All My Love
article and art by Lou Davenport
In 1946, my Daddy was discharged from the Navy in New Orleans. He caught a bus back to Bastrop and was greeted warmly by his big family. He was just 21 years old.
Meanwhile, an 18 year old brown-eyed beauty, my Mama, entered Louisiana Tech University as an education major. She had grown up in Simsboro, surrounded by a big family, too.
In a few years, as fate would have it, he saw her. I’ve never been able to tell if she saw him or not. She always said she didn’t. But, my Daddy was a good looking man and I think it would have been hard for her to miss seeing him, as he was working on the same street.
She was walking back to a boarding house she was staying while she finished her practice teaching in Mer Rouge. He’d taken a job as a surveyor and was “shooting lines” on the very street she came down each day. He said he followed her all the way to the place she was staying through the transit lens, saying she was “sashaying” down the street. She flat denied that she ever “sashayed” anywhere!
As small towns are, my Daddy knew one of the girls staying there. He found out who my Mama was, and I assume was then “properly introduced” to Miss Carolyn Turner.
And, the rest, as they say, “is history.” Well, sort of.
From what I remember my Mama telling me, she was not overly impressed with this blonde, tanned former sailor boy. I think she thought he was “nice,” but I got the impression he didn’t “bowl her over” with his charm. I believe he was “smitten” by her on that very first day. She told me she had been seeing two other guys back home in Ruston. Hmmmm….
I’m sure he didn’t know he had competition, nor did he even care. Daddy was stubborn and hard headed, and he was not going to give up trying to win this beautiful lady over. (She did tell me jokingly once, that she “had to marry him to get rid of him!”) At some point in 1948, he got her to go out with him. She was living in Ruston again, having completed her practice teaching. So, he had quite a drive to get to see her. There was no I-20 then, just Hwy 80. His car was old, but he kept going to see her nearly every weekend. I think a lot of their dating was with all her family around. The Turners were a fun group, and I’m sure he had himself a great time with them as well as trying to “court” my Mama.
I guess he pulled ahead ahead of the competition.
The letters to him started in 1949. I have a stack of them that she wrote him during the weeks they were apart. The last one dated was in 1951. They aren’t mushy or romantic but full of “the news of her day” and a lot of them say,
“ please take care of yourself and don’t work too hard”
“can’t wait to see you this weekend.”
“All my love”
She mentions in several letters that they’d meet in Monroe to go to the wrestling matches. My Uncle Sam would come with her ,and several of Daddy’s friends from Bastrop would join them. Those seemed to have been held on Tuesday nights, and she’d always want to know if he made it home safely.
Sometimes she’d catch a bus in Ruston, and he’d pick her up in Bastrop. He must have been late a few times, because she cautioned him “to better not be late!”
In several of the letters, I got a peak into life at the Turners! In one, she describes “everybody is out on the porch pestering Mama except me.” (Knowing my Mamaw Mae, she was “pestering them right back!”) One of my uncles had worked for Daddy the week before and told my Mama how much money Daddy had won shooting dice. (Daddy was good at it, too, a real “ramblin’-gamblin” guy!) Here was her response:
“just wait til I get hold of you. I’m going to turn you every which way but loose!”
Mama had spoken! But of course, she ends the letter
“Well, good-bye honey, and you better be good. I love you lots, All my love”
Mama took a teaching job in Delhi. My Daddy’s sister and brother-in-law (My Aunt Cye and Uncle Beeker) lived there and she saw a lot of them. My cousin Johnnie was about 3 years old, and Mama adored him. And, he adored her right back. In some of her letters she talks about her and “Bonnie” (Aunt Cye’s real name) going to the movies and how she sees some of Daddy’s other family. I think this was when things were getting more serious between them.
The next school year for some reason or another, my Mama started teaching in Minden at a small school called “Evergreen.” I remember hearing her talk about the family she boarded with and liking them very much. They had a little boy and I think she took up a lot of time with him. My Mama was a “kid magnet.” And, she loved them right back.
The “commuting” romance went on. Mama would ride a bus to Bastrop, or Daddy would drive to Minden. Sometimes Mama’s brothers took her to see Daddy; other times, his brother took him to see her. That had to have been difficult. But, in one letter my Mama wrote
“Dear Sweet Pea, Thought I’d write you and apologize for hurting your feelings” “All my love”
Here’s where the story gets interesting! I know my Mama loved my Daddy very much, but I also know that he was quite a lady’s man. I think she had a few doubts about them being ready to get married. According to my Mamaw Mae, there was a guy very interested in my Mama, and Mama saw him occasionally. It was nothing serious, but Daddy must have found out and confronted her! In her next letter, she writes,
“Everybody thought the ring was mighty pretty, and I have had to answer a million questions today.” and ends the letter with, “All my love.”
After reading that, I thought my Daddy finally figured out he “best put a ring on it!” But, my Mama told me the real story. She never wrote it in her letters, but I can hear my Daddy saying what she said he said. He had found out about her “friend” and pitched one of his famous “hissy fits!” He gave her an “ultimatum” that it was “him” or “the other guy!” He went so far as to tell her if she didn’t marry him that she’d never see Johnnie again. (that was my cousin she loved so much) I believe every word of it! And it worked!
Plans were made for them to get married at my Aunt Cye and Uncle Beeker’s house in Delhi. My Mom, Mamaw Mae and Uncle Sam brought her to Monroe to meet Daddy in the lobby of the Francis Hotel. He was with my Uncle Punkin and a couple of friends. They had gotten there early of course and ducked into a bar for “pre-wedding” beverages before meeting the bride to be.
Time ticked by. He was late. My Mama was getting impatient. She finally announced that if he wasn’t there in 5 minutes, she was going home! My Mamaw Mae added she meant it, too! Well, who comes sauntering in but my Daddy and his “groomsmen!” All I can say it is a wonder that I am even here. Mama must have really loved him and my cousin, Johnnie, too!
I know for a fact she did love him dearly, loved him until the day she died. She’d get aggravated with him at times, because he was a real character. But, they both just complemented each other and somehow, it worked!
A little over a year after they got married, they had me. My Daddy just knew I was going to be a boy, but, ha ha, I fooled him! But, my Mama let him name me after one of his old girlfriends! My Mama had to have been an angel in disguise not to have “knocked his block off!”
I found these letters over 30 years ago. The first time I read them all, I cried and put them away. This time I felt like I was seeing both of them as the young “kids” they really were. It’s hard to picture our parents as they once were. But, they grew up, and I couldn’t have had two better parents. I still think my Mama was a true angel, but, don’t we all? My Daddy could act like a real spoiled brat, but can’t we all? They were two imperfect but good people that met and fell in love. And all I can say to all of you is,
“All my Love,”