Cheese and Gingersnaps
Often times we celebrate women that achieved national fame, but, what about women in our community, 75 years or better, that made their small but mighty marks in the lives of those around them. Therefore, this month we celebrate Richmond County women that have lived, loved and have stories and wisdom to share. I call them “Walking History”
Mrs. Smith is a quiet, humble woman with a strong presence. When I walked into Mrs. Smith’s room, located at the Orchard, I immediately felt her kindness and welcome with her warm smile. She was dressed in a soft blue outfit that was perfect for the unusual blue sky and warm sunny day in February. Immediately, as is the custom of the area, she sat forward in her chair and asked, “Where are you from?” When I said Northumberland County she sat back and said “I thought you were from Richmond or Westmoreland County…I probably know everybody in those two counties”. Smith was born July 5, 1929 in Farnham, Virginia, “at home,” Smith said.
I told her that I am interested in finding out about your life’s journey and any interesting stories of advice she is willing to share. She said, “I married a Smith so I could spell the name” she laughed and proudly said she has 2 children, 2 grandkids, and 3 great-grandsons, 2, 4 and 6. “And when they visit they wear me out…and they love eating at Shoney’s. She loves kids and perhaps her years teaching contributes to that love. Mrs. Smith moved to Westmoreland County; her husband served as the principal at the Middle School.
Smith graduated from the school known as the Old Farnham School to pursue her degree in Nutrition from Radford College. However, upon her return she ended up teaching 6-grade math her entire teaching career in Westmoreland County
She recalled her days living during the depression, her parents; Eustis and Irma Lyells owned an old country store.
She remembers that as a child her father would make her go around greet and shake the hands of every person in the store. “I guess that was a way of showing respect for your elders” Smith said. She said he did not have much, kerosene, cheese and a big barrel of molasses. At that time things were rationed due to the war, shoes because of the rubber and sugar. I learned that they used molasses to make ginger bread and ginger snaps. “You got to try cheese and gingersnaps” smith said, “It’s good.” There was a canning factory in the area then and a sawmill and that is what the workers would have for lunch, “oh yes, I remember a wood stove in the middle of the floor with a box of sand around it”, Smith said, “That was where the men spit tobacco.” She stated that if she helped at the store she got $5.00 a week.
When asked about what changes she has seen over the years she quickly responded “I think the family has broken down, conversations are missing, and nobody talks any more…and a lack of respect”. When she was out, she loved visiting old people and just talking. Now she said, “They are too old to visit, “Oh, yes, good food is missing; everybody wants ketchup on a bun.” She shook her head when she thought of the rate of homicides in the Richmond area.
Before ending our 45-minute conversation, I asked Mrs. Smith how she spends her days. She watches Andy Griffith, Jeopardy, and Wheel of fortune. The other shows are not worth watching. She is also quite proud of the pansies she grows and care for. She insisted I take her picture by her beloved pansies and asked me to turn their faces toward the sun. Even though she does not admit it, she befriended a fat yellow cat that greeted me at the Building’s front door. I promised Mrs. Smith I am going to try gingersnaps and cheese. Mrs. Smith’s final answer to the secret to longevity, “hard work and the help of the good Lord”.