Childhood in Small Towns

Copyrighted by Cheryl Batavia. Please do not reproduce without prior written permission.

“Childhood in Small Towns” is the Prequel to the book, Life in Inspiring Places.

The time was 1949-1967. My father was a United Methodist minister, and our family moved from one small town to another every two or three years.

Little Girl with Yellow Balloons by Senjuti Kundu on Unsplash

Quincy, Massachusetts

My father was a college student in Quincy when I was born,
and my very first bed was a dresser drawer.
My mother said she attached me to the clothesline with a leash
so I wouldn’t run away to the nearby beach.

I remember playing outside. How suddenly the fun stopped!
I was astonished when my multicolored balloon popped.
My mother told me years later about the rose bush in the yard.
Understanding such events when you are two is pretty hard.

Soon there was a new baby brother in our family.
I don’t remember his birth, but later on, he was good company.

Chickens by klimkin from Pixabay

Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania

We moved to Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania when I was three.
I loved climbing the weeping willow tree,
but not while wearing my mother’s yellow sweater;
after ending up on the ground, I knew better.

Stained Glass Window by bnewman0604 from Pixabay

I picked violets, daisies, and other wildflowers I found.
On Sundays, I followed my new-pastor father around
to three little country churches…same sermon three times.
I learned the Bible, Aesop’s Fables, and hymns that rhyme.

Vegetable Garden by silviarita from Pixabay

My baby sister arrived while we lived there.
I remember rocking her in a little red rocking chair.
My family dined on vegetables from a huge garden plot,
squirrels, venison, rabbits, and trout my father caught,
People gave us chickens, eggs, and peaches from their farms.

Robin’s Eggs in a Nest by Irline Flanagan from Pixabay.
Baby Robins by Hillary Carter from Pixabay.

Dayton, Pennsylvania

We moved to Dayton, Pennsylvania just before I was six years old.
Our ten-room house had a furnace, and my father shoveled coal.
Down in the basement, we took turns cranking homemade ice cream.
Dad had his usual big garden. We shucked corn and snapped beans.
My second-story window overlooked a blue spruce tree
where a pair of robins sat on blue eggs and raised a family.

Vintage Schoolroom by Jeffery Hamilton on Unsplash

Women wore dreasses and hats to church. My sister and I did too…
with little white gloves and black patent leather shoes.
We walked in the snow to a wooden school with six grades.
During fire drills, I loved sliding down the tubular fire escape.
While we were blissfully living in our bucolic paradise,
Weekly Reader reported Sputnik’s presence in the skies.

After chores were done, life was pretty carefree.
We picked up pop bottles to exchange for spending money.
We walked our dogs in the parade with ribbons around their necks
among beauty queens on floats, a marching band, and majorettes.

Cookies for Santa by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

At Christmas, we made snowman candles, fancy cookies,
and miniature snow scenes with toy deer and “frosted trees.”
My father strung lights on the tree, and we draped the icicles.
Long after Christmas, Dad remarked how pervasive glitter is!
The neighbors complained to our parents because
we told their kids there was no Santa Claus!

Frog by Jack Hamilton on Unsplash

Flowers, piano music, radiant brides descending the stairs…
weddings at our house were quite elegant affairs…
except for the time I terrorized wedding guests
with a croaking bullfrog I had caught…What a mess!

My little brother hopped a freight train when he was four, but was intercepted at the station. He didn’t try that anymore!

Beach by Pexels from Pixabay 

Whaleyville, Virginia

Just before I turned nine, we moved to Virginia…Whaleyville.
We were Yankees in the South; I remember it still.
People talked funny, and before long, we talked funny too!
It was a major culture shock, but we pulled through!
“Say ‘Yes, Ma’am,’ you stupid boy!” my brother’s teacher said.
He was seven. “Ma’am” was a new word, but he adapted!

Southern Magnolia by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

In a quaint graveyard next door, was a massive magnolia tree.
Climbing up for a birds-eye view, there was a lot to see.
Fields of peanuts, tobacco, and cotton encircled our town.
Seeking adventure, we three children rode our bicycles around.
One day my mother got a call from five miles away,
“Did you know that your children rode bicycles to Somerton today?”

Bicycle by Auguztin Garlez from Pixabay

Illustrated Classics from the drug store were a “must-read” for me,
and I was crazy about the banana popsicles at Miss Girly’s grocery.
We walked home from school for lunch unless Mom was away;
we ate hot dogs from the drug store soda fountain on those days.

Weimaraner by cri92 from Pixabay

Our beloved Weimaraner, “Lady,” had ten pups.
My sister and I got out our doll clothes and dressed them up.
When the pups were weaned, they went to new homes.
We all missed them when they were gone.

Watermelon by Christian Jung from Adobe Stock Photos

We had watermelon parties when the heat was intense,
and farmers sold watermelons off trucks for a mere five cents.
If you still were too hot, Virginia Beach was not too far away…
a great place to cool off, build sandcastles, and play in the waves.

Spring Sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains by jonbilous from Adobe Stock Photos

Stanardsville, Virginia

Stanardsville, Virginia became our home just before I turned eleven.
Tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains it was almost Heaven!
Our Victorian house had a yard with roses, grapes, and an apple tree.
I caught tadpoles, sang to the neighbor’s cows, and roamed free.

My father visited the Greene County Courthouse to hear cases.
Dad grew flowers for the church; Mom and I arranged them in the vases.
Our family traveled to Rawley Springs to swim in Blue Hole.
We shouted in a tunnel on Skyline Drive and grilled dinner over coals.

Tunnel on Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park by demerzel 21 from Adobe Stock Photos

Stanardsville Church was historic, a hospital during the Civil War.
On my father’s watch, the church and its balcony were restored.
Fried chicken, country ham biscuits, German chocolate cake…the best!
Church potlucks at Stanardsville outshone all the rest!
Dad thought it was great if we kids sang in the choir up in the balcony,
but when we shot pea shooters over people below, Dad was unhappy!

Spring Stream by Jeff Kinsey from Adobe Stock Photos

Dad baptized me in a stream at Bingham’s, a church by a moonshine run.
Bingham’s Church built an education building, and when it was done,
the outhouse with the splinters and the spiders was a thing of the past.
I shared a hymnal with a boy and taught a kindergarten class.

We lived in Stanardsville for four years, the longest we lived anywhere.
From sixth grade through ninth grade, I went to school there.
A nearby school for Black students closed when I was in ninth grade,
and William Monroe High School was peacefully integrated.

Whitetail Doe and Fawn by Guy Sagi from Adobe Stock Photos.

Staunton, Virginia

We moved to Staunton, Virginia, and I attended Buffalo Gap High School.
Dad got an old hearse and named it “Morty.” Morty was really cool!
Kids from church piled into Morty to go bowling, skating, or on a hike.
The trail to South River Falls was one we especially liked.

South River Falls, Shenandoah National Park by photosbyjam from Adobe Stock Photos.

Eventually, Morty retired. Riding in the new church bus was not the same.
We did have room for more kids, but we never gave the bus a name!
My brother went away to John Wesley, a North Carolina boarding school.
Mom got a job taking care of babies in the nursery at the local hospital.
I conducted opinion polls for the school newspaper, worked in the library,
was poetry editor of the literary magazine, and planned an art degree.

It was a time of change…future plans, graduation, leaving childhood behind.
We moved to Edinburg, Virginia, and I began the next chapter of my life.

Shenandoah River Bridge, Edinburg, Virginia by studiodr from Adobe Stock Photos.