Sunday, January 31, 2010

Aunt Maria

Rocky Mount Figure of the Early 1890s

"Aunt Maria" Simms is said to have lived to have been 110 years old. She lived in a one room log hut daubed with mud and a mud chimney. The hut was situated in a large field about where the 600 block of Western Avenue, Rocky Mount, Nash County, NC is now. There were probably half a dozen houses between Church Street and the River back then.

Aunt Maria used to sell fried chicken and big brown biscuits down at the depot, which was located, at that time, at the intersection of Marigold and South Main Streets. Passengers and railroad employees loved them when we had such trains as No. 23 and 28. And woe unto anybody who asked Aunt Maria if she wanted to buy cabbage. As you can see from the picture, she was about as big around as she was tall and always carried a hickory stick. If you were in reach of that stick and said "cabbage," she would flail you as hard as she could. Of course, no one ever got mad—everybody took it in fun.

After she left the depot Aunt Maria would always waddle up Main St. to Mr. Hammond's Grocery Store, which was the center of activity in Rocky Mount then. Someone would give her a chair out on the edge of the sidewalk and she would peddle what chicken she had left; or if she got in a few good licks on some of the boys, that was a show and she would get a few tips from the crowd. There was always a crowd around her—much like the days when the monkey man came around. It was the delight of young men like Mr. Henry Cuthrell, Mr. J. C. Braswell, and John Arrington to get some rookie traveling salesman to ask Aunt Maria if she had any cabbage. Boy! How she would go after him with that stick. Sometimes she would miss him, but he had to be might nimble to avoid it.

I was a lad about ten years old then. Aunt Maria, I am sure, was between eighty and ninety. She must have had a wonderful constitution, for never have I heard of her being sick and she always lived by herself after Ned, her oldest son, died. Ned was a half-wit. At the time I remember him he must have been seventy. He would carry her basket to the depot and then strike a dog trot back home, hat in hand, always looking back, expecting a dog to attack him. Some of the boys who played pranks on Ned will have a hard time getting by Saint Peter. Dallas Simms, her younger son, worked for Thorpe & Ricks Tobacco Co. for years and years and he was held in high esteem by the people of Rocky Mount.

[SOURCE: "Yesteryear Around Here," Rocky Mount Evening Telegram, 10/21/1942. The writer is unknown. In the early 1940s, the Telegram published a series of old photographs in the series "Yesteryear Around Here." This blog will include others from the series at a later date. The Story Keeper]

This story was published in The Connector, newsletter of the Tar River Connections Genealogical Society in the Fall 2007 issue.

No comments:

Post a Comment