MY UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
                          
SUE MILNER


I was just on EBay today and typed in 'Minden LA.' Found some pictures of Webster Parish Library, 1900 Minden L&A Railroad, 1927 Minden Post Office, First Baptist Church, Presbyterian Church, Coca Cola bottle with Minden on the bottom, etc. Called Sherry to tell her about the site and she encouraged me to "Please write/send something for this year's Reunion Memory Book." I had previously told her that at this plateau in my life's journey (72 years this Dec 10), I didn't think I would have anything to write much less remember/recall. But with her sweet encouragement, she assured me that I should and gently reminded me that we may not be here for another reunion. Sure hope we will all be here for our next reunion.

Sherry has been so faithful through the years about calling and sadly sharing with me the classmates in our Class of '55 who have passed away, those who attended each reunion/get-together, where you went, what you did, what you had to eat, what you talked about and the fun times had by all. Sherry dear, here goes. This is for you encouraging me to submit my input and for all our wonderful classmates.

As you may recall from my last write-up for Marsha Boyd Salmon (can't remember what reunion that was but will recap): I married my "Shining Knight," Rob Strong, from Barksdale AFB, originally from White Lake, SD. We'll soon be married 53 years. We are the proud parents of two sons and daughters-in-law, three granddaughters and three step-grandsons. Our oldest son is a computer programmer for the State of California and lives in Sacramento with his family. His wife previously worked for NCR but now works at home. They and the grandkids lived here in the Dayton/Bellbrook area for 10 years before moving back to Sacramento to be near my daughter-in-law's ailing father. Our youngest son is regional manager for Corporate Office Depot's newly developed office furniture division. He periodically must travel from his Dallas headquarters to solicit/design Fortune 500 Corporation's furniture. His wife is office manager for orthopedics at Texas State University Medical at Dallas. They lived here in the Dayton/Bellbrook area for six years before moving to Dallas for lucrative jobs. My previous write-up recounted my career path consisting of: long distance telephone operator, various businesses' bookkeeping and accounting positions and retiring from Federal Civil Service with 24 years as a GS-12 Budget Analyst. Rob had and continues to have a great career also. Retired from USAF with 20 years service and retired with 22 years from Federal Civil Service as a GS-12 Computer Program Manager. He currently works at Wright Patterson AFB, OH for a government contractor, Dynamics Research Corporation, as a Computer Program Manager. We transferred here 22 years ago and built our current home at that time. I won't begin to brag on my grandkids. It would take much too long to expound. Needless to say they are "my life." We have unlimited long distance home phones and Cingular/AT&T compatible cell phones (which Grandma pays) for safety. Their roadside assistance has already come in handy on more than one occasion. We keep in touch almost daily. I'm very proud of each of them and miss them so much. Someday, I suspect Grandma will write a sequel about their lives.

So often I remember the good old days at Minden High, our wonderful teachers and classes together, rushing in the halls to our next classes, eating together in the cafeteria, sometimes bringing my sack lunch when Mother didn't have the 10 cents for each of us five girls, the pep squad; drilling, marching, performing and cheering, the home football games, the pep rallies and bon fires, the out-of-town games traveling on the school bus, Jerri Shipp's parents driving in late from the Shell Plant to get us and drop me off at my house, swimming classes at the gym then rushing back for speech class to present my speech with wet hair, Ms. Smith tapping our knuckles if we failed to position our hands properly when typing, Mrs. Starr scratching her ear with her pencil eraser as she sweetly instructed us in correct English, Mrs. Harper's guidance as our Tide Talk sponsor who convinced me that I could instruct our journalism classes, Mrs. Grogan's faith that I could instruct ninth grade algebra more simply and logically when we spent extra hours after school with students who weren't performing. Clifton Salmon sat behind me in French class and secretly pulled my hair as I tried to properly pronounce those foreign words.

Sarah, my other sisters and I entertained ourselves on the jumping board (often springing dangerously high), see-sawing, playing volleyball over the electric wire lines, making houses/rooms under the pine trees with the needles, ball and jacks (I thought I was the best), slinging statue, May-I? or hide-n-seek (which ceased at dusk when Mother always made us come inside if any boys were around). Bennye Ryan Stewart often gave us rides to school. All of us girls recall our love of Wonder Bread, Miracle Whip and tomato sandwiches. Had one for lunch today. Only Marlin wanted mustard. We didn't have iPods, W11, Playstation, cell phone text messages or Media Play but we enjoyed the simple pleasure of playing with our menagerie of cats and dogs. They were so adorable dressed in our doll clothes or other handcrafted outfits. Mother and Daddy both loved animals and all five girls were and are still animal lovers and advocates. My donation to Katrina was designated for the animals there. That was so sad.

I remember Linda Lee Mims' meticulous starched and ironed skirt and blouse outfits (one for morning and one for afternoon.) Linda, you also have a "wonderful Rob," just as I do. Carla Faye Green's review of the book, 'Daddy Was an Undertaker,' Miss MHS and drum majorette performances were special. Mr. and Mrs. Green were also our Training Union teachers Sunday evening at First Baptist Church. Alma Ray Langley gave me a ring in fourth grade. Well, actually he just dropped it on my desk. His leadership and talent were superb with our Tide Talk staff. I remember my dates with Alma Ray for the Senior Banquet and Bill Slay for the Junior Banquet. I never went to the Senior or Junior Dances since "good" First Baptist Church girls didn't go to "sinful" dances. I secretly wanted to walk up those steps at Hunter's Playhouse and just peek inside, but never did. I eventually learned to dance quiet well with my debonair Rob. We subsequently enjoyed many fun times dancing in our younger years. "Old Arthritis" (remember Him?) will no longer allow me that exhilarating swing around the dance floor.

I sometimes went home with Norita White after Sunday morning church. Pat Watson lived across the street from her and we all enjoyed many wonderful Sunday afternoons before returning for Training Union. When Evelyn Strickland was allowed to drive her mother's car, we along with Billy Ruth Kirkley, would head for Hill Top Drive-In and the Dairy Queen. Everybody was there. I often recollected those fun times whenever Rob, the boys and I visited DQs through the years. I remember celebrating my 17th birthday with a wonderful party at the Community House. The powder room seemed so elegant, nothing like our bathroom at home. We were all having fun doing the Bunny Hop when I fell smack on my derriere. But nothing could daunt my Minden High School classmates and me. I got up, brushed my skirt down, we formed our line again and continued the night away. The Bunny Hop wasn't considered "sinful close dancing." Our kids would laugh if I tried to explain. The 50's were a special time.

This memory lane cantering now brings me to the present. For more than 40 years I have been an estate sale, garage sale, antiquing and flea market junkie. I would buy anything old, nostalgic and cheap or a "good buy." My maximum criteria were usually nothing over $20.00, unless I found a "real good bargain." I don't share with my customers that many of my finds were $.50 to $1.00. About three years ago I began to realize; our garage, storage barn, house were full and the kids weren't interested in "antique stuff." I decided it was time to downsize so they wouldn't have the burden of disposing of "my junk." Weeding-out has been difficult, as I am emotionally attached to each and every thing I have collected through the years. My collecting addiction whetted my frustrated interior decorating instincts and inclinations, which seem to have passed on to my "junkie side-kick," granddaughter Stephanie, who attends International Design School in Sacramento. I still have a problem getting rid of my addiction to my subscriptions; Southern Living, Country Home, Country Living, Cottage Living, Better Homes and Gardens, Kovel's Antiques and Collectibles, etc., which I diligently pour over for decoration ideas and recipes as soon as they arrive. I have dinner prepared as soon as Rob gets home from work. Upon arrival, he first goes to our neighborhood mailbox to garner the mail. If one of my subscriptions happens to be there, Rob must dish his own dinner from the pots and eat alone while I scour my magazines front to back. That's one of the few times I'm not hungry/starved. Ha! My passion for collecting vintage and depression era glassware also kindled a desire to become more knowledgeable about my glassware. Gene and Claire Florence's books are my favorites among various other authors. Since I had little knowledge about my other vintage possessions when I purchased them, I subsequently began to spend many research hours on the Internet also. There weren't many good sites at the time but they are now tremendously improved and educational.

Being an entrepreneur has been exciting, meeting people and seeing their joy with their "finds" and good buys. And sometimes emotional as I mentioned, especially when one of my favorites is sold. Just last week I had decided to bring back home a vintage Ball gallon jar with a red, time-worn lid to go with my red-handled vintage kitchen gadgets I had kept. Oops, it had sold. I consoled myself and mournfully rationalized I didn't have room for it anyway. Guess one could say I'm now a self imposed "junkie martyr." We currently have a booth at Old Roberds Mall for our "better" items and one at Merchants Market Mall for our "down-scale" stuff. It's a struggle for a "junkie addict," but I haven't been to any sales for the past three years and counting day-by-day. Some of you may not know that my name is Kitty Sue. However, James McCabe knew and tortured me relentlessly saying, "Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty." When I first started out in a corner booth at Carlisle Marketplace (since closed), I named my business, Kitty's Korner. Since I'm no longer set-up in a corner location, I now call my shops 'OBO Trading Co.'

I presently don't devote as much time at our businesses. For the past 10 months, I have spent my time with our two elderly Chihuahuas, Booger ll (our first Booger was 14 years old when he passed away) and Izzie. Booger ll, our male dog and my soul mate for 12 years, was diagnosed with inoperable cancer Nov '07 and passed away April 10,'08. Even now as I sit at the computer by the backyard French doors and write, tears and almost unbearable emotions gush forth. As you might know, the Chihuahua breed is a diligent lap dog. Oh how I miss Booger ll always following me from room to room as I did my daily chores, waiting for me to finish and sit in my recliner with him. Chihuahuas are also profoundly territorial. Booger ll's favorite site was "his" recliner which we pushed up/anchored against the front family room windows. He spent many hours perched on top of the back of his recliner looking out at his territory. He barked at the passing neighbors retrieving their mail from the neighborhood mailbox, which happens to be on our property line, or any stray cats and dogs that dared cross his yard. However, he didn't bark at, but instead mused himself with the squirrels and birds that scurried in the maple tree by his window. The elementary school, grades one through three, is set back and across the street. How he enjoyed watching the young children in the playground at recesses. I wrote a journal about my journey with Booger ll as recommended. I continue to add to it for grief therapy. My favorite picture of Booger ll with his sleek black and tan short hair is framed and sits by my recliner. I place it with me when on the computer for any extended time and carry it to our bedroom each night. That helps me feel Booger's sweet spirit with me and remember all our precious memories together. How I miss my faithful little man Booger's love!

Izzie, our female Chihuahua certainly exemplifies her AKC name, Sophisticated Lady. She will be 12 years old next month. She is a beautiful short hair fawn color with some white at the neck and chin. She was diagnosed with Cushing Disease a couple of years ago and continues to take Prednisone which made her gain weight, but she is still our gorgeous baby. A Precortin-V monthly shot keeps her electrolytes fairly stable. She is so gentle and good. The vet bill has been enormous but Izzie is more than worth it. She recently developed glaucoma in her left eye and must take Ocumeter Plus drops, Tobramycin antibiotic for a cornea ulcer and Tramadol pain medication. She gives me so much unconditional love and devotion. I must admit that I perhaps selfishly pray that God's mercy and grace will allow Izzie to be with me much longer. As our dogs developed health issues, we have self imposed travel limitations, but look forward to coming home again sometime in the future. Our dogs are literally our babies and we would never jeopardize their lives.

Marlin Milner Merritt (my sister/cousin who lives in Minden) researched my Mother's maiden Nicholson side of my family several years ago. I had known growing up that my great-great Uncle James W. Nicholson had been president of LSU and among his many other contributions had written numerous math, algebra, trigonometry and calculus books used at Yale and Harvard, etc. He also wrote, 'Stories of Dixie' about life in Northwest LA and the Civil War era in the 1860s. We recently received inquiries, pictures and additional genealogy information from my previously unknown Nelson relatives. This info has rejuvenated my further genealogy research efforts which I currently continue to pursue. Since my "real" Mother deceased when I was two and one-half years old, many family pictures were lost. I had never seen a picture of my Grandma, Great-Grandpa and Grandma, Great-Uncles and Aunts, etc. In the newly acquired Nelson family pictures, I finally have a picture of them and my namesake, Grandma Kitty (Nelson) Nicholson. I can't explain my fulfilled feeling of connection when I received these never seen pictures and some additional history of my mother's family. I had always envisioned my Grandma Kitty as being short and plump but to my amazement, she was tall, regal, statuesque and a beautiful Southern lady. I always wished I had been tall. That's apparently not going to happen. I was always 5' 3" but now I'm shrinking. High heels are no longer a viable option either. How I adored my high heels and still haven't parted with some of my favorites.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standing L-R James Willis Nelson, Emma Nelson Lay,
Andrew Gus Nelson, Robert Johnson Nelson, Addison Eugene Nelson,
Pearl Nelson Durio and Kitty Nelson Nicholson.  Sitting Andrew
Jackson Nelson and Catherine Amanda Langston Nelson.  Not in the
photo was: Della, Mary and Thomas--deceased--and William Lamar Nelson.


I hope these memories of my Minden School years, my family, careers, my entrepreneurships, our precious Booger and Izzie and my other AARP senior ramblings haven't been too boring. I'm glad you encouraged me, Sherry. Writing my input has been good for my mind and soul. And as I have read, keeps our mind active and defers/prevents Alzheimer. Now if I could just find the courage to have my deteriorated arthritic knees replaced and the double chin sculptured. Look forward to seeing and hearing from all of you in the future. Please keep in touch.

Your classmate,

Sue Milner, a.k.a. Kitty Strong, Class of 1955