Chapter One

The Early Years of my Childhood

May 26, 1951 early in the morning (as I remember my mom telling me)
Vassar, Kansas
My maternal grandparent’s names were Ira and Ann Mangold. My paternal grandparent’s names were Henry and Marie Laue of rural Lyndon, Kansas.

About my grandparents

Maternal Grandparents: At the time of my birth they lived in the little town of Vassar, Kansas, where I went to church. My grandfather was a retired postman.
Paternal Grandparents: At the time of my birth they lived in a big house next to my parent’s. My Grandpa Laue was a farmer and had cows, horses, milo, soybeans, and corn fields.

About my siblings

I was the third child, born to my parents, and I had an older brother, John Walter, and older sister, Janet Sue. Following me was another sister, DeAnn Marie, and then our baby sister, Nancy Jo.

I was named Elaine which my mother told me was French for Helen. So, I was named after an aunt. Because Aunt Helen lived in California and we lived in Kansas I didn’t get to know her too well. I knew she loved my mom and all of us. My middle name is Louise and was the middle name of my mom’s mom. My dad nicknamed me “Pete”, and I think it was because I was tomboyish and he wanted another boy. The name stuck with me through life and my sisters, brother, nephews, nieces and grandchildren all still refer to me in that loving way, with the nickname given to me by my father.

My earliest childhood memory

The earliest memory of my child hood is the home in which I first lived. I was around 2-3 years old. We lived on a farm, 3 ½ miles from Lyndon, Kansas. It consisted of a small front room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom and 2 bedrooms. My older sister, brother and I slept in the small bedroom off the dining room, and my younger sister’s crib was in the other bedroom with my parents. I specifically remember a stormy night with lightning coming in the room through the lace curtains on the window. I remember the bunk beds in which I slept with my sister, Janet, and the wonderful picture on the wall of an angel floating over two children on a walk at night. My sister comforted me and said that like in the picture the angel was protecting us, and I felt safe in our room. I could hear my sister, DeAnn, crying in her crib in our parent’s room around the corner through the kitchen and through the bathroom.

My most vivid childhood memory

My mother sewed in the family room. My sisters and I wore dresses to church that she had sewn, and many times we were all dressed alike, especially at Christmas and Easter. Janet, five years older than me, was my role model and I always looked up to her and wanted to be like her. She was popular, a cheerleader and pretty. My older brother, John, was the instigator of trouble for us, like teasing my younger sisters and I with a snake on a hoe, or making us say “I hate you” and then we’d get our mouths washed out with soap. My younger sister, Dee-Dee had such pretty blond curly hair that she hated. I remember one time Dad told her it was from eating the crusts of bread and after that she never ate the crusts. My youngest sister broke her nose at a potluck dinner at the school in Vassar. She and Dee-Dee ran into each other while playing when it was getting dark. My parents were very loving, but my Dad was a disciplinarian and even used his belt sometimes when we really misbehaved. His nickname was Butch and he was short and very athletic. My mother was taller than my dad and a year older. She had very dark hair, almost black and at a young age I started helping her with hair perms, and rolling it at night. I thought then that I wanted to be a beautician, but years later realized I didn’t want to be standing on my feet all day! My mother taught school when she and my dad were first married, but then she stayed home raising her children. She was kind and everyone loved her. She made cinnamon rolls, and so many other good things to eat. She died when I was 14 (she was 45) during open heart surgery for a valve replacement. It was very difficult to lose her. My dad was a farmer and then he went to work at the Post Office in town as a clerk. We would go there after Brownies or band practice and watch him work. It felt good to be in the grown-up place and see the customers come in and buy stamps and mail their packages. My dad was a hunter and a fisherman, and he took us many times with him to fish. I enjoyed the sounds of the meadowlarks and the croaking of the frogs, but even more, the splashing of the fish when we caught one. My dad died when I was 21 (he was 53) of a heart attack. He was found in the pasture where he was working and had one glove off holding the nitroglycerin pills. When I think of my mom, I remember leaning against her legs as a little child when she would be talking to other grownups. She would rock back and forth with me there. To this day, when I stand and talk to people, I often rock back and forth. The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of my Dad, is when we were in church I would lean on his arm and fall asleep, or, I would often clean his fingernails with a file, and remove all the dirt and grease from the farm machinery, while we sat there and listened to the sermon.

My fondest childhood memory

My favorite toy was my new Barbie doll. My sisters and I each had one. Mine had platinum hair. We were so intrigued with playing house and babies that we cut jack balls in half and tied them around their stomachs and then mom made maternity clothes for them. We played with our dolls for hours upstairs in one of the five bedrooms that was a storage room!

What I remember about my parents

My grandparents and aunts and uncles helped to mold my life. Grandpa and Grandma Mangold were the best. My Grandma Annie was not my real Grandma. Nell Louise Mangold died on June 14, 1951, a little over two weeks after I was born, so I never knew her. I was told she had liver cancer. Anyway, I remember going over to Grandma and Grandpa Mangold’s house in Vassar and playing with the toys out of the special toy box at the end of the hallway. I also loved to drink their “town milk”. We lived on a farm and had to drink fresh milk. It tasted totally different than the pasteurized milk we got out of the ice box in their kitchen.

My favorite childhood poem was the prayer my mom said with us when she tucked us in before we fell to sleep and gave us a kiss good night. “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. God bless mommy and daddy, my sisters and brother, my grandmas and grandpas, my aunts, uncles and cousins, and all my little friends.”

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