Skip to main content

Hear That Whistle Blow - Katie's First Memories

Jackie tells of the many adventures and emotions of a little girl growing up in a large family in the fifties.

This is a story of a little country girl named Katie who spent much of her time alone with only her thoughts and outdoor surroundings to entertain her. Caught in the middle of six siblings (she making seven), being too young for the older ones and second mother to the younger ones, who were all boys.


War and Peace

Katie's dad had been fighting in a war and her mom busy helping the family survive while he searched for employment outside the mines. Coal mines were such dangerous and treacherous work. Besides the danger of mine's collapsing it had very bad effects on the lungs of these miners they would not fully understand until many years and horrible deaths later.

Katie's grandpa was superintendent now and finally outside the mine but it would not be in time as all would become more aware of in years to come. The money was very good and her grandma had anything she wanted and this was how it was for those too old to make changes. Where life was where you were at and you made the best of it.

Katie only knew her dad wanted out and mining was the only job for him if they stayed here, so he was searching up north near a bigger city where jobs were more plentiful.

It was hard on young men but even rougher on men who had families already started and called away so suddenly because of war. Yet Katie's dad, as many others went, no questions asked and only thanked God they made it back home to them.

This was something many would have faced at this time, post-war, with big families to feed and take care of.

Katie's mom wrote a letter to a state representative who helped her dad find a job!

Country Living


Through the Woods to Grandmother's House

Katie's grandmother lived just through the woods and at a very young age Katie was allowed to walk to her house. No one could see her but if she screamed or even yelled loud, both houses were within hearing distance so she supposed it was safe enough. She wondered many times at being allowed so much on her own as much as she loved the freedom. She was at her grandparents house almost daily.

Well she was tomboy through and through so she really had no fears. She loved to visit her grandmother who still had kids at home that were two uncles and an aunt, that Katie loved to see and be around.

This aunt shared boyfriends with her and sometimes she had to remind Katie they were hers when Katie took her place beside them on the front porch swing for too long. Katie was probably about four at this time. Boyfriends seemed perfectly natural to her!

Just a Swinging


Happy Days

This aunt would be leaving soon to go to the city to work and the only time she would see her is when she would bring a train back home. Katie so loved riding with her grandparents to the train station to pick her aunt up and it was an extraordinary thing to be out after dark and have bright lights twinkling everywhere around.

She promised herself one day she would ride a train too and look out over the land as the train rushed along and the engineer tooted the long train whistle. That was such a beautiful sound.

This aunt was her mother’s youngest sister and there were two brothers younger than her, and Katie loved them all. They were so much fun and always joking and laughing.

Katie never remember her grandparents laughing or kidding but they had lost several children as babies yet almost all of their children were so much fun to be around, just like Katie's mom. These two brothers fought a lot but they did it laughing as she remembered; just in fun.


Shirley Temple Smile

Katie's mom had a sister with red hair that Katie looked so much like. That sister had four boys and no girls and she smiled so much her face couldn’t look sad. It was frozen in a smile. Katie always thought that was really unusual but no one else seemed to notice. She was fun to be around too and her youngest son had flaming red hair and so many freckles!

Only her Mom’s oldest sister; who seemed so serious, and her oldest brother, who was married to a sourpuss school teacher, didn’t laugh and smile as much as all the others.

This brother was very nice and friendly though and Katie had a huge crush on him until she found out she could not, with him being her uncle. About this time when her youngest aunt was leaving, this uncle went into the marines. He picked Katie up and hugged and kissed her goodbye and then after he got the school teacher wife he never kissed or hugged Katie again.

Outdoor Water Pump


Katie's Aunt's BFF

There were so many memories here for Katie and only being five years old now she still clung to almost all of them to never forget. Besides the family there was a friend of her aunts who lived on the hillside above the grandparents. There was a highway in between so Katie could not go there on her own but this friend would come and get Katie occasionally to take to her house and take pictures. Many looked much like Shirley Temple. She would teach Katie how to pose and be prissy to make a good picture.

Katie loved going to this friends house because it was even higher above the river than her grandmothers. You could see the train tracks from here and the porch was long with a swing; but then, everyone had a swing!

This friend took Katie inside to her bedroom to fix her hair and she got to see her beautiful room. She thought someday she would have a bedroom just like this. It was so much fun sitting in front of the dresser getting all fixed up for pictures. Of course they would have to wait to get them developed so she wouldn't get to see them until they were mailed off and came back. A pretty long time.

They had a water pump out back of the house that Katie was allowed to pump and get a drink from. There was a sink with water inside of course from a well but this was just much more fun. She would always get sprayed so it had to wait until the pictures were over. The water and the dipper had such a great taste and made her tongue tickle.

Katie would always remember her aunt's best friend for being so kind but also for a reason Katie never found out about. Her aunt, this best friend and Katie all shared a middle name.


Katie understood little of this, other than they would leave and go far away and she could never walk to her grandma's house again after this.

So Many Goodbyes

They would sell the little house and all the animals and have enough money to resettle until her dad's pay checks started coming through.

So Katie being too young to be of any real help or knowing much, if any, of the hardships, made it her job to try to stay out of the way and not be a problem added to the many her mom and dad already had.

She always was obedient and never would think of sassing or talking back to her parents. She knew somehow automatically to be well behaved as did her siblings, without any threats of punishment.

With all but one of her siblings being boys, it did influence her somewhat and she would be a tomboy for many years to come. Going barefoot and climbing trees was second nature. Perhaps the beauty of nature kept so much of the little girl inside. Many times climbing trees led to overlooking the beauty of the countryside or puffy clouds sailing through the sky and the golden rainbows occasionally that caused even someone so young to long to know what the future might hold.

She spent many hours daydreaming about that very thing when the adventures was not filling her days.

Are you a Katie too?


Katie visited all her favorite places and said farewell to all her favorite trees and rocks and even the sky above her.

Heartfelt Farewell

Katie stayed often with her grandparents but especially now she knew it would be her last days here. She had no swim suit so she took all her clothes off and played in her underwear not to get her clothes wet from wading. There was the temptation to do a little dog paddling on very hot days. The sun-dried her in no time and no one ever knew.

There was a train there too above that river that went by up high on the tracks across from her grandparent’s place. Sometimes they pulled that whistle so very long and besides a special treat to greet Katie when she waved. This was a safety warning too for children or cattle that may be near the tracks ahead.

They gave plenty of warning sound but the sound to Katie caused a longing for the future, so unknown. She so loved to hear that whistle blow. It always cut so deeply into her heart.

Train Whistles

© 2017 Jackie Lynnley

Related Articles