Friday, August 31, 2012

Crossing the finish line --- Eldon, MO

                   Eldon High School                       
                       Class of '69

Well, it's time I wrapped up this School daze trip. Last time I wrote, I had gone to Independence, MO, for just a little over four short months, the last of my sophomore year. But we weren't done moving yet.

While we were living in Independence, Daddy was working in Kansas City at some kind of big metal working place in Kansas City where he met a co-worker who took a shine to him. After a few months, this nice man told Daddy that he and his family owned a conglomerate of about three farms, consisting of a little over 1,200 acres, right smack in the middle of Missouri, and they would like to offer Daddy the position of manager of those farms. A farmer. Well, why not? He had tried everything else, and was good at it!

That summer after school was out, we drove down to High Point, MO, to find the 5-W Farms. Pretty appropriate. There were five of us. Winklers. Well, the farm was kind of "run down" because it had been awhile since anyone had worked it. And the house? Well, when I tell you we brought buckets of soapy water and BROOMS into the house to scrub down all the walls and ceilings before we could even paint and start on any floors, would that give you a pretty good idea of what it was like? But we were back in the country. And we were all together. And living life on a farm with cows, pigs, and a pond right outside the back door where I could fish.....pure heaven!

Now, since we were right on the dividing line between the Eldon and California school districts, we were told by both schools that we could take our pick which one we wanted to go to. We drove to both towns and looked over both schools. Since the Eldon school looked newer and more modern, and the drive was just a tiny bit less carsick-inducing, that's the one we picked. Our little sister was still in elementary school, so she went to High Point Elementary.

My favorite classes my junior year were, bar none, shorthand and typing. I absolutely loved them because both of them involved a lot of the same kind of manual dexterity used to play a musical instrument. I excelled at both, even if I do say so myself. In fact, I passed my shorthand teacher's own shorthand speed and she would work with me individually to groom me to take the tests given to qualify for "certified" speeds. Same with typing. I still have all the little "speed" pins I won from the Gregg Shorthand Company, plus one pin that my teacher bought for me herself for my highest speed achievement. Dorky, I know, but I worked darn hard for those pins, so I'm keeping them.

Little did I know those two skills would be primarily the main skills required for the jobs I have held most of my "career" life. They have served me well.

But more move! No, not a change of schools. But we left the farm and moved closer to Eldon, so my brother and I remained at Eldon High School, and our little sister changed to Eldon Elementary School. So I got to go TWO WHOLE YEARS at one school, and good old Eldon High School is where I got my diploma. And at graduation, I also got a pleasant surprise. With all that moving around, it never occurred to me to track anything like a G.P.A., but the last week of school, the counselor called me into his office....which was a short trip, actually, because I ended up working in his office as a secretary part-time at the recommendation of my typing and shorthand teacher. He told me that I would be graduating in the Top Ten of the class. Number seven, to be precise. I was flabbergasted.

Senior Banquet Date....
My (younger) Uncle
Yeah, I was wild.

So there you have it. My whole School Daze career. For a quick recap:
  1. First Grade - West Plains, MO
  2. Second Grade (1st part) - Columbia, MO
  3. Second Grade (2nd part) - Alton, MO
  4. Third, Fourth, half of Fifth Grade - Plato, MO
  5. Fifth Grade (2nd part) - Back to Alton, MO
  6. Sixth Grade (1st part) - Couch, MO
  7. Sixth Grade (2nd part) - Cloverdale, CA
  8. Seventh Grade - Cotter, AR
  9. Eighth, Ninth, half of Tenth Grade - Mtn. Home, AR
  10. Eighth Grade (2nd part) - Independence, MO
  11. AND NOW, YOU'RE HERE....Eleventh and Twelfth Grades - Eldon, MO
Yup, that's eleven schools in twelve years. Whew!

But I do get lots of class reunion invitations! And I have a lot of great classmates.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


May, 1987, one month before diagnosis

On June 29 each year I celebrate a very important anniversary. A milestone.

This year will mark the TWENTY-FIFTH one since that life-changing event. So, happy anniversary to me....a/k/a Honey....Mom....Nana....."MomP".  My family celebrates right along with me.

In the spring of 1987, a pea-sized lump developed above my left breast--which I didn't detect--but apparently had spread to the rapidly growing, walnut-sized lymph node under my left arm--which I would have had to be dead not to detect! When a biopsy was performed on that one node, and the results were returned, I was told by the surgeon who performed the biopsy that I had medullary carcinoma, a type of cancer rarely seen in someone so young (I was 35), and, furthermore, was considered an "angry cancer" that would double in size every 30 days! It had already spread to one lymph node for certain. He recommended major surgery to try to "get" all that cancer and see if it had spread further.

Well, we didn't have a surgeon, had never needed one. We had just called the hospital and scheduled that biopsy with a surgeon who had been recommended by my OB/GYN. So we started prayerfully looking for "our surgeon." My husband was pretty thorough in his research, in fact, and was looking everywhere from New York to California, and calling national medical organizations to ask what certain credentials meant. Wouldn't you know it? One that came very highly recommended was living right here in our own little city!

With my reports now in his hand, my new-found surgeon recommended a modified radical mastectomy, which means removing the whole breast as well as all the lymph nodes in that area--breast, chest, and left underarm. And I was all right with that. I knew that, yes, I would miss the parts they removed, but I knew what I would miss a lot more was living to grow old with my sweetheart and seeing my daughter (then 14 years old) grow up if he had opted for a "less intrusive" type of treatment.

Now, my surgeon, we had learned through the grapevine, was a Christian man who believed that even though he had gone to years of school to be highly trained as a physician and surgeon, there was a higher Physician that could outrank him, any time, on any prognosis or procedure, in which He chose to step in on the case. We knew this surgeon would give us straight answers, seasoned with hope. And faith. And that meant that he would acknowledge that his word is not always the last word in some of his cases.

The surgery day arrived, a month out from my biopsy, and my surgeon held my husband's and my hands and prayed over me before the anesthesiologist came in and did his thing. He told me that he would personally bring me the results of the lab work which he would order on all the tissue and nodes he would be removing. Two days after my surgery (this was in the days before drive-by cancer surgeries where you are sent home as soon as you can stand up), my surgeon walked into my room, sat down in the bedside chair, and I could tell by the moistness on his cheeks (from tears) and the glow on his face that the other Physician had indeed decided to take my case. The kindly doctor told me that in all the breast tissue and 17 lymph nodes that had been removed and biopsied, zero trace of cancer showed up. Then he broke down and cried without shame. He kept saying "It wasn't me. It wasn't me." We knew that, but it was so refreshing, and so uplifting to hear a doctor admit that.

Here I sit 25 years later, still in awe and amazement at the power and love a Savior who is also a Healer. My heart is full thinking of my beautiful daughter whom I did indeed get to see grow up, go to school, marry, and eventually have a beautiful little girl who is now the light of my life--just like her Mommy always has been. Of course, there are a lot of other "little" things that happened along this journey that confirmed even more that I had The Great Physician on my case. But the fact that I am here at all is all the confirmation I need that no matter what "bad news" or gloomy prognosis we are handed, there is One who delights in proving those reports wrong!

Oh....and my little surgeon of faith? He retired from practice here, and in his sixties, went off to school again. This time to seminary to study to become a missionary. I wonder if he ever shared my story with those to whom he ministered?

I am going to share more about this journey.


Right now, I have a celebration cake to plan.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

10th Grade - Independence, Mr. President

My Dad took a job away from the family in Mountain Home, and lived apart from us for several months. A long ways away. After the separation got to be too much for both him and the rest of us, he found us an apartment and we loaded up the U-Haul and headed north, from Mountain Home, Arkansas, to Independence, Missouri. It was the last half of my 10th Grade, the last semester of 1967.
The apartment we lived in was on W. Truman Road, almost at the intersection with S. Noland Road. We were kitty-cornered across the street from a very large hospital, and I distinctly remember the sounds of sirens leaving from, and coming into, that hospital at all hours of the day and night. Quite a change from living out in the sticks, I can tell you! We had a lot to learn while we were here. My brother and I did a lot of exploring, both on foot, and on our bicycles.
I was enrolled in William Chrisman High School, and my brother was enrolled in a Jr. High School - don't remember the name of it--within walking distance of our apartment. When there were events at his school, I would walk there with him. I remember going to my first-and-only donkey basketball game there one night.
On the way to my brother's school, we would pass a lovely old-fashioned white house behind a black iron, gated fence. Many times when we passed, we would see an elderly gentleman sitting in the window reading a book or a newspaper, using the light through the window over his shoulder as a reading light. Sometimes he would look over his shoulder and spot us looking in the window and wave at us. Then one day there was a big shiny car parked in the driveway and we stopped to watch a man helping that old gentleman, who seemed to be quite frail, out of the house and into the car. And I knew exactly who I was looking at: President Harry S Truman!
He looked up and smiled, and waved. He just looked like any other Grandpa to us. And we waved back. Mr. Truman was born May 8, 1884, and died December 26, 1972, making him 83 years old at the time I "met" him.
But, back to school. I was only at William Chrisman for less than half of a year. But I remember the humongous number of students (I was told there were over 1,500 there, grades 10-12), and the size of the campus was so big I had to literally run to get from one class to the next without being late. And I remember that the first class started at 7:00 A.M.! THAT was the main thing I remembered. I mean, WHO started school at 7:00 A.M.? The only good thing about that was we were out of school by 2:00 or 2:30 P.M. Whew!
Things were done quite differently in this school, and I had fun learning their ways. My favorite classes were English and typing. The cafeteria was more like a large buffet restaurant, and too rich for my blood. In fact, I noticed I wasn't the only one that didn't eat their meals exclusively from the buffet line. Most kids brought their lunch, because by the time you bought enough things "ala carte" from their buffet line to make an entire meal, it cost a fortune! So you just got something from the line to supplement your sack lunch. It was nice to top off my nice salami sandwich with a piece of hot apple pie or a dish of ice cream. Oh, yeah!
Living in "the city" was an adventure for all the Winklers. We were not used to all the noise and hubbub and traffic and crime (my Mom learned you don't hang really nice clothes on the clothesline outside and not keep an eye on them), so when a co-worker of my Dad's offered him a job running a conglomerate of farms his family owned in the Missouri countryside, it sounded like heaven. And he said "yes."
So, goodbye, Independence. And it was nice meeting you, Mr. President. I didn't know that much about politics, specifically your politics at the time, but I did think you looked like a kindly old gentleman who took the time to smile and wave at some country bumpkin kids.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Missing the boat is not always bad

Maria Lewis Powell

There has been a lot of stuff in the news, on blogs, on Facebook, etc. about the sinking of the Titanic 100 years ago this weekend. A lot of people have a lot of really interesting information to share about that event, and I've been reading as much of it as I can.

We have our own story about that fateful event. See the picture of that sweet little face above? Well, that is the mother of Harold's Grandpa Powell, Maria (pronounced Mariah) Lewis Powell. Maria was born and reared in Wales, but at the time of the sinking of the Titanic, she had already moved to America and was living in Richmond, Missouri. She had followed her husband who had already immigrated a few years before her and he began working to save the money to send for her.

After moving to America, Maria went back to visit family in Wales twice. The first visit was in 1908 when she sailed on the R.M.S. Mauritania, sister ship to the R.M.S. Lusitania. And we all know the fate of that ship as well!

This is the postcard she sent back to Missouri from the Mauritania to her daughter, Nellie, saying "Well, dear daughter, what do you think of this ship?" Feisty Grandma Maria!

Then she went back to Wales again for a four-month visit at the end of 1911, returning in April of 1912. Her two oldest sons, William Arthur Powell (Harold's Grandpa) and his brother, Walter, were gainfully employed as colliers, so they decided to do something special for their Mom and purchased tickets on the R.M.S. Titanic (in steerage class) for Maria's trip home.

Maria's family in Wales were quite successful in their family business as tailors and seamstresses, and while she was there, her family had made a lot of clothing for her to take back to her adult daughters and her grandchildren. All that beautifully tailored clothing was packed into a trunk and sent ahead to be loaded onto the ship.

The Lewis family in Wales

Then, on the day Maria was supposed to board the Titanic (I think in Ireland), a last-minute family emergency caused her to be late... and she missed the boat! However, all her luggage had already been loaded aboard the Titanic, and it sailed without her. The White Star Line told her, "No problem, you can take the next White Star vessel bound for New York and we'll have your luggage waiting for you at the New York Pier."

And that's exactly what she did--leaving the day after the departure of the Titanic. She was already at sea when the HMS Titanic sank. But her ship must not have had a "wireless," because she didn't learn about the disaster until she was just outside New York harbor. Back in America, the entire Powell family had gathered together when the news of the disaster was front-page news in every newspaper. Harold's grandmother said it was like a "wake" in the Powell family. Everyone sat huddled together in their home in Richmond, Missouri, listening to the wireless, hoping and praying that Maria was among the survivors. When Maria arrived in New York, she went straight to the Western Union Office and sent a telegram to her family assuring them she was alive. She had been embarrassed that she had "missed the boat" because she knew her sons had paid extra money for her ticket, but this time missing the boat quite probably saved her life.

Harold's grandmother said when the telegram arrived, the "wake" turned into a huge celebration. But all Maria's luggage, including all that wonderful new clothing from her family of tailors in Wales, went down in the North Atlantic.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

55 Easters Ago

Today I heard Harold make some phone calls to some of his family members he hadn't talked to in awhile. For some reason, the day before Easter every year always makes him feel like talking to someone that would remember what he is remembering that other day before Easter so long ago. You see, he was orphaned at age four (his sister was three) when his parents drowned the day before Easter, 1957, at the ages of 23 and 22. His grandparents took turns rearing them. Maternal grandparents during the school year; paternal grandparents in the summers. And now even the grandparents are all gone as well.

It was 55 years ago this Easter that their young lives were cut short by that watery grave. No one knows exactly what happened. But the little four-year-old boy still remembers sitting in a church packed with flowers and strangers who came to gawk at the spectacle of such a "tragedy," and he remembers those two coffins in the front of the church and holding his little sister's hand. The little sister who doesn't remember any of it. He's glad at least he was old enough to have some kind of memories, even if a lot of them are sad and bewildered ones. His sister has none. Except for some yellowed photos, and what bits and pieces her big brother can remember and share with her over and over every time they talk, she has no memories of them.

And Easter always brings it back, no matter how many years have gone by...

Before they went on that trip, their Momma had fixed up a couple of Easter baskets and hidden them in the top of the closet at the grandparents' house where they left the two little ones for the weekend. Then they drove from Kansas City to the Lake of the Ozarks for the weekend, promising to be back by Easter Sunday. In the grief and chaos that followed, those baskets sat there, in the top of the closet, for about a year and a half before someone noticed them. Harold says the candy in them was still as fresh as the day his Momma bought it for them.

Now, every time he calls to talk to his little sister, each conversation always gets back to "Do you remember the time..."

"No, I don't remember that. Tell me what happened..."

And so the young parents come alive again. And remain forever young in the minds of their two babies.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

2-1/2 years in Mountain Home, AR

During my year at Cotter, my Dad had gotten a job at the next nearby "big" town, so after school was out, we moved to that town: Mtn. Home, Arkansas. It was only a few miles from Cotter. And the school, where I was ready to start my 8th grade, was much larger than Cotter. And so was the band! The one thing I really had developed a love and interest for was music, and I didn't want to stop now. So, is it any wonder that the only teacher I remember was Jerald Reed, the band teacher.

The 7th and 8th grades were in an entirely separate building from the other schools. Since I started there as an 8th grader, that made me an upper classman. We would load on a bus and go over to the high school for our band classes.

My folks had bought some property outside of town, and we started building a house there. For the second time I could remember, we built the garage first and lived in it, with the intention of building the house onto it while we lived in the garage part. Which was really a small house, had a kitchen, bathroom and separate area for the "master bedroom." Hey, we were a builder's kids, we didn't know anything different. The difference this time was, we actually did build the house onto it, and moved in. My mom drew the blueprints and my dad built it, with the help of his crew: me and my brother. The sister was still too small to be of any use on a construction site. I learned a lot about building that summer. And it never hurt me a bit, except for a few smashed thumbs, sore muscles, and blisters on my hands. And we had acres of woods around the house where we could run wild and play after the work was done.

I stayed with the band. And learned that although playing clarinet was easy for me, and I did fairly well at it....marching was not. In fact, I was horrible at it. But I still had to march in the parades and at football halftimes. I really hated it because I just never did catch on, and barely made it through without some America's Funniest Videos-worthy fiasco. And the uniform didn't even fit. It felt huge on me. I found one picture of me in it, and I think I must have pinned it in the back with clothespins to make it even look like it fit me. And the trousers were way too short. Appropriately, I'm standing in front of our unfinished house, and you can tell by the scowl on my face how much I *hated* that uniform!

When we had moved into the house part of the house, my parents bought me a piano. Oh joy, joy. A clarinet AND a piano! I would spend literally hours playing both of them, and it was during this time that I realized I could listen to a song on our big console stereo over and over until I could play along with what was on the record. They told me that was called "playing by ear." It was the way my Daddy played the guitar, so I guess that's where I got the idea. We sure had some good times playing music, me on the piano and him on the guitar.

Anyway, as much as we loved living in Mtn. Home, I knew it would probably come to an end when the job ended. Which it did. Daddy went to Kansas City to work at a job and left us in AR. That only lasted a few months. My parents didn't like that whole idea of being separated as a family, so he went ahead and located us an apartment to rent and we moved in February of my sophomore year. Not even a half a year to finish out. But I had done this often enough to know that as much as I loved Mtn. Home, I would learn to love my new home if I gave it a chance.

And I did. Except for one thing. During some hard times, my parents gave me a choice: keep my clarinet and get rid of my piano. Or sell my clarinet to pay for the piano. I chose the latter. So no band for me at the new school, but at least I got to take my piano with me.

Years later, on a trip back through Mtn. Home, we went to see "our" house and took a photo of how it looked after a few years. Still beautiful.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

7th Grade: On the banks of the White River in Cotter, Arkansas

The summer that we headed back to the Ozarks, after the end of my 6th Grade in Cloverdale, we were still in the Cookie Wagon. Except this time, all five of us were riding together because we didn't have the car to drive back. A nice, cozy journey.

My Dad found more construction work before school started. In Arkansas. Cotter, Arkansas, to be precise, which, if you believed the signs on the edges of the little town, they were the "Trout Capital of the World." Apparently still are, according to this website. The White River running through Cotter is renowned for trout fishing. I'm glad it was good for the trout, because it was much too cold for me!

Now, if you've ever been to Cotter, and think it is small, consider this: Some of my classmates lived in neighboring communities of Cotter, some of which were much smaller. Communities such as Monkey Run, Gassville, Flippin, Calico Rock, and Yellville. I think their names are pretty cool. So, the question is, had I just gone from being an Okie, to being an Arkie? It was so hard to keep up my growing list of identities.

We rented a house in the middle of "town" (such as it was), less than a block from the school, which hosued all twelve grades in the big, square, two-story brick building. Since I was starting 7th Grade, I would be on the TOP floor where grades 7-12 shuffled back and forth between the handfull of rooms. My little brother? Well, he would be relegated to the lower parts of the structure, as it should be. I guessed that's why they were referred to as "under" classmen. Being a top-floor, "upper" classman was a thing of beauty.

Now, as you may have guessed, when we headed back east from California, I had to leave my rented piano behind. So my love for music had to find a different path. Cotter School had a band, and from the 7th grade on up, you could join. Oh, joy! So now to decide what instrument I wanted to play. By the time I had decided I wanted to play saxophone, all the saxophones were taken, so I was told the closest relative to that was a clarinet. Sold! I was now a student of the clarinet...the "licorice stick." Except the one I was assigned didn't look much like licorice because it was all silver. In fact, most of the band's "student instruments" were silver. But I didn't care, I had a new object for my love of music. Besides, this kind of instrument would be much more portable since we were such a portable family. I loved being in the band. I think we learned other stuff like English and math and history, but it was Band 101 that I looked forward to every day.

We stayed in Cotter the whole year of my 7th Grade. By the time the year ended, I was playing the clarinet like I had played the piano, by "adding stuff" to the music. But only at home, because it was frowned upon while playing with everybody else in the band. I had to keep my embellishments to myself.

Band, and that clarinet, were two of the things I remember most about 7th grade at Cotter.

But there is something else I remember. Not a happy or fun memory in any way.

We were each assigned to one of the old wooden double-wide desks that were in the "study hall" which took up the huge main room of the school's top floor. A mix of 7th through 12th grade students were each assigned to a desk, with a deskmate, that would be theirs throughout the whole year. I liked my deskmate. She was very nice to me, very tiny for a 7th grader, and very, very smart. We got along famously.

One Monday morning when I came to school, my seatmate was not there. And there was a lot of whispering going on. When I asked where she was, they pointed towards the empty half of my desk and said "She was shot in a hunting accident over the weekend. They don't know if she will make it. And if she does, she may never walk again." I was devastated!

She was gone the rest of that school year. I didn't get a new seatmate. The empty half of my desk haunted me, and reminded me to pray for her every day. I remember her name. But I won't mention it here, because I have no right to do so. I did manage to track her down online because I really did want to know what became of her. Well, I did find her, and and was so happy to learn that she is doing quite well, and is very active in helping other people all around the globe. She might not remember me, but I remember her very well. And I remember the tearful, heartfelt prayers I would pray for her every night before going to sleep.

You know, that year I was at Cotter was 1963. And as you may remember, there was another tragedy that occured in 1963. November 22, to be exact. President Kennedy was assassinated. And yes, I remember exactly where I was. I was in the band room, getting in some extra practice on my silver clarinet when a classmate came charging down the stairs (the band room was in the basement) and told us we were all being sent home because the President had just been shot.

As traumatic as that day was to me, my sweet deskmate being shot was every bit as traumatic. To this 7th grader, anyway.

So here's to you, Cotter, Arkansas, my alma mater for just one year. You with your shiny, silver band instruments and that humpity-hump bridge over the freezing-cold White River.

And to my sweet deskmate. I'm ever so glad you "made it."