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Friday, July 19, 2019

In my family stories, I write about my parents, Coy and Lois Council.

Excerpt from my memoir:
My older sister, June, was born 1924. She entered this world at the home of our grandparents, Willie and Lula Robison where Mother waited for Daddy to send for her. Times were hard in the early 1920s for my family and many more. The economy of the United States was doing great, but only for certain people. As is often the case, the stock market was booming, but middle and low income families struggled.

Daddy, Coy Council, had planned to wait until he had enough money saved before asking Lois to marry him, but he married at the age of 23 because he could not bear to be away from his beloved Lois any longer. In letters he wrote to my mother, it is obvious he was afraid she would find someone else. He was jealous of anyone she saw when he was not present.

Daddy had never worked anywhere but Pelham Manufacturing Company, (textile mill). He started there when he was ten years old, soon after his father died. At times the Pelham mill would close. Then Daddy, a young single man, took the train up to Thomaston, Georgia where he worked as a weaver at the mill there and rented a room at a boarding house. He barely made enough to pay his board, buy cigarettes and send money home to his widowed mother. He hated the work, but it was all he knew. 

On the positive side, he could always find work because between 1800 and 1910, cotton mills sprang up all over the south and middle Georgia had two or three in the same county. I find it interesting to see what fabrics were made in each mill. After the Civil War, the production of cotton duck, a canvas-like cloth, dominated production for use in ship sails, tents, and covered wagons. Duck gained new value as an industrial fabric in the booming new rubber tire business for automobiles in the early twentieth century. Osnaburg is a name I remember hearing Mother say when she looked at fabric in a store. It was one of those produced in the early 20th century.


My oldest brother, Ray, was the only child not born in Georgia. He was born in a tiny town, Rubonia, Florida where Mother and Daddy lived while my father worked with Uncle Charlie on his farm in Palmetto. Daddy also worked nights at an ice plant to earn enough to pay rent and feed his small family. In the days before refrigerators and ice machines, ice plants delivered ice to homes and businesses. It was hard work. Even in 1942, homes without electricity had an Ice Box on the back porch where a big block of ice would be placed to keep food cold for a couple of days until the ice man brought another block.


Little Ray became my father’s pride and joy. He had hoped for a son, and when that boy was born, in 1926, Coy Council burst his buttons with pride. The first-born son has long been a source of pride and joy to fathers. That son was expected to carry on the lineage of the father. Ray was, of course, named for his father. Coy Ray Council went by the name of Ray.

Little did anyone know what this precious child would mean to his parents, his siblings and to countless others whose lives he touched.

A block of ice carried with tongs delivered to someone's Ice Box

The Icehouse Job, 1926

After working 9 hours in the hot Florida sun,
he came home to eat a meal with her and his kids.
She told him how she wished he could stay with her
and rest, let her rub his back. I get scared here without you.
But he said he had to pay the rent, put food on the table.
As the kids were tucked into bed, he climbed
into his old truck, headed to work.

It should have been a relief after the sun burned
his skin to dark brown leather, but he wore his ragged
jacket and a cap with flaps over his ears
as if he had walked into dead of winter in Wisconsin.

Alone in the quiet he wondered how long could he go on
working two jobs, getting little sleep.
His back, tired from plowing mules all day,
his hands cold and chapped, he chopped
the fifty pound blocks. With both hands he clamped
the tongs that griped the slippery squares, swung his shoulders
tossing his burden up on the platform, over and over
until the clock said midnight, quitting time.

He climbed into bed too tired to bathe.
Her hand reached through the night,
touched his face. He slept but she lay awake
thinking of going home to Georgia, seeing her folks,
hearing him laugh again, and tell his stories to the kids.

                                                   Dedicated to my parents, Coy and Lois Council


Glenda Beall
August 6, 2015

4 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

So many of our parents worked incredibly hard. Much, much harder than most of us have ever had to. And their hard work was for survival, not for luxuries.

www.roughwighting.net said...

What a wonderful testament to your parents and their life and hard work. A piece of life I know nothing about. I loved reading this.

Glenda Beall said...

Thank you, EC. Sometimes I wonder if I would have survived if I had lived the life of my mother. She was incredibly strong, and my father was the most determined man. They had no luxuries, but found enjoyment in their families and friends. My family began with nothing but each other, but because they were always close and worked together, my brothers ended up with very comfortable lives and my father ended up with his own farm and that was all he had ever hoped to have. That farm is still in our family and it is the home I remember. I will write more about this family in the coming months.


Glenda Beall said...

Most people who read my blog know nothing of the lives of people in the early 1900s and how difficult it was for certain economic groups, Roughwighting. Today, there are still people who struggle to pay the rent and feed their kids. But, today, we do have some government services, food stamps, etc. that help. My father would not have been one to take charity. That is why he worked so hard. He took care of his own.