Shirley Jones and Optimist Le Ila Dixon. Special thanks to Nancy Sumner for the photo.

The Noon Optimist Club met online Feb. 3 under the leadership of Vice president Julie Brock and Secretary Melissa Al-Ahmadi. Treasurer Michele Fuller is busy updating her records.

The club’s members are at varying stages with the Covid-19 virus. Some have received the vaccine and/or are scheduled to. Others are still seeking appointments. Melissa is going as far as Dallas to get a second shot and John Fortune has gotten his two locally.

The club notes with sorrow the death on Feb. 5 of their oldest member, Optimist George Bennett. His work combating the polio pandemic will be the focus of next week’s meeting.

The club is continuing their prayers for Ned Calvert and his wife Sarah who is on her way to Tyler for rehab as a part of her recovery from Covid-19. Prayers this week also focus on Optimist Janie Moore in the passing of her sister Cynthia Cash in Houston on Jan. 16. Her death, not COVID-19 related, has left the family bereft of its historian who was the go-to person for important dates and names.

Optimist Charles Dixon calls the club’s attention to the death at 100 of Captain Tom Moore who inspired Britons during the pandemic. Charles notes that Moore, at the time of his death, was the oldest person to have a No.1 single on the pop chart. “I guarantee it will put a smile on your face!” says Charles; see www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcouA_oWsnU

Optimist Richard Magrill invited retired Marshall paralegal Shirley Jones to share with the club this week. Over the past decade Shirley, he notes, has developed her talent as a humorist. Her most original and entertaining stories involve growing up in Cleveland, Ohio in a family of nine brothers and sisters. When each age group of siblings added their friends to the mix and their many cousins, there was never a dull moment. “Mother and Daddy always welcomed our friends and relatives,” she says, “In fact, I really think our friends thought they were part of our family!”

“We were church-going and daddy almost always took us to church while mother stayed home and cooked Sunday dinner. I don’t know how she managed to feed everybody, since the number to be fed was always changing.

“Speaking of those dinners, one Sunday Mother had prepared, among other things, deviled eggs. That day, my sister Sharon couldn’t yet rightly remember the proper way to address the eggs, but she wanted some. She knew that the eggs involved a word we shouldn’t say, so in front of that Sunday’s assemblage, she asked, ‘Daddy would you please pass me the damned eggs.’ It was as if someone had clicked freeze on a video. Everyone else at the table froze and then our heads swiveled toward daddy. To our great disbelief and relief, he laughed. Will miracles never cease!

“My brother Hal had a friend whose name was Jimmy Frame. Jimmy was a regular at our Sunday dinners, always welcomed back in spite of the fact that he had a proclivity that drove daddy bananas. Jimmy could not get through a meal without spilling his drink of choice that Sunday and the kid sitting next to him always got an extra bath, be it milk, or water or lemonade.

“Hal could be a little devil when he felt so inclined. My sister Sue and I shared a bicycle. One afternoon, mother and daddy had gone to visit a friend. Hal took it into his head to try out his salesmanship skills and sold our bicycle while they were gone. Arriving home, daddy made him hand over his ill-gotten money and bought us another bicycle.

“Hal also had a knack for getting in trouble with mother. Mother was afraid of water because she had never learned to swim. One day we kids all wanted to go to Lake Erie and just walk along the water’s edge and watch the boats. Mother told us we could. But she added, ‘Don’t get your feet wet!’ Of course, Hal then just had to go wading in the water and just as surely, when we got home, we had to tell on him. Mother asked, ‘Hal, did you get your feet wet after I told you not to?’ He told her that he had indeed waded in the water, but that he didn’t get his feet wet. Mother’s little willow switch made an appearance and was put to good use!

“Speaking of willow switches, I believe that when we sold one house and bought another one, it was a prerequisite that the house have a willow tree in the yard. I believe that was a more important requirement than having enough bathrooms or bedrooms! Mother was really handy with a willow switch.

“She also had some other qualities that were a little unusual as well. It was a well-known fact among us kids that she had eight eyes instead of the factory issued two. Hers were front, sides and back.

“She was also able to know what we were thinking. You know, like a psychic. Even when we were in another room, we would hear her say, ‘don’t make me come in there.’ In our adult years, we always teased her, saying, ‘you had a willow switch growing out of your right hand!’

“Mother also had a very active giggle box. It did not take much to get her going. Unfortunately, most of the females in our family inherited this unseemly trait. (If you don’t believe I did, just ask some of my close friends!) Most of the weddings in my family were smooth-running affairs without incident. However, some ceremonies put those of us, who were prone to attacks or fits of giggling, down for the count.

“When Hal and Donna were married, he was very nervous when they were saying their vows and he got a little tongue-tied and instead of saying he would be her ‘loving’ husband, he said he would be her ‘living’ husband. Of course, from where we gigglers were sitting, it sounded like he said he would be her ‘lying’ husband. That was all it took to set us in motion.

“At my niece Robin’s wedding, the minister was painfully long-winded. It became more and more of a preaching event and less and less of a wedding ceremony. He had been going on and on and on when niece Linda sitting next to her sister Sharon, leaned over and whispered, ‘Gong him!’ Well, that was all it took. A ‘fit of the giggles’ ensued. While Sharon contained the sound, she was helpless to control her shaking shoulders. She later remarked that she hoped the people behind her thought that she was so moved that she was crying!

The club much enjoyed Shirley’s stories.

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