"Dalton Shores" 1st Chapter
Raising children as a single mom is always a hard job, but in the forties and fifties in Iowa, it was even tougher. Good paying jobs for women in a small town were hard to come by, and most available guys didn't want to raise another man's kids. This is the story of the Shore family's two generations, struggling through six decades, to find love and happiness with each other and separately. Their plight was like many families of that era, but perhaps even more difficult. An alcoholic father, living in dilapidated housing, and unexpected mishaps and deceptions filled their lives and brought their families to the brink of destruction on more than one occasion. Plus, a look into the life of a young musician; the music, the bars and fast women.
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"QUICK!, hide in the bathroom and lock the door." Millie Shore hustled her three kids into the tiny room, and threw the skeleton key in behind them. Tommy, the second eldest, quickly clicked the bolt into the door jamb, pushed his older sister Elaine and little brother Darren toward the back of the tiny room, and held his finger to his lips. "Shhhhh, QUIET!" Little Darren began to make wheezing sounds, forcing air in and out of his mouth, until Tommy pushed his face into his sister's arms, and she muffled the sobs with her hand.
Loud crashing sounds, and louder voices, echoed from the sparsely furnished living room of their tenement slum apartment, but the young ones were huddled in and behind the tub, and couldn't make out what all the commotion was about.
Elaine whispered to Tommy, "It must be BAD, I've never seen mommy so upset and scared."
Millie Shore was a loving and protective parent, who would probably have killed anyone who seriously threatened her children, no matter WHO it was.
"You're drunk again and I'm not letting you near the kids," Millie said in a lowered voice, trying not to incite Jamison, her estranged husband.
Jamison had been a social drinker all of his life, but in 1943 when he went to serve in the war overseas, he must have fallen in with the wrong crowd that drank in every tavern and pub, in every friendly town over there. He had become so dependent on the sauce, that he hardly had a sober day since his return.
He had only been back from the war three months, and Millie was already showing her pregnancy with Little Darren. That was almost two years ago, and since then the relationship had become broken beyond repair.
"I just wanna see my babieshhh," he slurred. "You have no right to keep them from me." He pushed his way past her, and she fell backwards over the stuffed chair, knocking the cheap lamp and ashtray off the table nearby.
Jamison never asked the children to unlock the door, or even waited to see if they would. In his drunken stupor, he crashed his shoulder into the flimsy laminate and the frame shattered. Darren began to weep loudly, and the three children cowered at the site of their staggering father, with wild looking, reddened eyes. Jamison fell to his knees and tried to comfort the trembling children.
"I've got everything I need right here," he said, slapping his shirt. The cap of a pint shown from the top of his pocket. "Don't cry, daddy won't hurt you." He stammered on and on like all drunks do, with his bad liquor breath, never making much sense or finishing sentences. He tried to reach for Tommy and Elaine, but just as he stretched out his arms to pull them close, WHACK!, Millie broke one of those huge coffee cups across his short cropped head. Blood flowed down through his hair onto his face and dripped onto the floor.
"You son of a bitch!," Millie was now weeping along with the little ones. "Get your ass out of here or I'll call the police!"
"You just do that. I'll have you arrested for battery."
Obviously, in the paper-thin walls of the rundown dwelling, neighbors, tired of hearing screams and the shattering of glass, had called the law themselves. The officer stood in the doorway with his billy club drawn and his hand on his gun. The neighbors stared from the hallway, and Millie felt embarassed that their mostly quiet existence had once again been disrupted by another intrusion of Jamison.
"What is the problem this time?," the cop asked. "The neighbors were afraid someone was getting hurt." Millie glared over the cop's shoulder, and the concerned busybodies headed down the hall and closed their doors, mostly. Millie saw some eyes still peering out through cracks.
"My husband is drunk AGAIN, and I don't want him near the children when he's like this. We have been separated nearly 2 years and he has gotten worse as time goes by. He came in here today, tore up the place and refuses to leave."
"Do you have a restraining order?," Sgt Cooper asked.
"Well no, that would mean taking time off from my job to go down to the courts, and losing pay. I barely make enough now to buy food. I'm behind on the rent and will probably lose this place soon."
"Does your husband work?," the officer asked.
"Yes, when he can get sober for awhile. He goes through jobs like I go through nylons, so I could never depend on him even if I wanted to, which I don't."
"Maybe you should reconcile with the Mister if you can't make it on your own."
"No, that can never be. Too much shit has happened to ever consider getting back together."
"So, what do you want me to do? You can't have this kind of disruption going on forever."
"I just want him to go and let me raise these kids in a peaceful, loving home."
"Where is he now ma'am?" The officer crossed the threshhold and swept the room with curious eyes.
"He's in the bathroom trying to convince the kids he's a loving, caring ---"
"Mr. SHORE?," the officer interupted. "I'm coming in." Millie followed officer Cooper to the bathroom.
"MR. SHORE?," the sargent called out again. Jamison was leaning against the wall slumped sideways. Dried blood coated one cheek.
"GAWD Is he dead?," the cop asked.
"Hell no, he's just passed out drunk. I smacked him with a cup when he broke down my bathroom door."
"So do you want to press any charges?"
"No, just get him outa here. And could ya threatin' him a little bit so he will leave us alone?"
The officer got a little smirk on his face. "Well, unless you're willing to press charges, whatever I say to him won't be official."
"Just get him outta here!"
Sgt Cooper splashed cold water on Jamison's face, and pulled him to his feet enough to get him out the door. Jamison slaughtered a few phrases as he stumbled down the stairs.
"Why'ssshhh my head hurt?"
Sargent Cooper chuckled, "Guess you hit your head when ya passed out."
Millie straightened the chair, picked up the lamp and ashtray, and hugged her babies. The broken door would have to wait.
At 7am, Millie drove her old jalopy to the deli where she worked 10 hours a day, behind the soda fountain. She cooked quick lunches on the grill for locals, and made shakes and sundaes when kids dropped in on their way home from school. When the lunch counter was slow, she'd put up the new magazines on the rack or stock shelves. Sometimes she'd stop and read the movie star mags, or romance paperbacks, and phantasize of the day when SHE might find a life. It was difficult for a young woman on her own in the 1940's, with three offspring to tend to at the end of the day. But she never shirked her responsibilities as an employee or mother. There was little money, and a lot of food stretching. Sometimes at the end of a workday, some prepared food hadn't sold at the deli, and Mr. Kelley her boss, would give her some to take home. That was treat night for all the family. But mostly, she made do with the likes of macaroni, spaghetti or hotdogs with Campbells tomato soup. You could make that stuff go a long way.
On weekday mornings, the two oldest, Elaine and Tommy, got breakfast for the three of them and made sure their little brother Darren, was ready for the sitter. The house where Mrs. Larson lived and cared for Darren, was on the way to the school, and they would drop him off around 7:30, then walk about 6 blocks to Washington Elementary. Millie had planned out all the locations so she could get to work earlier, and not have to worry about her precious ones. And so it went for a couple more years. The drudgery and monotony of the deli, the nurturing of the children and scraping the bottom of the barrel to make ends meet. It took it's toll on Millie, and she was losing weight and becoming depressed. Something had to change.
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