She wore overalls to school. This was unheard of in 1936 when I was eight years old. And that wasn’t her only crime.
“Look at what ‘Overalls’ brought for lunch,” one of my friends whispered. I watched the girl pull out two slices of bread—no meat, no cheese, no peanut butter, no sandwich spread. Strange.
No one sat by her or talked to her, so I didn’t either.
That changed one cold, blustery, winter day when the snow was four feet deep with twelve-foot drifts. Because I lived in a small mining town 10 miles away from school, I usually left class early to catch the bus that the high school students also rode. But on this day my teacher made an announcement: “None of you will leave this room until you have handed in your projects and cleaned up after yourselves.” I watched the clock, hurrying as fast as I could. As soon as I finished, I grabbed my coat and raced after the bus. But it was no use. Groaning, I watched it drive off without me. My family had no telephone, and I could think of nothing to do but start walking.
I wrapped my hand-me-down brown coat tightly around me, lowered my head, and set off up the icy road. I had no hat, no gloves, and no boots. Then, as now, a few drivers thought it great sport to splash people, so I was soon soaked.
At the time there was an epidemic of scarlet fever, and nearly every house along the road had a quarantine sign on it, meaning that no one could enter or leave. Families without the disease did not welcome strangers for fear of catching it, so I had no chance of going inside to get warm. One very nice lady came out and gave me a warm hat, though, and said she was sorry that I couldn’t come in.
Five miles into my trek, I was so stiff and cold that I was beginning to doubt I could make it. Just then, two young ladies came running out from a farmhouse. “Would you like to come in?”
I nodded, and they helped me through the door. Inside, they hung my wet clothes by the fire to dry and wrapped me in a warm blanket. They asked me where I lived and then disappeared. Their mother spoke to me gently to calm my fears as she prepared supper. Before long, who should come through the door but the last person on earth I expected—the overall girl!
“I was in the barn doing chores and I saw you walking,” she said. “I told my sisters that you go to my school and that you don’t have scarlet fever.”
“Thanks.” I couldn’t believe how relieved I felt to see someone I knew. We talked until suppertime, and then her mother invited us into the kitchen. I especially liked the large slices of fresh homemade bread and homemade butter. Mmmmmmmm, good!
I learned later that her sisters had gone out and stood in the cold, waiting and watching for someone to come looking for me. When my parents drove slowly past, they were waved down and brought inside. Was I ever glad to see them!
I learned a lot about the overall girl that day and decided that she was better than all the snobs at school put together (including me). From then on I made it a point to sit with my new friend at lunch. Sometimes she would even trade her delicious bread-and-butter sandwiches with me.