Friday, July 29, 2016

Mrs. Vera Buckhalter Womack of Kentwood, Louisiana

Mrs. Vera Womack
Today I met a beautiful woman named Mrs. Vera Buckhalter Womack in Kentwood, Louisiana., She told me that she just celebrated her 99th birthday. All I could do was just look at   her. My eyes couldn't believe that the lady I was looking at just made 99 years old.

We sat and talked for a long time. I went to talk with her about Tangipahoa Parish Training School in Kentwood. She told me about her school days and how she walked one mile to get to school. She recalled how the boys would make a fire in the old pot belly stove to warm up the class. Mrs. Womack left school after she couldn't keep up due to the fact that she had to miss too many days to work in the field picking cotton, strawberries, and other agricultural produce. 

Mrs. Womack has lived to see five generations. She is one of seven children born to the union of her Mr. Fred and Mrs. Emma Buckhalter. After she left school to get married, she and her husband opened the only African American store in the community. She started off by selling snowballs and candy and from there she and her husband added other items to the store. She operated the store up until her 80s. The Womack's are a pillar in the Kentwood community. 

Emma Johnson Buckhalter
I enjoyed looking at all the family photographs on her walls and the many beautiful bouquets of roses and flowers she received from her family and loved ones. We both felt like we knew each other all our lives.

According to Mrs. Womack her mother, Mrs. Emma Buckhalter was the first African American teacher in Kentwood.  She taught at Sweet Home Baptist Church when the school was held in at the church.  Emma was born around 1883 in Tangipahoa Parish. Her father Fred was born in St. Helena Parish in 1886. In 1910 the family was living at  the Amos Kent Lbr & Brick Co Quarters. He is listed as a mulatto according to the 1910 United States Federal Census.

She proudly talked about her late husband's determination to overcome being an amputee and how I remind her of him. "He never gave up, he made all the kitchen cabinets and other woodwork," said Mrs. Vera. 

Mrs. Womack was an entrepreneur at heart. She was a hairdresser by trade as well. She went back to the only African American beauty school in Kentwood and earned her certification to become a licensed cosmetologist in 1964. She proudly displays her diploma on her wall. When she started school she told the owner that she didn't have a certification but she knew how to do hair. The owner told Mrs. Womack that she groomed and styled hair better than some women who were licensed.  She was determined to do what it took to help support her family. 

I really enjoyed sitting and talking with her. I hope to live to see her age and most importantly I would like to be in good health like her. Mrs. Vera out lived all her of her sibling. But the memories of her deceased loved one will forever live in her heart. 

Odile Beauty School
Mrs. Vera B. Womack