Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cleveland, Texas Memories of Granny and Granddaddy Gray

Introduction to Cleveland, Texas and 
Richard Lusky and Alice Lucinda
Alice Lucinda Willis Richard Lusky, better known to 14 grandchildren as Granny and Granddaddy or Aunt Alice and Uncle Lusky, lived in the same home for 40 years from 1938-1978 when Granddaddy died. Granny passed away at the Cleveland Nursing Home in 1980. They lived at 605 Arvon, so addressed in later years, south of Cleveland, Texas in Liberty County on a sandy, dirt road. It was the nesting place for their four adult children, spouses, grandchildren, older great-grandchildren, and countless numbers of other relatives including Lusky's seven siblings' families and Alice's twelve siblings' families who were scattered mostly in east Texas or southeast Texas with a few who moved to other regions of Texas. 
I have again invited my sister, Llewellyn "Llew Cheyenne" Hollingsworth from Bellingham, Washington to be a guest blogger on the HollingsworthRobbinsFamilyTree. Enjoy the recollections of her visits which means "all of our visits" to Granny and Granddaddy Gray's home in Cleveland, Texas from her perspective from 1943-1968 when our family lived in Texas and Oklahoma, and when Llew also lived in Louisiana. 

"Dear Linda, 
Here are Cleveland Granny and Granddaddy Gray memories from childhood and cousins. I plan to write another time about the swing, the dreaded night walk through the chicken yard to the outhouse, the outhouse, and a near trip to the woods which was nixed by Aunt Maxine much to our mother's delight.  Love, Llew "

There was a spare bedroom off the living room that was used for storage, and the closet was full of stacks of material, the major part of which had come from feed sacks.  The sacks were made with beautiful prints of flowers and designs of all kinds.  Granny would take our mothers and us there to choose cloth for skirts and quilts.  Those gathered skirts, worn with white blouses and white turned down socks, were some of my favorite clothes.  To this day, I still like small flower prints.  I loved being included with the grown women in the choosing process of looking through all the stacks of material. 

My Granny had a Singer sewing machine in her bedroom that had to be pedaled to run.  As an adult myself, I have had friends and known women who would now search wide and far for one of those old pedal powered Singers.  My Granny made quilts with hers, Dutch Boy and Dutch Girl patterns, but ones with intricate linkings of circles and squares. 

I used to have one of each, but wore out the Dutch Boy one, before I woke my brain up and realized that I had a treasure.  I have the Dutch Girl one still, worn, but whole, resting safely in a cover. I still have the earlier Dutch Girl one with material on it that I can remember choosing with my Granny Gray and my mother in that storage bedroom before I graduated from high school.

When my mother came to visit me once here in Washington, she brought with her a last quilt, made from suit material that my grandmother had had.  My mother had the quilt completed with a red backing, and so I own one of the last quilts that my grandmother worked on.   Both are treasures.

On the way to the storage vault for all that cloth, we would pass some shelves built into what was probably a closet space.  All my grandparents’ closets were covered with long curtain covers, probably also made from the sacks.  In this particular space of shelves were all the westerns imaginable, Zane Gray.  When I was young, I always wondered if my Granddaddy liked them because they were written by a relative of his.  No relation, but he had more of Zane Gray's westerns than I had ever seen.  Eventually, I even read some of them.

Taking baths in the galvanized tubs at my grandparents was a rare treat for me.  They were an adventure unlike any that we had at our home.  The water was heated on the stove and slowly added in with the cold water, with steam rising, gave a more personal touch to bathing.  We would each take turns in the tub, youngest to oldest in my memory, making me feel very Japanese for some reason, probably National Geographic articles on Japanese bathing in pools.  Those tubs always gave me the sense of swimming pools and community.  I know now that we had the tubs because there wasn't indoor plumbing for a bath in Cleveland, but when young, it was just the sense of community and warm towels and the kitchen stove and sharing and an indoor pool that made me enjoy the baths.

There was also the bathhouse out beyond the kitchen door and pump where the sense of adventure was expanded with watching for granddaddy longlegs that could suddenly fall into the water, although it was more a watchful fear than a frequently happening event.  And there was the worry of snakes, which actually never appeared, but which were a believed danger.  I can remember loving to look at the patterns on the wooden walls in the bathhouse, again with a galvanized tub, and wondering at the age of the wood and how it was cut and getting it combined in my mind with comments from the adults about my grandfather having worked in lumber mills.  I would pretend that they cut the trees, made the lumber, and built the bathhouse.  Back then, I probably believed they did.

My grandfather worked the garden west toward the highway, and my grandmother worked much of the garden that was out east from the kitchen and front bedroom.  There was a sense of who owned and worked which land, with the house in the middle.  I thought that they were superb farmers, growing the freshest and best tasting food available.  And they did.   To this day, there are no string beans that match the ones my Granny made, cooked or canned in mason jars.  And she did something to corn, cut from the cob and cooked in an iron skillet on the stove with milk and other things, unknown mysteries now, that produced the best corn I ever had.  My all time favorites, though, were her canned greens and canned tomatoes. 

Even as a young adult, she and Granddaddy would give me jars of canned goods when I would travel to Cleveland that would be praised and enjoyed by my friends in soups and side dishes.  Her fame went far. 

I loved to eat what came from their gardens, and to wake up early in the front bedroom and watch them working among the plants while I lay toasty warm in bed, peering through the raised windows and the screens to the garden beyond the flowers that edged it.

All the cousins would help shell beans in the living room which was by the kitchen.  Granny would turn it into a contest of sorts with Coca Cola as a prize.  My memory, though, is that we all got the prize, so we all must have been expert shellers.  I remember the sound of the beans hitting the enamel bowls and the patterns that they would make as they piled up.  I especially liked the ones that were a pale cream color with red swirls around them.  There were many different types of beans, each with a unique taste, many of which I have not been able to find as an adult, and all of which were delicious.  I can remember one conversation I had with Granddaddy about why we ate some beans as string beans while throwing other bean covers away; I wondered why they weren't all string beans.
One of my favorite things to watch was when Granddaddy would go under the house from the west side where the swing and my Grandparents' bedroom were to retrieve potatoes.  They were kept somewhere under there in deep mystery, and would come back out with him covered in a white dust that he would wash off at the pump.  I often asked to go under the house with him, and he would smile but decline the help.  To this day, the mystery of how the potatoes stayed good under the house remains.

                                                                                                                                           FISH FRIES
Late in the summer, if all of my cousins, aunts, and uncles were at my Grandparents at the same time, my Daddy, my Uncles, and my Granddaddy would go to town and get fish to fry in a large dark pot that was at the back of the garden. It was out beyond the garden that my Grandmother tended most of the time, and out beyond the chicken yard.  The pot always reminded me of the kind that my Granny and Aunt Maxine did laundry in, only it was smaller. 

Today, men have "man caves" to talk politics in and watch games, but then they met in that field and fried up the best fish I had tasted, crispy and tender, flakey and salty, perfect in every way.  They would bring it into the kitchen all ready for the rest of the meal that my aunts and my Granny had put on the table. 

Afterwards, there would be watermelon outside with us sitting in the wicker, rope chairs under the big shade trees.  I was pretty good at spitting seeds. Most of us grandkids were, when our mothers weren't looking.  That was a time for listening to the grownups talk about politics and church and the weather, and about catching up on the activities of the families gathered there.  I can still hear the sounds of their voices, my own Daddy's that was resonant and strong,  Uncle Ruel's that was kind sounding, Uncle Newell's that was full of mischief and joking, and my Granddaddy's that always sounded like the punctuation to what was said.  My aunts, my Mother, and Granny would be busy in the kitchen with memories and tales of our activities and laughter.  Those were nice times.
Across the highway, which was a two lane country one with scant traffic was a small general store typical of the South, even Southeast Texas.  I have taught English and read many novels by Faulkner, Welty, McCullers and others and seen this country store as an adult over and over. But I first saw it as a child in Cleveland, as a treat from my Grandparents, usually for a chore well done by all of us, the Grandkids who stayed with them during summers.  The store was wooden, with wooden steps leading up to a long porch across the front and a screen door that let in sounds and breezes, but not bugs.  The overall look was brownish because the paint was worn, but the floors and shelves were spotlessly clean, neat, and tidy. 

In this store were candy bars, Coca Cola, and other pop, like orange, cream soda, chocolate, cherry, and there were peanuts.  Peanuts were amazing when added to a cold, cold bottle of Coke, really amazing when there were a few ice crystals in the liquid.  Drink eating those peanuts while drinking the Coke was about the most grown up thing in the world. 

Walking to the store and back was also a grown up thing, because we had to cross the highway.  The “we” was generally my sister Linda and brother Kermit along with my cousins Terry, Cecil, Richard, Margaret Ann, and Mary Alice. Linda was in charge of the hike away from the safety of my grandparents' house because she was the oldest. I quickly grew to be the tallest, and then Cecil grew, too.  But we let her think that she knew best, because Granny had put her in charge. 

We always walked on the side of the road facing traffic, and stepped back and waited when cars actually came by.  Before reaching the highway, though, there was a dirt road that had grass growing in the center of two paths for tires and that was filled with soft and pale sandy dirt.  I loved to kick that dirt and make puff clouds and prints. Then I would check them out on the way back to see the patterns that either I had made or that all of us had made. 

I remember having nickels and dimes, usually just one; but what I can't remember is whether we each had money, or whether we all had a coin, one to share.  The memory is of each of us holding a coin, and each of us making choices at the store.  I thought that Mars Bars were the best candy in the world, when I wasn't busy be enamored with those peanuts.  And getting icy bottles out of the pop machine took skill.  It was one of those kind where the lid was raised, the money dropped in just "so so" as not to jam the works, and each bottle then had to be slid along paths to "maze" its way to the place where it had to be lifted with just the right skill to free it up from the machine.  I loved going to that store.

The Richard "Lusky" Gray and Alice Lucinda Willis Gray Family with all descendants
about 1960: Front Row Left to Right, David Lusky Snow, Penny Jones, Donald Gray
Snow, M. Henry "Hank" Jones, Deborah "Debbie" Hollingsworth Vierling; Second Row Left to
Right, Terry Jones, Mary Alice Gray; Row Three Left to Right, Kermit King Hollingsworth, Jr.,
Margaret Ann Gray Sutherland Anderson, Linda Sue Hollingsworth Littlejohn Robbins,
Row Four Left to Right, Alice Lucinda Willis Gray, Richard "Lusky" Gray, Llewellyn "Llew
Cheyenne" Hollingsworth, Mary Margaret Moulder Gray, Opal Murriel Gray Hollingsworth,
Row Five Left to Right, Ava Maxine Gray Jones, Richard Clay Gray, Ruel Edward Snow,
"Cecil" Newell Gray, Cecil "Newell" Gray, Kermit King Hollingsworth, Sr., Row 6, Albert
William "Bill" Jones.


Going out to pick blackberries with cousins is one of my clearest memories.  Many vines grew in tangles around the edges of the gardens and chicken yard area and in the area out beyond the chicken yard.  The cousins that I remember going out with the most were Terry, Cecil, and Richard, with my brother Kermit and then me.  I can remember that because Cecil and I were the tallest. We would hold the vines away for the younger pickers and they would often crawl under to the juiciest berries.  Here in the Northwest in Washington state, now, the juiciest berries are on the top, perhaps because there is scant sun and the top gets the most; In Cleveland, the juiciest and largest berries were often under the bushes, in the shadiest areas.  And they tasted the best and were the sweetest. 

Terry, the youngest at the time, always seemed to get the most and best berries, and I always felt that it was because she lived with our grandparents there in Cleveland and as a result had more practice with better and longer instruction about how to pick.  I can remember getting stuck in the thorns more than once and having to have my brother and cousins pull vines away from my clothes so that I could get out of the blackberries. 

All of us would each have a container to pick in, but I can't remember what they were.  I often wonder if they were small buckets or bowls.  I do know that when we brought the berries back that my Granny Gray would wash them and we would have bowls of them with milk and some sugar on them.  They were delicious.  There were berries saved for jam and pies later.  When I was in my twenties, I went through Cleveland with a friend of mine and we stopped at my Grandparent's home and again I picked blackberries, had some eaten there, and took some travelling on to Thibodaux, Louisiana, where I lived.
In-Law Spouses of Gray Family: Front Row:
Alice Lucinda Willis Gray, Richard "Lusky"
Gray, Mary Margaret Moulder Gray; Row 2:
Albert William "Bill" Jones, Ruel Edward
Snow, and Kermit King Hollingsworth, Sr. 
Gray Family Grandchildren: Front Row, David
Lusky Snow, Penny C. Snow, Deborah Hollingsworth,
Mary Alice Gray; Row 2, Terry Jones, "Hank" Jones,
Llewellyn Hollingsworth; Row 3, Margaret Ann Gray,
Richard Clay Gray, Alice Lucinda Willis Gray, Richard
"Lusky" Gray, "Cecil" Newell Gray, Kermit King
Hollingsworth, Jr., and Linda Sue Hollingsworth,
Grandson Peter "Pete" Lusky Gray was born in 1967.
Thank you, Llew (Llewellyn Hollingsworth "aka" Llew Cheyenne Hollingsworth), my next sister for writing this inspiring post about our grandparents Richard Lusky and Alice Lucinda and the many visits that our four sets of parents made to Cleveland, Texas with the four of us in our Hollingsworth family as well as the two sons in the Snow family, the two sons and two daughters in the Gray family, and the two daughters and two sons in the Jones family. We four families were the three daughters and one son plus the fourteen grandchildren of Richard Lusky and Alice Lucinda .


No comments:

Post a Comment

Please write constructive or positive comments about this blog web site.