Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Lake Years. Final Part

The Lake Years Final part.
I finally was free of the spell he had on my life. I felt free of him and his contempt of my illness and fluctuating weight. I knew that I would gain and lose depending on what meds and what kind of movement I could do. I was not well and I wasn't going to be.
I was always going to have an autoimmune disorder and that was not going away. He could not take being alone and went on dating sites.I stayed strong and would not admit him back into my life but it wasn't easy. He was charming and he was manipulative. I was always used to obeying men. That started with my father but I had ended that now.
He told me of his conquest when he would try and come visit me, instead of our child. He finally landed a 28 year old woman overseas and he went to visit her. He left her pregnant and he came back to the states. She gave birth in 2009 and he died in 2011, never having seen his newborn son. God keep them and God saved them because that is the best thing that could have ever happened in their young lives was not to have him in it, but I think of them often.
It took them some months to notify us when he died. He was homeless, living in a storage locker and working in construction or surveying. I am not sure what but they told us that he died working in a hotel room and wasn't discovered until the end of the day. When my daughter phoned to tell me, I cried for him and felt guilt. Thinking that if I had only stayed with him and made sure he had his blood pressure medicine, he may have lived. I would always love him, whether it was a toxic love or not. I just loved him.
I missed the company of men and felt that I was well enough to begin dating so I joined a dating site. Now this was a whole new game. I had not dated in so many years that I did not realize that dating had changed and what I felt was dating was not. I had married anyone that i felt like being intimate with, but today's world did not care if you were married or not. It was and we are a hedonistic society. Instant gratification and I was a fish out of water so I talked a lot. lol No surprise there. I talked to people for sometimes 3 or 4 weeks before I said, ok, we can meet. Bear in mind that all of these next dates were real and not doctored up to be funny. It was real life. lol
I knew enough to meet a man at a public place but I had to learn all of the other signs. The first guy I talked with and thought I was meet was a writer, in the medical field and was older than I was. So we met and since I am observant as a Nurse, I noticed a tan line where a wedding ring would go and after a few minutes, I plainly asked him if he was married and to his credit he told me the truth , that he was. That was when I knew that online dating was not going to be easy. I told him goodbye and went back to talking.
I spoke with my daughter about all the younger men that wanted
to date me and she said, "they may not be looking for anything but a one time get together." and I realized that she meant a Mrs Robinson experience. Oh lord, I was out of my element but thought I would try again.
My next choice was a guy that I agreed to have dinner with. We arrived at the place to eat about the same time and I ordered my favorite, which is chicken and in a few moments I was gagging over my food. This guy was doing things to his chicken that no one should be privy too. Guys, it is not sexy to lick chicken in front of a date. It was embarrassing and no, it did not make me feel amorous toward you. I call this guy, "chicken licker". Needless to say that date ended quickly.
I spoke with my daughter again and she said, "well, maybe someone older." So we sat down together and picked out an older man for me. I thought someone older would not be playing the online games or so I hoped. We agreed to meet at a local flea market as we both liked old things. This is where I will share that people that put photos on their online profiles ain't necessarily using a recent picture. This guy was off by ten years. I was 55. His profile said he was 65 and he was closer to pushing 80. I arrived early so I could see who was arriving for me and I tell you, I thought this guy was going to need mouth to mouth to make it across the parking lot. He was older, out of breath and needed Oxygen before he took a few steps toward me. But I had been taught that you respected your elders and thought if this guy passes out before he could get his walker across the lot, I would slip into Nurse mode and save him if I could. LOL
The dates continued. They were too young. They were too old, They lied. They wanted something I was unable to give them. I was not saving people anymore. I was taking care of myself. I talked to so many interesting people but did not meet many of them.
I dated a total of 13 men over a 6 month period. I learned so much about dating. I learned to let someone know where you are and have them call you in one hour. That way you have an out if you want to leave. You meet in a public place for coffee only, no meals on a first date. You take your own vehicle. I went during the day time so as not to be out in the dark in a place I may not have been too before.
I met some interesting men over that time. I receive 4 proposals because people were looking for love and I was looking for conversation. I just wanted to talk and I was in the wrong place for that so after 6 months I gave up on dating and decided that I did not need anyone in my life anymore. I had been married almost all of my life and now I wanted time for me, my children and grandchildren.
My vagabond years began then as my daughters neighbors reported me to the county for living in an RV full time and I had to move out of my little bungalow. I could only stay in it 3 months out of the year and just that fast, the dream home that my daughter had built by the lake for the sole purpose of making sure I had a place to live ended. She stayed there long enough for her brother to graduate and then she gave up her new home after 3 years and moved into a rental.
We went with her and I tried to walk again. God showed me so many lessons during this time. I was growing and learning and seeing what he was trying to tell me. I stayed there until I started thinking of going home to visit my sister in 2010. I was considering moving back to the town I had left 40 years ago and was excited by the prospect. I was still involved in an appeal for my disability. It had been denied 3 times and I was told that 3 times was the kiss of death and you will not get it, but I was praying and they contacted me to tell me mine was going to be reviewed one more time. I had hired a lawyer and I needed the disability I paid in so desperately.
The Social Security Department is not there to give you any money you may have paid in while working all your life. if you per chance become too ill to work, don't count on that money you pay in for disability to be there when you need it. I was denied 3 times and each year that went by, diminished what I would get if it was approved.
By some miracle, I found out that I was entitled to Widowers benefits and I applied for them and in no time, I had 500 dollars a month. More than I had had for 5 years of not working but not enough to have my own place. I still had to rely on others to care for me and some of them let me know it. It was demeaning and hurtful but there was no place for me.
I kept moving around. Eight times in as many years. A few months here. A few months there. I applied for food stamps. I was hungry at times before food stamps and had a wonderful friend send me money and buy things from me. Thank God for her, I was able to eat. I finally moved into an apt after having to leave yet another place. and kept selling while my son finished trade school.
That was fun to have a place to call my own again. You never realize how much you might miss having a place to call your own, until you don't have it. I was so grateful to all those that helped me over those years. I kept seeking God's guidance for where I belonged. I worked in the home when I lived with people and sold things to provide some money so that I did not feel like a free loader. I faced homelessness twice and was terrified. I considered trying to go back to work but was told if I did anything I would have to start the disability process all over again. i was stuck in a nightmare of sickness, without treatment and no place to call my own.
I finally called my daughter and daughter in law and asked if I could come live with them. It took a little bit for them to say ok. It was a huge thing to consider. They were newly married and who wants their mother in law to move in? LOL. But they said yes and then my life changed. It became stable for the first time in 8 years.
I got my disability in 2014 and got a tiny back pay. With that we were able to look for a home so they could quit renting and I could have a place to live. I had been given a death sentence in 2014 of a couple of years but I am still here, still fighting, still loving life.
I just had my labs done recently and they were the best they have ever been. I think because my girls take such good care of me.
I have two rooms, am surrounded my the things I love and can isolate when I am in a flare and can see people when I am not. My illness progressed to where I can not walk well for very far. I used a walker for two years but can now walk short distances, Thank God.
It has been a journey. For 4 1/2 years I have had my needs met and most of my wants met. I am giving it back when I can because so many people reached out to let me stay a few months with them out of the goodness of their hearts.
I hope that I was not a burden. I hope that I gave and was gracious in your gift to me. I ask forgiveness if my pain overwhelmed me and It affected my life or yours.
It has been 13 years now since I became ill. My children are grown and doing well. If the Lord calls me home now, I could go with a smile. My job is done and all is well.
I did tell my daughter in law that instead of the two years I was expected to live, my labs and lungs were so good that I may live to be a hundred. She just groaned and hugged me. God love her.
I have left instructions that I am to be cremated and my ashes spread on water. I told my daughter in law that the toilet does not count. We laughed together. I may not be with them all my life but I am grateful that they don't mind how long I stay.
God love my family and friends for walking with me and helping me be better than I would have ever been without all of you. Thank you all for reaching out to me. Thank you for listening to me ramble. Thank you for all the love you send to me everyday.
Always, Kimmee
( my Amber doesn't panic anymore when I pick up a box because we have been in one place for so long that she feels like home)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Lake Years

This continues the Dirt Road Year and what Happened Next.
The Lake Years
I don't think it was a week after our one year lease was up that we were packing up our truck and moving over to my daughters property by the lake. Her new home was finished but the electricity and things were not hooked up yet. We paid for that to be done and she bought us a Fema Trailer to live in. I think it was 22 feet long. I bought a 12x12 outbuilding to house our things and we put all of my beloved things in storage or outside.
Karl was working off and on and I was starting to feel some better by 2007. Enough so that I thought I would try Nursing again. I thought Home Health would be the easiest because I could set my own hours so when Karl walked out in March of 2007 and it was either work or starve, off to work I went. He did that fairly often during our 20 year marriage so I had experience at being left at the worst possible time and I always pulled my boot straps up and did what I had to do, to feed my children. Of course when I became a Nurse all of that changed. I have a steady income and he could come and go without totally devastating our socioeconomic system.
After a couple of months of Karl trying to make it on his on, he came crawling back to his safety net and like a fool, I let him come back. It is no wonder that my children did not believe in me. I kept letting him come and go and it kept disrupting any kind of stability that we knew while he was gone.
He quickly settled into his pattern of drinking, smoking and his crazy weapons and ammo all over the house. I was so tired of having him point a weapon at me with the red sight shot on my chest and I knew that a breaking point had to come and it did in July. He came home from his work and said, "I want to buy a new motorcycle but you have to sign because my credit isn't good." I told him, "no, I am not signing anything with you. You keep walking out and I am not going to be left with a motorcycle payment."
He was so angry at me that I thought in that moment he might hit me. I had experience with that too. The time I tried to keep him from driving out our driveway in Ny drunk as can be. So drunk he staggered to get into the car. I tried to keep the door closed and he put me in a choke hold and lifted me off the ground. I Looked in horror as my 9 year old was watching this scene from the porch. He finally released me and I walked back to the house while he got in the car to get more beer.
My daughter was terrified and crying and I felt like such a heel for exposing her to the life we had. I did the best I could but it wasn't good enough. He left again up for about half a year and the family was good but he always begged his way back and because I did not want another marriage to fail, I kept letting him come back. What I failed to realize is that our marriage starting out failing and had kept failing ever since. I loved him with all my heart but he was a Narcissistic Sociopath and incapable of loving anything or anyone but himself.
With Karl gone and my divorce final, I could then contemplate my future. I had joined a Daily Strength Break ups and Divorce site in March and was reading about others men and women devastated by relationships built on betrayal, anger and abuse. I just read from March to December and then I met my buddy Rick. I then started to branch out, wrote a journal and made some friends.
My days of working only last 4 months. Long enough to mess us a disability claim. You have to start over once you do that it took away 3 years of back pay. I was squeaking by a living, selling anything and every thing I had to buy groceries as Karl was contributing 150 dollars a month. I ate on 45 of it and gave the rest of it to my kid for food. I sold things for anything else we would need.
In Jan of 08, I said I have got to do something to feel better in my spirit and for the first time in my life, I started exploring why I made such poor choices for my life. Why did I pick alcoholics, serial cheaters and the bigger question. Why did I stay with them when I knew that they did these things to me?
That is the greatest misunderstanding of all time to someone that has never experienced abuse. You don't just leave for the most part until something triggers you too and that could be the first time or that could be the tenth time. You have to fix you, before you can make better decisions, so I decided that it was time to fix me.
I joined Al-Anon, an organization for friends and family of alcoholics. I was the adult child of two alcoholics and it affected my decision making. I had a familiar and when it came to relationships, I picked what I knew and understood. It took some time for me to learn that in order to change your life, you have to change your familiar.
It was such a long process to learn to love me. To learn that I deserved better than what I had. To learn compassion for myself instead of every one else. To not be an over helper. To not ignore glaring red flags, but I began the work. I did not get here overnight and I wasn't going to get out of it overnight.
DS became my daily nourishment. Others had walked my path and I did not feel so alone. Others had been in abusive relationships and they went back or took them back so there was no judgement about my decisions. It felt great to be in an atmosphere of acceptance.
I wrote a journal of the things I was learning at the lake. I will never forget the first time I just smiled at life. I was walking back from my morning meditation and prayer and it just happened. I felt good in my spirit. I started walking and that is when the real lesson began. God would show me something and give me the message.. One day I was walking and 5 deer of different sizes crossed the road right in front of me. I stopped dead in my tracks like I had been hit by a thunderbolt. The first deer was my health followed by my job, My house, The contents and finally my husband. The deer and the problems in my life kept getting smaller and I managed each one as it came to me. God was telling me I would survive and not only would I survive, I would be a thing of beauty running free some day.
I continued my walks and one night I went over to my daughters home. She has just installed a 55 gallon fish tank recently and last night it was finally ready to add the fish. She bought a few and wanted me to come over and see them and admire. I was watching the fish going up to that mirror on the back of the tank and I was fascinated by the way they seemed to think there was another fish on the other side. They looked to be preening themselves for the beautiful fish they could see. They did not understand that it was really themselves that they were looking at. They just thought there was some "hottt" fish on the other side.. It got me to thinking how many of us look in a mirror and go Ewww and think about all of the bad things we see everyday? I said to myself, " I want to be the fish in the mirror."
But how did I accomplish this? I thought well, I will look at myself in the mirror and say something good about myself. I had to stay there long enough for something to come to mind. The first day, I thought I would die from trying to look at myself in the mirror for 10 minutes and nothing came to mind. I did not see myself as others saw me. I saw and heard his voice inside my head and he had used that to tear me down for almost 20 years.
The second day as I stared hard at myself in the mirror I said, " Well I guess my hair is alright." That was the best I could do but I kept at it determined to make myself see what others saw when they looked at me. Anytime a negative thought about myself came into my mind, I said, "Stop." And replaced it with something kind. It took 10 days before I truly saw my incredible Native American eyes and when I finally saw them, it was with tears silently streaming down my cheeks. I saw myself and I was worthy. It took much more work in group, in my Al-Anon meetings and at the lake to heal my spirit. Someone told me that it takes a month for every year you are married for you to begin to shed the Stocks they put you in. To rid yourself of the control they have in your mind even after they are gone and it took me longer than that. I had an entire lifetime to process. I had moved from relationship to relationship trying to find someone to love me. When I needed was just love myself and that came one day at the lake.
Someone on DS asked me if I had found love and I said, "Sort of."
It was early in the morning and I was praying and I felt that I should walk down to the waters edge and look in. When I did that, I saw myself reflected there in the water. I had found someone to love, myself, and that was the true beginning of healing for me. I had to exorcise everything he had put in my mind over the last years. I had to understand that his behavior was not ok and that I deserved better.
A friend told me that I was happy with crumbs because that is all he ever gave me but that I should want the whole piece of bread or the whole loaf. That I should be valued that much by anyone in my life but I had been happy with the barest crumbs for so long that it would take another journey for me to want more.
As I lost weight Karl came sniffing around. He came over to deliver child support of 150 dollars and to see Will but they had a very strained relationship and I understood that he was back on the track to win me back. I looked good again after losing the prednisone weight and he pursued me relentlessly, using every bit of charm he could muster. I went to the movies with him riding on the back of his motorcycle and held onto him. It was familiar and it terrified me. It was the only time I went anywhere with him and I told him I can't do this again. He came inside my little sanctuary and asked why I won't give him another try. It has been 20 years, he said. Why can't we try. And I told him because he was not capable of loving anyone but himself. The outward charm left him when I said this and the anger rose and I saw that he was himself but I had changed. I saw him differently than I did. He was no longer the handsome guy that charmed his way into my heart. He was a user looking for a giver again, but I wasn't buying what he was dishing.
My kids were terrified that I would fall for it again and they told me that they were holding their breath during this time, hoping against hope that I would not go back and would keep walking forward.
It was the first time that I was able to see red flags and I was so thankful for my DS group and Al-Anon. My eyes were clearing after wearing a hood most of my life.
I will continue this story in Part Two. The Dating Scene.
Love to all, Kimmee
(The pictures of my illness and transformation )

The Dirt Road Year

****Warning Long*****
The Dirt Road Year
The summer of 2005 was one of much change for me and my family. I had become ill with a mysterious malady the December before and was unable to work as a nurse. I was the sole provider for my family, so it necessitated a big change. My husband at the time would not try and find work because he felt that most work was demeaning, even though he had never had any kind of job but blue collar his entire life.
I am one that does not feel work is demeaning in any form. I learned a lot about this philosophy living on Okinawa from 1977-80. I would see the elderly Ryukyuan People approach every job as an important one. I was at the beach one day and saw several elders of the community picking up sand on the beach and I watched to see what they were finding. I discovered that they were sifting the sand for it to be clean! They smiled and went about their work as if they had just found a cure for polio and I observed and learned that all things are worth doing well.
My dad always said if you do something do it well enough to put your name on it. I was 25 and it became clear to me what he meant by that statement. These proud women were putting their name on the job they were doing. It humbled me and excited me all at the same time. I was becoming who I am today and this helped in defining for me how to approach anything that I do in my life.
Here is a link to Wikipedia to read more about the lovely people I encountered there and how they changed my life. In a later story I will share more of my three years there among them and how much I loved them all.
Please excuse the ramblings of my mind this AM. I was caught up in the beautiful memories of the island and the people.
When I became sick it required that many things change. I was sole support and had been for most of my marriage. I had an 13 year old daughter at home who had depended upon me her entire life to provide home, food, and shelter. Now I was so weak that I could barely drag myself out of bed and sell my lovely things on eBay, but drag myself out of bed I did, for six months. I sold and sold and sold and then would collapse into bed forgetting to eat, forgetting to shower, forgetting to live.
When I received a call from UPS that there were 25 boxes of stuff addressed to my husband there and would he please come pick them up, I was shocked into consciousness as I asked him where they came from. He knew that he was caught as there was not any income coming in except my eBay sales. As he tried to weasel out of this one, I asked him what the boxes contained. He told me motorcycle leathers, knife making materials such as silver coins, buffalo horn, exotic woods, and I in my dumbfounded state inquired as to where the money had come from. Since he knew that I was aware he proceeded to tell me that in May, (this was now June) his grandmother's estate had sent him 12,000 dollars. I could see his mouth moving to tell me this but I remember it being unreal. I knew that we were struggling to make it each month with my selling and I knew that I had to keep the house, electricity, and food for us during this awful time of my extreme illness.
The audacity that it takes to do such a thing overwhelmed me and my husband of almost 19 years saw that he had committed a fatal error and he started to cry. Manipulate is the word I use but I was not buying it at that point. Something cleared through the fog of the past 20 years of knowing him and I knew with certainty that I had to leave him to survive and that I could not get to the safety of my family without his help. I told him he had made a fatal error and that I would never forgive him this. I forgave him so many things over the years. His drunkenness, his mental and physical abuse, his almost burning our house down, his inability to keep a job, and so much more than I will ever talk about was rearing to an arch that I was at the top of and I could see clearly for the first time in so many years.
I equate this new found clarity to my Prednisone use which is a steroid and it cleared up some of the brain fog that comes with an autoimmune disorder like I was suffering from and undiagnosed from for many years.
The plan came to a head and I sold, had yard sales, and sent to auction enough of my beloved things to move to Florida to be closer to my older children from a previous marriage. My oldest is a nurse, as I am, and I needed to be near her.
We needed a place to move to quickly, as I did not have the energy to keep selling, and made our way south. My husband insisted on bringing his 21 ft sail boat over my 1956 Buick so I sold my Buick, swallowed the pain and loss and drove south pulling his Harley behind my car.
My oldest daughter knew that I needed a place quickly and it had to be cheap, so she found a rental trailer from a realtor with a year lease, thinking that would insure that I was in a pretty good neighborhood, but she was wrong.
The trip south took five days because I could not drive long and my concentration was feeble, but we made it into the neighborhood two days before my daughters birthday, July 27th 2005. I noted right away that the yard had barbed wire all the way around the property but did not think anything of that because I am a farm girl. We used barbed wire all over, but this barbed wire was not to keep things or animals in, but to keep things out. We were in peril almost from the moment we arrived. It was one of the few times in my life that I was glad that I brought my husband with me, even when we both knew that it was temporary until he could move out and until I could get well enough to work as a nurse again. He was and is a big biker dude and he created fear in others just by his presence. I thought all along that it was him that protected us that year but now I know that it was the grace of God and my ability to bake that saved us.
We had moved into a predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood. The drive in was terrible with the moving truck and all our things because the roads were dirt and they had foot wide potholes everywhere in the entire length of the road. I think the suspension on my car lasted a year or less. Even if you slowed to 10 MPH and crawled your way in, it was tantamount to being bounced along on a trampoline as you went down the road. The streets were not improved in any way and there were no sidewalks or street lamps to light your way.
The first couple of months I observed the neighborhood, got my daughter registered for school and tried to ascertain the comings and goings of the many people that came into the community but did not live there. The locals were civil to us but worried about us. They were as unfamiliar with someone like me as I was unfamiliar to someone like them. I am a people person, outgoing, smile at everyone no matter who it is, and I give love to anyone I meet. I know, how 60's of me, but that is who I am. I am all about the love of humanity, no matter what vessel it emanates from.
I observed strange happenings in the neighborhood, like your everyday ice cream truck that played its music at midnight. It was odd the first couple of times that it happened because I was puzzled by it all. My mind does not go right to illegal activities and it took talking to my daughter about it and she informed me that it was for drugs not frozen treats.
I watched as drug deals happened in front of my eyes at all times of the day and night. I heard the gun shots booming through the neighborhood and I heard my daughter talk about “kill a white day” when she came home from school. That put the fear in me as nothing had in some time, as there were only two white families in the neighborhood when we moved in, and we brought it to three.
It was fairly safe for my daughter to get on and off the bus at the stop that was further from our trailer but unsafe to get on and off at the one that was nearest because at any given time it was frequented by gangs. You could see their colors as they stood guard over their stop and it terrified me when my daughter got off there instead of the other one. I never knew which one to go to as the route would change based on which kids were on the bus. It was a guessing game each day as the school day ended to know if my daughter was going to get home safely or be preyed upon by the gangs.
On the only “kill a white day” that we were privy to, the teenager two trailers down was stabbed by one of the gang members and he and his family moved out of the neighborhood shortly after that. He did not die from the wound but it was not from lack of trying by the gang members. My fear and panic increased for my daughter and our family. I knew that I had to come up with a plan and God gave me one just that quick.
I loved to cook, and must admit that I am a pretty fair baker and maker of desserts, or so my family tells me, and my waistline can attest too. I used the skill I had, and that was baking.
I started to bake and take it around to all the people in the neighborhood. I made homemade brownies, (no, not the special kind) frosted them with homemade vanilla frosting and topped them with half of a walnut . I put them on paper plates in groups of six or a dozen depending on how large the family was, and I walked all over the neighborhood taking my treats to them. I did not know how they would receive me. Some of them had pit bulls that terrified me as I walked up to their fences and I did not speak the language well but I would call out, “Hello, I made something and wondered if I could give you some.”
I can not describe here the look on their faces. It is comical to think of it now. Astonishment, wariness, kindness, all were emotions that betook the people. I left the baked goodies at all the trailers that were on our street. As I walked home I could feel their stares as they questioned, “Who, or what, is that?”
There was an interesting mix of people in the neighborhood. Directly across the street was an elderly gentlemen that I came to call Grandpa. He had an extended family that consisted of children, grandchildren, cousins, and other assorted people that would visit him several times during the day. I would go over there a few times a week to talk with him, and I say talk loosely because I did not speak the language. He spoke only a little English, but we communicated none the less. I learned he was a widower of seven years and that he was lonely. He loved to have the company, and I could see him watching me as I hung out clothes and did other chores around the trailer. One day he said to me that I reminded him of his wife, and I took that as the compliment that it was.
Grandpa's son was in charge of the neighborhood, and if anything happened, he was aware of it. Of course I did not know all this when I first met him or his wife, but I learned by observation his impact on our safety and his control of the drug traffic around me. His wife was wary of me in the beginning but her heart melted one day as we were in the middle of the street and she admired a copper bracelet that I had on my wrist. It was a good quality bangle bracelet and she asked me about it. I told her that I wore it to help with my arthritis and then she shared with me her sufferings with the same thing. I removed the bracelet from my wrist and placed it upon hers without any forethought and she looked at me with a question in her eyes. I told her to keep it and wear it as I had because it might help her as it had me. She hugged me and called me Mamasita and turned away back to her home fingering the bracelet on her wrist.
It became a routine for me each week, usually on Wednesday, to bake something and take it around. I made cakes, homemade pies, sugar cookies, brownies, peanut butter goodies, fingerlings, and our traditional Christmas delights of Ohrly, Schenkley, Swiss Fudge. For the Christmas goodies I put some of all that I had made on wooden platters, many of them vintage that I had in my collection, wrapped them with saran wrap and bows, and delivered them to the families telling them to keep the platter after, as a gift from our family to theirs. Once I was talking to Grandpa and mentioned banana pudding, which they had never had. I made one for them using the antique depression amber glassed dish my mother had always used and took it over to them. They looked at the dish and held it as if it were gold. I left the entire dish with them and it was gone in a few moments. They washed the dish, made me a meal and delivered it back to us the next day.
They began to believe in me, called me Mamasita, and they started to bring food to our home. If you have never tasted traditional Puerto Rican cuisine, you have missed out. They brought empanadas, chicken and rice, or arroz con pollo, plantains, and a potato type thing that grew in the yard and was out of this world delicious.
One of the trailers close to me had a Mexican family. The elderly woman, who did not speak much, would bring us homemade tamales, all the while saying that their food was better than the Puerto Rican food that was being delivered to us. I would tell her that it was the best food I have ever tasted. I would tell the Puerto Rican families that their food was the best I had ever tasted and I was sincere on both counts. There were few days that I had to cook if I did not want to, and they put out the word in the neighborhood that we were not to be bothered.
I could see it in the safety of my daughter walking to and from the bus stop everyday. It was half a mile or more each day and I walked her to and fro. They watched me do that too and said they had never seen a mother like me, but it was the safety of my child that was uppermost in my mind.
I had seen a black truck trolling the neighborhood, watching the bus stops. I had gone online to see if any predators of the human kind lived in the neighborhood, and they did. One was across the street and another was two streets over. This is the place where the man that drove the black truck lived. His eyes met mine once and chilled me to my bones. Such emptiness, the antithesis of what I was, a total lack of concern and caring for anything that drew breath. I watched him everyday and one day I talked to the next door neighbor's cousin about him. He never came back to the street again after that and I was glad that I did not have to see him, but I prayed that no harm came to him because of me.
I worry about my daughter probably more than a body should, but some people on this planet hate things they don' t understand and I worry for her safety, so that is why at age 14, I walked her to the bus stop and she is so awesome that she didn't mind. She knows where my actions come from and accepts me for who I am as I accept her.
The next part of this is hard for me because I think that my words impacted a decision that I would never have made.
I was walking my daughter to the bus stop one morning. I always carried a big stick to ward off any stray dogs as there were always a few around and it was early morning, still dusk, when I noticed a man crouching in the bushes wearing a black hoodie so that I could not see him well. He watched as my daughter and I walked up the road. I noted this person in the woods and I whispered to my daughter, “Go to the other side of the road. Don't say anything, and if I say to do anything, do it immediately.”
I was so afraid. I was breathing fast, my pulse raced, my breathing increased as I laid out a plan of how I was going to fight or die protecting my child. She was 14 with life ahead and I was older and sick. I would have sacrificed my life for her in that moment. I was high on adrenaline and the “fight or flight” response had been initiated.
He just watched us and I tried to watch him in case he made a move, but he did not. I walked my daughter on to the bus stop and had to walk back alone with the man in the bushes watching me. It was in better light so I could see him out of the corner of my eye. I did not hurry past him, kept my pace and tapped my stick on the ground as I walked until I got about 30 feet from home and then I ran as fast as my swollen legs could carry me. I ran into the gate and into the house, locked the doors, and collapsed into tears of fear and frustration. I had never encountered anything like this in my life and I did not know what to do about it, but the next door neighbor saw me later in the day and after hugging me, he noticed I was quiet and asked if I was okay. I then told him about the hooded man watching us and he just nodded.
Two days later I was sitting outside and I noticed that there were several men next door detailing a car. The seats were on the ground, and the people were using a hose and bleach to clean the car from the inside. I knew a few days later when I never saw the hooded man again, that they had taken care of the neighborhood's problem. Grandpa's son never said anything to me and I never asked. My brain would not wrap itself around that concept. I felt diffused with guilt and prayed.
I don't know that anything happened to anyone, but I don't know that it did not either. It is a hard thing to live with knowing that people value you so much that they would defend you in such a manner and it made me retreat into isolation for a few years.
Things seemed to go smoothly in the neighborhood and I had lulled myself into a routine, a survival routine. I baked, the people in the neighborhood reciprocated by cooking for us, and on most days I felt safe, until early one morning an explosion rocked the neighborhood. It was still dark, but it was almost time for me to walk my daughter to the bus stop. I looked out, but could not see anything, so I got my things together and we walked down the road to the stop. It was not until my daughter had gotten home from school that I was told what had happened that morning. A meth lab had blown up two blocks over and it reminded me of where I lived and the need to leave as soon as a way could be found.
Not everyone will have an opportunity to live in a neighborhood as we did, but it taught me some things about human nature and it taught me some things about me. I understood with certainty that Grandpa's son had kept us safe that year. I was grateful to him and his family for watching over us as they did. We would have surely been robbed or attacked in some way if not for him.
I am so thankful that I ventured out and gave them the only thing I had, my love. If I had stayed tucked away safely in my cocoon, the outcome may have been different and I might have missed an occasion to mirror what I believe deep in my heart, that love will cover a multitude of sins. Love to all, Kimmee
(google images of dirt roads similar to the one we traversed)

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Fishing In The Deep South

Fishing.....That conjures up so many happy memories for people, but not for me. I come from a family of fishermen. My GrandDaddy Dewey Morris, Daddy, Mama, Aunts and Uncles. Well you get the idea. Our family loved to fish.
I did not think that fishing was a way of feeding six kids when I was little, but I now realize it was one of the many inventive ways that daddy had of keeping all his children fed, on very little money. Back then you could run a trot line in any creek and no one said a word about it. Daddy ran one down the road and around a curve or two on Morristown Road in the Holly Mill Creek. There were lots of Mills where we grew up and I guess at one time there was a booming business when you needed a place to get your cornmeal ground or feed for your livestock. People haven't done that for the last 100 years but in Granddaddy Peacock's day, that was the way it was done.
Daddy would go check his trot line and more often than not, he had fish on it. A trot line for those of you that have never seen one run is, a long piece of fishing line with several "drops" on it. These little drops or pieces of fishing line had hooks added and each one was baited. Then you would throw or tie it from one side of the creek to the other using a tree or just let it free float and tie one end to a strong tree, because if you had a good day, there was a mess of fish on there. Now if you were lucky enough to have a boat, you could tie off the line to where the oar sat and that was strong enough to keep your fish from pulling the whole line away while you were elsewhere.
The other way that Daddy and all them fished was with a cane pole. Daddy would cut them himself or buy them. Lots of times, people just gave them away in favor of them new fangled ones that had a rod and reel, but daddy was an ole timey fisherman when I was growing up and he had a pile of cane poles over the rafters on the front porch. All different sizes in length and diameter, just in case one of the grandkids wanted to go with him.
Most of the time, we swam while Daddy fished and this Sunday was no different from many others, but on this day daddy decided he would give me a try at fishing. I was 8 and I had been asking cause he took Donna fishing and Ernest fishing but not me. That was a big deal because I was challenging as a kid. I talked a lot. I know that is hard to believe; but silence was not one of my strong
This time with daddy was like gold because there was never alone time with Daddy, unless you were getting whipped. The rest of the time there were kids everywhere and in those days of children being seen and not heard, alone time was precious and this was my chance.
The kids were all swimming in Morris Creek as we called it and Moores Creek as it is properly named. It is down from Coon Hill where my Great Grandparents Ervin and Charlotte McCurdy Morris and my 2nd Great Grandparents William M "Bud" and Matilda Jane Spears Morris lived so I think that is why we always called it Morris Creek.
Daddy and I took off down the bank to get away from the splashing and noise. We had grubbed worms that morning and had a nice little bucket of them that Daddy was toting and I was lollygagging behind him as I often did.
Daddy found his spot and settled down on the side of the bank and I sat down beside him. He pulled a big ole earthworm out and handed it to me to bait my hook. You have to understand that I did not like killing things, mostly, unless it was a snake or roach or spider but a little wiggly worm was like a play thing and I hated to run that hook through it. Daddy showed me how to put the hook through it several times and wind it around so that the juices are on the outside and the worm is still wiggling and we were off. He tossed his line in and I tossed my line in and we sat and we sat and we sat.
In no particular order I saw a bird and remarked on it. Daddy said, "ssshush lil ole gal, you're gonna scare the fish. Next came a butterfly and I said, "ain't that purty, Daddy?" He said "Sshush lil ole gal or I am going to send you to the truck." I tried. I really did but I saw a beautiful purple flower on a blade of grass and I could not help but say how pretty it was and daddy just looked at me and said, " go to the truck lil ole gal." There was no arguing with daddy so I pulled in my pole and trudged off to the truck with my head hung low.
I had messed up my time with daddy and I was so sad. I climbed into the truck with the windows rolled up because of yellow flies and horse flies and sat there for what seemed a really long time. I watched the other kids swimming off the old gnarled tree, hanging upside down on the rope swing in the tree and wishing I had just gone swimming. It wasn't quite summer so it was warm, but not so warm that I was in danger in the truck. Although parents didn't think about things like that back then. Of course we weren't usually in the cab. We were on the back standing up, hanging onto the lip of the cab with the wind whipping our long hair around our head.
Often times Daddy would take us to the Escambia River. Daddy owned 120 acres that was almost all the way to that big river but his property line was a little ways from the bank. We fished and ate down there quite a lot. I remember slung coffee, catfish and hush puppies, and days swimming in that river. You were not able to see through that water it was so muddy and dirty once you stepped in but we didn't care. We were swimming. Daddy went down the bank to fish near the bridge while we played. Our cousin Vivian came with us sometimes if Ernest was with us and we were fearless children. We were having fun one day and along comes a big ole moccasin swimming toward us in the water. We got out on the bank, watched it swim on downstream and then got back in. I can't believe that we did that and I shudder at that now but we just didn't care or know any better and we did not have any real parental interaction to tell us different. We just roamed those 120 acres like it was our personal playground and thank God we survived.
Sometimes we didn't fish but went to Pensacola Bay to find Oysters. Oh lordy, Daddy and the boys loved oysters. Raw on the half shell with ketchup or on a cracker with ketchup on top. I tried one of them once and it tasted like I imagine liquid snot does, so that was my first and last time trying that. lol
While Daddy and the boys picked the oysters up out of the mud, Donna and I would walk out into the bay. You could walk for what seemed like a mile and you were only knee or waist deep. We splashed around in the water and a few times as we did this a couple of porpoises showed up and played with us. I think they were concerned that we were in trouble but no matter what brought them to us, it was magical to see them come and play.
I hope that kids today know the wonderful feeling of baiting a hook, hooking a fish, cleaning it and frying it up. It is sometimes hard work to fish for your supper but there is nothing like the taste of fresh fish cooked on a Coleman Stove with hushpuppies on the side.
Go fishing. It is worth anything you have to do to get there and it permeates into our spirits to create calm and quiet. Take your kids too and leave the phones at home, just like it used to be. They may protest at first, but when they get caught up in the magic of fishing, they will come around. Love to all, Kimmee
( All Photos courtesy of Donna Peacock, except the book one from the Alger Sullivan Book on Century and surrounding areas

Holly Mill Creek in the next two pics

Aunt Catherine Morris at Moore's Creek
Daddy, Elmore Lee Peacock with a mess of fish

Granddaddy Admiral Dewey Morris with his mess of fish

My Great Grandfather Ervin Washington Morris in the Book published by the Alger Sullivan Historical Society of Century and Surrounding areas
William M. "Bud" Morris my 2nd Great Grandfather 

1900 census for Santa Rosa County, Fl at Coon Hill with my 1st and 2nd Great Grandparents

Mims Island where we used to fish on the Escambia River in the next two photos

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

John Sunday Jr- An important Man in Pensacola's History

This was shared today by my cousin Charles. This is my 4th Great half Uncle. I descend from John Sunday Sr and his first wife Barsheba Collins Sunday. It is important to remember these stories and to honor them for the sacrifices they endured.  The addendum to this story is that the House was demolished soon after this article was written. Another Historical Monument torn down. 

Charles Ward
6 hrs
My Black History for today. My great-great Uncle John Sunday:
John Sunday and the significance of his home
By C. Scott Satterwhite
“I often like to ride my bike around town, and I was attracted to that property,” said John Ellis, a Pensacola Realtor. “I was drawn to that house, because it’s an impressive home but never saw anyone there. There’s got to be a story to that house. That house must’ve belonged to someone special.”
The house Ellis refers to did indeed belong to someone very special: one of Pensacola’s most well-known and prominent figures of the late 19th and early 20th century. That prominent figure was John Sunday.
Walking by the home today, one sees little to indicate the historical significance of the residence and nothing denoting its most famous resident, Mr. Sunday.
There are no historic markers or signs on the outside of the large and fairly ornate—if not slightly neglected—house on the corner of Rues and Romana streets in the downtown area.
“It’s disappointing that John Sunday is treated as a footnote in Pensacola’s history,” said Teniade Broughton, vice president of the John Sunday Society. “In reality, he’s an entire chapter… [Sunday’s] house is a physical testament to his life and legacy.”
The John Sunday Society is an organization founded to save John Sunday’s house and preserve his legacy.
Currently facing demolition to make way for a series of town houses, Sunday’s historic house is at the center of controversy. A group of Pensacolans, including members of the John Sunday Society, is attempting to save the home from destruction and secure Sunday’s significant, but largely neglected, place in Pensacola history.
To tell the story of the house and its significance, one has to first tell the story of John Sunday.
Sunday’s early years: “He was pretty much a self-made man”
For many familiar with his story, John Sunday embodies so much of what was and is Pensacola.
“Pensacolans should care, really need to care, about John Sunday,” said historian Matthew Clavin, a professor with the University of Houston. Clavin is the author of “Aiming for Pensacola: Fugitive Slaves on the Atlantic and Southern Frontiers.”
“[Sunday] teaches us so much about Pensacola in the nineteenth century.”
Born in 1838 to an enslaved mother, Jinny, and a white farmer, John Sunday was given the name of his father.
The Sunday home was unusual in many regards, not for having a biracial child, but because Jinny and John Sunday, Sr., lived openly together as a married couple. When Sunday was a baby, his father was murdered.
Historic facts about anyone from the early 19th century are difficult to piece together—and especially so when the subjects are enslaved African Americans.
However, much of Sunday’s history is documented through court dockets, military service records, city directories, all supplemented with the family histories of this prominent Pensacolan.
Pearl Perkins is a member of the John Sunday Society. She is also Sunday’s great-great-granddaughter.
According to Perkins, after the death of Sunday’s white father, the father’s white children from a previous marriage attempted to claim Jinny and Sunday’s biracial children as family property.
The father, however, granted a gift to Jinny and her children by securing their emancipation in his will, essentially freeing them upon his death.
“This is all in the court records,” Perkins said.
“He absolutely gave Jinny and their four children freedom,” thus allowing his biracial children a new path outside of bondage.
Despite being a free man of color, Sunday still lived in the Deep South where life was precarious at best and dangerous at worst. Sunday knew that if he were to thrive in this environment, he’d need to take every opportunity to bring himself up from this previous condition.
“He was pretty much a self-made man,” said Perkins of her great-great grandfather.
According to Perkins, Sunday “went to apprentice school at the age of 15” and worked very hard to help his family survive, which was not an easy task for a black man in the antebellum South.
Pensacola, in the pre-war years, offered more opportunities for free people of color than much of the Deep South, but the Southern institution of chattel slavery was an ominous part of daily life.
Everything changed with the Civil War.
Sunday goes to War: “It’s a story that’s close to my heart”
With the election of Abraham Lincoln, many Southerners felt certain that the Republican president planned to end slavery. Talk of a civil war seemed more plausible. Many Pensacolans viewed the looming war with mixed feelings—mostly depending on their ethnicity.
According to Clavin’s recent book on the subject, “an angry [white] mob destroyed a wax figure of the radical white abolitionist John Brown” that a local craftsman displayed alongside statues of Jesus and the apostles.
After Lincoln’s election, angry whites sent President Lincoln a telegram: “You were last night hung in effigy in this city.”
Understandably, African Americans had a different opinion of Lincoln’s election. In the days leading up to the war, many enslaved African Americans were elated at the prospect of war and the possibility of freedom that Lincoln’s election symbolized.
The federal outpost of Fort Pickens, located on Pensacola Beach, was a common destination for fugitive slaves from the first rumors of war until its final days. After Pensacola’s brief time in the Confederacy ended and Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the U.S. military soon allowed African Americans to join the fight that ended slavery in the United States.
One of the first from Pensacola officially to join in this fight for freedom was Sunday.
According to his military service record, Sunday joined for duty and enrolled May 15, 1863 in Pensacola. Sunday joined the U.S. Army as a private and was soon sent to join the 6th Regiment of the Corps d’Afrique in Port Hudson, Louisiana. He was 25.
The unit Sunday joined fought in the Siege of Port Hudson and was one of the first African American regiments to engage directly with the Confederate Army.
“Because of the prejudice of the times, they didn’t want to give black men guns,” said Marvin Steinback, a park ranger with the Port Hudson State Historic Site. The Corps d’Afrique “was primarily labor troops, building siege fortifications and trenches.”
Although largely unarmed and acting as laborers and stretcher bearers, the Corps d’Afrique was in the middle of combat. “The bullets were still flying,” said Steinback.
The Siege of Port Hudson lasted 48 days, the longest in U.S. military history. “For the duration, [the U.S. Army] had the Corps d’Afrique digging these trenches while the riflemen were behind them, protecting them,” said Steinback. “They’d build the trenches, and the riflemen would move up.”
“They have such a colorful history that people don’t even know,” said Steinback. “It’s a story that’s close to my heart.”
With the 6th Regiment of the Corps d’Afrique, the army promoted Sunday to the rank of First Sergeant in September of 1863. The Union Army reorganized Sunday’s regiment officially as the 78th Infantry, United States Colored Troops, and he remained with the 78th until the Union Army won the war.
Sunday’s family, however, was not all on the Union side. The white children of John Sunday, Sr. sided with the Confederacy. His half-brother joined the Confederate Army in Florida. Both sons were named after their father.
“One brother was in the Confederate Army because he was white,” said Perkins. “The other was in the Union Army.” The white brother was killed in action fighting for the Confederacy. “As luck had it,” said Perkins, “my great-great-grandfather survived.”
Somewhere during his time in the military, Sunday befriended Gen. Ulysses Grant. According to the Sunday family history, “they were very good friends.”
According to Perkins, “at one time, the [Sunday] family had a sword that was given to my great-great-grandfather by Ulysses Grant.”
At the end of Sunday’s military service to the United States, Sunday’s service record states that he had “been furnished with transportation and subsistence in kind for the journey to New Orleans, Louisiana.”
After the war, he came back home to Pensacola to take part in the reconstruction the city.
Reconstruction: “It should be celebrated”
Throughout downtown Pensacola, several monuments stand to mark the role of Confederates during and after the Civil War. In Ferdinand Plaza is the obelisk dedicated to William Chipley, a former colonel in the Confederacy and mayor of Pensacola. The Perry Mansion, which sits on the corner of Palafox and Wright Streets, is the restored home of Gov. Edward Perry. Perry was also a former colonel in the Confederate Army who ran for governor on the platform of ending the Republican Reconstruction-era governments in Florida. He won the state, but lost in his home county of Escambia.
The most prominent Confederate monument, however, is the memorial statue at Lee Square. The memorial honors Jefferson Davis, Stephen Mallory and Edward Perry with a statue of a symbolic Confederate soldier standing high above the city and always facing south, looking over Pensacola. The statue’s base, where one often finds flowers, bears the phrase: “Our Confederate Dead.”
For those who fought to save the United States and end slavery, however, there is virtually no marker of prominence in the downtown area. For those who rebuilt the local government and served during the period of federal occupation and Reconstruction, there is barely a word devoted to this period, outside of the Julee Cottage Museum.
“Like nearly every other black soldier during the Civil War, Sunday chose to fight and would have given his life for the northern army, not the Confederacy,” said Clavin. “His success during the war as a soldier and later as a free man demonstrates some of the opportunities available to people of color in Pensacola in the nineteenth century.”
Once Sunday came back from his military service, he returned to his home with a wife, whom he met in Louisiana. Together they started a family, and the Union Army veteran set forth to take an active role in rebuilding Pensacola during the Reconstruction period.
Reflecting on the lack of local scholarship and understanding of this period, Clavin said: “Reconstruction is one important area of U.S. history largely misunderstood and neglected by historians and ordinary people alike.”
Often mischaracterized as wholly a period of corruption in government, Reconstruction was the U.S. government’s effort to rebuild the South, educate those formerly enslaved, and re-establish a more equitable government that reflected the population, both black and white.
“Despite its many alleged failures,” said Clavin, the Reconstruction government “was the first real attempt at a multi-racial democracy in American history. It should be celebrated.”
With the end of slavery and federal troops occupying much of the South, there were unprecedented opportunities for African Americans. Certain characteristics made Pensacola an ideal place for African Americans to find success, including the pre-war presence of a free community of color, the lack of wholesale destruction which destroyed many southern cities, and the very large black population.
“That Pensacola during Reconstruction avoided many of the heinous acts of violence and terror that visited most urban places in the South is a real testament to the city’s exceptionalism,” said Clavin.
Almost immediately, Sunday began working as a mechanic at the Pensacola Navy Yard and later as a customs inspector for the Port of Pensacola. During this time, Sunday began acquiring property and building homes throughout the city. Trained as a carpenter, Sunday used his skills to establish his wealth in real estate, a nearly impossible task before the war.
In the 1870s, Sunday began his service to Pensacola and the State of Florida. In 1874, he served as the second African American to represent Escambia County in the state legislature. After that, Sunday served as a councilman for the City of Pensacola. He held that position until 1885.
The year 1885 is an important year in Pensacola history: it’s the year Reconstruction ended.
The recently-elected governor of Florida and resident of Escambia County, former Confederate Brig. Gen. Edward Perry, acted swiftly to abolish what he saw as the “carpetbag” government of Pensacola. Once in office, he revoked the city charter over a somewhat arbitrary tax dispute and dismissed all of Pensacola’s elected officials, including John Sunday.
In a move that was unarguably a bloodless coup, Perry replaced the local government with handpicked successors, including former Confederate officer and wealthy railroad magnate William Chipley.
According to an article in the “Atlanta Constitution,” originally published in 1885, “The mayor and marshal were arrested [for refusing to vacate their posts], and the provisional officers took charge of the city without any interference.” With one legal maneuver by Gov. Perry, nearly all of the progressive gains African Americans earned after Emancipation ended overnight.
In his book about Florida Reconstruction, “Emancipation Betrayed,” historian Paul Ortiz described Gov. Perry’s political move in stark terms: “Rarely had class warfare in the United States ever been so transparent.”
The clock then began turning back on the post-war prospects for racial equity. This trend continued for the next century.
After Sunday and his black colleagues were forced from office, he helped form Pensacola’s chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a veteran organization for those who fought for the United States during the Civil War.
The GAR advocated for veterans’ rights and the voting rights of African Americans after the war. Most of their chapters were, understandably, in the North, but a few were in the South. The chapter Sunday helped organize was one of those exceptions. For a time, he even held the position of post commander.
As Sunday’s business interest and community engagement grew, so did Sunday’s family. Sunday owned numerous properties in Pensacola, and he built several homes throughout the city. His personal homestead became a focus of his later years.
In the years following the war, Sunday purchased a large plot of land in a multi-ethnic community near the port called the Tanyard, a historic multiracial neighborhood south of Garden Street and West of Palafox. His original intention was to build a home there, but he was persuaded by his sister Mercedes Ruby to give the land to the black and Creole congregants of St. Michael Catholic Church so they could form their own church.
The African American congregants of St. Michael felt that white congregants were not allowing them an equal role in the leadership and direction of the church. As racial lines slowly returned to divide people of color from whites, the black and Creole Catholics felt they would be better served by having their own church. These African American Catholics petitioned the diocese for the right to build a new church, and it was granted.
Officially founded in 1891, St. Joseph Catholic Church was unique for many reasons, most notably its service to the black, Creole and white immigrant communities of Pensacola at the turn of the century. St. Joseph remains a cornerstone in the community, with its volunteer-run medical clinic which serves Pensacola’s underprivileged with free medical care.
“That structure where St. Joseph church stands was supposed to be his home,” said Perkins. “That’s where St. Joseph church is today. You can’t tell the story of St. Joseph church without telling the story of John Sunday.”
“He was faithful to the church, and he was loyal to this city,” said Perkins.
The church is one of only a few structures from the original Tanyard community still standing in the original location. The other structure is the home Sunday later built a few blocks away.
In 1901, Sunday placed his foundation on the corner of Rues and Romana at 302 Romana Street. While Sunday owned several properties, according to Perkins, this is the one he intended as his family home.
“He laid the foundation a year before he started building on that plot, because he wanted to make sure the house was completely settled,” said Perkins. “He didn’t want any cracks in the walls. He wanted it to be perfect.”
Jim Crow: “If you don’t want me, I’ll go somewhere else.”
With the advent of Pensacola’s Jim Crow laws of the 20th century, Sunday saw his city dramatically change. He remained prosperous and continued to purchase property, but Jim Crow laws forced Sunday to move much of his business out of the downtown area—including a popular restaurant on the corner of Palafox and Garden.
As one of the wealthiest businessmen in Pensacola, a veteran and “self-made man,” Sunday took this indignity with surprising grace—at least publicly.
“When they chased him out of downtown, he said ‘That’s okay. I’ve got other properties. If you don’t want me, I’ll go somewhere else,’” said Perkins of her great-great-grandfather.
After Jim Crow limited where Sunday could live and put other restrictions on his life, he decided to focus on building his community.
Most notably, he put energy, time and money into building the historic Belmont-Devilliers area. Two buildings that he helped construct—the famed Bunny Club and Gussies Records—still stand as a testament to his craftsmanship and building expertise.
Many view Sunday’s focus on Belmont-Devilliers as a testament to his love of Pensacola, not to mention his self-determination.
“If he needed it, he produced. If he wanted milk, he’d get a cow. He didn’t have to ask anyone for anything. He had his own money,” said Perkins.
In his 1907 book “The Negro in Business,” Booker T. Washington described Pensacola — a city whose population was majority black— as “a typical negro business community” having a “healthy communal progressive spirit, so necessary to our people.”
Washington took time to note a few prominent Pensacolans: “The wealthiest colored man in that section of the state is John Sunday…He owns valuable holdings in the principal business streets of the city and employs steadily a force of men to repair old, and build new, houses.”
Besides the “force of men” he employed, Sunday trained his children in the building trade. “He used all of his children,” said Perkins. “Several followed him in the family trade.”
When Washington wrote his study of Pensacola, Sunday was reportedly worth $125,000, the modern equivalent of over 3 million dollars, an incredible sum for a man born into slavery.
Sunday died in 1925. He is buried in St. Michael Cemetery. Still, rising from slavery to such prominence, despite incredible obstacles, puts him in a very unique category of local historical figures.
The John Sunday House: “A testament to the American Dream”
“Everyone knows the saying about being doomed to repeat history if we don’t learn it— but in some cases, I think we would be fortunate to repeat our history” said Clavin. “There’s a lot of inspiration to be gained from studying a man like John Sunday.”
Nonetheless, few Pensacolans appear to be familiar with his story. In the early 20th Century, Sunday’s presence was ubiquitous. One hundred years later, his legacy and the significance of his home are called into question as the house at 302 West Romana is under threat of demolition.
“On the part of the developer, it’s in their best interest to minimize the significance of the house as much as they can,” said Ellis.
Ellis is the president of the John Sunday Society. “They say that we’re not even sure if John Sunday lived there… But when I see ‘John Sunday, Creole, 302 West Romana’ [in historic city directories], that’s all I need to see that this was his house,” said Ellis.
“Enslaved people built the shacks and plantation mansions too,” said Broughton. “But the story of a home is always centered around who lived there and not who built it. But we know Sunday built and lived in this house.”
Perkins goes further: “When they refer to this house as ‘302 West Romana,’ I tell them: ‘This is John Sunday’s House.’ I put a face to the property.”
“This house is significant, because this is the house that John Sunday built for him and his family,” said Perkins. “It stood the test of time. He put his heart and soul into this house.”
“My grandma was raised in that house,” said Perkins. “Part of my mother’s childhood was in that house. This is personal. It’s lineage.”
The John Sunday Society formed in response to the threat of demolition with one sole mission: “Our mission is to save the house and preserve it in its place,” said Ellis.
While admitting the house has deteriorated over the years, Ellis claims the demolition is extreme.
“I guarantee you, if someone marketed a home in North Hill for demolition, specifically in the property description…there would be a riot,” said Ellis.
Ellis then answers the question his critics ask: “If this house is so important, then why are people all of a sudden trying to save it? Well, the reality is that no one really perceived that it was in danger until recently.”
Ellis believes that the reason the house is under threat of demolition is because “people were just not aware of the home’s tie to John Sunday.”
“It seems like a huge wasted opportunity. If you marketed it as the ‘John Sunday Home,’ someone would be interested in restoring it instead of marketing it for demolition.”
Pensacola’s identity is deeply rooted in its history, but the city’s African American history has long been neglected by the broader community. “As of now, the African American narrative [in Pensacola] is severely marginalized, ignored or erased altogether, which is odd for a city that was largely of African descent for most of its history,” said Broughton.
Besides her work with the John Sunday Society, Broughton is currently working with an Atlanta-based company to develop the John Sunday Legacy Trail, which “tells Pensacola history through physical sites associated with John Sunday. There’s a lot of outside interest about Sunday.”
The same Atlanta company “just completed a W.E.B. Dubois Legacy trail, so I’m excited to add Sunday next to some of the biggest names in history,” said Broughton.
“We need more uplifting stories about those who overcame oppression than those who were facilitators of other folks’ sorrow,” said Broughton.
“By preserving [Sunday’s] history, we can help convince people of the possibilities available to even those faced with tremendous obstacles,” said Clavin. “His home is not just a symbol of Pensacola’s African American heritage; it is a testament to the American dream.”
For Sunday’s great-great-granddaughter, the connection is more personal. “The house is over a hundred years old,” said Perkins. “It’s been through hurricanes, floods and tornadoes; but to tear it down to build condominiums?”
Perkins’ frustration was evident in her voice, but so was her determination to save her great-great-grandfather’s home. “I think people need to know what John Sunday did for Pensacola, and I just want people to see this house for what it’s worth. This house can be worked with. This house can be saved.”

Image may contain: one or more people