Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, Photographs, Virginia

Beauty winner!

My grandmother worked as a dietician at Dorie Miller Recreation Center in Newport News, Virginia. The organizers of a teen beauty contest were looking for more contestants, and my 13 year-old mother casually entered.

“And the winner is … Beverly Allen!”

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Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), 15 August 1951.

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New Journal and Guide (Norfolk, Virginia), 25 August 1951.

The summer after high school, to while away the hours until enrollment at Hampton Institute, she entered the Fancy Pants and Sport Shirt Ball at the city of Hampton’s African-American beach resort, the Bay Shore Hotel. In a midriff-baring genie outfit whipped up by my grandmother, she took second. (But really? You be the judge….)

New Journal and Guide (Norfolk, Virginia), 30 June 1956.

Sixty-two years later, she’s still beautiful … inside and out.

Happy 80th birthday to this abiding blessing, my mother, with love.

 

 

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Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 7. Love.

My parents celebrate 54 years of marriage in May, God willing. They have always been my model of deep and enduring love, and I have celebrated them here. For this week’s Ancestor Challenge, I’ve chosen to highlight a different kind of love.

My grandmother, Hattie Mae Henderson Ricks, and her sister, Mamie Lee Henderson Holt, were born into difficult circumstances. Their mother Bessie Lee Henderson, teenaged and unmarried, had been orphaned as a toddler. When Bessie died months after Hattie’s birth, the family gathered to decide who would rear the girls. Mamie remained in Dudley with their aged great-grandparents, Lewis and Margaret Henderson, and Hattie went to Wilson to live with their grandmother’s sister, Sarah Henderson Jacobs. They were not reunited until Grandma Mag’s death, when Mamie was 8 and Hattie, 5. They separated again just 7 years later, when Mamie married a young man she met while visiting relatives in Greensboro. Nonetheless, despite the short time they lived together in childhood, my grandmother and her sister were devoted to one another. Their fierce sisterly bond defied the uncertainty of their earliest years and the emotional neglect of their years with Mama Sarah. It knit their children and grandchildren in a web that continues to hold. Even my grandmother’s move to Philadelphia in 1958 did not shake it. Every Christmas, she visited us and my aunt’s family in Wilson, then my father drove her to Greensboro to bring in the New Year with the Holts. Eventually, Alzheimer’s began to claim Aunt Mamie’s mind and memories, and travel became too difficult for my grandmother, but her attachment did not waver. Only when Aunt Mamie passed did my grandmother begin to let go. Nine months later, almost to the day, she was gone.

After my grandmother passed in 2001, I found a note she wrote about her early life: Heart Broken Mother – Bessie Died age Nineteen Leaving two out of wedlock Girls arounds 3 years and 8 months old. … My sister and I always felt very close to each other as we had no real parents It had been a hard life for both of us

This is the love I celebrate in this week’s challenge. The first love that comes with family. The love that, if we are fortunate, endures the entire arc of life.

Mamie&hattie 001

Mamie and Hattie Mae Henderson, circa 1920.

Mamie&Margaret 002

The sisters, probably in Greensboro, 1940s.

Willow Road

The sisters on Aunt Mamie’s porch in Greensboro, probably late 1980s.

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Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs, Virginia

Happy Mother’s Day!

Thinking of my mother and remembering my grandmothers with love and gratitude this day.

Mama

My mother and me.

Hattie&Margaret Henderson 001

My father’s mother and his sister, circa 1942.

Aberdeen

My mother’s mother and her brothers, circa 1938. 

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Sidenote: I first saw the last photo in a magazine article about Aberdeen Homes, a late New Deal housing project in Hampton, Virginia. My grandfather worked as a construction supervisor at the site and moved his young family into one of the first apartments. I finally tracked this photo down in the photo archives of the Virginia State Library.

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