School was a lot of fun for me. I loved recess and art, I even loved doing the work. I was good at math and I loved helping the others when I could; but the best times were when we had parties. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentines Day, any reason at all to have a party was a good reason. The mothers would take turns bringing snacks and staying at our parties. It was a time to show off our parents to the other children. I was so proud when it was my mother’s turn. I remember the other children telling me my mom was pretty. I remember replying, “I know!”
One morning, right after milk time, some high school kids came into the room and took Tonya Blaylock, Mark Dixon and myself out of the classroom. I was scared because I thought I was in trouble. They took us to the gymnasium, which back in that day was made of all nature wood. It was brown, and it was dark. On one of the walls was a huge painting of our Mascot, the Blue Devil that I thought was so neat. We would come in here for PE classes sometimes when it was raining, but we mostly came here for assemblies and presentations. On this particular day, there was no presentation or assembly. It was just Tonya, Mark and I and a bunch of teenagers. Now I knew I was in trouble! After a while, just long enough for it all to sink in, my music teacher came in and asked us if we knew why we were there. None of us did. “We are going to rehearse for the Homecoming and you have been chosen to be in it!” I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about, or what a homecoming was. We walked around the gym and stood where they told us to stand. Somewhere along the way, I remember Tonya saying someone would be a queen. I thought, “Wow… a real Queen! I hope it’s me!” I’m glad someone told my mother what was happening, because I don’t know how I would have explained to her I was going to be a queen!
The night of the ballgame, (which by the way, they never told me there would be a ballgame) Mom took me down to the dressing room and dressed me, took the curlers out of my hair and teased it high on top of my head as if I weren’t already the tallest one of us three children. I don’t remember walking through the ceremony, but Mark and I had some good conversation because we were bored, and I talked all the time anyway. Fun times, even though I didn’t get to be the queen!
By: Nancy Jackson-Ferguson
A lot of things happened in 1968, some of them I remember and some of them, not so much. The Rev. Martin Luther King was assassinated, Apollo 8 orbited the moon, and everyone was talking about the war in Vietnam. It was also the year I started first grade. I was so excited to get on the school bus that first morning. The bus driver had the radio turned on and I remember hearing Tony Orlando and Dawn sing “Knock Three Times”. I chose my seat and sat next to the window so I could see outside with Lisa sitting next to me. Why I wanted to look outside, I don’t know. The only view was open fields around our little country house, until you got into the small community of Dell Arkansas where the school was and which hosted modest houses and a small business district that included a rail road depot. My Pawpaw Hinch worked at that depot every day, and my sister and I would later on spend many afternoons there after school. But the best thing I remember about that first day of school was being a big girl on the school bus. Just as the bus was pulling away from our house, I saw Nanny and Papaw’s car coming toward us. They were coming to our house so Nanny could watch my baby brothers while Mom went to work. They had a powder blue Impala that seemed so small up against the huge bus. I looked out the window and waved, excited that they could see what a big girl I was.
After we arrived at school, I went to my very first classroom. I had my writing tablet and a pencil and I was ready to go to work. Mrs. Brown, who in my eyes was one of the most beautiful women ever, called roll and asked us which kind of milk we wanted. What a wonderful thing to be able to have chocolate milk every morning at school. Of course that elation was quickly squashed when I started getting car sick every morning on the bus. Believe me; after that, milk was the last thing I wanted after I got to school.
The one thing that really bothered me about first grade was the reading class. Now, I know I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I’m no dummy either. When Mrs. Brown divided us into reading groups, she may as well have called us “The Smartest Group”, “The Mediocre Group” and the “Not so Bright Group”. But I guess in order to be politically correct, she called us the Red Group, the Blue Group and the Yellow Group, but we all knew what they were and nobody was proud to be in the Yellow Group. I was in the Blue Group. I wanted so bad to be in the Red Group. Tonya Blaylock was in the Red Group and I wanted to be there too. I worked so hard, and sure enough, it paid off. The Red Group was a whole chapter ahead of the rest of us. They already knew what was going to happen to Dot and Jim in our readers. The rest of us would have to wait. Then one day, when Mrs. Brown called up the Red Group to the round reading table, she said, “Nancy, why don’t you come up here too.” I made it!! I got into the elite Red Group. I proudly sat next to Tonya and impressed the whole group when I knew two words that were new to our vocabulary. Right there on the page was a picture of Spot, Dot and Jim’s dog, and the words in big bold letters…. “Bow Wow!” I felt so smart!
By: Nancy Jackson-Ferguson
I do not ever remember not going to church as a child. Every Sunday morning, we would get ready to go without question. It was the normal thing for us to do. My sister Lisa and I would alternate the weekends with our younger brothers Kevin and Tracy to go spend the night with Nanny and Pawpaw ( Rev. Lauren and Geraldine Hinch). After watching the Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family and enjoying raspberry sherbet with the Creature Feature, it was off to bed. Sometimes, if we stayed on a Saturday night, we would go to church with them in Manila at Blackwater Baptist Church where Pawpaw was the Pastor. It was a little country church that did well to gather a crowd of twenty or so on Sunday mornings, but I liked the attention of being the granddaughter of the pastor because that meant everyone knew me. Plus, we always knew Nanny would give us each a half stick of gum to chew on the way to church as long as we spat it out before services began.
Looking back now, I have a better appreciation for sets of my grandparents and who they were. Mawmaw and Pawpaw Jackson (Benny and Lucille) were very social in their hometown of Osceola where Mawmaw was a beautician and Pawpaw sold cars. They were both members of the Eastern Star, which I never really understood, but I think it was some sort of organization formed under the Masons, of which my father and both grandfathers were members as well. It was not a secret that they were members, but the whole organization is a mystery to everyone except its members. When we were a little older, we were invited a couple of times to go sing at the inauguration of Mawmaw and Pawpaw as the Grand Matron and Grand Patron of the Eastern Star. Non-members are not allowed and we were told to never tell what we heard or saw there. It was a very lengthy ritual and I was very proud to be their granddaughter, even though I’m still not sure what it all meant. It didn’t matter too much because my grandparents were being honored and that was important.
By: Nancy Jackson-Ferguson
For as long as I can remember, the Jackson’s have always been a singing family. I recall my preschool years in Blytheville Arkansas, when my Dad sat in the back row of the choir at Trinity Baptist Church and my Mom played the organ. Every Sunday morning us four children sat side by side on the front row and behaved the best we could for being little more than babies. None the less, we sang right along with the rest of the congregation word for word every song. To this day, I can sing almost any song from the Baptist Hymnal without ever looking down at the words.
I was probably four or five at the time when I was first asked if I wanted to sing. Lisa, the oldest of us four, was in the children’s choir and I had tagged along with her one Sunday afternoon for a Christmas rehearsal. The choir director asked me if I wanted to sing with them. I remember Lisa saying right away, “She’s not old enough.” The details at this point are a little blurry, but I do recall standing up with the choir and listening to the others giggle because I had the song sheet upside down. She asked if I wanted to sing, she didn’t ask if I could read! It didn’t matter to me, because I got to sing, and I liked it.
The adult choir that year did a Christmas cantata titled “Love Transcending”. My Dad sang a solo that year that I will never forget. He sang “O Holy Night” like an angel. I was so impressed at such a young age. Funny thing is, I don’t remember a lot of things from my childhood. As I get older, the things I do remember become cloudy in details. But one thing I do remember, is seeing my Dad standing to sing his solo, and it seemed like a hush came over the whole earth that night just to hear him sing. I think that is when I really learned to LOVE music, that is when, deep in my heart, I knew that music was a part of me that could not be denied. And this was only the beginning.
By: Nancy Jackson-Ferguson