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Growing-up years at No. 2 Ivory Hill

Though I lived in four different houses during my tenure in Nanty Glo, the most vivid experiences are those lived at Number 2 Ivory Hill. My father and mother had 11 children, and they were never able to save enough money to buy a permanent home. Consequently, they moved every several years. My dad was employed at the Springfield Mining Company, and he was able to walk easily to work from there, since we did not own an automobile.

The house was too small for my family, of course, because in those days the original houses had two rooms down and two rooms up. We had a coal-burning stove in the living room and a coal-burning kitchen stove. The only heat we had upstairs came through a small register above each of the stoves, and a glass of water left on the window sill in the winter would often be ice in the morning. I remember that three of us boys (we had five), slept together in one bed spoon fashion for warmth.

Getting up on a cold winter morning was a chore, walking across the cold floor to find clothes for school. There was a corner sink in the kitchen and a cold water spigot only. The houses sat up on posts without foundations then and, of course, the water line often froze over night. It was a common practice to draw water at night into a bucket so that it could be heated in the morning for us to use to wash for school. And being the "right" age, it was my job to crawl under the house with the warm water and with a small ladle pour water slowly across the water line to thaw the frozen pipe.

I don't really remember acutely how it felt to sit on the floor of the living room in cold weather, but the wind coming up through the floor boards must have been mighty uncomfortable. My mother often let the spigot open a little hoping that the movement of water trickling through the line would keep the pipes from freezing. It was not uncommon for us to see an icicle hanging down from the tap when we came downstairs in the morning.

None of us had any "space." Mom could never say, "Go to your room," as I said to my children. We had no room, so to speak. There was no place where you could go off somewhere quietly to do homework or to dream. We all gathered around the kitchen table to do our homework, or we held a book in our lap sitting on a chair in the living room.

It is safe to say that we were not "raised"; we sort of grew like Topsy. My mother was too busy to do much raising, what with washing of clothes for 11 children and a mine worker's dirty clothes, ironing before there was wash and wear, preparing food and cooking for a crowd; sewing, cleaning, tending to emergencies.

Our refrigerator was a dynamite box nailed with the open side into the kitchen in winter. We could store perishables there. Just slide up the window, reach into the box and grab the oleomargerine, or leftovers. And, of course, we had an outside "John" up behind the house, a woodshed, and a coalshed, as well.

Our neighbor kept a cow in a small shed at the back of his yard. She was turned out to graze each morning on the hillside, and I often went along in the evening to help bring her home for milking. There was seldom fresh milk for us. We bought canned Carnation milk, mixed it with water, and put a drop of vanilla into it, and poured it on to our rolled oats for breakfast. Though we never had any money, we at least had food to eat and never went without.

At that time, the C&I railroad tracks ran between Ragley's Lumber Mill and Ivory Hill. The tracks were no more than 25 feet from our front porch, and the smoke and soot and noise were constant. My mother had to time her washing so that she could hang up the clean clothes to dry when the train was not chugging through. I often think about how Mom must have worried about us getting killed by that train running so close to our house.

There are too many memories of life on Ivory Hill for one sitting. We lived there from 1938 to 1942. Even though our lives there posed great hardships, my memories of that period are fond and full of happy experiences.

James (Jim) E. George
Leesburg, Florida
May 26 2002

Similar page: Growing up in a 1940's house

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