Elnora age ten

Elnora, at Age Ten
Samuetta was my sister, nonetheless, she was a little stuck up. All of the big girls slept upstairs in the attic. I can remember I went into her room one night as she prepared for bed. Samuetta had a habit of giving her hair one hundred stokes at bedtime. She sat at the makeup table giving her hair one hundred strokes. I sat at the edge of the bed and watched her. While I sat there, I felt a tiny, small, little bulge in my nostrils. I took my figure and pulled it out. Samuetta looked at me in the mirror and requested in no uncertain terms that I get out. She was my sister, but she did me wrong. I didn’t want to admit it, but cousins and my sisters were no friends of mine. I had to wait for a visit from out-of-town cousins before I had fun. Then there was only two. The others were either too young or too old. Life had a cruel side. It always had a way of playing tricks on me. I can remember not too many days later we had a great family picnic planned. Momma made this great bean casserole. Daddy was a little late getting home and I got hungry. There were several bean casseroles made so I ask Momma for a little taste. She had made a sample, therefore she asks me to eat that. When Daddy got through with his bath and getting dress, Momma and I loaded the car. Little Earl wanted to help but he was too little. I told him no! He would just get in my way. When we loaded the car, I felt a wee bit of wind pass. At the time, I was on the outside of the car so I figured it didn’t matter. We got in the car and I suppose the little fart followed me. Mom had also made deviled eggs. Papa said: Liz, those eggs are sure cutting up. Little Earl said: Mmmmm, I smell them too.

At that point, another fart slipped out but it was loud. Daddy said: Liz. I am going to turn off the air and let down the window. Momma said: I think I will let my window down too. At that moment, they both turn around and gave me an evil look. It was a windy day and Momma’s hair looked dreadful when we got there. Everybody just looked at Momma as she carried her casseroles to the table. Daddy carried the devil eggs. Aunt Mable asks: Did they stop for coffee on their way here? I knew she was referring to Momma’s hair being in a mess. I thought it would be a good idea to excuse her hair by saying YES. In that way no one would blame me. Momma looked in her purse for a mirror and comb to comb her hair, but she couldn’t find anything. Daddy knew what Momma was looking for. He said: We passed a service station about a half mile back. Come with me, Liz. I think I need a cup of coffee. Aunt Mable said: Good Lordly Walter, haven’t you had enough coffee for today? Momma whispered: Sister, you know how Walter loves his coffee. Aunt Kat replied: Yea, apparently there is evidence you love it too. At least we know of eight times you had some. Once you got lucky and had two cups at one time. Aunt Ruby and her new husband came to the picnic. Aunt Ruby declared: Go on girl! I think it is precious that Walter still loves your coffee after all of these years. Thank God Momma didn’t hear that. She had already gotten in the car with Daddy. Little Earl walked over and exclaimed: I like coffee. Give me some coffee! Uncle Paul shouted you are too young for coffee. I thought since Momma was always telling me you are a big girl now, I was. She would say you can do this or that. I thought surely I was old enough to drink coffee. I shouted I want some coffee. They all looked at me and burst out laughing.
Trent and Moses walked over and inquired as to what everybody was laughing about. Uncle Bob replied we are laughing about coffee. Elnora asks for some, but she is too young. Moses declared: We’re not. We like coffee! Uncle Bob probed: How do you know if you like it or not? Trent said: We’ve had coffee. Their mother cried: I hope not! Uncle Paul shouted: they are boys! They probably have had some
After that, things went well until someone suggested we have a talent show. All of the participants did well until it was time for my performance. I sang a song about whistles. When I sang the part that said; those whistles are calling me. I let out a little fart. I embarrassed Momma, I embarrassed Daddy, I embarrassed my brothers and sisters and I embarrassed myself. My Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins just laughed.
After that little debacle, I was definitely all alone. For some reason, I will never understand, Peggy had become best friends with my sister, Samuetta. Our family already had our last get together party. The married children went back to their home towns and the children in our family in our little town had to get back to whatever we did.
I was now ten years of age. This year was Little Earl’s first year of school and I was prepared to take him to school. On the other hand, Momma didn’t work. She took him. Maybe it was a good idea for Momma to take him. For some reason, I never understood why, Little Earl stayed in trouble. One day the office secretary called Momma and asked her to come to to the office. Momma was busy and sent Daddy. I saw Daddy at school and asked what he was doing there. Daddy said Little Earl was influencing the other children. As they were walking, Little Earl ask what is the meaning of “influencing” Daddy went to the room and asked Mrs. Jones to explain exactly what Little Earl had done. Mrs. Jones, (his teacher) said Little Earl was cussing. Little Earl said: I was not! Mrs. Jones: Oh, yes you were! Afterwards, she went to gather all of little Earl’s papers but then she couldn’t find them. Little Earl declared: See, it is just like this morning. You can’t find them. You have been in a Hell of a fix all day. Mrs. Jones screamed: Take this child away. He is getting on my last nerve. Little Earl looked at his teacher and said: Last Nerve! How many nerves do you have? Daddy said: I think, I understand. I’ll bring him back tomorrow. By that time, he will have a better understanding of what he should and should not say at school. At that juncture Daddy took Little Earl home. Daddy went home mumbling something to the effect; I have had eight children to go to school. Never before have I had to come to school for a discipline problem.

I went to my class all alone. There was no Peggy, no Bay Brother and no Lemon there to go with me. I was in this world all alone. My old classmates were there to greet me. However, things were not the same. I figured I had to do something to get my teacher’s attention. The first day, I brought her flowers from our flower garden. She was impressed. I had her attention, now I had to be a good student to keep it. The year started off wonderful until I came down with the measles. I had to stay home for two weeks. Mom made sure I didn’t fall behind. She went to school every day and got my homework or she would send Bernice on Peggy’s horse. I liked staying at home. I ask Mom could I be homeschooled. She said no. She had too much to do to home school me. After my two week sabbatical, I went back to school. I made it up in my mind, I was ready! The year went by smoothly. I was voted as school President of the Student Council. The rest of that year went by smoothly.
After Christmas at Church
Pastor Dykes followed the tradition of all the other pastors. He helped out with the Christmas at our house. As always we had a great Christmas. The next Holiday was Valentine. Daddy gave Momma flowers that did not come from our flower bed. Daddy also gave Momma chocolate candy. Little Earl, Janie, Sam, Samuetta and Bernice ate as much as Momma. I ate a little bit.
It was Negro History month and Pastor Dykes thought our history was very important. He requested all of the church choirs learn all of the verses to James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Some of the older kids had a problem with that. I didn’t. My teacher had asks us to learn the same thing.
Lift every voice and sing, till earth and heav-en ring, Ring with the harmonies of lib-er-ty; let our re-joic-ing rise, high as the listening skies, Let it re-sound loud as the roll-ing sea. Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us; Fac-ing the ris-ing sun of our new day be-gun, Let us march on till vic-to-ry is won.
Ston-y the road we trod, bit-ter the chast ‘ning rod, Felt in the days when hope un-born had died; yet with a stead-y beat, have not our wea-ry feet, Come to the place for which our fa-ther’ sighed?
We have come o-ver a way that with tears has been watered, we have come, tread ing our path through ‘the blood of the slaughtered, Out from the gloom-y past, til now we stand at last Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our wea-ry years, God of our si-lent tears, thou who had brought us thus far on our way; thou who hast by Thy might, led us into the light, Keep us for-ev-er in the path, we pray. Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we for-get Thee; Shadowed be-neath Thy hand, may we for-ev-er stand. True to our God, true to our native land.
Mrs. Fischer said not only was Black History important to us but American, Alabama, city and Town History was important as well. We had to learn the names of our President of The United States, The Vice President of the United States, The Governor of Alabama, and Mayor of our town and all the City Councilmen. We had to know the names of our Superintendent of Education, Principal of our school and teacher of our class. We had to give the real names of our parents and our social security and telephone numbers. We could not give their nick name. At that time telephone numbers were given out in letters and numbers. Most colored folk had party lines. Meaning, someone on your party line could listen to your conversation. Thank God, we lived so far- out, no one living near us had a telephone. Our family enjoyed a straight line without paying for it.
We learned the songs; Alabama, Alabama, the Star Spangle Banner and our school song. In 1953 Dwight D. Eisenhower was the President of the United States and Richard M. Nixon was Vice President. Big Jim was recalled to active duty and Gordon Person took over as the Governor of Alabama. We were taught all kinds of interesting things under her instruction.
Church

Mrs. Dykes had an exercise class for the older girls and young women.
Mrs. Dykes told the older girls and young women, you will experience exercise through graceful movements. Sometime it will be dance and beautiful aerobic movements. It doesn’t matter what it is called as long as you move with me. It is different from working in the fields. I am sure you move a lot in the field, but the kind of fitness you will experience with me focuses on specific parts of the body. We, as ethnic women, must exercise special parts of our bodies. If we desire the right proportions in the right places.
She also taught a facial make-up class. Some of the young women put on an excessive amount of make-up. Momma said they were destroying the pours in their face. Mrs. Dykes showed them a five-step simple plan for fool proofing and adding dimension to their face. She told them:
Choose the right color for you. (Not some woman you see on TV)
1. Find Your Contours ( the best way to find the right spot for application is to make a “cartoon fish lip”)
2. Sweep on Blush (apply blush to the apples of your cheeks and back toward the temples)
3. Blend [Once you have the blush in place, use your fingers to blend all of the makeup together using a circular buffing motion. This step is important, as you don’t want obvious lines across your face.
4. Highlight Those Cheekbones
I know this because Bernice attended the classes and brought home the hand out sheets Mrs. Dykes gave them. Daddy made her go. Bernice didn’t even have a boyfriend. She only went shopping when she had to have something for school. Bernice was just a strange brainy bird. She didn’t like playing yard games with us and she didn’t like talking on the telephone and she didn’t have a boyfriend. Daddy said when an eagle hung around the house too long the eagle’s mother stirred her nest and put her out. Bernice had finished college way too young and she didn’t want to leave home. She had a degree in science. Research Centers all across the country wanted to hire her, but she didn’t want to leave home. She would have gone if she could take Momma with her. The University offered her a chance to be an exchange student at the University of Rome. Italy was too far away. She was then offered a scholarship to the University of Boston, but that too was too far away as well. Bernice would not go without Momma. If Bernice took Momma, what would poor Daddy and poor Little Earl do without her? I told Daddy not to mention anything again to Bernice about going away. Daddy made a request as to why? I told him, it would only make her mad. Dad said Bernice had better scratch her butt and get glad.

School.
Since I was voted as student council president, there were many things I wanted to accomplish. I had great success because I had the right teacher. This was her first year as a teacher. She was eager to start her job off smoothly. She got there before the school year started and the principal gave her the best students. She had a good class. Miss Fischer enjoyed playing outdoor games with her students. Students from other fifth grade classes would join in the games with us. Everybody loved Miss Fischer. Even the principal showed partiality to Miss Fischer. There were five fifth grade classes and everybody wanted her to be their teacher. Some of the other teachers discovered if they needed something from the office, they would tell Miss Fischer. Principal Bellmount would always get it for her. Some teachers would not ask anyone for anything. They made the parents buy whatever was needed.
Among the many games we played, I can remember we played London’s Bridge is Falling Down. And I Lost My Handkerchief Yesterday
In I lost my handkerchief yesterday. The children made a circle. Someone on the outside of the circle had a handkerchief. We sang the song “I lost my handkerchief yesterday and found it today. It was so raggedy and dirty I thought I throw it away, away. We kept saying away until the person on the outside of the circle skipping around dropped the handkerchief at someone’s feet. The person who had the handkerchief dropped at their feet had to pick up the handkerchief, run catch the the leader so they can carry the handkerchief. If the leader got to the touched person’s empty place first, they could continue being the leader. If the touched person caught them, the touched person becomes the new leader.

London’s bridge is falling down was played by many children going through the bridge. Before the game started the kids playing the part of the bridge would choose a color. If a child was caught during the game, they would be tossed back and forth and then asked which color they preferred. He/she would choose which side of the bridge they would be on according to color. We sang:
London’s bridge is falling down, falling down, and falling down (repeat) my fair lady.
Take some bricks and build it up, build it up, build it up. “ “ “
Take some iron and build it up, build it up, build it up “ “ “
Take some steel and build it up, “ ““ “ ““ “ “ “
Take some gold and build it up ““ “ ““ “ “ “ “
Miss Fischer played all sorts of games with us. We Played Aunt Di Anna Is Dead. The game went like this.
Someone in the circle would say “Aunt Di Anna is dead. We would ask “How did she die?” The person in the circle would say and demonstrate “Oh she died like this” We would all do the demonstration and repeat “Oh, she died like this.” The person in the circle would say and demonstrate two more times, the same thing. We said and repeated the same. The third time, the person in the circle would say “Aunt Di Anna is alive.” We would ask where she lives.” We would all say “she lives in the country. She is go na move to town. She is go na shake, shake, and shake until the sun goes down. At that point, the person in the circle would close their eyes; spin around and around chanting “My mother told me to choose this one.” If the person in the center pointed at you, you were in the circle and the game would start again. If you did any pose that was done before you were out of the game.
Some of the teachers had been teaching so long, they would just sit in their chairs, gossip and watch their children play. Some would just grumble and remain envious.
Whenever the principal needed to attend a conference for the school, my teacher went. An older teacher, Mrs. Ingram, was extremely jealous of Miss Fischer. One day we were going under the limbo pole. Some of the the girls were too stiff to limbo very low. They left our game and started to hula hoop. Mrs. Ingram demonstrated to the girls how to use the hula hoop. Some of her friends tried to stop her because she had been trying for years to get pregnant. Her husband was tremendously happy. She was now forty-two years old. Three weeks later, Mrs. Ingram gave birth to a still born baby.
I had an awesome Art Teacher too. Mr. Hayes would give us an eleven by five glass plate. He would let us choose a picture form the pictures he had on his desk. We would trace that picture onto our glass plate, use glass pant to color the picture according to our preface and then frame the glass plate. When we completed our task, we carried the glass plate home and presented it to our parents. Momma was so proud of my picture; she hung it in her bedroom window so she could look at it every night before she went to sleep. I know that’s the truth, she told me so. Samuel tried to convince me she hung it there because it was so terrible, she didn’t want anybody else to see it. I do not believe that! I emphatically told him he was lying! I believe Momma’s version of the truth!
My graduation day came for all fifth graders going to the six grade. All of my immediate family and in laws were there. Some of Dad’s brothers as well as some of his sisters and their husbands came. Mother only had two brothers and two sister and their families lived in Montana. They couldn’t come. Of all the fifth grade classes, the teachers voted me the salutatorian. I would have been valedictorian of the class if it had not been for the little girl that was born in Japan. Her Father was stationed there the first nine years of her life. Everyone said my speech was better. She did not go to church and she was not use to speaking in front of large crowds. We went home and had a great family gathering. That ends the first years of schooling. I certainly hope my next years will be exciting.
By the following Christmas Holiday, Mr. Bellmount was divorced from his wife. I attended another school, but I heard Mr. Bellmount and Miss Fischer became engaged and that following spring got married.
Daddy said: Why in the Devil’s name did he quit his wife for that skinny little woman?
Don’t ask me what or why it happened. I do not know. Chalk me up as a concerned, anxious, nervous, disturbed, alarmed and disquieted child.
Our little town grew into a city. Then our city grew so fast we became a suburb. The city paved the road leading to our house. We were no longer a route; we had a house number and a street name. We got another letter stating we were no longer zone for Epic Grove Elementary School. Thank God! Maybe Little Earl could start over at his new school. At Epic Grove, Little Earl was known as the official first grade bad boy. Once the teacher allowed them to watch “Uncle Bulbar, the Word Wizard “. As the words were shown on the TV screen, Mrs. Jones would say them before Uncle Bulbar. Little Earl looked up at Mrs. Jones and said: You’ve seen this show before. Mrs. Jones told Little Earl no. I can read! She started to call someone for Little Earl but she looked at the time and it was near time for the bus to come. She said she said to herself: Thank God, it’s time for Earl Chamber to go home. Why she always called Little Earl by his full name, heaven only knows. There were two boys in my class the teacher called by their full name because they had different last names but the same first name. Of course I am just a child, but I think Mrs. Jones didn’t like Little Earl. One day my teacher sent me to the office to get something for her. On my way, I passed by Little Earl’s classroom. Little Earl was standing outside the door. I asked Little Earl why. He said she put me out here during Arithmetic. I asked little Earl why she would do a crazy thing like that. He said: She wanted to use Momma as an example. She asked me how many sweet potato pies Momma would have if she put fourteen pies out to cool and she stole nine. I told her Momma would have fourteen pies and she would have a sore butt. Little Earl told her the truth. Momma didn’t tolerate anybody stealing her pies, not even Daddy. Maybe next year Little Earl would get off to a better start.
THE END

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