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Well, when I was 12, we moved into a new school district. Daddy bought a house on Bullington. At the new school, the teacher asked me my name and I said Wilma. She asked if I had another name because there was already a Wilma in the class (my lucky day!). I always hated Wilma, so I became Dorothy. My Daddy always called me "Wid" though.
Our next-door neighbors were the Bryants. There were six children in their family. One girl was named Nancy and we became best friends and are still friends today. She invited me to Sunday School at Boulevard Baptist, so we all went. Maude and Gladys joined the choir and sang duets. I sang with them at home but was too bashful to sing in public. I was in G.A.'s (Girls in Action) and was in a big G.A. pageant with girls from all over Memphis. When Nancy and her brothers and sisters were just kids, her Mama was in the hospital and her Dad went to see her. When he was walking out the gate a car hit and killed him. The oldest son went to work to take care of all those kids. Nancy and I went through puppy love and dates together. We had boyfriends that had a truck and we all squeezed into the front seat until I was out of Daddy's sight. Then I would sit in my boyfriend's lap (Daddy would have had a fit!).
Hugh was working on his truck one day and had a knife in his hand. Gene was about three and he jumped up to see what Hugh was doing and the knife went right in his eye. He was rushed to the hospital but lost his sight in that eye. He never acted like he missed it though. He became a sharpshooter and was in the service. I have seen him shoot a guinea in the head from the back porch when it was way out in the field. I guess that's why the army took him (not cause they saw him shoot the guinea but because he shot whatever they told him.) I remember one time when Gene was little that he heard a neighbor telling Daddy how to make home-brew in the bathtub. Daddy didn't even drink but when the preacher came over to visit, Gene pulled on his pants and said "Pastor, you want some home-boo?". Talk about "out of the mouths of babes".
We had a lot of fun when we were growing up. Daddy and Mama always made holidays special for us. Maude had a boyfriend named Eulon and Gladys had one named Gordon. One year they cut us a tree that almost filled the room and we put little candles on it. I went to sleep on Christmas Eve and my Mama thought I was asleep but I wasn't. I saw her sit a beautiful jointed doll with curly hair on my bedside table. We always had a special gift and then candy and fruit and nuts. I loved my doll and one day I missed her. I looked everywhere and found her broken and hidden in a corner of the kitchen. Guess who broke it - Walter! Maybe he was accident-prone. I thought that I would never forgive him for that.
Daddy's youngest brother Roy and his wife Elizabeth and son Leroy lived by us and her folks lived across the street. They were German and didn't speak any English and we thought it was funny to go hear them talk. Aunt Elizabeth was a redhead with a temper and Uncle Roy was a sweet guy with a drinking problem. One day, he came staggering down the street, Elizabeth hollered "DRUNK AGAIN!" and he said "ME TOO!". We laughed but it wasn't funny. She finally had enough, took Leroy, and moved to California and we never heard from them again. Uncle Roy took up with a women just like him and they lived on skid row. Daddy tried to help him but couldn't and he died down there. Daddy and Mama took care of his funeral, as well as Daddy’s mother, Mama's mother and Grandpa. My Daddy was the best there was. One summer night, I woke up Daddy and told him there was someone in the house. He searched but didn't find anyone, but I had seen a man in a Coca-Cola cap in the doorway. Another night later, Daddy woke and reached for his watch and it was gone. He found a window open and a chair sat out. Someone had climbed in and took the watch, billfold, and Grandpa's pants, walked right over me, sleeping in the doorway on a pallet. He had knocked off Grandpa's cane but I had just thought it was Grandpa. For a while I slept between Maude and Gladys after that.
I graduated the 8th grade at A.B. Hill school. I had two boyfriends at the time. One gave me a lipstick (I had to hide that or Daddy would say "Wid ,wipe that off."), and the other gave me a leather album that I still have today but it's about to disintegrate from age. We had to wear white dresses. Maude and Gladys bought my dress for me and I was baptized in it when I was 14. It floated to the top and I was embarrassed to death.
There were parks in every neighborhood that had games and crafts and things and one afternoon we went to watch some boys play ball. One hit me (accidentally on purpose) and his name was Dwight Eldred. We became friends and he was my boyfriend until I met Earl King and that was it. I really hurt Dwight a lot.
Daddy moved us to Cummings Street and I started to South Side High in the 9th grade. The next year Walter started and we walked about 10 blocks each day. I never was a good student and would much rather be sewing or reading or cooking. Daddy gave me a quarter a day for lunch and I got the cheapest thing I could, a sandwich of lettuce and mayo for 5 cents and a glass of water, and put the leftover 20 cents in my locker. When I had saved enough, I went to Scheinburg's Dry Goods store and bought three yards of material. I went home, cut it out, and made me a dress. I didn't need patterns. The Davis family lived by us and he owned a coal company. They had two girls named Tommie and Billie, and I delighted in copying their store bought clothes that they though were so great. When I saw a girl with a dress I liked, I'd just buy material and make one just like it. I went to school through the 10th grade and decided I didn't want to go anymore, so I quit. I don't know why they didn't make me go back but I stayed home with Mama and we did everything together. Walter went on and graduated. Mama and I would put up two ironing boards, and we would iron all those white duck pants and shirts. We would also sew and cook together.
Well, Maude married Eulon Weemes and they lived there with us for a long time. Gladys and I have talked about it and wondered where we all slept. We can't remember. I must have slept wherever there was a spot. When I had a date, I could make a fire in the fireplace and when he left, I slept in the living room. We had a back porch that Walter and Gene slept on in the summertime, and they slept in Grandpa's room in the winter. When Grandpa got so bad that he was bedfast, Daddy hired a man to come stay with him and he ate A LOT. Gene was just a little boy. We were having dinner and Mama had cobbler. The guy kept helping his plate, Gene watched for a minute and then said "HEY Mister, don't you know we want some pie too?". Walter, Mama, and I cooked everything. We canned, preserved and cooked.
Eulon, Maude, Gene, Daddy, Mama, and Nolen
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© 2000 Patty Garrison
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