Updated: Jan 15, 2020
This past fall, hub and I traveled back to Kentucky to visit my mom's side of the the family. I wanted to do some digging into the other half of my heritage. My Aunt Sue, Cousin Pam and her children live in Auburn, Kentucky. (Yes, there's another Auburn, and their school mascot is a tiger. However, they do not shout "War Eagle.") Auburn is a beautiful town on the Pennyroyal Plateau complete with farms, hills and caves. It's about 30 miles outside of Bowling Green. We gathered there and made our plans to travel to Mom's old Kentucky home.
The Phillips crew caravanned to the little town of Bremen, population 190. Yep, your read that right - 190. Don't blink or you'll miss it. There may be one stop sign. Mom's grandfather, Chesley Dayton Vincent, built the house where she later grew up with her brother Don and sister Sue. It sits on the main 'highway' that runs through Bremen. There was no address needed back then; simply "CD Vincent, Bremen, Kentucky." There is a concrete paver with "C.D. Vincent" out front still marking the house today. The house is abandoned now, used for storage by the new owner, but still standing. "Granddaddy Vincent" was in the House of Representatives for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. His daughter, my grandmother Sara Elizabeth, was allowed to be a page at the age of 10. One day, she fell down the capitol steps but no one called her mother. Mollie Vincent ("Big Momma") found out by reading it in the newspaper! I bet that didn't go over too well when they arrived back in Bremen. I guess you could say that my mom and I get our mischievousness from her grandfather! Nonetheless, "Grandaddy Vincent" was so well-respected that they closed all Muhlenberg County schools on the day of his funeral.
It was very special to visit Mom and Sue's hometown with them over 60 years later. They pointed out landmarks, houses of folks we were related to, and told stories. There used to be a smaller house behind the main one that was Momma's playhouse. It was torn down years ago. She honed her entertaining skills there, once hosting a party after charging snacks without permission on her dad's account from "Roy's" and inviting all of her friends over. I wish I would've had that tidbit of rebellious information to use in my arguments as a teenager, but Mom waited to share it with me until I was an adult. Smart lady.
My mom's dad, Ishmael Worth Phillips ("Ish"), built furniture for Deckler Brothers. His son (my uncle Donald Worth) and my youngest son are named after him. Ish led the music for church on Sundays at the Bethlehem Baptist Church. We got to go see it, and Momma said it had grown tremendously since they attended. Granddaddy Ish was also brilliant at math. Now, I lead music on Sundays like my grandfather, Uncle Don, and dad did, but I cannot claim to be a mathematical genius or furniture builder. One out of three ain't bad! His parents were James and Alice (MeeMaw or Momma Phillips - she had two nicknames). James drove a pop truck. I'm obsessed with Diet Grapico, so I'm claiming that as my connection to the pop truck and Granddaddy Phillips. It's a stretch, I know, but it's all I've got! I can remember visiting MeeMaw in Henderson, Kentucky as a young girl; watering her plants, sweeping her porch for a dime, and playing the boardgame "Trouble" with my sister on her living room floor. There are buttons from her button box hand-sewn onto beautiful heirloom outfits my mom made for all the grandchildren. Those will never see a yard sale or consignment shop, I can tell you that.
Mom's mom Elizabeth (my namesake, who we called "Mere") was a teacher at the tiny school on Buttermilk Road. My mom would later follow in her footsteps and teach, as would my cousin, aunt, niece, and I. Teaching runs deep on both sides of my family. That may account for the creative, yet crazy way of thinking we all share. I was blessed to spend part of my summers every year with Mere in Jeffersonville, and later Louisville. She lived with Aunt Sue and Pam. They hosted sis and I every time my parents were on choir tour or youth camp. We had so much fun going to Santa Claus Land, riding the Belle of Louisville, playing kickball in the yard (yes, Mere played too), visiting Shakertown, and visiting our Phillips cousins in Franklin. Her Cheeseburger Pie and Texas Sheet Cake melted in your mouth. I still have the recipe cards written in her hand, and can feel her presence whenever I make them. I miss her.
I never had the pleasure of knowing any of the grandfathers in my family due to their early deaths, but I'm so grateful to have known my grandmother. She was tiny, but so feisty! That woman loved to iron! She would make us shed any article of clothing on the spot if she spotted a random wrinkle in order to "press it" before we walked out the door. I did NOT get her ironing obsession. I did get her spunk. I sometimes gave my sweet grandmother fits with my rebellion (hard to believe, I know), but now I realize my own mother had given her years of practice. When Momma was in high school, Bremen High's basketball team got the chance to play at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, which was at that time the home of the Kentucky Wildcats. Mom wanted to go, but Mere said no. She didn't like that answer, so she jumped rank and got permission from Big Momma. This apple didn't fall far from the tree. My guilt is gone. Thanks Momma!
More to come on the fascinating history of the Phillips/Vincent clan. Here's a lil teaser...there will be scary graveyard pictures! For now, enjoy a few photos of Bremen and Auburn. They are both gorgeous, but probably not on your travel itinerary. However, if you're ever in the "other" Auburn, find my Aunt Sue or cousin Pam. They'll show you the hot spots and if you're lucky, share a piece of Mere's Texas Sheet Cake. That alone is worth the drive.