From Learningabe.info, a Historical Page by Howard Taylor
written during spring of 2020
Wouldn't It Be Nice?
A Story of the Romance and Life of Howard and Sandra Taylor Fall of 1975- through 2020, that Never will end.
What? That sounds like the title of a Brian Wilson and Beach Boys hit song. How does that relate to the young Taylor couple in 1975?
In this little book, I would like to use actual lyrics of my favorite Beach Boys tune to tell the story of my Sandra and I meeting, engagement and marriage and later life events.
Just get the tune in your head and sing along with my story.
PART ONE- CHAPTERS ONE THROUGH NINE
”Wouldn’t it be nice” Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys
Our Faculty Pictures 1975
I was 28 and Sandra was 31. We both (at least me) were determined we would never find the perfect person to spend our lives with. At this point, we were very sad.
Our story begins in about September of 1975. I had sewn my oats living in my little house on the hill, having fun with friends in the town of Tower Hill, Illinois. I made several trips to nearby Pana, Illinois (then really was the city of roses) to be try to develop a social life. The town was about ten miles west from Tower Hill.
I was running around a bit, with a combination of fellow teacher friends and townies from Tower Hill. I was the art teacher there, and ran the high school library. I thought I was set for life at Tower Hill. That chapter will come later about the year 1976.
Sandra had been teaching 7th grade at Pana Jr. High for a few years. She made more money than me, and that made the meeting of her even more interesting (laugh). I was a “sad” bachelor who didn’t know much about dating and such. The few times I tried dating, I was extremely tongue tied. I was a one-time date person. I knew you were supposed to open the car door and other doors for the lady, but that’s about it. One-time for sure—I was too nervous, and couldn’t talk plain.
My friend Vicki, wife of a fellow teacher and friend of mine had made a connection for me to meet a young teacher at Pana Jr. High, Sandra Grubb. Vicki told Sandra to be ready for a phone call from me. Sandra was also “sad” about not having found the perfect guy.
About the same time as my phone call, Sandra had volunteered to help lead a group of girl scouts in Pana. When I called her she was at the scout meeting or getting ready to go. Can you imagine how scary it would be for Sandra to meet this Tower Hill guy who liked to run around? I guess she didn’t know.
I was simply a run around guy, who made weekly trips to the Pana Bowl during women’s bowling night to see what ladies were available. I also went home to Charleston on many weekends to visit with my parents. That was my lifestyle.
Vicki made arrangements for me to meet this “sad” discouraged girl in the Jr. High. She was an English teacher. This would be a real blind date.
The call was made, and we met on the phone. In 1975 there were no cell phones or smart phones. In fact, computers wouldn’t come for seven more years. How did I call? I can’t remember now. Maybe I had a land phone in my little house on the hill.
After we talked and made introductions, plans were decided to go to the big city of Decatur. Sandra got a little mixed up. She wrote down my name as Harold. That was a good start. I am not Harold. She was so “sad” and discouraged, she didn’t listen good. Maybe the scouts in her meeting were making noise.
I was thrilled, and no longer sad. Sandra agreed that we would go on a DATE. Wow, how do I do that? I’m not sure if she was thrilled or a little bit suspect.
Our first date could have been a flop, but since we were so happy and comfortable with each other, I was not tongue-tied, we made it work. Our plans were to go to the new Red Lobster restaurant in Decatur and go to the movie “Give them Hell Harry” at the Rogers Theater in Decatur.
The restaurant was full, and we had to switch to Shakeys Pizza, near the Rogers. This was a down-home pizza shack with live entertainment. We went in and ordered. We were dressed up appropriately for Shakeys and the Roger’s Theater. Shakeys had a banjo player who was really good. The pizza looked delicious.
I was so nervous and so happy I only ate one piece and don’t remember the banjo songs. He was good, though. One piece of pizza for me would be a record. I usually ate much more than that.
Were we a match? I think so. To my surprise, Sandra had an AMC Ambassador. I had a AMC Ambassador. Mine was a hardtop, and the rider had to sit close to me not to fall over, Really. The bench style seat had a slick texture.
The night was great. I remember the stars in the sky, the smell of Staley’s soybean factory in Decatur, some of the one man show movie. The highlight of the first date-evening was the great conversation driving back to Pana. This was the start of a great romance. We were not sad and discouraged anymore.
I especially enjoyed the ride back. We had the car radio going, and we talked a lot about who knows what, but I liked it. I can’t quite remember if we went into her home, but I think that came the next week. Our romance would start with a frozen over refrigerator. Read Chapter Two about that.
Wouldn't it be nice if we could wake up
Sandra lived in the Cadillac of trailer homes in the Pana trailer park. It was a very nice trailer park, and she had a great neighbor named Marge. Marge would have a part in encouraging this great romance, and again, “Wouldn’t it Be Nice.” I lived in a one bedroom cute little house on a hill in Tower Hill.
In the same trailer park, Sandra was friends with two other single teacher-ladies in the park. I don’t know if I ever told Sandra, but I had a one-time date with one of those teachers. All three would have great romances right after Sandra’s. Sandra was first. I always thought that was nice. We were all friends.
After that one date with Sandra, a series of dates happened. One reason was that Sandra had a severe problem with her refrigerator. Everything froze including eggs and pickles. We had to eat out together every night the first week. I think that was her reasoning. We had fun for sure. I would get to her trailer before she got home from school. My school got out earlier and I only lived about ten miles east of her. I didn’t have to speed to get there.
As we got more and more familiar with each other, and she called me “Howard” instead of Harold, I always wanted to stay later and later. (Did you read the lyrics?)
Sandra would eventually come over to Tower Hill to my little house on the hill. She cooked once in a while, and we would sometimes eat out. I told her I liked fried chicken and we had fried chicken one night at her house. Nights got a little later and later. At my house would sit on the couch and listen to my vinyl Beach Boy albums. We loved the Beach Boys so much. I know now, that Sandra wasn’t as big a fan as me, but evidently her goal was to make me happy. She was that way for 44 years.
Vicki and her husband Mike came to a meal fixed by me. I prepared my once famous spaghetti, garlic bread and salad. It was delicious, and we had a good time. After our company left, the night would get a little longer as we got more involved. This sounds very romantic, huh! This was September. By October we would be engaged.
It was September of 1975, and things would advance. I would have Sandra take me to my parent’s house on weekends with my laundry. Her family lived in nearby Westfield, and she would go over there. She met my parents, and I met her family. How about that? I was not nervous or backward. I was so happy I could burst. Sandra was the same. The announcement of our engagement caused much excitement in Westfield and Charleston.
She made more money than me, and to top it off, she bought a brand new 1975 Dodge Valiant. She sold her Ambassador to her brother Mark, and bought the Dodge. She picked it up by herself in Pana. I was over quickly to see it. My old Ambassador seemed out of date. We went together in her Valiant.
Sometime later in October, we used our decision making skills and she answered a very important question from me. We went over to Bloomington, Indiana for a church meeting. We absolutely did not want to be separate anymore, but we followed the rules.
Happy times together we've been spending
During next few days of the fall of 1975, I would take Sandra to a great movie at the Shelbyville Drive-in. It was Jaws. She was real afraid and had to sit close for protection. That Jaws fish was big and mean. We watched it, and I always thought she liked it. Well, it wasn’t the silly move she liked, it was ME. I’m not bragging, but that’s the way it was at the drive-in. She told me much later it gave her a headache.
We even went up to Decatur again to see King Kong (the new version.) She seemed to love it too. Can you tell who is choosing the movies. After marriage, we would switch to romantic comedies. I think we ate at Long John Silvers this time. Sharks and fish were the theme of our entertainment and eats.
In October, we returned to Indiana trip in the new Dodge and a very exciting thing happened. I had asked her a big question. I think I beat around the bush in asking, but she said YES. I proposed. We talked about our little age difference and her health problems but, and I didn’t hear anything but YES. We were engaged. I suggested we get married quickly, like in a couple weeks. I absolutely did not want to be separated at night again. We had to wait though, because we followed the rules. Both families would have to be told of the engagement.
I met her family, and her little sister Pamela got mad. She was fifteen, Sandra was supposed to take her on a long road trip, but a couple weeks later she wanted to sit on my lap. She thought I was OK. Sandra’s mother Marjorie, I think, just about fainted when we told her. This was early October, and I wanted to be married in October. Well, mother Marjorie wanted a December ceremony, so we went with that. My parents didn’t care when. Mel and Louise were their names, and they both ran off and eloped in 1946.
We set December 27, 1975 as the marriage date.
My parents, Mel and Louise, had it all figured out when I came over in the new Dodge and brought my laundry into their house. I guess I was acting different. I had to stay at their house, and Sandra stayed at her parent’s house. We would manage to get together while on the trip. The first time over, we would be mostly apart leaving on Sunday. The moments apart were so LONG
if we think and wish and hope and pray
Sandra and I had to find a church building to get married in during the month of December. The Antioch Church of Christ building was built in 1880 and was not a modern building. There were no restrooms, and it had little parking for a large group. We did a search.
I’m not sure how we found it, but the beautiful “Hello Dolly” movie church on the hill building was setting right in Charleston. It is still there. It was called the “Heritage Chapel Church of Christ.” The object on the steeple (an angel I think), was placed on that steeple by my dad, Mel Taylor from the ladder truck at the fire department.
We contacted the preacher, Roger Lamb, and had a meeting to get permission to use the building on December 27 (1975). He was into counseling us about getting married. He knew I was a member of the Catholic Church and Sandra was a lifetime member of the Church of Christ. That was no problem for me. A happy marriage and life with me attending church with Sandra was set. We decided that in her new Dodge when talking on the way to Indiana on another trip.
Roger Lamb said we should not get married. We should read a book he gave us and have more counseling. I was way too busy to read any book. I wanted married and I wanted to use the church building. My dad did them a big favor putting that “angel” on their steeple. It is still on it today.
Their elders approved our use. The rules were: no music with an instrument and an elder would be present to make sure we had no wild party. We did get a movable organ for Sandy Drake to play, but had to stored in the back room until the service and put back immediately. The Church of Christ does not use instrumental music.
I feel bad now, but back then I wanted a very quick ceremony, had the songs cut down to four, as I remember. Sandra always complained to me she would like to have more. I was just too anxious to leave and head off to our honeymoon in Nashville, Indiana.
The time period before the wedding (October through December, 1975) was full of fun things. Both of us had showers at our schools by the faculty. My shower was called a Twinky shower. Twinky as in sweet treat. Nelda Foster, 1st grade teacher, I suspect, hung Twinkies in the lounge by strings. That was the decoration. My experience at Tower Hill Schools was a nice one. I always lunch in the lounge. There were lots of laughs as there was daily in the lounge.
Sandra had a nice shower at her school, probably in their lounge too. I can’t write much about it. Sandra loved social things in her Jr. High. She had many friends there. During her life, she reminisced about her experiences at Pana Jr. High.
After a few weeks of planning, ordering announcement and invitation cards, flowers, candles, flower decorations (white poinsettias) and keeping everyone happy, we had the perfect ceremony.
On the late night of December 26 we had a blanket of snow. It was pretty deep. You all know that Illinois people get out the next day of a snow. The roads were cleared and all but a couple of family members showed up for the big event. We had guests from far western Illinois and Chicago, as well as the local and Mattoon relatives.
Evidently all of our guests wanted to see this happy couple exchange vows.
We could be married (we could be married) Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys
As was traditional, someone tied cans to our car. We started off on our excursion into a new life. No one knew where we were going to go. It would be our short honeymoon to Nashville, Indiana. It could not have been any more perfect. Our first stop was to get something to eat at Paris, Illinois. We stopped at the hot dog stand on Rte. 16, in town. They were the best hot dogs ever. We left Paris and continued on to Terre Haute, Indiana.
We had made a reservation at the big Holiday Inn. What I remember most there was when I evidently sit up during the night and said there was a man standing in the clothing rack. I got told by Sandra there was no man.
There was a lot of snow on the ground, and it was beautiful. The roads were clear. We headed from Terre Haute to Nashville, Indiana. We had reservations at the Nashville Inn. It was a beautiful large place and had fireplaces. Sandra lit the fireplace. I’ve never been good at that. The room was frigid when we went in, but the fireplace got it warm. When going to Nashville Main Street, we found out that all the stores were open, and they had big sales. That was exciting. Nashville is what is called a tourist trap. It is a quaint small town where old houses and buildings were craft and art shops. It was great. We had a computer generated portrait made with only tiny x’s and o’s. It faded a lot over time.
We purchased some souvenirs, ate at one of the restaurants on the street, and walked all around. Sandra got a nice sweater imported from Peru in one of the shops. I still have that sweater. She also got a set of pewter squirrel salt and pepper shakers. Those are what I remember.
Sandra and I had to leave Nashville and get back home to finish our Christmas break and get ready to go back to our schools. We also decided we would go on a second honeymoon to Texas in the Spring.
After moving to Tower Hill, Sandra would have to do the driving, but that was only bad for her when ice would form on the highway. We lived in Tower Hill in the rental house until we moved to Herrick in 1977. The house was small, but arranged nicely. Our new furniture looked nice, and the house had a kitchen table with it. The best thing about that little house was that the rent was only $90 a month. In '75, though, that was not really considered real low.
Our weekends were usually spent going over to visit with our families. We stayed at both houses, one in Charleston, and the other in Westfield.
Sandra had told me of her health conditions when we decided to get married. She was told she had lupus when she was twelve, and was taking lupus medications. We made a trip to Terre Haute, Indiana to see her "lupus" doctor. He had been treating her since she was twelve. His advice to us was that we not have children because the stress could cause a lupus flare-up. We decided to not have children. A short time later she had to go to Carle with a new rheumatologist (lupus doctor). After some tests, he told her that was no sign of lupus. Maybe it was in remission. Her medications were gradually eliminated. He also said she could have had children, but Sandra couldn't. That didn't upset us. We realized the Terre Haute doctor was out of date on his information. Sandra went ten years without all that medication. She would have some kind of problem later, and prednisone was given again, and she had to take it the rest of her life. We wanted children, so we researched out how to have this happen. The solution would be adoption.
During the '75-'76 school year I had something happen that I wasn't expecting. The administration at Tower Hill had changed and they decided they want to replace, or not replace five teachers. I thought I was on tenure, being in my third year teaching there. It was my first job, and when I got hired, I didn't think about it, but I signed two contracts. One for the elementary district and one for the high school district. It was a dual district and if you worked for both you couldn't get tenure. My last year was great, but now I was going to be unemployed for the first time in my life. I went to the combination board meeting and put in a complaint of how I was treated. I left Tower Hill Schools. A few days after the boards let the five teachers go, I got a phone call from one of the board presidents telling me he didn't know what was going on.
I went to Decatur and got unemployment for a few weeks, but actually I found jobs. Sandra was still teaching, and was very supportive of me. With help of my dad, Assistant Fire Chief of Charleston Fire Department, I got a contract with the Illinois Fire Commission as a writer of curriculum for the Fire Inspector course and the Air Firefighter course. I worked two months driving to Springfield working on those courses. I ended up having a study guide published for the Fire Inspector course. I met Fire Inspectors in Springfield and Chicago area. I was very excited for that experience.
Sandra was thoroughly enjoying her teaching at Pana. We were both have a pretty good life. In the fall of '76, I was hired to teach the course at Lakeland Community College, Mattoon, Illinois for basic firefighter instructors. All in that class from all around gained their certification. After my retirement in 2009, I became a reading instructor at Lakeland. With that three year job, my personal life ambition fulfilled. I will get to the 2000's later in this online book.
During the summer of 1977, I registered at EIU for classes to get a regular elementary teaching certificate. I took classes during the summer and got enough to get my certificate. There were no tests in those days. My elementary standard certificate would open doors for me for a new job.
I haven't mentioned it yet, but before I got married to Sandra, I made a decision to become a member of the Church of Christ, that she was a lifetime member. I was raised in the Catholic Church, but my dad was not Catholic. My mom was. I learned a lot about religion by going the Latin spoke mass on Sunday morning. Just before I met Sandra I visited the Tower Hill Christian Church. I only made one visit. I just did not fit in with the Catholic Church. It was too social or something. I did get First Communion and went through Confirmation. My uncle in Mattoon always thought I would be a priest. That didn't happen. I was never asked to be alter boy. I pretty much quit all of it in about the 8th grade. I would go on Easter or Palm Sunday to get palm for my mom.
Since I was a Catholic, I think that's why Roger Lamb had advised us not to get married. I was impressed by the simplicity and good congregational music in the Church of Christ. I was well accepted by the members at Antioch in Illinois and Richland Church in Bloomington, Indiana. I was baptized on one of the October trips to Bloomington. I made up my own mind, and even became a preacher for the church. I had a short history of traveling to Indiana, Texas and Georgia and other places where I was invited to speak. That was actually the best part of our lives. We had lots of travel adventures, especially when our adopted children were with us.
I can't quite remember how it all started. Sandra loved babies and little kids. She taught first grade in Roseland School in the Pana School District. She loved the teachers and the challenge, but I guess she became a bit fickle about jobs. She just didn't want to teach that small a child all year. She asked to be moved to fourth grade. She was switched to Washington School. Sandra's very first job was fourth grade at Oakland, Illinois. She also did her student teaching there. She made a "good mistake" and resigned at Oakland to take the job at Pana. She told me that the reason was she needed insurance, and Pana offered it with a contract. Later, she found out Oakland had an insurance plan that she was unaware of. Think about this: she would never have met me if she had stayed at Oakland unless fate determines what will happen no matter where you are. She went to Pana. The superintendent personally took her around town in his car and pointed where she could go or not go. Taverns were not acceptable places. Sandra wouldn't have gone to those places anyway. She had fairly recently left old Eastern Illinois University in 1966, where the girls had to wear dresses and boys had to wear shirts and a belt. I remember this myself. Things sure went downhill with Bob Dylan music and all the new hippie craze.
Sandra taught fourth grade happily when she got the call to get her masters. She got a leave of absence and moved to old EIU to start her master's program. Sandra was very smart. We used to talk about how our IQ's were both good. I told her she was smarter, and she told me I was smarter. We just were different, but both smart. I got my masters in connection with my bachelors. I loved college in my later college career. We both took a post masters class in Early Childhood Language Arts with Dr. Malehorn. We competed on grades, but both got the same A. Sandra maybe had left Pana at this time, so I'll come back to that later.
Since I am on our education, I would like to say that I majored in art for the bachelors and went right into a masters program in Instructional media. Not bragging, but I loved tests and quizzes in my masters' classes. I had the best professors. Sandra and I both took Dr. North for Curriculum Development. He announced in her class you couldn't get an A unless you were in Instructional Media. Ha! I won this grade competition before I started. I got an A, and Sandra got a B. Weren't we an unusual couple, competing in grades, Our love was so strong we made personal competitions fun. I'm so excited thinking about it now. We were smart!
Sandra always supported me in all my endeavors. During my "out of work" for a few months I also sold fire extinguishers and home smoke alarms. I was pretty good at it. I worked for the Fire Commission, drove a shuttle bus for old folks in Taylorville (green thumb work program), and got unemployment for a few weeks. We were very happy. The little house on the hill in Tower Hill was going to be good for a short time. My employment would change when the Green Thumb program found a teacher's aid position at nearby Herrick, Illinois. I took it. Things would change quickly. I was there Title I reading aide for about three weeks, when Steve Bahney, Cowden-Herrick Elementary Schools discovered I was a certified elementary teacher. He asked me if I would like to teach reading at Herrick School for Title I. The qualifications were not set by the state in those years. I loved that job. I had a partner teacher, Ginnie Hostetler. We were opposite in our styles, but our student gains were the same. I did that for five years. Life was happy. Cowden-Herrick Schools paid better and I could go on tenure. I went on tenure, because I only worked for the Elementary District. It was a dual district again. After my Tower Hill experience, I decided I didn't want to teach high school again.
Back to Sandra again- Before we got married, but not much more, Sandra got her masters at EIU in 1973 . She was offered a graduate assistant grant in the Industrial Arts Department at old EIU. This grant paid her tuition and even a paycheck. Sandra wrote a lot of articles, taught industrial education concepts to elementary teacher candidates. One class was arts and crafts for elementary teachers. I still have her string art project, which has been on the wall of all our five houses. Yes we moved five or six times in our marriage. We even move one more time in our Mississippi life. It is really funny how the last two houses were actually because of me. I will write more about that in a later chapter.
When Sandra returned to Pana, she discovered that she would no longer be an elementary teacher. Her new job was 7th grade language arts and social studies. Our elementary certificates covered through grade eight. Sandra had an English emphasis. She would teach in Pana Jr. High until a terrible thing happened. I will write about that in the next chapter.
Sandra actually started teaching at Pana Jr. High a couple years before I met her. She was probably a little bit shocked that her job would now be big kids. Surprisingly, she took to her new job well. It's hard to explain Sandra's teaching style, but I would call her a "cool cat" teacher. She was very creative in her activities with her kids. I felt that Sandra and I were both really good teachers. She had better discipline than I did. During our early years of marriage, especially when I was off for that one year, I would visit her in her room. I also subbed in Pana schools.
On one visit, I was going to give a presentation to I think all the 7th graders about a history of log cabins in pioneers days of America. I used a slide projector and discussed how they were built, the different styles, and how Illinois had all of these styles. Do you get the jest. I was a historian and mixed art and architecture. Sandra and I both were often technical in our thinking.
When Sandra was working in the Pana High School, after her Jr. High building was condemned, she worked from about 2:00 to 5:00. She loved that schedule. I went out to pick her up. I was sitting in the room when she had to step out of the room. One of the boys forgot I was sitting there. He got up and mimicked her. Oh my. Actually it was funny. He didn't get in trouble. She had a great sense of humor. Another instant was earlier in her old building she had a boy (the same one I think) who could imitate the dismissal tone (bell). He did that and the class got up and started walking out. The boy got in a little trouble that time. She took him into the teacher lounge full of teachers, and ask him to make his tone sound. He did it. I don't think he did it again. A final incident I want to tell about is a 4th grade incident in which her class was not paying attention during the morning. After lunch she came back and wrote on the board their directions. They couldn't figure out why she wasn't talking. She wrote directions on the board all afternoon, and got perfect results with no talking from them. They missed her voice. There are other stories she liked to tell, and I'll try to incorporate more later.
I need to confess of my weakness as a disciplinarian in my Tower Hill High School teaching years. Right up front, I found out at Tower Hill that I would have a hard time teaching high school students. I won't blame the kids at the school. I was in my 3rd year of teaching, and didn't always know what to do. At Tower Hill I taught art and did a little bit of library work. I didn't have my own separate art room. In the grade school (a separate building) I pushed a big cart around from room to room, including 7th and 8th. I have lots of stories about that part of my job. I loved it.
In high school, the last year, I had to use the home economics room as my room. I had to leave it neat when I finished my classes. The room had open access all the time. On one day, a group of what I would now call hoodlums (teen crazy version) put my nice Samsonite brief case in the oven and turned it on. Smoke was rolling out when I entered. I said something, and ran over the oven. There was my melting briefcase (that my dad gave to me when I got the job). I was not happy. It only took a few minutes to figure out the guilty ones. Actually most of the kids were good kids who didn't like this and they told on them. They were mostly freshman. One was a board member's grandson. They got a good chewing in the office. Somehow I was allowed to give a punishment. I told them they had to replace my briefcase with a new identical one. I went back to Charleston and got one at Shafer's Clothing. It was not cheap. They paid for it. I still hear about that 44 years later when I visit the Tower Hill High School group Face Book. I never considered it funny, but don't get hyper about it.
In '76 I took my classes outside to draw quite a bit. I enjoyed getting out of the home ec. room. We had a town project and painted all the fire hydrants in Tower Hill red, white and blue. We even painted an old well pump handle. I had a dear friend, John Eddington, a really good primitive landscape painter who lived in Tower Hill. I visited him often in his home. I asked him to come in and teach my kids how to make a beautiful landscape painting. I had small table top easels with canvas boards for each. I had individual paint sets for each and brushes. John took over and it was great seeing even the "hoodlums" painting their sky, ground and whatever else they wanted in it. I guess I enjoyed the art part, as you can tell.
I didn't have the patience of Sandra Taylor. She rarely yelled and had neat ways to get attention. In my first yells, I got them by being loud. I think I was funny sometimes, but only remember being loud. Chuckie Renoe was in Mrs. Foster's 1st grade. She was great, but was louder than me, and I jumped sometimes when in her room. She was also one of the funny ones in the lounge. Chuckie sneaked out to the bathroom with a can of my dry tempera paint. I went in to get him, and he was smiling while he was flushing the paint down the stool and watching it swirl. It was very pretty. I don't think he got in trouble. I also tried an art project where the kids blew up a balloon (I ended up blowing them up) and then take starched pieces of yarn to put on the balloon, and then blowing up the balloons after drying. It didn't work. The kids loved the balloons, though.
Two projects that was perfect were stitchery on burlap with yarn, mounting on a pied of bamboo rod. 1st graders stitched their traced hands. They were very cute. Other grades, including 7th and 8th grades made designs of all kinds, including names, pictures, or whatever, and they were beautiful too. What was nice is that for a few weeks, the kiddos were very quiet and good. Macrame was also successful. I had twine rods to hang on, all kinds of beads. This turned out real good. For another period of time the kids were quiet.
Sadly, not all was rosy with 8th grade. The girls were not paying any attention to me. They were talking giggling loud, driving me crazy. I think I was crazy already. I picked the eight ringleaders, took them into the hall, had them bend over and gave each a swat with "borrowed" paddle. No parent complained, and girls went in smiling. These were the same girls that were involved with my difficult art class in the home ec. a year later. I found out that my art students, in some instances, were kids that had nothing else to take. I did have some extremely talented and serious high schoolers including the Hall twins, Donnie and Ronnie. They were so good at everything, that I kind of let them run their own art projects. Mike Sisk, is now a Facebook friend was a nice young man in high school for me. He loved drawing and especially little cartoon scenes. I had his sister at the same time in 4th grade. They were two great kids that I remember well. Many of the kids in all grades obviously liked me, and learned art. I taught them how to draw horses and animals, using a kind of shaped system. We did crafts and I have nothing now but positive memories.
Sandra was always very proud of her 7th grade class winning the Christmas door contest in her building. The students in all the classes had to draw for their country. The project required research on how the country they drew celebrated. She allowed the kids in her 7th grade class to design and produce the door and her class won. The research was done with encyclopedias and other reference books. Internet computers were not in use yet.
I will tell more about our teaching experiences in later chapters. In the next chapter, I will tell of my new job, our first home purchase and thinking about adopting children.
I will now use lyrics from "God Only Knows" By Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. Our story was going to change big time, so the song has changed.
My personality was one that I often teased about. I would quite often answer "maybe" to about any question or request. With getting married and leading our life over the 44 years, I never had thoughts of "maybe" or "not sure" about that. As our story starts out, we were both very happy and anxious to get married. We had no second thoughts about how permanent the marriage arrangement means. I think my joining Sandra in her church helped a bunch. We had no arguments or questions about our individual faith. I was happy to find a fulfilling faith to practice. We worshipped together for the 44 years, and even in the past years living in Mississippi we worshipped in our house, or traveled back to Illinois to worship there. So, as the song lyrics say, as long as the stars were above us, we never doubted our love. That may sound corny, but that the way it was with us. I know I aggravated Sandra and sometimes complained too much, but things always settled quickly. We had a few loud sessions over who knows what, but we made up. The lyric saying "I may not always love you.." is what happens if we develop too much anger and aggravation with each other, but as long as the "stars are above us" we never lose the love. I don't if all this makes sense, but it is what I think.
As far as our individual responsibilities for family management, Sandra was the mathematical one and did the financial bookkeeping (check book and bill paying). I took care of insurance and tax matters. Sandra was taught to not give up on balancing the checkbook until it comes out perfect. I am not able to work that way, therefore I didn't really do the checkbook. We made financial decisions together. We were fairly quick on making decisions, and our first house purchase together would provide a big learning experience. Sandra had purchased two different trailers. One was in Westfield, Illinois, the other the one in Pana. I hadn't even purchased my first car until 1973. The new house would be a beautiful ranch style in the country west of Herrick. Why Herrick, well that is where my job was situated-- The Herrick Grade School.
Herrick School used to be a K-8 center. I started out as a reading aide, and then moved to a full time teaching position as Title I Reading. I started with them in the fall of 1977. I was really happy with getting a job with somewhat higher pay and a chance to get tenure. Steve Bahney was my first principal there. He basically hired me after watching my work as a CETA aide. I was working in a program for adults who had trouble finding a job in there field of expertise. I started with the start of the school year. By October the school board of Cowden-Herrick Elementary hired me as a reading teacher. I know I was thrilled, and I'm sure Sandra was very happy. We wouldn't move to Herrick for at least a year. We still lived in Tower Hill in '77.
We had been thinking of adoption for a year or more. In about '78 or '79 we had made contact with the Baby Fold Adoption Service in Bloomington, Illinois. There was an office in Charleston as well. We made trips to both places for training and procedures for adoption. The Methodist Church based agency was very strict and very particular in screening adoption candidate couples. Before we would get approved as foster parents and adoption, we had to upgrade our home status. We searched around Herrick for a house. A fellow teacher and his wife (high school teacher) had been working on fixing up a ranch style house a couple miles west of Herrick on the county line road, in Fayette County. Tower Hill and Herrick were in Shelby County.
We applied for our first house purchase at a Savings and Loan in nearby Vandalia, Illinois. We got approved smoothly. The price of the 3 bedroom and 2 bath home with an acre yard was $28,000. That was a lot of money in '78. Sandra and I discovered that we were good mutual decision makers. We bought that house and during the winter, after snow, we made the move to it.
Sandra was an excellent cook, seamstress and eventually mom and grandmother. She was perfect in my eyes. She started out as the one who made the most money, but ended up more than money, ha!. The house was really nice, but had some problems.
The crawl space, as I discovered had standing water. We hired a man in Herrick who put in water removal systems, and could termite proof. He came out and put a sump pump in the middle and dug ditches from the wet spots. It drained. I had to crawl under and dig a few more after he was done. Sandra's father also went under there and helped me. He would help us on house jobs more than once in our marriage. I learned to sweat copper, put in drain pipes, and how to do manual labor under the floor. That career kind of ended, but I still have skills learned in that house and some of the original tools purchased then.
Meanwhile, we planted gardens out there. We had bumper crops. I think the reason was that the garden was over the septic drainage tile. There were no codes out there, and I think everyone did what they wanted. I had to make a huge ditch to drain the septic tank. It was not easy, but with a little help from my brother-in-law. We had the local Herrick Honey-Dipper come out and made our full-tank nice and empty. We never had trouble again.
The garden had zucchinis, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, radishes and things I can't remember now. I would go out and pick the crops and then Sandra and I would can much of it. It was delicious during the winter and spring. Sandra made a really good pickle with our cukes. Sandra had more energy in our early marriage years. We gave up gardening and canning when we moved to Windsor about 14 years later. I think the Herrick house was the one we lived in the longest.
In 1980, we had been approved as foster parents and ready for a child. We were older adoptive parents, but Baby Fold had no problem with that. In our questionnaires, and we both had to fill out our own separately, I stated I wanted an older child, while Sandra said a baby or very young. I think Marge Ramsey, our social worker, and the people at Baby-Fold listened to Sandra more than me. We were invited to go up to see (through a window) a two year old boy that needed a permanent home. We went up to Bloomington, and got to watch Justin through a window. We told Marge that we would like to further adoption of Justin. He was cute as a button. He was all dressed up with nice leather shoes (I have them still). He was smiling and having fun playing, not knowing we were there. On December 27, 1980, nine eight days after his second birthday, we were to come up and take Justin home as his new foster parents, and future adoptive parents.
We made the trip up to Bloomington through Decatur, Illinois on Rte. 51. We were planning on spending the night in a motel after meeting Justin, and then take him back to Herrick. Things changed. Due to Justin's foster parent problems, we had to take Justin the same day we went up. When you adopt a child, you have to bring clothes and supplies for him. They come to you only in the diaper (of course you change them at the adoption center). We were prepared for that part of the procedure. At Herrick, in our new house all updated, and having passed State of Illinois foster parent inspection, we had a bedroom all ready for Justin. He had a bed set up with a pound puppy. When we left with him he had a big bag of toys and other things that I still have some.
Before we were told to go ahead and take him, we did go to the McDonald's to get something to eat. Justin was still eating Jr. baby food, but he loved the French Fries. We would then go back to Baby Fold, and told to take Justin on home.
Justin arrived in our house and was very happy with his bedroom. The timing of this was winter, and a little later a big snow came through. That's not unusual for Illinois. We were marooned in our house for a few days. Justin learned so much in those days. Our television was by antenna. He started watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers every day. As he got a little older, Scooby Doo was his favorite cartoon. show. As a child Justin read with his mom every day and night. She read the whole set of Boxcar Children Mysteries and other books. I would read with him too, but we did projects together. Sandra helped Justin to be a high-level reader in his school years. He read all the time for fun. I will tell about our daughter, Lacie, who came into our family a little later. Justin learned to ride a bike quickly. I will tell more about Justin later in my book.
Sandra loved Herrick, and many of the families that live there. I was the school librarian in about 1982. The Taylor kids got to read the new books first. I would go to the Waldenbooks in Mattoon and personally pick out hundreds of books for my libraries. In 1982 my job switched from reading to library. I would have to go to Cowden Grade School as well as Herrick. I had two libraries. I loved that job. It was very sad when I had to leave it in the last few years of my career at C-H Schools to teach computers and run our computer systems.
Sandra had not worked for a few years, until we moved to Windsor. I get scrambled on the years, but after the years at Herrick, we made a move to Windsor north and east of Herrick. Anyway, in my library years, I had the best volunteer librarian you could have: Sandra Taylor. She would come up and help me check out books (the old fashioned way by hand stamper). She also knew how to shelve books, to which many couldn't do. I had student helpers who were very good at doing it also. Sandra worked in the library as a volunteer, but in the 90's she did finally get a job. She worked for Project Help for the State of Illinois as an assistant in the preschool program. She learned a lot in that paying job. She would later start a Herrick Library Preschool for the Public Library, which shared the school library. She did that a few years. She charged $2.50 a week for those who could pay, and actually taught those babies (4-5 year olds) how to be part of a class, cut with scissors, play and share, color, make crafts. She had graduation ceremonies each spring and would take kids to the primary classes at Halloween and Christmas. She was really talented at that. Parents at Herrick seemed to really love her and I know the kids did. I was very proud of her.
Sandra and I would take Justin just about everywhere with us. We didn't use babysitters, as in those early years for Justin, she did not work. Baby Fold preferred for the parent to stay home, although they would have allowed for her to work if necessary. She worked for the U.S. Census in our area in 1990. She worked for Project Help, and ran who own Library Preschool. In the 70's and 80's we enjoyed going into town. Pana, Vandalia, Shelbyville and Effingham had our favorite eating places. As I said, Justin and later Lacie went everywhere with us. Pana had the Pizza Man that we really liked. We would go to the Pana Labor Day parade, and then eat at Pizza Man. KFC at Shelbyville, and steakhouses at Vandalia and Effingham were our favorites as well. We had fun. Of course we made weekend trips to Charleston and Westfield to visit with families and go to Antioch Church on Sunday. Justin was attached to his Grandma Louise Taylor and Grandpa Mel, and would spend the night with them usually.
We used to go down to Ramsey State Park and camp out. We had purchased a pop up camper. Justin and Lacie would take their bikes and ride them on the trails. We all had bikes, but Sandra didn't like riding as much. Eventually I would accidently run into her on a Herrick road and knocked her down. That was the end of whole family bike riding. When at Ramsey on one camp out Justin ran off the edge of the trail and hit his mouth. We packed up and left. We decided to go over to Charleston and let Grandma Louise take care of him. She did, and he was very happy.
For the first 8 years of living in Herrick we had a problem with the month of October. It was an ancient tradition that masked hooligans would go around town and terrorize teachers and old folks. I don't know why, but that lasted for 8 years. They would start in early October, and end the day after Halloween. I don't like to be negative, but it was bad. On the 8th year the gang came out to threaten me. "Don't call the sheriff they said." I knew who they were. I asked them to leave. They didn't. I went in and called the Fayette County Sheriff. I The deputy showed up quickly and they were still there. When they saw the red light coming they took off and ran into Herrick. It didn't take long for the Shelby Sheriff to gather them up. I pressed charges, and during the next few months it went on. I was interviewed and grilled by the sheriff. In the end, I dropped charges and they had to pay a fine of some kind, plus their lawyers. The Herrick Halloween tradition ended that year, and we had peace the rest of our years. It was not a happy thing to do this by me, but I think I made Herrick a better town. Sandra and I went through a lot during those eight years. The kids slept through it, but it was not funny.
Herrick had a great summer 4th of July Celebration in the park. We used to ride our bikes up there and get treats. They had rides and entertainment. Those were the good old days. Sandra and I loved living in the Herrick area, but were really not country people. One field next to us was on government set back about all the years we were there. There were a mule, horses, pigs, cows and lots of animals in the country in those days. We even had a swimming pool installed and I built a fence and deck around it. We would all get in it during the summer.