2017 – A to Z… U: Conversations with Mama… The Best of!
I married and moved away from home when I was 19, so I didn’t grow up stopping by Mama’s for afternoon chats. Living almost a thousand miles from home, a nightly phone call is how I stayed in touch, as she’s gotten older, it’s how I check in on her. As I became involved in researching my family history, it was often how I heard the family stories. I recorded the usual dates and names, but all the tidbits of family stories…. well where was I going to put them. That was how Conversations with Mom evolved, and I eventually blogged those conversations. What better choice, than to glean an A to Z of my favorites here to celebrate Mama’s birthday month; she turns a spry 87 this April, but “mums” the word on me spilling her birthday number here!
During the month of April, I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for my 2nd year… both on this blog. I will post each day, except Sundays… using a daily alphabet letter in my theme of “Conversations with Mom… The Best of.” If you’d like to read more blogs, hop over to their Facebook page.
U… Conversations with Mama – The Best of!
U is for Uncles and Union Point…
I called Mama tonight to tell her the woman I met online was also from Siloam. She recognized her last name, and said, “she must have been the youngest of the family, but I did know her older brother (Gilbert).” The woman told me about riding the school bus and it was her uncle, Jimmy Copelan, who had been the bus driver. When I asked Mama… “I remember Mr. Jimmy, as we also called him. He was the one who always waited for me because I took so long in fixing my hair every morning, and deciding what I wanted to wear to school. He said that the best gift I ever gave him, was when I graduated from high school and didn’t ride his bus anymore! I remember always being the first one on the bus in the morning, and the last one off in the afternoon. I also remember how he’d sometime just stop the bus if he saw someone he wanted to talk to – and leave me sitting on the bus – and often in the heat of the day… I think that was my punishment!”
“Daddy’s cousin, Lawson McKinley, owned Ulmer’s store in Siloam and was also the Mayor there – bet you didn’t know that, and Uncle Joe McKinley was the Chief of Police. They literally ran the small town of Siloam. Daddy was given Uncle Joe’s police revolver after he died, and I gave it to you along with Daddy’s two rifles. It was always told to me that the pistol had notches on the handle to mark the men Uncle Joe shot.” (There are no notches on the handle – only a few cracks)
On my nightly phone call, Mama began telling me about the Fuller School House that Granddaddy owned. “Daddy owned 10 acres on the road to White Plains where the old Fuller School house sat. My father and Aunt Lena, his sister, bought it for Uncle Villa and Aunt Mae McKinley to live in. Uncle Villa (McKinley), daddy’s brother, had TB and they needed a place to live away from everybody. While living there, a tornado came through and picked the house up with Uncle Villa and Aunt Mae inside and sat it down in the woods on top of some tree stumps; this was probably sometime in the 1940’s. They weren’t harmed, but the house was no longer livable. They then came to live at our house for a few months, and stayed in the back bedroom, while Daddy and Aunt Lena built them a small house on Daddy’s land, just up the road from our house.”
“Back in the old days, people held dances in their homes. I remember dances at my Granddaddy McKinley’s house near Slip Rock. Uncle J.W. McKinley, Uncle Walter McKinley and his wife, Aunt Marie played and she sang; they also played in other people’s homes. I still remember seeing them play and sing from when I was young. They would move all the furniture out of the dining room – they had big rooms in those old homes. They sang and square danced all night.”
I mentioned that Steve had pounded the dents out of my baby cup and … “Mrs. Rhodes of Rhodes Drugstore gave you that silver cup and bracelet when you were born. Actually, she probably gave it at the baby shower that Mrs. Cleo Sisson gave me; she lived next door to my mother-in-law in the mill houses. The baby ring you have was given to you by Uncle John William Gossett, your grandmother Bryan’s half-brother. Sometimes I’d take you to visit Miss Donah Brown and we’d spend the day. She wasn’t married and loved me to bring you so she could hold and rock you;. she was an artist and made hooked rugs.”
“I loved to sit in my father’s favorite rocking chair by the fire on cold nights in the cabin… Daddy always had a favorite chair. My mother’s brothers, Lewis and Roth Askew often came to come visit us every couple of weeks; they walked everywhere they went. Uncle Roth had lost one hand in an accident when he worked in the sawmill. If no one was home when they came, they’d go in and let the window shade up to let daddy know, out in the field, that they were there. They lived together in Powelton, which was below Sparta, and often spent nights with different brothers and sisters; Uncle Roth died at his sister Annie’s house. He told her the night before, that he was going to retire, he went to bed and when she went in to wake him the next morning, she found him dead.”
“I remember Aunt May (Uncle Villa Askew’s wife) used to sew dresses for me sometimes; she had no daughters, only boys. For some reason back then, when they made you a dress, they always made them too big. I liked my dresses to fit me, not swim on me. I bet that after I got it home, I redid it somehow… as I was very fussy about clothes, as I still am today. Uncle Villa was my mother’s brother.”
“I liked when Uncle Charlie and Aunt Emma (daddy’s sister) came to visit; they lived in Atlanta near Lena, her sister. Uncle Charlie would ask me, “do you want some chicken feed?” I’d follow him all around and he’d give me pocket change. He only did that after he’d had whiskey up at the barn. Whenever family came, the men always headed up to the barn to have a drink. My father always had liquor hid up there, as he sold it also. We lived in a dry county – which meant it wasn’t sold. He’d buy it in a wet county and bring it back to sell. People stopped by the farm, usually on the weekends, looking to buy. The law came sometimes, trying to find it, but they never did. I never knew where it was hidden, but it had to be up in the barns somewhere. Aunt Emma always got all twisted when Uncle Charlie came back to the house drunk – I thought it was funny as I liked the money he’d give me, so I didn’t care.”
When I asked about the City Hotel in Union Point…. “I often stayed at the hotel on the weekends with Willie Mae – my best friend; her parents owned it. I met her on the first day of school in first grade. One night Willie and I were in the bathroom taking a bath when we heard her uncles, in an adjoining room, talk about the whiskey they had, and where they were going to hide it while they went out. After they left, Willie snuck in and took half of it for us. We got so drunk chasing it with chocolate milk – what were we thinking! We were two drunk chicks in the bathroom… and ended up throwing up. When they came back, we heard them in their room almost fighting with each other over the missing liquor; Willie went in and told them before they fought. They probably took one look at her and knew where it went!”
I mentioned to mama that James Smith Oliver wrote on the Greene County History Facebook group that he remembered live music by locals on Friday and Saturday nights at the City Hotel in Union Point. Mama said… “ I remember music on the weekends there, my Uncles J. W., Walter McKinley and his wife Aunt Marie had a little band and often played there. Aunt Marie sang, not sure if she played to, but I remember her singing. There was another juke joint place between Siloam and Greensboro called The Beacon. All the young people went there for music and dancing; I remember my brother talking about going there.”
When I called mama tonight, I asked her about a picture taken at the farm of her as a young girl, Leroy, a baby and a blond headed girl, and … “If that younger girl had blond hair, that was Grace’s daughter Margaret. They often came to the farm when Uncle Earle visited his father.” And then the conversation turned to desserts… “Our desserts were cornbread and buttermilk after dinner, or a left-over biscuit sopping up sorghum syrup; mama made teacakes and pies but not often. When I came home from school there was usually a baked sweet potato sitting on the back of the stove… that was my treat! I’d grab that potato and enjoy it out on the stoop!”
My mother grew up on a small farm in Georgia and has more memories of her childhood than I can only dream to remember. If you’d like to follow along from day 1, click on 2017: A to Z… Conversations with Mama – The Best of!
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