I was trying to decide on a story to start off the year and my Daddy’s baby brother, Bobby Corley, just reminded us all a few days ago that Pa as we all called him would have been 108 years old on December 27th. Pa, born Veldo Thomas Corley was born on December 27, 1908 in Marion, Crittenden County, Kentucky. He was the son of William Thomas Corley and Susie Alice Chandler. Pa was my Daddy’s step-father, and he was a wonderful man, father, grandfather and cook, you should have tasted his beans and cornbread they were heavenly. The following picture is of Uncle Bobby with Mama Jessie and Pa Corley.
After Uncle Bobby wished Pa Corley happy birthday a few of my cousins commented on Uncle Bobby’s post on Facebook. The following are some of the comments from my cousins. From my sister, Kim, “Wow, Happy Birthday Pa Corley....still remember his story's and his pipe....”. My cousin Cindee, “He told the best darn stories. You know, I was grown before I knew he couldn't read. And that pipe.... lOvE it!!!! All these stories.... we all have such wonderful stories of our childhood with Pa Corley. What wonderful memories that we can all share.... love it!!! Somebody explain the bump on his head???” My cousin Glendel, “Always told me momma Jesse hit him with a rolling pen not true I guess. Celebrating his birthday with uncle lug and aunt poodie”. My cousin Becky, “Ya he said she had a mean swing... Hey Glen I remember them lol!!!” My sister, Deanna, “Happy Birthday Pa Corley... he always let me blow out his match after he lit his pipe.” My cousin, Sheryl, “Awwww loved Pa Corley. He was the best!” My cousin, Donnie’s daughter, Lisa, “I still have a piece of drift wood he and I found in a creek bed when I was just a little girl, I have kept that treasure all these years.” Finally, my cousin Jeanie, “Momma Jessie told him he'd lose his ass if it wasn't attached to him and he said, ‘no as soon as it hit the floor you'd have it boxed up and stuck under the bed’, God bless him he's loved.” The following is a picture of Pa Corley with that famous pipe in his mouth and the lump on his forehead.
Their comments made me remember when I was taking an English class at Weber State University a few years ago. I had to write a short story about a character from my family. The first person I thought of was Pa Corley. Everyone loved Pa, he was the best story teller you ever heard. You could almost see and hear the people he was telling you about, and as a young child I would get up and look for them because I thought for sure they were coming right up the walk. The following is the only picture I have of him when he was younger. I just noticed after I put this picture here that Pa doesn’t have that lump on his head like he did in the older pictures I have of him. Maybe Mama Jessie did hit him with a rolling pin like Glendel said. J
Pa was the sixth of eight children, three boys and five girls and they all had unusual names, starting with the oldest Tela Ann, Zela Julia, Willie Glonzo, Waldo Ansel, Zelva Ollie, Cleo Josephine and Jewell Blondell. As a kid I thought they had the funniest sounding names. Pa married my Daddy’s mama, who we all called Mama Jessie, in 1943 after she had gotten a divorce from my grandpa. Pa was 35 years old and nine years younger than Mama Jessie and had never been married before. Mama Jessie had already been married four times and had ten children by the time she ran into Pa. For some reason they went over to Charleston, Mississippi County, Missouri to get married. I wish I had asked my Daddy why they went over there to get married, but unfortunately I never did. Pa took in all her kids and excepted them all right away and even adopted Uncle Bobby and gave him his last name. He was a special person and one we all loved very much. I have always liked this picture of Pa Corley and Mama Jessie taken at Cave-in-Rock, Illinois just across the river from Crittenden County, Kentucky.
Pa never had any schooling and he could not read or write, but he did recognize his name when he saw it printed on something. He worked in the spar and coal mines, did some fishing and also helped dig graves for extra money. He may not have had any book learning, but he was smart in other ways. Pa and Mama Jessie were married for 41 years when she died in 1984 and he died a little over two years later in 1986. They are buried side by side at Sugar Grove Cemetery just outside Marion, Kentucky.
Pa was about 6 feet tall and weighed around 200 pounds and his hair was real thin and pretty much gray by the time I can remember. He had this big lump on the side of his forehead and a big round face. He was always smoking a pipe and he kept the tobacco pouch in his front pocket and would sometimes let us fill his pipe and tamp it down and light it for him. He would even let us hold the pipe in our mouth while we lit it, when I did I guess I inhaled instead of exhaled and about choked to death, so from then on I would just fill and light it instead of holding it in my mouth. The following is a picture taken at Mama Jessie’s 80th birthday party of Pa and Mama Jessie in 1979 and of them with nine of Mama Jessie’s ten kids, the only one not there was Uncle William. Uncle George and Uncle Bobby are the only ones left now.
Well I have to tell you some of Pa Corley’s stories and some of the characters and their names that he came up with right off the top of his head. He could keep us kids entertained for hours and kept us out of the house and quiet on the front porch. Two of the characters in his stories that I remember the most were Uncle Lug and Aunt Pootie. He could carry on conversations forever it seemed like, and you thought for sure they were setting on the porch with you. Us kids would be setting in the swing or on the steps and Pa would be setting in the rocker on the front porch and acting like he was ignoring us. He would just set there nice and quiet for quite a while and just slowly rock back and forth and smoke his pipe and just when we thought we weren’t going to get any stories he would up and just start talking to Uncle Lug or Aunt Pootie or both of them.
“Well, Uncle Lug did you finish gettin’ in your crops yesterday? Yes sir, you got some mighty pretty soil, it’s so black and rich, ought to grow you a fine crop this year, yes sir re bob. How is the young en’s doing? Did Tater get over the croup? What happen to Marcel? I heard tell he run off with the Sisco girl from down in the bottoms and they got married over cross the river. Is she in the family way like they all is saying? Did you hear tell about Massa George over in Cave-in-Rock? Heard tell he pert near blowed his big toe off when his shotgun went off when they was out coon hunting last weekend. Well Aunt Pootie I didn’t see you comin’ up the walk, how you been doing? You lookin’ right smart there, are you headed for town and some shopping? Yes, Jessie done been feeling poorly for the past week and sure believe she could use some cheering up ‘bout now. Why you just go on in and make yourself to home and I go fetch her fer ya. Uncle Lug did I tell you I done some work for Gilbert’s again last week. I done dug two graves again. People been droppin’ like flies lately, pert near hear about two or three a week seems like lately. This weather don’t clear up soon and warm us up they may be more we be a plantin’ before the summer even gets a going.”
Pa would go on forever and switch from talking to Uncle Lug or Aunt Pootie to one of their children that may have just shown up during one of his conversations. He would get so caught up in his talking that sometimes I think he may have even forgotten he was telling us a story or that we were even still on the porch. He was a sweet old man and he took all of his stepchildren and their children and treated us all like his own family. Everybody ought to have a story teller in their family. Someone who can keep you entertained and out of trouble and we had ours in Pa Corley.
I guess the holidays make you think back on those that have passed on and I have been thinking about a lot of people in the past few weeks. I lost my Aunt Sis the week before Thanksgiving and since then we have lost more family members on my side and my husband’s side as well as a few friends. One was 102 and she was ready to go home and the youngest was my daughters friend who was only 28 and left two little girls and she wasn’t ready to go. I have been to way too many funerals in the past few weeks and just this morning I learned that my Aunt Donna had passed away, she was 86. I won’t be able to attend her funeral because she lived in Arkansas, but my thoughts and prayers are with all of her kids, grandkids and great-grandkids. She just had a new great-granddaughter born on January 4th. The following picture is Aunt Donna with her three oldest kids, David, Janice and Nancy is the baby, I think this was in Woodlake, California.
If there is a story you remember hearing, ask someone that you think may have heard the same story and write It down. I do this kind of thing for a living, but I always thought I had more time to ask my Dad and Mom questions, but I didn’t and now it is too late to ask them. I still have some aunts and uncles though, so I have been talking to them more and asking them questions. I have talked to Uncle Bobby more since Aunt Sis passed then I have in quite some time and I have really enjoyed doing that. He is the baby of Mama Jessie’s ten kids, but he listened to a lot of the different stories over the years and his memory is great and so is his big brother’s, Uncle George’s.
So we never know when it will be our time to go, talk to your family, visit those that are getting older, and stop looking at your cell phones, because at any time they could be gone and you will wish that you had gone and seen them one more time.