Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

 

GRANDMAíS CHAMBER EXPERIENCE

It was not uncommon for my grandmother to work far into the night--usually on a quilt, but sometimes on a speech or recitation which she was soon scheduled to deliver. Mary Fellows loved to perform with a special theatrical flare. Whenever asked, she would recite poetry, deliver dramatic readings, or present small skits in front of a live audience.

It was late in the fall of 1948, and my grandmother lived in a little white house next to the parsonage on the east side of the park in Leando. A young, unmarried minister had moved in next door and was new to our parish.

Before Grandma was to recite a lengthy poem before a womenís group in Eldon, she practiced and rehearsed until well past her usual bedtime. She was a very short woman, and wore a long flannel nightgown that came to her ankles. Grandmaís bed was waist high. Because of the length of her nightgown, she had fashioned an awkward way of climbing into bed. By placing her buttocks on the edge of the mattress, she would straighten her legs out rigidly, then swing them up into bed in one swift swoop.

Since we did not have indoor plumbing, an enamel chamber pot adorned her bedroom. Each evening my mother would clean the receptacle, pour about two inches of water into it, put the lid on and place it near the end of Grandmaís bed. She was always careful to take her glasses off, fold them, and place them on the dresser before entering bed. However, that night it was late and she apparently had forgotten that she was still wearing her glasses.

After using the chamber pot, she turned off the light, then suddenly we heard a clattering as the pot lid went rolling across the room and a loud thud as my grandmother fell into a heap on the bedroom floor! When we turned on the light, there sat Grandma on the floor with the chamber pot on her head and her nightgown drenched to the waist!

We stopped laughing suddenly when we realized that poor Grandma could not get the contraption off her head! Her glasses were still on, thus they had caused the container to become wedged when she landed with her head in it. We were afraid to tug hard as her glasses might break and we could injure her. Thus, we decided to take her next door and have the preacher help us solve our dilemma.

Carefully, we guided grandma through the cool night. Still giggling about her adventure, I rang his doorbell while mom guided her up onto the porch. Just as he opened the front door, she caught her big toe in a crack that ran full width of the porch and she uttered an oath that was quite audible. I remember him saying, "Now, now, Mrs. Fellows!"

By wiggling the pot back and forth, he was able to get it off her head. Luckily, her glasses were still intact and her head suffered no injuries. She stayed up the rest of the night repeatedly washing and rinsing her hair. Meanwhile, her big toe swelled larger and larger. When it came time for her to go to Eldon, she could not get any of her shoes on her swollen foot. Determined not to miss a chance to perform, she wore house slippers although she was in pain and could barely walk.

Old doctor Cummings in Douds confirmed that her toe was broken. For the next three weeks she had her foot in bandages and kept it elevated as much as possible. However, she didnít miss church. She would sit near the back with her arms crossed staring at Reverend Farr whose eyes twinkled when he said, "Donít hesitate to bring your problems to me, great or small, any hour of the day or night!" He didnít dare talk about it, but most people already knew about Grandmaís chamber experience.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick
http://iagenweb.org/vanburen/