nannie bell clendenin - mum

I loved my mother and always considered that I had a blessed child-hood with the exception of the fact that we were constantly moving due to daddy's promotions.  He was a real worker.  Mom had a great sense of design and was a true artist.  Our home was her responsibility and her talents lay in decor as it was often featured in newspapers in the cities in which we lived.


Mother also taught me about household economics,  She loved to redo homes so we would always buy low and sell high.  She died in 1972 but had she lived she would be quite wealthy just due to her profits in selling homes.  We lived in seven separate homes, in five different states, by the time I was a senior in high school.  Maybe this is the reason I am so outgoing.  It was sink or swim so making new friends was just something that I thought was a way of life!


The top/left is my maternial great Grandmother McNairy.  She was my grandmother's mother and her ancestoral home, The McNairy House, on the preceeding page, is part of the North Carolina State Museum in Greensboro, NC.  Below her is my grandfather, Henry Clendenin, and my mother, Nannie Bell is above.  I never knew either of them.  My grandfather lost everything in the stock market crash of 1929.  They both died soon after.  My mother was 18 and scheduled to make her debut.  Of course she never did but spent the next eight years living with one of her six brothers or sisters.  As the youngest of seven, she never really got over her parents' death.  She couldn't talk about them without crying so I don't know a lot about them.  However, after hearing their story I decided that money was not nearly important enough to lose your life over.  Consequentally, I have always taken chances with living backed up with just enough money to see me through.


The picture below was taken in 1940 when I was just six months old.  Mother is the 2nd from the left of the bride (on our right side) in her friend's wedding.  She and daddy did not have a big wedding - they were too poor.  The picture on the bottom/right is the last picture they had taken together in the spring of 1967.


I hope that I have given my sons the guidance that my parents gave to me.  There is not a day that goes by when I don't think of one of them and treasure the fact that they were my parents.



When my parent’s marriage was finally set, in October of 1937, Nan, then 27 years of age,  wore, not the white of a young bride of today, although she often told me that of course she was a virgin, but a finely stitched blue/gray suit she had purchased at Miller & Rhodes in Richmond. This story was retold to me throughout my childhood. The fact that this beautifully tailored wedding suit was on sale was always mentioned, probably the reason that I have always, even in later years, thought that sale items were the highest form of purchasing.  Anyone can pay “first price” – it takes great skill to find something you truly love on sale.


Mother’s father, your great-grandfather, Henry, on the Clendenin side of the family, had died of a stroke soon after the stock market crash.  She was to have made her debut that year in Raleigh but his death prevented that event from happening.  Her mother’s death soon followed.  I was always told that it was from heartbreak, a trait that seems to be dominant among the women of the Clendenin family.  


My parent’s wedding was held in Greensboro, North Carolina, the home city of mother’s six brothers and sisters and their spouses.  Mother was twenty-seven when she married but she was still considered a sibling responsibility by her brothers and sisters.  The brothers would take turns employing her as a “fill in secretary” and she would reside at their homes until another niece or nephew was added to the family.  My aunts and uncles apparently liked my father as a person - besides, he took over the responsibility for my mother, their sister, and a burden to their stressed finances. Your great uncles and aunts could then continue on with their own lives.


1937 saw American coming out of one of the worst depressions in its history.  It was not the time for large church marriages so Nan and Emmett decided on a small chapel wedding with only close friends and family attending. Mother’s oldest living brother, Kemp Clendenin Sr., walked her down the isle thus “giving her away” as was the custom in the south.  After a reception at her sister Sue’s home the newly weds left for a weekend trip to the beach at Nags Head, NC.    It is interesting to note here that Sue’s oldest son is Dr. C.C. Fordham who was Chancellor (President) of the University of North Carolina for years.  The C.C. incidentally stands for Christopher Columbus but we all called him Chris when I was small.

Nan and Emmett’s wedding was in October. Winter was settling in on the sand dunes and the sky was gray and overcast in Nags Head.  Mother loved that type of weather and she passed that love on to me. I am sure that you remember how much I loved being at our home at Navarre Beach during the winter.  In my opinion it was the best time of the year.  Nothing pleases me more than an overcast gray day where white sea foam crests in waves brought to shore in a misty light. Besides most of the time I got to watch you surf!!


Nan and Emmett continued to live on thirty-seven dollars a week.  In 1939 Daddy received a three-dollar a week raise.  They both decided that it was time to begin a family.  I was born early in 1940 on January 12th a day that would become important in my later life.  My parents moved from their apartment on Nobel Avenue to a two storied home on Augusta Avenue in Richmond, Virginia.  This home was where I spent the first seven years of my life.  I remember this home well, as it was a pleasing structure - a red brick house with a large unscreened front porch painted white.  I took Mike and Greg there in 1976 during the same time as our visit to Ashland.

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Above is the wedding of mother's cousin.  Mom is third from the right.  This is the type of wedding that she always wanted but couldn't afford.  She and daddy made sure my wedding made up for hers.