Patsy Pridgen

Patsy Pridgen

Readers are sure to have good stories to share

By Patsy Pridgen
Life Columnist

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I’ve recently received a couple of interesting letters from 86-year-old Bess Thibault. You might recall that she’s the lady who wrote me about her special childhood dog, Silly, after my column where I confessed I wasn’t a fan of canines.

Well, it seems Mrs. Thibault’s tale about her dog that scared off the hobo and earned its place in the family is not the only story she has. In her letters, I’ve been reading about how she raised six healthy children on a sergeant’s pay, managed the childcare room at a bowling alley and served as a volunteer for troubled children. Her life has been so interesting I feel compelled to share some of what she’s written.

Here’s Bess Thibault describing how she stretched her budget: “By the time the bills were paid, I had $30 a month to feed eight people. I made 1 pound of hamburger make four filling meals. Spaghetti, hamburger gravy, chili beans and tamale pie. Same with two chickens – meaty parts for two Sundays and then chicken pot pie and chicken chop suey. “

Mrs. Thibault wrote, “When my children were grown, I had a job at the bowling alley keeping the nursery. We had more fun than the parents did in the bowling alley. I also had strict rules. No hitting, running, etc. Do so and you sit for 10 minutes.”

This story led to advice about handling my 2-year-old grandson. Mrs. Thibault had read my column about how he has me at his beck and call, and she warned me, “When you have your special little guy, tell him – don’t ask! You’re the boss. Tell him, we don’t run in the house. You could be hurt. We run and jump outside.”

Mrs. Thibault seems to be someone whose advice about child rearing is to be heeded. An especially interesting part of one of her letters concerned her volunteer work, at age 55, with “kids who had been in jail, mental hospitals, or on the streets.”

She writes of one situation: “My social worker called me, ‘Bess, a foster parent has had it! The child’s got to get out. Will you take him?’

“I said, ‘Sure!’ The foster parent had found knives in the closet and under pillows. I took him, 14 years old, 6 feet tall. I’m 5’1” and 120 pounds. He decided he wanted to show me how tough he was. He took a Navy knife to me – a foot away. I sneered, ‘You don’t even know how to hold a knife. Give it to me, or I’ll shove it down your throat.’ He gave it to me.”

Mrs. Thibault calmly concluded, “So I’m good with babies or whatever age comes along.”

Yes, ma’am, I believe you and I will take your advice about being a stricter grandma so that I don’t have my own tall knife-wielding grandchild one day.

I’m sure I have other readers with entertaining life stories. If you don’t mind sharing, send me an email or write to me at 104 Ashcroft Court, Rocky Mount, NC 27804. For now, I’d like to hear from senior citizens, those who were born before, let’s say, 1935. I think my readers would enjoy your tales. I’m betting I will too.

Patsy Pridgen is a retired community college English instructor. She can be reached at