Selected Stories from
The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration 2012/2013
— Stories dated 1950–1966 —

1.
The Basketball Hoop

Oran, Missouri, USA; c. 1950

If you want to play basketball, you have to practice constantly, and you have to have a basketball hoop. When my grandpa was in grade school, he wanted a basketball hoop. He could not go buy one at the store, so Grandpa decided to make his own hoop. My grandpa knew he could make a backboard and a rim for the basketball hoop, but was not sure how to construct a pole to hold it up.

The next day at school, Grandpa thought and thought, but he could not come up with a solution until he told his friend. My grandpa’s friend had a good idea. He said, “I tell you what. Come over to my farm on Saturday, and we’ll cut down a tree to make a pole.”The Basketball Hoop illustrated by April Turner: A pole made from a tree trunk and a handmade backboard.

On Saturday, Grandpa went to his friend’s farm. The farm was big, with wide farmland and deep woods. My grandpa and his friend searched the woods for the perfect tree. There were many trees, but none of them were good for a basketball pole. They kept looking at trees of all different sizes — big ones and short ones — until they found the perfect tree.

Grandpa and his friend got a handsaw and sawed it down. It took a long time to saw it, but it worked! They picked up the tree and carried it a long way out of the woods. When Grandpa and his friend finally left the woods, they put the perfect tree in a carriage, and a horse pulled it to Grandpa’s house. Grandpa’s friend charged him only three dollars for the pole. My grandpa was really excited when he got the tree to use for the pole of the basketball hoop.

The very next day, Grandpa was going to finally put up the hoop. Grandpa cut out a square piece of wood for the backboard and painted lines on it. He used a round piece of metal for the rim and some netting for the net. My grandpa had his dad help him put up the pole and connect the backboard to it.

The basketball hoop was finally finished! My grandpa got out his basketball and took a shot. He missed, but that’s what practice is for, isn’t it?

Zach Stehr; Missouri, USA

Illustrator: April Turner, Missouri, USA

 

2.
Mr. Camper’s “Secret” Candy Bars

Toledo, Ohio, USA; c. 1950

I spoke to my grandma and asked if she had any stories to share. She has three sisters, and her mother lived to be ninety-eight, so I was excited to hear some of her history. She told me a wonderful story about a kind man who lived in their neighborhood. It is a heartwarming story, and I could see much emotion in my grandma as she told me about Mr. Camper.

It was 1950, and my grandma was seven years old. She lived in a small, friendly neighborhood. There was a generous man on her block named Mr. Camper. He wore overalls, was round and huggable, and had gray hair and a laugh that was full of life. He didn’t have any grandchildren, but the children in the neighborhood saw him as a grandpa and respected him and Mrs. Camper. They would share their large garden with the neighbors, and whenever the circus was in town, he would take the neighborhood children. Everyone loved Mr. Camper, but he had a special place in his heart for children.

One day when my grandma was in Mr. Camper’s garage, he asked her what was her favorite candy bar. She said it was a Baby Ruth. He told her whenever she wanted a Baby Ruth, she could open up the second drawer in his file cabinet and there would be one waiting for her. He told her to keep it a secret. She nodded her head.

The next day, after playing, my grandma snuck into Mr. Camper’s wooden tool garage. She had to jerk open the second drawer of the rusty metal file cabinet, because it was old. Sure enough, there was a large Baby Ruth on top of some old magazines. (In 1950, large candy bars cost five cents.) She went behind his bushes to eat the candy bar, then quickly shoved the wrapper into her pocket. For years my grandma went to the garage after school and on Saturday mornings after working around the house. No one knew their secret, and she loved the special treat that was just for her.

Many years later, her older sister told her she was getting a Clark bar from Mr. Camper. Her secret spot was behind some rags in his garage. There were several other children getting candy bars from him, too. As my grandma grew up, she naturally stopped going to get her Baby Ruth. Recently my grandma asked her two younger sisters about Mr. Camper. To her surprise, they both said he had given them candy bars, too.

As an adult, my grandma remembers Mr. Camper’s kitchen window facing the garage. It must have been a joy to watch the kids come and go to get their candy bars. My grandma will always remember generous, kind, loving Mr. Camper and their secret.

Jala Ehrenfried; Ohio, USA

 

3.
Blizzard Sunday

near Marquette, Kansas, USA; 1952

Saturday night was bath night. That’s the way it was for my grandpa when he was a boy. Growing up on a farm meant you worked hard — not just doing chores, but for the little things like bathwater. You didn’t turn on the faucet. There wasn’t a hot or cold knob. There was no running water. My grandpa pumped his own bathwater from an outdoor cistern, which is kind of like a modern-day well. He would bring in buckets of water for my great-grandmother to heat on the stove. The bathtub was in the living room. It wasn’t like the ones we have today. It was a large steel tub. Grandpa was lucky if he got to take his bath first. They didn’t have the luxury of changing the water between baths. Everyone shared! Bath night meant that Sunday was coming and it was time for church.

Grandpa woke to a frigid and blustery Sunday morning in the winter of 1952. It would have been nice to stay cuddled in a warm, cozy bed, but it was Sunday and time for church. But first my grandpa had to do his chores, which meant going out in the cold. Living on a farm was hard work. You had to milk the cows and feed the livestock — all before the sun came up. But once he finished his chores, he could go to church!

It took a long time to get to church — longer than most Sunday mornings because of the snow. There was so much snow it was hard to see the church. Grandpa’s church was a one-room white building that looked like a barn, and it blended in with the falling snow. If there were tracks in the snow, you couldn’t see them. The church was on a hill, and it had snowed so much Great-Grandpa had to park the car at the bottom of the hill, and the family walked the rest of the way. That didn’t bother my grandpa. He was excited about the bell. Church had a bell tower, and every Sunday when the children arrived, they took turns ringing the bell. It was such a big bell that when you rang it and hung on to the rope, your feet would be lifted right off the floor.

There was an unwritten rule that the first people to arrive built the fire in the wood-burning stove to heat the church. Dry matches, tinder, and wood were always waiting, so Great-Grandpa started the fire that morning. Slowly the church warmed, but nobody filled the pews. Only my grandpa and his family sat faithfully waiting for service to begin. Not another family joined them that snowy morning. A faithful servant to the end, my great-grandpa put out the fire in the stove and slowly drove his family back to the farm during the blizzard of 1952.

Benjamin M. Brock; Colorado, USA

 

4.
Tump and the Monster of Summer

Trussville, Alabama, USA; 1952

His real name was Rupert, but everyone just called him Tump. He had raven hair and green eyes that were like fresh grass. My grandfather was best friends with him when they were in the fourth grade. Tump was nice, polite, wouldn’t hurt anybody’s feelings, and always said clever things that made people laugh. He was very popular, smart, and extremely fast. Someone once said that he was as fast as a champion racehorse running downhill.

Now there was a terrible monster in those days. My grandfather called this monster “The Polio.” He said nobody was safe from The Polio. Even the president of the United States was attacked by this monster and left crippled. But most often, The Polio would attack young boys. Grandfather remembered that as a boy he couldn’t see or hear this monster, but he knew it was there. The Polio was actually a tiny germ that destroyed the muscles in your arms, legs, or sometimes both. It was horrible if it got in your chest muscles, because that meant that you would have to be put in an iron lung, a machine that breathed for you. People who had to get in an iron lung would usually have to stay in one their whole life.

In 1952 The Polio was worse than ever. Everyone’s parents kept their children inside and would not let them go outside or even play with friends the whole summer. There were no parties, sports, or even sleepovers. Still, almost 58,000 people in the United States were caught by The Polio that summer — and Tump was one of them. When my grandfather returned to school, Tump wasn’t there.

Months passed, and finally Tump came to school in his father’s arms. My grandfather said that he looked like a puppet without strings, and he could hardly speak or even move. There was no football, soccer, running — or any sports — for Tump. The fastest kid in school would never run again.

As horrible as it was, it was the beginning of the end for polio. My grandfather said that not a single kid in school got it the next year, and soon doctors had a vaccine that defeated The Polio forever. Tump completed school and became a skilled artist, but the best thing was that he never lost his ability to say clever things that made people laugh.

Drennen Weems; Alabama, USA

 

5.
Spudnut Saturday

Tampa, Florida, USA; c. 1954

Back then, in 1954, everything was good in Tampa, Florida. Gas was 20 cents per gallon. Candy bars and Coca-Cola were 5 cents, and cars were 1,500 dollars. Everybody wanted that kind of stuff. Everybody had a job, too. You either worked with your parents or in the yard, or did chores. TV didn’t even come on till 4:00 p.m. It was always funny, too — no murder shows or survival shows, not to mention it was in black and white. That’s when a well-known paperboy got an idea.

Every Saturday was payday for the little paper-route boy, who was only around ten years old at the time. He rode around on his Schwinn bike, and threw one of his forty to forty-five customers a newspaper. The lady caught him. At first he thought that she was going to yell at him because he had thrown the paper at her bushes, but instead she asked the boy to go buy her a Spudnut if she gave him some money. A Spudnut is like a doughnut, but it’s made out of potatoes. So he thought, “Why not?” When he came back from the local corner store called “Mom-and-Pop,” she gave him a quarter.

Spudnut Saturday illustrated by Steven Griggs: paper boy selling Spudnut donuts to woman, man on park bench eating Spudnut and reading newspaperBack then, a quarter would be like 2 dollars now. The Spudnuts didn’t cost that much. That’s when the little paperboy got an idea: If he sold Spudnuts on every Saturday morning, he’d have a fortune. So he did. He wasn’t afraid to ask anybody anything. So when he went to deliver his paper to his customers and asked if they wanted any Spudnuts, most of them said yes. So every Saturday morning he’d go to the corner store, buy some Spudnuts by the dozen, and sell them to his customers. He made about 10 dollars a week and was known as the kid with all the money.

His brothers were jealous of him because he had all the money. So when they wanted something, they went to him. The little salesman still works as a salesman at a local car dealership today. That’s the story of how my grandpa sold Spudnuts to make money.

Audrey Herman; Ohio, USA

Illustrator: Steven Griggs, Missouri, USA

 

6.
The Police Circus

St. Louis, Missouri, USA; c. 1957

It all started when a friend of my great-grandpa’s invented trampolines. My grandma had the first trampoline in the St. Louis area. She exploded with excitement and happiness. All of the neighborhood kids would line up to get their turns on the trampoline. Even my great-grandma would jump on the trampoline in the backyard. My grandma and her brothers and sisters played on the trampoline every day after school.

My great-grandpa was a lieutenant in the St. Louis Police Department. He and some fellow officers were asked to serve on the Police Circus Board of Directors. Several weeks before the circus was to start, my great-grandpa found out that one of the acts had to cancel. He tried really hard to find another act to fill in, but he was unable to find one. He asked my grandma and her oldest sister to take the place of the trampolinist. My grandma and her oldest sister trained at the police station every day after school for hours at a time.

A few months later, my grandma arrived at the circus, which was held at the St. Louis Arena. Because she was still in high school, Grandma had to take a break to perform. She was shocked when she saw that she got her own dressing room! My great-grandma could not afford to buy costumes, so she sewed sequins to swimsuits instead. My grandma talked to the world-famous Flying Wallendas and many other circus acts during her time with the circus.

My grandma and her sister put on a great show. After the show, they got to go on the trapeze and ride camels. Their act was so successful that they were asked to perform in the circus for three more years. They were also rewarded with two more trampolines to keep.The Police Circus illustrated by Katy Montgomery: trampolinists perform on the street outside of a chidlren's hospital.

After performing in the police circus, Grandma also had many public appearances at children’s hospitals. Grandma even had to perform on the busy street of Kingshighway while sick children watched from their windows. She and her sister also taught trampoline at summer camp for several years.

My grandma is an amazing lady and has such great stories to tell. Her circus stories are my favorites. It’s amazing that she did all of this at such a young age. My grandma and two of her sisters still have the trampolines from the police circus, and I have jumped on them myself. My grandma hasn’t jumped in years, but she still insists she can do the tricks.

Sean Britt; Missouri, USA

Illustrator: Katy Montgomery, Missouri, USA

 

7.
Way Too Close

Guangzhou, China; c. 1960s

It was a normal summer’s day in Guangzhou — the sun beating down on the city like a photon sledgehammer; the buses and cars screeching, honking; and the drivers raging. Little did my grandma know that my uncle would nearly perform the most disgusting act of his life: eating poo.

Grandma was in the kitchen, steaming bok choy and preparing dinner. Uncle Cong was in his baby crib, playing with rattles and other irritatingly noisy baby toys. He also had a diaper on — not some fancy diaper made of the strongest cloth available, but a Chinese diaper, made out of paper. Paper. It was because Grandma, at the time, was in the “upper lower class.” She used to have lots of money from making good investments, but then came the Communist Party, and then some corrupt dictator caused massive inflation by telling the Chinese mint to go crazy printing cash. Anyway, those diapers were incredibly thin, and just about anything could penetrate them, especially what the diaper was meant to hold in. *HINT*

Meanwhile, while Grandma was cooking, Uncle Cong plopped out a piece of poop. It tore through the diaper like a bullet through paper. Then he laughed. He reached out a hand to grab the poo. Then he started moving it toward his mouth. That was when Grandma turned around to see what he was laughing at. As soon as she saw the brown in the crib and the brown in his hands, she screamed, “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” Well, in Chinese, of course. She ran as fast as her legs could carry her, and when she reached the crib, she snatched up Uncle Cong, jostling the poop out of his hands right before he could eat it. Quickly turning on the water, she threw him into the bath to scrub him clean for the next fifteen minutes. Then she went back to cooking, after washing her own hands clean.

It was then that Grandpa came home from his daily jog. “Anything exciting happen?” he questioned.

“Nope,” Grandma replied.

Nathan He; New Jersey, USA

 

8.
Apartheid

Cape Town, South Africa; 1962

Apartheid* — a policy enforced by the South African government separating whites from darker-skinned citizens. It was a word I had heard my grandpa Herzl say, but I never understood the full depth of it until he told me his story.

In 1962 Herzl was student-body president of the University of Cape Town in South Africa. The one big problem student-body presidents faced was apartheid.

Because the university had a lot of white and “Coloured”** students, Herzl had said, “My goal as student-body president is to see that all students be treated equal. Not to be excluded because they look different.” And that was how things happened at the University of Cape Town. Herzl shut down white-only student organizations and societies. He did this so no nonwhite students were excluded. He did many things; this was just one attempt at racial equality.

In another major attempt, Herzl sent out invitations to every student leader and hundreds of students from all over Cape Town, asking them to join him in a protest against apartheid and the South African government. The day arrived, and not one person did not show. There were hundreds of students from all over with the same goal of racial equality. Herzl got up in front of these hundreds and said, “I am glad you all could join me today; we are going to execute a legal protest. I expect that all of you are aware of the law that no whites and darker-skinned citizens are allowed to have social interactions within ten yards of each other. We are going to protest against that law. You have all been given torches; once we step outside, you will all light your torches. One person will walk exactly ten yards off campus, then stop. The next person of opposite race will walk ten yards past him and stop. This will continue to happen until we have a line of torches going a few miles into downtown.”

They stepped outside, and as leader, Herzl went first. He lit his torch, walked ten yards, then stopped. Then the second person did the same. But before the third person could do the same, they heard WE-WOO-WE-WOO. “We are the police. Nobody else is to cross that gate.” And a cop came and cuffed the gate closed. “Hand the torches to me!” yelled a cop.

“Nothing we are doing is illegal!” a student shouted back.

Hours went by, but they held their ground. When the clock struck 1:00 a.m., four hours into their protest, a policeman came up, gun raised, and took the torches and yelled, “Go home, kids. You lost.”

And that’s what they thought — they had lost. But later that night, while Herzl was in bed listening to the news on the radio, he heard, “Earlier tonight a student protest was illegally stopped. Were the police breaking the law?” And they had won.

* Apartheid (pronounced uh-PART-hite or uh-PART-hate) involved many kinds of discrimination against nonwhites.

** In South Africa, Coloured refers to people of mixed-race descent and does not suggest disrespect, as colored does in many other parts of the world.

David Friedman; Colorado, USA

 

9.
The Wolbach Whale

Wolbach, Nebraska, USA; 1966

It is 65 feet long, weighs 70,000 pounds, and is 112 inches in diameter. It came into town on two flat railroad cars. It took two days, half a dozen men, several tractors, and some large jacks to move it onto the cement cradle. It was on October 19, 1959, that my great-grandpa Vic Grossart installed a 30,000-gallon propane tank in Wolbach, Nebraska. Because it is as heavy and as huge as a whale, everybody thought it was permanent, stationary, and unmovable.

But six years later, on August 12, 1966, Wolbach got a major blow from Mother Nature. Wolbach received a downpour of rain, resulting in a flash flood.

When the storm hit, Great-Grandpa Vic and his family were on vacation in Silver Dollar City in Missouri. As they were all having fun, Vic happened to watch the television news. He was amazed to hear that Greeley County in Nebraska had received seventeen inches of rain.

After hearing the weather report, they had to hurry up and get back to Wolbach to see what damage had been done. When they reached the tank, they discovered that the water had pushed the tank up onto a bank along the creek, south of Wolbach. The tank had 9,000 gallons of propane in it when the flash flood of water had come through and picked it up. It broke all the lines, and all of the gallons of propane had leaked out. That huge, heavy, permanent, stationary tank had moved!

As the tank had been rushing down the flooded creek, several people had seen it and later said, “It sounded like a whale!” It sounded like a whale, because when it was going down the river, it was turning and rolling. Every time the propane leak was on the top side, it sounded like water coming out of a whale’s blowhole, and when the leak was pulled under the water, it sounded like a whale was blowing gigantic bubbles in water.

A few days later, my grandpa Steve, being only fourteen years old, had to go to the propane tank, open the manhole, and climb down into the tank and clean it out. He had to haul mud and water out, one bucketful at a time. Then when he finally got it cleaned out, they had to figure out how to get the tank back to its original spot. They finally had to build a road over the train track, and then they had to have a company out of Omaha come and haul the whale of a tank back.

Finally, after doing all of that, it was back to its original place. The tank is still in use today. My family uses it in our propane business. We fill our two trucks with propane from the huge tank and then deliver it to customers’ homes and businesses.

Now our area is suffering from a huge drought, but at least we don’t have to worry about our “whale” swimming away in a flood.

Cade Grossart; Nebraska, USA

 

Read additional stories from the 2012/2013 celebration:

Sneak a peek at Grannie Annie, Vol. 8

 

 

Grannie Annie, Vol. 8: Historical Family Stories Written and Illustrated by Young People
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Vol. 8

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The Police Circus illustrated by Katy Montgomery: trampolinists perform on the street outside of a chidlren's hospital.
Scroll down for "Police Circus,"
written by Sean Britt and
illustrated by Katy Montgomery.

 

Notes:

Individual authors
retain the copyrights to
their works, which are
published here with
permission.

The setting of each story is
noted below its title. In
cases where the exact year
is not known, “c.” (circa)
indicates that the year given
is approximate.

 

Return to main Vol. 8
Stories page

 

Stories on this page:

1. The Basketball Hoop
(c. 1950)
Zach Stehr
Missouri, USA

2. Mr. Camper’s
“Secret” Candy Bars
(c. 1950)
Jala Ehrenfried
Ohio, USA

3. Blizzard Sunday
(1952)
Benjamin M. Brock
Colorado, USA

4. Tump and the
Monster of Summer
(1952)
Drennen Weems
Alabama, USA

5. Spudnut Saturday
(c. 1954)
Audrey Herman
Ohio, USA

6. The Police Circus
(c. 1957)
Sean Britt
Missouri, USA

7. Way Too Close
(c. 1960s)
Nathan He
New Jersey, USA

8. Apartheid (1962)
David Friedman
Colorado, USA

9. The Wolbach Whale
(1966)
Cade Grossart
Nebraska, USA

 

Click here to read additional
stories from the 2012/2013
celebration as well as stories
from previous years.

Looking for stories on a
particular topic or theme?
Consult our Index of
Stories
. (This year's stories
will be added to the
index in the summer.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


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