6/01/2008

Happy Birthday Granny



Ellie Hall Keasler Baer was born in Mint Hill, NC June 1, 1888.

She was christened at the Philadeplphia Presbytrian Church in Mint Hill in 1892.

She died in Charlotte, NC December 15, 1966.
She is buried at Elmwood Cemetary in Charlotte.
(Last week I wrote about her parents, Thomas and Alice Hall who are buried at the Philadeplphia Pres. Church graveyard in Mint Hill.)

Granny would be 120 years old today. She has been gone 42 years but she is still very much alive to me and my sisters Lynda and Kathy. And especially for Mama.


When Granny was 12 years old her family sold their farm in Mint Hill, NC and moved to Charlotte hoping for better financial oppostunities than the living they had on what Granny called a "rock poor" farm. When young Ellie went to school wearing her "country clothes", homemade dresses with high top shoes and heavy black cotton stockings, she was embarrassed. You can imagine the "city girls" probably made fun of their "country" classmate. She never forgot it.

Granny loved good, stylish clothes and she prized them. I remember the dress she is wearing in this picture. She kept it in a special bag in her closet to protect it and she only wore it on the most special occasions. It probably cost what she would call a "pretty penny."

Even so - I wore it one time.

When I was in the ninth grade at Piedmont Junior High School I was selected to play a leading part in the Spring Operetta, Chonita. Judy, the pretty blonde who had the best voice, was tapped to play the romantic lead. I was selected to play her old gypsy grandmother. Right there you can get the plot. I had two solo songs - one a rousing "gypsy" song of the road and,my second song, in the last act, was a sad lament.

Mama made my costume for the first act - a colorful gathered skirt - by cutting apart a flowered housecoat which had yards and yards of fabric and gathering it to a waistband. I loved the feel of that skirt swirling around my legs as I walked. She bought me a white peasant blouse to complete the costume and transformed me into my character.

I had to have another dress to wear for the second act "lamenting" song but Mama wanted to get the skirt out of the way first because she knew the hemming would take a lot of time. She was racing against her own deadline. She was pregnant and the baby was expected in mid-May - just about the same time Chonita would be on the stage at Piedmont Junior High School.

The night Mama was mid-way through hemming the skirt her labor started. She sat up timing her pains and stitching in that hem. I was asleep, so I did not know about the race to finish the skirt.

Daddy woke me to tell me he was taking Mama to the hospital. When I got up later I found the skirt folded on the couch in the living room - ready for the stage.

My brother Robert was born that day.

But I still needed a costume for the second act.

Mama talked to Granny. Did she have a black dress?

Granny brought the special bag from her closet and laid it on her bed. She held the dress up to me. I tried it on. Yes, it would work! When I saw myself in the mirror wearing her floor length black crepe dress, I felt quite elegant. Without batting an eye, Granny put the dress back in the bag and handed it to me - and that's what I wore for the second act in Chonita.

Mama did not get to see me wear the skirt she made because she was just home from the hospital with Robert and could not come.

Granny and Dad Jack came. From the stage I could see them in the third row of the auditorium smiling all during the show. Granny said afterwards that she thought I did a good job with my part - and that her dress looked "just right."

I brought it back to her in its special bag and she hung it back in the closet. I doubt she ever could ever weear it again - the hem was pretty bedraggled from where it had dragged across the wooden floor as I walked across the stage. But she never said a word about that - the only thing I ever heard from her was how pretty I looked wearing her dress.

Any wonder we love her.

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