A little story about my mom.
On a spring day in 1925 in the small town of Avon Park, Florida, a lady by the name of Mary gave birth to a daughter. She was named Lois Inez. She always hated the Inez part, though. Lois was Mary’s second child. There was already a boy named Aaron.
Avon Park was a small farming community in Central Florida back then. It hasn’t really changed all that much since then. It’s still mostly rural, with hard-working folks trying to make a living out of the ground. Lois’ mom was a housewife and her dad was a produce truck driver.
She grew up in a small wooden house with her mom, dad (when he was around), brother Aaron, her grandmother, and an African-American nanny/housekeeper. She told me the black lady’s name before, but I can’t recall it right now. My mother always claimed to have been raised mostly by her grandmother and this nanny.
When Lois was a little girl, her hair was nearly white. She had light green (sometimes gray) eyes. They called her “cotton top”. She was a tom boy. Anything her brother Aaron could do, she could do better, so she claimed; and often tried to prove, according to Aaron. Those were simpler times back then. I can almost picture her and Aaron running and playing in the field behind the house.
Lois and her little family struggled through the Great Depression, yet they had it a little better than the city-folk did. At least, they could hunt and grow their food. That’s just what they did, too. Lois told me once that Aaron would go off into the orange groves every day after school with his trusty .22 rifle. He would try to bring back some sort of meat for the pot.
When Lois turned 16 years old, she got herself a job at the Jacaranda Hotel on Main Street in Avon Park. It is still open and operating as of this writing. I believe she was a maid or a maid’s helper. I don’t really remember the details that she told me many years ago. I’ve been to that hotel. It’s a beautiful old place.
During WWII, Lois was a volunteer plane spotter. She would sit for long shifts in fire towers with her binoculars hanging from her neck. Her job was to report any planes that she saw using a small radio transmitter in the tower. Remember, this was during a time when the U.S. was looking everywhere for enemy attacks.
After the war, Lois said good bye to family and friends in Avon Park and came to the big city (Tampa, FL) to seek her future and fortune. One of her first jobs there was a counter clerk at the old Madison Drug Store. One day in strolled this handsome U.S. Navy WWII veteran dressed in his spiffy Navy duds. It was love at first sight she once told me. That love would last till her death 51 years later.
Together, Lois and Henry build a home, raise two sons, get divorced, get re-married, and eventually part at death (his came first in 1986). They loved each other dearly, but got along like oil and water. I think they eventually mellowed with their second go-round (the re-marriage). They would have been married 63 years this past February 27th (2011).
Lois lived a full and productive life. She owned and ran a business. She acquired a U.S. Patent on something that she invented. She raised her two sons and instilled in them the values of a Depression Era mother. She had her dream cabin in the mountains of North Carolina built. She lived there off and on for many years before and after Henry’s death. Her health began to fail in 1997; the end came in June of ’99.
My brother Steve and I still love and miss her very much.
© 2011 V. T. Eric Layton