“Chowan River”

THE CHOWAN RIVER

This painting is from a picture of the sun setting over the Chowan River, taken by my senior citizens’ exercise class instructor’s husband, in their backyard. This river holds many memories for me. When I was a small child, my family, along with our Sunday school group, would have the annual picnic on the far southern shores of the Chowan River. The area was called Capart Beach.

As with many locals, we had our own names for the areas surrounding the community, right or wrong. The picnic was lots of fun and enjoyed by all, young and old, a time to relax and be ourselves. A picnic lunch eaten with a view so beautiful in the background was awesome. THEN, there was the bridge over the Chowan River!

My parents went to Elizabeth City State University, to summer school, while a new bridge was being built. Here I was again, on the floor in the back of our car! There was nothing, no railing on the four miles long bridge – only some steel rods. Every day, for eight weeks we went on that bridge, and thankfully, we made it!

The sunsets are breathtaking and can be seen and enjoyed by the whole area, adding calm and serenity for all to share. It still has its beauty, more intensified as time has moved on in the six decades of my life. It has much beauty in the day light hours, but when painted by The Creator at dusk and dawn, signaling the end of one day and the start of another, I’ll say, “How Great Thou Art!”

“Hide and Go Seek”

My neighbor’s house and yard was the most fun in the neighborhood. Her yard had no grass, and was good for games of hop scotch and marbles, since there were no humps and bumps. She kept the yard swept and clean. Her broom was made from straw found on (drainage) ditch banks and on the edge of the woods. Brooms like this were also used to clean the floors of houses.

My friends and I gained a lot of pleasure from playing the game of “1, 2, 3 … red light!” but our favorite was HIDE AND GO SEEK. There were plenty of places to hide in my neighbor’s big front and backyard that was surrounded by plum, peach and pear trees that were full of ripe, juicy fruit in the summer and fall.

This was good, clean fun that required lots of physical and mental energy … just waiting to be released! Sometimes our dog, Blue, would give the hiding place away, trying to get a hug or be petted.

Thinking about playing “HIDE AND GO SEEK” brings back warm feelings, reminding me that what we do in our daily lives becomes memories that, later in our lives, enable us to “take a step back in time.”

“Once Upon a Time, Part Two” (The Barn)

Listen, with your mind’s eye, and visualize the scenes coming from the barn. Hear the cows mooing, ready to be milked. A few chickens scurry about, having gained entrance through the door that was left open, looking to find peanuts in the stacks of hay.

The farmer, going through the barn, making a mental list of chores needing immediate attention. I can almost smell the strong, earthy scent that was there at that time.

Memories, memories; wish I could talk to the people that once lived and worked there. The peanut fields are still in use. Harvest time for them; stacked up to dry the “old time” way.

Looking across the fence, seeing the old barn, not a human in sight. I think … ONCE UPON A TIME.

“Once Upon a Time, Part One” (Abandoned House)

Riding around the countryside, you’d be amazed to see so many abandoned homes. Each home has an interesting story to tell. In my mind’s eye, I can picture children playing the old, enjoyable games of yesteryear, while mom did laundry outside, boiling water to wash clothes in the big black iron pot that sat over a roaring fire.

Dad would chop wood to put in the “cook stove,” so mom could “boil the pot”, which consisted of putting collards (or salad greens), a piece of “side meat,” potatoes and corn meal dumplings (some called this “wet bread”) on top of the cook stove to boil until tender.

It is mind-boggling to think about how much work was done in one day, starting before sunrise and ending when it became too dark to see. Even the mule knew its way home!

Peace and love, along with strict moral values, were a must in most families. Oh, if walls could talk! The next time you happen upon an abandoned site, imagine the lives it came in contact with – and think of the history that happened there “once upon a time”.

“The Sans Souci Ferry”

 

(“Sans Souci” is French for “No worries”)

This is one of my favorite stories. My parents were teachers at the *Woodard Elementary School, in the Woodard community in Bertie County, North Carolina. The school was near the Cashie (pronounced cash-eye) River, and quite a distance from the next community, named St. Luke, by road. The distance was greatly reduced if you took the ferry instead.

Well, when I was about ten yrs old, my dad decided to visit his friend, the principal of the St. Luke Elementary School – by FERRY!  Mom, to my horror, didn’t object! ALL THAT WATER! I loved to look at it; from a distance, that is. At the start of the journey, I got down on the floor in the back of the car – and stayed there and prayed until we reached the other side! We arrived safely with me worrying and thinking about our return trip. Believe me, I was no trouble to anyone that day!

Even now I like to go down to the ferry and meditate, finding peace as I communicate with the Savior and reflect on my childhood and the memories of my beloved parents. It’s always nice to a take step back in time.

*The Woodard School was built by the Julius Rosenwald Fund
In the 1910s, Chicago philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck and Co., was approached by Booker T. Washington regarding the sad state of education among African Americans in the rural South. His response was establishment of a fund that provided architectural plans and matching grants that helped build more than 5,300 schools from Maryland to Texas between the late 1910s and 1932.

 

“The Potter’s House”

As a “preacher’s kid,” I was introduced to a variety of churches. One that is clear in my memory is a church that is located in one of Bertie County’s rural communities. It had a small vestibule at the entrance, where the late-comers could wait for a pause in the service to enter.

Riding up to the church and watching the congregation gather was an experience that I have never forgotten. I remember the smiles and the eagerness that shone on their faces. With my mind’s eye, I can still hear the piano playing and the choir singing. The oldest Deacon would pray a prayer – getting caught up in the spirit. It was as if he was alone with God, thanking Him for life, health and giving Him the Glory for all of the things in his life that are so often taken for granted.

They had waited all week to be with other family members and friends – first to worship in Spirit and in truth, the sustaining force behind their existence as a people relying on the fruits of their labor, supplied by God alone. Secondly, the church was a social outlet. I had to be on somewhat good behavior. My nickname, Sassy, spoke volumes. I was a challenge to my parents.

If this church looks familiar, it’s because of the style, popular in that day. Some had Baptism pools located in their side yard, while others still baptized in the local river. I can really appreciate the heritage that our forefathers left us – gifts that keep on giving, special places like THE POTTER’S HOUSE.

“Rob’s Grocery”

 

The little girl standing in line inside of the store, waiting to get a peach ice cream cone, is me. My brother has his cone already; he’s the kid sitting outside on the bench. Memories of the neighborhood store came flooding back in my mind as I began painting.

This was the hang-out for the men that were retired. “Horse shoes” was the fair weather game of choice, unless of course, a challenge was issued from the current champ of checkers. On a day of wind driven rain, they would be joined inside the store by a few local farmers looking for a quick game of checkers. The “old timers” would have a ball trying to put the “youngsters” in their place.

If a bag of corn meal or some other grocery item was needed, the local store was the place to go. Lack of money didn’t stop people from getting their provisions; their credit was good until they could pay.

When I thought about a name for this painting – my first husband Robert crossed my mind. Back in the day, there were times when we were customers in our community grocery store. I decided on the name as a tribute to his memory. Welcome to “Rob’s Grocery.”