Continuing with Gerald Nathan Hodgson’s Northwest family narrative, with thanks to Michael Howard Hodgson:
Their first [male} child, Delwin Wilburn, was born in Burr Oak, Kansas, December 22, 1871. Not long after his birth, a plague of dysentery hit the community where they lived and many children died. Dad was very ill but did pull through, though it quite possibly did have permanent ill effects — his eyesight was never good and hampered him a great deal in getting any kind of education. Even if they could afford them, young people in those days were a laughing stock if they wore “specs.”
Dad had mumps in the worst way when he was in his late teens and was very ill. The doctor who treated him seemed to know business as Dad remembered it. The disease is supposed to occasionally produce sterility, but obviously not in his case. He, at a later date, got infection in: one hand due to a barbwire cut and his doctor treated the hand with some chemical which seemed to get results.
The story from now on is largely Dad’s. His schooling in any case was very limited. I don’t think he ever had more than three months of school to the year. I don’t think he achieved more than Fourth Grade ability. I think he said he did some reading in McGuffys 5th Reader. After he stopped going to school, he did very little reading on his own. The only book he ever mentioned reading was a book called “Cranky Ann” (pornography of its day — the life of a soiled lily). He had borrowed the book from a friend but had not finished reading it when his mother found it, probably read it herself and then promptly burned it. He enjoyed being read to in later life provided the theme was familiar enough for him to identify with; in which case however, he seemed to have difficulty separating fact from fancy.
Anything he thought of as purely imaginary, he would not even give his attention. Of course, part of his problem was limited vocabulary — I remember him stating forcefully how “bored” he was, when what he really meant was embarrassed. He had no difficulty accepting the fantastic things as they came along — matches were relatively new in his childhood — rubber tired buggies and rubber footwear came during his lifetime — bicycles and the horseless carriage — airplanes and radio. The very strange changes of the New Deal and of course World War II — Hiroshima and the Atom Bomb. His last years of declining capacities must have been a sort of “Hell” because the only world he occupied was one of being, seeing, hearing and doing. The only dream world he knew was that of recollection.
There was also prohibition, of course — the assassinations of Garfield and McKinley – “Remember the Maine” and Dewey took Manila. Teddy Roosevelt, he disliked because he considered him an egocentric and an autocrat, too much for “Big I” and “Little U” in his words! Dad normally voted Republican but did vote for Wilson “Because he kept us out of war!” — for Fighting Bob LaFollette. perhaps because he advocated legalizing Light Wines and Beer. He liked Coolidge after he was elected and voted for Hoover very forcefully — especially the last time. Knowing something of Hoover‟s background, he was especially incensed about the lies that were generally circulated about him. That he was born in England, for instance. Like other men, Hoover doubtless had enough limitations without having them distorted.
Dad’s recollections of his earliest childhood are the things which would stick in the memory of other children — things that were strange, bitter, embarrassing or titillating.
Grandma, who knew nothing of little brothers, kept her sons in dresses and sunbonnets long after they should have been dressed as boys.