If her father drove the horse and buggy to town for groceries, he would bring back candy for the children. However, if her mother went with him, there would be no candy. Mother thought they could not afford it during the Great Depression era of the 1930s. A long-time resident of Spring Grove, 98-year-old Beatrice (Hatling) Doely reflected on growing up on a farm between the villages of Choice in Fillmore County and Yucatan in Houston County.
In summer, young Bea and two-year-older brother Rolf walked approximately five miles into Choice for groceries. Their pay would be a candy bar. Rolf would consume his immediately, but Bea cut hers into seven pieces, one for each day for the coming week. She would hide them to prevent Rolf from enjoying her candy, too.
The ridge and valley farm of Martin Hatling and wife Gina (Gilbertson) Hatling was slightly closer to Choice, so that store was usually the choice for shopping. However, Yucatan did have a flour mill, so when Martin would take grain to the mill, he would shop at the Yucatan store.
Bea remembers the mail being delivered from Peterson. There were four mailboxes between school and the Hatling farm. On her way home from school, Bea would also pick up and deliver the mail for Hanna(h) Jameson. The cash pay she received was both rare and welcome during the Great Depression era.
Martin Hatling, who raised and sold horses, never owned an automobile. He might be summoned from neighbors if there was an injury, because he and his swift steeds could often transport the injured neighbor to the doctor in Mabel sooner than Doctor Ness might be able to arrive.
One horse was especially dependable. Once when young Bea had accompanied the guys out to the farm fields and needed to come home, her father mounted her on this horse, which took her down off the ridge, across the creek and back to the farm. The horse patiently waited at the cow pen until Bea’s mother came to get her.
The Hatling family worshiped every Sunday at South Fork Church, about two miles from home. Sometimes they rode with horsepower, but there were times when they walked. Congregants would always sit in the same pews with the menfolk on one side of the chapel and the ladies on the other. This long-standing tradition was challenged when a young married couple decided to sit together. Gradually, others joined in and crossed the aisle.
Bea told of the church hosting Fourth of July celebrations where there would be a potluck meal along with foot races and games for both youngsters and adults. One summer, the Hatlings won their share of races, including Bea, brother Rolf and their farther. Their mother, however, never tested her speed, or lack of, in competition.
However, her mother was consistently quick to answer the call for childbirth as a volunteer mid-wife. She delivered a lot babies,” recalled Bea. She would be phoned to come for a birth that might occur before the doctor could arrive from Mabel.
This would have been after the family had a telephone, a luxury not everyone could afford. The Hatlings were not the first to purchase telephone service, but neither were they the last. Some folks would stop by their house to use the telephone.
The eight Hatling children were educated for the first eight grades at South Fork School, just across the road from the church. They usually walked the two miles to school. However, their father and horses would be called into service when the spring thaw made South Fork Creek too deep. Bea remembers times when the horse-drawn wagon would sway in midstream. Besides transporting his children, he would carry across five other youngsters. Likely, Martin Hatling would point out that such high-water rescues would not have been possible in an automobile.
Bea as the youngest child, before she was old enough to attend school, sometimes became lonely when all of her siblings were at school. She would pester her mother to let her go to school the next day, too. Mother relented only if Bea could prove she was capable of walking the four-miles round trip to the schoolhouse. But once out of their mother’s view, Bea’s sister would carry her piggy back. This might happen a couple of times a month.
There was one teacher who so enjoyed the students’ outdoor games that the lunchtime break was consistently longer than it should have been. The children never complained; their parents never knew.
Bea said her father always emphasized education, and she cannot recall any time he was not on the school board. Whenever he would consider retiring, the others would talk him into running again. And he was always elected.
Bea was the youngest of eight children; her oldest brother having already left home before Bea was born in 1925. She was only one of three siblings fortunate enough to attend high school. Rural kids had to pay for or find a place to live in town during the school week. One brother and sister had been able to attend high school in Rushford.
Bea’s father lamented that Bea would not be able to go to high school – until his son-in-law, Myron Larson, volunteered to have Bea live with him and her sister Stella south of Choice. From their house, Bea could walk a couple of miles to the Tawney schoolhouse where she could catch a school bus from Mabel. In bad weather, Myron would meet the bus.
On her walks home from the bus stop, Harry Wicks, on his way home from work in Preston, would offer her a ride in his buggy. She would decline; her mother had taught her not to ride with strangers. Bea never mentioned it at home. But Harry was respected in the community, and once Harry told Myron about the situation, Myron informed Bea it was fine to ride home with Harry, and so she did from then on.
Lee Epps received a bachelor’s degree in history from Oklahoma State University and a master’s degree in history from the University of Michigan.
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