This Fairy Princess is actually my grandmother, Anna Florette Sayles Strickland (1901-1981), dressed for her ninth or tenth Halloween celebration, or so I thought as a child. Now I gaze at this photograph in awe of the craftsmanship and wonder who claimed the title of its seamstress? What was on the materials list? Was the character taken from a storybook, and if so, which one? And why was a formal portrait taken of my favorite fairy princess?
My father would have been eighty-three years old today. The fourth boy of George and Florette Sayles Strickland, Norman grew up on the family farm outside of Chase City, Virginia. When the eldest brother, Sidney, got to seventh grade, George decided to buy a bus and transport his children and those of his neighbors into the city schools. Within a few years George had at least four buses and was responsible for closing several area one room school houses.
During high school Norman drove bus #3; his pals Charles Duckworth and Grayson Mullins also drove buses for my grandfather. Charles related in a June 8, 2010 letter that all the guys had nicknames — Norman was “Chick”, a kick off from Strick; Charles was “Duck” and Grayson was known as “Moon”.
After Chick, Moon and myself had finished our school routes, we each had two routes, we would gather in one of the buses to wait for the bell to ring. On one morning it was noticed that I had on mismatched socks. The three of us decided to wear our socks mismatched the next day. We did and with in a few days all the high school was dressed in mismatched socks.
My father was a good kid, quiet, reserved and never in trouble. In fact, those are adjectives that probably described my dad every day of his life. Norman was also responsible, smart, caring, and ever ready to lend a hand and share a smile —
a true friend to a host of people.
Even when my own children arrived, I remained a daddy’s girl.
Five years ago this girl lost her daddy.
I could recount the story of where I was when I heard the news, but I can’t invite that chest-cracking pain into my day.
I wish I could sit one more time, holding my father’s hands. I miss the possibility of his hello; I miss the ever-ready energy that he brought to life; I miss the smile. I miss the calm that seeped into all the cracks of my life just because he loved me. Absolutely.
I buried my father in the sky. Since then, the birds clean and comb him every morning and pull the blanket up to his chin every night.
From the poem Little Father by Li-Young Lee
Born on 15 August 1856 in Regiment 22 of Mecklenburg County, Virginia, Lillie Dodson was one of ten children: Greene, Virginia, Harvey, Henry, Dora, Molly, Adlaide, Rebecca Eulelia (Lillie), Edward, and William Rowlett (Bud). Her parents, James H. and Sarah Jane Rowlett Dodson, farmed land just off the Boydton Road south of The City.
Mr. Dodson was a planter and slave owner. Miss Rowlett moved with her parents from (Chesterfield County, Virginia) and settled on land adjoining the Dodson plantation. They were united in marriage in (1844) in Mecklenburg County, Virginia.
Mr. Dodson built the old Dodson home and moved into it when Lillie was three years old, about 1859. She said she could remember walking across from the “Old House,” climbing over the felled trees, carrying her dolls. The house had not been completed, and as the War soon started, he never did finish it.
Mr. Dodson gave each of his children a tract of land for a homestead. He gave the Dodson house and a certain number of acres to the three unmarried daughters, Dora, Molly and Lillie.
…Soon after moving to Virginia with his parents in 1870, Clifton Sayles paid court to Lillie Dodson (a neighbor girl). Her parents were still living, and twas too soon after “The War between the States: ended; feelings still ran high. For Clifton’s father, Ira Sayles, had been a Captain in the Federal Army, and Lillie’s brother, Greene Dodson, had been killed while serving in the Confederate Army; consequently Lillie’s parents did not favor the suit, and Clifton married another girl.
This wife, Anna McCullough, died sometime after the census date of 1900, and Clifton again paid court to Miss Lilly, who had remained single.
Clifton Duvall Sayles, born April 11, 1851, in Alfred, N.Y., and Rebecca Eulelia (Lillie) Dodson were united in marriage January 9, 1901 in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Born to this union: Anna Florette, born December 4, 1901.
At the time of her marriage, Lillie traded her share in the home with Ed, for his share, called the “Old House” tract, and she later sold it. Ed, Dora and Molly remained single and continued to live at the Dodson home until their deaths in the 1920s (at which time the land was bequeathed to the adopted son, George Strickland.)
George …was a real son to them. He continued to care for and look after them untill their final illnesses and deaths. He called Ed “Master Ed” and said Aunt Dora and Aunt Molly and called their sister Aunt Lillie. In appreciation of the love and care George bestowed on (them) Ed Dodson deeded George Ricks Strickland the old Dodson home place.
Around 1920, George Strickland drove a wagon over to the Sayles home and paid court to Florette. They were married September 28, 1921 in the Baptist parsonage in Chase City, Virginia by the Rev. H. L. Williams. Four sons were born to this union: George Sidney, Clifford Ricks, Paul Warren, and Norman Scott. The family survived the depression by returning to the Dodson farm.
At around the same time, Clifton Sayles died, leaving Lillie a widow; she moved in with her daughter and nephew to help raise the four boys–and made certain that cookies were a regular part of their diet.
Source: Strickland, Anna Florette. Some Genealogical Facts of the Strickland-Sayles Family. Chase City, VA: Handwritten, March 1976.
Once stored in a black-page scrapbook, this seventy year old photograph captures my father’s smile, ever gentle and warm. Norman appears tickled by his pup’s misbehavior. Or perhaps the teenager is amused by his dad’s struggle to hold the wiggling black and sable shepherd. Even George Strickland seems to be stifling a smile as he hugs the dog, cigarette at the ready. This father-son moment was snapped by a mystery photographer in front of their home, the Dodson homeplace built by Norman’s great-grandpa, James, in 1859. The farm was located just off the Boydton Road, a few miles south of Chase City, Mecklenburg County, Virginia.