Baptists on Broomsticks

Bama with Tricia, 1933. She was 65 years old.

“At our house, children were not the only ones who had to suffer through teasing from the others. Poor Bama [Sara’s grandmother] never lived down our jokes about her ‘Stitch and Chatterer’s’ group, which was made up of ladies in her Sunday School class.

First Baptist Church, home of the Stitch and Chatterers.

They were in their fifties and sixties, and we all thought they were at least 100. One time their teacher, Miss Daisy Wright, invited them all out to her farm for a picnic. Bama made the mistake of telling us that they got broomsticks and all rode around on them pretending the broomsticks were horses.

Miss Daisy Wright's home on Fulton Street. Photo courtesy of Mary Rose Carter.

“I was excited the one time that Bama had the Stitch and Chatterers meet at our house. That was the only social life she had, and we really should not have laughed at her, but just the thought of Bama, who was not the type at all, riding a stick horse on Miss Daisy’s farm, had to be the funniest sight we could imagine.

“Bama was a good seamstress until her eyesight got bad. That kept her from reading much, too, and I remember her spending most of her time sitting in a rocking chair shelling peas, listening to the radio or talking to visiting neighbors or Mama or Big. From the time she came to live with us when she must have been in her early fifties, they told us her health was bad. I don’t think the doctors ever really knew what was wrong with her or what eventually resulted in her final illness. Today I am sure something could have been done for her.

“She loved to go to Fountain’s when they had the summer sale and buy herself a new Nelly Don dress, and she was the only member of the family who dressed and fixed her face and hair as soon as she got up. As I got older I realized that much of her life had been hard and sad, and that she had not had much of a life of her own. I realized too that we did not show much affection to her but resented her giving Mama advice on how to raise us or telling her what we should and shouldn’t be allowed to do. I think if she had lived longer we would have grown closer to her. Even though she and Mama were so different, Mama was always very good to her.”

Bama and Sara at 1212 Strong Avenue, probably 1923 or 1924.

Thedorene Chavis West was born in rural Holmes County just three years after the Civil War ended and probably never left that county until she moved with her daughter Jessie, son T.C. and mother Margaret Sproles (Bigma) down to Greenwood, following her eldest daughter Olive (Big). She had married Anderson West, a Confederate veteran 26 years her senior, which was not likely what she dreamed of as a girl on that farm near Durant. Her son drowned in Moon Lake at age 19 and she soon afterwards moved in with Jessie’s family, never having her own home again before she died in 1942. Sara remembered her as quiet and stern, unaffectionate, totally unlike Jessie, who just radiated comfort and love. She was in many ways a woman trying to straddle two worlds, the Reconstruction rural South of her youth and the increasingly fast-paced “city life” of Twentieth century Greenwood. It would be interesting to know what she daydreamed about as she sat on the front porch shelling those peas and rocking. The broomstick incident may have been the most outrageous stunt she ever pulled, and she just shouldn’t have shared it with her giggly grandchildren.

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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