Early East Adams

“You didn’t leave the hospital a few days after delivery at that time, and I was there for eleven days with a special nurse during the day at something like nine or ten dollars a day, but which Mama and Big insisted was necessary. When I did bring Cathy home, dressed up in a little blue sacque and cap made by Wilma Ray, who worked with Mama, I had Paralee, a wonderful black practical nurse, to stay with me for two weeks and help take care of Cathy.

“She weighed six pounds and seemed so tiny I was scared to death something would happen to her, that I would drop her or she would choke on her bottle, and even though she was sleeping in her crib right beside us, I am sure we kept her awake checking on her.

“While I was in the hospital Elmer and Nancy Gwin moved in next door with seven-year-old Nan and four-year-old Martha. We immediately became good friends and were glad to have neighbors. The Doyles, Marge and Jim, who lived across from the Wynns, were good friends by this time, and Marge was expecting in July. They had one child, Nancy, who was eight. The Stiglers had moved across the street.

“We could not afford to have any help so I stayed home most of the time with Cathy. Russell was out of town most of the time so I did not have a car. We would take a cab and go over to Mama’s to visit. Nancy Gwin chauffeured us around a lot and took us to the grocery store and other places. I pushed Cathy in the stroller for miles around the neighborhood. We found someone who would come in about once a week to iron and clean a little, but I did not leave Cathy with her, and I don’t remember us having a baby sitter other than on rare occasions having Mama come over while we went out, maybe once a year.”

Because the east end of East Adams had filled in, so to speak, by the time I was aware of neighbors, I just can’t imagine that friendly stretch of blocks without the families who populated mine and Cathy’s childhoods. The Gwins, right next door, were a mainstay. I thought Nan was Miss America and Martha was just too cool for words. Hite McLean, just the other side of the Gwins, allowed me to play with his Brownie before we got our own, and I simply couldn’t understand when he grew up and went off to college. How could he leave his best girlfriend (me) behind? The Doyles, the Spencers, the Stiglers, the Eidmans, the Kantors, the Peteets, the Lawrences and the Toomeys and the Shorts and the Leflores and the Youngs and the Rymers and the Rays and the Beamans…….We knew them all and were in and out of their back doors and through their yards and over their fences like we owned the whole neighborhood. We were so lucky and didn’t even know it. If it takes a village, we certainly had one.

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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