RENEE'S REFLECTIONS OF THE PAST
By Renee'Lee Viness
My Minden Memories...
I may not have lived in Minden, but I have a great many special memories from that small town... (Grab a tissue.)
In my memory and my lifetime, Grandmother always lived at the end of Center Street, on Goode. She had the most beautiful, exciting house there ever was! I remember the apple trees and mowing the lawn. She taught me to go back and forth, instead of down the hill and back up to mow. It used to be my job to sweep the front porch and steps and often to sweep the sidewalks in front of the house. I always got carried away and went halfway down the driveway, too.
Oh, the chamelions!! I loved those lizards! I even brought a couple of them home to Oklahoma, once. I did a good job of caring for them through the summer and fall, but was afraid I wouldn't be able to find enough bugs for them in the winter, so I let them go near the edge of the house. I never saw them again. I had hoped I would have lots of them by the next year.
How on earth could I eat so much when I was young and still look like a skinny stick? (Wish I could do that, now!) Grandmother usually had to make about 10 biscuits for me in the mornings. I ate 2 with butter or butter and jelly, 2 with gravy, 2 with cheese, 2 with sausage and 2 with nothing on them. (Yeah... THAT GOOD.) Then, I'd take off on my bicycle to swimming lessons. (I never had cramps.) I remember a beautiful girl in a neon pink swimsuit, who was my instructor, once. Seems like her name was Peggy. She was really nice. I never passed my swim lessons. I was afraid I wouldn't have a reason to convince Mom and Dad that I had to go back the next year. I learned how to fail the breast stroke very well. I failed it, every year. I never realized Mom would have let me go, anyway. I always thought I had to have a reason to go back.
Jeff Garland, Jeff Robinson, Dwayne Marcus and a few others... We all got together at a vacant lot on Goode (behind the Robinson's house) and played stick ball. Seems like we threw the ball at the runners to get them out. I sure remember being beaned hard by that ball! We often used a broomstick handle to play ball. It was a crude game, but that's where I learned that softball was for sissies, since only a sissy couldn't hit a little baseball with a broomstick! (It took me YEARS to get rid of that attitude!)
Once, when I was dating a guy who worked at the movie theater on Homer Road... I was going back home, after spending my summer in Minden. Grandmother drove me by the theater on our way out of town and she laid on the horn. I ducked into the floorboard, thinking what a lame idea that was and being totally embarrassed. I understand (now) that it was her way of being cool.
I used to spend lots of summers there at the library, riding my bicycle, swimming at the pool, skating at the rink, and going to the movies on Homer Road, but I remember going to the downtown theater, too. I remember watching Black Beauty there for the first time... and the second time, third time, etc.. Grandmother used to take me to a store (a shoe store?) between Main and Back Streets. I thought it was so cool that the store had a front door on both sides! I always bought my own track shoes at that place. They were cheap and the best kind to buy, too! We also went to the First Baptist Church with Grandmother and when we were younger, we went to Bible School at some of the different churches there. That's where I met one of my best friends. Mom and Dad always sent us with money to spend when we came down. We often walked to the movie theater, back when it was in town. The popcorn was the greatest! I had a cousin and some other friends I liked to hang out with, back then. Some of us still keep in touch. When we went skating, Grandmother used to drop us off and pick us up, later. I went skating at least twice a week and often as much as 4 or 5 times in one week. That skating rink was probably my favorite place to hang out. I met my first really special boyfriend up there. I'll never forget the fun we had skating around that rink. Nothing could ever match the magic that place held for a young couple. I still get goose bumps thinking of how special that place was.
Back then, there was a lot more to do in Minden. Towns used to be focused on raising good citizens and helping them have a good time (and hopefully stay out of trouble) as they grew up. When my kids were growing up, I took them to Minden, hoping they would find the same excitement. They couldn't wait to get back home. Grandmother was the only exciting thing in town, anymore. Everything else had shut down, except the pool and the library, which had changed so much I even had trouble showing them around. Now, I feel sorry for the kids who grow up there. Unless some major changes have very recently taken place, there is nothing to do without having to go to another town. As a parent, I would much prefer my children to be hanging out in the same town, rather than being 45 minutes away, if an emergency happened. I would also want my children to remember their home town as a very special place that held fond memories of their youth, like I have. Minden was a second home to me. I know things change, but somehow, Minden seems to have lost the fun of youth. Yeah, for an older person, there are historical groups and educational classes and other such gatherings to attend (which I absolutely LOVE), but what about the teenagers?? What can they do?
Here's some about my GrandDaddy, Ezra S. Carter, Sr....
When I was tiny (and VERY young), I was GrandDaddy's little girl. Okay, he was my hero, so I was ALWAYS his little girl. We went to see Grandmother and GrandDaddy and we showed up late. GrandDaddy answered the door. He was wearing a nylon stocking on his head and over his face, to keep his hair in place, overnight. I climbed over the parent who was holding me and landed in the arms of the parent who was behind! I don't know if I actually remember this, or if the memory I have is from what I've been told, but it sure seems quite vivid to me! I seem to remember his face being all smushed up in that stocking, anyway.
When I was little, Grandmother and GrandDaddy had the greatest tree around the back of the house! GrandDaddy put a rope swing there for me. It had a wooden seat for me to sit on. I loved going down there to swing on that swing. One day, we arrived at Grandmother's and GrandDaddy's and not only was my swing gone, but so was the tree! They had built a beautiful, new driveway, which wound around to the back of the house, right through the spot where that tree had stood! It broke my heart and that's probably the only thing it took many years for me to forgive my GrandDaddy for.
GrandDaddy raised bees for a while. I remember the bee hives in the back yard. He really seemed to like raising bees for honey and such.
When I was probably around 12, I had a brand new pair of glasses. GrandDaddy took my daddy and me fishing. I always loved going fishing with them. We got out in the lake in GrandDaddy's boat and it got dark. Next thing I knew, the mosquitoes were lighting on my face. I've never been good about anything getting on my face, so I swatted hard to get it away. My glasses left my face and dived into the water! My dad started fishing for my glasses, but they had gone too far down, by the time he started trying. I cried and cried and cried, because I was worried my mom was going to kill me for losing my brand new glasses. GrandDaddy told me not to worry, because there was probably an old, GrandDaddy perch down there (who couldn't see) who was wearing my glasses and finally able to see. He told me the perch would probably thank me, if he could. He promised he wouldn't let my mom kill me and I'm still here to prove that he kept his promise.
My granddaddy used to take me out for ice cream. I used to stand in the front seat, right beside him. We went in his big, Mercury that had the "Grease" button he let me push, once in a while. I still remember the smell of that car!
GrandDaddy always had watermelon and home-made ice cream (which he made in our presence) when we came to visit in the summer time. I thought it was really neat when he worked with the saws and wood or when he was cooking fish on the cooker he had made.
GrandDaddy took me fishing and taught me how to fish with a cane pole. When I married my husband, we spend 9 days and nights on 3 different lakes. Before we could go to the first lake, I made sure we hunted down some cane poles and crickets to fish with. GrandDaddy had used rods and reels, but cane poles were what he taught me and that was how I was going to fish! Crickets are hard to find for bait, in Oklahoma. Nobody has ever heard of using them for fishing bait. You have to buy them from a place where they sell snake food and such.
GrandDaddy often told me little things about driving, when we were going somewhere. For instance, he told me it was best not to hit the brakes in a curve. If I had to hit the brake, I needed to do that way before the curve. You only let off the gas, if you need to slow down in a curve. He also said to speed up in the middle of a curve to help me get through it better. I must have been 4 or 5 when he told me this, but I always remembered it and taught it to my boys, too.
GrandDaddy was my hero. He died when I was about 12 or 13. I never really got over his death and it is still very hard for me to deal with. My husband is now a hero to our granddaughter, who looks at him with the same love and awe that I loved my GrandDaddy with. It is so heartwarming to see this kind of love again, but it is also hard, because I still miss my GrandDaddy so much...
Here's some about my babysitter and her husband... Marion and Oliver Norris
Marion and Oliver Norris lived right up the street from Grandmother and GrandDaddy. Marion sometimes babysat me. She was a terrific babysitter. Marion and Oliver had a garden and Marion had lots and lots of flowers all around her house, like my grandmother had. Marion gave me a Monkey Cactus, one year. I kept it for a long time, before it finally died. (Wish I could find another one!) She gave me other plants, but that was the one I treasured, most. They took me out in the country once, where they had a bigger garden they worked. I don't know how far away it was or how "country" it really was, but to a small child, my memory has tall grass and trees grown all around the garden.
Many times, when I was very young, I would find myself wandering up the road to Marion's house. I was so excited to see her. She would always ask me if my grandmother and granddaddy (or my mom and dad) knew I was there. I never lied, so there were many times I was sent back home to announce my intended destination, or she would sometimes pick up the phone and call them for me, but usually, she made me walk back and face the music for wandering off without permission.
Oh, the innocence of a child! One day, Marion gave me a basket of apples. I was so excited to get so many apples. Marion told me to take them home and have my mom or grandmother (I can't remember which) make whatever I wanted with them. I went home and asked to have the apples made into some macaroni and cheese.
I guess Marion used to chew her nails way back. They looked like they would hurt, to me. I used to chew my nails a lot, but her nails are the reason I finally learned not to chew mine and I've had long nails most of the time since junior high school.
They had a porch swing, that I loved to sit in and swing with Marion. We could talk all day! I loved that swing. It was on a big, screened in porch.
Most of my memories of Marion and Oliver were in the garden... especially Marion. Marion taught me a lot about gardening. Although I can't remember which things I learned from her, which ones were from Grandmother, and which ones were learned on my own, I realize I probably still garden with some of her ideas. Quite often, when I'm working in my garden, I think of Marion. Something I've done usually sparks her memory and I'll wonder how much like her I look, or if she would be proud of me for my garden and flower beds.
I remember Oliver relaxing in a recliner, in the living room. Marion had a shelf of special trinkets. I once painted a puppy dog for her. It seems like I painted it pale green and tan. She kept it in her special shelf and made me feel very special.
I often promised myself that when I grew up, I would buy a brand new air conditioner for Marion and Oliver, because they never had air conditioning in their old house on the corner of Goode and Elm. Grandmother told me later that it was their choice to not have air conditioning. Wow! That was very hard for teenager to grasp!
I really miss Marion and Oliver. After I grew up, they had moved one year and then I came to town with a new husband and kids and wanted them to meet these very special people. Grandmother told me how to get to their new home. It didn't look like a place they would live, to me. It wasn't bright and airy, like the old home. It was dark, inside. The ceiling was much lower than the old home and the house looked too new for them (in my "child's mind" opinion). I liked them living in the old house, better. (It was close to Grandmother and I wouldn't have to remember how to get there.) That visit was to be the last time I would see either of them. I guess Marion died a couple of months later. She left me with so many unanswered questions. Those two people were extremely special to me. It was as if I had been blessed with an extra set of special grandparents. Their love for me was visible in everything they ever did for me. I will always love and miss them.
Marion and Oliver had a daughter, but I seldom saw her, so I generally forgot she existed. As I got older, I did my best to remember her, because I didn't think they would want me to forget her. It was a way for me to remember they would always live on. When I saw their daughter a year or two ago, she looked so much like her mother and father, that it helped me realize they really are still around.
Renee' La Viness
RENEE'S VISIT WITH GRANDMOTHER CARTER
When the Carters
moved to Minden their house was about a block off Sibley Road.
It faced Myers, on the east corner of Myers and Lee. The family attended the First
Baptist Church. She was the mother of two boys.
Grandma Carter walked to school until she was in the 7th grade, then she rode
buses. The first three years she went to school in Haynesville, then four years
at Leton. After that, she went to Evergreen and graduated from the 11th grade
there. She was baptized in Leton, in a pond by Alvin Shaw's house, around 1928-29.
The first person she ever voted for was O.K. Allen for Governor, in 1936. They lived
in Cotton Valley. It was the first time she and GrandDaddy (Ezra Carter) ever voted.
She said my dad (Tim Carter) was the first class to graduate from 12th grade. He
graduated from Minden High School in 1951.
Grandmother's father (Claud Collia Lee, of Leton, LA) drove the school bus from Leton to Evergreen.
He also wrote a correspondence column for the Minden paper, back in the 1930's, at least.
I know he wrote the column which noted my father's birth. Grandmother was born in Claiborne Parish.
CAN SHE COOK AN APPLE PIE?
Absolutely, but I hate apple pie. She makes a great Lemon Meringue, though. Best meringue I ever had. GrandDaddy called it "calf slobber". (It was his way of seeing if you had a weak stomach.)
I think probably my favorite of all her dishes would either be her home-made biscuits or her Hot Water Bread with some of her great Turnip Greens. She could cook greens better than anyone I ever knew, but her Hot Water Bread is the best! I could live on it, if I had to.
MY FAVORITE MEMORY
What was your favorite memory you and Grandmother Carter had together?
There are so many! I think one of my favorites was when she worked for Anti-Pest and Veitch (correct that spelling if it's wrong). I used to stand in a chair and look at the bugs they had stuck to the back of a shadow box on the wall. I always loved bugs! Grandmother used to let me stand there as long as I wanted to. She also let me spin around in her chair and type on her typewriter. I never heard that I was a lot of trouble when I went to work with her. I hope I wasn't. I loved being there.