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Both sets of my grandparents lived most of their lives in Owen County. I will use the next few paragraphs to try and explain what they have meant to me.
My dad’s parents – Joe and Annabel Lawrence – lived most of their lives in Monterey. My grandfather was a farmer and worked for a while at the cheese factory in Owenton. I only saw him get riled one time in all of the years that I knew him.
My grandmother was a homemaker and she worked from time to time at rest homes in Frankfort and at the underwear factory in Frankfort. The Monterey Baptist Church was a central part of their lives. I remember one Mother’s Day in the 1980s when we all visited to celebrate her birthday. They had a new minister. She took the time to introduce us to him before the service and then took her place in the choir. At the beginning of the service, he mentioned that it was her birthday and asked her family to stand up. About 90 percent of the people in the church stood up. He said that he only wanted her family to stand. She informed him that folks that were standing were her brothers, her in-laws and nieces and nephews.
Family gatherings were always fun. There was always room at the table for one more or for another family group if they showed up unexpectedly. Everything was done as a group. The meals were prepared, the tables set and the cleanup was not a one-person job. After the meals and the cleanup, then the fun began. We would play Rook or Pitch the rest of the afternoon. In that time period, you sat at your table until you lost. Then you would move to a different table. In the course of the afternoon, you would have had time to visit everyone who was present. We still play Pitch when we get together.
We spent many a fun afternoon and/or evening down on the Kentucky River. My grandfather had a small flat-bottomed boat and we would use it to run his trotline and to fish. Our favorite fish to catch were the white perch and catfish. Back when the locks were in operation (you never called it a dam. It wasn’t proper), my brother and I received a set of walkie talkies. We were surprised to find out that we could hear the barges locking through on their way up and down the river. We ended up getting another set for my grandparents so that they could listen to the radio chatter.
Recently, the Monterey area received a grant to network the area and make high-speed Internet available to the residents. It’s the second time that Monterey was networked. In the old days it was called a party line. We could be taking an evening stroll up Taylor Street and hear a telephone ring, three short rings. My grandmother knew that call was for her. She would just knock on a neighbor’s door and answer the phone. The party line went away one year near her birthday. We were trying to call her, but we would hang up when we heard a regular ring on the phone. I happened to be the one that called and got her on the first ring. “Don’t hang up,” was the first words that I heard. She had been sitting with the receiver up to her ear and her thumb on the button. She informed me that they had changed her ring and that it was my responsibility to let the rest of the family to know and to make sure that she got her happy birthday telephone calls.
My mom’s parents – George and Ethel Shelton – lived most of their lives in the New Columbus area. They did move to Owenton in their later years but it is the time in New Columbus that I remember the best.
My grandmother cooked on a wood-burning stove many of those years. She would use that stove for three daily meals and for canning all kinds of products. The one that brings her to my mind is yellow tomato preserves. My mom still makes me a jar or two every year. Now my cousin, George Sipple, would tell you that it was fried-apple pies.
When he first started working at the Clark factory in Georgetown, he came by and asked our grandmother to make him some fried-apple pies. He had been bragging on them to his co-workers and he wanted to show them just how good they were. She asked him how many he needed and the answer was well over 100 pies. She told him that she couldn’t make as many as he wanted, but she did make some for him to share with his co-workers. She made them in a big cast iron skillet. It would have taken her a week or two to fill George’s original order.
We would spend many weeks in the summer staying with my grandparents. When I stayed, it was usually along with my cousins, Earl and George Sipple. Now you have to realize that our grandparents were still farming and didn’t have time to babysit us. If we got into a squabble – and that happened more than one time a day – we would hear, “now boys, play pretty.” Bedtime was in a big old feather bed. We would sleep sideways in the bed and that way more of us could fit in the bed. On cold winter mornings, we would kick the littlest one out of the bed and have them get our clothes for us. That way we could get dressed under the covers where it was nice and warm.
With both sets of grandparents, all of us were treated the same. We received unconditional love and encouragement to do our best in school, life or work. No matter how old we got, we were always on the receiving end of this encouragement, and we were and are better for it.
Bill Lawrence is a resident of Villa Hills.