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Debby Summey: Little pitchers have big ears

  • Friday, September 21, 2012

  • Updated Friday, September 21, 2012 12:23 pm

As I was growing up, I listened to many adult  conversations, even the ones I knew I shouldn’t be listening to. That’s how children learn about the world, isn’t it?
When my four paternal aunts got together, I loved to listen in on their conversations because they were full of love and laughter.

These four sisters had been through a lot together. Their mother, Fannie Hazeltine Godwin Johnson, died in childbirth in 1932 when they were all under the age of  eleven. They were placed in the care of their grandmother, Ada Ivey Johnson, until their father remarried.

They all attended Winyah School, along with their brother Roger and my Daddy, Everett. Their father drove the school bus. After he dropped everyone off, he parked the bus on Broad Street and slept until time to pick everyone up.  He needed the sleep because he worked nights at the pumping station on Black River.

The girls grew up, married and had children, but they got together as often as they could.

I didn’t get to see Aunt “Kitty” very often because she lived in Des Moines, but I remember her sweet, nurturing nature and her three sons.  These cousins always asked for “pop” and it took me a while to learn that they wanted an RC Cola.  We taught them to pour peanuts in their “pop”, and they loved it.  Sadly, Aunt “Kitty” died in 1994.

Aunt Hazel was, and still is, the wittiest of the bunch.  By listening to her, I learned that a one-liner spoken with a straight face gets the most laughs.  Behind her deadpan expression is a heart of gold.

When I was growing up, I never saw my Aunt “Gee” without her beloved husband, the late Sonny Waldron.  We saw Uncle Sonny without her only when he had been fishing and brought us fresh fish, dressed and filleted.  Now I see Aunt “Gee” when she’s out and about with my cousin, Al.

It’s ironic that I spent the most time with my late Aunt Frances because she lived in Columbia. Her daughter, Joy, and I are almost the same age and I spent many summers at their home.  

Aunt Frances introduced me to her favorite music ... Ray Charles, the soundtrack from “Westside Story”, and others.  Before she left for work each morning, she put money on the kitchen table so that when we got up, we could hop on the city bus and go to Main Street to ‘hang out’ and eat pimento cheese sandwiches in the basement of Tapp’s Department Store.  

I loved family weddings and other events where Aunt Hazel, Aunt “Gee” and Aunt Frances would come sweeping in wearing their fur stoles. They were beautiful and bright and smiling and full of love.

Speaking of furs, I was in Columbia one summer day when we all came home to find fur all over the house.  
Aunt Frances had bought a new stole and hidden it from my Uncle Bob Schooler in the hallway closet.  

Their dog, “Bass,” had sniffed it out and shredded it into many tiny fur stoles, strewn all over the house.  Aunt Frances cried, but never scolded ol’ “Bass.”  We joked about it for many years to come.

To my sweet aunts ... thanks for the memories.

I may be reached at (843) 446-4777 or email at djsummey@gmail.com.


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