Ice Cream Did Not Make It Better!


In front of Grandma and Grandpa Hoskins' house

One of the things I have in common with my Grandmother Eveline is that we both got sick a lot during our first year of school. Eveline wrote in her school paper “Autobiography” that if it were not for her teacher spending extra time with her, she would have had to repeat the grade.

Eveline didn’t say what illnesses put her to bed, but for me, it was numerous upper respiratory infections which inevitably led to ear infections. Vicks Vapo-Rub and St. Joseph’s baby aspirin were always on hand to ease my symptoms. The ear infections were the worst. I remember lying on Eveline’s couch, holding my hand over my ear and crying because of the pain. She would warm olive oil and use a dropper to put the oil in my ear. It did help to soothe the pain, but it would take several miserable days for the pain to go away.

In the 1950s, the treatment for frequent illnesses like mine was to remove your tonsils. Ether was the anesthetic of choice. I have no fond memories attached to this experience. Here’s how I remember it….

We went for a drive and ended up at the hospital. We rode an elevator. I learned that I was there for something more than a joy ride. I was promised ice cream. I was worried, but looked forward to the ice cream with great anticipation.

My next memory is in the operating room, lying on my back. People wearing masks hovered over me and covered my nose and mouth with something that smelled awful. I was told to count to ten. I couldn’t move my arms or legs and couldn’t get away. I turned my head back and forth to get away from that awful thing covering my face. I tried holding my breath. I struggled and struggled. I was terrified.

Another girl and I had been taken to the operating room at the same time. My mom became concerned when the other girl came out of surgery and I didn’t. After what seemed to my mom like a long time, I was finally brought to the recovery room. The problem, of course, was that I had fought the anesthesia, delaying my surgery.

Awake and in my hospital room, my reward arrived – a bowl of vanilla ice cream! I dug in and took my first bite – and with that first bite I knew that I had been deceived. My throat hurt. It was hard to swallow. The ice cream tasted like blood. I had consoled myself with the promise of ice cream. It had been a big lie. No one had told me that I wouldn’t be able to actually enjoy the ice cream.

The only good thing that happened as a result of my surgery was that my grandmother didn’t make me eat the crusts of my bread for the next couple of weeks.

Several years ago, I had to have a root canal. The doctor and his assistant began to work over my face, putting blocks and shields and whatever inside and over my mouth. After a few minutes, the doctor stopped working and kindly said that we should do this on another day and that he would prescribe something to help me relax. He had seen the panic in my eyes. It was at that moment that I realized the genesis of my fears. I was right back in that operating room. Masks. People hovering over my face, putting things into and over my mouth. How could I escape???

My five-year-old self had been reliving those minutes of terror for fifty years, and I didn’t realize it until my experience with the root canal.

Now I got it….the claustrophobia….the panicky need to know that there is an easy escape….the fear of not being able to breathe….why darkness sometimes closes in on me…

I did a quick search to see if anyone else ties their anxieties to having a tonsillectomy or if I’m just weird. Sure enough, I am not alone. There was even an anesthesiologist who related his panic attack in an elevator to his tonsillectomy. Here are a few quotes:

The strong smell of ether frightens many patients…
…reassures the patient that they are not being suffocated
…there may be some struggling…
the patient’s eyes were covered with gauze and a rubber protector while the anesthetist dripped ether over the mask……
At four years of age she had experienced hospital trauma, when she was held down by doctors and nurses during a tonsillectomy with ether anesthesia…
I can still smell the rubber mask and the sickly smell of the ether. I feel nauseated as I type this, my heart starts pounding, my hands are shaking…


So now I look back and I understand how some really innocuous things have made me panic and why anxiety is so close to the surface of my emotions.

I still prefer stairs over elevators and it’s doubtful that I will ever go on a cruise….. you can’t just walk away from a boat in the middle of the ocean. It’s going to be difficult to manage a flight to Europe, even though it’s something I really want to do. But at least I know why.

I’m glad the medical profession has made some progress since my childhood. My kids got taken back to the operating room in a little red wagon pulled by a purple kangaroo!



Memories of Grandma Abbie

Abbie and Kathy

My Grandma Abbie died February 18, 1999.  At the time, a couple of my Strange-Webber cousins were publishing a family newsletter. The edition after Abbie’s death was to highlight memories of her. I wrote the following for the newsletter, but in my typical procrastinator style, I didn’t get it in on time. So I’ll use it here as a way to introduce Abbie Elizabeth Webber Smith Brender. (Sorry if the beginning sounds a little familiar. I wrote the 1st blog entry and this memory years apart!)

Memories of Grandma Abbie

As a child, I didn’t dream of growing up to be a teacher, a nurse, or a movie star.  I wanted to be a Grandmother. You see, I had two wonderful grandmothers with soft arms for hugging, work for us to do together, time for playing, and infinite love.

I spent many weekends at the Hedrick Y.  Dad, of course, was busy working at the Cycle Ranch during the day.  Grandma and Grandpa were busy working, too, but it was easy to spend most of my time hanging out where the food was!  And that was Grandma’s and Grandpa’s gas station/grocery store/cafe.  In this wonderful place, I could help pump gas, serve customers, wash dishes, listen to the “town talk”, and eat the daily special.  On Saturday mornings, I had a reserved seat for

Saturday morning cartoons at the Hedrick Y

viewing Mighty Mouse and other favorite TV shows.  My seat was on a shelf by the loaves of bread – up close, out of the way, and inconspicuous.  During the busy breakfast and lunch times, Grandma was busy cooking and serving hot coffee and a good meal. She did this while keeping up lively conversations with her friends (customers), always creating a friendly place for neighbors and travelers to eat a meal or take a break. 

 Grandma collected plates.  She had plates from cites, states, and tourist attractions across the country that she had purchased when she traveled or that friends and relatives brought back for her from their trips.  When I was about 6 years old (I don’t think I was any older), Grandma said that I could wash her collection.  I was carefully and happily washing away when one of her friends came in.  This woman immediately questioned what I was doing because she couldn’t imagine that Abbie would let a little girl handle her dishes this way.  Grandma walked in and overheard the conversation and promptly let the woman know that I was competent and trusted to do the job.

A visitor from France

When business would slow down or she wasn’t working, Grandma would spend time with me alone.  She taught me how to cross stitch and whatever craft or handwork she was interested in or working on at the time.  We sometimes had tea parties and I dressed up in Grandma’s dresses, hats, gloves and shoes.  She would pretend right along with me.  Grandma also made sure that I memorized Psalm 23 and she gave me one of her Bibles.  Our bedtime routine included sitting on her bed to read the daily Bible passage and pray.  I always enjoyed whatever we did together because she liked being with me and she was playful and fun as well as serious.

Grandma eventually moved back to Iowa City and when I came for my summer visits, I would always stay with her for a few days.  I mostly remember the duplex she shared with Lottie.  I thought Grandma was pretty cool.  She served me my first tamales – from a can, ordered pizza delivery (I thought that was so great o those many years ago), and had her ears pierced.  We would go shopping, make things, and stay up and watch old movies.  Sometimes we did things with Lottie, who could drive us places.  Of course, when Grandma married Gust, I was very happy for her.   

A very special memory for me is Grandma’s attendance at my wedding.  She traveled from Iowa City to Waco, Texas by bus.  This is a really long bus ride for anyone, but Grandma was just days away from her 75th birthday. She stayed with me in my apartment.  Our wedding was put together on a shoestring budget and much was “homemade”.  Grandma stayed up helping my roommates and me make final adjustments to dresses (thank goodness we had someone who knew what she was doing!) and putting together flowers for the bridesmaids to carry. We all enjoyed her company that night. It was unbelievable to me that she would make such a trip to be with me on my wedding day.

 My first baby, Angela, was born when Grandma was 85.  We were talking about her over the phone one day and Grandma gave me this advice:  always lock the back door and make sure that the screen door is locked, too.  …..Advice from her tragic experience of losing her first child when he wandered out of the house and drowned in a well.

 I have always been inspired by Grandma because she lived her life joyfully. She lived through her share of heartbreak and sorrow, but always came through with her love of life, her sense of humor, and her faith in God intact.  She always loved to laugh and enjoyed a good joke – even if it was on her.  I heard that Belinda’s dog attended the memorial service.  I’m sure Grandma was chuckling about that!             



Eveline’s Autobiography

I think I’ll let Eveline introduce herself. The following is a transcription of a school assignment written by Eveline when she was 16. The paper is not dated, but it would have been written in 1916-17. My sister Kim and I transcribed this in 2007.

Eveline Coates


Joseph Coates Family circa 1906

Sixteen years ago in the cold and blustery month of February I was born. The house in which I was born was located in what had been only a few years ago a perfect wilderness and where all kinds of mischief was carried on. This part of the town still retains its reputation for meaness, although it is in most respects as good as another part.

I am told that as I was the only girl in the family at that time, my brothers had all their friends in to see me, perhaps that is the reason why they stay at such a distance now.

Eveline Coates - 2nd row, 2nd from right

At the age of five I commenced my school career at the East Ward School. My first year, I was sick most of the time and only for the extra help which my teacher gave me I might have remained there another year. One or two incidents which happened there I can easily remember.

I always took my dinner during the winter months as my mother was afraid for me to be out in the snow. As it happened the children were all out sleigh riding and I could not find a sleigh for my own use, so as the only thing handy was my dinner pail, I immediately tried to make use of that. My mother could not guess what had happened to the pail and I never told tales out of school.

Eveline Coates - 2nd row, 6th from left

Not long after this I got into my second trouble. The girl I sat with was always trying to pull off some joke, so this day she left the cork out of her ink bottle and when I went to get a book from my desk, out came the ink. I don’t remember what I said or did but I do remember that it was the first time I ever had to stand in a corner. You can imagine what was the next act.

After spending four years of delightful work and play here, I started on my way to the Central Ward.  The children there were strangers to me and there were so many that for some time I was afraid to try any pranks and when I got over this feeling, I was told that I was old enough to act like a lady. Well I did, for it wasn’t but a few days later, when with some of the other girls I found myself in a big quarrel with some colored girls. That afternoon the professor for some reason or other kept coming into the room and it was with a sigh of relief that we marched out of school that night without even a scolding.

In the eighth year of school we entered a contest for the Lincoln bust and won, but we had a great many more tongue fights before the other side admitted their defeat.

Mystic High School, Mystic, Iowa (the "new school house")

Then came our entrance into High School, and the day of the first fire alarm we were the last out, and our defeated friends very politely told us that “we were too green to burn”. We thanked them for the compliment as green things means growing things.

Then came the fight for the new school house and a half term of school in the U. B Church. This didn’t benefit any of us as we did as much talking and so forth, as ever.  But in the new building a perfect rule of tyranny began. For no talking is allowed after you enter the building until you leave again.  Of course we obey this rule in every respect, even keeping still during recitation.

One of my friends is talking of building an asylum for old maids, and I think I will try to be one of its first inmates.  If she doesn’t exclude all communication with the boys.

This is the story of my life past, present, and future as I know it, what happens beyond the grave I cannot tell and wouldn’t if I could.

The teacher wrote “Well done Eveline” across the first page.

My grandmother sounds like a typical teenager. A little boy crazy. A little impertinent. Not always able to hold her tongue. It’s kind of funny what one decides to focus on when writing an autobiography. Eveline focused on school and those incidents that stood out in her memory – mostly times when she got into trouble. I never pictured  my grandmother as much of a troublemaker (and the seriousness of her misdemeanors confirms that view), but she wasn’t one to sit silently on the sidelines either.

I received the picture at the top of the page from a cousin I found while going through some of Eveline’s papers. Brian Schneden is a grandson of Eveline’s sister, Blanche. He said that this picture is printed on a pillowcase and hung in Blanche’s house for many years. In the picture are Eveline’s mother, Mary Ann Harris Coates (on the left), and Mary Ann’s mother, Celia Jenkins Harris (in the back). Eveline’s older brothers are Carl, John and Joseph Jr. If height = age, then Joe is on the left, Carl in the middle, and John on the right. The taller girl is Eveline; the smaller girl in front is Blanche. Blanche was born in 1903 and I’d say she looks about 3 in this picture, so I’m dating it as circa 1906.

U.B. Church is the United Brethren Church.

Eveline doesn’t mention that she is not the first girl born to her parents, only that she was “the only girl in the family at that time.” A girl, Amelia, was born two years before Eveline, but she only lived one year. Eveline had 3 sisters and 5 brothers when this was written.