Stories concerning my wonderful childhood friend Brother Mose Graham abound in my memory. In the racially segregated South in the 1950’s a black person was always addressed by his first name, and I don’t recall anyone ever using the title Mr. Our family loved and respected Mose Graham so much we called him “Brother Mose.” I never heard anyone address him as Mr. Mose, and I’m certain he never heard it either.
His responsibilities at our home included maintenance of our large yard and grounds and heavy-duty housework such as moving furniture or any objects too heavy for Sister Bobbie. He occasionally would stay after hours to baby-sit my sister Marilyn and me when needed, but this was rare. In remembering his actions Brother Mose never sat in any chair in the house except on a stool 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.” The quarters contained a bed, a chair, a small lavatory and a toilet. They would also use the Servant’s Quarters for short rest periods during their workdays which was lasted seven to eight hours.
As a young boy I didn’t understand why Brother Mose wouldn’t use a bathroom in our home or sit beside me at the table when I was eating alone in our 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 Masta. 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 the moniker much like a nick-name. In the beginning I was embarrassed but accepted it as a loving name from them.
When Mom had 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 or usually in the kitchen in case Mom needed any extra help. He never mingled with the ladies nor interacted socially, although most of them knew him by name. He never wore a special white jacket for any social event, but only his usual work clothes. The picture above is how he dressed every day. He liked suspenders so he never wore a belt.
On this particular occasion Mom had invited her garden club to our home for their monthly meeting. I assume the meeting was rotated to the other homes also, since I don’t remember having the garden club in our home very often. As the ladies arrived Mom had some cookies and small cakes on the living room table but did not any drinks on the table. When she asked if anyone would like something to drink one lady responded with, “I would love a glass of water.” Several other ladies responded they too would love water. Mom went 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 noticed it took Brother Mose an unusually long time to bring the water but didn’t go 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 needed cleaning he took time to 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. 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 believe they would have enjoyed having their water while looking at the classic Disney character painted on their particular glass. Brother Mose was so loved by all of us Mom never corrected him for his choice of glasses, and he probably continued thinking he was serving the ladies with our very finest. Such was the unpretentious nature of Brother Mose!
Reminds me of the movie THE HELP which was wonderful. Cathy will remember Phemie (Euphemia) and her daughter Vivian. Stories get blurred when they involve segregation. Iâll never forget trying to breakup a Klan cross-burning in south Georgia at a junior college where I worked in summers in an Upward bound program. My students stopped me and told me to leave the Klan alone. Really scary.
Happy Birthday. I know yours is soon. We have outlived our parents if we make it to 78. Cathy reminded me of that years ago, so I pray we both make.