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Introduce yourself, please.
I’m Flossie Pemberton, born in 1890 in Benton, Illinois. I give private piano lessons and care for the garden of a neighbor lady who pays me in vegetables. I also play the organ at the First Baptist Church, and I host a radio show for women.

So you’re a disc jockey?
Mercy, no! I’ve never been on a horse. My radio show is called The Wishing Well. I work with an announcer by the name of Joel Long, a delightful chap. We have a little back and forth conversation, and then I go on with a program about philosophy, poetry, music or something of my own choosing. During the last segment of the show, we entice the audience to pick up an entry form and wish for something from our sponsor. Each week I read a letter selected by our sponsor and our listeners get to hear about a wish that came true.

Single or married?
Well, I’m single now, but one day soon, I hope to be married and have a houseful of children.

What’s a houseful?
Six would be nice.

What’s your greatest joy?
Lately, it’s the little family that moved in next door. Their mother is awfully sweet and we get along like sisters. Her husband travels and she is often left alone with their four children. We have tea together at least once a week. I’m teaching all of her children to play the piano. Music is such a vital part of a child’s education, don’t you agree?

Oh, certainly. Are the children musically inclined?
Well, the three boys are rather enthusiastic about tormenting my cat while they are here, but the little girl is a little sprite of a thing, and I see real potential there. She is still a beginner and doesn’t know her scales, but she plays the simplest songs with such feeling. I must speak to her music teacher at school to see that she is given opportunities to play publicly. She’s a bit shy and I want her to overcome stage fright as soon as possible.

Favorite meal?
Well, I’m afraid my tastes are as limited as my budget. I like nothing more than a bowl of mush with sweet milk and honey for breakfast. Nectar of the gods!

What is sweet milk?
Why lass, it’s the milk that isn’t sour, of course! Whenever I save a few extra coins, I send one of Barbara’s little lads to fetch a pint from Mrs. Simmons’ farm. It’s good for them to learn to do little chores for other people, and it’s a great service to me when I have students and can’t leave my house. They are responsible little boys and I haven’t the slightest reservation about entrusting them with my coin purse. Barbara fusses over them as if they were juvenile delinquents, but they carry themselves like such little men that I shan’t be surprised if all three become titans and heroes. The youngest is only five and, with his deft little hands, he repaired my oil lamp during one of our afternoon visits. His eyes sparkle with intelligence.

What are your favorite books?
The Bible is the most practical and useful book of all. I study mine every day. For pleasure, I’m awfully fond of George MacDonald. His trilogy, The Curate of Glaston, is quite an awakening for anyone who wants to be a true Christian.

How so?
We’re given to believe we are acceptable to God because we have adopted a creed or planted our bodies in a church pew on Sunday. MacDonald’s work gets at the heart of Christianity, believing upon Jesus and becoming more like him in attitude and in deed.

Care to share a favorite line?
“The things close by do not give you peace. Peace has to come from somewhere else. And do not our souls themselves cry out for a nobler, better, more beautiful life?”– from The Curate’s Awakening, by George MacDonald.

What are your personal pet peeves?
Self-absorption. So many of my contemporaries are occupying themselves with mah jongg, jazz and illicit booze, unaware of the world around them. My preoccupations are different, but just as selfish. I can’t imagine a more boring and unhappy life than one where I talk and think about myself continually. It’s a terrible curse to be locked into a mindset that prevents sufficient curiosity and concern for others. Service is the antidote to self-absorption, but only if it is given humbly and without regard for credit or the notoriety one receives from it. One must learn to tame one’s inner shrew. An adult who hasn’t shed the petty, puerile vanities of the developing ego is without dignity.

The interview above is a fictional account of Flossie Pearl Pemberton Miller’s life as it might have been in 1920. The real Flossie Miller would have been 30 years old that year. She was my family’s neighbor in the late 1960s. If you care to read on, here is the Flossie Miller Backstory.

The lithograph in this post is not an image of Mrs. Miller. It was a bridesmaid gift, given to me last year by my friend Sarah. The art was created by the artist Frank H. Desch and used for a calendar. Desch was an illustrator who worked in fine art painting as a side gig. He died in 1934 in Philadelphia. The calendar would likely have represented a year sometime before his death.

These images are so charming that I wanted to share them with readers before having them mounted and framed. For the next several months, I plan to share the entire set of 12 through fictional oral histories based on women I have known or studied. 

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.