"THE CORN FLAKES STORY"Bobby, I forgot to tell you about the mischief, my brother Roy and I got ourselves into one day after school. It was in the early 1920's and Father and older brothers were working the fields; Mother was visiting a neighbor's. We finished our daily chores filling the woodbox, cleaning lampglobes, and trimming and filling the kerosene oil lamps.
There was always plenty to eat growing up on the farm but this particular day we decided we'd like a special treat, corn flakes with brown sugar, a rare treat in those days. Roy said "I wish we had 25 cents, we could go to the store". I piped up, "Oh, I know where Mother keeps her change, it's in the parlor cabinet! We raced to the parlor china cabinet where mother kept her good dishes and sure enough found a quarter. In a swirl of good fortune, we were out the front door running barefoot down the gravel road to Fraser's store, a mile or so away.
Back then it was natural for us to be barefoot; children today might assume we were poor but that wouldn't make any difference to us for we were secure and rich in the love our parents gave us. We'd bounce down the road carefree as can be, picking the long blades of grass from the ditch pretending to smoke like the grownups or play little tunes on it. When the wind blew especially from the northwest, along with the strong salt air you'd hear the muffled roar of the ocean and sounds from the cannery just beyond the dunes. I'll never forget the fresh spring smell of new grass, wild flowers, pine, spruce and fresh cut hay staked in the fields. Along the way we could stop and pick delicious little strawberries and black raspberries growing wild by the sides of the road. We had one neighbor between us and the road to the shore, Rhoda Morrow. She'd always ask us to do a small chore, of course in fair exchange of her delicious homemade cookies and milk, but this day we knew Rhoda was gone with mother so we didn't mind going without her cookies in anticpation of our own treat.
We'd greet a few passerbys with their horse and buggies, always remembering to be polite otherwise it might get back to our parents. In those days you never worried about traffic though, I'll never forget the day we saw our first Model T, we chased it down the road in astonishment but if there was anything to chase, it was usually only the big old cows who would lay down and sun themselves in the middle of the road.
Fraser's store was just a tiny little store but I guess in a child's eyes it seemed big and fascinating, everything under the sun was on sale, molasses, candy, clothes, flour, even Dad's leather tack for our horses Flicka and Chief, and of course, Mother's favorite, Red Rose Tea, it all still stands out in my mind. As you entered, the little bells on the door jingled and the door always creaked. The smell from all the goods seemed to mesh with the woodsy odor and warmth from last nights fire in the big old pot-bellied stove. Mr. Fraser always seemed busy behind the counter but he'd always pop up smiling, "How's the MacLarens today, what can I get you children? With a big sheepish grin I said, "Could I please have a box of corn flakes and some brown sugar! He leaned over and scooped the brown sugar from a big glass jar, pouring it into a small brown paper bag, while I reached deep in my pocket for our quarter. Mr. Fraser reached up for the big box of cornflakes, I can still see it now, he turned to me, "Allright Violet, let's see, the pound of sugar is 10 cents, the corn flakes is 15 cents, uh uh, 25 cents will be fine. I thanked him and he smiled and said "now you children be careful and stay out of mischief". We headed for the door, not meaning to slam it in our haste, the little bells rattled like Big Ben. Oh my God, did the bells give us away or did Mr. Fraser really know what we were up to; I kept thinking, why would he tell us to stay out of mischief?
When we arrived home, mother was still not home so we got our dishes and spoons and a milk jug for the cream from the well. In those days, when father separated cream from milk, the cream was put in a big stainless steel cream can and put down the well until the day the cream wagon came by and picked it up. Between both of us, we finally cranked the heavy can up from the deep, dark well and while I held the pitcher Roy poured the cream. The top went back on quickly and back down it went, it being a wonder we either didn't spill it or fall into ourselves! Being children, we never gave thought of the consequences but had we spilled the cream it would certainly have contaminated our well and the families only source of drinking water. We had everything now so down to the willow trees by the brook we headed where no one would know what we were up to. It was nice and shady down there, we could eat to our heart's content. When we were finished eating, there was nothing left of the cornflakes and little of the bag of sugar. We washed the dishes and spoons in the crystal clear brook and took them back to the cupboard so no one would know our secret, or so we thought.
It was getting close to supper, suddenly we heard the supper bell, and my mother calling us. "Roy, Violet, come and eat." Suddenly I felt weak and squimish. As Roy and I walked to the back porch I'll never forget him saying I looked sick, and was I ever! As I crawled up onto my chair I recall Father asking me if I was allright. Just then Mother came around the corner from the kitchen with two big hot covered dishs. She placed them on the dining room table, took the covers off and began to fill my plate with "fish cakes and homemade beans". The otherwise delicious smell had a different effect on me this day, I suddenly felt I couldn't stand it another second, I jumped up and dashed to the back porch. I sat out there alone, sick and afraid my parents would find out what we did.
When Mother came out to see how I was it was obvious I had been eating corn flakes. She knew she didn't have them in the pantry, so she knew right away we have taken the money, but Mother never got mad. In fact thinking back, Mother and Father never hit or raised their voices to us and even on this day, she calmly sat us down and explained that living on a farm meant we didn't have lots of money; if we needed anything, we should never steal but come to her and she'd try to give it to us, if she had it. We saw what we did was wrong and that our parents expected nothing more than the truth from us. Well, after that lesson you can imagine, from that day on my brother Roy and I never ever thought of stealing another penny but even after all these years I still chuckle to myself every time I see a box of CornFlakes.
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