Ann Roberts Keller
(The following story was written by Ann Claude Roberts Keller (1919-2000), the daughter of Claude Thomas and Elmira Virginia Mack Roberts, and entitled, “Enough Love for Three.” She was named for her father, who died April, 1919, just 14 days after she was born. Anna had two brothers, Howard Thomas Roberts and Charles Thomas Roberts. Her mother Elmira was the daughter of Thomas Shadrack and Virginia Newton Mack. Ann was a school teacher for 37 years; married Don Keller and had two daughters and lived in Rector.)
Enough Love for Three
I often try to recall happenings that go back to my early childhood. Some of the incidents that I have stamped in my mind must of a certainty have come from hearing about them rather than from firsthand knowledge.
You see, my life began in the spring of 1919. Within hours after my birth, my father became very ill with the flu. In spite of all the care he was given, there were no miracle drugs available to save his life.
My father, Claude Thomas Roberts (1886-1919), was buried fourteen days after my birth. Recounting the facts which I have been given by relatives, a funeral service was held in the home, since Mama was not able to be up and about.
I have tried to put myself in Mama's place and image how she must have felt. There she was a young widow of twenty-seven years. She was the mother of three. Howard Overton Roberts, age four, Charles Thomas Roberts, age two, and myself, who had been named Anna Claude in memory of my father. The shock of being a widow plus her heavy responsibility must have been overpowering. Even though Mama leaned heavily upon her Christian faith, she grieved in her own way. I'm sure she grieved quietly and privately as she took over her new role as mother, cook, nurse, counselor, business manager, etc. Financially, we would survived if Mam was a good manager. She was burdened with keeping an explicit account of every penny spent on our upkeep. You see, my father died leaving no will. Therefore Mama had to keep a ledger on each child's expense account. The accounts were audited each year by the county judge until we were of age. It is interesting to read the ledgers today.
For example: March 31, 1921 – shoes for Charles, $1.00. August 25, 1925 – Medicine for Howard, 75-cents.
I am not relating the following incidents about our lives in Greenway in any particular order. These are merely little bits of nostalgia which are near and dear to me.
From that day in April, 1919, we three little ones were practically smothered in love. There were uncles and aunts, cousins and neighbors by the dozens. I remember Uncle Bill Waddle, a neighbor, whom I thought was Santa Claus because of his natural flowing beard. During the winter, he came to our door every morning for several years to see if all was well.
Mama was Elmira Virginia Mack, the youngest daughter of Thomas Shadrack and Virginia Newton Mack. She was born June 6, 1892, in a log house about one mile west of Greenway. The nine Mack children lovingly referred to the little farm as “The Home Place.”
After Ma and Pa Mack died, Uncle Boss and Aunt Vina bought the Home Place. For years, when the weather was good, we gathered at the Home Place for dinner every Sunday. I don't know how Aunt Vina, Mama's sister, managed it, but she did. The long table was always covered with a red and white checkered cloth. The food was abundant and delicious—country ham, sausages, fried chicken, vegetables, cobblers and cakes. After the meal, the dirty dishes were cleared away and a clean cloth was spread over the left overs. During the afternoon you could peep under the cloth and help yourself to a cookie, a biscuit and a sausage or a chicken leg.
Uncle Marion and Aunt Lulu Stokes, who lived in Rector, always came to the Home Place gatherings. I was definitely impressed when they drove up in their shiny blue touring car, a 1925 Nash. After dinner Uncle Marion always gave each child a stick of Teaberry gum. Aunt Lulu, Mama's oldest sister, never failed to bring two suit cases of clothes with her- “A change in case the house burns down while we're gone,” she'd say.
Howard, at four years old, was full of surprises. He had the mind of an explorer. I remember Mama's pantry which housed a lot of goodies—jellies, jams, canned fruits and vegetables, boxes of cereals, pots and pans galore, and rows of medicines on the high shelf- Syrup of Pepsin, Grove's Chill Tonic, etc. Well, Howard opened a gallon of sorghum molasses, pouring the molasses out over the pantry. Mama found him practically swimming in it. How sweet it was!
We three all grew off nicely according to Mama. I think I was the only one who was a bit sickly. When I was five, Mama took me to Rector to see Dr. Lunt. He diagnosed me as having a mild case of the rickets. I remember red welts on my legs, and I also remember that I got lots of orange juice and graham crackers for a snack every day. Of course, I got more attention than I needed. Two cousins, Virginia Landrem and Freda Stokes, carried me around and brushed my blond curls for me.
I got a soda from the store every now and then when I took my medicine without crying. Howard would run to the store and buy a Nu-Grape or an Orange Crush for a nickel. If I cooperated well with Mama, my medicine would be followed by a swallow or two of soda – I made one soda last all day. Howard and Charles would stand by enviously while I licked my lips and showed off my Nu-Grape purple tongue. They got their turn, however, when either of them was ill. (to be continued)