“True Stories of Curtis C. Chambers, My Father”
Relayed to and Compiled by His Daughter Anita A. Chambers
When Curtis was a teenager back in the 1920’s, he had a friend with a nervous disorder that made the young man bald. The Chambers household at that time was a little short on sleeping space so when Curt stayed out late at night, sometimes his sister Doris would crawl into his bed. One time Curt brought this friend home to sleep over. He and his friend crawled into his bed where Doris was sleeping. Curt got up first the next morning leaving his friend and Doris sleeping. Later Doris woke up with Curt’s bald friend in bed with her. Doris was surprised, needless to say, to find “an old bald man” next to her. It was funny to also hear Doris relay this same story!
At some point my father, Curtis, and his family lived near St. Joseph (Missouri) near Highway 6 and the 102 River. This house had a screened in "summer kitchen." There was no slab so the old house was a little elevated and open underneath. When a boy, my father and his three brothers, Buzz, Jim and Al would sleep in this summer kitchen. One night one of the boys wanted some cover so Buzz gave his cover up. Just as he did, two tomcats suddenly got in a fight under the floor and screamed. Buzz quickly decided he wanted some cover again! I can picture the four young boys laying there in bed in the dark, jumping at the sound of the cats screeching beneath them!
Another time when Curtis was a teen, he went to a "Box Supper Auction" put on by Agnes Panigot. [This probably occured in Clarksdale, Missouri] This was a common event of the time. All the young ladies would prepare a box with food and then their boxes would be auctioned off to the young men. Each young man would try to be the high bidder on the box that belonged to the girl he was interested in so they could sit down and eat the contents together. This time Curtis bid 75 cents on a box that belonged to a young lady he was interested in. He had been saving his money for this. That maybe doesn't sound like much today but back in the 1920's that was probably about an $8.00 bid (or more). Kind of pricey for the time. The young lady must have been gathering a lot of attention because my father's friends outbid him so he didn't win that time or get to eat with her.
Curtis told me a story about his father one time. This father's name was George Linzy Chambers. George had been courting a girl and took her to church one Sunday. He was, of course, trying to make a really good impression on this girl. While the preacher was preaching, two cats got underneath the floorboards of the church and proceeded to scream and chase each other. As the cats would run back and forth, their tails would hit on the floor joists making a wrapping noise, "brrrrthp, brrrthp, brrrthp! George's friends were sitting behind him and his girl. Each time the wrapping noise sounded, his friends would poke him in the back just to annoy him.
Some stories my Dad told me revealed to me the kind of man he was inside.
Curt worked most of his career days for the Gas Service Company in Saint Joseph, Missouri. He worked mostly the North end. One cold, snowy, winter day he was driving his work truck along and saw a man lying in the middle of the street. He stopped to help the old man. The old man could hardly move and couldn’t speak very plain. Curt figured the old guy was probably drunk. The man couldn’t tell Curt where he lived so he put him in his truck and drove around and ask some people if they knew the old guy. The people said they knew him and that he lived down the street but his wife was not at home right then. Someone took the old guy home. A few days later Curt inquired about the old man and discovered that he had had a stroke and died a few days later. Who knows how long the old man could have laid in the snowy street maybe dying right there. As it was the old guy got to go home and see his wife one last time.
Another time while driving his truck working, Curt noticed a pack of dogs. They had cornered a little girl about five years old. The dogs were growling and closing in a step at a time snapping at the little girl. [As Dad relayed the story he would use his hands like the dogs mouths and reach out and snap, snap, snap with his fingers.] She was crouched in the corner of a yard with fear. Curt grabbed a long pipe wrench from his truck and ran towards the dogs shouting and swinging the wrench. The dogs scattered and the little girl ran away. I shudder to think how this story could have ended if my Dad hadn’t stopped.
Another cold, winter day while at work in St. Joe, Curt received an order to go shut the gas off at a residence where the people had not paid their gas bills. The North end of town had many poor people. Curt arrived at a rundown house. The mother was in an old tattered gown and her several children wore few clothes or none. Curt explained what he was there for and preceded to do his job. The mother spoke tongue-tied and called Curt some pretty “colorful” names, one being an SOB. She grabbed one of his wrenches and chased him back to his truck. My Dad came home that evening and relayed the story to Mom, telling her of the pitiful environment that the family was living in. It may have been that evening that my Mom gathered up some old clothes belonging to me and my brothers and sister. I went with Mom and Dad back to the rundown house to give them to the family. I remember standing on the porch watching cockroaches crawling on the dirty white cloth hanging inside the window of the door while we waited for someone to open it. In a few moments the woman opened the door and while my mother spoke with her and gave her the bag of clothes, I watched a small child running around the house in only a diaper. The woman accepted the clothes without a problem.
This was one of my first experiences with poverty and charity. I felt sorry for the people having to live like that. I wish I could have heard the discussion between my Mom and Dad as he relayed his experience with the women. I’m glad I had the kind of parents who cared enough to gather up clothes to donate to a family in need. Dad worked for the Gas Service Company for 33 years. We weren’t rich but we always had money for our needs, plenty of good food and a clean warm house in a nice neighborhood. I guess I realized then how lucky I was.