Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Childhood of Wanda Roberson Reasor

The Childhood of 
Wanda Roberson Reasor
I was born July 30, 1921 to Reuben Russell Roberson and Edna Lula Seaton. I was the fourth child in a family of nine children. Dad grew watermelons this year and he tells me that he fed me watermelon juice at age of three days. We lived in a four room house at Pleasant Hill, a farm community about five miles from English, Indiana. Dad had planted an apple orchard which never did bear fruit. We never did know why but it must have been a great disappointment for him. He had cleared the land of persimmon and sassafras trees but not the wild blackberry bushes had taken over. My family was probably classed as poor folks. We never had much money but I can't remember ever going hungry. Dad worked for the State Highway Department as a good democrat and then we had our garden, milk, fruit and wild berries and nuts. Hickory, hazel and black walnuts all were plentiful. Grandfather Fielding Roberson lived with us and I can remember standing on the rockers of his chair as he rocked. I must have had a deep love for him which was returned. He went to visit his son, Alva and while there fell and broke his hip which led to complications. He died soon from acute nephritis when I was only three years old. One of my uncles came by in a wagon and took me to see Grandpa before he died. I can still remember the wet kiss he gave me. I think these are my earliest recollections. Grandma Seaton also lived with us before she died. My only remembrance of her is when I fell on the stove and burned my hand. She wrapped it for me.
Uncle Irvin Roberson and Aunt Lottie lived in Grandpa's old house which stodd where Hubert Roberson now lives. Their children Hazel and Ray were our closest friends. Hazel and I were always running away to the woods to play in the little streams. Mom often came after us and switched us all the way home. On one of these outings I left my new black paten shoes and when they were found, after a big rain, they were ruined. Hazel and I were sawing with Dad's cross cut saw while Norman (my brother) held the stick. The saw slipped and all but severed his forefinger. Hazel ran home and I got tanned good. Seems she was always getting me into trouble, still I loved her dearly. Norman and Howard were born here. I can remember Howard's birth. While he was still a baby we packed up in a small truck, had a sale, and started our journey,
I was almost five years old when Dad decided, almost overnight, that we were going to Great Fall, Montana, or rather to a ranch between Dutton and Power, Montana. We were going to live with my Uncle Grover Roberson and work in the wheat harvest. Eight of us, Mom, Dad, six children and another man made the trip. We traveled in a Model A Ford truck with the truck bed build for we children to ride in. Mom usually rode in the back with the children while Chester rode up front with Dad and the man. There are only a few things that I really recall about this trip. These include my first taste of canned pork and beans and store bought apple butter. The trip was in the fall and we were trying to beat the bad weather. However, it does seem like we still had cold and rain. The roads weren't paved and I still have an embedded fear of winding mountain roads. They were so narrow with drop-offs that seemed to me to never end. We walked up many hills with the bigger ones pushing the truck. I remember one morning waking up in the tent where we slept and they were all gone pushing the truck up another hill. They were to come back to get us later but I thought for sure they had forsaken we small children. Uncle Grover had homesteaded a section or two of land when he went west to teach school and had become very successful. He was very tall and handsome with a gold tooth in front and a big wide Roberson smile.

Grover told us of his first day at school when he took over a room full of teen age boys who had run several teachers away. He took a big buggy whip and dared them to do anything. He never had trouble teaching that year. He must have had mixed emotions about our entry into his life. He was a bachelor and I'm sure we must have been a terrible intrusion. Mom took over as cook. I remember her baking bread in huge pans that held four to six loaves side by side. We
had dried prunes for our only fruit in the winter. We had contests to see who could eat the most prunes. One morning I was so happy--I had had a loose tooth for some time and was sure it had fallen out, however, it was only covered with a piece of prune skin. Dad pulled our teeth regularly. We would all line up and he would pull the loose and nearly loose teeth. This was as bad as everyone getting a whipping for something that no one would own up to.
Edna with four of her 9 children.
  Marie, [Norman], Wanda, [Howard.]
I started school here in Montana. My first teacher was Mrs. Jennie Henn. Marie was in the third grade and Mrs. Henn put her back in the first grade with me. Marie had had pneumonia for three years so probably had missed so much school that she hadn't progressed as she should. Also, I think there was no other third graders.
Wanda in the 2nd Grade second from right mark above head.
That winter we were caught in our first blizzard, Dad came after us early in the afternoon because we had gone to school without coats. It started out as a warm winter day. The blizzard came up so fast that we got stuck on the way home. It was snowing so hard that when Dad would back the car up to get another run the snow would fill up his tracks. We left the car to walk back to the nearest neighbor which was about one half mile. Dad carried me but I still got both hands frozen. They thawed them out with snow and in a few days all the skin peeled off. Dad left us with the neighbor and walked home. he didn't want Mom to worry and do the chores. It was a miracle that he made it home by following the fence.
There were lakes between our house and the school which froze over and Dad would make a short cut by driving across them. One day I fell out of the truck and went sliding across the ice but didn't get hurt. Mrs. Henn had us all make Easter nests our of grass found around the school house and every morning for about a week before Ester we would find a candy Easter egg in our nest. I'm sure this is where our family tradition originated. We moved to Great Falls and lived in a motel. We used one room for living quarters where Mom and Dad slept and we kids slept in the other room. I remember getting up and running barefoot through snow to get down to the warm room. Dad built us a house on second avenue across the road from the motel. Our little brother was born while we lived here. He only lived three days and this was my first real grief.
Wanda, [Howard, Norman,] Marie standing in front of parents Edna Lula Seaton and Reuben R. Roberson. A canvas covers the door to keep the wind from blowing inside. 
One day at school I was standing in line waiting for the bus to take us home and just as the bus arrived, an Indian boy Jimmie Billadeaux came running and shoving and pushed me under the bus. Both front and rear wheels ran over my legs between the knees and ankles. The snow on the ground kept them from breaking. I was quite the important one for a time. A girl gave me a beautiful China doll--my first. My teacher for third grade was Myrl Cody and here is where I got the idea to spell my middle name. No one seemed to to know how it was supposed to be spelled. My first lesson in, "Thou shalt not steal," was learned here. All the kids had money for penny candy and I found where Mom and Dad kept some change in a pocket so i helped myself. Several times I did and kept taking more until I had to own up to stealing. I got a good talking to and I am sure a spanking. I'm sure that as poor as were were every penny was missed. Dad sold our house after a short time and we moved into a tent on Second Avenue South while he dug a basement for a new house. We moved into the basement and never did finish the house. Our basement was curtained off with yards of white material with tiny red boats printed on it. Mom and Dad's bed hung from the ceiling on chains. Here we went to 4H club and I saw my first ventriloquist. We got a nice Holstein cow to produce 5 gallons of milk a day. She kept running away to join the steers that still ran loose on the prairie. I was scared of the steers. We would get a treat once in a while at the root beer stand. It was in the shape of a barrel and the waitresses wore orange and brown uniforms. I think we must have always been a little hungry or maybe things tasted better then than they do now. Rattle snakes were everywhere and occasionally we had sand storms. Dad got a nail in his hand and was sick with blood poisoning for several days. My boy friend was Billy Madison who had a cousin Leroy Johnson. Their fathers ran Johnson Madison Lumber Company in Great Falls. My first remembered embarrassment was Billy seeing my black garters. All the other girls wore supporters which were fastened to loops on their undershirts. I longed for supporters. We wore long cotton socks and some were too short, or my legs were too long. One night we came home from school and were told we were going back to Indiana the next morning. We just left all our stuff except Mom's sewing machine. She had it shipped. We stayed in better motel and some farm homes. Dad was a great personality and would talk people into keeping us for the night. The roads were better and our trip was fun even though we were more crowded because we were larger. We would all lean together and get the car swaying around corners until Dad really laid it on us. Back in Crawford County, Indiana we started living in rented houses. First, we lived in one of Alice Roberson's homes close to Grantsburg. We walked to school at Grantsburg. Joe was born here. Our teacher was Helen Reaor. We were all in the same room at school. Then we moved to a house at the top of Needmore Hill near English. It had three rooms and we went to school in English. Our old house became vacant,the one that I was born in, and we moved back to it. We had to walk two miles to the school bus. Lots of times we carried our shoes to the gravel road, washed our feet in the creek and put our shoes back on. I guess I was getting older and more dreamy. I loved our walk through the woods. Junior Longest carried my books and later my trombone. I took advantage of his mooney eyed love for me.
Wanda in the 8th grade
My first love happened during the eighth grade. I was tall, skinny, and homely as sin. I had started wearing horned rim glasses in the 7th grade and found out how near sighted I was and what the world really looked like. I would wear a pair until they broke and then after weeks or even months of not having any, Dad would take me to Louisville to get new ones. These were special occasions for me to be alone with Dad on the train trip. We would stay for a couple of days. he would get me a couple of new dresses and treat me to a lot of little things that we never had at home. Anyway Earl Cox, a tall dark haired boy with a Roman nose came into my life and for at least two years was constantly in my thoughts. I'd spend the nights with Ester Smith and we would go to night school at Jerico and Earl walked me home. That was the nearest I ever came to dating him. I mean just the sight of him was enough to speed up my heart beat. We wrote love notes which I wore in my shoe to keep the teacher from finding them. I kept them until I got married and then destroyed them.
cousin Hazel and Wanda
(Marguerite Hazel Roberson daughter of Irvin Ember Roberson and Lottie Merry)

I didn't get involved in extracurricular activities much at school because we lived so far away. Mom and Dad went to town on Saturday but we girls did the cleaning and laundry on Saturday. Saturday night was when the kids went to town but we could not go. So since Earl and I couldn't get together our affair slowly wore off. One Saturday night Earl and Dale Cummins and Oscar Teverbaugh came to our house. My cousin, Hazel was there and they wanted us to go to the show. We went in to ask Dad but he had gone to bed purposely and wouldn't answer. So we made arrangements to sneak out after everyone was asleep. This we did and just went and sat in the car with them. I don't think I said a dozen words. I was thrilled to just sit near him. It must have been a boring night. I think he kissed me good-by that night, only at the time I didn't know that it was goodbye. As far as I know we didn't get caught. I never tried it again because it was too scary.
We walked to town at noon from school, just to walk back with the boys. I even played hooky a couple of times and nearly got caught by Dad. I played 1st trombone in high school band and orchestra. I graduated in 1939, with a class ring and attendance at the prom. Everyone went to the prom since a date was not required. The prom was mostly a big dinner. I won a scholarship to Indiana University but with no encouragement at home I didn't take it. Instead I went to beauty college at Kentucky Beauty College in Louisville. I graduated in three months and went to my first job in Madison, Indiana. I earned $10 a week with room and board. We slept in a third floor room above the shop. 
left: Mary, Joe, Howard, Norman, Marie, Chester, Amzel with mom Edna Lula SEATON (1894-1961) and dad Reuben Russell ROBERSON (1893-1959). Wanda is not pictured. 

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