Lorraine was my only sister, older by two years and four months. She was born the day after Valentine’s Day. I can just imagine Mother hoping she would give birth on Valentine’s Day. What a loving day to have a beautiful baby girl! But of course, Mother didn’t know if the baby would be a boy or a girl! Lorraine was born on February 15, 1936, in Clinton, Iowa.
I was born on Halloween Day. I can just imagine Mother hoping she would not give birth on this day of ghosts and goblins! But alas, I was born on October 31, 1938, in Waterloo, Iowa.
Lorraine Roseann. She was named after all four of our grandparents! Lorraine – Laura and Ludwig Aanas, Mother’s parents. Roseann – Rose and Andrew Williamson, Daddy’s parents.
Anita Gail. I asked Mother who I was named after. She smiled and said when she heard the name, Anita Gail, she thought it was beautiful and if she ever had another baby girl, Anita Gail would be her name! Oh, okay! That satisfied me.
We, also, had two brothers. Richard Glen, seventeen months older than Lorraine, was born on September 7, 1934, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He was named after Mother’s younger brother, Richard. Glen was after our daddy.
William Claude. Billy, as he was called, was a premie. He was due in October but was born on August 25, 1942, in Des Moines, Iowa. William was after our great- grandfather, William Williamson. Claude was after Daddy’s brother, Claude, who died as a young man.
Daddy was pastor now of the Free Methodist Church in Des Moines, Iowa. Mother was very sick when she was pregnant with Billy. On August 23, 1942 when Daddy came home he found Mother passed out on their bed. He called for an ambulance. Lorraine told me she remembered Daddy kneeling beside the bed praying for Mother. She remembered the ambulance coming and never forgot it! She told me, as an adult, whenever she heard an ambulance her mind still went back to that day in 1942! Because I was only three years of age, a neighbor had taken me home with her, so I have no recollection of that day.
Billy was born on August 25, weighing two pounds and nine ounces, but he wasn’t expected to live and neither was Mother. She had uremic poisoning. But many people were praying for Mother and she was healed!!!
There was little hope for the baby. The hospital didn’t even have an incubator so the nurses put hot water bottles around his tiny body to keep him warm!
Grandma Aanas came to stay and help Daddy with the three of us children. Because Billy wasn’t expected to live she dressed Richard, Lorraine, and me up, curled our hair, then took us to a photographer to have our picture taken for Mother!
It’s one of my favorite pictures! Richard was almost eight, I would turn four in October, and Lorraine was six and a half. Oh, by the way, the baby, Billy, lived!
Lorraine and I were close enough in age to love playing together as we grew. Our favorite play time’s were playing house (dolls), school, paper dolls, jacks, jump rope, sidewalk rolling skating, and more. We were always busy and we had so much fun together!
We loved playing house! We loved our dolls. We also loved playing school. Lorraine was always the teacher. In Des Moines, Iowa we played school down in our basement. Neighbor kids came over and played too. A friendly retired neighbor man knew of our play school and made some desks, for us, out of orange crates (wooden boxes that oranges were packed in for sale in grocery stores)! When we moved to Oklahoma our play school was in a shed in our back yard. It was also where Mother washed clothes and it became a chicken house the year we raised 100 baby roosters! But, we had great imaginations and Lorraine was a wonderful teacher!
Sometimes Lorraine played school by herself! I can still see her standing on a chair so she could reach the cupboard where Mother kept her spice cans! They became Lorraine’s students! She taught them how to read, to do arithmetic and more! She also taught Mother’s buttons from the button can! She lined them up and had the most obedient and respectful class of interracial students anyone ever had!
You can see in this family picture taken in 1945 that Lorraine, Mother, and I all had our hair braided! We wore braids for several years. Mother would patiently braid our hair every morning before school. After we were gone she braided her own hair and wrapped the long braids around her head two times each!
I don’t remember this next episode in Lorraine’s life but she told me about it! Richard and Lorraine were enrolled at Phillips Elementary School, in Des Moines, Iowa for their beginning years of school. One day they were running late and were afraid of the consequence’s. They had almost a mile to walk to school! Our church had an outside toilet and they decided to hide in the toilet until time to go home! Somehow Daddy discovered them hiding. He didn’t get upset very often but when he did…you didn’t want to be the one he was upset with! He marched them straight to school! Lorraine was fortunate and had a substitute teacher that day!
When Lorraine was in 4th grade her class had been studying Iowa history. Her teacher had some creative ideas for teaching. One was for the students to make marionettes and put on a play telling the story of the beginning of Iowa. Lorraine made Julien Dubuque. In 1788 he was the first white settler in Iowa. She asked Mother if she would make some clothes for him. Mother was an excellent seamstress and made a black suit, white shirt, and black bow tie for him. Lorraine’s teacher was very surprised and impressed when Lorraine brought him back to school. Her class put on a very impressive play for all the students and parents! I was very proud of both Lorraine and Mother! This was one of the life treasures kept by Lorraine.
The school system in Des Moines, Iowa was a little different than some other systems. Depending on the child’s birthday, a child would enter school either in September or in January! All three of us children started school in January.
Our family moved to Covington, Oklahoma in the summer of 1946. A Kessel moving van moved all our belongings to our house in Covington. On the truck was painted, “Don’t cuss, call us!” That move was an exciting experience for all of us!
This was our new two bedroom house. Lorraine and I shared the back bedroom, Mother and Daddy had the other bedroom. The front porch went completely across the front of the house so Daddy took half of the front porch and made it into another bedroom for Richard and Billy.
Daddy was an evangelist now and traveled a lot. The school system there started school only in September. So Mother and Daddy had to decide if we could move ahead or repeat the first semester of our gradesb. 6th, 5th, and 2nd. It was a big decision for them to make. They decided we’d repeat the first semester. Richard and Lorraine weren’t happy about it, I was too young to understand, but we all did very well that year!
Another interesting change in the school system was that books had to be purchased by the family. Mother and Daddy were rather shocked. They didn’t have the money for books for three children! After we were enrolled we all were standing outside of the school. They had quite a list of books and they didn’t have the money to buy them! What were they going to do? A man who attended our church and was a new friend, Brother Kegan, was walking by and seemed to sense their dilemma. He got out his wallet, stepped over, and handed Daddy enough money to pay for all of our school books! It was a gift! They thanked him and God! I still proudly own some of my books! Here’s a couple.
All adults, in our church, were addressed by Brother and Sister and their last name, so I don’t know his first name! But Bro. Kegan surely saved the day for Mother and Daddy and for us kids!
Our first Christmas in Oklahoma, Aunt Lou, Mother’s sister, sent beautiful dolls to Lorraine and me! She had even made clothes for them! We were thrilled and spent hours playing with our new dolls.
I remember playing Jacks with Lorraine! We were both really good! I also remember playing paper dolls on Saturday mornings. We’d cut clothes out of the Sears catalog making sure we cut tabs on the shoulders so they would stay on the paper dolls! We used empty match boxes for beds and toilet paper for blankets! We had good imaginations!
Our two years in Oklahoma were the beginning of Lorraine and me having our own friends. We still played together when we were at home but we also spent a lot of time with our new friends of our own age. We both had wonderful memories of our two years living in Oklahoma!
Lorraine became best friends with Iris and Inez McClellan and I became best friends with their younger sister, Molly. Oh, what fun we had. Their daddy was the sheriff of Covington and he also worked in the oil fields! I’ll never forget a day we all got to ride along with Sr. McClellan to the oil field to take lunch to their daddy! That was an exciting day!
Lorraine and I wore dresses all the time. Most of them were made by Mother. We would go to the feed store in town and pick out the prettiest patterns of feed sacks and Mother would wash them and make us very nice dresses!
The dresses we’re wearing in this picture are made from feed sacks! Mother even sewed lace around the necks and on the pockets! Notice Lorraine’s braids are gone! She brushed her hair out. Braids had become a problem between Lorraine and Mother!
Oklahoma has bad storms and tornadoes! One day Mother needed to go to the grocery store. She had to walk several blocks but she was used to it so she told us kids to stay in the house, she’d be back as soon as she could. She didn’t know a storm was brewing!
All of a sudden the wind began to blow! A neighbor came running in our house asking where Mother was and if we were okay! She told us to stay in the center of the house…an unexpected storm was coming! Then she ran back home to care for her own family! All of us kids went into the bedroom of Mother and Daddy. The wind was really howling! We crawled under the bed, crying and praying.
Oh, where was Mother? Why didn’t she come home? All of a sudden Mother came running in the door! She made it home just in time and joined us in the bedroom! I remember all of us crying and praying. The big window in our living room blew outside from the pressure inside the house! A lot of damage was done in our little town, one garage was completely picked up and set back down in the middle of a street!
But the town of Woodward, Oklahoma was completely flattened! We only got the tailwinds and that was bad enough! It’s a storm Lorraine and I, and the rest of the family never forgot!
For the Christmas of 1947 Mother and Daddy wanted to, and felt we should, go to Iowa to visit our relatives, but they didn’t have the money to make such a trip. They decided to pray about it. Daddy had to leave to hold some revivals so he would pray wherever he was and Mother would pray at home. It didn’t look very promising. They were both very discouraged. Daddy’s mother, Grandma Williamson, was getting up in years and not doing well. They felt we needed to go to see her, and of course, the other relatives as well.
One morning a lady went to the parsonage where Daddy was the evangelist and asked to speak to him. The pastor’s wife called him from his bedroom. The woman said she awoke in the night and felt the Lord tell her that Glen Williamson had a need and she was supposed to give him the money he needed. She handed him an envelope and said good-bye. He went to his bedroom and opened the envelope…five twenty dollar bills! $100.00! Today, that doesn’t sound like much! But in 1947 it was a lot of money and it was the very amount they needed for the trip to Iowa! We went by train from Enid, Oklahoma to Waterloo, Iowa! We never forgot that train ride! Mother and the four of us kids! I’m sure the conductors were glad when we arrived in Waterloo! Daddy had traveled from wherever he was preaching.
Lorraine and I never forgot how the woman obeyed God and paid for our trip to Iowa. In that day it was a lot of money and such a gift! Unbelievable! We knew it was their prayers.
Our next big move was to East Peoria, Illinois. Lorraine was in junior high, I was in 4th grade. But we went to the same school which was about a half block from our house. By now Lorraine was making her own friends and I was too. We still did some things together but not playing like when we were younger.
The church was connected to our house. I’m sorry, I don’t know who the folks are in the picture!We, kids, cleaned the church every Saturday and made a little money! I’m really not sure just how clean it was when we finished! But I do remember going on the city bus to Peoria to spend our money! That was fun because we were together!
Grandma Williamson died that fall so our family went to Iowa for her funeral. Lorraine and I were very sad, we both loved Grandma Williamson so much.
Right behind our house and church there was a very high hill. It was covered with trees and brush. Soon after we moved there Lorraine and I climbed that hill! When we finally reached the top we looked down on our house and church! It was quite a task and a great adventure! I climbed the hill a few more times during that year but I don’t remember Lorraine ever climbing it again or at least not the two of us together.
Lorraine had a job working for a lady in the church, Sister Mercer. Lorraine did cleaning and just anything she was told to do.
The Mercers had a son, Ralph. He was an older teenager and had a new jeep! Our family had been invited for supper one day and Ralph wanted to show off his new jeep! He took the four of us kids for a ride. Richard sat in front with Ralph. Lorraine, Billy, and I were in the open back. It was a fun ride until all of a sudden we saw a very deep ravine ahead of us. Ralph stopped for a second before driving straight down! In that instant Lorraine saw what was going to happen! She suddenly stood up and jumped out of the jeep! She was left standing while we went zooming down that steep ravine and back up the other side! I was so scared! I couldn’t believe Lorraine would leave us! Later she explained to me there just wasn’t time to take us with her! She only had time to jump out by herself! She was right!
Our family lived in East Peoria for only one year and then we moved back to Waterloo, Iowa. This family picture was taken on Mother’s Day in 1950. Mother and Daddy both wore flowers that day. They explained to us kids that Daddy’s was white because his mother had died. Mother’s was red because her mother was still living.
Daddy was going to be an evangelist again. We stayed with Grandma Aanas in her big house on 5th Street for about six months. She had a rooming house where older men lived upstairs. Grandma and Uncle Richard lived downstairs. She cooked all the meals for the men and carried their meals upstairs to them on trays! She offered to let Mother take over her business, we could live in her downstairs and she would go to live with Great Grandma and Great Grandpa Reinertson.
So Mother took over the rooming house. She cooked and Lorraine and I carried the trays of food up the stairs to the men. Up and down, up and down! But we became good friends of most of them. One was a blind man, Jack. He was our favorite! We never forgot him!
Grandma was very particular and just didn’t really think Mother was doing a good job. So she wanted to move back and Mother and Daddy needed to find another place to live and work! Oh, this was hard and Mother was very hurt. Lorraine and I felt bad but we couldn’t do anything to help out with their feelings.
We had some cousins, on Dad’s side of the family, who lived on a farm just outside of town, Roy and Beulah Gray. They had six kids, Shirley, Leroy, (Lavon) Chuck, David, Evelyn and Marilyn. They had a building on the farm that had never been used and it could be made into apartments. We could live in one apartment. That was a life saver. Daddy helped get the building ready for occupancy. Another family rented the apartment next to ours.
We became very good friends with our cousins! Lorraine and Shirley were close in age. Leroy and I were in the same class in school and became best friends! We all had many adventures. At times Lorraine even had us all playing school!
But Lorraine hated living in the apartment! It was originally built to be a chicken house! She couldn’t get that fact out of her head! She didn’t want to live in a chicken house, even though it was never used for chickens! It was embarrassing to her.
In the meantime, Daddy bought a large lot from Roy on the other side of a woods that was behind our apartment. He and Richard, with the help of some good friends, built a new house for our family! It was small but it was our house. Part of the little building in the back was our outhouse for about the first year! Then Daddy put in an indoor bathroom!
Life was changing for us. Lorraine had lots of friends from school and so did I. But I missed our playing together. One day I asked Lorraine if she’d like to play house with me like we used to do. I’ve never forgotten the sad look on her face as she looked at me and said, “No.” Then she went to join her friends. It seemed to me to be the end of an era! I missed our good play times together. But life moves on.
We lived about a block from the end of a city bus route. Because it was the end of the line Lorraine and I became good friends with some of the drivers. We had our favorite drivers! We took the bus everywhere. One of our main places to go was to church. Twice on Sunday and every Wednesday evening. No matter what the weather was, we went to church. Waterloo Free Methodist Church.
Girls back then only wore dresses or skirts. No pants or jeans. I can remember being very cold in winter, while waiting for the bus. Lorraine and I would crouch down so our skirts would cover our legs. But we didn’t complain, it was just our life. Even when jeans and slacks became acceptable for girls to wear we still didn’t wear them to church. We always dressed up for church, although school clothes were acceptable for Wednesday evenings, but not pants or jeans.
Lorraine and I shared a very small bedroom. Daddy built bunkbeds for us and we had a chest of drawers. Someone gave Lorraine a dressing table with a small seat. A mirror was hung on the wall just above it. On the top of the table was a glass top that just fit the table perfectly! A pretty cloth was tacked all around the table, going down to the floor, It was a very nice dressing table for a young teenage girl! Lorraine loved it and was so proud of it! I can still see her sitting there brushing her hair.
We took turns sleeping in the top and bottom bunks of the bed. One night, when I was on the top bunk, I had to get up in the night. I was half asleep and somehow, while getting down from the top bunk, I stepped on the edge of her dressing table! It flipped over and the glass top broke! Oh no! I felt so bad! Lorraine was so upset and angry! I don’t even remember what happened to me when I fell. All I remember is, I broke her glass top to her lovely dressing table! I was so sorry!
Daddy was hired as the cook at the Free Methodist Camp in Oregon, Wisconsin. He loved to cook! He had been a chef in a hotel before he became a pastor. Mother, Lorraine, Billy, and I took the bus to join him because school was out and it would be a fun time for us all. Mother would help Daddy in the kitchen, Lorraine and I could wait tables.
On the way it began to rain. It poured! A cloud burst! Iowa isn’t flat, it has beautiful rolling hills. We watched out the windows of the bus as fields and pastures flooded with water. Cattle became stranded with water half way up their bellies. Valleys were filled with water. The highway was covered with water in places where it was a valley. The driver very carefully and slowly drove on. He stopped at one point so he and some of the men passengers could take the luggage from the outside luggage spaces and put the suitcases inside all along the aisle! Then we went on very slowly! It was still raining very hard! We came to another valley where the water was very high. The driver couldn’t see the edges of the pavement. He should have stopped but he didn’t! He kept driving on until suddenly the bus began to tip over! Everyone was screaming and crying! The bus stopped about half way onto it’s side! But everyone was still screaming and crying!
Suddenly a woman near us demanded of Mother, “What’s the matter with you and your kids? Why aren’t you crying and screaming like everyone else?” Mother said softly, “We’re afraid just like all of you but we’re praying! God will take care of all of us.”
We were rescued from the bus by fire trucks and army trucks. Firemen were fastened with large logging chains around them, then they waded through the rushing water to the side of the bus where the emergency door had been opened. They carried each person through the water to the trucks. Children and women were first to be rescued. So Billy and Lorraine were carried to safety. It was important for Lorraine to be with Billy. It was very frightening. I was next. But I bulked and said, “No, you take my mother first!” The men said something like, “no, children first.” But I refused to let them take me. I wanted them to take Mother first! Mother was trying to get me to go, the men were trying to force me! But I was stubborn and said, “No! You take my mother first!” Mother finally looked at the men and said they should go ahead and take her because time was wasting! So they took Mother and came back to get me. There were lots of other passengers still waiting to be rescued.
We were taken to Manchester to a hotel for a nights sleep. What a day that had been! There was something good at the end of the day! We got to take a bath! We didn’t have a bathtub at home! Ah, Lorraine and I each soaked as long as we dared! It was wonderful! The next day we were taken on to Oregon, Wisconsin. We have many wonderful memories of that camp.
Richard would be entering 11th grade in high school and he and Mother and Daddy decided he would go to Wessington Springs Jr College and High School in South Dakota. He’d been working and saving his money. It was a Free Methodist School with a very good reputation. So off he went.
Then someone in the Waterloo Free Methodist Church offered to pay for Lorraine to also go to Wessington Springs for her 10th grade! Wow! How exciting for her! So just a couple of weeks after Richard left, Lorraine left, too. She went by train from Waterloo to Woonsocket, South Dakota!
How would she get from Woonsocket to Wessington Springs? Richard was there but he didn’t have a car. Bruce Kline offered his car to Richard to drive to get Lorraine! That was quite an offer and an honor! Bruce was a faculty member and with a family, Richard was a high school student! Richard did pick her up and that was the beginning of a new and good brother/sister relationship that had been one with lots of friction before! But now they needed each other!
Lorraine did very well and became very popular at Wessington Springs. She made lots of new friends, she was a cheer leader, and lots more! I anxiously waited for letters from her to the family. I missed her a lot!
Life at home changed immensely. Mother, Billy, and I were home. Daddy was traveling a lot as an evangelist. Mother had a job as head cook at Elk Run School where Billy and I attended. It was about a block from our house. I tried to keep busy and happy but I missed Lorraine. She was my big sister and I missed her so much. I prayed for her every day.
So this is just a cap full of the life of Lorraine and me. There is more I could have written, like how we survived the polio epidemic. We had a cousin and close friend who both died of polio, it affected both of us, in fact our whole family!
But this will do for now. Stay tuned…