Josephine’s Childhood – School Days

On a fine Saturday morning, Grandma and I were sitting on her back porch.  We just finished walking around the house to look at the seedlings she planted every year, and were now enjoying her favorite summer drink:  Country Time lemonade with ice and fresh orange slices.

Grandma leaned back in her chair and crossed her feet at her ankles.  She sighed a contented sigh.  She was so glad to see the sunshine after a long winter.

“I’ll never forget that time my mother told me to come straight home from school,” she started.

“Is this the one where you were playing in the creek?”  I settled down in the chair next to her.

“Yes.  Let’s see.  I was probably about your age.  In those days we didn’t have busses to take us to school.  We had to walk.”

“How far?”  I asked.

“It was almost two miles.  Some days, if there was bad weather, Daddy would pick me up with the horse and buggy.  But on nice days, we walked. My favorite thing to do was to stop by the creek and splash in the water on the way home, but my parents didn’t want me going to the creek by myself.”

“Did you wear a swim suit?”  I asked, munching one of her homemade butterscotch cookies.

“We wore dresses every day.  We just took off our shoes and socks and went wading.”

She continued, “One day my mother told me to come straight home from school and that I shouldn’t play in the water.  Well, I forgot.  It was a hot day.  The water looked so good, and I decided to do a bit of wading.  Before I knew it, an hour had gone by.  I suddenly remembered what my mom said and ran all the way home.”

“Did you get a spanking?” I asked.

“No.  Worse than that.  We were having company that night!”  Grandma’s eyes got big. “You remember,” she said, “I was an only child.  These were my cousins, and they had three little girls that I could play with.”

“Oh Grandma!  She didn’t let you play with them?”

Grandma sadly shook her head. “That night, because I disobeyed, mom said I had to stay in my room.  I wasn’t allowed to play with my cousins. I remember the girls coming into my room. ‘Josephine, can we play with your doll?'”

Josephine was a quintessential Grandma.  She could make clothes and hand-sewed beautiful quilts.  She loved to crochet, and made the best lemon meringue pies from scratch.  There was nothing that would soothe her soul more than sitting at the piano and playing beloved hymns.  But she had spunk, too. On the 4th of July, she lit firecrackers in her back yard—bright and early in the morning!  Grandpa always saw to it that there was a nice Oldsmobile for her to drive. She was known to “put the pedal to the metal.” Occasionally she would do a burn out on a gravel driveway, just to impress the grandchildren, rocks and dust flying everywhere!

One thing Grandma did best was to tell stories of her childhood in Iowa from the 1920’s and 30’s.


To read the story of Josephine’s birth, go HERE.

Though Josephine was the only child of Dick and Jennie VanSant, and dearly treasured by the parents who raised her, she was not spoiled and was expected to obey. Josephine had a couple of nicknames.  One was “Joejie” and the other was “snow ball”.  It might be easy to guess why she was called snowball from looking at her pictures.  She had white blonde hair.  In fact, some of her hair remained blonde her entire life.

Josephine's childhood -

Josephine and the parents who raised her, Dick & Jennie VanSant

Josephine grew up in a 6-room farm house in Oskaloosa, Iowa that had no electric, phone or indoor plumbing.  The house was heated with a cook stove  and a coal heater in the living room. She had chores to do, such as sweeping the floor and drying the dishes.

At West Center school, her favorite subjects were spelling, phonics, reading and geography.  She disliked arithmetic, history and English.  On her very first report card from Miss Miller, she was said to be “inclined to mischievousness”

There were many lessons in obedience and memories from childhood that Josephine carried with her into adulthood.  These were stories she told over and over.

On a summer day in mid-August, Grandma took me to the mall in Battle Creek, Michigan.  I was excited because she was planning to buy me some new clothes for school, which was starting in a couple of weeks.

“Can I put the seat back?”  Push button electric seats were novelty to me, and the buttons on the side panel were a great temptation.

“Just a little bit,” she winked at me.  Grandma and I were taking the back roads.  She liked to go through Galesburg and Augusta. We also liked to see the flags as we drove past the entrance to Fort Custer.

“I love your new car Grandma.” The plush burgundy seats felt luxurious.

“I think our old one was still in good shape, but Grandpa always wants to buy a new one as soon as they roll over to 100,000 miles.” She adjusted the mirror and turned on the cassette player so we could listen to instrumental hymns in the background. “Cars sure have changed alot. In fact, when I was very little, we owned a Model T.  But my folks saved up their money, and we were one of the first people in Oskaloosa to own a 1929 Whippet.”

Photo Credit: Don O'Brien CC by 2.0 via Flickr

Photo Credit: Don O’Brien CC by 2.0 via Flickr

“The day came for Daddy to go to town to pick up our new car.  I was so excited!  I went to school and told all the kids–”

My daddy’s buying a car today and he’s going to pick me up from school!

She continued, “That day dragged on.  All I could think about was the Whippet. Finally, school let out and I went outside, eager for my first glimpse of our new car, and most of all, hoping all the kids would see me riding in it.”

“Grandma, it sounds like you were bragging.”

“Yes Karen,  I was bragging.  You know they say ‘pride goeth before a fall’?  Well I had a big fall.”

“What happened!?”  I had heard this story many times before, but everytime she told I would hold my breath as if hearing it for the first time.

“That day it rained,” she said with a long face, glancing over at me. “Sure enough, daddy came to pick me up—driving Barney, the old horse.”

“Oh Grandma!”  I said, realizing her humiliation, “Why didn’t he drive the new car?”

“Because all we had were dirt roads. He didn’t want to get stuck in the mud with our new car.”

Josephine with her favorite cat, Weenie

Josephine with her favorite cat, Weenie

*Special thanks to Aunt Esther Uramkin, who loaned me a little booklet that grandma filled out for her.  That is where I gathered many of the background facts for this post.

Related Links:

The Story of Josephine’s Birth

The Faith of Eda Stek  (Eda was Josephine’s aunt, the sister of Jennie VanSant.)

A blog post I wrote about Oskaloosa, Iowa 

Another blog post of memories about my grandparents


Age 9 Diary

Introduction:  This diary has survived numerous moves and somehow still remains with me.  I didn’t post all of it.  Many entries were “We went to church” on Sundays, and “We watched Chips” on Saturdays.  A few names were purposely omitted. All spelling/grammar/punctuation errors are left intact for your reading pleasure.


Diary cover 1980

Diary cover 1980

Inside front cover:  From Aunt Esther, Christmas — 1979  I am 8 years old!!! and turning 9!!!

Tues. Jan. 1, 1980 Today we went to church, to start the year in God’s house.  The __family came to have dinner with us.  I showed them my Lay ‘N Egg game, my painting, my Fashion Plates.  We went to the farm and cut wood.  Tonight we are going to my grandma’s.  She will make Oleycooten.

Wed. Jan. 2  Today I had piano lessons.  There has been no school for 2 weeks.  For christmas I got a new bike, a purse, nail polish, nail remover and perfume.  I also got a comb, three necklaces, Fashion Plates and an Lay an egg game.  I also got this diary.  We have a dog his name is Spottie.  We threw are cat in the barn.

Thurs. Jan. 3 Today me and my brother went to the farm.  I played the piano in the house (Not in the barn) I called my friend Brenda on the phone.  Tonight we watched the Waltons.

Sat. Jan. 5  Today I went to my friends house.  Me and Sara went to the farm too play.  This morning me and mom changed my room around.  January 7 school starts again and we have to write EVERY SINGLE WORD in cursive!  YUCK!

Wed. Jan 9 1980 Today I went to school.  We had art.  Tonight Dad will finish paneling my room.  I found out I will have purple carpet.  It was Mom and Dad’s Aniversary.  I had piano lessons And it was hot lunch

Wed. Jan 16 1980 Today it was hot lunch at school.  I had piano lessons.  Susie S. called me up and told me a bunch of jokes.

Thus Jan. 17 Today I had school.  Tonight we watched the Waltons.  Fred went to Awana.

Friday Jan 18  Today I went to school Sara D.B. came over to play.

Sat. Jan 19  Today there was NO school.  I went to the farm with Dad.  Grandma, Grandpa and me went for a walk all the way to Nichoulse road.  I got new overalls.  Tonight we watched Chips.

Tues Jan 22 Today I went to school. (as usual.) I went to Kim’s house and played soccar.  She showed me her Barbie perfume maker.

Wed. Jan 23 Today I went to school. (as usual.)  In school it was hot lunch.  I had piano lessons.  Me and Fred hauled in wood. (we always have to. yuck.)  At hot lunch Mom came to my room.

Thurs. Jan 24 Today I went to school (as usual). I made cupcakes.  Mom went to the Gospel mission. Fred went to Awana.  Tonight we whatched the Waltons.

Friday Jan 25  Today I went to school (as usual) It was Dad’s birthday.  Tonight we went to Upper Crust pizza and the walked around in the mall.

Mon. Jan 28 Today I didn’t go to school because I got sick.  Tonight I watched Little house on the Prarie.

Sat. Feb. 2 This morning we whatched cartoons and I sorted out lids.  This afternoon Joel V.D. came over.  Tonight we watched Chips.

Wed. Feb. 6 Today I went to school.  It was hot lunch and Sara came over and we biult a fort in the snow.

Fri. Feb. 8 Today I went to school (yuck.)  Well tonight at school there was a play at school called the Electric sunshine man.  boy I wonder how they can memorize all those parts.

Sat Feb 9 Today there wasn’t any school (yeah) Fred, Randy and Dad went to a harvestore free dinner.  Grandma B. came over and gave me a perminent.  When dad and Fred came home, they were drawin names and we got the grand prize a harvestore picnic basket.

Sun. Feb. 10  Today we went too church.  After Church, we went to Aunt Lena’s and then too Grandma’s house for dinner.  Tonight Aunt Nellie came over.

Mon. Feb 11  today I went to school (of course) After school I went to Sara’s house and we went sking.  Tonight we had a baby sitter.

Thurs Feb 14  Today was valentines day.  I passed out my valentine cards.  Fred went to Awana And we watched the Waltons.

Friday Feb. 15  Today I went to school (of course.)  Tonight Aunt Grace, Uncle Berney, and Betty and Andy came over.  We smoked candy ciggars.


Original diary page

Original diary page. Apparently at some point I went through and put blue bingo stamps on every page.

Med May 14 Yesterday there was a tornado.  School is closed because of it.  Boy we’re lucky it didn’t catch us!

Sun. April 19, 1981 Sorry I haven’t written to you for about a year.  Well, I’m 9 years old and going on ten.  In March I performed a program at Miller Auditorium.  It was exciting.  There were about 60 other kids in it.  It took hard practicing.  Today is Easter.  We went to church.  The Senior Choir was pretty it sang with the trumpets, organ and piano.  Tonight our Senior Choir will sing with the Third Chirstian Reformed Church.  This year we have a Junior Choir.  I’m in it.  (I love to sing).  I’m als in Calvinettes, next Sunday is Calvinette Sunday.  I am still taking piano lessons.  I have been going to ROCK CLUB.  Miss Vandyk is my teacher.  I like her.  Next year she’s going to England.  We have a new car.  Kathy’s getting big.  We are having Spring vacation this week yahoo.  My boyfriend is _____________

Mon. April 20, 1981  Today is the first day of SPRING VACATION!  Aunt Esther babysat while Mom went to work for ________ at Friendship Village.  My boyfriend is_________but he doesn’t know it.  Tonight I’m going to Sue’s house to spend the night then tomorrow she will come to my house and go to the church skating party!

(From that point on, the diary is blank.)


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