I love putting the stories I’ve heard all my life into print. It helps document things I don’t want to be forgotten, though most of these stories happened before I was born. Writing these memories down also helps me decompress from Saturdays on my feet, selling my wares, chatting and laughing at the Farmer’s Market. As I write, I prepare for the upcoming week in my mind. I reconnect with my reasons for starting this business: to honor all that is good about family and community.
I was always naturally curious about “the olden days”, those lifetimes all children tend to assume were in black and white or sepia because, well, all those photos were like that… I asked my Granny a lot of questions over the years, and she answered every one patiently and with a chuckle in her voice. I could tell she enjoyed reliving those moments as she passed them along to her extremely curious and energetic granddaughter… a little apple that certainly does not fall far from her tree.
I’ll start our Family Stories with my favorite. Though this story is not “the beginning” of my family’s Richmond roots, it certainly felt like the beginning to me the first time I heard it from my maternal Grandmother, Claryce. I think you’ll understand why…
The Lady in the Lavender Hat
Claryce, my “Granny”, was born at home and grew up in an old Richmond neighborhood called Oregon Hill. It was 1923. For a variety of reasons (each their own short story, to be posted later), she left St. Andrew’s School after the eighth grade in order to get a job and help her family financially.
Each day Claryce would ride to work on the trolley. She enjoyed the views, watching the city go by, usually with the same group of people. One morning, a woman got on the trolley who caught Granny’s attention: The woman had beautiful auburn hair, pulled back in a low bun, crowned by a lavender hat.
Each morning my grandmother, still a teenager, would secretly wait for the woman with the auburn hair and lavender hat to board the trolley. Granny marveled at her beautiful skin, her kind eyes, her auburn hair, and the way it looked so lovely against the lavender.
Once in a while Granny was free from helping around the house and caring for her three siblings, one of whom had Cerebral Palsy. She would meet her friends at the ice cream shop and hang out much the way we do in coffee shops today. At this point, she was around eighteen years old. There was a boy also hanging around the ice cream shop who was particularly handsome. He reminded Granny of Humphrey Bogart. She got up the nerve to talk to him and, having no money that day, asked if she could have a lick of his ice cream. His name was Herbert.
Herb and Claryce began dating and would ride around town on the trolleys for ten cents, holding hands. “Just people watchin'” she’d say. Eventually Herb (my grandfather) took Claryce home to meet his mother. As they opened the front door and entered the parlor, Granny could not believe her good fortune: There, smiling and holding out her hand, stood Lois Ann, the woman from the trolley, the lady with the auburn hair and lavender hat.