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I did my share of work, too

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By W.B. Evans

I recently crossed paths with an old friend while going inside “the Walmarts,” where Lancaster’s movers and shakers meet these days.

And right off the cuff, he called me a city boy.

That was bad enough, but he didn’t stop there.

It really made the hair on the back of my neck stand up when he said, “According to your articles in the paper, all you do is go to grammar school and build them cardboard airplanes.”

Well sir, maybe I didn’t have to milk cows and haul hay, but there was a bunch of regular chores for me to do.

The only difference between summer and winter chores was the temperature and hauling in scuttles of coal.

OK, my country cousin, I’m gonna go over part of my warm weather itinerary. Let’s see if you can keep up.

On Saturday mornings, I chop wood for Blue Monday (wash day) and then give my Sunday shoes a spit and shine polish for church. After that, it’s cleaning out our car, “Old Betsy,” with a whisk broom.

Everybody is an early riser on Sunday morning. Mama has breakfast ready, we eat and I get a quick look at the funny paper.

Then comes dressing for church. Mama always has my clothes laid out (a white, boiled and starched shirt, pressed pants and good socks with no holes in the heels or toes), and my shined shoes.

Dress inspections in the military never bothered me much. I was used to it. 

They were a piece of cake compared to Mama’s once-over of my attire, ears and fingernails.

“You don’t ever want to look messy for church,” she said.

We walked briskly to church where I headed for Sunday school class inside the south side of the Sunday School building.

On hot summer mornings, our teacher, Mrs. Marks, raises the windows high to stir up a little breeze.

Mrs. Marks, bless her heart, loves teaching us about Jesus feeding the multitudes with a few loaves and fishes.

That would be fine, except for one thing.

Right next door, facing us, is the kitchen of Mrs. Ira Jones and her daughter, Susan.

Talk about heaven on earth, somebody is frying chicken for Sunday dinner and the aroma is filling our classroom from ceiling to floor.

Mrs. Marks continues with the story of the feeding of the 5,000, but I don’t think any of us are paying much attention. We have got chicken on our minds.

To make matters worse, Mrs. Jones’ cook has cooking company.

Dr. Steve and Mrs. Shelly Williams and daughters Joan and Patricia also have Sunday dinner in preparation, tempting us with all kind of smells.

And the same thing is going on at John Dunn’s place on Market Street.

Bless Pete, it’s gonna be another hour or so before we get home for our dinner and I am starving already.

The bell rings and we all make a bee-line for “big church.”

The oscillating fans mounted on the walls are stirring the hot summer air, as well as those huge ceiling fans, which just seem to do nothing. Thank goodness for the hand fans furnished by the local funeral parlors.

We kids get stern looks whenever we fashion our own fans from the church bulletin.

Dr. Rivers is keeping his sermon low key this morning, which is a good thing. It’s already hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk in front of City Drugstore, so there’s no need for a fire and brimstone message.

We finally make it home. I shuck my Sunday duds for something worn and comfortable.

You know, Sunday afternoons are sorta dull.

Uncle Harry has Mama get the car out and we make our regular ride up the Monroe road to view the farming. Then it’s back to church for young folks’ Training Union and back home again. Hopefully I listened enough to keep the boogers away for a good night’s sleep.

With the neighborhood roosters passing the word along, Monday morning comes crashing through with hot beams of sunlight across the bed.

This was before Daddy decided we needed to have our own flock of laying Leghorns. You know, it’s so much better not having to look down at where you’re walking (city boy, my eye!).

The big black wash pots had to be turned up on bricks and the kindling made ready for lighting.

I never understood why our outside spigot was just far enough from the wash pots to require toting buckets of water.

The worn table was pulled out of the old chicken house. Pans, washboards and some Octagon bar soap and Argo starch were made ready for the clothes washing.

While the water was heating, I got a clean cloth to wipe down the wire clotheslines to make sure nothing was on them.

Next came a trip to the garage for poles to support the lines where the wet clothes were to be hung.

I knew what was coming next.

“Check those clothespins to make sure none of them are broken or dirty,” Mama yelled across the yard. 

You know, there’s nothing quite like a dirty clothesline and black clothespins for messing up white sheets and Sunday shirts.

Having to hang around on Blue Monday was a task in itself. I couldn’t hide or run off to play with Billy Pipkins. No matter what, there was always more kindling to cut and more water to haul.

It’s possible my “country cousin” had to do the same thing, as well as milking cows and hauling hay.

Thank goodness for electric clothes washers and dryers. Boy, they sure are an improvement. Now if I could only find a way to get the clothes to the laundry room and back inside the closet.

These days, not too many men wear boiled, starched white shirts to church. There’s not much difference between your Sunday best and what gets worn on casual Friday.

If your Sunday school teacher raises a window this morning, it’s because the climate control system isn’t working. 

So, if you want the aroma of fried chicken today, you’ll have to get on the bypass (which by the way, doesn’t bypass anything), and drive real slow past the Colonel’s place and its several flavors.

You know, come to think of it Mama had two flavors of chicken, too. They were original and original. Mama’s fried chicken is one choice you’ll never beat.