Please Don't Murder Papa! Storytelling is a tradition and an artform that deserves preservation and encouragement. Our mission is simply to promote storytelling and storytellers in our area. I remember sitting on a bed with several sisters while my Mama told or read Bible stories or Uncle Remus stories before bedtime.
Daddy had converted a small outbuilding behind the parsonage at South Ninth Street into a study, where he could try to escape a house full of kids and prepare his sermons. But Daddy was an easy mark for us. Donald Davis, dean of American storytelling. You know the dean of American Storytelling would pretty much have to be Donald Davis. How many of you have heard him tell? He writes wonderful stories.
One of the workshops he does is titled: In it he contends that the best way to kill off your grandparents, in a permanent sense, is to quit telling their stories.
Four very different people. Each loving in their own way. And each has had an important impact on my life, and the lives of my siblings, and cousins, and their whole extended family. She had stories about them all. A family dinner at Mama Shaw's house. My Mama Shaw was longest with us and so perhaps I knew her best. What a slave driver! Dady Shaw lived there, but it was her house. And she kept it immaculately clean. Maybe it was because of her loss of her mother to disease as a ten-year-old that she had very real concerns about dirt and germs.
Mama Shaw was, indeed, an assertive woman. Her grandchildren, and for that matter her sons and husband, were her household servants. When we were in her house we worked. Besides the dishes, she had us sweeping, hanging out laundry on the line, scrubbing the tub and toilet, and raking the front yard.
Those huge water oaks out front had buckled the sidewalk and even the curb and road, and completely shaded out grass underneath. So the little front yard was dirt covered by water oak leaves. But Mama Shaw had methods.
You know the dean of American Storytelling would pretty much have to be Donald Davis. Walter Faun-troy, Lerone Bennett Jr. Grosvenor 79 x 37 cm sq.
And we were required to follow them carefully. The yard needed to be completely cleared of leaves and the earth beneath should be raked so that neat parallel tine lines would run exactly perpendicular to the sidewalk.
Next to his cot was a small desk and a little bookcase neatly stacked with a hundred or more comic books!
At that age I preferred the teenage superhero and his adventures to those of the grown-up. Around the walls on both sides were chairs. At the back was a wall of black and white glass front shelves with lots of big mirrors. A just in front of the mirrors two Black leather, white enamel, and shiny chrome barber chairs with strops hanging from one side and a white enameled lever for hiking the chair up and down on the other.
Daddy Shaw in front of his barber shop in the community center at Milstead, Georgia. Against the wall beside the chair on the left was a chest-type red Coke machine.
To the right of the door was a big heavy cast-iron hat rack with a hat or two and a couple of jackets hanging on it. There had been a second barber for that chair on the left at one time, but during all of my childhood, Daddy Shaw stood behind the one on the right, and the left one was usually my perch.
I loved that chair. It was a beautiful mechanical wonder. It could be modified pushed, pulled, or cranked to various heights and degrees of leisurely reclining. In it I was close to the storytelling that my grandfather and his customers emitted so endlessly.
With luck one of the guys would need a shine while he waited. It was an easy dime for me and I became fairly expert at whisking the shoes with a brush and whipping them with the polishing cloths.
And with that dime I could swap that dime after a two-minute walk to the drug store lunch counter for two scoops of ice cream on a cone, I usually chose cherry. On the other hand I could just ask Daddy Shaw to change the dime for two nickels. One would go into the Coke machine. He grabbed his belongings and ran toward the rear of the car and jumped off as the train was picking up steam leaving the station.
Looking around from beside the tracks he looked up at the sign hanging from the station platform: He was sixteen miles from home with only his two tired legs for transport. Mama Baird kept a wooden bread bowl of flour out all the time covered with a dish towel and ready to be used to mix up you must do it with very clean bare hands! There was also a tin of clove candy sticks always available there.
She kept a flower bed out front and used old windows against the high crawl space at the back of the house for a bit of a hot house there for her plants early in the spring. Now I know its an invasive species, but the huge Chinaberry Tree at the back steps was wonderfully climbable and offered a great rampart from which to bombard sisters with those hard yellow berries.
Mama Baird with my brother, David. Papa My maternal grandfather was just called Papa by most of my relatives. He too influenced my life and his stories bring me encouragement and wisdom.
He was a farmer and a very devout Christian. More than once the family was interrupted by a neighbor riding up: Baird can you come over and preach over our father. Wilson Baird moved his nine living children into a mill house in Porterdale and began working there. My Grandfather gave him this advice, that I think maybe influenced several preachers I know.
And then disaster struck as the baby and little Leon, only four, came down with the measles. Ruth recovered, but Leon's infection moved into his lungs and he died. On his own death bed Papa told my Uncle Tom that he hoped one of his sons would be called into the ministry.
She still occasionally preaches at And now, as Paul Harvey might say, the rest of the story.
I think my family is a good object lesson in that. I was influenced by all four of my grandparents, three of them directly, but one, Papa, only through the stories! The stories passed down through Aubrey and Howard and Uncle Tom and my mother and others have given me my maternal grandfather. Benjamin Wilson Baird is on the United States census of Georgia at three-twelfths of a year old. And even though he has been very influential in my life, I never met him in person.
He died when my mother was nine and fifteen years before I was born. As far as I know this is the only picture of Benjamin Wilson Baird.
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