The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

A Special Letter from Mrs. Olyer Turner

By Olyer W. Turner © 1984

Issue: September, 1984

Editor's Note... Mrs. Olyer Turner wrote us a story of her "Childhood Days" which appeared in our April 1984 issue. We heard from her again this week, and this is what she had to say...

Hello out there to everyone on the Mountain Laurel trail. Hope everyone is feeling fine. Sometime ago, I wrote a piece about my childhood. I have gotten letters and phone calls from people that know me asking that I write more. Today I will take time out and begin where I left off my childhood at age 17.

First, I married a drunkard that only wanted to work at odd jobs a few hours at a time, enough to buy whiskey. Other things like food, clothes, heat and a place to live didn't seem to bother him at all. His father had us a little two room shack started that was never finished, although we lived in it and two of my babies were born in it. Many mornings I got up and shook the snow off the bed covers that had blown through the cracks.

Well, we moved several times, from one shack to another, but ended up at the same place. I sewed, made quilts, washed, ironed, scrubbed floors, made a garden, picked berries to sell and can, and raised a few chickens. I made all my baby's clothes from feed sacks or worked for second hand ones. Surely it was God's mercy that kept my babies healthy.

And then, my husband got himself in very bad trouble. I was left with a 3 week old baby girl, one 2 year and one 4 year old - no money, no wood, winter time at the door. And how was I to get out and get wood and food with three babies?

My husband's grandmother died shortly after he was taken away and his grandfather was very feeble. A big snow came and the old fellow couldn't attend to his cow, hogs and chickens, so he sent for me to come and live there with him. My brother-in-laws helped me carry the children through the deep snow.

There I milked the cow and fed the animals. The babies stayed by the fire with their great-grandfather. His children had got up a plenty of wood at the wood shed for him, but he was too old and feeble to bring it in. So, we had food and fire and were alright for the winter. I had to carry water up a long hill whatever the weather, and the animals had to eat rain, sleet or snow. You hear many people talk of poverty and hard times. Do you know what that means? I do.

Spring came and I went home, made my garden, sewed, crocheted, picked berries and canned for winter. I was planning to stay home, but my back gave out and I could not get wood in. My step-father came with his oxen hooked to the wagon and took us to Mama's. We spent most of the winter there. Then, some neighbors came and got us in some wood, so we toughed it out a while longer.

My oldest girl became school age so I moved nearer to a school and also to a place where I could work at a sewing room for a few months. It was a place for needy people to help themselves. We got paid to make our clothes and our children's clothes, but we had to make a lot of things for others that could not work. It sure helped us be better prepared for winter. There were many friends to help me along the way. One I will mention that was very good to me would divide anything she had with me. Her name was Ester Martin. She is dead now. The last time I saw her, I told her I would never forget how good she had been to me. She told me she had been well rewarded for all she had done for me. There were others also that helped me so much. I don't know if they are still living or not, but I know they will get their reward as well.

A few years later, I remarried. We started a little grocery store with no money to put into it. We didn't expect much out of it, but we lived and got by. I still sewed a lot. One by one came along one little boy, then another little boy, then a girl, and another girl and then another boy. By the time they all got here, the oldest ones were married and I had grandchildren.

At this time I have 8 children, 25 grandchildren living (one got killed in Vietnam), and also 15 great-grandchildren scattered all over the states.

My husband had a very bad car wreck in 1944, I think it was. Although he was able to walk and do light work, he was never much help anymore. So, it was up to the children and me to make a living.

My oldest son finished high school and married at 18 and the others were all in school when my health went down. I had spells with my heart and had to close the store. We had found another house and was moving. My husband had applied for social security and would have gotten his first check in March, 1960. On February 12, 1960 he was found dead. Some of you readers will remember the terrible snow we had that fell that night. Then two more big snows fell before it melted. Oh, what a time for a funeral! Very few people could get out at all and some of them got stuck in the snow. We could not get to the funeral home until Sunday afternoon. He was found on Friday night. We had to dig the car out of the snow before we could get there to make funeral arrangements.

Needless to say, it was several days before we could finish moving. My next son at home finished high school and went into the service for four years. I moved to Danville in 1962 to be nearer my children that live here.

A few years flew by so fast and all my children were gone. I stayed around a few years more and decided I wanted to go back near my old home place where I could talk to a few old friends on the phone and visit once in a while. Two dear old friends died before I got moved back to Franklin County, but I had two very dear to me that I enjoyed talking to and visiting from time to time. Then they died. Then I had only a few old friends left there from my childhood days. I sure hated to leave them, but after my 75 birthday, my children decided I was too old to live so far away from them. So, here I am back in Danville, Virginia.

I guess the [Blue Ridge] mountains will always be home to me and I have a lot of younger friends up there. I was born and raised in Franklin County. Some of my children were born there, some in Henry County. When I leave this old body of clay, it will be taken back to the mountains for burial. I hope to meet a lot of you readers at our school reunion [the old Red Pup school near Ferrum, Virginia] the second Sunday is September. If not, I hope to meet you all at that great reunion in Heaven some sweet day. I would love to hear from more of my friends.

Love to all,

Mrs. Olyer W. Turner
77 Augusta Ave.
Danville, Va. 24541