I REMEMBER NELLIE , MY GRANDMOTHER
Nellie was a beautiful, talented woman of independent means before her time.
For over 40 years she was a proprietor of a flower shop and a fabric shop in Yoakum, near Victoria.
She was born in August of 1900 in Midland, Texas, at the ranch of her maternal grandfather, Alonzo Edwards(Edwards was a rancher who diligently led one of the longest trail drives, from Weatherford, Texas, to Oregon in the 1870s). Nellie’s birthday is the same month and year as that of the Queen Mother, mother of Queen Elizabeth of England. Like the Queen Mother, she was reared in a strict family environment with Victorian values. Her grandmother Cornelia Baird read the Bible to her and taught her to crochet, embroider, and tat before she started school. She continued her handwork into her ‘90s. The theory was that busy hands would keep the devil away.
As a shy child, Nellie was a straight-A student and she developed many hobbies. She was an avid reader into her “90s, reading three books and at least 10 magazines a week. At 13, she designed her own clothes and sewed for herself and her sisters. Later, Nellie purchased and played her grand piano. She mastered sketching and painting, rivaling many accomplished artists. Her gardening provided many flowers and vegetables for friends and family.
Nellie was never bored.
Growing up in a large two-story house with parents, grandparents, and three younger sisters, she had many chores as her mother was ill with cancer. After her mother’s death, she worked in an office, saved money and bought fashionable clothes.
In the early 1920s, she became manager of a silk hosiery store in the city’s first
At night, she taught clothing and design at a continuing education school. Nellie bobbed her hair and wore flapper clothes and danced the Charleston, as was the custom in the cities in the 1920s.
At the end of the ‘20s, Nellie’s fiancé bought a business with movie stars Wallace Berry and Charlie Chaplin.
With her daughter from her first marriage, Nellie met her fiancé in Hollywood to marry. She soon decided that Hollywood was not for her. Canceling her wedding, she returned home, bought a house and married an old beau, Robert Haynes.
Oil was soon discovered and a well was built in her back yard.
Months later, Nellie produced another daughter. As the 1930s Depression
worsened, Nellie purchased a five-acre tract of land and a cow. She sowed a
victory garden and had the cow milked. In the 1940s, Nellie and her family moved to south Texas and bought an oil business. Nellie played bridge, gave dinner parties and danced again.
In the late 1940s, when Nellie’s husband became ill, she bought a flower shop and years later, a fabric shop, in Yoakum. She worked until she was 91and quietly retired.
Nellie is not of royal descent, but to me she seemed to be.
She was always nicely groomed and dressed, with refined manners. She told me
that in life we must do what we have to do, despite the many obstacles.
August is Nellie’s 102nd birthday. It’s also that of the Queen Mother. After
breaking her hip, the Queen Mother died recently.
Nellie broke her leg a few months ago and it’s not healed. She may not be here
in August. But I envision the two queens meeting at their new home and celebrating their 102nd birthdays together.
****This essay was published in the Victoria Advocate, Wednesday, June 5, 2002.
A notation after the essay said,
Janine Stubbs lives on a ranch outside of Cuero.
She is an adjunct professor for Coastal Bend College,
teaching sociology and history.
*****Another notation should be made. Nellie died the summer of her 102nd birthday.
She did not make it to August, 2002, but I just know she probably did meet the
Queen Mother, as they had a lot in common.