Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Holly Grove, Alabama, c. 1932

Hanging on the wall in my mother's bedroom in Springfield, Missouri is this picture taken when my mother was in the 5th grade.  Actually I have the picture in my possession at this time, and the 5th grade is an approximation.  It could have been the 4th or the 6th.  Herbert Hoover was president of the nation.  The date was no later than 1933.

Mother stands in the second row, next to the end on the right side.  She believes this photo shows her Indian heritage.

Mother had some memory of most of the people in this picture. So, starting with the first row, left side, I will relay the information my mother told me.

The boy seen here has the last name of Blackwell. Mother could not recall his first name. His family raised sugarcane, from which they made molasses. Mammy (my grandmother on my mother’s side) would buy four gallons at a time. This boy had two brothers, the older of which played football.

Next to him is Anthony Urshery. Anthony was one of four children in this family. You will notice he is barefoot. He had nothing. His was one of the poorest families in Holly Grove. This was during the time of the Depression. Many people were out of work. The mines had closed.

His father was shot in the back and fell dead on a huge rock in front of Rob Guthrie’s store. It was Guthrie who shot Urshery because of Urshery’s inability to repay a debt to Mr. Guthrie. The youngest Urshery child, Truman, was six at the time of the murder of his father. He reportedly said, “Don’t worry. I’ll get Rob one of these days.” When Truman was 19 years old he made good on his promise to “get Rob.” Truman shot and killed Rob Guthrie. Guthrie fell upon the same rock and died, just as Truman’s father had some years before. Truman, who had previously killed his brother-in-law, was heard to say, “Well, I killed one bastard. I might as well kill another,” prior to killing Guthrie. At the funeral of Mr. Urshery, Rob’s brother broke into Truman’s house and stole a hog which had been salted down.

Standing next to Anthony is Edna Lawson. My mother used to play with Edna and her brother Cecil. She and her family moved from Jasper, Alabama to Holly Grove. She became a prostitute in Jasper. The family lived across the street from the Andrews (my mother’s family). Edna died young, an occupational hazard of her trade.

Next to her, fourth from the left, is Raymond Hendricks. He was much better off financially than the other kids in this picture. He was a nice boy.

Next is J. C. Blackwell (no kin to the other Blackwell). He was smart and quiet.

Next, number 6, is Malcolm Jones. Mother says she was struck on him. She thought he was cute. One time Malcolm borrowed my mother’s notebook. Malcolm was accused of cheating by copying some information out of my mother’s notebook.

Next is Virginia Jones, Malcolm’s sister. Her nickname was Toady. Mother recalls her being real nice. She had some physical deformity which can be noted in the picture.

Rounding out row 1 is J. C. Prescott. He had the misfortune of being on the USS Arizona the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He did not survive the attack.
In the second row, the first two individuals on the left side are unknown. The third person is Cecil Lawson, the brother of Edna Lawson. He stole Henry’s (my uncle) shoes one time, but Mammy got them back.

The fourth person is Pauleen Glover. She was molested by J. W. Rollins in the 9th grade. She was the bell ringer in Mr. Rollins’s office. In addition to being a molester, Mr. Rollins was mean.

The name of the fifth person in this row is unknown. Mother recall s having given her coat to this girl, who was something of a loner. She had a rough time.

Next is Beatrice McCullough. She lived on beans and cornbread. Each evening after school she would go to Rob Guthrie’s store and buy a nickel’s worth of butterbeans. Her family had a “muley” cow. She often had epileptic seizures in school. When she got married she got a facelift and bought pretty clothes. She also took guitar lessons. She was from a large family.

Next is Jean Andrews, my mother.

On my mother’s left, the final person in the row, is Mildred Holly, my mother’s best friend. She was from a nice family. She was always clean and neat. She was also intelligent.

Moving now to the third row, the first person on the left is unknown. The second person in that row is Louise Smith. Louise was as poor as you could get. She was so poor that she would eat pine cones. Mother often played with Louise.

Mother does not recall the name of the third person in this row, but she remembers that this girl was bashful and often hungry.

The fourth person is unknown, but standing next to her is Charlene Guthrie, whose mother taught third grade at the Holly Grove school. Mother recalls that Charlene was “snooty.” One day my mother, along with Mildred Holly, Bea McCullough, and Pauleen Grover ambushed Charlene, turning her upside down, exposing her white bloomers.

Person number six is unknown.

Next and last in this row is Jessie B. McGill. He was a trickster. One day he called Mr. Cummins, the teacher, “curly top.” Mr. Cummins, being partially African-American, had kinky hair. Mr. Cummins took Jessie out in the hall and beat him. He did not spank him, rather he worked him over with his fists.

The first person in row 4 is unknown. The second person is Mr. Cummins, the teacher. He had a sadistic streak in him and could be very mean. When he discovered he had cancer at age 60, he committed suicide.

Standing next to Mr. Cummins is a substitute teacher. She often wore a hat, which she has on in this picture.

Last is Hubert Hanley. He wore his grandmother’s hightop shoes to school. He was made fun of because of the shoes. For his lunch, he brought peanuts with him. He later worked for NASA as a mathematician.


willow scar clan said...

Thank you so much for telling your mother's stories, Mr. Nerren. She told it like it was. I enjoyed it immensely. Some of my ancestors are from Holly Grove and environs.

Jesse Story said...

Good morning Dan -- my name is Jesse Story and my mother, Pauline McGill, was born and raised in Holly Grove. Her youngest brother, Jessie B. Mcgill is one of the youngsters noted in your narrative. I know that my uncle has always been a "trickster" as your mom said, but I never knew that a teacher had physically beaten him -- can you imagine that happening today!!

My uncle will be 92 this year and we are trying to get some "memories" together for him -- your picture would be perfect if I could get a copy of it. I tried enlarging your posted pic but you can imagine how that turned out.

So, if possible, could you email me a scan of your grandmother's picture that I could have framed to give to my uncle? My eaddress is: I really would appreciate it.