By Charles Cooper
Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week.
You’ve heard me from time to time talk about a “labor of love,” but this week’s interview and profile is all that and more. A couple of Sundays ago after church, Edward and Virginia Scanlon invited Lupe and I to go to Sam’s Club in Southaven where she buys supplies for the day care. Soon Edward and I got tired of walking up and down the aisles, so we located a blood pressure machine next to a vibrating easy chair which Edward settled in while I was trying to work the blood pressure machine.
There was an elderly black lady sitting on one of the double seats who smiled and invited me to share the seat with her. Through a warm friendly smile she said, “I have to rest more now since I turned 99 in June.” I asked her if she was originally from Memphis, to which she replied that she was born in Mississippi. This got my attention so I asked where, to which she said “between Oxford and Water Valley.”
This really got my attention. She then told me her name was Portee Hawkins.
I was astonished and told her who I was. She hugged me and told me that she used to baby-sit me when I was a toddler. She said “you were a handful and I had to paddle your bottom sometimes.”
Her father, Rufus Freeman, was well respected in the community and his farm connected to Papa Badley’s farm. I recalled the story of how he worked in the railroad shops until the shops moved away and how he walked to his job everyday. Edward heard this part of the conversation so he asked if her father knew his grandfather, Tom Scanlon, who also worked in the shops.
She replied “Yes, I heard him mention him and I also knew your father who everybody called ‘little Tom Scanlon.’”
She came from a family of two brothers and three sisters and was the baby. The whole family was active in church and they knew the rudiments of music, could sing Old Sacred Heart as well as modern hymns. She said she still goes to church regularly, but says she gave up singing in the choir.
Edward was as shocked as I was to have run into her at Sam’s. We agreed that this was a once in a million occurrence. I had vague memories of the time she took care of me but I remember my dad always said that Ms. Portee probably loved me like I was her own child.
I asked to take her picture, but she would only agree if Edward and I were in the picture with her, to which we were honored to oblige. It was an emotional experience for all of us. I told her that I was going to write about her in the paper and she made me promise to get her a copy, which I will do.
To all the long time readers, I want you to know that having seen this important lady from my childhood was unbelievably wonderful. Due to the constraints of space, I can’t do justice to seeing Ms. Portee that day but it was monumental and will stay with me always.
As usual, if any of you have memories such as this that you would like to share, your input is always welcome. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or write me in care of the Herald.