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In Memory Of Our Poets

Mildred Sellers (Stevenson) (1921-2004) - Class Of 1939

Native Alabamians Forever Linked

Mildred Sellers Stevenson
We claim third and fourth cousins-a tradition some other Americans think a little odd. We love family stories and genealogy. A favorite cousin or an aunt or an uncle is especially appreciated unless one of them happens to be a black sheep. We've even been known to delight in the occasional family misfit, if he is entertaining.

Last week my siblings and I stood at graveside in Greenwood Cemetery in Montgomery and said goodbye to another of my mother's generation, Mildred Sellers Stevenson, 83. Beautiful, gracious and kind, Mildred was one of my favorite aunts. She was the youngest of my mother's five half-sisters, daughters of Dr. Joel Carter and Susie Vaughn Sellers.

During my growing up years, the '30s and '40s, those wonderful aunts and my grandmother were central to my life, as were my father's two Eufaula sisters. Growing up during the Depression in the small farm town of Samson, my five siblings-especially the two youngest and I-looked forward to summer vacations in Montgomery.

They said I looked like the Sellers, not the brown-headed Smiths. When I was a towhead and overheard somebody in Montgomery say I didn't look like a Smith, I wondered where did they find me.

Mildred and her wonderful sisters took turns entertaining us in the big city and bringing home treats to us after classes at Sidney Lanier High School or work at Great-uncle Shan's Sellers Wholesale Grocery Company.

If the train schedule from Samson to Montgomery didn't work out for Bob and me, we hitched a ride on a Sellers Grocery delivery truck. Thinking back, those were the Depression years. My parents, who never got around to telling me money was in short supply, must have appreciated our free ride to the Capital City.

When I saw the clerk in my daddy's Square Deal Store, a general mercantile business that operated rolling stores out in the country, collect coins and bills from the cash register and put them in a bank bag, I thought the Smith family was rich. The kidnapping of Charles A. Lindberg's baby in 1932 made such an impression when I was a tot that I told my first grade teacher that my father had so much money I was afraid I might be kidnapped, too.

When the Samson bank went broke, my oldest brother Jack begged to go downtown and see the hole in Samson Bank and Trust.

Even so, the five Smith brothers and their tomboy sister lived a happy and carefree life at 505 W. Main St., only a hop and a skip away from the biggest sawdust pile in Geneva County, until our lovely mother, Rose Sellers Smith, died in 1940.

That multitude of aunts-and a couple of uncles-became even more important in my young life.

However as a youth-though well loved and provided for by a caring father-I found it difficult during WWII to put Ben Franklin's sage advice into practice: "The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself."

Those summer visits with my Sellers kin on Mildred Street in Montgomery and an occasional Thanksgiving visit with my "rich" Uncle Bob, who treated us to the annual "peerade" and Tuskegee-Alabama State game or the Christmas holiday Blue-Gray Classic in Crampton Bowl, are fond memories of my youth.

Tours of the Alabama State Capitol conducted by my strict great aunt, Sally Abernathy, weren't nearly as much fun because she expected my younger brother Bobby and me to remember the names of the governors whose portraits hung in the hall of the Capitol. She would take us to the governor's office where we sat in Gov. Frank Dixon or Gov. Bibb Graves' chair-we were told we were very distant kin to Graves, and I inherited the Graves family genealogical records, if I care to document that.

Aunt Sally ruined my summer afternoons when she came to Grandmother's and cornered Bobby and me for arithmetic lessons-just what I didn't want on my "Vee-cation," as Emma Poon, our wonderful cook in Samson, talked about incessantly. That was back in the Depression when only the rich took weeklong vacations or visited the World's Fair in New York City. Our trips were limited to Montgomery and day trips to Choctawhatchee Bay and the beach.

Convivial Mildred and her equally adoring sisters treated the little Smith brothers and sister like princes and princess. They accompanied us on streetcar rides across town to Oak Park for picnics and swims in the pool. They would also help me hide from dour Great Aunt Sally, and slip me out the back door to escape the math lessons.

Bright Bobby was too young to know he could defy an aunt and he stayed and learned arithmetic that helped put him at the top of his class back home in Samson. He was also rewarded with one of Aunt Sally's hand sewn coverlets, made from gathered puffs of silk scraps.

As the keeper of family history files and archives, I'm saving Mildred Sellers Stevenson's obituary. Her only son, Walter Stevenson, Alabama's foremost authority on state rivers and underground aquifers, and I plan to get together and share some family history and childhood photographs of his lovely mother and her sisters with the Smith chill'un. I also have some happy childhood memories I'd like to share with my cousin.

©Eufaula Tribune 2004

Joel P Smith

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03/28/13 09:53 PM #1    

Betty Brock (Harris) (1949)

I don't know her but  enjoyed the write-up about her...reminds me of my childhood growing up in Enterprise, AL...and Montgomery, AL...making frequent visits to my Uncle and Aunt's home in Samson..my uncle ran the Ice Plant there. Brought back cherished memories.  Thanks for sharing.  Betty Brock Harris  Lanier class of 1949

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