I have a copy of an old newspaper photograph from 1956 that shows a car wreck that occurred on Easter Sunday 1956 on a remote stretch of highway about two miles west to the intersection of highway 21 and 49.
The caption under the photo said that the wife of the driver of one of the three cars involved is still visible in the wreckage. It said that she was the mother of four children, ages seven, five, three and a baby ten months old who were also in the pictured Chevy station wagon.
A longer article explains that there was also a car with six sailors from the Great Lakes Naval Station and a third vehicle containing a young couple from nearby Berlin, WI and their four young children.
It was raining and the road was muddy and someone lost control, something happened and one car hit another and spun out and hit the station wagon head on. A local farm wife is quoted in the article as as saying that she and her husband heard the crash and went out, "picking up babies in the rain."
The nearest town, Berlin, is 15 miles away. The phones in 1956 were rotary dial and most rural phones shared 'party-line' connections. It took some time for the one ambulance in Berlin to arrive at the scene. The article said that most of the 17 injured that needed hospitalization were transported by private vehicles. It must have taken even longer, on an Easter Sunday afternoon, for the photographer of the local weekly newspaper to be located and for him to get to the site and take a photo of the woman in the Chevy station wagon who was presumed dead. There were breathing people to take care of first. There were babies in the rain.
I often wonder, when I look at that photo, how long she was in that car before someone realized that my mother was indeed alive and breathing.
I'm not sure how long my father was hospitalized but Mom did not leave the hospital until the following Thanksgiving. We were sent to live with various relatives and were not re-united as a family until about a year or so later. I know my father went back to his job in Marshfield on crutches with his wife in a hospital 85 miles away and his children scattered.
The thing of it is, it was never considered a big deal in my family. Really. I mean we knew the story and had heard the lore, but life just went on. My sister and brothers and I never thought of our parents as 'handicapped'........ they just walked 'funny'. They never complained. I know that there was no big buckeroo insurance settlement ....that all Mom's subsequent operations wiped out whatever money they had. But it wasn't a BIG DEAL. It just was what it was and we went on. They didn't TEACH us what family was...... they lived it. They got all four of us through college.... we never took vacations....we didn't do a lot of things. But they were always proud of us. That Dad had seven years where one of his sons was a starter on the football team.....that his daughter was the first in the family to graduate from college and become a TEACHER! Damn! He thought that that was the stuff!
They showed us that life was continuity, love, connection, determination, perseverance,lottsa love........ and even more...... humor.
Dad died nine years ago from complications during surgery to fix his leg. The operation precipitated a heart attack. The last time I saw him he was connected to tubes and machines &shit. Couldn't talk. He scribbled me a note that I should tell him a joke. I did. About a Rabbi and a Priest and a Minister. He liked those.
We are getting together tomorrow to celebrate the 85 birthday of the woman in the photo. Fifty some years of walking 'funny' has left her in a wheel chair. She still lives in her own home ( with a lot of assistance) and still does not complain. We get as many of the grandchildren and great grandchildren together as we can. We barbecue chicken and brats and burgers and corn...... and give her what she wants every year for her birthday................................
all of the 'Rain Babies' in one place.
We also chip in and buy her a six-pack. She thinks it's funny. Breaks her up.