One summer day, my husband came home to our western Minnesota farm with a little fur ball the size of an apple. It was a baby owl. My two young sons, Charles and Clem, and I immediately fell in love. We named the owl Rosco Lonnie.
We wanted to do our best to take care of him. I was worried because he wouldn’t eat. Finally, I thought, What do I like to eat when nothing else tastes good? Bread and warm milk. So I put a little in a teaspoon, and he happily ate it. This new diet let him know we loved him and wanted to help.
Our back porch became the little fur ball’s home. We kept his food there, and that’s where he learned to fly. He flapped his wings and went from one step to the next. Little by little, he flew farther and farther, but he always came back to us.
Rosco was very fussy with whom he let hold him. He liked me, my mother, and his favorite, Charles. He didn’t like Clem too much, because he would squeeze Rosco too hard.
People didn’t believe that he would come to me when I called for him. One morning, Paul, the man we were working for, wanted to show Rosco off to some friends. So I called for Rosco and opened the front door, and he came flying in and skidded across the linoleum floor in the living room. We were so proud!
After having so much fun that summer, we had to move and could not take Rosco with us. We shed many tears for our family owl. But anytime I look at this picture, I’m reminded of the many happy memories we had with our beloved Rosco Lonnie.
Back in North Dakota, my mother and her sister, Elsie, rented an apartment with another girl they’d befriended at an orphanage. The girl was black, but because of her light skin, she “passed” for white. Her younger brother, whom they also knew from the orphanage and whose skin was darker, got a job in a bakery. The owner let him sleep in the back and gave him the leftover bakery goods. At night, he would come by the apartment to share his baked items, and the girls shared dinner with him.
Mom said that when the four of them got together, there were always a lot of stories and laughter. He was a loving brother who gave a portion of his meager salary to his sister so she could save up for nursing school.
One day, Mom’s landlord came to the door. He was angry. Neighbors had complained that the girls were having parties with black men, he said, and they would have to move out.
It was at this point in the story that my mom would tear up.
After the three girls moved to another apartment, the brother sat his sister down and told her that he would never cause her any more trouble, because he would no longer come around to see her.
My mother’s friend was inconsolable, but her brother kept his word. The siblings were never in contact again, except for the money he continued to send her so she could become a nurse.
And she did become a nurse.
Here I am, your 1960 Florida State Posture Queen! Back in those days, Florida seemed to have beauty contests for almost everything. My girlfriends and I entered as many as we could to get the goodies that were given away—bathing suits, trips, maybe even a scholarship. All Posture Queen contestants were required to have their spines X-rayed. As a result, to this day I try my best to stand tall and straight.
In summer of 1941, I was hired for my first job as a switchboard operator at the Illinois Bell Telephone Co. in Waukegan. My family never had a telephone, so I had much to learn about headsets, plugs, and jacks.
On Sunday, December 7, 1941, suddenly the whole switchboard lit up with hundreds of signals to be answered. I wondered, as the other girls did, why there were so many signals all at once.
At break time, we were told that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.
The telephone became essential at the onset of war with Japan. The personnel lines of the Naval Station Great Lakes were part of the exchange in Waukegan, and we were very busy connecting their calls. I began to see just how important my job was to the safety of America. Many men were enlisting.
I took pride in my job when I realized it was my way of joining the war effort.