Thursday, July 14, 2011

Florine Macy (14 July 1921 - 8 December 1986)

by Pa Rock
Proud Son

My mother, Florine Macy, would have turned ninety-years-old today, and I felt this would be a good opportunity to reflect on her life and times.  I invite any of her grandchildren or others who knew Mom to attach their comments to this post.

My mother was born on a farm on Swars Prairie in rural Newton County, Missouri.   Her parents were Dan and Sis Sreaves (Daniel Alexander Sreaves and Nancy Jane Roark Sreaves).   Mom’s given name was Ruby Florine Sreaves, but she was always known as “Florine.”  She was the fourth of seven children.     All of the Sreaves kids went to one-room schoolhouses, and all but one went on to complete high school in Seneca, Missouri. 

(Mom and I sat down for a session with a tape recorder in the early 1980’s when she first became ill.  She shared many family stories on tape – and I made multiple copies and gave them out to her sisters , my sister, and some other people – but all copies, including my own, seem to have become lost over the years.  If one still happens to be in existence, I desperately would like to have it.)

One of the stories that I remember from our taping session was Mom talking about her family traveling through the woods on Christmas Day in a wagon that was pulled by my granddad’s two farm horses – one of whom was named Dolly.  The family was headed to Gramma Sreaves house for the holiday meal.  She said that everyone sang “Over the meadow and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go” as the wagon rolled merrily along.

My dad told me another story of mom’s youth that she probably would have preferred not be passed along.  At some point when they were little girls, my mom and her sister, Christine, and a third girl – probably their cousin, Margaret Anderson – decided one night that it would be fun to lean backwards out of the second story window of their white clapboard farmhouse and pee – instead of taking the long walk in the dark to the outhouse.   The next morning my granddad was surprised to find three long, bright white stains running down the front of the dusty farmhouse– directly beneath the girls’ bedroom window!

The Great depression and World War II were the defining events of my parents’ lives.  Everyone learned to be frugal during the Depression, and they learned the importance of service during the War.  Mom worked at a munitions plant in Parsons, Kansas, during World War II, and for awhile I believe she lived with her sister, Christine, in Texas, (Ft. Bliss?) where Christine’s husband, Bob Dobbs, was stationed.  If memory serves, and it doesn’t always, she worked at one of the base PX’s while in Texas.

Mom met my dad, Garland Macy, after the war when he and his cousin, Dalton Macy, were driving a taxi in Neosho, Missouri.  They were married on March 31, 1946, in Columbus, Kansas.  Dalton Macy went on to marry Mom’s younger sister, Betty Lou Sreaves.

My folks were living at a little house they bought in Neosho when my younger sister, Gail, and I were each born.  It was 510 Park Street – right next to the National Fish Hatchery and a railroad track.  Some of my earliest memories are of walking by the fish hatchery with my folks and throwing rocks at the trout.  Mom also liked to tell about the time she lost track of me shortly after I learned to walk, and two high school girls found me playing on the railroad track.  They brought me home to my mortified mother!

Years later I was living in Neosho as an adult when I rode my bike down by the fish hatchery.  An older lady was standing out in front of that little house.  We talked awhile and she invited me in to look around.  Nothing inside of the house brought back any memories, but the lady did tell me that her mother had purchased that house from my parents .  The house had a total of two owners in nearly fifty years!

My mother worked hard her entire life, and I cannot remember a time that she did not have a job – other than her last couple of years when she was too ill to work.  She was a waitress off-and-on for years, and she and Dad built a truck stop (café and gas station) in Goodman, Missouri, with her sister and brother-in-law – Christine and Bob Dobbs.  Gail and I would often have to get ourselves ready for school and then walk from our house to the café where we ordered breakfast from the menu.   Mom also worked part-time as a seamstress for the Penney’s store in Neosho, making alterations on clothes so they would properly fit their new owners.  

My parents sold their interest in the truck stop (La Bella View) to the Dobbs’ in 1958 and bought an eight-unit tourist court on the Elk River near Noel, Missouri.  We were there for six great years – and they were great years!   Mom and Gail and I ran the Riverview Court in the summer, cleaning cabins in the morning, doing laundry – bedsheets and towels in an old wringer washer– in the early afternoons, and occasionally playing in the river in the late afternoons.  (Mom and Gail would often sunbath in the afternoon while the sheets and towels dried on the clotheslines.  We didn’t know about skin cancer in those days.)  Gail and I made friends with many of the children of the tourists who stayed with us, and we also had good friends who had summer cabins next to Riverview with whom we spent many happy hours swimming and playing cards.  Dad worked in town where he had his own DX gas station for a couple of years, and later started an appliance store.

One of the memories that I have of our time at Riverview involves Mom and her soap opera – “As the World Turns.”  She became hooked on that program through the influence of some of our summer neighbors, and she watched it faithfully for years.  We would plan our lunch breaks in summer around “As the World Turns” so that she could keep up with her story.  Gail and I watched, too!

Another thing I remember is going to Springfield during the Christmas break (two or three years in a row) where Mom and Gail and I would stay at a motel on College Street, and then shop on the Springfield Square for a couple of days.  It was a nice break – a mini-vacation of sorts.

Mom completed cosmetology school while we still had the cabin court because she wanted to have a winter profession.  She drove to Neosho five days a week for several months where she learned the fine art of hair care with a group of girls who were young enough to have been her daughters.  After she completed the course and passed her state exam, Mom worked for Carol Kerry at her beauty shop in Noel.  Ironically that shop was part of a large building on Sulphur Street – the same building that my dad later bought to house his growing appliance business.

Mom was always busy, whether at a job or keeping house.  She would sit and watch television in the evenings with the rest of the family, but even then she stayed busy making doilies, pillow covers, clothes, and, later in life, quilts.  She took up painting just a few years before she died and produced many beautiful small paintings of rural scenes.  She was making treasures that her children and grandchildren would remember her by!

My mother had some significant health issues.  She was operated on in the early 1960’s for stomach ulcers, a procedure that resulted in four-fifths of her stomach being removed.  She also had some emotional issues, and looking back on it from the perspective of a trained and licensed clinical social worker, I suspect that she suffered from depression.  She usually had a supply of tranquilizers which doctors of that era readily prescribed.

During her later years Mom helped Dad at the appliance store, and, after he sold that business, she became the office clerk in his real estate business.

Mom and I spent one very interesting day together shortly before she became ill.  We drove to Huntsville, Arkansas, and visited several cemeteries trying to learn some history of her father.  Her dad, Dan Sreaves, had been born near Huntsville in October of 1888, and he attended an elementary school there.  Around the turn of the century he and his family moved to McDonald County, Missouri, in two covered wagons.  That day in Arkansas Mom and I found graves of several individuals whom we felt were probably Granddad’s aunts and uncles or other relatives.

Grandkids were a big part of Mom’s life.  She managed to live long enough to meet all of her seven grandchildren.    Reed Smith, the youngest, was born seven months before she passed away, and the same woman who took care of Mom during her last months also watched Reed during some of that time.    Mom, who was suffering from brain tumors and resultant dementia, didn’t know many people toward the end, but she always recognized me by my voice and called me by name – and one day when someone was struggling to remember Reed’s name, she blurted out, “His name is Reed!”

Mom sewed and made things for several of the kids.  One of the things that she made for Nick was a clown costume for Halloween, and I know that it got passed back-and-forth between the Macys and the Smiths for at least the first four grandkids – and possibly the first six.  The grandkids all called her “Ma.”   Molly told me after Ma died that she was sad because now Ma would not be here to teach her how to sew.

My mother, a lifetime heavy smoker, was diagnosed with brain tumors at the age of sixty-two and passed away when she was sixty-five.  I was alone with her at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield when the doctors came in and told her about the tumors.  She was very upset, of course, but said solemnly, “Well, that’s just my luck.”  Today we know much more about the dangers of smoking, and I can’t help but believe that if Mom and the rest of her generation would have had better information, they would have made wiser choices.

My mother has been gone a quarter-of-a-century, but I find myself thinking of her often.   I know that all of our family missed out on a great deal due to her early passing.  I miss my mother and wish that she was here to celebrate her ninetieth birthday with her loved ones.  I know that she would have relished being around her children, grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren – which will number ten by the end of this year.  We would all benefit from having her still with us.

Rest in Peace, Mom – and happy birthday!


Tim said...

I was too young when Ma passed to have many memories of her but years later Garland told me a funny story. Back when they still owned the truck stop, when Ma and all you guys went to a drive-in movie the cooks would pack something for you all to eat. One time they cooked up a sandwich with an oven mitt in the center as a practical joke and Ma tried to take a bite. He laughed pretty hard when he told me that story, saying that they referred to it as a "Ma Special" for years.

molly. said...

Thanks so much for posting this. I'm going to print it out to share with my kids later in life. So many interesting stories! I tried painting with her supplies after she was gone. Surprisingly I wasn't too bad at it. She must have been watching over me & helping me at that time because I was definitely a better painter then than I am today. I wish too that she could be here with us today. She would have been a wonderful inspiration to everyone & a treasure for all of the great grandkids to experience. She's still inspiring through your writing, thank you.

Cousin Bill said...

Rock, what a wonderful tribute to a super lady. Your mom was always my favorite aunt for a variety of reasons. I certainly have fond memories of the visits to Riverview! I learned to swim in the river behind the courts trying to keep up with you, Gail, and Bobby! Now that I live just downstream from there, I frequently fish and float that section in tubes with my grandchildren. I always try to recount for them the great memories I have of that time in our lives...

Our running joke was that "we always had another hour to play after mom and Florine said goodbye" because they could visit for HOURS!

Your folks were always kind and welcoming to Bobby and I, and it was always a pleasure for me to just sit on the edge of the adult circle and listen to our parents visit. What wonderful examples they all were to each of us!

I can't tell you how much I enjoys these reflective strolls down our life lanes...thanks, cousin!

bK in MO said...

That was beautiful. I didn't know your Mom well, but she was a lovely lady and I admired her. I can still see her in my mind, as she was circa 1965 or so - stylish, well-coifed (the hairdresser influence!!!) and she had a great smile.