Family, friends make Christmas special for Mrs. Pyland
Alma Pyland of Monette loves Christmas and is reminded daily of her youth spent at upper Poplar Ridge, west of Monette, her years in Michigan raising her family, and her return to her homeland to retire.
"I have had a great life," Pyland said. "I have precious memories of it all, just like it was yesterday. I am surrounded by things that remind me of my past."
Alma is one of the three daughters born to Dee and Bessie Gleghorn. Her sisters are Myrtle Maynard of Jonesboro and Faye Smith of Monette.
"We lived at upper Poplar Ridge," Pyland said. "We usually went to our grandparents house for Christmas dinner. They were Sid and Carrie Thurman. I recall those wonderful coconut cakes she would make, as each layer had a different color of coconut. That took some extra effort on her part and was such a surprise to cut into and eat.
"I don't recall having a Christmas tree when I was young but sure loved to hang my stockings. We always got oranges, nuts and chocolate-drop candy in them. Mother was always busy in the kitchen cooking up treats for Christmas, and it made the house smell so good."
Alma attended Poplar Ridge and Monette schools growing up and made it through the 11th grade before falling in love and getting married.
"Winford (Pyland) was from Poplar Ridge also, and we had grown up together," Pyland said. "He had been in the Air Force, but I had never been very far from home. I was 17 when we decided to get married on May 14, 1949, and he was 21. We took our friends T.A. and Pat Coy with us to get married at a church parsonage in Leachville. We thought we were so grown up."
Winford is the son of Jim and Pearl Pyland and has three older brothers, J.H., V.L., and Chester.
The Pylands moved into a two-room house in the Poplar Ridge community, and he pursued farming while she became a homemaker. After seven years at trying to make a living on the farm they moved to Flint, Mich., so he could work at General Motors.
The Plyands went on to have five children, Shirley Compton, AuGris, Mich., David Pyland, Mt. Morris, Mich., Lenny Pyland and Nancy Pyland, both of Burton, Mich., and Beth Buttes, Flint, Mich. They also have six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
"We had a nice house in the countryside of Flint, with a yard for the kids to play outside," Mrs. Pyland said. "We were always drawn to the country, as that is what we had been used to growing up. Winford always liked gardening."
"The children went to Mt. Morris and Bently schools. I made sure they all finished school, as I had never done that, and I felt it was very important.
"We had a lot of great Christmases in Flint, with trees, lights and lots of decorations. The kids always liked me to cook cakes, chocolate pies and no-bake cookies. Chicken and dressing, sweet corn and purple hull peas have always been a holiday favorite too. Of course, the holidays were filled with a wide variety of food, with family and friends to eat it. The children looked forward to toys at Christmas and we always hid them away until Christmas morning to make it a big event.''
"After 30 years at G.E., Winford retired in 1986. The very day he retired, we packed up and moved back to Arkansas. This is where we wanted to be. We bought this house, on County Road 510 west of Monette. We liked this house from the beginning, as it was near Winford's homeplace. We added on a front porch and enclosed the back. Before long it was comfy and cozy and it seemed like we were just starting all over again, back where we began so many years ago.
"When we first went to Michigan it took us 18 hours to drive, now we can make it in 13 hours. We went back to visit the kids and they came down to visit us."
The Pylands rekindled old friendships here and started going to the Monette Senior Citizen Center for lunch and fellowship. They joined the Monette First Baptist Church and became regulars at services there.
"We stayed quite active until Winford had knee surgery about five years ago and never quite got over it," Mrs. Pyland said. "He ended up in a wheel chair and had difficulty getting around.
"We had a difficult time during the ice storm last year but were able to stay in our home for the two weeks without electricity. As time went by, it was getting more difficult for Winford to get around in this house. Finally, this past February, he moved to Monette Manor. At first he didn't like being away from home. I went up there to be with him every day. Now he likes being there and has made a lot of new friends. They talk and visit all day, and he brags on the food tasting so good. We had a big Christmas celebration out there this week, and the place was filled with visitors. Winford wanted to introduce me to everyone he had met."
Mrs. Pyland has been blessed with good health and continues to visit with friends at the senior center and her church. She is an avid reader and enjoys talking on the phone to friends.
"I went to Michigan in September and spent two weeks visiting the kids," Mrs. Pyland said. "They came to Monette in November to visit us. We love being together when we can, but when we can't we talk on the phone. I love getting new photos of the grandkids and can't believe how fast they are growing up. Christmas has always been about family, whether close by or far away. When I am not with them, I think about them and the wonderful days we have spent together. I am proud of how they all turned out. I am most fortunate to be in a comfortable place surrounded by friends and people who care about me."