In Her Own Words: Part 4

This is the final installment of a family history written by my grandmother. Click here to access Part 3.

Our school band, of which I was a member, played music for promotion of the unions, for a fee. I always wondered how safe our group was from violence at these types of outings, but nothing ever happened to make us quit playing for them. We needed the money for instruments as the members of the band could not afford them on their own.

During our elementary school years, a federal health group provided lunch for all children who were underweight. After the school nurse decided who was to have the lunch, our parents were notified and my brother Raymond and my two sisters had to have their lunch at school. I came home for lunch because I was not underweight. I am not sure of the duration of the program but my siblings did not like it at all. I was glad to go home to have lunch with my mother.

Most of our activities revolved around the school. We had basketball, tennis, glee club, and band. We had a library in our main assembly hall, it was about 10 by 10 feet and the first year I was in high school, I had read all of the books and was made an assistant librarian. I felt very important but I was not in any way a qualified librarian. My English teacher was the librarian and she was not qualified either.

Our school was never overcrowded as about 1/3 of the students came from the very rural areas and by bus. Some of the farmers would not send their kids every day if they were needed for farm work. Our basketball team was one of the best in the state for a couple of years. One of the players, Shade Hunley, was an eighth grade student when the coach spied him playing and put him on the varsity team. As a result, a player could only play four years and he had to stop playing in his senior year. He later became my husband and father of our four children.

IMG_0711

Shade Hunley (1917-1962)

After I graduated from high school, I stayed home with my mother as she was an invalid. She could not walk for six years and we had to feed her for three years before she died at 46 years of age. There were three of us girls and we could never go anywhere as I always had to be home with our mother. My father and brother left home to work in another state and only came home on weekends.

After the death of our mother, our lives changed. My sister Flo went to California to get married to a young man from our town who had moved out to California and he sent for her. My brother left for schooling in Wisconsin and later to Charlestown, Massachusetts shipping yards for a job. My youngest sister was still in school and she and I stayed at Betsy Layne to let her finish and I was busy taking care of two children and a house. When Juanita finished school, we made plans to leave for Boston, Massachusetts. Shade and Raymond had gotten a house for us and furnished it.

We closed up the house and left on the train with Michael and Saundra, my two children. The train was full of military men and they had a great time helping me take care of Michael. Saundra was 2 1/2 years old and quite the little lady. We were supposed to be met at the Boston train terminal but the man who was supposed to pick us up forgot and when we got to the house in our taxi, he was sitting on the porch and was very embarrassed by the whole event.

We stayed in the house less than three months because I did not like the area. So I found a three bedroom and one bath near the subway lines for $37.50 per month and it was heated and water furnished. We lived near the old opera house and the hall for concerts.

Even in the early forties there was a lot of prejudice. I had a very dear friend who was Irish and her husband was Filipino. Because of the Filipino heritage they could not rent in our area. We stayed in Boston four years and while there Beverly was born and we had the best of care. I took the children to Fenway Park (this was home to the Red Sox ball team). Aside from the winter weather, Boston was a great place to live. The history of our country is all there and we had access (free) to most of it. Shade’s father and mother visited us there and Shade took his father to the Boston Gardens for a wrestling match. It was a big deal to him.

1940_1949

Fenway Park (1940’s)

IMG_1171

My Grandma’s Handwriting

In Her Own Words: Part 3

This is a continuation of a family history written by my grandmother. Click here to access Part 2.

My mother was crippled with arthritis and had not been able to do laundry for years so she gained a girl to wash our clothes and one to iron. On every Monday morning, Mattie, our laundress, came and took the clothes and all of us kids down to the creek to wash our clothes. The huge black kettle was left there upon some bricks all of the time. We had fun on Mondays and really enjoyed our days at the creek.

IMG_0665

My Grandma’s Mother, Draxie Alice Large (1895-1942)

Later we all four helped Mattie take the clothes back to our house to hang them on the line to dry. The following day, her sister Norma came next door to our house to iron. My mother paid $1.00 for the laundry and $0.50 for the ironing. Juanita was just a small child at that time, but she came along when she could to just be with all of us. [Juanita is my grandma’s younger sister.]

We had a very happy childhood, good schools. We went to Sunday school and prayer meetings. We also had a movie theater, paid for and run by the coal company. You could buy a monthly family ticket, so my father had it taken out of his check each month. For a family of six, the ticket cost $2.00 and you could all go as many as three times a week. My father seldom went and when he did, he slept through the movie. He worked such long hours and such hard work that he was exhausted from it. Weekends were good for him, he got to do as he pleased and rest.

We always had plenty to do because we raised a big garden and had to harvest what we raised for the winter. This was most likely when the mining company would have one to two lay off days a week. This cut my father’s pay. He always managed well and had a small bank account.

We had one big lumber guy move on to our street and build a big house. They were nice people and I went to school with their son, Clyde. One day the lumber guy came down to our house and wanted to speak to my father. After he left, my father came into the house and told my mother he was going to Aunt Molly’s, our grocery store. We learned later he went to get a case of formula milk for this man’s baby. Times were really bad back then even to the ones who appeared well off.

The years when my brother and my sisters needed more things were tough. My father had to go away to work as the tipple of the coal company burnt and the company would not rebuild it. [A “tipple” is a structure used to load the extracted coal for transport, typically into railroad hopper cars.] We all felt later they did it themselves to stop the unions from coming in. This was all John L. Lewis time and they were trying to unionize all of the mines in the area.

It took a couple of years but they finally did it. They got hospitalization, workers’ compensation, and better wages. Although work was scarce, working conditions were much better and even though we missed the theater and having more things close by we were glad of the unions. Lives were lost and very ugly things happened but they finally achieved what they set out to do. For some reason not easily understood, men who were coal miners did not want to do any other jobs.

To be continued…