“By the time I came along Mama and Daddy already had two little girls, and I am quite sure everyone but Mama was hoping that this one would be a boy. Mama was probably thinking how much more fun it would be to make dresses and buy dolls and make doll clothes for three little girls instead of two. “It was in the early evening when I made my appearance, delivered by kindly old Dr. W.B.Dickens. He was assisted by a nurse friend of Mama’s who she called ‘Big Lane.’ (‘Big Lane’ later married Mr. Poland, the mean mailman who threatened to shoot mace at our sweet dog, Brownie, after she barked at him.) Mama said that after I arrived Big Lane rushed out to the fence to tell Mama’s best friend Mrs. Caldwell that it was ‘another girl, and she has red hair.’ My hair really wasn’t red, but I guess that the little fuzz that was on top of my head appeared that way. Since Daddy had auburn hair she thought that I might have it too.
“Mama had had the other two babies in the hospital which was in the next block. She did not want to go there to have me because that would have meant leaving Tiny, two years eleven months old, and Mary, sixteen months old. Tiny had been the first baby born in the Kings Daughters Hospital on River Road. Then when Mary came and Mama was in the hospital it seems Tiny got very sick and, according to Mama, ‘almost died.’ The the nurse who was staying with her let her get burned with a hot water bottle. “This was the explanation given as to why I was delivered at home, and was, I feel sure, the beginning of Mama’s belief that Tiny was ‘the sickly one.'”
And so the original trio of Evans girls was complete. In the picture across this masthead, taken probably around 1927 or so, Sara’s on the left, the one with the impish hint of a smile. Tiny is in the middle, already showing signs of the near regal bearing and classic beauty that would mark her all her days. Mamie is on the right, a tiny version of the delightful woman I knew, just a picture of a little girl who’s scheming to get into something devious or mess with her sisters’ minds. They were as different as different can be, but in so many ways they were identical, and that led to some battle royales that are still legendary in Evans lore. More on all of them to come very soon.
Ed. note: The Kings Daughters Hospital was Greenwood’s third medical facility. The first was a “cottage hospital” on West Washington where a handful of minimally trained nurses took care of the sick. In 1908, the city provided $7000 for the purchase of the Bew house at 807 River Road and converted it into the first true Greenwood hospital. Sara’s aunt, Olive West Stott (“Big” to us) was the second RN to sign on there. By 1917, the rapidly growing town needed a more modern facility, and a three-story, dark brick structure, also on River Road, opened in April, 1918. Jessye Evans (“Tiny”) was the first baby delivered there, just a few days after the opening. The hospital was enlarged in 1936 and served the community until 1952, when the current complex was built just west on River Road. My memories of the old Kings Daughters Hospital are grim, as it was dark and dingy and the front screened porches came to be hidden behind decades of vines. The most daunting of high school dares was to speed through the dark tunnel that connected the front and rear wings, and a few brave souls actually broke in and explored the morgue. Not a place for the faint-hearted, which I was. In the late 1970s, the delapidated old hospital was pressed into emergency use as the courthouse. Only a slab and basement remain to mark the site of the original front wing; the back wing still stands as office and storage space for Greenwood Leflore Hospital. Behind it is the moldering shell of the Lois Aron Nurses’ Home, but that’s a tale for another day.