Not too long before my mother passed away, she wrote her memoirs on three-hole punch college ruled paper along with photographs and assembled the contents in a 2-inch three-ring binder which she then passed on to me.
I have decided to transcribe and present her memoirs here thus allowing her to have her voice heard.
The First 50 Years of My Life
1928 to 1978
Dorothy Patricia Dobbs DeBacker
Columbia, South Carolina, and Dallas, Texas
I, Dorothy Patricia Dobbs, was born in Columbia, South Carolina, on May 13, 1928. When I tell someone where I was born, they usually say, “Do you know so-and-so?” I reply, “I have never been there.”
My mother was visiting Aunt Emita, my father’s half-sister, when I arrived. The only other thing I know about Columbia, South Carolina, is that Aunt Emita’s husband was a Col. in the Army stationed there.
When I was two years old, we lived in Dallas, Texas. I remember being in a white-painted baby bed and peeling off the paint and eating it. Also, taking off my diaper and rubbing the contents on the wallpaper. One morning Beanie, my maternal grandmother, came into my room with her long white hair hanging down. She kept it in a bun tied on the back of her head. Seeing her like that scared me, so I screamed and cried. I was really frightened.
There was Aunt Heatie. I do not know why we called her that. She was not related. Her name was Mrs. Heaton. She would spend hours locked in the bathroom smoking. Then when she came out, and I had to go in, I would almost throw up. The smell was so bad.
I hated my mother’s cold, slimy oatmeal and refused to eat it. I was not allowed to walk up the stairs, on the outside, to the apartment above, where the lady gave me a nice hot bowl of fresh hot oatmeal with lots of butter and brown sugar. She told me to eat it around the edges since it was so hot. Later I told my mother that “I ate it around the bedges.”
Next to our house on the corner ran a streetcar track. One day there was a knock on the door. A man stood there with a naked baby. He told my mother that he found her on the streetcar taking off her clothes. Of course, I do not remember this; I heard the story sometime later.
In addition to taking off my clothes, I love to take off my shoes. My feet always hurt.
On a trip to Louisville, Kentucky, I was sitting in the front seat with my mother driving on a gravel road in Arkansas. This was before seatbelts. I had taken off my shoes and was trying to get them back on when I pushed my foot on the door handle, and the door flew open, and out I went. I landed on the gravel road! I got a big gash on my right cheek. The doctor taped it close. No stitches. The scar was there for many years but finally disappeared.
Sometimes in the evening, my father and my mother would take Joie and me for a ride to get root beer in little glass mugs. Then we would drive past the hospital and point up to the window of the room where Joie was born on April 9, 1930. She was named Josephine after our maternal grandfather, Joseph Kollros, and Catherine, Beanie’s real name.
One hot day out in the backyard, my mother and father took pictures of Joie and me walking back and forth, carrying a small box of matches from one end to the other. Other than that, I do not remember much about my father except that he was tall, thin had black hair.
Beanie and JoJo lived in Louisville, Kentucky, but they were in Dallas the winter I was three or four years old. Jojo had a little fast food restaurant. There was a large cardboard statue of Santa Claus holding a bottle of Coca-Cola in front. We went there to watch the Christmas parade.
The morning mother, Joie, Beanie, Jojo, and I left Dallas, I remember very well. I was four years old then. Jojo drove the black Hudson. Mother and JoJo argued about her round black patent leather high hatbox. It would not fit in the trunk of the car. It had to go on the running board. Mother did not want it to go on the outside of the car, and JoJo wanted her to leave it behind. Finally, we took off, hatbox and all, with Beanie, Joie, and me in the backseat. I am not sure what happened to Mrs. Heaton, whether she was with us or not.
I do not remember saying goodbye to my father. I never saw or heard from him for 18 years.
On the drive to Tampa, we slept in a tourist court. The next morning I did want to get up. I was having a temper tantrum, and I would not get dressed. So my mother put water in the bathtub and put me in to calm me down. That was a horrible experience. I hated my mother from that time on.