Nashville History

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

That old house - rambling thoughts

1017 Meridian Street ca 1970

Mama and Daddy moved to the house at 1017 Meridian sometime in the year before I was born on June 12, 1952. They had lived at 1104 Pennock Avenue for a long time.  Their landlord on Meridian was Mr. S. Felts Orndorff.  The house was titled to his wife, Bessie, as was a little brick duplex at 1105 Meridian.  Ours was a Queen Anne style house built about 1910, painted white, with a concrete porch all across the front that wrapped around the side of the house.  The house had a living room, 2 bedrooms, a third bedroom that doubled as a den, an eat in  kitchen, bathroom, storage room and all across the back of the house, an enclosed back porch.  I have a brother, Ernest who was 13 when I was born, and a sister, Ann who eight when I was born. In some ways I was like an only child.  My brother was grown before I started first grade and my sister was married when I was seven.

Me and Mama

When I was a little girl, I loved climbing up in Mama's big high bed.  She had a white chenille bedspread that had pink flowers with green leaves.  I would pull the threads out, the colored ones.  I guess eventually there were no more pink flowers.  I know it was Daddy's bedroom too but I always think of it as belonging to Mama. The bedroom was at the front of the house, just off the living room and was probably originally a parlor.  The entry was very wide, may have had pocket doors at one time.  Mama had heavy blue drapes hanging from a rod at the top of the door that went to the floor.  On the chest of drawers in Mama's room at some point there appeared a Charlie McCarthy doll.  It was one of those carnival chalk dolls that were given as prizes at the fair.  It was the most frightening thing I ever saw. One night, in a dream Charlie was alive and talking to me. I wouldn't go in Mama's bedroom after that unless the drapes were open. 

Me and my sister Ann.

 To be honest, I was always afraid in that old house.  Nothing specific, other than Charlie McCarthy, that I remember, just scary.  Even when I was  a teen and working I was afraid to be there alone.  I would sometimes get dropped off by my boss and Mama and Daddy would be gone and I was afraid to go inside.  I would unlock the door and just kind of hang out near the door till they came home. I have never been afraid in any house that I have lived in since.  The scary stories that my cousins and I would entertain ourselves with didn't help much.  We made up more tales and would try to top each other.

Snowman and Debie Meridian Street 1958

My Mama was one of 12 children.  Her mother died young and Mama helped to raise the younger ones.  She was very close to her siblings and they often came to visit and sometimes one or another would live with us.  My Uncle Walter lived with us from the earliest I can remember.  He was Mama's youngest sibling, and was only six weeks old when their mother died.  He was born in 1936 and was pretty much grown by the time I can remember him.  He worked at the newspaper.  He and my brother, who was born in 1939, were close and had many of the same friends.  Walter married in 1960, when I was eight and moved away.  My aunt Mary and her family came to visit every summer and usually at Christmas.  They were living in Nashville when I very small but I remember them after they had moved to Chattanooga.  Mary's husband, Mutt, would bring the family and leave them with us for several weeks in the summer.  I loved all of them but I was terrified of Aunt Mary and her flip flop.  My Mama didn't spank me but I knew Aunt Mary might.  She had four children.  Judy was the oldest and usually stayed with another aunt, Neva, while they were here.  Jerry was two years older than me.  Eleanor was one year older, I was born on her first birthday.  The baby was Linda, she was 11 months younger than me.  Eleanor, Linda and I were thicker than thieves.  It's great being best friends with your cousins.  No matter what, makes no difference how mad you get at one another, in the end, you are family and you love each other.  Aunt Mary and family moved to Nashville in the early 60's and lived near us as I was growing up. Mama's uncle, Larry Hunt lived with us and her brother Bob Steele.  We always had uncles and aunts and cousins visiting.  I felt like I had the largest family around.  It was great growing up with such a close family.

Our next door neighbors, at 1015, were Wilson and Ladye Hurt, their daughters, Donna and Lucy and Ladye's mother Ophelia Primm.  I loved the Hurt's and called Wilson and Ladye, other daddy and other mama when I was a little girl.  Lucy and Donna were about ten years older than I was.  Wilson and Ladye were deaf.  Wilson lost his hearing at age two and Ladye as a young teen, both from a childhood illness.  They signed, but also used spoken language.  Wilson was sometimes hard to understand but I was with them often and had little problem.  Later their grandchildren, Donna's children, lived with them, Mack, Jimmy, Tracie, Wendy.  The house on the other side of the Hurt's, 1013, was the Robert and Hattie White home.  Their children, Bobbye, Joanne, John, Mary Sue and Marty, were all a good bit older than me, with the exception of Marty.  He was often my only playmate. Next to White's at 1011, I remember several families, particularly the Cunningham's.  Next at 1009, was Mrs. Hargis', house.  It was a little frame duplex.  Next past her, 1007, was the Banniza house.  At 1005 was the brick duplex owned by Mr. Orndorff.  The house at 1003 had a lot of tenants while I was growing up.  And at 1001, the corner of Meridian and Vaughn was Mrs. Sharpe.  She had cats and seemed very old and I would stop and visit with her.  I though her name was Mrs. Shark for a long time. she had a wrought iron fence around her yard.   Her back yard was full of box turtles and sometimes we would find one crawling down the alley. Mrs. Sharpe lived alone when I knew her, her husband had died and her children were grown.  One of her sons, Dallas Sharpe, was killed in WWII. Later a family with a lot boys lived in that house, their last name escapes me.
Mama in front of our house at 1017 Meridian.

On the other side of our house, at 1019, the neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. Roscoe Williams.  That house was a duplex and tenants came and went  but the Williams were there for a long time.  There was no 1021, the next house was 1023 and the home of Robert and Roberta McKinney and their children Bobby and Patsy.  The house at 1025, at the corner of Meridian and Evanston, was a rental property and had a variety of residents.  I don't remember most.  The notorious East Nashville Pickle family lived in that house for awhile.  The Pickle kids were always in some kind of trouble, stealing something or breaking in somewhere. I remember that they were always good to my grandmother who lived across the alley from them.  They never gave us any trouble but we heard a lot of tales about them.  The house was also an evangelistic church for awhile, and the nightly meetings during revival time were noisier than a rock concert.  They were held outside in a tent. 
Daddy Ernest Oeser Jr., Granmother Ruth Oeser, Me (Debie), Mama Lola Steel Oeser and my brother  Ernest Oeser III.         Our living room on Meridian Street.     

Across the street at the corner of Meridian and Evanston was a duplex owned by Jere Tunstall.  Jessie McCormick lived there for a long time.  The Tunstall's, Jere and Daisey lived next door at 1018.  They had no children.  Like everyone else in the neighborhood they had no air conditioning and sat out on the front lawn most afternoons in the hot summer weather.  I loved to go sit with them, they were both very kind to me.  The next house on that side, 1014 was home to Curl Fitts and his family.  There were two daughters, older than me, and I don't remember them very much.  The next house 1012, was the Newby family, Lem and Wilma and their children Mike, Sue, Dianne and Cindy.  Wilma had a son, Jimmy Davenport from a previous marriage.  Next, at 1010, was a duplex.  Mrs. Newby's sister and mother lived there for a long time.  Jimmy and I moved into that duplex in the summer of 1969, soon after we got married.  Next was the Morrisey house at 1008.  Their daughter, Martha Jane, was my 1st and 2nd grade teacher.  After they moved away Bobbye White lived there with her husband ____ Collier.  Bobbye shot and killed Collier in that house in 1969.  The next house, 1006 was the Morrows, 1004 was the Barnes family and later the Raymers.  The Miles lived at 1002 and the Beasleys at 1000.  Some of the families on our street had children the age of my brother and sister but few my age so I don't remember many of them very well.
Debie Oeser

My mind is not one that stores memories very well.  I have to work at it, to commit something long term.  I knew that even when I was ten.  One summer morning I was up early, out on the front porch steps.  The sleepiness was still with me and I was quiet, just listening to the morning sounds.  The sun was shining and the street wet from the street washer truck that had recently passed by.  Birds were singing, enjoying the rising sun. The milkman pulled up in his truck in front of Mrs. White's house.  The trees were full and green.  The grass in our yard had been recently cut. I could smell the grass and sweet clover.  Sitting there, I was thinking what a perfect morning it was.  I decided I would always remember that moment.

To be continued....