What is your favorite color and why?
My favorite colors have always been blue and green. Pretty much equal as far as preference between the two colors.
I’ve never given much thought as to why, except that as a kid, I loved working outdoors…cutting the green grass under the beautiful blue sky!
Hope that makes sense…then, of course, it could be my mother’s fault! You see, I was blonde-headed and blue-eyed (like little Luke next door), and mom would constantly tell me how good blue or green shirts looked on me…so it might have been a touch of vanity that influenced my love for blue and green.
Why is Andrew Jackson your favorite president?
If memory serves me correctly (which is questionable these days, when I can’t remember why Mom sends me to Walmart), I was always fascinated by his nickname ‘Old Hickory’, and the fact that I gleaned from my history teacher (who was probably a coach) that Andrew Jackson was a man who followed his heart and did it ‘his way’.
That really stuck in my mind. As I got older and did a little research on my own, I found Jackson’s roots were in Tennessee-Kentucky culture that was part of my heritage through my mother (Hallie Mae Benton Stevens).
Jackson was affected ( I don’t fully remember to what extent) by the Stone/Campbell movement, which was also a very important part of our heritage.
For all of the reasons above, I adopted him as my favorite president.
From personal experience, the one president I got to meet and shake hands with (as a candidate in 1960) was John F Kennedy. His height, red hair, and awesome personality really surprised me, because he had been so demonized by the anti-Catholic element. He reminded me so much of all three of my brothers–tall, handsome, articulate, a smile that just blew you away…. I began to realize then the importance of judging a politician, not by his looks, but by what he stands for.
In this day and age (where media creates images they want us to see), it is even more important that we investigate and become involved in the campaigns of the men who become our leaders.
I hope I’ve not been too far off base in my choosing ‘Old Hickory” as my favorite. :-)). Luv u, Pop
Blame it on a coach!
One very early, very scary moment I had forgotten about happened on Halloween in 1948. We were living on 4th Street in Freeport, Texas.
My dad certainly was anti-Halloween (as he was so many things), but he would not let us go trick or treating because it was “…too much like begging. If you want candy, then work for the money, so you can buy your candy! I don’t want my kids to beg!”
This particular Halloween he allowed us to dress up and go trick or treating–but the only house we could go to was our own house. We lived next door to the church, and he had mother take us there and use that as the ‘staging area’ for our big experience. We (me [age 7] and Nancy [age 6]) were so excited as we headed next door to trick or treat the parsonage. As we traipsed up the sidewalk to knock on the door, the front porch light was off, which was a little scary, and we were talking about how we were going to scare Daddy.
My costume consisted of a Lone Ranger mask and a holster for my cap gun, so I’d look like ‘the real thing’! We didn’t know our Daddy had gotten a big army blanket that Uncle Bubba brought us when he came home from WWII. He put the blanket over his head and hid behind the shrubs by the front porch. After we knocked on the door and no one answered, we turned around to go back down the walk, and this giant with the blanket over his head stood up and hollered and scared the living daylights out of both of us. I took off running, then heard him laughing–but I think he achieved his purpose.
I never did want to celebrate Halloween again–until I married Betty Jo Farris–and she (as you and your brothers know) celebrated EVERYTHING! :-))
What was the first piece of furniture that you built?
The first piece of furniture I built all on my own was the colonial study desk that I now have here in my (your) room. [This will always be “Karen’s room” even though I’ve been in it for quite a while:-)) ] I saw a picture of that desk way back in 1967, and I built it out there in the old double garage at our home in Midway. I built it for your mama, because in those days she loved “Early American” furniture.
Going all the way back to my childhood, I remember mowing, then trimming the long grass out of the cyclone fence using just hand scissors just to hear my mother brag on me (no one ever conceived of such a thing as a weed eater back then). So much of what I’ve built has been to show my loved ones how much I love them!
What is the first family vacation you remember?
All the ‘vacations’ we went on with mom and dad were generally in connection with gospel meetings or singing schools. One such trip was to Poughkeepsie, New York for a singing school and gospel meeting at the church where Brother ‘Shack’ Hartsell’s daughter lived. They lived out in the country on a polled Hereford ranch called “Clove Creek Farm”. The family stayed in town, but I got a job working out on the ranch which was owned by Franklin Roosevelt, Jr., son of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt the president who preceded Truman.
Roosevelt was the U.S. representative for the Italian Fiat Motor Company. There were 2 other college students there, also.The other boys were Ivy League–one attended Cornell University, and the other went to Princeton. One highlight I remember from that vacation was when we helped Mr. Roosevelt plan a picnic for some guests he was entertaining from Italy. The man was a ‘bigwig’ owner of the Fiat company coming to visit, and he wanted to see ‘Clove Creek’. His name was Gerabaldi…a famous Italian! The reason he wanted us to help him with the picnic was that Mister Gerabaldi was bringing his 16 year-old daughter with him, and Mr. ‘R’ thought we could help entertain her! This was the summer before my senior year in high school, and it is so hard to describe the anticipation we three boys had all that week. Wow! An Italian girl! We could just see a Gina Lollibrigida (Jimmy Durante used to call her Gina Lolibrigidigger) or a Sophia Loren! Both girls were Italian actresses (and luscious pin- up girls)! Remember, we were 17 and 18 year-old boys….anyway, after a week of anticipation, the day came, and their beautiful, long, luxurious limousine came rolling up to the farmhouse, and out stepped Mr Gerabaldi and our dream girl! She was a little, short, fat, Italian….the farthest from what we’d been expecting! I can’t tell you how fast those boys retreated and let me be the host for Miss Gerabaldi! We rode horses through the pasture, all the way up to the highest spot on Clove Creek, which was a beautiful view of the whole place. We (us boys) had gone up there earlier in the week and mowed out a spot for us to spread this very romantic picnic lunch! And here I am, with this little fat Italian girl whose feet don’t reach the stirrups, who’d never ridden a horse before. Can you imagine what I’m feeling? Disappointment is an understatement!
I’ve never been the greatest horseman myself, but that was a ride I’ll never forget. Mr Roosevelt was a giant man (about 6’7″ tall), and when he and Mr Gerabaldi came driving up to the picnic spot in his pickup, he had changed clothes and had on khaki pants and shirt. When he squatted down to where we had the checkered tablecloth spread for the beautiful picnic, his pants split, and one long, bony knee protruded, and the whole crowd was petrified…except Lanier…I fell out laughing! And guess what? Mr. Roosevelt did, too. He and I just ‘connected.’ I had no idea, really, what an important man he was, even though he was the son of a president, an international businessman, an influential politician in his own right…and me, a little nobody from Louisiana, sitting there laughing together about his split britches! He talked with me about my future, dad’s singing schools, and even had me sing some Southern Gospel music for him. The Italians and the other boys all were the audience for these two ‘new friends’! I suppose that’s why this vacation is one of my most memorable early vacations. Clove Creek was built by some movie actress from the early 1930s, and our ‘barn’ was originally a movie theatre with little twinkling lights in the oval ceiling (which also was painted to look like a night sky). Mr. R. told me that the actress who lived there hosted her Hollywood buddies there back in the ’30s. I checked the Internet, and Clove Creek still exists. I’m gonna have to do a little more research.
Anyway, also a part of that trip was a visit to Hyde Park (FDR’s residence), and I even got to see West Point. More importantly, our trip took us back through Kentucky and my mother’s birthplace…even the old single-walled house where MaMaw was born, up in the mountains near Nicholasville, Kentucky. We also visited the cemetery where both her parents (my maternal grandparents) are buried. We even got to visit with her Aunt Susan, who lived on a tobacco farm near the banks of the Kentucky River in one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever seen. Aunt Susan lived down in the river bottom, and mother’s family lived way up the mountain. I Also got to meet MaMaw’s double first cousin (brothers married sisters–a typical hillbilly practice). His name was Homer Benton. I had never been inside a tobacco barn until that day at Aunt Susan’s. I had seen pictures of them, but it’s a totally different experience to see how it’s cured and the smell…I’ll never forget! Even tried chewing tobacco after that trip!
What is the first place you remember going out to eat?
We traveled a lot, but you had to know PawPaw. It was cheese & crackers and summer sausage. We just didn’t eat out hardly at all.
He raised the older boys through the depression era. It was red beans, cornbread, rice and gravy. The meat was always roast beef or fried chicken, depending on which one was on sale. We had no freezer until I was about 14. Meals were delicious, but very predictable.
Now, pies were the surprise for us. Mom didn’t cook a lot of cakes. She had quite a collection of pie recipes. And, when she discovered macaroni & cheese, wow!
Eating out would have been such a luxury that you would think I’d remember it, but I just don’t. We just ate in the car while daddy was “Rolling ’em, boys!”
My favorite memory is the original El Chico restaurant in Tyler, Texas, where your mom and I ate ‘all the time’ when we lived in Quitman, Texas. In fact, you probably were ‘nurtured in the womb’ at El Chico! I’m not kidding, our idea of dating were those trips to Tyler where we nearly always wound up at El Chico. I think they spread out from Tyler to Dallas, and then all over Texas…even Huntsville! :))
Karen, I just had a memory flashback of Mama telling me about her first Christmas living with her sister Sallie when she came to Texas after her mom’s death when mom was just four. There were 9 Benton boys and 3 girls (First girl named Sallie, the second one named Hallie, and then the last two, Tamar and Bill). Mom said that first Christmas, Uncle Henry and Aunt Sallie were so poor that, with one eye open at night, she saw Sallie tiptoeing toward their beds with an apple and an orange for each kid. Sallie told them the next morning that Santa had brought them the night before. Mom said that, as she grew older, she often looked back on that so fondly–that Aunt Sallie had opened her home to take care of her three younger siblings after their parents died. Mom often told her memories of the train ride to take her daddy’s body back to Kentucky to be buried by his beloved Mary.
You know, those names like Randolph and Clark were so interesting to me. All the Clark family that I’ve known were natural musicians–Jughead, Johnny, Mike, Matt are all descendants of the Clarks who founded TCU.
You’re familiar with the Randolph name–all of the above were also families very involved with churches of Christ in Madison County. Up until the early 1900s, the church in both Midway and Madisonville was simply called Christian church because ‘the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch’.
Midway got its name after Midway, Kentucky, where Barton Stone’s Cane Ridge Revival took place. The settlers who came to Texas from Kentucky named it after their old Kentucky home. It tickled me when I found that out from Dr. Bill Humble, when he brought some folks from Abilene to Midway (a place significant in the Restoration movement).
Mamaw’s family also came from that area of Kentucky. ;))
Were your grandparents alive when you were small?
I only had one grandparent living during my childhood, and that was my Daddy’s mom, Nancy Stevens.
Mom’s parents died when she was a little girl. Her mom passed away before the family came to Texas from Kentucky. She died in 1908, when little Hallie was just 4 years old. Her daddy, William Benton, died in 1914 when mom was just 10. He never got over the death of his wife when she was giving birth to their 12th child, William, who we all called him Uncle Bill.
My dad’s father, Texas Hulan Stevens passed away in 1932 at about the age of 60, if memory serves me well.
So my one grandparent was Granny, as we called her. Aunt Myrt, Pawpaw’s sister, wanted us to call her Grance….but you’d have to have known Aunt Myrtle….she always tried to fancy everything up…but she was always just plain ol’ Granny to Nancy and me.
The thing I remember about her more than anything else was that she had this funny smell whenever she would kiss you. I didn’t know until I got older that the smell was because she dipped Garrett Snuff. When Daddy was aware that Nancy and I had figured it put, He started gift wrapping snuff bottles or tins for us to give her at Christmas or her birthday. She would have a fit when he would do it and oh, he’d get the biggest kick out of that!
I remember going to see her in San Antonio shortly before her death when I was a freshman at SFA in 1959. It was a very sweet and special visit, and she assured me that she’d be waiting for me in Heaven!
What’s your favorite memory of your mother when you were a child?
My earliest memories of my mother as a child are how she would hold Nancy and I in her lap as she rocked in her rocking chair. She would sing spiritual songs and hymns very sweetly right into our ear. She’d read to us from the Bible or a Bible story book and then The Houston Chronicle newspaper, especially the funnies.
I believe all of that was what enabled Nancy and me both to be early readers and able to recognize and want to sing the songs our mother had put into our hearts through her singing.
Her fried chicken, roast beef, fried salmon croquettes, pecan pies, and her red beans and cornbread were all our dietary staples. When I was about 13 years old, she started making a dessert from shredded coconut and pineapple which our whole family loved.
Another memory I have is of Daddy teaching her to drive when we got a 1953 Dodge automobile with an automatic transmission. She never felt safe driving a car with a standard transmission where she to manually shift gears. She was usually so scared riding with Daddy that he often teased her about putting dents in the floorboard on her side, trying to “put on the brakes”.
Another memory that is special is that she never cut her hair, but always wore it in a bun. I used to love standing behind her when she was brushing it, because it hung down below her waist. No one ever saw that but her husband and her children.
She loved The Lord and her husband and her children with all her heart!