Thursday, June 28, 2012


David reached age 11 and was excited to take his place for a week at Summer Camp Glisson in Dahlonega, the family tradiiton his six siblings before him had enjoyed.

As his mother, I helped him pack for the trip. I had bought him new underwear and included the new package of underwear in his luggage. I also added a self addressed card to send to us from camp as a good exercise in writing.

Fortunately David was back home with his head still attached and still "filling good" before the card below arrived.

P.S. Also... his new underwear was still new in the unopened package.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Think About These Things by Jane Merchant

There is not space on any of my many book shelves to hold all the books I already have. Nevertheless, I stopped by one of our Floyd County Library's "Friends of the Library" book sales and bought two boxes of books. It helps that I spent less than twelve dollars. Total.

Because of space, I wavered back and forth before putting some of the books in my "to buy" box.

But I found , tucked down between two larger books, a little book of poems by Jane Merchant. I knew immediately I would have bought that book for many times the price.

"Think About these Things" (Published in 1956 by Abingdon Press) was not the best seller of Jane Merchant 's books, even though both Carl Sandburg and Jesse Stewart endorsed the little book of poems on the back cover. Her prize wining volumn and first book was " The Greatest Of These."

I sat down for just a brief few minutes this morning with "Think About These Things" and read several of her little poems. The poem "Experience" is not the best one but is as up-to -date as the morning newpaper:


What happened today?
The newsmen tell
The tidings so:
A government fell.

A statesmman was killed,
An airplane crashed,
A City cowered,
Hurricane lashed.

But here upon
This quiet street
An old. old lady.
Grave and sweet,

Handed a rose
To a crying child.
And sunlight sparkled
As they smiled.

I must beleive
The clamorous, raw
News; but the smile
Is what I saw.

Jane Merchant? I remember reading about Jane Merchant in a magazine with a picture of her many years ago. She was bedriden and being cared for by her widowed mother. The article said she was a semi -invalid, almost deaf and with poor eyesight. I do not know why but I can still see the picture, her bright eyes smiling while looking through thick glasses.

Jane was from Knoxville Tennessee. She was never able to attend formal school except the Sunday School of Inskip Methodist Church. Her many poems were published in many publication of her day including the New York Herald -Tribune.

In the 96 pages of Jane Merchant's Think about These Things poems, She wrote a prayer at the bottom of each page. On page 19 at the end of Experience she wrote;
"Lord, we would not close our eyes to wrong or be selfishishly at peace while others are beset by disaster. Let not our hearts grow callous we beseech thee, to news of suffering in any place. May we be ever responsive to need, seeking ways in which we can help. But , Lord, in a world where bad news travels faster than good, let us never forget that gentleness and kindness are also true. In Christ's name. AMEN.

Robert Frost was quoted this week: "Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words. -Robert Frost, poet (1874-1963)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

When Cotton Was King.

King Cotton was taken off it's throne in the South by the Boll Weevil before 1922. My cousin Aubrey Simms told me a family story in 1995 about remembering the very evening in 1922 when my father told his father that they were moving off the farm. The boll weevil had destroyed their cotton crop and basically another whole years income.

Aubrey recalled: "Uncle Wilson said to Papa, 'Jay, I've decided to go to Porterdale and get a job in one of the mills there.' " Jason was the son of Papa's sister Margaret (called Maggie) and her husband Ben Simms. They and my folks lived on neighboring farms in the Oak Hill (Georgia) community.

Aubrey said his father replied, "Uncle Wilson, I will never do that. I will go to sharecropping before I will raise my children in a mill town."

Aubrey said that Cousin Jay was very much opposed to them getting a job in the mill and especially living in a mill town. (It was a"step down" in the world of class and race. ) Apparently, Papa thought this his only option. Mama always said that "the boll weevil ran us off the farm."

The farm was in the community of Oak Hill. (Oak Hill is in Newton County near the Henry County line and also near Rockdale County

Cotton had been king in the South, and farmers made their living by raising cotton. When the tiny boll weevil infested the cotton plants, King Cotton forever lost its mighty throne in Southern farms. Many farmers lost their whole year's wages.

My father was in failing health when he got a job in one of the textile mills in Newton County (Porterdale) and moved his family into that “model mill town” in the fall of 1922. I was born the next year.

The first house our family lived in after moving to Porterdale was on Laurel Street which is a street behind the Osprey Mill Plant. However, it had the advantage of being near a lush woods and the Yellow River.

Osprey Mill was a large brick building and one of the three textile plants in Porterdale owned by Bibb Manufacturing Company. One of the buildings was called simply, “the Old Mill” and the other, “The Welonie." I am told my father worked in "the Old Mill."

The Bibb Company also owned the houses in Porterdale and kept them in good repair. They were generally considered “nicer” than the houses in some other “Textile Towns.” It was "parternalistic" but after Sherman's march through the South and the destruction of the Civil War, most of the people in the South (Caucasion and African American) had few educational or economic opportunities.

It was Laurel Street where I was born and where Leon (my three-year old brother)
died in a measles epidemic. Leon became sick with measles as did I. I was about 2 months old and had a mild case. Leon's ended in pneumonia and death.

I recently was emailed a copy of Leon Baird's' death certificate by a cousin who does family research. As I read it, I cried for my brother and my parents in their great sorrow over the death of their three year old son. I decided to publish his death certificate in memory of James Leon Baird ( October 4, 1919- April 28, 1923) whose life was short but always celebrated.

We must have lived on Laurel Street several years. My brother Charlie (about 7 at the time) told me he remembered the family's grief at Leon's death and Mama being put to bed (she had a 9 week old baby) and her heart- breaking sobbing.

I have one memory of being in the kitchen of that house on Laurel Street when I heard a crash coming from the front of the house. I remember going into a front room (I was about 2 or 3) and seeing my doll (a doll with a china face and stuffed body) broken on the floor. I looked out the open door to see a little girl, one of my playmates, running across the road to her house.

I do not remember the little girl's name. She may not have been a regular playmate. Apparently breaking the doll was traumatic for her. In my mind's eye, I see her running away wearing a light-colored dress and bloomers. Bloomers were much like some of the playsuits children wear today - a roomy undergarment with elastic not only in the waist, but also at the legs, which came down nearly to the knees with a somewhat shorter dress over it. I do not remember any reaction of the family over the broken doll on the floor on Laurel Street.

I also have a vague memory of walking in the woods behind Laurel Street holding my father's hand and picking wild flowers. Wild flowers were the only ones I would pick.

My mother told me that in our late afternoon walks down the street when I was a tiny child, I would always stop, bend over, and smell all the flowers near the sidewalk but I never picked one. We were taught not pick flowers from gardens not our own.

I suppose I learned then what I was to write about in a poem about flowers later, we do not have to own flowers to enjoy the sight and smell of them. "All that I see, belongs to me."

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Ann Southern and Me

Ann Southern and Me.

At one point after the death of my father, my mother took in boarders. The sofa in the living room (called the "front room" or "parlor") was brought into the wide hall that went down the middle of the house and beds were set up in the front room to make a bedroom for the boarders.
The women boarders slept in this bedroom (our former parlor) across the hall from where my mother, my sister Mary and I slept.

I remember also a young man that came by looking for room and board. Mama put him in the bedroom with my brothers. This was a needed service in those days and a way for a widow to make extra money. Mama cooked regular meals and the boarders ate at the table with us.

My mother provided room and board for two to four people for several years and thus increased the family income. There was no Social Security nor welfare, and borrowing would have been unthinkable. Mama was a talented and innovative woman who still had children to support.

One thing I remember about the boarders was being embarrassed almost to tears one day when they laughed at me.

When I was about twelve, someone had told me that I looked like Ann Southern, a current movie star. I had not seen her in the movies but had seen pictures of her in our daily newspaper.

WOW! I went home and stood in front of the large dresser mirror in the bedroom I shared with my mother and sister. For a time I combed my hair in several styles, smiling and turning back and forth at I primped in front of the mirrow trying to see if I really did look like this famous movie queen.

Suddenly I was brought back to reality by laughter coming from across the hall!

Laughter! I was one mortified little girl to realize that some boarders from across the hallway had been watching my antics in front of the mirror.

College Women from 1904 to 2010.

Wesleyan College, at Macon, Georgia was the first college chartered to award degrees to women. It was a Methodist school chartered in 1836 as the Georgia Female College.

The present name of Wesleyan College was adopted in 1919.

These pictures of our Cousin Blance Burch Harp's 1904 Wesleyan College graduation and pictures of other Wesleyan College's 1904 students.

Blance Burch Harp in her Graduation Dress at her graduation from Wesleyan College in 1904.

How does Blance Burch Harp graduation from Wesleyan College in Macon Georgia in 1904 compare with College women graduating this year?

My granddaughter, Lillian Matthews Shaw graduated from Mercer University, Macon Georgia on May 29, 2010.

I do not know the history of the change from women wearing evening dress for Graduation to the beginning of todays Cap and Gown attire?

Lillian's graduation took place in the same city, just a few miles across town and 108 years after the 1902 graduation of her cousin, Blance Burch Harpe.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Fresh off the Farm

Mama always said that the boll weevil ran them off the farm. The farm was in the community of Oak Hill. Oak Hill is in Newton County near the Henry County line and also near Rockdale County. Cotton was then king in the South! (Picture of one of our school buildings in Porterdale)

When the boll weevil infested the cotton plants, it wiped out cotton as the major crop and as the farmers' profits. Many farmers lost their whole years wages.

My father, Wilson Baird was in failing health when he got a job in one of the three mills in Porterdale and moved his family "fresh off the farm" into that model mill town in the fall of 1922.

I was born soon after the move to Porterdale, on February 19, 1923 and was only 6 weeks old when my family faced the sadness of the death of my three year old brother, James Leon Baird who died of measles complicated by pneumonia. Leon is buried in the Liberty Methodist Cemetery in Porterdale where Mama and Papa are also buried.

Liberty Cemetery, I am told, was near Porterdale's first Methodist church building (Liberty) had been. I vaguely remember seeing the small white frame building which was burned down in 1935 after being vacant for several years

I am told my father, Wilson Baird worked in the Old Porterdale Mill located on the Yellow River (picture above) as long as he was able. My father died in 1932, when I was nine. My mother also told me that my father walked with his hoe in hand, the long distance to Liberty Cemetary every week to make sure no weeds were growing on Leon's grave and it was kept up properly.

My mother continued to work in the Cord Weave Shop in Osprey Mill until after World war II. The Cord Weave Shop wove heavy cloth for items like army tents and tank tires and ran three eight-hour shifts all all during the war. Ieula Baird, my mother was proficient as a weaver and in handling the massive looms and especially in threading up the looms for new widths of cloth.

Long after she retired, mill officials (1) would send a car to her home to take my mother back to Osprey Mill to teach the skill to others while she threaded up the looms for a new batch of the heavy cloth.

In the early 1920's the thriving Textile industry moved South looking for cheaper labor. They found plenty of hungry workers needing jobs among the White and Colored people in the Civil War torn part of the United States.

After the hour and wage labor laws in the mid 1940's, the industry closed down most of their "looms and twisters" and moved farther South outside the United States.

Two of my brothers, John Thomas (Tom) Baird and Jackson Irvin (Jack) Baird served in World War II. Tom served in the Army in Europe. Jack served in the Air Force in the South Pacific.

They both spoke so highly and longed so fervently to get back to their hometown, many of their World War II buddies vowed they would someday visit Porterdale. My brothers came home from the war, but Carroll Adams, Neal "Red" Cole, Homer Cook and J.W. Rye, my friends and classmates, were among those who did not live to come back home from World War II.

With no jobs in their hometown, my brothers and others had to look elsewhere. My brother, Tom worked briefly as a policeman in Porterdale after WW II and later was a State Patrol trooper. Tom lived with his family in Cedartown as a Sergeant in the Georgia State Patrol until his death in 1998.

My youngest brother, Jack Baird worked as short-order cook in a restaurant in Savanah for a time, as a pipe -fitter and later as the supervisor of pipe fitters at large Mall construction sites in South Carolina until his death in 1989.

However, my brothers and schoolmates thought and so did I that Porterdale was a great place to grow up in the 1920s and 30’s. Our school teachers were the best.

I has started to school at five, skipped a half grade and was the youngest in my class from the Fifth grade on. (2) We had to pay tuition and find transportation to go to high school. The ninth was the last grade in Porterdale School in the late thirties. (The picture of Porterdale School had classrooms for First Grade through Grade Nine. There was also a Home Economics classroom with sewing machine and stove and a Music Room.) I tell in another post about my high school and other experiences

In Porterdale, I loved being a member of the Girl Reserves, (more details in another post) a civic club provided by Bibb Manufacturing Company for all the girls in town.

The Girl Reserves was similar to Girl Scouts in that we had regular meetings and wore uniforms. Our uniforms were white dresses with blue belts and blue scarves and blue dresses with white belts and scarves. The shirtwaist type dresses were made by our mothers or a dressmaker from cotton material woven in one of the mills and sold at a discount. I loved being in the Girl Reserves.

One of the advantages of belonging to the Girl Reserves was the opportunity to make a trip each summer. I remember at least two trips to Savannah by train. The first time I saw the ocean and the first time I stayed in a hotel was in Savannah on one of those outings when I was about ten or eleven years old. I especially remember the large formal dining room in the Desoto Hotel in Savannah.

It was at the Desoto where, for the first time, we were served fish that still had its head. None of us would eat the fish, and we little girls giggled and whispered into the night about the ridiculous idea of eating a fish while it looked at us.

Our neighbors, who were so much a part of my life, included Obie and Grace Moore, Albert and Blanche Fincher, the Hornings, Capes, Moodys, Johnsons, Parnells, Martins, and Loyds.

My mother used the term "We were neighbor to..." instead of saying "We lived next door to..." or "We lived near..." so and so. I have fond memories as a child of being in and out of the homes of the Finchers and the Parnells more often than the others. They visited with us daily. We did not lock our doors - even at night. Neighbors were in and out all the time - often to borrow a cup of sugar or flour or an egg or two to finish out a recipe for a cake. Often they stopped in to share vegetables or cookies or cake. Mama also always had an extra dollar or two to loan to a neighbor who ran out of cash before the next payday.

Our house seemed to be the gathering place where neighbors would sit on the porch swing that hung from the ceiling and seat 3 people and the big porch rocking chairs that mama had made cushions for comfortable seating.

Neighbors (mostly the men and children) sat the steps after the swing and all the chairs were filled. Sometimes the visits lasted late into the evening; the adults sitting on the front porch to rest after a long day of work. Always much talking tok place on our front porch while the children played "hide and seek" or "kick the can" out in the front yard or on the unpaved road in front of the house.

1. Bibb Manufacturing Company. Built the three large factory buildings, all the housing for employees, the schools, business, churches...the whole town. We had three large churches that were filled every Sunday for church and Sunday School and prayer meeting on Wednesday nights. We even had a community doctor, nurse and social worker. People rarely locked their doors, even at night.

2.My teachers in Porterdale School were: First Grade - Miss Jones; Second Grade - Miss Wright; Third Grade - Miss Webb; 4th Grade - Mrs. Tommie Hood; 5th Grade - Miss Bura Bohanan; 6th Grade - Mrs. Pearl Hacket; 7th Grade - Miss Willie Hayne Hunt; 8th Grade - Mr. John F. Allumns; 9th Grade - Mrs. Willie Hayne Hunt. Miss Ethel Belcher was principal of the school when I started to school. Miss Maud King was principal when I finished at Porterdale and started to Covington High.

3.My Hazel Street playmates included Dorothy, Hazel and Lamar Fincher, Mamie Miller, E. F. Parnell, Obie and Billie Moore. Hazel and Sybil Horning, Jeanette and Betty Martin. Other Hazel Street friends were Julia Sellers, Mildred Yancey and Frank Ingram. I kept in touch with Julia Sellers Smith until her death in 2000 but have not heard from most of the others in many years. I think of them often and would like to hear from them and their family and friends.

Yesterday and Today

Yesterday, it seems, I started life as the youngest of eleven. It was the roaring twenties and Mama was sometimes known to call her youngest, "Sarah Ruth" and sometimes, "Baby Ruth."

Today I am the oldest and the only one of my siblings still living. My three sisters and five brothers are all gone.

But I am often told, "Ruth you are so lucky to have all those children..."how many are they? Is it five or six?" Seven!

"How are all those grandchildren? How do you keep up with so many? Countless?"

Not countless? Counted!

Seven children, seven children-in law. Eighteen grandchildren. Nine grandchildren -in-law. Twenty great-grandchildren, counting the one who is the way, due to arrive in August (and she counts) as of June 11, 2012

Sixty. Each one counted! All counted! Counted!
(Pictures of the youngest four great grandchildren in our family below:
Emma Hearn, (4-24-2009) daughter of my grandson Joshua and Michaela Hearn and granddaughter of my daughter Beth. Evey Johnston,(3-12-2010) Daughter of my grandson, Joey and Meleah Johnston and granddaughter of Carol. Alex Rogers (4-6-2010) Son of my granddaughter Jessica and her husband Philip Rogers and grandson of my son David. Liam Elisha Hearn( 3-8-2012), Son of my grandson, Joshua and Michaela Hearn, grandson of Beth.