Chapter Three: “Life After Byhalia”

Image may contain: 1 person, indoorFor years after that, grandma remained in Byhalia, MS with her two youngest daughters she was still rearing on the farm. I would go visit during the summer months and would have the best time ever. The long walks down the road to go into town, the hogs in the hog pen, the chickens walking around the yard, the water that needed to be pumped from the well, the bed pot beside the bed at night so that you wouldn’t have to go outside to the outhouse in the dark, and oh, the meals grandma used to cook on that old wood-burning stove. She was an extraordinary woman.

As time went on, sometime after I became a teenager, grandma and her youngest daughter (who was pregnant at the time) left the farm and came to live with us on Harmen Street in Memphis, TN.  Our home in Memphis had five rooms. It was a seven hundred and twenty-five square foot brick house that served as the lodging and gathering place for the entire Pegues family at one time or another – which no one seemed to mind back then.

Needless to say, that was the last year I saw that old rustic farm in Byhalia, MS – a place I never called home but had grown to love dearly visiting for so many years.

Although what my parents did back then could possibly be construed as parental interference or kidnapping now, I cannot say that I had a bad childhood at all. Mommy and Daddy took great care of me as a child. They provided a stable home life, shelter, food, and clothing. I have fond memories of going to bed on Christmas Eve nights with the door to my bedroom closed, covers over my head – in anticipation of Santa and his reindeer-driven sleigh magically coming to bring my gifts. And, I would always awaken to a Christmas Tree piled with toys underneath for a special little girl – me.  I remember a childhood of laughter, play, friends, and playing cards with the grown-ups. My father, John Lee Parker, worked as a supervisor for a local factory – Ivers and Pond Piano Company (aka Aeolian Corp), and my mother, Ada Mae Parker, was a maid for a local white family.

me 1961

Yvonne Rechelle Parker (1961)

In 1964, I started first grade at Shannon Elementary School (now, KIPP Memphis Academy Elementary) in a segregated school system, from there, I attended then Cypress Junior High School (now, Cypress Middle School) for the seventh and eighth grades. My ninth grade year would have been my last year as a Cypress Timberwolf, but it was derailed by forced desegregation of the Memphis City School System in 1973 when the federal government ordered desegregated busing in Memphis, TN. During this time, Memphis, TN, just like Byhalia, MS, and other southern states was racially divided and charged.

Although the US Supreme Court, in 1954, declared racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional, the undertaking of integrating public schools met fierce resistance in the South.  As a ninth grade black student, I experienced that aggressive resistance first hand as a result of forced busing.  Forced to leave my neighborhood school to attend a school in an all white community where we were not wanted.  (Chapter Four: Growing Up Black in the South”)

ada john

John Lee and Ada Mae Parker (1972)


About Yvonne’s Life, Chapter Three: Life After Byhalia ~~~ Yvonne James |


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