LIFE AT BECKETT MOUNTAIN
Time: Spring/summer 1937
Place: a rural community near Rosebud, AR, north of Conway and Little Rock.
In the fall of 1936 when I was 3 years old, my dad left the church at Nuyaka (We returned to Nuyaka late in 1938.) and took a church in a rural community called Beckett Mountain, near Rosebud, AR.
I don’t remember the move, but I remember the house we moved to – if you could call it that! It was an empty share-cropper’s cabin on the edge of a field belonging to a deacon of the church my dad had come to pastor.
The cabin had one large room, a lean-to kitchen on the back, and a small front porch. The large room served as bedroom for Mama, Dad, and me, at night and living room by day. Dad added another lean-to on one side of the large room so my sister, who was a teen-ager, would have her own bedroom. Water came from a well, and we gathered wood for heating and cooking. The house had no electricity; we used kerosene lamps.
After making the cabin as livable as possible by finishing the walls with cardboard and building paper and putting a linoleum on the floor of the big room, Dad started work on the church building. Only the platform had wood flooring; the floor for the rest of the building was packed dirt. With the help of men in the church, Dad got lumber from a sawmill, floored and ceiIed the inside of the church and made benches to replace the backless boards set on blocks of wood that had been the seating.
People in this farming community didn’t have much money, but they shared food from their gardens and orchards, milk and eggs from their cows and chickens, and meat from their smokehouses. Cash offerings for the pastor were very small. During those months Mama often could not mail a letter because she didn’t have 3 cents for a stamp! What little money we got was kept for buying things we couldn’t make at home such as tea for Mama, coffee for Dad, gasoline for the car, and kerosene for the lamps.
During that hot summer I spent hours lying on the floor near the door to catch any breeze that came. My entertainment was looking at the new Sears, Roebuck catalog. That year a few pages were printed in color, and one pictured several pieces of dress material. One piece came in either pink or blue with small white bunny rabbits printed on it. I begged Mama to order enough to make me a dress. She always answered by saying we didn’t have the money. (Material was 10 cents per yard.)
At this time in the Great Depression, most clothing for children in poor families was made from scraps, feed sacks, or cut down from adult clothing that still had some “wear” left in the material as my mother would say.
Day after day I dreamed of having a dress made from the pink rabbit print. Whether I prayed for one, I don’t know, but I knew that my parents prayed for things they needed. Perhaps I did.
I looked forward to Sundays. On Saturdays, my sister curled my hair; she or Mama starched and ironed my best dress. I felt like a queen when I walked to church on Sunday morning. After the Sunday School classes, all the kids stood up front facing the congregation, in what was called the “Booster Band.” We sang motion choruses such as “This Little Light of Mine,” “Zaccheus Was a Wee Little Man,” and “One Door and Only One.” Each child also said a memory verse. My favorite verse was “He careth for you,” and I said it every Sunday. My sister painstakingly taught me a new verse each week which I could say perfectly, but on Sunday, much to her embarrassment, I reverted to “He careth for you.” The adults laughed when I repeated the same verse Sunday after Sunday.
During the time I was dreaming of the pink rabbit-printed dress one of my mother’s sisters who lived in Illinois wrote to Mama and said that her daughter Georgia was taking an advanced class in Home Economics. To complete the course, one requirement was that she sew an outfit for a child.
Now this aunt and cousins had never seen me; our families lived too far apart. But Mama and her sisters wrote to each other regularly, so they knew about me. Since I was the youngest of all the cousins, my aunt wrote that if Mama would send my measurements, Georgia would make the required child’s garments for me.
Mama wasn’t very impressed. In fact I think her sister wrote twice before Mama finally measured me. It was quite a task. She used a piece of twine to go around my wrist or waist or whatever she was measuring, then lay the twine on a ruler to get the number of inches. Finally she mailed the letter with my measurements.
Weeks went by and we heard nothing from my aunt. Since Mama never had much faith that anything would come of the project, she wasn’t surprised. She warned me not to get my hopes up, and I wasn’t sure what to think.
Late in the summer the package arrived. Mama opened it, and unfolded a dress made with great care, with a pair of matching pantaloons to wear underneath with elastic just above the knees. And the material? The pink rabbit print that I had wanted for so long!
Mama couldn’t believe it! She had never expected anything would come and certainly hadn’t thought it would be made from the material I had dreamed of. Had I prayed for it? I don’t know, but I had desired it. All those Sundays when I had stood in the Booster Band and repeated, “He careth for you” God had been at work caring about a little girl’s heart’s desire.
Copyright 2013 Joyce Wells Booze