Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Mother Dear remembers.

The last time I saw my grandmother was on her 90th birthday. It was a bittersweet visit to Philadelphia that I talked about here. In happier times, though, I spent hours recording her recollections, especially those of her childhood. This is one of my favorite stories:

Papa told me to go in the house, and ask ‘em for some water, a pitcher. Talking ‘bout my daddy wanted some water. And the first time I ever seen a grapefruit was there. I said I’d never forget that. ‘Cause I went in that house and asked for some water, and I said “Daddy said” – I called him Papa. Anyway, he wanted to know if he could have some water. And the lady [school superintendent Charles L. Coon’s wife] said, “Yeah,” and she got a pitcher and a glass. And I took it on out there. So Papa stopped and drinked him some water, and I was just standing there while they was fixing the water, and I looked on that table, and all ‘round the table there by the plate they had a salt cellar and half a grapefruit and a cherry sitting in the middle. And that thing just looked so pretty, looked so good. And I said, “Unh, that’s a BIG orange!” I said, “Well, next time I go to the store I’m gon get me one, too.” And sho’ nuff, I asked Papa, when we left – I don’t remember whether it was, it wont that particular time, but we come out, and were on our way to Edmundson’s store, and he wanted me to go in and get a plug of tobacco. Part of a plug. And tell Old Man Edmundson to put it on the bill. So he waited, he was out there on a wagon, he had a little horse, and I went in and told Mr. Edmundson Papa wanted a, whatever amount it was, he didn’t get a whole plug, ‘cause I think it was three or four sections to a plug of tobacco, and for him to put it on the bill, and I said, “He said I could have a orange. And put that on the bill.” And it was boxes sitting up – I’ll never forget it – the boxes sitting up with all the oranges sitting up in there. And I got the biggest one out of the group. The one that wasn’t even orange. I made sure I was gon get me a big orange! I got that and come on back out there and got on the wagon and coming from Five Points to almost home, I was peeling that thing and peeling it ‘til I got it off, and it was SOUR, “Ugh, that’s a sour orange!” I never SEEN a orange that sour. From then on I didn’t want no big orange. And I never even said nothing ‘bout it. And I said, “Now, that didn’t look like, that’s a light-complected, yellow,” it’s not a dark orange, like a orange, and it was so big. And now I always get little oranges. TODAY. I don’t buy no big orange. ‘Cause the little ones is sweeter than the big ones. But, honey, that was a GRAPEFRUIT, and that was the first I’d ever known it was a grapefruit. We ain’t never had no grapefruit. And so, I told Mama that was a, ugh, sour orange. And I told her ‘bout what the Coons had on there when I went up there. And she said, “Well, that was a grapefruit.” “A grapefruit?” I said, “Well, what’s a grapefruit?” And she said, “It’s like a big orange. But you have to put sugar on it most time. It’s a little sour. It’s got a little twang to it.” She said, “But your daddy didn’t never like none, so I don’t care that much about it.” And I said, “A grapefruit? I got myself a grapefruit.” But, anyway, it was sour, but I learned the taste, you put a little sugar on it, makes a little bit sweeter. I swear, Lord, I think about those things that I did when I was little.

And here’s the only photo of her, little. She was about 10 years old, and her sister Mamie was 13:


Mama made our little skirts and gathered skirts and blouses and every kind of thing, and sometimes Papa might buy one. But she measured your arms, see ‘bout what the sleeve is. I said, Lord, I’m glad them days gone. ‘Cause you couldn’t do nothing to suit … I don’t know, you couldn’t do nothing to suit the older people in them days, ‘cause they, what you ask, you didn’t have but so much, and every once in a while when you get a new piece of change, and you’d get something and you was glad ‘cause it was new, but not ‘cause it was fitting.   And that picture where me and Mamie, Mamie was sitting in the chair and I was standing up by it with that white dress on. Mamie sitting in the chair with her feet crossed …. Well, she had on a middy blouse, dress. It was all, it had a collar on it where had the tape running down there with the square collar and [inaudible]. And Mama made me that dress I had on out of her petticoat! She had, she used to sew a bit, and at that time embroidery wide pieces of cloth that come up, and the bottom part be all embroideried and scalloped all the way around there. Well, that dress I had on had all that scallop on there where Mama took her – she was wearing them hip underskirts, and where she was gathered up here, that had a band on it under there, and then this here was the whole yoke from halfway up to make this part, and she took that part and made me a dress.

Remembering my Mother Dear, Hattie Mae Henderson Ricks (6 June 1910-15 January 2001.)


Interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved. Photos from collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.


6 thoughts on “Mother Dear remembers.

  1. Monica says:

    Oh my goodness! Mother dear shared this story with me as well, many years before she passed away. Thanks for bringing back this wonderful memory.

  2. Tyrone P. Speight, Jr says:

    Wow….what a wonderful piece of your family fabric. I really enjoyed reading this and enjoying our elders references to people of their time…Old Man this or that…kool memories. Thanks Lisa!

  3. Gary D. Henderson says:

    I was curious as to how I could find information regarding an alleged homicide or perhaps assault inflicting serious injury. We had been told that our grandfather, James/Jim Manley wife Minnie Winn Manley shot a white man who allegedly took liberties by force to his wife. Effenus told me last week that a recent DNA showed strands of Strickland DNA and he thought this strand may have been from this white man. The cost to Jim Manley to avoid going to prison was to deed away a considerable amount of his realty (rumor has 1,000 acres) occurring probably in later 1800’s. My mother who is Minnie and Jim granddaughter was born in 1923. Do you have any suggestions as to how to further investigate. Wayne County’s Courthouse burned downed in the mid 1900s and a lot of vital records were lost. Effenus’ disclosure has made the whole story more compelling now that we may atleast have the perpetrators name. Thanks. I am so fascinated with your skills with genealogical discoveries. Keep up the good work.

    • Hey, Gary! Effenus reached out to me a few days ago about this crime. I think the Strickland link may be too remote to be connected to this incident, but I told him I would search. I also promised to pull together a Manley genealogy from some earlier research. I’ll share this with you as well if you’re interested. Wayne County’s deeds are in good shape, so a visit to the Register’s office will allow you to trace Jim Manley’s land transactions.

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