Monday, February 15, 2010

Small Town Life for a Widow in the 1970's.

Small Town Life for a Widow in the 1970's:
My mother, Eula Dick Baird was born in 1885, She married Wilson Baird in 1903 and was widowed in 1932. In the 1970’s she was living alone in a duplex in a small Georga town and enjoying her life fully. Why not? (Picture of Ieula Ann Dick Baird at age 17)

It was a time when women were addressed as Mrs. or Miss. Mrs. Baird's nine children were married and had families of their own but they visited her often enough. She was always glad to see them and never complained with any delay.

Although her income was small, she had enough money to pay her utility bills, enough to buy any groceries and medicine she needed. Surprisingly, Mama also had enough money left over to share and/or to loan to any friend or neighbor.

She had electricity, a telephone and indoor plumbing; luxuries that were not available to her in her early years. She had a television, where she would always tune in to hear Billy Graham and other pastors when their preaching was televised. She kept up with the daily broadcasts of The Guiding Light soap opera and read religiously the Bible, the Christian Advocate and the daily newspaper.
Her interests included politics as well as church news.

The Atlanta Braves! Mama was their biggest fan. She had learned baseball rules and lingo. She surprised me one day by telling me about another team "shuting the Braves out?" I checked with my husband, this meant the Braves had not scored a single run in that game.

Although, Mama had a hearing loss, she turned the television up loud and listened until the game was over, even when the game continued after midnight. One time a close neighbor ( her duplex neighbor) complained, “Mrs. Baird, I cannot sleep with your television on so loud?” Mama told her kindly, “Mrs. Mathis, I am sorry but I cannot hear it if the sound is turned lower and I am going to watch the Braves the few days they are on television.” Mama then went on to explain to Mrs. Mathis how she herself had worked at night for a time and how she could sleep soundly in spite of any noise during the day by training herself to shut out the daytime sounds. She explained to Mrs. Mathis how she could shut out the sounds and go to sleep being thankful "that Mrs Baird was enjoying the Braves."

As the youngest daughter, I visited my mother probably more often than any of my siblings. But she would tell me not to neglect my own family or my own church to visit her that she was fine. But I would visit and while there, do any shopping she needed. But I did not worry about her too much because she had a “come to the door Grocery man” and a "come when called doctor" as long as she lived.

Mr. Barkley owned and operated a small Grocery Store between Porterdale and Covington. I was visiting one day when he stopped in to see what groceries Mama needed. He came into her open and unlocked back door as he knocked, sat down on a chair near Mama and said, “Mrs. Baird, what do you need today. Mama replied, “Mr. Barkley, I’m about out of apples.” Then she added, “I need a sack of flour and some orange juice and co-colas and a few eggs.” Apparently he already knew how many of each?

Later in the afternoon, Mr. Barkley was back with the groceries, lifted them out of his box, sat them on her kitchen table and gave Mama the bill. She counted out the cash and paid for her groceries.

Mama also had a long time doctor, almost as old as she. This was great as Mama did not drive. I am told that she had been quite adapt at handling a “horse and buggy but she no interest in buying a car nor learning to drive. Dr. Sams made house calls and was always ready to come whenever she needed medical care.

As Mama was getting to the end of her life, I had told her to please call day or night when she needed me. She call one day and said, "Ruth I need you." I went down immediately from Atlanta to her home near Covington (about 45 minutes) and took her to the hospital in Covington.

Mama did not live but two more days. As my sister Louise and I stood at her bedside, Dr. Sams said with tears in his eyes, "I am sorry about your mother." Mama died on Dec 7, 1973. She would have been 89 on March 6.

Dr. Sams, her doctor died only 4 months later. Mr. Barkley, her grocer, had a fatal heart attack a few weeks later and his grocery store was closed.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


When I was asked to write a poem for our 1976 Valentine Banquet program for pastors and spouses, I came up with a poem that is a favorite of my children and many friends. The poem is a fun piece about married love and is full of chiches and inside jokes for pastors by design. I hope it adds to the charm of the poem.


I was I and he was he . . . A ceremony made us "we.”
When in the sight of God and men . . .
We pledged our troth and kissed our kin
And set our sails . . . breathlessly
On the matrimony sea.

My handsome prince . . . He held my hand.
My every wish . . . was his command
Until one day . . . I said, "I think we . . .
Should see my friends . . . More frequently.

He said, so loud . . . It shook the house
That he was man . . . and not a mouse
And furthermore . . . he said we should
See his friends more . . . he said we would.

He said, we would . . . most certainly
I said, we won't . . . We both said "we"
Strange, when we do . . . Or don't agree
One thing is clear . . . We both say "we"

Now that's the secret . . . For love to grow
Through Summer's sun . . . and Winter's snow
Through diaper rash . . . And teething ills
From P.T.A. . . . to college bills

Through three-point circuits . . . And inner-city
And Pastor Parish Relations Committee
Through Conference moving time . . . again
When you’re not one . . . of the bishop's men.

Through covered dishes . . . Well, thick and thin
Love like this . . . will never end
For when we do . . . or don't agree . . .
We still find joy . . . in being '"we".

by Ruth Baird Shaw ><>

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


My daughter, Janice called my attention to an article about a woman who is 111 years old! Janice remaked, "mother I can envision and hope you will still be living at that age." Well, like Mrs Williams, "I love, am loved, trust in God and sing." But i do not want, nor expect to live to be a centenarian and certainly not a "supercentenarian," (a person who survived beyond her 110 th birthday.)

Lera Williams was born the year the century turned. On Wednesday, February 9, 2011, Lera celebrated her 111th birthday. She married at 18 and survived the Great Flu that very same year.

She had eight children, two who died before her, which is the single worst thing that could happen to you, she says.

Mrs. Williams still remembers her grandparents like it was yesterday. She remembers riding sidesaddle on a horse and paddling a skiff across the Cumberland River when someone put her in the boat and told her to paddle. She never had a desire to learn to drive a car.

Lera remembers her daddy reading the Bible every morning and every night.
When asked about life, she says "life is a wonder." When asked about time, she says it sure "flies fast."

According to the Gerontology Research Group, an international body that deals in longevity research, Williams is Kentucky's oldest and is probably the 64th oldest person living on the planet. She is someone they call a "supercentenarian," a person who has survived beyond her 110th birthday.

The frail, smiling woman doesn't seem too impressed herself, calling it a "normal life." She married C.M. Williams in 1918, but he wasn't the first man she had an eye on. She says there were others who "made me giggle." C.M. and Lera lived in his parents' house, because that was what everybody did back then.

All her children, seven girls and one boy, were born with the help of a midwife. She believes in God with her whole heart. Her children knew they were loved, just as she knew she was loved by her parents.

Her husband died in 1961. They had been married for 43 years. These days, Lera lives at home, a block away from Campbellsville University. Her daughters take turns caring for her, each living a month at the house. "She's been a wonderful mama," says Anna, 78, who makes sure Lera eats well and has her crochet near at hand. Lera says it helps that she is not afraid of much either. Except snakes.

When terrible things happened — and they did — you had to accept them. Anna reminds her of the time when Lera was a young mother, and a warm day in January brought a tornado ripping through their home, causing it to collapse. Baby Nellie Catherine was in a bed that was crushed; another small child was in a bed that was not.

Her youngest daughter, Betty, is 68. Her eldest, Eloise is 91. Asked if she still offers motherly advice to Eloise, Lera says, "I tell her what I think."

Lera's white hair frames her face of nearly flawless skin. She says she can't hear so well anymore. She hasn't left the house in 14 years when she broke her hip, and because the only medicine she needs now is a little something for her heart and a little something for blood pressure and her vitamins, it was the last time she saw a doctor.
"I never was one to go to the doctor," says the little woman in the big chair, surrounded by pictures of her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren and her great-great-grandchildren.

In a conversation lull or, says Anna, very early in the morning when she is not certain it is time to wake up yet, her mother will sing old Methodist hymns like "Oh, how I love Jesus," singing in a soft lilt.

Lera Williams does not fear death. "I look forward to seeing all these people who have gone before me," she says, quietly but sure. She was looking forward to the company that came on Wednesday to share her 111 birthday cake and punch. "Please come back tomorrow," she says, by way of goodbye.

If you want to know a secret to long life, Lera Williams says, this is all she can offer: Love. Be loved. Trust in God. And sing!