Eddith’s family had also experienced life in a mill village. Her sister, Alice, worked in Cliffside Mills, and for a short time during her teen years, possibly shortly after the Avondale mill was built in 1918-1919, Eddith lived with her mother in the Avondale area and worked there.
When an individual went to work in one of the mills in the High Shoals area, they either lived with some member of their family; lived in a boarding house; or found a family agreeable to providing them with a bed and meals (or room and board) in their own house for a weekly fee. It was common practice for the agreed upon fee to include a daily bagged lunch for the boarder to take to work. The size and quality of the bagged lunch probably varied quite a bit. While working in Cliffside Mills, Alice was provided a bagged lunch by the family with whom she boarded.
This was not the kind of lunch provided by their mother, Evalina Hammett Martin, to Avondale Mills employees during at least one winter. We do not know what alerted Evalina to the unmet need she filled so successfully. In any case, Evalina was a very enterprising and thrifty widow lady who was also a good cook. She worked hard during the summer to can all the vegetables and dry all the fruit possible. Then, during the winter, she supplemented her income by living in Avondale and providing “board” (although no room) in the form of a good, hot lunch to hungry mill workers in the middle of their long workday. Her hot lunches were so appreciated and popular that in addition to the number of regular customers she fed each day, there was a waiting list of those wanting to be added should someone drop off her “regulars” list.
Asking for Eddith’s hand
When Earnest and Eddith’s courtship began, she was living on a nearby farm with her mother and three younger siblings. Evelina was trying to manage the farm and raise four children, so Eddith, being the eldest of them, was of great help to her. After almost a year of courtship, Earnest and Eddith decided they wanted to be married. Someone had to break the news to Mrs. Martin, and Earnest agreed to do so. When he told Mrs. Martin that he and Eddith wanted to marry, she did not give him her blessing, her permission, or a direct answer. She only responded, “I need her more than you do.”
Obviously, Earnest and Eddith did not agree with her, since they were married anyway. Although he always addressed her as Mrs. Martin, she and her new son-in-law respected each other and formed a warm friendship that lasted as long as they both lived. This mutual friendship was evidenced by the fact that in the 1930s they jointly purchased and worked a large farm that they named “Co-Worker.”