Friday, August 19, 2011

The Help

So... I went and saw the movie yesterday (yes I read the book too and loved it)... And...
Today we have a guest post! Ok... well... kind of... Its my Mother....
My cousin Donna asked my mom about a maid that my mom's family had (and I never knew about it) after she read "The Help" and this was my mom's response to her... and I thought it was amazing to read

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Here's a little history lesson for you.
YES we had a black maid. Her name was Irene and she and mother had been friends since they were little girls. She only came a couple of times a year that I remember and helped mother with spring cleaning, washing windows, taking down all the curtains and washing, ironing etc. She would stay a few days and slept in a roll-away bed on the back porch. That was where your father used to sleep and my memory of Irene is after your father left home for the military so I'm not sure where she slept before that. She did NOT eat at the table with the family, but ate on the back porch. Mother loved her and treated her very well, BUT I do remember one night after dinner mother was washing the dishes and she kept Irene's dish separate from the others. I asked mother why and she said something about black people not being clean and she actually used clorox to clean Irene's dishes:(
The bus would drop her off in front of the house and it was a big deal. I remember being excited and curious.
She would call Donnie her "baby" because she was there and helped mother out when Donnie was born. I remember one visit (and I think it was her last), somehow it was decided that Donnie would drive her home (she lived in Winston-Salem). Irene was so excited that her "baby" was going to drive her home. Donnie had a new car (I can't remember exactly - a 58 or 60 Chevy - blue and really a beautiful car). Anyway, it was a big deal to Irene. She was excited for all her neighbors to see her drive up in this fancy car with this good looking white boy driving her:) She had a "hot iron" and I remember watching her curl her hair. Mother always gave her clothes and other things she was getting rid of in addition to paying her cash. I think it was probably something like $10 a day.
Irene died not too long after that visit and because she was so poor, was going to be buried by the county or have her body given to the medical school or something. I remember mother and Granny Pulliam and Aunt Dot talking about it. I THINK they all (the Pulliam family) went in together to see that she had a proper burial and I even believe that mother donated the dress she was buried in.
And now that you have me walking down memory lane, I have 2 other stories about the "Black South". During that time, everything was segregated. Blacks used a separate entrance for movies and sat in the balcony. Even department stores had segregated bathroom and drinking fountains. I remember being in Thalheimers one time and there were 2 water fountains side by side - one was for the black people and one for the white people. I was curious so I went up to drink from the Black water fountain and a man from the store (we used to call them floor walkers) came up and stopped me. It wasn't considered sanitary for a white person to drink from a black water fountain!
ALSO, you've probably heard or read about the "sit down strike" in Woolworth's cafeteria in Greensboro at the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. Well, mother and I were there! Mother, Granny Wilson, Aunt Stella and I would always go to "town" on Saturdays. It was our big outing for the week and we all looked forward to it. Mother and I would usually have lunch at the Woolworth's cafeteria. I loved their mashed potatoes.
Mother and I were there eating lunch when the first sit-in occurred. I didn't realize what was going on, but I could tell that mother was scared. We got up and left immediately. You can check out the entire history of the event on the internet - here's a small bit about it: 

A statue of the Greensboro Four stands on the campus of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, North Carolina.
On February 1, 1960, four students from the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina sat down at the lunch counter inside the Woolworth's store in Greensboro, North Carolina.The men, later known as the Greensboro Four, ordered coffee. Following store policy, the lunch counter staff refused to serve the Arfican American men at the "whites only" counter and the store's manager asked them to leave.


And that.... was the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement in Greensboro and I was there:)

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I couldn't help but to think about Irene while watching "The Help"... how Irene had called my Uncle Donnie "her baby"... how my grandmother used CLOROX to clean Irene's dishes... how Irene must have felt ... and how aweful some of the women were treated... how aweful THEY ALL were treated.

I cried the whole way home...

I hope we can all find some more HUMANITY in us... because as much as we like to think it is... this battle still isn't over....

9 comments:

Alli said...

Thanks for sharing such a great story! Did you like the book or movie better?

Anonymous said...

this is a great post! you are right we still have work do. I left the LDS church because it was so horrible to groups of people and it makes me so sad that I had to but at least things are getting better and that's because people like you speak out!

Mrs. Ham said...

wow great stories. not that what happened was great. so crazy to think that happened not long ago. my mom had told me some things about what she remembered as well. thanks for sharing!

Cassie said...

Very neat to have a first-hand account of what it was like back then! Also, I read the book and it is as of now one of my favorite books ever! I can't wait to see the movie!

lori said...

great stories! thanks for sharing... after talking to my parents about the help, i realized my grandparents had black maids too. i hope they were treated well. it is all so, so sad. and youre absolutely right... i think kathryn stockett has done a great job bringing light to an issue we still face today.

AJD ∞ said...

This might be one of my favorite blog posts ever. Please thank your mother for sharing such a strong story with us. I saw The Help last Friday [yes, I've read the book, too!] and cried the entire time. It hurt me so much. Like you said, I hope we can find the humanity in ourselves because this battle really isn't over.

By the way, I nominated your blog for an award! Even though I just found your corner of the internet, I love it. If you check out my most recent post [today's], you'll see the award and you'll be able to share the love!

Alycia (Crowley Party) said...

I am half way through the book right now! trying to get it done before I see the movie :) Love this post. Your blog is great, happy I found it! New follower!

Diane's Photography said...

I loved this post Whitney, I got all teary eyed. I too lived through the civil rights eara, it all didn't make sense to me but it happened. It's weird to think I'm old enough to have lived the history that is now being studied...Yikes!!! thanks for shareing this story!
love ya

LETI BETI bloggin said...

I just picked up this book the other day from my friend Kelly!!