Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dating and other Tidbits
From the 1930s

By Earl Bell

My mother [a Proctor] and father were married 11 April 1936. When my grandfather Proctor became sick in the late 1920s, the family moved, in 1930, from the intersection of Old Carriage Road and old 64 (now Sunset) [in Nash Co., west of Rocky Mount] to 412 Thomas Street in Rocky Mount. Daddy, with his running buddies Glenn Hocutt and Walter Stone, were tripping the light fantastic with trips to the coast for the casinos and dance halls, and, of course, the big event, the June Germans, in Rocky Mount.

Mother was his exact opposite, prim, proper, reserved and very smart with a deep love of classical piano, which she played. Mother, along with all of her brothers and sisters went to Oak Level School, founded in the 1920s, and loved to tell all of us that the word around school was that if there was an academic contest and a Proctor entered it, there was just no need for anyone else to bother. By the way, all of them wrote beautiful letters with impressive penmanship.

The hot date in those days for mother and daddy when they were dating in the early to mid 1930s, and for many others in the area, from what I hear from family members and others, was to go the Rocky Mount airport and watch planes take off and land. As I recall, there was a snack shop at the airport. It was, at the time, a reasonable, interesting, public place for a dating couple to spend a little time together, especially in the 1930s, when money was so scarce.

Before the "sin bins" came along, courting was only allowed in the living room of a young woman's house. Only my dad's oldest sister Irma, in the Bell Family, had to observe that practice. My Aunt Irma, our family's greatest historian, told me once, "Your daddy, was the biggest mess. He would cut the wood too long for the stove in our living room. It would not lay flat in the stove and John Gray and me would freeze." Irma and John Gray [Proctor] never dated outside my grandparent's house before they were married. Later they owned the country store, Proctor's Groceries, on Cokey Road [Rocky Mount, Edgecombe Co., NC] and they lived beside it.

Also, my father never heard his mother call his father anything but "Mr. Bell." They never argued in public. Their practice was to go into a private room for their discussions and disagreements. My dad said that the only way he knew they had a difference of opinion was when he saw tears in his mother's eyes.

My grandmother Bell [a Harper] died in the early morning of 11 November 1941 at Park View and in the afternoon my sister Mary was born there. Thus, my father, on the same day, in the same hospital, lost his mother in the morning and gained a daughter in the afternoon. Life sure deals unanticipatable, interesting hands.