DAY 6: Saturday Oct 25th:
Family Discussion Notes

These are all the notes I remember from my discussions with the family in Ripley, TN. The people there were:
Lisa (me)
Bob (my loving boyfriend)
Becky Hall (my dad's sister)
Nancy Grammer (My dad's mother's sister)
Lynnwood Grammer (Nancy's husband, grew up on this farm)
Warren Lee Grammer (Nancy's son)
Kate Grammer (Warren Lee's wife)

My dad (George) wanted me to ask Nancy all about her aunts and uncles. So we began first with the family members of Ora Belle Smith, who was Nancy's mother.

Aunt Lucille: Lucille was very different than Ora Belle. Lucille was interested in the "jolly life", while Ora Belle was much more serious and straightforward.

Uncle Hub: Hub married Minnie and Nancy's family would see them every Sunday. Hub lived in town. Hub then married Virginia who is around 86 years old and still alive.

Uncle Doc: He was a dentist who lived in Greenfield. He would visit every summer and the whole family was simply crazy about him. He was "a fine person".

Uncle Dick: Also nicknamed "Uncle Slug" by Bill Smith - Doc's son. Nancy said that listening in to the adult conversations she got the sense that Dick wasn't very responsible. He owned a garage in Georgia and drank (hence his name) tho Nancy doesn't think he drank a LOT, just that compared to the rest of the family it was unusual. Ora Belle was against drinking and Nancy doesn't drink either.

Now we looked at the family members of Blakeley Smith, who was Nancy's father.

Uncle Ben: They didn't know him very well, he lived in the Yukon. Apparently he ran off and left his family, but then went back to them again.

Aunt Nora: Nora lived in Coldwater and one of Nancy's strong childhood memories was when the family took the train to see her, it was a big deal to take the train. She was around 13 miles away. She remembers that "Joe messed his britches up" during the train ride.

Aunt Anna: Anna married Morton Moore and had kids that Nancy liked to play with. She especially remembers her cousin Tom Moore who was a litle older than she was. Nancy looked up to him. In fact one of the photos I have on the site is of Nancy with Tom on a Pony.

I asked Nancy about the old farmhouse that she grew up in and that her family lived in until she went off to college. She didn't remember much of it. She knew each bedroom had a fireplace in it - they would put a big fire into it at night and then just hope it lasted the night. In the winter they would put all the beds into one bedroom and all sleep in it together. She doesn't remember what were in the rooms, tho she thinks they were wallpapered. I asked about the beds and she said they had regular mattresses on them, like we have nowadays.

I asked about the chickens they kept (I seem to have a fascination with chickens) but Nancy really didn't remember them much at all. She just wasn't interested in animals. She never quite learned how to milk the cow and said that Jane had the task of milking the cow. Nancy said of her younger sister that "Jane was the smart one" but Warren Lee pointed out that Nancy was the smarter one, to get out of the tasks like that! Becky chimed in that her mom (Jane) had said that when they were young, Jane loved to climb trees and get messy, but that her older sister, Nancy (who Jane called "Sissy") would read all the time and was always dressed very nicely. Nancy said that she loved to sew and made very fashionable dresses for herself. She used an old trundle sewing machine that she would work with her feet. Her mom would bring in all the patterns and fabric and Nancy would put them together.

Nancy was a 4-H member and it was a cousin of hers that taught her to sew in the first place. She really liked it - Kate said that she found Nancy to be a very logical, step-by-step person and that it seemed sewing was the perfect pasttime for her. I asked if Nancy liked the animals and other parts of 4-H and Nancy said no, she just liked the sewing and handwork. She decided she wanted to learn how to tat and got the instructions to do it. She kept trying and it just wouldn't work, so she diligently kept going through the motions over and over and over, and finally it started working properly and she was tatting. She doesn't remember being a quilter.

We talked about how the weather was such a huge factor back then, with no air conditioning or central heat. Nancy said again how her mom had been overheated to the extreme one time and it just affected her forever after that, that the heat always really bothered her. That it was no wonder, cooking over a hot, log-fired stove all day in broiling heat, that people suffered. We talked about how women back then couldn't wear shorts either - they had to be fully clothed for modesty's sake. And her mom wasn't the type to go cool off in the stream. So you just bore with it.

I asked if it was scary, after college, to go off on her own. She said that she had no time to be afraid - they had grown up during the depression and it was *expected* of the children to go out and earn a living. So she just put her head down and did it. She had a roommate that was an old maid, so that helped, to be with someone who knew the ropes already. It was a while before she met Lynnwood. I asked if she had any thoughts of "asking for permission" from her parents before marrying him, and she said no. Her parents were far away and not a part of her life any more, so when she decided to marry, she just did.

I told Nancy what we'd learned at the winery about the tomato crop being so poor and she was surprised - she doesn't get out much now and said I knew more about what was going on in Ripley than she did. She talked about how they have 2 fields in back of the house, and one matures far later than the other. The person they hire to harvest the crops always comes to them last, because he waits for that back field to mature instead of picking both at separate times. It really irks Lynnwood because that means a lot of the first crop blows away, and is wasted. Lynnwood hates to sit and watch that waste but he isn't able enough to do it himself any more.

I asked Nancy if the brown plants we'd seen on the way in were soybeans. She asked what I'd said. I said soybeans again, and she asked if I could spell it. I did. She said "Oh! Saaawwbeans!" I was of course saying "Soibeans" :) There also was some discussion about how to pronounce "syrup". We'd brought 3 bottles of authentic Vermont maple syrup with us as a treat for them, and apparently Kate and Warren Lee have discussions about how to pronounce that word. I have to admit that I couldn't hear the difference between how we all pronounced it :) Maybe it was a sirup vs sirip thing :)

Lynnwood talked a bit about how much he LOVED being a bomber pilot trainer in Dodge City in Kansas. He said that while there was a draft on for WW2, that only volunteers were allowed into the pilot training system and that they were spoiled. They were all doing what they really loved to do. He said "WW2 was very good to me" and that he simply loved doing it.

Lynnwood loved telling jokes and stories about the old days. We talked about drinking back then. Nancy said that her mom didn't drink at all, and that her dad wasn't a big drinker but that "if a drink was passed around, he'd share too." Lynnwood told a story about when Mamaw was visiting one time. Lynnwood was drinking a 7-up and gin drink. Mamaw asked if it had whiskey in it and Lynnwood said "Nope!" So Mamaw asked to have one too, and Lynnwood mixed her up one and brought it to her. As Lynnwood says, "She was very talkative for the rest of that night!"

Nancy keeps alert and active by doing aerobics in the living room, and Becky commented on the big stereo system they have. Becky asked if Nancy danced around the living room at night, and Nancy said that she would LOVE to dance but that nobody would dance with her!

Kate told a great story of when her son was first born, he was very "puffy" because Kate had retained a lot of water during her pregnancy. Lynnwood had threatened to bring a banana to the hospital to see the new family and Nancy had refused to let him. Lynnwood explained the background of the banana. Apparently there's a joke where a young mother is on a train with her little baby in her arms. A drunk staggers down the aisle and starts picking on the baby, how ugly it is, how he didn't think any baby could be so ugly. He's so cruel that the young mother starts to cry, and the drunk staggers on. The conductor comes along and asks why the woman is crying. The woman says that the drunk was mean to her. The conductor tells her not to worry about the drunk, and goes over to the bar. The conductor gets a drink for the woman and brings it back and says "Here's a drink to calm you down, and here's a banana for your monkey."

Kate said that she and Lynnwood have a connection going on a higher level, that they share the same keen wit, and that when Lynnwood showed up at the hospital she KNEW what he had going on in his mind, and that he didn't even have to bring the actual banana, that she knew just what he was up to!

We talked for a while about the fire that happened back in the 70s in their house. Lynnwood and Nancy were waiting for a friend to pick them up to take them to dinner, and the friend was late. Just as Nancy was noticing smoke from somewhere, a fireman was driving by and saw the roof was aflame and stopped in to warn them. As it turns out the water they poured on the roof caused more internal damage than the fire itself did - it caused the ceiling to collapse! They had to live in a horse trailer next to the house for 3 months while things were put back together again - Nancy and Kate spent a lot of time cleaning things up. Nancy says she really liked living in the horse trailer, because everything she needed was so convenient, and it was nice and clean and uncluttered in there. Lynnwood pointed at the HUGE logs in the fireplace and said he carried those in by hand, and that the logs had sat there ever since.

When we went out to the cotton fields behind the house, Lynnwood explained how the planes would fly over the fields before harvest to spray defoliating stuff so that only the cotton was left when the pickers came through. He also said that cotton and corn is now bred to be resistant to "round-up" which is a pesticide. But that the breeding came with a price - that the corn and cotton are both smaller. He said if you look at cornflakes nowadays they're smaller and not as good tasting as the old corn's cornflakes were and that he doesn't like cornflakes any more for that reason.

When we were leaving Lynnwood mentioned that the government is planning a new giant highway to go all the way up to Mexico and that the plans involve the highway going right across the middle of his cotton fields, so that he wouldn't even be able to get to his back fields at all any more. He was very upset about this and really hopes they don't go forward with the highway.

As I got on the bike, climbing on behind Bob, Lynnwood said that in the old days, the woman would be climbing on the back of your horse. That he always had to tell the girls, "now, don't kick him in the flanks, or he'll buck!" :)

Saturday's Regular Notes

Ripley 2003 Trip Page
Lisa's Travelogue Pages