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Nora Blaylock, my great-grandmother, was born October 25, 1919, at her parent’s home in Hitchcock, Tennessee. Hitchcock is known today as Brockdell. She was one of nine children born to Arthur and Emma Johnson Prater. “Granny” had five sisters; Cora, Mary Ruth, Effie, Rena, and Christine. There were three boys, Raulston, J.R., and Landon. Cora and Mary Ruth died of “colitis” at a young age and J.R. died of appendicitis around the age of 14.
She grew up on a 140 acre farm, where they grew all the food they ate. They would harvest and can enough food for the winter. They canned vegetables and berries that they picked themselves. They rode mules to the store for groceries where twenty five cents would buy a brown paper bag full of beans, sugar or coffee. Her mother, Emma, would grow “broom corn” and make her own brooms. Making molasses and lye soap was a common chore. They made their own mattresses from “bed ticks”, which was sewing grain sacks together. They would then fill them with hay to make the mattress. Flour sacks were also used to make dresses for the girls and undergarments were made from the white flour sacks. During winter the men would hunt animals and sell the fur to buy food they couldn’t grow themselves. There was no electricity or running water in their homes. They used oil lamps and bathed in washtubs. The washtubs were filled with water they had carried from a stream or creek. The houses didn’t have many rooms and children often had to sleep three or more to one bed. A typical breakfast might consist of cornbread and gravy; lunch would be beans and cornbread. Supper was usually some type of beans, baked sweet potatoes and sometimes meat. Her dad would occasionally kill a wild turkey for dinner. Having meat was a rare treat. If neighbors killed a hog, they would sometimes share the meat with Nora’s family.
She attended a one room school, which only went through the 8th grade. Children would walk to school barefoot back then and study reading, writing and arithmetic. Most girls had one good dress, which was worn to school or church, and one play dress. Shoes were only worn in the winter and each pair cost around twenty -five cents. There were no modern day playgrounds so they played ball, stealing sticks, jump rope, thimble, hide and seek, and “flip” also known as slingshots. Their school day ended at noon when they would go home to work in the fields with their parents. Nora would go home and work in the corn fields, dig potatoes and milk the cows in the evening. As was common then, she only finished the 6th grade.
One of her fondest childhood memories is the fun they had playing in the barn loft and on the haystacks. When her mother would go somewhere, she warned the kids not to eat the green apples from the apple tree in the yard. Whenever they ate them, the kids would get stomach aches. Granny said her mother would count the apples before and after her trip, to see if they had eaten any! Her sister, Effie, once had a boyfriend who would buy her chewing gum. Effie would hide it, and Nora would find it, giving it to anyone who wanted some. She enjoyed these mischievous times.
Nora married K.M. Blaylock on January 10, 1936. She was only sixteen when she married. Marrying and starting a family at an early age was normal for their time. She had one son, Pete or Lil Pete, who only lived about 24 hours, and three daughters, Geneva, Bobbie Jo and Wilma Jean. All of her children were born at home with the help of a midwife. She said Wilma was the worst baby, crying all the time with stomach troubles. K.M. made her a rocking chair so she could rock her and sing, trying to soothe her. She once said she was so tired of looking at that little ugly face she made while crying! Nora remembers wanting some bologna and giving her only dime to the mailman so he could bring her some on his way back home. She waited on that piece of bologna for nearly one hour!
Due to hardship, K.M. moved the family to Willoughby, Ohio, in 1948 to find work. It wasn’t long until they had to move again, this time to Harvey, Illinois. These moves were made before finally settling in Palmer, Tennessee. They lived in Palmer, where K.M. worked in the coal mines until the girls were in high school. They then moved to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Construction was the booming business there, and K.M. worked steadily for a while. He and Nora eventually divorced, and he moved back to Tennessee, leaving her and their three daughters in Florida. She and the girls worked hard over the years, had families and took care of one another. They had to survive on their own after K.M. left.
She has had several jobs during her lifetime. She worked at a stave mill, which made wooden lids for barrels before getting hired at a hosiery mill. She knitted socks at the rate of nineteen cents per dozen. Her favorite job was at, Millaire, an air conditioning vent manufacturer, located in Florida. Her starting salary was $1.65 an hour and had increased to $4.01 when she quit. This may seem funny, but she worked at a senior citizens center in Florida, in her 70s and retired from there when she was 82!
Nora met her longtime companion, Winfield Snow, in 1960. Although, they never married they shared a happy 46 years together. She will not ride a Ferris wheel but, “Jimmy” owned a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and Nora loved to ride it. He was a wonderful grandfather to all her grandchildren and great grandchildren. He would do anything the kids wanted, take them swimming, roller skating and to the movies. He would actually do all these things with the kids. Not many grandparents can be seen roller skating!
She has seen many, many changes in our world during her almost 95 years on earth. She remembers times when you couldn’t go to the store and buy a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk. You had to bake the bread, milk the cows and churn butter. There was also what was called a “rolling store”, which came close to her home and sold dry goods, such as flour, sugar and things you couldn’t grow. She remembers when gas was twenty five cents per gallon, and when she had to travel to church in a wagon pulled with horses. Her first boyfriend was L.V. Davis, when she was 15. “Suitors”, boys who wanted to date, were allowed to come to the girl’s house. The only place they could “court” was when going to church. The first car her daddy owned was a Model T Ford. She and K.M. later owned a Model A Ford. She first heard a radio somewhere in the 1930’s when her daddy bought one. He would turn it off sometimes because he didn’t like to hear Little Jimmy Dickens. When the family moved to Florida, there seemed to be only palmetto trees, palm trees and numerous fruit trees. She has seen so many changes during the years she spent in Florida. Geneva bought the family their first television in 1958 for $10.00.
During a visit to Tennessee, July 8, 2006, she fell and broke her hip and wrist. This fall resulted in surgery and therapy. She chose to stay in Tennessee, where she now resides with her daughter, Bobbie Jo and grandson, Stevie. She rode in a limo with her great grandson, on his 10th birthday, rode a Harley Davidson on her 80th birthday, wishes she had been a school teacher and says it’s quite possible she may take another ride on her 95th birthday!
Allie is a sixth grade student at North Elementary. Her teacher, Ms. Corley, asked her class to interview and write a biography of someone 70 years of age or older. Inspired by the “Meet Your Neighbor” column, Ms. Corley submitted Allie’s interview with her great-grandmother to the Grundy County Herald.