By Anita Messina
I was born April 8, 1915 in Athens, Pennsylvania. Now I live here near my daughter.
My two earliest memories were playing house and baking a real cake in a toy cake pan. Another memory I have is when my sister Marian was taken for a walk in the wicker baby carriage. I was able to hold onto the lower part of the handle and walk with her.
Most of all I remember going with my mother to the Lehigh Valley Station in Sayre, PA in 1917 or 1918 when the troop train came. The soldiers got off the train to go to the canteen and walk around the park in front of the station. One of them picked me up and put me on his knee. I often wondered if he went to active duty and if he survived the fighting in World War I. My brother and I used to sit on a hill overlooking the train tracks, and when a troop train came through, the soldiers threw us Hard-Tack and a deck of cards. We cherished those cards and kept them for a long time.
My Papa was a railroader and loved his job as brakeman. In years to come he became a conductor on the Black Diamond, a crack passenger train of the Lehigh Valley Railroad.
I started school at age five. I remember a bench in the hallway of the school with a pail of water and a dipper so we students could get a drink. One day I saw my mother walking by the school so I hollered to her. The teacher brought me up short but didn’t punish me for disturbing the class.
One day at school when we were practicing for our Thanksgiving play, one of the older girls tossed me up in the air miles high, and I screamed. The teacher was mad because I screamed so I got my coat and ran home. I kept looking back to see if someone or the teacher was coming after me. I made it home and told Mama that the teacher shook me all over the room. I refused to go back to school and no one insisted I go. I don’t know how many days I missed but at the end of that school year I was promoted to second grade.
We had an old ice house nearby our house where cakes of ice were kept in deep sawdust so they wouldn’t melt. One day my brothers Elden and Norman went into the ice house. I went with them. They told me to turn around, and they took off their clothes and buried themselves in the sawdust. When I turned around to see them, a big black snake was coming out of the sawdust. You never saw two boys get out of that ice house so fast, leaving their clothes behind. Mama got them dressed, and, needless to say, they never went back in there again. When Papa got home, he returned their clothes and the snake to the outdoors.
When I was a young girl I had a Larkins Route. I sold baking ingredients and other household needs door-to-door. I would take orders and send them into the company. When the product came in the mail, I delivered them and collected the money. I don’t remember how much money I made, but enough for Mama to buy yard goods and make dresses for my sister Marian and me.
I also earned money with punch cards. Papa would take me down to the boarding house where farm workers lived. They would punch a spot on the card to see how much they would have to pay for a box of candy. I’d send the card and the money to the company, and the company would send the candy.
After my high school graduation in 1934 I moved to California and went to IBM school to learn keypunch operation. I worked for the California State Department in Sacramento for three years. When I found out that Mama was going to have another baby, I quit my job and moved back home to help her with the kids. There were 14 of us kids in all.
I married Percy Dove in 1938. I became a Girl Scout leader and a camp counselor. I was involved in Girl Scouts for more than 50 years.