Wouldn't go back, but early struggles were worth itIt’s been 40 years now since we lived in a rented house on the first block of North Conklin on the east side of Sioux Falls. I hadn’t thought of that place for some time, but during a visit to Chamberlain last week, we noticed that one of our granddaughters had her mattress on the floor, no bed frame. Shades of North Conklin.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
It’s been 40 years now since we lived in a rented house on the first block of North Conklin on the east side of Sioux Falls.
I hadn’t thought of that place for some time, but during a visit to Chamberlain last week, we noticed that one of our granddaughters had her mattress on the floor, no bed frame. Shades of North Conklin.
Nancy was pregnant with our second child that winter. I worked for the newspaper. She didn’t work during that pregnancy, what with a year-old daughter at home. We had little money, and we didn’t want to waste it on a bedroom set. We slept on a mattress. It was what they used to call a three-quarters mattress, wider than a twin, narrower than a regular, pretty snug for two adults. As the winter dragged on, Nancy needed more and more help getting up from the mattress in the morning.
We did have a car and the two-bedroom place, with a big backyard and an attached garage heated by the drier venting from the kitchen. It got linty now and then, but the car started. Many weeks after rent, a few bills and the groceries, we had $5 or less to make it to payday. We didn’t go out much. When we entertained, it was usually another couple with young kids. We had popcorn and iced tea and played board games.
We were pretty darned happy there in a neighborhood of working-class folks who left early and got home late and dirty from Morrell’s or the ’Yards or similar jobs. It was the American dream, economy style.
For Nancy and me, it was a move up from our first two places. For a few months after we married, we lived in a two-room apartment on Brookings’ main street. It was a second-floor place over Jim’s Tap, and on warm evenings when we would leave the windows open, we could hear the strains of Buck Owens and Hank Williams coming from the jukebox in the tavern.
Nancy was a registered nurse, fresh from passing her state boards. She quickly found part-time work that many weeks turned into 40 hours or more at the Brookings hospital. I worked at the Volga Tribune for the summer, but that was a temporary job, and I couldn’t find a full-time position. We borrowed a couple of hundred bucks from our parents and moved to Sioux Falls in the fall. I hooked on as a photographer at the Argus Leader, and Nancy landed a job on the psychiatric ward at McKennan Hospital.
I started at $100 a week. She was getting $110 and change. That may not sound like much, but in the space of about three months, we paid off nearly all of our college loans.
We rented a house just off Cliff Avenue a couple of blocks from McKennan’s front door for most of a year before we moved to Conklin. That first house was only a bit bigger than our apartment in Brookings, but it was a house, you know? It had one bedroom, a small living room, a cramped kitchen and a curtained alcove into which we managed to squeeze a baby crib.
After our daughter was born, Nancy went back to work. She took an overnight shift, so she could get home to Jennifer in the morning in time for me to head for the newspaper. Much of that time is a blur of saying hello and goodbye to each other as we passed coming and going.
Nancy loved nursing, but she loved Jennifer way more, and sometimes she’d cry as she got ready to leave her baby girl to go out in the night to take care of other people. Eventually, we decided she should quit her job and we’d struggle along. It was one of the best decisions we ever made. She was happier, I was happier. Jennifer, well, she had colic, but she grew out of that and on my days off, we’d put her in a stroller and walk the tree-lined streets of McKennan Park.
I’d never want to go back and do it all over, but I could be talked into one more stroll through the park.
Terry Woster’s column appears Saturdays and Wednesdays in The Daily Republic.