Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lola wanted to be a wild west cowboy

Her dream of being a cowboy was not realized but it did not stop her dreaming.

Lola Mae Edwards Rector Chism
The story in the family is that Lola Mae, as we called her, was run over by a hit and run driver when she was a child. As a result of the accident she was late walking. Family members said she was about three years old, maybe older when she started walking. The hit and run driver was caught right away due to the fast thinking of a neighborhood grocery store owner. I cannot say if  this family tale is true, but I've heard it repeated more than one time by adults in the family.

As first cousins Lola Mae, Marie (my sister) and I practically grew up together. When her mother, Imogene Fowler, got married to a service man Earl V. Gray.  They were stationed in Washington, D. C.  Imogene came to Texas get Lola Mae, and she  lived in Washington a number of years. Imogene and Lola Mae did not have the best mother/daughter relationship. Most the time they tolerated each other. When she was about 14 Lola Mae returned Texas to live with Big Mama (Leola). We all lived in a white two-story house on East 7th Street in the rear. Lola Mae wore nice dresses, slips and shoes, all of which were much nicer that what Marie and I wore.

For a reason no one in the family could explain, Lola Mae fantasized about being a cowboy. Cowgirls were too girly for her. Of course, when we were young every kid in the neighborhood played cowboys and Indians. In fact, I cannot recall any of us girls playing a cowgirl. We were all cowboys, along with the boys. Wearing dresses did not make us less "cowboyish." Our horses were brooms and mop handles; our guns were sticks and pointing fingers. We yelled "bang, bang" every time we shot at each other.We hid behind the big tree surrounding our house or someplace else.

Linda Gray, Lola's oldest dgt
After going to see a western movie every Saturday afternoon, we would come home and Lola Mae challenged us to a western-style gun fight. She never doubted that she was the fastest draw on East 7th Street. She always won because we never took the cowboy gun fight as  seriously as she did. She even had the walk and stand like a gun fighter. She really thought she was a cowboy for a long time. She  imitated the way cowboys walked and talked.

When she was about 18 years old Lola Mae Edwards met and married Charles Daniel Rector in the early 1950s. He worked as a doughnut maker and short order at Woolsworth department store, located downtown on Congress Avenue. Black people could cook and wash dishes and shop at Woolsworth but they could not sit at the counter and eat.

After a “proper” courtship, Lola and Charles got married. In 1954 she gave birth to Charles Henry Rector. He was a little big eyed kid, who looked like his mother and father. He grew up to be petite in size like his parents. Lola Mae had two more children: Barbara Jean and Gertrude (she changed her name to Gigi).  Rector, Sr. was not their father. Lola Mae's oldest daughter, Linda Gray, was born a couple of years before her marriage to Charles. Linda was raised by her grandmother Imogene Fowler Gray. She gave Linda her last name. Imogene raised Linda until she  became ill with cancer. Linda, a teenager, went to live with Lola. Her stay with Lola Mae was short.

I assume Lola Mae and Charles got a divorce because of a "domestic incident" that took Charles by surprise. Actually, the incident took the whole family by surprise. Charles' mother quickly whisked him off to California to live. If he returned to Austin, he made no contact with Lola Mae.

Before she began to show signs of mental illness, Lola Mae was as good a mother as she knew how to be. Her children were never left alone by themselves or with babysitters.  Wherever she went she took them with her. Although she did not have the cooking talents of her mother, Imogene, she managed to cook good enough to feed her family. She did not drink alcohol or do drugs.

When Lola Mae was 35 she  married her second husband, George Chism, 50, May 2, 1969. He  had been married to a woman our grandmother, Leora Fowler Sterling, raised from a small child.  Lola and George had no children together. He was the stepfather to four children from  a previous marriage to Bernice, the woman Leora raised.

Charles Henry Rector
George died June 29, 1970. On December 12, 1997, Lola Mae Edwards Chism died of lung cancer.

She left behind to mourn her death three daughters Linda Gray of California, Barbara Jean Edwards, and Gigi Gertrude Edwards, one son Charles Henry Rector; one grandchild Latisha Wilkins, an aunt Gertrude Fowler Smith; a host of cousins, friends and other relatives. She is preceded in death by her mother Imogene Fowler Gray, her grandmother Leora (Leola) Fowler Sterling, grandfather Mose (Mozell) Fowler, great-grandmother Pearl Powell Brown of Bastrop, Texas, four uncles Raymond Fowler of Lorain, Ohio, Mike Fowler of Los Angeles, Isiah Fowler of Washington, D.C., and Johnny Mose Fowler of Austin, Texas.

Lola Mae Edwards Chism was funeralized at a local funeral home, followed by cremation.

Pictured below: Barbara Edwards (below center), her husband and child; Gigi Edwards Wilkins, mother to Marcus, Latisha (bottom). Arron, who was born a few years later is not pictured.
        

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