By Doris Schroeder
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the tape came out of a movie entitled McFarland USA and it really got my memory wheels turning back to 1941-2 when my family lived and dreamed there. Most people have not even heard of it. It was a little town located about 25 miles north of Bakersfield on Highway 99.
My dad’s cousin, Ike Kroeker, had talked my Dad into moving his family from the Kansas farm (where we had lived one year) to California, to the land of milk and honey
There were people from all nationalities living there at that time and it was totally different from the way it was pictured now. We lived about a block and a half from the Kern County School and I did enjoy my time there. The teacher was very nice and I appreciated her teaching.
I had many playmates: my girlfriend Billie Rae and her sister Cordia Ann, my 2nd cousin Norbert and his sister Margaret. We explored the whole town on our scooters and learned a lot about little things and I think I made up stories along the way to add spice to our existence.
Once in awhile the nut would come off of my red scooter so I would take it to the little hardware store. The storekeeper would give me a nut and even put it on for me. He would only charge me two or three cents so I was usually solvent for the money. One day, however, he told me that some day those two cents would be upped to a dollar in worth. I can remember thinking about that and to tell the truth, I thought he was exaggerating!
And then, one December morning in 1941, the 7th to be exact, I was deep in thought as I walked home from Sunday school. I had heard the president on the radio that morning say “we are at war!” I wondered what that meant. Would we be bombed!
In the weeks to come I heard the dive bombers from Bakersfield practice their diving in the sky around town. I would sing as loud as I could to soften the sound. In the evening our little town practiced our blackouts and it was a little scary.
In a few weeks my Dad and my friend Billie Ray’s Dad went to Pittsburgh and got a job in a defense plant. Rentals were so scarce, Mom, Carol and I stayed in McFarland, and Mom rented out a bedroom to a young family of three.
On Friday late afternoon, Billie Ray and I would scoot to the edge of town and watch down Highway 99 for our maroon Mercury to come down the road. Our dads usually made it home for the weekend.
One day my Dad called. He had found an apartment. Mom packed our belongings and the three of us got on the Greyhound Bus and made our way to Pittsburgh.
The apartment was small and not very convenient. The neighborhood was not safe so my folks bought a little camper trailer where we lived for a few months on the outside of Pittsburgh. This time I attended Ambrose School. Mom babysat with a little boy about my age and we explored the area where we now lived. There was a steep foothill in back of our camper. Mom would pack us a lunch and we’d climb the hill and have a picnic as we watched the ocean in the distance. During all that time I would brag to him how nice it was to live in Kansas.
Then Ike & Stella Kroeker came to visit. Dad put our table outside our camper and Mom made bacon and eggs and coffee and we sat out in the open.
Well, Ike talked Dad into moving back to McFarland again.
This time Dad was a bookkeeper for the Norwalk Oil Co. located about two miles north of McFarland on Highway 99. Mom ran a little grocery store-filling station and we lived in a room in the back. My cousin Norbert’s folks lived near by again and we had plenty to explore. We even decided we would try picking cotton and Stella bought us the cotton bags and straw hats. We picked cotton all morning and thought we had a hundred pounds. When it was weighed we had twenty pounds. That was when we quit!
Norbert was always around our supper table when it was time to eat. He loved my mom’s cooking, as did everyone.
We had to ride the school bus to McFarland this time and I didn‘t enjoy school as much as the year before. One evening Dad asked me what I thought about moving back to Kansas and I was overjoyed.
Seventy-three years later I still am and this is where God wants John and me to be, in Hutchinson, Kansas. At least until He calls us home to heaven!
Doris welcomes your observations and can be reached at [email protected]