Big Back Yard

Patricia Evans Ellington, everyone's favorite aunt.

“Tricia married Claude Ellington, whom she had started dating the year she finished high school. They were married at the First Baptist Church in 1955 and had a tiny little apartment on East Washington Street just across from the Stott house. She left the telephone company and took a job at the Bank of Greenwood.

“We had a lot of fun with our two little girls. I sewed for them, turning out dozens of little aprons with appliques on them and little smocked dresses. Whenever Mrs. Bingham and Wee Moderns would put on a sale I would buy them little matching dresses. We also got lots of handdowns from Melanie [Mamie’s daughter] and the Gwin girls.

“When Cathy was about fifteen months old Russell built a little playhouse out of a big wooden box and put up a fence around a little playyard next to the west side of the house. We had a sandpile. Later he had Griff, our black carpenter, build a bigger playhouse in the backyard, and we got a swing set.

Our first playhouse

Tiny gave us a sliding board, and we fenced in the whole backyard. There was no shade and Russell went down by the river and dug up some willow trees to try to get some fast shade but later dug them up because he was afraid the roots would wrap around the water and sewer lines. A little oak came up in the middle of the back yard, and he put stakes around it to keep the children from stepping on it. That is the big oak which now stands in the middle of the yard and shades the whole backyard.”

Russell receiving some sort of treasure, Cathy in the sandbox

What a wondrous place to grow up. The fence that Russell and Sara built was short and flimsy and wouldn’t have kept a bunny in the back yard (and we did have a few bunnies), but who would ever want to escape? There were swing sets and sliding boards (hot as firecrackers on summer days) and sandboxes and tetherball poles and playhouses and enough grass to support a really good game of catch. Neighborhood children drifted in and out of the yard and the back porch, ruled at least peripherally by the ever-watchful Georgia. It was a magical, happy acre or so and it makes me feel good to see it being enjoyed, once again, by two little girls.

Sara was a whiz with a sewing machine and Cathy and I never lacked for dresses and play clothes. We did rebel fairly young at the “dress alike” concept, Cathy tending toward frills and my preference toward rolled up blue jeans and sweatshirts. And I know the hand-me-downs helped the budget, but I had some pants and shirts that were so bulky with old camp labels that I almost couldn’t wear them. The outermost label was “Cathy Criss.” But if you peeled that off, you got, in succession, “Melanie Bartling” and “Pam Roberson.” Or “Martha Gwin” and then “Nan Gwin.” I was practically grown before I found out you could buy underwear that wasn’t used.

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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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