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Four Years at the Mount

Sophomore year

Through her glasses again

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

(3/2014) "I was born in May of 1935 but I really grew up in the 40s. Everyone back then was very patriotic because of the war and frugal because of the depression. It seemed everyone in the world was working in some capacity for that war and rationing in another.

I wasn’t old enough to work at the time but I can remember my older brother being a warden when he was only about 15 years old. While mother, daddy, my other siblings and I would stay inside during the air raids and draw our blackout curtains over the windows or go down and sit on the basement stairs to wait for the sirens to go off, my oldest brother got to stay outside. He had a patch he would wear and he would walk around to see if he could spot any light coming from a house to then alert the person to cover it immediately. I remember the same brother building a foxhole in the backyard as a sort of simulation of what it would be like to be a solider. That hole must have been about six feet deep and you would drop down, crawl through and then come up on a different end. My sisters and I used to sneak down into that foxhole and just sort of play around. I’m not sure how we ever got out of it but I did know that my brother was never pleased if he found out we had been in there, so we always tried to be very sneaky.

"A few years later my family moved from Silver Spring, Maryland to Washington, D.C. On the weekends I remember the family all piling into the car. Now we never had a fancy car, but we did always have a car. So all seven of us would be piled in tightly and when we got to the store Daddy would get out and get us a quart of ice cream for a quarter. The rest of the family would wait in the car and we would say silly things to people as they walked by on the sidewalk and then duck down real quick so they couldn’t see us. It never worked very well because it was so crowded in that car that there wasn’t much room to hide, but we loved doing that and we would always die laughing. When we got back home we’d make milkshakes. After it was divided up among all of us, all I ever really got was flavored milk. Everyone knew Daddy always gave the good lumps of ice cream to mother but we didn’t object.

"My father had always dreamed of opening an ice cream shop and when I was about twelve he bought his very own. That ice cream store was where I spent a lot of my time. It seemed as if Daddy was always asking one of my siblings or me to work because someone couldn’t make it in or what not. One nice thing about working at the store was that it gave me a chance to work and have money before most people my age. This allowed me to go out to the movies or buy items that I had to have. And of course the ice cream we would eat every night was definitely a plus. I can’t tell you for sure but it seemed as if there was a different flavor every time Daddy brought it home. He was always experimenting with various things. Whenever he would try something new and we would ask what it was, he’d just say, "Oh it’s dingleberry." That’s what he called all the flavors before he came up with a name for them. My absolute favorite flavor was this ice cream with grapenuts in it. The best part was that the grapenuts would be all crispy. I don’t know how Daddy got them like that but it was just delicious. The difficulty with having an ice cream store was that there weren’t very good freezers at this time. This, of course, caused the ice cream to melt so in a lot of cases we would have to eat the ice cream very quickly. Mother sometimes had to give our extra ice cream away to ensure that it was eaten before it melted.

"When I was fifteen years old and in high school I met my future husband for the first time. He was two years older than me and he was very cool because he had his own car. It was a 1934 Chevy with two doors but, most importantly, a rumble seat. There was a handle where the trunk was that you could pull so that a seat came out and then when you were riding along on the rumble seat you would be outside of the actual car. Those were always fun times. Before he became my husband he actually worked at my father’s ice cream store. There were some nights when we’d have to lock up the store together and while he drove me home the moneybox would sit on the seat in between us. It’s amazing to think about how we’ve now been married for 60 years…"

My grandma’s stories could go on for days. The astonishing thing about sharing tales of your life is that once you start it’s hard to stop. One story leads to another, which leads yet again to another story, and this is probably the most beautiful aspect of stories: they promote continuous conversation while being educational, rewarding and entertaining.

I chose to tell brief parts of my grandma’s life in first person to show that her stories, in fact, are not forgotten and will never be forgotten. My stories are made up of and enriched by the stories of my family members. So you see, her stories are in fact my stories to share now, to share in the future, to remember and refer to. Her stories, while I could never know all of the details or feel all of the emotions that she has felt, are forever written in the hearts of all of those who love her. My grandma is the greatest storyteller of all. And the greatest stories are always told from her point of view.

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen