The summer of ’56 was a simpler time. School was out, the 1st grade had been successfully left behind. Life was different back then, with the warmth of summer came the freedom to explore. Young imaginations had a whole neighborhood at their disposal. With only a casual “See you at supper” from Mom, the back door would slam shut behind us as we headed out first thing in the morning.
This was country life, no looking a few feet away into the neighbors kitchen window here. Our back yard was the pasture where my father kept some goats. A small barn provided winter shelter for our little herd and nourishment came from the hay stack piled close by.
Similar to early horse drawn days, hay was harvested using a small David Bradley walk behind 2 wheel tractor with a sickle mower attached across the front. A two wheel wagon was hitched to the same tractor to carry the hay home to our little farm from the neighbors field .
Our next door neighbor, Mrs. Koggle was the spitting image of Martha Wilson. A kindly older woman with the mandatory apron. Salt and pepper hair done up in a bun, she always wore nylon stockings with the dark seam running down the back of her legs. She wore simple black orthopedic shoes with comfortable low wide heals. A very practical lady who lived alone with her son.
Mr. Koggle had passed on a few years earlier, and Jimmy, her son was for all practical purposes an adult. He was somewhat of a mystery, being seldom around. Back in those days once you became old enough to drive a car the world was your oyster.
When he was home, his primer painted slopped back Ford coupe from the ’40s was parked alongside the garage. The garage, built in the early 1900’s, was just big enough to fit a Model A Ford. It was reserved for Mrs. Koggle’s new ’56 Chevy. It wasn’t a flashy model, simple all black with a minimum of chrome. A plain 4-door model that provided basic reliable transportation. Like Mrs. Koggle it was a practical car.
Like Mrs. Wilson, Mrs. Koggle opened her doors to the children of the neighborhood. Welcoming us with milk and cookies whenever we would make the long trek up her driveway. Her small white home wasn’t visible from the main road. Perched atop a wooded slope, it reminded us of the nursery rhyme “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go”.
On special occasions, when she was in the mood to reminisce of times long past, Mrs. Koggle might take you up into her attic. Stored like precious jewels were possessions accumulated from a lifetime of raising a family. Early tennis rackets, carefully contained in their wooden frame to prevent warping. Wooden handled golf clubs in a canvas golf bag. Sometimes she would take us out into the yard and let us knock a golf ball around a little. Her husband must have been an athletic sort in his younger days.
It was like stepping back into the 1920’s. Trunks of memories, out of date pieces of furniture, even antique fishing gear including an authentic split willow creel from the days when they were state of the art.
With every item came a story, “Mr Koggle looked so fine in his preppy college days, you know he was captain of the tennis team”. I think Mrs. Koggle enjoyed thinking about those memories as much as we enjoyed hearing them.
Jimmy was fascinated with the automobile, eventually heading off to Minneapolis to pursue a career in the field. Mrs. Koggle stayed on alone in her comfortable little country home, somewhat permanently stuck in those early years of her life. As the children of the neighborhood grew, blossomed, and eventually headed off to pursue their life’s calling, visits to Mrs. Koggle and her fascinating attic grew fewer.
In time trips up the long driveway to Grandmother’s house became nothing more than an early memory for another generation. It’s funny how a simple gesture of friendship from our own neighborhood Mrs. Wilson would become such a part of the Norman Rockwell lifestyle that was experienced in small towns and country farms throughout the country during the 1950’s