Life with Lena

Sara and Lena White

“Lena White and I had a lot of fun together, but sometimes we had terrible fusses and one time when she had stopped by my house so we could go to the Saturday movie at the Paramount she made me mad, and I slapped her right there in our bedroom. We still went to the show, though. Another time Son, who was about five, chased her up to the corner with a butcher knife (to this day we don’t know how he got hold of it). We rescued her and, as I recall, he wasn’t even very sharply reprimanded since Mama said she probably deserved to be chased because she teased Son all the time.

“Lena White’s family was having an especially hard time during the Depression. Her father did not have a good job and was raising tomatoes to sell to make a little money. She had a brother and sister who were much older than she, so she was spoiled because they would give her things whether they could afford them or not. One thing I remember liking about her house was that they kept Hershey bars there all the time to try to fatten her up, and occasionally we got fattened up, too.

“The Aron family, who had donated the money for the Nurses home on Strong Avenue, and who were kin to Lena White, were living in New York and they would send her clothes, so she dressed better than we did. I was very envious of her because even though they were living in an old frame house, she had her own room while I was sleeping in the room with Mama, Mary, Son and Tricia. One time she told me that I could share her room and pretend that I lived there. I took some little ten cent store pictures and a baby picture of Son down to her house so it would seem like it was my room too. I spent lots of nights down there, and she and I would invite some of the other girls over there for parties.”

It’s difficult to picture Sara slapping anyone or Son chasing Lena with a butcher knife. Evanses, as a general rule, are not a hostile bunch. Enough teasing can cause anyone to snap. Or enough crowding. To her dying day, Sara treasured her “space,” and really didn’t even like to have overnight guests. And who could blame her? Lena White lived at 404 East Market and her father, according to the 1930 City Directory, was in the insurance business. Which probably dried up when people had to choose between food or premiums. I hope he sold a lot of tomatoes.

About sec040121

Hello....I'm in possession of a priceless collection of memoirs and memorabilia left by my mother, Sara Evans Criss. She was a native and lifelong (88 years!) devotee of our small town, who covered this peculiar and volatile corner of the world for 30 years as the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Greenwood bureau chief, a job that started out with debutantes and high school football and wound up spang in the midst of one of the twentieth century's most enduring social upheavals. This blog is dedicated to her memory and the legacy she left behind, both for her family and her community.
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