Joy in the Jigsaw

29 03 2020

I was born in West Virginia, but the summer of 1959 Ma and I made our way to Rock _nFremont, Ohio. My Great Aunt Pearl and her husband, Price, had already been here for several years. Because of Price’s illness, he couldn’t work so Pearl was happy when they came to Fremont where jobs were plentiful. They first came up when an employee recruiter for Heinz was working the Appalachian states and hired Pearl, gave the two of them bus fare and a place to stay when they got to Fremont. After some time, she found she could make more money at Quikut, a company that manufactured some of the best kitchen knives in the world; some my Lady and I still have to this day. They had a layoff and Pearly Mae found employment at Union Carbide, maker of the Eveready battery. This was where she was working when I arrived to live with them. Mom had a job at Tony’s Bakery, which later became Nickle’s; the company she retired from.

I was too young to understand, but money was very tight back then; Pearl and Ma barely made enough to pay the rent on the little house we lived in on Sandusky Avenue, pay utilities and buy groceries. Even though the place we lived in was small, I liked it. Many of the people around us had come up from West Virginia and Kentucky also, so folks were over constantly.

I have many memories of those days, but one stands out more than some of the others. Pearl came home from work one day and had a big smile across her face. She had been given a raise that would help out greatly. And what was that magical amount that made her so happy. She was now making $1.25 per hour! Okay, I’m sure young folks reading this right now are scratching their heads and saying “Seriously?!!” Trust me, young ones, back in 1960 that wage for a factory worker was worth celebrating. And speaking of celebrating, Pearl had two other surprises. She pulled this small book out of her purse and showed me where she had opened a savings account and deposited $5. “It may not seem like a lot now, but if I put $5 away every week and pretend it doesn’t exist, it will someday be a lot of money.” That was exciting for my young mind, but she had one more surprise. Reaching for a bag she brought home; she pulled out this box with a beautiful picture on the top–a jigsaw puzzle.

On her way home, she stopped by Woolworth’s downtown and purchased this now vintage entrainment center. Getting a card table out from the closet, she poured out the puzzle and we separated the pieces first by straight edge so we could assemble the border, and the rest by color scheme from the picture on the box. You see, we didn’t have TV; so, this was our entertainment for the weekend. Usually two work on it for a while and then let someone else have a turn. By the time Sunday evening rolled around, we had assembled all the pieces and now could view our work, maybe like an artist stands back to view their latest masterpiece. Monday morning the puzzle would be disassembled, placed back in the box and put in the closet. The next Friday we would work on our latest $.25 work of art, and to really make the night special Pearl would sometime make us Chef Boyardee pizza. It must have been expensive because we’d only have it once or twice a month; maybe a buck, buck and half.  Looking back, it sure wasn’t a lot to get excited about compared to novelties, entertainment and cuisines of today; but I remember it sure brought us a lot of happiness.

“Real contentment must come from within. You and I cannot change or control the world around us, but we can change and control the world within us.” Warren Wiersbe.

As a child, I didn’t recognize that we were poor, I was happy with whatever was given to me. The adults on the other hand, well they knew, but that didn’t mean they were sad or bitter of the situation. Pearl taught me to be thankful for everything because as she would say, “All good things come from God.” You could see that in what brought her happiness:  gardening, raising beautiful flowers, tropical fish, and even a crossword puzzle.

Philippians 4:11-13 “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

I thought about those days tonight as my Lady, granddaughter and myself put together in puzzle; I can’t even remember the last time I’ve done one. And I thought about the situation we are all in with this dreaded coronavirus and how we must be isolated as much as possible. And I pray that this pandemic may soon be past us all and we can go back to our normal lives. But during this time of holding up in our homes, maybe we could use some of it to reintroduce ourselves to the joy that comes from simple things; perhaps there’s more blessing in them than we realize.

As for my favorite “Traveler of the Rock Road,” Pearly Mae; well I told you she started putting $5 each week away and not touching it. As time went on the amount grew that when she retired, she had a pretty healthy nest egg. Not bad for an old gal that began working at $1.25 an hour. In my opinion, all because she saw happiness in the simple thing and everything a blessing. Just a thought gang. But I think it’s a good one.

See ya next time.


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