My Parents’ Marriage (from Kathleen’s Memoirs of The Great Depression)

Grandma young adult0007family6homestead (2)The top picture is of Mary Elizabeth Perkins about the time she married.  The second is of Mary Elizabeth and Roscoe Holdaway when they were in their late sixties or early seventies. The third picture is of the Holdaway Homestead in Red River County Texas.  The young blond man in the center with the bicycle was Roscoe.  He was eighteen at the time this was taken.  He was twenty-eight and Mary Elizabeth twenty-two at the time of their marriage. They probably didn’t expect to have children since their first child wasn’t born for six years.  This is the story of their courtship and marriage from the memoirs of their daughter Kathleen.

Mama made sure her children were “raised right” but Grandma Perkins was “uppity” and that was a whole different thing.  Back in Virginia, Grandpa was from one of the more prosperous families in their county.  The king had made the original Timothy Gordon Perkins tax collector and granted him hundreds of acres way back in the 1700s and even though it had been subdivided through inheritance numerous times, the Perkin’s family still had more than most.  Grandma’s family had also been well-off to bequeath her a haughty, arrogant attitude, so she and Grandpa had a pretty good start on snobbery when they married.  Grandpa’s inheritance included farm, blacksmith shop, and country store, so they always lived well.  Their children were all educated and enjoyed more opportunities than most.  My mama, Mary Elizabeth Perkins, finished school, qualified as a teacher, and was offered a teaching position at the Volney School, something she’d always dreamed of.  Grandpa was head of the local school board and very proud of her intelligence and accomplishments. He didn’t discourage her from pursuing her education or teacher’s certificate, but when the time came for her to actually accept a teaching position, he stepped in.  Mindful of his social position in the community, he didn’t want anyone to think he couldn’t support his family.  With Grandma Perkin’s encouragement, and most likely at her insistence, he forbade Lizzie to accept the teaching position. Since he was the head of the school board that put an end to it.  He felt it was his right to make decisions for those under his roof.  He set Lizzie up in the butter and egg business to sell through his store, “giving” her some income and a lady-like pastime, but making sure she stayed in her place at home, church, and the community.  It was high time she settled down and married Steve Gould who’d been chasing her for a couple of years.  Steve was not only the postmaster: he would inherit his father’s rich valley farm, so was quite a catch.  There was no need for Lizzie to play at teaching and miss a chance like this.  Grandma and Grandpa much preferred the affiliation with the socially-prominent Gould family to the possibility of Lizzie becoming an “old-maid school-teacher.”

So Lizzie missed her chance at teaching, traded butter and eggs, and worked at her dress-making business, all lady-like occupations.  Busy in the church and community, she did indeed, become engaged to Steve.  While they were making plans to marry in the fall, the scandalous news broke that Steve had “been messing” with a fourteen-year-old girl who was “not right” the poor thing, living in a shack way up in the hills with her “sorry ol’ daddy.”  He made her available to men, for a price.  Marrying Steve had been a consolation prize to start with, so with this insult, Lizzie was through with him.  Grandpa Gordon and Grandma Sarah Perkins insisted Lizzie not “throw away a good chance when Steve was just being a man.”  Besides they weren’t even married yet when he was messing with that “trashy little ol’ gal.”  To their fury, Lizzie stuck to her guns, with Grandma reminding Lizzie what a mistake she’d made from then on.

A year or so later, Lizzie met Roscoe Holdaway, a distant cousin, who’d brought his father to a back to a family reunion in Virginia.  The families had corresponded through the years after John Holdaway married Cousin Elvira Perkins and settled in Texas.  Lizzie and Jim Holdaway, Roscoe’s younger brother had written since they were children.  Not surprisingly, Lizzie and Roscoe, the new guy in town, met and married over Lizzie’s parent’s vigorous objections.  Gordon Perkins made no secret of the fact that he didn’t think much Roscoe’s prospects.  In view of this frosty reception, after a short time, the couple moved on to Red River County, Texas to farm near Roscoe’s family outside Cuthand.  Roscoe’s farm had prospered.   He had two teams of mules, two wagons, an assortment of farm equipment, and a couple of cows.  Though Lizzie and her parents had never been close with Lizzie’s mother openly expressed she’d made a serious mistake by not marrying Steve Gould, she heard through family that Grandpa Perkins had been sick and nearly died.  After the long years of separation, probably thinking Gordon Perkins might be near death, Roscoe thought this might be time to mend fences.  He had Lizzie write her recuperating father, inviting him to visit whenever he felt well enough to make the long train trip.  It never occurred to them to invite Grandma Perkins who still had young children at home.  She and the boys wouldn’t have been able visit, anyway.  Grandma still had four children in school and the grown boys would have to run the store with Grandpa gone. Furthermore, a train ticket from Marion, Virginia to Clarksville, Texas at that time cost thirty-five dollars, more than a month’s wages. It must have been a timely invitation.  While they were expecting no more than a reply telling them when to pick up the ailing Grandpa at the train station, low and behold, one day Lizzie and Roscoe looked up to see her parents pulling up in a pickup piled high with all their worldly belongings, six children ranging from the age of ten to their early twenties in tow, coming not for a visit, but prepared to move in with them.  No explanations were forthcoming.  Many years later, Lizzie found out from a cousin that Grandpa’s “brush with death” was a suicide attempt when his business went into bankruptcy, costing him his store, the contents of their home, and the home place..

40 thoughts on “My Parents’ Marriage (from Kathleen’s Memoirs of The Great Depression)

  1. You do know my breath is about as “bated” as it can get, and I do have to say, my face is the prettiest shade of blue that it’s ever been, so that book had better be coming out soon, or you might just be receiving some tragic news about how one of your favorite book reviewers suddenly “blew up one day, leveling the entire 9-story building he used to live in”. But I certainly do appreciate, and love these previews. : )


  2. I liked the way Grandparents Perkins popped in ” forever” to live with the daughter they had almost written off. It just shows. As the good book says- the rock the builder abandoned—-.
    The cycle of life and even poetic justice. Great story, Beth.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gene says:

    Thank you Linda and also thank Kathleen for her wonderful memory and retelling the family stories. I have learned more about family history than I have in the last 70 years. I remember Mom and John sitting for hours talking about family but I didn’t bother at the time to listen in and remember.



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