Wednesday, January 20, 2010

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

In the 1970's , my mother was a widow in her 80's, living alone in in a small town in Georgia. Her house was a duplex with the other part of the house rented to another widow.

The 1970's was a time when women were addressed as Mrs. or Miss. (Picture on right is Ieula Ann Dick Baird as a young woman)

Although her income was small, Mrs. Baird always had enough money to loan or share with any friend or neighbor. This had been true as far back as I remember. I learned much from my mother about many things and one was leanring how to "stretch a dollar." Mama also had enough money to pay her utility bills, and she had enough to buy any groceries, pay her doctor and pay for any medicine she needed.

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 , other Christian books and the daily newspaper.

The Atlanta Braves! Mama was their biggest fan. 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 her closest neighbor (the lady who shared the duplex) complained, “Mrs. Baird, I cannot sleep with your television on so loud, could your turn the sound down?”

Mama told her kindly, “Mrs. Mathis, I am sorry but I cannot hear it if the sound is turned lower. But I am going to watch the Braves the brief time they play.” 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 during many daytime noises by training herself to shut out the daytime sounds. Mama told her, "Mrs. Mathis, now when you hear the Braves playing on my TV, you just think to yourself, 'Mrs. Baird is enjoying listening to the Braves,' and then just put it out of your mind, turn over and go back to sleep."

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 or chores she needed done.

Wonderfully, I did need to not worry about her as much because she had wonderful neighbors in and out of her house often and a nice "Grocer man“ who come to the door to take her order as long as she lived.

It was Mr. Barkley who 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 unlocked and opened back door, 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 co-colas and a few eggs.” He seemed to already know the amount of each item.

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 doctor who had known her for a long time and was almost as old as she. Dr. Sams made house calls and was always ready to come to see her at her home whenever she needed medical care. This was a great situation as Mama did not drive.

I am told that my mother had been quite adapt at driving a “horse and buggy" early on but had no interest in learning to drive a car.

As Mama was getting to the end of her life, I visited her more often and had told her to please call day or night when she needed me. She called one day and said, "Ruth, you told me to call you when I needed you. I need you." I went down immediately and decided as soon as I arrived (about an hour away) I needed to call Dr. Sams and take her to the hospital in Covington.

Mama lived only two more days. As my oldest sister Louise and I stood at her bedside, Dr. Sams said with tears in his eyes, "Ruth, I am so sorry about your mother." Mama died on Dec 7, 1973. She would have been 89 the next March sixth.

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


How to Grocery Shop For FREE said...

Great story! For my grandmother it was "Wheel of Fortune" she listened to everyday. I still can't hear Pat Sajak's voice without thinking of her. said...

Thank you for the article, very worthwhile material.