Little Sailor Boy

Sailor Copy copy© 2017 Bill Murphy

My deep interest in World War II history began in George Elementary School. In the library I discovered a book relating the exploits of Naval Aviators during WWII. In this book was a photo of the ill fated Torpedo Squadron Eight – which was decimated early in the Battle of Midway. Only one man, Lt. George Gay, survived. For some reason, this story made a deep and lasting impression on me. Today, I have an autographed copy of his book about the battle. This began my collection of famous aviator autographs, and aviation history books.

I was born 10 months before the United States officially entered the war. My early childhood toys were mostly war-related toys. One such toy eventually led to my long and endearing friendship with Art Simmons, a WWII war veteran. My kiddie petal-car was styled after the Curtiss P-40 Flying Tiger.

And, I have several photos of me in a kaki Army uniform – and also in a white Navy uniform. But a few weeks ago, I learned something truly amazing, and of deep significance to me.

We were in Carthage, Mississippi at the annual Murphy Family Reunion. I was chatting with my 1st cousin Ray Cochran, a little less that 2 years younger than me. We were discussing family heirlooms and mementos that we own. Ray then told me a story that I had never heard before.

His father had served in the Navy, in the Pacific. When he returned home after the war, he brought home his uniforms. Because my mother was a seamstress, his mother (Aunt Joy) gave my mother a set of Uncle Raymond’s white uniforms, and had her make from them a little sailor suit for Ray.

Ray then told me that not only was he photographed in this suit, but also all of his sons, and all other young tykes in his family. He still has the original little suit! WOW!

I sent Ray copies of my photos in ‘my’ little Navy suit – and he tells me that they look to be the same! His only concern is the possible size.

Personally, I choose to believe that this is the same suit. Why would my mother make two suits? But, possibly she did. After all, from a uniform belonging to an adult male, it would be all together possible to make two kiddie uniforms! At any rate, Ray’s story thrilled me to the very core!

All these years I’ve thought that this was perhaps just a photographer’s prop, or simply store-bought. But no longer. No!

Now I see myself in those photos, proudly smiling in a little US Navy WWII Sailor Suit made from fabric that actually saw combat in the Pacific! And that makes those old photos all the more special!

Thanks Uncle Raymond. Thanks Aunt Joy. Thanks Mother! And thanks Ray for the story of that little sailor suit!

 

~~~~~

Just Call Me…

The following short piece is yet another Little Egypt Writer’s Society writing challenge. Our subject assignment was NICKNAMES.

 

Just Call Me    © 2017 Bill Murphy

If nothing else, I’m well documented.

My first documentation being the hospital birth certificate issued minutes after my birth. The second, my official State of Mississippi birth certificate, followed by the certificate issued for my very first day of Sunday School at Grace Methodist Church on Winter Street in Jackson. And, yes, I still have them, as well as my one and only Social Security Card issued in 1953.

The list goes on and on from there.

If ever my identity needs to be changed, someone is in for a LOT of paperwork! And that’s just for my official (legal) name.

That official name is William Hendrix Murphy, Jr., after my father, who was named after his Great-Grandfather, William Hendrix. In reference to the Hendrix name, my Dad went by ‘Hendrix,’ shortened by his family to ‘HINX.’ My mother chose “Billy’ for me, and so it was, for the next dozen and a half years.

The family Hendrix/Murphy name brought on my first nickname. ALL of the relatives in Carthage, even to this day, call me BILLY HENDRIX. When I graduated from high school, one of my Carthage aunts gave me an engraved key chain – engraved with the initials B.H.M. I still have that too.

I really messed up the records for the Jackson Public School System during high school. In the 10th grade, I was still ‘Billy.’ In the 11th I went formal with ‘William.’ And then back to informal with ‘Bill’ in the 12th.

I picked up two nicknames during my 1967 to 2001 years with Jitney Jungle, both of which have endure to this very day. We always considered ourselves over-worked and under-paid in the advertising department. If nothing else, EVERYTHING was ALWAYS on a TIGHT deadline. It was stressful.

BreakThe smokers went outside to smoke to relieve their stress. I never smoked. But in a bottom drawer, I kept a small model airplane (under construction) and a few basic modeling tools. While they smoked, I cut balsa wood. One day, Mr. McCarty came in, not at all happy with my stress-relieving activity. He blared something like, “If you don’t put that airplane away and get back to work, you’re name’s gonna to be Mudd! And it was, from that day forward.

Oh, that – and Murf. I still answer to Mudd, Murf, William, Billy, Bill, and Billy Hendrix, and hey you.

You can basically call me anything. But just be sure to call me for lunch!

 

~~~~

A RECIPE FROM THE GRAVE

© 2017 Bill Murphy

My family has a long history of spiritual/ghostly encounters, and this somewhat spooky event is perhaps the most unusual – and the most delicious!

Pie 2

To most folks, they’re known as CHESS PIE. Mama Murphy, my Dad’s mother, called hers CORNMEAL PIE. Excuse the pun, but they really were ‘to die for!’ Her always from scratch Cornmeal Pies were the hit of every gathering.

Sadly, Mama Murphy passed away in the late 70s, as did her recipe! It wasn’t many months after her passing when cooks of the Murphy Family suddenly realized that no one had a copy of Mama Murphy’s recipe for this delicious Cornmeal Pie.

A futile search was made for the recipe, but none could be found. Mama Murphy had no need of a written recipe – for it was firmly engraved on her heart and mind – just as the sweet taste of that pie was solidly engraved upon our collective memories. For months, cooks of the family got their heads together to recreate the recipe. Dozens of version were attempted and rejected, but none produced the results that Mama Murphy achieved with each and every one of her pies. This failure was a major disappointment.

Perhaps a year had passed since the last Cornmeal Pie failure. And then one night, my mother had a dream.

In her dream, she was in Carthage, as she’d been so many times before. She was in the kitchen with Mama Murphy. And in her dream, she asked Mama Murphy to bake a Cornmeal Pie. And in this dream, my mother observed closely, taking note of each and every step, each and every item, and each and every amount of those elusive items. My mother was recording in her heart and mind the recipe that Mama Murphy kept recorded in her heart and mind. When Mother awoke, she wrote down what she had witnessed in the dream. And then she baked one. And yes, it was ‘the one’ and only – Mama Murphy’s Cornmeal Pie!

______________________

 

MAMA MURPHY’S CORNMEAL PIE

2 egg yolks                  1 C. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla               3 heaping tsp. cornmeal

3/4 C. butter

Beat butter, sugar and eggs. Then add meal and vanilla. Bake in uncooked 8” lined pastry pan until thickened. Add stiffly beaten egg whites and 5 tablespoons sugar and brown. From my experience, I cook over a slow flame until well mixed and begins to bubble. Stirring almost constantly, raise flame a little and continue until mixture thickens or is done. At same time, bake pie shell. Empty into shell and brown.

 

~~~~

Remembered Treasures

© 2017 Bill Murphy

The following was written to be presented at the 66th Annual Murphy Family Reunion to be held in a few weeks in Carthage, Mississippi.

I was born in 1941, 10 months before Pearl Harbor. Although the world was in chaos and turmoil during my childhood years, I was too young to understand it – and too sheltered to be affected by it. I was blessed. I believe that my sister and I had the happiest childhoods of any kids ever. Money doesn’t buy happiness – but love and family supply those blessings in boundless measure.

Our family lived on a quiet and peaceful little street in south Jackson. From the time I was born until I’d finished high school, only one house on our end of the block changed hands. Now that’s stability! Such was my childhood. My mother’s parents lived next door to us. But to visit Dad’s parents – Mama and Papa Murphy, was a drive of around an hour. Dad wasn’t known for driving slow.

In the happy days of the 1940s, there were no interstate highways, no Highway 25 cutting diagonally across the state – and the Natchez Trace was still mostly in its original state, a simple walking trail. To get to Carthage we drove north on US 51, (the first part of which was North State Street in Jackson) and on to Canton, where we turned right onto Hwy 16 and on into Carthage. We made the trip OFTEN, at least ever 4 to 6 weeks. Dad loved his parents, and I loved visiting with them!

In a closet in the front room Mama Murphy had a box filled with ‘toys’ for us ‘cherubs’ as she referred to us small fry. Few if any of these toys were store bought. I remember jars of buttons, and dozens of blocks of wood and empty sewing thread spools. I’m not convinced we’re doing right by our children today by giving them battery powered and electronic toys that DO EVERYTHING for them. Mama Murphy’s box of goodies compelled us to CREATE – and by that I mean – we first learned to build upon our God given ability of IMAGINATION – simply because we had to. And then with our imagination, we made those common objects to be we wanted them to be. Using nothing more than an empty spool, a couple of matchsticks, a rubber band, and a dab of wax – Mama Murphy taught us how to make TANKS which crawled across the floor, and even over things!

2307034

I can’t say enough about the old China Berry Tree. I thought it was the most wonder tree on earth. It was our treehouse which needed no re-modeling. It became a fortress, a sailing ship, a jungle, anything that our minds could conjure. We spent hours in that old tree. And I can’t remember anyone ever falling from it. It was so EASY to climb. The berries of the tree were greasy inside. And the branches were basically hollow, filled with pith, much like marrow in a bone. The older boys, using nothing more than pieces of branches and berries, made GUNS which would shoot those tiny little berries down a stick-barrel – hard enough to hurt! We though those were the most amazing things.

I don’t remember the year, but later on the children of Mama and Papa insisted that they join the modern age by updating their kitchen, and adding a bathroom. Up until then, she cooked on a cast-iron wood-burning stove, and they (and visitors like us) used the outhouse out back. They was no Charmin Tissue in the privy – it was old Sears and Roebuck catalogs! As a young boys, we’d feel real naughty peeking at the underwear ads.

The outhouse sat away from the house, and slightly downhill, for sanitation reasons. To get there you had to go through a gated fence. You always had to remember to close and latch the gate, because this part of the back yard was also the chicken yard. Chickens were valuable. They supplied eggs – and Sunday dinner. This latched gate helped teach me RESPONSIBILITY. We cherubs had a saying, religiously repeated at each passing through the gate, The last one through knows what to do!

The outhouse did NOT sit over a septic tank. It was a far cry from a modern porta-potty. Things septic simply fell to the ground, under the outhouse – in full view and access to the chickens! And believe it or not, when Mama Murphy made chicken (giblet) gravy, she included the (well-washed I hope) chicken feet – in one long piece, knee to toes. Ray and I would take a foot from the gravy, peel back the leg skin to gain access to the tendons which controlled the toes – and made the feet grasp and claw at our female cousins. Nightmare On Elm Street was years away, so we created it at the dinner table, much to our cousins horror.

Old Barn Color copy 2

The old barn was our secret hideout, our gym, and our year-round playground. Ray taught me how to get to the barn barefoot in Winter without our feet freezing. You simply stepped from one fresh cow-pile to the next!

Inside, the barn was 2 stories high, the top floor being a large open loft. At ground level there was a dirt floor ‘hallway’ down the middle, with stalls on both sides. The loft began just at the rear the wall of the front stall, making that stall open to the loft area. Cotton seed, used for animal feed, was stored in this stall. We used the cotton seed as if it were water, and the stall was our swimming pool. We’d jump, dive, flip, and fall into the cotton seed below. Oh what fun we had. And – we’re alive today to tell about it.

There was a small creek which ran back aways behind Ray’s house. It was our private swimming hole. No girl’s allowed. We never bothered with swimsuits. We never bothered (or bothered with) the snakes either – which seemed to always be there. The swimming area was a wallowed out basin no more than 8 feet wide and perhaps 10 or 12 feet long. On the north end, ray had rigged a short diving board. Many a time we had to wait to make our dive, until a snake swam out of the way! How did we ever survive childhood?

Off to the west and behind Papa and Mama Murphy’s house was another pond, not on their property, not belong to them. But (according to Ray) we had permission to swim there. This pond was much, much larger. One summer, Ray built a small raft, hardly large enough to hold two small boys. Mama Murphy gave us an old sheet, and we erected a sail for the raft. Of course, we could only make it sail one way – with the wind – and we had to dog-paddle it back to the start line to repeat a down wind trip. It was while swimming IN THE BUFF at this pond one day, that our female cousins paid a surprise visit, and discovered us in the pond! All of our clothes were laying on the bank. Yes, they did. Those girls tied our clothes in knots, and retreated, laughing their heads off.

East of Mama and Papa’s on old 16, before you make the turnoff to Goshen Church, there’s a small bridge crossing Pollard Creek. I was told as a kid that this bridge was haunted! The story said that years before, a car ran off the road and into the creek, and that the bodies were never recovered. (Yeah, sure!) But I believed the story, and was always glad to get safely across Pollard Creek – even in the daytime!

I remember Mama Murphy’s to die for cornmeal pie. And when she baked ‘from-scratch’ sugar cookies, all the cherubs gathered around like hungry dogs around the dinner table – and she kept us filled with those delicious raw scraps. The raw eggs we were consuming never did harm us! After all, they were fresh!

One thing I’ve never understood about that old house. Off the kitchen and to the right of the back door, was a narrow walk-in pantry. The door was always kept closed. But even during the heat of summer, and with NO air-conditioning in the house, you could walk into that pantry and it would feel 10 or 15 degrees cooler! Even today, I can’t explain that.

I remember when Victor and Nell were dating. They took Ray and I with them to the movie one night. For what ever reason, they had to make a side trip out to Uncle Herman’s. I suppose that the young lover’s wanted to stretch out their time together that night, because I don’t believe that Victor got the car over 15 MPH all night! I thought we’d never get there.

I have fond memories too of visiting with cousins Patty and Faye, and staying overnight. You’ve not lived until you’ve spent the night in a tin-roof house when it rains! The old house had no ‘attic,’ so the ceilings were no more than the bottom of the tin-roof. It was absolutely, positive, heavenly! You could hear each and every rain drop as it hit! Today folks pay good money for ‘sound machines’ which mimic the sound of rain to induce peace and tranquility – but they got it for free – and every time it rained! I was envious. Oh to relive those days again.

I have so many, many happy memories of Carthage as a child, even though I was only a visiting relative. I remember Cudin’ Lucian’s store, when it was still open for business – the pot belly stove for heat – the sweet musty smell of that delightful place, the jars of hard candy.

And I remember the drives home on Sunday night – and listening to the radio – Gang Busters, Boston Blackie, Our Mrs. Brook, The Shadow. Who know what evil lurks in the hearts of men, the Shadow knows!

Do I have a good memory because I remember these things? I suppose so. But I remember them mainly because I treasure these memories. And yes, I often dwell on them. Why not? They are a huge part of my life, when my very character and personality were being moulded and formed. These were GOOD times, HEARTY and HEALTHY times, times of TRUTH and VALUE which taught us RESPECT, APPRECIATION and above all, LOVE. These memories are worthy of remembrance. And they are worthy of being shared as examples for future generations to learn from.

Those were the days my friend – yet alas, they too had to end!

 

~~~~

It’s A Small World

@ 2017 Bill MurphyClass Photo

It really is a small world, much smaller than we think. Things and people who should cross paths do cross paths more often than one would believe possible. We often think of these happenstance meetings as nothing short of miraculous, yet they happen all the time. This one happened to me – and a very old photography.

I was enjoying a leisurely excursion through a flea-market in downtown Jackson, Mississippi when I happened upon a box filled with old black and white photographs, including several 8 x 10s. Having time to spare, I began looking through the stack.

Among the 8 x 10s I discovered a 1930 class photo from Carthage High School. My father and mother met when they lived in Carthage. I studied the photo carefully to see if I could recognize anyone. I couldn’t.

The photo was a group shot, no doubt taken on the school’s front steps. The only label stated was that it was Carthage High, 1930.

Although I didn’t recognize anyone in the photo, I bought it anyway, thinking that perhaps my Mom or Dad might enjoy it. It only cost me a dollar. A few day later I took the photo to my parents. When my mother looked at it, I thought that she was going to faint! Her eyes became weepy, and her hands trembled, as she stared at the photo.

“Where did you ever get this?” she asked. I explained that it was a flea-market find. She pointed to a young man in the photo, her older brother.

“This is your Uncle Hilton. When the photo was made, we were too poor to afford one. It was a big disappointment to Hilton.”

Needless to say, straight away I drove across town to the home of Uncle Hilton. The surprise and joy on his face was well worth (many times over) the cost of this old memory from his past. I remember that moment with special joy. It was a time when I was afforded the opportunity to be in the right place at the right time to ‘miraculously’ fulfill a long unfilled wish of my dear uncle.

Was it a miracle that I could do this? Maybe yes. Maybe no. But I know this – it was a priceless moment in time for me!