Anna Singleton Chapin

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Manila Christmas Angel is Anna Singleton Chapin. She is the daughter of the late Gilbert and Rosie Deal Singleton. She was born in November 1914 in Hornersville. She recently celebrated her 91st birthday and has a lot of fond memories of Christmases from her early years all the way through her adult years.

Her father was a farmer and partner of Shade Shields, son of Captain Shade Shields. Captain Shields was known in the area for his large size.

"Captain Shields and his wife, Emma, of Hornersville, were known as the largest couple and traveled in circuses and shows with Major W.H. Ray and his wife, Jennie Ray, known as the world's smallest couple," Chapin said. "Captain Shields had a grandson my age. His name was Anderson. I remember one year when we were young Anderson and I got new shoes. I started crying because Anderson's shoes were bigger than mine. Captain Shields put me on his lap and held up his foot and asked me if I wanted feet that big. I decided my shoes were fine for me."

Mrs. Chapin said she was 12 or 13 years old the last time she saw Major Ray who traveled on sales tours with Buster Brown Shoes.

When Mrs. Chapin was only 14 months old her mother died with spinal meningitis. Her father remarried two years later and Mrs. Chapin said her stepmother was very good to her.

"She treated me just like she did her own children," Mrs. Chapin said. "If they had not told me, I would never have known that she was not my real mother."

Mrs. Chapin had a younger brother and sister. Her brother died last year and her sister lives in Atlanta.

Her father moved the family to Manila and continued being partners in farming with Captain Shields.

"The Shields owned a cotton gin and my dad took care of the farming," Mrs. Chapin said. "After Captain Shields died, my dad sold out and we moved to Tyronza where Dad managed a plantation for NorCross."

Mrs. Chapin can still remember riding across the fields on horseback with her dad. She said she never minded being out in the fields or working with her dad on the plantation.

"I was the oldest and when Papa needed help, I was more than happy to help," she said. "I appreciate my raising."

Mrs. Chapin said Christmas was a special time growing up. In those days it was not as commercialized as it is today.

Mrs. Chapin grew up and was visiting relatives in Manila when she started dating her future husband, Harry Chapin. The couple married in May 1937.

"We had an interesting life together," she said. "We were married 63 years."

"Harry's first job was teaching adult school during the depression days," Mrs. Chapin said. "Harry then went to work at the air base in Little Rock as an engineer keeping up the diesel equipment. He was there for two years before he was called to the Army and moved to Louisiana. He worked on heavy equipment. He got hurt and couldn't walk for a while. He was sent to school in Flint, Mich., and I came home and stayed until he was discharged. We moved to Walnut Ridge College where he finished his education and taught electrical wiring. When he finished we moved home and he worked in Osceola."

Mrs. Chapin decided she would go to school to learn ceramics. She later opened one of the first ceramic shops in Manila. She taught ceramics and worked for the telephone company. She worked at both jobs for five years. She decided to close her ceramic shop. She was a switchboard operator in the days before dial and touch tone. When the dial system came in Mrs. Chapin had worked for the telephones company for over 10 years. She decided to start a new venture working in a flower shop. She was going to design school and found she really loved working as a florist. They eventually bought out the flower shop and moved it to Harrisburg where they stayed several years.

It was at Harrisburg they made a lifelong friend, Terry Muse. Muse came to work in the shop when he was in high school and he later owned her shop.

"I knew right off he had a flair for the florist business," she said. "He now lives in Oklahoma and has won top honors in the business. He has been named top designer of the state several times and won the All-American Cup and first place on the district level in FTD design competition."

Muse still keeps in touch with Mrs. Chapin.

One of the best gifts the Chapins received on their 50th wedding anniversary was a poem composed in their honor by Muse.

"This Boys' Dream"

Years ago you let a young boy come into a flower shop;

You took this boy by the hand and started down a long path;

You had faith and trust in this boy;

You gave and showed him love and training for his dream.

You know he never told you two back then he loved you both, he just didn't understand life;

You both were the start of his life dream;

Dreams can be broken but not this one;

He will go all the way and thank you each day;

You let this boy be a small part of your lives, and he thanks you.

You know "I'm this boy" and my dream you gave me has come true; now, at this stage of my life, let me say "I love you."

The Chapins sold their flower shop in 1964 and went to St. Louis. Mr. Chapin started working as an X-ray technician where he worked until he retired. Mrs. Chapin ran a floral shop for Joggers and taught a design class.

She had some exciting experiences during her 11 years with Joggersts. She was chosen to do the banquet table for the astronaut James Lovell in the 1960s.

"He liked my work and called me personally to order flowers for his wife in Texas," she said.

In 1969 she designed the arm bouquet for Miss America as well as her room floral arrangements.

The Chapins enjoyed their years in St. Louis but always called Manila home. They retired in 1975 and came home where they stayed very active. Mrs. Chapin enjoyed taking art lessons and painting. She started taking painting lessons from Bob Ross in the early 1990s. She hopes to start painting again in the future. She enjoys sharing her work with family and friends.

Mr. Chapin died Dec. 3, 2001.

"I miss him very much," Mrs. Chapin said.

The Chapins did not have children of their own, but Mrs. Chapin said their nieces and nephews have always held special places in their hearts and home. Her brother has nine children and her sister has four.

Due to hip replacement surgery Mrs. Chapin said she does not get around as well as she once did but she is grateful for her 91 years of life and all of the blessings she has received.

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