It was hard to find money for even the necessities of life in my childhood, and a class ring was certainly not a necessity but oh, how I wanted that ring.
It was not just a gold ring, but it had a red stone in it, red for the school colors of red and white. Never had I wanted something in my life like I wanted that ring.
I worked each Saturday at West Bros. and could count on bringing home about $1.47, which was the day's pay with the Social Security taken out. The ring cost $9.85, which is a long way to go.
Mother had sold a solid mahogany chest of drawers for $2 to get me a pair of shoes to wear to school, and there was nothing left to sell.
My mother knew that they were clamoring for people to pick the bumper crop of cotton and we had to use that $1.47 of mine to help buy groceries. Pork chops cost a nickel and a piece of round steak might sell for fifteen cents.
Chicken was cheaper.
I had some ladies that I fixed their hair on Saturday for Sunday. At least two were regular and they paid me a quarter to do their hair, let it dry and comb it. That helped, too.
The Cotton Field
Any work that needed to be done was a challenge for my mother. She always worked so fast — someone said, "Like gutting a snake". So, off to the cotton field she went.
She had to get to the farm and get home that evening. She could pick 300 pounds a day, which was more than grown men often were able to pick. Her little old fingers just snatched that cotton out of the burr. Of course, the sharp edges of the burr cut her fingers terribly bad and they bled and had to be wrapped to pick part of the second day.
Those who weighed the cotton could not believe how much she had picked, a little woman 55 years old, but she was truly motivated. She picked enough to pay for that little ring for me.
Today, that ring sits on a crystal ring holder on my dresser. It is a symbol of my school, but it is more to me. It is the epitome of a Mother's love for her daughter. It is a treasure to me for that reason.
A Long Work History
Mother became the agent for Stuart products, which is similar to Raleigh products with flavorings and spices and other things. Some days she walked 13 miles trying to get orders for the products. It was hard and it was even harder to collect the money when the order came in.
Later, she was the agent for Avon products, which were easier to sell and collect on. Any way to be able to buy groceries and pay rent.
She was able to stay at home after I finished Business College and went to work as Bookkeeper at Andress Motors Company. Still, she tried to find work to do at home that would bring in at least a little money.
Often, cleaners did not have alteration ladies and if they did, it was expensive to have things hemmed at the cleaners. Mother offered to hem dresses, pants and make minor alterations for just a few cents. Sometimes she made $1 a day doing that.
I remember when I left on my honeymoon, I tried to share a few dollars with her to feed her while we were gone.
She shoved it back into my hand and said she'd get something to buy groceries with and to keep the two or three dollars since I might need it.
After we bought our home and moved out here, she raised chickens and sold the eggs. She also grew a big garden and sold snap beans and tomatoes. She canned vegetables for us, too. She lived to be 89 years old, and we always lived together.
I am so proud of my memories of my mother, and consider her another of God's blessings to me.
Juanita Agan submitted a weekly column to the Press-Herald for more than 15 years until her death in 2008. She was a resident of Minden since 1935. The Press-Herald is republishing select articles from Mrs. Agan's Cameos column every Wednesday.