Yesterday would’ve been my grandmother’s 100th birthday.
Born in 1916, Miriam Dodd Little Mowry lived the Great Depression, Two World Wars, the assassination of JFK and MLK, the roaring sixties, the Cold War, the Space Race, two kids and four grandchildren.
She saw women gain the right to vote, The New Deal, the baby boomer age, the radicalism of the ’70s and the postmodernism of the late twentieth century.
Her life serves as a mental map of Charlotte to me. Born off Tryon Street, she attended Central High (now CPCC’s Central Campus) in the early 1930s, studied at Queens University and worked in what’s now the outskirts of uptown. She attended St Peter’s Episcopalian Church, and it was here that my father and uncle were raised, as acolytes and choirboys.
When she married my grandfather, they moved to Mallard Creek Road, where Mowry’s General Merchandise Store was established. It was there that she’d live out the next five plus decades.
On a personal level, she was a cultivated woman of music and faith. A musician, she played the organ and piano and directed the Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church choir for years. In her Queens days, she formed a 1930s girl band of sorts, featuring piano and accordion. They were called the Stardusters.
Memaw was a contradiction of sorts: a conservative woman who herself wasn’t married until her thirties, which was veritable spinster age in those days. She was a driving factor in my first musical introduction, picking me and Diana up every week from Mrs. Fabian’s house and taking us back to her place, where we’d watch Nickelodeon or Andy Griffith and stuff ourselves with Nutrageous candy bars.
We played duets and sang at her upright, she came to all our recitals, and when I entered university in 2006 and needed a new viola, Memaw helped me fund it. I remember her driving me, in her blue Pontiac, to Brotd’s Music Company and picking out my first metronome.
Music was important, faith was important, family was important.
Her health failed quickly after her 90th birthday. There was a big February celebration and family from Illinois, Iowa and Tennessee came down for the weekend. She would always say how she didn’t want any fuss, but what a legacy, what a milestone – one worth celebrating. She died three months later, the week of my high school graduation.
100 years is a long time. Here’s to you, Miriam Dodd. Thanks for the piano lessons and the moral grounding, and for spoiling your first grandchild rotten. I hope we make you proud.