Written by Jerry Powell and Barry Powell
Presented by Barry Powell
My grandmother, Pearl, was a lady from a different generation, being born on Feb. 17th, 1914. She was the daughter of Gene and Ada Rayburn. She had four siblings; Wesley, S.E., Lily Mae, and Edna, who are all deceased. Her family worked as tenant farmers for most of her early years and on into her teens. Her dad, except for his last couple of years, did his farming with mule power. Her parents were eventually able to buy their own farm. They lived there until her father passed away. Her younger brother, S.E., was injured but survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. Grandmother said it was many weeks before they knew if he was living or not.
Not long ago Grandmother was talking about the hard but good life on the farm. She said several of her parent’s siblings had better jobs and seemed to be more affluent than their family. However during the depression years some of the families lost their jobs and became destitute. At least one of these families came and stayed for a time with them. She said they didn’t have much, but even during the depression, they had plenty of good quality food.
She married my Grandfather, Sherley Powell in May of 1935, right after she graduated from High School. He had just finished college. Grand- daddy spent his entire career working in the teaching profession and farming on the side. Grandmother supported him as a hardworking housewife and mother. They established their home on a parcel of land, deeded to them by my great-grandfather, Charlie Powell. With a few short exceptions, they spent their entire married life in this home in the Improve community. They raised four children: Wayne Powell(deceased) , Jerry Powell, Linda Landreth (deceased), and Pam Whitley Taylor. My grandmother leaves behind two children, seven grandchildren, nineteen great grandchildren and sixteen great-great grandchildren. Over the years, she suffered the loss of her parents, all of her siblings, her husband, two of her children, one grand-daughter(Janice Marie Whitley), and one great- grandson, Seth Russell.
Yes, she was one hundred years old. She came from a different generation. She didn’t relate well at all to cell phones, lap tops, emailing, texting, Facebook, etc. However she knew what working in the fields was. She related well to thinning corn, picking cotton, smokehouses, outdoor toilets, family gardens, sewing, darning socks, patching jeans, and burning oil lamps. She would talk of when they first got electricity, telephone, television, indoor plumbing, etc. She talked of riding a horse to school occasionally, walking miles to school, and missing a lot of school because of weather, illness or work. Talking, not long ago, concerning some of this, she said, ” I was always behind in school”. She mentioned one particular day when it was especially cold, they stopped on the way to school; her brother Wesley built a fire and they warmed by it. When asked “weren’t you late?”, she said in that day, it wasn’t unusual for students to drift in late because of the weather. Classes didn’t start until most everyone was there.
After Grandmother graduated (from Columbia High School) at twenty-one years old, she married my granddaddy. They were married for forty-one years. She was sixty-two when he died and she spent thirty-eight years as a widow.
After my grandfather died in 1976, Grandmother had a tough time re- establishing a quality life. She was afraid to stay by herself. She stayed on the farm in the daytime and stayed nights with her older brother Wesley, who lived just a few miles away. She made extended trips to Oklahoma and assisted my Aunt Pam with her invalid daughter, Jan. Eventually she moved into a duplex apartment owned by her mother. She helped and cared for her ten years until ” Momma Rae” passed away at age 103. By herself again, Grandmother decided to move into an assisted care facility where she stayed several years until she had a light stroke. After her stroke in 2006, she transferred from Wesley hospital to the Myrtles nursing home where she lived the rest of her life.
Two things I will always remember about Grandmother is Tang and wheat
germ. Once the astronauts took Tang to the moon and the advertisements told how ‘good for you’ Tang was, Grandmother served it regularly to her family. And the wheat germ? She said you could sprinkle it on anything you ate, and it would be good for you!
She drove her last car, a 1984 Chevy Celebrity until she was ninety-two years old. She had it painted twice and a new headliner installed. When she quit driving it had less than 50,000 miles on it. (about a 1/3 of that was on it when she bought it). It was used to transport her to doctor visits long after she quit driving because it was the easiest vehicle for her to get in and out of.
Her comment every time she saw it was “it still looks good doesn’t it?”. My Uncle Jerry would frequently take the car when he visited her so he could keep it checked out and the battery charged. He knew to park it at the end of the parking lot because she would always ask ” did you come in my car?” and if he did, she would ask ” is it parked where I can see it”. Her car is still in the family. It is owned by a great-grandson. She asked a few days before she died if her car was still doing alright.
My grandmother raised four good Christian children, she was devoted to them and to her entire extended family her entire life. I am proud to be a part of this family.