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I Spent Time In Jail
by Patricia (Pat) Corbett Keadle



Way back when I was a child I spent some time in jail and spent most of my summers in jail until I was 12 or so. I stayed there for at least a week at a time. Maybe I should start at the beginnin' instead of the finish.

My mama was a genuine New York Yankee from "Th' Bronx." I can't say it just the way she woulda, but it came out kinda "thuh Brawnkz." Well, my Daddy was a Man of the South where high school ended in the eleventh grade -- I'm not kiddin' you.

Anyhow, he finished in the prime years of the Great Depression or "What Hoover did to us." So he stood tall and went to the county seat and enlisted in the Marine Corps. Of course, his being almost 16 at the time presented a lee-little problem, so he just created a different birthday and joined up. (In 1950 or so, he finally discovered he was born in a different county and that was why he never had a birth certificate or an accurate age.)

Now Parris Island may have presented a slight obstruction to the self esteem of some of those other boots, but Daddy was raised on a dirt farm with a daddy who was a deputy sherrif/magistrate and a teeny weeny little mama who could put any child on the correct path by lookin' and raisin' that eyebrow. So Daddy became a Marine and got posted to the Naval yard in Brooklyn. This was after the gun blew up on the Battleship Wyoming and he lost his hearing in one ear, but that's another tale for another time.

In New Jersey there was an amusement park called Palisades Park. Yep, the one from the song in the 50s. Daddy was showing off at the rifle booth and really doing well considering the fact he was a sharpshooter and a Marine. This pretty girl asked if he'd win a prize for her and . . .

Well, Daddy got shipped back to Parris Island. And now comes the good part. Mama got her puppy and a shoebox for him and packed up and jumped on a Greyhound Bus. She and Daddy and the puppy eloped to South Carolina. Isn't that romantic? I love that story.

So Daddy made $30 a month and Mama made a quarter or so for sewing stripes on uniforms. Not bad money for the Depression. Then I came on the way. When Daddy got shipped out, Mama moved in with Daddy's people. I was born while Mama was "in jail."

We lived in the county jail because Daddy's mama and daddy were the jailers. Granddaddy was not in good health, so Grandmama did a good piece of the work. She was 4' 11", and if she ever weighed over 80 lbs I never heard of it.

The jail was the "new one," the first having been laid waste by General Sherman's bunch. It had turrets and big wide front steps, and I think I remember a stained glass window over the door through which the prisoners were taken. To me it looked like a castle -- a huge castle. The home area in the jail was separate (obviously) from the jail area. The prisoners were upstairs, locked behind a HUGE iron door. I can still hear that clang. I don't know to this day how Grandmama closed it. Down in the basement was the kitchen where glorious aromas and good food could mesmerize any soul. The food was lifted to the prisoners by an old timey hand pulled dumb waiter. Grandmama checked every load and every plate, every time.

Daddy got out of the Marines as a sargeant in 1941. He had eight years under his belt in the Marines, so he joined the Coast Guard this time for the duration. He again went to New York City for training. A DI (drill instructor) caught him foolin' around doing drills with his friends. So when "asked," he gladly "agreed" to become a DI and got sent to Hilton Head, South Carolina, as a drill instructor.

The war got over and Daddy got out. We three moved to the big city. Then every weekend at 12:00 noon, just as the air-raid signal testing started, we packed it up and went to visit Grandmama in the jail. Granddaddy had passed in 1946 and the tasks naturally went to Grandmama.

I was way on up in age before I realized that this was a rather unique childhood. I guess I thought everybody had vacations like I did. Mama's sister and her girl would come down for a 2 week visit, not with us but at the jail. Natural as fallin' off a log.

So way back when I was a child I spent time in jail -- that's my story.

__________________________


Pat Keadle graduated from Nursing School at the University of South Carolina (downtown U) a really long time back. (She says they had metal bedpans and glass syringes at that time.) She swears she is Southern by the Grace of God. Her mama was an imported Yankee from New York City. Pat's daddy was a Marine -- and who could resist that blue uniform and white hat? Pat can trace her "Daddy's people" way back to the 1700s. She lives about 3 miles up from her daddy's homeplace with her sweetie, Bruce, hubby of 41 years.


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