M IS FOR…….

Mother as a young child with her parents

Mother as a young child with her parents

With Mother’s Day in my future, I think about past Mother’s Days. Back in The Day by this time (Friday) the corsages were ordered, the presents bought, gaily wrapped at the department store in sentimental paper, and neatly stashed somewhere out of sight.

My family’s Mother’s Day routine was always the same.  We picked up our flowers on Saturday. If our mother was alive, we wore red roses. If she had passed on, we wore white. My grandmothers were the only family members who no longer had mothers.

We dressed up to go to church, which was not at all unusual. Everyone dressed up to go to church in the lost days of my youth. We wore dressy outfits, hats, and white gloves. I had a drawer full of white cotton gloves, most of them wrist-length, and a few up to mid-forearm. On special occasions, such as Mother’s Day we wore a corsage pinned to the shoulders of our Sunday best.

After church, we went to our house, or in the early days to my material grandmother’s. We called her Dooley, for some unknown reason. She only had three grandchildren, all five years apart. My cousin Jeane was oldest, then me, then my sister. We lived in a matriarchal society. At the Sunday dinner tables, there were six or seven females, and never more than two men: my father and my grandfather.

Although the radio was one-sided, it didn’t matter much at the time. The women chitt-chatted among themselves. Pappy (our grandfather) didn’t pay attention anyway, but Daddy was often grossed out by the distaff subject matter.

Mother's High School Graduation Photo

Mother’s High School Graduation Photo

We also had gifts for our grandmothers and Mother’s sister, my Aunt Mildred, for whom I am named. My sister and I adored her till the end of her days. She was our favorite relative. Jeane was her only daughter.

I didn’t pay it any mind at the time, but thinking about it in later years, I was proud of the three women on Mother’s side of the family. All three of them worked, and distinguished themselves in their occupations. Dooley worked at the Duck Head Company, sewing overalls; Aunt Mildred was a hair stylist and later a successful beauty salon owner; Mother was a secretary.

Mother was often praised by her boss as the best secretary he ever had. She was working at the Lily White Laundry when she met my father, who was driving a laundry truck. Shortly before I was born, she quit work, and her boss begged her to come back, but she wanted to be a full-time mother.

She went back to work when I was three years old, leaving me with Mama, my paternal grandmother, who lived with us. Mother had an interesting secretarial position.  Actually, it was more interesting than she knew.

She worked at a large hardware company that dealt mostly in wholesale and institutional items. Unbeknownst to her, Mother’s boss was also the boss of the Nashville political machine. He was notorious. This was before Nashville had a metropolitan government.

There was a City Council and a mayor, all of whom did Mr. Fletcher’s (not his real name) bidding, no questions asked.

Years later after I was grown, she came home and told us that Sadie, who was a neighborhood friend, had an appointment to see Mr. Fletcher. Sadie had qualified to become a school crossing guard, and she wore her uniform to his office. I asked her why Sadie came to see Mr. Fletcher.

“I don’t know,” said Mother. “He sees every new city employee, but I didn’t know his interest extended to school crossing guards. He’s very civic-minded, you know. The mayor sees Mr. Fletcher quite often.”

Rumors about the city’s active, but carefully hidden untitled head of government were rampant. I became suspicious after Mother told me about Sadie’s interview. I decided to ask my sister, who had “connections.” I considered it the better part of wisdom to remain ignorant of the details, but curiosity got the best of me.

“I can’t believe you didn’t know,” said Pat (my sister). Paul Fletcher runs Nashville. The mayor is the titular head of government, but he doesn’t move without Fletcher’s permission.”

Wow! What a shocker! I couldn’t wait to tell Mother. The next day, I went to her house after I knew she would be home from work and told her the news.

“That’s the silliest thing I ever heard,” said Mother with a laugh. Don’t you think if that were true, I would know it? You and Pat should curb your suspicious natures. I don’t know where she heard such a thing.”

I did some more checking around, and found that it was indeed true. Paul Fletcher ran Nashville. We had a real political machine in a hardware store.

Soon after, Nashville and Davidson County were combined into a metropolitan entity. Fletcher retired, and Mother went to work with the Girl Scouts organization. I was glad she escaped with her impeccable reputation intact.

Mother passed away in 1991. She was 82 years old. Shortly before she died, I asked her again, “How could you not have known your boss was a political boss?”

“I told you the first time you said such a thing it wasn’t true, and you shouldn’t go around spreading such careless gossip. I don’t want to hear it another time. Do you hear me?”

“Yes ma’am,” I said, meekly.

I have obeyed her lo these 23 years. If there are angels in Heaven, I’m sure Mother is among them. I can only hope angels aren’t interested in earthlings’ careless gossip.

Mother, Dooley and Aunt Mildred at a Family Reunion 1949

Mother, Dooley and Aunt Mildred
at a Family Reunion 1949

 

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12 thoughts on “M IS FOR…….

  1. My great uncle, Joe Eaton, was an elected Nashville Council member. He definitely was not the “boss” you spoke of in your most interesting article, however he enjoyed the position of whatever authority available at the time. My second cousin, Dr. Joseph Grady Smoot, (related to Joe’s wife) told me his aunt, wife of Joseph Eaton, inherited a considerable amount of rental property from her father. They lived on the rental income while her husband, Joe, “played politics.” During that period of time wives had very little, if any, control of her assets. When the she passed away, her will left everything to their children (her father made the legal arrangements). Uncle Joe somehow had their children, one of which was my grandmother, Ella Eaton, sign over the assets to him, however those were the times of obedient respectful children.

      • Would like to know the political person you were inferring, as I might have heard of him through my grandfather. He kept up with the local and national news which is this is the reason I now am attentive to the political environment currently.

  2. Mildred, Bob passed away may 8;he died at home peacefully. I am sorry he did not get to enjoy your blog. Norma York

    Sent from Windows Mail

    • Norma, I’m so sorry to hear it. I was looking forward to seeing Bob at the reunion. I will take his name off the notify list, unless you would like to continue receiving it. I have many fond memories of Bobby (sorry – that was what we called him.) He was quiet, and I always had the feeling there was a lot going on in that head of his the rest of us knew nothing about.

    • I’m not surprised. Mother didn’t talk about it, because she didn’t believe it. Pat and I always got a kick out of it, but we didn’t let Mother know.
      The story lost its luster to us years ago, and we never mentioned it again, even to each other.

  3. Hello Milie, I hope you had a wonderful mothers day!! My mothers day was perfect since I flew in to Austin to spend it with my mother.  We went to San Antonio with my brother and his wife’s parents.  It was such a great time and I ate till my pants strained to contain the goodies. 

    The purpose of my email is to get some advice from you.  I’ve been thinking of strating a blog and have been looking at wordpress but don’t know who to pick to host the website.  There’s so many out there I wanted to get your opinion.  Any help would be lovely.

    Loved the pictures of you mother.  Its a treat to see what life was like in the hayday.  They always look so elegant and distinguished! 

    Talk to you soon,   Tina Garcia

    ________________________________

    • Tina, ma petite, I’m sorry I haven’t answered sooner. I’ve been so busy I haven’t even looked at my blog in way too long. I had absolutely nothing to do with the selection of my site host. John is the expert, and he put me with WordPress, because it is free, and he thought I should be smart enough to handle it myself as soon as he put it out there for me. Ha! Guess he found out I’m not as smart as he thought. Actually, I am, but I don’t see any reason for me to tax my limited cognitive capabilities if I can force him into doing it for me. All I do is write it, hand him the art I want in it. He takes it, scans the photos for me and puts it together. He asks me how wide do I want the pictures to be. I tell him, and he shows me the draft. I make changes or approve it. He then makes it go live. I’m sorry I can’t be any help. I will tell you he’s set up many a client with WordPress and then turned it over to him or her. They call him if they run into trouble, which they almost never do. I therefore think you are wise enough to handle it with no trouble.
      Love,
      Millie

  4. Hi Mildred,

    That is darling. The older pics are, the better.

    Since you are so good with words, on Saturday after dinner I wondered if you would say a few words. It could be about our days at school, the paths we have taken since or whatever you want. I have also asked David Dorris to say something. What do you think?

    Time is almost here and I look forward to seeing you.

    Love ya, Peggy

    Sent from my iPad

    • Peggy, my dear. Thanks for the compliment. I’m a whole lot better at writing words than I am at speaking them. I’ll give it a shot, but I have no idea what I will talk about. I’ll think about it, and maybe something will occur to me.

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