Sunday, February 26, 2006


At 55 years of age, some of my dreams are still centered around 2108 W. Main Street. That is the house in which I grew up. That house, although not a person, holds a special place with me. I spent 18 years of my life in that house and did not leave it until I was married and moved away.

2108 was in the Portland neighborhood in the West End of Louisville. In the 50’s it was known that black people lived past Jefferson Street, which was two block to the south. I’m not being prejudiced here, but back in those days we were taught never to wander to, or past, Jefferson Street. Right or wrong – that is just the way it was and what we were taught.

For those of you who do not know us, we were a family of seven people. There was my mom and dad and five of us girls. In order by age are my sisters Mary Lee, Dorothy Ann, Sandy, me then Carol. We were also what I considered to be poor, and the house was not very nice and was in bad need of repair most of the time.

The house was a camelback shotgun house. A shotgun is a house where the rooms are all lined up one behind the other. There are no hallways. A camelback shotgun had a second story room built on one of the rear rooms. Shotguns were built that way a long time ago because, when homes were built then they were taxed on how wide they were in the front of the structure, so the structures were only one room wide.

The shotgun at 2108 W. Main Street was four rooms deep. When you walked into the front door at our house you were in the Living Room as well as my mom and dad’s bedroom. In that room was a couch, my dad’s chair, a TV and a double bed. Mom and dad’s bed was right in front of one of the living room windows.

There was also a fireplace in the living room that served to heat the room. My mom and dad burned coal in that fireplace. The fireplace was small, as coal-burning fireplaces were back then. I loved that fireplace because it was great to stand in front of to get warm and it added atmosphere to the room both at night with the glow, and while sitting and watching TV and relaxing. I can recall distinctly the smell of burning coal.

Walking back to the next room was the bedroom of all five of us girls. There were two double beds and, at one time, a baby-bed. There were also a couple of dressers in there too, as well as a space heater. Also at some point in my life, my dad built a closet in our room. The closet was big with a large storage area at the top.

We did a lot of bed shuffling in the early days, and Sandy made out like a bandit because of the order my two oldest sisters left the nest. The great bed shuffle went like this. Me and Dorothy Ann slept in one bed next to the wall. Sandy and Mary Lee slept in the other double bed next to the side door. Carol was in a baby bed next to the window. Blow a whistle and shuffle. Dorothy Ann leaves to get married and Carol moves in the bed with me. The baby bed comes out. Blow yet another whistle and Mary Lee gets married and Sandy gets a bed all to herself. This is the bed configuration I remember the most.

In my bed, I slept next to the wall and Carol slept on the outside. The house did not have air conditioning. During the summers there would be a floor-fan that sat at the foot of the two double beds. I was always hot, so I would stick my feet in a hole in the plaster in the wall because it would cool me down. The plaster hole was always cool, and I was often glad they did not repair that hole. Many times, when the fan or the plaster did not do the trick, I would often times join my family to sit out front in the middle of the night to watch the cars go by.

The winters were always cozy in that bedroom. You could see the glow from the fireplace in my mom’s room and could often times hear someone up and adding coal to the fire. The space heater did the trick in keeping us warm, and it was comforting to hear it come on and go off. A fond memory indeed.

The next room next to our bedroom was what we called the junk room. It was appropriately named. There was all kind of furniture in that room at one time or another. It served as a kitchen in my early years and in the later years, it became more of a sitting room with a couch in it. The telephone was there as was my mom’s alarm clock. The bathroom was off to the side of the junk room.

The reason I mention the alarm clock is because I never understood why it was two rooms away from my mom’s bedroom. She would set it every night, and it would go off in the morning playing music. Often times I would mess with my momma by turning it up all the way, so it would go off blaring music throughout the house. Mom would stumble out of bed, cursing as she went through our room at a rapid pace to get to that clock to shut it off. I would lay there and chuckle.

While in grade school, we were sometimes allowed to come home for lunch. I remember during the winter months mom would hang laundry in that junk room from clothes lines that were there. Coming home for lunch would include sitting with the wet laundry that hung over your head. Somehow that wet laundry would magically disappear by the time the school day ended. I was never clear on where it went or how it dried so fast. Disappearing laundry was a mystery to me.

The bathroom was a mess. For many years only a curtain served as a door. At some point an official door was added to the bathroom. In the bathroom was a bathtub that was old fashioned and had feet. It was great for relaxing in. There was no shower – just a tub. Behind the tub was a little shelf. The shelf was only about 3 or 4 feet high and behind that shelf was a great chasm of junk. If you looked back there you could probably gather a lot of history about our family. An example of what was back there was: For Christmas Mary Lee would often times buy us younger sisters fancy, perfumed dusting powder with nice little, fluffy powder puffs. These little canisters of powder would be set on the shelf behind the tub, and would one day be gone. Oops. I can probably say that every container of powder had fallen behind the shelf and into the chasm never to be retrieved or seen again. The chasm was not big enough for someone to get back there to get the goods, but they were there none-the-less.

The next room in succession was the kitchen. It was the most modern room in the house, and I think was added or remodeled sometime in the course of my life at 2108. It was big and had all the appliances that should be in a kitchen. It also had a door to the outside, except that door had no screen door and no steps. So, if you went out that door you had to literally jump out. Unless you could step really high, you could not enter by that door and would have to come to the door that entered into our bedroom through the side door.

My mother used to do the laundry from an old wringer washer. This was mostly manual labor. That machine was huge and most of the laundry was manually placed through the wringer to squeeze out excess water. When I was a teenager my mother got a new automatic washing machine. She was never so proud. That new automatic washer was placed in the junk room. Believe me you couldn’t lay down a sock, or a shirt without it being thrown into that washer. My mom was now a clothes washing maniac, and I can’t say as I blame her.

The upstairs room was a room full of junk and was not used. You could never get up there because of the junk that was stored in the stairwell. Once daddy was cleaning out the stairwell and we were allowed up to the room upstairs. On a few occasions I would take dolls up there and play, but I could probably count on one hand the number of times I was in that room. I t seemed like such a waste, and I always wanted that room to be my room.

The yard at 2108 was small. The front yard had virtually no vegetation except a rose bush, and what little grass we had would be cut by using a push “Leave It to Beaver” mower. There was a side yard that was long and narrow. You could literally stand in the side yard and touch our house and the house next door at the same time. The back yard was equally tiny. The coal pile was in the back yard. I can still see my mom in the winter carrying in coal for the fireplace. Many times she would have to get the snow off the pile first before carrying in the coal in her coal bucket.

Mom and dad were buying the house on 2108 W. Main Street, until my mother quit making the house payments. Daddy would give her money to pay the bills, and I think she opted to buy food rather than pay the house payment. They lost the house. The good part of that was the buyer of the house decided mom and dad could rent it. That didn’t last too long and mom and dad had to move. My mom and dad moved from the house at 2108 to an apartment on Algonquin Parkway. I had married and had children then and also lived in those apartments. It was nice to have them literally right next door.

We grew up without a car. It was sometimes a real hardship. My dad took a bus to and from work everyday. He worked at the Census Bureau in Jeffersonville, IN. The city of Louisville ran the bus system, and when the bus system went broke, they quit providing service to Indiana. Mom and Dad moved to Indiana at that point.

The house at 2108 W. Main Street burned down sometime during the 70’s. I remember going down to 2108 house after reading about the fire in the paper. I stood at the fence to that house and cried. Standing at that fence staring at the charred house, my life memories went rolling by in my head; Laundry hanging in the junk room, the sound of the space heaters, the fireplace – all of it. My husband took video of the burnt out structure. I couldn’t help but think of all the things that had gone on in that house, and all the fond memories I had there. It really did make me sad. I wondered if all that powder was still behind the bath tub. 2108 W. Main Street was, and will always be . . .home.


Thursday, February 16, 2006


Hattie. Oh boy, what I can say about Hattie? I could probably write a whole book on her, because there is a lot I remember. If you asked which set of grandparents I was closer to, I would have to say that I was closer to my mom’s side of the family, but in all reality, I think I saw more of my Dad’s family, in particularly my grandma Hattie.

She was my father’s mother. She, like my other grandma was quite attractive. It seemed she dressed very nice and always smelled good. She was a tall woman as I recollect and if I had to describe her in a word it would be cantankerous. The dictionary definition of cantankerous is “difficult or irritating to deal with.” Next to that definition should be the word Hattie.

In her earlier years, Hattie lived in an apartment at 24th and Main. In her later years, and before being moved to a nursing home, she lived in an apartment at 29th and Portland.

The main street apartment was small and I can still see the layout of the place. For some strange reason, I always wanted to live there. There was a much bigger apartment (house) in the back that was attached to the part that she lived in. Eventually my sister Dorothy Ann bought that house and lived in the back part with her husband and kids. I think when Dorothy Ann sold the house, grandma was forced to move. That move took her to the Portland Avenue address.

I loved to go visit grandma on Main Street, because she always had the Welch’s grape juice and lots of good snacks – mostly chocolate. It seemed there were always a lot of people there. I would love to run into my uncles at her house.

I can remember visiting there a lot and found it enjoyable because of the snack factor, but mostly because my sister lived in the back part of the house.

Dorothy Ann and Hattie did not see eye-to-eye on a lot of matters. (I also believe that this statement is putting it mildly.) My grandmother was mean to Dorothy’s kids. They could probably address that better than me. On more than one occasion, I can remember Dorothy Ann referring to grandma as a witch or something. I would have hated to be there when Dorothy Ann and Hattie had those heated discussions. I can remember it troubling me a lot because I loved both Dorothy Ann and my grandmother. Although, I wasn’t, I felt in the middle.

Often times, when visiting Dorothy Ann, Grandma would be home and would sometimes not answer her door, or the apartment would be locked up tight as to give the appearance that no one was home. This would, in some sort of strange way, hurt my feelings.

My grandmother raised my cousin Kevin. Kevin was a very strange character as a kid (and as an adult). He was highly intelligent, and would often quote my grandmother as a child. I can remember at the age of 3 he would go around saying “a sweeper sweeps, a washer washes, a buffer buffs and an agitator agitates.” He would also state many times “I am a sick woman.” Being a teenager I would often find that funny, and NEVER once attributed his weird characteristics as a direct result of being raised by grandma. I didn’t want to make that connection. Kevin is another chapter for another day, but deserved honorable mention in Hattie’s chapter.

The reason I call her cantankerous is because she was. My grandmother fought with a lot of people. I remember she would take me and my cousin Vicky shopping and out to lunch. The only shopping in those days was downtown. Of course we went downtown on the bus. She took Vicky shopping much more than she took me. I always felt Vicky was her favorite and I got to go along sometimes as an afterthought. When we would stop for lunch, Grandma was always so rude to the waitresses and would send back food. She was grumpy to bus drivers and other passengers. I would sometimes be very embarrassed in her behavior.

Many times family and friends would be gathered at our house to play cards. Someone would always agree to drive Grandma home (about 2 blocks) and it seemed she always had trouble finding her key. One night it was Frankie (a neighbor’s husband) who made the two block trip to take Hattie home. As they drove down Main Street, she started fumbling in her purse for her key. Frankie assumed Hattie was getting money out of her purse and was going to give him that money for taking her home. Frankie said “that’s ok Mrs. Miller, you don’t have to give me anything.” Hattie said (very rudely), “Don’t worry, I’m not giving you anything, I’m just looking for my key.” So much for gratitude – but that was Hattie.

After she moved to 29th and Portland, Grandma’s health seemed to falter. She suffered from facial myalgia. That disorder would send shooting pains in her face and suddenly, with no warning, she would scream in pain. I mean it was a loud scream that would often scare the living daylights out of me. Out of nowhere - SCREAM!!!!!!

Grandma did have some tragedies in her life. When she was on Portland Avenue, Hattie was once robbed by a bunch of thugs. They broke into her apartment, held a rifle to her head while they made away with her purse, money and some other things. This scared her, and it truly broke my heart. She was old and no matter how mean she appeared, I felt she did not deserve this. That is the first time I ever saw my grandmother as frail.

She was still living when my father died. He was 61 at the time of his death. I can remember her being devastated at his passing. She said to me (speaking of my father) “no matter how old they are, they are still your babies.” I will carry those words with me forever, because I feel the same way about my own grown children.

This brings me to grandma’s upstairs neighbor on Portland Avenue, Loodie. I’m not sure if that is how it is spelled or not, but that was her name. I never met or laid eyes on Loodie. Loodie was a drunk and would often times come home in the middle of the night inebriated out of her mind and making a lot of noise, as she fell over chairs and things. Grandma would call her up and scream at her for being so loud, and sometimes threatened to call the police. Grandma and Loodie went at it tooth and nail, all the time. Grandma and Loodie probably had more feuds than grandma and Dorothy Ann did. And believe me, that was a lot.

Grandma didn’t seem the same after the thugs broke in on her. Her health continued to deteriorate at a rapid pace. She was eventually put into a nursing facility on east Jefferson Street. As I often do, I had a sudden urge to visit her. I went into the nursing home to visit her but she did not know who I was. She was half naked. There was a bed sheet that did not cover her. I covered her up because I wanted to protect what little dignity she had left. The place smelled badly of urine. It took several days to get that smell out of my nose and even longer to get it out of my heart. I was crushed when I left the nursing home that day. How could a woman with so much spunk end up like this? It just didn’t seem fitting. She had made a mark on society, several waiters, bus drivers, bus passengers, Dorothy Ann, Dorothy Ann’s kids and Loodie. Now she was reduced to this. Several hours after that nursing home visit, Hattie passed from this world. I can honestly say that her death affected me greatly.

My niece Karen’s high school graduation was around the time of my grandmother’s funeral. I sobbed like a baby at Karen’s graduation for many reasons. Karen was growing up, and my grandmother was gone. I really, honestly did miss her. Despite her meanness, ingratitude and her great lack of tact - I missed her.

Maybe my feelings were not unique and can be explained, or can best be described through the actions of the lady at my grandmother’s funeral. I had not seen this lady before. The mysterious lady came into the funeral home and was at the casket crying like her heart was broken. I mean, this lady was sobbing immensely. I asked one of my uncles who that lady was and they told me it was Loodie.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


George was my father’s father. I must admit that I no memory of him at all. Grandpa died of throat cancer when I was just three. I remember talk of his cancer as being caused from some heavy drinking. Did Hattie drive him to drinking?

I learned from my sisters that he painted houses as a profession. Yet his death announcement in the paper said he worked at a metals place in addition to painting.

There is some speculation that my grandfather had a glass eye – one sister tells me yes, and the other says no. But by any means, my grandfather lost an eye in some type of accident. I can’t imagine glass eyes to even be in existence back then. I wish I could remember. I could have had a lot to say and write about that eye.

My mother told me many times, that I spent a lot of time on his lap.

There was a great name debacle upon the passing of my grandfather George. My sister Carol was born around the time of his death. My mom named her Linda Carol officially. But my father had it wanted it changed to Georgia Carol. Her birth certificate was never changed from Linda. I think Carol grew up as Georgia Carol, and in later years it gave her some trouble. I think she eventually had it officially changed from Linda to Georgia. I guess that’s why we always called her Carol. I can’t imagine calling her Linda or Georgia. I’m glad they agreed on Carol as a middle name.

My dad’s family was from Horse Cave, KY. My oldest sister Mary said she and Dorothy Ann would spend summers in Horse Cave with my grandparents. Mary said she remembers my grandfather George meeting them at the train station. Wish I would have known him. I wonder if his shoes were speckled with paint colors.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


It’s weird. I don’t remember much about my grandfather Raymond. He was my mother’s father. I can’t remember him speaking a word to me; however, I know he had to. I keep looking for words of wisdom from him, or something that would tie me to him and make me think of him fondly, but there isn’t anything really. Now don’t get the assumption that I wasn’t fond of him, or that he wasn’t a good man, because he was. I just can’t remember any conversations between my grandfather and me. I do not think of him in a bad light by any means, it’s just I remember no interaction with him or no special stories involving himself and me. I’m sure my other sisters remember things about him that are heart-warming, but I can remember none.

However, I do remember my grandfather in the terms of calling my grandmother daily, and hanging out at “The corner” (a local beer joint) and kissing my grandmother religiously. I remember being moved at the sight of him sobbing when my grandmother and my uncle Charles passed, but that is honestly about it. There has to be a lot said about a husband who is that devoted to his wife.

His appearance was short and round. I can’t say he was fat, but if I had to describe him in a word, it would be round. I remember his clothes were always neat in appearance. He had a huge mole on one of his cheeks, and I often wondered about that mole. I had weird, kid thoughts, such as, “did it hurt”, “was it ever going to fall off” or “did he shave it.” Like I said, weird.

My grandfather smoked – or did he? He lit cigarettes anyway, and they just dangled from his mouth. Sometimes I would just want to flick the ashes off, because almost the whole cigarette would burn before he would take it out of his moth and flick the ashes. I’m not sure if he actually ever puffed on a cigarette.

What I’ve been told about my grandfather is that he was a chef. I know he worked at a local distillery as a chef and I’ve seen pictures. I’ve also been told that before the great depression he owned a candy store. I often thought growing up, “darn the bad luck why we couldn’t have a candy store to play around in.”

I was also told my grandfather also did a bang-up job decorating cakes.

Back in those days, women did the cleaning, cooking, laundry and took care of their husbands. It’s just the way it was. I was almost embarrassed that my grandfather was a chef of all things, and could decorate cakes. That was women’s work. It was my mindset as I was growing up, but today I am quite proud to say my grandfather was a chef. When I speak of my grandfather, I speak of him in terms of his cooking abilities and his candy store.

When I was older (late teens) my grandfather was visiting my sister Dorothy Ann. The family was gathered at Dorothy Ann’s house for some reason that does not come to my mind. What I remember about that day is, my grandfather took a bed sheet, placed it over his head, then put a laundry basket on top of the sheet and started chasing the kids around the backyard. I’m not sure who the kids were, but if I had to guess it would be my nieces and nephews David, Jeannette and Karen. But in my mind this action of my grandfather seemed to be very much out of character. I was a teenager. Everything adults did was out of character.

In his final years, all I recall is grandpa being at my aunt Mary Jeans. She took care of him as he lay dying. I visited him several times, but don’t remember an exchange of words at all. I was in my twenties when he passed, but I don’t remember much about his funeral, being sad or the sadness of my family. It is really troublesome that I remember no conversations with my grandfather. I want so to remember something about him, his personality or demeanor but, for me, it is just not there.

Most of all, I cannot remember his shoes.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


Anna was my grandmother. If I had to describe her in one word that word would be sweet. She died when she was 72 years old and I was 13 or 14. She had heart trouble for a number of years. Me and my sister Carol would have to go sit with her, while my grandfather was at work, because she was afraid to be alone. I will tell you that it seemed that it was mostly me who went, and Carol will probably tell you it was mostly her, but don’t believe her. In the 60’s and 70’s medical advances were not as prevalent as they are now. My grandmother received a heart pace-maker back then, and it was a long surgery with many days in the hospital and many more weeks of recovery. If my grandmother had become sick while I was sitting with her, I would not have known what to do. There was no 911 back then. I was not medically savvy and I was there only to get a trip to Sam’s.

I can remember sitting with Grandma and she would watch her stories. Those are Soap Operas to all of us today. I can remember The Guiding Light and Search for Tomorrow were two of her favorites, and they were on for 15 minutes only. One thing I remember about those stories is my grandma’s reaction when a person would die on one soap,then suddenly appear on another. She would tell my grandfather that, so-and-so is not really dead, they were on what ever soap they appeared on. “I knew they weren’t dead,” she’d say. I knew back then what was going on and didn’t have the heart to tell her.

I really did hate going down there and sitting with her, but would always feel bad when she would give me money to go to Sam’s, the corner grocery to get me some lunch. I can’t tell you how many times there were that I bought a Bath-Tub cake and a Crème Soda.

I don’t remember much about what I did all day when I had to sit. I asked Carol and she said that grandma would have her scrub her chairs. I don’t remember scrubbing any chairs but I do remember washing her plastic flowers. She showed me how the first time.. She would fill the sink up with soapy water, and then take the plastic flowers and swish them around in the soapy water. I was amazed at how clean they would become. I still use that method today on anything plastic that I have around the house.

My grandmother was hard of hearing and wore a hearing aid. This was so different. The hearing aid had a box type thing that she pinned to her clothes. When she talked on the phone, she would hold the part of the phone that goes to the ear, up to the box pinned to her clothes.

My grandmother’s physical appearance as I look back was best described as beautiful. She had silver white hair, spoke with a soft tone and wore nice clothes. When I sat with her, she would be mostly in a house dress, but they were always nice. When she was dressed up she would wear pearls and things. She and my grandfather were definitely in love. He would not get up from the dinner table without first kissing her. He would call her from work several times a day to see how she was doing. If there were problems there, I was not aware of them. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary shortly before she died.

Her passing affected me, but not how you might think. I felt the guilt for NOT wanting to sit with her. I had not seen my grandfather cry, ever until she passed away. He had a big white handkerchief and he held it in both hands with the handkerchief to his face and sobbed like a baby. That really moved me. I can’t remember attending her funeral, but you can bet it was at St. Cecilia’s church. I do remember going back to her house afterwards and it was there that it hit me. I saw her shoes. They were white, and sort of looked like nursing shoes, but they were orthopedic I’m sure. It was when I saw those shoes that the pain of missing her became real and apparent. It was my first experience with pain associated with a loss, and it took shoes to bring it on. As you will find out later, when someone I love passes, it’s the shoes that get to me the most - maybe because those shoes can never be filled.

This is my attempt to record my memories of my family. Some of the entries may not actually be fact, but it is the way I remember them. This is a tribute to my family, and yes all of you will get your own chapters. I'm not sure yet, how far down the family tree I want to go, but I will attempt to include everyone. I also will add chapters of some of those who may not be family members, but they were important to me and made an impact somehow.

I will start with my grandmother Anna. I start with her, because she is the one I remember the earliest (outside my parents of course).

Happy reading !!!!