On almost every Sunday at 101 South Church Street., there was a family meal being served. This was the home of Ralph and Emma Lambert. Theirs was the classic Southern marriage, one that would endure over sixty-five years here on Earth. Hard-working and living within their means, they had raised a large family in such a small house. Work was Monday through Friday or Saturday, Church was every Sunday morning.
Their children had moved on to adulthood and married, and now had families of their own. But on Sundays, any family members that could, any of the families that were hungry for a homemade feast, the younger families feeling blessed with meat and a hot meal, would join together at Ralph and Emma’s, Grandad and Grandma Lambert’s house, for a great big family get-together.
The two-story house was white, the shutters dark green, the metal roof always silver. It sat on an acre of land a block from the middle of town. The cozy front porch which faced South Church Street was adorned with Emma’s flower arrangements and lined with rocking chairs and a swing meant for three. To the left of the house was just enough space for a brick sidewalk that led a path to Grandad’s business, R.J. Lambert Moving & Storage. At this point in time, anyone who had moved into or out of Woodstock, Virginia knew Mr. Ralph Lambert.
A large plush lawn covered the property to the right of the house, the border of the lawn shaded by dozens of tall trees and large bushes. Just behind the house was a big picnic table sitting near the clothesline, the mandatory shed, a one-car garage, and a 10’ X 30’ greenhouse. During the growing season, in the back ¼ acre of property, was planted a large vegetable garden.
The number of family attending on Sunday would average between 20 or 25 people, from a potential total of 2 Grandparents, 20 Aunts and Uncles, and 26 cousins.
Before meals, the children ran wild playing outside, the women prepared the food and set the table, while the men solved all the world’s problems while throwing horseshoes in the backyard. Dinners and Suppers were prepared and the aftermath cleaned-up in a kitchen that could barely stand six people. The meals were served in shifts, with the men often eating first as the women prepared plates for the children who ate second; the women usually eating last. On holiday occasions, because of the size of the family, different clans were ‘scheduled’ for either the lunchtime or evening meals.
The menu for dinner might consist of a baked ham or a roast, mashed potatoes with gravy, and vegetables fresh from the garden. Homemade bread and homemade cakes or pies or homemade ice cream. There were two beverages from which to choose. Iced tea or Blend. The mysterious Blend was a powdered mix, a dull yellow/lime green color, that was available for purchase from the Irvin Candy Company where Uncle Bernard worked. Blend wasn’t a nickname. The label on the shiny, silver package generically read ‘Blend’. The water from the kitchen faucet ran cold and clean, and came from the same source that filled Granddad’s water trucks that delivered to the cisterns of local folks.
The large dining room table could seat a dozen or so hungry mouths, the overflow ate their meals in the living room, aided by TV trays, sitting on the one large sofa or the various chairs, or just on the floor. But not on Becky’s stand-up piano. Often times, a few diners found their way to the front porch.
After meals, the men would settle into the living room. Pipes were packed with tobacco and cigarettes were lit, with frugal Uncle Elmer slowly rolling his own cigarettes as he recapped the week’s results in the mail-order Knapp Shoe business. There was an entire volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica sitting on the bookshelf, but a wealth of hard-earned knowledge floating about the room.
The younger children returned outdoors to play. The older girls helped the women clean-up, empowered after no longer being looked upon as little kids, hoping to be more like Mom as they grew closer to looking like Mom. The older boys, eager to feel like men, settled into any available spot in the living room and listened to the stories told by their Uncles, Fathers, and Grandfather.
As Sunday evening wore down, the family members would retire to the backyard. Fresh watermelon from the garden was salted, eaten, and the seeds spit out onto the ground.
As dusk became darkness, the children would migrate to the side lawn as the lightning bugs began to magically emerge. Different levels of expertise lunged arms into the air, in hopes of filling Mason Jars full of the pulsating bugs.
Parents alerted children, despite their pleas, that it was time to go home for the night. And the evenings eventually came to an end.
The house at 101 South Church Street was removed after the deaths of Ralph and Emma to make way for a parking lot for a church across the way.
Buildings can be removed, but the memories will never be.
I don’t just make this stuff up. Really. Here’s a short video of the Grandparent’s home, taken by my Dad shortly before the home was demolished.