Memories in Missouri, 1963

by Marlene Walker

My name is Jilleen, Jill for short. It’s supposed to be a combination of Jim and Marlene, my parents’ names. When I was 6, I lived at 1200 Fox Run, Florissant, Missouri. It was on the front corner of a bunch of new houses. We planted and fixed up the yard and one day, Daddy was cutting the grass and he ran right over a shrew. Yuck! I never saw one before and I never want to see one again.

One day when it rained, I stood and cried ‘cause I didn’t know where I lived, ‘cause all the houses looked the same. When I was outside, my boots were sucked right off my feet into the mud. Momma called me to see why I was just standing there. I went to my house in my muddy stocking feet. Momma made me go back and pull my red boots out of the mud and bring them in the house.

Daddy built a cyclone fence around our yard I thought I could catch the bunnies when I cornered them in the fence, but they went right through just like it wasn’t even there.

We didn’t have a cyclone, but we did have a tornado. Boy, you should see the stuff that was blowin’ around and it smelled like a sewer. Daddy went outside to see if our roof was still on.

I got to see a lightning strike hit the pole across the street and it kept flashing for the longest time. We were scared ‘cause it was so close.

You could look out the window of my house and see my school, De Smit. I was smarter than the other kids in my first grade class. Miss Skipper taught the class about the Navajo Indians, but she called it Nava-Joe, not Nava-ho. Miss Skipper said that I was impertinent when I told her that.

By my school there was a big church with bells. Momma said it was famous ‘cause it was on TV every Sunday. Some people just stayed home and watch. They didn’t go to church like we did.

We drove to church every Sunday and every Wednesday afternoon. When we went to primary on Wednesday, Momma took Patty Lewis and Melody King and Craig Moberly and David and Rickey Lowery.

I liked looking out the car window and seeing the pretty pink trees. Some had little flowers and others are so big. Momma calls the big flowers magnolias. Four-way stop signs were on every corner. We were afraid of them. If anyone was late to church, you could find them at the nearest four-way stop sign.

Sometimes, we got to go to the church house on Saturday, ‘cause the grownups stay up all night Friday night and make yummy bread that looks like it’s braided (but it’s just cut with scissors before it rises) and sticky, cinnamon bread. People liked it so much they came right to where it’s made, at the church. We don’t cut it, we just pull off a chunk and eat it. Any bread that was not eaten at the church was taken to Central Hardware then sold. It was gone all the time, I ‘member.

I loved to go to Central Hardware. Most everything was there. It was fun to walk up and down the isles to see all the fancy, new things.

My daddy loves me ‘cause he took me downtown to a big old factory called Switzer’s and bought me a whole yard of licorice. Some of the kids like red, but I like the black ‘cause you can lick it off your face and it lasts longer.

One day, Momma saw my little brother, Raymond, with chewing gum and asked him where he got it. She made him show her the chewing gum box that he took and hid by the ditch. Then she made him take it back and give it to the store manager. Raymond apologized and even paid for it. But he didn’t even get to blow a bubble. He says he’ll never steal anything again.

On laundry day, I got to help Momma put the wash away. The clothes didn’t really dry. I put them in my drawer damp, that means they are kinda wet. It was hot and sticky in St. Louis.

When I went on walks with Momma around the neighborhood, sometimes I got to push my little sister, Sharon, in her stroller.

Our neighborhood grandma, Grandma Haunie, came around every day to talk and tell us about our neighbors and give us some cake she called coffee cake, though it doesn’t have any coffee in it. It was so good! If I stand on my tippy toes, I’m just as tall as Grandma Haunie. She always asked us to get her some paregoric, whatever that was.

One year, Halloween came on Sunday. So we had a backyard wiener roast on Saturday. All the kids from the church and neighborhood came, like Jammie and Steven Oscarson and Jeff and Steve King from across the street.

Jeff King was really smart. He could tell you all about the Presidents of the United States. He spent so much time learning about them. I liked to learn, too. We spent a lot of time at his house.

I get to go to Girl Scouts too. We learned how to skate. It was fun!

One day, I heard mom and dad talking to Grant Rees, my uncle and my bishop. They said we were moving.

Raymond didn’t want to move to Utah. He said he wanted to stay so he could go to the only true church. He packed his suitcase and walked two miles to Ferguson, Missouri, where our church was. When he got there, nobody was there. Van Harpoole saw him and took him home.

We moved to Utah anyway. But it was okay. We found out that our church was in Pleasant Grove, Utah too.

I’ve had new fun adventures in Utah, but somedays I still think about our little house in Florissant, Missouri.

(Note: there may be some inaccuracies and a more current draft, but this is what I have.)

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