Birth of our First Son
Small town gossip and rumors were circulating that I was pregnant when I arrived in Glen Alum. Little did they know that Otis and I did not consummate our marriage until after I arrived in Glen Alum. My many sisters-in-law immediately began to ask me when I planned to have a baby. I remember one instance when all the family was together; Molene, Burt’s wife asked me “when are you having a baby?” and I asked her ” when are you having one, since you have been married two years?” My other sisters-in-law fell out laughing. Molene never asked again and never gave birth to a child. After a few months passed everyone accepted the fact that I was not pregnant when I married Otis.
In December, 1937 my first baby, Walter II, was born. He was conceived in March and was born in December. Mama came to stay with me to help me while I was pregnant. I had my babies at home in those days. I woke up on Sunday morning with pain in my back and Mama told me that was not a good sign for a pregnancy. She sent for the Doctor to come for the delivery. I was in labor all day. My sisters-in-law wanted to be the first to see my baby, so they came to my home while I was in labor and camped in the kitchen. I could hear them laughing, talking and drinking coffee while I was suffering labor pains. Mama and Mama Susie were there to help me and that was enough people to be in our home. I was miserable and wondered why Mama or Mama Susie did not ask them to leave. It was impossible for me to concentrate on giving birth while they were there. My labor pains began on Sunday morning and I did not give birth until Monday morning when the women went home to get their husbands off to work. As soon as they left the house was quiet, and the baby came. I was thankful the doctor stayed with me the entire time. I was glad my sisters-in-law left and were not the first to see my baby. (When women are in labor, we do not have kind thoughts). I had delivered a beautiful, healthy baby boy. To my surprise Walter II had a fair complexion and auburn hair. Mama Susie was not surprised at all. She told me that my baby was indentical to his father, Otis at birth.
I felt at home in Glen Alum after living there for over a year and delivering my first child. Life in Glen Alum became beautiful because I loved my husband and our baby; although there was nothing to do or any place to go other than church on Sundays. I reconciled my self to the fact that I wanted to be anywhere my husband provided a home for me and our children. Most days I took care of my baby, cooked dinner and waited for my huband to come home from the mines. We had a garden so I had fresh vegetables to cook. Otis planted corn, cabbage, string beans, tomatoes and onions in the garden. We ate a very healthy diet that always included fresh vegetables. Otis begged me to come outside and watch him garden. He would say, “Arlene you don’t have to weed, water or do anything other than sit outside with me.” I never went outside until the harvest. Then, I was the first person picking vegetables and loving the fresh produce.
In the 1930’s before WWII a depression took place in the United States, but we did not feel the effects of it becuase we grew our own food. Papa Starghill had male and female hogs he mated to raise pigs. He killed a hog every winter. He provided meat to all of the family members. So, when Otis won a pig at the company raffle, he knew how to raise it. We used our hog pen for the first time. He also won a calf, but decided not to raise it, and sold it. He was very lucky at the company raffles. Mama Janie and Mama Susie both canned food for the winter. They shared the canned food with me, so I never had to can anything. They provided good food for all our families all winter. There were peoople who worked everyday, and did not plant gardens or manage their money well who lived in poverty. I was so proud of my husband because he knew how to save and how to grow our food and I appreciated my mother and mother-in-law who were smart women who had many accomplishments in canning, making clothing, and preserving meat. We were blessed that we never experienced poverty or hunger.
Author: J. Keel