Chicken Scratch for Feed & Flour Came in Bags

Part 18 of the Judy Tomaini Rock Series


The early 50's were booming. Al had such a good business head, it was like everything he touched, turned to gold. He and Jeanie were very frugal, and saved what came in after the operating cash. Jeanie made his shirts, and Judy's school clothes. Back then, chicken scratch feed, and flour came in bags, that were pretty. Little flowers and animals, and some just had little designs. Al would take Judy with him when he went to feed for the ducks, chicken and pigeons. So she could pick out the bag she wanted, for Jeanie to make a "Whirly" skirt out of, and sometimes, she might even be able to bring home, a day old baby chick or duck. Easter, was when they would color the chicks with food dye, and the Easter bunny would bring those, and even several times, he left one of his baby bunnies under a bush, in a little cage so it wouldn't run off. The Tomaini's lived for children, and until they were old enough to find out at school, that the Easter bunny and Santa, didn't really come down the chimney, or the Bunny sat up all night coloring 20 billion eggs. The awe of being awakened, at midnight on Christmas, and going into the living room, to find all the family friends, the Christmas tree in the corner, decorated with bubble lights and ornaments, that had been carefully put away year after year. And being only around five, Judy had no clue as to how it all got there. She would go to bed, and no one would be there, no tree, nothing. And wake up to a Christmas party. The only thing missing was her little brother.

That summer, a lady living in the town, Emily Ann, and her mother Mrs. Goldie who played the piano, opened a Ballet school. And it was the thing to do, especially if you were a girl. Many of the boys went too, but quickly forgot that they had, when they were older. Judy danced, and loved it. And by five years old was in "toe shoes". She was the principal dancer in her age group. And was in many productions, that were held at Riverview school, as there was a large stage, and a lot of seating area. Jeanie was volunteered to make the costumes, that were beautiful. She had plenty of practice making her own costumes when she was working on the road. And her favorite pastime was sewing. Al bought her a nice sewing machine, complete with a cabinet. Back then the furniture was made out of real wood, and lasted forever. She loved it, but thought he shouldn't have spent the money on her. There were other things they could have used. She told him he should take it back, and he said, I bought it because I wanted to, if you don't want it, just let it sit there, and someone will eventually come along that can use it. Her first project, was shirts for him, for Christmas.

Summers in Gibsonton, were what children's dreams were made of. Every day at 4:00pm it would rain, only for a little while. The sun didn't even have time, to hide behind a cloud. The rain was cool, and you could smell it, before it ever got close. Judy loved to run in the afternoon showers. And always, the heavens would open up, to send a beautiful rainbow. Sometimes even a double rainbow. Al always talked about the pot of gold, that could be found at the end of a rainbow, they found it, on these three and a half acres, called The Giant's Camp. It was more than just a trailer park, motel, marina and restaurant. It was home, to many people over the years. And they would keep coming back years later. They were never treated like "renters" but more like extended family. In some ways, they were closer than some of the family. Some that came, never left till they died. The holiday parties were open house to anyone that wanted to come.

Al saw that the new, had to have thing, was the television. They were becoming more reasonable to buy, and there was a market, for repair shops. So a TV shop was added to the marina. Al took an electronics course, and learned how to repair them. They were still costly, but many bought them and when they would blow a tube, he would go to their home and fix it. Or they would bring it to the shop if it was a smaller one. He was real good at fixing them, but the business took off, and he had to have a man come in to do the repairs. Johnny Beiser was also a good friend, and would come once a week in the beginning, to give Al a hand. The business grew, and between the shop and the other business, improvements were always being made. There was a whole crew of workers at the camp, that Al kept on the payroll. A carpenter, sign painter, and laborers. There was always something, to keep them busy. The turtle show, continued to go on the road, a couple more years, and then they were retired to a huge tank, behind the restaurant. Al had it set up on the honor system, with a glass jug for money, and a sign that read, 10 cents or a head of lettuce. He fed them very well, and they were a big attraction. So he built another tank, for Alligators. He had a 12 foot+ gator, and several smaller ones. They were so fat and lazy, sometimes they wouldn't even bother eating the fish, that were tossed to them daily. Half of the gator pen was a pool they could submerge in, and the other half was like a beach, with concrete under it. That is where the big one would sun himself, when the small ones were in the water, then they would switch. When they would be in the mating season, the big male would roar like a lion. It was a bit unnerving to strangers, but the ones that had been around a while, just laughed it off. The land around the camp, was a swamp land, and it was not uncommon, to have a wild gator, sunning on the porch of the bait house, when the help went to open up in the morning.  The wild hogs, would rummage through the trash behind the restaurant. And the panthers that lived on the point, would scream like a woman late at night. You have no idea, how many times the cops would go search for a female in need, only to find the panthers or bob cats mating. The call was usually given to a new deputy, while his fellow workers would laugh, and tease them forever. They forget, that they did the same thing, when they first wore a badge.


2004 Judy Tomaini Rock, All Rights Reserved

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