My Beloved Daughter,
The job at the sawmill didn’t last long for your Grandpa Chuck. The mill kept opening and shutting down, which wasn’t good for a man who was supporting a wife and three children. So, after talking with his brothers—who worked for a company that pushed ammonia barges along the Mississippi River—he took a job with them. I was five when he went on his first trip. I remember us taking him to drop him off. Grandma Pat was crying and I didn’t really understand why. But he was gone for a month. Then he was home for a month. Then he was gone for a month. And so on . . ..
I remember that we had to take him, usually, to catch the boat in Memphis, Tennessee. It was a four-hour drive from Van Buren, so we’d usually drive to Kennett, which was about half way, and stay the night with your GG there. Then we’d go on down to Memphis and drop him off. Then we’d go back to Kennett and stay another night with GG. Then, we’d head home. This resulted in a lot of missed school for me, as we’d repeat the process every month to either drop him off or pick him up.
So, in January of 1984, we found a house in Campbell, MO, and moved there. It was about a half an hour drive from Kennett. I didn’t have to miss three days of school every month and we lived closer to GG. Grandpa Chuck had relatives in Kennett, too. Your Aunt Ruth and her husband moved to Campbell after us and your Grandpa Chuck’s brother, Jerry, did, too. Finally, your Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Ronald moved there with Leon and Leah.
It didn’t take long for the town of Campbell, MO, to become home.
It was a bit larger than Van Buren. When I was in elementary school, Van Buren had about 800 people. Campbell had 2000. It was still a small town, though. We had, when I moved there, two grocery stores, two restaurants and one video store that was inside of a gas station. Not that the latter mattered, since we didn’t really get our first VCR until I was in the sixth grade. By then, we had another, newer grocery store that rented movies.
On the other hand, we lived inside of the city limits, so we were able to get cable television. I would come home from school and watch cartoons for a couple of hours. I didn’t play outside much anymore. And I gained a lot of weight.
I don’t really blame all of me not playing outside on the cartoons. My first teacher in Campbell, Mrs. H, really liked to pile on the homework. After the cartoons ended, at 5 PM, I began working on it. I took a break for supper and usually finished it just in time for bed. This was a daily occurrence, making each evening a chore. I hated it and grew to hate going to school. Recently, sociologists have said that more than an hour of homework per night is counter-productive. I wish they’d have learned that in 1983.
To top it off, if you didn’t get your homework done, you got a mark. Three marks and you got a paddling. I can still remember her taking the offending student into the hall and jumping in my seat every time we heard the WHACK!!! They made sure that we all heard it, so that we were deterred from making the same errors.
When I finished the third grade, I was thrilled to be out of her class. Then she moved up and I got her again for the fourth grade. The next year was better, although she still had some questionable practices. One child, Scotty, acted up in class one day. Now, we would say that he had ADHD. Then, Mrs. H decided to punish him by telling us to pretend that he didn’t exist. We jumped into this with gusto. By the end of the day, he had been reduced to a blubbering mess by the lack of interaction.
To this day, I feel guilty about my part in it. And I am glad that Mrs. H has long since retired and can’t do this to children anymore.