Category Archives: Sentimental Sunday

The Bus

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Over the past month or so I have attended two meetings regarding the importance of writing our family stories.  The first was hosted by GENCOM Genealogical Society at the Broadmoor Branch Library in Shreveport.  Gary Calligas, publisher of The Best of Times magazine as well as being the host of a radio program by the same name, was the guest spokesman. Mr. Calligas stressed the importance of interviewing older relatives and writing their stories as well as your own.

A few days later I met with another group of ladies interested in writing at the home of Karen Logan of Gilliam.  Our inspiration came from Harriet Daggert, a retired school teacher, who has begun a number of these groups in our area. After reading stories written by a group she had initiated at a retirement home she then challenged our group, of about twelve people, to meet again in two weeks with a story of our high school years.  Below is my submission regarding years at North Caddo High School in Vivian, Louisiana.

The Bus

The big yellow school bus pulled up in front of me, the door opened and there sat Mr. Self, the driver, inviting me to climb aboard.  Never in my life had I ridden a school bus! I thought this to be so degrading but soon came to the realization that many of the giggling kids aboard had never known another way of getting to school.  They had never known having their parent drop them off or being able to walk next door to high school.  Perhaps riding the bus might not be as bad as when, at a different school, our yard abutted the school’s.  That was where my younger sisters set up a booth, much like a lemonade stand, where they tried to sell castoff dried locust shells to passing students. Talk about being embarrassed!

I was truly on my own that January morning as Mother was twenty-five miles away enrolling those two bug selling brat sisters in their school.  I found most of the riders on the bus were friendly and began asking where I was from, what grade I was in and my name.  My name!!!  Did I have to tell them???  Okay, so it’s Raby but I go by my nickname, Kookie, so please call me that.  There were the usual snickers as the boys promptly called me Rabies!  No, it’s not Roby, Ruby, Robbie, nor Rabby.  It’s Raby (Ray-B) but just call me Kookie.

Arriving at the campus of North Caddo High I was speechless!  It was huge!  There were rows and rows of the big yellow buses backed up in the drop off zone waiting to off load kids.  I had never seen that many teenagers hurriedly scampering off to the different “wings” trying to beat the bell before first class.  After all, in my three previous high schools, the total enrollment was smaller than the freshman class here.

 I think it was Mr. Self that directed me to the Principal’s office to enroll.  My curriculum would change that day as North Caddo didn’t teach Spanish but did Latin.  No way!  I was only taking Spanish because Mother wanted me to and I wanted no part of Latin.  Home Economics had already finished sewing so I would learn to cook; but wait; I had already done that in my last school but I had never sewn.  North Caddo didn’t have a girls’ basketball team therefore basketball would only be played in Phys Ed. I was so disappointed. Algebra was beyond the point that I had studied and I felt sure I would never catch up much less make a passing grade.

My biggest fear that day was learning where A, B, and C wings were located.  I didn’t even care where the cafeteria was as my stomach was in turmoil.  And lockers with combinations?  I just knew I would never master that in time to get the appropriate book or make it all the way to a class in a totally different wing before the tardy bell rang.  I had nightmares about wings, lockers and bells the remainder of the year however I managed to finish the year without too many glitches or a trip to the Principal’s office.

By my junior and seniors years, things were much better.  I had made friends and could find my way around campus, beat the bell, and open my locker.   My Phys Ed teacher sponsored a girls’ basketball team at the YWCA in Shreveport and invited me to play.  Luckily I made the Shreveport Y’s All Star Team.  I didn’t place in calendar girl tryouts as I had what mother referred to as “knocked knees”.   It was about that time that an association with Mrs. Amy Gleason began.  She was beautiful inside and out as well as a true Southern lady.   Mrs. Amy taught journalism and English which were my two favorite subjects. In class we wrote the school’s newspaper, the Southern Accent, as well as a skit we preformed at the talent contest about a group of riders on a bus.  My friend and I played the parts of two young girls desperately needing to get off the bus in order to find a restroom. While we didn’t win a prize for our performance, we did get lots of laughs.

During my last year at North Caddo I got a roll in the senior play playing the part of a newlywed. In the anxiety and excitement of performing on stage before a live audience I skipped two pages of the dialogue!  Luckily my “husband” picked it up from that point and the audience never knew.

  By this time riding the bus was no longer denigrating but something I looked forward to.  You see, there was this tall skinny boy with dark hair and beautiful blue eyes who got on in Gilliam.  Now when Mr. Self opened the door, I hurriedly entered and found him seated at the rear of the bus.  He and I became best friends first, dated and following high school, married.

Would you believe my trip to our first home was made on a big Greyhound bus? Only this time Mr. Self wasn’t the driver.  This time upon arriving at my destination there was that same handsome young man, dressed in Air Force blues, waiting to guide me through the bells, wings and the combinations of our lives.

One never knows when the bus door opens and you step in just what lies ahead.

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Sentimental Sunday – The Monkey in the Tree

 In memory of Don’s dad, John Raymond Hemperley

Raymond Hemperley 1961

Raymond Hemperley 1961

It was a typical Sunday afternoon on the farm at the home of Raymond and Sybol Hemperley. He was sitting in a straight chair beneath the large pecan trees in the back yard, which the family referred to his  “office”, when I came out the screen door with a large glass of ice water in hand.  I guided Steve down the doorsteps and was met by Buck, the collie, who greeted and escorted us across the lawn to the “office”.

“Here you are, Pop,” I said as I handed him the glass and joined him in the other chair beneath the tree.

“Sure is hot today,” he said and drank the whole glass of water in one long gulp.

It seemed particularly hot to me too.  What breeze that was blowing was warm and dry that August day and we were trying to escape the hot house as it had no air conditioning and I was eight months pregnant with Kelly.

He took out his Bull Durham pouch and began rolling a cigarette.  It always mystified me how he could pour the tobacco; fill; roll and lick the tobacco stuffed paper; crimp the end; pull the pouch string with his teeth and drop the pouch back into his shirt pocket in one fluid motion.  As he lit up, he brushed the spilled tobacco off his khaki pants and it drifted in the breeze into his unlaced shoes.

His blue eyes smiled as he helped Steve crawl into his lap.  Steve dug into his pockets pulling out cigarette papers and ballpoint pins.  Pop (a name only Steve could call him as he required the other grandkids to refer to him as Pop Paw) looked high into the pecan trees and said, “Beauzook, what we need is a monkey for our tree.”

Steve smiled and I laughed.  Who could imagine a monkey running freely in a pecan tree on a farm in Caddo Parish, Louisiana?

“Pop, why on earth would you want a monkey?” I asked.

With a gleam in his eyes and bouncing Steve on his knee, he said, “I’ve always wanted a monkey.  Can’t you see one running from limb to limb, swinging in the tree for all the grandkids to enjoy?  “Sides that, red-butted monkeys are so funny.”

Through the next few years, the red-butted monkey became a joke between us.  Many times he told Steve and Kelly they needed a monkey and someday he’d get them one.

In August 1969 Don and I bought a house near Vivian which sat on a 3 ½ acre tree studded tract of land and we invited Pop and Me Maw over for the grand tour.  After they had viewed each room we finally made it out to the backyard where he pulled Kelly aside and said, “All you need is a monkey for your trees.”

Raymond died the following summer but not before he and I shared many special moments.  We had a closeness few fathers-in-law and daughters-in-law share.  He told me of his heritage, his growing up, living on a farm all his life, and about the earlier Hemperley’s that had moved from South Carolina to Georgia and then to the area in Arkansas known as Erie (near Doddridge). While it was interesting at the time, it would not be until a few years later, that I realized his grandchildren and the generations that followed them, should also know of the life and times of the Hemperley’s.  Suddenly I was bitten by the genealogy bug.  Suddenly I was running from place to place in search of documents, clues, photos, anyone who had known the family; anyone that was willing to share what they knew.  It was then I recognized that I had become the monkey, not in a living tree, but rather his family tree.  Hopefully some grandchild generations down will enjoy his story as much as he wanted a monkey for his grandchildren to enjoy!

Here are a few more pictures of Raymond Hemperley:

Raymond Hemperley with mules, Joe and Jeff

Raymond Hemperley with mules, Joe and Jeff

Raymond Hemperley 1929

Raymond Hemperley 1929

Raymond Hemperley (on right) picking cotton on his place 1961

Raymond Hemperley (on right) picking cotton on his place 1961

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