Turn My Face 04
Summertime with Grandma Mac meant going places and seeing people. Grandma Mac was a traveler at heart and never hesitated in taking me with her wherever she went. I never hesitated in going because there was no telling what new relatives and friends I was going to meet. Out longest trip was to Waynesville. I’ll never forget it because we walked several miles to the depot at Caroleen to get on the train, and once we did, we rode forever. Actually it was only about one hundred miles, but the ride took most of the day. Being such a long trip, we stayed an entire week visiting an aunt of Grandma’s.
One trip I looked forward to was visiting Aunt Etta, Grandma’s sister in Gastonia. This was also a long trip, but well worth it to me because Aunt Etta lived in a large white frame two-story house with a big stairway going up from the hallway. To a small girl from Cliffside, it was almost a mansion!! All of the rooms were huge, especially the dining room where we ate. Aunt Etta always welcomed us with Devil’s Food cake: she knew it was my favorite. I can still taste that Devil’s Food cake with white icing as thick as the layers. Aunt Etta’s house still stands on York Street in Gastonia.
We also took trips to Shelby to visit another of Grandma Mac’s sisters, Aunt Abi. Aunt Abi ran an inn and boarding house there in Shelby. Since Aunt Abi lived close to the depot, and such things as motels were not heard of back then, she often kept traveling sales people overnight or other people passing through town. I can remember the long table in the dining room where she served dinner to the travelers. It could seat at least twelve people and often did! The table was always loaded with good food, and Grandma Mac and I ate many a good meal there.
Grandma Mac was born in Sunshine, October 11, 1854. She attended school there at Sunshine where she learned to love books and reading. She read evey book she could find and had read the Bible through a number of times. She never went to bed before twelve or one as she was always staying up late reading or sewing, but was surprisingly an early riser. She never drank milk or ate butter or beef and lived to be 86. She would slip around in the kitchen to make sure butter wasn’t put in anything.
We always had big reunions on her birthday. She would invite all the family and anyone who lived nearby. A photographer often came and took pictures of the whole gang in front of the house,
Grandma Mac remembered the Civil War. She used to tell us about one of her uncles. When the Yankee soldiers came through, the family hid the horses from the Yankees and the horses never did whinny. The soldiers wanted the family to get up from the table to let them eat. Grandma’s uncle wouldn’t do it, and they just took an ax while he was sitting there at the table and split his head open.
Grandma Mac was an expert seamstress and sewed for many of the people in Henrietta. She was called on to make shirts for many of the mill officials and doctors of the county including J. B. Ivey, Mr. Tanner, and Dr. Whisnant who later became an eye specialist in Charlotte. The shirts were much like the ones of today except they had no collar. The collars were made separately, starched real stiff, and fastened on with a collar button. She died on November 7, 1937, and we missed her so.
Time passed, and on August 20th of 1917, soon after our older brother Dan went away to college, it was time to go to Uncle Oscar’s again. We came back and met our new baby sister, Agnes. Agnes was a very sweet and pretty little girl, always so kind and thoughtful and never causing any trouble.
The last time we went to Uncle Oscar’s was for Frank to be born. He arrived on September 1, 1920, and soon after his arrival, Preacher Jesse David Hunt came by so Mama named him after the preacher, Jesse Franklin. Frank was a small, quiet baby who never caused any trouble. We almost lost him at about age two when he quietly plodded out to the back porch, picked up a cup of kerosene and drank it. Fortunately, Dr. Shull was nearby and came in time to pump his stomach. By this time Paul was getting larger and begged Mama to let him play in the yard, so she paid a twelve year old colored boy twenty-five cents a day to come and play with him while she cared for Frank.
Dan and Sister and I grew up together, and then there were the two who died between us. I’m eight years older than Paul, and Paul and Agnes and Frank grew up together. Dan was in college when Frank was born. He was at Wake Forest. When Dan came home for Christmas, Frank was four months old, and he had never seen his new brother.
Grandma Hawkins (Annie Octavia Green Hawkins) was a fat, jolly woman, always with a smile on her face. Sister reminds me of her. She and Grandpa lived on a large farm near Caroleen in a big eight room house with porches wrapped nearly all the way around it. We visited with them sometimes on Sundays, and I loved their big, old house. My favorite room in the big house was the parlor which was kept closed except on Sundays when visitors came. In the parlor was a beautiful organ, a lush couch, and a center table in the middle of the room on which lay the family Bible.
Grandpa Hawkins was a stern quiet man, never talking very much. He was a good business man and farmer and always worked hard and saved his money. Other farmers would often borrow money from him for fertilizer or feed and pay him back when they sold their cotton. He was a very religious man and never missed church, driving the several miles in a wagon and later the surrey that he bought from his savings. He always took all the children to church with him, and he was well known at church for leading the singing with his beautiful deep voice.
My great grandmother, Granny Becky, Grandsir’s second wife, lived with us for a while. Papa’s own grandmother, Drusilla, died and Grandsir married again. Grandsir fought in the Civil War. Somehow he was shot through the hand. They gave him three months furlough. It took him a month to walk home from Virginia, because there were no marked roads. He stayed a month at home and then had a month to walk back, but the war ended and he didn’t have to go back. I remember him well. We used to go over to see him. He looked just like the picture we have of him with that long gray beard. Granny Becky was an old maid when Grandsir married her, and when he died, none of her people would have her. She’d stay with Papa and us a while and then go to an aunt and stay a while and then another aunt for a while. At this time. Pap and I were married and living with Mama and Papa. Rachel was a baby and there were four generations living in the house.
Mama loved to play jokes on people. Granny Becky was at our house when she died. She had a room upstairs that we called Granny Becky’s room, and she died in that room. We had a maid named Maggie that stayed with us all the time, and about a week after she died, Mama said, “Maggie let’s go upstairs and you bring a big bucket of hot sudsy water and we’ll clean Granny Becky’s room.” Now, Granny Becky always wore a bonnet and a shawl. Mama went ahead, and she got over in the corner where Granny Becky always sat and put that bonnet on and that shawl around her shoulders and rocked in the chair. Mag came in the door with that big bucket of hot soapy water, and she looked over where Mama was sitting there in the corner with that bonnet and shawl on. She threw that hot water everywhere and went down those steps three at a time and didn’t stop running until she got way down behind the house and nearly to the railroad.
We were always a close family, but we never did show affection; we never did hug and kiss and go on like a lot of families do. We loved each other. Why I’d no more speak a sharp word to Sister than I’d fly. Mama instilled that in us. She said she had never been mad but one time in her life, and I don’t remember her ever being mad, Mama said that was when Dan and Wyman and Hobert were little. Hobert was Uncle Oscar’s son. Uncle Oscar was really good looking and a “dude.” Ellen, his wife and Hobert’s mother, died when Hobert was four months old. She got kicked by a cow and the wound festered. Grandma Mac raised Hobert, and he was always a little, puny, sick fellow. Mama loved Hobert and looked on him as a brother because he came to their house to live before she ever married and left home. One time Uncle Sam (Mama’s brother) and Aunt Fanny were up there, and Wyman (Uncle Sam’s son who lives in Greenville, SC) jumped on Hobert and was beating him. That made Mama so mad, she liked to died. She said that was the only time she was really mad in her life. Of course I guess she got aggravated. I never heard Papa or Mama say a bad word.