Earnest’s parents, Ed and Louise Arms Atkinson, had a telephone in the mid-1920s while they lived on the Hazelhurst Farm in what is presently the Chase/Ferry Road area, and Earnest and Eddith also had one. Their son Durward, who was then about 3 or 4 years old, was spending his first overnight visit with his grandparents, and his mother called several times to see how he was doing with being away from home. The telephone box hung on the wall at “grown person” height, far above his head, and Durward had to stand on a chair in front of the telephone so he could talk into the mouthpiece. He sounded very grownup on the telephone, and his first words to his mother were always, “Hello, Mama. How is Mrs. Martin?” (His grandmother.) He would tell his mother he was fine, talk with her for a minute, and then hang up.
After one such call he climbed down from the chair and then exclaimed, “Oh, I forgot to ask Mama about my chicken!” Someone asked how many chickens he had, and after a few seconds of thought he said, “Well, I don’t know for sure. He moves so fast sometimes that I can’t hardly count him.”
JoAnn steals Frances’ iron
One Sunday afternoon during the summer of 1939 or 1940, when I was four or five years old, our family visited with Uncle Earnest and Aunt Eddith. Their daughter Frances, who was about nine years old, had gone to visit a friend, so was not home. My brother Jerry and I were allowed to play in Frances’ playhouse while the adults talked. Her playhouse was an area in the edge of the woods that had been swept clear of leaves and had “rooms” outlined with pebbles. Various objects were arranged around the “rooms,” including a small metal iron about 3 long with a wooden handle. It was modeled after the ones housewives used to heat on the stove to iron the family’s clothes, and Frances used it to “iron” her doll’s clothes. I was playing with it when my parents called us to go home. When we got into the car, I realized I still had it in my hand. I quickly decided that I would “borrow” it and bring it back next time we came to visit. I obviously knew that I was doing something wrong, since I asked my brother to hide it under his shirt.
About halfway home, Jerry, who was only three and not accustomed to concealing stolen goods, pulled it from under his shirt to look at it. Mother (Malleree Atkinson Prewitt) saw it and asked where it came from. I told her I had borrowed it and Daddy (Ernest Prewitt) said “If you take things without asking and being told you can, it is not borrowing. It is stealing. It’s too late to take it back now, but we will take it back next Sunday.” During the rest of the ride home, I was given a lecture I never forgot, about how wrong it was to steal. I was told that as my punishment I must return the iron and apologize for taking it by saying “Frances, I’m sorry I STOLE your iron.” I would not be allowed to say I took the iron, or I borrowed the iron, but must say I STOLE it. I dreaded the return visit all week, and when we went back the following Sunday and found that Frances was again visiting with a friend, I breathed a sigh of relief. My relief was short lived, however, since Daddy made me say my little speech to Uncle Earnest since Frances was not there to hear it.
Frances recently told me that she had kept that little iron for years, and had then passed it on to her daughter, who now displays it in a little shadow box. It not only served as a moral teaching tool, but still survives as a family heirloom.
Eddith had a delicate, natural beauty that seemed totally unaffected by the passing years. Time seemed to have little effect on her appearance, as she looked decades younger than her actual age until she approached her 100th birthday. In spite of her slight form, she was a strong person emotionally. She was a widow for 47 years, and during most of those years, she was the one upon whose strength others relied when it was needed.
Although she was interested in and cared about people, she did not gossip about them. She was very active in her church, and attended many church conferences as her church’s delegate.
She had a penchant for wide brimmed hats, and owned quite a few over the years. She wore one to church and to every “dress-up” occasion, and had a straw one to wear while working in the garden. Today, several of her hats are arranged on a wall in her daughter’s home, and a glimpse of them immediately brings Eddith’s image to mind.