Stirring up memories
A World of Memories
April 6, 2005
pay a visit to Mary Walthall Pugh is not to walk into a Bon Air apartment on
the square in Bainbridge; no, it is to walk into a world of memories. Mary is a memory preserver, not only her
own, but also those of her family and even of her Bon Air home.
she about her childhood and she will draw out a picture of herself and a
brother perched in Pensacola
Bay. Ask about more recent events and
she’ll produce a photo of Mustang-the-cat who made the journey from
Bainbridge to Tallahassee
tucked in the innards of Mary’s red Mustang.
kept hearing a cat, she told me, but thought nothing about it. Upon their joint arrival in the neighboring
city, her unwilling passenger refused extraction for two hours. The aptly named Mustang now resides with
Mary’s daughter in Tallahassee. He turned down the round trip ticket.
apartment is filled with books of Mary’s making. She has chronicled summaries of her life
from her birth—stories and
pictures of seaside fun growing up in Florida, her carefree college
at the University of Wyoming in Laramie right through her marriage to Wyoming
lad, Chuck Pugh, and on through years in Denver, a career in Tallahassee and
her residence in Bainbridge.
for 2005 is already underway.
not all she’s done.
She’s written a history of her home at the Bon Air—she was
one of the original occupants after its renovation—complete with before
and after pictures. That’s a treasure for all of Bainbridge.
also kept all the letters her dad, Roscoe C. Walthall wrote to her while she
lived in Denver
during the years from 1951 to 1966.
Roscoe’s letters and those of her mother, Bertha Lee Bowers
Walthall, who died in 1968, take up lots of shelf space. The 3, 500 pages fill ten
two-and-one-half inch notebooks!
That’s a lot of reading.
But Mary makes it easy. For
her friends and family she compiled excerpts from Roscoe’s letters into a
slim volume she gives to family and friends—A Walk in the Forest with Papa.
than arranging the letters chronologically, Mary chose to categorize them by
good way to write letters: Just
start one and whenever you feel like it, add to it from day to day; or just
leave it and write on it for weeks and weeks,” appears under Letters.
appropriately, Roscoe wrote about Family
Heritage. “Any child who is fortunate enough to read about his family
history can say with complete fact, ‘I
am that.’” Advice
that daughter Mary has made sure to follow and ensured that her own children
she has done it by more than just preserving her father’s and
mother’s letters. She has organized the pictures and youthful memories in
lots of ways—too many to all be described here, but there are three that
I particularly admire. One, she has
kept a daily journal just about every single day since she hit a rough spot in
her life in 1966. She took up the
habit and stuck with it. There is
one whole bookcase in her closet that is devoted to the almost forty volumes.
always kept a journal—off and on.
Like most little girls, she had a small diary with a lock and a key
wear around her neck or keep hidden in a special, secret place. But, unlike most little girls, when she
began in this series, she stuck with it.
day?” I asked.
single day,” Mary replied.
She gestured toward the red-bound volume open on her kitchen island.
morning. I’ve already written
that you are dropping by today.”
too, have kept journals off-and-on.
It’s always been so.
Mary is an inspiration.
Wonder if it’s too late in ’05 to go buy myself a red bound
book with 2005 on the spine?
the same time Mary is writing in her journal, she’s putting together
annual scrapbook—with cards, e-mails, pictures—everything she wants
to remember. At the end of the
year, she shares a summary with her children and grandchildren.
has yet another ongoing and admirable project. She’s put together a cookbook for
her family that has not only favorite recipes, but also memories. Mary has transformed one her mother
Bertha’s most memorable expressions, “no fool, no fun” into
the name of her cookbook—No Food,
No Fun. Mary explains in
introduction that it is a “mish mash of recipes and memories.”
It’s in a great format. Each
sheet in the loose-leaf notebook is in a plastic protector, so that it can
unclipped, transported to the kitchen, and restored with no cooking
splashes—they wipe right off.
first chapter of the book focuses on foods that Mary calls priorities. Here are three of them. Mary learned to make the fudge from a
13-year-old neighbor girl in Denver,
way back in 1956.
1 1/2 sticks
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 cup pecans
Melt the butter
over a medium heat. Add the
cocoa. Stir; let cook with butter
about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the sugar and milk (Carnation Evaporated Milk makes it
richer and creamier) simultaneously, stirring constantly.
Let cook for about 10 to 15
(depending on heat—too hot will scorch). Test candy by dripping a small amount
into cold water; when a soft ball forms (234-240 degrees on a candy
thermometer), it is ready. Remove
from heat; add vanilla and pecans.
Pour into a buttered platter.
Let stand a few minutes; then cut before refrigerating.
(Mary allows that this is better
1 egg white
1 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
Beat the egg white until
stiff. Add brown sugar gradually,
beating constantly. Work in nuts
and crop from a teaspoon onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 250 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from sheet immediately and
Bleu Cheese Dressing
1 package bleu cheese (4 ounces)
1/2 cup salad oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Mix well with an electric
beater. Mary adds a little
Add one thinly sliced onion.
Mary suggests serving this
There are many more recipes
in with Mary’s memories that make me want to head straight to the
kitchen. One is her mother’s
fried corn. I’ve heard
corn fixed many ways, but never fried up with flour.
Bertha’s Southern Fried Corn
Use approximately two ears
per person. Scrape the corn off the
ears. Add 2 tablespoons flour,
salt, and enough water to steam; cook about 45 minutes. Start on high and turn down heat real
low. Before putting corn in
skillet, put in about two large tablespoons butter to fry it in. Bacon can be substituted (two pieces).
Crumble the bacon into the corn.
When I try it, I’ll probably
use a bag of frozen corn.
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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network