The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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

My Mother and Grandmothers

By Bobbie Bowman Clement © 1985

Issue: May, 1985


My mother, Nellie Lee Wilson Bowman was born and raised in Kibler Valley. There she went to a one room school before going on to the Blue Ridge Boarding School, where she met my Daddy. I loved for her to play the "French Harp" (as the harmonica was called) and sing the words to Red Wing, Barbara Allen, Rosewood Casket and many others. She took us swimming lots of times when Daddy worked at the granite quarry at Mt. Airy. I could swim before I went to school.

Mama curled my long red hair into Shirley Temple curls and made lots of dresses, even without patterns. She loved nursing, always going to help some needy family or deliver a baby. She worked hard to help my oldest sister through nursing school.

I remember during the War when shoes were rationed. She was the last to get new ones. One of my sisters used up the most stamps. I could not understand her tears at my only brother going into the Air Force. I was very proud. He was a nose gunner on a B 52.

Mama has been busy all her life doing things to make life better for her family and friends.

Grandmother Lizzie

My grandmother, "Lizzie" (Nancy Elizabeth Bowman) had a beautiful flower garden. I made dolls out of the hollyhocks and gave each one a bleeding heart and hid them in the tall striped grass by the gate.

I climbed the hillside for a mahogany toothbrush for the cocoa and sugar "snuff" she made me.

I was afraid of the whippoorwills. (My sister had told me they would get me, to keep me from following her around.) Between their calling and Grandma's loud snoring one night, I didn't sleep a bit. It was more scary than Halloween.

On Sundays she treated us to cake and pickled peaches or a tasty rhubarb pie.

Grandma Haley

My grandmother "Haley (Mahala Lee Wilson) was a tiny woman. She taught me how to cut cloth squares and sew them together to make a quilt top. I would go with her to graze the cow and she would talk about the train coming up to Kibler Valley, the Dan River freezing over and logs pulled over it. She talked about a flood that came up to her door when they lived by the church.

The children carried water up the hill at night to wash their feet before going to bed. Grandma always read the Bible by lamplight before we went to bed.