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Archive for May, 2012

“It is perhaps the memories of our lives
that make us who we are.”

—Unidentified writer of devotional for Wednesday,
November 25, 2009, in Episcopal Forward Day by Day

This article about our McGehee (Arkansas) High School Class of 1956 senior trip was updated several times since the 1980s when I submitted it to the Arkansas newspapers as part of a failed proposal for a column on Arkansiana.

It also appeared in the McGehee Times at the time of our thirty-year class reunion there in 1986 and again in the McGehee Centennial Edition in June 2006 at the time of our fiftieth-year class reunion. It is this latter version that I present here, closing with some links to videos of 1950’s music and nostalgic scenes that were sent to me by Patsy McDermott from our Maggie Class of ’56.

McGehee Owls

The McGehee Owl mascot from the McGehee High School yearbook “back in the day” (photo taken from Facebook and originally contributed by the late Wallace Wyeth of McGehee)

At the end of this post be sure to read the update on the restoration of the historic Selma Methodist Church and view the four photos of it on this first anniversary of my blog!

Moments to Remember

Tho’ summer turns to winter
And the present disappears,
The laughter we were glad to share
Will echo through the years.

        When other nights and other days
May find us gone our separate ways,
We will have these moments to remember . . .

Class Song, Class of 1956
McGehee High School
(To view a video of the original version sung by the Four Lads with nostalgic Happy Days-type scenes from the past, click here)

Just this past week I happened to notice in the local paper an article attesting to the fact that the senior class of one of the neighboring small towns had raised enough money by doing odd jobs throughout the year to finance a seven-day, all-expense-paid trip to (of all places) Hawaii!

I was both pleasantly surprised and strangely moved. Surprised because I had supposed that such nostalgic period pieces as senior trips had long since gone the way of crew cuts, penny loafers, and sock hops. Moved because my mind was suddenly drawn back fifty years (could it possibly be that long ago!) to the year 1956 and our own senior class trip.

As it turned out, we had a great time, although there was for a while some small problem concerning our planned destination.

McGehee High School in 1956

McGehee High School in 1956

You see, according to what we “mighty seniors” considered a time-honored tradition, the graduating class was privileged (nay, entitled) to a weeklong celebrational bash in New Orleans.

After having “looked forward for twelve years” to such a fabulous fling in the Crescent City, you can imagine our chagrin (to put it mildly) upon being informed by “the powers that be” that henceforth such exultation excursions would be limited by administrative decree to no more than three days’ length and to a distance not to exceed 150 miles!

Our righteous indignation knew no bounds! “Unfair, unfair,” we roared with all the youthful fervor and unbridled passion that only eighteen-year-olds can muster when confronted with what they consider outright and irrefutable PERSECUTION!

“Why us?” we agonized. “Why is it always our class?”

McGehee High School Class of 1956

McGehee High School Senior Class of 1956 (photo provided by Patsy McDermott, who is the third graduate from the left in the first row; I am the fourth graduate from the left in the next to top row; to magnify, click on the photo)

Yet, within the depths of our young souls, we knew why. It was, quite obviously, a simple case of flagrant discrimination. To anyone with an ounce of perception there could not be the slightest doubt that we were again being singled out by a biased and callous administration from whom we had suffered cruelly and unjustly for years. Once again we were being victimized by an arrogant, corrupt, and power-hungry dictatorship of which we were the helpless pawns. (When you’re eighteen you have an uncanny knack for recognizing such fiendish power ploys.)

But, I ask you, why shouldn’t we realize what was being perpetrated against us? Hadn’t we suffered such prejudicial treatment throughout our entire scholastic experience? Wasn’t it always our class that “got the raw end of the deal”?

MHS Class of 1956 at sixth-grade graduation

MHS Class of 1956 at our sixth-grade graduation (I am the first boy on the left in the front row standing beside three girls, to magnify, click on the photo)

So, true to form, once again it was to be upon our tender necks that the despot’s cruel heel was to be ground. After decades, we were the ones to have to suffer the agony and the indignity (dare I say, the shame?) of forfeiting a glorious, fun-filled, never-to-be-forgotten parting extravaganza in Paradise for a cheap, all-too-fleeting, tawdry thrill at Petit Jean State Park!

Petit Jean State Park

Petit Jean State Park

Oh, not that we had anything against Petit Jean, you understand. But for a senior trip? Are you kidding?

I mean, man, this was something that we would treasure for the rest of our lives. This was our last fling together as a class. Who knows where we would all be after graduation? Who could foretell what fate had in store for each of us?

And we were close, you know? I mean, we were really close. Let me tell you, mister, you don’t go through twelve years of hell together without getting to know one other PRIT-tee well. (Like I remember Patsy McDermott getting up one day near the end of our senior year and with tears brimming in her eyes—hey, man, hers weren’t the only ones either, and not just the girls’—and quivering lips, and saying: “Oh, y’all, let’s promise never to forget each other, never, never, OK?” Now that’s how close we were!)

Patsy McDermott

Patsy McDermott in 1956

Like battle-scarred veterans we had been drawn together in a bond of unity and affection that . . . well . . . that only those who have been there can understand. You might say that in the crucible of adversity our young lives and minds and souls had been molded together into one beautiful being. And we all felt it. Sixty, you say? Yes, sixty bodies, perhaps. But only one heart! And that heart was set on NEW ORLEANS!

And we would not be denied!

We were angry! We were steamed! No, we were enraged! This time they had gone too far. After all, as one of our own number put it so forcefully: “Enough is enough already!” This we wouldn’t take lying down! We’d show them that they weren’t dealing with a bunch of kids! I mean, man, it’s like Chuck Berry said: “Anyway, we almos’ grone!” (For a video of Chuck Berry singing “Almost Grown” with scenes from the movie American Graffiti and lots of 1950s cars, click here.)

MHS Class of 1956 snapshots

MHS Class of 1956 snapshots (I am the boy in the top row of snapshots on the right standing between the girl in the haystack and the boy holding two dogs; Patsy Mc is the middle girl on the right in the second snapshot from the bottom left, playing a maid in the senior play; to magnify, click on the photo) As you can see, “we almos’ grone!”

Nosir, this time we weren’t knuckling under. This time we would fight. We’d show them that our class motto wasn’t “Hard as nails, tough as bricks, Maggie Class of `56!” for nuthin’!

So, in anxious consultation we came to the unanimous decision that the best defense was a good offense. We would “hit `em where they live”! In other words, we would demonstrate! (Now you must remember that this was in 1956—nearly a decade before that type of student activity came into vogue, especially in small-town Arkansas.)

Pooling our awesome talents and resources, we hastily but deftly drew up our plan of attack and our signs (which amounted to about the same thing). I’ll never forget the punchy placard I myself carried—a scintillating bit of sarcasm from the reservoir of my limitless rapier-like wit: SOME TRIP, TILLAR ROADSIDE PARK! And they were all just that devastating. Staggers the imagination.

Jimmy at graduation

Me at graduation from McGehee High School in 1956

At noon, armed with our hand-printed “slings,” some dozen or so of us young Davids sallied forth to do battle with the Establishment Goliath. Like Joshua and the Children of Israel, seven times we marched around the bureaucratic “walls of Jericho.” We were followed by an ardent throng of well-wishers who voiced their approval and support with typically juvenile abandon. In short, although the enemy was too cowardly to make an appearance, we were labeled heroes, one and all, and enjoyed the accolades and adulation of the delighted crowd.

It was some time later that afternoon that we came to fully comprehend the strangely prophetic words earlier spoken by one adolescent sage by the name of Ben Thomas, to wit: “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; go to the office, and you go alone.”

We went alone.

“Bring your signs and come to the office,” the directive stated simply.

Simply we complied.

In order to shield your sensibilities, I will not divulge what transpired at that moment of confrontation. Suffice it to say that “it was not a pretty picture.” But, thanks to our ingrained sense of fair play, we students manifested our warm spirit of magnanimity and forbearance in granting the administration’s impassioned plea that we seem to acquiesce to their request (so that they not suffer too great a loss of face before the younger pupils).

So, in order to protect the badly shaken authoritative image, and to preserve some semblance of law and order, we sacrificed our own desires in the interest of peace and harmony. We agreed to go to Petit Jean and not to New Orleans. The administration was so relieved and so appreciative!

I’ll never forget that trip. And I’m sure none of the others will either.

So, Patsy Mc, wherever you are, don’t worry. We haven’t forgotten. There are some things you never forget—no matter how hard you try.

Note: For another McGehee High School memory involving Patsy Mc and me from my earlier post titled “My First Encounter with Elvis and His Music,” click here. In the past few years Patsy Mc has provided several great links to 1950s memorabilia, especially music, movies, radio and TV shows, cars, etc. Here are a few you might enjoy:

1. To view a video of the Million Dollar Quartet, modern tribute artists who portray Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins in a now famous jam session together at Sun Records in Memphis, click here.

2. To view a video of memories from the past set to the music of “In the Still of the Night,” click here.

3. To view more scenes from the past set to 1950’s music and titled “It Was the 1950s,” click on this link.

4. To listen to oldies music from the 1950s to the 1980s, click on this link.

5. To listen to more 1950’s music, click on this link.

6. To view old 1950’s and 60’s TV shows and rock and roll music, click on this link.

7. To listen to Christmas music from the 1950s, click here.

8. To view a video about old-time radio station KVSA in McGehee, Arkansas, click here.

KVSA

KVSA, ‘The Voice of Southeast Arkansas,” as it looked in 2010 and virtually unchanged from the way it looked in the 1950s when Elvis visited it (photo provided by Patsy McDermott)

To view a video of one of my favorite sentimental 1950’s songs that was played over and over at the dime store in McGehee where I worked in high school, still bringing back many memories, click here.

Many more old photos of McGehee can be viewed on Facebook at “McGehee AR I Grew Up There.” Click on the link and then on each photo to view the next one.

To read more about McGehee, Arkansas, in the 1950s and 60s from the blog site of the late Bill Stroud, a McGehee native and a veteran newspaperman, go to his blog entries titled “McGehee, AR in the 1950s,”  “Where I Grew Up” and “Bringing Elvis Home to McGehee.”

First Anniversary Update on the Selma Methodist Church

This post marks the anniversary of the publication of my first regular weekly post on my blog (May 25, 2011), which was about the restoration and fundraiser for the historic Selma Methodist Church. (To read that first post titled “My Bucket-List Trip I: The Selma Methodist Church,” click here. To view photos from Joe Dempsey’s post about the church after it had been damaged by storms and just before its restoration process began, click here.)

On this occasion I am happy to report that according to Dorris Groom Watson, chair of the Selma Methodist Church restoration committee, the restoration process is now 95 percent complete! A dedication-fundraiser will be held sometime this fall at a date to be announced later on this blog and elsewhere.

In honor of this achievement I am posting here four photographs of the Selma Methodist Church, the first church I ever attended as a child, that have not been previously published on this blog. I believe they will provide a slightly different perspective on the church from the 1980s before the restoration process began about a year ago.

Selma Methodist Church and Our House

A snapshot of my boyhood home (in the foreground) with the historic Selma Methodist Church (in the background) as they looked in the 1980s, fifty years after I was born in that house and began attending that church (to magnify, click on the photo)

Selma Methodist Church Allison

A snapshot of the historic Selma Methodist Church as it looked in the 1980s from a different perspective which seems to show it leaning to the right (to magnify, click on the photo provided by Allison Starnes Tilley, a native of McGehee, Arkansas)

Selma Methodist Church Kay 1

The Selma Methodist Church from another different perspective that seems to emphasize its leaning to the right (to magnify, click on the photo provided by my cousin Kay Barrett Bell)

Selma Methodist Church - Kay 2

The Selma Methodist Church from the left side showing the sign next to it and in the background the old barn and other outbuildings of my birthplace (this old barn, now gone, was mentioned in an earlier post titled “Is It Really True/Requiem”; to magnify, click on the photo provided by my cousin Kay Barrett Bell)

Incidentally, in this first year of my blog I have published fifty-two regular weekly posts with hundreds of photos, many comments, and more than ten thousand hits on it from more than thirty-five countries.

My thanks to everyone who has visited my blog and especially to those who encouraged me and helped me to launch it, like Mari, Patsy Mc, Joe Dempsey (who designed the blog and its art work), and so many others who have commented on it and complimented me about it.

I have already made up twenty-two new posts that I hope to be able to publish in the coming months, with enough material left over to carry it on a while longer.

May God’s richest blessing rub off on you and anyone else who ever clicks on to this blog which has helped me to get through a very difficult year thus far.

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Quotes about Women

 “Thank heaven for little girls,
They grow up in the most delightful way.”
—“Thank Heaven for Little Girls”
by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe
(To see this song from Gigi performed
by Maurice Chevalier, click here.)  

“Most of all the other beautiful things in life come by twos and threes, by dozens and hundreds. Plenty of roses, stars, sunsets, rainbows, brothers and sisters, aunts and cousins, but only one mother in the whole world.”
–Kate Douglas Wiggin
(quote contributed by Allison Starnes Tilley,
a native of McGehee, Arkansas)

In last week’s post about Mother’s Day, I presented tributes to the three women who influenced my life: my mother, my wife, and my mother-in-law.

In this week’s post I offer quotes about women. All of these quotes I either composed or collected over the past thirty-plus years. (How many men do you know who keep a file titled “Women’s Issues”?)

Here are some of those quotes: mine and others’ (with my comments in parentheses and emphasis in italics and with some inserted photos and captions).

Quotes about Women: Mine

“The reason God quit creating after He had made woman was because He knew that even He could not improve on perfection!”

“People talk about women’s issues as though they are unique to females. But if I remember correctly, we are all women’s issues—even our Lord.” (Will Rogers said, “I don’t know if you know it, but I issued from a woman.” Who didn’t?)

“Any God who made womankind, the American South, and the Episcopal Church is okay in my book.” (Which is still true, even though I must admit that none of these entities—except God!—is without fault.)

“I never met a woman I didn’t like—all my friends are female.” (Slight exaggeration for effect. See my tribute to the three influential women in my life in the previous post.)

“No man can be all bad if he is loved by dogs, kids, and women–and I am!” (The only title I ever coveted is that of Southern Gentleman. But I would also like to be remembered as the man who loved women.)

“Beats me why any woman would want to be equal to a man—what self-degradation!” (Since man was created from the dust of the earth, no woman who wants to be equal to a man should be surprised if she ends up being treated like dirt.)

“It is true that most women have faults; some live with them, some outlive them, and some divorce them.” (My wife has only one fault—and he is awful glad she did not divorce him! Mari says this is also a slight exaggeration for effect.)

Mari and me

Mari and me on Mother’s Day 2012

 “Whatever her age or social, educational, or financial standing, the more lovely, charming, and gracious a woman is, the more I feel like Quasimodo in her presence—which is one reason I try to charm virtually every woman I meet.” (At least every lovely, charming, and gracious woman. I think it’s called the Beauty and the Beast Syndrome.)

“One reason I would rather work for a woman than for a man is that I have never been able to charm a man—even if I wanted to, which I don’t!” (Like Elvis, I am a Mama’s boy; it’s just that now Mama—and Boomma—sleeps with me. Since Mari cuts my hair I also say that I sleep with my barber!)

“Mankind is a contradiction in terms—womankind is not.” (Another slight exaggeration for effect.)

“Doctors [mostly men] issue orders, while nurses [mostly women] order issues.” (Ever seen a doctor giving a sponge bath or washing a bedpan? In the same way, even priests and preachers don’t lay hands on people the way nurses do. God bless ’em!)

“If it is true that ‘Woman, thy name is vanity,’ it is also true that ‘Man, thy name is mud’!” (See Genesis 2:7). (Another slight exaggeration for effect; see the next quotation.)

“I have three folk heroes, all male—Will Rogers, Elvis Presley, and Robert E. Lee. I also have three real heroes, all female—my wife, my mother, and my mother-in-law.” (See my tribute to these three women in my previous post.)

“There is a word for women like Elizabeth Taylor–exquisite! The problem is that there are no women like Elizabeth Taylor–except Mari, of course!” (See photos below.)

Mari holding Sean

Mari holding Sean in 1966 in Holly Grove, Arkansas (to magnify, click on the photo)

Mari holding Keiron

Mari holding Keiron in 1972 in Monticello, Arkansas (to magnify, click on the photo)

“If I ever come back to life after death I want to be called Rhett Butler, ’cause I know what it’s like to be married to Scarlett O’Hara!” (Even if she is blonde rather than black-haired, see my earlier post “My Lifelong Attraction to Black Beauty.”)

“The older I get the more I stand in awe of the feminine virtues of grace, charm, beauty, and gentility. In this life I have never come closer to experiencing true divinity than when experiencing true femininity. That’s why in the presence of a real lady—like my wife—I have the distinct impression that I am standing not only in the presence of God’s highest creation, but indeed in the very presence of God herself! Happy anniversary, Mari”—note inserted in my wife’s anniversary card on December 27, 1994, our thirty-second wedding anniversary.

Mr card to Mari

My Mother’s Day card to Mari with a dozen pink roses (all of her cards, flowers, and balloons were pink, Mari’s “signature color”; to read the cover copy, click on the photo; the inside copy reads: “. . . and the most important thing to do is make you happy, because you are the most important person in my life, Happy Mother’s Day.” Expressions from Hallmark, Kansas City, MO 64141)

 Quotes about Women: Others’:

 “The basic and essential human is the woman.”

—Orson Welles

 “Women are all female impersonators to some degree.”

—Susan Brownmiller (1935-), quoted in
History magazine, September/October 2009

“Kindness in women, not their beauteous looks, shall win my love.”

—Washington Irving

“Now, it’s true I married my wife for her looks—but not the ones she’s been givin’ me lately.”

—Jeff Foxworthy

“A woman is her mother.”

—Anne Sexton

“An ounce of mother (madre) is worth a pound of preacher (padre).” (I had the great fortune of having both a godly mother and several preacher “(fore-) fathers.”)

—Spanish proverb

“Women make us poets, children make us philosophers.”

—Malcolm de Chazal

Keiron's card to Mari

Mother’s Day card Keiron gave Mari with a bouquet of flowers in a pink watering can with a card saying: “For all you do!”(to magnify, click on the photo; the copy reads: “Wherever you are . . . love and happiness blossom!” Just For You from American Greetings, Cleveland, Ohio 44144)

“You don’t know a woman until you have had a letter [or an email] from her.”

—Ada Leverson (1865-1933)

“I’m not denying that women are foolish. God Almighty made ’em that way to match the men.”

—George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans, 1819-1880)

“A woman’s guess is more accurate than a man’s certainty.”

—Rudyard Kipling

“I foresee the day when a woman won’t know no more than a man.” (Quess what, Will, your vision has come true! Hail the prophet from Oklahoma!)

—Will Rogers

“Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily this is not difficult.”

—Charlotte Whitton (1896-1975)

“If it is true that men are such beasts, this must account for the fact that most women are animal lovers.”

—Doris Day

“The only time a woman succeeds in changing a man is when he is a baby.”

—Natalie Wood

Levi and Ben's card to Mari

Levi and Ben’s “Grandma card” given to Mari on Mother’s Day with three pink balloons (to magnify, click on the photo; the copy reads: “Grandma, you are everything . . . everything beautiful, like memories of home and the way things used to be . . . you are everything that matters most”; In Rhythms, American Greetings, Cleveland, Ohio 44144)

“Most of us [women] have trouble juggling. The woman who says she doesn’t is someone whom I admire but have never met.”

—Barbara Walters

ADVICE FROM THE ANCIENTS:

“Do not let any sweet-talking woman beguile your good sense with the fascinations of her shape. It’s your barn [bank account] she’s after.”

—Hesiod (fl. eighth century BC)

“Do you want to speak to the man in charge or the woman who knows what’s going on?”

—Anonymous

Under picture of a working woman wearing glasses and holding a pen and a coffee cup:
“Of course I don’t look as busy as the men . . . I did it right the first time!”

—Source unknown

“My most brilliant achievement was my ability to persuade my wife to marry me.” (Mine too!)

—Winston Churchill

“I love to listen to a Southern girl tell her life story. By the time she gets through, you’re part of it.”

—Anonymous

“Southern women being Southern women, if we’re going to do something, we’re going to do it right.”

—Nanette Comer from Ole Miss,
quoted in article in Parade magazine

“I grew up around Southern women, and they’re strong, funny, and fierce.”

—Actress Leslie Bibb, a native of Virginia,
quoted in Parade magazine, May 6, 2012

Levi's graduation

Levi at his fifth-grade graduation from the same elementary school in Sapulpa where Mari taught for thirty-one years (to magnify, click on the photo)

“Southern women are tenaciously strong, resilient, wedded to tradition yet very progressive. They view life with great humor, which sustains them, and the entire package is wrapped in a pouf of femininity.” (See my earlier post titled “My Annual Tributes to the Clique.”)

—Anne Madison, “Southern women, sweet, tough,”
The Gainesville (Ga,) Times, reprinted by the Tulsa World, nd

“What is it about you Southern women? If you can package it, a lot of people would like to read it.” (See my earlier post titled “My Annual Tributes to the Clique.”)

—Richard Curtis to Southern writer Ronda Rich, author of
What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should),
Anne Madison, “Southern women, sweet, tough,” The Gainesville
(Ga.) Times, reprinted by the Tulsa World, nd

“We Southern women . . . are not delicate creatures who run around fanning ourselves, saying, ‘Well, I dew declayuh,’ and having swooning fits. Nooo. Our charming, considerate, flirty, upbeat femininity is an overlay for our clever, shrewd minds and our tremendous intestinal fortitude in the face of whatever sneaks up and tries to bite us in our Southern-bred posteriors.”

—Helaine Freeman, “Hitch up your hoop skirts, sistahs,”
Let’s Talk column, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, nd

“The women born and raised in the South are steeled by tradition, grace, and the very best genes, which makes them uniquely beautiful, strong, and the force behind all great Southern leaders. To understand this, one must be married to one.”

—Donald Bell, a native of McGehee, Arkansas, and the
husband of Kay Barrett Bell, cousin of Jimmy Peacock

Ben at Rose Hill

Ben at Rose Hill School in Oklahoma where teachers and students dress and behave as done in 1910 (to magnify, click on the photo)

“Men like women who write. Even though they don’t say so. A writer is a foreign country.” (Also quoted in the earlier posts titled “Quotes on Writing and Writers I” and “Quotes on Writing and Writers II.”)

—Marguerite Duras, quoted in Forbes magazine
October 25, 2010

“The cocks may crow, but it’s the hen that lays the egg.” (How true!)

—Margaret Thatcher, quoted in Forbes magazine,
October 25, 2010

“I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England.” (From the same magazine I wrote down the birthday, February 27, 1932, of another Queen Elizabeth—Elizabeth Taylor, whose photos I keep taped above my computer and about whom I wrote a post titled “My Lifelong Attraction to Black Beauty.”)

—Elizabeth I, quoted in Forbes magazine,
October 25, 2010

(The three quotes from Forbes above I copied at the doctor’s office: Quotes are where you find them! See next quotations.)

From The Family Tree, April/May 2003:

“No husband has ever been shot while doing the dishes.”

“I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career.”

“If high heels were so wonderful, men would be wearing them.”

“Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you cry with your girlfriends.”

“The phrase ‘working mother’ is redundant.”

Proud Peacocks on Mother's Day

Proud Peacocks on Mother’s Day 2012 (from left to right, Jimmy, Keiron, Mari, Levi, Ben)

WOMAN’S SPHERE

“They talk about a woman’s sphere as though it had a limit,
There’s not a place in earth or heaven,
There’s not a task to mankind given,
There’s not a blessing or a woe,
There’s not a whispered ‘yes’ or ‘no,’
There’s not a life, or death, or birth,
That has a feather’s weight of worth
Without a woman in it.”

—Kate Field (1838-1896)
(Quote taken from desk calendar)

Note: In support of this poem about the essential importance of women, see the copy in my Mother’s Day card to Mari (above) and watch this video of the song “There Is Nothing Like a Dame.” It was taken from the film version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical South Pacific and includes a brief appearance by the delightful and delectable Mitzi Gaynor who plays Nurse Nellie Forbush from Little Rock, Arkansas.

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“The reason God quit creating after He had made woman was because He knew that even He could not improve upon perfection!”
—Jimmy Peacock

My entire life has been influenced and shaped by three strong women: my mother, my wife, and my mother-in-law. It is these three women whom I write about in this post at the time of Mother’s Day.

In earlier posts I have presented tributes to the first two—my mother and my wife. I wrote about Mama in the posts titled “Life Is Reg’lar/My Mother’s Bible,” “Selma Store Evokes Boyhood Memories,” and “My Favorite Childhood Books/The Truth about Santa Claus.”

Mama and me in about 1956

Mama and me in about 1956 when I was eighteen years old (to magnify, click on the photo)

I wrote about Mari in the posts titled “Facts about Marion Williams Peacock,” “The Peacock Love Story,” and “Our Honeymoon Was No Honeymoon for Mari.”

Mari, Jimmy, Peacocks

Mari and me leaving the church after our wedding on December 27, 1962, with my mother and Mari’s mother standing at the top of the stairs (to magnify, click on the photo)

I will publish my final tribute to Mari in December at the time of our fiftieth wedding anniversary. In case anything happens to me between now and then, I have already composed and illustrated it and written up my email announcement of it so that Mari can publish it for me at that time.

Meanwhile, I begin this post by paying tribute to my mother-in-law in a piece I wrote up and delivered to a gathering at the First Baptist Church of McGehee, Arkansas, on the occasion of her eightieth birthday. Parts of it were taken from other pieces I had written and which have already appeared in previous posts.

Mimi at age eighty

Mimi at her eightieth birthday party

That piece is followed by a tribute I once wrote to all three of the most important women in my life.

Mimi:
A Truly Virtuous Woman

“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.”
—Proverbs 31:10 KJV

Four score years ago our heavenly Father brought forth on this earth a new life, conceived in love and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created hungry and that it was her job to feed them!

To this all of us can attest, since I am sure there is not a person here who has not benefited from that dedication, some of us for a lifetime. We can testify with John that “. . . of [her] fullness have we all received”—especially of her marvelous fresh coconut cake!

Today we are met to recognize not only the birth of this individual whom we honor today, but her whole life of dedication and service—and to give thanks to her and for her.

If anyone ever fulfilled the words of Proverbs 31, which describe the virtuous woman, it is she. Part of that description states in verse 28 that “her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.”

I am sure that there must have been many times in those years that she must have felt, as someone has said, that her children and her husband—and her grandchildren and her parents and her neighbors and everyone else—just rose up and called her. Which we did, and no matter how she felt, she was always there to get up and answer our call. After all, that has been her call: the ministry of hospitality.

When I was a kid in Selma in the days before electricity and running water, my mother used to have to wash clothes outside in a black pot heated over an open fire. Those of us old enough to remember those days, and those of us young enough to marvel at them, can just imagine what it must have been like to stir and scrub those dingy clothes on a sizzling August day like today.

Me reading my tribute to Mimi

Me reading my birthday tribute to Mimi at the First Baptist Church of McGehee

It was on one of those sweltering days that Mama’s hired washwoman and friend raised up from her scrub board, rubbed her aching back, and with streams of sweat pouring down her face, said, “Ooo, Miss Viv’yan, life sho’ is reg’lar, ain’t it?” It was this same washwoman/philosopher who once observed to Mama, “Ever’body tawkin’ ’bout what all dey gone do when dey gits to he’ben, they gone do dis and dey gone do dat; lawsy, Miss Viv’yan, all ah wants to do is jist git inside de do’ and sot down!

Well, although we know she won’t do it “reg’lar” even now, at least for this one day, that is exactly what we want our guest of honor to do—to just “git inside de do’ and sot down” and for once in her life let somebody else do the work!

And as we do so, whether we rise up and call her Mrs. Williams (her married name), or Mary Elizabeth (her real name), or Bessie (her nickname), or Mimi (her grandmother name), what we are all really calling her is Blessed!

Happy birthday, Mimi! And thanks! “Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all” (Prov. 31:29 KJV).

—Jimmy Peacock
August 5, 1995

Mimi died on January 19—Robert E. Lee’s birthday—in 2008. She will be long remembered, admired, and loved by her family and friends and all who knew her.

Mimi on her ninetieth birthday

Mimi on her ninetieth birthday

In 1992, more than a decade before her death, I wrote up the following tribute to all three of the important women of my life. It was published at the time by our hometown newspaper. 

Moms:
The “Wholly Trinity”

“A sufficient and sure method of civilization is the influence of good women.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson 

“An ounce of mother [madre] is worth a pound of preacher [padre].”
—Spanish Proverb

Although as a middle-aged male, I cannot truly be said to be a feminist, I am very much of a “femiphile” —that is, a lover of women. In fact, I have a saying, “I never met a woman I didn’t like—all my friends are female.”

That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it is based on the truth that the three greatest influences upon my life have been “good women,” all three one-time members of McGehee First Baptist Church.

The first was my mother, the late Vivian Peacock, who was to me for thirty-five years “God with a face of flesh.”

Mama in about 1972

Mama in about 1972, one year before her death

The second is the mother of my children, Marion Williams Peacock, to whom I was married in that same church thirty-two years ago come December 27.

Mari with the boys in Jonesboro

Mari in Jonesboro, Arkansas, in about 1970 with Keiron on her lap and Sean at her side (to magnify, click on the photo)

Mari with Sean and Keiron in South Carolina in about 1971

Mari with Sean and Keiron in McGehee, Arkansas, in about 1973 (to magnify, click on the photo)

And last, but not least, is my “second mother,” my “mother-in-love,” Mary Elizabeth “Bessie” Williams, still a member of that church and affectionately known to her grown grandchildren (and me) as “Mimi.”

Mari, Mimi, and Janice

Mari, Mimi, and Mari’s sister Janice in about 1977 (to magnify, click on the photo)

Mama died in 1973 while working at the Arkansas Baptist Children’s Home in Monticello. “Mimi” and “Mari” celebrate birthdays on September 1 and 6 respectively.

To these remaining “good women” in my life I would like to say happy birthday—and thanks for the “mom”-ery!

Mari, Mama, and Mimi

Mari, Mama, and Mimi in about 1972 in North Carolina (to magnify, click on the photo)

 –Jimmy Peacock
(originally written in) 1992)

Note: In next week’s post I will present some quotes–mine and others’–on the subject of women.

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Dedication

This post on history and the past—especially the musical videos in it—is dedicated to the memory of Mari’s cousin Jessianne “Tootsie” Ward Wetzler, who died yesterday, May 1, in Northwest Arkansas. Tootsie was the same age as Mari and was from our hometown of McGehee, Arkansas. She and her husband Fred, also now deceased, moved to Rogers, Arkansas, after retirement from their careers in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Tootsie’s memorial service and burial will take place in Pine Bluff on Saturday, May 5, at 10:00 am. Lest we forget . . .

Marion and Tootise at 6th Grade Recital

Tootsie (left) and Marion (right) at their sixth grade piano recital in McGehee, Arkansas, in about 1954 (to magnify, click on the photo)

“Remember, it is the dynamics of history that is important, not history itself.”
—“Professor” in one of my dreams

 “Je me souviens.” (“I remember.”)
—Motto of the province of Quebec, Canada
(For a moving video of this song
sung in French with English subtitles, click here.)
(Note: on the title page “Ma Terre” means “My Land.”)

As indicated by the title, in this post I offer some of the hundreds of quotes about history and the past that I have collected over the past thirty-plus years. Obviously, these two subjects are of great importance to me. I hope at least some of these quotes will be of interest to you too.

As an added attraction, I have inserted the dialogue from a few humorous newspaper cartoons on these two subjects, though copyright laws would not allow me to display the actual cartoons.

Note: As usual, my emphasis is indicated by italics, my comments within quotes are set in brackets, and my comments outside quotes are set in parentheses.

Quotes about History

“I believe in yesterday.”
–The Beatles
(To view a video of a young Paul McCartney
singing this song, click here.)

Mine:

“Ordinary people like me have one thing in common: We never have to worry about the judgment of history—because we never make history, not even as a footnote.”

“I am always amazed at people who say they are not interested in history, when that is precisely what we are all soon going to be!”

“Some people’s history—like their theology—is nothing more than canonized opinion.” (This subject will be examined in a later post on religion and politics.)

“The daily newspaper—a record of pre-history.”

“Time is the historian’s friend because every passing day increases his field—and his knowledge of it.”

Cartoons:

Dennis holding the lid to an open trash barrel: “Think about it, Joey. It isn’t just garbage . . . it’s history.”

Dennis the Menace cartoon, Tulsa World, 11-16-95

Frank to Ernest while both are carving stone tablets: “The heck with this . . . Let’s just stick to oral history!” (I know the feeling!)

—Frank and Ernest cartoon, Tulsa World, 11-14-95

One student to another: “Hey, who needs to know about history, humanities and stuff? I already have opinions about everything.”

—Berry’s World cartoon, source unknown

Other’s:

“A page of history is worth a volume of logic.”

—Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Statesmen think they make history; but history makes itself and drags the statesmen along.”

—Will Rogers

“A historian is a person whose job it is to spread news that’s long out of date.”

—Source obscure

“History does not usually make real sense until long afterward.”

—Bruce Catton

“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.”

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We can know nothing of a nation [or a people; or a person] unless we know its [or their] history.” (Which is why I am trying to pass on our family history in these writings.)

—Agnes Repplier

“History gives people an insight into the[ir] region’s potential and its problem. It also gives [them] a sense of pride and a belonging to place.” (See my earlier post with quotes about the Southern sense of place and love of the land.)

—Leila Wynn, quoted by Tina A. Hahn,
“Leila Wynn Supports Southern Studies Faculty Research,”
The Southern Register, Fall 2009

“I’ve learned that Southern identity may be something people cling to in order to cope with American postmodernism.”

—Ross Brand, Southern Studies student,
discussing a class on historical memory,
quoted by Cathryn Stout in
“Southern Studies Welcomes New Graduate Students,”
The Southern Register, Fall 2009

“New age is intellectual Velcro drawn across the fabric of history collecting odd bits of philosophical lint from surprising and often contradictory sources.”

—Paul Talmadge, Southern Baptist educator

Quotes about the Past 

“Memories are times that you borrow
to spend when you get to tomorrow.”
–Paul Anka, “(Remember) The Times of Your Life”
(To view a video of a young Paul Anka
singing this song, click here.)

Mine:

“Forget the past! I don’t think so—try telling that to any historian, archivist, geologist, archeologist, genealogist, antique dealer, or classical musician!”

“If you think the Bible is all about the present and the future, you forget that everything in it was written in the past!” (Without the past, you and I would not exist; in fact, nothing would exist but God!)

“If God didn’t want me to remember the past, He never should have given me the mind (and heart) of a historian.”

“I don’t live in the past, but I do very much live out of it.” (As a writer, the past is grist for my mill [meal]; without it I have no daily bread.)

“The past is all I’ve got—without it I am just another Yankee amnesiac except with a cornpone accent.”

“Some people’s memories of their past—of their childhood and youth—are all hardships. Mine are all heart-shaped.”

“The past keeps gobbling up my present. No wonder I look to the past so much. It and my waistline and age are the only things in my life that are increasing.” (At my age my past is so much bigger than my future—and becoming more so every day!)

“My past is God’s present (His gift to me) and also my future (my only hope of success, my only resource or stock in trade).”

“Despite what everyone else says (and despite the torment of it), I will NOT forget the past—has anyone ever heard of an amnesiac historian? I don’t think so.” (An atheist is nothing but an intellectual who suffers from spiritual amnesia.)

Cartoons:

“Stop whining about the past and move on with your life . . . NEXT!!”

—Cartoon in the Tulsa World of a psychiatrist
and patient titled “Instant Analysis”

“I told you that looking back is scary, but would you listen to me? No-o-o-o . . .”

Tulsa World cartoon with two skiers
on a ski-lift followed by the Grim Reaper

Frank: “I was strolling down memory lane but only having vague recollections.”
Ernest: “You needed to do some jogging down memory lane.”

—Frank and Ernest cartoon, Tulsa World, 02-21-09

“Man . . . those were the days, eh, Ralphie?”

—One baby to another in stroller looking
at an obviously pregnant woman,
Non Sequitur cartoon, Tulsa World, 07-08-2000

Jon: “I learn from my mistakes.”
Garfield: “Wow. There goes the world’s smartest man!” (No, that’s me!)

—Garfield cartoon, front cover, American Profile
magazine, central edition, March 8-14, 2009

“Ernie’s learning from his mistakes—it’s a very intensive course.” (So is mine!)

—Frank to coworker in Frank and Ernest cartoon,
Tulsa World, 04-06-2000

“Memory Lane—Guilt Trip Detour.”

—Highway signs in Frank and Ernest cartoon,
Tulsa World, 01-12-01

Others’:

“Oh, Rhett, don’t let’s look back!”

—Scarlett O’Hara to Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind

“[You] cannot escape the burden of the past.”

—G. Lee Ramsey Jr.,
Preachers and Misfits, Prophets and Thieves

“The past is our definition. We may strive, with good reason, to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it, but we will escape it only by adding something better to it.” (That’s what I mean when I say that I don’t live in the past but I do live out of the past, and that where you are from is who you are.)

—Wendell Berry

“It’s a shame that hindsight won’t go blind;
My past is lookin’ brighter all the time.”

—The Statler Brothers

“There is a way to look at the past. Don’t hide from it. It will not catch you if you don’t repeat it.”

—Pearl Bailey

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

—L. P. Hatley

“The great arrogance of the present is to ignore the intelligence of the past.”

—Ken Burns

“The past is never dead; it’s not even past.”

—William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun 

“You must always know the past, for there is no real Was, there is only Is.”

—William Faulkner, quoted in,
History magazine, November/December 2009

“The farther you look back, the farther you can see ahead.”

—Winston Churchill

“The present, like a note in music, is nothing but as it appertains to what is past and what is to come.”

—Walter S. Landor

“The past is all around us.” (If we don’t recognize that truth now, we will when we become part of the past!)

—Alice Rogers-Johnson,
president of the Lakeport Cemetery Committee,
quoted in “Lakeport Plantation to host reunion celebration,”
McGehee [Arkansas] Times, July 1, 2009

“We crucify ourselves between two thieves: regret for yesterday and fear for tomorrow.”

—Fulton Oursler

“I don’t mind being told that our generation is ‘over the hill’ as long as the person saying it remembers who made the hill for them to climb.” (As someone has said, the only reason the younger generations can see into the future is because they are standing on the shoulders of the preceding generations.)

–Paul Talmadge, Southern Baptist educator

“We long to be allied with two things: with all the people who came before us—tradition—and also with our hope, so we can transcend life.”

—Dale Brown, Of Fiction and Faith

“ . . . it is as if we are hearing a beloved song from our youth, or perhaps getting more than a whiff of a memoryit stirs us to our very core. God is about to do a new thing.” (See my earlier post titled “A Summary of My Personal Spirituality and Pilgrimage.”) (To view a video of Robert Redford with Barbra Streisand singing “The Way We Were,” click here.)

—Excerpt from a sermon delivered by Cynthia McKenna at
Trinity Episcopal Church, Tulsa, in April 2001

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”

—Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol

“Most of us have no desire to go back and recapture the old times. We have invested too much in what counts for us now, but when something familiar comes to our ears, or a certain fragrance touches our memory, then we recall a part of us that remains in the past. . . . Sometimes it takes the familiar for us to appreciate what we have today.” (To view a video of Eddie Fisher singing “Turn Back the Hands of Time,” click here.)

—Joyce Hifler in Think on These Things column,
Tulsa World, December 7, 2000

“But even today’s generation feels a somber tug to the mysterious past, an inexplicable pull to a homeland they know only through family stories, . . . a ‘genetic memory’. . . . Perhaps the most touching words that speak of hope are [these] . . . ‘A people without a past are a people without a future.’” (This subject will be examined more closely in a later post with quotes about home.)

—Dana Adkins Campbell, “Celebrating a Homeland,”
in the August 2000 issue of Southern Living

“If my stories resonate accurately with the past, . . . that’s because most of my life I have felt slightly out of time. It sounds a little strange, but ever since I was 10 years old and left Meridian, Mississippi, I’ve never really been comfortable. I don’t know how to explain it, but the world just doesn’t look right to me. . . . I wanted to write about people that everybody would understand and love and relate to, which is what a writer is supposed to do.” (I have felt the same way since I left Selma, Arkansas, at age ten, which is why I have created this blog and written the posts in it.)

—Howard Bahr, quoted in Books about the South
in the August 2000 issue of Southern Living 

“That’s why there is always at least a handful of seekers at these places, even on a weekday in winter. They are looking for a link to the past, our shared past. They come here to step back into this piece of history and the spirit of the country is there to be found, too. And resurrected—again and again, as often as you wish to take up the quest.”

—George Arnold, explaining why people
visit Civil War battlefields,
“Remembering Pea Ridge,”
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, nd,
original appeared in 1999

“And so it is with our past. It is a labour in vain attempt to recapture it: all the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) which we do not suspect. And as for that object, it depends on chance whether we come upon it or not before we ourselves must die.”

—French author Marcel Proust explaining the ability
of a small cake called a “petite madeleine”
to serendipitously evoke sensations
and memories of the past

“I guess what I’m really fascinated by—if I’m analyzing my own fiction, I think, usually the reason for the temporal settings is that most of the characters are dogged by some sins from their past, some stain on their lives. . . . . I suppose I’m fascinated and horrified by the notion that there’s a mistake you can make that you can’t ever come back from. . . . I’ve known people who do one thing wrong, and they pay for it for the rest of their lives. Probably this reflects the fact that I was raised as a Southern Baptist, and I’ve got an amazing capacity to retain guilt. And I guess a lot of my characters do as well.” (As a former Southern Baptist who once made an “unforgiveable” mistake, I relate totally to this quotation—which is why I saved it and inserted it!)

—Tom Williams, “‘Dogged by Some Sins from Their Past:’
An Interview with Steve Yarbrough,”
Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies,
August 2002, Vol. 33, No. 2, p. 118

“The road to the future runs through the past.”

—Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Faith:
Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World

“Christianity would be in far better shape today if we would simply remember to read the minutes from the previous meetings [i.e., the history of the Christian church].” (See the next quote.)

 —John Krumm, quoted by Cris Yaw in
Jesus Was An Episcopalian

We [evangelicals] are like people who have forgotten our family tree and our cultural past—rootless wanderers without landmarks from our past to guide us. . . . Evangelicalism is in danger of being reduced to a folk religion with little or nothing to say to the world out of its great intellectual heritage.” (This subject will be examined more closely in a later post on religion and politics.)

—Roger E. Olson, “The Tradition Temptation,”
quoted in The Future of the Church,
Christianity Today Study Series

(To view a video of Andrea Bocelli with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing “The Lord’s Prayer,” an ancient text set to music in 1935, three years before my birth, click here.) 

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