Celebrate your life. See it and yourself as a blessing. Don’t wait. --- Maria Shriver
As we write about our lives, we learn much about ourselves. I have learned things about my family that I didn't understand before I began to write about my parents and my siblings.
I want to celebrate each family member's life because each one was a blessing to me. I wrote about my brother, Ray, recently and as I did, I thought about how blessed I was to have him as my brother.
I plan to write about each family member on this blog as I celebrate their lives. I hope these blog posts will entertain you, my readers, and enlighten you about what life was like for them in the twentieth century.
I will start with my mother. She was born in Decatur County, Georgia on a farm near a community called Spring Creek. Like me, she was the next to last child in her family, the daughter of William Henry and Lula. ( I will not use last names due to privacy issues.)
The ancestors of both William and Malula had migrated from the Carolinas and Virginia in the 1700s and 1800s. Their fathers had fought in the War Between the States (Civil War) and their great-grandfathers fought for our freedom in the Revolutionary War.
|My Mother, Lois, when she was a young woman|
Mother's name was Georgia Lois. She had an aunt Georgia Ann and was named after her. But Mother preferred Lois and never told anyone her name was Georgia unless she had to legally give her full name.
I believe Mother's life was a blessing to all who knew her. I never knew her to say or do anything to hurt another. She had a tender heart and a caring spirit. She told me how much she respected and loved her father. She said he often took her to the big church in Pelham where they lived. She remembered him taking her by the hand and walking across the railroad tracks to the town where they entered the large Methodist church.
She didn't mind or feel less worthy because she didn't have fine clothes like most of the other people in the pews on Sunday mornings.
Lois had a loving family and always knew she was loved. Because of that, I believe she had a good self-image and her confidence in herself was seldom shaken.
Willie and Lula, Lois's parents were grateful for the textile mill that Mr. J.L. Hand built in Pelham, GA because the farm work all summer in the hot sun was horrible for Lois's sisters and her mother who worked in the fields with the men. Planting in the spring, hoeing weeds out of the corn and cotton, and harvesting in the fall took a toll on their skin and their health. In the 1880s farming was done by hand. There were no tractors, no equipment to make work easier, and certainly no slaves as most people think did all the farm work. The Civil War ended in 1865.
Mother's sisters and brothers were born in the mid to late 1800s. Lois was born in 1904 and that was about the time the family left the farm and moved to the little town of Pelham where life would be so much better for all of them.
The older children worked in the mill but Willie did not. He became the maintenance man for the mill, the mill houses, and Mr. Hand's other properties and his family lived in a house on Wilkes Avenue rent-free.
Willie and Lula with their daughter, Mildred in early 1900s
As I heard Mother talk about her childhood and her family, I could tell she was a happy child. The only time she remembered being spanked was when she threw the pan of dishwater on her brother Rudolph as he sat on the steps of the back porch. He had been sick and was recovering from the illness. But Lois was a child, two years younger than he, and she did it because she wanted to tease him. She would never have wanted to hurt him. She adored him.
She always felt bad about that incident. She said, "Mama told me I could have killed him because he was not well and could have gotten sick again."
I have a beautiful memory of the love between this brother and sister. Mother almost died from a ruptured aneurysm on her Carotid artery in 1975. She was in the hospital for a long, long time. She didn't know her own children because her brain was damaged from the swelling. But she recognized love. One day when I went to see her in the ICU, I stopped to watch Rudolph feeding his sister from her food tray. I knew that she knew him or knew she loved him. She smiled at him when he talked to her. She was seventy years old and he was a couple of years older at that time.
Not too long after Mother came home and regained much of her physical ability, she and I were called with the sad news that my uncle Rudolph was extremely ill in the hospital. We went there and sat in the waiting room with family members. But we were allowed to go in to see him one time. He was not conscious and was soon to leave this world. Like so many of her family that had passed away, Mother always remembered him as he was when she and he were young.
Lois's life as a young girl was filled with friends like Mary, who had a crush on Rudolph that was not reciprocated. Lois and Mary would sometimes sit up with the dead. As long as the two of them were together they didn't mind doing that for the older folks. It was a custom then for the dead person to lie in his coffin at home the night before he was buried. Visitation was held at the home instead of a funeral home as is done today.
Another brother, Dewey, played a large part in Lois's life. When she and Coy Council married in Albany at the Justice of the Peace office, they had no home to go to. Dewey and Sadie, his wife, invited the newlyweds to stay with them until they could find a place to live.
My father had no money when he married my mother but they had been apart for too long and had waited too long to be together. Lois was always appreciative of Sadie who took her in and made her feel very welcome.
I never heard my mother complain about her lot in life. She had lived in a comfortable loving home before she married my father. But once she married, she had children and also worked outside the home when she could to bring in more income. She said she sold shirts for a while and I am sure she was good at it. But the babies kept coming. Her husband was in Florida when the first child was born and she was in Pelham with her parents. He was working for his brother who had a farm and Coy planned to bring his wife down to Palmetto as soon as he could.
The three years they spent in Florida was the only time my mother was actually unhappy. They lived in a rental house in a bad neighborhood and Coy took a second job working at night. She was overjoyed when, after the second child was born her husband decided to move back to Georgia.
The next few years were good for the family because they rented a store which my father referred to as the Filling Station because there were gas tanks out front. The family lived in the back of the store and both Coy and Lois worked there. The third and fourth children, two boys were born there.
But the Great Depression came hard in the late 1920s and thirties. Soon there were no customers because no one had any money. The mills closed and that left many people out of work. Coy and Lois and their kids lived off the food in the store until they had to give up the filling station and move into another house that had been Coy's sister's house.
Because my parents always found a way to have chickens and a milk cow where they lived, my family did not suffer hunger. But Mother learned ways to stretch a few eggs and a little milk to feed her children. And she seemed to know more than one way to cook chicken.
Lois was hit hard by the death of her mother, Lula, soon after moving back to Pelham. Seventy-five years later, Lois stood by her mother's grave and said, "I miss you so much. You were the sweetest thing to me and I wish I could talk to you again." Tears ran down my mother's cheeks and I cried as well. After Mother's brain was damaged and she lost her short-term memory, the people she knew and loved when she was a child and a young person were remembered better than her own children.
Lois Council was the glue that held our large family together. She was the calm one who did not overreact or get panicky. She almost died when her gallbladder burst, but she overcame that and was soon back in her kitchen cooking for us.
At one time she had a little dairy business. She sold milk and homemade butter and buttermilk to her neighbors when the family lived in Lakeside in Dougherty County. Those were some of her happiest times because she had dear neighbors who liked to visit with her. She was in her mid-thirties and enjoyed having morning coffee with the ladies in the neighborhood. Lois enjoyed people and never met a stranger. She would talk to people in the elevator when we went to the dentist. She talked to people in line at the grocery store. I find I do the same thing now.
For six years she lived on a farm in hot south Georgia with no air conditioning and no electricity. She knew coal oil lamps, and ice boxes with a place for a fifty-pound block of ice in the top section that kept the milk and butter cool and meat from spoiling. She knew a kitchen with only cold water coming from the faucet. She cooked vegetables from the garden on a wood stove and sewed on a Singer sewing machine with a treadle. She killed chickens to cook for dinner when a family of relatives showed up unannounced. She seldom used a cookbook when she was in the kitchen and as a result, she left very little of her cooking knowledge to me. The only thing she taught me was how to make biscuits. She was an expert at that.
The Rural Electric Association ran lines out to our land in 1947. She was glad to get an electric stove and a hot water heater in the house. Electricity made a huge difference in her workload every day.
When I think about those years when Mother had two babies and didn't have a washing machine or dryer, I sympathize with her. Everything was washed by hand and hung outside on a clothesline. But she never complained.
She never said, "I am so tired I need to lie down and rest."
She woke up early and cooked a big breakfast for her large family. And as soon as the kids were off to school or everyone went to work, she started the noon meal which we called "dinner". In the summer the first thing she did was go to the garden and get peas, beans, corn or okra to cook. Sometimes she had no meat but made a delicious vegetable meal. With her hot biscuits or hoecake cornbread, no one ever complained.
No matter how much she had to do she always had time to sit down with me and let me tell her about my day or my troubles. She made me know she cared. I feel sure she was the same with each of her children.
Next time, I will tell about my mother as she aged, the sorrows that befell her, and the joys she experienced. I was the only daughter who lived near her and we spent much time together. She was always good company and always a good listener. In spite of the hardships and sacrifices she made, Mother said she had a good life.