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It’s the Eyes

Kirsten Vermulen

Unwelcome questioning/covert recording of Dort Vermulen by Leah and Kirsten Vermulen, Dec. 08

(Can we ask you some questions about life in Channing, Gpa Bud, Dad and Jeff?)


(Ok. How long have you been here – Channing MI?)

1932. That’s when I first realized we were in a Depression.

We had potatoes to plant. We were lucky to have them to plant too – at least we had potatoes to eat. It wasn’t fun.

(No Joy. Really? What made you happy – anything?)

No. Nothing.

I don’t say anything… why bother… no one would believe me.

(That’s why we’re asking.)

Speak Ez’s were popular. Granny Lindeman had an ice cream shop… with a speak Ez in the back. Near-beer and moonshine.

(Was she popular?)

For a little while… She was a witch.

We were better off in a small town. We stayed busy. We could swim in Sawyer Lake and fish. No bathroom, no running water, no telephone. We boiled our water on the range in the winter and shared it to bathe. Summers we had Sawyer Lake. Boys could go out in the woods and camp. Better than the city. There you were just poor.

At 16, I went to Chicago to work in a mail order catalogue factory. 65 cents / hour on the night shift. Girls filled catalogue orders roller-skating around the factory.

(Was your family sad you left Channing?)

No – They said get the heck out of the house and make some money.

Bud followed me. He got a job for $1.25 welding. He didn’t know anything about welding. He had to work in essential industry b/c of the war. He couldn’t pass the army physical. His eyesight wasn’t up to snuff.

(Thanks goodness or Dad wouldn’t have been born.)

(Do you remember any Finnish?)

Heistanaffa – Smell my bellybutton.

I’m done behaving.

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March 2020


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