This week we have sweet memories from Martha Allen of her mother and grandmother.
"My granny, Martha Lou Ella Gamble Baker, was born in Cullman County, Alabama, in 1889. She was married there at the age of 21. Granny and Grandpa were farmers as they were raising their four children there. But when hard times made it difficult to support the family from their small farm, the decision was made to move to the Empire area of Walker County so my grandpa could get work as a coal miner.
"Initially after Grandpa became a miner, they lived in mining camp housing. Over time their two sons got old enough to also get work in the mine. Their earnings were pooled together with Grandpa’s meager wages and eventually the family was able to move out of the mining camp housing and purchase a four-room house off of Empire Road.
"That’s where they were living in 1950 when my grandpa died of what is now referred to as 'black lung,' a disease that developed from his years working in mines. I was only a few months old at the time of Grandpa’s death. About three years before Grandpa’s death, my parents had also purchased a four-room house. It was located about a mile from my grandparents’ home. So my mother was nearby to provide emotional support to Granny when Grandpa passed away.
"Then five years later my dad suffered a heart attack and died shortly after my sixth birthday. That seemed to pull Mama even more so to the comfort of her Mama – my Granny. So these two widowed women, mother and daughter, developed an even closer bond as they spent much time together. Living within walking distance, we frequently walked the red rocked road up to Granny’s place. Those hours together and frequent 'sleep overs' at Granny’s endeared me to her in a very special way. It always seemed that Granny was a second mother to me.
"Mama and Granny were both about five feet tall and they shared the same eye color, but that was about the only resemblance between the two. Their personalities were as different as night and day. Granny was a person of action. Speed and efficiency were her priorities when a task was to be done.
"Mama, on the other hand, was slow and methodical. Quality was much more important to her than quantity. This particular difference in their work styles often lead to Granny prompting my Mama with a “Hurry Up, Pearl.” It was “Hurry up, Pearl” during berry picking. It was “Hurry up, Pearl” during yard work. It was “Hurry up, Pearl” during canning and on wash day as well. Mama never seemed to let this bother her and truth be known I never saw that it made any difference in her approach to what they were doing.
"A couple of times a month the three of us would walk the distance of two miles or so from Granny’s house to Sumiton to shop for groceries. We had no car but, since neither woman had ever driven a car, walking didn’t seem to be an issue. On every trip it was inevitable that someone would stop and offer us a ride. Granny would also thank them kindly but deny their offer.
Had Granny not been along, Mama would have certainly said 'yes.' We’re talking about a time in the 1950’s and early 60’s when accepting such an offer would have been safe. Everybody knew everybody. Yet, Granny was an independent person who would rely on no one. On these walks into town Granny always led the way. I’d be within an arm’s reach of her, but Mama would always be pulling up the rear. So Granny would occasionally stop and call out 'Hurry up, Pearl.' Once Mama had caught up, Granny would resume the pace and so the stop and go and the Hurry up, Pearl repeated itself many times.
Early in April of 1993 Granny passed away, just shy of her 104th birthday. Granny’s death was hard. Hardest I think on my mama. Granny had always been her rock, her lifeline in the storm. Before the month of April had passed, Mama was gone as well. While Mama was in her eighties, her death came without warning. We were told that Mama most likely had a heart attack. I think her death was related to her heart but more likely due to a broken heart. Or as I prefer to think Granny just called down to Mama 'Hurry up, Pearl.'
Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.