The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Grannie Dollie

By Ivalien Hylton Belcher © 1985

Issue: May, 1985

grannie dollieGrannie Dollie Hylton, 1955.Today I sat at my desk looking out the window at Granny Dollie's old home place and the little knoll where she and Grandpa Hylton are buried. I am filled with mixed emotions, happy and sad. The sadness is that Granny is gone and Grandpa Hylton died very young and I never did know him. Granny always told me what a good man he was. My happy emotions are the fond memories I have of Granny Dollie.

My Grandmother Hylton was named Louella Adline. Her father called her "Doll", thus she got the name Dollie and it stayed with her throughout life. Everyone in the neighborhood called her Aunt Dollie, even if they were not related.

Granny Dollie was left a widow at an early age with five small children to care for. Grandpa Hylton passed away at the early age of 33. She kept the family together and made a way on the farm. My Dad used to tell me, "We always had something to eat." Grannie Dollie sent the children to school. She loved to read and knew the importance of education even in those days. Though their clothes were few, Grannie always sent the children to school in clean clothes, drying a change of clothing at night by the fireplace. Just this week, one of my neighbors was commenting how hard Grannie worked to keep her children in school.

As a child I always loved to go to Grannie Dollie's house. Her parlor was so pretty. On rainy days I spent hours in the attic. Hordes of treasures and books gave me many Sunday afternoons of pleasure.

The kitchen was another favorite place. My cousins and I always had a lot of good food. I remember potatoes boiled in their jackets in a big iron tea kettle.

While I was in high school, Grannies’ last child got married and moved away. Since Grannie was a little afraid at night by herself, I began staying with her at night. My family lived near. She was always interested in my schooling and many nights helped me study for tests. I think that for her day, Grannie was well educated. She took lots of magazines and newspapers and kept them all. As I grew older, I enjoyed the old magazines a lot.

Every Sunday afternoon after I became a teenager, Grannie let me play the old time Victrola in the parlor. If I danced to the music, I had to go on the front porch. There was quite a collection of records - Carter Family, Blue Sky Boys, Delmore Brothers, Uncle Dave Macon and many more. Of course, I'd have to stop dancing and go wind up the Victrola.

I learned a lot about cooking and canning from Grannie. Every Friday was the day she made fried apple pies. After I was married and had a son, I still went back on Fridays for my fried apple pie. My son was two years old when Grannie passed away, but he declares to this day that he can remember her. I'm sure that he does because for days he cried and said, "Grannie Dollie – Pie."

Yes, from Grannie Dollie I learned about cooking, canning, making soap, picking feathers from chickens and how to churn butter. There was one touch that Grannie had that I didn't inherit That was a "green thumb." Her boxwoods were the envy of all. She could break a twig off and root it every time. Many times I saw her take a little bouquet of roses, stick it in the dirt, and soon a little rose bush would start to grow. I watched a Hornet's Nest Rose grow way into the top of a Locust tree. then I saw a red and white rose bush spread all over the shingled roof of the spring house. In her yard and flower garden could be found every variety of flower and plant imaginable. There was a big tub of "Cow's Tongue" Cactus in the front yard. (I'll never forget getting into that. I had those little stickers in my fingers and even my mouth. Let me tell you one thing, I stayed away from that cactus after that experience!) the Easter Lilies still bloom every year in the front yard, large, tall and very proud.

Grannie Dollie was a member of Conner's View Church and loved the church and its people. She could sing real well, but I don't think many people ever knew that, because Granny was a modest person. I learned the notes from her. She went to singing school as a young girl. Many evenings we sat on the porch singing hymns and listening to the little "peep frogs" in the swamp. She called these frogs her "little peepers" and would talk to them. In spring time I always listen for the peep frogs and my heart thrills when I hear the first one.

Grannie didn't grumble or complain. She took things as they came. I never heard her say anything about hard times. Her great faith kept her going. I knew she was a wonderful woman when I was a child. As I became a grown woman, I realized just how wonderful she was. Grannie taught me many things that has helped me in my life. Not only was she my Grannie, but my friend.

Grannie Dollie has been gone for 25 years now, but her memory is alive. One day recently, I was thinking about the time I kept begging her to let me wear her "night-cap" to bed. She always wore one every night over her beautiful silver hair. Finally Grannie relented and I got to wear the night-cap. Boy! Was I a happy little girl as I snuggled down in that big feather bed.

The old house is still standing, Flowers still bloom. I walk by. Grannie Dollie stands in the kitchen door smiling. There's the smell of apple pie. I remember Grannie.