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The Moving Years/Barefoot Memories
​Some of the earliest memories I have are like clouds.  Ever changing and elusive.  I'm not sure if some are memories or pictures in my head from stories I heard.  But no matter, they are pictures in my head.  The first place I remember living with my parents was in Augusta, Georgia.  We lived in a rented wood frame house we called 'The Crappy Hole'.  My mother hated it.  I remember that it had a bathroom, well not a bathroom but a toilet room, as an add on on the back porch.  There was box of shoes in it and once we saw a rat in it.  We promptly moved. 

I cussed.  Really bad.  As a little girl of 3, I only knew what I heard.  My dad cussed.  Really bad.  I would chase the girl across the street home from my house screaming obcenities as she ran through the alley and I ran through the house.

The best memories though are of my Granny Hop and Daddy Hop who lived on Silcox Street in Augusta.  They had lovely old wood framed house on a quiet street and it was always sparkling clean and had the best smells.  My Granny Hop cooked and sewed like nobodies business.  I'll talk about that later.  Anyway, the house seemed large, though I know it wasn't. and had 4 rooms and a big kitchen. My Granny kept a pan of flour under her sink covered with a dishcloth, and twice a day, she made biscuits.  The best biscuits I've ever eaten.  The back yard was crunchy beach sand.  Daddy Hop must have had it brought it, I don't remember it any where else and it was always smooth and never a weed to be seen.  The bathroom was also huge and was added on to half the large back porch. The living room had wall paper and linolium in rose patterns and the chairs had doilies on the arms.  

In this picture is Daddy Hop holding my brother Bob, Granny Hop, me and my Mom Rosie.  This was probably taken in 1954 the year before Debi was born.  This was in the living room of the house on Silcox Street. 

​Notice the light cord hanging across the living room. Daddy Hop had one of the first television sets on Silcox Street and I remember Mom and Dad dancing in the living room to Lawrence Welk.  Daddy Hop's sister lived next door them with her son Luke, and we called her Miss Annie.  Memories flood back as I think of this.  The great rounded new fangled 'refrigerator' with a box radio on top and listening to Jim Reeves sing Bimbo.  Ritz crackers and the pie safe.  Mama washing her feet in the sink and three layer coconut cakes and sitting on the front porch drinking iced tea.  Old pictures and Granny praying out loud every night.  Embroidered pillowcases and laughter.  That house is no longer there, it was torn down years ago to make room for the new VA hospital.  It took up all of 'Frog Holler' and my Dad died in a room in that VA hospital.  He had come full circle.


My dad told me that on my first day of life, my right hand was turning a throttle. He said I kept my right hand in a fist and twisted it. I’m sure it was just a baby reaction to light and cold, but if I like to think he was right. He was a good teacher. He had been riding motorcycles most of his life. He rode back and forth to CCC camp in Georgia in 1933 on a brand new Harley Davidson. At 16 years old, he had it down. He lied about his age to get into the CCC program and tricked his mother into turning over her share to the dealer to pay for his motorcycle. But that’s for another story.
Anyway, when I was around twelve or thirteen years old, I begged for something to ride. My Dad spent his time with my brother because of course, the ‘boy’ was the one for motorcycles. I stayed out with him when he worked on them or when he instructed my brother. I soaked it up like a sponge. I continued to beg. I suppose, to shut me up, he found and restored an older Cushman Eagle. I caught on quick and rode it all over the neighborhood. I went through two transmissions and probably a myriad of other parts. When he replaced the transmission, he took one out of a three wheeled Cushman mail cart he found in a junk yard. He straddled it, pulled the gear lever and gave it some gas and it shot out from under him like a shot from a cannon, backwards. Seems the cart had a reverse. He hit the dirt and I could not laugh. But I sure wanted to. He told me I was not to use the reverse, that it was too dangerous. But of course, I practiced until I could back that little thing down the street straight as a string chalk line.
Once the Cushman was ready for the junkpile, he found an old Harley 125. It was a thin bike and my tippy toes touched the ground, so off I went. I rode it in the orange groves around my house and made it a dirt bike. It was not a dirt bike so I mostly pushed it home every time I rode it. He cussed, but he cleaned it out and the next day or two I was gone again. I rode whenever I could until I was married and began another chapter in my life. I only had one motorcycle during that time.  
Fast forward to today. I have been riding again for a number of years and continue to love it. I will ride until I can’t. 
My Dad’s old lessons stay in my mind and I still recall them. His favorite saying was, “Just as soon as you think you’ve mastered that son of a bitch, it will kill you”. I knew what he meant. You must always respect the power of a machine that takes skill and instinct to ride. Panic, and you are dead or hurt. He would tell me to always watch for cars, every second you are on it. He taught me that speed is my friend. Too slow and down you go. I think you either have the instinct or you don’t.  
One of my favorite memories is going with him to Merritt Island with a trailer to pick up an old Harley and an old Indian that he bought for $100. The Harley was a worn out Police bike, but it was pink and white. I remember asking him about it, and he told me it had been red and white and that it was faded to pink. He restored both of those motorcycles. I think this was maybe 1964. The Harley was painted a metal flake blue and he put a white fringed seat and bags on it and blue tinted windshield. If I remember right, it was a 1952 model. He sold it for $900 to a kid who killed himself on it two weeks after he bought it. But my Dad kept the Indian. He rode both makes, but he preferred and Indian.  
Sometimes though, his decisions were questionable. We went to pick up another old Cushman from a family down the road. He tied a rope to the handlebars of the Cushman and attached it to his Harley. As soon as he started off, it pulled the handles out of my hands and down I went. He dragged me all the way across the yard under the scooter until the screams of the people watching stopped him. I don’t remember screaming, but I’m sure I did. Once he made a Y out of the rope and tied it to both sides of the handlebars, I made it all the way home without falling. I was bleeding and my Mom was not happy, but I was proud that I made it. 
I spent the last day of my Dad’s life with him in the VA hospital in Augusta. We talked all day. Most of the things we talked about will never be shared and I do treasure that day. But one of the things he did tell me, was that later on, he realized I was the one who inherited his “Harley Gene’ and he wished he has spent more time with me. I told him it was alright, since I was always out there, soaking up whatever he was saying. So I got most of it. 

I will miss him until I join him. 

Ray Smith in CCC Camp 1933.

June 8th, 2015

As my thoughts flow today, I'm visiting my Dad's memory. It's funny how one thought leads to another. I was thinking about my upcoming trip to Alabama on the Spyder, and thoughts of my Dad came immediately. I think of him every single time I hear an old country song, or see an old Indian motorcycle and every time I'm out on the bike.  

Ray Smith

He wasn't the best Dad in the world, and I think that is only because he did not know how to be. I also believe many men of his generation did not have good parenting skills. It was up to Mom. But he did what he believed to be his job in our lives. Provide and protect. His provision was minimal, but adequate and his protection was without equal. 

He was born in Toombs County, Georgia, just out of Lyons. He lived there until about 1919 when his father relocated to Augusta, Georgia and became a Police Officer. His Mother said he was a wild child and she once put one of her dresses on him when he was about 6 years old to keep him from wandering, and she walked out on the porch and saw him running down the street holding up the dress. He roamed his entire life. He told wonderful stories about growing up the poor section of Augusta called Frog Holler. He and his brother Pat were wild motorcycle riding boys in the 1920s and '30s. He joined the CCC in 1933 because he lied about his age. He was only 16. He also tricked his Mother into signing a note for a new Harley Davidson motorcycle so her CCC allotment had to go to the dealer every month. She never forgave him. 

He was an abused child before there was such a thing. His father would beat him so bad his Grand Mother had to use goose grease on the whelts and sometimes the fabric of his shirt would be beaten into the wounds. His father was apparently brutal. But even with that, he loved his family, and I remember this same man, my Grandfather, crying tears because my Dad spanked Bob for something. I barely knew my Grandfather, but I do remember him being kind to me. 

The family he loved the most were the Sanders cousins in Georgia. His Uncle Dink and Aunt Lithia were like parents to him. His Uncle Henry and cousin Urban were close in age, and I remember them telling wonderful stories about the so called 'dances' in the woods at jook joints and the laughter. Especially stories about the women.  

He would spend weekends with his Uncle Dink when he was nearby in CCC camp. One story he told was stopping one night in a jook joint for something to drink. Back in 1933 there were no minute markets or fast food places, so jooks were it. He had a stomach condition and could never drink alcohol. So he asked for glass of milk. A drunk wanted to buy him a drink, but he declined and the drunk threw the drink in his face. He said he knew he was in trouble, so he picked up a bar stool and turned it in circles like a dervish until he was out the door. One kick and the Harley fired up. Off he went, and he said a truck came out of the back loaded with good old boys to chase him. Well, needless to say nothing was going to catch Ray Smith on a Harley. Three weeks later, he said he was on his way to Toombs County and near the same jook, he got stung by a bee on the thigh. When he got to his Uncle's farmhouse, his boot was full of blood, and he had a bullet in his thigh. His Aunt dug it out by lamplight and bandaged it for him. As kids, we loved the story and he would show us the scar. When he was in his mid sixties, he put a man on the floor in a restaurant in Mims because he made a comment about my Mother.  

I have often wondered what made him move so much. He had Gypsy blood in his veins. Mobile home life was made for him. The only thing was, as children, we were packed up with the dog and bicycles and garden hose when we moved and we changed schools as often as we changed clothes. I attended 34 schools by the time I started the sixth grade. I know this because I had them sit down and list all the places they moved. It took them about 2 hours and a bit of disagreement on the order, but they got it. Then my Mom listed the places I went to school. We moved a lot more than 34 times because we moved in the summer too. 

But I digress. My Dad was a biker. He loved motorcycles. He was on one when he met my Mom. That's another story though. One of the stories my Mom used to tell was how they raced freight trains in 1947 on US1 on the straight stretch between St. Augustine where the railroad tracks parallel the highway. One dusk, Ray was on the Harley and Mom and her twin brother Sandy were on the Indian, and they got a signal from an engineer and the race was on. My Dad took off like Moody's goose. She said after a bit they saw his headlight begin to weave and bob, then it faced them signalling. They slowed down. He had been dodging a herd of cows laying on US1. He missed them, but his said he did not even remember it. It was that quick and instinct took over. 

He joined the Army Air Corps after Pearl Harbor and was stationed in the Great Lakes area and worked in the motor pool. On Army motorcycles of course. He could build one from scratch. Bikes were simple back then. Nothing like today's fuel injection high CC motorcycles. The last time I saw him ride was back in the '80s when he sold my husbands motorcycle. He rode it and loved it. A metric. A Harley Man. But he loved that big Suzuki. He said it handled like a dream.  

He suffered his entire life with stomach issues. He threw up almost every day. When he was a child his Mother was told his digestive system did not develop. But that was 1920. The only one of us to inherit it is my brother Shory's son Wayne. From what I understand, they are still not sure what it is, and he's been to Mayo Clinic for tests. It apparently has to do with enzymes. Wayne is proactive and juices and takes care of it. He is not constantly sick like his Grandfather was. My Dad loved to eat. I mean loved to eat. He loved greasy fried food and breads and all the things that made him sick. Even if my Mom had known, he would not have given up the fried chicken and donuts.  

I miss him every day.  

I will write more about him another time. 

Ray in 1933 on his Harley. 

​I found this image online and it reminded me of my childhood.  It defines my childhood.  I don't know what was in my dad's background that made him a Gypsy and a rambling man, but he was.  And he drug us all with him.  And this is how we rambled back in the 1950's.  Back in maybe 1980, I had my parents sit down and list all the places we had lived.  It took about 2 hours of arguing about placement on the list, but they agreed on all the places.  Then I had my mom list all the places I had gone to school.  From grades 1 through 5, I attended 34 schools in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.  My dad was flabbergasted.  He could not believe how many times we had moved.   He went from construction job to construction job apparently by word of mouth.  We did not have a telephone until the mid 1960s.  He worked as a heavy equipment operator, mostly draglines and I remember him working at pulp mills, and he worked on dredges.  He built the gantry foundations at the space center and he drove big trucks.  He was a Gypsy.  

He would come home from work, and say we have to be in 'this place' tomorrow or Monday and everyone jumped to their chores.  He would unhook all the outside stuff on the trailer, like electricity and sewage and hook the trailer to the truck.  My mom would stuff and tape pillows in the cabinets, wrap the TV in pillows and put it on the floor.  She would wrap her knick knacks in a quilt and put them in the bathtub.  Bob and I gathered up all the bikes, the garden hose and minnow bucket and the dog, and load it all the back of the truck.  I remember once leaving Gainesville, Florida folding clothes fresh off the line in the back seat of my Mom's car as we pulled out behind the trailer.  I remember the fresh smell from the warm Florida sun.  I think my mom loved that life too. 

So why did it stop you might ask?  When we moved to Titusville/Mims area, one of us did not pass our grade in school.  And it wasn't me.  So my mom went to the school to find out what happened.  She didn't pay much attention unless something major happened.  She was told he could not move around like that and attend so many different schools.   That evening, she told my dad we would move no more.  And she held firm.  My baby sister was just a toddler so she did not experience the moving like I did and went to school in the same place all her school years.  She still lives in Titusville.  She has a completely different outlook than I do and I suppose that is why.  I seem to constantly need change.  I moved away and often think I will move again.  I make friends and when I don't see them in a while, I don't think about them.  Sounds terrible I know, but that's what I did growing up.  I would make a friend, and move.  Make a friend and move.  I suppose it became a trend.  But we were not the only ones who lived this life back in the '50s.  Every town had 'trailer parks' and they were always full up.  After WWII when all the service men came home and got married and started families, there was not enough housing.  Someone started building and selling house trailers, which were a great help.  Most I'm sure only lived in them until they got settled and working and able to afford a house.  But for people like my dad, it fit his psyche like a glove.  All the years I had with my dad, he only lived in a house for 1 year and hated it.  Back to trailers.  

I'm not complaining about my childhood.  I had a lot of teachers and met a lot of people and even though we moved constantly, my home and family moved with me.  I might wake up in Sarasota, Florida and go to bed in Waycross, Georgia, but it was the same bed.  My mom cooked at the same stove and we watched Gunsmoke on the same TV on top of the refrigerator. 

One great memory I have of that time was in 1955, and my tiny mom was 8 months pregnant with Debi.  We were in North Carolina in the mountains and the water pump or the fuel pump went out on the truck.  Dad stopped and chocked the wheel and had my mom (and me) get in front of the truck with her big green buick.  He chained the truck to her car and she pulled the truck and the trailer down the mountain.  She could barely see over  the windshield and she didn't blink.  She just did it. I once asked her about it, I was 7 years old and I remember it well, and she said my Dad worked the brakes behind her and all she had to do was guide us down the mountain and it was easy.  

Some people considered us 'White Trash'.   But let me say this.  My parents did not drink, ever or gamble or go out and leave us with baby sitters.  The only person who took care of us was my Granny Hop.  They never fought or yelled or argued or threw knives at each other.  And I know some who did these things and looked down on my family.  So if the way I was raised was the 'White Trash' way, then so be it.  I'm proud of who I am and how I grew up.  It wasn't always easy and it wasn't always fun, but who's life is.  More later. 
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When Debi was born

This was Christmas morning 1956 in St. Mary's Georgia.  Debi was 17 monts old, I was 8.  She had the most beautiful platinum blonde hair and I remember how proud our Dad was of her hair.  She was a sweet little girl and I love her to this day.

The day she was born, we lived in Perry, Florida.  Mom had a Doctor's appointment and the neighbor dropped her off then came to the school to pick us up.  When we got back to the Doctor's office to get Mom, she was sitting on the side of the examining table looking into a bassinet.  She said that after the exam, she yelled at the Doctor, he yelled at his nurse who threw a breathing mask at her and bam, there was Debi.  Not a pain not a contraction, just 'READY OR NOT HERE I COME'.  And that was that.  We were all amazed.  The Doctor was young and lived upstairs over his office and he had a little boy.  He brought down a bassinet and all afternoon he paraded patients in to see 'our' new baby.  After awhile Mom decided to just go home.  The neighbor had taken us home with her and fed us and she drove out to the construction site to tell my dad that he had a new little girl.  

My Mom's twin brother Sandy lived with us at the time.  One of the things I remember was that Mom had not done her grocery shopping, so Dad and uncle Sandy decided to go do it for her.  What a hoot.  They spend $40, and in 1955, $40 filled the back of the pickup truck with bag after bag of food.  They bought everything, even a jar of peanut butter and jelly mixed together.  We had never seen that before.  It was a struggle to get all the cold food in the small refrigerator and we had canned goods and bags of beans and rice stacked everywhere.  My Mom just shook her head. But we had plenty to eat for a long time. 

Things didn't seem to go well.  Debi wouldn't, or couldn't eat.  Everything they gave her either shot through her like water through a hose, or came right back up.  When she was 6 weeks old, she weighed less than she did when she was born.  She didn't laugh or play and almost didn't move at all.  She didn't even cry.  One afternoon I remember the same neighbor sitting at the kitchen table with my Mom and they were talking and having coffee.  They were talking about Debi and for the first time in my life, I saw my Mother cry.  She was so worried and it scared me.  I remember this so well because it was a life changing event for us.  This neighbor said, "Rosie, I have an idea, she's going to die anyway if we don't do something."  That really scared me.  So she left.  She came back with a gallon of whole milk.  Just plain old cow's milk.  They heated it up and gave her an ounce of it.  All 3 of us stood at the bed and watched her.  Nothing happened.  She went to sleep.  When she woke up, they gave her another ounce.  This went on for a day or so, and it was like magic.  She 'came out of it' and started growing and being a happy baby.  

We were all strange kids.  I threw my bottle out the window of the truck when I was 9 months old and weaned myself right then.  Who wants milk when you can eat donuts and mashed potatoes?  I put everything in my tea and ate it with a spoon anyway.  Bob would not take warm milk.  I remember once staying with Granny Hop on Silcox street while Mom and Dad were gone and she heated up a bottle for Bob in a pan of water.  I was tagging along behind her the whole time telling her he wouldn't drink it.  He only drank cold milk.  Of course she was cluck clucking about giving that baby colic with cold milk and I kept telling her, but she wouldn't listen.  Sure enough, he spit the nipple out and screamed.  She put it back and he spit it out and continued screaming.  And he could scream.  I said, "see Granny, I told you he wouldn't drink it".  She stomped back to the kitchen and put ice cubes in the bottle and and stuck it in his mouth, and all was well. 

Debi survived growing up with us, and it's a wonder. My uncle Sandy loved her dearly and called her 'Dabber'.  On the weekends, he would lay on the couch reading his magazine and Debi would be in her 'bassinet', which was a round bottom woven wooden laundry basket, and he tied a string to it and would pull the string to rock her while Mom worked around the trailer. 

I remember the first time we went to visit 'Buddy Brother and Bruce' after she was born.  Roy (Brother) ran alongside the car looking in and Daddy told him we had a new baby.  They were whooping and hollering.  I loved my Georgia Cousins.  More about them later.   Debi has pictures of that visit in Mom's pictures.  I'll have to go find them. 

Anyway, she grew up healthy and now has 2 great kids of her own and 2 beautiful grandsons.  
Debi and me at the swimmin' hole in GA. 
Debi and me at her son's engagement party. 
Debi and Uncle Sandy,  we miss miss him