We are up to X on the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge. I continue my trek through streets in my life. I admit that I had to cheat for this letter. I have never lived on a street or in a place or even visited one that started with an X. I did live for three years in eXcelsior Springs, Missouri though. Today I will remember my time there. By happy coincidence, the theme for Sepia Saturday #149 is healing waters, which is what eXcelsior Springs was once famous for. It is still home to the longest water bar in the world.
In the fall of 1983 we moved to Excelsior Springs, Missouri from St. John Road, rural Mississippi. My husband Jim had heard from a friend about an opening at a new Job Corps Center opening in eXcelsior Springs. He had several siblings in nearby Kansas City and even more relatives in St. Louis, 4 hours away. He was hired as weekend residential supervisor and began work during the summer of 1983. Several more months passed before he found a house for us to move into. It was on the side of one of the many hills that made up the town and in the towns very small black community. Down the street was the empty former black school from back when schools were segregated in Missouri. There was no segregation in 1983.
The population of eXcelsior Springs was 10,000. Our house was within walking distance of the children’s schools, my husband’s job and downtown. Unfortunately downtown was moving store by store out to the edge of town to a strip mall across from the new Walmart store, which was not within walking distance. Still, there was a department store, a small grocery store, a drugstore and a florist that we could walk to. Our only transportation, aside from our feet, was a pickup truck with a camper on it and a stick shift that we drove from Mississippi. Later my brother-in-law left us his Rabbit while he was overseas in the service. There was also a van that fell to pieces almost as soon as we bought it, very cheaply I must say.
Living on the side of a hill gave us a great view of the trees and houses during the changing seasons. In the winter, though, the roads were snowy and icy. I had learned to drive in the south and was not used to winter driving. When the first heavy snow fell, I went out in the yard with the kids and played in it. We couldn’t understand why none of the neighbors were out there. After several more years, snow didn’t seem so glorious. Still nice though.
I had learned to make soft sculptured dolls that were called “Adoption Dolls” in Mississippi. When these type of dolls began to be mass produced they became the “Cabbage Patch Dolls.” The original dolls were 36 inches tall but I made a smaller pattern that turned out to be the same size as the “Cabbage Patch Dolls”. I also designed a small, 6 inch doll, that I soft sculptured using the same technique. This was very lucky because Christmas of 1983 was the year that there were not enough of the manufactured dolls to go around. I sold dolls through several gift stores both in eXcelsior Springs and in Kansas City. I sold to individuals too. I was sewing dolls day and night. There were boxes of doll heads and arms and legs in the living room. The children helped stuff parts. My husband helped stuff. A sister-in-law came and helped stuff. I put an ad in the local paper and more people came to me through that. There were so many orders I was up all night Christmas eve finishing up my own children’s dolls. The money came in very handy to winterize our wardrobes – “Moon” boots, winter coats, scarves, cloves – we needed all of that.
The three oldest had jobs. Jilo baby sat the neighbor’s kids after school until their mother got home from work. Ife and Ayanna had paper routes. I still remember the icy time when I helped Ife deliver her papers and we were practically crawling down the icy slope to the house when a boy came up and offered to take it and just hopped down there like a young mountain goat. I remember the food co-op I belonged to and selling dolls at the Fishing River Festival. I remember the wonderful Community Theater. Jilo and Ife were both in several of their productions. I remember walking to the evening elementary school Christmas Program with my kids and the neighbor kids. Jim was working 40 hours weekends so he missed it. The audience sang Christmas carols at the end and we walked home in the dark. I remember walking for exercise on the path down by the Fishing River, sometimes with my friend Roberta. I remember our first Christmas when we waited until Christmas Eve to buy our tree and there were no trees to be had. I remember usually having several extra kids at the house and discovering “Prairie Home Companion” and Mercedes Sosa on NPR. I remember James imaginary friends “Nice” Tommy and “Mean” Tommy, “Nice” Helmut and “Mean” Helmut and Ayanna’s town of Zamziwillie. I remember Ayanna losing one of her boots on the way home from school. The kids were sicker in this town than anywhere else we lived. Tulani had pneumonia, Ayanna had vomiting that wouldn’t stop, there were warts and ear aches. Doctors and hospitals. One thing I don’t remember is the taste of the various waters from the healing springs because I never drank any. What a wasted opportunity.