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Dr. Jack Hamilton Armstrong – Part 2

This is second in a series of excerpts from the book: Dad’s Memories: Growing Up Poor, But Rich, by Dr. Jack Hamilton Armstrong (written for his Grandchildren)


I would like to add some things I remember about Mom and Dad. I was not born until they were 37, so most of what I learned of their younger years was what I was told. When you think about it, you spend very little time with your parents. By the time I was 8, they were 45; when I started Purdue, they were 55; and when Alice and I were married at 22, they were almost 60. So I only spent about 10 meaningful years with them.

Dad’s father died when he was 16 and he was left to take care of his mother and younger brother, George, who was 6 years younger. His mother soon moved to Bedford and left him alone on the farm. I assume as a result he became a very good cook, especially of the things produced on the farm and especially in the big garden he always had.

He started working and managing the farm from then on until he died in 1968 at 74. Dad was a big man. He was 6-foot 4 and-a-half inches tall and weighed 240 pounds, which was very big in those days. It was said he could pick up a barrel of sugar, which weighed 320 pounds. He was very quiet and I never saw him lose his temper. He never whipped me but once, and I am sure I needed it, but when I was small he did thump me on the head, which did get my attention. It was always said that he had the patience of Job. I never saw him take a drink and the only time I ever saw him drink a beer was a warm one at a Cincinnati Reds baseball game. He never went past the 6th grade but always seemed to manage quite well. I never saw him read anything, but he was always sure Mom had the paper. He was one of my greatest supporters for going to school and wanted me to study veterinary medicine at Purdue, but of course Purdue did not have a veterinary school at that time. He liked kids and enjoyed driving the school bus, which he did for 22 years. He was pretty easy going and one of his favorite sayings was never run when you can walk, never stand when you can sit and never stay in the sun if you can get in the shade. That was kind of his philosophy.

Mom had a quite different personality from Dad. To say the least she was not quiet. She grew up on a small farm, 40 acres, across the road from where Dad lived from the time he was 16 years old. She had one sister, Beulah Pearson. She was 4 years older than Mom. I don’t think they ever got along too well, although the families were always close and visited almost every weekend. Dad and her son, Worth, farmed together and shared equipment.

Mom was always good in school and after finishing high school attended Indiana Central Normal for six weeks and obtained her teaching certificate. I am not sure how much she taught in her early years but later in life she renewed her teacher’s certificate and taught at the Springville School for many years. Kent Armstrong was always telling me he had her for a teacher the last year she taught.

She was a self-taught musician. She could play the piano and later self-taught herself to play the organ. She gave music lessons to almost everyone in the community, including me. As far as I know I am her only complete failure as a student. She was very active in community activities. She belonged to the ladies aid society at Church, taught Sunday School, played the piano for services, belonged to the county choir, and played the piano for the Day and Carter Funeral Home in Bedford for awhile. While she was a member of the County Choir they made a trip to Washington DC and sang on the capital steps. One of the original Capital Steps singers, get it?

During World War II she worked at an electronics plant in Bedford. This was all in addition to helping on the farm, raising chickens for egg money and canning hundreds of quarts of fruits and vegetables to put in the cellar for winter. The one thing she did not excel in was cooking and she made no bones about it. She readily admitted that Dad was a better cook. I have heard her say many times she would rather clean up afterwards than cook. When Robert was in the Army and asked if he didn’t miss good home-cooked meals he said, well not that much!

In later years, she and Hobert Powell were instrumental in getting the Springville Methodist cemetery enlarged and in keeping it mowed for many years. She was also a big proponent of me going to Purdue. However when I got homesick during the first semester she did tell me just to come home and we would do something, however she did not say what it would be. Thank goodness she never did have to say what it might be.

Armstrong Brothers

Here I am as a baby with Robert, note my early interest in dogs!

Armstrong Brothers 2

Here we are again, in 1938.

We of course, had no electricity until 1946, after WW II, when I was 15 years old. But that is another whole chapter. I spent most of my early years by myself, as Robert was 13 years older than me, so I had to entertain myself. But that was not trouble with all the animals, both tame and wild, that could be found on 250 acres. So I will begin by recalling some of my early memories of Church and Sunday School.

To be continued….


Taken from the book: Dad’s Memories: Growing Up Poor, But Rich, by Dr. Jack Hamilton Armstrong (written for his Grandchildren)

1 Comment

  1. E. Whitney Drake

    February 19, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    This is very interesting. I am a friend of Jack’s, and his story is so different from mine, though we end up as neighbors. I grew up in suburban Boston. I can see why he has such rich memories. I should add that my Mom was a good cook, and like my Dad, i am Not (thank heaven my Wife is).

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