Chula

I missed Thanksgiving with my family today, but I had them all in my heart. I thought it would be appropriate to share a little more of my Grandmothers story since I have been thinking about them all day.

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While living in Chula our house was the only one to have a phone. It was the crank kind and was up high on the wall by the front door. We, James, Bud and I had strict orders never to touch it. It was used only for dire emergencies. There was no such thing as just chatting in that era. We would sometimes just climb up on a chair and get a good look at it. I don’t know what good that did us. One of the things that was good about Chula was the train. It ran about a block in front of our house. Then trains transported more and there was fewer trucks transporting then, so quite a few trains ran through Chula every day. They would slow down, blown their horn and the men in the engine would always wave. Sometimes we (James, Bud, and I) would wait for the train just to wave at them. I had striped overalls, blue and white, just like the engineers. Mr. Widden ran the store across the road, which was 441 highway, and if we got a few cents we’d try to go get candy. Mr. Widden would always watch for us and he would motion when it was clear for us to cross the road. James had gone over to the store one day and men were standing around talking and James wanting to get in on the conversation said he thought a loaf of bread would someday cost a whole dollar. All the men laughed and said they were sure that would never happen. Little did they all know about future economy.

I went with Meer to this big white house near the edge of town and we would buy milk and eggs from them. I don’t know how much she paid but I’m sure it was a very small amount, since money was a scarce item. Daddy made about ten dollars a week. Sometimes we could get groceries from the comosary. All the hands (the workers) could get all their groceries from there. The amount of your groceries was deducted from one’s wages. It was fun to go to the commissary since it was pretty big and a good place to play, as well as, having barrels of rice and beans, salt meat, canned goods, sometimes fruit and occasionally some sweets. Daddy would sometime let James, Bud and I play there I later understood it was times he needed a little quite. There was a large still there also, which was used to process (or cook) the gum to a liquid turpentine. A huge vat was used and I don’t remember it happening but I remember hearing about it- a man fell into the vat and was of course killed. Stills locally were used until about 1938. I don’t think they were utilized long after that which meant the barrels of gum were hauled to district plants. Valdosta was where all the gum was taken in our area.

Mr Flowers was one of the woodsman that lived near our house and his job was to ride a horse and check the “boxes” (woods) to see what needed to be done and where. He and his wife had no children and they were especially nice to me and took up a lot of time with me. I know they would put jar lids with sulfa out on the porch, which I think was to keep flies and mosquitoes away. I would wet my finger and take a lick of the sulfa. It tasted good to me. I’m sure they never knew I did that.

Daddy got real sick while we lived there in Chula. He had a high fever and was in bed for what seemed like a good while. We were told not to go in the room but I would slip in and crawl up on his bed and I don’t think he minded. Chula was where we were living when Mama died. They said she was sick a while and that the day she was taken to Tifton to the hospital, was the day she died. It was common knowledge that if you went to the hospital you usually always died. James was really the only one of us children that remembered her and those times. After I got a little older I realized and understood Daddy and James had a special connection that Bud nor I shared. I know now that Daddy really loved us all but it was normal he and James had a bond because of what they had shared during those times.

Aunt Lena and Uncle Frank, a wonderful older black couple had lived there in the quarters for a year. Aunt Lena had known my Mama and even made a blanket and clothes for me, I think before I was born. I loved going down to their house. It was always spotless and the shelf in the kitchen had a bucket of water on it with a dipper. How I loved to get a drink with that dipper. She never fussed if I happen to spill any. Evidently different women from the quarters would come and help out at the house. I was at Grandma Green’s and Bud was at Grandma Thompson’s but James and Daddy was there. James was in school. Mur said, and I’m sure it’s true that when she and Daddy married there was only about two pots to cook in and only very little linen. Of course nobody had much of anything anyway during the early thirties, certainly not in a little town in South Georgia. After we all got back together there in Chula and Mur and Daddy married I guess she really did have her hands full. Washing was done in the back yard. Mur had help wringing out the sheets. James and Bud on one end and her on the other. We had an old tire swing in the back yard hung onto a chinaberry tree limb. That entertained us for many hours. I sat on the front porch and pretended the window sill was a piano and I held many concerts there. I never dreamed back then I would never be a great pianist.

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Miami

I haven’t finished reading Mamaws journal, but I found the perfect picture to go with this story. I thought it would be perfect to go ahead and share this little bit!

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I must have been two or a little older when Grandma and I rode the train from Ocilla to Miami. A really big trip for those days. We were going to Aunt Melba and Uncle Dalphus’ house, who lived in Coral Galbes. Both were good caring people. Uncle Dalphus was Spanish and had come to the US after having been on the side of a revolution against Cuba’s dictator, Batista, and found himself imprisoned in the dungeon of Monaco Castle on the shore line there in Havana. Having visited there when I was sixteen I could understand the really terrible conditions those prisoners endured. Damp, cold and dark not to mention poor food and no medical attention at all. He came to this country and was a hard worker and a talented man as well. He was a master wood carver and made beautiful furniture and other things too. He designed and created the furnishing for many large department stores and for malls in many places. He felt very strong about being an American, speaking English and working hard to have the American dream. He helped other Cubans, especially the children who wanted to come here to live. I’m not sure all of these were really his relatives or not. He had a few rules for everyone though, they could not speak Spanish in the house, but they were to learn English by hearing and using it at home. Also, no Spanish newspaper. They either had to be in school or work. Many many years later he and Aunt Melba adopted a son of Spanish descent. I must have stayed with them for a good while, but I have no idea how long. I know that Daddy came down to see me there.

Daddy told of how he waked up one night late and found  I was not in bed. He got up to look for me and found I was out in the front yard using the bathroom. I guess that was old habits from being at Grandma’s, where you went outside. I recall it did take me awhile to get accustomed to indoor plumbing. Daddy also told me many years later that Aunt Melba and Uncle Dalphus had wanted to adopt me. Uncle Dalphus was a devout Catholic and he even told Daddy he would not try to influence me to become Catholic if they could keep me. I know Daddy was very grateful to them for caring for me, but he had definitely planned to get all his family back together as soon as he could. They were wonderful people and often went to Hileigh to the races and as he was doing quite well you could say we were living the good life.

Meantime Daddy was working hard and this was the thirties and times were hard for most folks. James, who was seven years old when Mama died stayed with Daddy more since he was the oldest. Bud was with Grandma Thompson, probably not the best situation but everything was as best it could be. Grandmas Thompson loved Bud, I’m sure of that. She called him her “little gold mine”. A title I’m sure he grew no to retish very much. However she did, I’m sure, the best she knew. She lived in Fitzgerald in a small wood frame house that never seemed to have had much attention and with, as I recall, only the barest furnishings. There was no indoor plumbing, but few people had that in those days. Grandma’s brother, Uncle Ab, lived with her. I really don’t know if she owned the house or if he did. Possibly neither of them did. Uncle Ab was the sweetest kindest man but was rather simple minded and eccentric. He made a plaster of paris molds and rode a bicycle. I’ve heard he owned a building downtown but never knew how he acquired it. I think he had a little money because he never went anywhere and he only seem to want or need very little. But he had a big heart and always seem to try to be especially sweet to me. Grandma and I never had any kind of relationship at all. I spent one afternoon alone with her when Daddy took me by there while he went somewhere else. That was the only time I ever can remember being alone with her. I was about fourteen or so at the time. Of course there was no one to help foster relationships with her or really with any of the Greens or Hudsons as well. I sort of never felt much kinship with any of them especially after I got to be a bit older.

Since I was very shy and not at all inclined to speak out or inquire about family I was not apt to feel close to anyone. Also social skills was not at the top of the list for parents to teach children then. I think bread on the table and a roof over the head certainly took priority. It was many years later I learned to write thank you or thinking of you notes. There was no telephone to call anyone so I guess a sort of isolation existed even though we didn’t recognize it.

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Mary Ola in Cuba

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