GRACIE EDNA MITCHELL

Born 23 March 1923 and died 26 August 2006.

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Gracie worked in a dimestore when these photos were taken. She also went by the nicknme of "Grass" when she was a teenager. On several occasions I interviewed my mother and this is what she said about her life:

We had a radio with a big battery underneath it. Momma used to listen to Young Doctor Malone and every Saturday night, The Grand Ole Opry. I cut my teeth on the grand ole opry.

 

Every Christmas my momma would go to town with a big black leather bag and buy oranges and fruit to put in our stocking. I thought oranges were only around during Christmas. And banana's. I never ate spaghetti until I left home. I never liked ice cream, it always gave me a headache.

 

Gracie in 1925I gave the valedictorian speech at school. Graduating class of 9. I looked around the audience and momma was just a fanning. I guess she was nervous. I was in an all women play and we had to play the part of men. I was the boogie man with black face. I had a cane. That was the funniest thing you ever seen.

 

I failed 5th grade and still graduated when I was 17. Just from goofing off. I didn't study as hard as I should have. I was tired from all my chores. After graduating I went to Lynchburg and worked in the dime store. I had the sock counter. You don't flip up my socks, you keep my socks straight. I liked the candy counter better. And then Mildred and I worked at Chiles Potatoes Chips. We used to bag potato chips. I liked that too. We used to know exactly how much to put in that bag.

 

Elementary school was 2/5ths of a mile. For high school for 2 years I walked a mile and a half and cross the river and walked a mile on the railroad track, and got in a bus and went to school and come back the same way. Rowed a boat across the river. One time we walked on it when it froze, but that didn't happen to often. That was the James River. There was no kindergarten and there was only 11 grades.

Gracie and her motherWent to church on Sunday driving a buggy. Daddy never owned a car. On weekends, Charlottes mother and daddy would come up and spend the weekend with us.

 

Momma used to sell butter. She sold it to her children, Lola and Vera and all them. She used the money to buy coffee and sugar. We grew wheat and had to take it to the mill to be grind up.

 

When we went to church we had to take our shoes off when we got home. It was the only pair of Sunday shoes we had, so you couldn't ruin them. My daddy used to say I wish I could buy you a corner in that church, cuz my momma wanted to go all the time.

 

Momma had problems with her eyes, but daddy never did. She had a big thick bible she used to sit up in the window and read that.

 

My brother had arthritis. He was 35 when he died of it. Earl(sister) took care of him. His name was Esmond. He worked in a factory and already had his insurance made out to the undertaker. I was only 5 when he died. When momma said he could come home, he said he felt like he could get up and fly, he was so happy.

I slept in a little bed in momma and daddy's room. Earl was in the living room. She called momma to come quick. Momma said "what's wrong Esmond" and she rubbed him and he said "Goodbye momma I'm gone" and he died. I remember momma crying all over the house. He was 7th day Adventist. They came every Saturday and read the bible to him.

 

Momma had long black hair she put in a bun or pony tail and it hung down her back.

 

I had a cat named Jitterbug and 2 dogs named Rock and Rattler. Brownie was my main dog. He was a just a hound dog. He went with us and lay there when we went on the train and be there when we got back.

We had shotguns and rifles all over the house. I always thought that all men should have a rifle, pocket watch and a knife, cuz all my brothers and father had one. They fished and hunted all the time.

 

They hunted rabbit and squirrel. I used to eat them both. I never did like squirrel much. I never ate possum or deer. Daddy used to have traps. He'd go out every morning to his traps for his rabbits. We had a certain tree we'd put a nail in and hang them up and skin 'em.

 

To skin a squirrel you had to cut him across the back and skin him that way. I didn't mind doing that. But I wouldn't cut a chickens head off for no amount of money.

 

When we milked a cow, you just bring the milk on home. You don't pasteurize it. Used the churn and get your buttermilk.

 

cows Cherry, Buck, Piggy and Rose

We had a cider mill and we made cider, but not liquor. Cash crop was corn and tobacco. We made 46 thousand hills of tobacco. We planted 730 hills one day real quick cuz daddy wouldn't let us go out until we finished. We raised tobacco and not one of 8 girls smoked. My father didn't smoke or chew. Brother Powhatan smoked.

 

The last year I lived at home, momma and I picked 25 bushels of potatoes. Milking the cows was the big job. We had horses and chickens and pigs and dogs and cats. We had about 8 or 10 cows.

 

Tiddlywinks was a sweet chicken. I would go outside and he would jump up on my shoulder. Then he got so he was pecking at the other chickens and momma said he's gotta go. I said he can't go. So Mabel said she would eat him. So that night I kissed him real good and put him in his bed and the next day he was gone.

 

In this picture, Gracie is holding tiddlywinks and standing beside her cows, named Cherry, Buck, Piggy and Rose.

 

Charlie and Mel were my two horses. I put their mane in a paper. She didn't know what they do with the horse body when it dies. "I guess someone comes out after it".

 

We would have 2 big hogs at a time. I remember we had a box for scalding them in. Daddy had the box and shared it with the neighbours. Black people would take the chittlings. We'd make liver pudding.

 

Daddy had a piece of land about a mile away, the one that Melvin and his wife lived in.

 

We worked likes horses out there. We picked peas. Before school we had to fetch the water and make sure there was wood in the wood box.

 

The depression did not effect my family, we were on the farm. We grew our own food.

 

My father built the house we lived in. I lived there 21 years. There were lots of outbuildings. There was a corn house and a jack house and a hen house and 2 barns. We had a spring house where we put our butter and milk in. My father built them all. He owned 120 acres.

 

When he sold the property the house was still standing. They must have tore down the other buildings. Daddy used to put his drinking stuff in the corn house. His toddy. He never brought it to the house.

There never was electricity while I was living there. Went to the spring for water. Brought it up in buckets. We cooked on a wood stove and no air, no fan. It was a dark kitchen. When you ironed you had to put the irons on the stove and by the time you got to the clothes, the iron was cold

 

We had 3 bedrooms upstairs, and downstairs a living room and dining room and kitchen. They were all big in size. A lot of my brothers and sisters were married and gone before I was even born.

 

The out house, they would build big holes in the ground and put a building over it. They never emptied it. We used to wipe our butt on the Sears Robuck catalogue. For sanitary napkins we used rags. You had to wash it out and hang it up when you took it off.

 

We had fireplaces. Daddy got a regular stove to heat the place. It just heated the dinning room and a fireplace in the living room. We had 2 different chimneys. If it was hot in the summer time, we would close the curtains to cool the room so when daddy came in for lunch, it wasn't so hot. In the summer time, the rooms upstairs were so hot you couldn't hardly breathe.

 

After the house was sold it was renovated with plumbing and electricity added, then many years later it was hit by lightening and burned to the ground.

 

No telephone or nothing. We didn't have a bathtub, just washed out of a wash pan. We bathed every once in a while, but not every day. Every Saturday night. There was no deodorant.

 

Charlie Davis was my first boyfriend. I was 12 years old. I would write 3 boys the same letter. I had to write a letter, cuz we didn't have a telephone.

 

C.G. was one of my boyfriends.

 

Becky, Gracie and BuddyI married Buddy in 1944. Went to Washington D.C. for our honeymoon. Mitch and I went to N.Y. I'm 2 years older than Buddy. He had 2 boys by his second wife.

 

Worked in the box factory a year or 2. Worked one night in a cotton mill. It was horrible. I came out of there just spitting cotton all night long. Worked in a shoe factory.

 

Buddy had 33 different jobs in 3 years. He was running around with women. He worked in a funeral home, then a garage. I told him to come get his clothes, he was driving a cab then.

 

When I was married to Buddy we lived in Mildreds(sister)house. Mildred was working in D.C. and coming down on weekends, and I would press her pretty clothes. Then I went up there and lived with Lucille (sister). Then instead of riding a street car and bus to work, I moved to a room closer to where I worked. He (Mitch) wasn't allowed at my house where I rented, and his mother was at his place, so we always had to go out someplace.

 

I was working at the White Tower (waitress) and Mitch was working at the post office. This girl I worked with said she wanted Mitch, so I set my cap for him too. We got married in 2 years. I had to wait for my divorce to be final. I had to pay for that too.

 

We lived on Utah street (Arlington VA) when we got married. After his mother moved with Mary, she came over for supper every week. His mother's brother left her some money

 

Both of my parents liked Mitch. They came and stayed 4 or 5 weeks with us one time.

 

Mitch asked if Louie could come stay with us until him and his wife got back together. He stayed 17 years. He paid us $35 a month for the room. Louie had 2 boys and a girl.

 

I never rode a regular bicycle. I had a 3 wheeled bike. I got it when Lester first met Keri. I had it down here, too (Fredericksburg, VA). It had 2 wheels in the back, like a regular bike, just 2 wheels in the back instead of one. It had a basket.

 

Mildred (sister) tried to teach me how to drive when we worked in the potato chip factory, but I never could learn it. Changing shifts were to much for me. Then Mitch taught me. I use the right foot for the gas and left for the brake.

 

I got my car from Figgins, that guy that worked with Mitch, for a hundred dollars. It was an Oldsmobile. Mary gave me the money for it. That was when I worked at Computax and 3 Chefs. I worked at Computax 3 years, only in the spring. That was when I was taking care of Mrs. Mitchell (Carrie).

 

I had a boyfriend who had a model A ford and a model T ford. The model T ford, when he turned it off, you could hear it just rattlin'.

 

Mary (Roberts sister) used to come over every day in the afternoons after Ronald died (her husband). She thought I should get my work done in the mornings. I told her I had work to do, I couldn't sit down.

We used to play dominoes with Ronald for 8 hours at a time. Ronald used to sing that Dean Martin song (everybody loves somebody sometime).

 

In 75 years I lived in 3 places. Gracie lived in the same house with her husband, Mitch, for 30 years in Arlington Virginia. She worked as a file clerk in the Pentagon for a few years, but most of her work life she was a waitress at various places. They retired and moved to Fredericksburg in 1980 and lived in the same house there until she died in 2006.

 

When I was 42 years old I had a hysterectomy because I was bleeding so bad. I still got the ovaries. In 1991 I had a hip replacement due to arthritis. It's supposed to last 15 years and it's doing great. I broke my rotator cup in my shoulder. I still can't raise my arm up. That happened over 2 years ago. That was from jumping out of the bed from a dream.

 

When Becky was little on the porch a snake was coming towards her and she was saying "baby, baby, baby" and I reached for her and fell and like to bust both my knee caps. I had to save her from the snake.

 

She had high blood pressure. She had cataracts in both eyes and a lens implant in both eyes. Had glaucoma and macular degeneration. Both have that. I have 13 stitches up this side of my back and 13 up this side, due to kidney stones. I had 3 lithotripsy's. Now they do it here in Fredericksburg. The last operation was when Lester and Keri got married. I've had my appendix out. I still got my tonsils. She also had hernias.

 

After having Becky, the doctor told me to wait 10 years before having a baby. I was in labour for 36 hours with Becky. I was laying in my own water. My doctor was sick and couldn't be there with me. He said, momma, sure glad to see ya, cuz we didn't think you were both going to make it. Her head was all squished up on both sides. I didn't get to see her for 2 days. I just ripped her clothes off cuz I wanted to see what the rest of her looked like.

 

I once went to a chiropractor for my back and he fixed me up good. Had bursitis. Had osteoporosis. Breast cancer was 3 years ago. She did radiation for that.

 

My mother had problems with her colon and was in and out of the hospital many months the last year of her life due to this. Then she fell and fractured her pelvis.

 

On Friday morning 25 August 2006,she woke with "the worst headache" she ever had, and she used to get migraines quit a bit. She went into a coma in the ambulance and never recovered. She had a massive stroke and died the next morning on Saturday 26 August 2006.


From the photos below you can see some things unique to her life. Gracie liked to travel in the RV with her husband, Mitch, and they would go to race tracks alot. She was best friends with Mitch's sister, Mary, from the very beginning to the day she died. They used to travel alot with her neice Charlotte, who she became close to in her later years.

 

Gracie liked to garden and used to can the vegetables. She also collected salt and pepper shakers most of her life.