Omie, one of nine siblings (ten counting the one that died), grew up on her parent’s farm in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Her daddy, Jim raised cotton and corn along with tending farm animals, while her mama, Lou Ella took care of the home and worked in the field. Like most families in her day, they ate off what they raised. Grocery shopping was a luxury her family couldn’t afford. Omie’s chores everyday included building fires in the cook stove and heater, taking water to her mama and daddy in the field, and washing the dishes after all the meals. She could never get the knack for milking the cows. They were one of the last families in town to get a truck. Until then, they used a horse and buggy for traveling. In her bedroom, which she shared with four of her siblings, were a trunk, which contained her Grandmas clothes, a quilt rack and two beds. She world look out her window, past the big pecan tree, across the field, where she could see their barn, and daydream. Life was hard for her family and she admired her mother for being so strong. Even through the tough times were good memories of playing with her sisters in their playhouse, sitting on a long in the field eating a freshly picked tomato, (one time she ate so many they broke her out in a rash) watching and listening to the birds, and even the times that her brothers chased her with worms. The only fancy thing her family had was a Victrola record player that had to be hand turned, and it was in the living room, which was off limits, until company came. They could only afford to heat one room, which was her parent’s bedroom, where the family would spend their evenings, until bedtimes. Once when she was a child a tornado blew the roof off her house, while they were inside. She’s been terrified of storms ever since. When Omie was old enough, she quit Sunny Hill School in the ninth grade and got a job at a Sewing Factory, Georgia Slacks, to help her family out financially. Education wasn’t one of the top priorities in her time. She enjoyed giving her Mama some of the simple thrills that she so seldom got, like buying her Pepsi Cola and Pork-n-beans, or a bag of Candy Eggs. She had electricity put in her parent’s home, and she even saved and bought her own bedroom suit, made of dark mahogany. Omie’s daddy was very strict and Omie didn’t get to do the things that other young people got to do. She looked forward to Sunday School and Bible School at Prospect Church, where she got to be with some friends.
Billy, one of six siblings, grew up in the same town and also went to Sunny Hill School, which he hated. He was mischievous as a boy, and got in many fights, especially when other children would tease him for his red hair. Billy’s family raised their own food as well. His daddy, YZ, worked for a man named Grover Grow, tending his farm, while his mama, Egarah, stayed home and took care of things there. They didn’t rely on horse and buggy anymore, because Mr. Crow let them use his truck for their family. Billy shared a room with two of his brothers. They had to huddle together under a stack of quilts to keep warm, because the big cracks in the floor let the cold air in. Each year they’d each get one pair of shoes and they had to make them last. Billy’s chores included chopping wood for the wood heater that had to heat his whole house. When on of the family got sick his mama would try homemade remedies, like using castor oil, to help get them well, because his daddy said they couldn’t afford a doctor. Billy told himself that when he had a family, they would all be able to go to the doctor. He never remembered a time when his mama or daddy said “I love you” to him growing up. People didn’t show affection in his time like they do now, or at least not in his family. There was a lake near their house where he spent a lot of his time in mischief with his brothers. He liked to look at the garden snakes there. One summer he even got to go to Bible School at Alcovy Church, the same lady that had taken Omie had picked him up too. His daddy always told him that he wasn’t going to let him quit school, but as soon as Billy was old enough there was no stopping him. he quit school and found a job at a sewing factory, Georgia Slacks. He’d hitch rides from people passing by to get to where he needed to go.
Their families were much the same, in that they didn’t have much. They didn’t get to go on trips, or vacations because they couldn’t afford them. Growing up together in the small town of Lawrenceville, Georgia, Billy and Omie went to school together at Sunny Hill and knew each other, however they were merely acquaintances and school mates. They were even in each others Bible School class one year at Prospect church. It wasn’t until, that day, when Billy was getting in the elevator at Georgia Slacks and Omie was getting out, did he notice her eyes, and he thought they were the prettiest he’d ever saw. Omie thought he was a nice boy and she especially liked that he didn’t drink like most of the boys. Billy later went to Omie’s house and ask her out. To her surprise, her daddy said she could. One of their first dates was on Saturday night, July 17th, of 1954, to a church conference, she was eighteen and he was seventeen. It didn’t take long for them to fall in love and figure out that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, less than a month of courtship, to be exact. Billy was considering enlisting in the Army and asked Omie if she’d wait for him to return, to marry. She didn’t want anything to happen to him, so she told him that she wouldn’t wait, hoping he wouldn’t go, and he didn’t. The very next Monday night Billy went to her house with an engagement ring and ask her to be his wife, which of coarse, she said yes. They rented a house, borrowed Grover Crow’s truck and moved all of their things in, all on the same day they got married. They were married at 8:00 o’clock on Friday night, August the 13th, 1954 in the home of their Pastor, Earnest Wilson. Omie wore a white and black, flair tailed dress with white hills. Neither of their families were present. They never had a honeymoon, though they didn’t need one, they were happy. They spent their wedding night in their own little rented house on Braselton Highway. It was a small white house with only a living room, kitchen and one bedroom, but it was theirs. The first meal Omie ever made for Billy was the next morning when she made homemade biscuits, bacon and eggs. Billy taught her how to drive, not long after they were married, although they couldn’t yet afford their own car. Both Billy and Omie found jobs in Atlanta for a while, riding to work with Omie’s Brother and his wife, until they saved enough money to buy their own car. Their first child was born the following August, 1955, a boy.
Here they are all these years later still together and still eating those homemade biscuits. the tow of them have been through a lot of ups and downs. They’ve learned to deal with each other’s bad sides. They’ve shared many smiles and many tears. They’ve grieved together at the loss of their firstborn, their son. They rejoiced together at the births of their children, grandchildren and great grand children. They have stood by one another through some tough decisions, through surgeries, and trials. Along the journey have also been man new and exciting experiences, like mama learning to drive and learning to swim, a little, that is, going camping, rafting, taking their first airplane flight, Daddy’s job promotions, and lots of fun times and vacations, to name just a few.
They’ve cared for me and loved me with al their hearts over the years. They’ve provided all that I ever needed. My siblings and I never knew what it was like to not have heat or special treats from the grocery store. We could always expect a trip to the doctor when we were sick and we never had to work when we were in school. We always knew that we were loved because they not only showed it, but they told us. When we were young they sang to us, told us stories, tickled us, wrestled with us and rocked us. Yet they were stern and taught us right from wrong. Mama and Daddy taught us the Bible and to pray. They too us to church and made sure we knew who the Lord was and all about Him. They raised me, my brother and sisters the best that they knew how. This is not to say that our home was perfect or without it’s problems, but they stuck it out, which is something very few people do today.
Mama and Daddy now live with me in my home and enjoy time being catered to and taken on short excursions. I watch them give to my children the same love and laughter they gave to me growing up. I learn from their wisdom every day and love to hear stories from their youth. There are so many stories that aren’t included in their “love story” that I want to pass along to my children, like the sack man and Mini Long. How they only got one or two things at Christmas and appreciated it, about the baptisms at the lake, the all day church singings, family gatherings, the way mama’s would put their sleeping babies on the altar on blankets in church, and the list goes on and on.
Being married fifty years, they have accomplished what so few couples do today. And for this I am proud.
This was written for my parents 50th wedding anniversary from stories they’d told me over the years. Family came from Georgia and we surprised them with a vow renewal, church ceremony and reception, where I read this aloud to my parents.