3/11/2006

WISE WOMEN - Subversive storytelling




















I am celebrating Women's History Month with a program of folktales about "wise women".
I have had so much fun finding the stories for several reasons.
First, I am newly in love with folktales.
Second, I am not ashamed to admit I have an agenda.

I am celebrating a certain kind of woman - the white haired, often overlooked wise woman.

This makes perfect sense to me - how about you?

My Grandmother, Ellie Hall Keasler Baer was the first wise woman I knew. This is a story I tell about her.

Granny’s Trip to the Beach
Ellouise Schoettler
When I was growing up in Charlotte, NC, I lived at 2001 East 7th Street. I could walk one block and two houses to Granny's house at 2308 East Seventh Street anytime I wanted to.
One day we were sitting on the couch in her living room and she told me this story.
It happened in 1904 and Granny was just 16.

“It was really hot in Charlotte that summer and a bunch of girls wanted to go to the beach. But in those days it was not proper for respectable young women to go on their own - and it would have been a scandal for us to stay in a hotel by ourselves.

We were all working at Ivey’s Department Store and one day we talked it over among ourselves and fixed on the idea that Miss Annie Grose would be just the right person to go with us. She was a milliner at Ivey’s - that’s a hat maker in case you don’t know - and we all liked her - and most important she was a fine up-standing, church going spinster lady - - real respectable.

Well it took some doing but we persuaded her to go with us as out chaperone. We rode the train from Charlotte to Wilmington and then we had to take another electric trolley car out to the beach. We got off at Station One and found our hotel - The Kitty Cottage.

Oh, it was fine.
There was a big porch that went all the way around it and the men and women staying there were sitting in white rocking chairs on the porch just relaxing, talking and enjoying the cool ocean breezes.

We just had the best time. We went swimming in the ocean right in front of the Kitty Cottage and then we dressed real nice for dinner in the dining room. After that we strolled down the boardwalk to the Lumina where there was dancing.

Oh, my, it was so fine.
And we were just enjoying ourselves - to tell you the truth we were having so much fun dancing one evening after dinner that we did not want to go in from dancing when Miss Annie said we should.
So after she went to her room and we went to our room - two of us got up and put our clothes back on. We climbed out the window onto the roof of the porch. It was pretty high up so we could not jump down - but there was a trellis at one end. We hiked up our skirts and climbed down the trellis and went back to the Lumina for more dancing.


We thought we were pretty smart and we had a good laugh over how we had fooled Miss Annie.
But when we came in two hours later - we were the one that got the surprise.

Miss Annie was sitting in the hall right outside our door waiting for us.
And, she was not laughing. Let me tell you she had plenty to say about what we had done.

Right then she turned to me and looked me hard in the eyes.
"So, Ellouise - you just remember this - you might think you are pulling the wool over somebody’s eyes but when you get right down to it - you’ll find out -
you are not as smart as you think you are."
(E. Schoettler, copyright, 2003)


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