Thursday, July 27, 2017

Introduction to Dorothy


My mom was a head checker for the Kroger Company, once a strong player in the Kansas City area, and most of my family worked in grocery retail or as meatcutters and meatwrappers. I had my own seven-year run with Kroger, starting the year after this diary was finished. Many of the mundane details in this book revolve around her work at Kroger. This is life in blue collars.
1965 – Sunday night meant Ed Sullivan and Walt Disney, the Beatles were still tops on the Top 40 charts, things were heating up in Vietnam, and a week’s worth of groceries might set you back a whopping twenty bucks. My mom, like her mom, kept a small diary, three days to a page, where she noted the mundane and the extraordinary, feelings and reactions to the world around her.

When I discovered this small, spiral-bound book, my mom had been gone more than thirty years, and my teenage years seemed as forgotten as yesterday’s grocery list.

She and my dad, a former meatcutter, had been married twenty-one years, and I was their only child. Dad had been married once before, and had two kids, a boy, Bill; and a girl, Sonjalee, better known as Sonnie. Mom was also married before, but had no children.

Marv and Dorothy - my mom and dad
Dad (Marv) suffered a couple of massive heart attacks in August of 1962, and retired from the meat departments. He could no longer stand the cold of the lockers. Instead, he fell back on his work as a manufacturer of fish bait – dough baits for carp and catfish, that he had marketed under the trademarked brand name of “Sniffy Baits” for more than ten years. You can't make this stuff up. It has all the trappings of a Wes Anderson film. Dad became a househusband, and cooked and cleaned like he had done it all his life. His cooking, and my sedentary habits helped me stay eternally pudgy until I really hit my stride in 1967.
Bait shipment waiting for truck line pickup - front porch.
While it sounds pretty comical, and was often the source of my own mortification, dad took the bait business very seriously, and over the years, created some of the best products of its kind anywhere. It never spoiled, never hardened, had a huge following allover the midwest. In spite of the dad's dedication, or maybe because of it, fish bait and fishing will become strong points of contention between my parents as 1965 unfolds.
I was fourteen, and  finishing my eight grade year at Northeast Junior High School, part of the Kansas City, Missouri Public School system. I was pretty typical, I suppose, and at that point I loved school, and was fully engaged in math, science, drama, and especially music – band and orchestra. I was pretty shy, and tended to avoid pressure-filled social situations like Teen Town, the Friday night sock hop at the school gym. I was four years into my pitiful crush on Patty Saunders - I met her at my Saturday bowling league when I was ten. I was bookish, chunky, and my social skills were sadly lacking.
There is really nothing remotely extraordinary about any of this, which, I believe, gives it so much power and emotion. For instance, Mom always had Mondays off, so that's when she got her hair fixed, ran errands, and tried to get ready to start all over agin.

In this little red volume, I discovered things about my mom and my dad that I never knew or even suspected, and found out how I fit into their lives and ultimately, the world around me.

Some of the players:

Marv is my dad. He and I share the same Kansas farm name, Orville, but always went by Marv - I'm a junior, and went by "Marvin" all through school. To this day, I know if someone has risen from from my ghostly past when the voice on the other end of the phone says, "Is this Marvin Simpson?"
My mom refers to her family a lot - her mom, Pansy, and her sibs, Paul, Jean, Patty, Bob, and Bill. We spent a lot of time - most Sundays when mom wasn't working, at the Patton house in Kansas City, Kansas

Mom's family
Dad's kids - Bill Simpson, my half-brother, and his wife Pat and daughter Cindy; and my half-sister Sonjalee, (Sonnie) her husband Harmond and their two boys Brian and Mark - my nephews.
The Kroger crew - too many to list but mom butts heads with a manager trainee named Doug, and refers to a number of the people she works with.

Much of this will make more sense when it publishes in date order this coming January, but for now, here's a sample from February 19, 1965

Friday, February 19

Click to enlarge February 19, Friday - Slow business, but Ruby, Ethel, Eva and I had a ball. At lunch & on our breaks we laughed til...