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The Neighborhood I Grew Up In

Life Story Club Contributor

June 29, 2020

My neighborhood was in Glenmore. All of the properties around me on my side of the street were all family. He owned probably 25 acres that were parceled off. I might be exaggerating, but it was a lot of land that was parceled off among the children. And then we had cousins that lived a couple doors up and a couple streets up. And we were the only African American family in the area, so everyone that saw us knew we were family. I mean, they knew the Southalls.

I walked to school every day. It was a little neighborhood school. I walked to school until we moved, so I had to start taking a bus. I don’t know that I really noticed any racism growing up as much as I did once I became an adult. I don’t know that as a child, I noticed it because we were all just Southalls and we had been there that before a lot of the other people in the little area that we lived in. We were there from the late 1800s, so a lot of the area built up around my family’s property, it was just like kind of living like in a little village. It was like being in a village. I played in my grandparents’ yard. I played in my aunt’s yard. I played in my cousin’s yard. There was no differentiation. There were no fences. There was no nothing. We just played wherever because it was family. I had a couple other friends in the neighborhood, but I mostly just hung with my family, with my cousins.

My one aunt that lived on the corner, it was a corner lot and there was a drainage ditch that ran both sides of the corner, and you could go underneath the road and pop out on the other side of the street. Well, my aunt had this tree that had hard cherries. I can’t remember the exact name, but they weren’t, maybe they were crabapples. Crabapples, little, teeny tiny. And we would pick them off of the tree and throw them at the cars and run under the road to go to the other side because we’re throwing them from one side and running under. We got caught because one of the cars decided to stop, and when we came up on the other side, they were sitting there.

I got grounded for a little bit on that one because it was kind of dangerous. It was in the summer and he had his window down and it went right through his window and popped him on the side of the shoulder. Yeah. And we all got in trouble because my cousin Greg and my cousin Tony, it was us three that were doing it, and yeah, we weren’t allowed to play with each other for a little bit. And I got grounded. I had to stay in the house but it was kind of fun.

It was like there was such a rush. You throw it and take off under the freeway. Yeah, until you pop up and there’s somebody sitting there waiting on you. And he had the little crabapple. He had it in his hand. He said, “Did you guys lose these?” And it was a neighbor that knew us because everybody knew the Southalls. So it was he went right to my grandparents. He didn’t know which ones we were, but he went to the ones that he knew. He went right to my grandparents’ house, and yeah, we got a little trouble for that.

Yeah. It was like, he was, “I’m going to go talk to the Naylors about this. I know some of you belong to them.” Yeah. He parked his car and walked because it was like two houses down. And I came walking up. Tony took off because he lived in another street. Greg and I lived next door to each other, so we had to walk that way. So yeah, my grandpap and my grandma were standing out on the corner. My grandma just looked at me and said, “I think your mom wants to talk to you. I’m like, “Okay.”

The Ice Plant

Life Story Club Contributor

June 29, 2020


They originated the Southall line of my family. Daniel Southall. He was born a slave in Richmond, Virginia on one of the South wall plantations that was there. And then he was freed and came up north with an inheritance from his master and made a living doing odds and ends. He went to West Virginia. Then he ended up coming up into Ohio and met Amanda, who was already here.

It was after the emancipation, but I don’t have any records of her father, Bossry. We have pictures of him. I have no record of him ever being a slave, so that is a question that has yet to be answered. But we know for sure that Daniel was.

They came up and he worked the land. My family, they had businesses, they were farmers. He had award-winning potatoes and wheat. I found newspaper articles where he won a Tri-State Festival kind of thing in the area for his bushel potatoes and his wheat.


The ice plant was owned by the Golden Star Dairy. We’re not real sure of the reason, but the Golden Star Dairy employed a lot of my family members: my grandfather, my father, a couple of uncles. Part of the dairy was the ice business, which was they sold ice. I remember going on the ice truck with my grand-pap out to a little town that was probably 15 miles away, a turkey farm where they raised turkeys and he would take ice out there.

It was kind of fun because it was a big building. I liked when they would shave the ice. They would put it through a machine that would cut grooves in the 500 pound block so that they could chip it off into smaller pieces. I remember they would make–it would be snow. I remember opening the little door and making sure it didn’t have any oil on it, but I would eat the snow like a snow cone kind of thing. I remember doing that, and I knew not to get anywhere near the machinery, because they were just saws. They were like round circular saws!

I would be able to eat the snow after they were all done and Pap’s truck was all loaded and they had gone their ways, I would kind of go and open the door and just kind of eat a little bit. Not in the winter, but in the summer. It was interesting, and then it all changed. I was 10 when my brother passed away and we didn’t stay in the ice plant too long because Mr. Eiffert actually passed away the same year. And then the Golden Star Dairy that he owned kind of went out of business after he passed away. My dad went on to other employment and we moved into a little trailer by my grandparents’ house, and lived there until I was an adult.

A Love for Camping and Photography

Life Story Club Contributor

June 29, 2020

Camping was part of a therapy after my brother passed away, to try to get us to do family things. So we started going when I was probably 11 or 12, and we went and we did tent camping. Mom liked the outdoors, but didn’t exactly like laying on the ground, so then my dad started renting little campers. I remember having ones that we had to crank up and pull out. They finally actually did purchase several campers, but they went camping a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot. Actually, one of the things of theirs that I have was notebooks. My mom kept notebooks like journals of their camping trips. So I found those, then I have albums of pictures. I’m trying to coordinate the notes with the pictures, but they kept records and photography was something that my mom did.

She would even learn develop. She learned to develop pictures back then. So, yeah, and that spurred me because actually I have a degree in communications and I still take pictures. Don’t develop anymore, but when I went to school, I have my associate degree and I can do that kind of thing, and that’s cool. So pictures, I guess, would be something, like I said, we have. I actually have a picture of Daniel’s mom and Amanda’s father. It goes back that far, the pictures that we have, back to the early 1900s.

I think that my interest in photography was inspired by my mom initially. Then when I married my husband–he was a musician, a singer song writer–we started to think about ways that we could actually help the community. So we started doing benefit concerts, and I started taking pictures. Our company was going to be Morningstar Productions, and he was going to do all the musical parts and I was going to do the videos.

There was a church behind the one house that we lived on here in New Brighton, my husband and I, and Katelyn, our daughter. One Thanksgiving, they had lines, two blocks long of people for Thanksgiving dinner. I just felt very blessed and wanted to help because I’ve never had to stand in line for food like that. We’ve always had family gatherings. We’ve always had enough, and we wanted to help. So we thought about it and we talked to the church, and so we did a benefit concert to help that particular food bank. We did one to help the Salvation Army food bank. We actually ended up doing four different concerts over the years to help with some of the food pantries and stuff like that.

That was something that Robert could do because he knew the musicians and because he’d been singing. He had actually, before we met, had actually recorded a record that he had written and wrote the music and lyrics for. The music was him. We were talking, and I do like the video part and I do like the photography, so we were just going to do it like that. That’s how that started. As soon as Katelyn went into first grade, I went back to school and ended up getting an associate and a bachelor’s degree.

The college that I went through, Geneva College, had a local cable channel, and I ended up being the station manager and programming director even after I graduated. So yeah, that was probably my coolest job ever.

I got into that by God’s grace. I went to a community college. I transferred to the four year college, and I met with the director of the programming of the communications department. He and I just hit it off right away. So I just started working and I started taking the classes and I just, I have a gift for that. So I actually just started doing what I like to do, and ended up actually teaching the TV production class that the college offered as well as run the cable channel, which was for local. We had several local people who would come in, and the students would run the cameras and be in the control room. Local people, local producers. I had a couple that did interview type shows where they would bring people from the community in and do interviews and that kind of thing.

I didn’t really know. Because I wanted to be a Marine biologist when I graduated high school. Robert, it just kind of fit. And when I realized that I had a gift to do it, and when I realized that the things that I did people would compliment me on, then I just kept going.

And I still post some pictures that I take now. I’m more into taking pictures of birds. We have some bald eagles in a little park a couple blocks away from where I live. And I go down and take pictures and the birds are my thing, too. Don’t ask me why because I’m not really sure. Maybe because they can fly and don’t have to be on the earth. A birds eye view is like, I love being in a plane. I just love that view from up above there. But yeah I like taking photography and with all of the pictures that my family have, I think it might be genetic.

After Everything Changed

Life Story Club Contributor

June 29, 2020

I think it got hard after my brother passed away because everything changed. My mom went into a depression and I think we all did. Back then, it was like you didn’t talk about it, so I missed out on the grieving. I was only 10 and I saw him get hit by the car, so that changed everything. Changed the whole direction that my family took, that my mom and my dad and I took. So that was the hardest I think was having to function and gravitate life after my brother passed away.

I mean, yeah, going through that many changes and having to move house. We lived right next door to my grandmother’s house. We moved the trailer actually into their driveway and the trailer sat in their driveway, and their house was on the left. We had cousins that were on the right and in the back, they just moved the trailer into the driveway.

Easter Sunday

I think I was always close with my grandparents because it was just a couple doors away. Butchie’s death, I think, separated us because I know I was through. It wasn’t so much fun playing anymore. And then, it was like I was in fourth grade, and then in fifth grade I actually had to move schools. I started riding a bus which was really weird. So I think that my life changed with having to ride a bus and not just being able to come home and blah, blah, blah. So I think that I didn’t get any closer to my cousins that were there at the time. I just stayed to myself.

Trailer next to Grammy’s

I’m probably closer now than I ever was to my cousins. We now are actually the oldest generation. I think now as an adult I am close with them, but I had cousins that were within five or ten years. Five years either way, I only have four first cousins. It was like they were cousins once removed or whatever because my mom had three sisters, and between the three, four of them. They only had four children. So I only have three first cousins.

They didn’t live anywhere near me. So it wasn’t my first cousins that I was around. It was the other cousins. I think that it probably was the one thing that didn’t happen was the closeness. I think it was more I pulled away and nobody knew what to say. And I didn’t realize until talking with some of my older cousins how much my brother’s passing affected the whole family. So nobody knew what to say or how to say it, and I think we all just withdrew into our little selves to try to process the tragedy as best we could. And so, yeah. No, not so much close.

White Swan Park

We ended up talking about it eventually. It took probably until I had my daughter and was visiting my parents, and one thing led to another. And finally, we were able to air everything out through laughter and tears that I was getting ready to leave and ended up staying another three hours and we hashed it out and talked it out, and that was a turning point for my relationship with my mom and my dad. But it took years. I was an adult.

My Mom’s Courage

Life Story Club Contributor

June 29, 2020

My mom’s courage really impressed me because she was an epileptic. She had what was called Sturge-Weber Syndrome, which is people that have a red birthmark on their face, and her whole one side of her face was red, and it went over her eyelid, and it did something in her brain, because you can detect it with a brain scan. But she had Grand Mal seizures. My mom was born in 1926. Back then, they just call it an attack. They had no idea what it was, causing her to have these seizures.

But my mom’s character was that. When I asked my aunt to describe my mom for me, my one aunt said she was happy-go-lucky. She said, “Margie just was happy go-lucky.” And I’m thinking, “With having that, where she would have seizures, and to still be carefree and happy go-lucky, says a lot about her character.” And my other aunt would say, often, that the world needs more people like my mom and my dad.

So I guess my parents really are my heroes, because they had other people in the midst of their tragedy… My dad being an orphan, not having a family, my mom having seizures, they came together and became a couple that everyone respected. It just kind of amazes me about them. The way that they met, just by chance; they were halfway across the world from each other and they fell in love. My dad would tell stories about waiting for my mom’s envelopes; she always sent her letters in red envelopes, and he would always look at the pile of envelopes to look for her red envelope.

They were always red. I think it was a thing that my mom chose to do and I don’t know, because she wrote to a lot of guys. And my mind says she probably had a whole box full of red envelopes if she was writing to all these guys. I never did ask her, but I remember daddy saying that he would look for the red envelope because he knew it would be from Margie.

I think she sent them as her war effort. She had pictures of them, too. And she worked, for a while, at a plant in Pennsylvania called Curtis Ray, where they made propeller blades for World War Two, and they had to rearrange everything. She had to take a bus and they had to rearrange, because she was left-handed, but when the Korean War came, I think her seizures had started to get a little bit worse, and she didn’t work. So I think her war effort, then, was to write to all of these guys, and she did. I found three or four pages; there was probably 30 guys in there. I took it to my one aunt and she said, “Oh, those are Margie’s pen pals.”

I don’t think that she worked after that because the story that I remember is, she ended up having a seizure on the bus on the way home from work, and decided that didn’t want to work anymore after that. Because it took a long time for them to find medications and everything that would control them, because back then they didn’t know.

Family Differences

Life Story Club Contributor

June 29, 2020

I think I was different because, although we lived in the same area, because it was all part of the original land tract that my great, great grandfather had purchased, but I lived in an ice plant. My father made ice, big 500-pound blocks of ice, and we lived above the building that he made the 500 pound blocks of ice and then they kept all the ice because they worked for a dairy. And I think, that made me different because it was a little different living in the big ice plant. I had a really big yard and we had the ice plant, the plant itself was creepy because of all of the refrigeration machinery that had to be there.

And there was this big dark pool, kind of like a wishing well, that was really dark, where all the water came from for all the ice. Because at one point there were 24 slots of 500 pound blocks of ice that he would make, I don’t know how often he made it. If it was just a day, I don’t remember that part, but I think that was the difference, that I actually didn’t live in a house. I lived in an ice plant.

I got into some mischief as a kid, but my mom said I was always the questioning one. I had a brother who was killed when I was 10 years old. So, life really took a turn at that point for me. But up until that point, I think we were just, not a normal family, but it was just the four of us. So, then when my brother passed away, things became a little bit different and I guess, people, because of their empathy and sympathy for us, I really didn’t get in trouble.

Now that my mind is thinking of stories of mischief, I do remember setting the backwoods on fire and that was interesting. I had taken one of my mom’s cigarettes and went out to the woods to smoke and I didn’t know and the cigarette dropped and all of a sudden there was a fire and I couldn’t get it out.

And yeah, the whole back, probably three or four acres of the property burnt. And one good thing that happened out of that though, my one cousin that helped the volunteer fire department put out the fire, ended up becoming the first African American firefighter for the city that we lived in. So, that was cool. And he always attributed it to working putting out that fire because he just thought it was cool. So, yeah, so even the mischief turned out okay. Nothing was burned, nobody was hurt, and actually some of the trees and the berries, we have Blackberry bushes, and they came back even better the next year the berries were like … We were like, it was so cool, the berries seemed to taste better the following year.

It was after my brother passed away. So, I would probably say I was probably 11 or 12 years old. I don’t think anybody ever knew because I lied about it. Like, “I have no idea what happened.” I never told the truth, that I can remember. So, I don’t know if anyone really knew it was me or if they might’ve had suspicions, but nothing ever came of it.

I learned my lesson after that. I did not smoke. I did eventually when I was older, but I never went back in the woods to do that ever again. Yeah, I learned my lesson. I was scared. I was scared because I was afraid when it all started flaming up, that I was going to get burned because it went really fast and got really big, really fast. Fire, probably, is the one thing that I have a very healthy respect and fear of because it went really fast. I did go back and play in the woods, but yeah, I never smoked back there, never took matches, never took lighters again. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

Greatest Lesson

Life Story Club Contributor

June 29, 2020

I think the greatest lesson that my parents taught me by example was just love and commitment. That, when you’re in a family, you love unconditionally, and that you are committed to the people that you are in family with and the people that you choose to associate with. That is a great lesson for me in a world where relationships are trashable. It’s like the commitment and the love, I think, has been throughout my family history, and my parents just continued that lesson for all of my family. And me, because I was their only one.

They showed me by example; by the things that they did. My mom was a stay-at-home mom, and my dad went out and worked, and it was just their commitment to each other, and my grandparents’ commitment to each other, and just by living their lives with the tragedies and the circumstances that happened, they never left each other. They never thought of leaving each other, clear up until the day that my father left my mother, and 44 days later, she left us. So, that was their commitment; ’till death do us part. And that was my lesson, and I stayed with my husband; he passed away a couple years ago, for 37 years, and that is just… Commitment is something that I think is lacking in relationships today, and I am very appreciative for that lesson, that when I love somebody, I’m committed to them unconditionally because of the love that I have.

I just have one daughter, and I hope that I did instill that, the unconditional love. That when you love somebody, you do your best to bring out the best in them. And a relationship is a give and a take, and it isn’t always 50/50. Sometimes it’s 90/10 and sometimes it’s 10/90, but you don’t give up on that person you love. If they’re having a bad time, whatever they’re going through, you just try to bring out the best in them.

The Stories My Parents Told

Life Story Club Contributor

June 29, 2020


My dad was not as big a storyteller as my mom, and my mom had a lot of stories. And I was actually trying to think of the one that she liked telling the best. And I think it was the story of when they were all playing outside; her and her sister and the cousins. We all lived in the same area. And they were playing cowboys and Indians, and they tied up cousin Jacky to the tree and gagged him because he was the cowboy. And then my grandmother called them in for lunch and they took off and left cousin Jacky still tied up.

And all of a sudden they heard aunt Roberta hollering for Jacky. And my grandmother looked at them. Mom will just, she just got the grin on her face. She would look. “And do any of you know where Jacky is?” And they all shook their head no and said, “But we’ll go out and help aunt Roberta look for him.” And they all took off and found him and got him untied.

But that was the one I think that she liked to tell the best because she would just laugh still. Years later, she would laugh about it. And I was thinking about it and I don’t even know if she told me about them getting in trouble or not, but I can just see all of them thinking, “Oh no, Jacky.” So I think that one. She had a lot of stories about she had a dog named Snowball. They had an outhouse and Snowball fell into the outhouse and grandpap had to go in and shovel him out, and she got a big kick out of that one too. But there were a lot of stories, but I think those two were the ones that I remember her still giggling about when she started to tell them.

I was told these stories when we were sitting around talking. We used to play cards and eat shrimp. And we would just talk and I got the stories of the family while we were playing cards. We played Bid Whist, which is a card game. It’s sort of like Spades only you get to pick the trump. It’s not always spades.


My mom never went without shoes because they were running around the kitchen and there were four of them, and a glass fell off and she stepped on it. And that cured her. She never. I’d never seen my mom in bare feet ever.


What other stories did my mom tell? The story about when my parents met. My dad was in Korea in the war and my mom was writing to several soldiers in the war. My uncle found my dad, or vice versa, and he wrote back and asked my mom to write my dad. So my mom started writing my dad. As soon as he got discharged, he came up to where my family was. They had only known each other for a little while. She said she knew he was going to ask her something. She thought he was going to ask her to go steady. She was already to say no, she wasn’t going steady, and here he asked her to marry him. He skipped the going steady. He just asked her to marry him, and she automatically said no. But the next June, they got married. She would always joke with him telling him, “I never did say yes.”

They got married and they were married for over 50 years. They’d be joking, and she said, “I never did say Johnny, I would marry you.” He would always grin and say, “Yep, but here we are.”

My father wasn’t a big story teller. My father was an orphan and he was raised in an orphanage. He liked some of the nuns. It was a Catholic orphanage. He did tell the story about, there was a family whose mom had passed away and the dad left the boys in the orphanage. Then he would come and get them on the weekends, and they would take my dad often. He said that he would go home with them. That kind of gave him a sense of a little bit of sense of family. But he traveled the country after they let him out of the orphanage when he turned 18. He traveled. He got caught in the draft. He was in Louisiana loading banana boats, and that’s where he got caught with the draft for the Korean War. But he worked at Indianapolis. He was in Chicago. He was everywhere. But he didn’t tell a lot of stories. He was very quiet. My mom was the one that did most of the talking.

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