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Book of­fers in­sight to chal­lenges

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Spotlight On -

When Jane and her younger sis­ter feel the pain of be­ing teased for wear­ing “raggy clothes” dur­ing their mem­o­rable child­hood in Hot Springs, Jane hatches a plan to get them a new pair of school shoes.

The es­capade that fol­lows is just one of the fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ries in “Worn Out Shoes” by author M. Ruth Yar­nell.

Yar­nell writes hon­estly and af­fec­tion­ately about her child­hood be­fore World War II and shares – through some­times aching thoughts and feel­ings, but also up­lift­ing emo­tions – the strength that buoyed her through dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances.

The author says in her in­tro­duc­tion, as dif­fi­cult as it was, she be­lieves her ex­pe­ri­ences have given her a solid foun­da­tion for her life to­day.

The author changed the names of the real-life char­ac­ters, but read­ers will none­the­less rec­og­nize the lo­cal lo­ca­tions in her story.

She goes by the name Jane in the book and does not mind hav­ing only two school dresses. How­ever, she and her sis­ter “El­la­mae” both des­per­ately need shoes.

“Will you give us money to buy some? Look, Papa, the soles are com­pletely worn out,” she said, hold­ing one shoe up to show him.

“We’re go­ing to school prac­ti­cally bare­footed. I think we can buy shoes for both of us for about $4.”

“Four dollars,” he thun­dered. “If I had that kind of money I’d buy my­self a new bat­tery for my ra­dio.”

The need to find the money for new shoes thus falls to Jane and she is up to the chal­lenge. Her plan to get them, a stroke of ge­nius for such a young girl, is en­joy­able to read and high­lights the dif­fi­culty of her dayto-day strug­gles and her in­ge­nu­ity.

Patsy Spoon, of Hot Springs, grew up in the Lake­side com­mu­nity and has en­joyed dis­cov­er­ing new de­tails in the book about the author, her aunt, who just turned 91 and lives in Cal­i­for­nia.

“The book is ex­cit­ing. I had known some facts, but the book filled in parts I didn’t know,” Spoon said.

“We were like sis­ters. She was a strong lit­tle girl. We like to visit now on the phone.”

In the book, Jane’s con­ver­sa­tional nar­ra­tive brings her ad­ven­tures, filled with laugh­ter and tears, to life.

She lived with her par­ents and six sib­lings dur­ing their strug­gles in the 1920s and the Great De­pres­sion.

Af­ter their mother died – a strong, pe­tite woman who worked hard like a man – the chil­dren pitched in to help their fa­ther, who lived to be 100.

He “was blessed” with a job as a cus­to­dian at a lo­cal church.

“He also made crys­tal sets for ra­dios at his work ta­ble and he could re­pair clocks. His wife passed away in child birth with their eighth child,” Spoon said.

At age 8 or 9, Yar­nell did the cook­ing for her fam­ily. Her broth­ers who were a lit­tle older took in odd jobs they could find.

“They of­ten didn’t have enough to eat. They were so poor,” Spoon said. “Many peo­ple faced the same cir­cum­stances dur­ing that time. Jane and her younger sis­ter stuck to­gether and Jane looked af­ter her.”

A sur­vivor, Jane shares her re­mark­able life from fi­nan­cial strug­gles to ad­ven­tures in New York City, a whirl­wind courtship be­fore World War II, the loves and losses that fol­lowed and the rich life she and her hus­band built in the fol­low­ing years.

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