Just a Cottage With a Privy

Ohio would soon be only a memory for the Maher’s. After spending a few months living in the rural countryside, the family moved to a small, lake front cottage at one of the local campgrounds outside of Ravenna. The cottage was designed as a weekend lake “get away”, not a full-time residence. With only a single living/dining/kitchen area and one bedroom, the abode was extremely crowded for a family of five.

Also, the cottage was void of an indoor bathroom. Thus, “potty” visits involved walking down a path and across the road to an old, wooden, privy.  With Jalene’s fear of walking alone in the darkness, she was certain not to need a bathroom visit during the night. Showers were taken with a crude, outdoor shower or a visit to the public campground shower. With the unheated water,  showers were not a moment of relaxation.

With each passing year, Jalene’s list of “do’s and don’ts” increased for the day she would have a home. She knew for certain, she would never reside in any dwelling without an indoor bathroom. She never expected a mansion, but she believed that walking in a variety of nature’s elements to arrive at one’s “potty” or standing naked outdoors for personal hygiene was not an ideal situation.

Each of the Maher children understood the term, “lazy days of summer” while residing at their lakeside bungalow. There had been no playmates for the children during their residence and with limited finances there were no summer outings or vacations. The family had been imprisoned in the small cottage.

As the eldest of the three siblings, Jalene sought to comprehend the circumstances of the family.  Shortly before the family prepared to vacate the cottage, she stood sobbing, watching their furniture and possessions being taken away. The first item to be seized was their sole sofa. Jalene was unaware the “thieves” were authorized to remove these items. At almost 11 years of age, Jalene’s tears and frustration were disregarded. “You can’t take our furniture away”, she cried. Ignoring her pleas, all the furniture was removed from the cottage, except for a few old items which Jayne had received from her mother.

Jalene appealed to her parents for an understanding when the final items of the washer, dryer and refrigerator were removed from the cottage. In Glenn’s typical demeanor, he chastised Jalene for “whining” and “carrying on”. Jalene sought only an explanation, but none came. Years later, as her parents continued to file for bankruptcy, she understood what had transpired that day in the 1950’s.

This family of five was not only homeless, but now owned merely a few clothes and personal items. In the midst of all this confusion, Glenn informed the family they were moving to OK. Why? Where is OK? “I don’t want to move there”, Jalene sighed. She wondered in silence if this was all life had to offer their family.

Perhaps the only cheerful moment of their time at the lake was when a relative’s dog had puppies and Glenn agreed to allow his children to adopt one of the puppies. Due to his energy and zest for life, the family agreed Frisky was the perfect name. Frisky joined the family as the last of their possessions was being loaded into the old, station wagon and a tattered van.

Jalene quickly realized the new puppy was a “trade-off” for the toys, dolls and games she was mandated to leave behind in the cottage. Due to the family of five being poor, Jalene had few possessions.  The ones she owned, she cherished. Though few in number, they were extremely valuable to Jalene.

Jalene’s sobs at the departure from OH and the mandate to leave behind her few, esteemed treasures were exacerbated as her parents’ condemnations increased. From a young age, Jalene sought simply an understanding of the motives. Glenn always cited this was “sassing” and a beating with the belt was the only justification she received. Years later when Jalene became a university teacher, she understood the need for clarifying a rationale.  If Glenn comprehended, it was easier to “beat” Jalene than to converse with an explanation.

The arrival in OK was a traumatic one. The family was not welcomed by Jalene’s step grandmother. Grandpa Maher was a quiet man, so she was unable to interpret his emotions. However, Ruby was not discreet with hers. This family of five showing up in two battered vehicles with a new puppy in tow, was an inconvenience.

For the next few months the Maher’s residence would be a 1940’s travel trailer with two twin beds. Instead of the old wooden privy, the family was now required to walk indoors to use the grandparents’ bathroom. This disturbed Ruby greatly. Not only was this unwelcomed family living in their trailer in their front yard, but now they traipsed in and out of her house using the bathroom facilities.

What would the future be in OK? Was there life after OH? Would Jalene ever see adulthood? These queries were heavy on Jalene’s heart and mind as she fell asleep on the cold, hard floor each night.

Please join  Jalene and her family as the begin a new journey in OK.

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