This is a picture taken at a tea honoring the women in the back row who were graduating from college in 1953 despite having started the process at a later date than usual. Sunny is second from the right. Her daughter and her best friend, recruited to serve as kitchen help, sit on either end of the sofa. Sunny’s mother is second from left. The gracious hostess and Sunny’s favorite college professor is seated on the sofa at the far right.
The Tough Summer of 1954
Although grateful and inspired by the many kindnesses extended to her family during the bout with hepatitis, Sunny was delighted to began earning a living again. The only problem was that she could bring home just about six weeks of pay before the schools closed for the summer. Still, she and her children were eager to work at any job available because it felt so good to be independent again.
Sunny took classes so she could sell insurance door to door during the summer and planned to add weekends during the school year. However, that was not a good career move for her particular talents. She doggedly put in the time and foot work, but never did quite well enough to consider herself a success or to become comfortable in that venue.
The older son, who had graduated from the elite, preppy Capitol Page School in May, came back to Dallas and found work as a hod carrier on one of the big buildings going up down town. He earned enough at that to save some for college in the fall and to help fill in a few of the gaps for the rest of the family.
The daughter, still in high school, kept up her baby sitting career in the neighborhood. She earned a few shekles for spending money and frequently helped purchase gas at twenty-five cents a gallon for the family car.
Sunny’s mother continued to live with them for awhile and cheerfully contributed portions of her social security check to help out as she could.
Despite the joy of beginning to recover from total financial devastation, the Tough Summer of 1954 was the hardest period financially that Sunny and her family had to face. For example, many times they drove to town well after dark to put a house or utility payment in the night depository box so they could avoid the late penalties which would start at the beginning of the next business day.
Another frequent trial was buying gas. At a time when all service stations were full service, they frequently purchased two or three gallons at a time because that was all the money they had. Even so, they didn’t always make it back to the house or station before car ran out of gas again. Then they would have to ease the car to park it in front of the nearest stranger’s house, and walk to a nearby gas station to buy enough to start the car again, if anyone had any money. If everyone in the car was flat broke, they just walked home until they could afford to rescue the car.
Fortunately, the big bad city was much safer and friendlier in 1954 than it is today. No one worried about the car being stolen or tires slashed before they could return with a gas can to begin a new trip. The strangers in the house near where they parked never complained. The police never gave Sunny a ticket or had the car towed. And when they did get the car back home, they always left it in plain sight in the drive with the keys in the ignition —- for fear of ever losing the keys. They continued doing this at least until the early 1970’s without any anxiety or loss.
Also, they never locked their doors – even when going away for the weekend. Actually, Sunny never was quire sure just where the door key was and didn’t find it until she packed up to move to another town, years later. The term, home invasion, had not been invented yet and no one would have known what it meant, should someone use the term. If burglar alarm systems were available at the time, only the ultra rich knew about them.
A big sacrifice for the daughter was to reluctantly give the family dog to the neighbors three doors down because there just was not enough left over scraps to keep him alive, even with the bacon grease gravy she had learned to make for him. And buying dog food was totally out of the question. Many days, a half piece of bacon a day for each family member was all the meat they could afford.
Although it was a tough summer, everyone pitched in to help any way possible. No one gave up hope, grew depressed, or became angry with either God or society. Yes, life was more onerous than they had expected, but never impossible. They still laughed at each other’s jokes; still listened to classical music on vinyl records; still reminisced over escapades from New Mexico; and they still teased about how hard they all worked to get a college degree for Sunny. College life for a whole family had also started a new tradition that they continued – keeping the Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary near the dining table. That made it easy to reseach new words that came up during dinner conversation. Any time that any of the family heard a new word, they talked about it. Often one word would lead to another and then, another. While the practice improved vocabulary without the kids catching on, it also cultivated their social skills. Times were tough, but Sunny and her family were tougher and just as much fun to be around as ever.
This is a picture proof of Sunny’s three children taken during her freshman year in college.