John Edward and Rosetta Mae (Blevins) Hill Family
Contributed by Linda Hill Mann
My mother and father, as did most or all of our school mates’ parents, grew up during the depression that stretched from the 1920’s through 1939 with the worst years being 1932 and 1933. My mother was one of six children. My mother’s father was killed in a mining accident in 1929 when she was about 13 years old. This was back when welfare, food stamps or any other k ind of aid did not exist. My mother had to quit school and was sent to live with her oldest sister to help with her children. In the 1930 census I found that my Aunt Clara, mother’s next to oldest sister, was living with a family in Princeton and listed as a maid. I’m not sure where the boys went but I guess they were working as farm help and surviving any way they could. When my grandfather was killed my grandmother had to move from the house that was owned by the mining company. She had a little bit of land and lived in a little wooden shack on the land for the rest of her life. My grandmother was a very religious woman and as poor as she was she still donated part of her land to build a church. The church now stands empty as so many small country churches do. My grandmother died in 1948 when I was only two so I have no actual memory of my maternal grandparents, only pictures that survived from that time.
My father’s mother had eleven children, one of whom died in infancy. During the depression there was no one working to support all the children so my father went to work at the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp to support everyone. My father only went through the 5th grade in school before having to go out and work to help support his brothers and sisters. My grandfather died when I was young and about the only memory I have of him was that he always had gum in his pocket and would give it to us children when he came to visit. That was a great treat for us since there was not a lot of money for candy and treats. I have the most memories of my grandmother who lived in a little house in front of our house on Athens Road until her son and daughter from Florida came and took her to live with them when I was a teenager. I never got to see her again before she died in 1968.
One story my mother told me was that grandmother had a water pitcher that has grapes painted on the side. I would go to visit my grandmother and she would give me the pitcher. I would take it home and mom would put it up for me. When my grandmother visited she would accuse mom of stealing her pitcher and she would take it back home. This went on until my grandmother moved to Florida. Luckily for me, the pitcher was at my house when my grandmother moved. My mother gave it to me when I got married and it has an honored place in my china cabinet to this day. My mother’s memories of the pitcher, however, were not so pleasant.
My mother and father married in 1934 and had five children who survived. There would have been eight of us but my oldest sister died when she was a few months old and my mother lost a set of twin boys. My sister Marie was ten years older than me. My brother John is eight years older and twin brother and sister Florence and Lawrence are five years older. I am the youngest and the little princess, or at least I thought so. I never learned to ride a bike; I was the baby and would get hurt. When dad would load up his kids and all the neighborhood kids in his truck to go to Princeton for trick-or-treating on Halloween, all the other kids got to ride in the back of the truck, but remember, “I was the baby” so I got to sit up in the cab of the truck with mom and dad. When it snowed all the neighborhood kids would cross Athens Road to a field with a large hill to go sleigh riding. You guessed it. I was the baby so I got to stand at the window and watch. You would think I would feel like I was left out but I knew I was loved so much and even though I was young I knew they were trying to protect me from all hurt.
I lost my sister Marie in 2003. My oldest brother lives in Minnesota very close to the Canadian border and the twins live in Michigan. I have two nieces who live near me and we are very close.
I got to fly to Minnesota in 2011 to visit with my brother whom I hadn’t seen in eight years. The twins and their spouses drove to Minnesota at the same time so I got to spend a week with all three of my siblings.
Since my mom and dad did not have much of a formal education they did not put a lot of emphasis on school. If I didn’t want to go to school one day all I would have to do was say I didn’t want to go and I could stay home. Mom just had some company for the day and she didn’t mind. However, you practically had to be at death’s door to miss going to church every time the church held a service. We went every Wednesday night, every Sunday for Sunday School and the morning service, Sunday night for the Sunday night service and every night when a revival was held. It’s not as bad as it sounds and if you are interested you can read more about it in the section called High School Years.
My mom and dad were perfect examples of the love story of the century. They loved each other so much and loved their kids very much. We always knew as long as they were alive and no matter how old we were we could always go home. Their home was open to us at any time of the night or day.
For five generations my family had a house moving business. I don’t mean moving the furniture but actually moving the house from one place to another. The house I grew up in sat on the Athens side of the Turnpike Bridge over Athens Road while I was living there. Now, it is on the Princeton side of the Turnpike Bridge. They cut the roof off the house, moved it in two pieces through the bridge and then put it back together again on the other side. I visit my old home in one place and my old stomping grounds in another.
Until recently I did not realize how great a sacrifice my mom and dad made for me. About three years before I graduated the house moving business moved from Princeton to Roanoke, Virginia. For three years my dad left on Monday morning to drive from Princeton to Roanoke, returning late Friday night. He did this so that I could continue attending Athens High School and would not have to meet new people and get used to another, bigger school. For him to have loved me so much is more than I can comprehend.
There is a tremendous difference in families now than when I was small. Now so many children have their mom and dad, their step moms and step dads, eight or more sets of grandparents and are shuffled back and forth from one home to another so that they never really know where they should call home. Due to so much drug use more and more children are being raised by their grandparents who are often too old to be able to give the children the help they need in school or to participate in the childrens' activities. Back when we were growing up I don’t remember any of my friends being from a broken home or living with their grandparents or whose mother or father had died.
I recently volunteered at a local school working with 4th grade students who were having academic or emotional problems. I usually worked with six or eight students during the school year. The last year I worked, four of my students lost either a mother or a father that year. I just don’t remember any of that happening when I was in school and don’t know the reason why it is happening to so many students now.
I knew Tom Mann before I moved to Roanoke but we had never dated. I did not expect to ever hear from him after I moved but he surprised me and started writing to me in November, 1964. We visited back and forth in November and December. He gave me an engagement ring for Christmas 1964 and we were married in January 1965. We were young and didn’t know each other that well so you can guess what those first years were like. When we had our son Andy in 1968 we had to grow up and become responsible. We were married for 44 years. For 39 years Tom was a foreman at a steel mill here in the valley and for 27 years I worked for the local legal aid office as the office administrator. Tom and I lived in and around Roanoke, Virginia, our entire marriage. Virginia is a great state to live in and we never felt the urge to move on to any other place
Tom spoiled me as much or more than my parents did. Even though he was a manly steel mill man he was a much better cook than I ever will be. He always cooked the turkey and ham for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I really miss his meatloaf, barbecued ribs and deviled eggs.
Tom really liked to play the slot machines. We went to Charles Town and Charleston, West Virginia, as often as we could. We were able to visit Las Vegas five times. We went to Paradise Island, Nassau, and played the slots at the Atlantis. We also went to Niagara Falls and Atlantic City, New Jersey. Tom liked anywhere there was a casino.
We bought a van and had great plans to travel around the U.S. as soon as Tom retired. Tom became ill a few months before he retired and I lost him, the “love of my life,” in April 2009.
Our son Andy was the light of our lives. He lost most of his hearing when he was 14. Those in between years, not a child but not a grown up either, are hard enough to get through without the added burden of suddenly, over night, becoming different from the other kids. He had a very hard time adjusting to his hearing loss and being teased by the other kids so he would never wear his hearing aids at school. The day he quit high school he put his hearing aids in and always wore them after that. Andy worked laying hardwood floors in some of the most expensive houses around Roanoke. I have been told that he was the best floor man in the business.
We lost our precious son Andy in an automobile accident in July 2001.
I spend my life now mostly having fun and doing things I never did before. I take line dancing classes, Tai Chi classes and am thinking about taking self-defense cane Tai Chi this fall. A friend and I go to dances or concerts two or three times a week and take trips anytime we can. No matter how horrific the loss, life goes on and you only have two choices. Get up, get moving and live or give up and die. I chose to live.« Back