Sunday, May 29, 2011

Granny's Haywood County Folk Art Gallery

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Growing up I spent a lot of time at my grandparent's house in Haywood County, TN. Both Lloyd "Bo" and Elizabeth Castellaw Williams, or "Daddy Bo and Granny" as we called them, had been born and raised near the house on Poplar Corner Road in Bells in which they would eventually spend the rest of their lives.

The house was originally built by Willie and Irma Steele and was purchased by my grandparents in the early 1940s when they wanted to move out of the cotton field and closer to the road. Living in the house at the time was Champ Watridge. Daddy Bo's grandmother, Martha Jane Watridge Williams and Champs father, William Henry Watridge were brother and sister. Champ only had one leg after an accident while cutting trees for lumber. According to family legend, his leg was buried in the Cobb family cemetery.

Eventually, Daddy Bo and Granny bricked the house and walled in both the front and back porch to make a living room, an extra bedroom and a place where they could wash up before coming all the way into the house.

Granny was a very creative, gregarious woman with a great sense of humor which was reflected in the things she chose to create. Her home was a very fun place for a young boy to visit and, even as kid, I knew I needed to try and remember as many of the things in the house as possible.

A few years after her death in 1998, I grabbed some photos of some of the things in the house that I wanted to be sure to remember.

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Little Boy and Frog
For my entire life, this little boy painted black and this frog sat together in my grandparent's front yard with an assortment of other animals and characters made out of concrete. The boy had a hole in his mouth where you could stick a cigarette for some reason. By the time I came around, cigarettes were off limits so Granny would put sticks in his mouth hole.

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Roosters on Ladder
Anyone can make potholders. Granny made potholders and then made the potholders into roosters. She made hundreds of these and sold them to make money for Providence Methodist Church. The Jackson Sun wrote an article about my grandmother and others selling their crafts to raise money for the church.

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The Original Last Supper
My mother, Shirley Lovelace Williams, actually painted this during the "paint by number" period of the 1960s and gave it to Granny before I was even born. It hung in this same spot from that time until my grandfather's death in 2008. As a kid I was told my mother painted it but years would go by before I found out Leonardo di Vinci painted it first.

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If you needed rubber bands, a stamp or a Haywood County Co-op inl pen, this mallard was waiting to serve. The mallard always sat on my grandparent's television. It's funny, the shows I remember watching most on their TV were "Memphis Wrestling," "Hee Haw," "Soul Train" and "The Lawrence Welk Show." They had very diverse television viewing habits.

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Crochet Dress
Like the rooster pot holders, Granny also loved to make crochet dresses for tiny dolls. Another thing she made, which was fascinating to me, was tiny aprons for dish washing liquid. It could sit on the back of the sink and not get its church clothes dirty. Boxes of tissue and rolls of toilet paper also got crotchet covers at her house.

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Crochet Dress and Hat
Some of the crochet dress dolls also had hats like this one. She sat on top of the stereo.

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Red Purse on Dresser
After Granny died, everything pretty much remained as she had left it when she was taken to the hospital with difficulty breathing. This dresser was in her bedroom. When I smell Juicy Fruit gum, I think about the red purse in this picture. I remember sniffing it that day just to see if it still smelled that way. It did. The photo lying on the dresser is of my Daddy Bo's maternal aunt Jo Williamson Reid and her husband William T. or "Willie" as he was called. They lived across the road from my grandparents.

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Crochet Dress with Hood
One of my earliest memories from childhood is of this bubble bath jar that had a ballerina on a pink rose inside the jar. It was on a shelf over the toilet in the bathroom and I rarely stood looking at it that I didn't wonder HOW they got that rose inside the jar.

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Closet Door Lady
Once, I actually had a nightmare about this fabric lady when I was spending the week at their house. It hung on the back of a closet door and was used to hold clothes until they could be washed. 

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Gossip Chair
For me, and likely a few of my family members, this furniture is as classic as Archie Bunker's chair, John F. Kennedy's desk, and the furniture in Elvis' Jungle Room. This is where, when not sewing or canning or working outside, Granny would sit on the phone and talk to friends, neighbors and family members. This is the spot where both good news and bad news came into the house, where advise was dished out, arguments took place, and plans were made. I remember spending weeks with them in the summer and wondering how she could spend so much time on the phone.

All this is gone now and my cousin Phil and his wife Sandra live in the house and have done a great job redecorating in a more contemporary style. I am glad I have these photos and a lot of video of the house so hopefully my children and grandchildren can get an idea of how lucky I was to have such a fun place in my childhood.

You can read more about Daddy Bo and Granny on the Williams and Castellaw sections of

Saturday, May 14, 2011

iCarly, Shirley Temple, and Bill Idelson

Kideratzi Waiting to get a shot of celebs.
The casts of the Nickelodeon TV shows "iCarly" and "Victorious" were at my place of employment today and it was really fascinating to watch kid’s response to seeing celebrities. No doubt the photos they took will end up tweeted, uploaded to Facebook or even put in scrapbooks.

This got me thinking about my grandmother’s scrapbook which includes some photos of celebrities she liked as a girl. I never actually saw the scrapbook until after her death so never got a chance to ask her about it. Much of the things she saved were for obvious reasons but a few of the items don’t really fit in with my idea of what she would have liked.

Thumbing through the scrapbook, it appears the vast majority of items were collected and pasted into the book around 1934 when my grandmother, Virginia Brantley Lovelace, would have been 17 and a junior attending Haywood County High School. While the pages represent my grandmother’s life in 1934, they also offer a glimpse of what the culture was like in Haywood County during this time.

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I never once attended a movie with my grandmother, but at 17, she liked them enough to cut out the ads and save them. Most people know Shirley Temple and the movie “Baby Take a Bow” but the movie “Stand Up and Cheer” was a new one for me. I had to look it up to discover it was about efforts undertaken during the Depression to boost morale and features a string of vaudeville acts and a few musical numbers. Shirley Temple is also in that film as well. Makes me wonder if this is why mom (Shirley) has the name she has.

I am not sure why she hung on to the ad for the pencil with the really strong lead or the piece of fabric.

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My grandmother saved her class schedule: Economics first period, Home Room third period, English fifth period, History seventh period and Study Hall second, fourth and sixth. Not sure why she had study hall for three periods. She also hung on to a promotional card of Bette Davis in the movie “Housewife,” a train ticket, a business card for Mrs. Erbon Jackson from a clothing store in Jackson, TN called Nathan’s and the Haywood County High School football team schedule of home games.

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Assuming “Russ” (it should have been Rush) of the “Vic and Sade Show” was the Justin Beeber of 1934. The show was broadcast on the radio from 1932 to 1944 and, while most people have never heard of it now, it became one of the most popular radio series in history. Despite its popularity, 2,000 recordings of the show were destroyed just before 1940 and 1,200 have been lost. Today only about 330 original recordings have survived. You can download and listen to some of the surviving clips from the show at I listened to a few and now I am hooked.

The character named Rush was played by Bill Idelson.

Years later I would watch Bill in his role as Sally’s boyfriend on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and I assume I watched shows for which he wrote the script since his credits include episodes of "The Twilight Zone," "Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.," "The Andy Griffith Show," "Get Smart," "The Odd Couple," "M*A*S*H" and "Happy Days." That's pretty much everything I watched in the '70s.

Also saved on this page was the 23rd Contest of the Phi Gamma and Delta Sigma Societies Contest at Haywood High School. The program featured a debate on whether or not “the powers of the President (Franklin D. Roosevelt) should be substantially increased as settled policy.”

They even had cheerleaders which is hard to image at a debate.

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Finally, here is a radio or television family whose identity has been tough to figure out. Of all these actors, only the little girl has a page on wikipedia.  Marilyn Erskine appeared on radio and television throughout her life and her last role was in 1972 on "Ironside." The others can be found in a few different places with small credits but not much is available and nothing that would identify the show this photo promoted.

I've often thought it will be nice for people of the future to be able to go back and read our tweets and Facebook posts so they know what we were doing and thinking. In a lot of ways, I felt like this scrapbook was a year of Tweets from 1934 from my grandmother and now I know what she "Liked."

You can read more about the Brantley family on

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Three Interesting Things About my Mom

Since it’s Mother’s Day and I have a great mom, I thought I would share three interesting things about my mother, Shirley Lovelace Williams.

My Mom as a little girl soon to be disappointed
by missing a trip to Memphis
Interesting Thing One
One of my mom’s earliest memories took place when she was about ten years old. She was very much looking forward to going with her family from Brownsville, TN to Memphis to visit their cousin, Elsie McBride, in the tuberculosis hospital.

Unfortunately, the morning of the trip, my mom came down with a fever and had to stay home while the rest of her family got to go to Memphis without her. If you ask my mom about her biggest disappointment in life, she will likely tell you this story so, if we still had a tuberculosis hospital I would take her to one for fun.

Elsie McBride survived her bout with tuberculosis and only recently passed away in Haywood County. She remained close to my mom’s family throughout her life.
My mom at the Midsouth Fair around the time
she was working at Plough.
Interesting Thing Two
After my mom graduated from high school, she left Haywood County for good and moved to Memphis. She got a job as a secretary at Plough in the accounting department and apparently used her new income to buy clothes. In pictures of her from that time, she looks like an extra from “Mad Men.” In the late 1950s, Plough’s products included St. Joseph's Aspirin for children, Maybelline cosmetics, and Coppertone skin care products.

During the years she worked at Plough, my mom did something that warranted a special award although currently she isn't certain what it was. I remember seeing an old Plough company newsletter with her photo and, for many years, she had a trophy with the classic image of the girl with a dog pulling down her swimsuit bottoms. Growing up I thought that little Coppertone girl was my sister.

My mom in her office at Southwestern Seminary
Interesting Thing Three
Like Gutenberg, My mom typed part of the Bible. Some people may remember that between the invention of the printing press and the home computer was a thing called a typewriter. When my Dad went to seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, my mom got a job as an administrative assistant for a group of professors there at the seminary.

Some of them happened to be working on the W. A. Criswell Study Bible (out of print) so she had to type and correct, multiple times, the commentary for the book of Jeremiah. And for the record, Jeremiah is the longest book of the Bible.

It’s fitting that one of the interesting things about my mom would include the Bible since I have very strong memories of her reading her own Bible. I remember many mornings, waking up and walking into the den of our house in Parkway Village to find her under her giant hairdryer with a cup of coffee in one hand and her Bible in her lap. To this day, I associate giant hair dryers with The Bible.

I was blessed with a very groovy mom whom I love and little things like tuberculosis, Coppertone suntan lotion and The Bible will always be for me closely associated with her life story.

Makes me wonder what my kids will remember about me and then I am very afraid.