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Childhood Memoir Challenge - from Bill Holland

Dr. Bill is a retired University Professor who adheres to the philosophy of being a lifelong learner. He can help you be one too! ;-)

The Author and his Precious 1949 Chevy - Note the Visor!!

Bill and his 1949 Chevy - on top of the world

Bill and his 1949 Chevy - on top of the world

Defining Childhood for the Challenge

Thanks to Bill Holland (aka billybuc) for sending out this Challenge. I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a while but had not yet come up with a good reason or a format. So, here goes…

My childhood can be seen in three phases, in my mind, at least:

1) Farm Rentals in western Iowa - Mar 1938 thru Feb 1942 ( I was there Jul 1939 to Mar 1942, approaching 3, on Jul 1 of 1942.

2) Our own farm, nearby - Mar 1942 through Seventh Grade at Willow #3 (May 52 - 10 years)

3) Town School, still lived on same farm - Fall of 52, 8th grade through Spring of 53 plus High School thru Spring of 57 (age 18 on July 1, 1957)

I have absolutely no memories of phase 1. Nothing. I have read my mother’s diaries of that time (She kept a daily diary from 1932 to 1999, the end of her life) and there are a few photos, but they only show things I don’t have memory of. Thank goodness for them, however.

Phase 2 has more photos, and I have snippets of “memories” when a prompt occurs, but nothing very meaningful - and likely what I’ve heard, not what I remember.

For phase 3, however, especially the high school years, I have many memories. As before, when I see photos, ‘memory’ calls forth a story. True origins of the story are impossible to determine, of course. So, let’s work with phase 3 and see what we can share in some sort of meaningful way.

The Center of Controversy

A simple football - play catch?

A simple football - play catch?

Memories from Before High School

We will start with two memories from eighth grade or thereabouts. The second is from the farm. The first is from school. As the new country bumpkin in town school (town population of 1,250, perhaps) I knew there were would be some unpleasant moments, so I was prepared. My Mom and Dad were each active in school board activities, both in our rural (4 square miles) district and in the consolidation effort that closed many surrounding schools and sent us to town school. They were also very supportive of me, and my younger brothers, so that helped. At one noon time break, I checked out a football…that was the way it was done. I was responsible for that football to be returned on time. I had a few friends from country school and our country church that I could throw the ball around with. I wasn’t totally isolated, though it may have felt that way. On the other hand, there was a scrawny runt of a kid who seemed to be the leader of another bunch of boys (The Christmas Story will come to mind here, if it hasn’t already) that seemed determined to ruin our fun game of football catch during that particular noon hour.

I must insert here that I had never been in a fight before (or since, for that matter). But, I was more mature, both physically and mentally, than I likely appeared… even meek and mind, some might say. I was just a good kid, trying hard to please everyone and just get by. Well, as you’ve probably guessed, scrawny runt was having none of that. When someone missed a catch, he scooped up that football and said it was his, and that he and his friends would now be playing with it. My friends and I could find something else to do. I’m sure the words weren’t that pleasant, but I generally only remember pleasant thoughts. Perhaps I gave him a few minutes to reconsider, perhaps not, I don’t recall. All I do recall is that when he refused to return the football, I became a very different person. That football was my responsibility and he had stolen it from me. I took it back, and thrashed him good… no, actually I beat him up good. Again, I don’t recall all the dirty details, except to say I was the one who returned the football where I had checked it out. After this incident, I seemed to have a lot more respect from the other students, and continued into High School where I became a leader in all things I worked on. I was no longer the country bumpkin; I was an upstanding member of the school society.

My one other memory of this period was also a negative one. This event may have been around 7th or 8th grade, at home on the farm. My Dad was a farmer, a proud one. Doing minor construction projects he normally found scrap lumber to make do. Hard cash was still difficult to come by. In this particular situation, and I don’t recall all the specifics, he had gone to town and bought some 2x2 new pieces of lumber 8 feet in length for a specific purpose…he knew, I didn’t. For some reason, I got in my mind one of those pieces of lumber would make a fine pair of stilts (I think it was). In any event, I took a hand saw and cut that piece of wood right in the middle so I had two nice four foot pieces of 2x2 lumber that I could use to make my stilts, just by adding a foothold at just the right height. Great idea, huh?

Well, not in my Dad’s mind’s eye. I knew he had a temper, but it had never been directed at me. It certainly was this time. When he saw what I had done, he about went out of his mind (from my point of view, at least). He got his lasso rope, normally used on horses, cattle and calves… I found myself lassoed by the ankles, being drug along the ground toward the barn. Inside, I was strung up by my ankles, to a cow stansion… where the cows head was held in place for milking… my head barely scraping the hay in the floor of the barn. I am sure my backside took a good licking in the process as well (I don’t remember most negative things, remember!) Anyhow, he let me know I was not to touch stuff he had bought in town. Those were his, and he only had them for a specific purpose… not for me to play around with. Again, this is the only time I ever remember my Dad punishing me for what I had done. I was a good boy, and just never deserved it… except this one time. I was a bad, bad boy. I don’t recall whether he had gotten it out of his system, and let me go, or maybe Mom intervened at this point. He eventually let me down, but I never forgot. [An aside, but needs to be pointed out here… Dad was still a young farmer, and never involved me in any of his work. I was to prepare to go off to college, not stay on the farm… that was his job, not mine (or my brothers’…a story for another day). Perhaps if he had involved me a little more in his job, as farmer, I would had known about the lumber and would not have stuck my nose in ‘his business.’]

Punishment was meted out

A simple six-foot 2x2 piece of lumber

A simple six-foot 2x2 piece of lumber

High School in a Snapshot

In High School, I got nearly straight A grades (didn’t deserve the non-A grades I got - biased teachers! Both of them!) in a college prep program, was active in band and chorus, student government, and played basketball (made sixth man my senior year!). Dad was president of the School Board the year I graduated (Class of 1957) and got to hand me my diploma… a proud moment for each of us. I was President of the Student Body my Senior Year. In the spring of our Junior Year I had chosen my soul-mate for life and asked her to ‘go steady’ - which we continued to do including 61 years of successful married life (she passed away earlier this year). I had first asked her out on a date for my 16th birthday - to go to a movie in the county seat town 18 miles away. She said, ‘But you don’t have your license yet.’ To which I replied, ‘Yes, but I will have gotten it earlier that day.’ And I did, and we started our life long adventure together that day. We were both active in our little rural Star Methodist Church. She had gone through 6th grade in the Star School located across the road from the church, center of the local community. We had met, as I like to say, ‘on our Mother’s knee, at Ladies Aide Society’ when we were a couple of months old. We knew each other all of our lives, literally.

There is more to tell of those High School years, and later, but this will do for now, for this purpose. Thanks, again, to Bill for getting me to write this down. My daughters thank you also, for they have encouraged me to ‘write down’ those stories of the early years. It is a beginning, more will appear in my Retirement Blog and my Ancestor Stories Blog.

Hope you enjoy the Video Book Trailers of three of my novels below.

See you down the road…

Video Book Trailer - Back to the Homeplace

Video Book Trailer - The Homeplace Revisited

Video Book Trailer - Christmas at the Homeplace


William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on October 17, 2020:

Thank you, John, for taking the time to comment. Your words are always worth reading, and I appreciate that very much!! ;-)

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on October 12, 2020:

Thank you for your thoughts, John. Much appreciated. I always appreciate what you take the time to say on my stories and those of others. Best wishes to you, on the other side of the world! ;-)

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on October 12, 2020:

Virginia, yes, little tidbits is what we have to work with. Actually, that is primarily what I'm doing with my blog posts. Each one takes a photo or a group of photos, from those early days, and talks about them. They have generated great discussion among relatives and former neighbors and school mates. I post each to Facebook, where most of the comments are. You've likely seen many of them by now.

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on October 12, 2020:

You are one up on me, then, Bill. Thanks, again, for making this challenge, for me, at least. It has led to not only this article, but multiple blog posts with many more on the way. There has been one six days a week since, and more are scheduled through the rest of the month! Success, I'd say! ;-)

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on October 12, 2020:

Thank you, Annette. More stories are now on my Ancestor Stories Blog and my Retirement Blog... with many more to come... with what pictures I've been able to find.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on October 12, 2020:

Bill, I am glad you took up this challenge. This was a wonderful read and I can especially relate to gaining respect by standing up for yourself at school. Sorry to hear your wife passed away earlier this year after spending almost your entire lives together. Once again, a wonderful piece. Take care.

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on September 30, 2020:

Memories don't have to be big events. Try writing down 20 little memories. What was your favorite meal that your mom fixed? Draw a floor plan for your bedroom. Make a list of names of neighbors and friends. Each little memory that you bring up will often lead to more.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 30, 2020:

Loved reading this, my friend. Hung you up by your ankles? My oh my, they sure did things differently back then, didn't they? My dad had a temper as well. I saw it, for sure, but never aimed at me. For some reason I was spared.

I have no memories up until maybe four years of age. Then I have tiny memories, bits and pieces.

Anyway, thank you for taking on the challenge. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Annette Lamb on September 29, 2020:

Wow! What great stories. I can't wait to read more!

William Leverne Smith (author) from Hollister, MO on September 29, 2020:

Jeremiah, Yes, in my 29 member class and 145 student high school... then I went off to Iowa State. The kid sitting next to me was No.1 in his class, as well, of over 4000.... I quickly learned that though I was smart, there were millions out in the world a lot smarter than me... great lesson learned! Even though I eventually earned my PhD, it just continued to learn there are always many, many people much smarter, so stay humble!!! ;-) Thanks for your visit and comment! ;-)

JEREMIAH MWANIKI KILUNDA from Nairobi on September 29, 2020:

You must have been an academic giant for you nearly got As. Thanks for sharing your memoir.

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