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Old Days Were Simpler, Safer, More Caring Time

Wed., Feb. 15, 1995

Last week’s sunshine, that and my mother Mary’s February birthday, stirred a bout of daydreaming in me.

Back in the 1950s, my mother was a member of the Freeman Homemakers Club and later a popular school cook. A caring, generous person, she gave of herself through her cooking.

Spring would pop up early back then and with it would come my mother’s special visitors. Mom would answer the back door to what the kids in town, all 10 or so of us, called hobos. A dowdy, haplesslooking lot, they traveled in twos and threes and rode the rails through our tiny town, carrying their possessions tied to a stick.

Word must have gotten out early on that Mom was an artist in the kitchen. Hobos or dignitaries, it didn’t matter, she gave her best.

From her culinary palette she delivered homemade soups, stews, breads, cinnamon rolls, puddings, pies, or whatever was simmering at the time, out the back door.

And her upside-down pineapple cake? Well, I always wished she wouldn’t give it away. Later in the season, she welcomed our visitors to partake of my dad’s garden.

There were offers to work, but she never required any payback. She and my dad, Recil, had a philosophy when it came to helping others: “No repayment, please. Just pass the benevolence on.”

I recall wishing she would have them pull some weeds that surely had my name on them.

I remember the dignity shown these strangers and their polite respectful response to Mom. Not invited inside, they would sit in the yard while they ate or she would pack it to go. She would have me take them coffee or cold drinks.

Was I fearful? No. Uncomfortable? Not necessarily. A feeling of safety and well-being enveloped those simpler times.

We had worries, of course, but not like the ones today. My mom, who passed away in 1988, had an open heart and the doors of our home were never locked. I miss her and those safer, simpler times.

In my daydreams, I see the Dishman Hobo Jungle, then a voice peals through the dusty pines: “Hey, Bob, you ever stop off out there at Freeman, up there on Jackson Road? Sure got good upside down cake.”

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