“Fatty, fatty, two by ‘fo, cain’t git in through the kitchen doe’!” the sing-songy chant favored by
the young white boys in the Hodge household. Needless to say, the sole purpose of their
serenade, to make fun of B.’s ample body right to her face. Afterwhich, they’d fall all over each
other laughing…ridiculing B., a grown lady who was helping to take care of them . B. said that
their “playing with her” didn’t bother her and she’d just give them a ‘teasingly’ mean glare and
walk on by. “Yeah, we was all just kidding…lil’ bastuds, I wudn’t thanking ‘bout them. I’d always
find me a way t’ git back them lil’ imps in deep trouble with they mama and daddy. I’d tell some
big lie on ‘em, when they least expected me to. They was always gon’ believe me, not them
boys! I’d get back at ‘em. Fatty, fatty two by ‘fo, unh huh, I had somethin’ for they lil’ white
asses…lil’ devilish crackers. I couldn’t stand they ass!” …Lil’ bastuds!” …“Yasm’ Miss


Any person who has any knowledge or experience of working inside the “private home” of “the
white folks” comprehends the dynamics related to the relationship between “us and them”,
employer and employee. The tasks demanded in domestic service even creates and
promotes an environment that can only be defined as incestuous. Thus, this dual “fishbowl”,
partially “co-habitative” relationship necessitated that a delicate balance be struck between the
The housekeeper is aware of what and who comes in and what and who goes out of the house
during her work day. Through observation, they learn the employers’ public and private habits,
unrealized dreams, desires, secrets and idiosyncrasies. The housekeeper knows the white
folks more intimately better than they could ever know her. In some ways, the help has the

As a “servant” and subordinate, the vast majority of housekeepers were unfortunate enough to
be considered subordinate to the children of the household (ages of both parties,
notwithstanding). To complicate matters even more, this tenuous relationship definitely varied
from employer to employer. The degrees ranged from passable, to barely passable , to
intolerable, to hell no, I got to go! In addition, the employer/employee relationship could be quite
fluid and regarded as anything but static. It was changeable and occasionally the maid could be
“running the show”, albeit temporarily, depending on the circumstances.

NOT PROOFED YET “White Folks Don’t Need To Know How Fine I’m Livin”

“White Folks Don’t Need To Know How Fine I’m Livin”
Mama’s Cousin B. came down with the flu one time and was too sick to go to work at her
housekeeping job. The story goes that “Miss Hodge”, B.’s “white lady” decided to be charitable
and bring her a pot of soup. I suspect the motivation for this gesture was also to investigate
whether B. was really at home sick and to expedite B.’s recovery and return work. “Ol’ Lady”
Hodge, as Mama referred to her, surely wanted to avoid being responsible for performing her
own housework any longer than was absolutely necessary.
Well, B. told Mama that Miss Hodge” drove up to her house on Front Street, got out and set the
soup pot right down on her front steps”. She did not even approach the front porch, thus never

even considered approaching the front door! Mrs. Hodge told B. she “couldn’t come inside
because she couldn’t risk catching the flu”.
Mama said, “What Alma? The steps, left the soup on the steps? I would a’ took that damn pot
and slung it out right out the back door… bringing you some food and not thinking enough of
you, not havin’ the good sense or manners to bring it inside.” That white heffa! She got a lotta
nerve! She better be glad it was you and not me. I’d a told her a thing or two!”
As mama ranted and raved, B. started laughing and said, “ See now Lucy Mae that was right up
my alley, I didn’t want her to come in my house…No-oo-oo-o, child, she didn’t need to come up
in here. For whut? Naw, unh unh-h-h-h, she didn’t need to brang her white butt up in here.
Gull, once she gits up in here and see my nice living room, see how fine I’m living, I’ll be done
lost my job. You know white folks thank ain’t nobody got nuthin decent but them. They don’t
wont negroes to have nothin’ nice, just they ‘ol hand-me-down farted out junk”.
(B. did have a very nice home which was expensively furnished.) Mama tried her best to stay
angry, but she began laughing too, saying, “Alma, gull you’re a mess!”
B.’s husband, Cudn’ Tam
The average person cannot begin to fathom the misfortune of navigating within the personal
space of another for his or her livelihood. Imagine having to handle the personal items of
people unrelated to one by blood or marriage. Mind you, this situation may likely dictate the
touching with one’ bare hands, the soiled underwear (and the like). Everyday!
One perfect example was a “dilemma” imposed upon my very own sister. In 1962, Lee Ann
was working as a part-time maid for a Mrs. Thomsen, an employed widow. She was an old and
white, a local “insurance lady” or secretary of some type. Naturally, “Miss Thomsen” (as
Southerners, we never, ever uttered the word “Mrs.”) was away at work all day, which was
always the preferred arrangement for any household help. No white folks at home to look over
your shoulder and put in their two cents.
Understand that my sister was the most particular and persnickety human being ever born and
was fanatically clean in every aspect. By “the lady of the house”, Lee Ann was given her
detailed instructions on her first day of work. Among her many assigned tasks, the laundry and
the procedure per handling the lingerie was clearly mandated. Lee Ann said, “That white
heifer said for me to never put her panties in the washer, but to wash her panties by hand and
hang them up to dry. Yes ma’am, Miss Thomson. No washer and no dryer for your panties. I
got it! (Yeah okay, right, I said to myself! Heifer!) As soon as she left, I took her big raggedy
drawers, with the stretched out elastic in the waistband and slung ‘em right in that washing
machine! She musta been stone crazy if she thought I was going to put my hands on her dirty
drawers. Mama wouldn’t been caught dead in no drawers that raggedy. Wash her drawers by
hand? Not me! Wait on it Ol’ Lady Thomsen!” If she’d been holding her breath to get her
“draws” washed by hand, she’d of been dead as a duck!’ Not my sister!

(More to come about my sister eating up Mrs. Thomsen’s fresh strawberries, napping her bed
atop the bedspread and using her fingernail polish of which she had numerous bottles. How
dare she? Things did not end well!)


From my adolescent perspective, the isolation of her neighborhood created a fascinating little
enclave for me. B.’s Front Street neighborhood spanned one single block with houses standing
on just one side. All the inhabitants, all of B.’s neighbors were black people. The street was
way down the hill from a busy “uptown” commercial/retail area which was delineated from the
“colored quarters” by miscellaneous warehouses and rail yard structures.
B.’s house was situated on last block on the street which faced numerous ribbons of Illinois
Central Railroad tracks and a shallow lagoon smack dab in front of her house. The murky,
greasy, nearly iridescent lagoon encircled a massive cylinder shaped, rusted metal tank which
contained “who knows what”. The EPA would have “had a baby with a bonnet on” if that tank
were still intact today. Modern regulations would forbid the presence of such an obvious toxic
structure in a residential area. Mind you, it was installed in “black quarters”. Despite the
contaminated environment, in my unworldly mind, B.’s house was “kiddie heaven”.

B.’s One Rule…”Don’t Flush No Pee”

B.’s One Rule…”Don’t Flush No Pee”
I need to stress again that B. was not a “rule-maker”, she was a “rule-breaker” in every regard.
She had few rules applicable to me, only one really as far as I could remember. While at B’s, I
could go “barefeeted” outdoors, which I was never ever permitted to do at home. I could eat my
“Chee-wees“ (aka Cheetos) on the living room studio couch. (I recall most of the numerous
bags of B.’s chips being quite stale and I did not care. I still liked them.) Anyway, when I stayed
overnight, I didn’t even have to get my hair combed unless I wanted to and I usually didn’t want
to. Skipping my nightly bath was also an unspoken understanding between us two. B. didn’t
even make me wash my feet! I was allowed to sleep on the living room couch (another no-no at
home) despite the fact the soles of my feet were black as tar from roaming the neighborhood.
They were as black and shiny as patent-leather from “barefooting it” all day, up and down gravel
covered Front Street and the surrounding dirt packed yards.
However, she did forbid me to do one thing. Absolutely no toilet flushing! That’s right! B.
forbade me to flush her “commode” because thought that “flushing pee” was a waste of water.
She said once a day pee flushing was enough because it took six gallons of water for every
single flush. Now if you left something floating around in the commode, flushing was okay, but
plain old pee, you’d better not flush! I think B. received that mandate from Tam, “the H2O
expert”, since he always worked for the City of Hattiesburg’s Water Department. (He stayed
there 49 years!) Since I wasn’t required to bathe or wash my feet when spending the night, I
could easily abide by her one rule. I didn’t like the rule, but I obeyed.

I vividly remember the “aroma” of her bathroom. It was a blended “perfumey” cocktail of stale
snuff and urine. Though surreal, difficult to reveal and even harder to comprehend is the fact
that her clearly recognizable bathroom scent (stench) has wafted past me at least twice since
her death. I smiled and whispered, “Hey there, B.”

Rats Need Somewhere to Stay Too!”

Rats Need Somewhere to Stay Too!”
Mama practiced tidiness and good housekeeping and B. did not! B. told Mama one time she’d
discovered a “big ‘ol rat nest, full a’ live baby rats laying up in the middle of her electric frying
pan”. Still in shock, Mama whispered, “Alma…. gull what did you do?” B. looked at her with
that characteristically mischievous look and said laughingly “Do? What I did I do? Chile, I ain’ do
nothin’. I lef’ it right where it whuz. Rats needs somewhere to live too.” You know Mama just
grimaced and shook her head. I believe the rodents were really mice, not rats, not that it
mattered one bit to B. Rats? Mice? Whatever…



My mother, Lucy Mae was always “particular” about what she ate, preferring all types of “nice”
fresh vegetable, seafood and poultry dishes. B. was not at all picky. Not one bit! Mama’d say,
“I don’t eat a thang at Alma’s house, but a “Co-Cola” or a coconut! I ain’t bout to get poisoned
and die. I may eat a few a’ her ol’ stale ‘chee-wees’ or something like that sometimes, but not
much else. Alma is just too nasty!”
B. ate anything and everything that swam, crept, climbed, limped, walked or ran. She ate tripe,
chitlins’, hog maws, hog head cheese, pork brains, pork liver, pork lights, pig feet, pig ears, pig
tails and pig lips! She loved game as well… “possums”, “coons”, rabbits, and squirrels. Lucy
Mae loathed game, and “bad cuts of meat”. Although to B. both were considered a supreme
delicacy. It’s the God’s truth that she even ate road-kill whenever she “ran across it”! B. counted
it as a stroke of good luck when she happened upon some poor animal who’d met its untimely
demise on a country road.
Mama said, “We’d be riding in the car going to visit our kinfolks up in the country and that ‘dern
Alma would nearly make Tam (her husband) have a car wreck, hollerin’ for him to stop right’
quick and swerve over so she could pick up a dead coon, possum or whatever else was
flattened in the road.. That dern Alma didn’t know how long that thang been dead, but she’d
‘slap it in the trunk’ anyhow. Then we’d ride all over Jasper County, all day long, with that po’
dead coon she’d slung into that trunk. She didn’t have no ice or nothing. Finally she’d take that
thang home, dress it, put it in a pot and cook it!
B. would say to Mama, say, “Gull, you don’t know what you missin’. Put a sweet potato in that
possum’s mouth, bake him up in the oven and you got some good eatin’! Mama’d say, “I ‘clare
she’d start picking the meat off that coon before the water had a chance to boil. I’d say ‘Alma,
the water ain’t even hot and there you go picking at that meat!’ Lord, Alma it’s a miracle you
ain’t dead from food poisonin’ with your nasty self I clare, Alma, you’ll eat anythang!”
A Bowl Can Hole’ a Heap
B’ always, always ate her meals from a bowl. She’d say, “Bowls can hold a whole lot more than
a plate and in that way everybody can’t see how much you eating. A bowl can hold a heap.
Plates have your food spread all out so everybody can see what you got on it!” Much to Mama’s
chagrin, B. would also eat cold foods from the refrigerator, foods that are normally heated
before eating. She ate cornbread, greens, cabbage (her favorite) beef stew, gumbo, etc., “stone

cold”. Even raw hot dogs and smoked sausage were savored on the spot, “straight outta the
Mama would plead with her, “Alma, let me warm that up for you. Don’t eat them greens cold!
Girl, you just too neglectful about your health. And you eat too much. That’s why you so fat, you
eat too doggone much.” Alma would beam and cheerfully respond, “Baby, I ain’t fat, um
pleasingly plump. I can’t help it, cause I got meat on my bones and you po’ and skinny wit’ a
flat butt…shaped up just like a peckawood. Flat butt self! You jus’ jealous. I ain’t fat child, just

“I Don’t Like No Draws!”

“I Don’t Like No Draws!”
B. was unabashedly devilish and always was up to something. One of her favorite pastimes
was shopping for clothes and oh how she loved clothes… but loathed panties. She’d say, “I
cain’t stand draws! I don’t like t’ wear no draws, never did. Fat folks don’t need no draws, for
what? They worry me! Cain’t nobody see nothing’ no way, cain’t see under my dress wit’ these
big fat thighs rubbin’ together. Even when I was a missy girl, I’d take ‘em off and hide ‘em up
under the edge of the porch. I didn’t want t’ wear no draws!”
One of her best “panny” stories was about one of her trips to “the clinic”. Since she was visiting
the doctor, B. was wearing her “going to the doctor drawers”. Take note that it was the one
and only destination that warranted the “wearing of draws”. I don’t think she wore panties to
church either. She might have, but I doubt it. Although she said she did sometimes, in case
she got “happy” and shouted and fainted, she’d need to have some draws on. By the way, she
never got happy and fainted being a Methodist, it was was too Santified or Baptist-acting.

She’d previously gone to see Dr. Jones and was scheduled to return about a month later. When
B. went back for her follow-up appointment she said, “Lucy Mae, guess what that damn nurse,
Miss Hudson come asking me? That if a pair a’ draws she foun’ awhile back in one a’ them
examination rooms belonged to me? You shoulda seen her. She was holding up them big ol’
bloomers with bofe’ a’ her hands. They was stretched out this wide! Holding ‘em up f’ me to
see ‘em!” She said I musta left them while at my last visit.
I can easily imagine the scene, B. looking unconvincingly innocent, as she looked the nurse
“dead in the eye” and said, “My panties? Those big things? No, they are not mine. I’ve never
seen those before.” Chile, I might look like a fool, but I ain’t no fool! Did Miss Hudson thank I
was dumb enough to claim some no draws left at the doctor’s office? Naw! That’s just’ like
admitting I don’t usually wear draws, which I don’t, if I could walk off and leave ‘em and not
even miss ‘em. I knew I was lyin’! She knew I was lyin’, but I wudn’t takin’ them big ol’ lady
draws nowhere. I was not about to own up to that!”
Mama and were killing ourselves laughing, but not before Mama uttered, “Lord Alma, you
oughta be ‘shamed of yoself!” Mrs. Hudson should thank her lucky stars that B. was generally
on her best behavior (acting all polite and using proper grammar) while conducting official
business. Otherwise, she might’ve gotten cussed out and slapped that day! B. could cuss like
a sailor just for the fun of it and of course cussed daily just to stay in practice. Man, she could
cuss! We loved it. She’s say things Mama would never say! Think back, I suppose since she
was nobody’s mother, she could be herself and did not have to impress or set an example for
anybody. Liberated!

B. Never Wore Pants, Big Women Ain’t Got No Business in No Pants!
Even though it was a foregone conclusion that proper etiquette and societal rules were
considered an albatross B. chose not to encumber herself with she did have thing that she
would not even think of doing. It pertained to a certain item of clothing. As it was becoming
acceptable for local black ladies to ease into wearing pants in public, B. was not on board with
the practice. Mama was in the inaugural group, who wore pants and shorts and thought
nothing of it.
Being the renegade she was, she would not budge. Some black ladies would only wear pants
when they went fishing and still they would wear a dress over their pants to cover their rear
ends. They had their fishing outlets along the Mississippi Gulf Coast or in Bouie and Leaf
Rivers that snaked through our town. My godmother, Mrs. Marie Chandler would wear her
pants to go fishing and she was definitely a well-respected, refined and modest lady. B. would
say, “Ree can wear her pants and blue jeans fishin’ if she want to! O’ Lucy Mae can kinda git
away with pants, case she skinny and ain’t got no butt. She shaped up like white women, but all
flat, ‘cause she got too much a that white blood in her. She can wear ‘em if she want to. I don’t
care what nobody do. My big fat ass ain’t putting on no pants. Anybody with a ass as big as
mine don’t need to put on no pants.”

“Take Albenny, (One her very heavyset friends, taller and actually must heavier than B.), “she
don’t need on no pants, lookin like a’ elephant! She ain’t got no bidness in no pants! And she
got the nerve to have them made too big”! She look a mess with that big ass in them big pants!
I wouldn’t be caught dead in no pants! Not Alma! I put my big waggin’ ass in a dress. That’s all I
wear. I ain’t never had on a pair and I never will!” And she didn’t!

“Seal Whiskey, Nightcaps, Highballs”

“Seal Whiskey, Nightcaps, Highballs”
Mama tended to consider herself a social drinker and would have a beer, a “high-ball” or a
“nightcap” concocted with “seal whiskey”, which was store bought alcohol. Since we lived in a
“dry” county (where liquor sales were illegal) alcohol could only be acquired from a bootlegger.
One of which was, Mama’s brother, Bud. He owned a three room, unpainted shotgun shanty
that he bought for four hundred dollars. Mama said he paid it off in weekly installments. Uncle
Bud sold “stoop” also known as “moonshine, corn likker, white lightning and rot-gut”. Seal
whiskey could also be bought during an out of state trip. Mama’s social drinking opportunities
occurred during the occasional weekend, holiday or on trips to, the Cresent City, New Orleans.
as far as I could tell, Daddy was a social drinker as well. He seemed to imbibe just enough to
acquire a light buzz. That, or he was really adept at “holding his liquor”. I never saw him
anywhere “near” drunk! Not Daddy!
As a youngster, I would hear the phrase “nightcap” every now and then. Being curious but
terribly naive, I actually surmised that a “nightcap” was a some type of fancy hat and a “highball’
was surely a kaleidoscopic carnival-like accessory. I could almost touch the swirling flames of
fruity colors dancing in my head! All I know is that both sounded fun and festive. While on
weekend trips to Louisiana Mama and Daddy would be always be offered a highball by their
hosts. Of course, they’d accept and their New Orleans best friends, Mama Lee and Uncle
Frank would retreat into their compact, faded-looking, wonderful smelling kitchen to fix the
highballs. Before long, they’d re-appear in their narrow and dimly-lit living room balancing a
serving tray that held fancy “company” glasses of beverages that just looked just like plain old
Coca-Cola. What a letdown! No colorful hats, no crepe paper streamers attached to round,
bouncy fabric covered balls, nothing but drinks! No hats. No caps! Just drinks! Each time, I
vividly remember feeling somewhat deflated. I never saw that “highball” or that “nightcap”,
although I really expected to and really wanted to! Years later when I told this story to Mama
and Daddy, they thought they’d die laughing. To them, my adolescent innocence was an
amusing and wonderful thing!
B. Falling Down a Flight of Stairs…Drunk
B.’s drinking was anything but social. In all fairness, it probably started out that way, but ended
up differently. She was able to consume large amounts of hard liquor and often got quite
“toasted”. B. was open to all types of alcohol, she’d drink anything. I vividly recall her reaching

down inside the bodice of her dress (always a dress) and from that ample bosom, fishing out a
half pint bottle of amber colored liquor. She’d expertly twist off the bottle cap and take a long a
swig. She’d let out a long satisfied sounding, “Ah-h-h-h” then plaster on that impish grin and
get the party started. Seal whisky, beer or stoop, it was all the same to Alma.
She loved laying out in detail, each of her drunken episodes, at least the ones she was able to
remember the next day. She laughed about getting “sho-nuff” drunk one night and tumbling
down a steep flight of stairs at a local nightspot. She said she was at the Elks Club, but
everybody knew they had no stairs. Mama said, “Girl, you wudn’t at no Elks, you were at the
Cabana Kela! That’s the young folks club! (B. Had to be in her mid to late 50’s at the time.) I
know good and dern well you wudn’t at no Cabana! But, you had to be there ’cause that’s the
old Love’s Dance Hall and I know they the only ones with a long steep flight of stairs. You ain’t
had no business at no Cabana Kela! In response to that rebuke, B. laughed and said, “I don’t
remember where I wuz, but I know my big butt rolled down a whole heap a stairs, all the way to
the bottom, ‘til I hit the flo’! I sho’ll thought I was at the Elks!” You can only imagine the look on
Mama’s face.
Mama “hit” B. will a barrage of questions, firing them off without taking one breath in between.
Of course, all of the questions went unanswered anyway. “Alma, who did you go there with?
Why did you go up there? How did you get up all them steep stairs? Did anybody we know see
you? How did you get home? I swanney Alma, Cudn’ Lillie was such a nice lady! Whatever
happened to you?”
To top it off, B. proudly said, “Girl, I don’t know. You know I will plain show out when my head is
bad”. (“Head is bad” means sloppy drunk.)

Tube Rose Snuff and The “Spit Cup”

Tube Rose Snuff and The “Spit Cup”

Mama and her cousin , B. were as thick as thieves, but were as different as night and day.
Mama smoked her Winston Cigarettes, somewhat discreetly and B. dipped her Tube Rose
Snuff, but quite proudly. Always within reach, B. kept an old one pound coffee can to use as
her spittoon. Endearingly, she referred to it as her “spit cup”. Mama hated that “spit cup” with
a passion! “That ol’ nasty thang”, she’d say. If you knock it over, you gon’ have a mess. Git that
nasty can outta your nice living room gull.” Then to amuse herself and infuriate Mama even
more, B.’d stroll over to the back door on those little fat feet of hers, twist the doorknob, crack
the door open just a tad, lean a part of her head out and expertly aim and spit a perfect torpedo
of brown tinged snuff juice toward an imaginary target! With the deed done, she’d look over at
Mama and smile that devilish smile revealing her small, squarish, woe’ down brown teeth. THen
she’d waddle back ‘cross the floor to claim her favorite chair.
B. had succeeded in getting the last word, without uttering a sound! I swear it was funny! If
that wasn’t bad enough, Alma’d pull her bottom lip down deftly remove the moist, dark brown
and neatly compacted wad of snuff that tucked inside , wrap it up in “a piece a’ toilet tissue”, ball
it up and stick it inside her apron pocket. Her purpose was to save it for later to pack it back to
its rightful place…inside her lower lip. Mama would say, “Alma who in the devil ever heard of
savin’ a ‘snuff short? That ain’t no cigarette! Throw that mess away!” Of course, she would not!

She’d say, “I ain’t thow-win’ nothin’ away! This pinch a’ snuff is still good”. Ain’t nothin’ wrong
wit’ it! You must be crazy if you think I’ma thow away this good snuff.”
Although she B. had an innate and canny skill for getting along with Mama, she would staunchly
defy her when it came to defending her snuff! As usual, not to be outdone, Mama’d still tried to
edge in the last word. Perplexed, but also amused, she’d say, “I swanny Alma, you something