Thursday, December 24, 2009
Long life of good memories
By SUE WATSON
Dovie Gallagher of Byhalia is 96 years old and has lots of good memories she wants to share about her life which began in Waterford, the daughter of a ginner and later a dairyman.
Since Gallagher is hard of hearing, that gives her plenty of permission to talk unimpeded. She will tell you the minute details of her family’s life in the county, her marriage, her school life, her work and ultimately her retirement.
Great-granddaughter April Randallson of Southaven is Dovie Gallagher’s main caretaker. She said her grandmother deserves a story because of her long life and because she remembers all the details and loves to talk about them.
She’s always been a talker, Randallson said.
The daughter of the late Sidney and Alberta Young, who lived in Waterford in the Spring Creek area, Gallagher was baptized at Wall Doxey State Park at age 12 along with her father by Bro. Huffstatler of Germany. Sometime later her mother and three brothers were baptized also. The congregation had to ride to church in the back of a wagon in those days. If it rained, the wagons would pull over and seek shelter at the nearest good neighbor, until the clouds cleared.
Her uncles and father ran the gin in Waterford until Sidney Young moved his family in 1928 to Pigeon Roost Road just before Christmas. Gallagher, then newly married, did not join the family on the Allison Place until 1929. Sidney Gallagher and his three brothers operated a dairy for Walter Hurdle where they hand-milked cows.
During the summer when the milk sometimes was refused by the dairy because the cows had been eating bitterweeds, the milk was poured out to the hogs. When the hogs were fattened, they were butchered and the lard boiled out in the old black washpot outdoors.
Gallagher’s earliest memory is of her brother Percy Young, who was born when she was 3 years old. She married Afton Gallagher at age 14 and a half in the back seat of a Model-T Ford in the rain after they missed their own wedding at Asbury Methodist Church, south of Waterford, because of a flat tire.
The preacher, Brother Lester James, finally realized they were not going to make it to the wedding and went looking for them, finding them on the road. So the pastor said he would just marry them right there in the car. Gallagher said she sat between her future husband, who was 21, and his brother-in-law and the preacher asked her how old she was.
Afton pressed his elbow into her ribs and wanted her to lie and say she was 18, but Gallagher couldn’t do it.
“I just couldn’t lie to that preacher,” she said. “I squeaked, 14. He married us anyway in February 1928.”
“I’ll just marry y’all in the car,” the preacher said.
The Gallaghers had one daughter, Bettye Gallagher Brewer, who produced one daughter, Becky Brewer Blanton of Nettleton, April’s mother. April lost her twin sister, Sarah, one week after birth. Blanton gave birth to one other daughter, Amy Hart of Collierville. Gallagher has four great-great-grandchildren.
The Gallaghers moved in one side of a dog-trot house on Pigeon Roost Road with the Youngs and the married couple eventually went to work for GEM Corporation which opened in Byhalia in 1952 and manufactured ironing board covers and pads, mops, and hair spray. She and her husband moved to Byhalia in 1954.
She worked from 1952 through 1975 sewing the trim around ironing board covers by day. Afton worked as a security guard for the factory at night. Starting pay at the factory was 75 cents an hour, not much but pay nonetheless. Gallagher said she sewed the borders on about 150 covers an hour. She retired at age 61 when she was about to be reassigned to another assembly line. All of the people she worked with at the GEM factory but one are now deceased, she said.
“The thing I learned about aerosol hair spray is to test it before you buy,” Gallagher said.
The cans are tested in the factory before shipping but still some cans will not operate once they get to the store, she said.
The Gallaghers bought and paid for their home, the Gooch House, in 1973 with GEM paychecks.
An active person, Gallagher has kept herself occupied keeping flowers, gardening and cooking, sewing and quilting.
Gallagher said she enjoyed seeing her grandchildren grow up but she wishes she had been able to have more children. That option was off the table after she underwent an operation to remove fibroids.
Gallagher graduated from the eighth grade at Spring Hill School in the day where most people were lucky to finish the eighth grade and few were able to go to high school.
She remembers her teachers, including Inez Johnson and Sally Kidd.
Gallagher has been aided to live to such a ripe old age by her hobbies, reading through her newspapers, and by the comfort of her poodle, PomPom or Pompi for short.
She has lots of pictures of her great-great-grandchildren to enjoy: Andrew Stafford, a great-great-grandson who is graduating from Hernando High this year; Cameron Stafford, Loni Hart and Aeva Randallson.
Gallagher’s only child, Becky Brewer, died in 2007 from a brain tumor.
Gallagher, who will be 97 in July, is a member of the First Baptist Church in Byhalia. She still talks to many of the members there and they check on her regularly.
For Christmas. Gallagher plans to bake a sour dough cake, an icebox fruit cake and and pecan candy. She will boil a fresh ham and make ambrosia salad, Randallson said.
“She’s forgetting and ignoring that my mom and I will be doing the majority of the cooking and that she’s supposed to sit back and enjoy herself,” Randallson said. “She always goes to too much trouble. I’ll help MeMaw with her cooking as much as she’ll let me. She’d have made a great foreman.”
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