Bad weather. Schools closed, except for teaching via the net. Before your time, we had bad weather, school closing, but no idea there would ever be such a thing as the net.

Back in those days, there was also no TV, no Tik Tok, no E Books and as far as cell phones were concerned, never even dreamed of such things. We were considered blest to have a wall mounted dial phone, even if we shared it with an eight other phones on the party line. But we had radio. The Golden Age of Radio.

And like today, we had weather. And like today, weather was talked about a lot. And like today, there was nothing we could do to change it.

This is a remembrance of that time long ago.

Miss Fee

Another back-in-the-day post:  before we had streaming TV, heck before we ever heard of TV, we had radio, and before we had schools with basketball courts and buses to transport us to these wonderful buildings, we had one-room schoolhouses. One room, one teacher, grades One thru Eight. The enrollment went from 8 pupils one year to a high of 14 another year.


The Original Story

Growing up on a small farm, our one radio was the only source of outside entertainment available to me. I hurried with my chores so I could listen to “my programs” – Tom MixLone Ranger, etc.. After supper, Mom controlled the dial (Dad worked nights in the packinghouse), and we listened to comedies like Fibber McGee, dramas like The First Nighter, and music like Your Hit Parade. Sometimes, when she was busy, I would lower the volume and find a crime show like Sam Spade, or a thriller like Suspense. A second radio would have been wonderful but was out of the question.

I went to the one-room schoolhouse across the field. Miss Fee, who lived on a farm with her four bachelor brothers, taught all eight grades as she had for years. She ruled with a stern scowl and a wood ruler.

One very cold early evening, she walked into our kitchen and announced she could not get her DeSoto started and was going to spend the night with us. And she added, that she hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. Mom, who also had Miss Fee as a teacher, would never had dared to offer any alternatives, and did everything that Miss Fee ordered, even letting her control the radio dial.

After that first night, the DeSoto seemed to fail every time the mercury dropped below zero, and we would have our very demanding guest. Mom told Dad that she didn’t believe the “car won’t start” story. “Those Fees are so tight with a buck,” Mom explained, “It’s her way of getting a good meal and a warm bed, having somebody else do the work.” Dad just smiled. “And,” Mom added, “She even has to listen to her radio programs! I go to listen to Kraft Music Hall. She turns on Sunset Valley Barn Dance!”

I saw an opening, “Well, if we had another radio…” Mom cut me off with her “Think-we’re-made-of-money” look. Dad shook his head.

Then one night, a Monday night, Miss Fee walked in. Everything went as usual except when eight o’clock came, time for Mom’s one must-listen-to program, Lux Radio Theater. She had hurried with her work and was sitting in her favorite chair, her crochet materials in her lap, listening to the words, “Lux Presents Hollywood,” her favorite hour of the week, when…Miss Fee turned the dial to Doctor I.Q.!…”I have a woman in the balcony, Doctor. And for three silver dollars…”

Mom stood up, and without a word, went to bed.

The very next payday we got our second radio. From then on, Mom could listen to Jack Benny and Bing Crosby, and I could solve crimes with Johnny Dollar and get goose bumps from the squeaking door of Inner Sanctum except when Miss Fee’s DeSoto wouldn’t start.

    Technically this is not an OLD HAND published newspaper story. It was published in the OLD TIME RADIO CATALOG. They asked for stories concerning old time radio. This was the first they ever published and I received ten CD’s of old time radio for it. Their web site is excellent. If you want to know what old timers like me listened to instead of TV, go to their web site. Not only is it informative, there is free old time radio programs you can listen to. http://www.otrcat.com/

ADDENDUM to the published story.

This was only part of the story. That first night Miss Fee declared she was spending the night, there were three choices, Mom and Dad’s bedroom, the kids’ bedroom, the living room couch. Naturally, Mom put her in her and Dad’s bedroom. Mom would sleep with my sister and Dad would sleep on the couch.

There would be no problem. Every night when Dad came home from work, Mom always woke up. She knew she could intercept Dad when he was sitting at the kitchen table eating a sandwich. She would explain the problem.

But there was a problem! Mom never woke up that night when Dad came home; but boy did she wake up when Dad started screaming and swearing. We all woke up.

Poor Dad. He was clad only in his jockey shorts and was standing facing the corner of the hall by his bedroom, trying to protect his head with his hands.

God damn it, woman,’ he kept yelling over and over, ‘You lost your mind or something? I’m your husband, not a god damn burglar.’

And Miss Fee, wearing long johns and her gray wool sweater was working him over with a broom, this pervert who had tried to climb in bed with her.

Mom jumped to the rescue and grabbed the broom away from Miss Fee at the same time trying to explain to both participants what had happened.

And the three of us older kids just couldn’t stop from laughing at the sight caused by the misunderstanding. The baby of the family slept through it all.

Miss Fee quickly retreated to the bedroom and we could hear her praying the rosary behind the closed door. Dad stomped into the living room and Mom followed, apologizing all the way after yelling for us kids to go back to bed. We did but it took a long time for us three kids to stop laughing and finally go to sleep; and by that time, we woke the baby and it took a long time for Mom to get him back to sleep.

The next day at school, Miss Fee brought me into the back room and begged me not to tell any of the other pupils what happened the night before. I said I wouldn’t, mainly because I had told some of them before school had even started and by then they all knew.

And Mom and Dad arranged for a signal that Miss Fee was spending the night, just in case Mom ever overslept, which she never did again.


41 thoughts on “MISS FEE;THE DIAL SWITCHER-reblog

  1. What a story…..you couldn’t make that up! But I did have the feeling something like this was inevitable. Did you get a high mark from Miss Fee that year? I hope so!

  2. Don, you are a fine writer and story-teller.

    You coulda been a “contender”….just like Marlon Brando! Well, at least you didn’t have take a dive….

    Keep telling good stories. The world needs more…..Tom


    • The school was on a plot donated by Mom’s dad and was just about 75 yards from our house. Her next place of refuge would have been a mile away. Plus she knew she had the folks under her thumb and it would never happen again.
      Thank you for the comment, Susanne

  3. That’s more than an addendum — it’s a “God damn” good story in itself. Although I was born in the 1930s, I never attended a one-room schoolhouse….but I’ve seen a number of them in my travels, so I can well picture Miss Ree’s domain….and I DO remember some of the radio programs you mentioned. Those were the days, my friend!

  4. It’s hard for me way over here in Australia to reconcile this style of American life, and what I read in historical articles, with all that I read now. Too many stories on Facebook about “Karens” and other entitlement.
    But I remember from our trip to the States some five or so years back that everyone I met in Oregon were real nice modest people who would have had similar family backgrounds as you describe.
    I’ve read the story before, but no less enjoyable on the second time around. Despite giving you a few years, I’m sure I’ve said we also did not have TV and relied on the radio (and books). I’m still a fan of the English “Goon Show”. Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, etc. I can quote some scenes!

    • Back in the day I use to listen to The Goon Show on old time radio web sites; but I can’t do it now, because I need closed caption to understand the English accent. Mulligan was a genius.
      A great deal of my TV viewing is Brit Box and Acorn, great TV shows from all over the UK. And all with closed caption.
      So happy to hear you liked the post even though it was the second time for you.
      I guess Miss Fee, her demanding and her entitlement, was a ‘Karen’. Her first name was Grace, and that didn’t fit her at all.

      • Ah yes, those Goons do rollick along, and even I can’t catch it all. I used to have a book of their scripts but I feel I gave it away in a rash moment.

        I hadn’t thought of Miss Fee as a ‘Karen’ … but now you mention it …

  5. That Miss Fee was so entitled, expecting to stay, eat a meal, and change the radio. I am glad she got her just desserts when your dad climbed into bed, and even happier that you told all the other kids before she asked you not to. 🙂 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  6. That is hilarious! I miss those radio stories. What was the spooky one? The Shadow Knows? I used to love Paul Harvey. Actually, the radio is much like reading aloud. It could do a generation a world of good to hear all those great stories (and have to make the pictures in their head.)

    • “Radio is imagination for the mind’, pretentious saying from back when. Actually it is being read aloud to by a group of people. When I was the age of your tykes, Mom started me out listening to Sat morning radio. Let’s Pretend, Buster Brown, Red Lantern.
      Jennie, you could let somebody else ‘read aloud’ and you could sit back and watch their faces. I highly recommend Let’s Pretend. You can get 2 CDs, 70 programs in all, for ten bucks at otrcat.
      The Shadow was spooky alright; but it was Inner Sanctum that made my hair stand up.
      And ‘now you know the rest of the story’.
      Happy to hear you liked the post. Thank you, Jennie.

  7. Lovely story! Had me grinning. ‘Lux Radio Theatre’ sounds like something I read about in Elizabeth Enright’s lovely stories about the Melendy children in the 1940s – the oldest sister acted out stories for a radio show which was sponsored by some beauty brand (if I recall correctly). Probably a reference to that! 🙂

  8. OH MY OH MY … !!! LOL !
    Doubt those were the oaths I woulda used!

    You know Don, when I tell young folks what it was like and how we lived … NOT so long ago … I don’t know if they believe me?? Wood stove, No TV … My Goodness!

    It was “SGT Preston of the Yukon” on our radio. Followed by the Lone Ranger …
    and only “The Shadow” knows “what evil lurks in the hearts of men.”

    In a small converted church we waited with ‘baited breath’ for Mr. King (a true Prince of a man) to treat us with next chapter from “Pilgrim’s Progress”.

    My Goodness … those were the days …

    Thanks for Memories Don.

    And you too Bob … and Rochester … fading out … stage left …

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