Christmas is Mrs. Walker's time for friends and family
Novella Walker is a very busy lady and an active member of the Caraway Senior Citizen Group. It is only fitting she represent Caraway as the 2009 Christmas Angel.
Novella was born in Sylamore, the daughter of Martha (Stevens) and Lige McGinnis. The nine McGinnis siblings included Edith, Erstle, Leon, Joella, Novella, Edward, Laverne, Emma Jean, and Nora Lynn.
"I was definitely a mountain girl," Walker said. "We moved from Sylamore to Batesville, then to Cane Mountain, Tuckerman, Clover Bend and Bono."
"We had a well-rounded life and learned all kinds of skills growing up. We chopped and picked cotton, raised big gardens and raised our own pigs and cows. We knew how to take care of things and how to get by from season to season."
"No matter where we were when it came Christmas time, we celebrated in a big way. We would have the best treats in our stockings, like chocolate drops and hard candy. We were real excited about that. We would go into the woods and cut a Christmas tree and decorate it with strung berries and popcorn. Of course, we had to make long paper chains. We had no electricity so there were no lights on it. Still it was beautiful.
The family always went to Novella's grandmothers for dinner, and met with the rest of the family. "There was tasty food everywhere, and that made it a big celebration," Mrs. Walker said.
"When I started school it was all in one big room, out in the country," Walker said. "All the grades were in that same room. I don't see how a teacher could meet that challenge, but she did."
The McGinnis children took part in school Christmas plays and programs at church. The whole community, made up of all their friends and family, would attend.
"When we had books to read, we would read at night by the lamplight," she said. "It seemed to give off a lot of light, as that was all we were used to. Any light is better than no light, and we were proud to have it."
Novella met her husband, James Walker, at Bono, and they married when she was just 18 years old. They were farmers by trade.
"James lived just down the road from us, and we had been friends for some time," Walker said. "We were good friends for years. We got married just before he was called for the Army on June 5, 1943. He ended up not having to go, which made me very proud."
The Walkers moved to Caraway in 1944 and started work at Pritcherd's Farm. They later moved south of town on Hackberry Road to work the Arnold farm.
"We farmed for 25 years," Walker said. "Our first son Charles was born before we left Bono, but Carol (Robertson), Betty (Nelson) and James Dwynne were all born here in Caraway.
"We didn't have electricity when Charles and Carol were little but had it after Betty and James came along. They all loved the beautiful Christmas lights on the tree.
"Caraway was a very busy place back then, with cars lining the streets. We had carnivals come to town and celebrations of all kinds. We have always been a close group of people and still are today. We like to get out and visit with each other.
"I learned to cook on a wood stove when I first got married but have a nice gas heated one now. I sure have things easy now to how I have had in the past.
"Food is a big part of Christmas, and we always seem to have plenty of it. The kids and grandkids looked forward to dolls, bikes and such. I mostly just like getting together and watching them all."
The Walkers moved into the city of Caraway in 1952, and their last home was on School Street. Mr. Walker died during heart surgery in 1977 and Mrs. Walker carried on. She worked at Basler Electric and kept up the yard herself, until she was 72 years old. She moved into an apartment uptown in 2003.
"I go to the Senior Citizen Center every day and just love the fellowship there," Walker said. "We visit and play games. My favorite game is Chicken Scratch.
"I love taking part in all activities at the First Baptist Church. We have some beautiful programs this time of year, which makes Christmas even more special. I have seven grandkids now and nine great grandchildren. I love to see them take part in things when I can."
"My good friends, Pat Humes, Geneva Mangrum, and Morene Fincher, see to it that I don't miss anything. I don't drive, but they are my wheels, and I am thankful for them."
"Christmas is all about friends and family, and I am blessed with both," she said. "We laugh together, and love together, and eat a lot of good meals together. I am most fortunate to be surrounded by so many people that care about me. I always look forward to the new year. I love living here in Caraway, where people care for one another. We are just a big family."