Sunday, August 29, 2010

My Brother Ernest Howard - 1912-1967

Howard was born on November 26, 1912 and was about 17 years my senior so I did not get to know him very well when I was growing up. The first I remember of him was hearing this story. At the time he was working on the little farm where my family lived. It all started one day when he was walking home from a visit to town. Back then you walked about everywhere you went and as often as you could you would travel as the crows fly so not necessarily staying on the main roads. On his way home he passed through a field and found a maddox pick in a field; he picked it up and brought it home. The next day Father asked where it came from and Howard said that he found in a field on the way from town. Immediately he and his son took the maddox back to the farm, gave it to owner, and Howard apologized for picking it up and taking it home. The two continued their trip as they went on to the general store and bought a new maddox pick. After they returned home, Dad took him down to the new ground that he wanted to cultivate for a garden. He made his son dig up roots and break up clods in the field until the tool was worn out. I think that is what made Howard not like living at home because he soon left and joined the Marines on 7-13-1929. Shortly he left for training at Parris Island, SC. He served in the Republic of Haiti guarding the Presidential Palace. Once he left home, we would not ever see much of him around the old home place.

After being discharged from the Marines he went to work and married Janice Nerine Carter (born 8-2-1917), they had five children. Janie Frances (8-23-1936), Faye Jeanette (12-27-1937), James William (4-26-1941), Linda Dianne (6-7-1944), and Earnest Howard, Jr. (4-14-1949).

Howard, like most those days, had a hard time growing up during the Dust Bowl Depression. He and Fred were pretty close, along with Fred, he took up the brick mason trade and was one of the best. They both enjoyed fishing more than laying brick so the two enjoy many days at the lake.

During the time I was in the Navy he lived in Kannapolis. A short time after I got out of the Navy, some of my other brothers and I helped him to build a house out on Mocksville Highway US-64, just past where Albert lived. Later he moved to Charlotte.

Howard was living on Atherton Avenue off South Boulevard. He learned early in life how to take care of himself and thought others could do the same for themselves and that went for his family. When I moved to Charlotte he helped me get a job laying bricks for a man he knew Rob Mullis who was a good man that treated me really well. Later I started contracting some and Howard laid brick for me from time to time, but work was not on top of his list of things to do. It seemed that Nerine and children sorta had to do for themselves and they sure did a great job.

One Sunday afternoon Hazel and I were over at Howard and Nerine's house. The had moved to another house on Kennelworth Avenue off East Boulevard in Charlotte. He knew that I had been cutting hair and that I had my barber tools in the car so he asked me to give him a haircut. All went well and he liked what I did. He noticed that I needed a haircut and told me that he could return the favor and cut my hair since he cut Jim and Ernest's hair all the time. I agreed and he started but after he cut for a little while I could tell that he was unsure of the cut and that was not going well. He finally said that he had cut off too much and that all he could do was a flat top or crew cut. I told him either would be fine but to do his best and I could tell that he did. On the way home, Hazel said that I would need to wear a cap for a couple weeks if I went anywhere with her. That brought back memories of Mark and I cutting each other’s hair and I remember saying to myself, "When will I ever learn, too late now." Pictured here are Nerine and nephew Wayne at a family reunion.

One thing about Howard he would see that all of the labors that worked with him would always get some food every day. In those days most folks heated with oil. If someone he knew was out of oil he would fill up their tank. I know of a time that one of his neighbors died and he would have Nerine take the best food over to his wife and they took care of her for quiet a while. Howard always remembered how tuff it was when he was growing up so he would try to help others that was having hard times. Sometimes that took away for his family but in the end everything turned out OK. I still remember that no matter how things went, Howard would always have a smile for everyone.

Howard's life was cut a little short and I think he knew that would happen so he lived as much as he could in that short time. From the time that Hazel and I moved to Charlotte until he died in 1967, we spent many Sunday's and other times with their family. Nerine was a great cook and host. She died in August 1990. Eda, George, Fred, and Howard ended an era of hard times. Things started to get a little better, there was hope, a chance for an education, and a better life.

Pictured: Earnest, Faye, Linda, Frances, and Jimmy

My Brother Fred Lewis - 1910-1993

Fred was born on September 28, 1910 and was eighteen years old when I was born. Shortly after I was born, he joined the marines on January 16, 1929, trained at Parris Island, SC, and spent eight years in service. He served in China during the Chinese Civil War , in Washington at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and on the USS Wyoming. I can remember his coming home looking great in that uniform with the polished shoes and big brass buttons. He would tell us stories about where had been during his tour of duty. One time it was that he had been to China and I thought that was the greatest thing that had happened.

At the end of his time in service, he married Bona Lee Carter (born 9-19-1919) they had Fred Lewis Jr. (7-20-1937), Barbara ( 6-24-1939), Henry Wayne (8-13-1942), Virginia (10-17-1944), and Brenda (7-16-1952). See family pictures below. They moved to Kannapolis, NC for work since Edna was already living there and working in the mill. Fred did not like working in the mill. He decided to partner with Curt Coley, a brick mason, and started laying brick. Fred became one of the best mason around under the leadership of Curt and they became best of friends. The only thing was that our Dad had taught him to fish and I think he liked that more that laying brick. He would work some and than he would fish some. He always said that when the weather was right for laying brick it also was good for fishing.

Later Fred moved to Charlotte, NC to work for the War Asset Administration, it was a job that he could depend on all thought the winter months. With the old car that Albert had left with us we could drive down to see them from time to time; it was something for Mom and me to drive all the way to Charlotte from Statesville. Fred would always take me on a ride on the Duke Power Bus to the grocery store which cost 5 cents both ways. During this time Fred built me quite a few rabbit boxes and this is where he had the five hunting dogs (beagles) that he was going to give to me but sold them before he left home. He was a great big brother to me.

He moved back to Kannapolis and lived about a couple blocks from Edna. When we went to visit him one afternoon, he and I walked to the movie. While we were watching he bought me 12 chocolate covered Popsicles. The movie was 15 cents and the Popsicles were 5 cents each. Fred liked to hunt about as much as he liked to fish, He and some of his friends would come up to the little farm and hunt for rabbits,birds and squirrel's.He liked hunting, fishing, and resting and then bricklaying. Sometimes he with others would go up to Washington, DC where they could make about three times as much and would work 10-12 hours a day for a few weeks and come back home to fish and hunt till he ran out of money.

As time passed I joined the navy. I remember trying to enroll quickly before my older brothers found out because I did not think they would let me join. Around that time Fred moved back to Statesville bought a
farm not to farm but for hunting and fishing. He still followed the brick trade I think just to make enough money to keep him in hunting and fishing equipment and help feed his family. He would have not been able to do this if he had not had Bona Lee as his faithful wife. His children liked to fish, one time two of them were digging worms behind the barn when Virginia bent down to pick up a worm; Wayne was the digger and he dug right into her head. I remember it being pretty bad. The doctor said that if it would have gone in a little bit futher like as thin as a piece of paper it would have killed her. Virgina thinks God wanted to keep her alive to have a longer life. This is where he was living when I got out of the navy. I went to work at the JC Penney's warehouse and that lasted for one week. I went to work before day break and got out after dark; I could not stand to be inside all day so I went to work with Fred and learned to lay brick. I was trained to lay brick under Fred's leadership and worked with for a while with him.

Fred had an old 1934 Chevy and he would let me borrow it from time to time until I was able to buy my own car. One night I wanted to borrow Fred's car. He and Albert wanted to go fishing down in Hunting Creed in Davie County. I took them down and was to meet them at the drop off at 1 a.m. I arrived on schedule and waited for them until 2 a.m. and they never showed up. I went back home. It turns out they were catching fish and would not leave until 3:30 a.m. When they walked back to where I was to meet them, I had left so they had to walk five - six miles home. They were kind of upset at me, but understood and were not mad at me.

Fred was a great big brother,I owe him a lot for what he did for me. When he would come home on leave from the Marines I thought that he was the greatest that ever was. and he always brought me something. I always loved to get to go visit him wherever he lived I had so much fun with his children. Later Fred married Ethel Crater. Both wives died before he did. I got married, moved to Charlotte, and did not have much contact with Fred and family.

Fred is pictured here with his two sons Freddy and Wayne.

Pictured above are Barbara, Virginia, Brenda, Henry Wayne, Freddy
Fred and Bona Lee. A current picture of the children is below:
Virginia, Barbara, Brenda, Wayne, and Freddy taken on October 1, 2010.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

My Brother George Monroe - 1908-1971

My Brother George was born in 1908 on September 23 in Mecklenburg County. Since I arrived on the scene twenty years later, all the things I know about him are hearsay. When George was a young boy somewhere around three or four, our family’s only mule got out of the barn and was eating in the turnip patch. George
took a hold of the mules tail to pull him out of the turnip patch; that old mule kicked him on the forehead which later caused him to have seizures from time to time. This event was the reason he could not do many things that others could do. He was away from home about all the time that I was growing up so I did not know him very well. George is pictured here in our garden with the corn crib behind him.

He married Amanda Beatrice Carter (11-19-1910) on July 15, 1939. This was the first of three brothers marrying three sisters. Beatrice, Bona, and Janice Carter married George, Fred, and Ernest Howard Gurley. Beatrice and George stayed with us for a while before finding a place for their own. They had two daughters, Beulah Estelle, called Cricket (10-9-1944) and Emma Louise (7-18-1946). Beatrice worked in a mill in Statesville and George worked with a crew on men clearing right of ways through the mountains for the Duke Power Company.

One time when the crew was coming home, three of them were in an old Ford pickup truck. They had the windshield opened as wide as it could be to get as much air as possible. It seems that they ran into a swarm of honeybees on the road trip home. I remember thinking that it would have been fun to see them along the side the road getting all those bees off of their skin and out of their clothes. Needless to say, they got stung all over and were hurting pretty bad by the time they arrived home in Statesville.

George was able to make it on his own. He was a good horse trader, one time Henry Carter had an old mule that was so old and skinny that he gave his son-in-law George five dollars to take it off into the woods to kill and bury it. He took the old mule but he didn’t kill it. Instead, he fed the old mule a big mess of dried peas and gave it a lot of water. The old mule swelled up and really looked good! He took it up to Beavers Store and sold it for twenty dollars worth of $1 raffle tickets. In about three days that old mule died. The fellow that won the mule felt like he got cheated so George gave him his dollar back and everyone was happy. He made 24 dollars on the scheme; from that point on, it was obvious to me that George could take care of himself. Listen as I share this story.

If you would like to know some of the things that my family had to live through, watch the movie Grapes of Wrath. George was the neighborhood barber, every Saturday he would set up shop on the front porch. The men around us would come over for a haircut which cost them ten cents. There were times when George would be gone from home for several weeks at a time while cutting right of ways through the mountains. During those long absences, the men talked me into cutting their hair since we had the barber tools at our house. That is where I got my start cutting hair.

George went to work for Archie Crouch who owned Crouch's Tavern up on Highway 64. It was a restaurant that included several small cabins for tourist to rent that were passing that way and needed a room overnight. Listen as I tell about my experiences working for Mr. Crouch. As Mr. Crouch got older, George took over running the tavern. The tavern was destroyed by a fire. Shortly afterwards, George just moved across the high way and built Gurley's Tavern. Sometime later, someone broke into the Tavern and shot and killed him on April 24, 1971.

Here is a picture of Gurley's Tavern and one of George kidding around in a grass skirt with his friend Tom Thorpe.

Pictured below is a picture of Cricket and Emma taken in 2010.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

My Sister Edna Ellen - 1906-1984

Edna was born on November 14, 1906 in Mecklenburg County, NC, the first child born in our family. I was the youngest of eleven children in our family so she was 22 years old when I came along. This was about the same time she married Seth Odell Sigmon (born May 4, 1904 in Catawba County) on May 17, 1925. and moved to Kannapolis, NC. They had two daughters, Mildred and Ruth during the time they worked in Cannon Mills. This mill, like all mills, was a hard place work. It was a means to putting food on the table and providing for the family.

Their first child, Herman Long (2-23-26) died in childbirth. Mildred Viola (4-7-31) and Ruth Lee (12-8-32) were just a few years younger than me so I was their best uncle. Edna never did seem like a sister, she was more like the mother to of Mildred and Ruth. I always enjoyed going about once a year to Kannapolis to visit then. I remember thinking they were very rich; they bought most of their food from a McNeil Petri Grocery Store and I thought that was great.

The girls would come to Statesville and visit us for a couple weeks in the summer. They would say how lucky we were able to just go out into the garden and get our food. All we ever bought from the grocery store was each year in the fall. Mother would buy a 100 pound sack of pinto beans, sugar, coffee, a little stew beef, and a few other things she needed for baking. One time the girls were at our house visiting, Ruth came down with acute appendicitis. We ended up rushing her to Davis Hospital in Statesville and the doctor took them out as soon as they could. Both family pictures on this page are of the Seth, Edna, Mildred, and Ruth.

One time when I was about six, we were down visiting Edna and mother saw a patch of turnip greens in the yard behind us. She said that she sure would love to have some of them so I went over and pulled some up and brought them to Mother. I got scolded and had to take them back to the lady who owned the garden. The lady was nice to me about what I had done and gave them to me to take back home.

Another thing happened on this visit. Edna had electric lights and they had fuses in a little box on the back porch. The fuses were the same size as light sockets; I took one of the fuses out and screwed it into a light socket. You can imagine what happened! I got a good scare and a good spanking. I think it was about this time Edna did not like to see me coming to her house because she would never know what I would do during my stay.

A little later, Seth and Edna bought a six room house for $900.00 and moved over on Bethpage Road in Kannapolis. This is where they lived happy ever after until Seth died 8-28-54 and later Edna married General Lee Scarborough who was born 8-7-98. I am pictured here with Ruth, Mildred, and Mother.

Edna and second husband, General Lee Scarborough.