Memories of My Grandmother Helen Bunn- Part #2

This is a continuum of Memories of my Grandmother Helen Bunn, Part #1.  Go here  if you would like to follow my train of thought.

My brother and I used to call my grandmother Helen “Granny”, and she seemed to fit that name perfectly.  Some of my memories of her:

  1. She loved to watch wrestling on Television.  I could never figure out what made her like it so much, but she would laugh and cheer her favorite wrestler on.  I swear it was comedy!  I don’t know if it was so much comedy watching these men wrestling with masks and tight underwear on as much as it was watching my grandmother have a ball laughing at them.  She really got into it.  Sometimes she would try to put a move on me, by putting me in a head lock…and she would just laugh as I would be yelling for her to let me up…lol
  1. Another pastime was my grandmother loved to watch the Roller Derby.  Since she lived in Los Angeles, her team was the Thunderbirds.  She was always rooting for Gwen Miller aka “Skinny Minney”; she was always doing a stunt and skating under someone else’s legs.  It was a special treat when we would go to the Los Angeles Olympic Auditorium to see our favorite skaters.  Of course, I always had to have cotton candy when we went.
  1.   So you see, my grandmother liked Wrestling, she liked Roller Derby, and she loved the “Hee Haw” show.  I spent many a day watching this show with her.

Helen was a church going woman and a leader in her church.  I spent every summer at her home and every Sunday we were at church.  Going to church was a weekly ritual when I lived at home, but the type of church I went to at my grandmothers was the African American Episcopal (AME) Church.  What I liked most about attending her church, was the music. They had the soulful gospel music and the old-time spirituals.  The tambourines, foot stomping and clapping and raising of hands excited me, something I was not accustomed to as I was brought up in a Presbyterian  and Methodist church, whose musical style came off as pious and self-controlled.

When I reflect back on my childhood, I can picture my grandmother’s bedroom and on her dresser sat an offering box that was shaped like a church.  This is where I would withdraw some funds to take to church and give for offering.  She told me that it was important to give tithes and offerings as this is what God would want us to do.

So, if you read my last post, you see, I had a grandmother whose father was a sharecropper, and Helen picked many a day of cotton.  She loved tobacco, and I learned this firsthand.  She ran off the farm to ensure that my father got an education; which was well worth the run as he earned a Ph.D, became an educator himself, and had two SD City Schools named after him.

My grandmother loved the rough and tough type of entertainment and she was a very soulful individual.  I can remember everyday tunes that she would sing around the house such as “Go Tell It on The Mountain, and Amazing Grace.”

There is so much more to this woman I called “Granny.”  I have good memories of these formative years of my life at my grandmother’s home and there are more memories to share such as the old health remedies, community activism, and discipling….follow me next time to part #3.

What I Remember about My Grandmother: Part 1

Old Barn House in Carlton, Arkansas in the Lake Village Area of Arkansas. Porter & Bunn Ancestors lived and worked the fields in this area which is forty miles from Lake Providence.


My trip to Arkansas & Louisiana this April, was a time to breathe in the clean country air, to walk the land that my ancestors walked, to imagine them in their environment and mentally roll back the time. These fields  were greener than any I have ever seen as I live in Southern California, which is naturally a desert.

There was a mixture of the old with the not so new in Dermott, Arkansas which was my home base during my travels. I was nestled between the boarders of Arkansas and Lake Providence, Louisiana where the Mississippi river ran through. I was amazed by the scenery of the beautiful waters, lakes, rivers and the bountiful trees that grew everywhere, as there were a many cypress trees wading in the waters.  I could not even imagine this place, even in the stories of those who knew the area.  This is a place that one must go to if  one wants to experience the rural south in all its glory, in all its majestic beauty.  I could tell, that God walked here.

This vacation was a time for me to feel closer to my ancestors, and a time which allowed me to reflect about my Grandmother Helen Bunn and my Grandfather Harrison Porter and the many ancestors that passed on years before them.

As I have so much to share, I was thinking where shall I begin? Where does my present meet up with my past, my roots, my people? Then I thought, “Let me talk about the things my grandmother shared with me, or what I remember about my grandmother.”

Helen Bunn was born in Rayville, Richland, Louisiana on August 16, 1903.  She was a child of a sharecropper.  Her father grew cotton, wheat and rice.  Helen’s family moved from one plantation to the next in order to get away from the mistreatment the land owners would place upon those who worked their land.

In Helen’s childhood the Bunn family moved to Lake Providence, Louisiana and worked the land of the Brown Plantation.  Helen grew up in Lake Providence and remained until her son (my father) turned five, when she ran off the farm that her husband Harrison had tilled since he was a child.

Walking this area and seeing what was around, It was confirmed in my spirit of what my grandmother said, “I ran away because, I wanted your father to get an education.  I didn’t want him growing up on the farm, where there was no future for him.”

Some memories and stories of my Grandmother told to me in the early 1970’s:

Story #1

Helen had feet that seemed to curve in a funny way.  I questioned her why she had a lump on each of her feet right below, where her big toes were.  I later found they were called bunions.  She stated that when she was a little girl and well into her teens, a missionary church of white folks would drop off a huge box of shoes that all the children on the plantation would go through to pick out their one pair of shoes for the year.  She would have to make those shoes last all year round.  It didn’t matter if those shoes were too big or too small.  Helen always seemed to get shoes that were way too small, so it curved her foot and caused her to have bunions.

Story #2

A thing I thought was odd, was the coloration of one of my grandmother’s feet.  She was a brown skinned woman, but yet her foot was scarred to a very light tone.  I was so curious as to why.  When my grandmother was about twelve, she was walking barefoot outside (Something she would get on me about).  She stepped on a large rusty nail that went through the bottom of her foot.  Back in those early days of 1915, it was not uncommon for the home remedy of using turpentine to be a daily cure.  Her sister Elizabeth poured turpentine on the puncture and on the bandage which she wrapped around her foot.  Everything was fine while Helen tried to recover as she sat on the front porch of the house looking out into the field.

Why did Helen get this grand idea to play with matches?  Well, she was bored, and she struck that match and she lit her foot afire when she accidently dropped it on her foot.  I am not sure how she was able to distinguish the fire, but once it stopped burning she had three degree burns.

Story #3

In those early days that my grandmother had to pick cotton in her father’s fields, she would chew plugs of tobacco.  Why would anyone do that?  One day when I was visiting, I was passing through my grandmother’s sewing room in South Central, Los Angeles to go outside to play with some friends.  I notice Helen chewing on something I thought was beef jerky.  “What is that?” I piped up!  She handed it to me to try it.  I took a bite out of it and my face screwed all up and I nearly choked trying to spit that stuff out of my mouth.  My grandmother laughed so hard saying, “That’s tobacco!”  I will never forget.  This is how I learned about the taste of tobacco.

More stories to come….Hope you enjoy


Welcome to My Bunn & Porter Family Blog

I have spent many hours and days researching my maternal ancestry, and not giving much thought to my paternal roots.  It is not that I did not want to know or share my paternal history, but because those very stories that I was curious about were not revealed to me in one sitting, and until I could make my journey to Louisiana and Arkansas, I wasn’t fully going to understand the things that I was told.

I remember inquiring to my grandmother Helen Bunn about her life in Louisiana but it seemed that when I questioned her, she would only reveal so much and then stop talking.  I realize now that the very questions I asked her, that seemed so innocent to a child would reveal much more than I could fully grasp.  I may never know these stories, but I want to know more about the one’s that tilled the land in the 1800’s and 1900’s as slaves and as sharecroppers of Virginia, North Carolina, Louisiana and Arkansas.

I am a city girl, with no experience for the South, or at least the deep South.  For my birthday, I took a trip to Dermott, Arkansas to meet with my father’s Great Nephew from the Porter line.  The area of Louisiana and Arkansas that I visited were the place where my Bunn and Porter families had resided for at least 200 years.  I did not have enough time to explore and considering some difficulty with transportation and an illness of my cousin’s wife, I was not able to participate in extensive research.  The trip however was fruitful.

I hope that you will find this blog interesting and become a follower.