As teens, what are we thankful for?

December 12, 2009
By Carmen Blackwell BRONZE, Destrehan, Louisiana
Carmen Blackwell BRONZE, Destrehan, Louisiana
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

As teens, what are we thankful for?

Born as the first child of ten children, Grace Nedd Dominans still lives a long and healthy life. She is the daughter of Lucinda and August Nedd, now at 92 years of age she speaks of her life in her teen years. Relating to teens around our age, she goes into descriptive detail in what old New Orleans started out as, from the beginning. She feels the need to express her life story to teenagers, and hopes that her story reaches out to teens that either have more or less in means of living, as she did. Mrs. Dominans states, “Times have changed since I was a girl, and these teenagers sure do have it made.” Times were rough and of plentiful, and as Dominans describes, today is nothing of what current day’s teens have to offer.

What was one thing about growing up in such a large family that annoyed you as a teenager?

I was thankful for everything I was given. We worked from sun up to sun down. We walked to school and back, and we had chores before school and when we got home from school. Traveling an 8.6 mile distance twice a day, was exhausting in its self. As a little girl, my siblings and I attended a very small school, in which I recall, hadn’t a name yet. It was a community school for black children, and was built in 1911. Since racism was heavy at the time, African American boys and girls were crammed into 1 classroom. The least they could do was separate the kids from grade levels, with underclassmen (younger children) towards the front, and the older ones in the back. Versus the wealthy, white children who had newly built facilities and separate schools for boys and girls. There was no aggrevation acquired because we had things to occupy us that we knew needed to be done, and the sooner we had them done, the sooner we could eat. After taking a bath at night, we would gather around a small fire, or an oil lamp (because of no electricity) and talk about everyone’s day as a family, and papa would tuck us in to bed.

Being in such a large family how were your means of education, and what did you plan on doing with your future, as a teen?

Well, since our family was not wealthy, we were considered “very poor.” I stayed in school up until graduating from the eighth grade. The highest level of education offered at that time was eighth grade. That was considered a good education for girls, and that’s all we were able to accomplish. Shortly after, I fled off to California to find any means of work. I wanted more for myself and I took the opportunity to find work closer to my relatives, where opportunities were greater.

Was their segregation times when you were growing up, as a citizen of the South, and did it affect you in any way?

Segregation times were prevalent in my age, growing up, being in the South. Racism was very prevalent when I was growing up, and the issue was such a big deal in my community, that although I loved my family, getting out of New Orleans and moving to California was such a relief. Racism was one of the main reasons I felt that I had to leave. There weren’t that many opportunities available here for women, there was much more to offer in northern states. For me, there was California where I had relatives and worked at a parachute factory during the war. I ended up getting hurt at work, and later opened up an alteration and sewing shop in the early 1960s. My business became successful, so with that money I began to sell real estate. I became interested in real estate business, so I went back to school, received my license, and became a real estate agent. In the late 1970s, I returned to New Orleans, but only to visit family. I was 26 at that time, but I still had no desire of staying anywhere New Orleans. I had no interest in staying in a town, in which I felt didn’t want me to stay! Racism was still at high standards, and something I didn’t wish to be a part of again, nor raise a family.

What are some of your favorite things to do? Hobbies, activities, etc.

Now, I’m rather old and disabled. As a teen, I enjoyed playing with my brothers and sister, and my father telling us stories before bedtime. These days, my activities are limited, and I’m most definitely not the youthful young woman I used to be. I’ve overcome two knee replacements in the past 40 years. I love to cook; being a New Orleans girl, my passion for food will never die! Coming down to visit with family is always the highlight of my year. Especially treating my grandchildren to coffee and beignets in the ole’ French Quarter! Another one of my favorite hobbies would be gardening. There’s just something about the growth of plant life and savoring the sweet smell of flowers that indulges me. I also enjoy family visits from the family that I have left, and spending time with my best friend, Grace Read. Growing older seems to get in the way of what used to be some of your favorite things to do.

Do you feel that you’ve lived a long and prosperous life?

Yes, I’ve lived my days to the fullest. I’ve seen places and done things that I never dreamed of being financially able to accomplish. I’ve drawn out a long and happy life, that I can honestly say, I’m highly satisfied with. I’ve lived through a tough age where I can honestly say I’m over-joyed that I’ve made it through, but I’m exhausted! Now, I feel it’s time to enjoy the simple things in life. To have lived this long to see the world blossom to what it has become, through its’ good and its’ bad, is a blessing. I regret nothing. I only live to hope that I’ve earned my place after I’m gone. From 1919 to 2009, and still moving about this world?! What more to ask for…

The author's comments:
This interview was produced from a primary source, Mrs. Isabella Nedd. As a student, I was interested in her hard times of life. I figured growing up in times of racism,war, and with a poor family of ten children was hard enough, yet she inspired me when she made the comment that she was "thankful" for everything that she had. To have so little and to be thankful for what you do have, is an aspect of life that today's teens don't always grab a hold of too early.

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