Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Arkansas Memories: Interviews from the Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History

Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Arkansas Memories: Interviews from the Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History

Article excerpt

Edith Irby Jones: My father was a farmer-a sharecropper. You made the crop and you got a share of what you were able to produce. He had evidently done very well, as I look back, because he had a T-Model Ford, he had a buggy and a horse, and he had a wagon. I probably learned the greatest lesson I have ever learned from him. At this little church with the wooden table in front-as everyone went up to give their collection, and I was dressed in my little stiff, white organdy dress, and with my patentleather pocketbook. And he says, "Edith, you should go up and put your money on the table." And I said, "No, no, Papa. I want to keep my money." And he says, "No. You go up and you put it on, because when you give, you get back much more than you give. So you give that in order that you can receive more." So I got down from the bench, and I hurried up and put my money on the table, and I stood there. And, finally, he came up to get me, and he says, "But, Edith, why don't you come back to sit down?" And I said, "But, Papa, I was waiting for them to give me my money back, and more." That was the day of his death. He told me then, "Edith, you don't get it back all at that time, but when you give, you do get back in multiples, but it may not come back at the same time nor from the same source that you give it." And that has been my philosophy in life.

It was on that day, my mother and father went horseback riding. They brought my father home on a wagon and attempted to resuscitate him. I saw them there pumping and blowing into his nostrils. And he died. I was about seven years old then. That was when I grew up. I had a sister then that was twelve years old. I had a brother who was about nine years old. And it was the three of us and my mother. She had an eighth-grade education, so it wasn't much that she could do. She had been his wife, and that was all that she did. She went to live with her father because the owner of the farm in which she was living wrote her a letter saying that she had to get off. My father had borrowed $25 to make the crop that year, and for that $25 he got a horse and he got some other things in order to make the crop. She did not have $25. He took everything my father had-the T-Model Ford that he had bought that had nothing to do with the $25, the buggy, his share of the crop-everything. She stayed with her father for a few months, and then she moved with us to Conway because there were no schools in Mayflower.

I developed rheumatic fever. I had swelling of the knees and I couldn't walk. So I couldn't go back to school. She taught me from my brother's books. She had an eighth-grade education. And so it was there that I learned to read and write. And she felt that the schools were not adequate to give us more than what she had to offer. She had an aunt in Hot Springs that she communicated with, and said that she wanted to come to Hot Springs to get us started in school. And that's how I got to Hot Springs.

Scott Lunsford: When I was reading about your sister's death [in Conway], there was a comment that you had noticed a correlation of people surviving illnesses that had money, and those that didn't, didn't do as well.

EJ: Typhoid fever at that time in Conway was an epidemic. Almost every household had someone in it who had typhoid fever. They had very few doctors. Dr. Cummins came to our house on one occasion to see my sister. But he only came once. I had seen him go to the neighbors, who had larger houses, and the children dressed better, and he went there several times. And it was then that I vowed that my sister would not have died if she could have paid for having him to come to see her as often as he had gone to see the other children. I resolved that I was going to be a doctor. I can remember comforting my mother when my brother was having bloody di- arrhea, and she thought she was gonna lose him, too. And for the grace of God, he didn't die. But I resolved that day-I was about seven years old- that I was gonna be a doctor. …

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