Department Store Browsing in the 1950’s

SC Family Memories

By the time I was nine or ten years old, I found department stores could be just as much fun as dime stores for browsing, the great pastime for kids in pre-television days.

McCown-Smith Department Store was located on Dargan Street right where Evans runs into it. One entrance was on Dargan and a second one on East Evans — another two-main door store.

McCown-Smith sold a lot of blue and white enamel basins and cast aluminum cook pots, but they seemed to specialize in linens. You know, cotton sheets and chenille bedspreads.

They also featured crocheted antimacassars, tatted doilies, lace-edged dresser scarves, and embroidered table runners. My grandmother Mimi took me shopping for those in McCown-Smith one time. I’d never heard the word “antimacassar” before that day — but most folks had one on the back of every armchair and couch. Those were the days of Wildroot Cream Oil…

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Memory triggers

SC Family Memories

OverstuffedArmchairThe other day I caught a glimpse of a flowered, overstuffed chair on a TV sitcom and my mind flashed back more than 50 years, to my grandparents’ living room. Clear as day, I saw again Mimi’s flowered, overstuffed armchair, backed against the wall between her living room and dining room.

Just over the chair hung a large framed photo of the U.S.S. Trepang, Uncle Ponk’s submarine home during WWII. I heard again Mimi’s matter-of-fact voice recounting his wartime adventures, not realizing until years later how terrifying those days in the Pacific must have been for him, a young sailor just out of high school.  (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Trepang_%28SS-412%29 for a little history of that ship.)

In my mind’s eye I saw the swinging french-style doors separating the two rooms and heard the little squeak one made when pushed. On the living room side the doors were faced with sheer, not quite…

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Jealous of mother’s hair

SC Family Memories

MotteBerthaAndBetty1944“Black, black, black is the color of my true love’s hair…”*

Black-haired and hazel-eyed, my Irish mother was the only girl in a family with four brothers. All her brothers’ hair began to turn gray at an early age, but mama’s didn’t. She just had a narrow streak of white from her right temple straight back through her lush, black waves.

Unfortunately, my hair took after my English daddy, who had brown hair and blue eyes. I was always jealous of mother’s hair.

When I was fifteen years old or so, mama took me to her hairdresser. The shop was centrally located in a storefront beside Sears, Roebuck and Company on North Irby Street. I thought I was getting a hair permanent, an event I dreaded. Frizzy, smelly, itchy curls for Easter. More frizzy, smelly, itchy curls for Christmas.

I pouted as I was draped in plastic and the leather chair pumped up to the appropriate level. My…

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Writing “career”

SC Family Memories

“Write something. You’re a writer. That’s what you should be doing with more of your time.” That thought keeps flitting through my mind today off and on, while I’m doing other things that are not writing.

When did I become a writer? I’m trying to remember. What was the first time I wrote anything? Let’s see…

PorkyPigStoryBookLate1940'sFirst book? I vaguely recall Porky Pig and Donald Duck among others, hard cardboard books with only a few thick pages but sturdy. They took a lot of handling without too much damage, thus could be read over and over. Mostly pictures, there weren’t many words in those.

Of course, most of mine were girl-oriented books. Cinderella and Snow White stories straight from the movies shared scenes with the Wicked Stepmother and the Wicked Queen. Seven dwarfs occupied many pages, there were lots of adventure scenes with seven of them! Not to mention all…

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My Heroes

MotteMilitaryPhotomerge2014My heroes have always been soldiers, and sailors, and airmen…

I learned the Star Spangled Banner in grammar school right along with the Pledge of Allegiance. Our music lessons at McKenzie included folk music, rounds, spirituals, patriotic music and national anthems from ours as well as several other countries.

I loved all of it, but especially the service songs — Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Chorales or Choruses from various branches of the service came to Florence in the 1950’s and the whole town turned out.

The most popular movies were war stories from WWII, whether they were love stories, musicals, or dramas. When television arrived at our house, Victory at Sea became a favorite show.

These days a lot of businesses will remain open and feature big sales on Memorial Day, Independence Day, or Veterans Day – holidays designed to remember and honor the sacrifices of our armed forces and their families. Some folks may take the day off and take advantage of those sales. Or they might picnic at the park or barbecue in the back yard, enjoying a long weekend off from work.

PowersMilitaryMen&FamilyIt wasn’t always like that. When I was small nearly everything closed down on those holidays, in honor of the men and women who had died in service of our country. Nevertheless, many churches will still include America The Beautiful in their Sunday worship services, and many remembrances will still be held at National Cemeteries and parks from “sea to shining sea.”

In researching my daddy’s family tree, I discovered that in the late 1700’s Stephen Motte was granted a “patent” for land in the North Carolina coastal area for service in the Revolutionary War. He traded that land for a parcel in what became known as Mott’s Township, the territory around Olanta, South Carolina.

My great-great-grandfather John Motte served with Captain Zimmerman’s Pee Dee Artillery. Wounded in May of 1864, he spent time recovering in the Confederacy’s Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond. His son David Motte, too young to be regular Army, became a teenage prison guard attached to the Confederate Army.

Grandfather Charles H. Motte (see photo) joined the Army after the Civil War, stationed in New Orleans where he met and married my grandmother Etta Follette.

Some of Etta’s relatives had been Union soldiers during the Civil War, one fighting in several of the same battles in Virginia as John Motte. Charles and Etta’s first son Percy served in the US Army in WWI.

My father Harold Motte, Sr. enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1941, served several years and re-enlisted. He became a glider pilot and an aircraft mechanic.

Several of my mother’s brothers joined the Navy during WWII, Palmer becoming a career submariner. My brother Harold served in the Navy in the 1960’s, stationed on an ammunition ship in the Mediterranean Sea during the Six Days War.

Maybe it’s not politically correct nowadays, but every time I hear From the Halls of Montezuma or Anchors Away, my heart still flutters a bit and I recall my family’s centuries-long heritage of military service.

Whether you have these special days off from work or not, I hope you’ll pause for a few moments and say a prayer for all those serving today, grateful that so many have been – and still are – willing to pay the price for our freedom to have such a “holiday.”

(Edited / reprinted from 2006.)

Spending time with Granddaddy

MimiDa01I was the first-born grandchild to Marena and Dewey Powers (Mimi and Da to us grandkids). Although I spent most of my summer-time visits indoors with Mimi, Da tried on occasion to teach me the finer points of outdoor country living.

Lynches River always offered prime fishing for a variety of fresh-water fish. One morning Da decided to forego plowing and took me fishing. He baited both our hooks, then we dropped our cane pole lines over the side of a little bridge and waited.

“Watch the cork, now, watch the cork. The fish’ll take the bait and the cork’ll disappear and then we got him, but you got to watch that cork.” I watched the cork for a few minutes, then watched a butterfly, then watched a few birds, then watched the assorted branches and turtles floating by in the black river water.

“Doll baby, your cork’s bobbing, you got one, pull him in!” Da helped me land whatever kind of fish he was and there he lay, flopping about on the bridge and gasping for breath. His glassy eyes seemed to look right into my soul as he gave up the ghost, and I cried.

“What you bawling for? That’s your dinner, you caught your dinner, a pretty good one, too.” Da took my catch off the hook while I grieved over the poor little fish that I had killed. He fished a little while longer while I sniffled.

As we packed up our poles he kept shaking his head and muttering to himself, wondering what on earth was wrong with this girl, where’d I think seafood dinners came from. That was our first and last fishing trip together.

Da didn’t give up on me, though. Later on he decided I needed to learn to ride a pony or a horse. Since he didn’t have either one, the plow mule seemed a good substitute. The mule was very gentle and good natured, but very tall!

Da brought him around from the stable, let me pat his nose, look into his eyes and feel his hide. Then Da lifted me up to the mule’s broad back, showed me how to hold on tight to the bridle and slowly began to walk the mule forward.

After the first few steps I began to cry. I was so far up, so far from the safety of the good earth, “Let me down, please let me down!” I begged. And so he did.

Shaking his head as he walked the mule back to the stable, I could almost hear Da muttering his earlier sentiments, what on earth is wrong with this girl. That was my first and last mule ride.

In between attempts to countrify me, Da was spoiling me in other ways. Dimes and quarters often appeared in the strangest places, like mantelpieces and kitchen cabinets. Every time I’d spot one I’d exclaim over my find. “Guess the money fairy meant for you to have it, since you found it,” he would say with a twinkle in his eye.

Then I spied him pulling change out of his pocket one day, fingering through the silver before carefully placing several dimes among the dinner plates. I never let on that I knew who the “money fairy” was, I just kept enjoying my good fortune.

I was about fourteen when Da decided to teach me the tried and true traditions of bird hunting. His bird dogs were raring to go the day after Thanksgiving. We piled into his pick-up truck, dogs yipping behind our heads as they trotted from one side of the truck bed to the other.

On reaching our destination we met several other men, some with grandsons but no other girls. Da had demonstrated safe shotgun handling, pointed out tips to targeting a likely bird, and Mimi had loaned me her very own lightweight 410 shotgun.

My aim was perfect. I hit the first bird I aimed at and the dog brought it proudly to my feet. I took one look at it and cried. The poor little bird, I had killed it!

The men and boys looked at me like I was a real sissy and I guess I was. I spent the rest of our hunting trip camped out in the pick-up truck.

Granddaddy brought his and my bounty home that evening, cleaned and cooked the birds for supper. I probably ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. All I could see was the poor little feathery creature lying dead at my feet and the puzzled look on the face of the bird dog.

I’m sure he was wondering along with Da, what in the world is wrong with this girl. You guessed it — that was our first and last hunting trip, too.

Some years later after I was married, Da would drop in occasionally to see how I was doing. Each time after he left I’d find a five dollar bill in the sugar bowl, a ten under a coffee cup or a twenty in the silverware drawer.

I knew it was my granddaddy’s way of saying that he loved me just as I was, city girl and all.

Mimi’s holiday dessert crew

Memories, wonderful memories.

SC Family Memories

A holiday dessert work crew made up of cousins, aunts and uncles usually assembled the weekend before Thanksgiving at my grandmother Mimi’s house. Mimi always prepared both Thanksgiving and Christmas desserts the week before Thanksgiving, and the lengthy menu required many helpers.

Most menu items not to be served at Thanksgiving would be wrapped, labeled, and deposited in the freezer or pie safe, delicious desserts like presents waiting to be opened.

My grandfather Da was an essential helper in the preparation of one ingredient. He brought a large, for-real coconut into the middle of the living room and presented it for inspection to us kids. We passed it around, each one hefting and guessing how heavy it was. Placing it on the floor in the middle of a spread newspaper, “Stay back,” he warned before whacking the coconut with a hammer.

Often it took several smaller whacks before he could…

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