Our mother, Margaret Cecelia “Peg” Rhodes was born on 30 October 1916 in Dallas, NC to parents, Melchi Hoffman Rhodes and Ocie Josephine Rhyne. She was the second of what would eventually be a family of four daughters; the eldest was Sarah Melinda (Aunt Sis), and followed by the younger sisters, Rachel Hoffman and Mary “Patsy” Naomi.
I don’t know if my mother was born in a hospital or at home; if it was at home, then her birth took place on the property that her father had purchased the year before her birth. The house on that property at the time was probably much smaller than the white, two-story house I remember from my childhood. That house stood at what is currently 407 North Holland Street, Dallas, NC. It has remained in the ownership of several different direct descendants of Melchi since his purchase in 1915, including my current ownership.
Not knowing where my mother was born is just one of the many things I have realized that I don’t know about her youth. I have talked with my sisters, and I believe we are all ashamed that we did not take the time to get our mother to tell any of us the stories of her life before her motherhood. There are a few snippets that I recall from the rare times that she talked about herself, and I’ll share those later.
With her birth being the first documentation of her life, one of the next official records is the 1920 census that occurred less than four years later. There is not a great deal of information that we gather on “Margaret”, she is simply listed as 3 years and 2 months old, white, female. In addition to Margaret, the household consisted of parents Melchi and Ocie, and older sister Sarah.
Other records show that “Margaret” was baptized at Holy Communion Lutheran Church on 16 March 1924 when she would have been seven years old. I found this a little surprising, since I assumed that she had been baptized as an infant. The church records show that a total of fourteen individuals were baptized that day, including all six children of Edward and Bessie Cloninger, who were baptized in their home; a set of Lohr twins, also baptized in their home; and six who were baptized during the the church service. Mother was included in these six, and was the only one of these to be more than one year old at the time; also baptized along with Mother was her first cousin, Hannah Lingerfelt.
My sister, Carla, did remember that our mother had talked about how much she truly loved her father, Melchi; and recalled how he would brush her hair before he put her to bed at night. One of the only things I remember that Mother told me about this period of her life was regarding a “chore” she had when she was about eight or nine years old. It seems that her grandfather ( J. Frank Rhyne ) was working as the jailer at the “Old” Dallas Jail, and it fell to her mother, Ocie, to cook the dinner meals for J. Frank and those being held in the jail. Mother’s job was to make the three block trip from her home to the jail to deliver whatever was on the menu for that day.
The 1930 census showed that the family had changed very little; those in the former census were ten years older, and living in the same house. One of the biggest changes to the family was the addition of a younger daughter, Rachel, born in 1925; which was eight years since the birth of Margaret. Right around the time of the census, records show that “Margaret”, at the age of 13, was confirmed as a member of Holy Communion Lutheran Church on 11 April 1930; joining her as a confirmant on that day was her cousin, Marvin McAlister Rhyne.
The 1940 census showed some change for the family, Sarah had married and moved out to start her own family with Robert Lewis; but there had also been the addition of the fourth daughter, listed as Mary on the census. She had been born about six months after the enumeration of the 1930 census, so Mary ( Aunt Pat ) was now listed as 9 years old. Margaret, our mother, was now 23 years old; she was shown as having completed four years of high school (Dallas High School), but she was shown as without a paying job. She apparently was taking care of the family home while her mother worked as a “seamstress”. Something I found interesting on this census, was that the family was shown to be living on “Bank” Street. I had often heard my Mother refer to the street that she grew up on as, what I thought she said, “Buck” Street. I always thought that maybe it was just a name they called the street in front of their house because of the steep crest of a hill that would give anyone in a motor vehicle with some speed that sensation of “bucking” when you would literally leave your seat as you went over. I have yet to find an “official documentation” of the street being named “Buck”, but I have “Bank Street” listed on this census, on a land deed, and on Ocie Josephine’s death certificate. “Bank” Street does make sense, because the only bank in town at that time was on the corner of where this street intersected with “Trade” Street.
Another glimpse of Mother’s life during this period that I have tried to put together with just fragments of information, occurred sometime between her high school graduation and her marriage; I believe it to be sometime in the late 1930’s. I remember Mother saying she would ride the bus to Hickory (NC) to work at the bus station; I didn’t think too much about it (as usual), but I assumed she was actually working as possibly a ticket agent in Hickory. Her uncle, Robert Ray Rhyne, had started a bus line service between Gastonia and Hickory, so this made some sense in my mind. Upon finding other information, I now believe that she was actually working as a waitress at the bus station diner. She was probably not making daily trips, but she was staying with her Uncle and Aunt (Charles and Sue Rhyne White) and their daughters, Mary Frank (Hankie) and Ruth (Hope) (her first cousins). It seems Uncle Charlie ran the “lunchette” at the bus station, and that the 1940 census indicated that both Hankie and Hope were working there as “waitresses”; so it follows that Mother was probably doing the same.
Margaret married our father, Carl, on 7 February 1942 before he reported for duty at Fort McClellan, Alabama. The marriage was performed by the Lutheran minister, J.J. Bickley, but the actual location of the marriage is not recorded on the marriage certificate, other than being in Dallas. Mother, and her daughter (sister Dian) would eventually join Dad in Alabama, where they lived off base with a local family in Anniston.
From 1942 to 1952, “Peg” bore her children; Alyce Dian, Charlotte Jane, Carla Rose, and David Anthony; and she reared them in the country on Willis School Road and Kiser Road in Dallas. When I was about 12 years old, our mother took a job working at a business that was a local legend and known far-and-wide, Mary Jo’s Cloth Store. She had never gotten her driver’s license, so she had to rely on others, including her daughters, to deliver her to and return her from her “new” job. I’m not exactly sure, but I think she probably worked there for about 20 years. By 1973, she had seen all her children marry, and had sent them all out into the world to begin families of their own. Around that same time, she found herself separated from her husband of 30 plus years, and back living alone on part of the property that her father had bought in 1915 on Holland Street. The separation and ultimate divorce, in 1979, was hard on her; but as I mentioned earlier, she rarely spoke of herself and was not one to complain.
With declining health and the inability to live alone, Mother was moved to “Belaire Health Care”, a senior living and nursing facility in Gastonia; I believe that occurred about 1999. In July of 2001, she suffered a stroke there at the facility, and was then moved to Gaston Memorial Hospital; she died there about a week later on 21 July 2001. She completed the full circle with Holy Communion Lutheran Church; baptism, confirmation, and funeral. At the time of her death, her four children had given her six grandchildren, and they were responsible for eight great-grandchildren; those numbers have grown with more greats and now what would be a generation of great-great-grandchildren; she was “Granny” to them all. She was buried with her married name “McGinnis” along side of her father and mother in the Rhodes’ plot in the Dallas Cemetery at Long Creek Memorial Baptist Church.
This profile of our Mother seems so inadequate in honoring and remembering the woman who gave us so much love. I struggled to make her life come alive on the page, but in the end she was just simply a daughter, a wife, and a Mother that I loved.