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Maxine Beck: Family history should never be forgotten

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Maxine Beck

Maxine Beck

Descendants of George and Deliah Taylor gathered at Africa Baptist Church and Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church on Oct. 15-17 with relatives from far and near.

The family was greeted by Mary Louise Cunningham and Deacons James Stockdale and Curtis McGhee.

Family history, pictures and memories were shared. Included was a tribute to John Lawrence Taylor. Mr. Taylor was the first Black city councilman for Talladega (1975-1983).

Afterward, the family's history lesson continued at the church's cemetery.

I attended the ceremony, years ago, where the Talladega City Council recognized Mr. Taylor for his years of service.

Several members of the Taylor family were present. I could barely believe it.

Although my family was John Taylor's mother's neighbor for years, it had been decades since talking with any of the Taylor family. 

I wrote about the occasion, and the article was among the collage displayed during the family gathering.

Vicki Taylor Bass saw the article and contacted me. Our conversation was the catalyst for further memories of the Taylor family and our lives on Pulliam Street.

Two weeks ago, I had a wonderful telephone conversation with Vicki Taylor Bass, who was the granddaughter of our childhood neighbor.

A former Talladegean, she and I had such fun talking about our childhood on Pulliam Street. She invited her sister, cousins, and me to an even more joyful gathering via Zoom.

I was very excited to see and talk with Vicki and the Mapsons (Jesse II, Paulette, Zaundria, and Charles) after more than half a century, and her sister Sonya.

I don't remember Vicki and Sonya as well as I do their cousins, possibly because of our age difference. However, I remember the Mapsons' summer visits with our neighbor, Bessie Finch.

Ms. Bessie is the mother of Georgia (Jesse I) Mapson, the mother of the Mapson clan; John (Floretta) Taylor, father of Vicki and Sonya; and Palmer Taylor, a Pearl Harbor fatality and namesake for the Palmer Taylor Amvets Post #25.

The Mapsons always came to town in a nice car, something rare for our neighborhood. Nonetheless, they did "fit in" with the rest of the Pulliam Street villagers — children and adults.

Jessie II even remembers Sharon Tanner Lynch, a neighbor across from Ms. Bessie, and Mr. Warren, who often cut his hair. Ms. Viola was Sharon and her brother Gaylord's grandmother and Mr. Warren was her husband.

I texted Sharon and she remembers Jesse II, Zaundria and Paulette. I, too, mostly remember Jessie II and a sister — I can't remember her name.

During our conversation, Vicki, Sonya and the Mapsons shared fond memories, too, of the Cantrell family, Dr. Brothers and his nurse, Dr. Jones and others on Pulliam Street.

Pulliam Street was so special; it appeared to be the best place to live in Talladega.

I can't even remember any childhood fights on the street where I lived from age 2-12.

We enjoyed weekly foot races from Ms. Pulliam's home to Ms. Cinderella's home. Willa Dean Ragland or her brother Larry always won.

Our days were also spent picking plums and blackberries. We would leave home mid-morning and return about six or seven hours later with purple teeth and maybe 10 to 15 plums each. 

The next day, we would sit on the porch — it didn't matter whose porch — with salt on a brown sack and finish off our day-before bag of plums. 

On the days we didn't go on our adventure down the railroad (plum and berry picking), the girls would play Jax and the boys would form marble games. 

I can remember six or more of us sitting under the huge walnut tree in our yard, 732 Pulliam Street, when we heard a sound and saw a cloud of dust consistent with a summer storm coming toward us. 

Low and behold, Mr. Cokely's horse (George) had escaped from the barn behind our house. 

We looked up, saw the huge horse coming toward us, and gathered into a group. Thanks to the Lord for giving George wings, he flew 10 feet into the air and cleared all of us. 

On weekends and during the summer we would also attend the story-hour in the basement of Talladega College's library.

Talladega College appeared to be a very important place, almost intimidating, and the students always dressed nicely and looked extremely intelligent.

My grandfather, Charlie Dickerson, lost a leg in an accident. I am not sure if this is why he didn't drive. But his car did not go to waste. He would tend to his barbecue goat, chicken and pork from the back seat of his car.

His barbecue goat and chicken could win over Smithfield's Christmas ham any day.

And his sauce was just as delicious. After the meat was gone, we would eat sauce sandwiches. The sauce was deep red, mildly seasoned and filled with lemon slices. I can't remember the name of the loaf bread from that era, but it was the real-deal by itself. But when you used the bread to make a sandwich with daddy's barbecue sauce, boy you were eating!

We called our grandfather daddy because at Christmas he made sure all of his grandchildren had toys, fruit and peppermint candy. He would go to Ferguson Grocery on Christmas Eve and at 12:01 on Christmas day we would run to the living room to find gifts for everyone under a huge live-tree. 

This is one reason I will always remember daddy, Christmas on Pulliam Street, barbecue goat and lemon-filled barbecue sauce sandwiches on delicious loaf bread.

I will, also, always remember the smell of Ms. Josie Ragland's homemade soup and the taste of grandma's (actually daddy's mother) smothered cabbage, pork chops and thin and crispy cornbread.

On the days we did not eat lunch at school, grandma would cook lunch for us (my sister, brother, cousins and me). We always hurried home to a hot meal around a white table with a white metal top. 

To this day, the table is still sturdy and currently in my laundry room. I asked my children to never sell the table, instead cherish it and pass it on to the next generation.

I am so thankful, too, to grandma for loving us and giving me an insatiable appetite for cabbage.

Others in the Pulliam Street Village were the Turner family, Davis family, Aunt Mae and Uncle Will (Neighborhood's aunt and uncle), Ms. Alice Thomas, cousin Maggie Cunningham, Ms. Gussie (related to Ms. Bessie), Duncan family, Denson family, Sanders family, Pounds family, and Ma Willie (grandma's friend).

I am furthermore thankful to all of the other villagers who were instrumental in providing a loving environment for us (the complete neighborhood) to thrive, develop and continue to value our memories and all of the lessons within.

Maxine Beck is a contributing columnist for The Daily Home. She writes about the African-American community in and around Talladega.