Happy Birthday Mom…Remembering the Small Things

My mom, Bonnie Lee Schwegler Lane would have been ninety-one today. Like most moms, she had a tremendous impact on my life. But it is the little things I remember most about her.

Schwegler, Bonnie (l) Betty (r), 1943

Mom, left, and her twin sister Betty about 1943.

I get my love of reading from her. When I was four or five she would read stories from our beautifully illustrated book Grimms Fairy Tales. Today the stories are considered too graphic for young children but I loved them. I remember the story Snow-White and Rose-Red, two sisters living in the woods with their widowed mother. One winter night they let a bear come into their house. Night after night the bear comes and stays overnight until spring when he says he has to go away to guard his treasure against a wicked dwarf. That summer the girls encounter the dwarf who is always in trouble and each time they rescue him from his travails. And each time the dwarf is ungrateful for their help. Then one day they come upon the bear who is about to kill the dwarf. The dwarf pleads for his life to no avail. The dwarf is killed and the bear turns into a handsome prince. The dwarf had put a spell on the bear when he stole some of the princes’ jewels. Snow-White marries the prince and Rose-Red marries the brother of the prince.

While the details of the story are fuzzy in my mind, I remember curling up on the bed with my mom in the middle and my brother on the other side of her. Despite the hard work she did, she had beautiful nails. I would run my little finger over her nail, back and forth, feeling the beautiful oval. Not too far into the story, my brother would squirm, being too young to appreciate the beautiful story unfolding before us. It would take several days to finish the book. She read many books to us, curled up in that bed, over the next several years. These are memories I cherish.

Mom died at the age of seventy-five leaving many moments in time for me and my brothers to remember.

Happy Birthday Bonnie Lane

Today would have been my mother’s eighty-ninth birthday. She broke my heart when she left me on that twenty-ninth day of June in 2002.

Schwegler, Bonnie Keep

Mom and her String of Fish

My mom was a little, spunky woman who could cuss like a sailor. I suppose that is because she had nine brothers. One summer weekend when I was about ten or eleven, my brother Bill and I were fishing with my mom at my grandfather’s clubhouse on the Gasconade River. Bill and I were standing on the bank fishing with our poles and bobbers. Mom was sitting in the Jon boat fishing with a rod, reel, and sinkers; no bobber for her. When we fished with mom and dad, they spent a lot of time putting worms on our hooks and getting our lines untangled. How they had the patience I’ll never know.

Mom was a good fisherman. I’ll never forget the day when she caught a fish and was reeling it in. Suddenly she stood up and started hitting at something with her rod. She was cussing a blue streak the whole time saying, “You S.O.B., you’re not getting my fish.” (S.O.B. is the abbreviated version of what she really said.) At least I think that’s what she said. I was too shocked to really take in all of what she was saying because, to my horror, I saw the head of a water moccasin raising itself up out of the water coming after the fish on the end of her line. Its mouth was wide open so I could see the white lining of its mouth. That little lady stood her ground and beat the snake back and successfully pulled the fish into the boat.

I guess S.O.B. was one of her favorite words. I surmise that because when I was five years old we were driving to visit my grandmother and grandfather. I was sitting in the back seat between my mom and dad talking to them when a large truck came along side of us, which scared the life out of me. My reaction was to blurt out, “You S.O.B.” My mother turned to me and said, “What did you say?” I repeated my salty words. I learned that day that I was to do as my mother said, not as she did.

Lane, Bonnie Keep

Mom was tough as nails. She made us play outside in all weather but rain. She was a stern disciplinarian. But I never felt she was unfair in her discipline. She wasn’t one for church, but encouraged us to go to church with friends if they asked. She had a spiritual side; she introduced me to the writings of Norman Vincent Peale. She was my mother, but managed to parent while being my friend. We didn’t have much money, but she made sure we had what we needed. And she always, always put us kids before herself.

Happy Birthday Mom!

The Other Side of the Family…Bonnie Lee Schwegler

Bonnie Lee Schwegler was born on March 25, 1927 in Argyle, Maries County, Missouri. She was born first, followed by her fraternal twin Betty. Their birth certificate says they were born on March 26th but the record was not filed by the doctor until almost a month later. All of their other records show their birth on March 25th so that’s the date I am using.

     Bonnie Schwegler             School Picture

Bonnie Schwegler School Picture

Both girls were born into a blended family of nine. Their mother Stella Burt married Harrison Wright Schwegler in 1923. At the time of their marriage Stella had one child. Harrison, who went by Wright, had six children by his first wife, who died in early 1923. By the time the 1930 census was taken, the family was in St. Louis. After the birth of the twins, four more children would follow.

Much of the information about Bonnie’s childhood is from an interview conducted in 1991 by Brian, her grandson. Bonnie remembered living in a large house in the city of St. Louis. The house had twelve rooms and belonged to a wealthy family that rented it out for thirty dollars a month. This was the beginning of the depression so I’m sure the family was happy to have a house that had running water, electricity and a coal burning furnace. Bonnie remembered a huge front staircase, a walk-in pantry, and maid’s quarters. The girls had their own beds and the boys slept in bunk beds. Later the family moved to Pinelawn in St. Louis County. By the time the family purchased a home on Manola Avenue, most of the older children were married and in their own homes. This is the house I remember from my childhood.

Every summer Wright and Stella traveled back to Vienna, Missouri where many of their extended family lived. They would butcher two hogs and buy vegetables. They picked blackberries, apples, and pears. I can imagine how hot they were and how their hands and arms were covered with scratches from the blackberry bushes. Stella canned five hundred gallons of vegetables and fruit every summer. The family purchased flour and other staples from a store in the city. From this they would make their bread and biscuits. The girls did most of the housework and helped tend the babies when Stella was unable.

The family attended the Baptist Church. Each of the children had one good outfit, and one for every-day wear. At Christmas time, the married children came home for a big family dinner. At Easter time, the younger children received baskets. The baskets had sugar candy, rabbits, and sometimes a piece of chocolate. Easter eggs were boiled but not dyed. Wright hid the eggs in the empty lot next door to their home. I remember playing in that empty lot until sometime in the late 50s or 60s when a house was built upon the land.

Bonnie remembers listening to programs on the radio like “Lum and Abner”, “Amos and Andy”, and “George Burns and Gracie Allen”. The family gathered around the radio the night the “War of the Worlds” broadcast took place in 1938; she was eleven years old. Unlike the mass panic created by the program across the country, the family was afraid, but they didn’t leave their house or call anyone.

Bonnie Back Row Right Betty Back Row Fourth From the Right

Bonnie Back Row Right
Betty Back Row Fourth From the Right

All of the children went to school. Bonnie was active in sports. The Normandy High School yearbook from 1941 shows that she belonged to the Junior Girls’ Tumbling Club. She also belonged to the track team. Her brother Frank was a star football player for Normandy High School. The family went to games and watched him play. Because Frank was a football star, he had more than one set of clothes. According to Bonnie, her father was very tight with his money except with Frank. She dropped out of high school in the tenth grade because she was tired of washing out her clothes and underwear every day. I never knew her to be resentful of the situation however.

After Bonnie dropped out of high school she worked in a department store as a clerk. Later she eventually worked at a shoe factory and played on their softball team. This is where she met her future husband, Tom Lane.