Ready to read
Book offers insight to challenges
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.