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MY MOTHER, Ada Pauline Duncan, was born in the Handley area of Fort Worth to John Duncan and Cordie Mae Noe on December 8, 1907.
The Noe homeplace was on what is now East Berry Street in East Fort Worth. There is a street named Noe that divided the Noe homeplace.
My daddy, Robert Arthur Yeary, was born December 9, 1904, to Edna Earl Johnson and Arthur Yeary in Weatherford, Texas.
Ada Duncan and Robert Yeary married on August 25, 1926. To this union they added Mildred Alta Yeary, born June 6, 1927, Johnie Arthur Yeary, born August 12, 1929, Mary Sue Yeary, born October 13, 1930 and Jasper Rual Yeary, born February 4, 1932.
My parents had a two-room house on my mother’s parent’s property in the Annetta community of Parker County. The house was close to my mother’s parent’s house. My mother told me that every time my granddaddy would come around, I would cry until he took me in his arms and held me.
Jasper Rual Yeary was born in February 1932 and only lived fifteen days. My parents separated shortly after his death. I can remember going to court during my parents’ divorce and having to tell the judge if I had been mistreated and which parent I would prefer to live with.
It was very scary as a small child going to court and sitting in that big witness chair. Many years later I found out that my granddaddy had told the court that he would see that my sister, Mildred, and my brother, Johnie, and I would have food if Mother had custody.
Custody was given to Mother with Daddy getting us the last Saturday and Sunday of each month – and for the whole of July each year.
MY PARENTS divorced when I was around two or three. My mother’s family said my name was Mary Sue, but my daddy’s family said it was Ina Mae. After I was married and had children, I decided I needed to find out who was right. I was unable to find a record of my birth.
After talking to my daddy, he said he knew he had filed my birth. I was born at home in the Annetta community of Parker County. By writing to Austin to see if a birth of a baby girl born to my parents on October 13, 1930, was on record, I received information that there was such a birth, but the records said I was “unnamed baby girl.”
Now I had the unique opportunity to name myself. I thought of many names I had wished I had been named. Being a practical person, my thoughts went to the fact that having lived with Mother, I had used the name of Mary Sue Yeary during school, on my marriage license, and on my children’s birth certificates. The best solution was to have the corrected birth certificate read Mary Sue Yeary.
NOW I COULD verify that I am who I am. I had named myself: Mary Sue Yeary.
Little did I know how temporary a name could be.
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My Early Life
BACK TO October 13, 1930, for a review of what took place on the day of my birth.
It was on a Monday, and as usual, it was washing day. Mother had washed clothes the day I was born. I have the original washing machine she used, a rub board.1 It was hard on your knuckles and back, but it built strength in your arms and hands. Here’s how it worked:
You washed clothes by rubbing homemade lye soap2 on the clothes then rubbing the clothes on the rub board in a #2 washtub. The water was heated on the cookstove or in a pot over an open fire. If you could afford them, you would have two or three tubs. You used the same water for all loads of clothes.
White clothes were washed first, then light-colored clothes, and the dark clothes were washed last.
You needed to wash the clothes and wring them out by hand, and then rinse them two to three times (again, wringing them out by hand) before hanging them on a line outside for the wind and sun to dry. The sun made the clothes smell nice and fresh.
All this was happening on the day I was born, and my mother, carrying me, was the one with her hands in the washtub.
Once the clothes were on the clothesline, if it sagged, you put a stick under the line to raise it in the middle. During rainy weather, it was hard to get the clothes dry. In freezing weather, clothes would freeze on the line. At least I was born in Texas in October. The weather hadn’t yet started freezing the clothes on the line.
THE SAME TUBS used for washing clothes were also used for the weekly baths of the family. The youngest child was bathed first, and then the next youngest, on until everyone had taken a bath. The water was heated on the cookstove in a tub or large pans and then poured into the bathtub.
You can imagine that during the winter, baths were near the stove to avoid getting too cold. Everyone bathed in the same water, and when everyone was clean, the water had to be taken outside and poured out.
ALL THE WATER used in the house was carried inside in buckets. There was a bucket used for drinking with a dipper kept in the bucket for when someone was thirsty. Everyone, even visitors, drank from the dipper.
Near the bucket was a pan with a bar of soap nearby for washing your hands. This water was used several times before being thrown out and fresh water put back in. A towel hung nearby for drying your hands and face. Soap was dried (or rubbed) off, not rinsed off your skin.
When you washed dishes, you used one dishpan, and the soap was dried off as you usually had only one dishpan. Sometimes there would be enough water in the tea kettle to rinse the glasses, as they were washed first, then plates, with forks and knives being washed before the pots and pans.
Children took turns washing and drying the dishes. You were careful in the amount of water used for different purposes to avoid carrying so much water. Of course, the adults pressed the children into keeping the water and wood supply replenished. We needed wood because that was what we used for cooking and heating.
For lights, we used the sun in the daytime, and at night, there were the trusty oil lamps. We cleaned the globes with newspaper so the soot could be thrown away.
The way you washed clothes made you careful not to make wash day harder than it needed to be.
WE USED EVAPORATION cooling to keep the milk cool by putting a clean cloth over the pitcher and draping it into water in a pan under the pitcher. Money was scarce, and the ice man came only three times a week. We had an ice card we hung in the window. The card had 25, 50, 75, and 100 on it, so you hung it up with the amount of ice you could afford at the top so it could be seen from the road.
We never had iced tea as ice was a precious and needed item, and money was scarce. Most of the time we did not have any ice.
1Commonly called a washboard.
2Lye soap is made with lye and grease. Sue helped her mother make soap often over the years and has made it many times since.