Golden Grads: Williams Family Lived off the Land


Sue Dean Williams Odom, GHS Class of 1953

By Kathy Williams Lawrence

Special to The Enterprise

Sue Dean Williams was born on February 10, 1935, the third of 10 children born to Zelmer and Dorothy Jones Williams. This writer was their youngest.

Sue’s earliest memories are of having to help bathe all of her siblings by filling a wash tub with water drawn from the well. She remembers putting this tub in the sunshine to warm and then bathing her little brothers and sisters in the same water, one by one. The lack of running water meant the family used an “outhouse.”

The Williams home was a small wood frame house with wood heat and no electricity. Sue remembers getting electricity run to their home when she was 10 years old.

Her childhood was filled with good memories of the farm life. Her father, whom everyone called “Preacher,” plowed the fields with a team of mules. “We grew our own food in a large garden, had cows for milk, and chickens for eggs. I can still see those chickens running all over the yard and the roosters that would chase us every time we went outside. Every night my brother and I would draw a barrel full of water for the next day.”

In the summer she had to chop cotton and work in the big garden they had. There were fruit trees in their yard that they harvested and preserved to use in the wintertime.

Although she had many siblings, Sue remembers rarely seeing a doctor, “— only for real emergencies. Sickness was usually handled with coal oil and turpentine. Mama made our clothes from flour sacks. I got one pair of shoes per year.”

Most travel was by horse and buggy. Finally, her father was able to afford a farm truck, and Sue thought they were “rich” with the purchase of that truck. Although life was filled with chores, she does remember sometimes her dad loading all of the kids in the old truck and going to the festival in Martin on the Fourth of July.

Little Sue Dean’s education began at Parks one-room schoolhouse, where she walked to school. Each morning her mother packed for each of her siblings a “lunch” of a cold biscuit and some type of meat.

The Williams children started attending Gleason School when a school bus started running in their Sand Hill community. “I was responsible for making sure my siblings got ready for school and got on and off the bus safely.” She remembers being amazed with the cold water in each room of the school. Gleason School had a big gym and a wonderful playground where the children could play at recess.

Sue Dean fondly recalls teachers like Ms. Annie Laurie Phillips and Mr. Worth McCain. Her favorite subject was English. She was extremely shy at school, but there were times she got in trouble for talking in study hall! She was good friends with Sue Hall Maddox and Ann McCain Brooks.

Although there was no extra money when she was growing up, in her memory, “We really did not feel ‘poor.’ All the folks I knew lived the same way.” Sue raised two children in Como, but now makes her home in Murfreesboro, living with her daughter.