Susie and Cindi, Christmas 1956Susie got a new housecoat that Gen made. We both got new slippers and dolls--mine was a Raggedy Ann. Susie's doll was called Dydee Jane, whose hair was made from real calfskin. I got those boy's sailor-suit pajamas that horrified Peggy Fisher. I got a set of alphabet blocks and everybody laughed at me when I put letters together and asked what they spelled. We performed in the Christmas pageant at church and everybody got a bag of candy. Peggy Fisher brought her crowd over on Christmas day, which pleased Dick very much. It was important to Dick to have Peggy's approval, which she gave readily so long as Dick was doing what he was supposed to do. When a big blizzard came through during the holidays, Gen made snowdrift ice cream with snow, sugar, and vanilla.

Susie attended Peterson Elementary School, located a little over a mile from Woodchuck Lane in that infinite and empty land to the west. Gen and Dick chuckled that the school was in the middle of nowhere then, but somebody in charge of planning knew things were going to change. Wichita's suburbs have since surrounded and roared past Peterson Elementary by several miles.

I started Kindergarten during the 1956-57 school year, part of the first group of students to attend the brand-new Mary Benton Elementary School, a little more than a mile south of our house.

Susie rode a school bus to Peterson, but bus service to Mary Benton wasn't established until several weeks after school started. Neighborhood moms carpooled their kids while Wichita geared up student transportation to the new school. Dick continued his bouts of drinking, disappearing, and dismissal from employment. One of these occurred in late summer of 1957, so Dick was unemployed when school started. He took his turns at the wheel, having nothing better to do. Gen says he didn't drink for a while after he returned from a binge, so we can assume he wasn't drinking and driving the kiddies.

The distraction from Dick's drinking and misbehavior that work and her children gave Gen must have saved her from acts of desperation and depression more than once, but they were not enough to prevent every occurrence.