Ma, Ya Made My Pants Too Big …
By Tom Morrow
The first time I realized I was getting old was when I could no longer keep my pants up with a belt. Let me explain …
When I started kindergarten in September 1945, I had to wear suspenders to keep my pants up. Despite my pleadings to my Mother, I had to follow through with what the British call “braces.”
My cousin Bob who was only six months older, got to wear his new Western belt, complete with a shiny silver buckle. His butt stuck out slightly so he had a natural platform on which to hang his corduroys. (Those were the days when denim jeans were around, but expensive and hard to find.) My Mom made my pants leaving plenty of room for me to grow into. I looked somewhat like a giant, slender bean pole with sagging bark.
I have to admit those suspenders were a step up from the blue bib overalls which were my alternative daily wardrobe. It would be my entering second grade before my butt was ample enough to support a belt. The step up in my school wear came at the right time. I had my first love affair in the second grade. The recipient of my affection was our teacher, Miss Harvey. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen alive and off the silver screen. She drove a new 1947 black Ford coupe, making me a Ford man for life. Miss Harvey left us later in the year to get married. I felt betrayed.
I must point out that Billy A. got to wear sleek, new blue Levi’s. His Mom went the extra mile (dollars) to get them. My Mom was a Montgomery Ward catalog loyalist. She could buy anything for $2 less than the store-bought goods. Billy A. looked great, although he could care less. He shunned all females in the class … he was a loner, but to us in those days he was, well, kinda cool.
I got over my disappointment of losing Miss Harvey because it was the very next year a young black-haired beauty displaced that older woman making things more age appropriate. I doubt if the new girl ever detected my attraction, but that’s one of the hazards of young love.
It was about my second-grade year that we got our first refrigerator. It was right after World War II had ended. Appliances such as that were almost impossible to get. I think my parents were on some sort of waiting list until my Uncle Dean came to the rescue. He was a refrigeration repairman and somehow obtained two (2) brand new Kelvinator refrigerators. Many people in Seymour had ice boxes because unless you had the money to buy an electric refrigerator before the War, (during the Great Depression), you had to go the ice-block method because all of the appliance manufacturers were producing implements of war.
We got one of one of those new refrigerators, which fit quite nicely into the space where our beloved icebox sat. Each week Jerry Johnson, our iceman cometh, leaving a 25-pound chunk of ice which lasted until the next week. We had a sign in our front-room window that said “Ice” in big black letters. Around each side were numbers: 25, 50, 75, 100. You made your week’s request by sitting the sign in the window with the desired number showing at the top. We always got 25 pounders because anything bigger wouldn’t fit the ice compartment.
That year, 1948, was memorable because we were blessed with an indoor toilet. Dad was doing his best to bring our family into the 20th century. For us, the time-honored backyard privy gave way to modern conveniences. We rejoiced, of course. If you’ve never had the call of nature during a cold winter night with a temperature of minus 10 degrees, you’re spoiled and don’t know the true meaning of commitment. To make this modern convenience possible, Dad had hired two grave diggers from the nearby South Lawn cemetery to hack out a 10 foot-by-10-foot square by 8-foot-deep hole for a septic tank. He built a wooden structure around this great hole and filled it with cement, giving form to a giant square tank. It was a marvel to behold.
Looking back, I guess we were poor, but for our community standards we were “middle class” because Dad had good credit in which to barter around the business square for groceries and other needs. You might think these little memories are conjured up out of fading memories, but I assure you this is what Seymour, Iowa and our family was like in the middle of the fourth decade of the 20th century.