Grandpa's Old Bluejeans and a Gift for the Grandkids
A Treasure from Grandpa
My dad was one of the most wonderful people in the world. He by nature was a quiet and humble man. Born on September 1, 1920 dad was first son born to Reuben and Maybelle Ballard. Charlotte and Ophelia were the two older sisters and 11 more siblings would follow making a large family of 14. Dad learned the tough lessons of hard work early. In a day when there was no such thing as welfare or governmental subsidies, the family grew up on a mountain farm living off the land. He like all his siblings were no strangers to hard work and as the oldest son contributed early on in many ways to the general welfare of the family. When World War II came he answered the call and served in the Army. Two brothers would soon join the war effort, Fralo and Albert both serving in the Pacific on Navy vessels.
After the war dad came back his beloved Blue Ridge mountain home taking up where he had left off but soon began to work in the cotton mill in Tuxedo. The work was often hard and the conditions were terrible. Heat and humidity year round and the dust from the processes were certainly not healthy for one to breath. Many mill workers suffered from brown lung as a consequence of their employment. In addition the noise levels were high from the machinery. Thankfully, when industrial standards of health safety were implemented by OSHA, ear protection was then provided by the mill for all employees. My dad suffered a hearing loss which I'm, sure certainly could have been attributed to the noise levels in the mill. My dad at the same mill complex worked until his 70th birthday.
Daddy was a church man and he looked forward each Sunday to attending the church of his youth, Mount Olivet Baptist. He was an usher and faithfully served his position until his health failed and his eventual death from pancreatic cancer in 2003. Dad enjoyed the annual Christmas pageants and one in particular. It was a story about a miserly man who kept his money in bags. Gold coins in abundance which he would take out and count greedily by candle light. The man had some sort of miracle awakening that softened his heart and and his character was transformed. He miraculously became very generous with his wealth sharing freely with the neighbors in need and discovered the joy of giving to others.
Dad was so impressed he ask my mama to make each of his grand kids a money bag from his old overall britches he had worn out working in the mill. She cut the legs off to make the bags. She used leather shoe strings for draw strings on the tops. Finally, she embroidered each grand child's name on their special bag and dad placed 5 or 10 dollars of 50 cent pieces inside the bags. My sons still have their bags and all those 50 cent pieces which are treasures they wouldn't consider ever parting.
Over the years my wife has given each of our three boys additional money in the form of old coins. The gifts of those money bags made from the old britches dad gave our sons were from inspiration and a way to show his love in a unique special way. His act of kindness and that special gift will always be treasured. When our house burned in 1989, those money bags survived the fire buried in an area that wasn't consumed by the fire. The fact they survived remains a mystery and even today there is the faint odor of smoke in the bags. Thanks dad for giving of yourself something money couldn't buy and giving a cherished memory that will last forever in their hearts.