My great-grandparents, Gus and Eva Watkins, had seven children. My Gran took my sister and I to visit her siblings every summer. First we would travel to North Carolina to visit Mamaw and Aunt Mickey-Mildred Watkins Gardner-whom Mamaw was living with when I knew her, and her brother J.D. Watkins and his wife Joan. Aunt Lois often came up from Florida to visit when we did too. Then we would head to South Carolina to visit Gran’s youngest brother and his family. Finally we would head up to Newport News, Virginia to visit Aunt Sue.
Aunt Sue was the first-born child to Gus and Eva on 10 September 1915. She married James Luther Mitchem 21 April 1935 in Marion, North Carolina. My Gran loved Jim and my Poppy had great admiration for him. They said he was a great man. They had one daughter and later moved to Newport News, Virginia. Uncle Jim passed away 22 December 1973. I loved pulling up in Aunt Sue’s driveway. She had strawberries growing in her backyard, hundreds of old National Geographic magazine, and coloring books my mom and her granddaughter colored in when they were young. Aunt Sue worked in a shoe store and sent my sister and I slippers from there every Christmas. Others in my family will have different and more detailed memories of her in younger years, but these are my memories as a child. Aunt Sue passed away 6 September 2007.
Aunt Mickey-Mildred Naomi Watkins Gardner-was born 7 March 1918. She married Robert Gardner and had one daughter. Mamaw lived with her in Asheville for many years at the end of her life. Aunt Mickey was usually still at work as a secretary of her church when we arrived and we used the skeleton key to get inside. Her yard was full of pine cones to collect and play with. A house never smelled so good at breakfast and dinner, and we always took walks after dinner. I learned to string beans from the farmers’ market on her front porch. Aunt Mickey passed away 25 December 2003.Uncle JD was born 4 January 1920. He married and had one son. He later remarried Joan Purkey and had two daughters and a son. He and his wife bought several different homes that they enjoyed fixing up together. I remember pictures hanging on the wall in
the final place I knew them to live together, the Blue Ridge Motel in Burnsville, North Carolina, which was also a big fixer-upper. The family always stayed there during family reunions. I remember Aunt Joan playing the piano while we sang, and many of us remember sneaking Andes mints from the storage room which were supposed to be for guests. Uncle JD passed away 13 January 2004.
Uncle Chic, Charles Samuel Watkins, was born 12 June 1922. He served in the Navy and met his wife, Joy Watkins, when he was accidentally delivered letters she had sent her brother, also Chic Watkins. Uncle Chic and Aunt Joy moved to Tallmadge, Ohio outside of Akron and had one son. We spent Thanksgivings, Christmases, and Easters with them and their family and Aunt Joy would always play piano so we could sing. Of course we only drank Coke because Uncle Chic worked there many years. The “P” word was a bad word in our family! Uncle Chic passed away 10 January 2010, Aunt Joy 2 August 2010.
Aunt Lois, Lois Adele Watkins, was born 22 April 1925. She married and moved to Florida, having one son. Aunt Lois was tons of fun, loving to play card games. Skipbo is still our “family game.” She usually came to North Carolina the same time we did. One year I took my first airplane flight to Miami to see her and had my first trip to Walt Disney World. Aunt Lois passed away 11 January 2010.
Gran’s youngest brother married and moved to South Carolina, having two daughters and three sons. Time spent with their family was always wonderful as well. Throughout my life, many people seem surprised to find I knew my great-aunts and uncles and second cousins so well and could not believe I felt so close to them. I know this was through a concerted effort on my Granny’s part to make sure we got to know them.
In 1976, there was a rare Ohio reunion of many of the Watkins siblings. On July 5, this recording was made of them, Chic (Charley) and Joy Watkins(playing piano at their home), Eva Watkins, Sue Watkins Mitchem, Mildred Watkins Gardner, Wilma and Harry Sebastian, a sister-in-law, and her son. Lois happened to call while they sang.