75 F
Saturday, June 10, 2023

A Different Time, A Different Way of Living

Bertha Jackson, 102, was born on January 5, 1921.

“In Sparks [Maryland],”  Jackson added.

These days she likes puzzles. According to her daughter, Delema Jackson, her mother’s previous hobbies included painting and sewing. 

Delema is now Bertha’s sole caretaker. She remained in Bertha’s presence while answering questions about her mother, including what she believes contributed to Bertha’s longevity.

“I’m going to tell you what she tells us. She didn’t drink. She did not smoke. She did not party. She attended church. And, she had one husband,” Delema said, inspiring a chuckle.

Bertha quietly listened as Delema recounted stories about a different time and way of living. Bertha sometimes finished Delema’s sentences, her voice, soft yet audible.

Bertha was reared in an area near Interstate 83 in Monkton, Maryland. Delema said that Bertha’s family raised pigs and had a vegetable garden. Bertha’s father, William Whye worked at a quarry blasting sand and other materials. Bertha’s mother, Ethel Whye, was a maid who performed domestic work in people’s homes, such as cleaning. The mother of nine traveled daily to work in the Mount Washington area of Baltimore. 

Bertha Jackson was recognized as being a queen during a spiritual dance that was held at One God One Thought Center for Better Living.

Lack of social and educational equality sparked ideas to improve inequalities for Blacks in the era when Bertha was coming up.

“The 1930s also saw a renewed mass movement of Baltimore residents calling for national anti-lynching legislation and organizing against police violence. These varied efforts culminated in the 1942 March on Annapolis—the first mass demonstration for civil rights at the state capital,” according to Baltimore Heritage, Inc., a nonprofit historic and architectural preservation organization.

But for a young person like Bertha, change had not yet come through equitable treatment outside of home. Bertha was the sixth child in her family who was educated in Monkton in a “colored school,” according to Delema.

Family life offered a backdrop of appreciation for the little things. It required cooperation, since today’s modern conveniences, such as having a heating system or a washing machine to wash dirty laundry, were absent.

“As a kid, they [my mother and her siblings] had to do a lot of chores that children now would not know anything about like they had to go collect wood and get water from the spring. They had to wash clothes in two pans— one for the wash, one for the rinse and hang them out to dry. They did not have electricity in their house. They had wash tubs. They pretty much lived with kerosene lamps and wood stoves,” Delema reminded.

She added that Bertha’s opportunity to pursue a longer time studying was cut short.

“My mother has always been a person that loves school, and she really wanted to go further in school, but because in Baltimore County at that time for the Black “colored” people, as they called them, the seventh grade was as far as most of them went. And then if they wanted to get further educated, they would have to come into the city,” Delema explained.

She stated that after students completed the seventh grade, they worked. Bertha became a domestic worker. She married her late husband, Warren Jackson. The couple had five children. Warren worked various jobs that included being employed as a truck driver for Baltimore County Public Schools.

Delema added that Bertha prayed and asked God to send her a husband that would treat her the same way she saw her father treat her mother. Delema said that Bertha “got that husband.”

“I had the best parents in the world. They went all out to take care of us and made sure that we had what we needed,” Delema said.  

Delema noted that her parents wanted their children to graduate from high school. Her older siblings designated Delema as the child who would complete her studies, instead of pursuing work early. Delema graduated from Jane Adams High School which was located in Baltimore City in the sixties. She worked for Baltimore County Public Schools for 30 years and became a stationary engineer—a trained person who was a boiler operator.

Bertha and William should be credited for a job well done. While Delema was able to pursue more opportunities than her parents, she noted that other children in the family have been able to climb upward.

“She [Bertha] has granddaughters that are nurses and social workers. Her grandchildren and her great grandchildren have really gone on with the educational part,” Delema said.

Click Here to See More posts by this Author

Related Articles

Get in Touch


Latest Posts