Long-time Atmore resident Nell Yearwood Staff enjoys reading, playing Bridge with her friends
(This week The Atmore Advance spotlights 95-year-old Nell Yearwood Staff, who lives in Atmore. She was a school teacher and homemaker.)
Q: When and where were you born?
A: I was born July 11, 1911 in my grandmother's cabin in northeast Mt. Airy, Georgia.
Q: Who were your parents?
A: My parents names were William Speer Yearwood and Ila Rebecca Crane and we lived in Demarest, Georgia.
Q: Did you have any brothers or sisters?
A: I had two brothers and three sisters. I am the next to the youngest child in my family. My younger sister died last year. I am the only one left in my family now. It gets lonely.
Q: Where did you attend school?
A: My family moved to Florida when we were young and I started school at Ft. Meade south of Tampa. My mom got sick with tuberculosis and we had to stay with relatives because there were so many of us. I went to another school in Largo during the sixth and seventh grades. Then my mom died when I was 15 years old, so I moved back to live with my grandparents and graduated from Ft. Meade in 1929.
Q: What activities were you involved in during school?
A: I played basketball. All of us on the team wouldn't wash our socks between games because we thought it was bad luck! I think we just ended up throwing them away at the end of the season. I remember getting so mad at the umpires or referees who did our games. I always thought they were calling our games wrong.
Q: How did you travel when you were younger?
A: We had a car and when we got older, my brothers would drive us three blocks to school. We loved going to ball games and would have to catch a ride with someone who had a car. I used to go to town on Saturday nights where a group of us would buy an ice cream cone for a nickel and then sit in a parked car in town and watch the people go by. When I wasn't doing that I was swimming in my grandfather's pool. I had to pay a quarter just like everybody else to swim.
Q: Did you work after you got out of school?
A: I tended to my 3-year-old nephew. I didn't get paid for it. I just loved doing it.
Q: What jobs did you have later in life?
A: I was a sixth grade teacher in Crestview, Fla. in 1931. I moved from Ft. Meade to north Florida to go to college at Florida State College for Women. I got a two year degree from there and then got my first job teaching in Crestview.
Q: Are you close with your family?
A: Yes, I am the only one left on my side of the family, but my children and grandchildren live here close to me.
Q: Did you ever marry?
A: I married Eddie Staff. I met Eddie in Crestview, Fla. when I was teaching. His sister-in-law owned a restaurant across from the school. Me and other teachers went there everyday to eat lunch. Eddie worked at Gerlach Motor Company in Crestview with his uncle. They ate at the restaurant too.
Q: How did you start dating each other?
A: We started talking to each other at lunch and then he asked me on a date. I found out that I had seen Eddie before when I was at college. I was a Tri-Sigma and Eddie visited our sorority house. I don't know why he was there other than seeing the ladies! Eddie lived in Ft. Walton while he worked at the car lot in Crestview.
Q: When did you get married to him?
A: Eddie and I married on December 23, 1932. It wasn't a very smart time of the year to marry, but we couldn't wait and Eddie was on vacation then. We got married in Lake Wales, Fla. at a catholic church. I was a Baptist and Eddie was catholic. We had to find the closest church and then had to get permission from the Bishop because I wasn't catholic.
Q: When did you and Eddie settle in Atmore?
A: We had probably been married a month when Eddie came to work in Atmore. I finished teaching at Crestview and then moved to Atmore with him, where I got another teaching job in Walnut Hill, Fla. I only taught one day though. I hired a sitter to stay at home with our boys. When I came home after my first day at work, I found the sitter outside holding Bill and chasing Ed who was running down the street. He had his shoes on the wrong feet too. I never went back to work another day.
Q: How many children and grandchildren do you have?
A: We had four boys, Ed, Bill, Jim and Chipper. Ed is deceased and the others live here close to me. We also had two girls, Susan and Cathy. I have 18 grandchildren and six great grandchildren. I try to have every one of them over for a Christmas dinner. When they come there are more than 52 people here in my house. They all help me and bring a dish for our dinner.
Q: Where do you attend church?
A: I go to St. Robert's here in town. We were some of the first Catholics in town that helped start the church. When Eddie was alive we used to have the priest over for lunch every week. There were over 10 other priests in town for Eddie when he died three years ago. I've already told the priest he need not do that for me, he would be just fine.
Q: What keeps you busy these days?
A: I spend a lot of time reading. I have a special spot in my home where I can be comfortable and I also sit outside when it is cool to read. I have read every book that anyone has written. If I read one and really enjoy it, I can go back and read it again six months later. I play bridge too. When my partners are in town, we play at least three times a week. Some weeks we don't get to play at all if one of my friends is out of town. I started playing bridge in Ft. Meade as a young girl. Bridge was very popular there. Everybody played. It is a fun game and doesn't take much time.
Q: Have you traveled much?
A: I've been all over Florida. Eddie had a real nice boat that he kept at the river. He always wanted to go there. I remember one year, we went with another couple to New Orleans to watch a Notre Dame football game. We went to the game on Saturday night and then visited a catholic church in town the next day. We always went to church. When we walked in the church we saw the entire Notre Dame football team sitting in the front. We were amazed and tried to sit as close as we could to them. We couldn't talk to them, but we sure watched them. I don't think we heard much of the message that day.
When he wouldn't go with me anywhere I had a friend that would travel with me. We went to the New England states twice and to New York three different times. We would go to the Broadway shows in NY. I saw the girls do the dancing in the shows. It was the most gorgeous thing I've ever seen – the way they move perfectly together. We also went on a boat trip that took us from Canada and traveled down the Mississippi river.
Q: What is your favorite television show?
A: I like the news that comes on at 6 p.m. on Channel five. I like In the Heat of the Night. Used to I could just go turn the TV on by flipping a switch, now I always have to call someone to come help me. There are way too many buttons and switches on TV's now.
Q: What do you think of the new Reality TV shows?
A: I don't watch them. I have tried, but I just can't understand them.
Q: What advice do you give people to stay healthy?
A: I have never had to deal with serious diseases or illness. I have always been healthy. I guess I would have to say, never put a cigarette in your mouth.
(If you would like to recommend a senior to be spotlighted please contact Stacie D. Cofield at 368-2123 or e-mail her at composing@atmoreadvance. com)