Letters to Alice Part 1
A while back, grandson Jacob asked if I could write a few stories from my childhood for his daughter Alice, who would soon turn five. It has been delightful to look back to the dawn of memory—age three. I send them one by one via Facebook and will compile them for the Story Tree web site. This is Part One.
My first Home
Dear Alice, this is great-grandpa Lloyd from Duluth. I have a secret for you: You are my favorite great-grandkid. We have to keep that secret because I have bunch of great-grandkids, but you are special.
I thought maybe you would like to know how it felt to be a little kid over 90 years ago. I can remember from when I was not three. I hear you will soon be five. My first home was in the Riverside neighborhood of Duluth. I moved there right after I was born. I don’t remember being a baby, but I remember being little and sitting Mother’s lap on a low rocking chair in the living room. I loved putting my ear on her chest while she sang Lavender blue, dilly, dilly, lavender green. If I were king, dilly, dilly, I’d need a queen. Sometimes she sang Jesus loves me. Maybe Grandma Jeanne can teach you those songs.
My bedroom was in front upstairs. I could look out the window and watch the big kids play baseball across the street. I didn’t understand how come they could be out playing when I had to go to bed.
Next time I’ll tell you about my first nightmare: A huge white monster about to grab me!
The White Monster
Hi, Alice. Great-grandpa Lloyd again. Hope you’re having a really fun day. Last time I told you about the first home I remember. I was not yet four. My upstairs bedroom was small and Father strung a clothesline at the foot of my bed so Mother could dry laundry when it was cold outside. I guess driers hadn’t been invented yet.
One winter night, Mother tucked me in and left the door open a crack to let in a little light. The house grew still and I fell asleep. Suddenly, at the foot of my bed, a great white monster appeared. He was about to pounce on me. Believe me, I woke up and hollered! Mother hurried in, turning on the light. The monster turned out to be Father’s long underwear hung to dry after I had fallen asleep.
It took me a long time to sleep again. I remember other nightmares—a mad cow chasing me round and round a shed–but never one that scared me as badly as the white monster. Things aren’t always when they seem to be, are they. Did you ever have a nightmare?
Next time I’ll tell you a strange sleep story—a calf calling for its mama in the middle of the night. Well, take care, dear Alice. You’re special and I love you.
A Calf in the Parlor
’ve been telling you about the first home I remember when I was not quite four. I told the scary story of nightmare monster. Well, about the same time, I had another scary night. I dreamed I heard a calf crying for its mother, only it wasn’t a dream.
Late that afternoon, two uncles had come to spend the night. They had bought a small calf for their farm, but it was too cold for the calf to stay in the car. Father built a pen in one corner of the living room using newspaper, chairs, table leaves, and Mother’s ironing board. I remember she wasn’t happy. The calf wasn’t happy either. It banged and bawled and finally settled down.
At bedtime Mother took me upstairs. I was sleeping hard when the calf started crying for its mother. At first I was scared; then I remembered the calf.
The uncles left early and Father took down the pen, but Mother was still sort of mad.
Big people think little kids don’t know when they get mad, but you and I know better, don’t we, Alice?
Next time I’ll tell you about our next house and my backyard sandbox.
My First Car Ride
Hi Alice! I’ve been telling you stories about my first home when I was not quite four. Hazel, my sister, was 14 months older. Our father worked as a streetcar conductor He wore a uniform and stood in back, taking riders’ money. We didn’t have a car yet, so Hazel and I were always home and our mother was always with us.
One summer day, two uncles came and started carrying our furniture and many boxes to a truck. Mother said we were moving, but what did that mean? When the men finished loading the truck, they took Mother and Father and drove away, leaving Hazel and me with an aunt! After a short time, our aunt put Hazel and me in her car and away we went. That was the first car ride I can remember.
We drove and drove, passing big stores and big houses then smaller houses with yards. Finally we stopped in front of a small house with big trees and a long cement walk to the porch. There stood Mother. Did she ever look good! We were at 4921 Oneida Street in the Lakeside neighborhood. Inside we found our furniture and the boxes jumbled together.
Mother took Hazel and me to see the backyard with clotheslines and a garden. A white garage with big doors that swung outward was in one corner; a small building with faded red paint was in the other. Mother said it was once a chicken coop. I would have a big back yard to play in!
Father joined us. He said, “I’ll build you a sandbox in front of the chicken coop,” My very own sandbox! I’d let Hazel play there once in a while.
Great grandpa Lloyd again, Alice. The sandbox Father built for me was a little bigger than a card table and about six inches deep. He filled it with clean, clean sand from Park Point, hauling it home in his Model T Ford in big pails and a washtub. Taking sand was legal then; today you are no allowed to.
Whenever I wasn’t doing something else, I would play in my sandbox with small trucks and a little red fire engine I got for Christmas. Most of the time I played alone; no kids my age lived in nearby, and I was not allowed to go very far. But I was content to sit in my sandbox imagining stories. I wondered about a lot of things.
I wondered what it would be like when I was grown up and had a wallet with a dollar in it, like my dad. I had never had a dollar. I had a nickel once in a while and a dime once. Sister Hazel and I would walk three blocks to Ole’s Store with just a penny! Ole had the best penny candy counter in the neighborhood.
When I was seven, I found a quarter in the grass by the sidewalk. By then I was allowed to walk alone to Ole’s. I spent the whole quarter at the candy counter. I bought jaw breakers, Black Jack gum, red and black red licorice rope, lollypops with candy on both ends of the stick. They were nice to share with a girlfriend, when you got old enough to have one. I even bought a Three Musketeer bar—three little bars. Cost a whole nickel!
I sneaked to the gunnysack tent in my woods and stated on the candy. Pretty soon I didn’t want any more, and the bag was still half full. That was the only time I couldn’t eat all the candy I bought from Mr. Ole.
Next time I’ll tell you about my woods and my spruce tree hideaway. Love you, Alice. Great-grandpa Lloyd.
Hi Alice, great-grandpa Lloyd here. It’s sure fun remembering when I was a kid. My play world grew year by year. At first I had to stay in the yard. Then I was allowed to check out the woods back of our garage. Next, Mother and Dad let me explore the woods just beyond my woods.
Those woods ended in a large field that sloped down to a little crick—big people would call it a creek. Beyond the crick, the field sloped upward, and my favorite wild strawberry patch was there.
There was a big flat boulder next to a deep pool in the crick about the size of Mother’s washtub. I loved to lie on the boulder and watch tadpoles and odd swimming critters. I saw Jesus bugs–they could walk on water! Frogs hopped around, easy to catch. Dad told me tadpoles turned into frogs, and I watched it happen
Upstream from the pool I found a thick spread of red osier dogwood brush. A perfect place to make a hideout from rustlers—I was just starting to play cowboy. My hidden passage led to a cleared circle ring just big enough to hide in. I kept my six-shooter handy; I could draw fast.
I spent a lot of time at the crick that summer, but I kept looking at the hill a half-mile to the north. It was my mountain, like in the song Mother often sang: The bear went over the mountain to see what he could see. I wanted to climb the mountain more than anything. One day I did, and I’ll tell you about it. But next time I’ll tell you about warm summer nights in the field behind our neighbor’s garage.
Love you. Great-grandpa Lloyd