Rusty was the mother of my good friend Skipper. They had other names, but they were too formal, so everyone called them Rusty and Skipper. I didn’t call her Mrs. anybody, just Rusty. The photo above was taken when she was in her 80’s, but perhaps the hard-boiled no nonsense personality she had when I was a kid comes through in the photo.
Rusty had been in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II, and she was the most feisty of all our neighbors. I loved her and loved spending the night at Skipper’s house. Skipper was afraid of the boogieman and before he and I went to sleep, Rusty would look under the bed and assure us that the boogieman was gone. This was my first experience with a parent taking night fears seriously, and I felt very safe at their house.
I also owe Rusty a debt of gratitude for my being a nonsmoker. I loved watching her smoke and told her I wanted to try it. So she handed me a cigarette, and my 6 year old self took a very deep breath in. I promptly threw up. Better aversion therapy could not have been designed, and I was forever cured of the mystique of smoking.
So here’s to Rusty who showed me, even in the very domesticated 1950’s, that women could be both tough and caring. It was a terrific lesson for one little girl.