Turn My Face 05
Mama and Papa were also very religious, Papa a devout Baptist and Mama just as much a I Methodist. Papa guided us with a firm hand, but Mama with her kindness and strength really was the backbone of the family. When there wasn’t a small baby at home Mama always was working at the church in the Missionary Society, helping with bazaars, cooking at suppers, and doing many other things. As Mama was not always able to attend regular because of family duties, Papa took all that were housebroken to church every Sunday. Paul, being the slowest one to learn this, did not get to go to church as early or as often as the rest of us.
But when he did go, he was not forgotten. One Sunday, the Sunday school teacher asked the class if any of them knew a Bible verse and little Paul raised his hand eagerly. She called on him and he said this one:
I had a little mule
And his name was Jack
I put him in the stable
And he jumped out the crack.
Paul was just as proud as if he had said the twenty-third Psalm.
Back then they kept Sunday as a Sabbath day, and we weren’t allowed to run and play and holler on Sunday. Now we could sit down and play quietly with other children, but as far as getting out in the yard and running and hollering and getting on, we couldn’t a bit more do that.
Papa never allowed a deck of cards in the house. Because he did a lot of ordering as superintendent of the mill, every Christmas the salesmen would send him a nice Christmas present. One Christmas I remember, they’d sent him the nicest package, and he sat down in front of the fire to open it. It was a beautiful set of gilt edge playing cards. Back then they called them gambling cards, but they were just bridge cards. He opened them up and looked at them, and just like that he put them in the fire.
Much could be written about Papa Hawkins. He had sparkling black eyes and a melodious laugh. His gentle kindness, his thoughtfumess, and concern for others made him a man the entire town and county respected, admired and loved. He had a great love for people and God. He was a generous giver to the church and to those less fortunate than he. Every winter he helped widows and orphans by arranging for one-hundred pound sacks of flour and sugar plus a sack of meal to be left on their porches without them ever knowing who had given it to them. Not long ago I answered an ad on the radio and got to talking to the woman. As it turns out she was raised in Cliffside and vaguely remembered me, but remembered Papa well. She said when she was a little girl and her father died, they were too poor to buy dresses to attend the funeral in. On the day of the funeral, Papa showed up at her house with little dresses for each girl. She said she will never forget that as long as she lives.
Papa was also concerned about those who had not been able to go to school, and the mill let him set up an informal school house in an empty house in the village to teach the men to read and write. You just don’t know the people he taught how to read and write. So many people back then were illiterate. He would take his time at night and sometimes he would teach two, three, or even more nights. If any young boys wanted to go to college, they often came to see Papa, and he helped so many finance their studies, especially if they wanted to go to Wake Forest and make a preacher.
Education was important, and we all finished high school. Dan and Frank graduated from Wake Forest. Paul finished at Clemson. Frank and Paul went on to Atlanta to Emory University. I went to King’s Business College and then married. Sister went to Limestone one or two years and then got married, Agnes was the only one who never did go to college. She finished high school and married right after.
I met Pap while I was in Charlotte. Ella Scruggs’ (the one that always had the parties) mother was a widow woman, and after her husband died, she moved to Charlotte and ran a boarding house. Mama and Papa wouldn’t have let me go down there if I had been among strangers. They let me go and live with Mrs. Scruggs. This girl, Beatrice Hawkins (may be distantly related) and I went down there together to take a business course. She knew this Wright boy, and they were courting. He boarded at the same house Pap did. One night he brought Pap over there with him. Pap told Beatrice, “Go in there and get the best looking girl you got in there and we’ll double.” They were going to the movies. Beatrice went in there and got me, and we dated. Beatrice still lives in Charlotte.
I was dating another boy, Brevard, whom I met at Boiling Springs. I graduated high school at Gardner Web and met him there. He went on to Emory University and made a dentist. Pap would take me to the bus in Charlotte, and Brevard would meet me in Shelby. Pap and I kept dating. He had a good job and he took me out a lot. We went to a lot of movies and Vaudeville shows. Sometimes we’d go out to eat. All this was new to me because I had always lived in that little mill town, and I was traveling in high cotton there going to those places.
We went to York to get married. We kept talking about getting married, and it just came in a round about way. Beatrice and her fellow went with us. We went to York one Saturday afternoon and got married. My parents would rather I didn’t get married because I was still down there in Charlotte. I was working; I had finished school. I was about eighteen and a half. We married March 13, 1926. All the girls married young back then. Seems to me Grandma Hawkins was just about 13. I was twenty when I had my first baby.
Papa was always an early riser, sometimes getting up by four o’clock to grind the coffee and get the old range red hot. Mama could bake biscuits in three minutes once the stove was hot. This achievement could never be equaled on today’s gas and electric ranges. Early in the mornings we could hear Papa grinding coffee. Back then the only way to buy coffee was in beans and everybody ground their own. We had a square shaped orange coffee mill attached to the wall with a cup underneath. I don’t know why I can remember the sound of the coffee mill so well as I’m sure I was never awake many times at that hour, but it was a comforting sound to wake to and then fall back asleep.
Papa was always volunteering for things and during the great flu epidemic of 1918, he went from house to house carrying in water and wood for the sick families and taking food to them. Papa also helped with the doctoring some as Dr. Shull had more than he could do alone so he called on Papa. Sometimes all the members of a family were in bed and some families had as many as three deaths. The Freemans lost three fine boys, and there was hardly enough well people to bury them. During all this epidemic Papa never caught the flu, and as well as I can remember none of us ever did either. I guess the teaspoon of sugar with a drop of kerosene had delivered us.
Papa was a family man and took great pride in his wife and children. He had a joyful personality, and the air seemed to light up whenever he was around. He always encouraged us to do our best and be our best, and he understood children like few grownups could. He fixed us swings in trees and helped us with our lessons, never stopping until he was sure we knew them well and could recite forwards, backwards and under pressure. Papa often brought catalogs home and would send off for free samples in them. The samples would arrive in mine or Sister’s name, and it just tickled us to death to receive these small surprises in the mail.
In August of 1937, Papa fell and broke his leg. We got him a hospital bed and they put his leg in traction, but in three weeks, he had a clot in the heart. Not having the knowledge or the medicine available, now there was nothing the doctor could do. Early the morning of September 1, Papa left us and went to heaven. We know he did because he told us he was going. Never have any children suffered so, We lost our counselor, our teacher, our doctor, our friend, and our Papa. On September 3, our sorrowing family buried him at Cliffside, home to him: the place he spent so many happy years. As the song goes we can all say, “Oh my Papa, to me you were so wonderful.”
Many years later, in 1978, Mama left us to join Papa. She was ninety-eight. As long as she was able, she always kept busy every day cleaning, sewing, cooking and helping in every way she could. In her later years, she was not able to grow flowers and work in her yard and do many of the things she loved to do, but was always at home waiting for the boys to come visit in the summer for a few weeks, waiting for Agnes each week when she could come up, and waiting each day for Sister and me and the little brood who lived close by. In the quietness of her last illness, I’m sure her unspoken thoughts were of the many happy days when we were growing up, for many times she whispered, “Turn my face toward Cliffside.”