This is another from the Christmas series that I am reposting from the early days of my blog. Two of my father’s first cousins, Juanita and Beatrice participated in a workshop to turn their “Memories to Memoirs” in 1990 in Athens, Tennessee. I was able to get a copy of them from my cousin Janice (Juanita’s daughter). Today I am posting Beatrice’s memories of her childhood, which sets the scene and also has some Christmas memories. Tomorrow I will post her sister Juanita’s Christmas memories.
Back: Ola, Helen, Alberta. Front: Beatrice, Mattie, Juanita.
From “Memories To Memoirs” – Chapter 2 – Early Years of Life
By Beatrice Cleage Johnson
Written in 1990
1926 – I remember the early years of my life living at 216 Ridge Street. We used wood and coal stoves for heating and cooking. I will never forget the range stove that my mother cooked on. She made biscuits every morning for breakfast. There was a warmer at the top of the stove for left overs. I would always search the warmer for snacks. We had an outside toilet. Everyone that we knew had these, so we thought this was it. We never dreamed of ever having inside plumbing.
We had a water hydrant in the front yard and every night it was my job to fill the water buckets which had stainless steel dippers in them. My sister also helped with the chores. My other job was to clean the lamp chimneys. We used oil lamps. Momma always inspected them to see if they were clean. I decided then, if I ever made any money I would have electricity put in our house. And I did. I would babysit during the summers and save my money.
I have always loved poetry. I learned many poems and stories from my mother and sisters, such as “Little Boy Blue” and “Little Red Riding Hood”. I think my favorite food was any kind of fruit. I was always happy to see Summer, when the apples and peaches were plentiful. I always looked forward to Christmas. We never saw any oranges until then. I remember my first doll. It had a china head and straw body. I loved it so much. Momma always made a special white coconut cake for Christmas, which I looked forward to. She made other pies and cakes, but the coconut was my favorite. We didn’t get too many toys for Christmas, but my sisters and I enjoyed everything we got for Christmas.
Charles Edward Cleage.
My grandfather Albert’s brother.
My father became ill and my mother was to be the sole support of the five girls. I was six years of age when my father passed away in 1926. My youngest sister, Juanita, was three years of age and she didn’t remember him, but I did. After he died my uncles took the two older sisters, Helen and Alberta, to Detroit to live with them. Alberta stayed and finished high school there, but Helen came back home and helped Momma care for the three of us. Ola, Juanita and myself went to high school here.
We always celebrated the holidays. Thanksgiving was very special as my birthday would sometimes come on Thanksgiving Day. We always had special food on these days. Pies, cakes, chicken, rabbit. On Halloween we always dressed in our older sister’s and mother’s clothes. One of the main pranks the boys would do was to push the outside toilets over. We used to beg them not to push ours over. In those days, there was no trick or treat. It was all tricks. Easter was also special. Momma would make us a new dress for Easter, and Helen always bought me black patent leather slipper.