Memories from My Mother

We had dinner with my mom today, and I got her talking about the olden days. She was born in the late 1930s.

When she was little, they lived at 4103 N. Palafox Street in Pensacola, Florida. They had some chickens, two or three milk cows (she remembers ones named Beauty and Pet), occasional goats (her pet Snow White got mean and had to be taken up to live at her grandmother’s home in the farm country of Walnut Hill where it – at least once – chased her Aunt Bonnie) and pigs (She remembers a huge one named Betsy).

Later, her dad fenced in the large vacant lot next to the house and started buying hogs at auction. At one time, they had 200 head of hogs. One was mean and got out and bit a child that lived down the street. She thinks the boy was bitten in the stomach. She assumes her dad paid any medical bills. The mean hog was taken away; Mama’s not sure if he was sold or butchered. Her dad had a truck and would take two to four hogs to auction them off every so often. She was never allowed to go to the auction because it was “too rough” for a girl. Her younger brother got to go, and I think she’s still miffed about that.

When they had the 200 head of hogs, her dad worked at the Navy base. He was a contractor who helped build Sherman Field. He would haul off all the garbage from the cafeteria to feed the hogs. I’m not sure if he was paid for that or if he just did it to get the scraps. Some of the sailors would – I hope just accidentally – throw away dishes, individual creamers, and utensils. Mama said they would wash it and use it. I asked her if they went through the garbage before giving it to the hogs, and she said the hogs ate around the dishes and left it laying there. She’s not sure what happened to it all, although I’m pretty sure she has a couple of serving spoons embossed USN.

She mentioned that once her dad had bought a horse at auction and they had it on Palafox Street for a short time until he could take it up to his parents’ farm in North Escambia County, where they still plowed with a horse.

I asked Mama about her Grandma Cook’s place up in Walnut Hill. She described an area that’s probably 2-3 acres. She remembers them growing cotton, and one year when she was small she helped pick some and earned a dime. They had large burlap sacks with a strap that went across their chest. As it got full, they’d have to drag it along behind them. She wasn’t sure how much money they would have made from harvesting two acres of cotton. The Cooks were also sharecroppers for a while, and she said her Papa Cook worked for the railroad some.

My mom’s parents were teachers, and after school on Fridays, her dad would sometimes drive his truck up to Georgia and get a load of peaches, and drive straight back. For a while, they had a curb market, or other times, he’d just park the truck along Palafox by the house. Sometimes he’d drive through the new Brentwood neighborhood and holler out “Peaches! Peaches for Sale!” She said everyone had their windows or doors open because there was no air conditioning, and there wasn’t TV, and some people may not have even had electricity for a radio, so it was quiet, and they’d hear him holler.  He also grew Black Diamond watermelons on his own farm property in Walnut Hill, and he’d bring a big load of those down and sell them. My mom would sometimes be the one assigned to sit by the truck and handle the sales. She said the farmland was fresh and new, and some of the watermelons were so big, they’d take three people to lift them. She spread her arms out indicating they were probably three feet long! She said her dad would sometimes sell some of these big loads to Bailey’s Curb Market. Bailey’s is still in operation. Back then, they were located on Palafox Street, a mile or two south of my mom’s house. When I was growing up, they were on Fairfield Drive. I always thought it was cool because they had a gigantic statue of the Jolly Green Giant. More recently they relocated to Davis Highway. My husband and I went in there for some fruit today, and I noticed a sign that said what year they were established; I thought it said 1949 but one online resource says the business started in 1938, so I’m not sure. Anyway, I wondered at the time if there was a rivalry with my grandparents’ business, so I asked about it. She said no, they often sold produce to each other. They were in different neighborhoods and had different customers.

My mom was a tomboy and played often with the Rimpf boys, whose family rented a house from her dad. She recalls one game they played called “roll a bat.” One player held the bat, threw their own ball into the air and hit the ball towards the other kids. The player would lay the bat down, and whoever caught the ball would roll it towards the bat. When it hit the bat, it would bounce up and the player would have to catch it. If he or she caught it, that earned the player another time at bat. If not, the bat passed to another child. Mom says she was the only girl who played and the boys pretty much had to let her play because it was her bat. Later the Rimpf boys got their own bats and drew out a ballfield of their own down the street. At that time, they tended to play more with other boys from around the area, and my mom didn’t go down there.

While my dad was stationed in Scotland and we were all living there, her parents sold their house on Palafox Street. The house was moved; she doesn’t know where. She thinks her younger brother drove by it once, but she never did. There were many things that didn’t get moved. She thinks many stacks of Life and Saturday Evening Post magazines that were in the attic were probably thrown away or burned. Some of the Navy dishes may have been disposed of at that time.



About Taminar

When I grow up, I want to make movies and write books. Now in my 50s, I wonder if I'll ever really accomplish the dreams of my youth. I have made two short films, one for a college film-making class, the other for an MTV-sponsored contest. I have written short plays that have been produced, and a few short stories and reviews that have been published. I also perform and direct for community theatre. My working life has included stints in local TV news, public relations, retail management and cashier, and for a couple of years, I made the rides go at Walt Disney World. I have two cats and a husband.
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