The life of Arcola Pettway, with its farming, child-raising, gospel singing, and quiltmaking, was very similar to those of her closest relatives and friends. Her cousin Leola Pettway, who was raised in the same home with Arcola, remembers their younger days:
My auntie Deborah Young was her mama. You got to ask somebody else about who her daddy were. We growed up together, living with our granddaddy, Paul S. Pettway. He was a reverend. We played a lot; couldn't do much in them days but stay home and make up games, or go get water from down to the spring. When us coming up—we was little children—we used to sing together in church, just the two of us. Best thing back then was: went fishing. Set out hook overnight, go back next morning and get something sometime.
Auntie Deborah, she teach us about quilts. Teach me first—I was five or six years older than Arcola and I reckon I showed her some.
She used to sing in a group, the Golden Angels, go around to churches; sing with her sisters Mouitree Kennedy and Lola Saulsberry, and my daughter China, and I help them out some Sundays.
Arcola got married to one of Lucy T.'s brothers, Joseph Pettway. They had a lot of children, I reckon a dozen or more. They farmed, just about like everybody else.