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210426 April 26, 2021


Learning to Cook
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

    I know many of us led different lives on our paths to share a classroom at Lee High School, and I expect mine is unique in its own way. First I have to set the scene for this week’s story by letting you know some of the circumstances leading to my pathway in life.

    My childhood was different than many others. As I may have stated earlier, my parents were divorced when I was eight years old. I ended up living on East Clinton Street in a home shared with my maternal-grandmother, my mother, and my brother Don who was three years older than me. I had very little contact with my father during that time of my life. 

    You are probably unaware but my mother suffered from Tuberculosis when she was in her 20s. In my kid’s mind, I always thought it was kind of neat that she shared the same illness as Doc Holliday. Her illness also had an effect on my childhood. In doing a little research on Tuberculosis, I found the following information on the internet. “For centuries, the white plague -- also known as tuberculosis (TB) or consumption -- was considered an ailment of the poor. The rich often escaped the embarrassment of the disease by retreating to European health spas, while the poor continued to suffer with no relief. As the Industrial Revolution brought more workers into crowded urban centers, the plague spread and no one was immune. State and local anti-tuberculosis organizations led social movements to improve sanitary conditions through anti-spitting laws and health regulations; encouraged consumptives to seek medical treatment; and persuaded state and local governments to create a network of state and county hospitals that isolated consumptives. These sanitariums mark the beginning of government-funded campaigns to address tuberculosis. At these sites, consumptives spent years seeking a cure through prescribed regimens of fresh air and sunlight. Located away from local urban populations, these self-sufficient medical complexes became isolated communities containing a series of buildings that provided housing for patients and staff, medical and administrative offices, utility plants, and other uses.”

    I don’t remember ever going to see Mother when she was in the hospital, but my childhood memories always identified the hospital where she stayed as having a tall water tower beside it. Recently I searched the internet and found a copy of the postcard which I am sure was responsible for giving me that memory. It’s funny what a child’s mind remembers about odd things.

Tuberculosis Sanitarium in Decatur

    So, when I was growing up I remember my mother making repeated trips to the sanitarium near Decatur, but I don’t remember how long she was in it during each session. During the same time my grandmother was working from 4-10pm as a short-order cook at the Rebel Inn in West Huntsville. Even when Mother was at home she was also working, so most of the time back then I was home from school just in time to see my grandmother off to work and then was home alone with Don from then until about 5:30pm when my mother got home. When she was in the sanitarium there was no adult in my house from 4pm until 10:30pm when my grandmother usually got home from work. In today’s world I cannot imagine anyone leaving kids home alone like that, but our financial situation required it I suppose.

    This is a long explanation that finally gets to the original subject I had in mind when I started this little piece of writing. It should be obvious there were many times in my life when my brother and I were home alone – especially at supper time. Though Don was older, I was the one who first learned how to prepare our evening meals. Being eight years old my talents were small but required. I got to wondering the other night about the first food I learned how to cook by myself. Now I am talking about real cooking, not just peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or opening up a can of soup and heating it up. I am talking about really cooking something on the stove.

    The answer I came up with was that I first learned to cook a grilled cheese sandwich. Even though it is a simple feat, it still should be classified as cooking. I would smear two pieces of bread with mayonnaise, put a slice of American cheese between them, put some butter in a skillet and grill the result until the bread was brown (sometimes black) and the cheese was melted. Sometimes I sliced it diagonally, sometimes not. But that was our evening meal many nights.

    This also brings to mind a funny family story about my brother Don. It is often told at family get-togethers how one time when mother was working and we were home alone that Don got mad at me and called Mother to complain to her that I would not fit his supper and asking her to tell me I had to cook for him. Don never did turn into much of a cook. In his fifties his wife was on a trip and he decided to boil some eggs. To his discuss, they kept exploding whenever he tried. It turned out he would bring the water to a boil and then drop the eggs into the boiling water, rather than putting them in the water before he put them on the stove.

    I will continue my cooking stories next week, but in the mean time I would like to ask you about what was the first thing you learned to cook on your own, and how old were you when you did so. Any other tidbits about the occasion are welcome as well.


Learning to Cook

        Memphis, TN - I hope you do not get upset about me getting a little off the primary subject in this week's issue. I just felt I needed to give you a little background on why I was left alone at home and why I had to learn how to cook my own meals. I got a little sidetracked when I started writing about my mother's health issues, but I wanted a place to document the things I found out and in my own way to share the information I found on the subject.

    I plan to continue the story a bit next week, so I saved a lot of my thoughts to do so with you then.

    I hope some of you will be willing to share your own kitchen experiences with me and the rest of your classmates so I can include your comments in next week's issue.

Basketball Championship Rings
J.R. Brooks
LHS '64

    You may not know that the Lee High School Boys won the  state championship in their class this year. Since we are not having a reunion this year,  the reunion committee decided to contribute $500 of the money we have on hand to help pay for championship rings for the members of the team.    Some of us are also making individual contributions in addition to the contribution of the classes.

    If any others of the classes of 1964, 1965, or 1966 wish to make individual donations, checks should be made payable to James Evans and sent to Tony Woods, Principal,  Lee High School; 2500 Meridian Street, Huntsville, Al., 35811.