Bennie Elsie Nerren was born in Alco, Angelina County, Texas on February 8, 1915 to Benjamin Holt Nerren and Meady Oates and died on June 28, 1990 in Culver City, Los Angeles County, California. She was my maternal grandmother. She was the 4th daughter born to them and her father was less than pleased so he named her after himself. Oh how he wanted a son. They never did have one. Their 5th child was also a girl.
Benjamin Holt Nerren was murdered on September 8, 1929 in a craps game gone bad and Meady Oates died, alone, in a hotel room on August 27, 1934. I’ll save their stories for another time.
I’ve never been able to find the marriage record for my grandparents, however, I’m thinking Bennie Elsie Nerren and Edward Thornwell Beauchamp married sometime in late 1931 since their only child, my mom, was born in May of 1932.
The Beauchamp’s lived a very modest life in East Texas. There wasn’t much work during the 1930’s. The lumber industry was pretty much all there was and even those jobs were hard to come by. Edward Beauchamp even went to trial for stealing.
Port Arthur News
Jun 27, 1935
SENTENCE SUSPENDED IN RAIL TIES THEFT
Beaumont, June 27, …. Explaining that he stole junk rails to sell in order to buy food for his hungry family, Edward Beauchamp, 25, pleaded guilty in criminal district court today to the theft on March 11, of 65 old railroad rails from the Kirby Lumber company. The rails were valued at $1 apiece. The jury let Beauchamp off with a two-year suspended sentence.
Times were still really hard on the family until 1942. That is when the Beauchamp family moved to Los Angeles. Edward’s younger brother and his family moved at the same time. The four adults rode in the front and back seats of the car while my mom and her two cousins rode in the rumble seat all the way from Fort Worth, Texas to Los Angeles. It was a bumpy ride from what I hear.
When the Beauchamp’s finally arrived in Los Angeles, my grandmother went to work for the first time in her life. She started cooking at a bar. The rib sticking kinda food to help absorb all of the alcohol. She later went to work for Rockwell working on the assembly line. She worked there until she retired.
My grandparents divorced around 1952 and she remarried to Cecil Paul Harp. Edward died at 47 of a stroke in 1957.
Growing up my grandmother was a fixture in my life. I would spend summers at her house even though we only live 40 miles away. My mom would use that time to paint my room or some other activity that a 5 year old would cause a distraction.
Holidays were always a special time when I was growing up. My grandmother and her husband would drive out to our house and she and my mom would always cook the turkey dinner with all of the trimmings. My grandmother’s specialty was the cornbread dressing. We never did stuff a turkey. There was never enough in the cavity of the bird and it was too soggy. My mom could never figure out the secret of making my grandmother’s cornbread.
My family moved closer to my grandmother in 1965 when my dad had a job transfer. When this happened, every Saturday was pinochle night at my grandmother’s. It always included dinner. It could be comfort food like chicken and dumplings or fried catfish. Everything we did was centered around food. It is what sustains us and brings us together.
In 1980, my mom had to have surgery just before Thanksgiving. She was still bedridden and unable to fix dinner with my grandmother. I drove over to my grandmother’s house, picked her up and brought her over to our house. She taught me everything she knew about making cornbread, the stuffing, baking the turkey and making pumpkin pies. Somehow that Thanksgiving was a turning point and the baton was passed to me. I have been cooking the Thanksgiving meal ever since.