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Life in the cavalry barn

On an 80-acre farm in 1940s Missouri my mother became a widow with four daughters ages 4 to 10. She stayed through WWII, but when the time came to put her girls in high school she was faced with a decision.

With no school buses, it was necessary to board her girls in town during the week. She decided she would not send them away from home but go with them instead. She rented the farm, packed up and moved, pulling a two-wheeled trailer with a ‘37 Ford car. Her sister lived in Sheridan so that’s where she headed. She cooked in several restaurants and as soon as she could afford it she rented an apartment.

That first apartment was two rooms in the cavalry barn at 115 Smith St. very near where the Senior Center now stands. According to an item in The Sheridan Press for Jan. 12, 1957, the cavalry barn water tap permit was issued to Nelson Stable and Feed Yard in October 1911. The stable remained in the Nelson family but by 1923 the National Guard unit stabled its horses there and that use continued until October 1928. In 1947 when my mother rented the tiny apartment, Sheridan Motor Company on West Brundage stored cars in the cavernous building. It had been condemned, according to the ‘57 Press article, and was demolished soon after that.

The apartment was definitely sub-standard, “a hovel” according to my sister Nina, but so soon after WWII housing was scarce, especially anything my mother could afford.

They entered the building by a walk-in door beside the big double doors through which cars were driven. A few steps inside a door opened into the apartment. Heated by a coal stove, the rooms cannot have been comfortable in winter. Bath and laundry were located in an old trailer house farther into the building reached by a plank walkway laid on the dirt floor. Clothesline was behind the building where Goose Creek meandered before flood control.

A footbridge across the creek allowed those who came to the brewery for free beer to walk across, lounge on the creek bank, drink the beer and sleep it off. For that reason my mother did not allow the girls to go to the clothesline alone. Sometimes clothes disappeared.

At Christmastime the girls all had red measles and were quarantined; a sign on the door forbade entering or leaving. Nina remembers their strong body odor while they were sick.

I had gone to work at Trail End and visited on my days off. The twins, 10 that summer, remember sometimes my mother asked me to wash their hair and bathe them. When she got off work late at night, they were asleep; when she awoke they were gone to school.

The twins walked to Linden School for fifth grade and came home for lunch. Nina’s best friend Rosemary lived across Smith Street from the barn and the two walked through Kendrick Park and up the boardwalk to high school.

The girls all liked the neighborhood. The twins’ friends the Palmer girls lived just down the block and the Palmer grandparents were very kind to them. The girls played on the creek bank or went to the park. Someone gave them a scooter and they took turns riding it. The twins received bicycles for Christmas and weather was pleasant enough for them to ride once they recovered from measles.

In the spring of 1948 my mother found an apartment on Gould and the family moved. Despite the fact that it was a nicer place the girls found it hard to leave the cavalry barn neighborhood.

Guest columnist A. Rose Hill is a member of Third Thursday Poets who meet once each month at the Senior Center. Center Stage is written by friends of the Senior Center for the Sheridan Community. It is a collection of insights and stories related to living well at every age.

 


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