A Bit of History

My mother was about thirteen years old when the Great Depression began and being the oldest became my grandmother’s right hand in caring for the family.  She remembered, but rarely discussed, those bleak days.  She did recall once how her mother made cottage cheese and took in ironing to help bring income to the house.  My grandfather couldn’t find work as the years progressed and it was the promise of work that brought him and his family from Mississippi to North Carolina.

My dad once related the first time he saw my mother.  It was a Sunday and he was sitting in the back of that old wooden, unadorned church with its hell fire sermons and singing that turned the small congregation into a choir where everyone knew their parts in the old, familiar hymns.  The town, like the church, was small and a new family had moved into a house nearby.

That particular Sunday, everyone was settling into their seats with their handheld fans generally provided by a local funeral home moving the tepid air around.  Just before the service began, in marched a family of seven with my grandfather, Willie Nettles, leading the way.  With his ramrod straight six feet, his black, black eyes and hair, he was impressive as he led his family down the center aisle all the way to the front pew.  He was followed by his wife, Jennie Vee, who held the baby, my uncle Jesse, in her arms leading my mother, her sister, Zula, her brother, David, and my aunt, Emma, to their seats.

I can only think that my mother must have been totally embarrassed; however, she would never have thought of doing anything but what she was told.  All the girls had long hair;  my mother’s was almost to her waist.  They and my uncle stood as straight as my grandfather and never moved around on the pew during the service.  My father was thunderstruck by that fourteen year old girl who walked behind her mother.  I doubt he heard much of that day’s sermon.

After World War II and my father’s Army service at a hospital in India ended, he came home and married that girl who now was a twenty year old woman.  A year later, the first grandchild came along and I grew into who I am not only because of my parents.  My aunts and uncles treated me like a little sister.  Jesse, the babe in arms that fateful Sunday, was only six when I was born. They were my playmates, my best friends, my everything as the years passed.  Happily, some things never change.  As a child and teenager, I attended that same church sitting on those hard, wooden pews and the old hymns sung as a part of each service.  I still hear those voices lifted in songs of praise and reverence and they comfort me.


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7 Responses to A Bit of History

  1. Jeanette Spencer says:

    Unfortunately, I did not get to know our Grandfather and only got to know our Grandmother from the occasional vacation trips to North Carolina. Those trips were some of my fondest childhood memories. I dreaded it when we had to go back home. It was great to read a part of my History that I did not know. Thanks for sharing.

    • cwurschmidt says:

      Jeanette, he died in January, 1961, so you really never had a chance to know him. He was very strict and the ruler of his home. By the way, did you know that his wife, your grandmother, was a twin? He was really tall and she was very petite and quite a looker in her day. I’ve seen one picture of her and her twin. It is somewhere, maybe with Emma. I plan to put all my old pictures on my computer and, hopefully, can add captions. When it gets done, I’ll copy it to a flashdrive and share.

      • Jeanette Spencer says:

        I did not know what year he died. That was the same month and year Lisa was born, I think. I knew there was a history of twins, but was not sure who and I would love to see photos with captions. That does take a while to do.

  2. Doris says:

    Interesting that your post should be published on the same day that Maya Angelou published this on her Facebook: "Hold those things that tell your history and protect them."

    • cwurschmidt says:

      Yeah, she formulated it after reading my post…Haha

      • Lori Nettles-Smith says:

        The things you find while nosing around on Facebook while you're at work. If only that babe Jesse and his wife would become a little more tech savvy, they would enjoy reading this. Thank you for your insight and for a lesson in my family history.

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