The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Mountain Mother - Eula Helms

By Ivalien Hylton Belcher © 1987

Issue: May, 1987

Eula Helms in her wedding dress.Eula Helms in her wedding dress.A mother is a special gift from God to us. Mountain mothers have handed a great heritage down to us. This is a story about a special mother in our Blue Ridge, Eula Hancock Helms, my friend and neighbor.

As Eula and I sat around the kitchen table, she related some of her life and shared memories.

"I was born in Patrick County, Virginia near the Blue Ridge Parkway in the year 1910. My parents were Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Hancock. I had three brothers and four sisters.

As for my schooling, I started when I was four years old. My Uncle Fred Clifton was my teacher at the Stamping Birch School. I also went to the Deskin School in Floyd County. This school started early in the year, so father sent us to Deskin first and later to Stamping Birches. We walked four miles to school regardless of the weather.

I saw my first Christmas tree at the Deskin School. It was from floor to ceiling and a pretty sight. In those days all the presents were tied on the tree, or as many as possible. Popcorn was used for decorations and crepe paper also. I got my first doll at Deskin. It was a china doll and very pretty. My sister made me a basket and covered it with a kind of lavender crepe paper, then she filled it with candy. People used a lot of crepe paper back then.

My mother made all our clothes. She worked very hard so we could have the things we needed. All us girls wore pinafores over our dresses and this kept them nice and clean. Mother made our slips from linsey cloth. We wore black bloomers, gathered real full. My shoes were heavy, like brogans. Mother knitted our caps, stockings and gloves. I really appreciate my mother and what she did for me.

Now I was raised on the farm and can never remember not knowing how to milk a cow. My dad was a big farmer. After my brother left home, us girls helped around the farm. We raised all kinds of vegetables and crops like wheat. We kept cows, chickens and sheep. I've worked with sheep quite a bit.

Ham and Eula Helms on their 50th Wedding Anniversary.Ham and Eula Helms on their 50th Wedding Anniversary.All of a sudden I became a teenager and we had some good times at parties and gatherings. My dress shoes back then had Cuban heels. When I walked places I wore some thin black overshoes to keep my nice slippers clean. Sometimes I walked a few miles to parties, music and dancing with a bunch of neighbor boys and girls.

I met my husband Ham when I was 15. It was love at first sight and that's the truth. It was at my home where a group of young people had gathered. In the past, Ham had dated my sister some. My sister and her friend came with their beaus, and Ham and I were the odd couple, and got together. We went together for two years and got married when I was 17. Elder Matt Conner married us at his home. Mrs. Conner and my sister Dovie were the witnesses. My wedding dress was a new dress that I had bought. For those days it was fancy and stylish with the low waistline and lots of tiny pleats. Our honeymoon was spent in this very house and the room we are in right now. Ham was born right here in this house also. Isn't that something?

Our first home after we married was a two room house over in Floyd County. My brother John made my first cupboard. It was shelves on the wall in a corner. I put a curtain over it. There was a fireplace for heat and a wood cook stove. The stove was small and we bought it at a sale. My dishes came from a Lee order.

We farmed and raised a lot of our food. Ham worked at the band mill in Jones' Mountain, a number of men worked there. I was busy at home raising the family and tending to their needs. The water was carried from the spring for washing clothes. I washed clothes on a board and had been married 20 years before I had a washing machine. Sometimes it took all day to iron with a flat iron. Everything was starched stiff and ironed real nice.

I did a lot of canning, making jams and jellies. There was always a kettle of apple butter made every fall. There were lots of blackberries on the Brown Howard farm, and I mean acres and acres of them, so I fixed lots of blackberries. Back there in those days huckleberries were plentiful also. Sure did help out to have all this stuff for the table in the winter.

These days I stay right busy. I guess my hobby is making quilts. I've made my clothes since I was 13 years old.

I sure do miss my husband, Ham. He passed away in 1983 just before Christmas, but I have fond memories of our life together. I'm very proud of my family, three sons, six grandchildren, three great-grandchildren. They all live close to me or in the surrounding area.

I've been a member of the Mountain View Methodist Church since I was 21 years old. The church has always played an important part in my life. I'm so thankful for everything the Lord has seen fit to give me. He has richly blessed me in my life."

Eula, I want you to know that everyone misses Ham a lot in the church. He enjoyed singing so much. If I went to Church and Ham didn't give me a special hug, something was missing.

These Sundays you will still find Eula filling her special pew at Mountain View Church. She still sings and has a clear voice as her songs raise praises unto the Lord from the words of an old timey hymn. Eula is a special person and a wonderful mountain mother. Happy Mothers Day.