Christmases past hold fond memories for Mrs. Caraway

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

If a person could be a landmark, Janella Caraway of Manila would qualify. She has lived most all of her life in Manila and a large part of it at what she calls her corner of the world.

Janella Caraway

Several years ago she built a house on the lot where she was raised. It is on the same property as the 100 year old mule barn and ice house which have both been in her family for many years. The barn and the ice house are landmarks in the community and are maintained very well.

She was born Oct. 16, 1922, to Riley and Ople Dunkin. Her mother's family was early settlers of Manila arriving by wagon. Her dad came to Arkansas from Missouri.

"My dad was adopted," Caraway said. "His dad was a preacher."

The Dunkins made their home in Manila and raised their two children, Janella, and her brother, Jake.

"We went to school at Manila," she said. "We were taught to work. Times were different back then and everyone did whatever it took to survive."

Caraway said Christmas was a special time during their growing up years.

"We looked forward to Christmas," she said. "The girls would get a doll. We would get candy and fruit and have lots of good food. We had the Sears and Roebuck Catalog. We wore the toy pages out just looking."

She was raised during the depression years.

"There was not a lot of money and people had to do the best they could," she said. "We always had plenty to eat. Mom always had a cow and we had butter and milk. She peddled milk and butter. The kids ate in the old log gymnasium at school and she would take buttermilk to school. We always had meat and plenty of vegetables from the garden.

"Our next door neighbor picked blackberries and hunted," she said. "I loved to go see the huge piles of blackberries they would pick. It was unbelievable how many blackberries they could find. He was a hunter and he would have ducks hanging on the side of his house. As I said before, people did what they had to do to survive. The town was thick with stores. Shotgun houses were all along the street. We had restaurants, grocery stores, beauty shops, and other businesses. I grew up with history. We had four cotton gins in town."

The mule barn and ice house were busy places in town. Her dad had one of the first cars in town, a Ford Jetney. It had a crank to start it.

During her high school years Caraway enjoyed playing basketball and that is how she met her future husband, Harold "Trigger" Wall. He was from from Steele, Mo. They married in 1939. He was a basketball referee and a sports enthusiast. He loved horses. They spent the next 26 years attending horse shows, rodeos, and ball games. They raised their two children in Manila. Their daughter, Linda Donovan, lives in Manila. She is an art teacher and serves on the Manila City Council. Their son, Randy, is a banker and lives in Fort Smith.

Mr. Wall died in 1970 but he is still remembered today for his rodeos and his basketball referee years.

"We had fun going to rodeos and horse shows," she said. "We made a lot of good friends. Linda still has a love for her horses. She rides and gives riding lessons."

Caraway said when her kids were growing up they always enjoyed Christmas time with dinners at her mother's house. The family called Mrs. Dunkin Big Mamma.

"We had a good time raising our children," Caraway said.

She has three grandchildren, two living and one deceased. Her granddaughter Tammy Walker lives in Manila and is a truck driver. Caraway has been on the road with her granddaughter in the 18-wheeler and said she is a good driver.

"If I was younger, I think I would have liked to drive a big truck," Caraway said.

Her grandson, Barry Wall, lives in Memphis and works in Tunica.

Her grandson, Stacey Walker, is deceased.

Caraway worked at Farmers Market for 30 years. She retired two years ago. She said she has always liked to work and through the years she has worked at Tiger Levines, beauty shops, and Hayden's Drill Co.

"At Tiger Levines we would stay open until midnight on the weekends," she said. "The streets were full of people. I like to work and I still miss the people," she said. "My ankles started giving me trouble so I had to give it up standing."

She was married to Allen Caraway from 1975 until he passed away in 1991.

"We went to school together and he left here and went out west at a young age," she said. "He was living in Phoenix, Ariz., when he called me."

They made their home in Manila and enjoyed traveling.

Caraway stays busy. She is the president and a charter member of the Manila Business Women.

"We have always had a good group in the business women," she said.

Every year they make over 1,000 fried pies as a fundraiser to help with the Christmas baskets and other activities they support. They offer scholarships to graduating seniors. If there is a need, they will host a bean dinner to help. They are open to community needs.

She has been a member of the First United Methodist Church for many years.

She is looking forward to Christmas this year.

"It is not the same as when the kids were home and the grandchildren were young but it is still a wonderful time of the year," she said. "Christmas has always been a special time of year."

Caraway said she has lived through a lot of history from the depression, rationing during World War II, floods, tornados, from the wagon days to today.

"I have been very fortunate," she said. "My health was always great and is still good. I love living on my corner and all in all, the years have been good to me."

Caraway wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and hopes for a good New Year in 2010.

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