So often I hear myself say, “What a wonderful life I have had.” Recently, someone said, “Tell me about it.”
I thought, what would I say? How would I describe what I have experienced in my 89 years?
And, before I could think of what I wanted to say, I looked around at some of the photographs and memorabilia in my cotton-filled house and thought I would want to include a lot about how cotton has been a major part of my life. But before I get there, let me start with some other memories that come to mind as I look around my home.
I see my “War Rations Book” issued to me at the age of 8. I remember sitting by the radio back in western North Carolina listening to the President of the United States (Franklin D. Roosevelt) saying that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii — and that we were at war.
The next memory I see is our high school graduation yearbook from 1951. That book reminds me that I first met my future soulmate in seventh grade when we were seated alphabetically. He — Julius Jerome Boyd — sat in the seat behind me, Anne Bischoff.
After high school graduation, it was off to college for both of us — me to Western Carolina in Cullowhee, North Carolina, and Jerome to North Carolina State in Raleigh. And then his military picture greets me. After two years at N.C. State, Jerome served for a couple of years in the military. Marriage pictures are everywhere from that day, Jan. 23, 1954.
And then, after serving his time in the U.S. Army, Jerome returned to N.C. State to finish school and started working part-time with the State Extension Service in Elizabethtown, North Carolina.
In June 1959, his 42-year cotton career began in Columbia, South Carolina. He worked as a field representative and cotton classer in Columbia. Shortly thereafter, we were transferred to the Atlanta, Georgia, office before we packed up and moved to the suburbs of Washington, D.C. We lived in Fairfax, Virginia, for 17 wonderful years while Jerome worked out of the USDA’s office in Washington. And — then suddenly it seemed like — we were off to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1982.
Cotton Bales, cotton pictures, cotton everything soon decorated our Memphis home as Jerome took over the Field Director’s job — and later became Deputy Director — at the USDA’s Field Office in Memphis. Visiting cotton fields, cotton gins and cotton offices throughout the Mid-South was next on our agenda. And then that sudden request by Jerome for me to take him to the grocery store to learn what a bar code was became a key moment.
The nation’s cotton crop had long been classed by hand and recorded by hand. Jerome was instrumental in developing and implementing the HVI machine, which would class the cotton and use a bar code. Basically, it brought the classing of cotton into the computer age.
The problem was most farmers were very skeptical of any new system. Especially one that the government was forcing upon them. So, Jerome not only had to recruit and train staff to operate the new system, but he also had to negotiate with individuals and organizations, both inside and outside the government.
The annual Mid-South Gin Show here in Memphis was always a wonderful memory, and we often attended all the various cotton meetings from coast to coast. I think the cotton meetings held in New Orleans, Louisiana, are among my fondest.
For many years, we grew a small patch of cotton in our backyard. Hal Lewis sent us seed every year. Guess I better add modules to my cotton memory list. So many changes.
My wonderful family is pictured all over this house.
Our two sons and daughter graduated from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Our wonderful grandchildren graduated from Ole Miss, Notre Dame and the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Those pictures of graduations and fun times sit among the cotton items and memories.
We still gather the family together almost every Sunday night for what someone lovingly labeled “gather at five and eat at six.”
Cotton on the mailbox, cotton on the front porch, cotton bales and pictures throughout the house let you know you are entering a home filled with cotton memories we continue to treasure today.
— Anne Boyd