Little Egypt Heritage Articles
© Bill Oliver
26 November 2006
Vol 5 Issue: #36
O’siyo, Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen of Little Egypt,
“How did you two meet?” is a favorite question asked by nearly everyone
at some time or other. My wife and I met in college, yet unremembered by
either of us, we really met ten years or more earlier when her Great
Aunt and my Grandmother used to bring us along on picnics during the
American Great Depression. I used to tease her and pull her pigtails
[according to oft told stories].
As my ‘Sainted’ Father would say, “I know not how the truth may be, but
I tell the tale as ‘twas told to me.” I often remember these words when
I write articles and other tales. However, I must say that in this case
‘Sainted’ is a title of endearment, for in all truth he is
representative of the rabbit in the myths of so many peoples around the
world – a messenger, a storyteller, a dancer, and above all a great
‘trickster’ and mischief maker with a most devilish, gleeful chuckle.
This story begins a bit before my birth at the beginning of the great
depression of the last century in the United States. In those days in
Mother’s family, Grandpa was laid off and Grandma had to go to work. She
found a job in a small glove factory not far from their abode, which as
a side is the house I was born in. The oldest daughter was about sixteen
and completed her sophomore year of high school. With five under age
children in the home and Grandma working, someone had to take over the
chores and duties of housekeeper. Thus, the traditionally responsible
sibling, Oldest Daughter, dropped her schooling and kept house for the
family, quite a job with four younger girls in the household. She had
always helped around the house and since there was not the same emphasis
on graduation from high school as there is today, taking over the
household/babysitting role didn’t seem out of place. Rather a natural
duty as a member of the nuclear family. This took place for about a year.
After Grandpa was re-employed, Oldest Daughter, being out of school for
a year, didn’t return to the scholastic life. With the Christmas season
approaching she found employment with a local brush company. During her
interview she implied that she was eighteen, the magic age for
employment, and was hired to operate a tooth-brush making machine. She
didn’t like this and soon was offered an alternative of operating the
She must have been good at this job and loyal to the firm for when it
came to ‘lay-off’ time following Christmas, she was kept on the job as
‘permanent’. When she did turn eighteen she applied for work with the
telephone company. This was a popular occupation for many and with an
Aunt or three already employed there, it gave her an ‘edge’; she was
hired. Soon her proficiency rating was good enough and she was placed as
a ‘long’ distance operator.
Well, that is the introductory part of ‘The Meeting’. This meeting is
how Aunt and Uncle met. It seems that a popular activity for young folks
was attending Dance Halls. Monday nights in our locale was designated as
‘Ladies’ night and for the entrance fee of one dime young ladies would
have fun evenings dancing and socializing. Aunt would, like many other
girls, go with one or more friends and in this case one younger sister
was sent along to chaperon[e] Oldest Daughter and friend.
Men who wanted to dance with young ladies would go around and sign the
ladies dance card. On one particular evening Future Uncle signed Aunt’s
card for an early dance. Later he came back for ‘seconds’. This must
have gone on for a short period of time, but Aunt reports that before
she was really aware, they were dancing every dance on that Monday evening.
Well, the story plot thickens, for Future Uncle asked if he could escort
Aunt home. Aunt dutifully informed him that she was with two other
girls. This didn’t deter Future Uncle as he was with two friends also.
In the long run, Aunt agreed they could be taken home but first she had
to see the ‘transport’ vehicle; thinking that IF Future Uncle had a nice
car she would consent, otherwise ....
As it turned out Future Uncle, who always parked his car in garages,
never on the street, had purchased a brand new Chevrolet Cavalier. Aunt
thought that was good enough to ride in.
Well, they didn’t do more than meet and dance once in a while. However,
once again Aunt found that she was dancing exclusively with Future Uncle
and their relationship blossomed into marriage and family.
Back when Aunt went to school, kindergarten was neither required nor
necessarily supported by many mothers. Aunt did not go to kindergarten.
On the first day that Grandma took Aunt to school to enter First Grade
they lined all the first graders in a row and since there were two
teachers for that grade level they divided the children, every other
one, to assign them to a teacher. Aunt, with a sly smile, says that she
drew ‘the mean’ teacher.. She bases that on the following exercise. The
children were issued a piece of paper and a pencil and told to write
their name. Those children with kindergarten experience followed
directions. Aunt not knowing even how to hold a pencil couldn’t do
anything but sit in her assigned desk. The ‘Mean Teacher’ circulated up
and down the rows of desks and stopped at Aunt’s desk. ‘Mean Teacher’
scolded her for not doing as directed and continued her rounds. When she
returned and Aunt had not yet attempted to complete the assignment,
‘Mean Teacher’, as punishment, told her to go sit up next to the
teacher’s desk where ‘bad’ children sat.
In those days children went home for lunch as school was shut down for
the lunch hour. When it came time to return to school, Aunt didn’t want
to go and displayed some of that family ‘stubbornness’. Grandma, when
she found out the reason, marched Aunt back to school and they went
directly to the Principal’s Office for some stern words. I’m sure that
there was at least an outward change in relationship between student and
What was your first day of school like? How did you meet your life’s
partner? I’ll bet your great grandchildren will find it interesting.
e-la-Di-e-das-Di ha-WI NV-WA-do-hi-ya NV-WA-to-hi-ya-da.
(May you walk in peace and harmony)
"What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the
breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which
runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset." [Crowfoot,
Blackfoot warrior and orator]