The Story of Gladys
Let me tell you about my family and my earliest recollections. There was Papa, Mama, six boys and me, the only girl. Two boys came along before I was born – Alvah, age 4, and Morris, age 2, who was called the “knee baby” because he was just walking good and after I was born, he was “next to the baby.” Four more boys came later.
My Papa, Baxter Council Green, was a wonderful, smart man. He was born and raised in an area known as “the green swamp” near Abbottsburg, N.C., a little old place outside of Bladenboro. His mother, Sidney, died when he was only four years old so he became the responsibility of his oldest sister, Mary. She was the oldest of fourteen children. His father, Council Green, was a farmer from Robeson County, remarried not too long afterwards. Unfortunately, Papa didn’t get along very well with his stepmother, Martha Jane, who went on to have five children of her own. Papa stayed home until he was fourteen years old and then moved to Wilmington to live with his brother, Jim (Carson James) and Aunt Hanse.
Although he only had a fifth grade education, Papa was a smart man. He could do figures as well as anyone and read real well, too. His learning was all from experience. He and my brother Alvah invented a system for cement septic tanks that were eventually put down all over Myrtle Beach, S.C. Well known and respected in his time, everyone in Myrtle Beach called him “Plumber Green” – and a sign with those words written on it hung on his house, making him easy to locate. When he died, his funeral was a humongous affair – one of the most heavily attended in Myrtle Beach in those days.
He was the quiet type, a true Southern gentleman. With his light brown hair and clean cut appearance, he was handsome in a reserved way. He never had a moustache or a beard. I remember watching him wash his face and how he would bale water up on it over and over again. The only remarkable feature he had were his outstanding and expressive blue eyes. When he smiled, his eyes would twinkle. For some reason, he was unable to laugh out loud, so instead of laughter, tears would shine in his eyes.
Sometimes he was rough and stern on the boys when they needed it, especially Morris, who was very witty and dry and seemed to have a knack for getting into trouble. But Mama, who never fussed about a thing, in her quiet way, knew just how to calm Papa. He always put Mama on a pedestal. Later in his life, he began going to church and reading his Bible more often. He wasn’t so stern anymore after that, but just gentle and kind. My discipline was left to Mama and Aunt Bess (Mama’s sister), who lived with us until I was ten years old.
Uncle Harvell and Aunt Bess
She was about forty when she married a widower whom she had known for sometime and they moved to New York. His name was William Harvell. We called him Uncle Harvell and he affectionately called me “Gladdie”.
There has never been a woman born like Mama. Harriet Adrian Gladden Green, called “Hattie”, was a beautiful lady with soft brown eyes, dark brown wavy hair, a nice, almost olive complexion, a short curvy figure and a sweet smile.
Mama, with Papa looking on
No wonder Papa decided to marry her the first time he met her. Papa said, “The first time I saw your mother, she and her Daddy were sitting on their porch, and my stomach did an upside-down.” They both talked to me separately and told me all about their courtship days. His talk was all about her. It seems as thought she was the “Belle of Masonboro Sound” and he had to ride his bike eight miles on an old oyster shell road when he went to see her. There was a lot of pushing pedals for him to woo her away from the Masonboro fellows.
Some years later, here was Mama with three children. Our home had a very gentle, orderly atmosphere. I can’t remember any arguing, as Mama never quarreled with anyone. No “ugly” words were ever spoken. She always took things so easy. She loved children and babies and anything connected with them.
This is a picture of market Street in the early 1900’s.
We were living on Market and Thirteenth Street and everything was hush-hush. I didn’t understand what was going on and then I would be presented with a new brother. So far there was Alvah, Morris, me (Gladys) and then James but this time it was twins, Lonnie and Donnie and then about two years later, Harry was born. Sometime afterwards I was told that with Harry there was a twin girl that was still born. The sister I never knew. Harry was the baby now.
Mama was a very busy lady. Aunt Bess lived with us then and not only was she great help to Mama and all of us, she was like a second mother to me. I always slept in the room with Aunt Bess. When she wasn’t cooking for the family or taking care of me, she worked in a candy factory. I remember her bringing home candy to us.
The year was 1917. Market Street and Thirteenth Street is my earliest recollection of home and family. Market Street seems to be woven into the fabric of my life, as it has followed along with me. Everywhere we went for a long time, Market Street always seemed to be nearby. It was a wonderful place to be. Our house was a one story wooden structure with a big front porch. There were tall banisters on the porch and a walkway that went out through the small front yard to a fence. The sidewalks which were everywhere made a good place to roll the twins in their twin carriage. People would stop us to ooh and ahh over them. Also, it was a good place for skates and bicycles and that became my pastime.
The twins were born in 1919. Donnie, one of the boys seemed a little weaker than his twin, Lonnie. He wouldn’t walk by himself until he was about two years old. The doctor said he would, in time, but I could tell Mama and Papa were worried about him. He finally picked up courage and walked and he was so happy! He always watched Lonnie and tried to do whatever his twin brother did.
The Twins, Lonnie and Donnie, and Harry
Papa worked at the Atlantic Coast Line Rail Road for a time. I believe he lost his job during a strike. That is when he started his plumbing education and became a plumbing contractor. Eventually, all six of his boys learned the plumbing trade.
He and Mama would often take us on outings like picnics and things. Papa often brought home the plumbing truck and we would take trips across the Cape Fear River to Northwest to visit his sister, Aunt Mary. Now that was a journey in those days. There was no bridge across the river and a ferry was the only way. I was afraid to ride on the ramp – so I would get out and walk. The two older boys always made fun of that. On the other side of the river there was no paving just miles of swampy clay slick ruts. The roads were so bad that in rainy weather you would see tractors along the way to pull cars out of the bog. Lots of times there were people having trouble when it was wet weather, but Papa always made it through OK.
This old post card depicts the Wilmington waterfront before there was no bridge over the Cape Fear River.
This is a picture of the Cape fear River Bridge, today.
One of Mama’s favorite things to do was to go for rides in a car. Whenever her son would ask her “Long way or short way, Mama?” she’d laugh and say, “Long way over the bridge!” She was a bit of a daredevil, too, and she’d get tickled at something and laugh and laugh. We often had company over for dinner. Mama enjoyed cooking and visiting with everybody. One of her specialties was cabbage or she’d fix a big pot of beef soup with a beef bone for Sunday dinner and we sit around a great big table after church and fellowship and laugh together.
In this photo: Mama, Papa, Betty Jane (standing) and various other family members