Friday, August 21, 2009

Hard Times

In the early forties dad had a stomach ulcer, one of the worst kind. It got so bad he had to have an operation The only doctor around here that would take the case was a doctor in Halstead. He had a clinic that worked with the hospital. It was the Dr. Hertzler Clinic. It was well known in the mid-west as being the best place to go if you had a serious problem. It was set up so some member of your family could stay close to the hospital because there were patients there from all over the country.

Dad had 2/3 of his stomach removed so he had to spend a lot of time in recovery. This was the most severe one that the doctor had done at that time. I don't remember how long he had to stay at the hosital before coming home. But the operation and hospital and after care cost a lot of money at that time and we had no insurance so that put us in debt big time. So, no way to pay the bill. They set it up on a monthly payment plan.

After dad got on his feet mom got a job in town as a cook in a restaurant. My sister was a freshman in high school so mom got a room in town because we only had one vehicle. Back then there were no school buses, you had to get there on your own. So my sister stayed with mom in town and worked at the restaurant on weekends.

That left us two boys and dad on the farm. Things at home changed. Two boys and a dad wasn't like having mom home. The first big change was food. We should have turned into a potato! Every meal we had fried potatoes that were about half done, a lot of pork and beans, pancakes and shredded wheat for breakfast, and peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches for our school lunch boxes. When we would go visit our friends, the Casey boys, their mom knew that the meals were kind of slim down home so she always offered and expected us to eat with them. My brother and I made it a point to visit them often.

We always looked forward to Saturday night because we got to go to town and mom would have us help peel a 100# of potatoes (they served real potatoes in those days). We would take some of them and make french fries in their machine that cut them. When we got done with that, mom would fix us a hamburger and french fries. Sometimes we would get a piece of pie or a chocolate malt. During the winter we would get chili if they had any left. One thing that stuck in my mind, there would be a knock on the back door of the restaurant, mom would go open the door and there would be some black people traveling through town who would ask if they could buy some food. Mom always fixed them what they wanted.

Sometimes we didn't have a lot to eat and our clothes weren't always real clean to go to school, but that is how we helped pay off the medical bills. Our local doctor told us if we would take care of some of his horses he would deduct it off of his bill. That way we didn't have to put out any cash to him. We boarded his horses for many years.

That is how we got through some hard times.

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