Small town

Miss Jessie just drove to the P.O. in her nightie again. Not much else but some fuzzy pink slippers that were hanging on the line.

It’s only two blocks down more like one, really, but she drives her car cause she don’t walk that far.

The county sheriff came by to see whether her driver’s license should be revoked due to her age but how will she get to the P.O., where Mr. Bill the postmaster tries hard not to look straight down to her shrunken lady bosom when she fishes through her change purse to buy 15-cent stamps.

Miss Jessie don’t talk to her cousin just across on the opposite corner, not since she wore her hair bobbed and wore a drop-waist dress and buttoned shoes headed down to the watermelon shed to see her beau. But they’re all gone now anyway.

And the doctor’s mamma, she used to live on another corner just down a block or so, just across from the P.O., but they tore that crooked house down. Well, she really was behind the corner, her sister was Miss Cora, and she lived on the corner lot. Both houses are gone, but those ladies were a little bit creepy.

The houses were right by the hardware store and hidden by branches and they didn’t hurt nothing, but they are all gone now. The doctor’s mamma’s house was crooked and doors would shut as you were walking through the house, and it felt like there might be dead people’s ghosts walking behind you and shutting them.

The doctor’s mamma was kinda like a ghost too and would walk out to say “Hi” to you if you walked by. But she was so quiet you couldn’t hear, and she would startle you with her wispy touch and her crooked black drawn-on eyebrows then offer you cookies or could you come in for a visit. No, your mom was waiting for you or some such other excuse.

to be continued

Finding your marbles

Or: Alternative ways to mark gratefulness, habits and accomplishments.

I was going to use a jar from my small stash but bought one at The Container Store. Of course, any jar would do, right? A spaghetti sauce or an olive jar would be nice. Others may want to start with a pint jar, so they get to see their goals or progress more quickly. One of those candle jars would be great. A tiny little jelly jar might be just the ticket for someone! (Last year I learned that if you put your pungent jars in the sun for a couple of days, the food smells go away. A tip for anyone who needs a jar.)

The marbles: Starting with two little packs from Hobby Lobby, I put them in an older bowl from a thrift shop and placed some yellow/yellow and white ones in the jar for six ducklings that were in my yard. Over the days, I moved the set up around and ended up with them within easy view.

Many are from Mega-Marbles who do color sets for nature, outer space, etc. The orange represents my husband (his favorite color), black or white with black swirls are morning coffee, teal green is yoga, emerald green for walks. These came from Hobby Town, but they are also available from Amazon. There are some good online shops, but marbles aren’t as popular in the brick-and-mortar stores, which is my observation.

I told my friend (also my “career mom”) about my marbles, and she loved the idea. She said she used to collect marbles as a kid. I told another friend about my marbles, and he told me about one of the games they used to play back in the ‘50s.

It is definitely a good conversation starter if you so choose. There have been some tough moments, but it is successful so far. Each day, my goal is to move marbles from the bowl to the jar, and I am trying to be realistic about the time it takes while enjoying the process.

Dedicated to my bus stop friend, J.

Hickory Springs

A very beautiful evening at the Hickory Springs Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery near Tifton, Georgia. June 2019.

This is the headstone of the Fletchers: George and Arjane. I visited this cemetery recently and thought the sky with scattered showers in the region was particularly striking.

A maternal great grandfather isn’t far away and my great grandmother, Mary FLETCHER Paulk Gibbs, married later in life to one of the church’s preachers, is also nearby. I believe that George Fletcher is her brother due to a photo in my grandmother’s album.

This cemetery is well cared for. It is an excellent help in visualizing community links, as with most church cemeteries.

Hickory Springs Primitive Baptist Church, Tifton County, Georgia. July 2013.

Grandmother musings

Both Effie Sue and Mary Henrietta went from Georgia to Florida in the 1920s.

Mary picked and packed strawberries, took in sewing, and never learned to drive; she was born fourth of eight children in 1900.

Effie, born the youngest of five and the only girl, worked as a cigar roller, a cafeteria worker, and a newspaper carrier; she earned her GED in the 1960s.

They lived before ERA and at a time when finishing high school wasn’t essential. They weren’t romantic according to what our parents recalled, nor should they be romanticized. It was not in their characters.

Effie and Mary both bought houses in the 1950s.

One had been a one-room shack and was paid off with money from developers who wanted to install a road on the backside of the property. The countryside is long overtaken by city blocks.

The other was a 1914 bungalow in a planned development and was paid for by paper routes and odd jobs. The neighborhood was having a resurgence a decade ago.

Those houses represented Tampa to me.

Jimmie Lee’s Location

According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, Moultrie, Georgia, was founded in 1859 and is the Colquitt County seat.

We find Jimmie Lee JOHNSON in “Moultrie Town” at age four, in a home his father is listed as owning in the 1900 U.S. Census. Jimmie’s older sister Geta is also listed in this Census; at some point there may have been two other children, one named Carrie Belle.

Following are clues and facts that are useful in thinking about what sources to use in a location guide to track Jimmie Lee across the Florida-Georgia line.

The first clue is a name my mother always brings up: “Aunt Thomasina.” We will look at Aunt Thomasina later on; after years of ignoring her, she will prove to be key.

Facts from the 1900 U.S. Census include: Father Thara is a brick mason and owns a home; the enumeration district includes Militia District 1151; Jimmie’s birthdate is listed as 1895, although we have recorded 1896; Grandfather Josiah lives in Hartsfield, Ga., about ten miles west.

Based on the 1900 Census, we will be use Colquitt County as our main location and look for materials and records that cover this area. Based on the information about “Aunt Thomasina,” who may or may not have run a boarding house in Lakeland, Florida, we will also be pointing to some resources in and around that area. Later we move to Hillsborough County, Florida, where Jimmie Lee lived from the 1930s to his death.

Revisiting Jimmie Lee

My notes are sketchy, many from years of fast and loose online searching.

Jimmie Lee Johnson was born in the vicinity of Moultrie, Colquitt County, Georgia, in 1895/1896. He is listed as four years old in the 1900 U.S. Census, living “in town” with one sister and his parents.

The 1900 U.S. Census record is something discovered many years ago when first using the Ancestry databases; I’m not sure I would’ve sought out help or known how to find any of these records if not for the Internet and its zig zagging way of connecting materials. (The past few years are the ones in which I’ve begun to learn better about how to look at a Census sheet and find the clues throughout.)

It was many moons before I really took a look at Jimmie – a sort of ongoing discussion of “finding” my mother’s father has taken up many telephone calls between us. My mom, now 78, doesn’t nor has ever travelled well and doesn’t use the Internet, so this project is something that I’ve taken over in that way that daughters do.

In truth, I didn’t plan to pursue this line because of the common name and the seemingly dead end in the middle, but here I sit mulling over these sketchy notes and giving them some semblance of order.

On becoming a “writer”

Note to self:
People will judge you
dislike you
disagree with you
taunt you
and judge you – (oh,
did I already mention that) –
and they are going to believe anything they want to…
So why not just write it down anyway?

Because – surprisingly enough –
if you do,
you may actually become a writer
before you die.

(Hey, where do you get off punctuating things like you’re e.e. cummings?)

~date unknown, 2014~

Searching for Jimmie Lee

This post is to show my work for a genealogy group in which I’m participating. My mom has never been sure where my grandfather was after his mother died, reportedly from tuberculosis, until he met my grandmother some 20 or more years later; they married “late in life” for the time period. Here are his movements.

JOHNSON, Jimmie Lee

Objective: To find Jimmie (James) Lee JOHNSON’s places of residence between 1918 and 1939. He was born 14 Oct 1896 in Colquitt Co., Georgia; married Mary Etta (Henrietta) NELSON 10 Feb. 1938 in Tampa, Hillsborough Co., FL; and died 20 Nov 1960 in Tampa.


1896 Oct 14: Born in Colquitt Co., Ga.
1900 July 10: Moultrie Town, Colquitt Co., in U.S. Census
1910: Unknown
1918 June 5: Cairo, Ga., draft registration
1918 July 30: Cairo, Ga., via Navy WWI service card
1918 July 30: Cairo, unemployed brick mason (service card)
1920: Unknown
1923 April: Lakeland, Fl., Polk’s City Directory
1930: Unknown
1934-35: Possibly Dover, Hillsborough Fl., as per his nephew Frank
1939, Nov. 11: Marriage in Tampa, Hillsborough Co., Fl.
1940: Child born, Jacksonville, Duval Co., Fl.
1944: Child born, Hillsborough Co., Fl.
1951-52: Tampa
1960 Nov. 29: Died at home, Tampa, Fl.


1900 United States Federal Census. Moultrie, Colquitt, Georgia. Roll T623_189, Page 48A, Enumeration District 26. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1900. Retrieved from Image No. 49. Online.

Death Certificate for Jimmie Johnson, 1 Dec. 1960, File No. 042769, Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics. Certified copy issued 13 Jan. 2017. Print.

Draft Registration for Jimmie Lee Johnson, 5 June 1918, United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Colquitt Co., Ga., Roll No. 1557018. Retrieved from U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,, Image No. 96. Online.

Francis “Frank” Gilliard. Conversation Notes, 4 June 2000, Dover, Fl. Personal notes.

Marriage Record for Jimmie Lee Johnson and Mary E. Nelson, 10 Feb. 1939, Marriage Records. Florida Marriages. Various sources. Retrieved from Florida, County Marriage Records, 1823-1982,, Film No. 001903247, Image No. 1088. Online.

R.L. Polk & Co., Lakeland and Polk County Directory, 1923-1924, page 160. Retrieved from U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989,, Image No. 78. Online.

Service Card for Jimmie Lee Johnson, 30 July 1918, Georgia Adjutant General’s Office. World War I Statements of Service Cards. Georgia State Archives, Morrow. Retrieved from Georgia, World War I Service Cards, 1917-1919, Image No. 1340. Online.


An explanatory note:

To those who followed the blog (and thank you muchly!), this space is going to be dedicated to another project that I’ve worked at for many years: This family’s history and the characters in the photo stashes and photo albums of my grandmothers.

This will be a place to record and share the information that I’ve gathered for more than eight years — much longer if my fifth grade genealogy project counts as the true start. And prior to that, the two portraits hanging in my grandmother’s hallway were heavy influences – with one of those countenances yet to be fully explored.

Thank you for your indulgence as I write this out for a few interested parties.


Portrait of Frances Lorine Sumner
Frances Lorine Sumner, 1882 to 1920.

Properly a doorstop

Photo of a wooden doorstop in the shape of a cat.

Photo of a wooden doorstop in the shape of a cat.
A doorstop made by a great uncle before 1931.

This cat is what I consider my very own folk-art item, and I marvel that he ever came to me.

This is a doorstop my paternal grandmother had in her house forever. Through a couple of very unexpected “giftings,” I ended up with him.

He was made by a very handsome young man named Elijah or “Ligey.” This was my grandmother’s brother, and he worked on boats during the depression then died in 1931. He is listed in the 1930 census as a carpenter on a tanker. It appears from a few letters, since no one has ever really said, that Ligey sent some money home and possibly gambled for it sometimes. When he died, he was away from his family. He has been listed as a mess boy on a ship that docked in New Orleans, but he had kidney disease and was discharged and sent to the Marine hospital where he died. Sadly, the family had moved from Georgia to Florida in the 1920s, and it looks like his mother was unable to travel to Georgia for the burial.

This doorstop was used by my grandmother to hold open the front door. Her house didn’t have air conditioning. In the 1980s, 90s, and later, this cat lived a neglected life, sort of just hanging around in a dusty setting.

He came to me a few years ago. I displayed him in various ways, but I always used old tattered books as doorstops (the shape and weight make sense to me). When my books were sorted and tidied recently, I told my friend I didn’t have doorstops any more and would have to buy some. I pointed out that I couldn’t use this one, after all. It is art or a sentimental item, but not really a doorstop, was it?

He asked why wasn’t I using it. “It’s a doorstop, after all.”

So for the past two plus months, the wooden cat is back at his calling – holding open my bedroom door, so my cats don’t accidentally get shut in!

Elijah Thomas Blackshear, died in 1931 from
Elijah Thomas Blackshear died in 1931 from “Bright’s Disease,” a term for kidney disease.