When I arrived home to the farm, I was exhausted, disappointed, frustrated, and pissed at the world and how it treats women, mainly me! I walked around the farm, depressed and feeling sorry for myself for several months. I was also fighting anemia to the degree that I was taking vitamin B shots weekly. I was so tired that I slept more than I was awake. Mom allowed me to wallow in my depression until it reached the point of no return, and she finally said, “You have laid around enough; now go get a job.”
I gotta tell you there aren’t a lot of jobs in a town of about 3500 and one red light. I was left with the one available: Dexter Shoe. Remember, I had worked there and left to sashay off to South Carolina with my Aunt Betty. So, with my tail between my legs, I went begging to come back. They didn’t even miss me or care; I was hired immediately.
On an industrial sewing machine, my job was to zig-zag the backs of Ice-skates, Roller-skates, Bowling-shoes, and Golf-shoes. I pushed them through the machine leaving a chain of thread between each one, which I snipped with my handy scissors. After I sewed a case, which consisted of 30 pairs, I then put them back on the racks on rollers. When one “rack” was completed, another one was rolled in behind me. I worked piece work, and since I am ambidextrous, I did a lot of shoes a day. I think they were impressed with my speed.
One big problem was I heated the machine up so much the little metal rod that allowed the thread chain to connect the shoes kept breaking. I would waste time waiting for the mechanics to saunter over to fix it. They had to loosen one screw and insert a new rod. It finally irked me so much I made them give me a screwdriver and a handful of the little metal rods. I fixed it myself and kept on working. The mechanics were happy, and so was I. I doubt that the mechanics told management that I could do their work and still sew; everyone knows women aren’t capable of doing “men’s work.”
The immediate supervisor wanted to date me, and I was indifferent to him. Every week he asked me if I was going rollerskating, and I would tell him where I was going and then go to a different rink. This went on for weeks, and he didn’t seem to tumble. If he had come to the rink where I was, he would have been disappointed. I didn’t like him at work, and I would have not liked him any better at the rink. When he was assigned to find out how many cases I could do an hour, it was a hoot. He stood behind me with a stopwatch timing me. Uh! I could hear it start and stop, even with the noise in the shop. I would make a lot of hand movements and would hardly get one case done in an hour. As soon as he gave up, I resumed my usual speed. I did get a small increase per case, but not enough to elevate me out of slave wages, but a little better. Score 1 for me, Zero for the shop!
The good thing about working in the shop was that my Mom also worked there and had the same hours. We got lunch at the diner by the lake and would sit in the car and eat together. It was some of the best times with my Mother. We did not always have the usual Mother-Daughter close relationship. I have discovered since that is not so unusual.
By this time, I met the man I would later marry! He was working cutting pulp and hauling it to the sawmill. His father had just passed away about a week before we met. It is a shame I could not have met Donald Colbath as an adult. I knew Donald as a young child. He was the “Ice Man” in town and delivered ice to our house, which he would put in our “Ice Box.” When his truck came into the neighborhood, all the kids ran to the truck to get pieces of ice to cool us off in the summer. He never gave us any chips from the floor but would chip nice clean ice off one of the blocks. I always said, my husband is a nice man, and his Daddy was a nice man, too! Shirl always said his Dad would have loved me. I know I would have loved him; after all, he was my hubby’s Dad, and one of the good guys.
One day he was taking ice into our house to place it into the Ice-box, and he saw me playing with my kitty. I had the poor thing dressed up in clothes from head to foot. He told me, “You know that kitty doesn’t really like to have clothes on; he might run away!” I told him that my kitty liked to wear clothes. A short time later, the cat did, in fact, run away. I need to add a short note here about Donald Colbath! As a child, he got hit in one eye and lost the eye, which was replaced with a glass eye. His good eye was blue, but he could never match it well, and he went through life with one green eye and one blue eye. Well, my kitty just happened to also have one green eye and one blue eye. Can you guess where I was going? I put two and two together and reasoned that he had taken my kitty.
Are you ready for this? I knew where he lived and took myself up to his house to get my kitty back! I am not sure what I said when his wife came to the door, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a good laugh. I probably asked if they had my kitty and that it had one green eye and one blue eye.
I remember another thing about Donald Colbath! An angry man was whipping his poor horse unmercifully in front of our house. And right in from on our gang of horrified kids! Donald stepped up to him, took his whip away, and explained the error of his ways in no uncertain words. He mentioned that if he heard about him whipping the horse again, he would whip him, too! It would have been easy too. Donald was not very tall but used to put one of those Icebox’s on his back and carry them upstairs to the second floor of an apartment. He used to sell them and later refrigerators, in addition to cutting and hauling pulp.
I will circle back again and tell you how I met my husband and introduce you to Chocolate Boy! And more about Dexter Shoe Shop.