Miner Memories: Reflections on starting another year

By Ginger English

This year will start my 73rd year of life. At this time of year, however, I was still a tiny surprise waiting to be discovered by my mother. It would not be until July 1940 that I actually showed up on the 27th day as a healthy 12 pounder, ready to hit the ground running. It seems as if I haven’t stopped since.
The day I was born, my dad was working for the WPA as a laborer constructing Nimrod Dam, which was quite some distance from where we lived on a small farm in Perry County. Those WPA workers must have done an excellent job on that dam construction, as it is still in place after all these years and a beautiful site.
It thrills me every time I see Nimrod Dam and realize that was where Dad first received news that his new baby had made her appearance. Once the news reached him, he left work immediately and hitchhiked home, anxious to see what he had created, and I am told he was well pleased. Upon introduction, an exceptional bond between us was formed that lasted a lifetime.
In 1940, life was quite different from life as we know it now. My family did not own a vehicle and had to walk, hitch a team of horses to a wagon or ride a commercial bus when we traveled. We had cows that produced the milk we used. We had chickens that produced the fresh eggs we enjoyed. There were also hogs on the farm that were slaughtered to provide some of the meat we ate, and a large garden provided the vegetables we had.
We never rushed to the local grocery store when our bread supply ran low. We didn’t “eat out” or open cans when preparing a meal. Mamma cooked full course meals three times a day and never offered the family sandwiches on short notice.
I knew one family with eight children. The mother got up early in the morning, went to the chicken house, picked out a good hen, wrung its neck, then cleaned and fried that chicken to serve her family for breakfast. In the meantime, she also made biscuits and gravy to serve with the fried chicken.
Until about mid-1950, mothers usually stayed home with the children and did all the necessary household chores. My mother never worked outside the home until we moved to Bauxite in 1948. On occasion, she substituted for one of the workers at the Bauxite Cafeteria.
The Bauxite Cafeteria was in mid-town just across the street from the old post office. That old cafeteria held lots of memories for many people who lived in Bauxite. In 1948, five senior girls spent the night in the Bauxite Cafeteria after their graduation, as their “special night out” in celebration of finishing high school. My sister-in-law was one of those girls. She tells how they feasted on fried chicken and goodies that had been left for them as a special treat by the cafeteria manager. The girls told scary stories and giggled the night away.
Alcoa’s ore processing plant was located directly behind the cafeteria. The plant’s night watchman came by often during his rounds that night to check on the girls, making certain they were safe. It only stands to reason that a young boy or two also stopped by, but the girls were always hesitant to tell much about that.
In this day and age, high school seniors go to the beach in Florida in celebration of their graduation. Many even book cruises to the tropical islands. My class felt fortunate that we were allowed to go to Hot Springs on a Senior Day class trip. We spent the day on Lake Hamilton and that was it – returned home on a yellow school bus and graduated. However, we strutted like proud peacocks, because we had that one day set aside just for our class.
On another note, when I was a teenager, we felt fortunate to have a home phone, unlike now when most people have some form of wireless handheld communication. I often wonder what it would be like to ban all forms of wireless gadgets just for one whole day. We actually might be able to look each other directly in the eye and have a face-to-face conversation once again.
During a recent visit to a local restaurant, I noticed three gentlemen at the first table, heads bowed and silent. I softly stepped passed their table being careful not to disturb them, as I assumed they were having prayer before their meal. As I eased passed them, however, I realized it was not prayer at all, but total concentration on their cell phones. With thumbs moving rapidly across the keyboard, they were texting. Later, I wondered if they might have been sending a message to each other across the table. That happens, you know; it is funny, but sad.
My 73rd year is starting off very well; however, my joints ache a lot, and most of the news from around the world is not pleasant. I am not a television fan, and I try not to dwell on the horrific news reports of all the violence and corruption worldwide. I would rather step outside and view the many wonders of nature around me.
As an amateur photographer, I am amazed by my feathered friends, a blooming flower with a busy bee, a turtle sunning on a log in an old slue. As you can see, it doesn’t take much for nature to entertain me. Nature is a wonderful teaching tool most people ignore.
As I begin my 73rd year, I am prayerful that wars will cease and leaders of the world can compromise and live in harmony. This will never happen in my lifetime, but I still hope for peace on earth and good will among us.

These are Miner Memories and some of them are not so minor.
(Ginger English grew up in Bauxite. Her column appears the first Tuesday each month exclusively in The Saline Courier.)