2006: Miss Mary : In her own words - Centenarian candidly looks at where she's been; offers sage
This picture was taken in August 2008, on Miss Mary Carter's 105th birthday. That's me, Mary Lou Montgomery, at left. As a journalist, Miss Mary taught me to let people speak with their own voice, rather than to "whitewash" what people say.
Hannibal Courier-Post (MO) - Saturday, January 14, 2006
Author: Interview by: Rhonda Hall, Editor: Mary Lou Montgomery
Mary Frances Carter marked her 102nd birthday on Aug. 8, 2005. The Hannibal woman credits her long life to her faith in Jesus Christ. Fiercely independent, Mrs. Carter vows that she will not move to a nursing home; rather her next move will be to O'Donnell's Funeral Home. Rhonda Hall of Hannibal interviewed Mrs. Carter recently, and shared the interview with the Courier-Post. In her own words, "Mis Mary " talks about her long life, the people she has known and her own future. Working women My mother, when we lived out here on the West Ely Gravel Road, she got 50 cents a month, WPA, that old woman came out there and asked her what she did with that 50 cents. "Sure, I bought me some baccer." She smoked. I seen all that. Hell, I lived way out there on the West Ely Gravel Road. I worked for Clays and all them people out there. I used to walk from the gravel road clear over on Hazel Street for 50 cents a day. I made wine, home brew and everything. I've done a little of everything, but I have never mistreated nobody. Honey, I've seen a many, many, many frosty days. I have shucked corn with two great big men, me and my husband. We'd have our load of corn come out of the field before they would. I cooked for Dr. Porter. I worked here in town at his office. After his wife died, he moved to the farm. He moved to the farm and Mary moved to town. I cooked all over this town. Most generally, when I come up, I was working for somebody else. Like this lady had some house cleaning I'd go to her house. I just done different things. But see, now I'm too old to do anything. Yes I am. Materialism I got a big watch that my husband give me. You pin it on the lapel. Ihave an antique in that bedroom, a light. That son of a bitch is older than I am. I'm going to sell every damn thing, I don't need it. I dun told you what I need. Jesus Christ. Didn't I tell you that? I want to sell them. I don't need them things. I'm living with Jesus. I ain't worried about nothing. Family Honey I got six granddaughters. Two grandsons. I see all of them. Umhum. Cause I tell you right now I don't pay no attention. They come see me if they want to and if they don't I'm with Jesus Christ. I've done told you. I don't worry about nuthing. No. Jesus Christ knows I'm not alying. It's their life, it's not mine. My mother told me, she said now Mary , just leave it alone. The more you stir shit, the worse it stinks. Segregation Down here at Eolia, me and my grandson, we went in there and ordered our meals. They said, "We don't serve Negroes in here." We walked out. They wouldn't serve us, honey. What in the name of the Lord is the difference? Because, listen, we all are humans. I'm going to get to preaching now. And another thing, why, ain't we all brothers and sisters? There wasn't but two in the arc. I'm through preaching now. Color is nothing. I can't live that-a-way. I don't live that-a-way. Independence When I first moved here, I had a friend over there, you know her, Velma Allison, I moved in here and I had six shotguns. "What are you going to do with all those shotguns?" she asked. I said, Well, I'm going to say it like I told her, you sons of bitches bother me I'll unload every damned one. I meant it! Listen, people were scared. People think that I still got them shotguns in here. Honey I'll let 'em fire. There ain'tnobody gonna bother me. And I tell you one thing, I have never missed my payments or nothing. Mary stays by herself at night and cooks for herself, although two women do come to her house each week to help with cleaning. They are very sweet. They're little white ladies, honey, they're not black women. They're little white ladies. It's kinda lousy sometimes.They laugh. I don't bother nobody. The Willow Street Christian Church honored Mary on her 100th birthday in August 2003. While Brother Griggsby and his wife took Mary from her Spruce Street home to the church, she insisted on walking home after the service. I told them I wanted to walk. Shit, I'm walking like Jesus. If I wanted to right now, I could put my coat on and walk up there with you. Sure! Women in the pulpit I'll tell you the truth, honey, it's been lots of happenings around here. Aint' nothing like the Christian Church. When they was up there on Broadway, we used to have nice services up there. Now I'm preaching. You lift your heart up and let it shine. You want to know the truth? Jesus Christ. I never was born a dummy. I have been in that church up there I don't know how long. I love everyone of them. We've had some good preachers up there. I'm going to tell you the truth now, you can say what you damn please, I don't believe in no woman preacher. You hear me? That's a man's job. Because it ain't right. They're doing worse than me and you. But I do like a man preacher. Now Ann Facen was a good speaker, at that rate, I think it's a man's job. But as soon as the weather clears up I'm coming back up to church. Near tragedy Honey, I'm going to tell you this much, now this ain't funny now, this man over here has got these what do you call them things, freezer bags, their little girl went out there and set all of them afire. I was back in there drinking my beer and eating chicken and I heard somebody on my front porch. My porch was full of people. And if they hadn't got that fire out, honey, it'd tore my house up and throwed my ass off. It's them freezer bags, honey, You know what they are. He had three of them in there. Whew! I never seen so many people in my life. I wasn't worried about a damn thing, I was back there eating and drinking beer. Shit I don't worry about nuthing. I'm with this man right here, the Lord. And so I went out there (on the porch) with a young white man sitting there. It didn't make no difference. I sat in his lap. I sat in his lap and one of the colored girls said "Oh, you sitting on that white man." I said I don't give a damn if he's white or black, I'm sitting on him. He said honey, sit there. I've been sat on before. Sage advice for today's women I'm going to tell you one thing, now you listen to me, you be careful, because there's nothing out there but trouble. You don't know some man might grab you and we'd never see you. Cause listen, honey, people is tricky. A man called me last night, wanted to lend me a thousand dollars, that new bank. He says we'll help you and you can borrow this much money, and says you own your own home. You know what I told him? I told him I own my own home and it's paid for. Goodbye. I hang up on them, because it's nothing but tricks. Crooks and tricks. The road narrows I'm having fun. I want some barbecued chicken wings. Shit, honey, if I never live to see another month, I've had it. Because I have lived my life and I'm ready to go home to Jesus. I've seen an awful lot, and so I said to myself, it's just a wonderful thing to get with friends. Of course you haven't lived as long as I have. See my mother was a hundred and five when she died.