When I learned of the passing of Ernestine Caylor Holcomb, my heart was immediately warmed with the memories of an afternoon a few years ago I spent with her and her children.
She was an extraordinary person, and I wanted to have a conversation with her in preparation for writing a column for this newspaper.
One of the children had suggested that all of them meet with Ernestine and me to talk about their mother, their deceased father, Coy Holcomb, and their childhood. It was a blessed afternoon.
Ernestine, Coy and their ten children were well known in Ball Ground for all the right reasons. They were, and continue to be, top-notch people.
As southerners often say about those we admire, Ernestine was “raised right,” and that is how she and Coy raised their children — Cheryl McDonald, Melody Day, Coy Marshall Holcomb, Jr., Yvette Eddy, Wyatt Holcomb, Eric Holcomb, April Hamby, Holly Trammell, Edie Kohler, and Ashley Holcomb. Two other children died at birth. Ernestine never stopped grieving for them.
Ernestine told me that her parents were very strict. So she knew her only hope of meeting a man who would earn their approval would be at church. The Caylors were regulars.
A talented singer, she sang wherever she went including in the chicken house and with the Caylor Trio in tent meetings and churches.
She was right about where she would meet the right man. That was where she met Coy. When they first met, they shook hands. Coy asked her where she lived. The next week, he drove up to the Caylors’ house.
Naturally, her parents insisted she had to have a chaperone to accompany them when they went courting. Her sister, Edith, was probably delighted to be the one assigned that duty. Just imagine the look on Edith’s face when on Coy and Ernestine’s first date, he kissed Ernestine on the back of one hand and said, “I could marry you tonight.”
Coy was driving a green Ford. There was one thing Ernestine especially remembered about that car. Sometimes the passenger door would fly open. She had to be extra careful not to fall out.
When she and Coy went to the preacher’s house and got married, that was the beginning of one of Ball Ground’s most respected families. Coy became the Postmaster of Ball Ground’s post office and had a farm nearby. As I wrote about Ernestine in that column several years ago, her accomplishments could rival those of Wonder Woman.
I first learned about Ernestine Holcomb from her sister-in-law, Cora Belle Tarpley Holcomb. Married to Coy’s brother, Basil, Cora Belle marveled about the things Ernestine could do with such a big family. Cora Belle was a Wonder Woman, too, so I knew it took a lot to impress her.
Since Ernestine was the oldest girl in her family, she knew how to cook before she and Coy married. As their family grew, she sewed, canned, gardened, washed clothes, volunteered at school, worked in their church, dressed chickens, attended PTA, was a Ball Ground Elementary School Trustee, and worked at the election polls while always seeing that their children were “raised right.”
If you knew Ernestine, you know that she was a beautiful lady. She never looked like a harried housewife. Obviously, she often had more than one child in diapers at the same time.
That was back in the days when diapers were cloth and washing them was a daily task. As someone said, “The Holcombs had the busiest clothesline in Ball Ground.”
Theirs was a three bedroom, one bathroom, one telephone, and one oven house. Ernestine was an efficiency expert. Bathroom and telephone time was limited. At mealtime, some ate at the table while others sat at the bar.
They were also a one car family. Coy drove while Ernestine sat up front holding the youngest in her lap. Another stood up front with one arm around Coy’s neck. The two oldest children sat by the back doors to be sure no one fell out. The others sat on the back seat and in the floorboard.
Coy and Ernestine’s bedroom was in the center of the house. They could easily hear any horseplay after bedtime. While Ernestine excelled at loving her children, she excelled as a disciplinarian, too. Children were sometimes sent to stand in a corner or at times, a switch was retrieved from the top of the refrigerator. When their mom whistled, things got quiet.
She knew how to stretch a dollar, too. Plus, the children helped. They clipped coupons, helped paint the house, worked in the yard, and cut fabric when their mom was sewing. She even made the boys then popular “leisure suits.” One of the clan, who will remain anonymous, jokingly told me that those leisure suits put him in therapy for years.
Now Ernestine has gone on to her Heavenly reward. And even though I called her Ball Ground’s Wonder Woman, I think she would rather we remember that she was A Child of God.
Personally, if God has favorites, I think Ernestine Holcomb is high on His list.
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