User Rating: 4 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Inactive

"Robert! I will not speak to you again. I want you to quit teasing your little sister.”

"But Mama, she kicks my marbles every time she goes by!”

"If you two can't play together without quarreling I will have to punish you both. Remember, my overshoe is out there on the front porch.”

"Mine is out there too, Mama,” Robert replied.


Mama, Mrs. Sadie Jolly, had her hands full with the four of us. She frequently used her overshoe on us when we were small, and later she used the little switch cut from the pear tree which hung over our garden fence from the neighbor's backyard,


My older brother, Raymond, and I used to see that the switch was partly severed along its length so it would break easily.


In 1895, we lived in the little country village of Peppertown, Pennsylvania. Doctor George Jolly, our Papa, had his office in the home. Mama had to keep the house, take care of us four children, be the office girl when Papa would be out on his house calls, and also administer any punishment required.    


Mama had her problems with me. One day she said, “Louise, where have you been?"


"Down by the church shed playing ball.”


"I want you to stay here and rock the baby to sleep.”


"When I get her to sleep may I go?"


"We'll see when the time comes."


The baby, Pauline, was five years younger than me and weighed six pounds at birth. She only gained four pounds her first year. Because her weight was only ten pounds, I was not allowed to hold her for fear I would drop her.


Mama would put her into the baby buggy. I would lie on the floor, roll the buggy over me, then, with a strap which was fastened to the bottom of the buggy, I would jog her up and down. This motion was supposed to put her to sleep. After what I considered a sufficient amount of time, I would crawl out from under the buggy, and peek at her, only to be met with two big blue eyes smiling at me.


I thought it was the spit on the postage stamp that made it stick to the envelope so I took my spit and rubbed it on the underside of her upper eyelid, and then pressed it down tight. After doing this to each eye, I would say, "Mama, Pauline's eyes are shut. May I go now?"        


"I guess so," said Mama.


I would hurry out before Mama discovered that the baby was not really asleep.


The pear tree switch, which was kept behind the kitchen mirror, was frequently used to keep us in line until we were old enough to discipline ourselves.


One time when Mama had to punish Robert, my younger brother, she used the switch rather vigorously.      


"Now Robert, I guess that will show you that I mean what I say. Go into the living room and practice the piano.”


With tears streaming down his cheeks, he sat at the piano and began playing, "Bless Be the Tie That Binds Our Hearts in Christian Love.” It happened to be Wednesday evening and, as Mama went to Prayer Meeting, she entered the room a little late and, alas! they were singing, "Bless Be the Tie That Binds Our Hearts in Christian Love.”


That night she said, "Doctor, (Mama always called Papa “Doctor.” Never did she call him George.) I wonder if God is punishing me?"  


"Oh, I don't think so. After all, I think Robert needed that punishment.”


"Well, just the same, I wish you would take over the punishment of the children for a while. I just can't whip him again; no, not for a long time.


Mama then said to Papa, “I don't know what I am going to do with Louise.”


"What has she done now?”


"I sent her upstairs to empty the wash bowls, the chamber pots, and to make the beds. She was gone for so long that I went upstairs to see what the trouble could be. I found her curled up on the bed reading the Youths’ Companion; and, to make the matter worse, she has a whole pile of them hidden in the storage room. She says she borrowed them from Bob Lassiter. I am really afraid that she will ruin her mind reading such light literature.”  


"I know how you feel about light literature, but at least she isn’t reading those Elsie Dinsmore books. However, why don’t you punish her this time by sending her to bed early? She needs the rest.”  


That was the reason I had to go to bed at seven o'clock every night for a whole month. I sometimes think I spent most of my childhood in bed because I was always in some kind of trouble.


Going to bed was not such a bad punishment. My bedroom was over the office. There was a register in the floor so the heat from the stove in the office could come up and partly warm the bedroom. I would not be sleepy, so I would lie on the floor with my eyes glued to the register hole and listen to all that went on in Papa's office. I received quite an education in the practice of medicine and all the symptoms and ailments of the various patients.


One night, Mr. O’Hara came into the office to pay his bill. Papa always had Mama make out his bills and, since there was no drug store in town, Papa had to carry his own medicines.

Mama would itemize the bill giving the cost of the medicine, then the cost of the visits, and then state the total amount due.   


I listened through the register hole and heard Mr. O’Hara tell Papa that he had come in

to pay his bill. I saw him reach down into his blue jeans’ pocket and pull out a salt sack, take off the rubber band, plunge his hand into the bottom of the bag and extract some coins. He slowly counted out some coins and laid them on the bill and said, “There you are Doc.”


Papa picked up the coins and said, "Why, Dennis, this is not all of it.”


"Well you see, Doc, I am paying you for the medicine only.”


"But what about the cost of the visits?"


"Oh, yes, the visits. Well, I plan to return the visits.”


I am sure Papa never was paid the balance of that bill.


Papa’s charge for doctor visits in the office or anywhere in town was 50¢, but when he had to drive his horse and buggy out into the country, he charged according to the distance he had to go.      

He would deliver babies for $5.00 each, but if he had to use instruments in the delivery his charge would be $10.00. I have heard some people argue with him saying that he did not have to use instruments, but did so just to get $5.00 more. One farmer was mad because the charge was $10.00 so he charged Papa $1.00 for the breakfast he ate at the farm after spending the night waiting for the delivery of the baby.    


One night the office doorbell rang. I jumped out of bed and ran to the register hole. I saw Miss Susie Simpson come into the office and heard her say, "Doctor, I am so glad you are still up. I have a pain in my chest and find it hard to breathe.”


“Just hold this thermometer in your mouth, and I will see if you have any temperature.”


“Oh, Doctor, I never run a temperature.”


After a few minutes, looking at the thermometer, Papa said, “You are running a temperature tonight. Now, if you will open that shirtwaist and your corset cover so I can get a stethoscope on your chest, I will listen to your breathing.”


“Oh, Doctor, don’t you dare ask me to undress in front of you!”


“I am not asking you to undress, but, really, how else can I tell much about your lung condition without listening to your breathing? I can’t use the stethoscope through all that clothing.”


“Well, if I have to open my clothes for you to hear my breathing, I would rather die than be that immodest!” exclaimed Miss Simpson.


“Well, just as you wish,” said Papa. “After all, you are perfectly safe. You know I am a married

man and have four children.”


“As you know Doctor, I am not married, but I do have a good reputation to maintain!”


“As a compromise, suppose you go home and go to bed. Put a hot water bottle at your feet, and take this sleeping powder. I will come out to see how you are first thing in the morning. At present I am fearful that you might be in the beginning stages of pneumonia.”


“Then I suppose you will not charge me for this visit tonight as you have done nothing for me.”


As she left, Mama came into the office to see if Papa had to make any night calls.


"Sadie, you know Susie Simpson, that prissy old maid?"


"Oh yes, she goes to our church."


"I think she needs more than religion. She wouldn't open her shirtwaist and let me listen to her breathing. I suspect pneumonia, so I sent her home to go to bed. I will go out there in the morning, and certainly, with only a nightgown on, I will be able to open it to get my stethoscope next to her chest."  


"Why do you think she was so uncooperative?" asked Mama.


"Seems she is trying very hard to protect her virginity.”


Mama whispered, “I really don't think she needs to worry. She is one of the least attractive- looking women in town.”


Papa and Mama were laughing as they left the office. I heard Papa say, "God help me if she ever has a baby.”  


By this time, I was tired, so I went back to bed.



  1. Louise Jolly may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Donate a little?

Use PayPal to support our efforts:


Genre Poll

Your Favorite Genre?

Sign Up for info from Short-Story.Me!

Stories Tips And Advice