My Mamma and Pappa Evans lived in an old farmhouse in Maryville, forever to be known by the family as “The Old House”. Like so many of the other homes in Patoka Township it was lost to the coal mines. The Old House is where all of my little girl memories of my grandparents and family take place.
The first time I watched a color television was at The Old House. My obsession with the movie the Wizard of Oz began in that living room in front of one of those little square box televisions. That movie took on a whole new life in color! I learned to tie a bow on the old back porch, thanks to the long suffering patience of my aunt. That old house had some deep shady porches on it. Countless summer hours were lazily whiled away by chasing lightening bugs, playing tag, spud or hide and seek in the big yard with the huge shade trees.
I learned to ride a bicycle in that big back yard, thanks to the guidance of my uncle. Don’t go getting a vision of him pushing me around on a little 24 inch pink girl’s bicycle with training wheels and me wearing a helmet. It wasn’t like that for country kids in the 1960s. Visualize a little barefoot six year old girl standing on a picnic table while her nine year old uncle tries to hold his big red Schwinn with the bar across the middle of it still enough for her to climb on to. That was us. I couldn’t even reach the pedals when I sat on the seat so I had to sit on the bar or stand up when it became too uncomfortable. Throwing caution to the wind, off we went around the back yard in circles. Going faster and faster, he worked his way to just holding onto the back carrier rack and then he let go. And I was riding! It didn’t matter that I couldn’t reach the ground when I stopped. Kids have the flexibility and fearlessness to throw one foot to the ground and jump off of the monstrosity! I couldn’t get enough of that old bike. When his birthday rolled around and he got a new bike, he gave me that old one. I rode it for a couple of years until finally getting my pink stingray at the Western Auto for my ninth birthday.
My grandpa’s spot to sit was on a set of steps that led up to the bedroom from the kitchen. The steps were covered in old white linoleum with a random gold star pattern and the burn spots left behind from Pappa’s roll his own cigarettes. There would be a red tin can of Prince Albert tobacco and Falls City beer beside him.
Between the kitchen and dining room was a small room that had a little bed in it that he always laid on for a nap. I remember it having those old flocked plastic curtains in it and a soft chenille bedspread on the bed that my dad had brought back from one of our South Carolina trips. We never drove the interstate down there, we went the mountain roads where every few miles was a souvenir stand with row after row of those colorful bedspreads hanging on out on clotheslines. I don’t know where the tradition came from, but my Pappa put you under the bed on your birthday. I think that tradition died with him. None of us were too crazy for it.
My Mamma worked at Potter’s Market cutting meat. We kids would go out there and stand in front of the candy counter perusing it the entire time Mom shopped. It wasn’t a Candy Lane with 3000 choices like you have now, but it might as well have been as much time as we would spend there weighing the pros and cons of each piece of candy. My personal favorites were Mallo Milk cups or a Sugar Daddy.
We would have cookouts, birthday parties, and family reunions in the yard. Mamma would crank homemade ice cream. The old fashioned way, which involved the whole family cranking that handle. She packed it with towels and us kids would just sit on top of it while we took our turn cranking.
And for my Pappa: “A peanut sat on a railroad track, his heart was all a flutter, round the bend came number ten, toot toot peanut butter.”