I’ve told you about my Daddy so I should tell you about my Momma. She was wonderful! But then again, don’t we all think our moms are great? We put them up on pedestals and fail to see their feet of clay. We refuse to believe they are anything less than perfect. And if you are a mom, aren’t you glad?
Momma gave birth to ten children, all single births. She loved each and every one of us and accepted us as we were. She never tried to force us in to a mold. She knew our strengths and weaknesses and encouraged the assets and forgave the flaws. She and Daddy worked hard and believed every one else should do the same. Momma thought everybody should have at least one job.
As I said before, my Daddy was buried on my fourteenth birthday. All the other children except me and Betty Jean were grown and married. Now Momma had us to finish raising by herself. She got a social security check for each of us but it wasn’t anything to write home about. When we got old enough to get a job, (at that time I believe you could work at sixteen, anyway) she found us a job.
It was in the spring and one of the local factories (I guess you’d call it that for lack of any other name), Roddenberry’s Pickle Plant hired temporary workers for what they called “The Green Season.” What that amounted to was the time of year that the fresh cucumbers were coming in. The plant was huge and open. There was no air conditioning only enormous fans that blew hot air around. Rows of women stood at wooden bins on each side of a conveyor belt. In the corner of the bin you would put a dozen jars, open end up, that you got from the boxes stacked beside you. They dumped the pickles in the other part of the bin. Your job was to pack the pickles in the jars and place them in a certain way so the customers could see how pretty they were. You had to put so many in a jar. And you had to pack so many dozen jars an hour. Sometimes as you were packing you fingers would slip and the pickle would go under your nail and hurt like the dickens. Once the jars were full you put them on the conveyor belt to have the vinegar put in, the lids screwed on, labels posted and then back in boxes to be shipped. If a jar broke in the bin it had to be completely cleaned out and every pickle thrown away so no one would get glass when they went to eat the end product. Needless to say breakage was frowned up on. We worked any where from 10 to 12 hours a day for minimum wage. And when you left there you smelled like a pickle. I hated that job!!
Toward the end of season they started laying people off, usually on Friday which was pay-day. Every Friday I prayed that I would get laid off. Momma would never have allowed me to quit. You just did not quit a job around Momma. Thank God the Friday finally came when they let me go! I tried to hide my joy because it would not have been polite to show how happy I was at their decision. I couldn’t wait to get home to tell Momma and Betty Jean. But my pleasure was short-lived.
Momma just said, “that’s okay, Sugar, we knew it was coming sooner or later. Tomorrow morning I’ll take you down to the Okra House and you can work their green season.”
She was talking about Campbell Soup Company but everybody around Cairo called it the Okra House because that’s what they worked in.
Sure, enough early the next morning I heard, “Wake up, Sugar, yore coffee’s ready.”
Momma spoiled Betty Jean and me that way; every morning she’d have us a steaming cup of coffee beside the bed when she woke us up.
Soon my older married sister arrived to drive us to the Okra House; we couldn’t afford a car of our own.
Momma had worked there for years when she was physically able but now she had health problems and could no longer stand for ten to fourteen hours a day. But she still knew the people so she walked me right up to the man in charge. I forget his name but it really isn’t important so I’ll just call him Frank.
She said. “Frank, this here is my youngest daughter and she needs a job.”
He quit what he was doing and looked at us. “Does she have a knife and a hairnet?”
She nodded. “Has my old knife.” They used a special kind of knife.
“Then take’er to the office and tell’em I said sign’er up and give’er a badge and hairnet. And have’er back here at twelve to start.”
Yippee! So much for my unemployment.
That place was almost the same as the Pickle Plant. At Campbell’s the women stood at medal bins on each side facing a conveyor belt . They dumped okra in your bin and you had to trim the ends off and put the okra in another bin. Once it was full they pulled a switch and dumped it onto a belt and you started all over. You had to fill so many bins an hour to make production to keep your job.
We started at noon because the farmers in the area cut the okra in the morning and delivered it to the plant in the afternoon. The later in the night it got one could hear the women asking anyone who walked through from where they unloaded the trucks. “How many trucks left out there?” They knew about how much longer they had to work by the number of trucks left in line.
We worked until one or two o’clock in the morning. When we got off I had to walk two miles home. I was fine until I got to this one place on the hike. There was a saw-mill with a small stream of water and woods beside it in the valley between two hills. That place scared me to death. So I’d get about half way down the hill then I’d start running and ran until half way up on the other side. If someone had been waiting to harm me I sure made enough noise to let them know I was coming.
Momma was always waiting up when I got home.
Again, I was happy when I got laid off and again my joy was short-lived.
This time Momma said. “Okay, we knew it was coming. They’ve started a new sewing factory in town so tomorrow morning I’ll take you there to see about a job.”
“Momma, I can’t sew!” I cried.
“Well you ain’t too ignorant to learn are you?” Was her reply.
I got the job but had to work three weeks without pay while I was trained. Momma said. “That’s okay we’ll manage ‘til you start getting paid.” My Momma could sure manage money. Maybe we’d be better off if she was alive today and could manage the country’s economy.
I turned my paycheck over to her and never questioned why. I just knew it was needed.
I worked that job for about four years until I got married and moved to Florida with my husband.
I was truly blessed because God gave me two loving parents. Our home wasn’t rich but it was overflowing with love.
Thanks for stopping by and listening to my memories. Until next time if you have a job appreciate it; there are those who wish they were physically able to work. God bless.