A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


We've hit 20,000 page views!!!!  Time to CELEBRATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Quick and Easy Way to Replace an iPhone Battery

This really has nothing to do with Growing Up In Waldron, but occasionally, as a public service, I feel the need to share an experience from my already grown-up life.  This is one of those moments.

I love my iPhone.  I've never really been a gadget person, but from the moment I first got an iPhone a couple of years ago, I found it indispensable.  And it was not just the Whoopie Cushion app that I downloaded; I used every feature on the phone, especially the GPS map feature with driving directions.

So, about 6 months ago, I noticed that my battery was running down in the afternoons.  I checked into having the battery replaced, but it would require that my phone be shipped to Apple (no Apple stores nearby), so I would be without a phone for a few weeks, plus it would cost $79.00 to have it done.  Searching for an acceptable alternative, I found that you could buy a replacement battery on eBay for $5.60.  This was more to my liking.  A quick check of the Internet revealed instructions on how to replace the battery yourself, so I bought the $5.60 battery on eBay and was ready to do the job myself.

 The battery came complete with two tools; a little screwdriver and a plastic prying device for splitting the phone open.  And that's what you have to do; find the seam between the front cover and the rest of the phone and pry it apart.  Some people recommend using a suction cup to lift up the front cover, but the preferred method is brute force.  So, after reviewing videos on YouTube at least a half-dozen times, I got out my little plastic crow bar and screwdriver and went to work. 

The first step was to take out the SIM card, which was easily accomplished with the help of a paper clip.  Then, two little screws have to be removed from the base of the phone.  All that went pretty well.  Then, it was time to split the case into two sections.

This took a while.  I finally worked the little plastic edge into place, but it was too flimsy to force the cover off.  Finally, I resorted to my Exacto knife, which successfully lifted the cover up.

A very frightening scene.
Once you have the phone in two pieces, there are three little "ribbons" that have to be disconnected.  They are actually numbered, so once I got brave enough to put enough pressure on them, they easily came up.  They are actually electrical connections with many, many tiny prongs.

At this point, you're in the Belly of the Beast.  There are three more "ribbons" to release, also conveniently numbered.  Then, seven microscopic screws to remove.  The first one is hidden behind a sticker that says, "Do Not Remove."  They don't really mean it, so you scrape away the Do Not Remove sticker and have at the little screw that lies beneath.  Then, work your way up one side of the iPhone carcass and down  the other, removing the screws as you go.

Then, once the seven screws are removed, it's time to lift the "logic board" away from the frame.  This requires you to pry on it with your little plastic crow bar until it works its way loose.  However, lest you think this is easy, there is yet another "ribbon" connected to the underside of the logic board, which happens to be connected to the camera.  You have to release this ribbon while you are still holding on to the logic board, and if you twist the logic board over so you can see the ribbon, you pull the camera out of the iPhone, and you don't really want to do that, so you just wing it. 

Finally, you're down to the battery.  It is stuck to the frame with very sticky tape, so more prying is required at this step.  So, you pry and pry and tug and pull until finally the battery comes loose.  Then, it's simply a matter of putting in your new battery and doing all the above steps in reverse order.

But, I quickly found that it was much easier to release a ribbon than it was to reattach one, particularly the one on the underside of the logic board.  But, through painstaking effort, it can be done, so I carefully went through the process in reverse, reassembling my precious iPhone.  All that remained now was to plug it in and charge up my new battery, which actually was a better battery than the one that came with the phone, at least according to the Internet which, we all know, doesn't lie.

And, the final step in this process is to go to the AT&T store and buy a new iPhone to replace the one that is now deader than a doorknob.  Because, after completing this arduous process, when you go into the bathroom and plug in your iPhone to charge the new battery, you will notice that nothing happens.  Fortunately, my iPhone was the one that AT&T now sells for $49, and since my contract was up that's all I had to pay for.

So, I've temporarily lost all my picture, apps, and contacts, but the twelve year-old girl who was working at the AT&T store assured me that when I sync my phone with my computer, all that will be restored.  I hope she's right.  I don't want to lose my Whoopie Cushion.

Monday, September 26, 2011

My Brief Career on the County Garbage Truck

The summer of 1974, between my graduation from high school and my freshman year at Westark, I needed to make some money.  I had a part-time job at B&B Drug Store, but I needed to work full-time, so I quit and, through some kind of partially government funded thing, got a job working for the Scott County Road Department.  There, I would be bringing in the princely sum of $1.75 per hour, a veritable gold mine.

My first job assignment was driving a service truck.  A service truck was a pickup that followed along behind a road grader.  My job was to fuel the graders each morning, clean the glass around the grader's cab, and then follow along as it graded the road, stopping to clean out ditches whenever the grader piled dirt over the end of a culvert.  I had a little problem with this, because I would often stop and clean out a culvert, only to see it covered up again when the grader made it's second run along the same stretch. I was given a pickup to drive that had one minor problem - it could not be started with a key.  This was no problem, I was assured.  I was to make sure that I always stopped at the top of a hill.  I would kill the truck with the key, and then start again by letting off the clutch, sticking my foot out and giving myself a little push to start rolling downward.  Once I picked up a little speed, I would turn the key on, let off the clutch, and the engine would spring to life.  If that didn't work, I could get the road grader driver to extend his blade out and give me a push as we both drove down the road.  Overall, it worked surprisingly well.

I never quite figured out the driver's technique, I guess, because sometimes I would wait to clean out the culvert, thinking there would be another pass through, when in fact there would not.  So, after a few weeks, it became obvious to the road foreman that I was, perhaps, not the sharpest crayon in the box.

So, I was moved to the crew working the trash truck.  Scott County had only been in the trash business for a couple of years, but a system was in place in which the entire county was covered in nine days, and on the tenth day, the trash truck was taken to Northside Gulf, where it was serviced and the oil was changed.  The truck visited a different part of the county each day.

This was an excellent opportunity to see all the back roads of Scott County.  However, being severely directionally impaired, for most of the summer I had absolutely no idea where I was.  The truck was driven by Don Hale, and Tom Scott was also on the crew.  I, and occasionally another summer worker, completed the team. 

On most days, there was a lot of driving between stops.  This afforded an excellent opportunity for relaxation, driving through the lush countryside of Scott County.  When we arrived at someone's house, we would hop out and quickly dispatch the trash into the back of the truck.  Most people didn't bag their trash, they just dumped it into a metal can.  So, as the summer wore on, I got better and better at lifting the heavy cans and dumping them.  On some routes, we could go all day before we had to visit the landfill; others required a mid-day visit and then a return at the end of the day.

That was when Waldron's landfill was still in operation.  It was a busy place; there were almost always people there waiting to go through the newly dumped trash.  Of course, we had already been through it ourselves.  If we found something interesting, there was a place in front of the trash compactor where we could safely store our treasures.  Of course, being the low man on the Trash Totem Pole, I never got any treasures to take home. 

At some point during that summer, my sister Janet was awarded a $200 scholarship by the Waldron Business and Professional Women's organization.  The Waldron News had requested a picture of her for their story, and the only one she could find was a large 5 x 7 school picture, but the Waldron News people said they could make it smaller.  But for some reason they didn't, and Janet's picture was on the front page of that week's edition, taking up a large portion of the area above the fold.  The following week, as I went about my trash collecting, it seems that every time I opened the lid on a trash can, there was Janet staring back at me.

I always looked forward to stopping for lunch.  Working in the garbage industry, you get over your issues of cleanliness and germs pretty quickly.  Every morning before I left for work, Mama would fix me a lunch consisting of a bologna and cheese sandwich, a can of Vienna sausages, a little can of butterscotch pudding with some vanilla wafers in a little baggie, a small container of pears, and a thermos of iced tea.  Then, when lunch time rolled around, we would find a shady spot beside the road somewhere and, sitting strategically upwind from the garbage truck, would enjoy our lunches.  This was when I learned that before you eat your can of Vienna sausages, you tip the can up and drink all the salty liquid out first.

Sometimes, on those tenth days when the truck was being serviced, we would hang around Northside Gulf for most of the day.  Other times, we would go out on various jobs.  Once, when Don was off work, the truck got finished early and Tom and I, along with another high school kid a couple of years younger than me, loaded up some 4 x 4's in the back of the garbage truck and went down to Bates to replace some beams in an old steel bridge.  Driving a spike through a 4 x 4 with a sledge hammer is not an easy task, but we worked hard and were just about through when we saw that we needed a few more 4 x 4's down at the far end of the bridge.  The other guy on our crew begged Tom to let him back the trash truck up to our location, and Tom reluctantly agreed.  So, the kid got in and carefully backed up, looking behind him the whole way.  Unfortunately, he got closer to the steel beams on the bridge than he thought, and the side mirror caught one and just crumpled the top of the drivers side door.  Now this kid didn't work with us often, so Tom didn't really know his name, so when we got back to the county barn and the other guys asked what happened, Tom just said, "That kid backed into the side of the bridge."  I, being the kid who worked on the trash truck, generally got blamed for that one.

The next summer, I returned to the county road department, but this time I was again a service truck driver.  I was placed with two road grader operators, Roger Boggs and Dub Handshaw.  Roger and Dub were both great to work with, and treated me like a real coworker.  The road foreman had been given a new truck, so we inherited his old one, an early 70s model Ford with an AM radio.  Nobody else had a truck with a radio, so we felt that we were in tall cotton.  We would listen to KFSA radio out of Fort Smith as we drove to our work site, and at that time KFSA played mostly adult contemporary and pop hits, so Roger, who was just a few years older than me, and I really enjoyed it.  When we ate our lunch each day, we would leave the radio on so we could listen to Paul Harvey give his news report. 

I sure enjoyed working with those guys.  Dub had a particular expression he would use when he felt he had done exceptionally well at navigating our truck to our work site.  "That," he would say," is some decision driving."  I think he probably meant "precision," but heck, we knew what he was trying to say.  And Roger would comment, after a particularly good job of grading a road, that he had observed a Greyhound bus passing his grader, a bus that had obviously confused the smooth dirt surface he had created with 71 Highway. 

Dub and Roger, both gone now, but both good men.  It was a pleasure working with them.  I did, however, suffer one side effect from my garbage truck days.  For at least two years afterward, while I was driving down the highway, I had to fight the urge to stop every time I passed someone's garbage piled at the end of their driveway.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Adventures in Mathematics

It's ironic, actually, that I spent 16 years teaching math to sixth graders.  Math was not my favorite subject in school.  In fact, I made only one "D" in my entire life, and that was on my semester test in seventh grade math.  I still have the report card with that ignominious mark; a reminder of what can happen if you don't take care of business.  But that "D" did have a positive outcome; it stirred me to see that I never got another one.  So, thanks Coach Coble; it wasn't your fault; that one was on me.

The next year, I had Sherri Pugh for math, and I managed to improve my work ethic.  I found that, by doing my homework and actually asking a question when I didn't understand something, I was able to keep my head above water.  It also helped having a twin sister in the same class; we could do our homework together and if one of us had trouble with something, the other one could often help out.  In ninth grade, I had Algebra I with Mrs. Inez Neal.  Here is a blog entry about that year

In tenth grade, it was time for Algebra II with Mr. Wallace Hill.  Tough and demanding, Mr. Hill was truly one of the best teachers I ever had, including my college instructors.  I flat learned some math from Wallace Hill. 

Fortunately, I recognized early on that Mr. Hill's class meant work.  He wasn't interested in excuses as to why your homework wasn't done, and he expected you to arrive in class ready to learn.  He liked structure, and so did I, so we got along fine.  When papers were turned in, he wanted them folded lengthwise, with your name and period written on the front of the fold.  When I taught math a few years later, I had my students turn in their papers the same way.  You could slip a rubber band around each class' papers and easily keep them organized.  Mr. Hill also had a standard number of points available each six weeks; I think it was 630.  No matter what various assignments would be made each grading period, they would ultimately total 630 points at the end of the six weeks. 

Algebra II gave way to geometry in eleventh grade.  What I remember about geometry was the proofs.  Proofs were a great exercise in logical thinking.  Each step lead to another, until, if the gods were favorable, you arrived at a final statement of "proof."  There were no slouches in geometry; you had to bring your A game to make it through that class. 

By senior year, most of us had completed our required number of math credits, so it was considered foolhardy by many to take the remaining math class, known simply as Advanced Math.  Advanced Math was pretty much a combinatin of calculus and trig; lots of word problems and higher-level thinking.  It required that we purchase and learn to use a cutting edge computational device known as a slide rule.  It was clearly not for the faint of heart.  But, there were about 18 or so of us who took the plunge.  It was a difficult decision, because we all knew what was coming second semester:  Special Problems. 

As eleventh graders, we had seen the Seniors of '73 after they were issued their Special Problems.  The fear in their eyes, the ashen pallor of their skin; all sure indicators of distress.  Indeed, Special Problems were cause for worry.  Special Problems were actually used test booklets from some kind of mathematics exam administered somewhere each year; perhaps by the CIA as a means of breaking down the resistance of the most ardent political prisoner.  But each year, a new booklet from the previous year's administration of the exam became available, and that booklet was issued to the Advanced Math student with the best grade.  Everyone else got a special problems booklet that at least one Advanced Math student had had before, so you could take comfort in knowing that at least one person had successfully worked most of the problems.  But the BEST Advanced Math student was in it all alone.  They themselves would be the first WHS person to work those problems.

At Christmas break, about half the class came to their senses and dropped the class, willing to take the half credit.  But the rest of us soldiered on, knowing what awaited us.  Sure enough, shortly after we came back from Christmas, Mr. Hill issued our Special Problems.

I don't remember who got the new Problems that year; either Emmett Barnett, Deborah Darosset, or Janice Cottingham.  My Special Problems booklet showed much wear, evidence that it had been used several years, which proved to be a source of comfort to me.  Everyone's Special Problems booklet was different.  We had pretty much the rest of the year to complete as many of the thirty or so problems in the booklet as we could. 

So, during study hall or at lunch, we could often be found grouped together, trying to figure out how to do the incredibly difficult word problems found in the booklets.  For some reason, we could often figure out how to do problems in other people's booklets easier than we could our own.  I guess it was because we had looked at our own so much that we developed a mental block about them.  I remember how good Richard Parks was at solving other people's Special Problems.  I know he solved one or two of mine, and several for others as well.  I couldn't return the favor; I wasn't able to help Richard with a single one of his. 

As the semester wore on, I recognized that I would not be able to solve all of my Special Problems, so I began to calculate how many I would need to solve in order to make a decent grade.  And that's exactly how many I solved.  I think I got about half of them.  The Special Problems were not all of our grade, but they were a significant part.  I was so relieved to turn my booklet back in!

I will say that Mr. Hill prepared me well for college.  When I took College Algebra, I didn't see anything that I hadn't already done in Mr. Hill's class.  As a result, I sailed through what is normally one of the most difficult of all college classes.  I began to see what an impact Mr. Hill had made in my life.  That explained why about the only thing that could make Mr. Hill stop teaching was when one of his former students showed up at his classroom door.  He always took a few minutes to talk to them, and I can see why they would want to come back and see him.

Of course, the math I taught in sixth grade was nowhere near the level that Mr. Hill taught.  But I tried to have the same high expectation for my students.  And when I now see students struggling with college-level algebra classes, I am reminded of how fortunate I was to have Mr. Hill in high school.

One little aside:  around Christmas time, Deborah Darosset came to school with an electronic calculator.  We gathered around, amazed at the curious device.  She had paid over $100 for the thing, but incredibly it could perform all four basic mathematical computations:  add, subtract, multiply, and divide.  Obviously inferior to our slide rules, still it was an interesting curiosity.  Nowadays, a similar calculator would run you about one dollar at most stores.

And, in closing, let me recommend an incredible website for students of any level who are having difficulty with math.  The site is called khanacademy.org.  This website contains literally hundreds and hundreds of short tutorials about everything from basic math up through calculus, as well as a huge number of tutorials about other subjects.  It's free, it's not a gimmick, and I highly recommend it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Worry Over Polio

Photo courtesy of http://onceuponawin.wordpress.com/vote/page/42/
It was a mysterious, lurking threat each summer.  Something in the air, on the drinking fountain perhaps, unseen but very, very real.  Polio.  We knew people who had been victimized by it.  Friends from school, or church, forced to wear heavy metal braces on their legs and walk with crutches.  We'd heard stories of something called an Iron Lung, a horrific-sounding contraption that kept the most seriously damaged polio victims alive.  Polio was an unseen enemy that to us was a constant source of fear.

Once we thought it had found my sister Janet.  We were about five years old, and Janet had been reduced from her normal active, playful state to a state of lethargy, spending days just lying down on the green couch in the living room.  Doctor Wright was summoned, and he too was fearful that we were seeing the symptoms of polio.  But after a few days Janet perked back up, and we found out that she just had an ear infection.  (Dr. Wright years later diagnosed a less-than-perky Janet as suffering from "Droopy Faced Virus"). 

In Kansas City, Missouri, a similar thing happened to four year old Marilyn Ferguson.  She and her parents had been to the rodeo, and when they returned home, little Marilyn couldn't turn her neck.  When they saw the doctor the next day, he said he didn't know for sure what it was, but he couldn't rule out polio.  He told Marilyn's mom to wrap warm, moist towels around her neck until they could find out exactly what was going on.  But, on the day she was to see the pediatrician, she decided she wanted to go out in the yard and look at her swing set.  By the time she came back inside, her neck was fine and no trip to the pediatrician was required.

But by the time I was aware of polio in the early 1960's, the disease was actually not the threat that we perceived it to be.  In the late 1950's, Jonas Salk has developed an injected vaccine for the disease, and a few years later Albert Sabin and others had developed an oral vaccine.  Between the years of 1962 and 1965, roughly 56% of the population of the United States had been vaccinated against the disease, and happily, I was a part of that 56%.

Getting the polio vaccine was easier and less scary than about any other thing you could do that involved seeing a doctor or nurse.  My experiences visiting the Scott County Health Office, on the second floor of the old courthouse, were usually less than pleasant.  I have a vivid memory of ascending the old wooden staircase, and upon making the landing between the first and second floors, evidently completely conking out, which required Mrs. Galloway, the County Health Nurse, to come down and revive me with smelling salts.  And they worked; I still remember the sensation of coming back to my senses when the powerful, acrid aroma hit my brain cells.  In spite of my many misadventures and occasional clumsiness, that's the only time in my 55 years that I have required the use of smelling salts.

But the polio vaccine was nothing like that.  It consisted of a couple of drops of vaccine, concealed in a little cup of Kool-Aid or dropped onto a cube of sugar.  I believe that we had three different vaccinations, over a period of several months.  The first one was administered at the High School, which seemed quite an elaborate locale for someone who had never before ventured past Waldron Elementary.  We stood in a long line, slowly advancing toward a table that seemed to offer some type of refreshment.  When we finally got to the table, we were issued a tiny Dixie cup full of what appeared to be Kool-Aid; and indeed it tasted like Kool-Aid when we drank it down.  On a subsequent visit for another dose of vaccine, I recall that we got at that time a little sugar cube in another small Dixie cup.  I was a bit leery this time; I loved sweets but I'd never actually had an entire sugar cube to myself.  In fact, I'd never even seen a sugar cube before; the Yates family was strongly committed to the Granulated Sugar school of thought.  I don't remember in which form the third dose was administered; but I do remember that whatever it was, they were running short of the vaccine and some had to be delivered to our location by HELICOPTER!  There was word out among the crowd that a helicopter would soon be arriving, an apparition that absolutely none of my classmates had ever seen.  But when it landed, none of us saw it, but we definitely heard it.  I don't know where it landed, but it was somewhere safely away from the crowd.  So, the needed vaccine arrived safely, and we all got our final dose of protection against the feared enemy.
The polio vaccine distributed via sugar cube, circa 1961.
Photo courtesy of http://www.sv40foundation.org/

Thankfully, today, polio is almost unheard of.  The years of effective vaccinations have almost eradicated it from the face of the earth.  And I've visited enough doctors over the years that I can now make it through the office door without needing smelling salts...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Places of Business in Waldron, 1974

Not all of these are strictly Waldron businesses, but here's a list of all the advertisers in the 1974 Waldron High School yearbook:

Waldron Church of the Nazarene (honoring graduates Terry Nichols, John York, Patricia Jones, Cathy Newberry, Barbie Owens, Pam Wadkins, and Terri Watkins

Saucier's Restaurant

Western Auto (The Cottinghams, Ralph, Madia, and Bruce)

Today's Army

Waldron Chamber of Commerce

The Fort Smith Savings and Loan League

Brown's Citgo Station (Tommy Brown, Jerry Hunt)

Worman Owens, County and Circuit Clerk

Y-City Conoco (Mr. and Mrs. Jack Miner)

Fred's Truck Stop

Hunt's Store and Gulf Station, Boles Arkansas

Diamond "J" Motel's Bridal Rooms (...are waiting for you!  As our guests, you receive a free Polaroid color picture!)

Hathaway Feed & Supply

Rep. Jim Lassiter

Waldron Food Center (Gerald Maddox, Owner)

Waldron Furniture Manufacturing Company

Poteau Valley Industries, Inc.

Hardwood Products Corporation

Waldron Furniture Industries, Inc.

Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative

Shipley Baking Company (Fort Smith, Arkansas)

Dee's Cut N' Curl

Ben M. Hogan Co. Inc. General Contractor (Little Rock, Arkansas)

Scott County Farm Bureau

Forest Products Company (Fort Smith, Arkansas)

Bank of Waldron

Yoes Printing and Lithographing Co., Fort Smith, Arkansas

Clyde Hawkins, County Judge

Sarratt's Lumber & Post Company

Arkansas - Oklahoma Gas Company (R.D. Self, Jr. and Curtis Billings)

Rice - Martin Funeral Home

Waldron Post Office Employees

Parsley's 5 cents to $1

Otasco  (John Evans, Owner)

Martha's Fashion (Martha Watkins)

Marsh Dry Goods (Bill Marsh)

J. Ray & Maria's Mobile Homes (Mena Arkansas)

Citgo LP Gas

Plummer's Grocery (Ivan Plummer)

City Furniture Mart (James Richmond, Bill Newborn, Frank Hutchens)

Denton Motor Company (Dodge, Plymouth, Chrysler)

Sartain Grocery and Station (Parks, Arkansas)

Amenda's Beauty Walk

Angel's Shoe Shop

Ben Franklin Store (Jim and Nada Currier)

Bethel's Department Store (Griff and Isabelle Bethel)

Waldron Parts (Herman Atchley, Frankie Newberry)

Arnold Howard, Sheriff and Collector

Ward's House of Bargains (New and Used Furniture)

Tate's Lion Station

Waldron News (Randel Grigsby)

Owens' Drug Store

Elliott Hardware

Downtown and Waldron Speedwashes (Bill and Mary Jordan)

Crain's Motel

Glen Dale Sparks, County Treasurer

Waldron Flower Shop (Mae Dell Sikes, Owner)

Sears (Mae Dell and David Sikes, Owners)

Waldron Dry Goods (Mr. and Mrs. Louie Plummer)

Oliver's Jewelry

The Ladies and Mens Shop

Karen's Beauty Korner (Karen Smith, owner)

L. J. Watkins

Jones Custom Slaughterhouse

Hutchens' Needmore

Acee Milk Company (Fort Smith, Arkansas)

Waldron Tractor & Farm Supply (James Hogge)

Waldron Tire Shop

Parks 4-H

Midway Park Restaurant and Gift Shop (Mr. and Mrs. Bird Vines)

Hughes Insurance Agency, Inc. (Agents J.A. Dalton and Billy R. Dalton)

Valmac Industries, Inc.

Rice Furniture and Appliance

United Dollar Store

Theo Money Chevrolet Company

Judy's Drive In


Ebie's Flower and Gift Shop

Charlie's Collision Service

Sims Building Materials

Gross Distributing Company (Fort Smith, Arkansas)

Coca-Cola Bottling Company

Waldron Business and Professional Women's Club

Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield

I can think of a few other businesses, such as Harris Motor Company and Buddy Gray's Grocery, that are not listed here, but this is just a listing of businesses that advertised in the yearbook.  Pretty impressive list.  Those were the days...