Posts Tagged ‘Just Life’

Tom, Helen, Barbara, Diane and Patricia

Tom, Helen, Barbara, Diane and Patricia Story

“Girls! You won’t believe what’s happening!” Mama turned to us and said as she hung up the telephone. “Lib Garrett just told me that Tucker is getting ready to have a birthday! A fiftieth birthday!”

“How do they know how old Tucker is?” I asked.

“’Cause, Diane, Mr. Hutchens says so. Roy Hutchens keeps up with things like that in the Eagle. He knows more about Tucker and Lilburn Georgia than anybody in DeKalb or Gwinnett County. And if he says we’re about to turn fifty – then we are.” Mama laughed as she poured herself a glass of tea. “Of course, Jack Hudson and Dewey Turner know a good bit about Tucker too. Lots of historians in Tucker! Everybody’s gonna dress up in old fashioned clothes for the party.”

“Old fashioned clothes?” My ten year old sister, Patricia asked.

“That’s right Patricia,” answered Mama.

“Where are we going to get clothes like that?” asked Patricia.

Mama thought for a moment and then said, “I’m gonna call Cousin Anna. We’ll just have to make a trip out to West End and go through Granny and Aunt Tillie’s old trunks. I’m sure we’ll find something at Cousin Anna’s to wear to a semi-centennial.”

“When can we go to Cousin Anna’s? How about tonight?” I loved to visit Cousin Anna King-Maxwell. She lived in a big house near the Wren’s Nest; a house with sixteen foot ceilings. Each room had a  huge fireplace and over-sized furniture. The center of the house hallway was long and wide – large enough for my sisters and I to roller skate without bumping in to each other. The house made haunting sounds from the grandfather clocks throughout the house.  And when the clocks chimed, it sounded as though they were speaking to us saying, ‘We seeee you. We seeee you. We seeee you.’  When the house quieted down, we squealed with fright and delight. It was thrilling! Each room had a large trunk full of items from the mid 1800s – back when Cousin Anna’s mother – Matilda “Tillie” was born. Tillie’s younger sister, Emma  “Granny” Voyles was my mother’s father’s mother. Lots of vintage clothes in those old traveling trunks.

Palmer sisters - Tillie King and Emma Voyles

Palmer sisters - Tillie King and Emma Voyles

Cousin Anna King-Maxwell

Cousin Anna King-Maxwell

Before Mama could answer me, Patricia asked,“Semi-Centennial?”

“Yes, that’s what they’re calling it. Ya’ Daddy’s been hearing talk about it for weeks. And now, Lib says it’s been decided. Tucker will have a celebration party!”

“Where’s it going to be?” asked Patricia.

“Main Street Tucker. I don’t know all the details yet,” went on Mama, “except that we’re all supposed to dress like folks did in 1907 or in the pioneer days.”

“Why the pioneer days?” asked Patricia.

“Well, because you know really Tucker was settled in 1821 – back when Monroe was president.” We looked at Mama with anticipation. We loved her history lessons on Tucker. “Tucker used to be called Browning District. But in 1907, they changed the name from Browning District to Tucker.”

“How’d we get the name Tucker?” I asked.

“Well, the train came through Browning District – you know the one that crosses Main Street in downtown Tucker – it came ever so often to deliver supplies and mail. The conductor of the train was Captain Tucker. So folks would see the train coming and say, ‘Here comes Tucker.’ And I guess it just caught on.” Mama smiled and explained, “You know I’m not that old. I just heard about it. And here it is 1957! We’ve been called Tucker for fifty years. Patricia, how do you want to dress?”

“I don’t have anything old like that Mom. Maybe Cousin Anna will have something for me too.”

“I have something to wear. I can wear my Pilgrim dress you made me, Mama.” I answered.

“That’s right Diane. That’ll be perfect.”

“Pilgrims wore those clothes in the sixteen hundreds. That’s a lot older than 1907! Or 1821! Only the Creeks were here then.” answered Patricia.

Helen and Frances.

Helen and Frances, Helen wearing the dress from the travelers trunk

“I know, Patricia, but that’ll be alright,” explained Mama, “Lib says that a lot of the women are wearing long dresses with bonnets.”

“Barbara, we’ll try one of Patricia’s dresses on you. I think the hem should just about touch the floor on you. If that doesn’t work I’ll have to get busy on my treadle sewing machine,” Mama said to my six year old sister who was quite happy to ignore us, and play with her doll, Sally.

“Better hurry up!” said Daddy as he walked in the backdoor. He was grinning from ear to ear, “They’re gonna have a high sheriff, and if a woman’s not wearing a long dress and bonnet, he’s going to arrest her!”

“What! I’ve never heard of such a thing. Tom Story, don’t tease the girls like that! You know this is going to be a fun event! You’ll have them afraid to go.”

“I’m not kidding,” grinned Daddy, “and if a man doesn’t have a beard, he’ll be locked up! And no way out of jail, unless someone pays you out with a wooden nickel. Real money won’t do.”

There was no way I was going to be afraid to go to the Semi-Centennial. With a smile like that on Daddy’s face, I knew he was just teasing us. We all watched and listened for Daddy to tell us more.

“Yep, they elected Joe Reeves to be the high sheriff.”

Tom with Sister Sarah Story-Graves

“What? I thought they would elect Gene Cofer,” said Mama.

“No, Gene’s gonna be busy with the parade. He’s gonna drive one of his fancy antique cars through Main Street. In fact, he may drive more than one. He’ll park them in a safe place back behind Cofer Brothers and change them out,” laughed Daddy.

A parade, a jail, wooden nickels, a high sheriff, and Gene Cofer’s antique cars, wow, this party was shaping up! And I was not worried a bit, because I already had my outfit. Only thing, I was a little hesitant to wear my Pilgrim dress. It was a pretty dress. Mama made it for me; a long black cotton dress with long sleeves. The cuffs were made of white cotton with a white cotton apron, all topped off with a white Pilgrim cap. I wore the outfit in a Tucker Elementary School Thanksgiving play, one that I could not recall my line. I knew everybody’s line and took it upon myself to coach everyone. Betsy Snead broke the awful silence by skipping over me. All I had to say was, “Please, won’t you have some corn?” That was one time when I wish I had listened to Mama when she told me to “sweep around your own backdoor.” It was embarrassing, and I had not planned on wearing that dress again. But it would have to do. I did not want to be locked up in jail.

“Exactly where will the jail be, Tom?” asked Mama.

The Williams Family

The Williams Family

Now that was a good question I thought to myself. And where and how do you get a wooden nickel? Just in case!

“They want to build it across the street from the new Tucker Federal, somewhere along there,” said Daddy. Then he started grinning again. Now, what was he going to say? He had our attention. “Doc Newsom wants us to build a saloon.”

“My stars! Have the people in Tucker lost their minds?”Mama asked.
“No,” laughed Daddy, “Fred Hannah and Dan Hopkins want to call it the Red Dog Saloon!”

“Who is going to build all of this stuff?” asked Mama.

“Cofer’s will supply the materials and it’s all voluntary. I’ll help.”

“Build a saloon? Daddy, are you really going to build a saloon?” asked Patricia.

“Yeah, and I’m gonna play my guitar there too.”
“No way!” we all said. Every time Daddy opened his mouth, it was something else just unbelievable.

“Yeah, I’ve got to get busy practicing the Great Speckled Bird. For sure, I want to play that one…”

“Tom Story, I think you’ve been hanging out around that Tucker Coffee Club at Fountains Drug Store,” teased Mama. That’s where you’re hearing all this isn’t it? That’s where Lib Garrett heard what she knows.”

“Doc Newsom’s in on it too, Helen!” laughed Daddy. “Yep, we’re gonna build the saloon and jail on Main Street. That way if anybody gets locked up, everybody will see it.”

Tom and Clarence

Tom and Clarence

“You can’t see through walls,” I noted.

“Won’t be any walls! Just a cage, made out of two by fours.”

The days passed by, one more exciting than the next. All our Morgan Road neighbors were busy figuring out how long it would take to grow a proper beard, what to wear, exchanging dress patterns and trying to find a horse. Yes, now it was not only antique cars, but horses, buggies, wagons, mules, the Tucker High School Marching Band, cheerleaders, majorettes, and a beauty queen. Some beautiful and lucky girl would be crowned Miss Tucker. And, Daddy heard down at the Bank of Tucker, that attorney, Charles Alford, was after Horace Richardson to paint signs to advertise the celebration as an entertainment event.

And a horse the Morgan Road neighbors found! Right across the street from my house lived the Leake family. It was Jack and Frances Leake and four kids, Jackie, Becky, Mary Ann and Billy Boy, and Peggy Ann. Peggy Ann was a frisky pinto pony who lived in the Leake’s barn back behind their house. They also had a chicken pen covered in gorgeous pastel pink roses. And, they had a bull in a back lot behind the barn. The bull was too big of a challenge – we left him alone.

The Leake’s home was a miniature farm in the middle of the Morgan Road neighborhood. We tried to think of some way to incorporate the chicken family into the parade –you know dress them up in doll’s clothes – but the chickens would not cooperate. Jackie Leake took Peggy Ann out every day, and hitched her up to a wagon. We took turns riding, trying to get her used to pulling a wagon, and being around a lot of people. A lot of the kids in the neighborhood joined in to help, including Ricky and Ronnie Westbrooks, Saundra Bulloch, and the new Williams family, Larry, Laura and Laverne, and on occasion, Walker Garrett.

All was going well with the training until one afternoon – Peggy Ann got spooked and took off running – with my sister, Patricia in the wagon. The poor little brown and white spotted pony was frightened. And so was Sister. Patricia held on for dear life as Peggy Ann ran out of the Leake’s apple and plum orchard. They crossed the Williams’ yard, crossed the Westbrook’s yard, and finally made it onto the Smith-Garrett’s yard, where Peggy Ann made a wide swing around and into the road.Horsebuggy

The wild runaway pony then ran back across the Leake’s side yard in the direction of the barn. She stopped only because the wagon got hung on a steel horse shoe pole. Patricia was dumped out of the wagon and sustained a cut leg. Mr. Leake told Jackie to put Peggy Ann back in the barn. She could not participate in the Semi-Centennial. Now we were back to square one. No animals. We’d just have to make it on our own with the costumes. Larry Williams and I were the only two not worried about a costume. He was going as Davy Crockett and I, of course, the Pilgrim.

And finally Saturday came! Not just any Saturday, but the Semi-Centennial Saturday!

“We can forget driving Helen,” said Daddy, “look outside. Cars are parked all up and down the little school-house road – all the way down past our driveway.”

“That means the churches and the school parking lots are full. Where in the world did all these people come from? There’s not that many people in Tucker,” Mama said amazingly. “We can’t carry your guitar and amplifier, and hold on to the girls.”
“We’ll walk there. And then get permission to drive my car to that little side road near the saloon. We’ll figure it out,” said Daddy.

Tucker DaysAnd with that, we tied our bonnets on and struck out walking with the Williams’ family. My little sister, Barbara walked hand in hand with her new best-friend, Laura Williams. And for the first time, she left her doll, Sally, at home alone. Barbara was really growing up, and if she could have looked into a crystal ball, she would have known that she was truly becoming a Williams. Years later, she married Laura’s cousin, Lawrence Williams.

The Storys and the Williams’ walked up Lavista, and crossed the road and stopped at Thomas’ Grocery Store. Mr. Bill Thomas saw us coming and hollered, “Look here! Here come Tom and Helen with all those little boys!”

“We’re not boys! We’re girls!” all of the girls let him have it.

“Look like boys to me!” Mr. Thomas laughed, “And I see you rounded up Davy Crockett! Looks like ya’ll are gonna have a good time today!”

“Well, we’re not boys,” explained six year old Barbara.

“Tom, what’s their names again?” asked Mr. Thomas.

Daddy grinned, “Pat, Donnie and Bob.”

“See there, that’s boy’s names,” teased Mr. Thomas.

“Well, we’re girls! We’re Patricia, Diane and Barbara,” explained little Barbara.

Mama laughed, “Okay, we know you’re girls. He’s just teasing.  Come on now. We’re gonna look in on Dr. Anderson,” said Mama, “I want him to see the girls.”Horsebuggy2

“Oh, you’ll find Clyde already on Main Street, Helen. He canceled all his appointments for the day. Did you see how pretty the old courthouse looks today?”

“Yes, we did,” said Mama, “It’s all decorated with flowers, very nice.”

“Y’all have fun,” Mr. Thomas called out to us as we walked on toward Main Street.

The closer we got to Main Street Tucker, the more excited I got. About the time we reached Tucker High School, I could smell popcorn, boiled peanuts, roasting ears of corn, and barbecue. I heard a marching band, whistles and laughter. But the most exciting thing was the sound of horse hooves click clopping on pavement – not just a few – but dozens of horses! Then as the sound of the marching band faded into the distance, I heard an awesome sound – bagpipes!

The men in kilts stopped their marching, stood still, and played Going Home. Sarah Lee Turner stood behind me and sang to herself. She sang, “Going home, going home, I’m just going home.” And then again she sang, “Coming home, coming home, I’m just coming home.”

It made me think of the story Mama heard from Roy Hutchens. The story was about a Scottish man, Greenville Henderson, who fought in the Indian Wars back in the early 1800s. The Governor of Georgia honored this man by giving him a gift of approximately three thousand acres – now known as Tucker, Georgia. And whether this brave soldier was a comin’ or a goin’, surely his spirit was upon us, here today in Tucker.

When we walked down along side Main Street, I could not believe my eyes! Horses, buggies and everybody dressed from another place and time. But it was real and right here in Tucker.

A large banner followed the bagpipes. The words on the banner were: FOUNDING FAMILIES. The next banner had lots of names on it. Some of the names on the banner were: HENDERSON, BROWNING, FLOWERS, CHEWNING, GOZA, JEFFARES, LIVSEY, TALTON, FRUIT, THOMAS, ENGLAND, LEAVELL, JOHNSON, PAYTON, TUCKER,  and BURNS.

And the people! Where did all these people come from? Surely the whole state of Georgia must have turned out for the Semi-Centennial.

“Gun shots!” I exclaimed as I looked at Mama and Daddy.

“Blanks, Donnie. Don’t worry they’re not real bullets,” said Daddy, “it’s all in good fun.”

The high sheriff, Joe Reeves had him some prisoners, a few guys who did not grow a proper beard, and he was shooting up in the air to get everyone’s attention.

“Aren’t you glad you grew that beard, Tom?” laughed Mama, “I can’t believe you grew that thing. I really can’t believe you blacked out your teeth!”

I could not believe it either. My father was a fanatic when it came to his appearance. The first thing he did every morning was to shave and comb his hair. He would not let anyone see him undone. His new beard aggravated him, but he did his part to participate in the spirit of the Semi-Centennial. And, he did not want to get locked up by Joe Reeves.

Then a pretty girl walked down Main Street, alone. She was dressed in Scottish attire carrying a banner with MUIR written on it.

“Tom, do you know any Muirs in Tucker?” asked my mother.

“Moore, Helen, that’s Scottish for the Moore family…” answered Daddy.

“Ladies and gentlemen, and children of all ages, please focus your attention to the next phase of the parade!” called out Conrad Allgood over a microphone as he rolled by on a flatbed truck. “Stand back just a little bit so the show can begin!”

We stood back toward the store fronts as much as we could in the crowd, and the antique cars rolled by. We all waved at the Tuckerites as though we had not seen them in fifty years, and they returned the waves with enthusiasm. Gene Cofer accompanied by his father, Mr. Reid Cofer, led the parade of cars, and then circled back with another antique car, and that’s how it went for a while. Some cars were old and black, while others were shiny and colorful.AntiqueCar

Ms. Louise and Ms. Belle Cofer wore beautiful long dresses and big hats, and waved as graciously as the Queen of England as they were escorted up Main Street in Gene’s fancy cars. Ms. Louise and Ms. Belle were Cown sisters who married brothers, Kelley and Reid Cofer, the founders of Cofer Brothers, the largest store in Tucker.

And I recognized Ernest and Elizabeth Atkinson as they rode by in an antique car. Elizabeth was just beautiful – gloves and all. And every so often, Doc Newsom owner of Newsom’s Drug Store, circled around on his big tricycle in a turn of the century suit.

Daddy pointed out an old antique car and said, “Look, Helen, here comes King Whitaker! That 1920 Olds used to be owned by Judge Mathis – Justice of the Peace. He used to hold court in the old Browning District Courthouse. I believe King had the first wrecker service in Tucker.”

“Whit’s Garage and Wrecker Service?” asked Mama.

Daddy ran up to take a snap shot of the automobile, “Yeah, that’s the one. What a beauty!”

And then there came more horse drawn wagons, full of folks dressed in the old ways. Most of the women were dressed in long dresses made of calico and gingham prints. They wore bonnets or old hats with netting. The men wore everything from overalls and farm hats to fancy cowboy attire. Tucker Elementary’s principal, Mr. Conrad Allgood, dressed in a turn of the century suit topped off with a round hat called a derby. And all the while, guns were shooting and Joe Reeves was lockin’ ‘em up.

And then the moment came that we had all waited for, the winner of the beauty contest. Weeks before, gallon jars were placed in all the Main Street Tucker stores with a picture of each beauty contestant on each jar. The contestant with the most pennies won. Mary Carol Snead was crowned the very first Miss Tucker.

And we had our pictures made to a fair-thee-well

And we had our pictures made to a fair-thee-well!

We ate foot long hot dogs, fried chicken, French fries, cotton candy and candied apples. We drank Coca Cola, and frozen lemonade. We laughed, socialized, and were thoroughly entertained by the events of the day. And, we had our pictures taken to a fair-thee-well!

But as the day went on, I became shadowed by the loss of my great-grandmother who passed away a little over a year ago. Since Granny passed, I had struggled with scarlet fever and then rheumatic fever. My heart ached for her.

“What’s going on? Where’s your smile, Diane?” asked Mama.

“Most everybody here is dressed like Granny.”

“I know. I was just thinking that myself,” she answered. “You know Tucker has been here for fifty years, and next year Tucker will be here fifty-one years. Time moves on. Granny had eighty-seven good years here, and Emma Voyles would want you to enjoy your time, just like she did.” Mama gave me a quick hug and said, “There’s Miss Collins with her easel in front of the beauty shop. Why don’t you go over there and let her draw your face. She said you could sit with her if you got tired.”

As soon as Miss Winnie Collins saw me, she said, “Well, hello there little Pilgrim girl, I brought you a chair. Come on over here and keep me company. Yes, indeed, and we can work on another drawing lesson if you want to.” She handed me a large tablet of drawing paper and a felt marker. Do you remember how to draw your egghead people?”ConradAllgood

“Yes, ‘ma’am, I do. Place the eyes half way down in the circle – even though it looks wrong, it’s the correct proportion.”

“And how do we draw the face of a baby?”

“Round circle.”

“A skinny person?”

“Almost like a carrot.”

“That’s exactly right! You are a great little artist, if I do say so myself!” she laughed.

Miss Collins was a dear sweet older woman who lived on Old Norcross and rode an old bicycle every day – not just on the Semi-Centennial. She carried a suitcase strapped onto the back of her bicycle full of her “stuff.” She gave me art lessons while I was sick with rheumatic fever. She also performed many puppet shows for me on Sunday afternoons – all with puppets she hand-knitted or crocheted.

I stayed with her and watched her exaggerate her customer’s facial features and turn them into cartoons.  She sold her five minute “masterpieces” for a dollar each, which was donated to the Semi-Centennial committee. Everybody loved it!  And they loved Miss Collins. In her younger years, she worked at the CDC in Atlanta where her father was a doctor. She was somewhat worldly and loved sharing a little bit of culture with the “good Tucker people.” Once she hired my father to paint her bathroom white – with enamel paint. Daddy tried to explain to her that enamel paint was used for trim, not sheetrock.

“Tommy, now you just watch me. I need the walls to be slick! Paint them white enamel for me,” Miss Collins told my father.

She used an artist brush to paint black on white street scenes of Paris on the bathroom walls, and it was fabulous. And today at the Semi-Centennial, she wore a 1910 Parisian dress with a large hat which featured long peacock feathers.

Miss Winnie Collins packed up her easel and retrieved her bicycle from Isabelle Johnson who agreed to keep her bicycle in the Tucker Beauty Shop during the celebration day. The day was winding down, and Miss Collins wanted to get home before dark.

Red Dog Saloon, Tom Story Center

Red Dog Saloon - Grady Willis, Fiddle Player, Tom Story, Mr. Cook & Jimmy Craft

As the sun went down, Mama took us to the Red Dog Saloon to hear Daddy play bluegrass music with his friends.

I think the most fun of the day was seeing all the grown-ups laughing and having such a good time. It was like watching normally serious grown-ups play act like children, for a day.

I was very proud of Daddy for being on stage and playing his guitar.  And Daddy looked different up there. He did not have on his “down and out” farmer clothes, nor did he have a beard. Some time or another, he went home to get his guitar and amplifier and shaved. He wore black dress pants and a white dress shirt with a black ribbon tied in a bow around his neck. And, his teeth were white again.

Doc Newsom parked his big tricycle outside the Red Dog and came in. “Drinks are on me!” shouted Doc Newsom. Everybody clapped, and sarsaparillas and popcorn were passed around by the saloon girls. The music was good, but I really don’t remember too much about it, because I fell asleep and woke up Sunday morning on my bed, still dressed as a pilgrim.

The Semi-Centennial was over, but not the talk. Every time Daddy went to Tucker to buy building materials to build cabinets for someone, he came home with the latest information.

“Yeah, everybody had a good time and it brought in the revenue. The committee wants to do it again next year. It might become an annual event. Red Cruce said that we are well on our way to having the means to build Tucker a library and recreation center.”

“Oh, Tom, a library would be wonderful!” said Mama. “The mobile library is well and good, but a real library would be splendid.”

“Daddy do you really think we will have another Semi-Centennial?” I asked.

“How can you have a Semi-Centennial two years in a row? That’s impossible, Diane,” said my older sister, Patricia. “You can only be fifty years old one time.”

“Well, what would you call it then?”More Horses and Buggies 2

Mama said, “Dewey Turner wants to call it Horse and Buggy Days. Some say, Tucker Yester-Years. And Ann Blanott said that she heard some tourists ask if Tucker was the capital of Dekalb County. I’d like to see it called Bonnet and Beard  Day. That way, Tom, you’d have to grow a beard every year!” laughed Mama. “And by the way, I think Joe Reeves went too far locking up visitors who didn’t know about the dress code.”

“He wanted to put wheels on the jail and roll it around, but Charles Alford said – Tucker doesn’t need a law suit,” laughed Daddy.

“Whatever they call it, I’ll just be glad we get to see the horses again,” I said.

This supper table conversation went on for several weeks, until one evening Daddy came home grinning. He said, “They’ve decided on a name for the Tucker birthday celebration for next year.” Then he was silent.

“Oh, come on, Tom, don’t hold the girls in suspense for so long! What is it?”

Daddy grinned and looked at Patricia, Barbara and I to make sure he had our attention. All eyes were on him. And then he said it, “They’re gonna call it – Tucker Days!”

Going Home

Going Home, gbonnetshorsesoing home

I’m just going home

Quiet light, some still day

I’m just going home

It’s not far, just close by

Through an open door

Work all done, care laid by

Going to fear no more

Mother’s there expecting me

Father’s waiting, too

Lots of folks gathered there

All the friends I knew

All the friends I knew

I’m going home

Nothing’s lost, all’s gain

No more fret nor pain

No more stumbling on the way

No more longing for the day

Going to roam no more

Morning star lights the way

Restless dream all done

Shadows gone, break of day

Real life has begun

Sarah and Tom at the jail

Sarah Story-Graves with brother Tom Story at the jail!


There’s no break, there’s no end

Just a living on

Wide awake with a smile

Going on and on

Going home, going home

I’m just going home

It’s not far, just close by

Through an open door

I am going home

I’m just going home

Going home, going home

I’m just going home

Scottish Hymn – Author Unknown

Similar version of Going Home – written by William Arms Fisher and Ken Bible

Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)


All Chloe Agnew – Going Home lyrics, artist names and images are copyrighted to their respective owners. All Chloe Agnew – Going Home song lyrics might be restricted for educational and personal use only.



Helen as a young mother

The last week of February 2008, Mama left her Morgan Road home for the last time – the home she lived in since 1948. She drove herself to the doctor’s office on Main Street – Tucker.


Mama had not been feeling well and called me to tell me she had lost fifty pounds in ten days. I told her she either needed new glasses or new scales. I went over to check on her. Mama had lost fifty pounds.

I offered to take her to the doctor or hospital and she said, “No, Diane, I have an appointment Monday morning and I will drive myself to the doctor. It’s just down the road. I can do it. It’s just life – I’ll be all right – you’ll see.”

On March 1, Mama was diagnosed with stage four pancreas cancer. On March 22, Mama passed away. She was her own independent self until the very end.

Tucker has changed a lot over the years, but not so much as when “Mrs. Story” left Morgan Road. Mama made Tucker my home no matter where I live.



Mama was the hard one. I could talk Daddy into anything, but just when I thought I had him, he tacked on, “Go ask your mother.” It was hard to get around Mama and she made sure she knew what was going on in my life at all times. I really found out what my mother was made of the day I ran away from the first grade at Tucker Elementary. I learned about real life; taking responsibility for my own actions that school year of 1955.

My teacher, Mrs. Schinack, rang the bell for recess. We excitedly lined up and walked – single file – down the highly polished yellow and brown tile floors – always on the brown border – never on the yellow part. Mr. Allgood, our principal, kept a keen eye on the way we conducted our exit. He insisted on order.

Once outside, we had a few minutes to socialize and eat a snack before playing kick-ball. We had brand new playground equipment. Some of the trees that were cut down to make room for the swings and slide were still on the grounds. The fell trees made a perfect place to sit and enjoy a snack and realize new found freedom. First grade was fun, but it had it’s challenges. And I had a hard time keeping my mouth shut for so long a time during class time. Sitting on the logs behind the swings was my favorite time of the day.

One fall day I sat there with a few of my friends. Each of us looked over each others snack. For some reason we competed to see who had the best – the best snack, the best mother, the best father, the best house, the best pet, well, I think you get it. It’s the sort of conversation that all children engage in from time to time and I was no different.

I was the runt of the class (along with Ann Harris). I weighed thirty-three pounds. I wore my dark wiry hair short with a piece or two always sticking out in the wrong place. Even cut short, my hair was too big for my face. I felt as though I was on the bottom of the totem pole all the way around. I tried hard to fit in.

That day one of the girls bragged about her mother’s new fur coat.

Another said her mother had a new Cadillac. The conversation went something like this:

“My father is a doctor- we can afford a Cadillac. I’m an only child you know. My mother almost died when I was born.”

“My mother could afford a fur coat, but my parents decided to travel abroad instead,” said another.

“I’m an only child too.”

And another, “I’m an only child, because, my brother is a grown man.”

They looked at me. I was on. I could not think of a thing to say, but held my head up just the same. I lived in a three bedroom house within walking distance of the school, and my father earned a modest income as a carpenter. I tried to talk to him about that, but all he said about it was that stuff about Jesus being a carpenter. He thought it to be an “honorable occupation.” And, my mother was willing to do without luxury items to be a housewife. She did not even drive a car, let alone own her own car.

Now here I was – sitting on a log looking at my role models and wishing I could be wealthy and special too. And, I had two sisters. My mother was healthy and not a bit fragile. I wished my parents would have considered my feelings, after all, this was tough for a six year old. But I would not be out done.

Confidently – without blinking an eye – I said, “I live in a five story house.”

Diane Story 1st Grade

They all looked amazed! Eyes and mouths wide open, all except for one. “Oh no you don’t! You live over the hill on Morgan Road behind the school! There’s not a five story house on that whole street! I know the house you live in – it’s a small house!”

They believed her, and worst of all, they laughed. “Diane Storyteller! You’re Diane Storyteller!”

I stood to my feet and took off running. I was going home. I did not say goodbye to my teacher. Nothing. I just had to get away from the laughter and mean words, Diane Storyteller! In just moments I found myself running down my driveway. I found Mama digging up her daffodil bulbs. I ran into her arms. I sobbed. She held me tight for a minute then she took off her gardening gloves and walked me up the steps and sat me down on the front porch swing. The place where Mama solved a lot of problems.

“Let’s talk about it.”

“No, I don’t want to talk about it. I hate school and I’m never going back there. I hate it!”

“Well my goodness, you love school and are doing so well, what on earth happened? Look at me and tell me what happened,” Mama said as she wiped my face with her dress tail.

“They called me a liar!”

“Who called you a liar?”

“They did – my friends, but they’re not my friends anymore! They think I’m a liar!”

“Okay, let’s start from the beginning. Who called you a liar?”

I hesitated. I really did not want to get Mama involved in all this. It was unpleasant enough for just me, but she insisted. I took a deep breath. “We went out to recess and I took my sandwich and sat on the logs. The girls…”

“What girls?”

“Well —— you know.”

“No, I don’t know. Tell me their names.”

At this point, I really wished I had not disturbed Mama splitting her daffodil bulbs, but I was in too deep and had to give up the names.

“All of them? Slow down now, and tell me what you said to make them call you a liar. Did they say that? Did they use that word, liar? I know those girls, and that does not sound like them.”

I could not believe it! Mama was taking up for those girls! And, she knew them all right. She was my room-mother and volunteered in the clinic and library. She knew every teacher, every friend and everybody’s parents. There was no getting around Mama.

“Liar? They called you a liar?” Mama asked again.

“Well not exactly, but that‘s what they meant.”

“Ohhhh? I’m listening.”

“Well, one mother has a fur coat. A father is a doctor – he bought her mother a new car. Not just a car, but a Cadillac.”

“Oh, and what do you have?”

“Well——I said that—–I live in a five story house.”

“What? A five story house? This is a one story house – a ranch. Why did you say that?”

“Because it is true! I do live in a five story house. My last name is Story and counting me,” holding up my fingers to count, “you, Daddy, Pat and Barbara, I live in a five story house!” (And if my brother Tommy had been born prior to 1955, I would have lived in a six story house.)helen_as_young_mother

“Well, my goodness, I don’t think that is what you led your friends to think though, is it?”

“They can think whatever they want to think. I did not lie! I do live in a five Story house. I am not a liar! And I am not going back to school – not ever!”

I cried. I was humiliated beyond repair. Didn’t Mama know that? Mama let me cry. I lied across her lap and cried my heart out while she rubbed my back.

“Perhaps your friends were complimenting you by calling you Diane Storyteller. You do tell good stories, you know. Like a person with a good imagination, not a liar. Maybe they were being good friends after all.”

“Oh no they weren’t! They called me a liar and meant it.”

Mama wiped my eyes again with her dress tail and said it was time for me to go back and face the music. Face the music? What was she talking about? That wasn’t a music-class – it was recess. She didn’t understand anything I said. She made me stand up and took my hand. She led me back up the driveway and back to the edge of the school – and there she stopped.

“You’ll have to go from here by yourself.”

I begged her to change her mind. “I’ll go back tomorrow, but not today.” But no, Mama was firm. “But Mama, what will I say, what will I do?”

My mother knelt down and looked into my desperate eyes, “Well, I’m confident you’ll think of something. This is life Diane, just life – and you will get over it. You’ll see.”

With a hug and a kiss, she turned me around and nudged me away from her. I hated that day, I hated my school – and for a moment, I hated Mama. How she had changed since I started school. I took a few steps and stopped to look back at her, hoping she had come to her senses, hoping her arms would fly open to embrace me. But no, her arms were folded tight. She was a rock that would not roll. I had no choice but to go back to school. I took a step and then another, all the while feeling Mama’s eyes burning a hole in my back.

One of the girls saw me  up on the hill looking down at my classmates playing kick-ball. She waved happily to Mrs. Schinack and pointed at me. My teacher looked up at me, and yelled, “Come on Diane! It’s your turn to kick the ball!”

My friends cheered as I ran down the hill and found my place. I kicked that ball as hard as I could and made it to first base. All of a sudden, it was the happiest day of my life. I did not look up to see if Mama was watching. I didn’t have to. I knew she was there.

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