My valuable, no-cost collection; no storage needed

By Vivian Lawson Hogue

My mother was a collector. She had lived through “wars and rumors of war,” the Great Depression, 21 moves in as many years, and five children, four of them boys. She collected everything from piles of fabric scraps, patterns, yarn, rubber bands, and string, the latter arriving tied around what was then called the Arkansas Gazette. The string ends were tied together and wound into a tight ball. Rubber bands were “processed” the same way. The segmented   string was tied around packages wrapped in cut-to-fit paper grocery bags and mailed to sons in the military, relatives, or a daughter in college. Sometimes they contained her world-famous peanut butter cookies or fudge. The rubber bands were used for rubber band/spit-ball fights, although she never knew that. Well, okay, she knew about the spit-balls.

I still have my stamp collection begun about age 9. We subscribed to many magazines, and I always read the back-page ads first because there I could find stamps to order. A solid dime was taped to the ad and mailed to the H.E. Harris Stamp Co., and I received a glassine envelope full of stamps from throughout the world.

A longtime friend said, “I can still see my mother, aunt, grandmother and the church’s ladies’ circle gathered in my aunt’s home. My uncle would set up three quilting frames and they shared a week or two of meals, prayers and quilting to donate for church fundraisers. I also recall them laying white bedsheets on the furniture throughout their 14-room Victorian home. They would work for days making homemade egg noodles and spreading them on the sheets to dry. They froze many cooked chickens for church chicken noodle dinners.”

From a local reader: “My mom was a stay-at-home mom like most moms. She  had a wringer washer like yours. My job was to guide the clothes into the first and second rinse tubs. I also handed Mom clothes pins as she hung clothes on the line. Even with all the work, we actually had more “porch time” to sit on the porch sipping tea and enjoying each others’ company.”

Another friend wrote: “One downtown scent that you didn’t mention was that which came from the old Coca-Cola ice boxes [called ‘sweetwater’ boxes] at neighborhood groceries. We used to wash the bottles and return them for the 2¢ refund. We pulled them in a red wagon if there were too many to carry.  Instant cash!”

My late brother, Noel, wrote: “For many years, the ice man would deliver ice to our door. Mother would put a card in the window telling him how much ice we needed. The ice house downtown was a social center of Conway for many years as everyone went there to get their ice for making ice cream. Workers would put a big block in a crusher and bag up the chips for you when finished. I recall seeing the men with leather pads on their backs and wielding big tongs to move the blocks.”

He also mentioned, “Mother would take us to Mr. Joseph’s to select her own live chicken for Sunday dinner. We had a small coop where she kept the condemned before that day. That was where as a young philosopher I had to come to grips with the fact that my kind and dear mother was also capable of cold-blooded murder in preparing that innocent chicken before she sent us off to Sunday school. She was using her mothering instinct, and one must never interfere with a mother and her brood.”

“Mr. Sheofee operated the Intercity Bus Depot where we went regularly to pick up Dad after a day of working in Little Rock. He often gave us vanilla cookies while we waited. Other times we waited in front of the post office if Dad was driving his government car. I recall watching birds (Chimney Swifts) as they gathered for the evening, funneling down into the post office chimney.”

Nancy Moix, a former co-owner of Massey Hardware, recalled, “Both of my sons grew up working in the store during high school and college. I still see the rolling ladder on the east side and remember my four-year-old son, Chris, giving his grandpa, Romie Moix, a ride he will never forget – right off the ladder and into the row of stoves! If walls could talk, we would hear many tales from around the old iron heating stove.”

Mike Morris recalls, “At Christmas I would have a very small sum with which to buy presents. One particular time I searched the aisles of Thines Variety Store, carefully trying to find the right gift for my mother. All of a sudden I came across the perfect present – an ice pick! It cost 10¢. Oh, to be 6-years-old again.”

Another reader wrote, “James Favre (pronounced “Fah-ver”) and I spent many summer evening hours at the Conway Corporation generator building. We would just sit and watch the generators work. Occasionally the night operator would take a big oil can and oil several places on the machinery … simply amazing.”

Reader Eric Glover said, “I am reminded of a conversation with my Granny Fielder who lived to be 100. We were in the kitchen preparing a holiday meal. I mentioned our new microwave oven … my mom said she’d be lost without her Presto cooker. We asked Granny what was one thing in her kitchen she couldn’t do without and she said, ‘running water!’ It’s all in the perspective.”

A 501 area reader said, “This makes me thankful for simple memories I have of my husband’s grandfather. I want to sit in his living room again and talk about how he and Grandma used to bring baby calves in the living room on cold winter nights. They would wrap them up and lay them by the wood stove so they wouldn’t freeze.”

The late Ken Parker stated, “My dad was a Conway firefighter from 1924 to 1948. We lived near the fire station when I was growing up. The siren you mentioned was near our backyard. The first night of his retirement, Dad was awakened by the alarm. He came over the foot of the bed, got tangled in the covers and darned near broke his neck. As he lay there on the floor, he remembered that he no longer had to respond to alarms.”

He added: “We had city buses starting during World War II. It had one route, from Arkansas State Teachers College (now University of Central Arkansas) through downtown, up Front Street past the Hendrix College campus on Washington Avenue to Harkrider and the Circle Inn motel. The entire ride cost a dime.”

These and many more calls, emails, cards, and grocery store visits by readers let me know that I have touched their former lives or provided learning. I now have a few close emailing friends I have never met and likely never will! If we ever do, I’m sure we’ll find a good conversational starting point over a cup of coffee and a homemade peach fried pie. Oh-h-h, my goodness!

Vivian Lawson Hogue
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