Guest Post: “Meme,” by My Aunt, Betty Haynes

The following is a nice synopsis of my grandmother’s life and was written by my aunt:

MEME

EDNA LOIS COTTON PIPPINS (aka Ed, Cotton, Honey, Mother and Meme) was born April 5, 1914, in Waco, TX. She often said that she thought she was adopted because she was the only sibling born in Waco.  Her mother, Louella Luline Walters Cotton was born to German parents: Christoph Walters immigrated to the United States in 1882 and one year later married  Rosina Muenzler.  Edna’s paternal forebears came from Virginia to Kentucky. Edward Robert Cotton drifted to Texas leaving two children with his parents, Henry and Artemitia Cotton and met and married Ella Walters.

Ed and Ella lived in several places during their marriage. Ella’s brother lived in Waco, and that could be the reason Ed was working there when Edna was born.  Soon after, they settled in Dallas.  Ed left Ella sometime is the early 1920s, and she used her seamstress skills and took in boarders to eke out a small living.  All her children spoke of the hard life they had, although there was laughter with Maxie’s (son) antics.  The sisters slept in one bed and all had chores to do.  Edna spoke of being the middle sister and felt left out of maternal nurturing.

Edna attended Woodrow Wilson High School. Finishing up her graduation credits, she attended beauty school, so when she graduated she was ready to start a job. She kept her beauty license current until the 1960s often going to the beauty supply store to buy products. She cut her daughters’ hair and gave them permanents.  She worked for a funeral home for a short time, and always liked that job because the customers didn’t talk back.  She dated several young men; one was the brother of Clyde Barrow.  Another was Marshall Cook who happened to be the brother of Jimmie Cook, a future brother-in-law.

A friend from beauty school suggested that Edna move to Forney and open a beauty shop with her. And so began the longest chapter of her life.  Shortly after moving to Forney, she met Jack Pippins at a community dance, and after a two-year courtship they eloped to Longview and married on July 17, 1935.  She said that she put an ultimatum on Jack:  either marry or break up because she was tired of the “hot and heavy” petting.

Daughter Jackie was born March 20, 1937. She was asthmatic almost from birth.  Edna had moved her shop to the house, and sometimes, she would have to call Jack to come home because he had a way with soothing Jackie during a bad asthma attack.  Jackie had to have a tracheotomy (maybe at age 2 or 3), certainly a scare for the two parents.    Jack did not want to have any other children, since they might have asthma also, but Edna talked him into another child; Betty was born April 22, 1942.  The Forney Hospital had closed, so Edna had to move to Dallas the last two weeks of her pregnancy.  The East Fork of the Trinity River was flooding that year and might have kept Edna from the hospital, so she moved to Dallas to stay with her mother.  Jack was able to get to Florence Nightingale by the time Betty was born.

World War II had broken out. By this time, Jack was not only the sole support of his own family but his mother as well, so he was never drafted.  The war forced Edna to work in the grocery store.  She continued to give permanents to some of her customers, but for the most part her beautician days were over.  She had learned to drive and it was up to her to go to Dallas to the grocery supply to pick up orders.  At that time the highway to Dallas was through the river bottom—west on Trinity Ave and across two wooden bridges to Scyene Road in Mesquite.  She carried a gun and there is no doubt that she would have shot anyone who tried to hijack her. These trips to Dallas also gave her the opportunity to visit with her mother.  Sometime after WWII, Highway 80 opened, making the trip to Dallas much shorter.  She would turn off Samuel, and go through East Dallas neighborhoods to get to Mercedes Street, where her mother lived in a small house in the back of Maxie and Tommie’s (Maxie’s wife) house.

1950-1951 wasn’t a good year for Edna. She had suffered from pains in her back and side.  No doctor could find the reason.  She tried hot baths at the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells, where she and the girls would vacation.  Her friend, Mary Ledbetter, suggested Edna should visit Dr. Gough Alexander in Terrell to see if he had a solution.  Dr. Gough said it was her gall bladder, and he removed it.  However during surgery her arm was left in a “funny” position and after the surgery she had no feeling and little movement in her right arm.  She stayed in the hospital for almost a month undergoing therapy. Perhaps that was when she developed the idea of nursing school.

During the 1950s she continued to work in the store every day. She would come home at lunch and do household chores and sometimes would stay the rest of the day.  Watching “As the World Turns” was a habit until it went off the air.  There were several years when she hired someone to help house clean, but mainly she did it herself with Jackie and Betty arguing over whose turn it was to do what.

Several times, she would load up the car and she and the girls would take off. She drove to Colorado, and driving along those roads with rocks on one side and nothing but air on the other, she never showed fear.  One year, her sister, Lera, and Edna took their girls to Indiana to visit another sister.

Jack was able to vacation with the family only a few times. The grocery store kept him there.  He and Edna were able to take time together at Thanksgiving.  Each Wednesday afternoon the store closed, and with the Thursday holiday, there was time to go to College Station or Austin for the Aggie and Longhorn game.  Mary and OJ Ledbetter and Bob and Juanita Futrell filled the car.  Sometimes, Jack and 3 other friends would go to a TCU football game on a Saturday afternoon, and Edna and Dennis would be in charge of the store. This was just their life: to take time together and separately when they could because the grocery store was their livelihood.

While Jack was involved in civic matters, Edna taught Sunday School. She worked on a craft project each week.  Flannel boards provided the children ways to help tell a Bible story:  Edna cut out biblical figures and backed them with flannel to adhere to a flannel covered board.  When Jackie joined the band (the first one FHS had), Edna worked in the concession stand that the band operated.  She also helped in fundraisers to buy the band uniforms that the school wouldn’t buy.

For leisure Edna made ceramics. She bought a kiln, using bought molds, or sometime she made her own.  Both girls received “choir boys” with a ceramic organ and used at Christmas.  Frog ashtrays dotted many people’s homes.

She did love to cook. No gourmet for her–just plain ol’ food.  Chicken fried steak, fried chicken, fried pork chops rolled in cracker crumbs, macaroni and cheese made with Velvetta cheese,  pot roast, green beans, and new potatoes.  Jack would fry fish and Edna was in charge of soft fried potatoes and slaw–not the cole slaw variety but cabbage and onions all chopped up.  Green tomato relish was her favorite canning recipe.  Pies were not her forte, but her brownies, coconut cake, banana nut cake, and pound cake were her mainstays and delicious.  At Christmas she made date nut loaf candy.  The candy would cook to the right temperature, and then Edna would throw it on a wet dish towel (made from flour sacks) and roll and roll it back and forth until it was just right.  Probably the family’s favorite thing was angel biscuits.  Jack liked her “everyday” biscuits, but at holidays or family gatherings, she made these awesome biscuits.  The grandchildren dubbed them “Meme biscuits.”  One year, she made bourbon balls; Baptist sister  Frieda just loved them.

Another love was bridge. Every other Wednesday night 8 women played party bridge.   Hosting rotated among the 8, and light snacks were served.  Jack would either leave the house or would “go to his room” when it was Edna’s turn.  As one member died, another was available to come into the group.  Edna stayed with this group until several new ones joined; she and another two decided to quit that group because the new ones couldn’t talk and play.  Oftentimes, the “rebels” played on Tuesdays.  Edna read the bridge hand daily until she went into the hospital where she died.

After they sold the grocery store and Jack became county commissioner, Edna worked for Reynolds-Penland with Mary Ledbetter.  By the 1960s when both girls were married and parents, Edna decided to go to nursing school in Terrell.  She decided to try out her brain, and after a year of study became a licensed vocational  nurse at the age of 50.  She worked for Dr. Christine Walker for several years and at a nursing home in Seagoville until she retired.

Sometime Jack and Edna would travel on Dan Dieppert tours. They drove to Las Vegas and to Hot Springs to take in the gambling.  Edna loved Gatlinburg, TN and Jack would take her there, although he didn’t like it. Each summer they took the grands to Falcon Lake near Zapata, Texas.

When Jack died in 1982, she went through the stages of grieving. Her anger at him for dying lasted too long, and she moved from pillar to post to try to find her niche without him.  When acceptance set in, she began to go to Bossier City with groups from Forney, and she and Betty would take short trips together.  She never liked the Senior Citizen Center because all the people there were “old”!!!

Many thought she walked in the shadow of Jack and perhaps she did in some ways. But for a woman born in the 1910s, Edna was a modern woman. She bravely left the confines of a family and close neighborhood to move to a small town knowing only one soul; she learned to drive and help manage her own business as well as the grocery store. She took her girls on vacations without Jack. She carved out friendships apart from Jack; she became a nurse at an age that many would have thought “no way.”  When women gained the right to own property in Texas, she put a new car in her name since she had always paid for them. It surprised Jack for her to do that.  She lived to the age of 84.

Called Ed by her brother, Cotton by John Boles, Honey by Jack, Meme (Me-me) by her grandchildren, and Mother by her daughters, she was Edna Pippins, and I loved her dearly.