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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

Not Forgotten

“And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

Galatians 6:9

King James Version (KJV)

You may have noticed that I have been “recycling” some of my posts over the past few months. That is because I have had some distracting health issues. Nothing critical. Distracting. Migraines which cause blury vision, Vertigo from an inner-ear disorder called Menieres` which has plagued me since 1984 and “different” floaters in my left eye which caused some concern.

So I became discouraged. Okay, I will admit it. I was feeling sorry for myself because I wasn’t up to the challenge of writing, singing or teaching. So last week, I asked the Lord to help me write in a way that glorifies Him. The true question was of course, have I written anything that counts?

He answered in a way last night that took my breath away. I was reminded of Ephesians 3.

17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

So what did He do that was so amazing? He brought to our attention that an article that I had written several years ago was published in the December issue of the CMA (Christian Motorcyclists Association) Magazine! (No, I don’t ride. My husband does. I have helped any way I could to help this ministry to bikers – that they may know of Christ’s love for them.)

After his CMA meeting  with Riders for The Rock last night, John called and asked if I had submitted anything to CMA Heartbeat magazine? I honestly couldn’t remember anything. He said that someone mentioned it in the meeting. Someone said,”You never know when you might pick up a magazine and read an article written by someone you know – like Kathy Purdy.”

We searched through the Heartbeat magazines going back through the fall.

We found this in the December, 2016 issue. I wrote this several years ago after our first participation in the  “Toy Run” for the local Children’s Homes. I never imagined it would ever be published. I am still amazed at The Lord’s timing. It is always perfect!

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You see, our work for Him is never in vain. He remembers.

For more information about Christian Motorcyclists Association:

Please click the following link. cmausa.org