Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

December 4, 2015

Lost Day

Filed under: Childhood Memories,Family,Food — Janice @ 6:11 pm

I had every intention of writing EVERY DAMN DAY, so I can’t say where yesterday went to. I think it was the combination of having been at the computer all day long, doing my late night wrap-up work I have to do, and having the pull of a good football game distract me. Then the football game was such an amazing finale that I forgot about coming back to type. Oh well. It’s only a goal, not a law.

I saw a post today about what Christmas was like in the 1970s. I related very much to some of the items on the list, like receiving the Montgomery Wards, Penney’s, and Sears Christmas catalogues in October and poring through them circling everything we wanted or making long elaborate lists, making sure to note the full name and page number and letter so it would make it easier for mother to write on the order form and order them all for us. You had to order, ON PAPER, and mail it to someone to take out of the envelope and, for all I know, walk into their warehouse and pick out the items from the shelves themselves.  It was a little bit slower than our process of clicking one-button on the computer and then wondering why UPS didn’t have it with them the next day when they delivered.

Christmas at our house involved a lot of foods throughout the season. We always had Chex mix close at hand. Fudge, too. Mom would make divinity (if she had a bright sunshiny day to make it on because it wouldn’t work otherwise was what she always said), peanut patties, peanut brittle, or other Christmas candies. We usually had a fruitcake that someone made or gave to us and I never went near it. Now that I am older and LOVE fruitcake I wonder what I missed out on. We also had some eggnog close at hand. I think I liked it earlier rather than later, but there was probably a time I wasn’t sure about it.

I can remember lots of Christmas Eve’s at my grandmother’s or there were a couple of trips to see the out-of-town grandparents at Christmas. Some holidays had cousins or grandparents visiting us. But if I listed the favorite Christmases in the 70s, I am quite certain that I’d start with the Christmases where it was just our little family of four, Mom, Daddy, my sister, and me. I think we laughed and had more fun when it was just our little group than any other time. The others were memorable in many ways, but if I could go back, I’d pick one with just us.

December 1, 2015

Thanksgiving

Filed under: Family,Food,Travel — Janice @ 10:32 pm

It is a sad state of affairs that it is has been so long since I’ve blogged that I had to hunt for the little icon to click to write this. I have to learn everything all over again every time I go to do something to my website. This is no way to build a skill.

But I am back at it because of Holidailies and that yearly reminder that I want to write, I should write, I like to write, and I CAN write every day during December. Or at least I can swear that I will on December 1.

I did have a lovely Thanksgiving last week and that is something to share. My amazing sister got home from a week-long trip to Italy with her entire family. I don’t mean just HER family of her husband and sons and their wives and the new grandbaby, but also all her husband’s Dutch relatives… mother, brothers, sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew and nephew’s girlfriend. They spent a week exploring Italy and enjoying good food and a beautiful (haunted) castle and flew across the ocean on Sunday. And then my sister immediately turned around, cleaned house, bought groceries, and started cooking for a fabulous lunch on Thursday. Incredible. I only marginally helped by baking 2 pies. They were delicious, but the meal was the centerpiece.

The Thanksgiving followed my mother having been here visiting at my house for 10 days. Some might groan if they thought about their mother coming for a stay like that, but my mother is easy company and fun. She sleeps late so we don’t even see her in the morning. We come home at night and she is happy to take us out to dinner, send us out to dinner, cook for us (she made potato/tomato soup that reminded me of all my growing up years), or eat cereal or cheese and crackers along with us. That’s our usual diet. She works Sudoku puzzles or Wordfind puzzles and watches old Westerns on TV Land and we’re all happy. After I got back from Thanksgiving I kept forgetting that she wasn’t here. I would be at work thinking I needed to get on home to see her and then remember that she was gone. It’s nice to be home with just the two of us, but it was really nice to have Mother here, too.

Now it is December and who knows where this month will take us. I have no plans to travel in December and I’ll be staying home for Christmas. But I would love to see my nephews’ homes at Christmastime, so I might have to make a quick trip to DFW to make drop in and enjoy their decorations.

August 18, 2015

I Miss Letter Writing

Filed under: Childhood Memories,Family,Writing — Janice @ 12:40 am

I was at the grocery tonight and I wanted to by a letter-writing tablet. My mother probably had to buy one every time we went to the store when I was growing up. A letter-writing tablet is the half-page size tablet with NO lines, but it does have the one page with lines so you can put it under the page and write straight. And these are the plain white pages, no butterflies or fancy designs. I’m glad they still sell them. Mother used to use up a tablet every couple of weeks. The letters flew between her and her mother, her dad, and her three sisters. Mom’s regular routine, as far as I could tell, was to get us fed and off to school and then she could enjoy her coffee, her cereal, and writing her letters.

I still enjoy getting letters. I don’t enjoy writing them as much. But even if I did, the letters just don’t seem as special when we have email and phones and Facebook to keep up with one another all of the time. There is little I can put into a letter that won’t be old by the time it gets to someone.

I did send a card to my friend Beth in Canton, Ohio, recently. I don’t even remember what the card was for, but after a month or so, it was back in my box, stamped NO SUCH ADDRESS-UNDELIVERABLE. (I am hearing Elvis singing in my head, Return to sender…) I emailed Beth to clarify her address. Her address is exactly what I wrote on the envelope. I am kind of stumped. If you write a letter and address it correctly, what else can you do? Well, this time I got Beth’s work address so when I get around to sending it again, I’ll try sending it there.

Back in my teenage years, some of the letters Mom received were read aloud or we might all just read them when we got home from school or work and looked at the mail. But there were some letters, I know, that were just between sisters and they would write “Advertisement” on the envelope, which meant, “Keep this one to yourself.” You could have a little more confidence in your words being kept private when it was a letter. With an email it can be forwarded so easily, or mistakenly sent to everyone when it was supposed to only go to one.

Now I am in possession of hundreds of these letters to and from Mother and her sisters. They are interesting to read to see what day-to-day life was like back in ancient times (the 70s). The mundane becomes the most fascinating.

I love the letters, but I wouldn’t want to return to only having the letters. My mother and her sisters (ages 84 to 92) are all adept at email and Facebook and keep in even more constant touch now. Their travel and communication was limited 40 years ago, but the travel is even more restricted now. It’s comforting to know they still have the open and instant lines of communication.

August 2, 2015

Close Cousins

Filed under: Cemeteries,Family,Genealogy,Taphophilia — Janice @ 10:15 pm

You know you never know when you are standing next to a cousin. Even I don’t know–as much as I try to!

I remember several years ago being at a show on the patio at Hill’s Café in Austin. I frequently tell anyone who will listen that I am related to Pinky Wilson who wrote the Aggie War Hymn for Texas A&M. I usually bring this up when someone has on one of those big gold rings they wear or an Aggie t-shirt, for instance. I ran into a friend who had heard that story before and he said, “Oh, you need to meet this guy.” He dragged me over to meet a guy that was a descendant of Pinky Wilson, so we were third cousins, I think. Pinky Wilson was his grandfather  and Pinky and my grandmother were first cousins. I know my first cousins really well and I know all of their grandchildren pretty well. But the chances of my grandchildren knowing their grandchildren well are pretty slim (well, in my case they are nil since I have NONE).

Tonight I found a picture of me and another cousin when I didn’t know her.

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I’m standing there in the Newburg cemetery a few years ago at a ceremony to honor our Texas Rangers. I’m talking to the legendary Comanche librarian, Margaret. She and I are distant cousins… fourth cousins once removed, maybe. This was a few years back, but last year she told me about a cousin I needed to meet that is also from the same family. I finally got to meet Cindy in person last March and we had so much in common. She has become a great friend and genealogy buddy. This weekend I am going to stay at her house when I am up there for my family reunion.

Cindy had told me she was at this ceremony years ago. In fact, it was her only trip ever to my favorite cemetery. This weekend I plan on taking her there and giving her the full tour and showing her EVERY SINGLE ONE of my relatives there. Ha. Even I don’t know every single one that is related. But I know a bunch.

But, as you have probably gotten ahead of me already, that is Cindy in the left of the picture. There were many folks there and I had no idea.

Of course, I found where my own grandparents were third cousins and they had both lived in the same community all their lives and you’d think they would know that they were related. But, if they did, they never told any of us about it.

August 1, 2015

Am I Back?

Filed under: Family,Genealogy,Normal Life,Writing — Janice @ 10:35 pm

I like have a blog and I like having an outlet. To vent. To create. To blah blah blah. And I have missed my blog. I haven’t even looked to see the last time I wrote, but when I broke my arm on June 2, that put a stop to any creative typing. I was stuck with slowly only typing the bare minimum of work I had to do. The cast came off a couple of weeks ago, but I am still trying to be back to “normal” with the arm and be able to use all the twist and torque I once had. You don’t realize how many muscles and tendons a hand, wrist, and arm have until you can’t use them all. My typing is getting stronger (probably because I am GOING to do it and make it stronger), but I still have difficulty with turning my palm straight up. I can’t accept change with my left hand, for instance. Or pour an aspirin from a bottle into it. I looked up some exercises to strengthen hands and arms and I am doing them and think everyone should do them.

Otherwise it was a flooding spring and now a long hot summer. We are into the really hot miserable time where any sane person would only stay indoors. But after two months of no yard work, I did get out today and pulled weeds and trimmed bushes and watered some thirsty plants. I wasn’t out too long, but it still took its toll. I was glad to retreat to a cool shower and fans and air conditioning.

It has been a year since I wrote the book for my family and took it proudly to the reunion. The reunion is coming up this next weekend and I will go empty handed this year. I always approach the reunion with dread and anticipation. The dread is mainly for the heat and the feeling that I want to do MORE—talk to more people, soak in more history, be by myself more and be with other people more. I have a deep desire to be able to just sit and play cards and sit in one spot at the reunion, but I can’t stop myself from getting around and visiting and meeting people, too. There are people I don’t like and I usually get stuck talking to them, but I try to remember that everyone has a story and everyone is interesting in some way, so I try to find that. I’ll be trying to keep an open mind next weekend.

Okay, I’ve written, a blog is done. I’m not even taking the time to go find a picture to put with it. Spending more time and putting more effort into it will come with use. Just like I’m exercising my hand and wrist and arm, I hope I will be exercising my creativity and perseverance and storytelling. But no promises. I may not write again until Christmas.

March 30, 2015

Cemeteries in Comanche County

Filed under: Cemeteries,Family,Genealogy,Travel — Janice @ 11:05 pm

I spent the weekend in the cemetery and now I am just dead tired.

Doesn’t work quite as well as the “And boy are my arms tired” joke, but I’m trying.

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Saturday was the annual Newburg Cemetery Association meeting. I had never even heard of the association or knew they had annual meetings until last year. I don’t know how I was so uninformed about my favorite cemetery in the world, but now I know so I will attend the meetings. It isn’t just a dry meeting. It is a lively meeting of family interested in the welfare of our favorite cemetery and then there is a really nice potluck lunch with the group.

It is also a “Decoration Day,” as we call them in the South. I did not take any flowers for my family graves this year and I should  have. I usually take flowers in August when I go to the Cunningham reunion. All our flowers were pretty well faded so they do need a replacement soon.

I have 8 direct ancestors buried in the cemetery… my great-grandparents (Ed and Henrietta Hallford) and her parents my great-great-grandparent (Bill and Mildred Cunningham) and his parents (Capt. James and Susannah Cunningham) and then great-great-grandparents from another branch,  Joe and Trissia Moore. There is also 3 great-aunts and their husbands, several great-great-aunts and uncles, and so many cousin I would never be able to count. I know I’ve been to 4 funerals in that cemetery, including my very first one when I was 6 (for Grandma Hallford).  [Full disclosure: the picture of the cemetery is not from this year, it is from 2010. I didn’t take a good scene-setting picture this time.]

I got there early and went to the Albin Cemetery first and took more pictures there. It is just down the road and I have at least 4 direct ancestors there. It was a pretty day. I like this picture of the Albin Cemetery in panorama:

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I love the rock walls on these old cemeteries… can you imagine how much time and energy that took?

Now I am home and I’ve been wasting time researching some of the graves I saw (well, the people in them).

There’s just not enough hours in the day for the cemetery visits and research time I need.

March 26, 2015

Tulips for the baby

Filed under: Family — Janice @ 8:39 pm

I bought myself some tulips today. But they really are for my new niece, EJ. I couldn’t resist the tulips.

I have always had a love of tulips. Tulips were easier to grow in Amarillo where I grew up and we always had them in the garden and as a little girl I remember vividly going out each morning, counting the tulips, and coming back  to tell Mother how many tulips were blooming. I felt like that was my job.

When my sister married a man from Holland, tulips became even more sentimental to us all. We all love the country and the people we know there. My new niece is slightly more than one-fourth Dutch since her grandfather is solidly Dutch, but her grandmother is at least a tiny portion Dutch. I know the mother’s side of her family is Italian, but I don’t know much more. Once she can hold a pencil, little EJ and I will start work on genealogy together.

March 23, 2015

7 pound lifechanger

Filed under: Family — Janice @ 10:38 pm

 

This little doll is going to change my life from this day forward:

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This little angel is my great-niece (or some would say grand-niece). She is the son of my nephew. My sister’s granddaughter. My mother’s great-granddaughter.

I’m as proud as if I gave birth myself.

I can’t wait to see more pictures of this adorable little babe. She has been in the NICU through the day, but she is fine now and ready to conquer the world. She gets to go home with Mommy and Daddy on Wednesday.

I cannot fathom what my life would have been like if I had a baby at 25. But these two are going to be those parents that are easygoing and fun and have the house all the neighbor kids come to.

I had some incredible great-aunts:  Aunt Det, Ollie, Myra, Lena, Aunt Edna, Aunt Ruby, Aunt Gertrude, Aunt B, Aunt Mildred, and Aunt Leola. Each one has a special place and at least one indelible memory. I remember most of them as being fun to be around and easy to enjoy. I hope I can provide that for my little baby EJ.

March 17, 2015

A Fresh New Start

Filed under: At home,Austin,Bluebonnets,Cemeteries,Family,Food — Janice @ 11:29 pm

I guess the best way to return to a habit and get the ball rolling on this blog again is just to start.

And keep going. We’ll see if I can manage that.

I truly don’t know why I don’t. I write all the time, all over the place. This blog doesn’t have to be any more polished than the emails I write (since the same people will read it). So I will try.

I just had a beautiful fresh start to a New Year for myself with the big celebration for my 56th birthday (oops, I had a typo and put 65 first, can 65 ONLY be 9 years away?). It was a GREAT birthday. I have probably complained here in past years about how my birthday falls during Spring Break and, worse, during South By Southwest. South by Southwest is the Austin music conference/festival that is a fine event, but it keeps my husband, Mark, away from me much too much. But, every 6 years my birthday falls on the Sunday BEFORE SXSW and Mark can free up some time to celebrate my day.

It’s hard to believe it has been 6 years since we had a great lunch at El Chile on the east side and drove around observing the blooming mountain laurel and fruit trees and then visited the Texas State Cemetery. That was my first visit to the cemetery, even though we had lived here almost a decade by then. It was amazing and I’ve visited it many times since then. I am happily married to the only man in the world that would understand that a trip to a cemetery for a 50th birthday would be the best present.

This year Mark offered me a road trip to a Hill Country town or anything I wanted. I thought long and hard and decided a brunch at the 1886 Café in the Driskill Hotel and a trip to the Ransom Center would be my choice. Mark had some concerns about being downtown during SXSW, but we forged ahead and talked the café into letting us have a reservation even though they don’t take reservations  during SXSW or for brunch.

The Driskill is a beautiful hotel. It is Austin’s oldest and most opulent hotel, built in 1886. The lobby is big and marble with pillars and grand staircases and dark wood paneling.  We hadn’t  been there 3 minutes when I spotted Billy Crystal coming down the staircase. That’s the kind of magic that happens there.

With the ColonelHere we pose with Colonel Driskill. I was hoping for some orbs in the picture since he haunts the place, but no such luck. I was sniffing, trying to smell his cigar, but I didn’t get that either.

We enjoyed the cheese soup (amazing!) and I had quiche while Mark had steak and eggs. I also indulged in a bloody Mary.  It was fun to people watch, wondering if we looked like out-of-towners to them.

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We took a walk around the Driskill and then walked down 6th Street a little. I honestly don’t know  if Mark and I have EVER walked down 6th Street together. It is Austin’s Bourbon Street…something the city is known for, but nasty, dangerous, and a place the locals don’t go. In the daytime it is not so dirty or scary. There were lots of people out and the streets were closed so there was lots of room. We had fun pointing to buildings and remembering…. “This WAS Joe’s Generic Bar. This was Steamboat. This was where I played for this…. This is where I used to go ….” It has changed tremendously since I worked down the street when we moved here 16 years ago.

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There was no shortage of people watching on 6th Street. With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, we even saw leprechauns. We steered clear so I don’t know what they were soliciting. I have a feeling they weren’t going to lead us to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

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On to the Harry Ransom Center. It is a museum where my cousin works, yet I have never been to it. I wanted to go just to see where it was and what it was like. I didn’t need to spend hours there. It is a very nice small museum, known for its traveling exhibits, I suppose. But it does have a Gutenberg Bible on display, which is AWE-some in the truest sense of the word. And the first photograph ever made, in 1824, I think. Mark looked at the piece of metal with dark shapes on it, hardly distinguishable as a landscape outside a window at all. Mark commented, “Well, it isn’t even a very good photograph…. kind of grainy.” We laughed. It was the kind of exhibit that makes me want to go read more about the invention of photography.

There was also a big exhibit going on about Alice in Wonderland. A lot of people were there to see it and it was a beautiful display with LOTS about the book and the whole history of Alice. Somehow, I grew up without ever knowing much about Alice in Wonderland. I knew about her, but I don’t know if I actually ever read the book. I think I saw a cartoon. I think I once had a ceramic figurine of her. But since Mark and I didn’t have a real connection with Alice in Wonderland, we took the quick view through that exhibit.

I was happy and satisfied and content to go home to open birthday cards that had come through the week (I always save them until the day) and maybe get in a good nap. Before we got all the way home, Mark took a swing through a rehab facility by our house. Each spring there are fields of bluebonnets around the center so he wanted to check to see if any were blooming. Neither one of us have seen a bluebonnet by the highways yet. Lo and behold, they were beginning to bloom. There is no piece of nature that makes me as happy as the bluebonnet does. We stopped to do the Texas thing and take pictures in the bluebonnets. We will be back when they are more abundant.

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Now Mark is deep into his long days/nights of working during South By Southwest and I am a SXSW widow, home alone overnight. But the birthday is over and I don’t have to think about it falling during SXSW when I don’t get any attention. It was a happy and fun birthday and I’m grateful to my sweet husband and to all who sent the cards and presents and called and texted and Facebooked and emailed. There was no shortage of love.

February 8, 2015

My Aunt Billie’s Birthday

Filed under: Childhood Memories,Family,Genealogy,Travel — Janice @ 4:34 pm

Several years ago I wrote about my Aunt Dorothy for her birthday instead of giving a gift. In January we celebrated my Aunt Billie’s 90th birthday and I decided to do it again. Writing about Aunt Billie is a little more challenging because she was always the most elusive aunt, the one I didn’t know as well. Aunt Billie and her family lived in Tyler when I was a child and then moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas before I was a teenager. We would see their family on the rare occasion that they came on a vacation to see us or we went to see them (it did happen a few times) or at family events somewhere in the middle, like Eastland, Texas, or Eldorado, Oklahoma.

Aunt Billie acknowledging the throngs of well-wishers at her 90th in January in Fort Smith:

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I never had the ability to just drop in on Aunt Billie. I have crashed all the other aunt’s homes to eat, shower, sleep, visit, or just take a break from the road, but never at Aunt Billie’s. We haven’t had much of a correspondence over the years either, but that would be because I didn’t write her. She is definitely a letter writer and there’s no way a correspondence would wither from her end.

If I wanted to help you envision my Aunt Billie, I would have you think of Lady Bird Johnson. It’s not that they really look alike, but I somehow got them intertwined when I was a kid and still see some of Billie in Lady Bird and vice versa. Lady Bird’s dark hair and her sweet laughing face are only part of it. They really do share an accent. That part is critical for you to hear in your mind to hear Aunt Billie. She has a very different accent from the rest of the family. I guess we are all West Texas and she is very East Texas. It’s not a lazy Southern talk, sometimes she talks very fast, but then there will be a long languid vowel just before the sentence finds its conclusion. “So-I-said-I’d-be-there-on-Sat-ur-daaaaaaaay?” There’s always that lilting upward inflection at the end, too. Not “uptalk” like the teen girls in America, but a gentle inquisition that seems to be asking politely, “Do I need to slow down for ya’ll to understaaaaand meeee?”

What do I know about Aunt Billie? Whenever I ask that question about a relative or ancestor, the glaring omissions of what I don’t know starts jumping out at me rather than the part I do. But I’ll try to stick with the facts as I know them.

Aunt Billie was the second child of my grandparents. Aunt Dorothy was only about 18 months old when Aunt Billie was born so my grandmother had her hands full at only 22 years old. Billie was born in Newburg, Texas, the same place her father and her grandmother had been born. She was born in 1925 and the family had lived in that neighborhood for 70 years, stretching back to the times of Indian raids and depredations.

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She grew up in Grosvenor (north of Brownwood) where her father, Arla Hallford, was the superintendent of the school there. She had 2 younger sisters, my mother, Patsy, and the baby, Lou Helen. There are great adventures to tell of the family living in Grosvenor. One frightening story was when the four daughters were left at home when their parents chaperoned a school bus full of kids going to the Fort Worth Stock Show. They were bundled up in their bed when a man entered their house and they could see him by the firelight. He caught sight of them and asked, “Has that bus already gone?” or some other question, made up on the spot. The girls nodded in fright and he left. When the family returned and authorities were notified, they brought several men from the community into the lights of a car for the girls to try to identify who it had been, but it was none of these men. And then there was the time the family was all almost washed away when the new dam that formed Lake Brownwood—and stood between them and their home in Grosvenor as they returned from Brownwood—collapsed during a deluge of rain.

The family moved to Quanah when Aunt Billie was in high school. Her dad was no longer her school superintendent; he had gone to work for the State Welfare Office. She graduated from high school in Quanah and was very active, as she would be all her life, in the First Baptist Church.

Aunt Billie went all the way to Kingsville to attend Texas A&I College. It was a long way from Quanah, but Aunt Billie had developed a close relationship with the pastor and he and his wife were moving to Kingsville and encouraged her to come with them and go to school. My mother remembers the adventure of getting to visit her there (while Mother was still in high school) and passing kids at the Baptist Student Union and have them say, “Hi Billie.” She had never known that she looked that much like her sister.

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Aunt Billie had office jobs before she married. She worked at the Western Union office and at the National Farm Loan Association in Quanah as assistant manager to Mr. Silas Mitchel. Then she took the job of secretary to the Vice President and General Manager Quin Baker of the Quanah, Acme, and Pacific Railroad. She stepped into that job when her older sister Dorothy had had before she married. I’m sure Mr. Baker knew quality workers when he found them.

Aunt Billie had many jobs through the years, but her main job was always mother to her four kids, my cousins Hank, Patsy Lee, Jo, and Becky. We have always marveled at their large family and how they would pile in the car and go on their vacations without a fuss or a fight (it seemed to us anyway). Still to this day this is the closest family you’ve ever seen. It seems like there is a birthday in their family at least once a week and a family celebration at someone’s home.

Aunt Billie is the only sister of the Hallford family that has traveled the world so extensively. She visited Israel, The Philippines, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Germany, and other countries in Europe. Sometimes she was there visiting her children who lived there. Jo and her husband Dru were missionaries in Israel for a while. Hank and his family were in Germany while he was in the Army. Many of her trips were related to Aunt Billie’s church work or her desire to know more about the Bible and expand her education. Of all the children in the Hallford family, Aunt Billie is the most like Papa Hallford in her desire to be a constant student. She makes the effort to not just read, but to study and absorb and seek out people to discuss topics with. There’s no doubt she could step into a Sunday School room, a Bible study, or even the pulpit and be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Aunt Billie has her quirks, there’s no doubt about it. But I love that she is perfectly content with who she is. We should all be so confident and self-assured. While MOST in our family have a need to look “proper” to the outside world, Aunt Billie does things her own way and you can take it or leave it. One time she and I shared a motel room on our way to the Cunningham reunion. Aunt Billie brought her own sheets, pillow, and blankets with her and made her own bed on the couch of the hotel room because she didn’t trust sleeping on the hotel sheets. She also had her house shoes and wouldn’t cross the room and the carpet with bare feet. I was amused, too, because her “luggage” was grocery sacks because they were convenient for her. That was 20 years ago and I find myself traveling with grocery sacks more and more. I have learned a lot from my Aunt Billie.

Aunt Billie is a writer. That’s kind of a thing in this family. I have a story she wrote many years ago about “The Church Pan.” It’s a story you can relate to if you ever took foods to the church for funerals or Wednesday night prayer meeting (… I would assume. I can’t say I’ve done it.). She accidentally took home a church pan along with her own and then failed to get it back to the church in a timely manner. As the time stretches further, her guilt grows and she is certain the church brotherhood is going to ask her to come before the church to confess her sin of coveting and stealing the church pan. She has a way of making you laugh and feel the guilt she felt, all at the same time.

Aunt Billie became a widow young. She married Uncle Glendon when they were in their 20s. They had a church wedding after church on a Sunday at the First Baptist in Quanah. He had been a bombardier in World War II and was shot down over Germany and was held in a German POW camp for over a year when he was just 21 years old. Aunt Billie hadn’t met him at that point. He came home, they fell in love, and started their life together. He sold car parts, like Delco batteries, to parts stores and auto dealerships. They lived all over Texas… Abilene, Corsicana, Roame, Emhouse, Crowell, Tyler, and then they finally settled for good in Fort Smith Arkansas. Glendon died when he was only 61 and is buried in the National Cemetery in Fort Smith. Aunt Billie has been an active and self-sufficient single woman for almost 30 years now.

Aunt Billie and Uncle Glendon and the first 6 of their 12 grandchildren:

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Aunt Billie has a very close and special relationship with God. While I was there for her birthday, I heard a great story that illustrates that. Her daughter Jo had come to visit her for an afternoon. Before she left Aunt Billie got her purse and said she was “convicted by God” to give Jo some money. Jo said she didn’t need any, but Aunt Billie pulled out a checkbook and wrote a check for $2500 and was insistent that Jo take it. Jo complied and took it, but said she didn’t need it and wouldn’t be cashing it. When Jo got home, it wasn’t long until her husband had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. He made a full recovery, thank goodness. Their out-of-pocket portion of the hospital stay was $2500. Jo hadn’t known that she would need that money soon.

I’ve always loved Aunt Billie’s personal library and her ability to catalogue and file her books and papers and notes. If you bring up a subject, she can pull files and sources and be ready for a discussion in minutes. Her cataloging goes beyond her intellectual pursuits. She has also saved every family letter and photo she has ever received. A few years back she divided her stash and returned the letters and photos to those who sent them. I inherited the ones that my mother got back from her. There were letters from me when I was a kid, my high school and college graduation announcements, photos. She had even created a scrapbook of the school pictures of me and my sister. All in all, she may have had more of my school pictures than I did!

One wonderful discovery in her files showed up in time for her birthday celebration. Her daughter Becky found a song Aunt Billie had written to accompany a poem her father, my Papa Hallford, had written for her many years before. It was a complete piece of sheet music with words and music. Her creativity still surprises me. I knew she played piano, but didn’t know how much she did with her music. I learned she had majored in music in college.

Aunt Billie, like her sisters, is a great cook. I didn’t get to enjoy as many meals at her house as I did the others, but I have seen what wonderful cooks her daughters are and I know where they got it from.

Aunt Billie has been a staunch supporter of me and my genealogy efforts through the years. She has always supplied the information I’ve requested and has passed along photos and books and anything I’ve needed, asked for, or that she thought would be helpful. She has come to lots of the Cunningham reunions (even though Comanche is a very long way from Fort Smith) and I appreciate her children for being willing to jump in the car with her at a moment’s notice to go to a reunion.

Tenacity, faith, humor, creativity. Aunt Billie got a big portion of great traits in our family. I love that she is still living in her home, doing what she has always done, and sees no reason to change anything now.

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The four sisters:  Lou Helen (holding Nathaniel), Dorothy, Billie, and (my mother) Patsy.

old box from Mackies house scanned 9 10 2011 001 sisters with Nathaniel tight crop

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