Marguerite Thompson

The Larsons had two sons other than Teddy. My new
Papa was a big man with a moustache and a kind face.
The Larsons were of the upper class in that area. They
had a lady that came and washed the clothes on a
wash board. Another lady made all of our clothes
except for our underwear. Mrs. Larson (Mama) would
make all of our underwear.

My new home was a big two story house with 10
rooms, but we didn’t have any electricity. The house
was beautiful inside. I didn’t have a bedroom of my own; I slept on the couch in the front room on a feather
mattress Mama would take out of her closet every night.

After a few weeks, she said I could do it myself. The boys had bedrooms upstairs. Teddy and I were not permitted to use the bathroom. We had to use the outside toilet, and on Saturday we would drag a galvanized bathtub from the back porch and put it by the cook stove.

Mama didn’t like my New York accent at all. She wanted me to talk like they did, so I was slapped quite often in the mouth. Sometimes I would wonder what I had done wrong.

I had only been there a few weeks when Teddy brought out a china doll to play with. He said it was his and I couldn’t play with it. Well one day I found it and took outside and broke it. I got my first whipping.

They rented out three of the bedrooms to salesmen. When I was six, Teddy and I started
school. When we came home from school, we had to wash the dinner dishes from noon.
Then we had to go upstairs and make the beds, dust mop the floors and clean the
bathroom. We didn’t dare use the toilet, she said it took too much water. By the time we got through with that, it was time to set the table for supper. I always only had one helping put on my plate. Teddy and Charles always had milk to drink with their dinner, but she said I couldn’t have any.

They had two cows and a lot of milk, and Teddy and I would deliver it both morning and
night. Charles (age 14) went with us a few times until we could do it on our own. Sometimes I went by myself, especially if it was cold. One morning on my way to school, it was so cold that the sidewalks were very icy, and I slipped and fell. One bucket of milk hit the sidewalk, the lid blew off, and half of the milk spilled out. Well, I got up, put the lid back on, and set it on the porch where it was supposed to go. The lady called my foster mother and wanted to know why she didn’t get a full quart of milk. When I went home at noon, my foster mother told me about it and wanted to know if I drank some of it. I told her what had happened, and she said I was lying. Then she got the rawhide whip and didn’t even care where she hit me.

Between the ages of six and eleven I got many whippings. I can truthfully say I never got
enough to eat. When I would come home from school and go to the pantry to get a piece of
bread and butter, she said I was stealing it, because I didn’t ask for it.

Once a year, Mr. McPhealy would come from the New York Foundling Home to see how I
was getting along. I had to tell him fine. I would have to speak a piece for him, or poetry as it is called now. The name of it was “Looking on the Bright Side.” Then I had to dance the Irish jig for him, and when I was through, I was excused. I would go outside and cry and wish he would take me back with him. I wanted to tell him the truth about how I was treated, but I couldn’t. Still, she would whip me if she thought I was lying. I often wondered why Papa Larson didn’t ever have anything to say about the way she treated me, but it seemed to me like she ruled the house.”

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