Ester Lougenia Jordan Baker
April 9, 1923 –
If you have not been around Ester much, you would miss the livewire personality she exudes. Most of the Jordan girls had lively personalities, typically kidding around and enjoying life. Ester has spent most of her life in the beauty business, running her small shop at her home in Ruby, SC. (The Lougenia name is from her paternal grandmother.)
My first remembrance of Ester was her attentiveness to my mom and me during my dad’s death. She came and stayed with us for several days. I remember her holding me tightly to her as she sobbed quietly about what had happened. She is a tender touch and a soft heart.
Judy Jordan tells of Ester showing up (unannounced) at the hospital in Charlotte when Nannie Mae was ill with a full spread of homemade lunch for everyone. She was always helping out.
My recent visits with her have been invaluable in gathering details about family members and some of the nearly lost stories of the Lon Jordan Family.
Ester describes Gabriela
Ester describes Gabriela as a pretty lady, a gentle lady who enjoyed young people. She worked a lot with young people from Cross Roads Baptist Church. She would invite them out to the house for chicken and if they ran short, she would just kill another chicken (by unceremoniously wringing its neck). Once when she killed a chicken she said, “That chicken just shit all over me.” Usually the young people who came to the farm were young couples and they enjoyed picking at J.B. and particularly enjoyed picking at Wilson because he did not mix with the group very much, but he could pick a bale of cotton faster than most of his siblings.
When the children were picking cotton, they would deposit their load on a single sheet. When the sheet wasn’t filling up fast enough, Grandpa provided a sheet for each person so that it would be obvious if they were working. Leonard said “Now we will get to see who’s doing all the work. ” But Leonard would pack his cotton into the sheet while it was still wet (so that it would weigh more and it would appear that he was picking more). Grandpa soon was on to him and said for him to stop doing that because the cotton would not dry that way. But Leonard continued to “pack” the cotton and would actually walk on it to pack it even tighter. Others of the children would report to Grandpa that “Leonard is walking on the cotton again. “
Ester was only 11 years old when Gabriela died and she had to cook for much of the family, sometimes making as many as 70 biscuits for a meal using 10 cups of buttermilk. Grandpa Jordan cut off a chair to the proper height so she could reach the stove. Some of her cooking was not edible. Once when she made biscuits, she forgot to put shortening in them and they were hard and thin. J.B. liked to push a hole down into his biscuit with his finger and fill it with molasses. He said Ester’s biscuits were so hard that he could not put a hole in them with a horse bit. Grandpa told the boys that if they made any more jokes about the biscuits he would whip them and if someone did make a joke and another didn’t tell on him, he would get a whipping too. Afterwards, Bo and J.B. took delight in throwing the biscuits against the wall and across the yard and watching them bounce. Ester said that would make her cry but if she told Grandpa, Bo would whip her for telling on him.
Ester says she does not see how Grandpa was able to make it without a wife after the death of Gabriela in 1934. There were still eight children at home. The youngest of them were Kitty and Bo at seven years old. Lon’s mother, known as Granny, was there but not able to help very much. Lon took up a lot for Ester when she was hassled by the siblings, respecting what was being demanded of her.
According to Ester, Lon had women from every direction wanting to get to know him because he was single. He was also good-looking and only 48 years old.
Ester goes to beauty school
When Ester decided she wanted to go to beauty school, Lon would have none of that. In defiance, she told him that he could stop her now but that one day she would go to beauty school. Of course, later she moved to Kannapolis and began classes in beauty school. She stayed with Trudie, helping to care for babies Ginny and Harley and went to high school at Winecoff. She went on to Salisbury Beauty School in 1943, having married Burris on June 5, 1941. Kitty and Aline came to live with them on Ridge Avenue in Kannapolis. (This pattern of siblings leaving the farm, coming to Kannapolis and living with an already settled sibling was common (the depression created really hard times). There are letters written to Ester from Aline and Kitty who were still on the farm in the Aline section.) She went to work at Yarborough Beauty Shop in Kannapolis.
After Ester finished beauty school, Lon came to Kannapolis and asked her what the expenses were for the school and books and transportation. He wrote it all down and then gave her that amount of money as well as lots of groceries including homemade sausage and ham. It seemed to be his way of making peace.
Lon was opposed to her marriage to Burris and offered her money and a piano not to marry Burris. Of course, she married Burris and later Grandpa came to her and thanked her for her honesty noting that she could have taken his gift and gone ahead and married Burris as well.
Ester tells stories about the siblings fighting on the farm, noting that one time Bo and Aline got into a tangle. Typically Aline would win these fights and Bo was fighting her off by throwing rocks. Of course Aline eventually got to him and won again. It was common knowledge that Aline could whip Bo and she did whenever they tangled. And they seemed to fight a lot but Aline was always the winner. (Quay confirms that Bo said that Aline “could beat his butt.”)
When Gabriela fell ill with measles, which J.B. had brought from school, almost all the children became ill. J.B. used to threaten the other members of the family by saying “if you don’t treat me right, I’ll give you the measles.”
“That J.B. was a mess.” said Ester. “Once he wanted me to go and get some of Daddy’s bladder snuff, the really strong variety. He claimed to have already gotten some and put it in his lip and he showed it to me. So I snuck into Daddy’s snuff and got some for myself and it made me very sick. J.B. said to hold it until it made some liquid and to swallow it. I just got sicker and started vomiting. I didn’t realize what J.B. had in his mouth was just cocoa.” J.B. said, “I’m not sick a bit.”
Once Nezzie and Trudie had some snuff as well as “toothbrushes” (used in dipping) hidden in the woods. (The “toothbrush” was simply a piece of sweet gum branch which had been frayed by chewing on it.) A small fire developed in the woods and Trudie and Nezzie were worried about losing their snuff toothbrushes thinking little of the damage the fire would do. They later retrieved their snuff but their toothbrushes had been badly burned. Eventually Grandpa heard about their use of snuff.
When Gabriela died, it was a very sad occasion. Her funeral was delayed for several days to give the children time to become less contagious. The children were all gathered and taken to the church, wrapped in coats to keep potential germs from blowing onto other people. The February wind was cold and blowing strong during the interment (1934).
On one occasion Grandpa brought a black teacher to the farm and she asked Ester what she had gotten for Christmas. She replied that she had gotten oranges, apples, candy and “niggertoes” (Brazil nuts). Although the black teacher didn’t seem shocked at the use of the word, Grandpa promptly stopped Ester from talking about that.