About Aunt Beula
Beula Atkinson was born in the State Line Community of Cherokee County, S.C. on January 17, 1898, the daughter of James Edward “Ed” and Louise Arms Atkinson. She moved to Cliffside with her parents in late 1905 or early 1906, when she was seven years old. She helped herd the family’s two cows from the State Line community to their new home on Riverview Street, next door to the Cochran family, where they lived for about six years.
Beula, a little redhead, had left her first grade classmates at Chestnut Oaks School in the State Line community, but had met a room full of future friends in Cliffside school’s first grade.
She was also close to two of her cousins, Clara and Maggie Atkinson, daughters of her Uncle Gill and Aunt Amanda Atkinson, who lived further down Riverview Street toward the mill. She was quite fond of her Uncle Gill, and helped care for him when he became bedridden with crippling arthritis.
Beula went to work at Cliffside Mills before she was 12 years old. Her older sister, Nora, was working in the mill as a spinner, and was required to “make production.” This was the minimum amount of work the worker was expected to produce during her shift, and if she worked hard and exceeded this amount, she received extra pay. At that time, it was common for family members to come into the mill and help the employee achieve the required production to keep her job, or to exceed it and earn extra pay.
Beula was allowed to come into the mill and work alongside her sister. She did not receive a wage, but her help enabled her sister to exceed production and earn additional income for the family. Although receiving no pay for her labors, Beula did gain a “fringe benefit,” in that she gained “on the job” training that enabled her to get a job of her own in the mill a short time later. At age 12, she was listed as one of the youngest employees in 1910.
Although Beula’s family moved back to South Carolina about 1911, to the Cherokee Creek community, Beula worked in the mill off and on during the following years, sometimes boarding with her Uncle Gill’s family.
Beula Atkinson and Lafar Ruppe
When she married Lafar Ruppe in 1916, they both boarded in Cliffside and worked in the mill, and it pleased Beula that she made more money than Lafar did. She was quick to explain that he earned as much as she did when he “learned up.” She and Lafar moved back to the Cherokee Creek community, where Lafar ran a store, and they had three children, Charles, Almeda, and Fred.
They were back in Cliffside by 1935, and lived there until after the end of WWII. About 1947, with the help of their son, Fred, they built their own home on Highway 221A, just outside Cliffside. When Lafar died in 1961, Beula continued to live there. She enjoyed sewing and doing needle crafts with her daughter, Almeda, and did dressmaking for the public for many years. She also enjoyed visiting with her family.
Lafar and Beula in the 1940s
Beula always loved riding horses on the farm when she was young, and apparently never lost the desire to do so. Her son, Fred, tells of the time that he bought a horse for his children in the late 1960s. He left the horse tied near Beula’s porch to graze on a patch of tall grass there. A short time later, he heard the sound of a horse’s hooves on the road and looked out the window to see his 70-year-old mother riding past his house on the horse.
Due to her failing health, Beula spent several years in a rest home in the late 1990s, but still kept her house and came home to Cliffside for visits as often as possible. Her 99th birthday was celebrated with a party in the home of her son, Fred, next door to her own home.
Having been promised her 100th birthday party would be held in her own home, she tried very hard to reach that milestone. She remained a “Cliffside Girl” until she died at Oak Grove Nursing Home on November 5, 1997, only two months short of what would have been her 100th birthday.