Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wednesdays with Dorothy: Living Arrangements

(This is part of a series. For Table of Contents go here)
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In our conversations, Dorothy would sometimes describe the house or houses where she lived as a child. Once she described her house as “being near the woods.” Another time she indicated that her family lived in a duplex.  After her mother died when she was ten, it seems that she and her father went from poor to destitute.  When her father was sent to prison, Dorothy tells of being sent to live with a legal guardian prior to being committed to Parlow State School.

Living Arrangements

“We moved around a lot back then. We didn’t have no house to live in after my mother died. My daddy, it’s a sad, sad thing, had to live in an old outhouse. It wasn’t no iron pit toilet in there, they took it out. There was no door, just a tow sack nailed across where the door was supposed to be. Later, my daddy found an old door and put it up there. He had to live in there and cook in there. He cooked on a little wood-burning stove that he picked up somewhere.

“We had no running water. We had to go way down in the hollow to this little spring to get our water. People used to keep their milk and butter down in the spring to keep it cold.
“To go to the bathroom, we had to go down this trail behind the house and get behind some bushes. There was a cot in that house. Sometimes I’d go to sleep with him on the cot, sometimes I would have to sleep on a quilt on the floor. Back then you could sleep with the door open, or out on the porch and still be safe. It wasn’t like it is now.

“The only time we got somethin’ to eat was out of the garbage dump.  My daddy didn’t have no job and couldn’t get one. He used to sell this old scrap metal. He never could get a job. I were with him there about half a year, then I went to live with that Knights. After that I went with my legal guardian in Comerdale.”

*    *    *

“After my mother died and my daddy went to prison, I was living with a couple, their name was Knight. Then I lived with my legal guardian, Mr. and Mrs. L.A. Stevenson. She came one night when I was at the Knight’s house and I didn’t know who she was. She handed me a block of chewing gum. I was practically a little wild and scared of anybody and I snatched it and took the wrapper off of it and put it in my mouth. Then she went and got me and put me in her lap. She said, “I’m going to take you to my house and fix you some hot corn bread and soup.” She did, and from then on I never did want to go back to where I was because they had got my daddy and took him on to jail. And then they had his court. After that I never did see him no more.  He went to Kilby prison. They didn’t have his records. That old Kilby Prison was destroyed by fire, and they had to build a new one on to it.  He died July 28, 1941.”

*   *   *

“I got under Child’s Welfare [when I was living with my legal guardian].  The probate judge of Sylacauga, named Harvey Littles, Judge Harvey Littles.  He had two nieces in Partlow. One of them was a lot older than me and she worked in the laundry at that time. Well, Ms. Ruth Hamilton and Ms. William Todd with Child Welfare got together and they decided to place me down there. And they gave me a mind test, a lady by the name of Miss Keebler did, I don’t remember her first name. And then there was a lady named Miss Vortman. She was a nurse at the city hall in Sylacauga.

“So my judge and the welfare lady had me took down there and I didn’t even want to go. Ms. William Todd, she came to see me one time and brought me a coloring book and some colors. I didn’t have any better sense and I got mad with her about something or other and I wouldn’t let her know I was mad. I had a coloring book and I just took my crayons and twirled them around and around in my teeth, and I think I pitched them out the car window, as well as I remember. I didn’t want to go there. She wound up and signed the papers and they put me on the waiting list and they wound up putting me down there.”

“No, I didn’t want to go. I didn’t even have a choice, they just put me there.”

*   *   *   *   *

Next time we will begin discussing the years at Partlow State School.

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