The last farm on the trek home from school was the Bernier farm, purchased or rented by the Powers. Alan and Frieda did not have any children that I remember, but took that Tom Wills boy in. Both the Powers are buried in the Dickson cemetery at the top of Lynxville Hill. Their tombstones state Allan Powers (1905-1989) and Freda (1911-?)
Once we passed the Bernier farm, we were on the edge of the Scheckel property. We walked the long slope to the bench where stood the lone oak tree and a view of the back of our barns and granary and up the final small slope to the farmstead. We were home.
When I was seven or eight years old, to walk that mile seemed like an eternity. Once home it was time to change into farm clothes, Take off the school clothes, hang them on a clothes tree, put on the older blue jeans and shirt, then fix a slice of bread with jelly and peanut butter, have a glass of milk, and then out to do the chores.
It was the Kozelka kids that we walked with most of the way to school and back. Gloria Kozelka was called “morning glory” after the obnoxious weeds that grew in the cornfields and wrapped around the cornstalks. Morning glories had beautiful flowers that closed up at night and opened in the morning sunlight. Numerous times Phillip, Bob and I were sent to the cornfields to pull the morning glories up by the roots.
There was no known relationship between Gloria and morning glories. We just couldn’t come up with a better name. It seemed like we all had nicknames for each other. One of the boys we called “squeak”, which he resented big time. When you’re a kid, you tend not to think how cruel a nickname can be. We also knew nothing of political, ethnic or religious correctness. That would come much later in life.
We called Nancy Kozelka “Nancy Goat”, a really bad play on “nanny goat”. She was tall and athletic. Calling her “Nancy Goat” would invoke her wrath. Nancy was pleasant most of the time, but she had a quick temper. Oh, could she ever hit a softball! When we chose teams for noontime Oak Grove School softball, Nancy was always the first girl chosen, and many times ahead of a good many of the boys.
Jimmy Kozelka was a neat kid, but a little rough around the edges. He was small in stature, but a gutsy lad. Jimmy would eat dirt on a dare or swallow a worm if asked. If young Jimmy didn’t want to do something, the teacher permitted him to sit out on the front steps of the school. Jimmie’s siblings allowed that teacher was “spoiling him”.
Ruth Ann Kozelka got influenza meningitis in third grade and missed most of the school year. She was held back a year, so she could catch up. We were walking home from school when we heard that Ruth Ann was to repeat third grade. Some of us teased or taunted her about “being dumb” or some such name. It is one of my behaviors that I have regretted to this day.
Gary Kozelka was much like his brother, but always had a smile. Good natured, pliable and pleasant. Nothing seemed to bother him. Gary enlisted in the Navy and had top-secret clearance to work at Camp David.
These are the kids we walked with to and from school. Gloria, Nancy, Jimmy, Ruth Ann, Gary and David Kozelka, the Scheckel kids, five or six of us at any one time, and Tom Wills, the import and reject from Madison. The Kozelka’s had younger kids; Kathy, Susie, Lizzie and Mary, that came later. By the time the younger ones started grade school, I was in high school.
The Kozelkas had a big brown lab dog that answered to Curly. In his prime, Curly walked to and from school each day. Curly hung out around the school building, and truly earned his keep by chasing after and retrieving the softball that was hit over the fence and into the woods.
Curly wore out his welcome when he ate the eggs set out for the Easter Egg hunt. Curly had his fill of eggs, but we kids had our fill of Curly. He was literally in the dog house from then on!
I look back with great fondness on the Kozelka family. They were a large Catholic farm family like our own Scheckel family. Neither family had television. The Scheckel boys walked up the hill to watch television with the Fradette kids some Sunday nights, and the Kozelka brood walked over to the Ingham farm to watch the Wide World of Disney.