Turn My Face
On a cold wintry morning in the year 1880, exactly one month after Christmas Day, a baby girl was born to James Whitson McDaniel and Nancy Jane Biggerstaff McDaniel. She was their fourth child, and she was named Nancy Leota. That was Mama. At this time the McDaniels were living a few miles from Burnt Chimney (which was later called Forest City) at a crossroads known as Striped Store, named so because of the small store building at the crossroads painted in stripes of red and white. This store building was also the post office, and James Whitson (Grandpa Mac) served as the postmaster. Later the McDaniels bought several hundred acres of land a few miles down the road from Striped Store and built a five-room house for the family. Grandma Mac lived here until she died. Grandpa had built this house when Mama was three years old, and it had five rooms and a hall. Every room except one small bedroom had a fireplace in it. There was even a fireplace in the kitchen. They always kept a fire going in the kitchen and in Grandma’s room.
Just four years before this, October 18, 1876, several miles nearer the South Carolina line, a baby boy was born to George Sylvester Hawkins and Annie Octavia Green Hawkins. He was their first child, and they named him Plato Commodore Hawkins. Several years later, the family moved to the Providence section of Rutherford County, and it was here in a one-room school house, that Nancy (Nanny) McDaniel and Plato (P. C.) Hawkins happened to meet. Later, when Papa was a young man, he briefly taught school in the same small school where they met.
The two children started out walking to school together carrying lunch pails filled with sausage and ham biscuits and hot sweet potatoes. Soon their childhood friendship turned into romance and at 2:00 pm on December 19, 1899, with friends gathered in the parlor of James Whitson and Nancy Jane McDaniel’s home, Mama and Papa were married. Grandma Mac, an expert seamstress who sewed for a lot of people, made Mama’s dress. It was a beautiful shade of deep teal blue with leg-of-mutton sleeves and a tight waist with a full skirt that came down to her ankles. She was especially proud of the dress since Grandma Mac had made it, and it went perfectly with the navy blue suit that Papa so handsomely wore.
The ceremony was simple, They were married in the parlor where there was an organ. Mama’s cousin, Miss Kate Webb, played the organ, and since all she could play was Marching Through Georgia, that was the wedding march. They moved up the hall to the parlor, and Mama’s best friend Florrie Matheny and Papa’s best friend, Ben Butler, stood up for them. Back then they were called waiters. After the wedding, several couples got in their buggies and drove over to Ellenboro for the wedding trip. They went over and back in one day. They returned late that afternoon, then the next day went over to Grandma and Grandpa Hawkins’ to stay for a few days. When all the visiting and celebrating was over, Mama and Papa returned to live at Grandma Mac’s home, out from Henrietta.
At this time, Papa was working at the Caroleen Mill and rose each morning at 4:00 am to walk the several miles to work. It being winter time and cold, snowy weather; he often had to make tracks to get to the mill by 6:00 am. He would get off work at 6:00 pm and return home long after dark, proud of his dollar-a-day wages.
It wasn’t long before Grandpa Hawkins gave Mama and Papa an acre of land near Caroleen. Soon they had built their first house, a small, four-room frame house with front and back porches. It was here on September 26, 1900, that Muriel Glenn, their first baby was born. In the spring of 1902, the little family moved again, this time into the small village of Caroleen, where Papa was closer to his work and the Baptist church in which he took a great interest all his life.
Not long after the move, on June 28, 1902, Daniel Reid was born. Mama and Papa were proud of their little family, but when Dan was only five months old, his older sister, Muriel, died with a form of baby diarrhea. Even though early deaths such as this were common at the time, nothing could prepare for the shock of grief that comes with losing a child. But Mama and Papa were blessed, for on June 24, 1905, another baby was born into the family. The baby was a beautiful little girl, and Mama did not name her immediately, but called her Sister. She continued calling her Sister for several years, but when I was born two years later on October 12, 1907, a problem arose: there couldn’t be two Sisters! So Mama finally named her Melrose, but to this day she is still called Sister. To name me, they sent word to both grandmothers that I would be named after the first one to get there. Of course Grandma Mac got there first as she was a traveler all her life, so I was named Jennie Louise—Jennie as a nick name for Jane.
In the summer of 1908, we all moved back to the country near Grandma Mac to a place we called the red house, a small house painted pokeberry red on Grandpa Mac’s farm. All this time, papa was working hard and learning all he could about textiles. In the spring of 1909, Papa was offered the job of overseer in the weaving department of a mill in Charlotte. He decided to take the job, so we packed up our household things on a two-horse wagon, and Papa hauled them over to the depot at Caroleen and put them on the train for Charlotte. Grandpa Hawkins then brought Mama, Sister, Dan, and me in his big surrey to the depot and waved good-bye as we left on the train for the big city.
To me it seemed as if we were going to another world, an enormous and strange place with streetcars, bright lights, and hundreds of people. We liked Charlotte, but really looked forward to the summertime when we could get on the train and come back to Grandma’s for a visit. Grandpa Hawkins would always be the one to meet us at the train station with the two big horses and the surrey. He would be waiting for us many blocks away, holding onto the horses for dear life as they would rear and jerk and whinny with terror at the sight and sound of the loud and frightening train.
While still in Charlotte, on July 5, 1910, George Robert, whom we called Buster, was born into the family, But again we did not keep this baby for long, for in September of 1911, he died. We put the little casket and a very sad Mama on the train. Papa, Dan, Sister, and I came with the little body back to Henrietta. George Robert was buried close to Muriel in the Providence Methodist Cemetery.
Our stay in the big city with street cars, lights, and lots of people was a real experience, but it just wasn’t home. We lived in Charlotte from the time I was about one year old until I was around five. We were all very happy when Papa was offered a high position with the Cliffside Mills. Again we packed up our belongings on the train and moved back to Cliffside: Home Again! All this traveling on a big noisy train was quite frightening to Sister, Dan and me: and I can remember how fast my heart beat as we rode along, peering out the window at the blurred countryside.
Back in Cliffside, we moved into a nine room house and Boy!, were we in high cotton. Here we had our first parlor, a dining room, Mama’s room, kitchen, children’s rooms, playhouse and Aunt Lucy’s room. Aunt Lucy was a fat, jolly Negro woman who lived with us for a long time, doing all the cleaning and washing for Mama and helping to take care of the babies as they came along. How long she lived with us I can’t remember, but it must have been years as she was almost like one of the family. She was in her forties when she came, but to us she was old. As long as we lived in that house, even after Aunt Lucy left, we still called that room Aunt Lucy’s room.
Even though Aunt Lucy was there to help Mama with the cooking and cleaning, we each had our chores to do. Dan had to draw the water, keep the buckets and kettle full, and bring in the coal for the heater. Sister was in charge of keeping the stove wood box full of wood, and my duty was the beloved chamber pot which had to be taken out every morning, rinsed out, put in the sun, and brought back in at night. Not once did it occur to us to go to bed without our work done as that would mean a trip to the playhouse.
The playhouse was a room built off the back porch for Sister and me to play in. It was a good-sized room and Sister and I kept all our toys there and played there often, especially on rainy days. But the play house was more than a play house, it was also used for punishments, or in Papa’s words, “Straightening us out.” Sometimes we got straightened out so well it was difficult to bend to sit down. Mama left most of the discipline up to Papa, and although she gave us many a hard shake, Papa administered the real punishment. One thing I remember was that Dan was forbidden to go to the river or the Roller Mill where there was a pond for swimming, but sometimes he would slip away and go, knowing that he would be taken to the play house when Papa came home. All afternoon Sister and I would dread it for him, and when the punishment came we would cry louder than he. Sister never did get a whipping. Dan got several, but not many. I never did get many.
Everything was pleasant, and when we went to the table to eat, we never complained, “I don’t like this, and I don’t like that,” or talked and fussed back and forth. We had to have good table manners, and we had to be there when the meal was served. If we were out playing, Papa would just come to the front porch and whistle. He had a shrill whistle; you could hear him half over town, and brother! we were there in two minutes; we were never called twice. We all sat down and ate together. Once Mama sat down, she never got up any more because she always had a baby to help feed. Sister and I got up when we needed more bread or needed more vegetables to fill the plates. We just kind of knew what to do; I don’t know that they ever did tell us.