My mother used to call it…living to the other side of things. Here in this charming photograph, still at the beach are Martha Battle Mebane and John Marvin Mebane. They have made it to the other side of things! When I first went to U. of Ky. and joined a sorority, I didn’t understand the question that was asked during rush chapter meetings.”Who is her father?” The answer is a southern ‘thing’ that places a person in a family and a setting. (My mother may have dated your father during college, our families might have spent summers at the same beach.) I came to embrace the question rather than thinking it was the height of …what difference does it make.
Who was Martha Battle’s father? He was Thomas Hall Battle. Lawyer, Banker, Treasuer of Rocky Mount Mills, Mayor of Rocky Mount, and was head of the school board when he met his third wife, Mary Weddell who had come to interview for a job. (His first two wives died in child birth.) They had two daughters, Martha and Mary Thomas, who is still alive and cherished. Every summer the family headed to Mile Post 13-Nags Head.
Martha and her future husband, John Marvin, known as Marvin or Spike. met while Martha was at St Mary’s and Spike at Davidson. In 1942-43 Martha transferred to Converse College near Davidson. Martha was outstanding in every way and it makes us smile to know she was even a member of the May Court. The couple married in June of 1944. Spike left in July for France and joined Patton’s army. He was a Lieutenant promoted to Captain at the end of the war. In the 1950’s the family lived on Taylor Street. In 1961 they moved to 1404 West Haven Blvd. Sunday evenings in West Haven Martha and Spike, with close friends, always gathered. This was typical for the social times of that period. Spike owned a shoe store downtown on Main Street, a kind and generous man who was known to give away a pair of shoes when someone couldn’t pay.
Martha & Spike with their growing family continued the trek to the beach each summer where they took the ferry to reach Nags Head. Martha packed pimento cheese sandwiches and brought along Cokes for the journey. At sixty-five years of age, Spike retired and closed the shoe store. We don’t want to forget Lizzie….considered family, she looked out after the Mebane’s; cooking, caring for the house, the children. Lizzie’s place in the Mebane family is guaranteed with love and gratitude.
Martha’s mother, Mary Weddell, was a loving and generous woman. She was the official babysitter for Martha’s five children. Called ‘Gran’ she died in 1978 at age 87. She lived in the beautiful home at 132 N. Church with a large wrap around porch. Like her daughter Martha, she was active at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church. Mary moved to Lafayette Ave close to her grandchildren, who would ride their bikes to visit, to play cards, bake cookies, and read stories. She taught Mary Kemp how to ride her bike. We find ‘Gran” and her oldest daughter, Martha, in these old black and white photos.
This picture on the right was taken at Nags Head about 1953 at the Kemp Battle Cottage, called the “B Hive.” ‘Gran,’- Mary Weddell, sits on the left and is holding Mary Kemp. Martha and Spike Mebane are on the right side. Mary Tom is sitting in front of her mother and baby Mary Kemp. That’s young John with his boots on! Some members of the Billy Harrison family are also in this picture. Click on the photo and zoom in.
The second photo is taken on the front side porch at ‘Gran’s’ house on Church Street. Martha is holding Mary Kemp, Mary Tom is in the middle and ‘Gran’ is on the far right. That’s sister Marty and brother John at the front. Am I foolish to think you will strain to see these faces, to put the story together with them? I call it honoring the past, a past we must not forget because it is my family, your family, on whose shoulders we stand. Let’s join Martha Battle Mebane and her family over a glass of sweet tea and pimento cheese sandwiches on the porch. See you tomorrow for the final Day 3 at the beach.