Pearlie Kennedy Pettway
Siblings Houston Kennedy and Pearlie Kennedy (1920-1982) married siblings Mary Elizabeth Pettway and Horace Pettway. Quiltmaker Pearlie's youngest son, Robert, and daughter Florida Irby describe their mother's many abilities.
ROBERT: My mother didn't go in the field. She cooked, and cleaned house, and made quilts, and raised us children. There was sixteen of us. She know how to make you do what she need you to do—keep the yard clean, mind the flowers, she tell us to go in the woods and get that kind of bush to make a brush broom. She never say a bad word except for telling you she would whup your tail. Us little boys be jumping on the bed, and pillow fighting and stuff, and she come pulling at us, telling us not to tear up the mattress she sewed, or the quilt.
She make the mattress with corn shucks—she make us go in the barn, get them corn shucks and take off the hard part, get the soft parts. Lots of work putting them shucks in the hole on one side the mattress, then fluffing them out. So, she get mad if we tore it up. She pull it off the bed and catch some naked tail. She didn't care if us boys had fun, but she could whup some tail, and she would.
I do remember that Mama sometimes wake us up late, late in the night, jumping up happy, shouting. We didn't know what going on. She was just praising the Lord! Done that all the time.
Mama made a lot of quilts for keeping us children warm. I remember sleeping under one of them every night. Cold nights, maybe a bunch. Made them things out of coverall pants or anything she could find. After clothes couldn't be fixed no more—skirts, dresses—it all end up a quilt.
FLORIDA: What I remember most was Mama's cooking-good cooking. She taught me to cook. She made the best biscuits. We talked about that the other day, said we wish we could have some of Mama's biscuits, but it's a good thing she's not around, 'cause we really don't need to be eating them. She sewed, too, made clothes, dresses for school, make it out of cloth from Weatherby's in Camden, and she used twenty-five-pound flour sacks. What was left over, take that and make quilts. My sisters, aunts, everybody made quilts except me—I hated to quilt. Quilts on the frame always be in the way when I came home from school. Mama always said when I go away she weren't going to give meany quilts, but she did. Papa was Horace Pettway. His sisters made quilts—Mary Elizabeth [Kennedy] and Malissia [Pettway]. Mama's friends mostly were quilters, too: Nettie Kennedy, Ella Bendolph, Magdalene Wilson, Arcola and Creola. Papa's sister, Mary Elizabeth Kennedy, was married to Houston Kennedy, and Houston Kennedy was Mama's brother.