I was born in nineteen and nineteen on the Virana farm thirteen miles east of Richmond, Virginia. My father was
renting a large farm and had moved over there about a year before I was
born. He had been working with some company during the war, but after
the war was over, he couldn't get any work, so he decided to take up
farming. The house where we lived was a big two story one, the down
stairs was plastered and painted white and had two big open fireplaces.
I remember how scared I was one day when I was just a little girl. I had
gone into the big living room and all at once I heard a big noise coming
right down the chimney. I thought something had come to get me and I
went running out calling Mother, crying at the top of my voice. Mother
was out looking after the chickens and I was so frightened it scared
her. I told her about the noise that was in that room and Mother
couldn't see a thing and she thought I was excited by being left along.
So one day mother was in there and heard the noise and father examined
the chimney and [found that] some chimney sweep had built her nest in
the chimney and when she came in or went out her wings made an awful
noise. I loved birds, but she most got me. I thought after we found her
there Father said we mustn't use this fire place any more while she was
there. My parents were lovers of birds and wouldn't allow any one to
hurt. We would feed them crumbs from the table and the sparrows would
come up most to the door.
I remember I guess it was
about six or seven years old, Father had pulled up some cedars trees
using the horses and in one of them was a cat bird nest and she had one
little bird in it. I knew that down in the orchard was another cat birds
nest with three little birds in it. I felt so sorry for this little
bird, me and my brother went and put little fellow in the nest with
them. The blackberries were ripe and every day we'd go down and see our
bird family and feed them berries, and the old mother didn't seem to
mind that she had another son to feed. The first thing we knew one day
they had feathered out. We went down to feed them and to our surprise
they had flown away. We watched the little fellows as they flew from
tree to tree. We enjoyed playing with the little calves and chickens and
things like that. My brother (the boys said) was to "chicken
hearted" to hurt any of the birds or animals.
We loved the county life and when the depression grew worse
and still worse, my parents moved to Hopewell where Daddy had secured
a job. I didn't like the city a bit. Mother didn't neither. Mother
said, "I like a little elbow room around me and here in town I can't
hardly move." But after we had lived there awhile, I was going to
school and Sunday School. I had a lot of friends and I liked to live
there fine and mother came to like the city too. After I grew up - I
am twenty now - but when I was around fourteen, the boy I had been
with at school wanted to come to see me, but mother was about the blow
the roof off why "Isabell you are too young to go
around with boys. You wait until you finish school and then we will see
about it." But I like to go out with my friends. I didn't see no
harm in going to my girl's house with my boy friend or to the movies,
and I didn't ever have the money to pay my way to the movies and I like
to see them.
When I was about sixteen I had finished the
seventh grade and I wanted to go to high school, but when daddy was
taken down with rheumatism, I had to help mother at home and then I had
to go to work to help support my parents. I couldn't get any work no
where. I tried my best and finally Mrs. Elder got me on with the N.Y.A.
I made sixteen dollars a month and had to work for two weeks each month
and the rest of the month I helped at home. I was going to night school,
the N.Y.A. required it. I studied sewing and I had to come home most of
the way along.
Clyde was a nice boy, a little older then me.
He was in the night school. Also he wanted to see me home and I knew
mother would have a fit just about. I hated to not let him go to the
house, but I knew I couldn't, so that night I said, "Clyde you will
have to leave me a block from my home. Mother doesn't allow me to have
callers of the opposite sex." So Clyde understood my position and
when I came in a block of home, he bid me good night. When he carried me
to the movies, I had to be visiting my girl friends and he would come
and we would go to the show and I went home from my girl friend's house
or maybe I could spend the night there with her. For several months I
did this. I thought I was getting along fine until one day my aunt came
down to see mother about me. She had heard of me and Clyde going
together and came to tell mother. Mother was "made as fire,"
but aunt calmly said, "Now Bell don't get so excited; it for your
sake I have come." And to mother she said, "Now its not
particularly any of my business, but I thought you ought to know that
Bell is meeting her friends away from her own home and she is most
eighteen and old enough to have company. If I were in your place, I
would let her friends call here instead of having to meet her
elsewhere." And mother said, "Yes, that' better." And
from then on my friends came to my house for me and brought me home.
After I got to working, I could get clothes for
myself. My parents were not able to dress me like I wanted to be
dressed, so each pay I could use part of my check to buy myself clothes
and soon I had a nice wardrobe of them. "Clothes may not make the
girl," as mother often said, "but I think they help out a lot
and they do have a lot to do among ones friends, says Bell smiling. Her
big brown eyes shine like a full moon shaped by her black curly hair and
the white teeth sparkle between her red lips and rosy cheeks, a little
girl most dressed in the new spring suit of blue, her finger nails
neatly polished and manicured, a girl of happy disposition with lots of
friends of boys and girls.
I like to sew and make a lot of my own clothes.
I can make them so much cheaper than I can buy them and when money is
scarce as it is with us, every little bit counts. She said I enjoy
creating my own ideas in my dresses and a lot of things in the home. Why
I took a box and covered it with acetone and ruffled it around and
caused it my own hung mirror about and there I had a dressing table and
the stool likewise. I keep my room now with my own ideas of creation. I
get a big kick out of it.
When Daddy's health improved, he moved to Arlington.
"The rent is so high," mother said. I guess we will have to
keep some boarders to help Dad out with the expenses and she has a few,
and I help her with the cooking and house work and sometimes I work out,
keeping house for my uncle and his wife. I enjoy playing with their
We went out to the zoo in Washington one day
and saw all the different animals and someone came up behind me, put
their hands over my eyes, and it was Clyde. I was surprised to death. He
came to my home and mother said I was I was here with Bill in the zoo
and there I was, Clyde said and its a good place for monkeys. Me and
Clyde are good friends, but we fun so much. We like each other all
right, but we don't seem to get along when we are together. We just fun.
We go to the movies a lot together and at Xmas he gave me a new radio
for my room, but I can't stand so much funing. That's his only fault. He
works well, makes good, and all like that, but I don't guess I will ever
get married, not for a long time yet. Anyway as long as mother needs me,
and I am far to young yet anyway. I couldn't think of leaving Daddy and
My brother is married. He is having a hard time and I
think I would be better to stay single and be happy. I can do most
anything I like and I enjoy my books and magazines and mother and me go
around a lot together, as just pals. She looks almost as young as I,
only she doesn't like the movies. She enjoy walking out, visiting
friends and reading when our work is done. Daddy is not so strong, but
he keeps at work unless he is so sick he can't make it. I am thankful of
good heath and the best parents ever and a happy and comfortable home.
Though we don't have money, we are contented and happy, if Daddy was
only as well as he used to be. We have a car. I think it is a thirty six
and when daddy is off from work, we go riding through the city or out in
the country, which is Daddy's only diversion. So its home for me with my
parents for a long time yet to come...