Peabody Singing Tower

 North Manchester, Indiana

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Source: NMHS Newsletter Aug 1996

Childhood Episodes

Irene Hoover Beery

In 1992 Irene Hoover Beery completed MY HOOVER FAMILY STORY which she wrote especially for her grandchildren. Included are some delightful stories of life in an earlier time which she has agreed to let us all share. Here are some she called "Childhood Episodes."

Going to the Ice House

"Fred - Irene!" my dad called. "Want to go along to the ice house?" My mother had just looked inside the icebox which sat in the corner of the back porch and discovered there was just a sliver of ice left. It was hot summertime; food would soon spoil without ice.

Grabbing the ice tongs Dad headed for the car (our 1915 Maxwell) while we tagged along. We crawled into the back seat and soon arrived at the ice house which was located at the next farm north. Going after the ice was a treat, especially when Dad let us climb the ladder and go into the house with him. Raking off the sawdust and searching for a cake of ice was somewhat like looking for a treasure-or, maybe, exploring a cave. The place was dark and damp and had a queer odor, all of which gave one a bit of an eerie feeling. Finding a nice big cake, Dad brushed off the sawdust and with his tongs lifted the ice to the door and threw it out to the ground below. Then he carefully covered the spot with sawdust, so that no ice would be exposed to the air which would melt it.

Fred and I scampered back into the rear seat while Dad put his block of ice on the running board of the car and we headed for home. He had to drive slowly and keep an eye on the ice, lest it fall off. That happened occasionally. Down the steep driveway and around the curve we went. But at the curve the left rear door came open and Fred went tumbling out to the side of the road. Meantime, Dad was diligently watching his cake of ice on the running board, completely unaware of what was happening behind him. I was scared-in fact, speechless for a few moments. Then I poked Dad in the back and said, "Fred fell out. He's a way back there!"

Dad hurriedly pulled the car over to the side of the road and ran back to get my poor little brother. He was crying and his leg was bleeding, but his only injury was a bad knee abrasion. This was an incident none of us would ever forget. In fact, "Fred fell out. He's a way back there." became household words in our family, especially when they wanted to tease me. We laughed about this incident years later.

Eggs in the Haymow

The Shanahans had gone on an overnight trip and we had agreed to do the few daily chores on their farm. My job was to gather the eggs. I would find most of the eggs in nests in the chicken house, my Aunt Audra informed me, but a few of the hens insisted on laying their eggs in the haymow. Hens were not confined to one building in those days; their territory had no bounds. One would hope they would do their pecking and scratching in the barnyard, but it was not unusual to see one in the front lawn scratching in a flower bed, perched on the front step, or crossing the road. For obvious reasons it was best to be a little careful about where one stepped. When evening came I took my little bucket to the hen house and discharged my duties there and then headed for the barn to finish my task. Cautiously climbing the ladder, I reached the mow and began searching in the semi- darkness for eggs. I had not gone far when I suddenly came upon a sleeping man who appeared to be a tramp. Terrified, I scrambled back down that ladder and headed for home, running most of the way, I think. It turned out the man I almost stepped on was Billy, a vagrant the Shanahans had befriended. Apparently he was just sleeping off a drunken stupor.

Playing on the Strawstack

It was midafternoon. The threshers had left our place and gone on to the neighbor's. Perhaps Fred and I and a couple playmates were looking for something to liven up our day after the excitement of threshing had ceased. We became intrigued with the huge clean strawstack the threshers had just made. Often all our straw could be blown into our roomy barn, so a stack was somewhat novel to us. We decided to look for binder twine strings-to pull them out of the stack and see who could collect the most. This grew monotonous in a short while.

Eventually one of us, probably Fred, climbed to the top of the stack and dared the rest to follow. Finally we reached the top and marched around all over the top. Then someone dared to slide down-so we all slid down, getting that itchy straw inside our clothes and dragging some off the stack every time we came down.

Evening came. The threshers returned, hot and tired, to their homes. I have no memory of the details of my dad's discovery of the ruination of his beautiful strawstack, but I remember the end of the story very well. I have seldom seen my dad more disappointed in the actions of his kids or more angry with them. "Surely you should know better," he chided us very emphatically. "You walked all over the top making holes. Now every time it rains the water will fill those holes and funnel down through the stack, rotting all that nice straw." By the time he was through I felt very stupid and penitent. But the truth is, I had no idea that what we were doing would be unacceptable in the eyes of my father.

Going to the Gravel Pit

One of the many places I liked to go with my dad when I was a little girl was to the gravel pit. He went there often with his team of horses and gravel wagon when he needed gravel for filling up holes in the lane or doing cement work. The Gilberts, who owned the gravel pit, had a large family of eight children, one of whom was my little classmate at school. So the attraction there was to play with the kids while dad went on back to fill his gravel wagon.

One day when it seemed to take a bit longer than usual, it came time for the Gilberts to eat their noon meal. As the ten of them gathered around their big stretched-out table, Ina, the mother, said to me, "Now come on, Irene; you just sit down here and eat dinner with us."

I quickly looked over the situation and replied, "Oh, no, you have too many already." Ina could hardly wait to tell my parents my response to her kind invitation.

A Case for Gun Control

I'm not sure how my brother acquired his BB gun. I do remember that most boys at a certain age became the proud possessors of such arms. My father tried to impress upon my brother that the owner of a gun had certain responsibilities in regard to the use of that weapon. He should never point it toward another human, for instance, or shoot toward a window. He could shoot cans off a fence post or shoot at a cardboard target. I even enjoyed trying my skill at that. Then, too, there were certain pests in the bird and animal world he could try to eliminate, like pigeons in the barn, and rats. These things should provide sufficient target for any young marksman, my parents thought.

One day as I was walking about the barnyard minding my own business I thought, I felt a sharp sting in the back of my leg. Looking around, I quickly spotted Fred with his BB gun. It didn't take Dad long to respond to this young gunner's break in etiquette. I don't recall the penalty as vividly as Fred probably does, but I think it included a few stings in a different place administered by the hands of his father as well as confiscation of the gun for a period of time. My brother's assessment of the incident was that the punishment was way out of proportion to the seriousness of the crime.

Learning to Drive

It was early fall, before I was quite fourtten. Dad had started husking a little corn and throwing it in piles on the ground. One day he called to us, "Come on, both of you. I've got a little job for you back in the new ground. Let's go get that corn picked up while you're home from school"

Dad had transformed our first car into a kind of pickup truck which he used for this kind of work. Fred had already learned to drive it, so he made a dash for the driver's seat. "No you don't-not this time," Dad called to my brother. "Your sister has got to have a chance to learn to drive, too. But go ahead and drive back to the field, and then you can help me pick up the corn."

Back at the field, Fred reluctantly crawled out of the truck and Dad motioned me into the driver's seat. I was apprehensive, but I did want to learn. I knew nothing about driving, so he had to tell me everything-how to start the motor, how to stop, how to go forward, go slow, speed up. "Now we're ready. You start up and keep going until you come to the next pile of corn. I'll yell 'stop'." "Good girl!" he yelled when I stopped promptly at the signal.

Soon that pile was tossed on and he signalled me to drive on. This procedure continued for several piles with varying degrees of jerkiness in starting up and promptness in stopping. Finally I was beginning to feel a bit confident that I knew what I was doing. Once more I heard my Dad's voice ring out, "Stop!"

My mind seemed to have gone suddenly blank. I couldn't for the life of me remember how to stop that truck. I panicked. I just kept going with Fred and Dad running after, trying to shout instructions which I couldn't hear. I had a quick vision of just driving that truck all around that rough field until it ran out of gas. I started pushing bottons and pressing pedals and suddenly it stopped. What a relief! I can't remember whether I finished the job that afternoon. I do remember that, in spite of my blunders, Dad continued to give me opportunities to drive and before long I was able to take the car on my own. At this time there was no age limit for driving. In many ways Dad gave me opportunities equal to my brother's, so I never felt that I was discriminated against for being a girl.