Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Happy 100

If my mother, born Blanche Elizabeth Landis, were still alive today, she'd be a hundred years old.

She was born in Dysartsville, in McDowell County, NC, and grew up there on her parents' farm. Like her brothers and sisters (plenty of each), she helped with the farm chores; when she was still a girl, one of her fingernails (was it the left index?) got cracked to its root in the sorghum mill, and grew out split for the rest of her life.

She went to school in Dysartsville and then Spindale, and left after high school graduation for the growing city of Charlotte. She went to business school there, and then, with Betty (whom I knew by her later married name) Waldron, a woman who would be a life-long friend, started a letter-writing company to provide secretarial services to small businesses. As the Great Depression set back the country's economy in the 30s, she took a job at the Post Office in downtown Charlotte, sorting mail for delivery.

Along the way, she met my father, J. Bryan Davis, nickname "Sunshine"; they courted for a decade, and married in 1938.

After her children were born, she went to work part-time for Southern Flooring, a flooring and acoustical tile installation business that had been founded by the husband of her old friend Betty. That was Uncle Les, who smoked cigars, had a hearty, glad-handed manner and a ruddy face.

When she and my father had bought the land on which they built their house on Chesterfield Avenue, they'd managed to get lots on either side of the house site as well. She was a great gardener, and used part of one of the lots as a large rose garden. She grew twenty or thirty varieties there, most of which I couldn't now name. I remember the Queen Bess, though, a simple single-flower pink rose, perhaps because its very simplicity struck me as elegant and distinctive among its redder and more lavish cousins.

She lived in the same house until her death in 1992, at the age of eighty-four.


Photo of the Dainty Bess from Mark Charneski's Flower Picture site.

My mother (standing, third from right) with her parents, brothers and sisters in 1946.

Blanche and Bryan Davis, 1938.

Here's Blanche holding my sister Martha while I stand in the snow at her feet for the photograph, 1948; the lot behind her later became her rose garden.

Click on any of the photos for larger versions.

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