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Showing posts with label shipyards. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shipyards. Show all posts

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Opal and Gertrude

This photograph taken circa 1930 is an image of a friendship that lasted over 80 years! On the right is my mother, Opal Auntionette Terrell, who married my father,  John William Howard Teal, on December 27, 1931. On the left is Gertrude Mae Burks, who married Herod Bickerstaff on December 4, 1931. These two young women "stood up" for each other at their weddings that December in 1931. But they had been standing up for each other for years before that.  They went to church and school together, both graduating from Bullard High School in 1931. They shared  living in big families on farms with no indoor plumbing, drinking water from a dipper stuck in the well bucket,  learning to cook on wood stoves, learning to iron with flat irons heated on those stoves, writing in their diaries, the giggling of girls, and the satisfaction of working hard,. In those days, school text books were hard to come by. They shared those books, which were called "partner books"  I have one of those books with their names and that designation handwritten inside the book.

Through the years Opal and Gertrude remained close friends. They grew up on farms whose acreage backed up to each other.  There was a small creek with a bridge in between. Mother spoke fondly of the times they would plan to meet at that bridge. I am sure Gertrude was at a party Mother went to when she was a teenager. She told how she had such a good time she was late coming home and as she tip toed down the long front hall of their big white house on the hill in Bullard, she kicked a washpan that had been set outside a bedroom door and woke everyone.  Gertrude shined her patent shoes like Mother did, by rubbing a cold biscuit over the toes!


Best friends for so long, and married in the same month, their married lives began as Gertrude and Herod worked a farm in the sandy soil of East Texas, raising watermelons among other crops.  They had 2 sons and  2 daughters. Opal and Howard moved to Tyler where they both worked in Cameron's Cafeteria and where they lived when I was born in 1940, later moving to New Orleans, LA during WW II  Daddy worked in shipyards. When they came back to Texas, both worked in cafes in Jacksonville and later operated and owned cafes where Daddy was well known for being a wonderful cook.  My sister Janice was born in 1946.  When I left home to start college in 1958, Gertrude and Herod's oldest daughter Nona was my first college roommate!

Both were strong women whose faith was apparent in the way they lived life in their communities, raised their families,and served in their churches. Gertrude was an active member of First Baptist Church Bullard.Opal was a longtime member of First Baptist Church Jacksonville. Both were married for over 50 years.  Howard Teal died in 1982. Herod Bickerstaff died in 1987.  So both women were widows for many years.

 Gertrude was born August 30, 1913 lived in Bullard all her life and died in Jacksonville (less than 15 miles away) on April 15, 2002 after a couageous battle with cancer.  Opal was born October 20, 1913, lived all but 2 years of her life within a 15 mile radius of her childhood home, and  finally left her home in Jacksonville when we moved her near us the same year Gertrude died, 2002.  Often in those last few years, she would tell me she was ready to "go Home."  On that night,  September 21, 2006, as I grieved her loss, I smiled through tears and said,

"She is meeting Gertrude at the bridge."

Saturday, February 2, 2013

New Orleans

Street cars. St. Louis Cathedral. Jackson Square.Canal Street. Lacy wrought iron gates. Beignets.  Coffee with Chicory. Boiled Shrimp.

Before you decide this will be another blast of Superbowl hype, let me correct your impression by adding another item to the list - Lizardi Street, where my parents and I lived after moving from Texas around 1942 for Daddy to work in the shipyards during World War II.  Located just north of the Mississippi in what is now the Lower Ninth Ward, the tiny house was owned by Mrs. Castaine, who rented part of it as an apartment for us. Two years old at the time, I have memory only of what I was told about the way we lived there.
Daddy worked the night shift at the shipyards.  Mother took care of me and cooked the shirmp he bought from shrimp wagons bringing in fresh harvest on his way home - his supper, my breakfast!  Then she dressed me in a pretty dress or striped overalls and took me out to play or walk, anything to keep the little rooms quiet enough for Daddy to sleep before heading off for another night shift.


 My Texas grandparents missed me and wrote long letters telling my mother so.  Phone calls were a luxury and limited to brief exchanges only when necessary.  Once for  a birthday present they sent me new house slippers, filled with orange slices. Rarely, we made the return trip to East Texas, always a glad reunion.

Years later, I would visit New Orleans on business trips and enjoy wonderful meals at Antoines, Glatoire's, and Commanders' Palace. I would walk down Bourbon Street and explore antique shops in the French Quarter.  I would photograph wrought iron  balconies and gates, and once again ride the St. Charles street car.  We would stop for beignets, coffee, and shrimp po-boys.  I would fall in love with he foods and learn to cook them.  My mother never wanted to return to New Orleans after they left.

Katrina changed the city forever.  I am glad to see the rebuilding and restoration of neighborhoods and many of the city's treasures although I am unable to discover whether Lizardi street has recovered much.  I am glad for the attention New Orleans is receiving from being chosen for the location for Super Bowl 2013.  I won't be watching the game, but I have enjoyed my view of the city.

And I still love shrimp, any time of the day.
                    Dressed in a grass skirt to model the shell jewelry and rattan bag brought back as a gift for me                                          from my Uncle Travis, who served in the Navy in the Pacific Theatre during WWII.