Story Time ~ Happy Birthday America!

Written by
Katherine Hinchee Purdy

It’s that time of year again! The time to look back, reflect and thank God for our wonderful country. Thankful for freedom! Happy Independence Day weekend!

Photo used with permission.
Photo used with permission.

“Isabel Greene, if you don’t stand still you will get stuck with a pin,” Mama said as she pinned the blue fabric with straight pins from her mouth.

“But I like to swish!”

“That’s fine,” Mama said as she removed another pin from her mouth and turned the child around to get to the back of the dress. “You may swish all you want – after I finish hemming your dress.”

“Yes Mama,” Isabel said quietly but swished her skirt as Mama bent over to retrieve the pins she had just dropped.

“Baby Maggie didn’t have to stand up to get her dress hemmed,” Isabel said as she looked at her little sister sitting in the high chair nibbling on a piece of crust.

“Baby Maggie doesn’t know how to stand yet. Now carefully step down from the stool and look at your dress in the mirror.”

“Oh Mama, it’s beautiful.” Isabel said as she swished from side to side. Ouch! It bit me!”

“That was just a pin dear. Now turn around slowly,” Mama said as she stood back to get a better view. “Isabel, you will look like a doll on the fourth of July! Just like a little sailor girl.”

Just then the screen door clapped loudly and Mama turned to see Isabel’s two older brothers racing to the ice box. “Just a glass of milk boys, lunch will be ready soon!”

“Mama,” Eugene said as he glanced at Isabel swishing in her new blue dress trimmed in red and white. “Do we hav’ta wear those silly costumes to the parade and picnic tomorrow?”

“Yeah,” five-year-old Curtis chimed in. “Those look too sissy!”

“No, they do not look sissy and yes, you must wear the sailor suits I made for you. It’s perfect for the occasion.”

“The other boys will laugh!” Eugene plopped into the kitchen chair and reached for the cookie jar.”

“If anyone laughs at a sailor suit, they should be ashamed of themselves.” Mama took the cookie jar and placed it into a cupboard. “Besides, your nephews will be wearing the same thing. After all, your half-brother Jim is in the army and Fred is in the navy. You are wearing the suits to honor them. They are fighting for freedom. Don’t ever forget that,” Mama said softly as she placed her sewing notions into her basket and put it away.  “Isabel,” Mama said as she reached for the child. Carefully take off that dress and put your play dress back on. Here, let me help you. We’ll get you changed in your room while the boys finish their milk.”

~*~

     The next morning, Isabel awoke to the sound of Papa whistling a new song they had heard on Grandpa’s radio. Over There by Mr. George M. Cohen. “Catchy tune, aint it?” Papa said as Isabel entered the room wearing her new dress. “Well, don’t you look pretty?”

“Thank you, Papa.”

“Oh dear,” Mama said. “It’s too soon to wear your new dress; it will get dirty. We’ll get you all prettied up when it’s almost time to go.”

“Yeah,” Eugene said, “Don’t want to spill milk on it” and stopped short; whispering in Curtis’ ear.”

“Boys,” Mama said sternly, “if you mess up your suits before we go, I will insist that you wear the sailor hat Jim sent you.”

Eugene and Curtis looked at each other and then quickly shoveled oatmeal with their heads bent over the bowl.

“Mama, we could make bows for their hair just like the ones you made for Maggie and me.” Isabel said with a twinkle in her eyes.

“No way!” Curtis shouted and looked at Papa for help.

“Better do as your Mama says boys, I wouldn’t want to see my boys running around with a girls bow in their hair!” Papa looked at Isabel and winked.

~*~

     “Are we there yet?” Isabel asked from the back of the buckboard.

“We’ll be there in three shakes of a lambs tail,” Papa said with an edge of impatience in his voice.

Isabel closed her eyes and imagined a fluffy white lamb shaking its little tail three times. “It shook three times. Are we there yet?”

Papa turned to Mama. “She can count?”

“She can count to ten!” Mama said proudly, “By next month, she may be able to…” Music, clapping, chatter and laughter filled the air with excitement.

“Papa, they’re playing the song you were whistling this morning,” Eugene said and began singing along with the music.

“And we’ll all be glad when it’s over-over there!”

“I hope we didn’t miss the parade,” Curtis said as he cast a sidelong look at Mama who, in his estimation, took too much time packing lunch and dressing the girls.

“Nope, the parade doesn’t start until two so that everyone will have time to eat lunch. I would like to catch some of the baseball game. How about I take the boys over to the stands? The game will begin after the band plays a couple of songs.”

“That’s fine,” Mama said, “but don’t buy any hotdogs or peanuts! We have better ways to spend our money.”

Papa made quick work unloading the buckboard and herded the boys towards the baseball stands.

~*~

     “Lizzie! Isabel! Over here!”

Mama placed baby Maggie into the pram and reached for Isabel’s hand as they followed Lindy’s voice.

“Hello little sister,” Lindy said as she picked up Maggie and spun her around. “Why, Isabel! You look like a china doll in that lovely sailor dress.”

“Oh look, little Maggie is wearing one too. Where did you buy them?”

Mama beamed at her two little girls and addressed her step-daughters and daughters-in-law. “I made them. The boys are wearing sailor suits too although it was like pulling teeth to get the boys to wear them!” Laughter filled the air as relatives welcomed them to the Fair Grounds.

“Don’t unpack your food yet,” Aunt Jenny said as she turned and reached for Baby Maggie. Cleo is checking with the vendors to see how much the hot dogs cost. They smell too good to pass up! Oh good. There she is now.”

“I can’t believe it!” Cleo said as she reached the group. “The prices are actually reasonable. You can buy two hotdogs for a nickel or a big hamburger for a nickel. Peanuts are only 2 cents per bag. What do you think? Shall we feed our gang with Fair grounds food?”

Isabel chimed in with the other children. “We want hotdogs, we want hotdogs! Pleassssssssssssssssseeeeee?”

Mama opened her coin purse and smiled. “I think we have enough – this time. What shall we do until lunch time?”

“The swings are free. Why don’t we take the children over there. They can play in the sandbox too.” Lena said as she picked up her baby Grace, soothed her and placed her back into the baby carriage. “We have so much to talk about. The game will be over before you know it!”

     Isabel ran to catch up with her nieces and younger nephews. “Isabel,” Mama’s voice rang loud and clear. “Don’t get your dress dirty!”

Just as Mama finished speaking, Isabel tripped on a tree root and skinned her knee. Tears filled her eyes as she looked down at dirt covering her new dress and a large red spot on her white, torn stockings. “I’m sorry Mama. I’m so sorry,” Isabel repeated as Mama stooped down to assess the damage.

“Oh, you’ve skinned your knee!” Mama reached into her pocket and pulled out a small container of water and her handkerchief. “It will be okay. It’s not a deep cut but it may be sore for a while.”

“But I got my dress dirty.” Isabel’s blue eyes filled with tears as she looked up at Mama’s compassionate face.

     “That’s alright dear. The dirt brushes away and we’ll just slip those stockings off and no one will know the difference. Besides, do you know why we are here today?”

“There’s a parade and a picnic and a-a-fire?”

“Fireworks. Beautiful but loud streams of light fill the sky in a beautiful show!” Mom said as she finished cleaning the scratch and blew a kiss over the spot to make it heal more quickly. “Tender loving care always helps,” Mama said with a smile. “Now about the special day. Did you know that a long time ago our land was owned by a king far, far away? The king had never been to America but he claimed it anyway by sending ships of soldiers to make sure we obeyed his rules and paid high taxes. We sent letters to the king. We sent men to the king to tell him he was being unfair; that we could work something out but the king was selfish. He wanted the land and people to do his will. Well, the reason people came here so long ago was to be free of the king and his unreasonable rules. Did you know that America was the only place people could go in order to worship God and The Lord Jesus Christ without people trying to stop them?”

Isabel shook her head and listen wide-eyed.  “Well,” Mama said as she reached for her grandchildren who gathered around, “people prayed for a solution. They prayed for the king to change his mind.”

“Did he?” a little boy spoke up. Isabel suddenly realized they were surrounded by children she had never seen before and the swings were empty.

“No, sad to say, he didn’t.” Mama said softly. “He made it harder for our people. They had to pay taxes on just about everything. Finally, some men in Boston – up north- had enough. They couldn’t take it anymore. Back then, Americans liked to drink English tea instead of coffee. Fabric from clothes were brought on English ships. Just about everything we needed came from there but we decided we would make our own fabric. We had sheep and goats to sheer and spin the fibers into wool for knitting and weaving. We called it homespun.”

“Homespun!” a little girl spoke up. “My grandma made that!”

Mama nodded with a smile and continued. “One night when the supply ship was in Boston harbor, some of the men dressed up like Indians and sneaked aboard the ship and threw all the barrels of tea into the water. To this day, we call it The Boston Tea Party.”

“Wow!” A little boy exclaimed and leaned in closer. “What happened next?”

An older boy stood up. “It started a war didn’t it?”

“Yes it did.” Mama said and took a deep breath. The king was so angry, he sent thousands of soldiers, wearing fancy red coats with lots of guns and swords. They thought our men were not very smart and wouldn’t know how to fight so they expected the war to end quickly. But they were wrong. Oh, we didn’t have fancy uniforms – except for the officers. George Washington led our men. We had “militia” which meant they were farmers, black smiths, wheelwright’s, merchants, regular men who volunteered to protect our land.

Our men fought to protect their wives, their children, their parents and their land. They fought in the fields. They fought behind trees and fought in ways the British soldiers were not used to. Very important, smart men; the Continental Congress worked together in secret so that the kings soldiers wouldn’t know what they were doing. John Adams persuaded a plantation owner  from Virginia named Thomas Jefferson to write a declaration of independence. In fact, that’s just what it is called. The Declaration of Independence. It declared we were free from British rule and were a country now with 13 separate states working together for our freedom.  The Declaration of Independence was signed by some very famous men including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Hancock. Each man who signed represented their state. Isn’t that wonderful?

Isabel watched boys and girls nodding their heads and nodded with them. Another child stood and cleared his voice to get Mama’s attention. “Ma’am we won that war, didn’t we?”

Mama’s smile lit her face. Yes indeed we won that war and became a free nation under God. The Declaration of Independence was accepted by all of the men on July 4, 1776. Today is July 4, 1917. We are celebrating today because today is the birthday of our great nation – The United States of America!

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~*~

     Isabel watched in wonder as the band played songs that night and men in the same uniforms her older half-brothers wore marched to the bandstand. One man in each different uniform carried a flag and one held a large red, white and blue flag with white stars in the top corner. Everyone stood. Man raised their hand to their forehead in a salute, other men, women and children stood too. Mama showed Isabel how to place her hand on her heart and whispered in Isabel’s ear, “To honor men who fought for our freedom, to honor men like your brothers who are fighting today for freedom and to show that we love our wonderful country, the beautiful United States of America!”

Suddenly, there were loud blasts causing Isabel to jump and baby Maggie to cry. Papa picked up Isabel and put her on his shoulders. The sky was filled with beautiful colors and shapes. “Fireworks,” Papa said.

“Like birthday candles?”

Papa chuckled. “Well, it’s our country’s birthday so I guess so.”

Little Isabel thought about the story Mama had told her earlier; that men died so that we could live free. “Happy Birthday, America, Happy Birthday!” she shouted.  “Thank you God for giving us a free country – like Mama said!”

 

Empty Place at the Table

I was going through some old photos this week and I must admit this picture of Mom’s beautifully set table brought tears. As you see, one chair in missing.

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That’s Dad’s place. He always sat at the head of the table. I can still see him now standing at the head of the table on Christmas day with Bible in hand, reading Luke 2 while we lined up around the room and listened to his voice as he read the Christmas story and then asked a blessing on our Christmas dinner.

This year, Jerry Hinchee will celebrate Christmas with the Savior. He will not be at his place at the family table this year but he will be rejoicing.  He went to be with the Lord the Monday before Thanksgiving. Quietly. Peacefully. He was at home with Mom when he closed his eyes and was in the presence of the Lord.

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“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.”

Psalms 116:15

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Please pray for Mom as she continues on without her Sweetheart. Mom lost her sight almost ten years ago and Dad always took care of her. He wouldn’t let her do anything on her own. When Dad had a stroke a few months ago, we were ready to make the difficult decision to move them into assisted living but they had refused. He had said that he wanted to die at home. I am so thankful that my sister-in-law, Noelle was there and knew what to do. It had been my fear that something would happen and Mom would panic or that she wouldn’t know. Thank you, Noelle (in the background) for being there. And for my Aunt Sandra who talks to Mom any time, day or night on the phone and helps to keep her calm.

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My sweet sister has stepped into the role of caretaker even though she has two daughters and has a job. We love you, Melissa!

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We don’t know what the future holds but we know who holds the future and are trusting in Him.

So if you are having Christmas dinner this year with an empty place at the table, the Lord will be with you. He heals the brokenhearted and gives peace that passes our understanding.

Have a blessed Christmas!

Love always,

Kathy

Unlocking Family Stories

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Meet Junie. June Ratcliffe McReynolds to be more specific. The grandmother I never had the privilege of meeting. Wasn’t she an adorable baby? I think so. I love this picture of her.  I am especially curious about the little girl hiding behind her. She must have been playing hide and seek from the camera.

I never met “Junie” (the name she chose for her grandchildren to call her) but I did get to read a book about her family’s heritage in 1975. When I open the covers of Our Radcliffe Heritage, I can almost hear her voice as she tells stories of old. Memories and travels she made in order to complete her work. She even added photographs and sketches of old family homes.  She didn’t just list names, birth and death dates but stories about her family and what their homes looked like.  How did she remember everything in such detail?  Her ancestors came to life as she put pen to paper. This personality makes all the difference! How did she do it?

Junie, the young lady in the center front, listened.

She listened and took notes. Somewhere, there is a box containing small sheets of paper with notes Junie began taking as she listened to her “elders” tell about the good old days.  She collected notes for years and put them in her memory box to be used later as a reference for her book.

I wish I had taken notes! For as long as I can remember, I listened to Mom’s family and visualized the events until I thought I knew the mannerisms and how “Mama” and “Papa” reacted to each other and to the children. This was the basis for The Vision of a Mother’s Heart. I wrote my story as fiction inspired by a true story because I didn’t have the foresight to take notes.

Her son, my Daddy, Charles McReynolds remembers her telling him and his older sister, Bobby stories about their heritage and it ingrained a love of history in my Dad too. He put his memories in a book called Memories of an Old Geezer. If you love stories of the good old days and especially if you like cars, you’ll love this book! (It is available on Amazon.com)

So, listen carefully, ask questions and take notes!

Many thanks to Daddy and my sister, Judi for providing a copy of Junie’s book and some of her belongings.  A big thank you to my grandmother June Ratcliffe McReynolds for her foresight and hard work. She made this granddaughter feel right at home!

Sharpen those pencils and get out your notebook. Your family memories could be a book in the making. Listen to their testimony and how the Lord led the family through difficult times and filled them with the joy of His love.When I open the covers of Our Radcliffe Heritage, I can almost hear her voice as she tells stories of old. Memories and travels she made in order to complete her work. She even added photographs and sketches of old family homes.

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Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7

The Child Workers of Roanoke Cotton Mills 1911

Katherine H. Purdy

These children are examples of workers who deserved Labor Day.

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might;”

Ecclesiastes 9:10

 

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Faces of workers in need of help. This is who I think of on Labor Day.

When I see the pictures of young children who worked 12 hours a day, six days a week at the Roanoke Cotton Mills in Roanoke, Virginia it makes me sad for their lost childhood. On our Facebook History group, had quite a debate.

Take a good look at the faces of these precious, brave children.  See how young they were. Notice the barefoot boys? Shoes hindered their job of climbing on the machines so they had to work without shoes. I cringe to think of the dangers involved.  But they worked because they had to.

They didn’t take their pay to the local candy store, the soda fountain or to the ice cream parlor. No, they didn’t take their money to the Rialto Theatre on Saturday afternoon. They were working. They worked 12 hours a day, six days a week for low wages in order to help feed their family and to keep a roof over their head.

Parents who were in debt and couldn’t pay were sent to the Poor House along with their entire family. This is why some of the children were working. Others worked because their parents were sick, dead or failed to make enough to sustain the family so the children (as young as five years old) were sent to work. The money was turned over to their parents. Everyone in the family worked in order to keep the family together.

When I first started writing The Vision of a Mother’s Heart, I thought to break up a home was tragic and it is. However, to see children working hard in dangerous jobs at such a young age is more so. The picture with two boys standing together, the older with his arm protectively around his younger buddy makes me want to cry. Their eyes and facial expression seem “old”.   They remind me of my grandmother’s two older brothers.

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Eugene (the older boy) and James “Calvin” Minnix could have ended up in the same situation if their “Papa” hadn’t found homes for the children when he realized he couldn’t take care of them. This was often referred to as “Farming out” children to family and friends to stay (often working on farms to earn their keep) until the family was able to reunite. A story, I have found was all too common in the early twentieth century.

In Roanoke, the Poor House was in existence until 1958. It is now part of the Virginia Western Community College. It is said that conditions improved in the 1920’s and inmates of “The Alms House” helped farm the surrounding land so they had fresh vegetables, eggs, and other good food. Inmates included from infants to the elderly. They were reportedly treated well. However, it was a shame for families who had to live there.

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Things were different in that time. For centuries, children were apprenticed; they learned a trade by living under the supervision and care of a skilled business owner. For several generations, the Minnix men in our family learned to be blacksmiths and coopers. (Barrel makers) They also worked on farms sometimes in deplorable situations. My great grandfather broke the mold and decided to become a farmer instead. His skill as a blacksmith came in handy on the farm.

By the time they learned their trade, they were proud to put their name on their work. They were thrilled and proud if they could write their own name. When there was a crisis or war, these young men didn’t think twice before enlisting to fight for their country. They taught values to their children and expected their children to learn responsibility. Yes, it is difficult for us to imagine children in such a sad situation but they were precious children who grew up to be hard-working, frugal, responsible citizens.

I don’t know about you, but I am thankful for each of these children.

For more information about the history of Labor Day, click on the link below.

History of Labor Day

Writers: Facebook history groups are treasures for research. Much of my research was found in local history books and also postings from the History of the City of Roanoke group as well as several local history groups including school nostalgia groups. Most who post are happy to share their stories, pictures, and documents with others. My thanks to friends who shared their stories and pictures with us and gave permission for me to use their pictures.

Blessings,

Kathy

Happy Birthday, Nannie!

Today is my grandmother’s birthday. Without a doubt, she is celebrating at the feet of our Lord Jesus Christ with her precious “Mama,” Papa, her sisters, brothers, three children and one grandchild

Nannie lived most of her life in Roanoke, Virginia and lived a few years in Richmond, Virginia working at Johnston-Willis Hospital. She was a hard worker and loved children!

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Why celebrate someone’s birthday after they are no longer with us? Because she made life special for many people most of her life. She cared for her younger siblings after her mother died and made a home for her grandchildren as well as her children.  It is just a way to remember and in that remembrance, to give God the glory. (This is also why I believe God placed her story on my heart to write. The Vision of a Mother’s Heart is about my grandmother, Isabel.)

Birthday tea with the pin and handkerchief I bought for “Isabel” when I was a child. She returned them to me when I got married.

Isabel surrounded by four of her children, Barbara, Ron, Betty and Sandra on her birthday, August 28, 1996.Cakes by AshleyHappy Birthday, Nannie. We miss you.

 

If you would like to read about Isabel’s eleventh birthday, I will be posting excerpts from The Vision of a Mother’s Heart this week. You may read parts of the chapter each day at The Vision of a Mother’s Heart by Katherine Hinchee Purdy

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The Vision of a Mother's Heart back of book

Update: Landens Story

Landen's Story

Dr. Landen Johnson

Lets continue to pray for Landen and his family.

His hair started coming out and so head was shaved.

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We know how difficult this is for adults. I can’t imagine how it must feel to a little boy.  Please click the link below for current updates by his parent’s.

Landens Story Update

http://www.thejohnsonjourney.org/

 

Cards for Landen

Landen

This was yesterday. He had a good day but I understand today didn’t go as well.

This is from the facebook update: Landen didn’t have as good of a day as yesterday. He was tired and nauseous. He did play for a little bit but mainly stayed in bed and watched movies all day! Having visitors always brings a smile to his face and we are so thankful Adam Huss, Darby Huss, and Keelie Blackburn were able to visit and cheer him up! His blood work looks good but he will likely need transfusions soon. Keep praying for Landen and our family! We are thankful for all God has done so far! #landensstory

His grandmother, Gina texted the following information to pray for.

The doctor said to prepare for 6 more weeks at the hospital.

  1. He needs be eating better.
  2. Chemo side effects to subside.
  3. Cells growing, immune system rebounding.

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“The Lord hs worked in so many ways through it all, not only in what He is doing for Landen, but doors of opportunety He is opening to witness and minister to hurting people.”  Regina Stevens Johnson

If you would like to send a card to encourage Landen, his family and the hospital staff, this is his address:

Landen Johnson

Rm. 11019

Levine Children’s Hospital

1000 Blythe Blvd.

Charlotte, NC 28280

“Thanks again for your concern and prayers!”

Landen’s Family

 

 

Update: Landen’s Story

Praise the Lord for a great report!

Landen Johnson after Bone Marrow Transplant 6 9 17

June 9th after the Bone Marrow Transplant.

Landen is right where he wants to be…with his momma. He is doing well and his BP is down. We are overwhelmed by the prayers and support for our family. Please continue to pray as this is such a long process. THANK YOU SO MUCH! #landensstory.
~*~
June 10, 2017 post update by Daryl Katie Rackley.

 

Landen is feeling well so far this morning and is up and playing a bit. Please pray he eats well today. Thank you so much for your prayers and support! It means more than we could ever express in words. #landensstory