Tillman needed a home and a job on his 16th birthday. He had never known the meaning of "family," so Mom and Dad provided that.
Joe, walking across the entire United States, needed work, food and a place to call home, at least for the winter. After thoughtful consideration, O.D. and Nancy Meyers, my parents, offered food and "keep" to both fellows, total strangers.
Joe and Tillman worked in our dairy, and Joe earned $1.50 a day and his "keep." "Keep," during the Depression, meant meals, bed, laundry and to be part of our family. These total strangers shared a Murphy In-A-Dor bed in the spare bedroom of our new Aladdin Redi-Cut-House.
Fire had destroyed our old home and everything in it five months before we moved into our unfinished, new home. After the disaster we had spent five months in a large army tent with the tall stumps of burned maple trees as our tent poles, telephone "desk" and retail dairy office.
Dad and neighbors erected most of the new house, and we moved in the unfinished home in October with wood shavings to sweep up each evening. The home had a pipeless furnace, running water, indoor bathroom, basement and other conveniences we had never known.
We were family, and Christmas would be slim that year. Santa couldnít come down our unfinished fireplace chimney - the space was stuffed with gunny sacks to keep out winterís cold.
Mom recalled the ingredients for her favorite White Mountain Cake - from her burned "White House Cook Book." She made that huge, four-layer cake, putting it together with both a filling and a divinity cake icing. It was to honor Tillmanís 16th birthday, now past. The layers kept sliding in all directions, and Mom "toothpicked" it together, but still it slid!
Finally she dumped the cake, filling and divinity icing upside-down into her new aluminum dishpan. All six of us stood around with big spoons and enjoyed Tillmanís ruined birthday cake, which was the very best!
Dad had located a piano for Mom for $50. It was almost in tune, and some of us sang, and I played my Christmas "uke."
Dad and Jim were reading directions for something and twisting wires together. Then theyíd put a thing to their ears as if they expected to hear a noise. Suddenly they shushed us all because they heard a human voice from those wires and a tiny "crystal" that Jim had borrowed from school.
When they shouted for silence, we each held our breath; Jimís teacher had sent the little crystal gadgets for him to tinker with. One by one we listened with one ear and thought we could hear a manís voice. Imagine our excitement when someone repeated the manís message.
Perhaps it was Jim who heard it first: "KDKA." My own brother had created a working radio - right there in our dining room, with a crystal and some kind of tiny needles. We gathered around and heard "WLS" and messages! The messages were advertisements, but weíd never heard anything like that before!
Iíve forgotten how long we were a family of six, but Iíve not forgotten that Joe Garity rode to town on the dairy truck one Saturday and went to Haysí Hardware Store to buy a pair of ice skates. Deep snow was now covered with ice, and Dad knew where some menís skates had hung for at least a year; Joe bought ladiesí skates with leather heel cup and straps for me!
He eventually saved money enough to buy a used car with a folding, cloth top. He was free to leave or stay and, in spring Joe headed east, toward Pennsylvania. We never heard from him afterward. Tillman married and stayed in touch with us for a few years. Iíll tell more about the thick ice that formed on top of deep snow some other Monday.