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 โ€œcotton topโ€. 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.

Lois at 19 (circa 1944)

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.

Henry (circa 1944)

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.

ยฉ 2011 V. T. Eric Layton

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About V. T. Eric Layton

vtel57, Nocturnal Slacker

8 responses »

  1. Very nice and moving blog post Eric!!

    In a lot of ways, the story reminded me of my grandparents.

    Thanks for posting Eric

  2. Randy says:

    Thank you for sharing, Eric! Nice little bio. I appreciate the pictures, too.

    So, your mom had a patent? On what kind of device? Maybe the iPhone, eh? ๐Ÿ™‚

    Hope you are doing well, my friend.

    • The iPhone? Yeah, wouldn’t that have been something. But alas, no. She invented a game based on dominoes to teach children how to tell time. It was pretty cool. She never pursued the manufacturing/marketing aspect of it, though. Shortly after this, the digital age came about and kids were running around with watches on their wrists with digital (numerical) readouts. For a long time, that entire generation couldn’t tell time with a regular clock face device. Mom’s game would have come in handy then… to teach the adults. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Thanks for stopping by, Randy. Always good to see you! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I am so sorry for yours and your brother’s loss, of your parents. I lost my Dad in 2005, so I know how hard that can be. You may have read my musings about my Dad in the postings I did during that time called, “Daddy…Loving Memory” across the top of the page, along with friends that have passed over time, as well as other pages of interest.

    My Mother suffers from Alzheimers, so she doesn’t remember some things like she used to.

    I recently saw the latest Indiana Jones movie (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – 2008) and there was a quote that really rings true as we get older:

    Indiana Jones: “Brutal couple of years, huh, Charlie? First Dad, then Marcus.”
    Dean Charles Stanforth: “We seem to have reached the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away. ”

    Be sure to continue to enjoy and share your memories. It is the best way to keep our loved ones alive in our hearts. It’s a lesson I learned from my Jim when my Dad died. A lesson he learned when he lost his Mom in the mid 80s.

    • Hi, Fran…

      Yup. I’ve read the article about your dad. It was a very sweet reminiscence. My father once told me that you’re never really gone from this place till the last person who knew you is gone too. As long as we still have personal memories of our parents, they’re still alive within us. Even though my father has been gone for nearly 25 years and my mother for 12, I still think about them nearly every day, as I’m sure my brother does also. For me, it’s even easier because I’m still living in the home that my father built and our family lived in all those years ago. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. ๐Ÿ™‚

      ~Eric

  4. ebrke says:

    I thought your mother came from North Carolina when you talked about her living there–didn’t realize that she was there later in life, by choice. It’s great that she was able to have a place like that and enjoy it so much.

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