Our Oldham family was by no means well off in the early 1950’s. Of course my two brothers and me never knew that. We thought we were just right. The only thing I can remember that would indicate otherwise was when Dad said something I have never forgotten. “These rich folks that live in $20, 0000 homes have it made.” Why I remember that, I don’t know. I guess it was the first indication that I was born into a poor family in south Louisiana.
Even still, I did not understand the implications of these words, at the time, and continued playing with my friends. I loved the era and the upbringing in which I grew up. Living a life of understanding black-eyed peas, fried SPAM, and cornbread was good for me, I still find them delicious. However, it was these years of innocence that I now look back upon as an adult and appreciate the very few real vacations that we took as a family.
Dad worked full time for the NATB (National Automobile Theft Bureau) as a Louisiana State Trooper. He took a second job pastoring the small Church of God in Tickfaw, Louisiana. Mom worked as a bookkeeper. With these three incomes we were able to enjoy vacation moments that were short and adventurous. Sometimes we went fishing at Old River or False River on the western side of the Mississippi River. These used to be a part of Old Man River until he changed course and cut them off, making nice fishing lakes. Otherwise, if we weren’t fishing in someone’s pond, or the creek bottom, we were swimming in one of them—if we could shoo the snakes away.
Yet the spontaneous outings Dad created were the ones I am most fond of. The one captured in this photo is just one of many such impromptu adventures. We were driving through the country roads of south Louisiana when Dad saw a Forestry Fire Tower and pulled in the driveway. As usual Mom said, “What are you doing Edward?” My older brother Bill and I stood to attention when we heard the answer.
“I’ll be right back.”
In a few minutes Dad waved goodbye to the Forest Ranger and returned to the car.
“Come on boy’s, we’re climbing to the top.”
Bill and I hopped out of the car and raced to the bottom of the stairs. The walk was exciting at first, but it did not take long for a four and six year old to tire out. Dad snapped this photo while we were resting. After catching our breath we climbed to the top and looked in every direction, over thousands of acres of trees.
Even though I was a month from turning five, I have never forgotten this small memory. A smile calms my grin each time I see a fire tower.