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story.lead_photo.caption PHOTO COURTESY OF STAN FINE

My mother, Mary Louise Barr Fine, was a girl whose only view of life and the world was the one she had from the small southwest Missouri Ozarks town of Pineville. There she went to school, swam in the warm waters of the Little Sugar Creek and laughed with her best friend Maxine. The two girls enjoyed lemon ice cream at the Havenhurst dam and speculated about how their lives might look following high school. It was in that small town of 700 or so residents that she met her later-to-become husband, Floyd -- Junior, as she called him.

As the years all too quickly passed, Mary, her friend Maxine and Junior found that their time as carefree children dancing at Bonnibel Sweet's store would come to an end. It seemed as though Mary and Junior were destined to build a life together and, after graduation caps were tossed into the air and the two became more than high school sweethearts, they became husband and wife.

Mary soon found that she was with child and she and Junior talked about how a baby would change their lives. They talked about what kind of parents they would be and the two wondered: Would the new child be a boy or a girl? Mary knew nary a thing about being a mother, and Junior struggled with the idea that he would become the growing family's breadwinner. Jobs were few and far between in Pineville but, with the family's addition on the way, money was desperately needed.

At 11:55 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 7, 1942, a healthy baby boy entered the world of Mary and Junior. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed infant would thereafter be known to all as Billy Joe Fine. Mary and the newest resident of Pineville, that small bundle of joy, were resting inside Maggie Barr's Main Street house.

Margret Maggie Barr's house, the home my mother and her brothers grew up in, was a small house located on Main Street in Pineville. The days that followed the birth of my brother found that small house crowded with visitors. T.O. Bradley, Vera Lou Myers and Ruth Oliver stopped by. Jack Poyner and wife, Lynn Clark and Peggy Ann Bottles were among the well-wishers. Mrs. Bill Carnell asked how Mary was feeling and, through all the smiles and words of gratitude spoken by my mother that day, the most sincere words of thanks were given to her best friend, Maxine Legore.

Friends and relatives anxious to get a glimpse of Billy arrived with words of felicitations. Most not only expressed their feelings with words but, as was the custom, brought gifts for the new mother and child. The first person to visit my mother and her new baby boy was Hazel Carnell. Hazel brought with her a gift that would be part of Mary's life for the next seven years. Hazel brought Mary a book; a book entitled "All About Our Baby."

I, now in my late and hard-to-come-to-terms-with sixties, quite accidentally found the book once gifted to my mother by Hazel Carnell. As I turned the faded and brittle pages of the book, I wondered if Hazel, the wife of Martin, could have ever imagined that, after 76 years, the book would still exist. I suppose that Hazel Carnell of Pineville, Mo., considered the book a thoughtful gift and possibly nothing more.

The cover page of the book is blank save for the ink scribed words, "Billy Joe Fine from Hazel Carnell, 1942." Two pages later I recognized my mother's scribbling as she recorded birth details, "Born September 7, 1942, at 5 min till 12:00 p.m. in Pineville, Missouri; delivered by R.E. Warmack, M.D."

The writing on the following page, also written in my mother's hand, described the newly born infant: Blue eyes, Blonde hair, weighing 7 and ½ pounds and resembling the father, Junior, or possibly my mother's brother, Dallas. I personally feel that newly birthed infants are little more than wrinkled, pink bed-wetter's and I fail to see the resemblance between any baby and a fully-grown adult.

My mother was not known, even then I suppose, as one given to describe objects, events or people in flowery or lengthy fashions. For whatever reason, even to this day not known to me or my brother, next to the name Billy, my mother wrote the name "Pokey;" some sort of cutesy name she gave to my brother I suppose which did not, and thankfully so, follow him as he aged.

The baby book has a page dedicated to those Pineville residents and friends of the mother. It is the "Visitors" page. There on the yellowed paper, my mother wrote the names of well-wishers and those who visited the new mother wanting to get a glimpse of the newest resident of Pineville. That particular page also has a section dedicated to the gifting and acceptance of gifts for the newborn baby.

Rose Brown brought a hot water bottle; always a useful and much-appreciated item. Nanette Faust smiled and said congratulations as she passed to the new mother a dress. Ms. Etta Lines held out for all to see a shirt that the boy might soon wear.

Mrs. Tub Allman also considered a dress to be a useful item of clothing, while Mrs. Cockrell was certain that a bathrobe for the mother would come in handy on those soon-to-come cold fall nights, those nights when Mary would need to respond to the needs of a sleepless child.

Mrs. Jackson brought a pair of booties, Jack Hopper presented Mary with a small cap and Mr. and Mrs. Jeffers came with a very practical and useful present, two one-dollar bills. The baby boy's grandfather Fine, also a person with a practical nature, brought $10; and great-aunt Rosalyn Hagerman followed suit with an envelope containing $5.

The next few time-yellowed and worn pages document Billy's growth. Amazingly, at least to me and someone who might know Mary well, adjacent to each month during the first year of the baby's life she scribed in the number of pounds, the baby's weight. I noticed that at the end of the 12th month Billy weighed 26 pounds and, by his fourth year, he had grown into a 44-pound boy.

There are pages with the baby's ink impressed foot and handprints, which once again, were traditional in those days. If I might once more interject a personal observation, for whom would the darkened ink impressed image of the bottom of a baby's foot be of interest?

There are pages with timetables indicating the first appearances of teeth. The book identifies the first picture snapped of the baby as one taken in Joplin 16 months following the child's birth.

The first outings took the mother and child to Southwest City, Neosho and Noel. In Noel, Billy's paternal grandmother and grandfather held the child. The baby's great-grandmother, Mary Hagerman, gently held the child at the family's farm near Checks Corner.

The baby's first steps were taken at the age of 10 months. This milestone occurred at grandmother's house as the attentive and doting relative looked on, laughing and uttering words of encouragement and praise.

Apparently, at least according to my mother's writings, Billy was a very loud and finicky baby. Mary noted that for the three months following his birth, he "cried most of the time." Several different types of milk were given to the infant, all of which were soundly rejected. Eventually, "Carnation Can Cream," became the nourishment of choice.

The always-remembered first cold Ozark Christmas found mother and child healthy. Grandfather and McDonald County Sheriff Floyd Fine gave the baby boy six new dresses. Annie Brown's presents were an apron and spoon, while Mary's friend Maxine surprised Mary with socks and mittens. Uncle Dallas offered up a more masculine appropriate gift as he presented the baby with two, good for bouncing, balls.

Mary identified the baby's favorite story as being "Peter Rabbit," and apparently the child enjoyed listening to country music as the book notes that Billy enjoyed the song, "Don't Fence Me In." Now that's understandable as, at the age of 75, my brother still enjoys listening to many a good ole country singer.

The family of three would eventually move to San Pedro, Calif., where the fifth, sixth and seventh birthdays were celebrated. Billy's best friends there were two sisters, Jackie and Barbara Ann Jeffers. As fate would have it, these two were the children of Mary's longtime friend, Maxine; how strangely wonderful that things worked out that way.

The story told in the baby book find's its conclusion there in San Pedro, Calif., as my brother reached the age of seven. Oh, there are some ink scribbled notes here and there but I suppose that in 1949 my mother's life once again dramatically changed. You see, I was born in 1949.

I don't recall that my mother often put pen to paper. I don't know if she just couldn't find that there were enough leisurely hours in the day or possibly writing was something she had lost interest in. She did, for years, write notes on post cards which were mailed to her high school friend Maxine Jeffers.

As a child, I sometimes watched while she scribbled a brief note on a scrap of paper as she explained to my grade school principal why I hadn't attended school the previous day. I don't remember her handwriting being particularly stylish and, as I turned the pages of the baby book, there were words and names which I found difficult to decipher. But then, I don't suppose she was trying to show off her prolific handwriting stylings but rather merely wanted to record those special, and once in a lifetime, things about her firstborn child, Billy Joe Fine, aka "Pokey."

-- Stan Fine is a retired police officer and Verizon Security Department investigator who, after retiring in 2006, moved from Tampa, Fla., to Noel. Stan's connection to Noel can be traced back to his grandparents who lived most of their lives there. Stan began writing after the passing of his wife Robin in 2013. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 05/10/2018

Print Headline: Mary's Journal: "All about Our Baby"

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