THIS IS NO JOKE; READ ON FOR THE “SOW’S EAR” REVEAL.
First, the dresses. You must put yourself in the setting where they were created. South East Oklahoma. You must imagine that the beautiful girl wearing the dresses did not come from a wealthy family but a loving one where dad provided for the needs of the family and mom stayed at home to raise the daughters. Mom is the key in this story.
But how did she get the skills to create these and so many more outfits, without a pattern, and only a thought in her head as to how to make it happen? She didn’t even have a proper sewing machine, at least not for this generation. What she had were daughters who needed to “shine” at various events. Unlike when momma “Frances” was young and lived a hand to mouth existence with her loving parents Leman and Rosalee Godwin. Frances was determined to prevent her daughters from as much bullying by their peers as she possibly could, remembering the torment of her own young life and that of her sisters. But how?
SHE PULLED OUT THE “SOW’S EAR.”
Momma Frances, was named Estella Frances Godwin after her grandmother Estella Frances Hill Godwin #1 (the first) who died of tuberculosis when her two young sons, Lloyd and Leman were just 5 and 2.
Lloyd and Leman were then in the sole custody of a now widowed father, Agrippa Wesley Godwin.
Unfortunately the “Old Man” as he became known in later years by his sons, didn’t have the “fatherly instinct” as a priority. Despite marrying again, and fathering 4 more children, he struggled with what to do with his first two. Both sons had problems accepting a new step-mom and then siblings, or so it was said, and that led to the “Old Man” practicing some un-acceptable parenting skills fueled by his need for alcohol.
As a classic “wino” (meaning yes, he was an alcoholic, but wine, not beer or hard liquors were his choice of ‘drug’). When he was “on a drunk” and ran out of money, he would lead the younger son Leman to Uncle Jim and Aunt Nora Hubble’s, and leave him there with the childless couple. For the Old Man it was respite from putting up with the “acting out anger issues” described by the wife, and for the childless couple it was a time of great love and affection for the small boy. He would arrive with only the clothes on his back, and they were worn and threadbare. Aunt Nora would whip out her trusty treadle sewing machine and in no time have a small wardrobe for him to wear.
However, the inevitable pattern had become that the Old Man would show up and demand money if they wanted to keep the boy. Having little to get by on themselves, and not being able to trust “the deal would hold” and they wouldn’t be approached again for money, they would always relinquish him and his new clothes, back to his dad. This pattern continued for some years and the older brother Lloyd was also eventually sent to live with relatives in Arkansas.
The young boy Leman grew up to be a grounded, husband, father, and lifelong worker for the railroad system of Oklahoma. He had a family of his own, 3 girls and a boy. His life was a study in hard-times but it was also known that he could quote the Bible readily and with devotion thanks to the Hubbles who took him to church on Sundays and did Bible study with him. His faith was his mainstay to keep the hard times in perspective. He would never drink alcohol; lesson remembered from the Old Man’s life.
His faith was a testimony to his family when they each relied on it during tragedies that occurred in their life together. This included a nearly fatal blow on the job when a crew member laying track hit him in the head with a beam that hospitalized him for many weeks. He had not awakened for 3 days after the blow and Rosalee was at his side for weeks as he slowly regained his senses and could care for himself. Life was not easy for him but he returned to the railroad he loved until retirement.
Thus it was that the devotion to family also still included his beloved extended family, Uncle Jim and Aunt Nora Hubble. When they passed away, Leman would inherit “the Sow’s Ear.”
For years when the old treadle sewing machine was viewed, it was a mixture of sadness for the family, reminding them of the dysfunctional family and hard times Daddy Leman suffered as a young child being a pawn in the Old Man’s schemes. Thus the designation of “a Sow’s Ear” would be appropriate. Many times people would look at the family of the Old Man and say that nothing good would come of them because “you can’t make a silk purse out of a Sow’s Ear.” All 6 of the children of the Old Man would grow up under that condemnation.
Daddy Leman would stay the course and be the man who loved his wife, raised his children, and lived out his days helping his wife oversee care for their disabled son Leon (Buddy) until her passing. Leman and wife Rosalee were the first benefactors of the “Sow’s Ear”, but not the last.
Of Daddy Leman’s 3 girls, it was Frances, (Estella Frances #2) that inherited the “Sow’s Ear” treadle machine of Aunt Nora’s. From the beginning of her marriage to her beloved Cornell, and the family they created together, Frances knew that the machine was hers to make beautiful things come into her life so that she could make “silk purses” and anything else she wanted for the betterment of her family. The value and “magic” of that machine which had been a “Sow’s Ear” of sorrow-filled memories before, became the very thing that transported her girls, Connie and Carla, into joy as they received and wore the numerous things made for them on the old treadle machine. Frances never failed to be able to sit down and create whatever was trending and wanted by the girls.
Of course it wasn’t just the clothing that was changed by the “Sow’s Ear” but it was the faith and life lessons to those it touched. The knowledge that no matter the challenge, NEVER let anyone hold you down by looking at your life and opportunities and saying “you can’t make a silk purse our of a “sow’s ear,” because it is not true.
BELIEVE …………….YOU CAN !
AUTHOR’S FULL DISCLOSURE: The people in this story/post are related to me. Frances (Estella Frances Godwin Roberts) is my beloved cousin, as is Norma Godwin Titsworth and the late Doris Godwin Woods.) Leman Godwin was the only fully biological sibling of my father, Lloyd Godwin.
My Aunt Rosalee was a gentle and caring person who always extended me kindness whenever we were together. She was also my protector when Norma and I latched onto each other’s arms with our teeth drawing blood and refused to let go no matter Aunt Rosalee’s efforts and demands to separate us. She finally had to literally pry our teeth apart with a utensil from the kitchen utensil drawer to force our grip on each other’s arms.
She was also a “shero” as she cared for her son, my cousin Leon, who would become known to all as Buddy. In the times of the 1940’s if a doctor damaged a child with forceps, for any reason, he was not liable. There were no such things as lawsuits or aid to care for their life-long needs. Indeed, in those days, the answer to the situation was “family.”
Buddy was a very large baby and during the delivery his doctor used forceps and very unskillfully I might add. The damage to Buddy’s head would be immeasurable, leaving an area of his forehead indented where two fingers could fit into the skull. It would damage his brain and its function.
Buddy would be cared for by his loving family including his sisters who made many sacrifices and suffered much emotional abuse from people who lived near them. They suffered from fellow students who bullied them and ridiculed them as they played and cared for their brother. The bulk of his care still fell to his parents, until in adulthood, he became very large, over six feet tall and was limited with very childlike behaviors. He was in need of full-time care. Loving sisters offered to take him but his parents knew it was time to allow him to become accustomed to the care of others, knowing the time would come when he would outlive them and his sisters would be needed for caring for their own families.
And it did come to pass that when his parents were gone, he lived in care centers of Oklahoma, visited by his siblings. When he passed away the staff and nurses at the care center he came to love wrote glowing messages of love and personal affection about him and his gentle and loving nature. A Gentle Giant, Buddy made it in his own way. He too was able to embrace in a simple way, the guidance of his gentler emotions taking hold. He took his “Sow’s Ear” and made it a positive. So I salute a cousin for whom I had great hopes and for whom my prayers never ceased through the years.
Above is a picture of the “Godwin Women” in the 1940’s. (Only one known to exist.)
- Left to right: Aunt Mildred “Mid” Kiser holding Kathryn Ann Kiser .
- In the white flowered dress is my mother, Marguerite Marrs Godwin,
- Aunt Bernice Godwin holding Marie.
- In the turban it is being debated whether this is , Aunt Sylvia “Sib” Godwin Snyder holding Carla, or Aunt Charlotta “Chard” Godwin Bearden holding Willajeanne.???? Please leave a comment if you know/have thoughts.
- Next is Grandma Amy Godwin (2nd wife of Agrippa)
- Aunt Rosalee Godwin with Estella Frances Godwin (#2) (named after Grandma Estella Frances Godwin who died at age 24 and was the first wife of Agrippa.)
As I always say, “The End is but an opportunity to begin again.”