As everyone knows by now, Margie was my sister who was two years older than me. She is the great faker of illnesses, especially earaches. She is one of my mother’s favorites, along with my brother Junior.
Now, in Oklahoma, Margie would be called a little con artist. She was very good at talking people into doing what they really didn’t want to do. I happened to be one of those people. The problem was that I loved Margie so much that I wanted to go with her wherever she went. Then, she reached an age where she didn’t want me with her all the time.
For instance, we were allowed to go to the movies every Saturday (if my mother had the money, of course). We got one dollar apiece to go. If we wanted to go on Sunday, we could, but we only got fifty cents each. The movie on Sunday was the same as Saturday, but we didn’t care. We just watched it again. They also did not show the serial on Sunday.
Sometimes the serial was about Sky King; he was a pilot. Then, we had Superman, The Lone Ranger, The Three Stooges, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry. Every Saturday there was a fifteen-minute episode. It would always end with someone in big trouble. Then we got to see just a little bit of the next week’s episode that made us want to go back the next Saturday. We loved it, and we always went the next Saturday. We had to be sick, or Mother was broke, before we missed the movies.
It was Saturday morning, movie day, but we had work to do first. Margie usually helped Mother in the house, and I helped Daddy outside. Junior never did anything. I don’t know why. He would always be sleeping. My parents never made him do anything. He went out a lot at night with his friends. He came home late. I heard Daddy tell Mother once that if she didn’t do something about him, she would be sorry later on. She never would let my daddy punish him or give him a whipping with his belt.
Several times, he was going to and my mother stopped him. I wish he had whipped him anyway; he deserved a good whipping. I only saw Daddy whip him one time, and that was because he stole some money from him. I never saw my daddy so mad. He hardly ever got mad.
Anyway, I was helping Daddy clean the yard and the chicken pen. We had to put new hay in all the nests, so the hens had a clean place to lay their eggs. If it was summer, we had to water the garden and pull weeds. Then, we would hoe around some of the plants that needed it. As I have said before, my daddy had the best-looking garden in town. I liked helping him.
Margie had to help Mother clean house, mop the floors, put clean sheets on the beds and wash the dirty ones. My mother always had nice clean beds. Our house was old, but she kept it clean as a whistle.
She always said, “I won’t live in a dirty house, and I won’t sleep in a dirty bed.”
She also said, “Just because you’re poor, don’t mean you have to be dirty.”
Our house was always clean and neat. I was proud of my mother because she was so clean. She kept us kids clean, too. We got baths every night almost. We were never allowed to get in her beds unless we were clean. If we didn’t get baths for some reason, she would scrub us with a wash cloth and soap, and we washed our feet in the foot tub. Yep, we were clean. My mother made sure of that.
Well, back to the movies. They started at one o’clock so we had to be ready to go by twelve thirty at the latest, or we would miss the previews. Mother always fixed us a sandwich and a glass of milk for lunch then gave us our dollar each.
She told me the same thing every Saturday, “Now, Ruthie, you carry your own money; don’t let your sister carry it.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I would say, “I will carry my own money today.”
“I mean it now, don’t you come home crying because you let Margie carry your money, and she spent it all.”
“I promise, Mother; I will take care of my own dollar,” I said.
I fully intended to do just that, but something always seemed to happen to change that. I always prided myself on being smarter than Margie, but I was beginning to have doubts about that.
Mother checked us over one more time. She looked at our dresses and our hair, and then she would always spit-clean a spot on our faces even if there was nothing there. After we passed inspection, out the door we went to walk the mile to the theater.
Margie asked, “Which way do you want to go?”
“Let’s go down Fonshill Street,” I said. “We always go down Jordan.”
She asked me, “Are you sure you have your dollar?”
“I’m sure,” I said.
“Where is it?” she asked me.
“It is in my shoe.”
“Well, I sure hope you don’t lose it.”
“I won’ lose it.”
“If you do, I am not going to share mine with you.”
That’s when I started to worry. What if I lost it? I couldn’t go to the movie then. I had already forgotten what my Mother told me before we left. The problem was I had always been bad about losing things, and Margie always reminded me of that. I started thinking real hard, “Do not lose the dollar. Do not lose the dollar.”
“Well, you know how bad you are about losing stuff.” There was the reminder.
“Yea, I know but this dollar is in my shoe. I won’t lose it.”
Then, she came back with, “You want me to carry it so it will be safe?”
“No. You always spend my money when you carry it.”
Just then, I saw this dead frog in the road, and I said to Margie, “I have to go spit on this dead frog for good luck. It’s good luck to spit on a dead frog. If you don’ know that means you are real dumb.” I went over and spit on the frog. I knew for sure my dollar was safe then.
Margie said, “That isn’t true. Daddy just told you that as a joke.”
I said, “No, it’s not. It’s true. You just don’t know.”
To make a long story short, I finally gave in and let Margie carry my dollar. This happened every time we went to the show, and still to this day, I cannot explain it.
We got to the movie, and she paid our way in. It cost us ten cents each to get in, so we had lots of money left over for snacks. I always got a Baby Ruth candy bar which was a nickel, a box of popcorn that cost ten cents, and a tall coke which cost ten cents.
Now, the way I figured it, I had spent thirty-five cents. This meant I still had sixty-five cents left. I was no math genius, but that was pretty simple. We went to find a seat. I always tried to get on the third row from the movie screen in the middle section, and I tried to get the seventh seat from the end. I don’t know why. That just seemed like a good spot to me.
We watched the newsreel, the cartoon, the serial of the week, and one feature. It was always a double feature. Soon, I was out of snacks.
I said, “Margie, I need some money to get a candy bar and coke.”
“We are out of money.”
“How could we be out of money? “ I asked.
“I don’t know. We just are.”
“Well, I only spent thirty-five cents.”
“Ruthie,” she said, “we are out of money. We have just enough to get a soda on the way home.”
I said, “Okay,” and left it at that.”
“I did it again!” I said to myself. “I let her con me out of my dollar again.” Boy, was I dumb. Even after Mother warned me, I still did the same thing I always did. I guess it was because Margie was older, and I wanted to go with her all the time. I thought she would not let me go with her if I didn’t give in to her.
We left the movies and started walking home. We were going to the drug store to get a chocolate soda. (I don’t think they make sodas like that anymore). The girl behind the counter took out two tall soda glasses. Then she squirted chocolate syrup in the bottom of each glass. Next, she put in vanilla ice cream and a little more chocolate. Then she put in the carbonated water that squirted out in a real hard stream and brought lots of bubbles up to the top. Next, she added the whipped cream and a cherry are on top then stuck in a straw and a spoon. It was the best thing I ever ate. I loved them, but they cost twenty-five cents.
I started thinking about the money again. Margie had the same amount as I did when we went into the movie, one dollar. It cost us ten cents each to get in. That left us with ninety cents each. Then we each spent twenty-five cents on a soda and snacks, which left us with sixty-five cents each. Our chocolate sodas were a quarter each, so I was wondering where my other forty cents went.
“I have it all figured out. Where is my forty cents?” I asked her.
She said, “We are all out of money, and that is all there is to it.”
I said, “That can’t be; I added it all up.”
Margie said, “I am not talking any more about it.”
So, I said, “Well, maybe I should just punch you in your nose.”
“Just try it,” she said.
So, I tried it, and it felt real good, too.
She started crying and ran for home to tell Mother that I poked her in the nose. I didn’t even hit her that hard. I took my time walking home because I knew that I was in trouble again. Shoot! Why did this always happen to me? I got into more trouble than anyone I knew.
I walked up on the porch and went in the front door. As soon as I went in, my mother was yelling my name. “Here it comes,” I thought, “another spanking.”
“Get in here right now, Ruthie.”
“I’m coming. I’m coming.”
As soon as I walked in the kitchen, I saw Margie crying like a big baby. Her nose was a little bit red, but it wasn’t that bad.
Mother asked, “Why did you hit her in the nose?”
“Because I let her carry my dollar, and she cheated me out of forty cents.”
“What did I tell you when you left the house today?”
“Not to let her carry my dollar.”
“But you did it anyhow; didn’t you?’
“Yes, I did. Because she just kept begging me all the way to the movie, and I finally told her she could hold it. But she cheated me.”
“From now on, you need to take care of your own money. If you don’t, then you are not going to the movies anymore.”
“That sounds good to me. So, don’t ever ask me again to carry my dollar, Margie.”
She looked at me real mean and said, “I hate you, Ruthie.”
My mother got up out of her chair, pulled Margie out of her chair, and gave her three or four good whacks on her rear end. Margie was screaming and crying, but I know it didn’t hurt that bad.
Mother said, “Don’t you ever say that to your sister again! You know you don’t hate her! Tell her you are sorry, right now!”
Mother was talking real mean. And when she talked that mean, then everybody better be listening.
Margie said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it.”
“That’s all right; I told you I hated you plenty of times, too.”
So, that was settled. From then on, I would carry my own money. I would not give it to Margie ever again. Or would I? It would be just like little Ruthie to do the same thing all over again. What if she told me that I couldn’t go anywhere with her? Life sure had a lot of problems to figure out. Good grief, would it ever end, or would little Ruthie have more days like that day?
Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Flour Bluff, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer a glimpse into the past and present of the little community of Flour Bluff. She wrote for The Flour Bluff Messenger, wrote and edited for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper that existed from December 2017 to April 2020, served as copy editor on three books, and continues to tutor students of all ages in the lively art of writing.