Was My Father a Bad Man?

By S.E. Hyde-Jenkins

1974 article published in the St. Louis Dispatch

I hate it when people refer to my late father, Steven Hyde, as a bad man. There is an old saying about walking a

mile in one's shoes. It is no secret now about the beginnings of the town of Point Place, Wisconsin. I heard

there might even be a movie made about it. But before Tinsletown degrades an already tragic story to fit a

2-hour time block, I felt I needed to write an article, about my Dad. My father was not a bad man. He was what

they would call "Solid" or "Salt-of-the-Earth", but a bad man? I think that is akin to paint a canvas with a too

broad of a brush. When people like to point out in an black and white, elementary way, I'd also like to point out,

we're (me and my brother) are here. We were sheltered to not even know about Harvest Day. We were always

sent to my mother Jackie's cousin Carla's house, who had the unfortunate moniker of 'Spinster' because she

dare be over the proper marrying age and didn't have children of her own. Point Place had a strange dichotomy.

Women could vote in the federal elections as soon as the Federal Government allowed it in 1920, but never in

the local. Women could drive their husbands cars, but not permitted to have their own. Only courting couples

could walk arm-in-arm to let the rest of the men know that this woman was to be his. After marriage, a woman

walked behind her husband. Except on Harvest Day, the true horror, the dark blemish on the town. I have

talked until I was blue in the face, trying to get people to frame the Harvest Ritual within the context of the

times. Point Place was caught between two identities, especially during my father's time, the modern

conveniences of cars, indoor plumbing, and buying food at the grocery store and its former self as an abundant

farm community. The towns folk did the best they could, there was a small area corn field where each section

belonged to a family, people kept small vegetable gardens, the Mayor (which at one time was my Father) and

usually a prominent citizen (which was also my Dad) were allowed to have 2 chickens, so they could make

money selling the eggs. It all seems so archaic now, but to them it was a fact of life. When Arthur C. Halverson

(who is now just known for the department store) founded the town in 1846, imagine a town with no

telephones, a small mercantile, more farmland, and towns folk with a healthy dose of superstition, is what lead

to the first Harvest Day. Since the records were destroyed in the Fire of 1947, nothing is known except from

some of the older citizens who are mostly all died off, they talked to the press, maybe for cash, and maybe

because they know they could get the decades of guilt off their collective chests, to ease their collective blame in

a hope to go to Heaven for clearing their conscience. It's one thing for an early civilization to cling to ritualistic

forms of play, it's quite another for a town in the 20th century to keep a stoning ritual going. It started to go

downhill when they took the men off the ballot, they weren't expendable anymore. I'm not going to deny my

Father's or any of the other men misogynist tendencies, but I don't believe that all of them hated women. It was

just something they did, under the guise and a family picnic afterwards, for a good harvest, good crops, and

healthy rain. I am grateful for Laurie and her mother, Kitty Forman for removing the cancer out of Point Place.

They had to play dirty.

They had to be shifty, they had no choice.

It was out of their own survival instincts that they saved many

women and made Harvest Day a distant memory. So, I can forgive Laurie for poisoning my Father. Women were

considered property of the husband, or their fathers if they were the dreaded spinster. She knew if she stayed

in Point Place, her name would be on the ballot, and her father, Red, who passed away last year after I

interviewed him from his sick bed in the hospital, that poisoned my Dad to keep her exempt status. He still

loved her, even taking her in after his wife killed her son at the 4th of July picnic in 1950.

No one seemed to care that Laurie was back in town. She killed my father in an act of self-preservation. I can't

hate her no matter how much I tried to in the past. It is such a wasted emotion.

I remember the last time I saw my Father. He didn't seem so well. Laurie would stop the poison for a day or two

to let him feel better because he didn't have any "stomach trouble". She suggested that he see us, and he

was too tired to run and play with me and my brother, but he gave us the biggest hugs, told us that he loved

us, and gave Carla an envelope with the details about our inheritance. He knew he was dying and I know he

kept his promise to my mother to take care of us. It was up to Kitty to pick up the invisible torch, to make things

right. Before Kitty's passing she told Red when he was last able to visit her in the jail, that she framed the only

brown person in town; Red told me that his name was Fez, because they couldn't (or

wouldn't) learn how to pronounce his real name. He was the first execution via means of electric chair.

Some people are surprised (because again they fail to look at the historical context) that I don't hate Eric

Forman, my Father's best friend, brother of Laurie, son of Red and Kitty.

It is on the record that Eric was becoming more unraveled as each year morphed into the next. He abused his

wives (with the exception of his 1st spouse) when he didn't have Harvest Day as an annual outlet for his anger.

He seems to be the only one in the public knowledge who came out of this story as the bad, evil person. I

believe he suffered from some undiagnosed mental illness. Things that are still taboo to talk about even in the

open '70s.

He set the lie in motion of starting a rumor that my Mother had an affair with the local mailman. He did this by

stealing her hair clips before they temporarily moved to St. Louis, because R.M. II trusted my father to handle

Goodson's Textile plant new St. Louis operations. Eric planted them in Postman McConnell's yard and put it in

the air that my Mother had an affair.

Before my Mother died she was able to have one last visit with us and she gave Carla letters for

my brother and me. We didn't know about them until we were older. I know she didn't have an affair. You

certainly couldn't tell by their wedding photos, as smiling in photographs, was something that was frowned


Photographs were basically treated as contributions to the record, not something you did for enjoyment, even in

photos that commemorated happy times such as a wedding. And sometimes weddings were not considered

happy events; some had marriages based solely on economics. I know my Father loved my Mother. Eric planned

it for my Mother to be chosen as the 1947 Harvest Day lottery winner. Red Forman told me that the votes were

20 Yea, 0 Nay, meaning my Father voted that way as well. He was hurt because he thought my Mother cheated

on him.

I don't know why he didn't just take her at her word, but those were the times. That's why I don't hate Eric;

he's just as much a victim as everyone else. The further that the '40s are from the present day, it makes it that

much easier to forget. While I don't hate anyone involved, I will never forget. I miss and love my parents every

day that I'm allowed to breathe.

Writing helps me to cope and that is why I wanted to share this story.

For the kids today, I wanted to share with them what Point Place is like today. It's a wonderful little suburb

of Wisconsin. There are some women who stay at home and that's okay, just like it's okay to be the ones who

work everyday in their careers. Many of the buildings from my parent's time are gone. Loudon's Grocery

Store was torn down for a Piggly Wiggly, Goodson's was destroyed in the 1947 fire, gone is Red's barbershop,

my mother's first love Michael owned it after Red retired, but he sold it after a few years, then it was a boarded

up, dilapidated building until it was made into a little soda/snack shop called The Hub, which is where the local

youth like to hang out, the old church was replaced by a few others of different faiths.

The auto plant here is chugging along, but there are rumors that the plant will be shutting down in a few years

if they can't compete with the more efficient Japanese cars.

The jail that was built after the fire was eventually destroyed and rebuilt elsewhere in the city.

The cemetery is still 1.2 miles from the old church. You can tell who was chosen for the Harvest Day

lottery by looking for the simple hash mark etching on the back of each tombstone.

Each year Point Place got more modernized, people moved, some passed on, and the springtime ritual of

Harvest Day was forgotten.

That was when Point Place joined the rest of the world and became a real city.

The towns people were in a foggy denial of what used to take place every spring. It might have even made

some slowly go insane.

I just want people to read this article and learn how to forgive. I will never hate my Father, I know he's in

Heaven with my Mother and someday my brother and me will join them for eternity as well.

Then we can be the family I always wished we could have been.

This article is dedicated to

Steven James Hyde & Jackie Beulah Burkhart-Hyde

They did the best that they could in times that were not easy by today's definitions and I will always love them

for putting their children's welfare above their own.


Mrs. Sally Elizabeth Hyde-Jenkins (1943-), is a freelance writer who lives in St. Louis with her husband,

Nick, who also has a maternal family history in Point Place. (His aunt was killed in the 1931 lottery)

They have 1 daughter, Jacqueline Dottie Hyde-Jenkins.

Mrs. Hyde-Jenkins is also a member of the St. Louis National Organization for Women (NOW) chapter whose

book, The Town of Point Place: The Jackie & Steven Hyde Story will be published in the Spring of 1975.


Author's Note: Thanks to nannygirl and Marla's Lost for being my most consistent readers and faithful

reviewers of this story. If you'd like to join our '70s fan fiction forum click on reviews the link is provided in

the reviews for Chapter 1. Thank you.