GARDENING ... AND MORE: ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’
by Ronella Stagner, Columnist
Mar 19, 2014 | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As I sit by my window and watch the big, shiny school buses go by I am taken back to a far different type of conveyance to get the students to and from the school here in my county. Where now a bus goes down every road in the county to pick up students to take them to the big consolidated school, once we had few county buses and I rode ten miles in the back of a pickup truck in a homemade wooden bed with wooden seats on both sides. In fact, it was covered and had wooden panels all around but it had no heat and in winter, it was unbelievably cold. My feet would be numb by the time we got to school. The truck took high school students from Canton to Cadiz and I got to go, too since my parents wanted me to go to school in Cadiz for the eighth grade. The following year, all schools were consolidated and I rode on a big bus with heat. What a change for us all.

This was about 1941 and that school seemed to be enormous. I could hardly believe I would find my way to classes. For its time, that school was very modern and up to date.

However, we had no cafeteria and you either brown bagged lunch or did without. After our father arranged three unsuccessful boarding situations, my younger sister and I lived at the hotel in town. It was a long walk to and from school and way too far to go back to the hotel for lunch, but eventually a bus took the “town kids” to town so they could walk home for lunch. My sister and I enjoyed a sumptuous feast three times a day if we got up early enough for breakfast. The food was fabulous and we tried to never miss a meal.

Though I would have far preferred to live at home with our parents, I have good memories of the Cadiz Hotel and dear Mrs. Malone, the owner and manager and our erstwhile guardian. We had a front room overlooking the street on the second floor. We shared a bath with other boarders and the occasional traveler, which was a great inconvenience. The door had no lock so my sister and I took turns bathing while the other one would sit outside the door to guard. Unlike our former boarding experiences, we were warm and comfortable. I had to be a mother to my little sister who was only twelve but though I sometimes felt sorry for myself, it was the best my parents could manage for us.

I think of Mrs. Malone with affection and, looking back after all these years, I realize that she took care of us. If I were going to go to a ball game, she would fix a sandwich and some little dessert if I were going to miss supper. If I had a date, she sat up and waited for me to come home. That was most inconvenient since I felt that at fifteen, I didn’t need that. It sure did keep me straight, though. I can just see her now with her red hair twisted in a loose bun and her neat dresses. She seemed to be in perpetual motion, checking the food on the tables, checking on her guests, etc. When our parents came to pick us up to go home for the week-end, she was always available to answer questions as to our conduct but there was never a question about our conduct, which was a miracle considering we were just children on our own.

The regular boarding guests at the hotel were a very interesting group. All the women, plus us two children, ate at a long table while the men ate at another table. The food was brought out in big bowls and we ate family style. Those women were of all ages. There was Miss Whittinghill, the local Home Demonstration Agent. She was, I thought, quite old but in fact was probably middle aged. Then there was Miss Poteet, a redheaded beauty operator who had a shop in the hotel basement. She was not too friendly to my sister and me but one thing about her always comes to mind. She had a beef tongue cooked at the hotel kitchen and she had it brought out to her table setting at every meal. I always got sick if I saw her slicing that tongue. Then there was Nell, our favorite of all the women. She worked in a state government office of some kind and was so sweet to us. There was also Miss Addie Lee who was a bit eccentric but we just kind of overlooked her. Her brother, Mr. John Thompson, lived at the hotel also. The king and queen of the boarders were Mr. and Mrs. John King. He was an attorney of some renown and so very friendly to us. Mrs. King reminded me of the queen of England. She was very beautiful with her perfectly coifed white hair and her perfect clothes. She was so sweet to both of us but especially to my sister. I think all the regular boarders felt some sympathy for the two of us.

When my sister spent a night with one of her friends, then I was free to spend the night with my best friend, Ruby. Her parents worried a great deal about me and were so good to me. I have never forgotten her sweet parents.

In looking back these many years, I know that my parents didn’t realize what a hard time we had just so our father could have the farm he always wanted. We paid a terrible price, day after day, but it made us strong, I think. You have heard the expression, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

If you have gardening questions or comments about the change in the column, please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632.
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