17- 1965, Sept: Typing, Hurricane Betsy, Sibling Discord, Sound of Music, & Another Baby
I continue to share writings from my diary that I kept during my growing up years in the mid-1960s in Southwest Georgia. The stories prior to this take us through the winter, springtime and summer of 1965. As September kicked off, school had been in session only a couple of days. I was beginning my eighth grade year.
People mentioned in these diary entries: My aunts and uncles are from my mother’s side of the family. Adie is my brother, age 16. Laurie and Debby were my school classmates. Charles was a school friend (two years older, a tenth grader, age 15). Hal was a friend from Atlanta (had a huge crush on him at this point in my life). Other names appearing are identified in the entry itself or the commentary below. The small town where I grew up had a population of about 2,000.
“1 Sept 1965, I had a LOT of homework tonight. I’m taking typing as one of my courses. I have some kind of yucky bite on my elbow. Horrible! 2 Sept 1965, School went fine today. Mama, Daddy, and Adie are leaving for Lebanon, Tenn early in the morning. I’m spending the night with Aunt Gladys and Uncle Rody. 3 Sept 1965, I rode the school bus from Aunt Gladys’ house to school. I am back out here again tonight to spend the night. 4 Sept 1965, Saturday, Family returned home. We went grocery shopping. Miss Gertrude is here from Atlanta. I’m sad Hal didn’t come this time. 5 Sept 1965, I didn’t go to church. Went to Aunt Gladys and Uncle Rody. Aunt Mae Helen, Uncle Frank and family were there from Florida. We went from there to Columbus and ate supper and then back home.”
During my eighth grade school year I took standard courses for that age group: English, History, Science, Math, and PE. Typing was also offered for the first time to us eight graders. Our typing class was an after lunch activity. I recall the typing classroom was in a small building adjacent to the main schoolhouse. Ms. Adams was the teacher. I remember it being a fun class.
The typewriter pictured above belonged to my mother. She shared it with me, whenever I needed to practice typing at home. Whereas many homes in 2017 have computers as part of the equipment suite of home electronics, back in 1965 the typewriter was a staple in many homes. Students used them for typing research papers. Others wrote letters on them. The typewriter was for official correspondence of any type. That silver lever on the left side is the carriage return! A ribbon threads through spools and a strike of the keys cause the lettered spindle to strike the ribbon producing the inked letter on a sheet of paper. Writers wrote their stories on these machines!
I had now been riding the school bus from Lumpkin to Richland for a full year. On Sept 3rd, I had the added adventure, when I spent that night with my aunt and uncle of busing into the main high school, then changing busses and continuing the trek to Richland. My mom and dad had some further business in Tennessee as they finished tying up loose ends concerning my oldest brother’s move to Germany. See Story #16 1965 Aug.
When my parents returned from Tennessee, they were greeted with relatives from Florida who were in town for the weekend. My mom had a total of seven brothers. Two died much earlier. She had just lost my Uncle Percy the previous summer (1964). She was very fortunate to be able to see the remaining four fairly regularly. Uncle George and Uncle BC lived in Tennessee. Uncle Rody was just out in the country from our little town. Uncle Frank lived in Florida.
“6 Sept 1965, There are no Negro kids at school. We are going to have a Science test tomorrow. I really like the new Science teacher, Mr. McKinney. Debby wasn’t feeling well at all today at school. 7 Sept 1965, I made 100 on the Science test. I went to my music lesson as usual. Got a new book of sonatinas and scales. I think I’m going to make the basketball team again this year. 8 Sept 1965, Wednesday, Hurricane Betsy is heading up coast of Florida. Not sure what’s wrong with Laurie. She was acting kind of mean today at school. I wore a new skirt today and she kind of made fun of it.”
Many schools in the South had operated into the 1960's on a ‘freedom of choice’ status after the 1954 Supreme Court ruling. As a newly turned 13 year old, I wasn’t very tuned into what was happening politically and culturally nationwide. Certainly, I had a general awareness of change in the air. As kids, we were growing up with what was at the time the cultural norms. I take my note written on Sept 5, 1965 to mean that we might have expected some black students, but that none showed up. The terminology of using “Negro” to refer to the African American community was the standard of the time. Even national news used the same language.
Weather patterns from fifty years ago echo similar patterns for this part of the country to this day. Hurricanes and the risk of spawned tornadoes sent concern among locals. Most homes in that part of the country had basements or cellars of some sort which offered a safe place to hurdle in times of threatening weather.
The concluding notes from September 8 are a reminder of the joys of junior high. Making fun one moment and engaging in heartfelt sharings the next continued to be the norm.
“9 Sept 1965, Oh God. My daddy is acting like a man gone crazy. He is upset about the TV and tearing it apart. Had a very weird over-reaction to stuff. Kind of scary really. On a more normal note, my music lesson went really well today. 10 Sept 1965, Friday, I went to the softball game tonight up at the high school and I sold soft drinks at the concession stand. Charles bought his drink from me. He’s so darn cute.”
My father could be the most fun and had a great laugh. Serving the public as the postmaster for over 30 years, he interacted with our community daily. At home, he could be playful and fun-loving, but he had a trigger-ready temper that was hard to predict. Sometimes, it would seem to me as a young girl, that his blowing up over incidents or issues had no particular rhyme or reason. As I look back now, almost at the age myself that he was when he died, I see his ‘loss of control’ with some compassion. As a child, I didn’t have the history of his life, nor the understanding of life’s stresses and hurts, that often play into behaviors at any given moment. I’m not excusing it; I’m just still trying to understand it.
I think that his “tearing apart the TV” was literally throwing it out the back door, as best I recall. Seems like my brother and I perhaps stayed up later than we were supposed to catching some late night show on TV and my dad went into a rage. He stormed through the house, jerked up the table model TV and thrust it out the back door of our house. That’s pretty scary stuff.
“11 Sept 1965, Saturday, Adie said I acted like a (expletive !#!8&). Why is he being so hateful? I do wish Hal had come down with his mom last weekend. I really do think I love him. 12 Sept 1965, I had to go see Dr Pugh. He gave me a shot of penicillin. Then, we went to Columbus and saw the movie “The Sound of Music” starring Julie Andrews.”
Brothers and sisters, just like best friends, have their moments. We knew all too well the buttons to push. We were super close as siblings and had a lot of fun, but we had our moments. I can remember when I was a bit younger, that he literally scared me to death on one Saturday morning. He was limping around like some deranged mad-man and I flew out of the house, ran all the way to the post office where my parents worked. (about half a mile from my home) I told my mom and dad that he was scaring me to death with his antics. I wasn’t at all sure he was totally sane by the way he was acting. Of course, they kind of chuckled and assured me he was just playing around. He got into a bit of trouble for scaring little sister.
“13 Sept 1965, My older cousin is in the hospital about to have her second baby. Her other little daughter is spending the night with us. 14 Sept 1965, A new baby girl! I now hate our new Science teacher. I fell and hurt my wrist in PE class and he just yelled at me, “GET-UP.” 15 Sept 1965, I came home right after school. I was feeling terribly sick. Mama picked me up from school in Richland, so I didn’t have to ride the bus. I’m ‘on the ‘outs’ with Laurie again.”
1965 was a good year for new babies in our family. My niece was born in July and now a new little first cousin (once removed!) was in the family. Being 13 when these little ones were born, I enjoyed watching them grow through their childhoods and into adulthood. Some folks experience that with younger siblings, but since I was the youngest in my family, I looked at this as a very special treat.
Fickled — a common state for me as an adolescent. Love a teacher, hate a teacher; Love a friend and the next day hate fills the air. Love the parents one minute and the next they are totally annoying.