This past week I wrote about my grandfather Everett Adams, Sr., who lived to be 101. An Attala County native, he was a teacher, principal and superintendent for many years in Mississippi starting when WWI was going on.
Walt Grayson of Mississippi Roads on PBS did a lengthy interview with my grandfather back in 1994 for a feature that aired on their program. My Aunt Dorothy in Jackson got me a copy of the raw interview and it was compelling to watch him share insightful observations of life.
On Coaching: “I did some basketball coaching along the way. The only sports that rural schools had was boys and girls basketball. If your team got its name in the newspaper enough the big schools would call you to play them. I ordered books on coaching but learned coaching is more instincts than book reading. In coaching, you survey your team and its strengths and opposing teams and their strengths and go from there.”
On discipline with students: “I never had any trouble with discipline. Boys and girls, if they realize they’re getting a fair deal, they’re easy to get along with. I never had a bit of trouble. The way to control children is to make them realize they’re getting something worthwhile and that you’d love to be their buddy. If you treat them right, I think they play the game 50-50. The worst mistake we can make with young folks is let them get the impression we think they don’t know anything, that we’ve got to lord it over to them.”
Granpapa, as I called him in the many years I made the trip from Oxford down past Water Valley onto I-55 and then into the Delta past Sidon to Morgan City, was married to the former Ruth Riley for over seven decades. To satisfy his keen interest in sports he once bought a grandiose new Atwater-Kent cabinet radio on fancy legs. At night he would press against it to hear games with the legendary Babe Ruth and other greats. Ruth gave him a hard time over that purchase. Despite that ‘squabble’, their marriage was built on love and respect.
“Ruth was the best,” Granpapa told Mississippi Roads. “She was lovable, efficient, and far-seeing. She had all the plusses when it came to being a first-class person. For our six children, she more than made up for the weaknesses that I had.”
Gram, as I called her, was a true lady with a fierce pride in herself and her family. She had a fine instinct for the best people, not necessarily the richest or the most prominent, but the best. She was quick to recognize when a person was in the process of fulfilling their responsibility in life, and she responded in kind. She was always sure that better days were around the corner. Her faith in God, family and country never flagged. They moved many times in Mississippi when Granpapa would pursue a better job. Since most of the schools he taught at were rural, there was no running water or indoor plumbing. It was tough, but she could laugh and often did. However, when her son Bill died years later, that laughter was hard to come by. Her daughter Dorothy, who would live on Cedar Hill Drive in Jackson for many decades, once asked her after Bill’s death what was the most challenging experience of her life. In a flash she responded, “the divorces in the family.” When she came along divorce was never a resort.
Gram lived to be 93. “There’s a blank here,” Granpapa said afterwards. “A void in my life that just can’t be replaced.”
In March of 1998, Granpapa turned 101. His grandson Bill Hubbard hit their longevity on the head when he once said, “I don’t think you get to those ages without letting an awful lot of life’s problems run off like water on a duck’s back. Sure, when things don’t go like you would have them go, it makes you wonder how you could’ve made it different, but you don’t let anything consume you and forever take away what good there is in life.”
My father, Charlie Adams Sr., took care of them in their final years. He stayed in their home after they passed, and when dad died in 2002 I went into that home for the last time. I had visited it so many times over the years. I can still hear the screen door popping after opening it and smell the fresh cornbread, black-eyed peas and fried okra that Gram would make. Granpapa would always ask me, “What kind of football team is Ole Miss going to have?” Truth be told, he was more of a Mississippi State man I believe, because Everett Jr was, but I never knew it because he always focused on what teams I followed as a kid.
I can remember them religiously watching WLBT TV news to get the weather from Woodie Assaf. Granpapa couldn’t hear a lick in his senior years, so the broadcast was heard not only in their house but halfway to Itta Bena as well.
I hope these reflections stir memories that you have of your grandparents in Mississippi or wherever they lived or lived. I have many relatives from Granpapa and Gram, as they had six kids, and I marvel at the many strong, loving, caring people that have come from them and their humble Mississippi country origins.
Charlie Adams was born in Oxford in 1962. He was a 1980 graduate of Lafayette High School and a 1985 graduate of Ole Miss. Following a television news career, Charlie has focused on delivering inspirational keynotes, seminars and writings. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.