When Mom and Dad brought my grandmother’s cedar chest from Texas to Georgia, it sat in my dining room for about a week before I looked at the things which it sheltered. My daughter briefly went through the contents the day it arrived, but I did not have time to. She was the one to show me that besides several pieces of silver, there was other mementos Granny put in there from her life with my grandfather, like the japanese silk fan he brought back from overseas when he was in the Army Air Corp.
What caught my attention was a large blue tub. Popping the lid open, I was surprised to see several large ziplock bags with Airmail letters from my grandparents from the 1950s and 60s to someone named Mary Louise Gay. There was also turn of the century photos which were in excellent condition, but not labeled, so the identity of the people in them was uncertain. Another large bag contained papers and receipts from the 1930s and 1940s for Mary Louise Gay, and then there were letters from my mother’s uncles, Sam and James Gay, during WWII.
I placed them back into the blue tub and sighed. Later I would go through these when I had more time. As a Historian, the items were evidence and I would need to carefully scrutinize the information they contained. It was part of my heritage and I wanted to be able to put them together to see what was happening in my family’s lives during that time.
Last night I began that journey.
I started first with the immense files of Mary Louise Gay. From what I gather, Mary Louise Gay was my Granny’s Aunt, and I don’t believe she ever married. (Found a certificate from Continental Casualty Company which stated she was 42, and her beneficiary was her mother Sara A. Gay) Delving into her personal files, I saw she was a very independent woman, who purchased her own home in Montgomery, Alabama, for the small price of $2250.00, her monthly payments being $17.63. She worked as a clerk and manager for a dry goods store named A. Nachman at the rate of $16.50 per week. (Monthly receipts typed out by someone named Kate Thrasher showed she first was hired at $15.00 dollars a week but after one month got a raise.)
I tried to find out some information on A. Nachman’s store and was lucky to find an old photo with the building in it. The caption stated it was taken at a parade in downtown Montgomery, Alabama before the annual Blue-Gray Football Classic. A. Nachman building was on the corner, before it burned down. I have not been able to find out when it burned down, but am still looking.
Like most of those who lived in the 1930s, she suffered from the effects of the depression. There are many letters in her files stating she was behind in her mortgage payments, and receipts from the Regional Office in Atlanta of the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation from about 1936 to 1943. I was curious what the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation was, so I did some research.
Home Owner’s Loan Corporation was a New Deal agency established by F.D.Roosevelt during 1933. It’s purpose was to refinance mortgages that were in default to prevent foreclosure during the depression. After monies were exhausted, they stopped giving aid in 1935, and then begin to liquidate the assets by selling off the mortgages. It appears Mary Louise Gay paid them until about 1943. I could not find anything after that, and the airmail letters from my grandparents were sent to a different address on 4th Street in Montgomery in the 1950s and 1960s. This is something I want to investigate further as I feel she made have lost the fight to keep her home.
Going through the files is proving to be very interesting, as Mary Louise would place letters, newspaper clippings, notes, and other items in with her receipts. I have discovered many more historical things which I will blog about later. Right now I am going to pour over the letters from WWII, and see what they have to offer.