When I was a small child World War II was a full-blown conflict, therefore, we, like many families of that era, had little extra money for anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary. Daddy worked six days a week from “can to can’t” to feed my three older brothers, myself and Mom. Whenever there was a breakdown at the saw mill, it wasn’t unusual for him to work on Sundays.
Usually we would go to my grandparents for Sunday dinner. Sometimes we would go on Saturday and spend the night in beds heavily laden with lots of quilts; so many that it was difficult to turn over.
My grandmother, Beulah Thompson Stanley, was a “kept” woman even though they had little money. PawPaw, Wesley Stanley, did a lot of the cooking as well as helping her with house work. I remember Granny’s dining table having a container of the utensils in the middle covered by a table-cloth. And could she make good fried apple pies!!!
Regardless if it were Saturday or Sunday, Daddy’s brothers and sister would also come and there would be “picking and grinning”, usually around the fireplace. Each of them played an instrument and most of them sang while the grandkids gathered nearby and on occasion joined in.
Following the War things must have gotten better economically for us. Gasoline was eighteen cents a gallon which meant it was the cheapest form of entertainment for a family of six and day trips became our Sunday routine. Sometimes we had a destination; other times Mom would pack a picnic lunch and we would be off to parts unknown . If we were lucky, somewhere along the way, we would stop and get a Coke, which if I remember correctly, was about six cents.
We stopped at every state park in East Texas and rarely when Daddy would get Saturday and Sunday off and we would head to Arkansas where we usually camped. We must have been a sight with four kids hanging out the windows since the car had no air conditioning plus it was exciting to see what was around the next curve in those hills and each of us wanted a bird’s eye view.
On one particular Sunday morning in Hot Springs, we decided to drive up the mountain for a view of the city before heading home. From that look-out point, we were able to recognize some of the local landmarks from a different perspective. My brothers wanted to climb the tower but Mother nixed that idea.
Now I have to tell you Mother was not always the best traveling companion and on that particular day, she was in fine form. As we descended the mountain she thought Daddy was driving too close to the edge of the road and she was sure we would go over the edge, land in the dense growth of trees and underbrush never to be found. He was driving too fast. He wasn’t listening. What if the brakes failed? In fact, according to her, he wasn’t doing anything right! It was then she reached over, turned off the switch and removed the car key!! I suppose she didn’t think, or perhaps know, her actions caused us to have NO brakes at all!!!
Down the hill we flew! As we descended, she is now screaming while Daddy has shifted to a lower gear in order to slow the car down since we had no brakes. My brothers and I looked at each other, scared and wondering if Mother was right in that we would never make it down the mountain alive. In panic we huddled closely and had the most exciting, yet frightening ride in our lives, screaming all the way.
At the bottom of the mountain Mother and Daddy had a big confrontation while my brothers and I, thankful to be alive, hurriedly found a restroom.
When we got back in the car each kid was still struggling for a window seat while secretly whispering about what a wild fun Sunday it had been. We couldn’t wait to tell our cousins how we almost died! Mother and Daddy weren’t speaking; in fact it was quiet most of the way home. Then from the back seat comes a meek little voice asking, “When are we going somewhere again?” Both parents’ heads spun around quickly. Their eyes glared menacing looks before breaking out in laughter and replied, “Soon. Sunday will come again soon.”