Mom – Anna Frances – Fannie - Grannie
So, I wrote an article about my dad’s life that stirred a LOT of interest. I’ve also written an article about my mom, but from the perspective of her influence on my life, not really about her life. Well, I think it’s time to remedy that.
Mom was born in Waycross, GA in 1927. She was an only child with her father being age 39 and her mother being age 33 at the time of mom’s birth. (My maternal great-grandparents were 37 and 32 when my maternal grandmother was born – the second but only surviving child.) Wow! Back then, that was OLD – really OLD for having children, but then again, I don’t think you’d consider my grandparents normal for their time. (Yes, I just fell down a rabbit hole.)
The Great Depression started a few years after Mom’s birth and lasted until her early teen years, which is about the same time as the beginning of World War II. As with many children of the time, Mom’s dresses were often made from the used flour sacks (or feed sacks) that were made of printed cloth and saved for such purposes. (There’s a quilt in our family that is made of small squares of fabric saved from our mother’s childhood dresses.) Mom talked about people looking for work at her parents’ farm during the depression and noted that many would simply put in a day’s work in exchange for a meal and a place to sleep. At the time, I guess they were considered well off or rich, but from a child’s perspective things were still quite tough.
The effect the depression had on mom was definitely seen in how we were raised. Since Mom and Dad both grew up during the depression, we learned the importance of reusing and recycling things that many would throw in the trash these days. Appliances would be repaired. Nuts, bolts and screws saved for reuse in future projects. Jars and coffee cans repurposed. Mom and Dad both tried to balance being frugal while not spoiling us with supplying us with everything they didn’t have as children. It’s a delicate balance that many children of the depression tried to achieve when raising their own children.
Sometime in the early 1950s, after a year or so teaching in the next town from where she grew up, Mom moved to Atlanta, Georgia to become a flight attendant with Eastern Air Lines. She loved to travel and the airline industry was still in its early years but growing by leaps and bounds. Women were hired as stewardesses (the term of the time) and expected to be immaculate in appearance – their training was basically like going to charm school with sessions on how to do hair and makeup, along with the things you’d expect for the airlines like dealing with passengers and evacuation exercises. Flight attendants couldn’t weigh more than 135 pounds along with being a "Height Ranging From 5'2" to 5'6" (From Littlethings.com). Another article from Vanity Fair has the maximum height at 5’9”. Since she was just over 5’9”, Mom was technically too tall but certainly thin enough (26” waist), which lends credence to her assertion that she was probably hired to be a model for Eastern. Mom had not been working for Eastern long when mutual friends introduced Mom to Dad and they began dating. While details are fuzzy, Mom’s boss apparently learned they had been on a couple of dates and essentially suspended her. I’m not really sure about the timing and details as there really isn’t anyone around to ask, but not too awful long after, Mom and Dad got married (1953). That definitely ended her flying career since flight attendants were not allowed to be married at the time.
Well, Mom went back to teaching, but that only lasted about 3 years because motherhood started with the birth of my oldest brother in 1956, followed by my other brother in 1959, then my sister in 1962 and little ole me in 1965. As was the norm, Mom became a stay-at-home mom, but Mom’s father had died in 1960 before my sister was born leaving Mom to help care for her mother.
After battling cancer and living with us, Mom’s Mom passed in 1972, leaving Mom the sole heir to two farms and a house in South Georgia (seriously land rich and cash poor). We lived in the Shellman house for a summer then half a school year in 1973, while Dad commuted to Atlanta for work. We moved back to the Atlanta area due to the gas shortages that started in October of that year and didn’t end until March of 1974.
The farm with the house was sold after a few years (to pay inheritance taxes) but Mom still had the other farm to manage. Those are some murky years, so I won’t go into detail, but Mom and Dad divorced in 1980. Having been a stay-at-home mom for most of their marriage, I never really saw Mom in a traditional job until she got a few part-time jobs in the 1980s just so she could enough earned income to put money into an IRA. Between the time of the divorce and when I moved away from home, I learned a lot about Mom, business, investing, bookkeeping and taxes, as mentioned here. Mom ran the farm as a business along with setting up a garage apartment in her home to add to her income.
As we grew older and started families of our own, Mom got a slow start on the road to becoming known as Grannie starting in 1977. Then she gained a couple of step-grandchildren around 1982 with more grandchildren following in 1984, 1986, and 1988. There were a few years off then more grandchildren followed in 1992, 1995, and 1997 with the last one arriving in 1998. One of my brothers did continue the tradition of having children in his late 30s.
Mom was also a very social person and loved to travel. During their marriage, Mom was a garden club member, a pilot’s wives group member, and a Silverliner’s member (former Eastern flight attendants). These social connections brought friends to the house for bridge parties, where my parents would entertain their friends and play cards. After their marriage ended, Mom joined PWP (Parents without Partners), Friendship Force and another group for older/divorced singles. She took ballroom dance lessons during this time period, where she met many new people. She also went on cruises with friends and traveled to Alaska, Canada, Cyprus, and China (to name a few).
While Mom was a strict parent, she was always available to us in our times of need. As a strong-willed, dominant woman, she would do what SHE thought was best. She helped both of my brothers as they were getting their lives started – aiding with wedding plans for my oldest brother and sending supplies to my other brother when his cabin burned. When my sister’s first marriage didn’t work out, my sister and her children stayed with mom until my sister was able to get her life sorted out (albeit not on my sister’s terms, but on Mom’s, as was her way). Mom even helped get my sister's divorce finalized after encountering some technical difficulties. When my first marriage didn’t work out, my children and I were able to stay with her too. Mom knew what it was like to be a divorced/single mom raising a child. She even apologized to me for some of the things she did and said while she and my father were divorcing. No, none of us ever saw eye-to-eye on everything with Mom, but she provided a place for us to stay and was always a safe harbor in a storm.
There are so many aspects of my mom that I didn't get to cover in this article. She taught me to cook and she also taught me about gardening. Two things I still enjoy today and wish she could have taught me more or that I'd paid more attention at the time. Unfortunately, Mom passed away during my divorce (tomorrow would have been her 94th birthday), but my children got to spend time with Mom, for which I am forever grateful. She taught me that a woman could be both strong and feminine; that a woman could run a business and a household; and indirectly, that a woman is always strongest in a good and loving partnership.
What’s your Mom’s story? Have you learned things as you’ve aged that you never knew before? What do you remember most?
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