Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
Thu, April 18

Barnes column: Remembering my childhood days in Missouri

We’ve just experienced our first snow of the year and I hope all of us were grateful for the moisture, puny as it was.

Coincidently, on that day I finished re-reading Steinbeck’s great novel, “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Some of you will recall the 30s and the conditions that caused families to leave the mid-west and seek their future in California. I was a youngster back then, but do recall a few memories.

Our house in Kansas City, Mo., was located two blocks from state line, the street which separated Missouri and Kansas. Of more importance was the fact that our home faced west. We took the full brunt of the frequent, powerful winds that blew the topsoil off the Kansas prairie smack up against us.

One of my first memories is helping my mom put damp towels against the bottom of the front door and on the ledges of windows. When changed several times each day they would have a dark, dirty crust, but for the most part, they reduced the dust that became part of our lives.

I, and all our neighbors with homes facing west, got used to entering our homes by the back door. Friends who visited did the same.

Back in those days—the 30s—clothes were washed in basements and hung on backyard clotheslines. For moms it was a challenge to predict whether that day would be clear and dust free or “one of those days.” We all stayed alert, ready to remove the damp clothes and sheets from the clothesline and toss them into a basket at the first sign of wind.

For us kids, windy days were challenging. All my friends in elementary school were small like me. On the worst of days it was no big deal getting blown off our feet. I recall walking to and from school making decisions about which trees could afford me immediate shelter and whether they were big enough to hold on to or hide behind.

School recesses were always looked forward to, but there were many days when none of us wanted to play outside. We’d line up and the teachers would lead us in energetic hops and skips along the wide hallways. At the end of school days, there were always some mothers or neighbors who would show up to walk young kids home when the winds were ferocious.


During the recent Olympics I experienced an “Ah Ha” moment. I discovered I was cheering for a South Korean athlete. As a soldier in Korea in the early 50s I saw a nation decimated by war. So, to see the transformation that has occurred in that country and watch young S. Koreans win medals for their physical acumen helps me bring that grim chapter of my life to a close.

The memories cannot be assuaged but a personal benediction can now be undertaken.

There is one other memory which has no relationship to weather, but is front and center in my mind at the moment. Every year there are fewer and fewer if us who served in Korea back in the early 50s.


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