by Delbert Trew
reveals mother's girlhood
December 25, 1916, my mother Naoma Simmons received an autograph book
Measuring only 4x7 inches, it contained blank pages edged in gold
for autographs of her family and friends.
Naoma was only 8 years old and the first entry was by her father who
wrote, "Love many and trust few, but always paddle your own canoe.
Respectfully, your Papa." The second entry was by her mother who penned:
"Dear Naoma, Keep a watch on your words my dear for words are a wonderful
thing. They are sweet like the bee's honey, or like bees they have
a terrible sting. Lovingly, your Mama."
I can see my mother now as a cute little girl progressing from sister
to sister and on to anyone who came, handing her new book and pencil
and begging for autographs. At that age, I doubt if she could read
well enough to see what each verse said.
A cousin wrote, "As sure as the vine grows around the stump, you are
my sugar lump." Another cousin said, "As sure as the vine hangs on
the rafter, you are the girl I am after."
Advice came from an older sister who wrote, "Sad faces lengthen the
dreary way. One sunny smile makes a dozen gay." Her teacher wrote
advising to always say "Thank you sir" and "If you please." A second
teacher stated, "Study hard as an uneducated person is a detriment
Time passed and as mother began to notice the boys several wrote sentimental
notes. In 1922, at age fourteen, a friend wrote, "When you get old
and cannot see, put on your specs and think of me." A boyfriend stated,
"Breakfast on the table, coffee on the shelf. I'm getting doggone
tired sitting by myself." A George Reno scribbled, "Long may you live
and happy may you be. Loved by many but most by me."
Mother once told us that at age sixteen she applied to become a Harvey
Girl for Fred Harvey Co. She was accepted and ordered to go by
train to Temple to work as a waitress in the Harvey House located
at the depot. She said she was both scared and excited as it was her
first time to be away from her home in Elk City, Okla.
After arriving, she was paired with another girl her age named Tilly
Reznicek who had never been away from home either. They were absolutely
amazed to find they had their own beds, a large mirror, an inside
bathroom with all the hot water they wanted to use. Plus, now they
had paying jobs and were independent. They felt it was like a true
The last entry in the autograph book was dated August 25, 1924, and
written by her new friend. The text said, "Remember the afternoon
when you I sat in our room all alone? Your friend Tilly."
I can imagine the fears, the homesickness, the emotions and excitement
passing through their minds as they braced to meet the outside world
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" >
February 1, 2007 Column