|Lillian Rickey & her daughters - Susan Eley & Sandra Frank|
When talking about those days of the 1920s and 1930s, nearly every memory she recalled started with, “We climbed on ….” The “we” is Lillian and her identical twin sister, Leila.
And when they were in the midst of their antics, many adults would just shake their heads and say, “You girls …” No one was really that mad at them. Who could resist two adorable twin girls?
“We were never trouble,” Rickey said. “We climbed a lot.”
The sisters walked everywhere and climbed up on nearly everything in their path. Living in Baraboo until they were 10, they would tie a rope between two trees and practice walking on the rope like they saw at the circus.
In fact, they were so adorable at the circus, climbing on things while watching the acts, they were actually asked to join the circus. Their parents declined the offer.
Rickey recalls walking and climbing on trees to Devil’s Lake when she was 6. They did not know where to go.
“And we did not know how to get back,” she said.
Finally, they returned home, and her mother looked at her and her sister and said, “Where have you girls been?” and then her face fell as she looked at their dresses, which were torn, dirty and showed signs of their adventures.
Because back then, playing was a little bit different.
“All girls wore dresses back then,” Rickey said. “We wore dresses, not pants.”
She remembers climbing, playing and even falling into the chicken coop, scaring the chickens so much their feathers flew off.
“We don’t like feathers,” she said.
Climbing and swinging on the ropes in a barn, with her twin of course, is another fun memory.
When the family moved to Madison, it was more of the same. The girls climbed hills and went sledding near the Capitol. They once climbed a bank, where one of the workers famously said, “You girls ….”
“She (Rickey) would never let us do any of that,” said Sandra Frank, one of Rickey’s daughters.
Back in the day of the Rickey girls’ youth, they left their house, found creative things to do and often made sure to be home in time to eat. There was never a lot of worry as there is now. Frank and her sister, Susan Eley, agree.
“It is not as safe now for kids to run around, or maybe we just hear about it more,” Eley said.
In addition to her two daughters, Rickey has six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Also, the daughters noted, there are more structured activities for children, such as gymnastics and other sports, and children are more easily bored.
Rickey and her sister were born in Richland Center to Mattie and May Kimmel. About a year later, they were adopted by a married couple, Elwood and Fanny Nealy, who had no children at the time. One of the stipulations the Kimmels had for the adoption was that both girls were to be adopted together.
Which was a good thing, considering how close the girls were. Throughout their lives, they lived near each other, watched each other’s children and even married brothers. The two attended the Madison Vocational School where Rickey met her future husband, Bill, and Leila met her future husband, Bill’s brother Howard. Both men fought in World War II, during which Howard Rickey was a prisoner of war. Leila Rickey worked through the war, while Rickey watched her own and her sister’s children.
When Bill Rickey returned from war, he made a living flipping homes. They would purchase a home, remodel it, live in it for a short time, sell it and move on to another. Rickey said they did this nine or 10 times before building their dream home together.
Rickey just had to giggle when she found out there is a reality television show, “Property Brothers,” and that the star, Drew Scott, is famous enough to be casted on this season’s “Dancing with the Stars.”
The Rickeys built their final home in New Port Richey, Fla., where they spent three winters. When her husband became ill, they moved back to Madison in 1984, and Bill Rickey died Christmas Eve in 1984.
Rickey’s sister died Sept. 1, 2015, less than a month from her 98th birthday.
Rickey doesn’t climb anymore like she used to, but she does stay active.
At Aster Memory Care, she does daily devotional, plays cards and participates in all activities. She bakes and works on jigsaw puzzles and has not missed a bus ride trip. In her adulthood, she kept active by walking a lot, but without the climbing part she did as a child.
She believes that she would be remembered for her walking and climbing escapades. In fact, she said, if anyone who reads this newspaper article remembers her from a child, they would say, “Yup, I remember those two.”
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Aster Memory Care resident soon to turn 100