GARDENING BY RONELLA: What parents didn’t know we knew
by Ronella Stagner, Columnist
Nov 20, 2013 | 65 65 recommendations | email to a friend | print
While I was growing up in Canton, I discovered that there are many more interesting things happening in Canton than in Ma and Pa’s neighborhood. In fact, I first learned about the seedier side of life at Canton. Most parents would be astounded to learn how much their kids know that they didn’t dream they knew. My parents certainly didn’t know all the things that I learned just by listening and keeping my eyes open.

I learned that there were two houses where beer and liquor were openly sold. I was playing with a boy my age, along with a couple more kids, when we got thirsty and we went to the nearest house for water. It happened to be the home of one boy. I noticed that there was a big icebox and that it was full of beer. I noticed because I opened it to see what was in it. Astonishing! Then at another house, a little girlfriend and I went inside for some reason and I saw her father pulling cold beer out of another big box like Coca Colas came in. Putting two and two together, I surmised that they were selling illegal alcohol.

But in our ramblings, I learned far worse. There was a house of ill repute. Well, it was just a house where there were three grown daughters and they sure had a lot of boyfriends going in and out of the house. My friend Teen had to enlighten me about that situation. Teen knew far more interesting things than I and she gladly shared her knowledge.

Of course, I would never have dreamed of sharing my new knowledge with my parents. I learned early that Daddy made a big fuss about some things and I pretty much knew which would make him very unhappy.

Some things I learned made me very sad. I heard my mother and my beloved Miss Fannye talking about a woman who was trying to steal Miss Fannye’s husband. I knew the woman they were discussing and I developed a life long hatred of her.

I loved the help at Miss Mary’s house across the street. She had Lucy, her cook, and Lucy’s son and daughter. Her son was Mr. Bragg’s chauffeur and also a man of all talents. He was gardener, nurse to Mr. Bragg who was partially paralyzed, and general handyman. The daughter was head of housekeeping and part time laundress. So Lucy, Ed and Johnny were my dear friends. One day I learned a secret. Lucy was about to take a tray of beaten biscuits, with country ham, into the dining room to Miss Mary and Mr. Bragg when one fell to the floor. I picked it up and she said, “Don’t eat that, child.” She then put it back on the tray and took it into the dining room. When she came back, she said, “They think they so high and mighty. Bet they don’t know what we know.” I asked her if she didn’t like them and she said, “No, child, I do not.” I would never have told Lucy’s secret. She always saved cookies and treats just for me.

I learned to love jazz music from Ed and Johnny. They had a piano at home and played duets and just about brought the roof down. I would sit and listen as long as they played.

When Mama and Daddy went out for an evening, a rare occurrence, they left my sister and me with Miss Mary and we would fall asleep on their bed. She and her husband carried on some interesting conversation, thinking we were asleep. I learned who married whom for money and who had to get married, though I couldn’t figure that one out. It was just another little bit of gossip I tucked away for future reference.

There was a peeping Tom in Canton and nobody knew who it was. But our Mama, who didn’t know what fear was, thought she heard someone step up on the porch one night while Daddy was at work. She had the blind pulled so she tiptoed to the door and jerked it open and jumped out onto the porch. There was the culprit. He jumped off the porch and ran for his life, though Mama didn’t have a gun in her hand. The next morning, Daddy went all around the house and there were his footprints at each window. Daddy fixed the blinds so they would be sure to cover the windows. I remember Mama hollering at that man something like, “What are you doing peeping in my window?”

During those growing up years, I observed many things that grownups thought were secret. For instance, one of my friends had to leave her house and find some other place to play when a certain man came in the back door. I questioned that and she said that it was her mother’s boyfriend and we had to leave. That was another little bit to file away.

There were so many fine and wonderful people in Canton and I cherish the memories of those sweet people. I was welcome in so many homes. I knew who were the really fine cooks and would manage to be at the Bridges’ home at dinnertime. The father of the several kids always pretended that he didn’t see me. When the mother called the kids in to dinner, I just trooped in with them. One day, Sam looked at the table and asked, “Georgie, don’t we seem to have more chillun than we ought?” I was about seven and kept very quiet. I still think of that wonderful family and all the love at that old table.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with questions or comments.
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