52 Ancestors, 52 Weeks, Cajun Style #3

(family names:

Daddy = William James Sutherland  (from previous post #2)

mamma = Beulah Begnaud

Ban =  Marie Lourdes Trahan)

OK, so far so good.  This week’s challenge is Longevity.

Very interesting, don’t you think? Could be time spent on a job, could be age one lives to, could be the amount of time you spend actually looking for someone because they are your brick wall in your research and you feel like you have been looking forever!

I can’t really talk about longevity of a career or job – I feel like some is due to any given situation (helping the family work the farm). Age is some genetics, some location and some luck (i.e. my ancestor who got killed crossing the street) so we’ll never know how old he was supposed to be.

So, to me, longevity is keeping the stories alive for generations.  I have just started coming across a letter here, newspaper article there.  For this example, I am going to share some of the story that my mother generously put down on paper for us kids.

As told by Eleanor Sutherland Wight from L.O.V.E. week = “Listening to Older Voices of Experience” hosted by her childrens’ school:  (I have inserted a few of my own memories that are sparked by some of mom’s)

Mom smiling pic Eleanor Sutherland Wight (Dec 1944 – Nov 1987)

I was born in Columbia, SC.  Daddy was in the service (Air Force) for WWII.  I flew to Texas at 9 months of age.  We all lived with “Ban” (mamma’s mother – that was short for grandmother).  Housing was scarce after the war.  Our house was a white wood-frame house in Port Arthur, Tx.  In those days, everyone only had one car so most of the houses only had one garage. We had gas heating, no air conditioning but an attic fan. (Rachel’s note: we also had an attic fan growing up – a HUGE blessing in Okla heat – to keep the cooling bills down) 

K (sister) and I shared a room. Each had a twin bed and a tiny closet (about 3′ wide), one chest of drawers between the beds with three drawers each in it for our clothes.  There was one large hall closet for toys and extras.   I loved to decorate my closet door – I cut things out or colored them and hung them up.  I loved to stay up nights late and read.  Often I’d read by flashlight under the covers after I was in bed. I liked mystery stories.  

The bathroom had a porcelain tub with a shower, a toilet and small sink built in and a gas wall heater for that room. 

The kitchen had a gas stove and oven (mamma didn’t like to light it in the summer, it got the kitchen too hot), a double sink, a refrigerator, no dishwasher.  We had a washing machine, no dryer but a clothes line.  The floors were wood and the kitchen and bath were tile.  The kitchen counter as tile.  A large back yard with no trees and St. Augustine grass.  We planted fast growing trees.  The house cost $10k and was about 1000 sq. ft max but probably not that big.  We lived in a subdivision with three streets built all at the same time; all houses almost the same.   By high school we got window air conditioners for our house. 

Daddy was a pumper at the Atlantic Refinery and worked shift – 8 to 4p one week, 4p to 12 one week, 12 to 8a one week and off one week.  Mamma was a full time homemaker.  Daddy had a full basketball scholarship to college (he was 5’8″ but no one was very tall and he played high school basketball) but his parents died and he had to work to support the family.  He was from PA; he moved to TX  with the refinery.  Mamma wanted to be a nurse, but due to the depression and war she didn’t go past high school.  

I went to Immaculate Conception Catholic School for grades 1-8 in Groves, TX.  Children didn’t go to pre-school or kindergarten so usually first grade was the first school experience and quite scary.  Sister Norberta was my first grade teacher and about 60 kids were in the class.  We had wooden desks with the seat attached to a writing top, a groove for the pencil and a space for books under the seat.  (Rachel’s note: Mom must have found one very similar if not the same as this at an antique store because I remember one being placed on our front porch at our house growing up!)

I always did well in school; in fact, I was probably bored lots of the time.  In first grade, we had reading phonics, math, singing (which I hated) and went to mass first thing every day at 830am.  We had recess at 10am and I looked forward to that to eat a snack.  (my sisters and I still tend to be hypoglycemic – which sounds like mom was too. Mom eventually taught French at our high school and would let us eat peanut butter crackers in class to ward off the hunger pains – Rachel) I either brought my lunch in a sack or Mamma came and got us to eat at home.  Especially if Daddy was working 4-12, we ate our big meal at noon.  We got out at 330pm. 

I hated (or was bored) by phonics – it was last in the afternoon and I pretended to be asleep so I wouldn’t have to answer! 

Most of my teachers were nuns who wore the long habits and were so conservative and strict.  About fourth grade, I remember my days of school as a troublemaker.  Lorraine and I would stir up things.  We used to hide in the bathroom and avoid mass and come out just in time to walk to class with others.  We’d duck walk to our seats. 

I always did my homework at the last minute and memorized poems as she went through the students alphabetically.  I knew it by the time she got to “S.”

Mamma made our clothes.  They were material that had to be ironed.  She’d sprinkle them with water and keep them damp in the refrigerator before ironing.  Our refrigerator had to be defrosted – ice formed on the freezer – that was a chore.  Floors had to be waxed.  Mamma kept a neat house – and clean.

Every four years Daddy got a summer vacation and we drove to PA.  It took three days in a car without air conditioning.  We’d leave early, like 530am and get our driving in and quit by 4pm.  No interstate highways. No chain motels, no fast food restaurants.  We carried ice chest and ate breakfast and lunch at roadside picnic tables (1950 Studebaker, grey color).  (Rachel:  Mom also had us taking an ice chest on trips and we would stop at rest stops along the way from Okla to Galveston/Port Arthur, TX to eat along the way. No fast food either.  We would not, however, leave very early but would stop once along the way to sleep at a motel!)

One of my distinct memories of PA is Paul took us in the barn and I hated the smell.  He milked a cow and squirted a cat in the face for us.  We didn’t like the warm milk.  

We had a parakeet – “BeeBee.”  He was so tame – he would sit on your shoulder and was allowed to fly all over the house.  He sat on a pot handle on the stove – Mamma kept the double boiler there all the time.  Then he flew to a mirror in the hall and would circle the house and land on your head.  He slept in his cage at night. We had him several years and were real attached to him.  Mamma was so kind hearted and loved pets.  

We had a 1950 Studebaker – grey and the ugliest car imaginable.  About 1960 we got a Rambler.  We were in a car pool for high school, but once in a while we could take the Rambler to school.  I loved it – the front seats laid back and touched the back seats so it made a flat surface.  We’d go across the street and get hamburgers and lay the seats down to eat.  (Rachel’s note – funny story – growing up my three siblings and I, we had a ugly blue Dodge van that mom called “the Queen Mary” since it was so big and difficult to maneuver.  It had a bench seat in the very back that would lay down ad we could sleep or play games on during trips.  In the middle of the van was two swivel bucket chairs that we could turn sideways, and a metal pole that fit in the floor of the van, and a table that would rest on the pole we would use for eating on and games.  Imagine a metal pole in the car!  We could get up and walk around in the van while mom and dad were driving!)

Our family was not big on traditions.  We had none for the big holidays.  Xmas we got a tree – a real pine tree (not artificial and never flocked – painted with spray snow).  We put an angel on top with that fine hair made of fiberglass and we used some of Bans decorations.  I was always bad at opening presents and wrapping them back up.  (Rachel: Yes, mom was terrible at this, and she thought us kids would be too, so growing up, she would wrap our four gifts (four kids) in matching wrapping paper, and another four in different wrapping paper, and NOT label ANY of them.  We would have no idea whose gift was whose until we started opening gifts on Christmas eve.  We would also hide mom’s gifts at friends houses so she would not peek!

I’m sharing a photo that almost has to be included – this is myself with my sisters, Karen and Renee and our brother Avery (the youngest) – as we are getting ready to go out and chop down our real Christmas pine tree.  The other photo I have (somewhere but haven’t posted) includes our Dad and one of us kids holding the ax that Dad used to chop the tree. It’s  like something out of “Worst family Christmas photos” or something.  We think it’s hilarious! It’s lucky we didn’t get stuck with any woodland creature as we were dragging in the pine tree from some random place on our property!   xmas tree hiking photo ski masks


Thanks to Amy for providing guidance, tutorials and photos – very appreciated!

For my own reference, the next two weeks will cover Invite to Dinner (#4) and In the Census (#5).  I’d love to hear what you think after each one which helps me write.  Thanks all for listening!


One thought on “52 Ancestors, 52 Weeks, Cajun Style #3

  1. Hello. I was so excited to find your blog today. I was “Elmer”s” college roommate. I remember the house where your Mom grew up. I went home with your Mom for Christmas one year and BeeBee would walk around on the dinner table during a family meal. I think the picture you have above was taken when your Mom was a bridesmaid in our wedding. She was a very special and talented person and loved her Cajun roots. I hope you continue researching and writing.


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