Two Women’s Lives

Mary Painter Otte wrote this paper for a college class in 1988. Her teacher wrote this note across it: “Beautiful account of 2 special women – Really captures the life of an earlier, simpler time – A pleasure to read – Thank you.” She gave Mary an A-.

I feel both my grandmother and mother were typical during their era. At both times you were either poor or rich; living on opposite sides of the Mississippi there were many things different and [many things] the same.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in the early 1900’s?  Being without a T.V. or car and all the things we have now. Ruth May Painter was born May 1903, at Indianapolis, Indiana. She was the second child of two boys and two girls.

Mrs. Painter’s father was a preacher of the word of God and was away often speaking at other congregations. Their income was not much but she has very good memories. They lived in a four-room house and at the age of six moved to the country on a two to three acre place.  There her father built a summer cottage, and when winter came it was time to move back to town.

She remembers how her father was a very hard worker.  In the summer he raised strawberries.  After three years they bought a ten-acre farm [where] he built an eight room house and had two to three acres of strawberries. They hired help and picked strawberries all day.  Then he would start to town at night so that by morning he would be at the stores when they opened.   Also on their farm they raised a hundred chickens, a horse, pig, and a cow.

[When she was fourteen,] her father was invited to move to Bloomington to live and preach; there she finished high school and college.

As a child there were not neighbors nearby so her brothers and sister played by themselves. During the winter in the snow they played fox chase the geese. The “fox” would have the “geese” [walk] around a circle in the snow that had paths across the middle. In the summer and spring her brother made box kites which flew so high you couldn’t see but a speck. Using a ball of string and a stick they also played a form of baseball.

At the little house in the summer their father put a swing in a big tree. She recalled [that] once her little brother walked in front of her as she was swinging high. She jumped and grabbed the swing so not to hit him.

Growing up they had a pig which had piglets. One got in with the horse and it stepped on its ear. That about pulled it off, so her mother took it into the house and finished cutting it off.

On special occasions like the Fourth of July they would celebrate with a few firecrackers. Their mother would invite friends, including widows or young mothers, over for picnics. Every Sunday her parents asked a family or visitors for dinner. Since her father was a preacher they had other preachers over and they talked of the Bible and past experiences. She always enjoyed listening to them. Their school had a few basketball games but not many other activities.

When a funeral occurred the service was usually held in the church building and some were held in their homes. When they started having funeral homes they did not feel they were a good thing to have. Some families had wakes, where two or three people came over to the house of the deceased and one person would stay awake each night for two to three days. The body was kept in the house all this time.

When it was time for a wedding they were usually held in the homes just as her mother’s was. Mrs. Painter was married in a church; everyone waited after services for the ceremony.

Transportation was a train which came to the end of their property [at] both places. They had [a] spring wagon that one horse pulled and they rode in it to church. In 1917 they got their first car. It was a new Ford Touring Car for 300 to 400 dollars. She remembers how beautiful it looked in front of their house. There were no glass in the windows, so in bad weather they had curtains which would be snapped from the outside. Their uncle would take them for rides before they got their own car.

Dreams for the future were of becoming a teacher. A history teacher in high school made it real interesting, so that’s what she became.

Her three most wanted priorities: 1) Try and be a good Christian. 2)  Try and be able to take care of herself and not be a burden to anyone. 3)  Try and be as cheerful as possible.

Mrs. Painter in 82 years has seen many things. (Her father was a captain in WWI and her oldest son in the Korean War). Now she has one great-grandson. She has very good memories of her life and had rough times too, like the loss of her husband in 1957.

In April of 1932 a real special lady was born in St. Louis, Mrs. Dorothy Painter.  At the age of five she and her parents moved to the farm that had been in her mother’s family for three generations, coming from a place with electricity, running water and a bathroom to a small cabin with none. The cabin had three rooms. It had been built only to live in while another house was going to be built. Three families including her mother’s lived there before that goal was finally realized by her parents after World War II.  The cabin was on top of a hill, with a long kitchen and two rooms side by side. It had a small front porch and just a large stone at the back door. The cabin was built on stones; she remembers on windy nights it would rock but never made them fearful. They had a cellar where they would go in tornado weather.

For seven years she helped carry water up to the cabin, for household needs. One time her only brother was teasing her to throw the bucket of water at him and he didn’t think she would but she did. She said she didn’t mind “fetching” some more!

The neighbors weren’t near so they played together. In the winter they would play Chinese checkers and dominoes. When summer came around it was time for swimming and going to the movies. Most every Sunday after church, she recalls how their preacher would beat them to the movies. Their family went to town once a week and on Saturday afternoon they went to the double western feature. Sometimes they went on Fridays, but it depended on when and how often they changed the movies. She liked Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and other great actors. Her favorite movie was Desert Song, which was a musical.  She also enjoyed reading alot and took some piano lessons. They had a radio, but it used batteries so they didn’t listen to it very much. She remembers clearly everything that happened on December 7, 1941. After [c]hurch Sunday noon during dinner her father turned the radio on and they told of Pearl Harbor being bombed. Also, during the summer they would visit great-grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles that she remembers quite well, even the 50th wedding anniversary of her maternal great-grandparents. On holidays such as Labor Day and the Fourth of July the town had a big celebration.  Everyone would dress up and go to the town picnic. During most of this period they didn’t own a car (when her little brother was born the car was sold to pay his doctor’s bill) so they would walk the three miles to town.

They felt rich is 1940 when their family acquired a 1932 Plymouth. One time they were driving to a little place called Cornwall and the steering wheel came off!

They attended school in a one-room house. It was grades one through eight. One teacher taught [them] all, and the older kids helped the younger. When in the eight grade the school burned down, they finished school in a neighbor’s basement. The grade school put on plays and had picnics. The children played games like cops and robbers and Red Rover. One year, on the last day of school, she gave everyone the measles. In high school she was president of the Beta Club. She graduated in 1949.

In the Moyer family the father was very much the head of the house. He was a miner and farmer by trade. His wife and mother of his children helped in everyway. [The] [f]amily[‘s] routine was around the father’s job hours. Traditional male and female roles were followed most of the time, but chores and farming jobs were shared. When it was time to can, everyone helped put in the year’s food supply.

Religion was a central part of the daily life of mother and children. Her father did not have Jesus Christ in his life and this caused problems at times. They had goals of a new house, buying the farm and seeing the son finish college. They didn’t want him to follow the father in the mines and all their goals were made.

Mrs. Dorothy Moyers Painter was and is a special lady, especially to me. The main reason for this[?] She’s my mother.

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