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Nineteen thirty-four, the trough year of the Depression. I don’t remember that year of my birth, but I do recall growing up without the normal amenities that others take for granted. Later in life, I learned there’s a word to describe this condition. It’s called poverty. My dad was a civil engineer, but work was scarce during the ‘30s. I was born near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but spent my younger years in my mother’s home state of Florida. When I was four or five, my family–mom and dad, three older brothers–moved back to Pittsburgh.
Jobless, my father took the family out to “the country” where we raised chickens. We lived in a three-room shack with no running water, no central heating, and no refrigerator. As noted, we were poor, but as Ronald Reagan said, the government didn’t come and tell us we were poor, so we didn’t know it. Or at least, my brothers and I didn’t know it. In lieu of a refrigerator, we dug a deep hole in the ground and covered it with a large rock. Of course, there was no frozen food then, so we kept milk, butter and eggs there.
My mother made my dresses out of feed sacks. My father took me with him when he bought the feed sacks and let me pick them out, as I knew that would be my next dress.
We lived close to a woods, and I remember the fun my brothers and I had swinging on a monkey vine. Every Saturday, my dad gave each of us a dime for the movies, and we walked over a mile to the movie theater. We saw not only the main feature, but the news and a few shorts, such as The Three Stooges and The Phantom.
It gets very cold in Pittsburgh, and every year, I got a new snow suit. And speaking of snow, we made our own ice cream by scooping up a dishful of snow, sprinkling it with sugar, and pouring milk over it. Living close to two steel mills, we had to scoop up the snow before it became dusted with soot.
There was no TV at this time, but we had a radio and listened to Jack Benny, Lights Out, The Shadow, and other programs. (Lights Out was very scary, or so it seemed to me.) One Sunday afternoon when I was seven, we were listening to the radio and heard the newscaster announce that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. Wartime was upon us, and we had practice air raids. Defiantly, my dad left a lamp burning, saying that the Germans would never bomb Pittsburgh. But of course they would if they were able, the city being the main iron and steel producer of the country. In any event, the air raid warden told my dad to turn the lamp off.
Wartime brought tragedies. As I wrote in my article titled, “Cold Winter, Hot War,” one of my neighbors was killed driving a truckload of ammunition that hit a mine. I still remember his name, Eddy Poljanec.
Skipping ahead a few years, after I graduated from high school, I attended the University of Pittsburgh and graduated from the School of Education. I taught high school for one year. Back then, we didn’t have days off for planning or making up report cards. We performed those tasks on our own time. At any rate, teaching didn’t appeal to me, and I quit after one year.
A problem faced me then: Where would I work? One of my friends suggested that I try for a position as a stewardess. (That’s what we called flight attendants then.) Aware I had nothing to lose, I filled out a few applications to airlines and sent them in. Soon enough, Eastern Air Lines hired me. (An airline that went out of business decades later.)
This was the happiest time of my life. Based in Miami, I enjoyed my job, traveling to different cities and meeting many people. This was before Women’s Lib reared its progressive head. I remember the racy remarks the all-male crew often made. If I just got on the plane with a smile on my face, I got an off-color remark. I just laughed and took the comments in my stride, but I realize that women would never contend with such comments today.
A late bloomer, I hadn’t dated in high school but dated a few men in college. While living in Miami, I met a man from Beirut, Lebanon, who had come to Miami for pilot training. His name was Hanna (Arabic for John. He was Greek Orthodox, in case you wondered.) We dated a while, but I broke up to date other men. John and I got back together and soon were going steady. When he asked me to marry him, I accepted. At this point, my father flew down from Pittsburgh to meet John.
Finished with his training, John flew back to Beirut. I saw him off, coming on board the plane with him. I still remember the look of desolation on his face as we said goodbye. I think he realized then we would never see each other again.
My roommate and her boyfriend no doubt realized that John was not the man for me, and that we couldn’t have had a happy marriage, with my moving to Beirut. They introduced me to a man from their office, Ron Martin. Like my father, Ron was a civil engineer. We began dating, and I had to write a letter to John, telling him I had met another man. How can one write such a letter and not hurt someone else?
Ron and I married and had three boys, spaced two-three years apart. After forty-four years of marriage, my husband died of prostate cancer. With his passing, this was an especially difficult time for me. Our youngest son, a firefighter/paramedic, was bipolar, a condition that hadn’t manifested itself while my husband was living. At least, we weren’t aware of it. For many years, David suffered terribly with depression. A few years after my husband’s death, David joined him. I miss him so very much.
My two other sons lived far away, and I had no one to keep me in Miami. So I moved to Birmingham, Alabama, where my middle son lived. A few years after my move to Birmingham, I resumed writing, something I’d done in earlier years. Now I’m published with Books We Love.
My books are available at Amazon, Smashwords, AllRomance eBooks, Barnes and Noble KOBO, the Apple 1store and at other sites where ebooks are available online. Some titles are also in print and available at your local bookstore.
This month, I’m featuring “Dream Weaver” my time travel romance. It was a CAPA (Cupid and Psyche Award) nominee and has garnered twenty-one reviews, mostly 4 and 5 star. It’s yours during February for .99 cents.
Please check out my website. www.shirleymartinauthor.com
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