Erica and Glenn Hamilton came to the Cape Girardeau County History Center in Jackson to tune “Rosie,” an 1879ish Brazilian Rosewood piano, Serial Number 17919.
Rosie getting ready for Sallie Ann
Rosie is getting in shape for the Welcome Home Sallie Ann tea party on June 17, at the history center at Jackson. The doll, which dates back to the 1840s, passed through the family for generations before coming home to Jackson and the History Center. (Sallie Ann is on display in the background of this photo.)
The tea party will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Special refreshments will be served, and Antebellum textile expert Hope Eddleman will talk about the doll’s clothing.
Lots of pieces and parts
Mother always wanted me to learn how to play the piano so I’d be the life of the party. I demurred, grumbling that I hardly knew how to play the radio, let alone a complicated musical instrument. Besides, being the life of the party was the last thing in the world that would appeal to me.
Because of that, I never had much occasion to peer into the innards of the music machine. I was surprised at how modular it all was. The keyboard, with the hammers that hit the strings, pulls out like a kitchen drawer, for example.
Tools are relatively simple
I didn’t stay for the whole process, but the tools I saw being used were things that most of us have in the kitchen junk drawer – basic screwdrivers.
Most of the rough tuning seemed to involve hitting a key and seeing if it caused the hammer to hit the right combination of strings.
Once the striking part was on target, it was a matter of a trained ear getting the string tensions where they made the right sounds. If Erica and Glenn used any fancy electronic gizmos, they wheeled them in after I left.
Memorial Day weekend is the time when I usually stroll through the area’s cemeteries looking for men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country. (You’ll find some of those at the end of this post.)
My ramble through the New Lorimier Cemetery in Cape landed me at this intriguing grave stone in Section 4, Lot 195, Grave 4. I figured that there had to be a story behind the sassy-looking woman on Leola (Doll) Twiggs’ stone.
I had no idea what a remarkable woman is buried there.
The first stop was Find a Grave, which had her obituary embedded in the listing.
Born in Luxora, Arkansas
Leola (I hope she’ll forgive me for using her first name) was born August 31, 1937, in Luxora, Ark., to Johnny and Hattie Mae Mack. The tiny town is sandwiched between the Blues Highway (Hwy 61) and the Mississippi River.
It had a population of 1,178 in the 2010 census, and only 942 ten years later. The satellite photo is from Google Maps.
She was one of 24 Black students to attend Central High School in the fall of 1954. She was the only student of color in many of her classes, and felt separated even within the integrated school, a Missourian story by Callie Clark reported in 2004.
Worked the fields in the fall
She entered Central as a senior, but, because she joined her father and siblings working in the fields for several months in the fall, she was required to attend an extra semester and graduated in January 1956. (Note: this is a picture of a man and his daughter in Immokalee, FL, on their way to the fields, not Leola.)
“My expectation was teachers are teachers, and they treat children alike. I found out they didn’t,” Twiggs said.
In one class, she remembers watching her white classmates gather around the teacher’s desk, laughing and joking. When she approached to ask for help with an assignment, the teacher asked her to sit down.
“I started thinking, ‘They don’t want me here,'” Twiggs said. “When they’d ask me a question, I didn’t want to answer anymore. It didn’t seem quite worth it.”
She lived in a number of places, including Dayton, Ohio, before returning to Cape Girardeau in 1969.
She joined East Missouri Action Agency in 1969
She took a job with East Missouri Action Agency, where, over the years, she worked as a site manager, bus driver and teacher. (Note: this was a picture of a Girl Scout Head Start volunteer in 1967, not Leola.
Head Start, created in 1965, is considered the most successful, longest-running national school readiness program in the U.S., providing comprehensive education, health, nutrition and parent involvement services to low income children and their families.
In 2009, she was honored by the agency for 40 years of service.
Taught Sunday School and volunteered at Civic Center
She taught Sunday School at New Bethel Baptist Church, and before starting with Head Start, she volunteered her summers to work with children at the Cape Civic Center from 1965 to 1968. (Note: this was a Civic Center baking contest in 1967. Leola isn’t in it.)
She served her church in many roles over 60 years: Sunday School teacher, mission president, choir president, youth women’s group leader, and prayer meeting coordinator.
The Bridge – a community project
New Bethel Missionary Church – a predominantly Black church – and the largely White La Croix Methodist Church joined forces to launch a community outreach program in 2004.
In 2006, after the two congregations had been meeting in a vacant lot at the corner of Henderson and Jefferson, La Croix purchased the former Second Baptist Church at 428 S. Frederick so that a program called The Bridge could be open to the community.
A five-block processional along Jefferson Ave. preceded the building’s dedication. Leola was quoted in a Missourian story by Jennifer Freeze as saying she hoped the march would send a message to the community.
Campaigned for safer Indian Park
After a young child dashed out into the street from Indian Park and was killed by a passing car, Leola, who lived three blocks from the park, had some suggestions for the city Parks and Recreation Advisory board to make the area safer and more pleasant.
Reduced speed limits on William and Lorimier in the areas of the park.
Signs warning motorists that children are playing nearby.
Parking restrictions on one side of the street during peak hours.
Improved or permanent bathroom facilities
Installation of a drinking fountain.
It’s been some time since I took a close look to see if any or all of her recommendations were accepted.
Links to information about Leola
I have confessed that I committed research in pulling this together. I learned in school that if you steal from one source, it’s called “plagiarism,” and you’ll get a failing grade; if you steal from a bunch of sources, it’s called “research,” and you’ll get an A.
A reader was kind enough to drop off a box of old Sagamores a few months ago. I offered to fill in gaps in the collection at the Cape County History Center, but I held back two that had surprising photos in them.
The 1939 issue had photos of Mother as a freshman. It identified her as being from Advance, and being in the Home Economics Club and the YWCA.
Book belonged to Milburn Lavelle Bess
A note in the front of the 1939 book said it belonged to Milburn Lavelle Bess of Cape Girardeau, who was a member of the Band, Orchestra, Pi Mu Omicron and A Cappella.
A number of the pages were autographed by friends who referred to him as Lavelle, instead of Milburn.
I’d be willing to pass the book on the Lavelle or any of his family members.
Albert and Leming Halls
Two of the dorms for women appeared on facing pages. I wasn’t sure if Mother was in either of them.
Mother may have been mistaken
She had two photos in a scrapbook that she labeled as being of Albert Hall, but the yearbook pictures show that Leming is the building with a screened porch.
Even as I consider saying that she was wrong, I’m looking at the sky expecting a bolt of lightning to come down.
She was a sophomore in 1940
She’s still listed as being from Advance, and of being in the Home Economics Club and the YWCA.
Secretary of Home Economics Club
I can’t be sure she’s in the group photo, but the text copy notes that she was secretary of the club.
War Department took notice
Maybe her election to the office of secretary was what caused the War Department to send her this telegram.
When Mother would tell the story, she always said, “I’d rather be married than type.”
Dad and Mother were in a movie theater when the word about the attack on Pearl Harbor broke. When they came out, my grandfather said, “If you kids are going to get married, you’d better do it right away.”
And, they did, exactly one month later, on January 7, 1942.
1940 Aerial photo of SEMO
The front of the 1940 yearbook had a double truck (printing-speak for a two-page layout made up as a single unit) aerial of the area around the college.
It’s amazing how many neighborhood homes have been gobbled up over the intervening years.
Free hospital care
There were interesting little nuggets scattered all though the books. The Medical Staff faculty page showed Dr. O.L. Seabaugh as college physician, and Rose Margaret Dewever, RN, as college nurse.
It said that “beginning with a complete physical examination upon entering school, students are offered competent medical attention through the services of a qualified physician and registered nurse.
“One week’s hospitalization in either of Cape Girardeau’s hospitals and the use of the x-ray are included in advantages offered by the Health Department free to the students on a co-operative basis.”