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Down on the farm

Down on the farm
Out of the woods.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"Over-halls"

When I was little only the poorest of the poor wore what we called "over-halls"...the straps let them up and down for the next kid. They were always frayed, patched and faded, but never dirty.
Rarely did the child have shoes, never socks and at a guess, no underwear. The kids usually smelled bad, not from dirt, but malnutrition and bad teeth.
A boy sitting next to me in first grade could not be allowed to have crayons because he ate them as fast as he could get his hands on them. His father was a lead miner, out of work after the mine closed and they were starving.
Their home was a tar paper shack, literally. There was a light bulb hanging from the ceiling over an old wobbly dining room chair. In one corner was an old bed with broken metal springs and a threadbare quilt folded neatly at the bottom and one pillow at the head. A huddle of fabric scraps in another corner served as a bed for the baby and several children. In the place of honor, in the center of one wall was an ancient console radio. The light bulb over the chair had to be removed to plug in the radio. A pot bellied stove with 3 intact legs and a couple of bricks served for heat and cooking.
I know all this because my father took me along on 'pastoral calls' like this so he could say that "Judy wanted to stop in to say hello to her school friend." I had several of these friends, some I never knew at school as they were older or younger.
Most families were too proud and refused any help at all. But we got free milk for a lot of them because all the kids got it. Some wouldn't even accept it then. They didn't want to be beholden.
What a change to the welfare way of life. Today those kids would be fed, but would they ever understand the pride of a day's work? I can't judge about better or worse.