Playing Dress-Up

(above left to right) Godfrey and Mary Ann Collins as Pappy and Mammy Yokum, Ed and Joy Bell as Li'l Abner and Daisy Mae
(above left to right) Godfrey and Mary Ann Collins as Pappy and Mammy Yokum, Ed and Joy Bell as Li’l Abner and Daisy Mae

My folks actually had fun before we came along. This photo must have been taken some time in 1953. My parents, Li’l Abner and Daisy Mae, were in their courtin’ phase. Evidently my father wasn’t a follower of this comic strip. If he had done his research, he would have known that his role was to evade marriage with Daisy Mae at all costs. Well, at least not look that interested. But Mrs. Collins, on the other hand, is perfect for her part as Mammy Yokum:

Born Pansy Hunks, Mammy was the scrawny, highly principled “sassiety” leader and bare knuckle “champeen” of the town of Dogpatch. She married the inconsequential Pappy Yokum in 1902; they produced two strapping sons twice their own size. Mammy dominated the Yokum clan through the force of her personality, and dominated everyone else with her fearsome right uppercut (sometimes known as her “Goodnight, Irene” punch), which helped her uphold law, order and decency. She was consistently the toughest character throughout Li’l Abner. A superhuman dynamo, Mammy did all the household chores—and provided her charges with no fewer than eight meals a day of “po’k chops” and “tarnips” (as well as local Dogpatch delicacies—like “candied catfish eyeballs” and “trashbean soup”). Her authority was unquestioned, and her characteristic phrase, “Ah has spoken!” signaled the end of all further discussion. Her most famous phrase, however, was “Good is better than evil becuz it’s nicer.”

I understand that another photo exists with the quartet costumed as the chain gang. I need to see this to believe it. My customarily glamorous mother dressed in stripes? She never wore stripes.


Album of Love


Expressions from the past. This is another item from the family home which I have decided is worth keeping. It’s a tiny book of laid finish papers in several pastel colors. Interspersed among romantic etching prints with protective tissue covers are handwritten prose poems to Lizzie Payne from loved ones. My family genealogy book tells me that Lizzie was my great great grandmother on my father’s mother’s side. Since the earliest poem is dated July 12th, 1858, I’m guessing that this little memento was given to her on the eve of her wedding.


Discovering Divinity in Unlikely Places


Another unknown relation discovered in the family home. Lucy Ann Philips Sharpe was a distant relation on my paternal grandmother’s side of the family. Born in Birdville, Texas on December 25, 1852, she married Henry Laurens Sharpe on August 21, 1873 here in Dallas. She lived a long life before passing away at the age of 88 in Weatherford, Texas. But it’s her divinity that we are most interested in. As an annual Christmas tradition, she made batches of it and mailed them to her ten children. That’s right. Ten. Ten living children. So she was able to continually charm her husband, and this is why I have dressed her in pink.

I don’t recall ever having visited Birdville or Weatherford. And I certainly can’t say that I’ve ever tasted Divinity. But Lucy’s daughter Jimmie Harris sent my father this Christmas recipe after the two had connected during my father’s research on his family’s history. Buried for fifteen years in piles and piles of stuff, it is now being published for the digital world. I can’t say I plan to cook this up, but perhaps, those of you who love to experiment in the kitchen, can advise me whether this recipe promises to be tasty. But something tells me it could stand some additional fancy touches.


My Maternal Grandmother

Ethel Mae Ryan, January 1925

To all of us grandkids, she was called Bookie. Since my mother’s death, my brother and I have been culling through all sorts of things. Lots and lots and lots of stuff. And more stuff. One of my jobs is to sort through bushels of loose photos and numerous photo albums. Eventually most of this will have to be scanned by me, but for right now, I’m in need of some fun. Hence the glamour shots are the first to be digitized.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Bookie followed in the footsteps of her mother and became a model in her late teens. The only difference in their modeling careers was the medium. Bookie had been one of the first photographic models of the twentieth century, while her mother had posed for fashion illustrations in the early 1900s.

I am only posting a sampling of the photos. By following the link below, you will see all types of fashions. From furs, embroidered gowns, hats, beaded evening attire to funky casual and swim wear.


In Honor of My Mother


Joy Brown Bell, 1930–2010. My mother passed away this last Saturday, November 27, after a two year illness. Even though my brother and I knew this was inevitable, there was no way to really be prepared. I feel overwhelmed, but fortunately all the preparations for the funeral mass have kept me busy. The above image is the cover design for the liturgy aid that will be handed out to those who attend the funeral. It is the last design project that I will be doing for my mother.

I have been back and forth from my mom’s house and have gathered a lot of her photo albums, which I will be scanning and posting in the near future. Unbelievably glamorous. There are albums from her modeling days before her marriage, albums of her wedding to my father, albums of my grandmother as a model in the 1920s, and an album of my great grandmother modeling in the early 1900s. But the most fun album is of my mother all glammed up in high fashion and costumes during her debutante days. All of which I would like to share with you.