Tuesday, March 16, 2010

nutshells & wagons

Mother sends an occasional email out to her children and grandchildren, sharing stories about her life.  This is  her most recent Nutshells email.  Dad, Westbrook, was born and raised in Cheraw, S.C.  and mother right here in Gadsden, AL.  The stories come from two different places, but both recollections pulled aboard childhood wagons.  Enjoy! -David

February 13, 2010

Westbrook was born on July 14, 1916.  His mother, Jennie Wait Foster Finlayson, taught him at home the first few school years since he was handicapped and unable to walk.  When Wes was a little boy he often used a wagon for transportation, and small crutches, with which some of you have played.  When he began attending public school in the third grade in 1924, for a while someone pulled him in a wagon to school and then home again.

Before and during World War II, neighborhood friends and I used a Red Ryder wagon to collect scrap iron for the war effort.  I lived in the Alabama City area during the early preparation for the war.  Houses at that time had back alleys almost as large as a street.  People put their scrap iron and metals behind their homes in the alley to be picked up.  It was an adventure to see how much scrap metal we could collect for the truck.  Even at the age of nine or ten we realized we were helping prepare for war, but we had fun since we friends worked together and were paid a few cents a pound, which we used to buy treats at Herndon's Grocery Store.

When I was ten, we lived at 204 Campbell Court in East Gadsden.  On December 7, 1941, on a Sunday morning, I was sitting in the living room on the floor near our Philco radio reading the comics when I heard that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.  Soon after, President Franklin Roosevelt pronounced America at war with Japan.

I don't recall being deprived of much during the war, except because of rationing by the government, we could not get candy or sweets as sugar was one of the items rationed.  Mom managed well, as others did by improvising, such as coloring oleo with a small amount of red powder to give the creamy color of butter.  I look back and realize how much we trusted Mom with our food.

Most children lived in a child's world, we saw all of the Shirley Temple movies as she was every girl's movie idol; and boys read all the comics they could get.  We would buy song sheets and sit in the yard and sing songs with such words as "Don't sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me 'til I come marching home".  We thought we were being patriotic.

I had two brothers in service, Floyd Presley (Pete) Davidson, in the Navy, and Frelin (Jack) Davidson, in the Army.  Pete was a gunner on a battleship and fought in the Pacific.  Jack was honorably discharged during his first year due to a heart attack.  I regret that I didn't talk with Pete about his war experiences.  I did hear that once when the ship was under attack, he saw Grandfather Covington (the preacher) standing by him and knew that all would be well.  When I was twelve or thirteen and Jack came home, he put his arms around me and cried, he was so grieved because his younger brother was in the fight without him.  It changed his life.  Jack was a casualty of war in another way.

Jesus had a family he loved, and friends with whom he fished.  Jesus helped his fishermen friends catch 153 fish with one net, built a fire on the shore, cooked some of the fish and then called them to have breakfast with him.  All that when He was supposed to be dead!  Lord, help us to have more faith in what You will do.

God planned that we have family, friends and neighbors, and that we love and care for each other.  I see things about my mother and father, sisters and brothers that I would have changed (and visa versa).  I can't go back and ask about my brother his war stories, nor thank my sister, Millie, for bringing home a box of Baby Ruths from the Camp Sibert commissary where she worked during the war, but I can encourage my family to love your family and have empathy and helpful compassion for their needs, and others, also.  You may never know what a telephone call can do, and a hug when you see them.  You not only will bless your family, but it also blesses God.

Be sure to hitch your wagon to the Family of God so He can take you safely home.

Esther Finlayson
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