Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Heritage from the Heart - July 2010

My Grandmother… 
better known as MEMA

My “Mema” was born on July 1, 1902. Her birthday was always easy for me to remember…she was on the 1st, my brother, Huey, was the 3rd and of course the 4th of July we will not forget, then Shane, my son, was July 6th… July was a VERY BUSY Birthday month for the Tolle family, when she was alive. As long as I can remember, Mema would never tell her age. Today, of course, I can figure it out…but back then, we really didn’t know the year each elder family member was born, so it was pretty easy for us to just let it go… Every birthday she would tell us she was 39…that was just that… 39 it was!

Mema was a VERY strong and spry woman. She was the rock of the family for many, many years. I was young when my grandfather passed away, so as I grew up, Mema was always involved in our world. She was the younger sister of Ada B. Edwards (my Aunt B), so when I was younger, I remember her coming over from Inverness to stay at the home place (now Heritage House). The long back room was where the dining room was (fireplace on one end), just off the kitchen, was where she slept. Simply a day bed, up against the wall, tucked out of the way…nothing fancy…just somewhere to lay her head. I also remember on Saturday nights, too many to count, we would watch the Lawrence Welk Show at our house, Mema’s or Aunt B and Uncle Harvey’s. Of course being too cool for the tunes from Lawrence Welk, I always thought it was such punishment to have to sit and listen…but honestly, my parents enjoy the reruns today and when I walk into their house with it on, the rush of memories come back…a nice feeling…takes me back … I am sure you know what I mean!

Around elementary age, I remember Mema’s house strongly for lunch. Many of my family worked in the Court House in Inverness, so they all would come to Mema’s for lunch. Man the country cookin’ back in those days was finger lickin’ good! Of course… the only way this was possible (for many years Mema worked at the Court House too) was because they had help in the kitchen and her name was Flossy. Always a large meal… rest a spell, and then back to work they’d go!
As I grew older, Mema loved to take me shopping in Ocala on special occasions. We spent a lot of time at Belk Lindsey on Pine Street, I believe? They had the best shoe department! Haha Two of my MOST favorite stops came at the end…Morrison’s Cafeteria, on Silver Springs Blvd…NOTHING will ever compare to their fried shrimp and tarter sauce (which my hubby got the recipe by googling it and makes it for me on occasion) and then stopping downtown to pick up a Lemon Meringue pie from the Ocala Bakery on the Square, to bring home to the family. That Meringue must have been 4 inches in height…noooo exaggeration…I swear! haha
Baking oatmeal cookies were Mema’s trademark. When she would come to visit our house or Aunt B’s…she would very seldom show up without a tin of her oatmeal cookies for the family. It was a drier cookie made with Quaker oats…not like anything I have tasted today. That reminds me…I am going to hunt for that recipe!

As it was time to finish up high school, I decided to graduate from Citrus High. Making this decision, I decided I wanted to live with Mema in Inverness, my senior year. She was pleased and welcomed the company! I can’t believe I am mentioning food again (no wonder I love food so much…haha) but two of my favorite dishes she would make were Tuna Casserole and…LIVER and ONIONS with mashed potatoes and peas…I know…I was an odd child… what can I say..haha Anyway…it was a great year and wouldn’t of traded it for the world!
During this time, my strongest memory of Mema was at night before she went to bed…I will ALWAYS remember her saying her prayers, not only out load but on her knees at her bed side. Our bedrooms were close and I could hear her praying for each member of the family, every night! She was definitely a Child of God that made a HUGE impression on her granddaughter. Another woman that made a huge impression on me was her next door neighbor, Ruby Kelly. A God fearing, Pentecostal, wife of a preacher man…I remember her faith was so strong! Women of God…no doubt they were.

My parents , in the meantime, built a house on Hunting Lodge Drive, in Inverness, on the Lake. I had left for college, so Mema moved in with my parents. Years later, they all moved back to Crystal River and eventually built the house my parents reside in now. Mema lived with them until she passed away on July 23, 1995. It was rather ironic that Mema passed away at the age of 93, those favorite numbers of hers! I know she is in heaven, watching over us always!

Strolling Down Memory Lane 

In the Citrus County Chronicle
Wednesday, March 28, 1990

Written by Ester Duncan
Chronicle writer

Edna Barco is one of the county’s best known fourth generation natives. Her roots are deep in local history.
A spunky lady who refuses to reveal her age, this daughter of John and Beulah Eubanks was born in one of Crystal River’s most historic homes. The big, rambling dwelling, built almost 100 years ago, is now known as Heritage House and is still part of the family holdings.
Miss Edna spoke of her mother’s parents. “James and Virginia Miller were natives who settle near Crystal River when it was just a crossroads,” she said. “They lived way back in the woods about where the new mall will be located.”
An 1884 list of businesses in Crystal River includes the Miller’s general merchandise store. But the couple was residing there even earlier than that, according to Miss Edna. “Right after the Civil War,” she related, “freed slaves came here looking for work. One of our oldest and best known black families, the Scrivens, arrived then and got along fine with my grandparents. Their children worked for my mother and father, and a granddaughter helped me raise my daughter, Kay. They’re fine folks.”
Mrs. Eubanks and several Millers are listed as founders of one of Crystal River’s earliest churches, the Baptist Church, established in 1904. The Millers donated the original tract of land for the church and a Miller served as the first pastor.
Seated in the home of her daughter, Mrs. Kay Tolle, Miss Edna recalled some of there childhood memories. One of them was the day her father, John Eubanks, went to Brooksville to buy the first car in town and everyone turned out to watch for his return. “I was just a little girl then and was feeling sorry for myself because I had pink eye and had been sent to bed. Miss Edna remembered peeking out the window again and again. Finally she heard the cheers of the crowd and looked out to see a bright red car – a Buick. “My father was at the wheel,” she said. “He didn’t know a thing about a car. They showed him how to start the motor and gave him one driving lesson, then he brought it back himself.” Miss Edna wasn’t sure of the year, but the first automobiles to be registered in Citrus County were in 1912 at a cost of $2 each. Eubanks’ name is listed among the owners.
“Before that they had buggies,” she said, starting to chuckle. “One time I crawled into Dr. Bennett’s buggy and was caught drinking from his bottles of medicine. It didn’t seem to hurt me.”
One of her favorite jaunts was to stop in at her father’s fish house where the spring’s condomiums are located today. Late in the afternoon a launch would return pulling a number of row boats loaded with oysters. “Often there would be singing as the oysters were shucked,” she remembered. “And someone would hand me one of those oysters in the cracked shell. Oh, they were good.”
Summers vacations were especially happy times for a little girl, she said. Her family spent them on Shell Island, an island they owned near the gulf. “I remember how I looked forward to summers.” Miss Edna said. “I’d pack my doll trunk way in advance. The families would stay on the island while the daddies went back and forth to work every day.” The fun she remembered most were the fish fries and oyster roasts. “And when the tide was high we’d go swimming.”
An incident that became a family joke was the time the only cow that was branded as Miss Edna’s wandered onto a track of the Coastline Railroad. Cattle ran free in those days, even through the dusty streets of Crystal River,” Miss Edna explained, saying that the animals were rounded up and separated by brand every fall. “The Coastline paid my daddy for killing the cow and I gave my folks the money to put in electric lights.”
Miss Edna said she didn’t know too much about her father’s people, the Eubanks. “His parents died when he was just a little boy and he was raised by another family. He didn’t have much of an education, but he was good at figures. If you owed him money he knew exactly how much it was five years later.”
She remembered that her mother served meals in the big house the family lived in. “That was customary in those days,” she said. “Hotels and restaurants were scarce in little towns.”
Her mother’s first husband, a Mr. Proctor Willis, died after the couple had built the big house and had a daughter, whom Miss Edna referred to as Ada B. “My half-sister was 15 years older than I” she said. “She used to sew for me and fix my hair, and she was an excellent musician with a beautiful voice.”
Later, Miss Edna traveled to the Carolinas to attend high school because there were no accredited schools in Citrus County at that time and her sister was teaching there.
One Christmas vacation when Miss Edna was home she was invited to a typical gathering of young people. A popular chicken and rice dish was served which everyone called a “purlieu.” “Someone told me who Hugh Barco was,” she remembered, “and that was the first time I met him. The following summer when I came home from school we started going together.” She laughed. “I was a friend of his girl friend and they’d had a squabble. She refused to make up. First thing she knew he was in love with me and we were married the following year.”
Miss Edna said that her husband’s people were old settlers who arrived here prior to 1873. That was the year Nick Barco, her future father-in-law, was appointed Crystal River’s postmaster. He was among those who travelled to Tallahassee to lobby for the division of the Hernando County into Citrus, Pasco
and Hernando. “Folks in this area got tired of traveling sandy trails to Brooksville, then the county seat, “ Miss Edna explained. In 1889, her father-in-law was a pointed to serve as the county’s first treasurer.
Miss Edna’s husband served as mayor of Crystal River two terms in the late 1920’s and early ‘30s. Miss Edna herself worked in the county government service for 38 years. Back in those days when women were expected to stay home and do the ironing she was helping run things as the county assessor’s office. Her husband served as tax assessor from 1945 until his death in 1966, then she finished out his term, staying on to help her son-in-law, Ed Tolle, who was elected to the office and served eight years.
Mrs. Anne May Hensley, who retired in 1988 after 31 years of service as a clerk in the tax assessor’s office, remembers the Barco’s well. “They taught me everything I know,” she said. “They were grand folks to work for.” She recalled some for the early addressograph equipment and the jamming of metal address plates and property descriptions. “Today’s office equipment and that the Barco’s worked with are as different as night and day.”
Mrs. Tolle said of her mother, “I think the reason my mother has stayed so youthful for her age is that she worked with the public so many years. As a result, she’s still very interested in everything that’s going on. She’s always asking my husband about current events.”
When asked about some of the interesting family antiques in her daughter’s home, Miss Edna seemed disinterested. Instead, she brought out a handsome, colored photograph of her grandchildren and their families and concentrated on naming each one of them.
“I had three grandchildren, but Tuffy died when he was 28 years old. But I still have two, one of them is Hugh Eubanks Tolle and his wife Kathy who have three children.” She spoke their names slowly and distinctly: Brandon, Ryan and Jessica.”
After studying the photograph a moment, she continued: “And I have a granddaughter, Laura Lou Fitzpatrick, Kay’s and Tolle’s daughter. She’s married to Pat Fitzpatrick of Inverness who is in real estate and appraising with Tolle and Huey.” She paused and named their children as if she was counting rosary beads: Shane, Erin, Elaina, Elisha. “Those are the rest of my great-grandchildren.” She said, her voice overflowing with the love that only another grandmother knows.
The past with all its memories is precious to Miss Edna. More precious yet is the future – the future of her great-grandchildren.

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