Saturday, June 21, 2008

Preschool Days

In 1921 Talladega Alabama was a thriving textile community and county seat with a population of 7000. It was arranged around a courthouse square with stores on each side of the square. It housed the State School fo the Deaf and the Blind. There was a college for Afro-Americans and the Presbyterian Children’s Home.
There was a special event on March 13, 1921 in the south side of town. A third son was born to the Hubbards. There was both joy and disappointment. The parents were hoping for a girl. The older boys, Lawrence Jr. 12 and Mitch 10 were not too excited about having another brother. It took several days to name the new baby. There were plenty of girls names ready but the boy’s name did not come to mind. Mother’s cousin Fred Jackson was wealthy and his name was James Frederick. The new boy was named for him which netted a handsome gift.
My father Lawrence Thornton had two years of college and operated a grocery store on the square. My mother, Marylu had a degree in education and had taught school a few years before her marriage. She was raised in Sunny South, Alabama and met my father when she visited relatives in Talladega. She was a talented pianist using her skill at the Trinity Methodist Church and Rotary Club. She wrote a song "O Rotary".
Dad was very active in the church. He was chairman of the building committee to collect funds for erecting a new church. The congregation rewarded him with a good shepherd stained glass window bearing his name. Daddy Hubbard and Mother Hubbard sang in in the choir. Dad’s deep bass voice impressed his young son in later years. 1921 was the era of servants, all Afro-Americans. There was a full time cook, a maid-washerwoman, and a baby sitter. I enjoyed the fire around the big black washpot. I was allowed to put wood on the fire to my great delight. I learned some forbidden words from the servants which my mother had to correct. I remember my mother as a switch wielder. There was a slim branch of a bush stripped off its leaves. It was used to sting my bare leg. It was very effective and she left it hanging in a prominent place as a reminder. I remember removing it and learning to lie about it. Using false statements became a habit. I have fondest memories of my baby sitter, Sadie today. She played with me, helped me take a bath, and ate with me. In that day and time it was not proper for Blacks to eat with whites but this was an exception. Lingering in my memory was the technique Sadie used to comfort me when I got hurt and fully crying. She would couple her hand, catch hold of my arm or leg saying: "I’m going to get that hurt as she squeezed the spot. It worked because I usually stopped crying. I remember to this day a trip to the physician where I got a shot. Sadie used her usual method of getting that hurt. I wonder what the doctor and nurse thought about this when I stopped crying. I learned in later years when I was studying for my psychology degree that Sadie had developed what is known as a conditioned response. It actually reduced the pain.
When I was a teenager my father passed away and was brought back to Talledega for the funeral. Sadie met the train and really did reduce that hurt with a great big hug.
My brothers had their own room which I dare not enter. I was an intruder They did not play with me very much except at Christmas. Santa was very exciting. They liked to try out my toys and run the electric train. Sometimes they had to keep me , bathe me and put me to bed. I remember one experience while they were bathing me. It was a rough experience. I actually fell on the faucet knob putting a painful bruise on my left cheek. It left a permanent indenture called a dimple. It is still there today when I smile. I escaped with nothing more than this. Every Saturday they had a cook out in the back yard. I stepped into their potato fries and paid a price which I still remember.
My second memory of my preschool years was the play group on our street. We played Hide and Seek with a wide variety of ages and both sexes. We played Hop Scotch drawing the boxes on the sidewalk. You would throw a rock in a square and hop on one foot to get it, come back and throw again. The closer squares were easier. There was a double row of five squares. We played a game called Rock School. This was played on the steps of my house. There were 10 or 12 steps leading to the front porch. The pupils all sat on the first step. The teacher had a rock in one of the hands. If you hit the hand with the rock you moved up one step till you reached the top.