Nell always said she was a little selfish, and that Roy had spoiled her during their marriage, but she was also very generous and caring. If anyone, especially in either Roy’s or her own family, ever needed help in any way, she was quick to respond. If someone needed to go somewhere and had no car, either she or Roy took them. If someone needed to go to the doctor but did not go because they were short of money or lacked transportation, she and Roy made sure they were able to go. She delighted in taking something she had cooked or baked to someone as a gift. She once said she felt everyone had a purpose here on Earth, and she wondered if hers was to help others when they needed it.
During the winter of 1939-40 when I was 5 years old, I had several bouts with tonsillitis. The doctor advised that I must go into Rutherford Hospital to have my tonsils removed. I was not frightened, but looked upon the surgery as a new adventure, since Daddy (Ernest Prewitt) had assured me that it would not hurt.
Nell and Roy came up to see and reassure me the evening before the surgery, and brought me a Shirley Temple doll. I recall there being a black leather chair in my room, with silver colored upholstery nails all around the seat and back. It was very springy and I bounced up and down in it, saying “I’m a bird, I’m a bird,” until Nell ordered me to stop, telling me I would find out I wasn’t a bird when I went flying off onto the floor and broke my neck.
My tonsils were removed the next morning, and when I awoke my throat was hurting. The first thing I said was “Daddy, you told me a lie! It does so hurt.” He explained that he had meant it would not hurt while they were being taken out because I would be asleep. Since it was hurting then, he saw that I got some ice cream to make it feel better. I believe I only stayed a day or two, but during my stay I had plenty of ice cream and my Shirley Temple doll kept me company.
Nell and Roy brought her father into their home to live with them as he grew older, and he lived with them until his death in 1954. Her generosity did not stop with her and Roy’s families, but was extended to others. Several of Slick’s grandchildren were in the orphanage in Thomasville, NC, and after he and Nell were married, she helped with their expenses and brought them to Caroleen for visits. After Slick’s death, some of them still visited with Nell, and she helped them whenever she could. She paid the health insurance premiums and some of the expenses for one of his grandsons so that he could go to college. She invited her sister, Ola, to live with her in Caroleen during the cold winter months rather than stay in her drafty house. When Ola became ill, Nell brought her to Caroleen for several months so that she and her sister, Malleree, could look after her in Nell’s home.
Nell loved to go to yard sales on Saturday morning, and to go shopping at Hamrick’s in Gaffney to look for bargains. She would often return without having bought anything for herself, but never without having bought something for someone else.
A weighty subject
Nell worried about how much she weighed as she grew older, but she had been very thin when she was younger. When the “dope” wagon came around in the mill each morning, she would always get a Coke and a chocolate bar in an attempt to gain weight. Sam recalled how Roy loved to tease her about the time that she, although skinny, bought a corset from a door-to-door salesman. Traveling salesmen were fairly common in the 1930s and 1940s, and a Spencer Corset Company salesman knocked on Roy and Nell’s door one day just after Roy left to go fishing. His sales spiel must have been good, since Nell bought one. When Roy got home from his unsuccessful fishing trip and she told him what she had bought, he told her that he guessed he had been unable to catch any fish in the river because all the “suckers” were on land.
Having bought the corset, she apparently decided she ought to wear it, so she did…..until they were in the car on their way to enroll Sam in Gardner Webb College. A corset stay kept sticking into her side, and she squirmed out of it right in the car. She stuck it in the glove compartment, and never wore it again.
She finally began to gain some weight when she was in her 40s, and eventually began wishing she could lose a few pounds. Whenever she complained about her weight, Sam would remind her that she always said she did not want to be a pruney, wrinkled, little old lady when she got old. He would point out that this was exactly what she would become if she lost weight.
Nell’s health was fairly good for her age. Her diabetes and weight gain were what bothered her most, and these two things limited the sweets she could eat. It was doubly hard for her to leave them off when she loved to cook them. She compromised by baking cakes and pies, but eating only a small piece before giving the rest to others before she was tempted to eat more. In the late 1970s through the early 1990s, a branch of First Union Bank was located across the street from her house, in the building now (2006) housing the Sheriff’s Department Annex. The personnel at the bank were glad when she was in a cooking mood, since she took many of her culinary delights over for them to finish off. They especially looked forward to her bringing over fried apple pies.