Mama loved music. She sang beautiful alto almost up to her death. Often she sang with a group for funerals. One of her greatest desires was to have each of us play an instrument. She planned that I would play the piano, Charles the saxophone and Howard the violin. We had a player piano that my father bought. When I was nine, I began piano lessons with Mrs. Juanita Vinyard in Piggott. Charles took lessons from Mrs. Vinyard also. Mama bought Charles a used saxophone and ordered Howard a violin from Sears, Roebuck. We hit a lot of sour notes, but Mama beamed when we hit a note on our instruments. We were embarrassed, but Mama glowed with pride.
I guess a rain barrel was standard equipment in Greenway in the 1920s. Our pump water turned Mama's white clothes yellow, so we relied on the soft rain water which was caught in a big barrel at the edge of the house. We know to leave the rain barrel alone. Well, on particular winter evening, we were having dining room company for supper. Mama made a gallon of our favorite boiled custard. She wanted to serve it cold, but had no way to cool it. Suddenly Charles and Howard lighted up with a great idea. “Mama, the rain barrel has thick ice on it. We can set the custard on it to cool.” That seemed like a brilliant idea. When she was ready to serve dessert, Howard went out for the dessert. He came back in pale as a ghost. The gallon of custard had gone through the ice and ruined the barrel of water. We kids were sad over the loss of the delicious dessert, but Mama was sick over losing the rain water.
Mama was a barber for the boys and me. I had long yellow curls until combing my hair became such a chore. I cried until Mama had Mrs. Sam Davis cut my curls when I was six years old. The job was too sentimental for Mama to perform.
Since Mama owned a good Singer sewing machine, she sewed for several people when she had the time. She did not charge for her work but was happy to help someone. She and other ladies were often called to make burial dresses. They also made the ruffled padded lining for caskets when necessary. A local carpenter, Uncle Bud Watson, made the caskets. Our living room was often crowded with Greenway ladies sewing, gathering yards of material with love for a friend who had died.
So many young women today are fascinated by antique trunks. Well there were trunks that held me spellbound as a child. From the time I can remember there were two matching trunks in one of our upstairs bedrooms. I guess they could be called Mr. and Mrs. Trunks. One was tan and the other was wine. These trunks were large, leather-trimmed, each containing a large top tray. They held an immense amount of clothing. It seemed that only Mama ever opened the trunks, especially the tan one. When I was older, I learned that the tan one had been my father's. I know that I was afraid to look into the tan one for many years. I only went into that room when an adult was with me. As I grew older, I finally could look. There were some of my father's best clothes—fancy vests, high topped button shoes, spats, suits and stiff collars. Mama used her trunk for out of season clothes mainly.
I remember when we went to Tennessee to visit Uncle Clyde (my father's brother) and Aunt Gertrude, Mama filled the trunk with our clothes. A drayman came from the depot, picked up the trunk, and shipped it to Henderson, Tenn. Our visit lasted about a month.
Today these two trunks are still in good condition. Charles took the tan one, my father's, to Little Rock several years ago. Sara Ann, our older daughter, has Mama's trunk in her home in Houston, Tex. The third trunk holds a more pleasant memory for me. It was Pa Mack's trunk out at the Home Place. His trunk was small, cheap, actually in poor repair, when I first remembered it. It contained his Sunday shoes—black, high-topped lace shoes, his Sunday hat-a large black brimmed felt. In the top tray was the think I remember best. Pa always kept a bag of corn candy there to share with the grandchildren. When we were there at the Home Place for our regular visits, his opening the trunk was almost a sacred ritual to me. We each got a few grains of the corn candy and a hug from Pa Mack. I don't know what happened to the trunk, but I do know that I always remember it when I see corn candy today!
Mama was a conservative cautious woman. Uncle George Mack (her brother) helped her tend to business. Uncle George taught Mama many things regarding business affairs. Uncle George Landrum and Aunt Mattie (Mama's sister) were much help to all of us. Uncle George was a carpenter. He did work for Mama and was a favorite of Howard and Charles because of his great stories about hunting and fishing. Aunt Mattie was the one in the family who helped nurse the sick. Her sunny personality along helped cure our illnesses. We all loved her. Uncle Charlie (Mama's brother) and Aunt Edna in Michigan added to our lives. We looked forward to their annual visits. Uncle Robert (Mama's brother) and Aunt Margery lived in Michigan for many years when we were young. Our visits with them were highlights to us.
For many years Mama allowed herself a treat. About every six months she made a trip to Jonesboro where she spent the day shopping for dresses, shoes, hats and anything she needed. Aunt Vina would keep us children. Mama would go down on the morning passenger and return about 9:30 on the passenger. Her extra money was well secured in a small packet sewn to her corset. We would all meet the evening train and beam when Mama stepped off with boxes galore. She always brought us something—usually a bag of candy from Woolworth's.
Greenway was special to the three of us. Howard and Charles left to live in Michigan and Little Rock, but they always returned for visits. I live just eight miles from Greenway now.
Greenway was special to Mama all of her eighty-nine years. In her last years, Greenway was the one word that brought a sparkle to her eye.
Mama was buried near her beloved Greenway in December, 1981. The hill cemetery overlooks the Home Place.