remember many of these kids became very homesick. The rigorous exercise programs each student was involved in took its toll on the desire and the will to learn. Many of them came from households where they were waited on hand and foot by well-meaning families and not encouraged to do things on their own. The result was that the child came back from a vacation at home and all the exercises needed to be re-learned.

Don't get me wrong, these schools were certainly better than nothing; and since public schools were not built for wheelchairs, there had to be a compromise. The worst problem was that it segregated these kids. A whole generation of people grew up not needing or wanting to think of working with or socializing with disabled people. This is basically the generation that is running things today.

The emphasis has now focused on keeping the child at home. According to Lore Baur, who is both a parent of a disabled child and a teacher in the Iowa City School District with disabled children in her class, there are many exercise and education programs started in the home as early intervention, sometimes at a very early age. A particularly good agency here in this area is the Grantwood Area Education Agency. This agency helps both the parents and the child adjust to the situation. With this whole-family approach the child adjusts quite well to mainstreaming into the regular classroom. He or she can then pick up as much as possible from the other kids. Each child has his or her own aid who helps in the classroom with the use of picture boards, with the fine motor skills, or whatever is needed for that particular child. When extra help is needed, he or she gets it from another source; the special teachers who make regular rounds of the classrooms where their students are. There are regular physical therapy sessions, many of which involve the parents. With this whole-family approach most students do quite well. The child is passed from grade to grade with the use of IEP (Individual Evaluation Profile). Here everyone involved with the child's education, therapists, aides, teachers, parents, etc., meet to evaluate the child's growth.

Along with this shift of the pendulum is the new attitude of the educators. When I first started school, it was only expected that I learn to read and write. That was not much for a goal. So when they started the special schools, the educators said to keep the disabled kids separate so they wouldn't slow everyone down. This attitude was said quite strongly in a fairly recent article titled, "Where We Stand," by Mr. Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in the New York Times. He said "It is too disruptive to have these kids in the classroom." (14A)

A frequent aim of "inclusion" or "mainstreaming" advocates is that the student with disabilities be treated and perceived as a "member" of the general education class rather than as a "visitor" (Least Restrictive 1). Not only can they keep up academically, but many times they are a good influence on the rest of the kids. With many of the physical barriers now being corrected a lot of these kids get along quite well on their own.

Kids that are able to learn but unable to go to public schools due to physical access - stairs, wider doors, places to sit, unsafe furniture, or due to text books that a blind person can't read or extra help needed for a deaf or hard of hearing student - are being barred from many schools. I believe this can be traced back to the early 1900s, when no one bothered to educate these kids. At that time, it was considered a curse to have such a child and they were hidden from the public either in the home or in an institution.

If a family could afford it, a private tutor could be hired and progress was often seen, as in the well known case of Helen Keller. Most often this kind of thing was never attempted. If you couldn't walk, it was assumed that you couldn't see, hear, or talk either, much less have a brain and be able to think. All of these assumptions are untrue, of course, as has been proven time and time again - with the proper education.

Part three of 1994 From Dependence to Independence

Saturday, March 24, 2012

1994 From Dependence to Independence (Part 1)

As I get deeper into Mom's stories, some answer questions raised in earlier stories. This is one of them. In the earlier posted "Connie's World," Mom uses names of her family and herself to tell a story very similar to her own.

This paper carries a direct recounting of Mom's youth, including why the first day of second grade, as depicted in the "Connie's World" story, was so important in Mom's actual life: that year, she got her new braces and crutches.

This story is undated, but it appears to have been written for one of her 1990s writing classes, likely 1994. Mom also uses the same title as an earlier posted story, From Dependence to Independence.

The photo shows Mom in her braces about the age she would have been in second grade. The significance of the dress is not recorded on the photo.

From Dependence to Independence

When I was a little girl, I was unable to walk. I got around the house by crawling or with a small walker. Since I was the youngest of a large family, my brothers or sisters would carry me. Then I was old enough to go to school. I couldn't crawl in school. Yet I wanted to go to school. The year was 1949. No one thought much about teaching kids like me. I was already bright as we played "school" with my sisters showing me the letters. My mother just decided to send me to school. My brother carried me every day to the first grade. Boy, did I feel important. I got along fine in school.

In the middle of the first year, though, Mom heard of this new doctor, Robert Van DeMark. He worked in a nearby town and was doing some wonderful things with disabled kids. We were in the middle of the polio epidemic. This was the dreaded crippling disease that struck many children and adults. Many died and many more were crippled for life. Mine was a birth defect, but everyone assumed that I had polio as there were so many. Dr. Van DeMark responded to the need, I guess, that was really created by this epidemic. He cared very deeply for his patients; many of which were quite young.

The doctor immediately casted both legs and, after a few months, I had full-length leg braces. All of this caused me to miss a good deal of school the first year. I still managed to keep up, and by the beginning of the second grade, I was able to walk with the aid of these braces and crutches. They were ugly, but they worked. Oh, how I longed to wear pretty shoes. But I was happy with at least some shoes, and I was able to walk.

The biggest problem was that the building was so difficult to get into. There was no way I could handle the stairs, which were really frightening to me. I would have loved to have some of the schools that Iowa City has today. Near as I can find out, my hometown school still has all the steps.

My mother, who never had any doubt that I could learn, assumed all along that I could go to school. I give her a lot of credit for that. She could have sheltered me from the difficult world. Not that it would have done any good, as you can't be sheltered. The world is here and we must learn to live in it and let others live in it, too, and as easily as possible.

My brothers and sisters, too, played a large role in this. They never treated me as "different" and took me along with them so I could really see the world. They made me feel important. The teachers also made me feel good. Since this was a small school, the class was very close-knit. We only had 18 kids in our grade. This number increased a little in later grades. There were always two grades in a room. For example, first and second grade in the same room. So every other year my sister, Karon, was in my room with me. It always gave me a little confidence knowing that she was there.

I asked my older sisters and brother, Dolores, Bernice, and Melvin, if there were conversations of objections to my attending school. They can remember none. One of my classmate's mom, Mildred Klein, also could not remember any problems connected to my attending school. Sister Mary Pius, my first and second grade teacher, recently wrote in a letter, "We probably needed you more than you needed us. For you made us go out of ourselves to help you when needed." There were always many volunteers to help with me. She said she had a red wagon to pull me at recess, otherwise someone stayed inside with me. Small wheelchairs were unheard of at the time.

Many changes have occurred in the education of disabled children and adults, the most important of which is the recognition that disabled people can be educated, and can fit into society as responsible adults and shed the stereotype of the helpless invalid in a wheelchair.

Small children who also had polio about this same time, had nowhere to go to school. The few who could get around on their own probably went to public schools. My guess is that many stayed home or were put into homes for retarded children. At some point in time, whether it was due to legislation or what, the idea was brought forward to have special schools. In South Dakota, ours opened in the early 50s. I was established in my school setting, so my parents were not anxious to send me to this "special school." They would also have to pay my tuition to attend this school as well as transportation to and from, as my father had his name on some land and I didn't have polio, so we were not eligible for aid. It didn't matter that he had 13 other kids to support.

Go to Part 2

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Green Light (Part 3)

The conclusion to Mom's story about how she learned to drive. Here, she writes of the road test and her first days as a driver. She also writes of what it really means to be a driver, after so many years depending on others to get around. This has to be one of my favorite stories from Mom.

The first photo is of Mom in the driver's seat in May 1973, shortly after she learned to drive. The second photo is of Mom and her dog Sally. She references Sally in this third and final part of her story. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

The Green Light (Part 3)

The highway patrolman got into my car for the road test. He hadn't said much. This made me uneasy, and I knew I needed to break this silence. Generally, talking and making jokes relaxes me. I started the car and said, "I hope you realize, I've only been driving this thing a week."

He laughed a little and I was "in." I explained the control briefly and proceeded to give him a ride he'll never forget. We drove downtown, then he told me to pull up beside this car and parallel park. I took a look at the space and asked "if I would fit." I parallel parked beautifully, then for the first time. The patrolman said, "I just wanted to see what you would say."

After that little feat, I felt so cocky that I proceeded to drive through a stop sign. I did slow down; I just didn't stop completely. When I realized it, it was too late. I asked him if I deserved a ticket for that? He said, "not this time."

As we drove back up to the Armory, he said it gave him as much pleasure to pass me, as it gave me to pass. I'm not sure about that as I was pretty high on Cloud #9. When I returned to work I wanted to run through the halls shouting, "I did it, I did it!"

That night I soloed. It is completely different when you are in the car alone. No one is telling you where to turn, where to stop, if you're in the right lane. I was quite "shook up" after that first ride. In fact, I didn't sleep very well that night.

I told myself I was driving to work the next morning. After parking the car in my dreams all night, actually doing it was a cinch. I had the strange feeling that everyone was looking at me and criticizing me in their mind. I know it was silly, as I'm sure no one even noticed. I felt I had to be perfect in every way, even as far as to check the lines on the parking area to make sure I was in my space.

Every night that week I went somewhere. Sometimes alone, sometimes with a friend. I wanted to take everyone for a ride, especially the people who gave me rides before. I attended a couple of social events. At one in particular, I was tired and wanted to leave. I remember thinking, "I wish someone would take me home." Then I started laughing. I drove, I could leave when I wanted.

The first weekend after I got my license, I drove to my sister's home. It is a 126 mile trip. I gained a lot of confidence on that trip. I followed the map on unfamiliar roads. My dog sat on the floor on the other side of the car. Every once in a while she would look up at me as though I was crazy. At one point, I passed a car. I honked the horn and my dog barked. I jumped and was lucky not to run into the ditch.

On the trip back, I missed a turn off. Before I knew it, I was driving down the middle of a large, unfamiliar town. I was on a one-way street, so I couldn't turn around. I must have driven around this town for 30 or 45 minutes. At one point, I pulled into a gas station to ask for directions, it was closed. I had a great feeling of accomplishment at finding my own way out of that situation.

The only problem which I have encountered in driving is using the turn signal in changing lanes. Since both hands are occupied at the time it is hard to put on the signal and discontinue it. I'm sure I can overcome this little problem. I did get a mirror on the right side of the car to aid me in viewing the right lane of traffic. This helps a great deal.

The next week I did some errands. Errands that usually I had to ask someone else to do. One night I bought groceries, one night I shopped at K-Mart, and one night I went to the laundromat. The best status symbol, however, is going to a drive-in bank. This is something I have never done.

Another big asset of driving is when you try to cash a check. Usually the clerk will ask for a driver's license for identification. It is difficult to say that you don't have one. Now it is fun to pull it out.

Driving a car means a lot to anyone. For someone like me, to whom transportation is the ultimate problem for job or pleasure, it means much more. Total Independence!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Green Light (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of Mom's story about how she learned to drive at the age of 28, fulfilling a long-held dream of hers. Part 1 is here.

I always took it as a given that Mom drove, and that I would drive. I did so as soon as I got old enough. I don't ever recall hearing Mom tell the story about how she learned to drive, or even thinking there was a time when she didn't drive.

In this part, Mom writes of taking her driving lessons with her instructor, and getting ready for her road test. Mom wrote this story in the early 1970s, probably shortly after she learned to drive. The story is undated, but she uses her maiden name, placing it before 1975.

Mom with her new car in May 1973.

The Green Light (Part 2)

My brother-in-law installed the controls and used them on a road test. The control works with the left hand. You push down for the accelerator and push forward for the break, then steer with the right hand. I must add that this control can be set for either side, if you are left handed, or if one hand is stronger. My brother-in-law took me to a parking lot and put me behind the wheel. It's so different, when you are in charge. You are to blame for whatever happens. It gives you a feeling of power, as though you're master and can do anything.

For me, it was a ten-year dream come true! Now there was no limit to what I could do. With all this was a feeling of fear. Up until now I had an excuse for not doing certain things. Now there's no excuse, no turning back. This was definitely the crossing of a bridge. It was up to me.

That afternoon, with my brother-in-law as coach, I drove the car home. My sister was having a nervous breakdown in the back seat. Things always look worse in the back seat. When I parked it, I had the strangest feeling. As though everyone was watching me and asking, "Who in the world does she think she is?"

My first formal lesson came the next night after work. I explained to the instructor how the control worked. He was impressed and he tried them. He took me to a school parking lot, that was hilly and made for practice driving. I got the feel of turning on the hills. We drove to a residential area and made right turns and left turns, up hills and down hills.

In following lessons, I did a lot of driving in residential areas, on the main streets, and on open road. I even drove out on the interstate. Then we started to parallel park. Wow! Trying to parallel park with one hand occupied with the break/accelerator and one hand steering, then trying to turn around to see where I'm backing was rough.That lesson was depressing.

Most of the time he said I was doing well. I remember one time I was turning a sharp corner. I was concentrating so hard on the steering, I forgot the left hand was pressing the accelerator instead of the break. A case of doing two different things at once. No harm done, just a few gray hairs for the teacher.

Another time I came up a steep hill with a train crossing on the top. I stopped, of course, and waited for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, a small foreign car pulled up behind me. Since we were not in a normal driver's education car with a brake for the teacher, it was up to me. Fortunately my car didn't roll back and everything was fine. A few more gray hairs for the teacher.

The big day came exactly one week after I started formal lessons. We drove down to the Armory for my license. My stomach was all in knots as it was every time I thought about driving. Usually the knots left me as soon as I got started. As luck would have it, today my teacher was late. With each passing minute, I started chewing my nails. I hadn't done that in years. When he finally arrived, I really was "up tight." So we drove a bit to relax.

Go to Part 3: The road test

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Green Light (Part 1)

This has to be one of the more fascinating stories of Mom's. It's the story of Mom getting her first car and learning to drive. It's also about just how great it was for her to finally be able to go where she wanted.

Mom wrote the story shortly after the events occurred. It's undated, but she put her Iowa address on it, and used her maiden name. That places the story up until 1975, when she married Dad.

The photo is of Mom in the driver's seat in 1973, shortly after she got her license. On the back, Mom wrote the photo was taken in Belle Fourche, SD that May, upon departure for Montana.

The Green Light

Remember the pride you had
when you bought your first car? You read and re-read the purchase agreement. You check it often, just to make sure it's still there. It's all you talk about with friends.

I bought my first car when I was 28 years old. I didn't know how to drive. As I'm handicapped, I needed the car in order to learn to drive. I wear full-length leg braces and walk with the aid of crutches. I didn't consider myself limited, however, because it hasn't stopped me from doing nearly anything. The thing that stops me is the lack of funds. Special equipment for the handicapped is expensive. There's little financial aid without pleading complete poverty. It's possible to get aid for education; but when it comes to something material, and just as important, there isn't much help.

After saving and scrimping for the down payment, my big day came. This was a goal for years, and I wasn't waiting any longer than absolutely necessary. What a feeling of independence! To know I can go to the store whenever I want.

The first step was to find a car I could afford. For me, it was a year-old Chevrolet. I fell in love with it on sight. It was "me!" The price sounded high for my budget, but you know the old adage, "If you want something bad enough..." I really wanted that car.

Next, was to get the financing. I walked into the bank "scared to death." It was up to them now. The man to talk to was on the telephone. After what seemed like hours (it was 15 minutes) he asked me to sit down. I stated my request for the three-year loan on this car. He looked at the sheet of paper with the car description I'd given him and looked at me.

"You know we don't usually lend money for three years on a used car?" he said.

I felt my dream slip a little. I regained my courage and looked him straight in the eyes and said, "Yes, but you will, won't you?"

He shuffled a few papers, glanced at my banking record, asked a few more questions, then he said, "Well, I think we can help you out with this."

Right then I had the money. When people do business with someone like me, I think, sometimes they feel guilty. They're thankful that it's not them, so they are a little more lenient. I like to think of it as my "female charm." In reality, the handicapped in general need to try harder because life is more difficult to them.

When I told someone that I planned to buy a car, they looked at me in disbelief. They never said I was crazy, but I could tell that is what they thought.

Getting someone to give me driving lessons required many telephone calls. I finally found a driver's education teacher who was "willing to try." Since I have little use of my legs, I had to purchase some hand controls. A girl friend in a wheelchair gave me the address of a company called Handicaps, Incorporated in Inglewood, Colorado. They have a large line of hand controls, including controls for a quadriplegic (limited use of all four limbs). I only need to replace the foot controls. Along with the catalog was the address of a dealer in my home state. I telephoned them and within a week I had the controls. This was an added expense. There is much ignorance on the subject of the handicapped and what is involved. Even the local rehabilitation office couldn't be much help.

Go to Part 2 of The Green Light

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Walking and the Circus

These are three shorter assignments from Mom's spring 1992 writing class. The first two, a paragraph each, seemed too short to post alone, so I've included them here.

The two paragraphs deal with walking, either Mom walking to her car over a sky walk from work, or simply people walking. The third, longer entry, deals with more than simple walking, it deals with the circus.

The photo is of Mom walking with me on a family trip to Chicago in 1985.

Walking across the sky walk, after the day's work is done, I pause a few minutes to view the world below. The cars and trucks zooming under me give me the feeling they will hit me, pigeons darting in and out of the ramp, snow settling gently on the bus stop shelter - these things make a dull walk to the car more interesting and I'm grateful to be safe and dry under the protected roof.
Connie, April 7, 1992

Walking is so normal for most people. For some of us, who are handicapped in some manner, it can be very difficult. Whatever the reason, disease, an accident, a birth defect - mastering the mechanics of plain walking may be impossible. There are many aides to help the handicapped individual to walk: crutches of all kinds are available; walkers also help get a newly handicapped individual get started; braces of all types suit individual needs. Designing artificial limbs is an exact science. An amputee who has a properly fitted limb can walk so well you may not even realize he has one. Yes, simple walking can be difficult for some people.
Connie, March 31, 1992

There is nothing like a circus to bring out the child in all of us. The wide eyes staring at the acrobat flying high on the trapeze, the animals growling in their cages, and the clowns making everyone laugh - every act is wonderfully entertaining.

First in the center ring are the acrobats in their colorful costumes, flying high from swing to swing. The catches are unbelievable and without a net. Some acrobats are on the ground, jumping on the trampoline doing unique jumps and somersaults. A high-wire walker also tries to juggle. Amazing how they can stay up there. Their balance is perfect, their nerves superb, their courage unmatched. The excitement of it all!

Next, the animals prance into the ring. A beautiful girl in her bright, royal-like costume rides high on the huge elephant with a baby elephant alongside. The huge animal is ever so gentle with the young lady, lifting her high above his head like she is a toothpick. The big cats take center stage in a round cage. The lovely trainer cracks her whip, talking to her cats. They jump through hoops on command, climbing back on their pedestals. The trained horses run around the ring with a young lady balancing on top of the horse. She is standing, even walking on the horse's back. The smaller animals are cutest, as the dogs in their little outfits are put through their paces, climbing ladders, jumping through hoops, dancing on their hind legs. What entertaining and lasting images.

Finally, the clowns of all kinds are intertwined into the program. The bum comes out in his old car as it breaks down in front of the stands. As it spits and sputters, he overreacts to noises, pulling out a grease rag, that never ends, to fix it. It is amazing what is hidden in the car. Then a group of clowns fight and carry on, pulling off wigs, clothes, makeup. Their antics make everyone laugh.

A circus is a must for children of all ages to attend several times in life. It is a performance by talented people who put their "all" into each performance. I admire these people who live in the world of the circus.
Connie, Feb. 16, 1992

Monday, March 19, 2012

This Is All So Exciting

This story was written for Mom's spring 1992 writing class. It's a simple conversation between two old friends who haven't seen each other in a long time.

The photo is of Mom in her office about 1994.

"Hi Jane!" said Mary. "Gosh I haven't seen you in a long time! Where have you been?"

"I've been working both at work and at home. You know the usual," replied Jane in a rather tired tone.

"I've been shopping all day; do you have time to sit for a minute and have coffee?" Mary asked.

"Sure, why not?" agreed Jane.

They both headed toward the delicatessen. Jane stood tall and slim in her heels, dressed in a pale blue suit with a paisley print blouse, jewelry to match, her hair beautifully styled as though she just stepped out of a salon. She looked every bit the business woman, a great advertisement for the clothing store she managed, "For the Business Woman."

Mary, on the other hand, had quit her full-time career in the bank to become a housewife and have children. She was shorter and quite a bit heavier than Jane. She wore washed-out blue jeans, a sweatshirt, and tennis shoes. Her hair was tied in a make-shift pony tail - the way you look when you don't want to run into anyone you know - but you always do.

"Jane, you look so nice. Are you still at the store?" Mary asked as she paid for her coffee at the counter, thinking about how awful she looks compared to Jane.

"Yes, Mary, I've been promoted to manager. It is a very big job with a lot of stress. Sometimes I put in 10 or 12-hour days. Are you working?"

"No, I do some volunteer work occasionally at the kids' school, but John doesn't want me to work. He feels it is up to him to 'bring home the bacon.' Sometimes I feel so alone, like something is missing. I want to meet people, feel useful. I want to know I can handle work and family. I envy you so much."

"That's funny, Mary, because I envy you for all the time you are able to spend with your family. It is too bad we can't switch places for a while. It was good for both of us to run into each other. Guess maybe I will slow down a bit and spend more time at home. Maybe if I hire an assistant it will take some pressure off of me. Guess it's called 'delegating.'"

"Jane, do you have a job for me? I was in sales before John and I were married." Mary inquired hopefully. "I do usually look better than this."

"Oh, Mary! Come by the store tomorrow and we can talk about it. This is so exciting! To have the two of us together again after all these years. I'd better get back. I'll see you tomorrow around 9 a.m. OK." Jane grabbed Mary's hand and pulled her over and hugged her.

Mary sat there for a minute thinking about the past few minutes; the excitement rose in her chest. She wondered what John would say. Oh well, no matter; she needed this, she needed to be with people. Oh my, she thought, I need to go to the beauty salon and get my hair done! What will I wear? This is all so exciting.

Connie, April 7, 1992

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday at the Golden Corral

One of Mom's stories written for her writing classes. This one is based on a trip to the local Golden Corral after church on a Sunday, about the different people there. I remember we often went to the Golden Corral and the local Bruegger's or Village Inn.

The photo is of Mom at another local restaurant, for Mother's Day 2005. I believe by then the Golden Corral was gone.

It's Sunday morning after church and we are all dressed up. Time to go out to lunch. We usually plan on going to the Golden Corral, a restaurant where anyone can feel comfortable: families with small or grown children, groups of students out for an inexpensive meal, the single person who doesn't want to cook alone, and the group of senior citizens who want the company.

Glancing around the room, I see a family with small children sitting in front next to the salad bar. They feel confident their toddlers will be welcome, as the hostess immediately gets a high chair or toddler chair to help. They can choose food from the salad bar for their toddlers, or the children's menu has nutritious meals with smaller proportions for the small fry. A spilled glass of milk, and the waitress is there wiping it up, ready with a new glass.

Behind the salad bar are the students, boys and girls not necessarily in couples, with their sweatshirts naming several different colleges, their blue jeans frayed with holes in the knees, to keep up with the latest fashion. The girls get lo-cal salads; boys heap their plates with everything. They engage in idle, but interesting conversation, giggling at appropriate times.

Alone at a small table sits a nice looking gentleman, obviously living alone, not wanting to cook. Or, maybe his wife is gone for the weekend and he didn't want to be alone. He orders a steak, probably his only meal for the day.

Finally, scanning the room, I see at one large table are several senior citizens showing off new outfits, enjoying each other's company. I recognize one of them from a local resident home. The conversations are light as they are up and down to the salad bar with a good-looking variety of foods.

Whatever your reasons for eating out, a restaurant like the Golden Corral will feel comfortable without pressure. The homey atmosphere and good food aid in proper digestion. The attentive waitress keeping your glass filled with drink and a watchful eye for the other small ways to help. Maybe it is just a smile or a clean plate or just getting rid of all the dirty plates accumulated at your table. Yes, the Golden Corral is a comfortable inexpensive place to eat.

Connie, March 31, 1992

Saturday, March 17, 2012

From Dependence to Independence (Part 2)

This is the second half of Mom's paper "From Dependence to Independence." Part 1 is here. It's also along the same lines as Mom's "Is This Your Town?" paper. Both are from the early 1970s and touch on the problems someone with a disability faced getting around then.

In this part, Mom talks about traveling with a disability. The photo is of Mom and us traveling in Wall, S.D. in 1980.

What about the wheelchair vacationer? What is the best way to travel? By car? If you overcome the parking problem you have it made. Oh yes, you have to be sure that motel or hotel you stop at overnight has few steps and better check that restroom. You know from experience that most restrooms have doors much too small for easy access. Better check your favorite restaurant. Can you get around in there without too much difficulty?

You might as well forget about traveling by bus. An airplane is difficult, but not impossible in the larger airports with the walk-on ramps, etc. Most airlines do all they can to help you. Airplane travel is much more expensive, however.

Have you considered your favorite vacation spot or tourist attraction? Will you be able to see it, or will you be barred at the doorway? A good example is the flights of steps approaching our nation's Capitol Building.

While we are talking about recreation, consider your hometown theater. In a wheelchair, where would you sit? Aisle seating is prohibited because it is a fire hazard. All too often you end up sitting way up front. How simple it would be to have a few removable seats in the center isle, so your wheelchair can slip easily in place with your friends sitting next to you.

There are many handicapped housewives. Have you ever tried washing dishes from a sitting position? Usually the sink and cupboards are much too high. It is difficult to reach that back burner or into that oven with its door opening to the front.

A few common obstacles that the handicapped run into every day are: drinking fountains too high, restrooms too small, doors of stores and public buildings much too heavy (revolving doors are impossible), floors too slick for the one on crutches, displays of merchandise either in the aisles or out of reach. All common things that the able-bodied person never thinks about; but are a hazard to the handicapped.

What about that telephone booth so common to all? How simple it would be if at the end of the row of booths, a phone was mounted on a table? You would be surprised to see how many people would use this one, as opposed to crawling into a booth.

I am not trying to solve all the problems the handicapped face. Nor am I asking for any sympathy. All I want to do is advise and further educate the "normal" public to the many problems and possible solutions for the various handicapped public. We want independence, to be able to carry on our lives in a normal fashion. To make the public aware that a problem exists is half the battle.

Try this little experiment. Walk into a room and imagine that you are blind. What problems would you encounter? If you were deaf, or in a wheelchair, or on crutches? Try the same experiment outside on the street. Make a list and no matter how long your list, I am sure there will be many you might miss.

The building barrier problem could be solved easily on the drawing board, and would not cost the taxpayer any more in the construction. I propose that these plans be reviewed by an "expert." That is, one who lives with these problems every day. Who is in a better position to know the problem of a wheelchair traveler than the person who is one?

You may think this problem does not apply to you. The fact is, almost every American will have a handicap of one kind or other in their life, that may be temporary or permanent. Be a barrier-conscious citizen. After all, who knows what is in your future.

Friday, March 16, 2012

From Dependence to Independence (Part 1)

This paper is along the lines of Mom's Is This Your Town? story. In both, Mom points out the difficulties of life with a disability in the early 1970s. The story is undated, but, as it is signed with Mom's maiden name, that would place it before 1975.

One of the barriers Mom talks about is finding a suitable job, one that was accessible. The photo is of Mom in 2009 at her retirement party, after nearly four decades at the job she found, the one that brought her to Iowa.

From Dependence to Independence

Freedom from Barriers

Imagine you are confined to a wheelchair! You wish to enter a store with only a few steps in front. It might as well be a brick wall, as far as you're concerned. That store is closed to you. Or how about making that quick telephone call from a phone booth. Forget it! You will never fit. Or how about viewing your favorite actor in the local theater with your friends. Unless you are able to slip into a theater seat, this you can also forget.

Who are shut-ins? Most people would define shut-in as someone who is shut in, unable to go out without assistance. Why is he shut in? As a rule, he is shut-in because of "environmental barriers."

Environmental barriers are those physical obstacles in your environment which prevent the handicapped person from conducting his life in a normal fashion. It is ironic that most of these barriers were constructed by man himself.

The barrier that may come to your mind first, of course, is steps. Even a small four-inch step, such as a street curb, is impossible for the person in an electronic wheelchair. The curb is difficult for someone in an ordinary wheelchair and a definite hazard for the person on crutches or for the person who is blind.

A flight of stairs is impossible for even the most agile chair traveler to climb alone. Elevators and ramps are the best invention for the handicapped. All too often, however, they are hidden in some obscure corner with no signs of how to get there or even if there is one. How about the blind elevator traveler? Have you ever wondered how he can tell what floor he is on? How easy it would be if the numbers were raised on the buttons, or if a bell would ring the floor number. A simple idea? Then why isn't it done more often?

Of all public buildings, schools are the biggest offenders of the barrier problem. All too often, a small handicapped child has to be "shipped off" to some special school because his neighborhood school has too many barriers. Almost 60 percent of the handicapped children now in special schools could attend public schools. This would be a great saving for the taxpayer who pays the support of state schools. It is not good for the child to be separated from his friends and family. He has to feel a part of his neighborhood.

Consider for a moment the "amateur" handicapped. The one who, by an accident or whatever, has temporarily been confined to a wheelchair or crutches. These "amateurs" usually have a harder time as they do not qualify for the special schools. Many times they end up repeating a grade because of absence.

There are some colleges and universities finally getting the idea and building campuses barrier free. Consequently, there are many handicapped students enrolled in these colleges. Ramps replace entrance steps and elevators are seen in obvious places. Wider doors and lots of maneuvering room are common. The able-bodied student does not mind the innovations. In fact, it has been proved that many accidents are prevented when ramps are used instead of steps.

The job opportunities for the handicapped are greatly limited because of these barriers. They not only have to find the right position, they also have to find that position in an easily accessible building.

Now comes perhaps the biggest barrier, that of transportation. Public transportation, such as a transit bus, is impossible for the wheelchair traveler and difficult for the person on crutches. A good invention would be a hoist of some type in the rear for easy access, which could be available for use by the elderly.

If you are rich, of course, you can buy a car with your own hand controls, or take a cab. With a car of your own, you still have a problem of a place to park. You have to get close enough to your job. Then you have to be dexterous enough to unload your own chair and get into it. Then there is the inevitable curb to contend with.

Go to Part 2

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Family Stories (Part 6) Gary, Karon and Mickey

These are the final three siblings, Gary, Karen and Mickey. Mom is in there, too, as No. 13. But she skipped over herself, writing she would return to herself later. Mom also left quick notes at the end of Gary and Mickey's stories, suggesting she wanted to return to those stories, as well.

Of note here, I love the story about Gary and his wife Jo getting a lawn mower and getting hand controls on it so Mom could operate it.

The larger photo is of Mom's brother Nick and sister Dard, then Mom, and sisters Mickey and Karon. The tall photo is of Mom, Gary and Mickey.

(Sis and Vern | Loren and Bernice | Bud and Elmer | Hun and Nick | Terry and Dard)

We come now to Gary. He can also be Greg or Pike. He was quite handsome and could easily look like James Dean. ... For some reason, Dad watched Greg more then the other boys. Terry was still a few years older, so maybe Dad assume he had sense. Around town, he and Terry were called "Shep." I don't know why, but it made my mother very angry. If anyone called on the phone for Shep, she would say "there is no one by that name here" and hang up. That is the only time that I ever heard her hang up on anyone.

Terry got his girlfriend, Sharon, so I suppose Dad thought he was getting some sense. Then Greg started bringing this girl out to our house. Her name was Josephine, or Jo for short. She was fun. After a while, she even managed to convert Dad. Then Greg and Jo would often come out on Sunday and help us with things around the house. Moving furniture or fixing the lawn mower or mowing the lawn. With Dad's permission, he even got a riding lawn mower and hand controls put in. She showed me how to drive it. This was fun. This was the first time I ever drove anything. By this time, I was home alone with Dad. So I welcomed anytime anyone came.

Greg did a lot of road construction. In the winter, he spent time cleaning the machines in the shop, which wasn't very far from us. So when Mom was still alive, she asked him to drive out for a big lunch. We have big dinners (lunch) on the farm. So the next year, she was gone, so I asked him. It really broke up the day nice. It helped me more than him.

Las Vegas.

Then came Karon. She is a year and a half older than me, so in school we were in the same classroom every other year. While we grew up, she worked in the fields driving tractor. When she was little, she played with Mickey and I. She never seemed to be on the same plain with us. Like I said, she was outside a lot and as the top ones left, we moved to this small house, which connected property with brother Loren.

This was nice as I finally had my own room that I can get to easily. The house had two bedrooms on the main floor, so I got one. Karon and Mickey were upstairs.

Karon loved music. She dreamed of being a writer for country music stars. She played guitar and could sing. Her dream took her to Nashville. So of course Mickey went along. We all graduated high school by now. I stayed back. I knew Mom wouldn't want me to go.

I am next, so I will do that later.

Mickey is next. She is 2 years younger than I. When we were little, we played together. When you live on a farm, you don't have neighbors close by to play with.

I remember one time we were playing doctor, with our dolls in the machine shed. We decided to actually give the dolls a sore then we would heal them. I say "we," I think it was Mickey. I'm sure she would say the opposite. When Mom saw the dolls, to say the least, she was upset. I don't remember that she ever scolded us, the look was enough.

Then - old stove in grove - farm in grove - boys making machinery

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Family Stories (Part 5) Terry and Dard

Mom's ninth and tenth siblings were Terry and Dard. Mom was close to both. We often stayed at Dard's on our family trips to South Dakota. My wife, father and I also stayed at Dard's after Mom's passing.

In her story about Terry, Mom writes about him taking her and her sisters places, including to concerts in Sioux Falls. We were also fortunate that Terry, whose son works for a local funeral home in South Dakota, could also take Mom on her final trip home.

The photo is of fitting her niece Brenda's dress. Brenda is one of Dard's daughters. Mom mentions this dress in writing about Dard.

(Sis and Vern | Loren and Bernice | Bud and Elmer | Hun and Nick | Greg, Karon and Mickey)

Terry comes next. He was always good to us. Some of the brothers only talked to big people, but Terry talked to us all. Sometimes, when there was a good country concert in nearby big city Sioux Falls, he would take us with him. Us usually meant Karon, myself and Mickey. Of course, Terry's girlfriend was along. Another perk was, because I was with him as "the little handicapped girl," we got in first and were able to get right up in front. I was about 12 years old and was short, but Terry could still carry me.

One time Terry took us to the fair. I got real tired walking there. He carried me part of the time. We all road on a Ferris wheel. I left my heart and stomach on top. ...

Terry married his girlfriend and they have now celebrated their 50th anniversary. Eight of my family have celebrated this golden anniversary.

Next came "Vera," who we call Dard. The story goes that mom wanted to name her Darla. So legally she is Vera, but to us, she is Dard. She had this naturally curly hair. She wore it short. She was always on the tractor in the fields. We knew she would be married to a farmer.

Senior year in high school she was set to marry the youngest brother of Sis and Hun's husbands. This one was Bernard. They were to farm the home farm, as he was the youngest boy. Eventually, they moved into the big house. That is good as their family was growing.

She now has ten kids, six boys, four girls and lots of grandchildren.

She is very generous with all. She raises and cans lots of things and is generous with it. I often go home with lots of chickens frozen, canned tomatoes, etc. She used to can lots of beef and old chickens. That was good stuff.

I love to sit and talk with her and her husband. Her oldest daughter was in my wedding. I was privileged to make her wedding dress. That was fun. I am her Godmother, so we do have a good friendship. She can sew and I gave her many tips. She and her husband live on a farm in the middle of South Dakota. We see each other some and, of course, we write. She is into quilting small things. I don't know if she has done a big quilt. It is fun to talk to someone and realize that they know what you are talking about.

Connie, July 2011

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Family Stories (Part 4) Hun and Nick

Mom's stories about her sister Alice, or Hun, and brother Nick. Nick was deaf and I remember Mom always talking about learning sign language to communicate better with him. She even continued that after his passing in the 1980s.

The larger photo is of my aunt Peggy and Hun in Montana. The second photo is of Nick in 1953. Both photos are from the 1950s.
(Sis and Vern | Loren and Bernice | Bud and Elmer | Terry and Dard | Greg, Karon and Mickey)

Next we have Alice, who we call Hun. To put this in perspective, Hun is 10 years older than me.

Hun was around the most. She helped with housework and cooking. She used to tease us. I remember I am very afraid of spiders, and many of them came in the house. They would perch themselves on the wall. Every time I went to sleep, the first thing I would check the wall for spiders. ... One time, Hun had one by the leg and was holding it over the old cook stove as though to cook it. She said she was going to eat it and pretended to do it. Of course, we screamed as she dropped it in the fire.

Hun went to a two-year teacher's college and began teaching in Sioux Falls at the School for the Deaf and lived with Sis. That is how she met Joe, Sis's boyfriend Henry's brother. ... He was in the Army, so she hardly saw him. Love is funny.

Next came Nick. He was born deaf. He could neither hear, nor speak. Since Nick is 8 years older than I, I don't remember the discussions about when Mom and Dad found out when he was deaf.

I do remember one story about him when he was little, 5 maybe. He was lost. The corn in the field was about three-feet high and Mom was frantic. She knew that was where he was. Calling him did nothing. After several hours, someone finally found him sleeping in a corn row.

Mom was very protective of him. She worried for him to drive on the highway. The boys always took him along riding their bikes on the highway. They included him in on their games.

Nick attended school in Sioux Falls where Sis taught. She was there for eight years and made sure the Catholic kids got their instruction and to church.

From my own observance, it was an experience being with Nick. When you are a passenger in his car, you do not talk to him. One time an ambulance or police car sounded like it was coming at us. I couldn't tell Nick as it would upset his concentration. Anyway, it didn't hit us. Sometimes it would be better if we didn't hear it, then we wouldn't be so nervous.

He had a job at a manufacturing plant in Rapid City. He was foreman of his group. He got along well with the group. About this time, I started a year and a half school in Rapid City. That put him a block and half from me. So I had to remind him every week about picking me up and what time. I had to climb up stairs then get his attention.

Nick smoked cigarettes all the time, right down to the filter. I am not a smoker and this smelled bad.

There were only a certain number of the family that he would listen to. He listened to Peggy and Elmer and Dard. The smoking got to him eventually and he developed lung cancer. In the mid 80s at Christmas time, we lost him. The service was beautiful.

He was in with the deaf club in Rapid City. Someone signed the whole Mass. They all came to the lunch. It was too bad that our mother wasn't there. She would have loved to see us all grown up.

His boss from work and many of the people on his line at work came. His boss had only praise for him. He always stayed on task, as there wasn't any of the visiting.

Connie, July 2011

Monday, March 12, 2012

Family Stories (Part 3) Bud and Elmer

These are Mom's recollections on her fifth and sixth-oldest siblings, Bud and Elmer.

Her write-up on her brother Elmer has another version of that great story about how Elmer and his wife got together partially because of Mom. Bud's story has some new anecdotes about Mom seeing peacocks, Bud helping her ride a small horse.

The photo is of Bud and Elmer in the service in Japan in 1953. The photo was sent to Mom in a stack of photos by Elmer's wife Peggy last year. The photo is referenced in Mom's story about Bud.

(Sis and Vern | Loren and Bernice | Hun and Nick | Terry and Dard | Greg, Karon and Mickey)

Next comes Melvin, or "Bud." He would help Mom take me to my doctors appointments. He could carry me with no problem at all. I stayed at their house often. One time, when Bud was working with this trucking company, and lived inside the compound, I was so excited for us because his boss had peacocks on the property. We never seen peacocks up close.

Of all the boys, he was the one that visited with me. He always made me feel important. After he got the chance, he bought his farm. He had a small horse for his kids to ride. Well, he helped me ride the horse. I was scared to death. The horse would move unevenly, so it scared me.

Bud also gave me my first big truck ride. We drove down into the place to deliver a load of cattle. That was very interesting. I love to see how things get done.

Bud and his wife both love to dance. They love polkas, etc. It is fun to watch them dance. It gives you a felling of 'gosh, that looks like fun.' I love music so dancing would be wonderful. Well, if I can't do it, I can at least watch it.

Bud was in the service for a time. At that time, we had the draft, so the next brother Elmer was there at the same time. They met in Japan on R&R. They sent a picture home. They looked so handsome in their uniforms.

Bud came home shortly after that. Elmer stayed in Korea for several years.

Elmer was next. He was and still is quite a jokester. He worked in a lumber yard when he graduated high school. He drove a yellow Henry J car and it was bright. About this time, I was about 5 years old. I was still unable to walk. (more on that later). My aunt Noree, Mom's sister, thought I needed some pen pals. She put my name in the "Dakota Farmer" as a young lady who needed pen pals. It also appeared in the "Montana Farmer." I received letters, cards and pretty handkerchiefs from lots of people. My sister Alice recorded all the names in a small book. I still have the book, but not the cards, etc.

There was one card from a young girl from Montana. She was about the same age as Alice, so she started a correspondence. The two became friends.

It was summer and Alice talked Mom into letting her go out to meet her. I don't know how that happened or how she let them go. Alice, Elmer and Loren drove out to Big Horn, Montana, before Interstates. I have once driven out there and this is with Interstate driving. Her name was Peggy. She had red hair and lived on a ranch where the driveway was 5 miles long. It was truly a ranch log cabin. She lived with her dad and three younger brothers. All really good people.

She came back home with them. To make a long story short, Peggy fell in love with our family and she married Elmer. That was my version. I love her, we all love her. She stayed with us sometimes when Elmer was drafted. He was in Korea in the Army. He was close to the front lines. I didn't get much detail, as I was too "small."

We eventually met all of Peggy's family. Her dad was a jokester also, so he fit right in with Elmer. It was so fun to see the two of them together. I never got out to Montana until years later.

Elmer came home and Peggy and Elmer married in January, in Montana. They came home for a reception of our relatives. In South Dakota, you don't plan anything in the middle of winter. There was a huge blizzard, so only a few of Elmer's buddies came and they had a poker party. That is all I remember, I probably was sent to bed.

Elmer and Peggy moved several different places, including Iowa. They have eight children, many grandchildren. ...

They are both retired. Elmer has a "huge" garden and Peggy cans enough for all winter. With all his building experience, he had this real little house and he added on several times, including a very big living room with a real working fireplace and a huge master bedroom, remodeled the kids bedrooms, bunks built into the wall.

Connie, July 2011