Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My Grandma's Early Life as told by Sylvia Gunn

 My mother, Sylvia Jean Bounds Gunn, spoke at my Grandma's funeral.  Here is the text for the notes she used.

I'm standing up here to tell you about Mother's early life, her years in the Baptist orphanage until the time they met.  Daddy wants her family to know about those early years.

At the age of seven, Mother's daddy passed away.  Grandma was not capable of supporting all of those children.  Grandma had an older sister named Lillian.  Great Aunt Lillian and her husband had a drug store on the coast.  Great Aunt Lillian made arrangements for the four middle children to go to the Baptist orphanage in Jackson, Mississippi.  Uncle A.J. and my mother's sister, Aunt Lillian, were too old to go.  Aunt Ina Mae was a baby, and she didn't go.  Before Great Aunt Lillian died, Mother wrote her a letter and thanked her for loving them enough to see that they were well cared for.

And well cared for, they were!  If one needed to go to a doctor, they were taken to the doctor.  If one needed to go to the dentist, they were taken to the dentist.  They were taken to every event that came to Jackson -- the circus, etc.  They were given free tickets.

Every Friday night, they lined up and each child was checked for head lice.  Almost every time new children were brought to live, they came with head lice, and it would spread throughout the orphanage; therefore, the need for frequent head checks!

They were picked up and taken to church.  Mother loved going.  One Sunday, she was so excited when they arrived to get them that she went running out to meet them and slipped and knocked herself out on the walkway.  She spent the next couple of daays in the infirmary.  She said she did not like that because she was in there alone, except for the matron who stayed with her.

Each child had a job to do.  Mother's job was to help make 900 biscuits every morning!  Her job was to put them in the oven.

She said people from all over the state of Mississippi would send food by the boxcarload by train.  They had plenty of good food to eat.

Every Christmas each child would write down three things they wanted, and would receive one of the three things as a gift for Christmas.  Every year, Mother would write down "skates, skates, and skates!"  She said she would wear out a pair of skates every year!  Mother was skating champion, girls long jump champion, and wrestlling champion.

She would not let anyone run over her -- boy or girl -- no matter how much bigger they were than her.  No one could win a fight over her -- boy or girl!  Once she found out someone had mistreated Aunt Janice (another one of the children).  She went and found that person and walloped her a good one, and said, "Don't you ever mess with my sister again!"

The orphanage had a choir and the choir was called "The Songbirds."  They sang acapella.  Mother was a member of this choir singing alto.  They would go all over the state of Mississippi to the different churches and sing to raise money for the orphanage.  If it was a distance away, they would go and spend the night with different members of the church they were to sing at.

They would depend on different people to take them where they needed to go.

Do you remember Octagon soap?  Each bar of soap would have a coupon.  People from all over the state of Mississippi would save the Octagon soap coupons and send them to the orphanage.  They saved enough octogan soap coupons to get a bus.  That must have been a lot of coupons!  The children named the bus.  They named it "The coupon!"

When Mother was 16 years old, her brother, Uncle Bill Lee, and her sister Aunt Ava Reid came and got Mother and brought her back here.  She took turns living with the older half-brothers and sisters.

All of her adult life, she never thought of her nieces and nephews as nieces and nephews.  She thought of all of you as her brothers and sisters, and she loved you all dearly.

Daddy was the best of friends with Cooter and L.D. Archer, two  of Mother's nephews.  Mother was at aunt Silistine (Cooter and LD's mother) and Daddy rode his bicycle over to see Cooter and LD.

Cooter hopped on Daddy's bicycle, left, and was gone for hours, leaving him there with Mother.  Of course, Aunt Silistine and the little girls were there, too.

Daddy said he and Mother sat on the front steps getting acquainted.  Uncle Elbert had a patch of sugar cane.  Daddy went and cut a stalk, sat on the step with Mother, peeled the cane, cut Mother a chew, and cut him a chew.  They chewed that whole stalk, so he went and cut another stalk.  He said he didn't remember how many stalks they chewed, but they chewed cane until they got sweet on each other!  He told me this story about a year ago.  After telling it, he looked at Mother and said, "And we're still sweet on each other, aren't we, Wilna?"  Mother looked at him, and smiled and nodded her head.

And you all know the story of the rest of her life.
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  1. That is beautiful. I don't know your mother, but I can imagine her telling all of this. Were you named after your Aunt Ava? I love the photo, also! So very sweet. She was a great lady.

  2. What a beautiful story, Ava and SJ! God bless your Grandma, she was a very special lady. Keeping you all, especially your Grandpa, in my prayers.