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!”


He Giveth More Grace

I posted this last year and I am thankful for God’s grace which sustains me day by day. This week (March 10, 2018) I have tried to get back on the elliptical trainer in hopes that it would help me have more energy and to be able to do more. The first day went well. Today, not so much. I just couldn’t catch my breath. I will not be discouraged, however.

I am sharing this with you because the Lord impressed upon my heart that someone needs encouragement tonight. Don’t give up. Don’t give in to doubt. He knows and is willing and able to carry you through this trying time with grace and peace that only He can give.  For more encouragement, look to the Apostle Paul and see the trials and tribulations (including a “thorn in the flesh; which he asked the Lord three times to remove.) with grace and mercy. Paul and Saul even sang through it. Sometimes, our sufferings are meant to teach us how to comfort others.

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforted us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. II Corinthians 1:3-4 and following verses too.


He Giveth More Grace by Annie Johnson Flint is one of my theme songs. The other is Ron Hamiltons Rejoice in the Lord.


Today, a friend posted in her blog, Chronically Content about Chronic Illness Flares.

Her post hit home. My friends and family know that I also struggle with chronic illness. I have an inner-ear disorder called Bilateral Menieres which affects my balance, causes constant ringing in the ears, motion sickness and most notably, vertigo.  And then there are Migraines with Aura. Either of these “thorns in the flesh” as the Apostle Paul called his illness, can knock me out of doing daily tasks and driving.

My friend, Lisa, wrote about dirty dishes in the sink, laundry in the hampers and not being able to do anything on bad days. Like Lisa, I am sorry to say is the same here.

We both have three wonderful things in common.

  • A loving husband who understands and helps around the house. My hubby is especially good at doing the laundry (I fold), running the vacuum cleaner and buying dinner and bringing it home.
  • Timberlake Baptist Church, friends and family who pray for us, offer rides to the doctor and give encouragement.
  • Love of the Lord who is with us each minute; step by step, day by day.


As I read her post, the Lord prompted me to write this comment:

Lisa, I know just what you mean. As I was reading this, the words to He Giveth More Grace by Annie Johnson Flint came to mind. Especially this verse.

“When we have exhausted our store of endurance;
when our strength has failed, ere the day is half done.
When we’ve reached the end of our hoarded resources;
our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.”

She wrote these words out of physical pain. I came across this article about her and her testimony.


To hear He Giveth More Grace, click below.

Gaither Music/ He Giveth More Grace


When the Flowers Fade


Flowers are a special gift that lifts our spirits and make our day. The only thing sweeter is candy; especially on Valentines Day! My husband always sends red roses. Birthday, Anniversary, and especially on Valentines Day. The roses in my post are from my birthday.

Roses are so beautiful when they arrive, I always want to make them last as long as possible. So I change the water. Add a drop of bleach or a packet of preservative and then snip the end of the stems at an angle so that they will absorb the water better. I can usually count on my roses lasting ten days to two weeks.

But what to do when they begin to droop and dry out?




I remove the flowers that are still alive and put them into a smaller vase. This year, it was vases. Okay, bottles. My husband buys a probiotic which comes in a cobalt blue glass bottle. Normally, I throw medicine, vitamin, and probiotic plastic bottles away but when I saw they were beautiful blue glass bottles, I told John that I would find a use for them. So I washed them, removed the labels and run them through the dishwasher cycle for good measure. He thought I was nuts! Every month, I add a new bottle to my collection in the cabinet which houses my blue and white dishes. I wasn’t sure what I would do with them but that they will come in handy for some craft.


I thought one rose per bottle would be nice but they were large enough to hold two roses and baby’s breath as well. These small arrangements lasted three more days.

Then I remembered the card. One must always save the card!



Next, I decided they needed a pretty tray to place them on and I saw my husband’s Grandmother Long’s crystal dessert plates. Perfect!

There are many ways to preserve flowers. The first time I dried flowers was in college. I learned a new tradition from other girls in the dorm. After the banquet was over, we removed the corsage given by our date (usually carnations) and pinned it to our curtain in the dorm room.

Elonna and Kathy on evening of Candlelight Carols 1977 (2014_02_18 18_15_37 UTC)

I know my roommate, Elonna and I each have a corsage on the curtain but we seem to have blocked them out in this picture but you get the idea.

For years, I dried my flowers. I attached them to a clothes hanger and hung them in a seldom-used closet. After they completely dried, I made sachets and potpourri.

The link below is a great resource for making sachets. In this case, she made hers with lavender.

Lavendar Sachets

One Good Thing by Jillee

Pressed Flowers

Another great way to save your flowers is to press them in a book or in a Flower Press. I have been doing this for years with the flowers that I plant each year. Of course, women have been pressing flowers for centuries. Some women even pressed flowers from someone special or a special occasion in the large family Bible. Until I found a flower press at Michael’s several years ago, I used my heavy Bible commentator. With the flowers laid carefully in a folded paper towel and then pressed between the pages of the book at least three weeks before removing them to use on stationary.




In the 1990’s using dried flowers in making stationary was quite popular. However, the paper was thick and difficult to write on but it made a pretty card. Click the link below for instructions in paper making. In this video they are adding plants but flowers work well too!

Paper Making Video

Preserving Flowers to be Soft

Preserving flowers in wax

I found this YouTube video which is very helpful!

Michael Gaffney on Secrets of Preserving Flowers

However you decide to preserve your flowers, remember.  The flowers may fade and wither but the sweet thought and the love remains.  It also reminds me of one of my favorite verses. Isaiah 40:8

1910146_741588909235462_1909647532209138025_nIsaiah 40 8 (2014_07_21 04_07_54 UTC)


Happy Valentines Day. You Are Loved!


“Charity (Love) suffereth long, (Patience) and is kind;”

I Corinthians 13:4a

Happy Valentines Day to all of my family and friends! I am recycling my post this due to some health issues; it’s that time of the year! However, I did want to give a greeting to all of our loved ones.

As many of you know, my stepfather, Jerry Hinchee passed from death into life in glory before Thanksgiving. Last night, I remembered that for many years when I lived at home, Dad bought a big pretty box of chocolates for Mom and also bought (less frilly) boxes of chocolates for each of us. For years, I kept those empty boxes because they were pretty and were great for storing greeting cards and mementos. So I just want to thank the Lord for that sweet memory! Dads, you have a great impact on your little girls. Heart-shaped boxes of chocolates mean a lot to little girls. It’s not just candy; it’s the lovely thought.



     Do you remember when you were child how exciting Valentine’s Day was? We got to make beautiful decorated boxes or as we got older, a white paper bag decorated with hearts was taped to the front of our desks.

In the lower grades, we always made or addressed a pre-made card for every child in the room and of course, a special card for our teacher. Cookies and Kool-Aid provided by our Room Mothers made the last few minutes of class very special.

Sometimes, there was a special card from the little boy across the room who always worked the water fountain for you whenever you got a drink of water. Little boys may have received a special handmade card from the girl who had a crush on him.

It was always exciting if your box contained candy. Small, red heart-shaped boxes of chocolate or the box of conversation hearts. It was fun to read each message on the heart before popping it in your mouth. I preferred the conversation hearts.

Conversation Hearts`


What about the shy child who didn’t have many friends? Perhaps her classmates snickered when she was brave enough to raise her hand to answer a question only to “freeze” as the teacher called her name. The answer was lost in fear. Do you remember that child? Perhaps this was you? I remember that happening to me more than once.

This is the child who was afraid to look into her (or his) bag for fear that she had been forgotten or worse; left out by her classmates. She didn’t open her bag. Butterflies filled her tummy as she peeked into her bag. Did someone really give her a special card or did someone send an unkind message instead? Or would they laugh at the cards she gave them?

Imagine the joy when she opened her bag later in the privacy of her room to find her Valentines’ from almost everyone in the class. The candy was sweeter than anything she had ever eaten!   c278afe1f682e546d1f5e25c27d4b709Found on kitty valentines

Sometimes we are like that shy child. Instead of reading God’s Word and knowing that Jesus loves her so much that He gave His life for her. She misses the joy of that perfect verse read at just the appropriate time when she needed encouragement. She may be afraid to lift her voice in prayer because she doesn’t know just what to say or how to express her praise and needs to our Heavenly Father. She misses out on so many blessings! She misses out on the joy of sharing His love for others and being a blessing to someone because of fear.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect (mature) in love. We love Him because He first loved us!”  I John 4:18-19

So this Valentine’s day, remember. You are loved!

Have a blessed Valentines Day!




Little Isabel~ Story Time

Christmas story time.

Katherine H. Purdy

Little Kristen set aside her book and followed a voice coming from the kitchen.

“Joy to the World, the Lord has come…” Nannie put a pie in the oven and wiped her hands on her festive apron and turned to her small granddaughter. “I thought you were playing,” Nannie said as she cleaned flour from the kitchen counter before picking up the child.

“Nannie, I’m bored.”

“Bored? How can you be bored when there is some much work to do before Christmas? With all of your toys, it’s hard to imagine being bored.

“Will you tell me a story? Please?”

“Of course I will tell you a story. What kind of story do you want to hear?”

“My favorite – tell me about when you were a little girl!”

“Well,” Nannie said as she lifted Kristen onto her lap, “that was a long time ago. Do you want to hear…

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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.


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.


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

Psalms 116:15


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.


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


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,


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

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.

Eugene & Curtis Minnix jpg (2014_02_18 18_15_37 UTC)

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.

Lite Grey Scroll2

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.



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!

Isabel Riley & Baby Ronald Lee Riley (2013_12_29 01_50_28 UTC)

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

The Vision of a Mother's Heart (2013_12_29 01_50_28 UTC)

The Vision of a Mother's Heart back of book