MEMORIES OF MY CHILDHOOD –Autobiography Chapter One

MEMORIES of My Childhood

By Jane Ann (Shipley) Pierpont

Fearful Days

Psalm 118:6 “The Lord is on my side, I will not fear:  what can man do unto me?”

The earliest place that I can recall living was in Muskegon, MI.  There are a few things I recall about living in Muskegon which were quite memorable.

We lived in a large white house, not very many blocks away from Lake Michigan.

My mother worked and we had a baby sitter which will remain unnamed, but I am sure that neither I, my brother, Larry, nor my sister, Sue, will ever forget her.

She was very mean to us and did things to us to scare us into obedience.   When my siblings and I talked of it in later years we decided that my brother, Larry Lee (three years my senior) and I must have been naughtier than my sister, Sandra Sue (fifteen months my senior). The baby sitter seemed to favor her over us.

But then according to my recent discussion with Sue, she felt equally picked on.

The only thing I can remember doing wrong was not making it to the restroom in time, so she put me up on a shelf in the closet and it was a very hot summer day and a wasp or bee was buzzing around me and I became frightened and fell off the shelf and skinned my back.

Another time she had my brother throw a bucket of water on me when I came around a corner in the house or several times she stood me in the toilet and scared me by flushing the toilet so that I would think I was going to go down.  

In later years when we talked about some of these events, my mother was very distressed and asked us why we did not tell her and told us that she would have dismissed her. 

We were fearful because  the baby sitter had threatened us that she would do worse things the next day if we told and we were afraid (not realizing that there would be no “next day”).

In recent years I have wondered if she was an unhappy person and just needed someone to care about her and I pray for her that somehow in God’s grace she found Christ as her Saviour so that she could have joy in her life.

Tonsils Out

I believe that was also the year I had my tonsils out after having many sore throats, bronchitis and whopping cough.  I can visualize being carried down stairs someplace and waking up with a very, very sore throat. I also had severe asthma and remember waking in the night having difficulty breathing.

The Fire

“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child…..” Proverbs 22:15

One day I was playing  and I heard this loud siren coming down our street and I went to the window to look out and they were coming to a stop in front of our house and then I noticed smoke coming from the front porch area.

My brother, Larry, had decided to burn the leaves under the porch which got the attention of the baby sitter and neighbors right away.  I am sure that Larry must have been rewarded for his deed because I do not recall that he ever started another fire in anything but the burn barrel. 

Snacking from the Cupboards

Another memory I had was climbing up on a chair to the kitchen cupboards where mother kept the baking supplies.   Today to my horror I recall that I would stick my finger in the lard and lick it off.  I also remember  helping myself to the baking nuts that my mother used to bake cookies and sometimes the chocolate chips.  In later years she said something about the fact that she had trouble keeping nuts in the house because I would get into them.  I do not recall getting into them in later years, perhaps she persuaded me somehow not to do that, I don’t recall any punishment though.

My parents were strict and I was very anxious to please them. So it probably didn’t take much more than a firm word to obtain compliance from me. (In a later chapter I will share about the only two spankings that I can remember.)

Most of these memories are very brief because of my age, but somehow stick in my mind as big events.

New Shoes for Kindergarten 

This event has a much more pleasant memory.

That year I started kindergarten at Moon Elementary School. 

Not long after school started Mother asked my “daddy” (as I called him) to take me to buy a new pair of school shoes. I can remember that special occasion like it was yesterday. 

First going shopping with daddy sounded like fun and getting new shoes was pretty special to me.

When we got to the shoe store a salesman came to us and offered his help as we looked at the shoes on the shelf. 

As Daddy explained that I needed new school shoes, my eyes began to wander around the store until I discovered the children’s display.  As I looked at the different styles my eyes kept going back to a pair of shiny, black, patented leather shoes with high tops which also had about six buttons and loops for fastening them.

My daddy pointed to a couple of styles and asked the gentleman if I could try them on for a start.

There was a row of chairs and the  salesman asked me to  climb up into one of them. He then sat down on a short stool which had a slanted place with a black rubber mat on it like I had seen on people’s stairways so that they would not be slippery. 

He also had me place my foot into a metal tool on the slanted place which had a slide with numbers on it, like a ruler. He placed my heel against the end toward me and then pushed the other end toward my toes until it fit my foot comfortably.  This was how he measured my feet to determine what size I needed.  Then  he went to the back of the store to see if he had my size.

While he was gone I jumped down and went over to the shelf and once again I looked at the favored black high tops. 

Soon the salesman came out with the shoes my daddy had selected. To this day I do not recall what those shoe looked like.  He reached in his pocket and took out  a metal object from his pocket and used it to help slide the shoe onto my feet one at a time.  This object I learned later was called a shoe horn.

After trying on the first pair of shoes the man showed me a  little slanted mirror which was on the floor where I could  walk over and view my feet. Then  I returned to the chair to try the other pair and jumped down right away and surveyed the next pair and quickly went and jumped up onto the chair so the man could remove the shoes.  He then placed them back in the box and looked at my daddy and said, “Would you like to look at another styes?”

To this date I cannot remember anything about either pair of those shoes.  All the time I am wondering  which pair will daddy get for me.  

Evidently my daddy noticed that I had admired the black hightop shoes and to my great joy and surprise, Daddy said as he walked over to the shelf, “I think Jane would like to try this pair on too if you have them in her size.” Then he looked down at me with a smile and pointed to the only shoes I had really wished for.

The man was gone just a few seconds and returned with   a box that had a picture on the end of the box just like the shoes. When he had finished painstakingly buttoning each button on the first shoe, he picked up the second shoe and with the shoe horn put my foot into the shoe. 

All the time I was thinking that we would probably get one of the other pairs that I had tried on and Daddy was just letting me try them on for the fun of it. I figured that would also be too expensive. I really did not understand how much they were.

When the man finished buttoning the other shoe he took my hand and helped me step down from the chair and I walked over to the little slanted mirror on the floor and looked in the mirror. They were just beautiful. I turned to look  at the sides and then twisted around to see the backs. Then I looked down at my feet and walked slowly back to the chair while watching Daddy’s eyes. 

I was elated when he smiled and said to the salesperson, I think this is the pair we would like,” and turned his face toward me with his quiet smile.  

I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to get home to put them on and show everyone.

When we arrived home I was so excited and hurried in  to show them to my mother who had just returned from work.

I held up the box to her and Mother looked at the shoes and then at my daddy and it was obvious that she was not very happy about our choice of shoes.  

She looked at daddy and with great indignation in her voice she exclaimed,  “Bud, (daddy’s nick name) What were you thinking?  Those are not school shoes! Do you have any idea how hard it will be for her to button those every morning?” 

I held my breath in fear that we would have to take them back and return them for more practical shoes, but Mother also had a little flair for pretty things and understanding a little girls heart, finally consented to keeping the shoes and turned and walked away trying to show a little disgust in her demeanor.

Mother’s disapproval did not affect the great joy that I had the next day, when I wore them to school. I was looking forward to “show and tell” time (as they called it in kindergarten). Students were allowed to show a new item or an item of special interest.  If one had new shoes or a  new item the teacher would let that child stand on a chair and the class would sing a little song together.

Something like this:

“Janie has new shoes. 

Janie has new shoes.”  

I don’t remember anything else about that school or anything that I learned or was supposed to learn, but I certainly loved my daddy for buying those beautiful, new, shiny black, patent leather, button up shoes – just for me.