Conversations with Mama… and more~ #19
I told Mama tonight about the people on Flicker (a photo site) that are obsessed with “my” Nolan house. I hate seeing other people take pictures of my house. One girl even took a wedding dress there and took pictures of it hanging in the doorway and of her standing by the window in it. “When you come down, we’ll take Melissa down to FISH and maybe they’ll let me rent a wedding dress for the day and go to the Nolan house and take pictures of her in the wedding dress. But will she do that? (I don’t like that so many people are obsessed with my house like I am)
(I read this one day – “when you walk in an old home – you feel the history of the people who were there before you.” That is kind of like what my story Behind the Walls is about.
When I asked if she went to FISH today, mama said. “My hobby is going to FISH everyday and just rambling around. I’m waiting for them to put on a good sale and then I’ll buy something. I’m content to just go there, walk around and look, then wait for what I want to go on sale, unless someone else buys it – that makes me mad.”
More Mama sayings:
“Rolling with the tide and living for tomorrow.”
“They have more money than they do sense.”
“Cold hands, dirty feet and no sweetheart.”
“That’s a deep subject for a shallow mind.”
“While at the Senior Center today, I was in the clothes closet trying on a vest when the lunch bell rang and we were called to lunch. I went into the lunch room and while sitting at the table I realized I still had the vest on but hadn’t paid for it. I didn’t want to say anything then, so I just kept it on and decided I’d tell them tomorrow that I stole it and here’s my quarter.”
I asked Mama one night, why didn’t granddaddy have a flag on his coffin? “I don’t remember him having one – guess I didn’t have the mind to call someone to have one presented.”
In talking about kids playing by themselves, mama remembered… “Aunt Liza’s son Harold Marchman liked to crawl under their house and build farms and fences out of match sticks, string, and sticks he picked up. Whenever I visited, I loved to crawl under the house and watch him. It was fascinating to watch him work. It was something you’d call miniature art today – he had several farms with fences all around and it looked just a like a farm. Aunt Liza was my mothers sister. I thought her funny when she got mad at her kids and yelled at them. She was a gossiper, she loved to sit on Aunt Chris’s porch, her sister, and they would all gossip, but deny it.”
“When you were young and I got bored, I’d grab a cigarette and a cup of coffee – then later I quit both. After I quit drinking beer here in Monroe, I started planting flowers in the yard. That’s how I got so involved in my flower gardens; I never planted flowers before. When I worked as a bartender I’d sip on tomato juice with a little beer – actually that’s what your suppose to drink in the morning to get rid of a hangover. I didn’t drink when I worked.”
I read parts of an email I had from Carol Underwood (native of Siloam and friend of Leroy’s) today to Mama. I’m including most of it here.)
We went to school together at Siloam Junior high and probably to high school at Greensboro High, though I have no specific memories of that, not even riding the bus from Siloam to Greensboro together.
We did ride the same bus to Siloam. Most years Leroy and Helen, his sister, were picked up after a good part of the bus route had been run. I remember the bus having to stand and wait numerous times for Helen to make the bus. I have no idea why she was so behind Leroy, but I do remember her as a pretty girl. Helen being late seldom, I suspect, made Uncle Jim late since he drove so fast. In the early days when the bus driver had to own his own bus, J.B. Dolvin, a relative of Jim’s, and the Ford dealer in Greensboro, but a resident of Siloam, was at our house early one morning showing daddy a Model A touring car, his first, when we heard an awful roar off to the east. J.B. asked what in the world was that. Daddy told him it was Jim Copelan in his school bus. J.B. responded that if he had known he was going to drive that way he would have sold him an airplane.
I remember, as boys about 8 or 9 years old , I, Leroy and some other boys harassed stray dogs that hung around the school. We would pick up scraps of food that the children threw away from the lunches they brought to school in syrup buckets, and sometime some fancy lunch boxes, although in those days there weren’t many of those.
One peculiar thing I remember was that Leroy brought a cucumber pickle sandwich to school many days. He really like them. Most of the time they were made of biscuits but sometime made with “light bread”. The rest of us might have ham and biscuit or sausage and biscuits or biscuits with a hole punched in the side, filled with sorghum syrup. We boys would cluster together away from the girls when we opened our lunch boxes. Sometime someone would convince Leroy to swap a cucumber pickle sandwich for something we had. All of us were intrigued with the “light bread” and the mayonnaise or other spread Mrs. McKinley put on those sandwiches. Most of the rest of us never had such fancy lunches.
Around 1938, with the help of the boys, including me and Leroy, we dug the dirt out from under the school building, where they installed a lunch room and most children then ate there. I and my brothers couldn’t afford to eat there much, though I got some credits for the digging and occasionally mama would let us take some garden vegetables for the lunchroom and thus get credits so we could eat several meals there.
Now to Baseball: We had an area of about 2 acres in our cow pasture that was flat, no weeds, etc. On Sunday afternoons our Copelan cousins, Lamar and Ray, and Leroy would come down to play baseball. The Copelan’s rode an old mule, Leroy walked, though sometime along the way I think he had a bicycle. Our bats were either sticks picked up out of the woods or small trees cut down and shaped. Our baseballs were ones we made ourselves. I don’t remember the Copelan’s or Leroy ever bringing one. We used a little rubber ball, shanghaied from some girl’s jacks set, wrapped tightly with string unraveled from some of daddy’s worn out work socks. When the ball was about the size of a regular baseball mama would use a crooked needle and regular sewing thread to sew the top layers together so that it would not come apart. Then to keep the thing from wearing out too fast we would wrap the thing in black tape. I can’t remember its name though, later we called it electricians’ tape. Our bases were rocks or sticks laid out without worrying about measured distances, but sometimes not without much arguing. Arguments also established the rules. Usually one person batted and if he got on base (under our changing rules) someone would come in from the field to bat, until the person on base was either put out or made a run; in which case he would go into the field so someone else could come in from the field to bat. (Usually there would be only about 6 or seven people playing.)
In about the eighth grade Leroy entered the big times. Just think, here in a little junior high school with less than 100 students in the third poorest county in the country, they founded one of the best baseball teams in middle Georgia. Leroy and one or two other regular students were good enough to make such a team. But, in addition, a group of men (probably in their 20s), all workers in the hosiery mill in Union Point, enrolled in school in late winter every year and stayed until the last baseball game about the end of the school year. Then those “men” disappeared until about the following, maybe March. I now suspect that the “sock plant” paid them. I say that because we know there were other semi-pro teams playing out of that plant, who played our school’s team.
These “men” not only played good ball but they created trouble within the school. Once when the action of the principal, George Brown, displeased a bunch of them, they raided his office, got the hand held bell (we didn’t have electric buzzers way back then), tied it to his coattail and made him run up and down the hall with that bell just clanging. The only one of those men whose name I now remember was Kay Willie Dye, a good, good ball player and a good man, not participating in the pranks.
Another “Just think”, here was Leroy and a few other boys, at best 14 years old, making it with “men” maybe twice their ages. Leroy by now had a good glove (few of us did). He was left-handed both in handling the ball and batting. I think he played first base.
I don’t know who legitimized the team—who told or even allowed who to play, or where to play. I think we had 4 or 5 games at Siloam each spring. I remember, I think, that a team came from Union Point and another from Crawfordville. The games must have been played on Fridays or otherwise I would not have been there. They were probably played early enough for the game to be over by about the time school would have been over or I would not have gone. There were no bleachers, etc. but crowds did come. I remember seeing my first British sports car, the little MG, at one of the games. I remember that at least one game there was food, something like a picnic. (Isn’t it ironic that I can remember the name of the principal, etc. but can’t remember so many of the other details?)
The ball diamond was probably not on school property but on land owned by Mr. Mutt Rhodes, adjacent to and just south of the school property. The infield was flat, oriented from almost west to east. But from around third base to about half way between second and first the land fell away; at about center field it was considerably lower than second base. As I said Leroy batted left-handed and he was good. If he got a ball away and low, it was gone, and I mean often really gone for it would be a home run that landed in the swampy area in back of second base. They somehow had another ball, continued playing while other kids searched for the lost ball. Who kept score, and even how, I don’t know. Whether that Siloam team traveled to games at other places I don’t remember now.
I lost track of Leroy after graduating from Siloam Junior High. I don’t think he ever attended High School in Greensboro, at least not in the same classes with me. He is not on the graduation list for the year I graduated. The next thing I heard, either in letters to me overseas or when I came home from service, was that Leroy had been a casualty of the war. I was surprised, for although he was athletic, he had periodic bouts with what was then called “asthma’, so I would have thought he would not have been taken into an armed service.
Fox Hunting: Around 1938 daddy acquired two Walker Hounds. One was black with some orange and white and was light and fast. He named her Smoker. The other one was heavier and lighter colored was named Steamer. He hunted with other men who had dogs. They would, I remember, hunt with the moon—first part of the night if the moon was shining, then later in the month, in early morning. A lot of the hunting was done around the old Jackson place, what had been a huge plantation around “Flat Rock”, a quarry. If it was chilly they would build a fire of scrap limbs, etc. In the early days Smoker would trail anything, possum, rabbit, etc. – anything that jumped. They weren’t supposed to do anything but run a fox so daddy would hold her out of the race until they jumped the fox (they could tell by the sound of the baying). Then it was my job to take Smoker, still tied, into the woods and swamps, anticipate which way the fox was going to go, and as the pack of dogs came nearby, turn her loose. It’s a thousand wonders I didn’t get snake bit or jumped by a wild cat. Doing that I really developed a sense of direction. Then, according to daddy, Smoker was the one who headed the pack. Before the fox was jumped the men often sat around gossiping, “telling lies”, bragging. Then each man would swear that it was one of his dogs who was in front, the fastest, the loudest, etc. After a couple of years Mr. Edgar began hunting with them. I didn’t go with them but a few times after that. I don’t think Leroy ever went with us. If they jumped a gray fox they would call it quits and go home when they ran the fox into a log or hole in the ground. However, if they jumped a red fox he might leave the country with the dogs after him. In that case the men would go home, get some sleep, or work. Later in the day Mr. Edgar would drive up to see if the dogs had returned. Most of the time they would go back to the place where they had been released to see if they were there. It might take 2 days for all of them to get back but I don’t remember them ever losing a dog.
So, I have written a lot, but comparatively little about Leroy or Mr. Edgar but I did provide a sort of context, as much as my mind can recall after all these years. Keep it as a part of your family history, for whatever it is worth. (These stories written to me by Mr. Underwood are priceless)
After reading Carol’s email to Mama she said… “I don’t remember Leroy eating pickle sandwiches, but he was older than me and I may not have known. But I don’t think he ever brought them to school on light bread, which meant store bought sliced bread. Daddy wouldn’t have it in our house, he called it wasp bread and never would eat it. I remember when I came back to the farm and tried making him a sandwich on that kind of bread – he’d get mad about it, telling me he didn’t eat that type of bread – he really wanted a biscuit like my mama used to make. I do remember Mama making pickles, they were called nine-day pickles; guess it took nine days for them to turn into a pickle.”
“I remember being at one of Leroy’s baseball games in Greensboro; I was still young. I was standing by a group of girls when they began talking about Leroy and how cute he was, after awhile I sidled over to them and said, “he’s my brother.”
“Leroy didn’t go foxhunting with Daddy, at least not often. He liked to go frog gigging. He’d be up and back before breakfast and Mama would cook frog legs for us. Leroy was always Mama’s boy, while I was Daddy’s girl. It was just that way and I always knew that Leroy was her favorite.”
“Yes, Mr. Copelan, Carroll’s uncle, waited many a morning on me at the bus stop. If he’d left me, I would have missed an awful lot of school. He said it was the best present ever when I graduated and he didn’t have to pick me up anymore. I remember one time at school when we had to gather in the auditorium and I was in the bathroom crying because of my hair, one of Leroy’s friends found me and tried to help me comb and fix my hair so I could go in. When we first got to school every morning we always went to the auditorium to salute the flag, say the pledge of allegiance and have a prayer – they don’t do that anymore.”
To be continued…
© 2015 Jeanne Bryan Insalaco