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The first real memories I have begin when we lived on Walker Avenue when I was about three. I remember the house - it was still there when I last visited Memphis. Anyway, it was very cold in the winter and we sat around the fireplace to keep warm. This was just after the war (WW1) and times were hard for a lot of people. There was a lot of snow and we had to stay inside. Daddy would go to work and tell Mama to stay in but sometimes she would catch the street car and go to town to the library and bring home all the books that she could carry. She always stopped off at Woolworth's to buy us some orange slices or candy corn. One time a street car knocked her down - it didn't hurt her but Daddy nearly had a fit. There were a lot of people that went hungry but we always seemed to have plenty. Daddy bought a pig one time, and butchered it in the back yard. He hung it upside down for awhile, then cut it up. Mama fixed more things with that, like souse and hog head cheese, and cracklins - roasted and fried. It's a wonder that we all weren't fat as pigs.
Mama always had chickens and she was real good at wringing their necks but Nolen had to catch them for her. She always had a big vegetable garden and she made crocks of sauerkraut. We would all stick in our hands and get a fist full of ice cold kraut (that was a real treat to us). She made pickles the same way and always had lots of flowers. I often wonder how she did all that she did. There was nearly always a quilt hanging above the dining table. Daddy made pulleys so the quilting frames could be raised to the ceiling over the table. We ate under a quilt a lot. It was here that Daddy's father came to live with us. He was losing his sight. He couldn't have been very old but he seemed like it to us. Our Grandmother threw him out cause he got his own daughter pregnant. He was a scamp. His name was John William and was born in 1848. He was a bugler in the Civil War when he was just 15 years old. He lived with us until he died at 83. Walter and I sat on either side of him at the table and helped him eat and took him for walks. I cut his hair and shaved him from the time I was 12. I also cut Mama's, Gladys', Maude's and my own hair. That's where I got my beauty shop training - Ha.
When I was 4 years old, there was a lady that lived on the same street who took a shine to me. She didn't have any children of her own. She made me a beautiful velvet coat with matching bonnet and purse. I still have a picture of me sitting on the steps of McLemore Baptist Church in my outfit. I remember my teacher's name was Miss Dubberlee and that she was plump but pretty and I loved her. I also know there was a girl named Ladye Sam Wilkerson and a boy named David in my class. There was a family that lived on the corner named Chandler and Walter and I played with their children, Louise and James. One day we found a bottle of ink and I spilled it on their mother's white bedspread. I ran home and never told Mama what I had done.
Dorothy Wilma Smith in Black on Front Row
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© 2000 Patty Garrison
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