Week 1: January 4, 2014
Ola Askew McKinley
I’d like to start Week One with my grandmother, Ola Askew McKinley. My grandmother died in 1970, the year I graduated; even though I was eighteen years of age, I never really knew her, except through the many stories my mother has told. Grandmamma began losing her mind, as it was called back then, after her son Leroy was killed in WWII.
Ola married when she was just sixteen; imagine letting your daughter today marry at that young age! That was probably why she always called my grandfather “daddy“. Grandmamma was a hard working woman – I could never do all she did on a daily basis. She was up first every morning to start a fire in the wood stove – and that was for cooking and warmth. If you wanted to be warm, you gathered in the kitchen. In the spring and summer she worked in the field alongside my grandfather. Noon-time brought her back to the kitchen to prepare lunch; she went back to work in the garden after lunch unless it was a wash day- that meant starting a fire under the black kettles to boil water. I’m sure they didn’t change their clothes daily like we do as washing clothes by hand was no easy or fast task.
In the evening Grandmamma pieced quilts or sewed clothes – all by the light of a lantern. Clothes weren’t bought unless they couldn’t be made like granddaddy’s overalls! Feed and flour sacks were often used as material for sewing and was saved for quilts and clothes, even the undergarments; pattern cloth was printed on the sacks for that very reason. Grandmama treasured her pieces of material, no matter how large or small, she threw nothing out. Even the muslin bags from granddaddy’s Prince Albert tobacco cans were saved – they often became the backings for her quilts. I so wish I could peek inside her basket of treasured cloth and see what treasures she saved.
I attribute my craft expertise from Grandmamma, although I can never match her quilting abilities. In as much as I can follow patterns, and can somewhat develop a pattern, she never needed to follow one. She only needed to see the item to copy it, which made her quite the artist. I am fortunate to have two of her favorite quilts today, one being the wedding ring pattern she made my mom when she married and another one known as the flower garden – she loved flowers and that’s probably why she made that one.
My grandmother was known throughout the family as a great cook, and if you were lucky enough to stop on Sunday afternoon around dinner time, and as my mama would say ‘put your feet under her table,” then you were often treated to a dinner of fried chicken, butter beans, black eyed peas, fried cream corn, home made peach pickles, sweet tea and always homemade biscuits. Dessert was often peach or blackberry pie as granddaddy grew both fruits on the farm. To this day my mother says “my mama made the best blackberry pie I ever ate” – she still wishes for just one more slice!
I’ve enjoyed reminiscing tonight about Grandmamma and
I hope you’ve enjoyed the read from Week One!
© 2014, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved