It was a beautiful fall Saturday morning, October 11, 1958. Never one to sleep in, I was up, had breakfast and watching cartoons. Since it was the weekend Mom was home. For a kid, it was just another lazy weekend for this second grader. As the youngest member of our family of 5, my list of chores was short. Play outside, eat, play some more and take a bath. Tomorrow was Sunday, which meant church (morning and night) and everyone needed to get their baths done on Saturday. No shower in our house, so everyone took a bath. I’d squirt Ivory Liquid dish soap in the tub to get gobs of bubbles.
Mom got a job once I started kindergarten. She worked at a hatchery, candling eggs. Odd job she had standing in a very dark room. There was a box about waist high that had a very bright light coming out of a small round hole in the front. Mom picked up 4 eggs, 2 in each hand, and examined the eggs in front of the light which showed her if there was a blemish or blood spot in the egg.
Dad left at the crack of dawn that day. He did small jobs for folks after supper and on Saturdays (never on Sunday, the 7th day was to rest and worship God). Often it was the widows in town who needed storm/screen windows put on or removed, their house painted or new shingles. This was a different job though. He was taking down a building in Hawarden about 30 miles away. He either sold the used lumber or used it on a project at our house which was never ending. Plus he got paid to take it down. He took his thermos of coffee along, but I think he was planning to have lunch at a restaurant that day.
Dad removing nails from used lumber during the 50’s…
Soon I would be outside playing, but who could pull themselves away from TV on Saturday morning? Out of the corner of my eye through the window I noticed my 12 year old brother Larry riding down our drive-way. He was riding my bike, not his. I flew out the front door yelling, “Larry what are you doing? Bring back my bike.” He had a beautiful Schwinn, mine was a smaller girls bike and not fancy, but then I was not yet 8. He kept peddling, turned around and yelled back, “I’m going to grandpa Gerritson’s and I need your bike to use the basket. I’ll give you a dime when I get home and bring you back a surprise.” Since most of my friends lived a house or 2 away it wasn’t a big deal, but he hadn’t asked before he took off.
I went back to my cartoons. Mom was doing Saturday’s work (cleaning) which meant she would be inviting someone over for coffee and dessert after church Sunday night. She always cleaned, but when she baked on Saturday she’d invite a family by phone or after church tomorrow. Don’t remember what my 15 year old sister Mona was doing, most likely helping mom.
Mona, Larry and me, 1957…
A little while later the phone rang in the kitchen. All of a sudden Mom started screaming and ran out of the house right into the street. Across 15th Street, Mrs. Klein ran out to my mom who was now running in circles hysterically. I started crying but didn’t know why. Just uneasy and scared watching mom. Larry had been hit by a car, riding my bike on Highway 18. He had been coming back from town to our grandparent’s house.
Soon our house was filled with grown-ups, most from our small, close-knit church, Calvin Christian Reformed. A couple minutes later our minister Rev. Milton Doornbos walked through the door. No cell phones back then, someone had called a business in Hawarden. Giving them instructions to find dad and tell him there had been an accident. He needed to come home as quick as he could.
By the time dad drove back from Hawarden, there were a dozen cars parked on our block. It must have been so hard for Dad to walk in our house. The most devastating news a parent can hear. His only son Larry was dead. What a nightmare. Should life go on? Soon we would hear conflicting stories about what happened. Some said that Larry got the bottom of his jean caught in the bike chain causing him to swerve into traffic. At that time Highway 18 had this little lip on the shoulder, almost like a curb. I grew up believing the car swerved up that lip and hit Larry. Either way, my beloved big brother was gone.
Rev. & Mrs. Doornbos who visited us weekly for a year after we lost Larry…
This tragedy affected our family forever. We were never the same. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about Larry. My parents certainly never recovered. Their marriage would take a hit from this senseless accident. Mom definitely would have benefited from talking to a grief counselor or group therapy. But that did not happen in a small Iowa town in the late 50’s. The police later found a caramel apple near my bike that had flown out of the basket. My “treat” from Larry for borrowing his little sister’s bike…
|Neese 2nd grade school picture, 1958…|
2 thoughts on “Ain’t no sunshine…”
Denise,\”Our family was never again the same.\”Heartbreak upon heartbreak; so sad. I had read this one before but it still moved me.Paul
Something this devastating changed our whole family dynamic. Which was fragile to begin with. Often wonder how our lives would have turned out had Larry not died…