Who is the oldest relative you remember?

Grandma Ella Gertrude Lakey and son Guy Daniel Parson.

Grandma Ella Gertrude Parson later to be Lakey and son Guy Daniel Parson. Taken about 1905

Grandma Lakey (Ella Gertrude (Parsons) Lakey) is definitely the oldest person I remember being around when I was growing up.  Born January 29, 1879 near Atlanta, Georgia, she was almost 86 years old when I was born, she was the only grandmother I got to spend any significant time around in my early years.   I have a number of distinct memories about Grandma.  She was certainly a God fearing woman.  She loved to listen to her preachers on the radio.  I don’t personally remember her ever attending church, but she would listen to radio preachers pretty much every day of her life from the time she woke up in the morning until she went to bed at night.  In the daytime it was mostly preachers who were carried on local radio stations, then at night they would swich radios and pick up some of the big powerhouse stations on the AM dial, not sure exactly where they were coming from, but I believe some of them came out of Texas. and they were on until she got ready for bed, usually a little before midnight.  As she got older she became more and more hard of hearing, and the volume on the radios would have to be turned up so loud you could hear pretty much every word being said out in the yard and at the nearby houses.  Of course in the summer all of the windows were open because that house never had any kind of air conditioning.  Fortunately, she lived “out in the country” and all of the nearby houses were occupied by relatives/decedents that were understanding.

Grandma’s house was on the corner of what is now called Hasbrook road (CR-333) and “Hester Lane.”  It was a three room house (you read that right, three room NOT three bedroom) with a tin roof when I was growning up.  From my studies, apparently in the past it had a wooden shake roof.  The house did not have a solid foundation, instead it sat up on various rocks and chunks of wood.  This might sound like it was a rickety old house, but nothing could be further from the truth.  That house has been standing on that same foundation since before 1900 and here it is 2011 and it is still standing 110 years later.  The ceilings in this house were were high, I am thinking at least 10-12 feet tall at least.  There was a kitchen, a living room with a bed in it, and Grandma’s bedroom on the South side.  There were four doors leading outside of the house with a tall porch outside every entrance.  Actually two of the doors both led to the front porch which ran the full westerly side of the house.  Both the door from the living room and the  door from Grandma’s bedroom both led to this porch.  Then there was a North and South door off of the kitchen.  A number of details I remember about the house was the quilting rack than hang from the ceiling in the living room.  Grandma was big into quilting in her earlier days and so were the daughters.  In the early days the quilt tops were all sewn by hand.  There was a central flue that went up the center of the house and there was a wood heating stove in the living room and grandma’s bedroom that tied into this flue, and there was a wooden cook stove in the kitchen that tied into it.  The one little characteristic I remember most about that flue was the secret hiding place in it.  The flue did not go all the way to the ground, it had a wooden frame that supported it from the ground up to about 6 or 8 feet, then bricks the rest of the way up.  Well, I didn’t learn about the hiding spot until I was quite a bit older, probably after grandma had passed away in 1977, but one of the slats that covered the wooden frame could be slid back and it revealed a compartment inside the frame where documents or whatever could be hidden.

Grandma Lakey's house taken built about 1900. Picture taken about 1980.

Another thing I remember from the early days of being around this house was the cistern on the north side of the house.  You see, there was no running water in this house until about 1971-2.  There were gutters running all around the house that collected water and carried the water to the cistern outside of Grandma’s window.  Then there was an A-frame over the cistern that had a pulley where you would lower a bucket down to get the water.  I don’t distinctly remember this, but I am told by cousin Lavon that you had to be really careful when you were lowering the bucket down into the water to keep from stirring up the dirt and debris from the cistern.  There was basically a screen door over the cistern that would allow the water to flow down into the cistern but tried to prevent the bugs and leaves and larger debris from falling down into it.  Of course, small critters like mosquitoes could always get down in there and they did and of course layed eggs which hatched into mosquito larvae.  So sometimes you would have to deal with little squiggly critters in your water, but I really don’t remember this too much.

Some more about Grandma, not sure how old she was, probably in the mid to late 60’s she had fallen and broken her hip, so all the years I knew her she had used a walking stick to get around.  Now we aren’t talking about one of those fancy walking sticks that are so common now.  For her a walking stick was a wooden mop handle that the mop had been taken off of.  I remember many a times her using the walking stick going down to the storm cellar with Aunt Jewell and spending the night down there.  But that will be a story for another time.  She was afraid of storms, but I don’t believe she was anywhere near as afraid of them as Aunt Jewell.

As a general rule, Grandma was a very quiet spoken person who rarely raised her voice unless one of her daughters (Aunt Emma in particular) was yelling at her.  As she got older her eyesight wasn’t that good and I remember people having to read her mail to her.  She was fairly sharp witted on up into her later years, especially for someone that rarely left the house other than to go spend the night in a “cave.”

She was a constant snuff dipper, and most of the time would have a little dab of snuff juice dribbling out the corner of her mouth.  Of course her kids (that didn’t dip themselves)  and grand-kids were always trying to convince her to quit, but just like trying to get a smoker to stop, until they decide to quit themselves it wasn’t going to do any good.

Grandma died in her home on October 15, 1977 at the well lived age of 98 and a half years.  There are so many questions I would like to have asked her, but will never have a chance now.  In a later post I will talk about some of the interesting history and her early years before I came along.


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My Earliest Memories

My first actual blog posting is going to be about my earliest memories. I’m not sure which of the two stories below happened first, they were probably around the same time. Hope you enjoy:

I actually have two earliest memories that stand out in my mind. In one of them the joke was on me, in the other the joke was on the world.

My very earliest memory and I must have been about three or four years old at the time, my mother had just gotten through giving me a bath in the bathtub and I was anxious to get outside. Really don’t remember what it was I was so anxious to get outside for, because I really didn’t have any friends in the neighborhood that I played with at that age. Anyway, my mother wasn’t moving fast enough to get me dressed, and she must have gotten distracted off doing something else. Well, I decided to go on outside in my birthday suit. Fortunately, I went out the back door instead of the front. I distinctly remember going out the back door and walking all the way to the very back of the back yard. At this time, the back yard was not fenced in. All of the back yards all ran together. Well, here I am standing there looking east for something at the back of the back yard, with all of my business hanging out for the world to see. Not sure how long I was there, but my mother finally discovered that I was not in the house and came looking for me. Needless to say, she was not a happy camper. She came and got me and dragged me back into the house and to the bedroom where she got me dressed. I really can’t remember getting any kind of spanking. It really wouldn’t have surprised me either way.

My second vivid memory was when the joke was on me. I was probably about the same age as in the previous story; this was before I started going out to spend a lot of time with Aunt Jewel in the country. Anyway, we were out there visiting Grandma who lived in the big old house on the corner; Aunt Jewell lived in a little two room house behind her, to the east. That’s right, two ROOM, not two bedroom. There was a livingroom that was pretty good size, probably 15’X25’ and then a small kitchen behind it that was probably 18’X18’. The kitchen was big enough that later on after Aunt Jewel had moved into the new house, her husband J.T. used the kitchen as a cabinet shop. But I diverge from the story. So we were out there visiting all the kin folks, who knows, it might have been after someone’s funeral or something, Aunt Jewel who always kept chickens had just had a hatching of little chicks that she had in a small box out on the front porch of the house. Well, me being the little fart I was, they showed me the chicks and I just fell in love with them, and of course, I wasn’t content to just look, I wanted to pick them up and hold them and pet them, and me being the spoiled brat that I was, you wasn’t going to stop me. Well, you might not stop me, but the momma of those little chicks could. You see, those weren’t incubator chicks like most of the chicks are now. Those eggs had been sat on by the hen for 21 days and she had probably laid many of the eggs herself so she had an investment in them chicks and she didn’t like the idea of me messing with her babies. She came after me, and she flew up and commenced to flog me around the head and face and just wear me out in general. Well, me being the little city kid that I was at that time, and the age that I was, this scared the living SHIT out of me. And I took off running and that hen kept coming after me. Not sure how far I ran before she thought I was far enough away and quit flogging me, it seemed like it was a couple hundred feet but I’m sure it wasn’t that far, probably 10 or 20 feet. Needless to say, I learned a lifelong lesson from that experience and never messed with a hens chickens again. That might explain why I like to eat chicken so much now. It is my way of getting revenge at that hen.

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Welcome to My World

It has taken me quite some time to come to the decision that a blog was the proper way for me to create and store my efforts at preserving history as my family has experienced it and as I have experienced it.

This past week I was delivering a talk to our United Methodist Men group at St. Paul UMC here in Jonesboro concerning genealogy and family histories.  One of the main points I made to them was the difference between the facts and dates of genealogy which I called the skeleton of an ancestor, and the real life stories that happened to us and our ancestors.  While the dates and locations of various events are important, they really don’t tell who an individual is/was, it takes real life stories and feelings to know who a person was.

The average age of our Methodist mens group is probably about 65+.  I tried to emphasize to them that even though they think they don’t have a story that anyone would be interested in, someday they decedents would cherish the opportunity to hear their story.  While the facts, locations, and dates might tell where major events happened, they will never explain why decisions were made.  Only a personal telling of a story can do that.

The major focus on this blog is going to be some of the family stories of relatives, such as my Great Grandma Jessie Louise Kapelle (Smith) who was brought to the US by her grandparents from Germany.   Her father staying in the “old country.”  Then in her late teen years she hears of her father having come to this country also and she travels halfway across the country to meet him.  At which points he rejects her.  We will investigate this and ask the questions of how/why a father could do this.

We will also look at my Great grandfather John A. Lakey on my dad’s side of the family.  He had a family in the western part of Tennessee during the Civil war and made the decision not to fight for the Rebel cause like so many of his neighbors, but to join the fight with the 6th Tennessee Calvary Regiment USA to keep the union together.  What would drive a man to place his family in such a precarious position?  We will ask those questions.

Then in addition to talking about various ancestors, I will do what I advised those Methodist men to do and attempt to preserve some of my own family story and experiences.

Personally, if this blog is never read by anyone other than my family, that will be ok, because they are the ones I am actually writing it for.  It might be 15 years before any of them read it, but that will be ok also.  The idea is to preserve the stories for as long as possible, and if someday they contribute to a study of the time I grew up in, that is great.


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