Mother was orphaned by the time she was eight and a good bit of her learning about life was by way of the movies. She loved hats and shoes and obviously wanted me to be a stylish young lady as well. She thought toilet training was a part of that “stylish young lady,” so she started sitting me on a toddler toilet as soon as I was able to sit up. Although she insisted I was potty trained before I could walk, I’m quite sure the one who was trained was Mother. Mother’s recollection of the time is as follows: “I’d put Donna Marie on the little stool and the stove was right by that. She was reaching for her book – I always gave her a book when she got on the stool so she could do her business [note the photo of me reading]. And she dropped it and she reached for it, and me sitting right here, she reached for that book and fell on the stove; the seat went off the stool and her arm stuck to it, her face was on the stove. I was screaming bloody murder and I reached up in the cabinet and got the Vasoline and got a big swath and then ran in and called the doctor and told him what had happened. I told him I put Vasoline on it as fast as I could; you know, so it would quit hurting. She didn’t cry; she wanted her book – that’s all she cared for. He said you couldn’t have done anything better [than Vasoline], she’ll be alright. It wasn’t anytime until all of that was gone. She was 9 months old.”
Mother’s recollection continued: “Johnnie and Julia lived there and I lived there with them too. The Peters loved Donna and we lived there until she was 2. I never will forget, Mr. Peters came over one day and he’d pick her up and say, ‘Grunt for papa’ and she would grunt and strain; you see that’s what I said when I’d have her on the stool. [Virginia made grunting sounds] She’d get red in the face [Virginia laughed at the memory] I’m telling you that was so. She was the most precious thing in the world to me.”
When Kay read this story, she wrote, “Grandmother bought a Kenmore sewing machine in a console about 1941 so that she could sew. Grandma made the outfit that mother is wearing in the photo with the bonnet. It is yellow with lace trim and it is in my curio cabinet on display. Grandma gave that sewing machine to her great granddaughter, Kelsey, a few years ago. It still works, though learning how to thread those older machines is a challenge.”
Kelsey has the sewing machine in her bedroom and currently (2008) uses it as an end table beside her bed. I’ve attached a picture of Mother and Daddy (about 1940) – note her stylish coat and hat and, of course, matching shoes and purse.