Ware enjoying golden years

Published 10:27 pm Saturday, May 30, 2009

They have lived through the Great Depression and walked to neighborhood schools with childhood friends. Their lives changed during the turbulent years of the 1960s, not always for the better, but many memories of their youth are positive. They are women of the so-called “older generation,” now enjoying their “golden years.” Many have remained active in their communities; some are only recently retired from business careers and professions. These are the women whose caring contributions to the welfare of Selma have made a positive difference.

Hazel Lolley Ware was born in Selma on May 20, 1921, to Elbert and Allie Kynard Lolley. She was the youngest child and only girl in the family of two sons, Ed and Lawrence Lolley. Her father owned and operated Lolley Plumbing, later entered by one of her brothers.

“When I was 6 I entered Baker School where Miss Mamie Ware was principal,” said Hazel Ware. “Those early years under her were a good foundation for my later education.”

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Her early school years were in the Great Depression days, “when almost everyone was poor. My brothers skated to school and I walked. Nobody had any money but there were good times, too. We didn’t know anything else but to be happy. You didn’t miss what you never had,” Ware says, smiling at her recall of those days. “We went to the picture show on Saturdays, cost was maybe a nickel or perhaps a dime, and we watched the Cowboys and Indians at the Walton. Our special hero was Flash Gordon, who actually went into space, all those years before outer space was part of our lives.

“With my brothers and the other children in our neighborhood, we ‘played out’ on summer nights: caught lightning bugs, put them in a jar and made a lantern; caught June-bugs, tied a string to their legs and let them fly around us. Sometimes in the daytime we played with rubber guns, handmade by the boys and mostly used by the boys.”

She paused for a moment, grimaced slightly, remarked, “Wonder if anyone remembers those cane poles the boy cut down, hollowed out and filled with chinaberries for ammunition? I hated those things, the berries hurt if they hit you.”

Ware also enjoyed a favorite diversion of young girls of her generation. “Paper dolls were wonderful. We cut them from Sears catalogues.”

After Baker School, there were three years at the next-door Selma Junior High, then Selma High for 2 1/2 years before entering the brand-new Albert G. Parrish High School at midterm and graduating with the Class of 1940. During her high school years, she worked at Kress on Saturdays.

“On Friday and Saturday nights, we dated, we danced to Cap Swift’s orchestra at the Harmony Club, and later, to Jimmy Bedgood’s band with his wife Lorine singing,” said Ware. “I remember she had a light streak in the front of her hair, that was the style then.”

Before graduating she had decided on a nursing career, a decision she says she never regretted. She entered the nursing school of St. Margaret’s Hospital in Montgomery in 1940, living in the dormitory and subject to the strict rules dictated by the Catholic housemother.

“We could date only on Friday and Sunday evenings: 10:30 p.m. deadline on Friday and 10 p.m. on Sunday. If we were even a minute late coming in, we were met by the housemother looking at her watch and counting the minutes. Then we were restricted depending on how late we were,” said Ware. “Unfortunately, I had also started smoking and we could not smoke on campus. So we had to go and sit on the lawn at the Capitol to smoke or go to Adams Pharmacy nearby and have a Coke and a cigarette.”

After she earned her registered nursing degree, passed the state boards, she was asked to work in surgery at St. Margaret’s with surgeons John and George Blue and obstetrician Archie Thomas. She then returned home to work as a surgical nurse with physicians Jesse Chapman, Pressley Donald and Marcus Skinner. Dr. Skinner was known worldwide for his work with children in need of orthopedic surgery, “so we had kids from everywhere there.”

World War II was nearing an end. In 1944 Rufus “Mutt” Ware came home from Army service, having suffered a head injury, with a brace on his left leg and hand. The two began dating and were married in 1945. In 1947 their son, Richard, was born and in 1951, their daughter, Patti. Richard Ware is employed at International Paper and also heads Cahaba Hospice, formerly headed by his late wife, Barbara Radford. Patti Ware, who is also a nurse, is married to Nathaniel Ellis and is the mother of two children, a son, 28, and a daughter, 25.

Hazel Ware continued her nursing career that included 14 years with Dr. Claiborne Blanton in obstetrics and gynecology. “Those were happy years,” she recalls, “when most pregnant women were happy to be pregnant. Dr. Blanton’s patients included women from all over the Black Belt.”

Next, she filled the position of Director of Nursing at Selma Baptist Hospital, where she remained until her retirement at age 65 after a total of 43 years.

For 15 years her personal life had been taking care of her husband who suffered a disabling stroke at age 54 and died in 1987 at age 68.

“We managed to enjoy life together. We sat side by side, Mutt in a recliner, in front of the TV and I would feed him,” she said. “He couldn’t speak but he would take my hand, kiss it and smile to thank me. The children were so helpful. We took him to the beach, to Birmingham, to state parks and to Maxwell to shop at the commissary. And he sang, just as he did in high school, even though we couldn’t understand the words.”

After his death, Hazel Ware accepted the fact that “Life is not a bed of roses, nor is it meant to be. I have a congenial group of friends, play a lot of bridge and belong to a fun poker group, where I never win. I stay busy.”

Then, at age 75 she put together a 75-year collection of recipes.

“My mother, my daughter, my sister-in-law and I liked to cook and we exchanged a lot of recipes, so many I could never find any one I was looking for,” she said. “So I got them together and put them in a book. My first publication was in 1996 and I thought I’d run out of years before my cookbook did. That didn’t happen, I’ve had to republish it.”

“Hazel’s Recipes, A 75-Year Collection” is available at Sturdivant Hall Gift Shop, Vaughan Hospital Gift Shop, Carter Drug, Truax and Company, Dallas Avenue Pharmacy and Billi Radford’s Crafts. Recognize it by the distinctive cover, a photograph of the historic Ware House, replaced in 1954, its former grounds now occupied by Calhoun Foods. As for its author, she says “I still enjoy life. I have always enjoyed life.” And all her friends agree.