I Didn’t Know We Were Poor

The front page of the July 31, 2008 issue of The Star newspaper published in Port St. Joe, Florida included a story about a Livingston native, Linda Roberts Whitfield. Linda and I were good friends during our growing up years, and graduated from Livingston Academy with the Class of 1963. The lengthy article titled "40 Years In The Classroom" covered most of the front page and the second page as well. Linda’s story began with her arrival day in Wewahitchka, Florida, after teaching for two years in Randolph Township, New Jersey. She made a phone call to her mother the same day she arrived with a prediction that she would have her car packed at the end of the school year. She evidently had no intention to staying in Wewahitchka a minute longer. That was in 1969, and thirty-eight years later, she retired this past June in the very place she told her mother she would leave at the end of that first year. During Linda’s teaching career, she was honored twice as being the recipient of the Wewahitchka Elementary School Teacher of the Year award. She said she knew it was time to hang it up when a student named Blake Kemp showed up for his first day of school. During her long teaching career, Linda taught Blake’s mother, father, and all his siblings. I would liked to have included the entire newspaper article about Linda’s teaching career, but space just won’t permit it. However, if someone would like to have a copy of the Florida newspaper article, I’ll be more than glad to provide a copy.


Livingston native Linda Roberts Whitfield recently retired from a career of teaching school for the past 40 years.



Linda shared with me the following memories of growing up in Livingston. "Like a lot of Tennesseans, I was born in a log house, not a cabin, in the Holly Springs community. The house is no longer standing, but was located behind the late Lloyd and Bronza Carmack’s house. My daddy, Jim Roberts, was working in Detroit, and when I was born, my mother, Vonda Ogletree Roberts, sent her brother, Cecil, to fetch Dr. Qualls. Cecil rode a mule to get the doctor.

"We first lived in a little house that I called the ‘Soppy’ house, thought I don’t know why. It belonged to Pa Pa Pangle and he, Dee, and Emma Pangle became our life long friends. When I grew up, I continued to visit them. We later moved into an apartment owned by Mr. and Mrs. Sid Harward. Mr. Harward and his wife lived in one, Fred and Mattie Lee White lived in one, and Mama, Daddy and I lived in the other. Then Daddy bought the Garrett house on 705 Third Street, and that is where I lived until I left for college.

"My childhood memories are happy ones, and although we were poor, I didn’t know it until I was a sophomore in college and took Sociology. Of course, I grew up in simpler times when kids played outside until dark, games like kick the can, softball, cowboys, catching lightning bugs, riding bikes, and rolling down hill in the grass. I loved going to the Ritz Theater, riding or walking to friends’ homes, and going to the library to check out as many books as I could.


Linda Whitfield's childhood picture appeared in the Senior Class baby pictures section of the 1963 Livingston Academy annual. 


  "The house on Third Street is one that I remember happily. I really enjoyed my childhood. My sister, Judy Gail, and I shared a room, and my brother, Jimmy, had the upstairs when he was older. Judy and her best friend, Marcia Hogue, played in the playhouse, and Jimmy and his best friend, Johnny Halfacre, played outside. Mama always said that Jimmy and Johnny could play all day long and never get dirty. Since I was older, I always said I was ‘looking after them’ a lot of the time. I remember once selling subscriptions to The Saturday Evening Post to try and win a new bike for Jimmy. One of my customers, Mrs. Klaryce Young, told me she didn’t need the magazine, but if I helped Ivory Johnson wash her windows, she would pay me $2.00. I worked all morning, and when it came time for Mrs. Young to pay me, she also bought a subscription which meant that Jimmy got his bike. I also recall the time when Judy Gail needed glasses. I walked to town with her the day she was to get her glasses, and just the thoughts of having to wear them upset her very much. But on the way home, she found out she could see so much better, and decided maybe it wouldn’t be too bad after all.

"My Mama and Daddy are now gone, and as Mama said at the time her own mother passed away, ‘Things will never be the same once your lose your mother.’ She was so right. Even though Mama spent most of her later years as an invalid, she inspired so many people with her desire to never speak ill of anyone, to listen, to encourage, and to be there for us. I never remember going home from school without Mama being home for us. She always had phone calls and visits from her many friends. Daddy was stern, but in so many ways, he had a kind heart. One thing you could be sure of though, you knew if Daddy liked you or if he didn’t.

"All of my school years were special. I believed that every one of my teachers loved me and I certainly loved them. If I spotted a teacher in the grocery store, I was elated if they spoke to me. From Mrs. Velma Watkins, Mrs. Floy Sells Thrasher, Ms. Bess Mofield, Mrs. Mary Sadler, Mrs. Metta Conatser, Mrs. Euretha Miller, Raymond Moody, to Mrs. Jean Oakley, all my elementary teachers were dear to me. High school was the same. I loved them all.

"With money scarce, I remember walking to Joe and Anna Lee Carmack’s store to buy penny candy, that is, if I found money on the way. Nothing tasted better than cheese and crackers at Corky’s store in our neighborhood. What good neighbors we had ... Vannie Lou and Leo Halfacre; Peggy and Carl Sullivan; Betty Jo and Glenard Hogue; Truman and Edith Maxwell; Viola and Hillard Roberts; Herman and Agnes Roberts; Lorene and Oather Langford; George and Bessie McCulley; Hasker and Nora Ann Copeland; Joe and Anna Lee Carmack; Jessie and Donald Murphy; Willis and Dorcas Collins; and of course MaMa and Anna Mae Copeland.


"Our vacations consisted of going to Mammy and Pappy Ogletree’s on Sunday for a delicious Sunday dinner. Mammy never knew how many would be coming, but she and Pappy always welcomed everyone to their table. And what a table it was: Fried chicken, corn bread, fried corn, sliced tomatoes, okra, biscuits, potatoes, green beans, and something sweet like bread budding, and a giant glass of sweet tea. Mammy would prepare a lot of the food on Saturday, and no matter what, it had to be saved for Sunday dinner. I still remember how my cousin, Karen Gilpatrick, and I would wash up the dishes and then play ‘Jacks’ on the table. Of course, a tablecloth would cover the left over food till supper. No one ever got sick because we didn’t put everything in the fridge. Judy Gail and Jimmy played with other cousins, Kathy Gilpatrick Smith and Eddie Gilpatrick. Other great memories include strawberry picking for 8 cents a quart, riding in Pappy’s wagon, going swimming in the 9 foot hole, and spending a week with Mammy and Pappy in the summer.

"My other vacation was going to our cousin Ruth and Irwon Hunter’s dairy farm in Hunter Cove of the Allons community. What a wonderful time that was! We tried our hand at milking the dairy cows before automatic milkers came in, and we enjoyed playing with our cousins Butch, Donald, and Diane (Upchurch) Hunter. When Ruth and Grandma Hunter cooked, you have never seen so much food. At noon, the dinner bell would ring, and I don’t know who ate the most, us, or all the field hands. Ruth is still known as a first class cook. Fried apple pies were her speciality.

"Other childhood memories I have are participating in school plays; the marching band; Christmas concerts, going to movies at the Ritz compliments of our teachers, along with getting an orange, an apple, and stick candy. What delightful memories! Other things that come to my mind are sleep overs at friends’ homes, Rainbow Girls meetings and trips. I’ll always remember how kind Lura Gray and Eliza Maynard were to take us to Grand Assembly and other places. My first evening gown for Grand Assembly was given to me by an aunt, Marie Roberts. Her sister, Miss Helen Stonecipher, was my first piano teacher. Going away to college, first David Lipscomb for a year, and then on to Tennessee Tech where I graduated. Lamoine Apple Parsons was my roommate at Tech, and she was a treasure. Coming home summers and Christmas were looked forward to all my adult life. I never even thought of going anywhere else. Memories, after all, are what we have left. Those who have good memories are truly blessed, and I am one of those."


The Linda and Houston Whitfield family.  Back row son Beau and wife Chrystal Whitfield; daughter Heather Barry and husband Andrew Barry, their sons, Will and Colin.