“You Make Me Feel Like A NATURAL WOMAN” – 1880’s Cabinet Cards

LOVING THESE LADIES’  NATURAL HAIR-DO’S

(I think Aretha was talking about these two “natural women”.)

Vintage Images of Unidentified Ladies from the The Hattie Maybell Collection

(IF ANY READER HAS THE EXPERTISE TO “DATE” THESE PHOTOS MORE ACCURATELY, PLEASE INFORM ME.  A collector of  vintage African American images  suggested that they were taken around 1880. )

Take note of the difference in the two dresses, but the similarity in the facial expressions. In addition to their identity, I wonder about their age, occupation and location. I wanted to bring them out of the boxes, trunks and chifferobes where they had languished for decades.  I may not know who they are, but one day, they were somebody to somebody.  Live on ladies!

Unidentified Cabinet Card #1 (abt.1889)

Unidentified Lady – Cabinet Card #1 from The Maybell Collection  (abt.1880)

1880's unidentified ladies0001

Unidentified Lady – Cabinet Card  #2 from The Maybell Collection (abt. 1880)

In order to maintain my self imposed commitment to posting consistently, I’ve decided to share selected vintage photographs as I continue to research and and subsequently write detailed posts.  The promised post revealing the unraveling of Grandfather Giles’ health, marriage and fortune is yet under construction.

Prepare yourself for this!  It’s a confession. Recently, I’ve actually  struggled mightily with the whole concept of truth. I’ve found it difficult to tell the truth… rather,  the whole truth!  When I began this blog, I naively assumed and believed that total candor would be easy and total transparency wouldn’t challenge me. It has and it does.  It has given me great pride to peer into the prosperous lives of The Williams Family, specifically Grandfather Giles.  He was a self made success story and it is painful to disclose that his success would not last. Although, I  am tempted to exclusively use only the “bright colors on the palette”, I am committed to telling the full story. While documenting this history, I will make a concerted effort to avoid lying,  either by commission or OMISSION!

Thank you for reading.

Saundra

Beautiful Ladies in “Sunday-Go-To-Meeting Clothes”

Beautiful ladies, both unidentified

  The photo one on the right I found at an antique store in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  When scouring antique and resale shops,  I habitually  thumb through vintage photos searching for people of color.  Once found and purchased, they must join my collection.  The photo on the right was found in the Maybell Collection.  In a parched and yellowed envelope were ten copies of this photo.  I dare not speculate on the discovery of multiple duplicates of this identical photo.

Sunday Clothes-Beautiful Ladies

Sunday Clothes-Beautiful Ladies

 

Taking a break momentarily from posting the  serious content.  Presently, I’m working on the post about Grandfather Giles’ eventual demise.  Also I’m a bit taken aback that the subject is exacting a minor emotional toll.  It’s requiring a bit of soul searching to get “comfortable” in candidly “outing” my grandfather.  The details will be shared and  task executed with total transparency, but of course, with all due respect.

© Saundra Blackman and soldfor35cents.com2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Saundra Blackman and soldfor35cents.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“Going To the Courthouse…Going to Get Ma-ar-ried” – Giles and Leliar’s 1905 Marriage License

Giles and Leliar Williams

 Photograph, Marriage License, WWI Draft Card and City Directory Images

Giles and Leliar were married in December 1905 in Perry County, Mississippi.  In 1906, a portion of the county would later be renamed Forrest County after Perry was divided. When the couple married, Grandmother Leliar already was the mother of a 16 month old son, Talmadge Eugene McElroy from her previous marriage in Alabama to Thomas E. McElroy. (Noted in previous post.  Record attached below.)  She has to own  the most misspelled name on record.

Name: Thomas Mc Elroy
Spouse’s Name: Leila Sherard
Event Date: 09 Jan 1902
Event Place: , Sumter, Alabama
Indexing Project (Batch) Number: M59344-6   System Origin:  Alabama-EASy   GS Film number: 1293889

Our father, Clarence Williams would be born later ten months later in Hattiesburg (Forrest County) Mississippi. As far as I know, this was Giles’ first marriage, although he had a daughter born  in Mendenhall Simpson County, Mississippi.  My aunt’s name was Georgia Rankins, later Funchess  (1900-1941).  Her mother was Elizabeth Rankins Thames. (Aunt Georgia’s letters in the Maybell Collection will be introduced. They are detailed, newsy and very amusing.)

Photo of Giles and Leliar Sheard Williams dated 1921

Giles (age 40 )and Leliar Sheard Williams (age abt. 41) Photo Dated, 1921

Giles (age 40 )and Leliar Sheard Williams (age abt. 41) Photo Dated 1921

 

The image above depicts my paternal grandparents in a formal photo, both are about forty years of age.  They present as secure and stable individuals with all of their material needs met.   I believe Grandmother Leliar is about a year older than Grandfather Giles but in this photograph he appears to be her elder. He does not appear dominant over her in the. Unlike in many formal studio shots of that era, the subjects seem stiff and uncomfortable.  Giles is confidently seated, wearing a suit and tie. By now, he should be missing a limb due to his work related railroad accident.  His hands don’t reflect the wear and tear of manual labor and fortunately by now he is a newly minted Hattiesburg entrepreneur. (Additional information about his business follows in this post.)

 Leliar is “baby-faced” , confident in and comfortable with herself in this photo.  Our father, Clarence  said “Leliar” (as he referred to his mother, believe it or not) was a “stout” woman, who at 260 pounds was without question, the smallest of all her sisters.  It’s difficult to imagine that she was  “the runt of the litter”.   The “natural” hairdo” Leliar is wearing is neat and attractive and fits her to a “T”.  Her attire  is elegant but not overly dressy.  Notice the sheer sleeves of her blouse.  Indicative of the family’s affluence, she is wearing earrings, a necklace adorned with a cross and a ring on each hand, a wedding band and a “pinky” ring.     I am taken with her serene countenance and seemingly calm demeanor.  Take notice of her ample bosom and statuesque build.

Our mother would stated more than once,“Clarence’s  mother’s bosom looked like she had two-weeks’ wash stuffed down in there”.   Still, Grandmother was neat in the waist and looking just lovely in this picture.  AND, just so you know…our mother’s wish was granted!

 

  Marriage License of Giles and Leliar Williams dated 1905

 

Marriage License – Giles and Leliar Sheard Williams – Dec 1905

 

The family was living at 325 East 7th Street in Hattiesburg in September of 1918. Grandfather Giles was recorded as “tall, stout, with brown eyes and black hair”.  Our grandmother, Leliar  is listed as “Lellia” Williams. Note that he does not appear to have a middle name or initial.  Interestingly enough, since Giles is still listed as a G&SI RR employee in the draft document below, as well as in the subsequent 1918 Hattiesburg City Directory, the railroad accident had not yet occurred.

 Giles Williams World War One Registration Draft Card

(with signature)

Giles Williams-Draft Card (Side #1) Age 38 - Gulf & Ship Island Railroad Brakeman

Giles Williams-Draft Card (Side #1)
Age 38 – Gulf & Ship Island Railroad Brakeman

 

WWL Draft Card- September 12,1918 (side #2) . Giles Williams' Signature

WWI Draft Card- September 12,1918 (side #2) . Giles Williams’ Signature

    1918 City

Directory Entry- Hattiesburg, Mississippi

The family is now residing at 816 Atlanta Street.  Giles remains employed as a laborer with the railroad company. Leliar’s name is misspelled, as usual. She is listed as “Lela”. Since the railroad line ran between Mendenhall and Hattiesburg, it’s clear that  Giles’ moved was precipitated by that fact.

1918 City Directory-Hattiesburg, MS Giles and Lela (sp) Williams 700 Memphis Street

1918 City Directory-Hattiesburg, MS-Giles and Lela (sp) Williams
700 Memphis Street

 

 1920 U.S. Census (Hattiesburg, Mississippi)

1920 U.S. Census (MS) Giles and Leliar were both 35 years of age.

1920 U.S. Census (MS)
Giles and Leliar were both recorded as 39 years of age.

In 1920, the Williams family is listed in this census as parents of four children. ( Giles, Jr. was born October 10, 1910 and was now nine years old.) They are now homeowners and living at 700 Memphis Street. He is no longer employed with the railroad which suggests  that his leg was lost between 1918 and 1920.  More good news is that he is now an entrepreneur, operating his own store.  Daddy said that his father also owned the property where the store was located . (I have not yet researched this property.) The census record lists him as a merchant which my father vividly remembered and commented on frequently in conversation with me.  He also operated a livery stable along with his “dry goods” business.   Leliar is not working outside the home. I don’t believe that my grandmother ever worked for anyone except her family while living in Hattiesburg. (The story of Leliar’s family relocation to Mississippi from Alabama was highlighted in a previous post.)

Grandfather Giles would also move the family to Chicago in the the 20’s where he worked in the infamous stockyards.  The family (and sometimes just Giles) would move back and forth (between Chicago and Hattiesburg) several times in this decade according to my father.  I believe this was initially an attempt to work to retain his business interests in Hattiesburg. (A letter he wrote to Cudn’ Hattie from Chicago in 1926 is included in an earlier post.  He made no mention of his family residing with him.)

Enumerated at the bottom of the image is Leliar’s brother, James Sheard (misspelled Shears) and his wife, Pearlie.

1929 City Directory Entry- Hattiesburg,Mississippi

1929 City Directory-Hattiesburg, MS. Clarence and Leliar Williams

1929 City Directory-Hattiesburg, MS. Clarence and Leliar Williams

In the 1929 Hattiesburg City Directory image posted above note that the “(c)”  stands for “colored”.   They still own the store at 402 1/2 E. 7th Street. Giles and Leliar are no longer living in their home on Memphis Street. In fact,the family is living at 710 Royal Street which is on the opposite side of town from the business and their former house they owned.  Infact, Royal Street in the 20’s was considered semi-rural.  By then our father would be 23 years old.His older brother, Talmadge Eugene (better known as Cootley)  was 25, married and long gone , Daddy was likely on his own as well and his sister Mattie was dead.  Giles Jr. (aka “Baby”) the youngest in the group would have been 19 and perhaps still at home.  Giles may have been in Chicago, Hattiesburg, or even Mendenhall.  His whereabouts at that time are unclear. at this point.

Daddy often spoke of how the family lived in great abundance.  His was a family of successful entrepreneurs and they always “had plenty of everything”! Comparatively speaking, they were considered somewhat affluent. Unfortunately, it is a fact that Grandfather’s most prosperous and productive decade would be the 1920’s. His business was destroyed in part by the Great Depression according to our father, Clarence Williams. Grandfather Giles’ business, wealth, health and his WIFE  would all be gone by 1930!  I shudder when I think of how defeated he must have felt after realizing so many of his dreams, then seeing them all evaporate.   Remember, he was the only one of his father’s (Randall Williams) offspring to leave the farm in Simpson County, Mississippi and strikeout on his own.

The story of Grandfather Giles’ “ruination” is truly heart-wrenching…but it must be told.

Listed above them on the census page are Leliar’s paternal uncle James Sheard (misspelled Shears) and his wife Pearlie.  James is Leliar’s brother.

© Saundra Blackman and soldfor35cents.com2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Saundra Blackman and soldfor35cents.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“Soul Train! Soul Train?” Giles Williams (b. 1881) – Formal Photo and 1910 U. S. Census

Grandfather Giles’ Photo – Standing To Reveal His Missing Leg

Many “Soul Brothers” were brakemen and befell horrific  accidents while employed in the railroad industry.  These accidents regularly involved the loss of  life or limb.

 Grandfather Giles is 28 years old., though incorrectly listed as 38. He is employed with the railroad company as a Laborer. His company was the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad, that ran from Mendenhall to Gulfport, Mississippi. Unfortunately, Grandfather would lose his leg while working as a brakeman with GS&I.  This occupational hazard was widespread in the rail industry as many men would suffer the same fate.

African American Registry

Article on Andrew J. Beard

“In the early days of American railroading, coupling was done manually. Car coupling, an extremely dangerous requiring a railroad worker to brace himself between cars and drop a metal pin into place at the exact moment the cars came together.

Few railroad men kept all their fingers, many lost arms and hands. And, many were caught between cars and crushed to death during the hazardous split-second operation. Beard himself lost a leg as a result of a car coupling accident. His idea secured two cars by merely bumping them together. Beard invented the Automatic Railroad Car Coupler, commonly referred to as the “Jenny” coupler. The patent for his invention was issued on November 23, 1897 .”

Grandfather Randall strikes a dashing figure despite the loss of his leg.  He is wearing a well fitted dress suit and vest, watch chain and a ring.  I am mesmerized by his hands for some reason.  His fingers are long and elegant in appearance, but yet his hands reflect strength.  I have no idea why I love his hands, I just DO!

Undated photo of Grandfather Giles Williams standing with crutch.  His leg was amputated at work at the Gulf and Ship Island RR. (Est. to be in his 30's in photo , abt. 1915)

Undated photo of Grandfather Giles Williams standing with crutch. His leg was amputated at work at the Gulf and Ship Island RR. sometime after 1918. (Est. to be in his 30’s in photo)

In the late 1990’s I visited  Mrs. Gladys Randall (b. 1908), a longtime friend of my parents.  Though she’d migrated to Chicago as a very young lady, she maintained a vivid memory of  and an avid interest in ALL THINGS HATTIESBURG!  She shared with me that she remembered the day Glies lost his leg.  According the Mrs. Randall, my Grandmother Leliar sent for young Gladys to come to her house quickly.

She stated, “Your grandmother wanted me to come sit with Mattie, your daddy’s little sister, while she off rushed to the hospital to see about her husband.  She’d gotten word that Mr. Giles’ leg had been cut off by the train.  You know he worked for GS&I Rail Road.” She said she was about 12 years old and Mattie was about 8 years old.  If Mrs. Randall’s account was accurate, the “accident” would have occurred between 1918 and 1920.  ( Per the information reflected on his WWI Draft Card, he hadn’t had his railroad injury by 1917.  Image will be featured  in the next post.)

 

1910 U. S. Census

1910 U.S. Census - Williams family in Hattiesburg, Forrest County MS - Giles, Leliar, "Eugene", Clarence, and Mattie

1910 U.S. Census – Williams family in Hattiesburg, Forrest County MS – Giles, Leliar, “Eugene”, Clarence, and Mattie

 

The family is living in a rented house at 700 Memphis Street. Both are literate , of course. Giles is 28 years old, though incorrectly listed as 38.  Leliar (misspelled Lela) is about or 28 or 29 years old, not 30.    Grandmother Leliar  was not working outside home and she was expecting her last child, Giles Jr. who would be born later that year.  The children are: Eugene (Talmadge E.), age 5; Clarence (our father), age 3;  Mattie, age 1,  was named after my father’s aunt and was my  father’s only sister on his maternal side.  Aunt Mattie would marry and  later die at age 19 after the birth of her child.  According to family oral history, she washed her hair several days after giving birth and died.  This related occurrence  is a superstition once observed in many Southern Black families. It was strictly forbidden for a woman to wash her hair until six weeks after the delivery.  Many were convinced  that in doing so, one would surely be flirting with death.  My parents were not superstitious, however this tale was recounted frequently during my upbringing.)

At the bottom of the census page, lines 96-100 at 713 Seventh Street, other family members are enumerated.  Leliar’s paternal aunt, Hattie (Sheard) Davis, 19 years old,(who would eventually weigh over 750 pounds); brother-in-law, Foster Carter, age 28; aunt, Mattie, age “30”, nephew Eddie Ben, age “5” and niece, Ella “9/12″.  Ella was the namesake of Lelia’s mother, Ella Wilson Sheard.

 

© Saundra Blackman and soldfor35cents.com2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Saundra Blackman and soldfor35cents.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

“Big Wheel Keep On Turning!” Giles Williams (b. 1881) “At School” at the turn of the century in his U.S. Census Debut!

 1900 Mississippi Census – Giles is 18 years of age

Paternal Grandfather, Giles Williams is listed in the U.S. Census Records for the first time in 1900 due to two circumstances.

  • Number one, he was born one year after the 1880 U.S. Census
  • Number two, the 1890 census, the first census in which he was eligible for enumeration was destroyed in a fire and thus, is unavailable.
1900 U,S. Census.  Giles Williams  (b. 1881) at 18  years old.  Mary Williams (b. 1828)  at 72 years old.

1900 U,S. Census. Giles Williams
(b. 1881) at 18 years old. Mary Williams (b. 1828) at 72 years old.

At the age of 18, Giles is still attending school! I was overcome with joy upon this discovery.  Here is my grandfather, one generation removed from slavery, living on a farm in the deep south and his parents are “allowing” him to be behind a desk rather than behind a MULE!  I had previously marveled over the widespread post emancipation examples of literacy evident within the Williams family. Seeing documentation of his enrollment in school at an age and in an era when most  black men were already regarded as “grown” leaves me in deep awe. Many people living in the rural south often had to choose between bringing in the crop and educating the children, boys especially.

According to census records Giles’ father, Randall was literate. Unfortunately, Giles’ mother (who was Randall’s wife Lucy) was not literate, although she was the the progeny of a prominent white slave owner. There are several letters in the Hattie Maybell Collection “from” Great Grandmother Lucy actually penned by her daughter, Harriet.  It is clear that the Williams family valued education.  

Details:

Giles is accurately listed as 18 years of age and living with his parents and siblings, all of whom are in school except for one adult sister. His sister, Ada the mother of Cudn’ Hattie was married and living in Smith County. 

  • Randall Williams  (b. April 1858) His given name is misspelled in the record. He was a landowner and worked as a farmer
  • Lucy Williams (b. August  1861) – She was not employed outside the home

Also living in the home are siblings:

  • Armilda  (b. Nov. 1867)  – She is listed as a “servant” at age 22.
  • Clarence  (b. April 1886) – The record  incorrectly lists him as 16 , rather than correctly, as 14 years old.
  • Harriet  (b. February 1887 ) – Her name is misspelled.)
  • Sophronia (b. December  1889) – A shortened version of her name, “Fronie” was listed.

Interesting Fact:

Giles’ paternal grandmother, Mary Williams is 72 years of age which indicates that she had lived enslaved for about  36 years.  She was middle aged when slaves were freed! 

On Line # 41, Mary Williams is listed.  Her month and year of birth are listed as January 1828. (The year of her is corroborated on her headstone and in the 1870 census record as well.)  Her grave remains intact and marked at New Zion Cemetery in Simpson County, Mississippi. (A future post will feature paternal Great-Great Grandmother Mary Williams.)

 Next Post:  Giles Williams  in the 1910 and 1920 Census Images

 

© Saundra Blackman and soldfor35cents.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Saundra Blackman and soldfor35cents.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“My Dear Neece” – Introducing Grandfather Giles Williams’ via his Letter to “Mabel” (1926)

GILES WILLIAMS

(1881-abt. 1940)

 Paternal Grandfather

Giles Williams formal photo

Mr. Giles Williams – Formal photo at the age of 21 in 1902 – Photo given to Saundra Williams Blackman by Hattie Maybell Wallace

This is the letter that alerted me that I had definitely “struck gold”…genealogically speaking.  While sifting through the contents of Cudn’ Hattie’s steamer trunk (several years after she died) there it lay scattered among numerous pieces of mail…the total lot apparently vintage…somewhat yellowed, but thankfully intact and wonderfully legible.   I HAD NEVER met my grandfather nor had I ever seen his handwriting.  Grandfather Giles died more than a decade prior to my birth he remained somewhat of a mystery to me.  I WAS OVERJOYED TO HAVE DISCOVERED THE LETTER.  I experienced a genuine, “OH, MY GOD MOMENT!”

Understand that,  I was not the least bit disappointed that Cudn’ Hattie’s “treasure trunk” held only ONE LETTER from my grandfather.  I was too grateful to have the one in my possession.  Prior to her death (obviously), she had personally passed along to me Grandfather Giles’ photograph featured in this post. Again, “THANK YOU CUDN’ HATTIE”!  

While she was living in Chicago (as was I)  she also entrusted to  me a piece of his jewelry.  One day, she nonchalantly  said to me, “This was my Uncle Giles’ gold stickpen” that he bought when he was a young man.” Sautered onto the needle-like stickpin is  a horseshoe shaped insignia. Then embedded into the crescent are  many very tiny pearls of graduated sizes.  Although I’m sure that she poured out every detail, I regret that I am unable to recall how she said she came into possession of this heirloom. It is a lovely piece!

When he wrote this letter on August 1, 1926 paternal Grandfather Giles Williams (b. 1881) was 44 years of age. He sent it  from Chicago, Illinois to his niece Mabel (b. 1898). Mabel was days from celebrating her 28th birthday and was then residing in Laurel, Mississippi.  As indicated in previous posts, she “went by” several variations of her name, Hattie Maybell.  She is currently being addressed as Mabel by her maternal Uncle Giles.  Hattie Maybell’s mother was Ada Williams Epting Craft (b. Sept. 18, 1879 – d. December 29, 1908).  Ada was the  older sister of Giles Williams.   Therefore, he was corresponding with his deceased sister’s only child.

Envelope 1926 Giles Williams (Chicago) to Mabel Hayes (Laurel, MS)

Envelope 1926 Giles Williams (Chicago) to Mabel Hayes (Laurel, MS)

 

Chicago Ill

8-1-1926

 Miss Mable Hayes

My dear neece I will lay a side all to compliment you with a few lines to let you hear from me this leaves me all ok at this time and I hope that this will find you the same and I all so reseav your kind and most well com letter and who is dead glad to hear from you and would bee glad to have you to come to visit me at any and all times and I will look to see you at any time is short and my telfone no is doglas 1829 and let me know where you are staying at and I will call you up and come a rond to see you but it is cold up hear for the time of year so at this time I will close for this time write soon to your uncle as ever Giles Williams 3740 Langley Ave

Letter to Mabel from my Grandfather, Giles Williams - August 1, 1936

Letter to Mabel from my Grandfather,
Giles Williams – August 1, 1926

 

GILES WMS LETTER 1929ScanStation-19-21-46-PM0002

1926 Letter to Mable from Giles Williams

 

© Saundra Blackman and soldfor35cents.com2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Saundra Blackman and soldfor35cents.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

“Who Was I To Tell Remus He was EATING Cat Food?” – Daddy’s devilish sense of humor

Clarence Giles Williams  –  Our father was a talented storyteller… unmatched, hands down!

 

Giles LELIAR mama daddy crutch0003

Our Parents – Clarence and Lucy Mae Williams in the late 1980’s. Married 56 years and  partners in everything, including crime!

Clarence Giles Williams’ talent for storytelling!

Listening to Daddy’s hilarious stories was almost as entertaining as watching our ONE CHANNEL TELEVISION!

As a child, our family had one television and you know it was not “in living color”, rather it was in “living black and white”!  We were thrilled to have our television.  It had two stations actually, OFF and ON!  Seriously, we really did have ONE CHANNEL and we enjoyed it immensely.  As youngsters, we had nothing with which to compare it,  therefore contentment was our steady companion.

We lived in what was considered a large town and we were fortunate to have other forms of entertainment, one of them being out father’s storytelling sessions.  I have no memory of living at our home at 114 May Avenue, Hattiesburg, Mississippi without Daddy’s stories and jokes.  Although Daddy’s face almost always wore “the shadow of a smile”… still in appearance, Daddy exuded an aura of seriousness.  Despite his serious countenance, I suppose he ordinarily  presented as quietly and secretly amused about  a sliver of information that he alone was privy to.

My sister, Leliar Ann (aka, Lee Ann) would frequently plead with him, “Daddy, come on and tell us the joke about the (colored) angels, or some other classic that Daddy had told “leventy-dozen”  times.  Rest assured, most jokes involved black people versus white people in some manner. They were never mean spirited, just plain ol’ funny!

Our mother, Lucy Mae  would say, “Aw-w-w,  pu-l-ee-ease Clarence, nobody wants to hear those old “worn out” jokes. I’ve been hearing those same old jokes ever since I first met you. “They’re not even funny”, she’d say…all the while gradually revealing her beautiful smile, ” two teeth at a time”.  She’d chide, even sternly warn him, “Clance (not Clarence, when she wanted his attention) , don’t you tell these children those old jokes AGAIN!  And, like I said… they’re not even funny!”

Of course, Mama’s chastisement did not deter Daddy in the least, as he would methodically begin his “pre-performance” warm up.  My sister would always chime in , “Tell it again Daddy!”  Then Daddy would get cranked up, all the while chortling over his very own soon-to-be-retold  joke.  He would segue into his craft and  stretch a 2 minute story into a 20 or 30 minute saga.  He would knead it, massage it, coax it and “bring in the punchline” when he  got good and ready. Daddy could stretch out a story like it was “hot taffy”.

(Although I was the youngest in the group, I can clearly recall my sister’s banter with Daddy.  It actually would last into our adulthood.)

Enjoy one of my favorite ‘true” stories. I believed it to be true then and I still do believe!

“Well,  I was in Palmer’s Crossing (a small mostly black settlement in the “county”, defined as not within the city limits) one day and stopped by Hudson’s.  While I was in the store,  I spotted one of my old friends, a fellow named Remus.  I hadn’t seen him in a long while and was happy to run in to the old gentleman.  He was quite a bit older than I was, so he didn’t get around too much anymore. He said, Hey there Clarence, I was just in here getting myself a few groceries, kinda stocking up. Okay, I’d already seen him with several cases of can goods stacked up in his buggy.  I said, “Yeah, I see you’ve already have a stack of cans in there.”  Remus said, “Yeah Clarence I had to come back down here and get some more of this TUNA FISH.  It sho’ is good.  I fixed it up with eggs,  onions, pickles and mayonnaise, I’ve been eating it all week!  You should buy you few cases too, it’s jus’ ten cents a can.

Just to make sure,  I leaned over and took a closer look, Remus had three cases of CAT FOOD in that buggy! I said, Remus, is this what you’ve been eating?”  He was so proud and was just grinning, “Yessir, this is the SAME kind I bought last week jus’ to try it out out.  I couldn’t believe it was just a dime.  I hurried up and came back down here before it was sold out and  all gone.”

Even though we knew the answer, we couldn’t restrain ourselves from asking for the hundredth time. All of us asked, “Daddy, what did you do, did you tell him what it really was? Daddy said,”No, I just couldn’t tell him it was NOT TUNA and rain on his parade.  Who was I to tell him he was eating CAT FOOD?”

As could be counted on, Mama shot him a sharp glance of convincing, but fake disgust!  “Clarence, you ought to be ashamed of yourself, letting that poor old fellow eat cat food!”  Daddy would say, “BUT HE LIKED IT!”

We would all “roll”, except for Mama who tried her best to keep a straight face. Her lower lip would quiver and her face would transform into a perfect blend of  a smirk and a snicker…a “smicker”! In retrospect,  Mama was most definitely complicit in Daddy’s story telling shenanigans!  As children, we could not have possibly realized that Mama was an accomplice (not unwitting, but perhaps slightly unwilling).

He was never a clown, but was sure enough funny! With Daddy as the featured attraction,  The Williams Crew had plenty of laughs… GOOD CLEAN FUN!

Future posts will introduce Paternal Grandfather, Giles Williams.

© Saundra Blackman and soldfor35cents.com2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Saundra Blackman and soldfor35cents.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“We Don’t Allow Our Niggers to Wear Neckties”- Jim Crow In the Flesh : Daddy’s Close Encounter with Laurel, (Jones County) Mississippi Police

“We Don’t Allow Our Niggers to Wear Neckties”- Jim Crow In the Flesh : Daddy’s Close Encounter with Laurel, (Jones County) Mississippi Police

“Ya’ll Niggers Must Be From Forrest County”

 

“There is no way that white people can really believe that the way the way treat the Negro is right. If they actually believe what they do is right, I truly feel sorry for them.  They are really sad!”
“You know a man  can do wrong for so long, ’til wrong starts looking like right.”
“They are more to be pitied than scorned.”
(Words of Clarence Giles Williams 1906-1992)

As stated in previous posts, I admired my father a great deal for many reasons, including his determination to rise above the “hate” while living in the Jim Crow South . (I will share later his Chicago encounters with racism, which he opined were even worse.)  He refused to bow, but he also refused to hate the oppressor. He felt that he was better off than they because he was decent and honorable and would do no harm to any man.  Daddy always knew who he was and was never a risk of relinquishing his “personhood” to anyone.  He was sure that there were good and bad people of all races, but he said he had only met a few white people that he thought were “good” people. The “not so good” whites  might be referred to as “crackers or peckerwoods”  if he thought their actions deserved such a slight.

 The incident occurred in Laurel,  (Jones County) Mississippi. This is the ancestral home of the famous soprano Miss Leontyne Price.  It was also home ot Mr. Vernon Dahmer who was murdered in 1966 by the Ku Klux Klan for trying to register Black people to vote.  This is one of his oft told Jim Crow experiences.

“I don’t like Jones County at all.  I don’t want any of you fooling around in Laurel (30 miles from our home in Hattiesburg) for any reason. I’ll  tell you why.  Those white people in Jones County are some mean ‘crackers’ and they don’t think nothing of killing a Negro.  They’re all just a bunch of Klu Kluckers!

One Sunday afternoon in the early 1930’s, I was riding in a car in Jones County with a fellow, a friend of mine.  We were just out riding, on the way to visit some people we knew and doing nothing out of order. Well then, a policeman decided to pull us over for no reason. (I’m fairly certain that all cops in Mississippi were white unless they were in Mound Bayou, an all Black town.) 

He said to us, “Ya’ll ain’t from Jones County is you?  Ya’ll NIGGERS must be from Hattiesburg, ya’ll gotta be from Forrest County…cause OUR NIGGERS know better!  Jones County NIGGERS know better than to be riding in a new car on a Sunday evening, wearin’ a suit and a tie! They know better, we don’t low (allow) it!  Then that ‘cracker’ leaned over and took my necktie, grabbed it right below the knot, drew his knife and proceeded to cut the tie completely off !  He then repeated the same with my friend the driver.  After he cut off the other fellow’s tie, he said (likely drawled and sneered),  ‘Ahm a let ya’ll  go this time, but if I catch ya’ll niggers back up here again, it won’t be up to the knot where I’ll cut, it’ll be yo’ neck”!

Daddy’d say, Ya’ll better stay out of Jones County!  I mean it!

© Saundra Blackman and soldfor35cents.com2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Saundra Blackman and soldfor35cents.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“Lord, Make A Regular Man Out Of Me” – CLARENCE GILES WILLIAMS (b. September 16, 1906)

 

Daddy’s Birthday!

Born September 16, 1906

~CLARENCE GILES WILLIAMS~

(SEPTEMBER 1906 – AUGUST  1992)

 “Though lost to sight, to memory dear”

(Ruthven Jenkyns)

Daddy (Clarence G. Williams 1906-1992) outside wearing suit and a "waving" necktie in the 1970's, He was in his 70's.

Daddy  in Hattiesburg, standing outside wearing a suit and a “waving” necktie in the 1970’s.   He was in his 70’s.

 

This poem was laminated and filed away in one of my father’s folders.  Clearly, it was one of his favorites  as it personifies who he was as a man  and all he wished to become.

 

Lord, Make A Regular Man Out Of Me

This I would like to be braver and bolder
Just a bit wiser because I am older,
Just a bit kinder to those I may meet,
Just a bit manlier taking defeat;
This for the New Year my wish and my plea-
Lord, Make a regular man out of me.

This would like to be-just a bit finer,
More of a smiler and less of a whiner,
Just a bit quicker to strech out my hand
Helping another who’s struggling to stand,
This is my prayer for the New Year to be,
Lord, Make a regular man out of me.

This I would like to be-just a bit fairer,
Just a bit better, and just a bit squarer,
Not quite so ready to censure and blame,
Quicker to help every man in the game,
Not quite so eager men’s failings to see,
Lord, Make a regular man out of me.

This I would like to be-just a bit truer,
Less of the wisher and more of the doer,
Broader and bigger, More willing to give,
Living and helping my neighbor to live!
This for the New Year my prayer and my plea-
Lord, Make a regular man out of me.

                                                        Edgar A. Guest