The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

They Waited Anxiously

Preserved By Jeffrey Rowan Lockhart © 1987

Issue: November, 1987

Around 1917–18 the Lockhart family moved from Spencer, North Carolina to Petersburg, Virginia in search of employment. Papa Kenion (I've also seen it spelt Keniaun) and Mama Effie Emma had seven children living at home. John Rufus, 19, and Papa Kenion worked as carpenters building the barracks at Camp Lee, a military camp during WW I.

John Rufus, my grandpa, told me he also worked in a trunk factory. That's what he called it. These trunks were the large steamer trunks that people packed their clothes and hats in while traveling by boat or train. Grandpa finished out the trunks, lining them with paper of different colors and patterned designs. Burgin, 21, found employment and they also worked in the silk mills around Petersburg. Mary Meeks was 25 and helped at home. Clayton was 16, Almoth 11, James 6 and Ruby was 4 years old. Myrtle, 28, remained in Spencer and celebrated her eighth year of marriage. In 1919 the Lockhart family moved to Norfolk, Virginia, once more in search of work. In a letter from Almoth to my mother, a story is told about Myrtle traveling by Southern train from Spencer to Norfolk to visit with her people. From Almoth's letter:

In going through more of Myrtle's boxes she kept in her room I found a letter Burgin had written to Myrtle from Petersburg, Va. 1918 (we lived in Petersburg). Burgin and Myrtle loved each other so very much that when Myrtle would come to Norfolk by train to Pinners Point, then by ferry to Norfolk – he would just have to meet her – if he was working he would ask off for a few hours and if they did not grant him time to go meet that ferry that she was on he would up and quit – he just had to meet that boat – of course I was also there with him at the dock but I don't believe he even knew I was along because he just walked up and down until he saw that boat and when it docked he was the first person aboard and he grabbed and hugged her, got her suitcases and brought her off the boat – and as soon as her feet touched the dock I had hold of her – oh how we loved that dear soul – there was no hate or bad feelings between us – I never heard Burgin raise his voice – he laughed a lot and if anyone had asked him for his shirt he would have taken it right off and handed it to them.

When we would get back home with Myrtle after meeting her we would gather around while she opened her suitcases – she usually had two – one of which she called a grip – the grip opened at the top – well we stood around her as close as we could get while she unpacked the suitcases then she would open the grip – first she would take out a package and lay it to one side – then she would reach inside and bring out a jar of her perseveres maybe two small jars – then she would bring out two aprons that she had made for Mama and Meeks. She most always had a little something for all of us – then she would reach for the package she had put to one side – that was the balance of her lunch – that is what we had been waiting for so we – Almoth, James and Ruby would follow her to the kitchen waiting until she opened the package and there was the treasure – some of her cold biscuits with a piece of ham or something. James and I would almost fight over one of her biscuits (James will remember all that but maybe Ruby would not) Mama made the best biscuits you would ever want but anything Myrtle made or cooked was extra special.

From another letter:

Myrtle got married when I was three or four years old and while I do not remember that – she told me that while she was packing her suitcase to leave on her honeymoon I was following right behind her bawling my heart out – so to try to keep me from crying she asked me to help her pack – well just being married that day she didn't pay any attention to what I packed if anything – she and Hayden went to Chicago on their honeymoon – sat up all night on the train and when she started to unpack her things at the hotel she found her old bonnet that she used to wear outdoors to hang up clothes or something – I had stuck that in the suitcase – she said she almost left Hayden right then, ha...