I was born March 14, 1945 in Tallulah, Madison Parish, Louisiana. I lived in Tallulah through out my shcool years and graduated from Tallulah High School in May of 1964. During my school years in Tallulah, I had several jobs. I started working at the age of 14, after school and on Saturday's at Ellis' Five and Dime store. This was a Department Store that sold a little bit of everything, but it was supposed to be a little bit cheaper than the regular Department stores. Mr Roy Horseman was the Manager, and my Grandmother, Rosie Carrie Bearden was the Assistant Manager. She worked there as long as I can remember until she retired. I think every one of my sisters worked there and some of my brothers. My mother also worked there and my Aunt Dorothy (my mother's sister) and all of her kids.
By the time I was in the ninth grade, I was holding down three jobs and trying to go to school too. After I got off of work at Ellis' at six o'clock, I would walk to the Dairy Creme where I was a Car Hop. For those who don't know what a Car Hop is... when a car would pull up, I would go out and take the person's order and turn it in to the kitchen, and when it got ready, I would take it to them. The tips were great. Then when I got off at the Dairy Creme at 11:00, I had a job working as a Baby Sitter for this couple who liked to party all night. So, I would go to their house and stay with their children until they came home in the morning. If they were late getting home, then I would be late getting to school. Needless to say, with three jobs and trying to keep up with homework, it was hard and I couldn't do it. So, I failed the ninth grade and it was humiliating to not get to go to the tenth grade with the rest of my class.
When I graduated from high school, I went to work at Kaufman's Department Store as a sales clerk. I was working there one day when this lady, Mrs. W.L. Rountree, came in and started asking me all kinds of questions about myself. I just took it to mean that she liked me, because I was very courteous to her and was always trying to be very helpful. One day, my daddy called me and asked if I would come over to his house when I got off of work. When I got there, Mr. W.L. Rountree was there and wanted to know if I would be interested in going to work for him at his newspaper, The Madison Journal, as his Advertising Manager. You understand, I had never been in a newspaper office in my life and here was this man, asking me to be his Advertising Manager. I took the job, but I had to turn in a two weeks notice at Kaufman's. That was the right thing to do.
I didn't know what an Advertising Manager's job would entail, but I told Mr. Rountree that I could do it. I have always been able to do anything I set my mind to do. However, it was only a title. What I did was to take Classified Ads over the phone and take them upstairs to the Composing Department, They sold some office Supplies and I waited on those customers. But it was not what I thought it would be. I stayed there one year.
During the time that I was still working at The Madison Journal, my cousin Wanda May Burris and I went walking one Friday afternoon to the Dairy Creme, where I used to work. We listened to the juke box and ate our Hamburgers and Fries. This was in the Mid- Sixties so you know it was good music. Anyway, as we were leaving, a friend of ours (Andy Anderson) called us over to the car he was in and introduced us to some friends of his, John Lee Smith (Johnny) and Lance Falls from Vicksburg, Mississippi. We stood there talking and exchanging pleasantries and finally made plans for a date, me with Johnny and Wanda with Lance, for the following night. We left and went home and figured that would be the last time we heard from them.
The next night my brother and sister-in-law had gone over to some friends to play cards and I was there by myself when there was a knock on the door. It was Johnny. Just in case he did come by for the date, I was ready to go. Wanda couldn't go with us, so we got a friend of mine, Lorene Shows, to go as Lance's date.
We Went to a Club in Vicksburg, Mississippi called The Top Hat. I had never had a drink in my life and Johnny ordered me a Tom Collins (Vodka and Orange Juice). I liked it and guzzled it down and asked for another not knowing what it was going to do to my system. When I got the other one, Johnny told me to not drink it so fast or I would get drunk. It tasted just like orange juice. I couldn't taste anything else in it. I told him orange juice could not possibly hurt me. So, I guzzled it down too, and asked for the third one. By then end of the second one, I was feeling no pain and was really getting into the music and dancing. Anyway, he decided he was gonna fix me up, so he told the bartender to put about one-third orange juice and two-thirds vodka in it.
I had to go to the restroom and Johnny got my friend Lorene Shows to go with me. I remember bouncing against the bathroom wall trying to get to the toilet, but that is all I remember. I was told later, that when Lorene and I came out of the restroom, I passed out in the middle of The Top Hat dance floor and Johnny threw me over his shoulders (drawers just a shining) and carried me out. They parked in the road side park on Highway 80 between Vicksburg and Tallulah and I had my head in Johnny's lap. He had on the prettiest pink shirt and I threw up all over it. He jumped out, ripped the shirt off and I guess it is still there. Understand, I don't remember any of this. Lorene told me the next day. I was still working at Ellis Five and Dime on Saturday's and she worked there too. I told her I guess I would never see Johnny again and she said "Yes you will, you have a date with him again tonight." But believe me, I learned my lesson. Drink slow, and Don't drink any more than two. From that point on, two has been my limit.
I married John Lee Smith, Sr. on April 16, 1965 at my grandparents (William and Rosie Bearden) home in Tallulah, Louisiana. We got us a one bedroom kitchenette apartment and lived there for a little while. I went to work at Mercy Hospital in Vicksburg, Mississippi as a Nurse's Aide and stayed there until after I got pregnant with my son, John. Then we moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi and that is where we lived when John was born. He was born on May 27, 1967 at Kuhn Memorial Hospital. It was a Charity Hospital and Mississippi did away with most of its Charity Hospitals, so it is no longer a Hospital..
After John was born, I got pregnant three more times. I lost all three of them between the second and third month. Four years after John was born, I got pregnant with my little girl, Marla Michelle Smith. I carried her for six and one half months, before she died. The Doctor said I had to carry her to the seventh month before he could induce labor and deliver her. I delivered her in Jackson, Mississippi at the University Medical Center at seven months. She was born February 5, 1971. My Doctor, Dr. Doug Odom, gave me a 24 hour pass to go home to the funeral, but Johnny would not come and get me until after the funeral. He said I didn't need to be there. It was my baby and my choice and I wanted to be there. After the 24 hour pass, I had to go back and have a Tubalization, cause the doctor said if I got pregnant again, it would kill me or the baby or both.
After Marla was born, I was in Tallulah, Louisiana at my Papa and Grandma's 50th Wedding Anniversary sometime in the later part of June 1971. I picked up my brother's baby daughter, Lori and her knee hit me in my right breast. A pain shot through me that was so sharp that I literally threw her back to my brother. This was on a Saturday. Monday Morning, I made an appointment with the Women's Clinic in Jackson. They sent me back to the University Medical Center, where after several mammograms, they found a lump that was the size of a straight pin head.
They sent me to Vocational Rehabilitation to see if they would pay for a biopsy. They said they would and the surgery was scheduled for July 8, 1971. This was on a Friday. The next day, Dr. Bailey came in and said I could go home and come back Monday for the results of the biopsy. So I went down to the pay phone and called my husband to come and get me. We lived and hour and a half from Jackson, so I went back to my room to pack to go home. When I opened my door, there were two doctors on one side of my bed, two doctors on the other side of my bed and one at the foot. Needless to say, I knew something was up.
Dr. McDonald, the head surgeon looked at me and said "Peggy, where have you been." I told him "Dr. Bailey said I could go home." He said "Well get your robe off and get back in the bed." I did so, and then he told me "We got a rush report back from Pathology, and it's malignant. Do you know what that means?"
I just nodded my head and the tears started rolling. I had just turned 26 years old. Much too young to have to go through the rest of my life with but one breast. They had the papers for me to sign with them to perform a radical mastectomy. I signed them.
They were still in my room when Johnny came to get me. He must have really had the pedal to the metal, cause he was there in about fifty minutes. Anyway, Dr. McDonal told him about the pathology report, and what they had to do and Johnny pitched a fit. He said they were not going to take my breast off. They explained to him that it was a matter of life and death and he said he didn't care. They were not going to do the surgery. Dr. McDonald informed him that it had nothing to do with him, that it was my body and my life and I had already signed the papers, and if he didn't calm down they would escort him out of the hospital. I had the surgery Monday morning July 11, 1971 and my OB-GYN Doctor, Dr. Doug Odom, who delivered my little girl, came and sat with me until midnight and talked to me and comforted me.
Johnny Smith was a cheater and a wife beater. I can't tell you how many times he would beat me and leave to go be with his girlfriend of the moment. Sometimes, I would have a meal fit for a king on the table and he would slam it on the floor and tell me it was not fit to eat and knock me around for not fixing a better meal. All this, just so he could run around on me. And it didn't stop after I had my breast surgery. As a matter of fact, he ran around on me with numerous women practically from the day we got married until the day I divorced him . I was just too blind to see it.
I only had a high school education and was insecure. I didn't want my family to know what was going on, cause there would have been a killing. And I didn't want anyone to say "She couldn't keep her man." After about 12 years, I had had my fill and I filed for a divorce on Adultery. I had my proof. I walked in and saw it with my own eyes. Our divorce became final on March 31, 1977.
After I divorced Johnny, I went to work at the Tallulah Truck Stop as a waitress. My friend, Rita Bethea, was working there and she got me the job. However, Johnny was always in there bothering me and I started loosing weight and could not keep up. I went to Dr. Storey and he asked me if there had been any dramatic changes in my life. I told him about my divorce and about my breast surgery and how I felt I would have to be alone for the rest of my life. He sent me to see Dr. Don Watkins, a Physicitrist. Dr. Watkins got in touch with the Louisiana Vocational Rehabilitation in Baton Rouge and told them that they needed to approve me for Breast Reconstruction because I needed my mental state fixed. He put it in all of the medical terminology so they would understand what I was going through. He also told them that since my Doctors were in Jackson, Mississippi, that he felt that the surgery needed to be done there. After about 2 weeks of red tape (going from one state to another), it was approved.
In the mean time, a friend of mine and Johnny's, John McKee, got in touch with me and invited me to spend the weekend with him and his wife, Kathy. He came and picked me up and I spent the weekend with them. While there, another friend of his, Howard Tanksley, came to visit them and ate dinner with them. I think it was all planned to get us together. It worked. We started going together and I was with him when I had my reconstructive surgery in Jackson, Mississippi. He and Johnny both showed up at the hospital. I thought there was going to be a fight. Johnny was telling me he still loved me and Howard was telling me he loved me. I didn't trust Johnny, but I had to have help. I was not in a position to stay by myself and I didn't have a job. And Howard was being sooo... nice. He kind of swept me off of my feet. So on the rebound, I married Howard. It lasted seven weeks. We divorced.
went back to Johnny, and you might think I am cold and cruel, but he had used and abused me all these years, it was time for me to use him. I signed up for a 14 month Business course at Tallulah Vocational Technical College. Vocational Rehabilitation paid for me to go to school, bought my books and school supplies , gave me an allowance for gas to get to and from school and got me a job in the office at school during the lunch hour. This is a "go at your own pace" school. I finished in seven months.
During all this time of me being back with Johnny, he was still running around with other women. His father was living in Tallulah at the time and he and Johnny would go the bar together where Johnny's girlfriend would meet them. I went up there one night and saw it again with my eyes, but we were not married this time so I didn't have to go thru a divorce again. But I didn't care this time. He was not beating me anymore, because the last time he put a hand on me in anger, I said to him..."You see that double barrel shotgun on the wall up there?" He said, "Yeah, Bitch, what of it?" I said "Well, you have got to go to sleep sometime, and I have watched you thumb the shells in that double barrel shotgun enough that I think I know how to do it and I know to use the double OO buckshot. And If you lay another hand on me, I will wait till you are asleep and I will blow your brains out." The blood ran from his face, and he said "You would, wouldn't you?" I said, "Come on, hit me. I want you to hit me. Please hit me." He never hit me again.
After I finished The Vo-Tec I left Johnny. Like I said, he used me and now I used him. I got a halfway decent education and he paid for the roof over my head and put groceries on the table while I went to school. Now, it was time to move on. I moved to Chunky, Mississippi in 1978. I moved in with Johnny's sister Mary Hale. I always loved her like a sister anyway and she knew how her brother was. I stayed with her until I got on my feet and got a job and an apartment. I drove to Meridian, Mississippi every day and walked the streets, looking for a job. I went into this Jewelery Store and put in my application and the man told me he could not hire me, because he could not pay me what I was worth. He said I was over qualified. No one had every told me I was over qualified for anything. I told him to pay me what he could, that I had a son to support and I really needed a job. He told me to go to see Ed Shaffer, the Assistant Advertising Director at the Meridian Star and tell him he had sent me.
When I went to the Meridian Star and got in to see Ed Shaffer, he was doing a layout for one of his clients. I told him that I had been the Advertising Manager at the Madison Journal in Tallulah, Louisiana. He asked me what it was on his desk. I didn't even know enough to know that it was called a Layout. While I was sitting there talking to Mr. Shaffer, Jack Bynum walked in. He was the Advertising Director. Mr. Shaffer told him about me and Mr. Bynum called me into his office. I told him what I did at the Madison Journal and told him that even though my title there was Advertising Manager, that that is all it was, just a title. But if he would give me a chance he would not be sorry.. I was a fast learner. He told me he would call me to come back in a couple of days. There was a call on the phone when I got back to Mary's that afternoon, for me to come in on Thursday for another interview. Wednesday afternoon, I got another call from Mr. Bynum's Secretary that he had to go out of town Thursday and for me to come in Friday. When I went in Friday, I told him I had a son to support and that if he would hire me, he would not be sorry, but if he didn't hire me, I would have a job by five O'clock that day. He asked me when I could start. I told him Monday.
I worked at the Meridian Star for 13 years. During that time I became a member of Mississippi Press Women where I served in every office except Treasurer. I served as President for almost two terms, from 1994 to 1997. At that time I divorced the husband I had then and relocated to Shreveport, Louisiana and went to work for Comfort Heating and Air as the Secretary. Mississippi Press Women changed its name to Mississippi Media Professionals. While working at the Meridian Star, I won numerous First, Second, Third and Honourable Mention Awards through Mississippi Press Women and Mississippi Media Professionals. I also won several Awards through Mississippi Press Association and I won a First Place International Award through Mississippi Press Association for a Layout I did for Bill Ethridge Lincoln-Mercury.
During my first years in Meridian, I was single and went to the Clubs and danced a lot. I didn't drink any more than two drinks, though, cause I told you what 3 drinks will do to me. I guess you could say that was my wild days. My ex-husband, Johnny Smith, had said that if I left him, I would never be able to find anyone else to love me. I set out to prove him wrong. I dated a lot of different guys trying to prove him wrong.
While I was working at The Meridian Star, I kept moving from one place to the other and finally, I bought this old house that was build in the late 1800's. It had the high ceilings and was really cold in the winter. I didn't have the money to do a lot of repairs to the house, but I did get it painted inside and out. And it had an extra apartment in it that I rented out, so that gave me a little extra money.
After doing a lot of dating I met a guy at a music store in Meridian. His name was Berry Gray. I had been sent out there to sell him some advertising and before I could get out of his store, it came a downpour, and I waited it out there. We just talked until the rain slacked up and then I left. That night a friend of mine, Hilda Sanford, and I were at HoJo's, a Club in Meridian and he came in. I asked him to join us. He did and we danced and talked and danced and talked some more. I started going with him after a few dates, and everything was fine. We dated for seven years before we finally got married. I wanted to make sure I knew what kind of person he was before I took that step again.
We were married for about nine years. After all this time, things started going bad and I decided it was time for me to go. I called my son, who was living in Shreveport, Louisiana and he came to Meridian and packed me up and moved me to Shreveport, Louisiana. This was in 1996.
It took me six months to find a job, but I finally found one at Comfort Heating and Air as thier Secretary, but because it took me so long to find a job, my bills had gotten farthur and farthur behind. I finally felt I had to sell my house, because I could not screen who was trying to rent it, with me living in another state. I could not afford the upkeep on it and getting it ready to rent again after some tenants would destroy it and then leave in the middle of the night. I also thought selling the house would help me to play catchup on the bills, so I contacted a Realtor in Meridian and she handled it for me. But by theen I was so far behind that I had no choice but to file Bankruptcy.
I was in Shreveport until January 29, 1999 and Berry and I got back together. We thought things would be different. They weren't. So John packed me up again, and this time he moved me to Bossier City, Louisiana. I got my job at Comfort Heating and Air back. This happened August 7, 2000.
After I went back to work for Comfort, I was on the internet one day doing my American Home Shield billing when all of a sudden this Cupid Junction ad popped up. I thought, "What is this?" So I finished my billing and then I clicked on to Cupid Junction to see what it was all about. It was a way to met someone on line without them knowing who you were. I looked at the profiles of the men on there and found one that interested me. We seemed to have the same interests. So, I sent him a message. The only way he could respond to me was through Cupid Junction so I was not worried about him finding out who I was just yet. We talked back and forth a little and then I gave him my e-mail address and we talked a little on e-mail.
After a while, I decided it was time to meet him, but I wanted it to be in a public place, so we met at Luby's Cafeteria and had supper. He was on his way to work and he only had 30 minutes to eat supper, so it was kind of a rush deal. We made plans to continue to talk and see each other every once in a while. I liked him the minute I saw him. He is a great person and there is not a mean bone in his body.
On December 28, 2002 we got married. This was the best decision I have ever made in my life. He loves to cook and I hate to cook, so I don't even have to go into the kitchen. He waits on me Hand and Foot and spoils me rotten.
We were planning on retiring and getting us an RV and travelling and seeing the country. However, on March 9, 2004, I was diagnosed with ALS* - Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease). This is a horrible disease and there is no cure for it. It is very expensive and has already taken all the money we had saved for a Motor Home. I have gotten my disability and Medicare, but they don't go into effect until September 1, 2004. Right now, because with the ALS diagnosis it is considered presumptive disability, I am getting SSI and Medicaid. I am going to get everything that Medicaid will pay for while I still have Medicaid, because once I start getting my Disability and Medicare in September, my Medicaid and SSI will be cut out. I am sad to say that Curtis is not the man that Peggy thought he was. Peggy had to go into the nursing home the last part of March 2006. She has not seen Curtis since. He left and took everything she owns.
*See other pages containing more of my ALS information.