Sunday, October 31, 2010

Down memory lane...

Growing up on Victor Drive, Halloween was a fun time. We dressed like hobos or some other easy costume and went "trick or treating". Walking around those tree-lined blocks, we'd gather homemade popcorn balls wrapped in cellophane, hand-dipped cinnamon redhot apples or caramel apples...and lots of candy bars. We never ventured too far from home. It was safe because these were our friends and a different time and place.

As our children were growing up, we'd often get together with my husband's sister and her family for Halloween. We'd have a Mexican fiesta and then go "trick or treating". Fun memories...

Eating candy in a little house on Rhea Avenue many years ago...
I'm sure I brushed their teeth!  ;-)

I love those chubby little cheeks!

My youngest (left), age 5, and two of his cousins on Halloween in Memphis years ago...

Justin and his three cousins "trick or treating" in Memphis.

Twenty-five years ago!  My baby boy's kindergarten party at Halloween...

My first grandchild dressed in a "skunk" costume my daughter made!  The costume made the rounds through the years.

Awww, Mom!  That's enough pictures!  Let's go get some candy!

Now, baby sister was the skunk!

All these years later and my baby girl still likes dressing up for Halloween! 

I was "Grumpy" here but wasn't too keen on keeping the beard on! Check out my grandson's "peregrine falcon" costume that my daughter created (totally her creation)! My grandson was studying birds at the time and that was what he wanted!

I have several really cute photos of when my oldest two were young at Halloween but can't seem to find those right now.  I'll add them when I find them.  I'm in the midst of organizing photo albums after many years...sound familiar to anyone else out there?!

Friday, October 29, 2010

First day in Heaven...

I've been thinking about Heaven since yesterday. My eighty seven year old "second mother" of almost four decades went to be with the Lord yesterday morning in Memphis, Tennessee. She had been really sick for the past two weeks, and we had all prayed so hard for a complete recovery. Our Heavenly Father answered those prayers. He took her home.

I've had the most wonderful, peaceful vision of her reunited in Heaven with her loving husband, her son (my husband of 39 years), her parents and grandparents, my parents, my sister and a host of other family and friends. I'm sure, by now, she has talked to Jesus and finds Heaven "glorious" (her word!).

For those who know the Lord, the Bible says "absent from the body, present with the Lord" (II Cor. 5:8), interlocking circles...not one single moment in time when we are not with Him. Sadly, due to the distance (I'm in Oregon) and the time (the funeral is tomorrow), I couldn't be there this weekend. I will be traveling South in a couple of weeks for some wonderful, unhurried time with family then...

This is Bobbie, my other mother of almost 40 years, and me at my younger son's wedding four years ago. As the music played at the wedding reception to introduce the wedding party and family, the two of us "danced" in together. She was fun loving...

Bobbie and Frank...this photo was taken many years ago when he was home on leave during the war. She was always a snappy, snazzy dresser. With red hair and green eyes, she loved dressing up and wearing beautiful, vibrant colors.

This photo below was probably taken about 1944. Bobbie and her firstborn, my future husband, taking a walk. I was born on his birthday exactly two years later. Notice her suit. I love the clothes from the 40's!

A sweet family portrait. This photo was probably taken during the early 50's. I love Penny's curls! Actually, my daughter's youngest daughter looks a lot like Penny here!

I think the photo below was taken at Libertyland in Memphis. They were probably about my age here.

Monday, September 20, 2010


I spent a couple of hours sitting on the floor of the closet this morning...surrounded by boxes of papers. In the process of searching for a particular document, I came across cards and letters that I've kept for decades. One of my favorite finds was a letter written forty years ago by my friend Diane, one of my dear church friends from my high school years. Born and raised in Louisiana, Diane was beautiful with the dark brown eyes and dark hair of her Cajun French ancestors.

Diane had married right after graduating from Memphis State and moved to California to be with her young husband who was in the Navy. From there, they moved to Colorado, and then, years later, to Okalahoma.  We kept in touch for a while.  She had a daughter and then a son.  I had a son, a daughter, a son.  We exchanged Christmas cards and phone calls from time to time.  Then I went to nursing school and life got even busier.  We moved out of state and, eventually, Diane and I lost touch.

Using the internet, I tracked Diane down about seven or eight years ago and telephoned her.  We talked for a long time.  She had bone cancer but was fighting it.  We discussed trying to meet in Memphis in the near future.  It had been so many years.  Through my struggles of the past five years, Diane and I once again lost contact.  I forgot her married name.  I couldn't find her.  Today, holding the letter from Diane in my hands, I had her last name.  Once again, using the internet, I searched for Diane.  This time, I found a beautifully written obituary and tribute.  She died in 2009.  Her husband passed away several years before her.  Her sister Yvonne, another church friend from my teen years, had also preceded her in death.  I sat at my computer, looking at the photos of her life over the past four decades and reading her obituary and I cried.  I couldn't help it...

So, once again, I've been reminded how short life is.  I made up my mind to write the Christmas letter again this year that I've neglected for the past five years and to reconnect with those long lost friends who are still living...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mama and the pizza...

It was the late 1950's. We were living in the house on Victor Drive with the sunny windows and the knotty pine dining room with the corner china cabinets. It was a time of early rock and roll, dancing and pizza. Our first introduction to pizza was from George, a big, strong, dark-haired cajun planter from Louisiana. All these years later, and I remember George Broussard like it was yesterday. He was Glenda's boyfriend and Glenda was Dot's best friend. So we all spent a lot of time together in that little house on Victor Drive.

George had a booming voice and a great laugh. His conversation was sprinkled with a few cajun words here and there, and he loved to kid Mama. One weekend, he brought a large, filled-to-the-brim pizza over for lunch. We'd never even seen a pizza. I have to admit, at first glance, I had my doubts. All these years later, I've had the best Chicago pizza in downtown I'd have to say I know good pizza. I don't know where George got it, but that was some pizza! Mama took one look at it and had her doubts too. It, obviously, wasn't Southern vegetables and cornbread. She almost didn't try it, but she did...and she fell in love with George's pizza. The best I recall all these years later, I'd say it was a thin-crust, SUPREME pizza and it was, indeed, delicious.

Quite frequently after that, George would arrive with Glenda on his arm and toting another gift for Mama...a pizza supreme. I'm not sure that George ever knew that Mama became a serious pizza fan after that. She tried making it from scratch from time to time, but when she was in a hurry, she'd resort to Chef Boyardee. Not too sure that George would have approved of that...

Friday, September 10, 2010

The paper trail...tracks in time: Mike

When I was younger, and the family members with most of the answers were still living, I was too busy to care. I was a young wife with three children to raise, a home to take care of and a nursing career. It never occurred to me to search for "ancestors" or even to ask about them. What a shame - the answers were there.

For the past few weeks, I've searched for information about William Merle Jordan - or "Mike" as he was affectionately known. He was my oldest sister's first all honesty, the love of her life. They met in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in the mid-forties. I wish I had asked my sister just how they'd met. I've seen pictures of Mike...a handsome young man with striking blue eyes. I see those blue eyes now in his daughter, Sharon. I see a remarkable resemblance to him in Sharon's son, Michael. My sister did tell me the story about the days not long after they'd met, when Mike worked as a "milk man" in Clarksdale. Quite often, on an early morning, he would leave two quarts of chocolate milk in the old-fashioned glass bottles on the door step of our home as a gift for my sister and the family, a sweet simple gesture and a luxury at that time.

Dot and Mike were married on March 1, 1947. They were young and in love...they were happy. They lived for a time in Clarksdale and then we all moved to Memphis. My parents purchased half a large two-story duplex on Chelsea Avenue. Uncle Lester and Aunt Ethel purchased the other half. Dot and Mike had the attic apartment, which my sister Gerry says Dot decorated like Country Living and that it was so cute.

My sister, Dorothy. She was probably in her late twenties or early thirties here.

My niece, Sharon, was born on September 16, 1948. I was two and a half years old at the time. I must have thought they'd given me a real live baby doll. She had a beautiful olive complexion and big blue eyes just like both of her parents. She also had a shock of thick, dark hair. I love the photos of her with that dark hair sticking straight up! She was a beautiful baby and is still beautiful.

My sister, Dot, holding Sharon and me sitting beside them. Notice my arm on Dot's knee and Sharon's little hand on my shoulder. You also couldn't miss my brown high tops! This photo was taken on the steps of the large duplex on Chelsea.

These were the years following WWII. Times were hard and jobs were scarce. Mike traveled to Texas with his brother Charles to find work. He had lined up a good job as a truck driver which was to have started the first day of February 1949. In the meantime, he was working on a shrimp boat. On Monday morning, January 24, 1949, there was an explosion aboard the Wilda L, a 54-foot shrimping boat, eight miles off the shore of Freeport, Texas. Both the owner of the boat and William Merle "Mike" Jordan were lost to the sea. A search of the waters and through the debris in the hull of the boat failed to locate their bodies.

My sister and Mike's mother traveled to Freeport, Texas, most likely by train, right after they received word of the explosion. Years later, my sister remembered those dark days, staring out into the deep waters of the Gulf, watching as the Coast Guard searched in vain. She was twenty-one years old at the time with a four-month-old baby girl. Mike was twenty-three.

On the telephone the other day, Sharon and I both cried as she read to me from the last letters that Mike wrote home to her mother from Texas. He had high hopes and dreams of a better life for them. He loved his baby girl and talked of dreaming about her for several nights in a row. He told my sister to "tell Dianne to be a good baby". I had never thought before about having known Mike, but I did. I had been his baby sister too.

Sharon says that, over the years, it was just too sad, too difficult, for my sister to talk about Mike very much. After a while, she just quit asking. Now, there are so many questions wanting answers. When Dot and I were working on the McGregor and Haney family histories, she was also working on Mike's family history. Through the archives of Ancestry.Com, I have found some information. Mike's younger sister, now eighty, was able to fill in some of the blanks, but, still, there are so many more unanswered questions.

We're not giving up. On my next visit South, we'll travel to Clarksdale and to the Mississippi State Archives in Jackson, Mississippi. Hopefully, before then, we'll find some of Mike's father's family members. Right now, it's still a mystery, but the answers are out there. Hopefully, someone will also have photos of Mike's father.

Sharon does have one small, piece of paper with her Dad's actual signature on it. Amazingly, it bears a striking resemblance to Sharon's...

Note: My sister did not remarry until Sharon was in high school, when she married Tom Kemp. He was a wonderful man who loved Dot and her family like his own.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Mamie Road Mystery...

It had been fifty-five years since we had lived in that little house on Mamie Road. It was bound to have changed - together with the neighborhood which had been in the countryside when we lived there. During my recent visit home to the South, Sharon and I both wanted to visit that house again and see the neighborhood. We knew, of course, it wouldn't be the same, but we still wanted to see it. We wanted to see where we had lived so many years ago...

She reminded me that, now, it isn't the safest neighborhood - definitely not one we'd visit after dark. I still wanted to go and so did she.

I can't remember what I bought at the grocery store for supper this week; but, in the recesses of my deepest memory, I found the street address for that little house - 3972. Strange, isn't it? As we drove down Mamie Road, however, nothing looked right. Time had brought so many changes and none for the better. There was a used car lot on the corner now and the little grocery store on the other corner where we used to walk to get things for Mama was now a rundown business of some sort. All too sad. There was some sort of compound behind an elaborate fence where one of the houses used to be and there was one too many houses.

We finally realized that when we lived in that little house, there was a treed vacant lot next door to us. That's why we thought we had such a big yard to play in and that's why there was room for a large garden. Once we realized that, we knew which house was ours. Sharon had a photo (which unfortunately I forgot to scan) that even had the house numbers on it. I was right after was 3972 Mamie Road.

According to the records at the assesor’s office, the house was built in 1947…which meant we either bought it new or not long after. Thankfully, our little house on Mamie Road looked nothing like the current one below. Ours had white clapboard, a dark roof and black shutters. There was no front porch then - just steps. There was no front chain-length fence with a satellite receiver on it. There was an old-fashioned screened door which we'd, no doubt, get in trouble for slamming as we went in and out. There were tall trees and there was grass instead of a front yard of dirt. There was plenty of green grass to do cartwheels on. I do remember that...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Happy Birthday, Sis...

Today is my sister's eightieth birthday. She is celebrating with the friends and family who are blessed to be there...I wish I could. Thankfully, I was able to spend time with her during my recent visit home to the South. We had a wonderful time as always. She gave Sharon and me another lesson on how to make her famous Southern cornbread, roast and gravy. Try as I might, mine will never taste as good.

I was almost three years old when she and her husband married. We were living in Memphis at the time, and the newlyweds were living in Mississippi. Her husband was working for the railroad at the time. They would travel by train every weekend so my sister "could come see her baby sister".

She has always been there for me and for anyone who needed her. Her heart is made of gold.

Happy birthday, Sis. I love you.

Left to right: my sister, Gerry, a little friend, and my sister, Dorothy. The photo was made about 1935 in Pontotoc County, Mississippi. I love their dresses which Mama made. Notice the smocking on Gerry's dress and the scalloped collar on Dot's dress.

My sister, Gerry, at age eighteen.

Throughout the years, we've always had a photo of the "four sisters" made at every occasion. This one is one of my favorites and sits on my desk...

This photo was made during my visit home to the South last year. We were enjoying lunch on the square in Oxford, Mississippi.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sweet tea and mysteries...

This reflective post was recently featured on my blog, My Southern Heart....

My sisters, brothers-in-law, two of my nieces and I were sitting around the table after we finished lunch at my sister’s house in their small town in Mississippi. I was enjoying my second glass of sweet tea and the conversation that I would remember and miss when I returned home to Oregon. As I’ve shared with you before, I’m the youngest of four daughters…born when my parents were forty-one years old.

My parents bought a farm in the small village of Rena Lara, Mississippi, in 1935. I’ve always thought that I lived on that farm. I’ve heard the stories (I thought from my parents) that I had never been scared of the chickens and would march into the barn and tell them to “shoo”. I was told that I had wandered away from the farm and got stuck in the mud up to my little brown high tops at age two. It was my understanding that my big sisters had pulled me on the cotton sack as they “picked cotton”.

My sisters are 11 and 15 years older than I. My oldest sister passed away several years ago. SHE is the one who would have remembered all these little details. I sat down at the table with paper and pen and informed my family that we were going to do a “time-line” and to put their thinking caps on. An hour or so later, there was a very detailed timeline right there in front of me…a timeline that spelled out clearly that I had NEVER lived on that farm.

Evidently, all those stories really pertained to the sister who is eleven years older than I. Maybe my parents memories were a little fuzzy. Maybe they just didn’t want me to feel “left out”. I don’t know. They sold the farm in 1945 and moved to Clarksdale, MS., where I was born. My sister remembers pushing me in the stroller on the sidewalks of Clarksdale. There were no sidewalks on the farm. My niece Sharon was born in Clarksdale in September 1948. Not long after that, we moved to Memphis, Tennessee. I was almost three years old.

And so, for now, I have a bit of an identity crisis. For 64 years, I’ve thought that…at one time in my life…I was a farm girl. I rather enjoyed that picture. Me with the chickens, horses, cows and the big cotton fields. Evidently, it just didn’t happen.

Maybe it makes the fact I live on a farm now even more special…

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sweet moment in time...

I remember the day this picture was taken...just like it was yesterday. Actually it was late June, twelve years ago. Our family had rented a large oceanfront house in the village of Duck, North Carolina, on the Outer Banks. The house was perfect with an almost floor to ceiling bank of windows and a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean. We were all there - Bill and I, our older son and his new bride, our daughter, her husband and their 5 month old son (our first grandchild) and our younger well as two good family friends who were there for a few days of our vacation.

The weather was perfect...perfect for taking long walks on the beach and playing in the surf. We had spent the morning building sandcastles and playing in the ocean on the day this above moment in time was captured. After lunch, my daughter had tried to get my grandson to take a nap. In the end, they both fell asleep on the over-sized L-shaped sofa in the family room.

There's something about seeing your baby with her baby, that tugs at your heartstrings and brings back memories. My grandson in the picture above is now twelve years old. He now has two younger sisters and a baby brother. My daughter was telling me just recently about how children grow up too fast. I know. Oh, how I know.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mama and the violets...

The post below was featured today on my other blog, Thinking About it... I hope you enjoy it!

African violets will always remind me of Mama. She loved them. She loved growing them...along with her peonies, daylilies, daisies, roses, their large vegetable garden and several varieties of fruit trees. She loved taking a "cutting" (a leaf at the steam) and creating a whole new plant - or propagating them. Mama never took a botany class or a horticulture class, but she grew up on a farm in Mississippi. Maybe that explains her amazing touch and love of all growing things.

The first time Mama started growing african violets, that I recall, was after Daddy retired and she and Daddy moved to Mississippi. There, they built a new house in the country, next door to my sister's house on the hill. There was a large laundry room with a nice sunny window and that's where the african violets lived. All colors and varieties lived happily side by side and thrived. Mama would mix up the special blue food for the violets, which she kept in a gallon milk container beneath the cabinet, and would feed the beautiful african violets regularly with it. I don't know how she knew what to do, but she did.

Several months ago, my husband, the macho logger tree farmer, came home with two small african violets for me. They were potted in the tiniest little green plastic pots and were beautiful. Totally different but each one exquisite. One had dark purple blooms and the other one white lacy blooms edged in purple. I sighed and shuddered at my next thought - I was afraid I'd kill them.

I tried to remember just what Mama had done and then I googled african violets. Come to find out, even without Google, Mama had been right all along. African violets need to repotted right away in a special soil mixture just for african violets. I purchased the special soil and two larger pots made of a lovely green glazed pottery. The tree farmer repotted them for me. I cautioned him that "they don't like to be touched", which they don't. Somehow, he managed to get them carefully in the pot.

African violets don't like to be too hot or too cold. Basically, they like the same temperatures that people do. They don't like to be too dry to too wet. They don't like water on their leaves! They need enough indirect light but not too much. Come to think of it, they're just downright finicky, but they reward you for your effort with the most beautiful blossoms.

I'm beginning to wonder if maybe, just maybe, I have inherited a tiny speck of Mama's african violet gene...

Sunday, May 23, 2010


One afternoon during my granddaughters' recent visit, I was sitting at the dining room table with them. The table was covered with fabric, thread, patterns and my portable Singer sewing machine. I was teaching my eight and almost ten year old granddaughters the basics of sewing - how to find the grain of the fabric, the selvages, laying out and cutting a pattern and safely operating the sewing machine.

In the midst of all of this, I mentioned that I wish I'd had a grandmother to teach me to sew and bake as I love to teach my grandchildren. It surprised them to learn that I had not known my grandparents. My father's parents died before I was born. My mother's mother passed away on June 10, 1951 and her father on June 15, 1952. I was five and six years old at the time of their respective deaths. I don't remember them. I don't remember what I called them. As I was growing up, my three older sisters talked about them...about how truly kind and good they were. Sadly, I don't have those memories. Consequently, all my life, I've been drawn to old people...kind, old people. Perhaps that's one reason I love being a grandmother so much...I know that I'm making memories for MY grandchildren.

Perhaps this is also why I'm so interested in my family's history. There are volumes of information and geneological history that I have collected thus late sister Dorothy and I. I've loved finding nuggets of information during the course of searching through census records, ordering birth and death certificates and traveling to courthouses in several states.

I remember finding great++ grandparents...and realizing that had I been researching my family's history earlier in my life, my children might have had different names! I loved many of the family names I found. Some, not so much. There was a "John Benjamin", "Mahalley", "Matilda Caroline", "Octavia Caldonia" (with Caldonia, I knew her ancestors were from Scotland), "Silas", "Samuel Edward" and "Emmarella" to name a few.

I love the above photo of Mama. She was about eighteen here I believe.

My maternal grandmother, Mama's Mama...Modena Emmarella Seals Haney (1872-1951). She was most likely in her early twenties here.

I wonder what my sons would have thought about being named Benjamin and Samuel? And my daughter could have been Emma Caroline. Hmmm....

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Music and memories...

When I was growing up, my older sisters (11, 15 and 18 years older) were playing the music of the fifties. I grew up listening to the sounds featured on the first youtube video below. My sisters were wonderful dancers. By the time I was ten and Sharon was eight, we could dance. I don't know...maybe we had watched my sisters enough. I don't remember that part. Neither Mama nor Daddy ever owned up to where (from which one of them) we all got the rhythm we had, but we could dance.

On the weekends, my sisters would occasionally go dancing. They would get all dressed up in the wonderful 1950's fashions with high heels and go dancing with their boyfriend/husband/fiance. Sharon and I were, of course, much too young, so we'd get in the hallway of the house on Victor Drive with the polished hardwood floors, turn the music up and "bop" (the swing music or boogie-woogie today). I don't remember Mama ever complaining that the music was too loud or that we were under foot. Most of the time, she and Daddy would be laughing at us. Eventually, we would get tired.

I was listening to some great fifties music this afternoon. Those mellow sounds of the wonderful saxophone of Ace Cannon were coming across the built-in speakers all throughout the house. I was dancing to Alley Cat as I cooked supper. I couldn't help it. The memories were tumbling in and I was a very young teenager again...dancing in the hallway of a little house in Memphis.

Of course, the music of the sixties brings back a whole new "set" of memories: high school, college, falling in love, being a young newlywed and, later, having two small children fifteen and a half months apart. Amazing, isn't it...?

*Remember to scroll down and pause the blog playlist music before you listen to the videos.

This is a neat youtube video with snippets of all the top songs of the fifties.
If you remember this time, you'll enjoy it.
If you don't remember it, you should enjoy it anyway!

These dancers are doing "the swing" but it looks a whole lot like "bop" to me!

After all these years, this is still fun...wonder if I could get my non-dancing husband to take "swing" lessons?!

Monday, March 29, 2010

All those questions...

I was born when my parents were forty-one years old...the last of four daughters. Daddy was the youngest of seven children, born when his parents were older. I never knew my Daddy's parents. They both died before I was born. My mother's parents died when I was very young, so I really never knew them.

I was almost twenty-one when I married. Life was busy as we had children and our family grew. Searching my family's history was the last thing on my mind at that time. I was simply busy with life. By the time my sister Dot and I seriously began researching our family history, our mother had suffered a stroke and lost her speech. Not long after that, Daddy passed away. Since Dot was the oldest, she remembered a lot...still, there were answers she just didn't have.

Now, I want to know more. I want to find answers for all those questions I have. I wish there were more photographs...

In the circa 1911 photograph below, Daddy appears to have been about five or six years old, maybe? It appears he was holding something under his right arm. I wish I knew what it was. My firstborn grandchild has the same coloring as the great-grandfather he never met...the same dark brown eyes, dark brown hair and beautiful olive complexion (no other grandparent or great-grandparent has the olive skin).

My firstborn grandchild and me...

Just a few of the questions I would ask now if only I could...

How tall were your parents?
What color were their hair and eyes?
What were your grandparents like? Were they musical...artistic?
What was Mary Frances Cooper's father's name?! Mary Frances Cooper was my mother's grandmother. Mama would have known the answer, if I had only known to ask the question!
Did your parents or great grandparents ever talk about Scotland or Ireland?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

So far away...

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I'm the youngest of four daughters. We lost my oldest sister to Acute Myloid Leukemia almost five years ago. While I do I love living on a mountain in Oregon, there are times when I realize that I'm so far away...too far away. I just heard this morning that my sister Gerry is on her way to an emergent surgery in Tennessee...and I'm in Oregon. That breaks my heart that I'm not there for her right now. I'm the RN in the family and should be there with her. There are phones and email, but it's just not the same.

So, for now, I'll just pray. That's the very best thing I can do for my big sister right now...

(The photo above was taken many years ago, in our annual sisters' "lineup" pose. I was fifteen in the picture.)

: The surgery went well and the outcome was good news. Thank God!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy Birthday, Daddy...

As I remember Daddy's birthday today, I thought it might be a good time to share a few pages or memories from the family history book which my sister Dot and I were working on before we lost her to leukemia. I want to finish this book. I really do...because that's exactly what she would have wanted. If you've been reading this blog all along, then you know my Dad's whole world was my Mama and my sisters and me, and later the grandchildren too. He loved his family. He was a gentle, kind, loving person. In my entire growing-up years, I never saw him lose his temper or raise his voice. I never heard a curse word. Amazing, isn't it. I'm thankful that my parents were my parents. Happy Birthday, Daddy. I miss you.

an excerpt from the family history...

Daddy’s heritage lies deep within the gently rolling hill country of Mississippi, a fertile land with tall, green pines and abundant hardwoods. As we began the search for our family history, my sisters and I, once again, traveled down those winding country roads. We were struck with the quiet beauty of it all.

We found the little Piney Grove Baptist Church where our ancestors had worshiped, nestled in a sun-dappled clearing beneath the tall pines, and it would have been easy to believe we were standing in Cades Cove in the Great Smokey Mountains. Miles of farmland or forest stretched between homes as the wind whistled through the multitude of trees. It seemed time had stood still.

Although the site of the “old homestead” stands empty now, it was easy to imagine what life must have been like back then. Home for the Willis Nelson McGregor family was a large “dog-trot” style house which was built in the tradition of their Scottish ancestors who had migrated to Pontotoc from North Carolina and Tennessee. Situated on fertile farmland in the Springville community, their home was located just down the road from other members of the close knit McGregor family.

The youngest of seven children, Homer Stanley McGregor was born February 17, 1905 in Pontotoc County, Mississippi, to Willis Nelson McGregor and his wife Martha Sarah “Mattie” (Carpenter) McGregor. His brothers and sisters included Robert, Pearl, Quella, Lester, Daisy and Mazie. With two older brothers and four older sisters, Homer McGregor grew up in a home filled with the voices of family, laughter and music. With family roots deeply established, the McGregor children enjoyed the benefits of growing up in a community surrounded by a large number of McGregor and Carpenter (maternal) family members – including grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Highly respected for their strong family values and religious strengths, the McGregor family was well established early in Pontotoc’s history. Descendants of a Baptist preacher from Scotland, the generations that followed produced many other Baptist preachers and church leaders. Most of them were farmers and they all loved the land. There were often hardships that came with depending on the soil for their livelihood but they loved the challenges and rewards that came with each season.

My sister Dot penned these beautifully written memories of those growing-up years in Mississippi.

Sharing Memories. . .
by Dorothy McGregor Kemp

I will always remember Mama and Daddy as very hard-working and law-abiding people. Their family was the most important thing to them; and, in fact, the family was their whole life as they grew older.

Daddy had to work very hard as he had to support his family during some of the depression days, and things didn’t get much better for a long time after the depression; however, I remember that we had as much as most all of my friends and neighbors had back then. Daddy did his best to provide for our needs. Daddy had a lot of pride buying that little farm (in Rena Lara), and he graduated from plowing mules to a tractor which was much faster and easier. Daddy was so proud of that John Deere tractor. (I can just see him out in the fields now). Gerry and I, (Eunice wasn’t old enough) had to pick and chop cotton, but Daddy didn’t ask us to work as hard as some of the kids did, and Mama did not have to help in the fields like some of the wives did either. She took care of the house work, canning and sewing.

Mama always would have a huge and delicious dinner (not lunch) cooked for us at noon when we came home from the fields. The table would be full of several fresh vegetables, a meat (or maybe two), and always a dessert or cobbler, pie or cake, and everything was made from scratch. (She didn’t know what a cake mix was back then nor did she know what a “store bought” pie crust was. (It makes my mouth water to think about all the good food!) I can still visualize that table - actually, we had two; one long one in the kitchen and one on the screened-in back porch, where we ate often in the Summertime. And we had a long bench on one side of the table where we children sat.

Some of my best memories too, especially of Mama, would be the great tea cakes she would have baked for us when we got home from school - sometimes they were plain tea cakes and sometimes they would have chocolate icing (made from scratch) between them, and in the Fall and Winter months we always had baked sweet potatoes waiting for us in the oven. We had a wood stove, so the oven would stay warm for hours, thus the potatoes were too. (This was a snack for us - can you imagine children eating that now for a snack!)

Mama, as we all know, was a great seamstress. She made just about all of our clothes, except for the things that we ordered out of the Sears Roebuck Catalog. I will always remember that every Fall I usually would order a navy and a red cardigan sweater, and Mama would make me some skirts (always a plaid); and she also made us pretty dresses. (She was a perfectionist so they always looked great). We also ordered our shoes, and a coat occasionally, from the catalog. (Dear Old Sears - it’s too bad they don’t still have catalog mail ordering) but I still have my memories. Yes, Mama was proud of her daughters and she wanted us to look nice, so she did the best with the financial means she had.

We didn’t have much entertainment back in the 1930's and 40's, except for radio (and for a long time that was battery operated). But, I can still see Mama and Daddy listening to “Amos & Andy” while we ate supper every night which was (as I still remember) 6:30; and on Saturday nights we listened too the Grand Old Opry. On Sunday or Monday nights we listened to Lux Theatre. (Oh, if only the children now could use their imagination as we had to). Our other entertainment was “going to town” (Clarksdale) on Saturdays, especially in the Fall, after having picked cotton all week. Daddy would give each of us maybe a couple of dollars or less - which would probably equal to ten now - and we would go to the movie and also get a bag of popcorn, and usually after the movie, we would go to the ice cream parlor which really was a treat, as we only got ice cream when we made it in a hand-cranked freezer. (You see, for several years there we did not have electricity and had to keep our food cold in an ice box!) The ice man brought us say 100 pounds of ice that kept it cool, and we chipped off that for ice tea. (I can’t remember if the ice man came one or twice a week, but occasionally he didn’t make it and we were very disappointed). I remember that always around the 4th of July, for Mama’s birthday, we got extra ice to make lots of ice cream and our neighbors (the Hokes) would make some too. Oh, it took so little to make us happy then. Another exciting form of entertainment that we had were the traveling “tent shows” that came annually to Rena Lara and people within miles went to see that. Daddy always looked forward to going to those shows and taking Mama and us.

Daddy and Mama decided after living on the farm for several years to move to Clarksdale and then to Memphis where Daddy worked for General Electric until he retired. Then, I guess he wanted to move where the pace of life was slow, which would be the country or small rural area, so decided to make his final move to Grenada, Mississippi.

Mama and Daddy were kind people, and Daddy always had patience. Most of the time Mama had patience too, but sometimes her Irish got the best of her. I loved them both dearly and miss them so much! They were great people!”

Note: If you'd like to try my Mama's wonderful teacakes, you'll find the recipe here. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sweet child of mine...

Our youngest child arrived ten years after his sister...a precious baby boy with strawberry blonde hair and beautiful green eyes. From day one, it seemed he was carried around in someone's arms or had someone to entertain him...or someone he entertained. He never met a stranger. When he started talking, it was in paragraphs. He could carry on a conversation with anyone at an early age and still can. I understood his place in the birth order. I had been there myself...the youngest child with a large space between. It isn't an easy place but he achieved it. That and so much more...quite well. I can't believe he's twenty-nine now...