Clothes, Oreos, Candy Lipsticks

Posted in Love Letters | 8 comments

Frank and I solved our fan problem with our “Beater Fan,” or at least for a while.   Now we began to settle into a daily routine.

On the weekdays we got up before dawn because Frank needed to be at Fort Devens early in the morning for his classes.  Since we did not have a car, and it was a three-mile walk to the base for him, he started early on his walk to the base.

After Frank left for school, I had things to do which kept me busy and fueled my unique inventiveness.  I loved figuring out a better way of doing things while making do with what we had.

Next story makes me smile and laugh to this day.  Enjoy.

 “Boogie Clothes”

Dishes had been washed, and it was time for me to start the process of washing our clothes.  While listening to music on the radio, I sang and danced around the kitchen.  We had a little transistor radio that I had brought with me from Texas when I had flown to Ayer, Massachusetts.  Music and dancing had always been part of the spiritual soul in me and, of course, Frank loved his dancing “Nancy Lou.”

After separating our clothes by light, dark, and white colors, I filled the kitchen sink with hot water then added the powdered clothes soap, while swishing it around in hot water so that it would dissolve.  The kitchen sink was a big rectangle and shallow, so it could not hold very many clothes at one time.  I put some of the smaller items into the sink, scrubbed them between my fisted hands then wrung them out twisting them with my hands then placed them on the counter while emptying the kitchen sink of the soapy water.

When the sink was empty, I placed the wet clothes back into the sink and rinsed them with water one at a time. After wringing each item out they were put in the clothes basket then I picked up the basket, walked through the kitchen door into the living room, through the living room  into the hall, walked down the hall to the front door which was open to the landing, ran down the stairs to the screen door, opened it, and headed to the clothesline. Once the clothes were all hung on the clothesline, I returned to the kitchen to begin again.

While refilling the kitchen sink, thoughts came to me that this was going to take lots of filling, emptying, wringing, rinsing, and trips up and down that “dag-nabbit” staircase.   Suddenly a “light bulb” came on in my head!  Bathtub!  The bathtub was huge, and it would hold a lot of clothes at one time!

So, to the bathroom, I went with all of the clothes, detergent, bleach, radio, and the clothes basket. After filling the bathtub with hot water then swishing in the detergent and the clothes, I got down on my knees, leaned over the side of the tub, and started scrubbing the clothes. A great song came on the radio and dancing came to my mind when another “light bulb” came on in my head, I could just get into the tub then “Boogie Dance” those clothes clean. Of course, that is exactly what I did, and when they seemed “Boogie Danced” enough, the tub was emptied, clothes rinsed, wrung out, and then put in the clothes basket.

The only problem that came up after that was the basket was too heavy to carry.  I pushed/pulled the basket through the house until getting to the staircase then stopped.  There was absolutely no way of carrying that basket full of wet clothes down the stairs because it was too heavy. I sat down on the platform at the top of the stairs when I saw the solution!

The staircase had a concave “thangy” going on in the center of it. This concave “thangy” went all the way to its bottom. It was most likely from people going up and down the center of it for years. Laughing, I ran down the stairs, latched the screen door, ran back up the stairs, sat down on the top platform, drug the clothes basket until it was in front of me, straddled it, lined it up with the middle of the stairs and with a push sailed that dude down the staircase.

The basket sailed down the stairs like a sailboat and stopped when it ran into the screen door. Happy dance! I ran down the stairs, went around the basket, unlatched the screen door, drug that basket full of “Boogie Clothes” to the clothesline, and hung the clothes out to dry.

After repeating this whole process one more time, the clothes were all on the clothesline to dry.  Of course, I would have to go down then wring the water out of the bottom of the clothes a few times.  Evidently, I wasn’t a very good wringer, but I was one fantastic “Boogie Dancing Sailor”!

The weeks would pass as Frank and I shared our new home and love with each other, but as with all things, we would come against a very unexpected difficult time.  The Allotment we had applied for with the Army got delayed, and we found ourselves short of money for food after we had paid the rent and utilities.


“Oreos and Candy Lipsticks”

We had been in Ayer, Massachusetts for two months but for some reason, our allotment from the Army had not started coming in Frank’s pay.  We had been fine until the third-month rent came due because I had brought $150 with me, but now that was all gone.  Frank only got $60 a month from the Army and our rent was $100 which we paid plus utilities. 

We paid the rent and utilities, but that left with very little money for food. Frank and I made it scraping along for about two weeks but then the reality of running out of food hit.  We were down to a can of peas, flour, yeast, mustard, sugar, crackers, and a can of spam.  The cupboard and refrigerator were empty except for those things.

Since Frank was on the base during the weekdays, he could eat breakfast and lunch there, which was good because he was walking the three miles to the army base those days.  He was trying to bring anything nonperishable that he could acquire at the Mess Hall home, to help out with us having food to eat at supper time. During the day unknown to Frank, I was drinking enormous amounts of water with a few crackers to save food for supper.  When Frank figured out on the weekend what I was doing during the weekdays, of course, he was not very happy with me, but I explained to him that I was not walking six miles a day and it was more important for him to have food.

Our evening meal consisted of a pizza-like crust made from flour, yeast, and water then after kneading and rolling out,  I spread on mustard, added some mashed peas, then some cubed spam.  These pizzas were absolutely “Awful,”  but they were food and filling. Frank was a smoker, so in the evenings we walked along the roadside picking up cigarette butts, stripping them down, taking the tobacco out, and then he would roll the tobacco in a piece of paper from envelopes and smoke those cigarettes.  I know that sounds awful, but it is true.  Desperate times are not good times to stop smoking.

Package of Oreo Cookies

Frank’s Favorite Oreo Cookies

Our special friends who took us to buy groceries once a month on the base and who had driven Frank to the airport to pick me up when I arrived in Massachusetts, invited Frank and me to there house for supper the night before payday.  They were older than us and had taken us under their wings to help.  We had grilled cheese sandwiches, and I do believe those were the “Best Grilled Sandwiches I have ever eaten.

Finally, payday arrived!  From our kitchen window, I heard Frank walking up the driveway whistling and singing.  I ran to meet him when he

Picture of Candy Lipsticks

Nancy Lou’s Favorite Candy Lipsticks

picked me up swinging me around saying, “Nancy Lou, we have money, and they added our back allotment to my pay, including the previous two months.  We are rich!”

I couldn’t quit smiling as we ran up the stairs together. Frank changed into civilian clothes then said, “Let’s walk to the little store down the road and buy some food, Nancy Lou.”

We ran down those stairs then we ran to that little store, and we bought “Oreo Cookies and Candy Lipsticks”  What can I say?  We were both eighteen and full of fun! The next day we would buy real food, but that night we would be young and foolish.

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  1. Comment

    • Marion, your comment did not come through. Send it to me again.

  2. Aww… what a fun and sweet story Nancy Lou. It speaks to your character of making play and fun out of a not-so-perfect time. Thank goodness the money came through!

    • Thank you for your comment, Mary Rae. We were so young and we didn’t realize how paperwork could get tied up in the Military. The rent that we were paying was an enormous amount because of the need for apartments near Fort Devens. I guess today we would call it price gouging. Of course, the Military pay would always be low wages but we learned to adapt.
      I am typing on a new chapter today with two new stories, “Smoking Laundry” and “Big Fins”. I love to tell our Love Story this way.
      Praying you will stay with me on this journey as I tell our Love Story.
      God Bless You,

  3. Great post, Nancy Lou. I could feel your concern as your money ran out and your joy when the allotment finally came. I’ll bet those Oreo cookies and candy lipsticks (I’ve never heard of candy lipsticks before) tasted better than ever before or since! I remember the times I did my laundry in my bathtub, but I must admit, I never got in with it. I’m afraid I don’t dance well and I would probably have fallen right in had I tried. And I had the use of a clothesline right outside the door of my tiny apartment. Actually,for several years now I have been doing my laundry, a bit at a time, in my bathroom sink. I hang it in the bathtub (I have a tension rod that fits between the wall and the shower rod) and direct 2 fans on it to dry. It works quite well. Saves a lot of lugging (to say nothing of money) down to the laundry room.

    • Diane thank you for your comment. I miss my clothesline but down here on the Texas coast, it is really damp so you have to time it just right to miss the morning dew and evening moisture.
      I always told Frank, “I can live without a dryer but I would like to have a washer.” He made sure after our Ayer, Massachusetts time that we always had some sort of a washing machine. The first washer we bought was over thirty-five years old when we were in Okinawa.
      I still do some hand laundry too.
      I missed talking to you on the Talk shoe show Monday. Praying you are well and it is not too hot where you live.
      God Bless you,

  4. Nancy, I simply forgot the time on Monday night. By the time I thought about the call, it would have been just finishing up. I had a very long, unexpected phone call mid to late afternoon, and I think that put me off my time schedule. I had every intention of calling before that. I do tend to get involved in things and forget everything else for the moment. It is not too hot here yet, but it is supposed to feel like 113′ F by Saturday. I’m not looking forward to that. I like the heat, but there is a limit. 🙂 I have been doing a lot of cleaning and moving stuff around over the past couple of weeks since Robyn moved out, and that has taken a lot of time and a great deal of energy. I have been feeling it in my hip somewhat, but it hasn’t been as bad as it could have been. I still have a lot to do as I hadn’t done a thorough clean-through for quite some time as I did not have the energy for it. But it sure feels good to have done what I have so far. It’s looking more homey, too, as I have made a few very simple changes.

    • Diane that all sound great, except for the heat. I was thinking it might be cooler in Canada but evidently not.
      Hot here too.
      I need to do some serious cleaning out of closets here. Wondering how I have accumulated so much stuff.
      We missed you on Monday. You are always so much fun.
      God Bless you and praying you stay cool.

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