14 11 2010

From left, standing, are Lillian H. Bottoms, Lela H. Ferrell, Effie H. Bissette, Kathrine H. Riley Boswell (Aunt Kitty), John “Red” Hawkins (Granddaddy), Ada H. Sanders, Alvis Hawkins, Leona Hawkins, Kathleen H. Finch, Ruth H. Lowe and Ruby H. Anthony. Seated are Nathan Hawkins, Sumlin Hawkins (my great-grandfather), Hattie Lamm Hawkins (my great-grandmother) and Vernon Hawkins. Seated in front are Elbert Hawkins and Ralph “R.T.” Hawkins.

The picture above, taken around 1936, shows my great grandparents and their fifteen children, including my grandfather, known to his sixteen grandchildren as Granddaddy. Many of these great aunts and uncles I have heard mentioned in conversation, but have never met. I know they were scattered from New York to Florida to California, but most stayed in the Wilson, North Carolina area. Even if you don’t care for the story that follows, you gotta love the picture.

There were many times when I was young that I would tell my mother about someone I met at school and she would tell me we were cousins. Now I can see why. It makes me wonder just how big my family really is.

Granddaddy, known to others as “Red” Hawkins, was a barber in Wilson for about 60 years and was very well-known.

Granddaddy was certainly a character-as colorful as an artist’s pallet. He could also be quite stubborn and opinionated. I guess that’s where I get it from. But there were only two ways to do anything-the wrong way and Red’s way. In his later years he bought and restored a Nash Metropolitan convertible similar to the one posted here. He could be seen driving around town with the top down and wearing his sport coat and big red bow tie, silver hair blowing in the breeze.

Granddaddy loved fishing and building boats. He built several boats in his backyard garage. He built a house on Spring Creek, off the Pamlico River near the small town of Aurora, North Carolina and would spend most weekends there.

It was nearly a two-hour drive from his Wilson home to his “cottage”. He would typically close the barber shop on Saturday afternoon and he and Granny, along with whatever grandchildren would be going along, would make the drive east.

Eastern North Carolina, though one of my favorite places on earth, is a bit isolated, although it is better now than it was back in the 60’s. In the days before iPods, CD players, FM radio, even before 8 track tape decks, the drive could seem awfully long. Leaving Wilson, driving east, there wasn’t much except small farm homes surrounded by acres and acres of tobacco fields, with the occasional small town along two-lane highways. And, while it sounds like a long, boring drive, it was not always uneventful.

Don’t Squeeze the Charmin!

Everyone has an event in his life that he will never forget. This is just such an event for me. I recall one weekend I spent with Granny and Granddaddy at the river and we were making our way down NC Highway 33 at 55 miles per hour in granddaddy’s 1963 Ford Galaxie Country Squire station wagon. I think that was the only Ford Granddaddy ever owned because he decided before the warranty ran out that this one was a lemon. We had gotten a late start so it was dark. It was really dark. It was so dark you would wonder if there was electricity in the area because you couldn’t see anything outside the range of the headlights.

Granddaddy always carried a roll of toilet paper just in case an emergency came up, and on that night there was an emergency. Granddaddy had to attend to some personal business right away. He pulled off the road onto the narrow shoulder, grabbed the emergency roll of paper and headed for the nearest bushes.

Business completed he returned to the car and we were soon back on the road. Late the next afternoon we were on our way back home and Granddaddy pointed out the bushes where he had taken care of business the previous evening. He was surprised to see the bushes were in someone’s front yard.

I’m sure there’s a moral to this story but I really can’t come up with it. Just be careful where you do your business.

Here’s “Looging” at You, Kid

Granddaddy apparently had issues with his throat because he had a habit of frequently rolling his window down as he drove, and hocking a loogy through the open window. (Spell-check doesn’t recognize loogy so I can spell it any way I want to!) I don’t know if he ever had a car with power windows, so he would start cranking on the window handle and let it rip. Then he would crank the window back up. It was a well-coordinated effort with the window coming down at just the right moment and then, nearly unnoticeable, he would reverse directions and the window would go back up until the next one came along.

One Saturday afternoon as we made our way east toward the river, he let one fly and raised the window, as usual. But apparently he forgot he had put the window back up and only seconds later, “Hoooooooock! Ptooey”! Right on the window.

Granddaddy had a great sense of humor and was always a good sport; but, the roaring laughter from the car full of grandchildren didn’t stop for about the next ten miles, and I think it finally touched a nerve that day. Power windows-what a great invention, and Red Hawkins-what a great-grandfather.




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