Frankie Ernestine Rollins
 
 
Interviewed December, 1998
By Beverly Rollins
 

Growing Up

"My first memory is of a very windy day, I must have been four or five years old.  Ted and I had been across a meadow or up the hill where Dad’s brother, Uncle Doc, lived.  On our way home it got really cold and windy, and I became frightened.  Ted put his arm and sweater around me.  Ted has always taken care of me.  That’s the first thing I can remember—Ted taking me home.

I started school in Adamston.  On my first day, I fell and had two very sore knees—just raw.  When it was time to go to school, I couldn’t walk, it hurt.  Dad told my brothers to carry me on their backs.  So they started out with me, grumbling, on their backs, but when we got out of sight they set me down and said, “Walk!”  And I did.  That was my first day of school.

I went to first grade in Adamston.  Then we moved to Reynoldsville, where I went to second grade.  After that we moved to Wolf Summit, and I went to third grade there.  I went from Wolf Summit grade school to Bristol, which was junior high and high school combined.  We lived in two houses in Wolf Summit, and then moved back to Adamston the middle of my junior year.  I went to Victory High School for the last half of my junior year, then all of my senior year.  I graduated from there.

When I was in the fifth grade in Wolf Summit a man from Clarksburg gave harmonica lessons.  I didn’t know diddly about harmonicas, I hardly knew what a harmonica was.  Three teachers at the school got together without saying anything to me and bought me one.  It was really wonderful.  It cost $.50.  They sent a note home to my folks asking if it would be okay.  I took the harmonica home with me the first night, and just by hearing it, I learned to play America (My Country ‘Tis of Thee).  And I could pick out other tunes that I knew.  When the man came to give lessons, it all came together; playing was an easy thing to do.

When I was at Bristol, I had never heard of a basketball game in my life, I didn’t know what that was.  I didn’t know what a cheerleader was.  When tryouts for junior high cheerleaders were held, I said, “I can do that!” and I tried out.  I think the judges felt so sorry for me that they decided I should do it.  So I got to be a junior high cheerleader.

I taught myself cheerleading.  Sometimes, while we were playing, Ted would lie down with his knees up, and I would run toward him, put my hands on his knees, and do a flip.  Then he would catch me and flip me over so that I would land on my feet.  And I did cartwheels, flips, and backbends.  It wasn’t long until I incorporated some of these things into my cheerleading.  And I became a drum majorette because I would march and do flips.  I was a cheerleader, drum marjorette, homecoming queen, and class president.
 
I made my mind up early during my sophomore year that I would go to the junior/senior prom.  Both my boyfriend and Ted were going.  But sophomores could not go to the prom unless they were class president.  I made up my mind that I had to get elected.  I made it.  So I got to go to the prom.
 
Poor Mom, when I got into cheerleading, she couldn’t buy me the outfits I needed.  I don’t remember how in the world I got them—by hook or by crook, or someone made them for me.

It didn’t take me long once I got into junior high to discover that there were a lot of boys there.  I fell in love with Junior Shahan.  He didn’t know me from squat.  But I was always in his face.  He was in the band, and I was a cheerleader.  We went on buses to “away” basketball games and things like that, and we would sit and hold hands.  We started dating when I was about 14, and he was about 17.  He had to come from Bristol, and that was about four miles away.  He would hitchhike, or walk.  It was very hilly.  Then Junior got a car.  It was an old Model A or T or something—it was a riot.

I remember World War II.  Jack and Ted went.  Jack married when he was very young.  His wife, Frances, was the nearest thing to a sister that I ever had.  She came into my life when I was probably 12 years old.  I thought she was wonderful because she came into our  house, and brightened it up.  She shared my bedroom.  The first thing Frances did was get some material and make valances for the windows, and a valance for the door.  She also made a slipcover for a chair.  She got a bedspread, and put some throw pillows on the bed.  And she painted this old chest-of-drawers.  Frances made my room, our room, into a room.  It was wonderful.  She was so good when it came to that.  Jack was working in Baltimore at the airplane plant, and she was with us part of that time.

Frances had clothes that fit me, and she’d let me wear them.  She had one rule—“you can wear anything I have, but you’ve got to put it back.”  And put it away.  Which I hadn’t been trained to do at all.  Mother would pick it up, when it was picked up.  Frances and I became very close.  She was lonely, she didn’t have anyone to chum around with while Jack was gone.  And I was lonely, I didn’t have anyone to chum around with either.  So we spent a lot of time together, she taught me a lot.  Frances was six or seven years older than I was.

Living in the country, there weren’t many places for me to work.  But I did work, I started when I was pretty young.  We lived close to a family named Furner for a while.  They owned the house we lived in and Dad did some house painting for Mr. Furner.  I started hanging around their house and running errands for Mrs. Furner.  I’d keep her company in the evening, and listen to her radio.  I must have been about 12.  I’d clean her bathrooms, and wash her floors.  And she’d give me a quarter.  But it wasn’t enough money to pay for cheerleading clothes, and things like that.

I worked during high school.  There was a little hot dog stand right beside the school, and I worked for my lunch.  As soon as school was over I’d hop down the street to another hot dog stand, and I’d work there—I’d either work right after school until whatever time, or I would come back at maybe 6:00-7:00 p.m. and work until closing.

At the same time, I worked weekends at Parsons-Souders, our local department store.  I started working there when we lived in Wolf Summit.  I worked in the cafeteria, the “Submarine.”  I started when I was 14, and I worked Christmas, holidays, and weekends.  And then I got to the point where I thought, “Those gals that come down here from upstairs to eat, they all look good, they all smell good, and here I am in this stinky restaurant—I could work upstairs.”  So I kept bugging the managers until I got to work in the store.  I worked there until Terri, my oldest daughter, was born.

Frances got a job at Parsons-Souders because of me.  I was working there, and she said that she’d like to get a job.  I said, “Sure, they always need help.”  I have always worked, and have never been sorry.

In Wolf Summit, we were about a mile from the Post Office and the streetcar stop.  That mile wasn’t so bad in the daytime, but at nighttime, there were no street lights.  And we were out in the country, walking the country roads.  It was scary.  When I was working at Parsons-Souders, I had to walk to the streetcar stop before daylight, and I wouldn’t get home until after dark.  I was about 14, and scared.  After Frances started working at Parsons, she and I would walk it together, and we weren’t afraid.

As for holidays, we didn't have much at Christmas when I was really little.  I remember people arriving at our door with baskets.  There would be a doll baby in them, and some watercolors, and a coloring book—things like that.

When we got a little older, we went trick-or-treating.  I used to go with Ted and his friends.  They didn’t like it because I was tagging along.  They would upset toilets, outside toilets.  And they’d run up to people’s houses and pull down the lever that would turn off all the electricity.  I remember once when he was in high school Ted wanted to dress up as a toreador on Halloween.  So Mom made him a costume, and I helped.  I remember that he looked pretty good.

We went to school, and we didn’t miss much school at all.  In the summer, we would play ball. And there were a couple of girls in the area who lived within walking distance who I would spend time with.  In general, we had pretty lazy days, nothing exciting.

Sometimes my brothers and I would walk over the hill and go swimming.  We’d have to dodge the black snakes.  I remember Dad went with us one time.  We were getting ready to come home and I was in the water and all of a sudden I thought I couldn’t touch bottom.  “I can’t touch!  I can’t touch!”  I was screaming and yelling and Dad made Ted jump in and get me.  All I had to do was put my feet down.

I taught Jack to dance.  I must have been around 10 or 11, and he was around 16 or 17.  We had this room in the house that didn’t have anything in it but a Victrola, and Jack brought home records that he got from juke boxes after they weren’t used anymore.  I’ll never forget the one that he learned to dance to first.  It went, “If there’s a gleam in her eye each time she time she straightens your tie…”—You’ll know the Lady’s In Love With You—that was the name of it.

Once in a while Ted would drag me into a square dance at this place called the Wagon Wheel.  He did that because he didn’t have a partner.  We were always together, he was my guardian angel.  He used to listen to the square dance callers.  He learned to copy them, and could call the dances.  Ted was brave enough, not inhibited, to do that.  Every now and then he would grab me and make me square dance with him.  I didn’t know which way was up.  I must have been between 10 and 12 years old.

Ted has always been so protective, so good to me.  When I was expecting Terri, my husband and I separated for a while and I moved back in with Mom.  Ted hadn’t been out of the Navy too long and he was working for the railroad.  On my birthday I woke up having these little cramps and it ended up being THE DAY.  Ted stayed home from work and sat with me all day and played cards and entertained me.

Ted also got me into trouble.  I used to try to get away with wearing make-up to school, and I’d slip out the door.  I was probably only in the fourth or fifth grade.  I’d go to the bus stop, and he would tell me to go home and wash the make-up off.  He would tell on me.

Mother worked in the Sewing Room in Clarksburg, and made clothes out of feed sacks and things like that.  I wore feed sack dresses to school. But it didn’t matter what I wore, I always got by on what I could do.  When they had singing, I excelled because I could carry a tune.  When they had dancing, I excelled because that just kind of goes along with singing.

Jack and Ted always seemed to have some kind of a vehicle.  Even before they went into the service, while they were in high school.  I don’t know how they bought them.  Money was not something I was very much concerned with.

I remember when Mack was born.  It was one February morning when I was 10, and we were suddenly whisked away to Uncle Doc’s house.

I don’t remember ever having to baby-sit for Mack, until one time when we were older and Mom was gone for about three days.  She may have been in the hospital.  I must have been close to 17 by that time.  I remember Mack kept complaining about having the stomachache, and I thought I should give him a laxative.  I can’t remember whether I did or not.  Anyway, it cleared up and Mom came home.  Then a few days later he had it again, and this time he ended up in the hospital with acute appendicitis.  He must have been about seven years old, because I wasn’t quite 18.  He didn’t have a ruptured appendix, but it was bad.

One thing I enjoyed doing when I got to be a teenager was going to parties up on the hill and roasting potatoes and holding hands and singing with my boyfriends.  We would build big fires and have roasted potatoes and marshmallows and wieners.

My Parents

Dad was Ollie, Oliver Manuel.  He was from Parkersburg, I believe.  I really don’t remember much about him.

 Dad was a good worker, and  I was only 12 when he died.  I was 7 when he got sick.  I remember he painted houses for a man in Wolf Summit.  He also got a barber’s chair someplace, and he’d cut hair in our home for a little pocket money.  This was after he had gotten very sick, and he really shouldn’t have been doing it.  I was about 10.

Dad went away to a sanitarium for tuberculosis, but didn’t stay too long.  We lived with his sickness for a long time.  Since I was very young when he got sick, I only really knew him as being sick. 

Dad was still alive when Mack was born, but he was in the sanitarium.    I think he came home in March or April—the early spring.  He probably wanted to see the baby.

I remember the day Dad came home.  Ted and I had to catch a school bus to go to school, but that day we hid.  We didn’t get on the school bus, we hid in the culvert that went under the road.  We wanted to be there when Dad came home, we wanted to see him.

I think Dad knew how to play the harmonica.  And I think he played a juice harp or something like that.  So playing must have been something I was born with.  I don’t remember Dad helping me, though.  I just remember hearing a song and finding the notes.

I remember Dad teaching my brothers to fight.  He always said, “Now son, don’t you start that fight, but if you have to fight, remember, the one who gets the first punch is going to be ahead.”  He told them that over and over.

I remember one of my brothers swiped something from a store once, and Dad made him take it back.  Dad’s philosophy of life was to be very fair and good to your fellow man, don’t take advantage of him.  “Love your fellow man” was his philosophy.  “But take up for yourself, don’t let anybody put you down.  Remember you’re a Rollins, and you don’t have to take anything from anybody.”

To me, Dad had a good philosophy of life.   I remember more of the things that he told my brothers than he told me.  I learned from him when he was talking to my brothers.

I didn’t have a lot in common with Mom.   Mom was quiet, and accepted things as they were.  I used to say, “I’m bored,” like all kids do.  Mom would say, “Well, go polish your brothers’ shoes.”  And I’d say, “Are you crazy?  I’m not going to polish my brothers’ shoes!”  But that’s the way Mom was, she was from that school—the school where women take care of the menfolk.  I figure the menfolk can take care of themselves.

I don’t know where Mom grew up.  She only went to the third grade, I think.  She wrote phonetically.  She would spell things as they sounded.  Mother didn’t go far enough in school to learn how to spell correctly.

We didn’t have to do a lot of chores around the house to help Mother.  We should have.  She wasn’t a very organized person, and she really didn’t demand a lot.  But she didn’t do a lot.  Mother just let things go because housework wasn’t one of her priorities.

 We used to sit on the porch in the evening and harmonize as we sang old songs.  Mom was good at that, and so was Dad.  But I remember doing it more with Mom after Dad died.

Other Relatives

We had a real good relationship with Uncle Doc’s family.   Uncle Doc’s wife’s name was Ann—Aunt Ann.  And their children were Virginia, Dick, Ruth, Bob, Ellen, Jean, and Peggy.  Now Ellen is dead, Dick is dead, and Ruth is dead.
 
Uncle Doc was a mechanic, I believe.  He always seemed to have a good job.  I always felt real good with them.

Dad’s folks lived in Parkersburg.  The only time I ever remember going to visit them, Granddad was in bed.  Evidently he died not too long after that.  I remember this little woman who must have been my grandmother.  I picture her as being a small, petite woman.  Granddad was lying in bed and his foot was sticking out.  His little toe looked so strange to me.  I believe he was 92 when he died.  We must have driven to their house but I don’t remember the trip at all.  I just remember seeing this little woman, and this old, old man in bed, very ill.

I don’t remember my mother’s parents at all.  I think we went to their house one time.  The only thing I remember about the trip was that we crossed a little stream on a very narrow walkway, and I was afraid I was going to fall in.  I cannot tell you one thing about my mother’s mother.

Mom had two sisters who I barely remember.  One was Aunt Ethel—Ethel Leep.  To me, she had a very nice house.  I’d get to go once in a while and spend a weekend with her.  There wasn’t a lot to do because there weren’t any children. She was older than Mom.

Mother had a younger sister named Sno.  Aunt Sno worked at a bookstore in Clarksburg—James & Law—for years.  I remember she had one girl, Carmen Lea, I think.  Once in a while, in high school, I would spend a weekend with them.

I don’t know of any of our relatives who were known for anything in particular. I would go to Uncle Doc’s house by myself from time to time, depending on where we lived.

I think that Virginia Rollins, Uncle Doc’s oldest girl, had some influence on me.   Although I was six years younger than she was, she would talk to me.  Virginia’s sister, Ruth, was my age.  Ruth and I were friends, and Virginia would talk to both of us.  She had an influence on me.
 

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