My beautiful grandmother, Alice Montgomery Carrico, was a strong presence in my life. I’m sure most of you have felt this way about a grandparent, a special aunt, or another person involved in your life. She was raised with a silver spoon in her mouth, as they say, the oldest child of Robert E. Lee Montgomery and Frances Barber Linton. They lived on a dairy farm outside of Springfield, Kentucky. Her father, my great-grandfather, was the typical southern gentleman. In almost every photo he is wearing a thin bow tie and white, or light linen suit. Great-grandmother Frances was the gracious southern hostess, inviting even a passing salesman to lunch with the family.
Grandmother went to St. Catharine Academy, a school of the Dominican sisters, during her high school years. I believe she must have boarded there since I now have her silver napkin ring, with her initials – A. M. – in beautiful script. My aunt said she used the napkin ring while there, when giving it to me as a gift several years ago. While there, Alice took piano lessons, but the dear sister told my great-grandmother she was wasting her money, there was no musical ability in her daughter.
The next link I have with my grandmother is a photo taken about 1915 – at 22 she looks to be a suave and sophisticated woman, ready to take on the world. Isn’t she quite a dish?
At the age of 27, in 1920, she married my grandfather, Joseph Reuben Carrico. It must have been a love match since it was rather like the princess marrying the church mouse. Alice and Rue lived on a small farm near St. Rose Church. Their family began with a baby boy, Joseph Robert (named for both grandfathers) born in 1921. Life was hard, especially, when the depression hit. They had five children by that time – Robert, Reuben, Beulah, Paul, Ann – with Catherine (my mother) and Mary Alice coming along in 1931 and 1933. Life was hard for everyone, but at least living on a farm gave garden vegetables and pork from their hogs, fruit trees gave an abundant bounty, and blackberries and raspberries were loaded on the vines. My mother pictured her life on the farm as wonderful, filled with adventure and always having plenty to eat. But is this the depression seen through the eyes of a child? Did Grandmother and Granddaddy have more worries than what she remembers? I have the leftover war ration book that was in my mother’s name – stamps for sugar, coffee, gas and other things that were rationed due to the war that followed the depression.
How did my grandmother react? Like any sensible woman! She rolled up her sleeves and got on with life. She sold eggs, butter and cream to the grocery in town for extra money. Her butter was special since she made little curves, flowers and designs on top. Grandmother herself drove the buggy into town, driving her horse, Nipsey. Evidently there was a very special bond between grandmother and her horse. When he fell ill, she held his head in her lap, gently rubbing him until the end – I’m not sure how many days he lasted. So strong, but yet so gentle.
The family didn’t have electricity for many years. Grandmother carefully cleaned the chimneys and filled the oil lamps for the family. She walked into the kitchen and slipped while holding one of these lamps, but had the foresight to hold the lamp high during the fall. Not a drop of oil was spilled, no lamp crashed and hit the floor, spreading oil and flame over the room. She kept her family safe.
In 1930 son Reuben became ill with appendicitis and died at a hospital in Louisville. This began a number of years of giving up some of those she loved. Robert entered the army during World War II and died a hero in 1943. Her mother, Frances, died in 1945, and her father, Robert, in 1954.
Through all these deaths I’m sure my grandmother shed many tears. But in 1961 my grandfather passed away. I helped cause some of her tears during this time. At only four years of age I didn’t understand the concept of death – I was positive granddaddy was coming back. When we visited and I heard a noise I would always ask if that was granddaddy. Which always produced a great deal of weeping from both my grandmother and my mother.
By this point in her life, at the age of 68, grandmother lived in town. There was no farm to run, no garden to hoe, no butter to churn. She turned to the enjoyment of friends and family. Grandmother and friends, one I remember as named Crokie, played canasta and ucker. They would visit at each others house and enjoy the afternoon. I can’t speak for the other ladies, but grandmother never left the house without her jewelry – brooch and earrings, sometimes necklace, – hat and matching gloves.
Grandmother was still the best cook – her baked chicken and dressing was always the best. I can still taste it – the most tender, succulent chicken with moist dressing that always included raisins! It makes my mouth water just thinking about it! Anything she fixed was good, I suppose this was just my favorite.
As my grandmother aged, and it became harder to visit her friends – and as they went to meet their Maker – she loved playing cards with her children and grandchildren. Her faith was very important to her, and she prayed while sitting on the porch every day – her favorite spot for time with the Lord.
Grandmother loved her family, and I suppose she was a genealogist, too, but she wasn’t that involved with finding names and dates and records. She was more interested in people. One of her last involvements in life was trying to ensure that the Linton Cemetery was not forgotten, or, worse still, erased from history. She called the local newspaper, The Springfield Sun, and brought this to their attention. A huge article was devoted to this, complete with a wonderful photo of my grandmother in her 89th year!
My grandmother was in the hospital only twice during her life – once in the 1960’s when she had pneumonia, and at the end. My mother visited her the night before she died. Grandmother was eating dinner, and had taken the oxygen from her nose. Mom scolded her when she went in. Feisty as always, Grandmother said she couldn’t enjoy her food with the oxygen. She was going to the nursing home the next day. She died later that night, at age 92, taking matters into her own hands, as she always had.