Friday, May 10, 2013

Mama Earned Her Keep

By Audrey Barclay's youngest daughter, Shirley

My mother, Audrey Smith Barclay, was born October 26, 1900 in the small town of Galena, Stone Co., Mo. After her parents separated she moved to Stotts City with her mother to be closer to her mother's parents.

Mama only finished the 10th grade in school, because her parents couldn't afford to send her. (By this time her mother had remarried and there were four more girls in the family.) She had earned a small scholarship to attain a little more education, but was unable to take advantage of this, also.

When she was sixteen, Mama moved to Springfield, Mo. and lived with her grandparents who also had moved to Springfield. Mama began working in a garment factory, where she worked until she met my Dad and started a family.

Mama and Daddy were married on the 4th of July, 1917 and started their own Fourth of July celebration. In due time, babies started coming, usually one at a time, but on one occasion, two at a time, until there were nine of us, me being the youngest. I have often thought, if my parents had had access to birth control, or believed in abortion, I probably wouldn't be here, but apparently I was in God's plan.

Mama had many jobs back in those days, all of them pertaining to being a housewife and mother. Of course, there was the usual cooking, laundry, house cleaning, canning, and caring for nine children, the oldest being 15 by the time I came along. And, like  most households in those days, the oldest children had lots of responsibilities helping Mama with all those chores and watching the other children.

In addition to the regular chores, Mama made lots of our clothes: shirts for the six boys, dresses for the three girls. In Junior High School (what is called Middle School, now) I had two brand new home made dresses to start school in the fall. One of my friends commented on my new clothes. Of course, we wore lots of hand me downs, too, that is until I caught up with my sisters in size and couldn't wear theirs anymore.

One of my fondest memories is helping Mama tack quilts. Mama used left over scraps of material to cut quilt pieces and then sew them together to form a quilt top. She quilted the nicer ones, but for necessities, and because they were needed quickly, she tacked a lot of them. I remember following after Mama when she ran her needle full of heavy crochet thread through the quilt and I, or one of the other kids (even the boys) would follow behind her clipping the threads and then tying the ends into knots. This was one of the earliest assembly lines and we kids made a game out of it.

Mama's one outlet in life was her church. She thoroughly enjoyed attending church on Sunday, with whatever children were still at home. Later, she was able to become more involved in church activities and was the church treasurer for several years, as well as WMU director, Sunday School teacher, and she even sang in the choir.

Another activity Mama enjoyed was working at the polls on election day. It was one time when she could actually be away from home without feeling guilty. She earned a little bit of her own money, and got to use her skills with a pencil. She had a love affair with pencil and paper and often wrote her thoughts down on paper. I have several articles she wrote on her childhood and various family stories down through the years.

Mama taught me many lessons, one of which was how to do my budget. It was a very simple budget. Every payday, Mama would sit down with her pencil and paper and Daddy's paycheck and tally up all the bills and choose which ones to pay until the money was gone. If there was not enough to go around, she would make her appointed rounds to pay the bills, even going to those she couldn't pay that month and explaining to them that she would get them next time. Since Mama didn't drive and most of the time we had no car anyway, this meant several miles of walking since she couldn't afford bus fare.

Daddy worked for the railroad and was on call when there were train wrecks. He worked as hard to make the money as Mama did to make it go around. Many times when Daddy would be out of town on a train wreck, Mama decided it was a good time to clean house. Out would come the paint brushes, and the wall papering brushes, and Mama would start to work. We kids would help with the papering and painting and other projects.

Most of the time, Daddy kept a cow so we always had plenty of milk for our family. When Daddy couldn't be home to milk, one of the boys had to do it, so Mama never had to milk that I remember, but she did have to strain the milk and prepare it for our use. We usually had milk to sell to the neighbors, and I would deliver it to them. This was a way for me to make my spending money.

I don't remember coming home from school many days when Mama wasn't there.

Mama and Daddy made a good team. They were married for over 56 years before Daddy passed away. They had their share of joys and sorrows, but they stuck it out together. That was the way it was back in the Good Old Days.


Editor's Note: Thanks to Shirley for this story. She had planned to submit it for publication elsewhere but generously agreed to share it here instead.

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