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I do! I do! I do!
September 29, 2004

            July 29, 1934 was a mighty big day for folks at Calvary Assembly of God Church near Donalsonville.  It would have been a mighty big day any where.  That Sunday morning saw quite a celebration on the front porch of the minister of that church, Willie Cumbie and his wife Ada.  Three of their children got married.

            That’s right.  Three.

            There never may have been a wedding day quite like it.

            On one end of the porch, Pansy Cumbie held the hand of Rufus Scott while Preacher Rice said the words over them.  Then it was the turn of  Emma Loyless and the son of the house, Nathan Bernard Cumbie.  Emma’s uncle, Henry Cloud, did the honors.  Finally, at the far end of the porch, Preacher Ellis tied the knot for Margaret Cumbie and Donald Adams. 

            About a hundred folks gathered in the yard to watch the handsome couples.  Then they all packed up and “about a thousand people,” Emma Loyless Cumbie remembers, helped them celebrate, for it was the fifth Sunday meeting and dinner and members of all the churches in the district got together and this special Sunday they joined up at the Calvary Church.

            Emma also remembers that this wasn’t planned long in advance.  It was one of those funny coincidences that sometimes happen.  She and Bernard had been courting for a while and decided it was time to take the plunge.   Bernard went and told his dad the plans.  Within just a couple of days, Donald dropped by to talk to Willie and ask if he and Margaret could marry…on that same Sunday.  Then here came the mailman with a letter from Port St. Joe, and you guessed it!

            Emma’s mother, Minnie Cloud Loyless didn’t let the rush deter her.  She took her daughter into Donalsonville to shop for a wedding dress.  Today, sitting on the sofa at her home at the Four Seasons Personal Care Home, Emma remembers every detail.  It was a white crepe dress with silver buttons and topped off with a navy blue cape.  Emma wasn’t the only one who was all decked out.  Smiling Bernard wore a brand new suit.

            Emma grins when she recalls the details of that suit.  Bernard had come into the bank in Bainbridge and borrowed twenty five dollars to have a new suit for his wedding day and, by the way, to pay for the marriage license.

            I don’t know how long the suit lasted, but that license was certainly a good investment, the marriage flourished  for sixty-five happy years as the family welcomed three children—Mary, Jimmie Ruth and Nathan.

            More about that wedding day—and what followed.  Pansy and Rufus headed back to Port St. Joe and Margaret and Donald set out for Donald’s home in Virginia.  Emma and Bernard?  They stayed put.  They spent that first night in a “shed room” right there on the front porch where they’d taken their vows earlier in the day.

            The next morning?  Well, it was a Monday morning in late July.  They had breakfast, grabbed two sacks and headed to the field to pick cotton.  Emma still laughs about it.  She’d grown up farming and knew a thing or two about picking cotton, while Bernard had been raised in Apalachicola where the family had a butcher shop.  He could cut up a pig, but didn’t know much about this cotton picking.   “I could pick rings around him,” Emma remembers.

            The young couple didn’t live on the front porch long before they moved.  But where they moved!  Yes, it was the 1930s, and a struggling couple made do with what they could get, and what they could get was a nearby hay barn.  It has its good points—they could look right out those wide open windows and watch the stars.  Cooking was not much fun, though.  Emma had to cook on a fireplace until they scraped up a little of the cotton picking money and bought a little stove.  But Emma assures me, they were in a house by the time the first baby arrived in October of 1935.

            Emma didn’t mind the hard work and scrimping.  She was used to it. She was the youngest of five children, and her father died when she was only a year old (the oldest child was but ten),. The father left “a little insurance.  Mother got $50 a month for about ten years.”

            “That’s it?” I asked. Emma nodded. Except for what they earned working in the fields.  And Emma learned to pick cotton when she was a very little girl.  Rough going for Winnie  and those five children in Floydtown a little bit north of Colquitt.  But they made it.

            The family made their brooms out of straw they gathered up by the road, and Emma recalls, at least once they stuffed a mattress with straw.

            “We had to cook what we could afford.  But we never went hungry!”  There were always the chickens living under the house.  “You’d have the water boiling before you went under there to get one.”  The chickens were good for more than just eating.  Emma gathered and saved eggs.  She sold them for a quarter a dozen and put those quarters away so there would be money for Christmas.
            When Emma was almost grown the Loyless family moved to Donalsonville.  Emma started to attend Calvary Church, met the preacher’s son, and you know the rest of the story.

            On September 15 this year, Emma had another celebration—her eighty-eighth birthday.  In fact there was lots of celebrating over at the Four Seasons all through the month of September.  They had lots of birthdays.  Emma’s fellow residents Oletha May Tutcher and Lonita Erpelding also celebrated along with owner Sheila Brock, Lacy Brock, her niece and helper, and Four Seasons special friend and across-the-street neighbor  Pastor Donna Bevis.

            In honor of so many special days, I made some cookies for the ladies.  My resident taster says that these may be the best cookies in the world.  Even better than chocolate chip and that’s saying something!

Dreamsicle Cookies

1 cup sugar-sweetened orange powdered drink mix

(Kool-Aid or Tang)

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

3 1/4 cups all-purpose floour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking  powder

1 cup butter

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups white chocolate or vanilla baking chips

            Cream the butter and eggs together; add the vanilla and sugar and mix well.  Combine the flour, soda and baking powder and gradually add into the egg-butter mixtures.

            Place tablespoon sized balls 2 inches apart on a greased baking sheet.  Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes or until the cookie tops are a light brown.  Allow to cool on the sheet for 5 minutes and then remove.

                I’m going to experiment one of these days and try some other flavors, maybe raspberry or lemon.  I’ll let you know.


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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network