Whittle: So big firsts not so important now

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RADIO - My family's first radio, a pre-electricity "cathedral cabinet-model" battery-powered Philco, opened our farm family to the outside world in 1948. Why it was called a cathedral cabinet-model was due, Grandpappy Whittle said, to it looking the shape of some big fancy-looking church over the ocean at some place called Rome.

Since I was the baby of the family, Daddy Whittle said I could be the first to turn the knob that tuned the new-fangled radio to a mystical place called Nashville, located all the way across the mighty Mississippi River from our small farm in the "Bootheel" farming section of Southeast Missouri.

"Where's Nashville?" I asked older sister, June.

"Nashville is where they make music," Sister replied.

Sister obviously knew what she was talking about, for when I was first to tune the new radio's knob, sure enough, music was what came out of Nashville Radio Station WSM.

"It's time for the Chuck Wagon Gang to be singing," offered Daddy.

Mama Whittle could never get Daddy to attend our farm town's little Baptist church, but he loved listening to the Chuck Wagon Gang.

"I love farming … love watching the crops grow, along with our young'ins, and I love the Chuck Wagon Gang's music, that's my church," I overheard Daddy explaining once to a traveling preacher man.

ELECTRICITY - Farm neighbor A.J. Neel and Daddy Whittle are credited with "politicking" the REA folks in nearby big city Sikeston, Mo., to run power lines up and down our remote farm road. 

How big was electricity to isolated farm families of the 1950s?

So important we rode mules up down our farm road, stopping at each farm neighbor's house to sit and watch that family's first electrified-light bulb glow, never mind that it was in the middle of a sun-drenched summer day.

Electricity, as explained by a neighbor woman, came from God!

"Electricity is heaven sent," noted God-loving neighbor Mommie Gowen. "We've got to thank God for getting electricity out here to us living in the middle of no where out here in the country."

"God" may have been credited with bringing electricity to us, but as a farm boy I noticed Mama kept sending monthly payments to the Rural Electric Administration located up in a nearby big city.


After Daddy Whittle perished in a grinding car crash in 1950, it was two years before Mama's first "beau" showed up courting her at our front door.

"I've got enough cheeseburgers for your three children," her suitor claimed as he handed Mama a big brown sack upon entering our farm house.

Little Danny Whittles' taste buds probably flapped and flipped around with excitement, when throwing that first store-bought sandwich past quivering and fluttering lips. They sure tasted good.

And I thought Mother should have married that man who came courting with a sack filled with our family's first store-bought sandwiches.


From day one, my family can rightly claim that Little Danny Whittle used his noggin on the first day of learning, at the Canalou, Mo., Elementary School of higher ciphering and advanced thinking.

And that's when I saw those pretty little lasses all playing around the big old bell out on the school grounds, that told students and folks of the whole town that school was in session.

"I can climb up in that biggo bell," I bragged to Rosemary Hopper, a real foxy-looking first grader.

"You can't either," Rosemary challenged as school girls' Brenda Harland, Ellen Campbell and Sandra Hill looked on.

Not being a bright child, Little Danny Whittle climbed up on the big concrete platform that held the bell. Problem was I cut a huge gash in the top of my noggin on the bell's sharp edge that resulted in blood spurting profusely out of the top of my foolish split-wide-open first grade head.

I was highly-embarrassed when I came back to school with my head covered in snow-white gauze dressings that covered my wounded scalp.

"You can say my boy used his head from day one at school!" I heard Daddy Whittle boasting later to farm neighbors.

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Dan Whittle
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