Gladys True, A Vintage Vignette

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Gladys True
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
September 26, 2009

Madison of the 1900s was home to a number of gracious ladies. Among the foremost in community involvement was Gladys True. In 1913 Gladys was born in the village of Trenton, Alabama, where village life was similar to Madison. Her father was a storekeeper, and her grandfather was a blacksmith there. She passed away on June 18, 2004, at her home in Madison.

I met Gladys in the mid-1990s. She was in her 80s then and quite active in the Madison Station Historical Preservation Society, which I joined. Gladys was a charter member and early officer of that Society. In 1997, legally blind, she began to make audiotapes of her memories for her children descendants and future generations. The tapes were transcribed by family and friends, including Percy Keel and Betty Benson. In 1998 they were published in a 162-page book under the title “My Life From Wagons to Rockets”. The family gave the Historical Society permission to use the publication after Gladys’ passing, so even though printed copies are no longer available, the Historical Society offers the book on CD-ROM at token cost. The text that follows is taken directly from Gladys’ book to illustrate her narrative style and type of contents:

“While I was in school at Trenton and living at home, one of my jobs was to take the cow to the pasture. We lived in town, and took our cow to a pasture away from the house. Other families in town also did this. Other children had this job, and we played along the road as we performed this chore. In the afternoon we went back to get the cows. All we did was open the gate, and the cows knew what to do. We played all along that bank, and up and down the road. After we finished that and had supper, there was not much to do. We caught lightning bugs and put them in jars. We poured water in the sand and made mud pies. We did all the things that children do to have a good time.”

“A time that was not so good for us was canning time. When your garden had more than your family could eat, you canned the extra. Children were never too little to snap beans, wash fruit jars, and carry the jars to the cellar. There were a lot of things that children did then that they do not think about doing now. One time my daddy’s barn caught on fire. We had never heard about a Fire Department then. When you had a fire, you shot a gun up in the air three times in rapid succession. People heard this and started looking for the smoke. The neighbors all came to help. Everybody showed up as a volunteer firefighter, bringing their own buckets. At this time, we had a well just off the back porch, called a bored well. It had a long bucket that was a cylinder. I drew up water, and Daddy ran out with the water to put out the fire. The men were able to get enough water to put the barn fire out. When it was over, I was exhausted because none of the men realized that I was drawing all the water. I did not either. You can do lots of things when you are excited. Just a little corner of the barn burned, and we never knew how it started.”

“Country life in those days meant you took care of your neighbor, saw about your neighbor, and did their work if they were sick. If your neighbor was in trouble or needed help, you did what you could to help them. Nobody had any money, but there were lots of things that you could do for them that did not need money, and we were all aware of that. For example, if somebody’s peaches were ripe and yours were not ripe yet, you went over and helped that woman can peaches. You just did not think anything about it.”

Later Vintage Vignettes will include more of Gladys’ recollections, in memory of a grand lady of Madison.

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