“In addition to all the humiliations that I was heir to, when Mom made me a dress that I would have rather eaten hominy than wear, I was forced to try it on while it still had pins in it.
“Whoever thought of such a thing? In a normal world, if I had said to my mom that I was just going to slip on these jeans and this T-shirt, which P.S. were full of straight pins, she would have felt my head for a fever. I had to stand on a three-legged milking stool for the punishment, too, which was none too steady but the perfect height for measuring a hem.
“Sometimes my sister was there to assist, and she was not against me getting stuck by a pin. In fact, she was always delighted by the prospect of me in a dress.”
– by Haven Kimmel, A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana
A few weeks ago, I picked up a little book at the public library. The cover showed a big-eyed, big-eared baby girl in a little blue dress with a lacy collar. I brought it home thinking it might be a sweet book for some bedtime reading.
Instead, it turned out to be a book that made me laugh out loud, roll my eyes with incredible frequency as I thought, “this is MY life!” over and over again. I couldn’t wait to share it with my sisters and every friend I’ve ever made on the planet.
“In a wonderful way of thanking me for sharing it, my friend Cindy gave me my own copy of Zippy for my birthday last week, with help from her mother who tracked it down. It’s a keeper!
Fitting in. When Zippy described her hometown in 1965, it was my own hometown to a “T.” There were three churches for the population of 300 people in the little town, a drugstore that sold fountain soda but no drugs. “For awhile Mooreland had an actual doctor, and we could buy drugs from him, but the police eventually came and took him away,” she writes.
She said there was a hardware store, and off and on there was a diner in what used to be somebody’s house.
“We had a veterinarian, who could treat little animals, like cats and dogs, and big ones, like horses and cows. Mooreland was bordered at the north end by a cemetery and at the south by a funeral home,” Kimmel writes.
Jeromesville. I could have written those very same words about my small town of Jeromesville, Ohio. She writes, “Old people died and new people were added, and thus what was shifting remained constant. I got to be new there. I was added and shortly afterward the barber named Tony was taken away. This was in 1965.
“The distance between Mooreland in 1965 and a city like San Francisco in 1965 is roughly equivalent to the distance starlight must travel before we look up casually from a cornfield and see it.
“Sociologists and students of history imagine they know something of the United States in the sixties and seventies because they are familiar with the prevailing trends; if they drew assumptions about Mooreland based on that knowledge, they would get everything wrong.”
Around town. While Zippy zipped through the streets of Mooreland, Ind., on her beloved bike, my friend Cindy, who I count as a sister, traveled the alleys and quiet streets of Jeromesville on her feisty pony throughout the 1960s. People would look up and say, “Oh, there’s that Starlin kid and her pony again,” and they’d wave while she trotted on by, important things to see and do.
The barbershop, the grain elevator, Mick Smalley’s ice cream shop and the hardware store could give a fellow the latest local news quicker than any newspaper, so there was no need to print one.
Life was good, life was safe, and though it was fairly boring, we never even realized it.
Moms and dads. Moms made their daughters the Easter dresses that they really didn’t want to wear, but they wore them, sometimes shivering on their way to sunrise services that, according to Zippy, were always scheduled way too early.
Dads built little wooden boxes to put on the seat of their pick-up trucks for their kids to sit on, no seat belt required, and grandmothers made ham and hominy dinners that were eaten, if not with gusto, with quiet gratitude.
“Hominy? What’s that?” my daughter asked as my sisters and I laughed over this great book. Ah, the 1960s are beginning to look like the dark ages…