Ms. Jessie is one of my favorite E’ton poets. I love her ‘30s word choices and expressions which seem to have remained a part of her in her 90 years.
I never met Ms. Jessie until this past week, but we have corresponded through Facebook and sent photos and poems via the much slower U.S.P.O. Most of my early history of E’ton’s black community I have learned from Ms. Nettie Belle Gray, who resides on what was once known as Johnson Hill #1, and from Ms. Jessie, who three-quarters of a century ago lived in the Bottoms and then at the top of Johnson Hill #1.
It was an honor to finally meet this classy, beautiful lady I learned of on Facebook. “Wow,” I thought when I read that a 90-year-old lady reared in E’ton (now in L’ville) had published her first book at 90 (with her daughter, a physician from Indianapolis).
I purchased their book on Amazon and was fascinated with her turn of phrases from the ’30s and ’40s. I have enjoyed every fascinating piece of poetry she has sent since I wrote her about her book. She calls these remembrances from her E’ton childhood as “ Sentimental Journeys.”
She says she has so many reminiscences that it was difficult to choose only a few to write about in her latest poem “My Seven Years in Earlington.” She notes that those developmental years seem much longer as she has so many memories.
She began her last very personal poem with “If I could only travel back to my hometown in Ky … in a house on Johnson Hill.” She has given her permission to print the poem in the upcoming “E’ton Black Heritage” series. I sent her a copy of the pages concerning her poem and memories.
She quickly messaged me that I had transcribed one word incorrectly (only one?). The verse I read was “We first lived in a place called ‘the Bottoms’ right under beautiful Loch Mary…” It continued “One day in the gloaming I looked in the creek nearby. There swam a tentacled golden fish I swear to this day it’s no lie.” Well, I was sure she meant to write “gleaming,” not “gloaming.”
In my naivety, I was unaware of the meaning of the word and changed it to “gleaming.” Ms Jessie said, “Ann, you misspelled “gloaming.” I replied it was a new word for me and that I would change the spelling and then google it.
She told me that “gloaming” was a word she remembered from a beautiful song she learned in high school. “In the gloaming, oh my darling, when the lights are dim and low, Will you think of me and love me as you did once long ago.”
I thought perhaps I’d never find that song online, but it appears it was well-known from the 1870s until the 1940s. The lyrics by Meta Caroline Orred are in the public domain, and melody was added by Annie Fortescue Harrison. I was surprised by the many renditions available on YouTube of the early popular tune.
In the gloaming, oh my darling!
When the lights are dim and low,
And the quiet shadows falling
Softly come and softly go,
When the winds are sobbing faintly
With a gentle, unknown woe,
Will you think of me and love me
As you did once long ago?
I learned that the “gloaming” time is from an Old English word meaning “to glow.” It’s the short period at dusk when the evening darkens, yet is still light. It’s the twilight, immediately after the sun sets and stars begin to twinkle.
The blue sky suddenly glows with shades of red and pink and yellow. It is that special time between day and night when the heavens “gloam.” It was on such a beautiful evening at dusk when Jessie looked into the creek below the Loch Mary dam and saw a rare “tentacled golden fish.” The term also refers to the dawn when the vista repeats a similar majestic heaven.
Needless to say, the internet had posted lots of beautiful scenes of the colorful moments of gloaming. I sat for some time admiring vistas of dusks for which I now have a new descriptive word. Thanks, Ms Jessie, for the grammar lesson from a well-read, long-time librarian.
And thanks for the color descriptions of a small girl in the ‘30s on a hot summer’s day. She recalled a five and dime by the Company Store that had burned where her mom bought her smoke-damaged sandals for 15 cents a pair. Sometimes she wore shoes, but she fondly remembers often being barefooted.
She wrote about one summer day being on her way to the Company Store through the Bottoms and past Trinity Chapel (where her family sometimes worshiped and what will be E’ton’s Trinity Museum/Community Center) with her bare feet burning from the hot, dry dust in the road. She cooled her feet by walking in the long, cooler grass.
She recalls how she and her friends ate chips of ice to cool off after the ice men had cut large blocks of ice. She believes they ate the cold chips near a railroad car on the tracks. Ms Jessie’s memories are as precious to me as they obviously are to her as her eyes twinkle and her soft voice is often interrupted with a little chuckle. Thanks to my friends Marie and Mary Jane for a memorable side trip to Louisville for my first visit to my favorite E’ton poet.