Image pulled from internet
Though Neeley’s marriage to Eddie did not start with love, they were good people who needed each other. Both considered themselves damaged goods. Neeley got a home and a father for her child, Eddie, a wife and mother for his young daughter. They both had healthy appetites for life and love which made for a solid marriage. Neeley loved little Clara Bea from the start, knowing how abandonment felt. Both got a better deal than they expected. During those days, divorce was almost unheard of. Eddie had despaired of finding a decent woman to marry after his wife abandoned him. He’d never even thought of approaching a young woman since she’d left. It was remarkable that Neeley was the child of a divorcee who married a divorced man at a time when most people had never even met a divorced person, much less have a close link to two.
Since there was no whisper of Neeley’s liason with Joey, it was assumed Neeley was a foolish young girl who’d fallen for an older fellow. Though it made for interesting gossip, it was not a real scandal since he’d made an honest woman of her. Then, as so often through life, society felt the woman fell short, not the man.
In the Deep South of that time, a great majority of people still made their living as farmers. Large landowners with sharecroppers or tenants were on the top of the heap. Small farm owners came next. About the least a man could support his family on was forty acres. He had to have a mule and equipment. The rental farm included a house. He most likely had to borrow money for planting and had debt at the grocery store most of the time and just scraped by. Should they fall on hard times and not be able to maintain their credit, their only option might be to become a sharecropper. Sharecroppers were set up by landowners and split the crop with owner. It was often unfair and kept farmers in debt. Many had to sneak off in the night when debt got too high. Sharecropping kept farmers bound to place.
Eddie owned a small farm and had very little money long before The Great Depression. They raised most of what they needed. Along with their garden, they had a cow, hogs, and a flock of chickens and cultivated a few acres of cotton for cash. The occasional sale of a hog and Neeley’s butter and egg money helped out. All they really had to buy was coal oil for their lamps, coffee, sugar, flour, baking soda, a few clothes for Eddie, and shoes. Women’s and girl’s clothes came from feed sacks. Flour sacks were reincarnated as underwear. Their’s was a subsistence life, not by choice. It was the life Neeley was raised to expect.