I have written several stories about my wonderful childhood friend and teacher Mose Graham. In the racially segregated 1950’s one almost always addressed a Black-American by his first name and seldom ever used the courtesy titles Mr. or Mrs. Our family loved and respected Mose Graham so much we always called him “Brother Mose.” I never heard anyone ever address him as Mr. Mose, and I feel certain he never heard it either.
His responsibilities at our home included yard maintenance and heavy-duty housework such as moving furniture or any objects too heavy for Sister Bobbie and generally assisting in any inside work Mom thought necessary. He occasionally would stay after hours to guard my sister Marilyn and me when needed, but this was rare. In remembering his activities and actions Brother Mose never sat in any chair in the house except in the kitchen while having lunch. He never even considered using one of the 3 bathrooms inside the house, but he and Sister Bobbie had the use of a small room attached to our home which we called “the servant’s quarters” which contained a bed, a chair, a small lavatory and a toilet. They used the servant’s quarters for short rest periods during their workdays which was usually 7-8 hours.
As a young boy I never understood why Brother Mose wouldn’t use a bathroom in our home or sit beside me at the table when I was eating alone in the breakfast room. On many occasions while having his meal in the kitchen I invited him to join me at the breakfast room table, but he politely refused by saying, “That’s alright Master. I’m jes’ fine right here.” He and Sister Bobbie called me “Master” not because they were ordered or I demanded, but because they loved me and had given me that moniker much like a nick-name. In the beginning I was embarrassed by the name but accepted it as a loving name from them.
When Mom would have a social event at our home with ladies from her garden club or from the church she depended on Brother Mose to arrange the furniture and make certain everything was clean and orderly. As the ladies arrived he remained in the background and usually in the kitchen while they were there just in case Mom needed any extra help. He never mingled with the ladies nor interacted socially with any of them although most of them knew him by name. He never wore a special white jacket for any event, but always his usual work clothes, and the picture above is how I remember he dressed every day. He liked suspenders, and I don’t recall him ever wearing a belt.
On this particular occasion Mom had invited her garden club to our home for their monthly meeting. I assume the meeting place was rotated to the homes of the members, because she didn’t have the garden club in our home very often. As the ladies arrived Mom had some cookies and small cakes on the living room table where the meeting would occur but did not have any drinks on the table. When she asked if anyone would like a drink the first lady responded with, “I would love a glass of water”, the other ladies responded in kind. Mom went back into the kitchen and asked Brother Mose if he would bring a tray of glasses of water for the 8 ladies in the living room. “Yes’um, I’ll be glad to.”
Mom noted it took Brother Mose an unusually long time to bring the water but didn’t go back into the kitchen to check on his reason for delay. When he finally arrived in the dining room with the water Mom knew the reason. She said Brother Mose had gone into her cabinet and found one of her large Sterling silver trays, but when he saw the tray it needed cleaning, so he took the time to completely clean the tray with silver polish. Right in the midst of the beautifully polished tray were 8 of what Brother Mose considered our finest serving glasses, Welch’s Jelly glasses! In those days Welch’s Grape Jelly came in a colorfully decorated glass so when the jar was empty, it could be washed and used as an orange juice glass for children. My sister Marilyn and I loved having our juice each morning in a Welch’s glass.
When Mom saw the glasses she quietly and politely asked Brother Mose if he would exchange those colorful glasses for plain glasses which the ladies would prefer. I actually believe they would have enjoyed having their water while looking at those classic Disney characters, and might have even compared characters with each other. Brother Mose was so beloved by all of us Mom never corrected him in his choice of glasses, and he probably continued thinking he was serving the ladies with our very finest. He was such a kind and unpretentious man!