Monday, August 22, 2011


Our Current Home in Lexington, KY

During the nation’s idyllic migration to the suburbs in the Fifties, my family moved from rented house to rented apartment to federal housing project. This nomadic lifestyle colored my childhood as sure as the western sunset colors the sky. The hottest summer in decades we spent in a tiny upstairs apartment where a delivery man brought ice in big blocks for the ice box. My Least Favorite Award goes to the apartment with the outhouse--yes!--inside the city of Evansville, Indiana during the Fifties. Could my lifelong intestinal issues have come from the terror of creepy-crawlies when perched precariously over that rough-hewn wood? My tiny butt tried to find balance over a hole big enough to swallow my body while my psyche fought being devoured by fears.  However, each dwelling place proffered best and worst memories. The outhouse apartment came with a delightful old man who wanted to sharpen with his multi-purpose jackknife my only school pencil before the school year started. I’d looked forward to using the school sharpener because I didn’t want the task botched, but when he pushed, I could not say no. He carved a point so sharp and smooth it was a cupid’s arrow straight to my heart.
The best and worst of federal housing projects stun me when viewed through my rear view mirror. Among its best features was the experience of living intimately in a black and white melting pot. Our next-door African-American neighbors brought throw rugs and pillows over to make our apartment presentable when ex-in-laws visited. When I later discovered racism existed not just as historical phenomenon, I was shocked. We did not learn prejudice at home and we did not experience or learn prejudice among our white and black neighbors. My dusty memory proffered playgrounds with no grass and a wasp sting as the worst of the project not racial tension. And I actually liked the giant block of cheese every family got from welfare.


  1. Brenda, you've come a mighty long way. Obviously you have some industrial strength bootstraps. My memories of the outhouse experience are quite opposite yours. I recall being happy there on the farm, probably because it was my introduction to toileting and I didn't have the opportunity to become "spoiled' by indoor plumbing with running water and flush toilets. Maybe our hole had been cut for smaller butts and therefore less scary than yours. There was no Charmin, but we did have the back issue of the Sears Roebuck catalog and an abundance of corncobs. I remember being enamored by Gene Autry, the singing cowboy so I used to spend much time in the outhouse, not for its intended use, but for practicing my yodeling. I suppose it's much akin to singing in the shower. My yodeling never sounded as great anywhere else as it did in that shed with the sliver of a moon cut in the door.

  2. Peggy, you have GOT to write your memoir. It truly sounds compelling and will be a fun read!

    I am going to have to steal your term "industrial strength bootstraps."

    Happy Thanksgiving!