I have been sitting here trying to decide which brother to start with, but we were a unit and I believe I will just have to tell about all three of them at the same time.
First of all, we were close in age, three of us, and then there was John. I am the oldest, then two years later is Chuck, 18 months later is Wayne, and 7 years from Wayne, came John.
I was born in South Carolina during WWII. After the war, my parents moved to California and that is where Chuck and Wayne were born. There were only three of us for almost 10 years of my life. We played together I guess from the beginning. I remember a few things from California, but only remember my brothers from our Louisiana days. I do, however, recall Chuck throwing a fit for his own ice cream cone at Punch and Judy's on Vine Street in Hollywood. We were all supposed to share one, but he pitched such a fit that he got his own. Maybe that is when the seed was planted that life isn't always fair. That is what Bill tells me all of the time - that we weren't promised fairness in this lifetime. I am a stickler for fairness.
When we moved to Alexandria around 1951, we lived in a duplex. You walked into the front room and there was a hall to the left. Down the hall there were two doors on the right - kitchen and bathroom, and a door at the end of the hall - bedroom. Now, I slept on a Hollywood couch which doubled as a bed at night up in the living room. My brothers had a bed in my parents bedroom.
I had to wait out school a year when we moved to Louisiana because they didn't have a kindergarten class in Alexandria as they had in California. I enrolled in Rosenthal Elementary School on Monroe street and went to school there for the first and second grade. My first grade teacher was named Mrs. Tower, but I don't know who my second grade teacher was. She must not have impressed me.
In the first grade room we had tables pushed together and four of us sat facing each other by twos. I am sure this is where I learned to read, but I do not remember doing anything at that school. I remember reading about Dick, Jane, and Spot. I remember in the 2nd grade we had desks where the top flipped up and underneath was a place to story your things. In the top was a hole cut out for your ink bottle. As much as I loved school, it feels weird to say I don't remember anything at that school, but I do remember friends from there who I have kept through the years.
My brothers got to play all day long when I was at school. I have no idea at all what they did. We would play in the yard when I was at home. There was a deep ditch behind our house that had reeds in it, frogs, and I bet there were snakes there too. Behind our house and down the street was a small park where we were allowed to go to swing and play. Back then, parents didn't have the worries parents face nowadays. I do though remember being grossed out by this older boy in that park. He called my brothers and me over to where and he caught a frog and cut its legs off and then laughed and stuffed the cut up frog down a hole. We ran for our lives and I don't remember going back there.
Once at that house, my brother crawled underneath the house and set it on fire. Boys and matches. The fire trucks had to come put out the fire. Another time we took mail out of mailboxes and tore the mail up and threw it in the ditch. Not too long after that, some man came to the house and he was like the FBI and wanted to know if we knew about this ladies mail going missing, since she hadn't gotten her social security check. We told the man what we had done and I don't remember being punished for our transgression. Lordy, but we could have grown up criminals if we had tried a bit harder.
My parents bought a home about eight blocks away from the duplex. It was a real house. You walked into the living room and behind it was the kitchen. To the left of the living room was a bedroom and next to the kitchen was another bedroom with a bathroom in between the two rooms. It was kind of like a box. You could run around that house because all of the rooms were connected unlike the house I finished growing up in.
When we moved to Nelson Street, Chuck got to start school which left Wayne to his own devices. I don't know what he did all day when Chuck and I were at school. We were allowed to walk to school as it was only six blocks away and you could see the playground from our front corner. That first year at David F. Huddle Elementary School Chuck and I were on the same hall. We were just doors away from each other. After that year, we were on different halls with an auditorium between the two wings. He was a bunny rabbit in a school play with a real bunny suit and muched a carrot too. He made a cute bunny.
He wasn't a good eater and I can remember his teacher telling him they had a 3 bite club at school. You had to take three bites of each thing on your plate in the lunchroom. I don't know if he bought that or not. I never had a problem with school food. In fact, I love, to this day, school/institutional cooking. Could those school cooks ever make some rolls. They must all use the same recipe because as many schools as I have been in, the rolls are all the best thing on the plate. Well, the greens come in second.
When we got home, we would take off our school clothes and go outside to play until our dad came home and then it was suppertime, bathtime, and bed. Notice I didn't mention TV. At that time, we had the TV we had in California, but in Louisiana there weren't any TV stations. It just sat there until Louisiana caught up with the rest of the world. One thing we loved doing was raking leaves into the shape of floor plans. We would then play house in the rooms we constructed. I don't know what we did when the pecan trees still had their leaves on.
Down at the end of our street there was a lot of construction going on and after the men would leave, we would go and get scraps of wood from their burn piles. I don't remember making anything with them except a pair of stilts. We would also love to run around in 1/2 finished houses and see what the inside was going to look like. I am surprised all of us aren't architects the way we loved making our own leaf houses and going through those houses.
At Christmastime, we would wait until people started putting their dead trees out for garbage pickup and the three of us would drag home a LOT of trees. Sometime we were lucky and they still had the stand on them. They became trees outside the forts we built with the dead trees. We loved the ones that still had tensile on them. It took very little to make us happy kids.
Somewhere along 5th grade time for me, my mother said she was going to have a baby. Oh, did I pray for a sister! I got another brother, but at my age, I was thrilled with him. When my parent's friends saw how good I was with a newborn, my babysitting careet took off. From 5th grade until I married, I had steady babysitting jobs. They would even call the dorm room to see if I was going to be home a certain weekend.
A new school was built across the street from our elementary school. It was named Alexandria Junior High or AJH. I was in the first 7th grade class there and the last 8th grade class as it was moved back to the high school after my class left. We walked to that school for a while too.
In junior high school my parents bought a newer brick house about 1.5 miles from our school on Simmons. My brothers went to E S Aiken grammer school and then on to AJH and then to Bolton. From out new house it was about a mile or so to the high school and we all walked unless some nice soul would stop and offer us a ride.
That house on Simmons street had connecting rooms, but two of the bedrooms were a trap. If our mother had a belt in her hands, we were drawn to those rooms like June bugs to light. Why I don't know because we were trapped and suffered the consequences. Had we just stayed out of those two rooms, we could have run her ragged just making circles in the house. She would have given out way before us. My parents still live in that house.
There was a borrow pit through the back yard and the neighbors yard, across the street and through those people's yard. My brothers would live at that pond fishing. They even took my dad's boat over there and said that they would rev the motor, go about a few feet, and shut the motor down as they had gone across the pond. They would get out of the boat, turn it around and do it again, and again, and again.
My brother Wayne took one of my mother's sterling silver wedding forks and taped it to the end of a cane pole and spread the tynes on it to make a frog gig. I remember coming home from somewhere and they were cooking frog legs on my dad's Coleman stove. They offered me a bite and it got bigger and bigger in my mouth. Probably why I don't care for frog legs to this day and too because of that boy in the park I told you about.
Mama said that once when we had torrential rain, she looked out the front window and saw two boys in a boat moving with the current in the ditch along the highway. Upon closer inspection, she realized it was Chuck and Wayne just floating with the water. Another time she looked out side and a state trooper pulled up in her driveway with the boys in tow. They had taken my dad's shotgun to the south traffic circle (a wetlands now) and went hunting in there. They never even thought about the cars zooming around that thing. It is pretty large an area and to two young boys, it probably looked like Yellowstone National Park. Hey, it was a place to hunt.
We never had air conditioning when I grew up, but in that house, we did have an attic fan and it was so nice at night in the summer time when we would partially close a window, click on the attic fan, and shut some doors to create this suction that would pull the window curtains far out over our beds bringing us a cooling breeze. We didn't hae air conditioned cars at first either. Our grandmother bought the first one in our family and everyone wanted to ride with Mamo. Since that time, the floor heater has been replaced and so has the attic fan with central air and heat. We didn't have a dryer either and all of the clothes were either dried on the line of on this rack over the floor heater in the hall if it was the monsoon season. That house only had and still only has one bathroom. How everyone managed to bathe everyday and use the bathroom is beyond my comprehension and I don't remember it being a problem.
All three of my brothers make me laugh hysterically. They are just like my mother's brothers when they get together and they "embroider" stories of when we were growing up. I can't begin to tell you how funny they are. You would have to be around them to appreciate their humor.
While we lived on Nelson Street, one year my brothers got red bikes for Christmas. Ungrateful child that I was, I got a child's sewing machine, a table and chairs to share, a doll with a real baby tub, but I didn't get a bike. I tried to act happy and I was, but they were outside riding around and I was inside bathing my doll. I was miserable, but just tried my best not to show it. After all, I probably got more than they did with all of the girly things. Well, after lunch, my grandmother said for us to come outside and look under the house. She had hidden my beautiful blue bike under there and I guess it was her way of surprising me. That was one of my happiest memories as a child.
We all gained immense freedom with those bikes. As I said earlier, parents didn't worry about bad things happening to their children back then. Our street wasn't paved and neither was a main road a block away. We rode those bikes all the way to the city park which was at least a mile away from home. There was a gully in the park and water had eroded the land which made some hills and valleys. We were scared to death because it looked like to us we were at the top of the mountain and then we would zoom down to the bottom and up another hill all to do all over again. We spent hours riding those hills. As an adult I went back to see those hills and had to laugh out loud. They looked so steep to us when we were children on our bikes, but they were just little indentions in the ground.
Around the fifth grade, the city came to pave our street. Gosh, but I bet we worried those poor workers to death. Our mother made gallons and gallons of Kook Aid that we would sell to the workers for pennies a glass. We were in business for ourselves at 10, 8, and 6. John would have still been too small to hang out with us. There came a time that the drains were laid along with the concrete pipes throughout our end of town. The workers would cover the manholes when they left for the day. That is when the Jeffress kids swang into action. Off we would pop those covers, and would roam the labyrinth of culverts. I am so thankful there wasn't a heavy rainfall when we were down there. We would have probably been washed down to the Red River never to be seen again. It was so much fun down there and our voices carried for miles and miles.
On Nelson street dressed up in my clothes so when our dad came home we could trick him into believing the boys had left and he now had only daughters. He knew better, but would carry on anyway. My mother says that when I would come in from school, I would make my brothers gather around this little kids table we had and teach them what I had learned that day at school. That is probably one of the reasons none of them particularly cared for school when they got there. I think they also got the line, "Oh, you are Jane's brother!"
My oldest brother and I ended up being pretty close once we got to high school. His friends were my friends and we did pretty much everything together. I guess Wayne was a bit young for us at that time. I know John was just a small boy.
After graduation, Chuck joined the Army for four years. During that time I was in college and then married. He got married shortly after doing his duty. He didn't have any children by that marriage. He married again and had two sons, but that marriage didn't last either. He is still married to his current wife and raised her daughter as his own.
He started as a driver for UPS and worked his way up to management and was what I call a sharp shooter for the company. If they had a center that wasn't performing up to snuff, he was sent in to fix the situation. Now he fishes and has a dog named Rudy.
Wayne quit school and joined the Marines. He earned his GED while in the service and I remember my mother saying that the principal at Bolton High School, Mr. Pate, called her one day to come and pick up his diploma. She said she was so happy that she cried. When Wayne got out of the service, he too married, but as I understand it, Chuck's wife told Wayne's wife that she didn't have to put up with his hunting and fishing and that marriage ended in divorce. We still love that wife. They didn't have any children. He married again and had his first son, but that marriage ended as well. He ended up raising his son along with his third wife and her son. They have a boy and girl who are now graduated. Three of their children are in or have been in the military. Two are/were Marines like my brother and the other is in the Navy.
Wayne is the brother who always got hurt. We were out shooting arrows and when it was Chuck's turn, he told Wayne to get out of the way and Wayne ran into a barbed wire fence and sliced his head open. Off to the emergency room and I don't remember target practicing ever again. He and Chuck were fishing on the Red River and his foot slipped off a culvert and he sliced open his foot. Off to the emergency room. Got his foot stitched up and walking back to the car barefooted stepped on a broken bottle and had to return to the emergency room to have that one stitched up too. At my mother's choir practice someone told him there was caramel candy in these bottle tops and he dug it out and ate it. Off to the emergency room to have his stomach pumped out since it was poison. When he was a toddler, he somehow or other crawled out of his crib, up to the countertop in the kitchen and my mother found him eating some pills she had from her pregnancy with him. Off to the emergency room to have his stomach pumped out. I guess you could say he had a spell of bad luck.
John went from high school into selling vehicles. He has won many national awards for his salesmanship. He is divorced from his third wife and didn't have any children with any of his wives, but did adopt his second wife's daughter, who he loves dearly. He is still in sales, but is now the leader of salesmen. I haven't seen it, but my parents say he has a lovely home that he has fixed up beautifully.
All threee of my brothers inherited my dad's gift of being able to draw and paint. None, but Johh, pursue that gift. He does some really lovely pen and ink drawings with watercolors added. I have a few of his pieces. I can't draw a straight line with a ruler and although my mother tried to teach me to knit, I can't do that either. I do love to sew which I learned from my grandmother and do scrapbooking and card making. I like crafts.
I have given you but a glimpse of my brothers. We fought like cats and dogs, but would kill for each other if we had to. I am glad now that I was the only girl with three brothers. I didn't have any competition when I was growing up. :-)
San Francisco [October]
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