Lillie (at left) and (in right photo, 2nd from right)
with her siblings.
by J.D. Pinkerton
When Lillie Seward was growing up, family members and close friends called her “B”. She was born on the Ben Barnett farm out on Mitchell Street on November 3, 1940. She is 76 years old now. Lillie is the daughter of John and Mamie Burnett Seward. Mamie was born February 2, 1902 and died March 3, 1995. Her father, John Seward, died in 1965. He was born in about 1890. Her mother is buried at Rose Hill Cemetery.
She attends the “great Morning Star Baptist Church” on 12th Avenue in Humboldt. Lillie has never married.
Her father, John Seward, was a Baptist and attended William’s Chapel Baptist Church on Esquire Peek Road out of Humboldt. Her mother was a Methodist and attended Mt. Zion Methodist Church out of Madison County. John Seward was 13 years older than Mamie.
The first home that Lillie remembers was at 116 Calhoun Street in Humboldt. Her mother moved there when Lillie was just two years old.
She remembers starting to school when she was five years old at Stigall. She would go on to graduate at Stigall in 1958. She said when she started her senior year at school, there were about 100 students in her class, but when she graduated, there were only 24. She talked very highly of her teachers at Stigall. Ms. Lucille Berry, Ms. Dorothy McKinley and Ms. Cottrell Thomas were some of her earliest teachers. She can name all of her teachers. Ms. Marie Robinson was her second grade teacher. Ms. Marie Allen was her fifth grade teacher. In the seventh grade she had Rev. Burnett and Professor Lee. Mr. Lacy taught ninth grade.
Some of her classmates that she graduated with are Brenda Jones Fair, Ms. Charlie Frances Fisher, Ms. Mamie Donald, R. D. Hunt, Lonnie Hamilton, Joseph Carter, and Leon Newhouse.
When asked if she played any sports in school, she said, “Yes, I did. I played basketball and I considered that I was one of the greatest players to ever play the game. If you ever ask someone that saw me play, they would say the same thing!” They were Gibson County Champs each year that she played. She was both a majorette and a cheerleader. When she was growing up, she either wanted to be a teacher or a coach.
The longest trip she ever went on was to Las Vegas. She toured Hoover Dam and it scared her to death. She saw Debbie Reynold’s home. She saw an old timey freight train coming out of a mountain that excited her. It was the kind of train that was in all the cowboy movies. She also took a senior citizen bus tour to New York. She hopes to travel more.
Before she graduated high school, she used to go to Willie and Ruby Senter’s house every morning before school to sweep their walkway and porch. Their house was situated where the Stigall Museum is now. Her first real job was in 1964 when they integrated and blacks were offered jobs in Humboldt. She worked at Wayne Knitting Mills making hosiery for 12 years until they closed the plant. She considers getting that job an amazing thing. She made $1.25 a hour when she started working there. She was making $2.50 a hour when the plant closed.
Lillie had seven sisters and one brother. Only one remains now. She said the one brother was her mother’s heart. Her only sister left is Martha Seward Elder. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio, now.
Lillie remembers rationing, when they had stamps to get sugar and flour. She remembers it was put into a brown paper sack. She recalls bread being 10-cents a loaf. Pops were five cents.
She remembers later that flour was kept in flour sacks that had designs on the sacks. Her mother made their clothes from the sacks. Where the dialysis place is now in Humboldt, it used to be a You-Tote-em store where they purchased groceries.
She said the hardest thing for her to accept was not getting her education any further than her high school diploma. Her hardest choice in life was not to leave her mother. Her mother stayed with her till she died in 1995.
When she was 12 years old, she took a trip with her cousin to East St. Louis and stayed out there two weeks. She said she cried the whole time because she missed her mother so much. When she started working she would take trips to Cleveland to visit with her sister, Martha.
Her happiest times growing up were when they had church revivals and fall picnics. She said that was a joyful time.