RECOLLECTIONS OF NY GRANDMOTHER by Andrea Anthony
Arkansas Folklore Spring 1962Introduction
Have you known someone for a long time who never seemed to change? I know a seventy-eight year old woman who will be the same to me however long she may live.
She is my grandmother, Mrs. Winston Wilson, affectionately called "Nanny" by her family.
When I first asked "Nanny" to be the source of information for my project, she was hesitant, but with additional encouragement, she was eager to help. Through letters and previous visits, she had already shared a great deal of folklore information with me. I felt, however, that her personality could not be adequately revealed in a written report; therefore, I presented to her the idea of taping a conversation. This was a new experience for her since never before had she seen a, tape recorder!
On the afternoon of April 23, 1962, when I arrived at her home in Little Rock, "Nanny" had written out several pages of beginning information and insisted she read them, thinking they would produce a better recording. She soon exhausted the material she had written, and a distinct difference can be detected on the tape after the first four minutes. During the remainder of the interview, she felt at ease and spoke spontaneously of past experiences, as well as songs, games, and taleswhich she could remember as she told me the story of her life. The following material is the exact transcription of that tape.Collected by Andrea Anthony Mrs. W. 0. Wilson
For M. C. Parler Little Rock, Arkansas
Transcribed by Andrea Anthony April 23, 1962
RECOLLECTIONS OF MY GRANDMOTHER
Andrea, I think it would be pretty hard for you to realize seventy years ago. No electric lights, no utilities, no cars, no radios, no T. V's and wells for water outside, a typical, little western town and a very, simple peaceful time. We had the largest drug store in that part of the country, but could not find the things to buy, no dress shops, no beauty parlors. Once a year I would go with my father to Dallas to buy things, and it was a lot of fun.
Ice cream parlors was our main place for fun with
home-made ice cream served in little saucers. I enjoyed
Our activities centered around the home with relatives, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Church, Sunday School- in Sunday School we had the "Willing Workers," which was very active for young people. Children's Day programs once a year was agreat event. Father was Superintendent of the Sunday School and had charge of these. He wrote the poems and so forth.
Most of the children took music lessons. The only
way we had to get music was to make it ourselves. Iplayed on the old pump organ at the church and led the singing at the same time,which was very difficult.
At school one of our big days was Arbor Day. Planting a tree on the school grounds was a great ceremony.
We made trips on the train to neighboring towns for picnics, and barbecues, band concerts, and dinner on the ground. We had band concerts each week in our town and the first moving show I saw was at one of these band concerts. It was shown on the side of a building for a screen.
We had fishing trips in the summer. We'd ride in a hack, take our tents and camping equipment, and cook in a wagon that followed. We slept in cots under the tent. It was forty miles to the only place where the water was deep enough to fish in. A hack was just like a buggie except it had seats across this way and a little top with fringe on it. Oh, yes, horses pulled it.
We had no help, as Negroes were not allowed in that town. So we learned to cook, sew, had a white woman who did the laundry, and we were very proud to know how to do all these things.
The War of 1896 was the first disturbance of our peace. I remember going to the train and seeing the soldiers going to the war. I remember also two songs that we all sang, "What Did Dewey Do to Them?" and the
other one was "My Sweetheart Went Down With the Maine."
We didn't have except buggies, we rode in buggies, but on Sunday afternoons, great crowds of young people would get together and take walks, walk out into the country and around a cut, a railroad cut,as we used to call it, and we took a lot of pictures.
I graduated from high school at fifteen, went to Baylor Female College, Belton, Texas. We all wore uniforms and were not allowed to get within fifty feet of the fence and only to go to town to get a tooth pulled or a picture taken. I did my work in three years and had lots of happy times, one when President McKinley came to Austin, Texas. We were allowed to go on the train, kept in one coach, and I saw my first track runners in their track suits which was terrible! We went for walks in line, teacher on each end of the line.
I had a wonderful voice teacher after graduation.
I taught music back in my home town for a year and went to Cincinnatti Conservatory. While home we used to take these buggy rides, and we'd shoot jack rabbits from the buggies. We all learned to use a pistol. At the Conservatory, I did chaperoning and coaching on piano to pay part of my expenses. I sang in the June concerts, got my teacher's diploma, and then went to Ouachita College to teach at the age of nineteen.
I put up my age to get the job. It was difficult for me to do the discipline work, for most of the pupils were older than I. One, Winston Wilson, was a most beloved person by all the college, and I felt that as a pupil he was much younger than I was. Much to my surprise, I found out he had been in college and was back and was four years older and a most attractive man. I played tennis with him, went boating, and we finally married.
We had some funny things happen at the wedding.
Mr. Wilson was in Jackson, Tennessee, and the ladies there felt they didn't have anything good enough in Texas, flowers for the wedding. 'Course we had no florists there.
So he ordered the flowers from Memphis. And they came in a box, looked like a coffin box. When we opened it, they were all withered! We were able to salvage enough for the bridal bouquet and the bridesmaid's bouquets. We had a lovely wedding! We decorated the church in golden rod, everybody sneezing and we didn't know why! We had four bridesmaids and groomsmen. We had a reception at my home afterwards, and left on the midnight train for our honeymoon in Colorado Springs.
Speaking of Cisco,where I was born, my grandfather lived there, and he was a most unusual man. He had been in the Gold Rush way back there, and he told us so many tales of the Indians and freighting in theWest. He never
got rich, but he came home with a good deal. He was against any woman speaking in church. He was very strict about everything we did, but we loved him very much because he was a wonderful old man. In my own home there was some strictness too. My husband had never played cards and didn't want any in his home. And of course, I never believed in drinking, and we've never had any drinking in our house. But my father was so opposed to dancing that he had told me many a time that he would rather be carried out the door feet first than to think I would ever go to dances! I did dance, but I danced with girls. When I was at the Conservatory, we had a dance every night up in the music hall, and I was always the man because I hadn't danced with men, and I took their part. I really had a lot of fun out of it!
Mr. Wilson was always in the Insurance and real estate business, and I never knew. He was a good trader, and I never knew what he was gonna bring home! Sometimes he would bring home a half dozen horses or a new car - well,
I just didn't know what to expect. He even brought home enough cows one time to start our dairy, which was the first dairy in Arkadelphia, the little town where we lived. I had charge of separating the cream and filling the bottles on Sunday afternoon when all my friends were riding around which I didn't like very much! We really
started a very nice dairy, but we sold it out later. On this farm we had quite a funny experience. We had a Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins who had charge of the farm, and we would send them things over there for the calves and they'd sell 'em, but they were just starving them. Mr. Wilson decided he'd bring the cows back to our dairy farm which he did. I looked out and saw this ole Mrs. Hopkins coming across the road in a Mother Hubbard with a great big hat on, carrying a gun! She came up to the house and said she was gonna kill Mr. Wilson. I, of course, called the sheriff, but I heard Mr. Wilson tell her this, "Mrs. Hopkins, you've got a tongue long enough to stand in the front door and lick a pot in the kitchen."
About this time automobiles began to be popular.
Mr. Wilson had one of the first cars in Arkadelphia, and I was afraid to drive because I felt like I had to know all the mechanics to be able to drive. There was another girl in town, Miss Leena Keese, who was already driving, and Mr. Wilson thought I should drive. I told him I wouldn't do it. He said, "I believe you have as much sense as Leena Keese!" He made me mad, and I've been driving a car now for fifty-three years and have never had one accident!
Two years later our first son was torn, Winston Wilson, Jr., who is now Major General Wilson in the
Pentagon. We were living out on the farm in Arkadelphia
at this time. Mr. Wilson was real helpful with the
children and used to sing them to sleep. One of the
songs he used to sing, which nobody has probably ever
heard of was "Green Corn, Green Corn,
Bring along your demi-John,
Corn Bread, Corn Bread,
Due to choke a Nigger on!"
Another one was, "We'll end this war
Down by the river.
We'll end this war Down by the riverside.
My'ole Missus promised one Down by the river,
That when she died,
She'd set me free,
Down by the riverside.
She lived so long,
Her hair was bold,
Down by the river.
I thought she'd never Die at all.
Down by the riverside."
Another song we liked was "Slumber Boat" and "Brahm's
Lullaby" and a lot of others.
One song that he made up one Christmas that we've
used in the kindergarten in which I've been working with
my daughter for many years is "The Christmas Song."
"Santa Claus is a jolly 'ole fellow And he comes to see us every year His sleigh bells jingle and his reindeer race,
And Santa has a smile all over his face.
Santa Claus has a sleigh that's yellow,
And it sails like an airplane through the skies.
His eyes do twinkle and his nose is red And he has a big bald spot on his head."
A song that's been loved by hundreds of children.We built a. lovely home up near the college and entertained teachers and friends. One summer we had a lot of fun. Mr. Wilson and a man who had a moving picture outfit took a moving picture show in Arkadelphia. This was where my daughter, Jeanne Anthony, in whose school I've taught for many years in Little Rock,was born.
Very soon after this the first World War came. We were very interested in all the activities. We used to have big benefit sings with big conductors. The camp was near us, and I was taking people out to sing at programs. I used to take my little girl, Jeanne, who was a doll at that time, to sing for them. She sang "Over There," "Keep the Home Fires Burning," and "Long Way to Tipperary." She must have been about four, and we were very proud of her. Of course the war brought many hardships to everyone, and we were mighty glad when it was over. After the war, our third child, Robert, was born and then followed the Great Depression. There were many ups and downs, but we managed to not stay down and were able to get our children through college, Jeanne graduated from Baylor, Winston from Hendrix, and Robert from the University of Arkansas.
One time hore-Round candy saved my life. I had contracted whooping cough before I took my first college teaching job. I was so afraid they would find I wasn't over it and send me home. I kept this candy in my throat
all the time to keep my throat moist. It really did the job.
Our principal place for courting was camping (in Cisco). We had a water works called Bernie Lake with a pavilion built out over the water where the and used to play and have concerts. We rented that, and we'd go out there for our camp. The girls would all stay in the pavilion all locked up safe and tight. The boys would camp on the other side of the dam. We had lots of fun! One time, just for fun, on the fourth of July, some boys who were in cahoots with two of us brought a lot of Roman candles out there. We slipped out in the middle of the night and shot the Roman candles right down where they were sleeping! They chased us back to the pavilion, but we got back safely.
My mother and father were the first couple married in that little town (Cisco, Texas). They had a sale of lots that was quite exciting. People come up on the train in flat cars, and they'd have the auction of lots. Before my mother married, that town was really rough.
It used to be shot up by the cowboys. They'd come in riding on their horses. They'd ride right up into the salon, but it really got tamed down. My mother and father and grandfather, they worked mighty hard to make it a town that was respectable and liveable.
They didn't have a regular fire department. They
did organize one but with no horses or cars, the fire
wagon was pulled by the men. My father was one of them.
It was great excitement for us to see him going along the street pulling the wagon!
Another thing was the songs my mother used to sing.
She would get us all out on the back porch, there were three of us at that time, lying on little quilts, and she would sing to us. One song that broke our heart was "Don't Go Out Tonight, Dear Father." It was about a drunkard, and I don't remember the words. It was one song we always wanted to hear and cried.
One game we always enjoyed was "Stealing Sticks."
Our enemies were camped on the other side of the line and we had to slip across the line and steal a stick before we were caught. The one that stole all the sticks won. Another game was "Rip the Whip." You form a line, and you run. Then you turn a corner right quick, and the end goes around pretty fast. Maybe they can stay on, and maybe they can't!
Another thing I didn't tell you about was my grandmother and grandfather. They were too cute! They used to do the "Cake Walk". They were just darling doing it.
When I was nine years old I went to Baylor. The reason was that we had had a cyclone in our town and the
school was destroyed. My aunt was a great singer and voice teacher at Baylor, so she wanted me to come and be with her. They had a good Intermediate Department there, so I went and stayed a year. And I was the mascot of the mascot of the school. Little legs would carry long ways up for I would run for the girls, do whatever they wanted me to do. I just had a wonderful time! And in June I sang in the June concerts. I sang a little song called, "Bless Your Little Heart, I Love You." It's too nice and I can't even sing it now - it has too many runs in it. I was one of the stars, and at that time they didn't send flowers up by the ushers, they threw them at you. They threw a lot of flowers at me. Really I wouldn't go out and pick them up. It scared me, so my aunt paid me two
dollars to go out and get them.
Another thing I haven't mentioned was my grandfather's experiences in the Civil War. He was a Southerner and living in Missouri, he never knew who was his friend. He didn't know if his neighbor was on the North side or the South side. It was a very hard place to live. He went to the war and only his old father was left there to take care of the family. The soldiers came and wanted him and they told them that he was gone, so they took his father.
They put this old man on a horse and rode him off. They
never saw him again!
And another thing, during the night a doctor friend of his came out from town. He was on the North side, but a close friend of my father's. He told him - he says, "William, they're gonna burn your house down tonight.
You better get out. I had to pretend you had a sick child. And said, I advise you to get out." So they got out. They put on all the clothes they could wear, as many dresses as they could get on, as many pants, and they packed everything they could in their waggon and left before morning. And it really happened - they lost everything they had!
They went to St. Joseph, Missouri.
Andrea, I think you have just about exhausted all of my tricks and my secret things that I haven't thought of in years and years and years. But three years ago we had our fiftieth wedding anniversary - we celebrated it. Although we've had many ups and downs, two wars, a depression, we've been able to weather it, and we have three of the finest children, which as we say, "those are our jewels."
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