Mary Sharp#039;s homemaking skills rival Martha Stewart#039;s

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 31, 2005

Scarlett O'Hara wasn't the only Southern Belle that ever saved her family from ruin by sewing up a dress! 91-year-old Mary Sharp took in sewing when she was 14-years-old and made dresses for ladies from as far away as New York City.

Sharp said a friend of her mother's moved to New York and sent her patterns and material back for her to sew.

"Mama would cut something out and leave it on the dining room table," she said. "And I'd sew it up before she got back in the house! Mama's friend in New York told other ladies about me and I started sewing for them too. They were paying me real good when I was only 14."

Sharp, who was born in Montgomery in 1914 on Plum Street, said she inherited her homemaking talents from her mother.

"Mama could sew or grow anything," she said. "She had every rose bush imaginable and rooted clipping she got everywhere. She had a cow named Bossy, who was just like one of the family, and we had plenty of fresh milk and butter. She was famous for her cooking and she made all of our clothes and sewed for other people. She had a beautiful flower and rose garden."

Sharp said her daddy worked for the L&N Railroad and he traveled a lot when she was growing up.

"There were six of us children and I was oldest girl," she said. "All my brothers played the guitar and banjo and Daddy played music professionally. We all sang and I can still remember the words to all the songs from back then."

Sharp said she knew her husband when she was a little girl because he lived just across the railroad tracks from her family.

"I went to school with him," she said. "Floyd Cecil Sharp was the only sweetheart I ever had and I married him when I was 18. He was working in civil service at Gunter Air Force Base when World War II broke out. My oldest brother was one of the 900 men that went down on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor. I'll never forget that day as long as I live. We had our three children but Floyd said he was going to join the navy and he did. But he got to stay in the United States."

Sharp said when Floyd joined the navy his allotment check got mixed up and the first three months she and the children didn't receive any money.

"I knew it was just a mix-up," she said. "But I didn't tell my Mama or my children. I just took in all the sewing I could."

Sharp said she sewed wedding gowns, bridesmaid and flower girl dresses and started sewing for the Addie Laura Fiddler Dance Studio. She said she sewed 400 costumes for a dance recital.

"I got my first electric Singer sewing machine in the 40s and I felt like I was rich," she said. "I belonged to a sewing circle that made quilts and I taught sewing. I did crochet and needlepoint and changed my flower garden every season. People would come by and stand on the sidewalk and look at my flowers."

Sharp said in 1979 her son-in-law took a job in California and she and her husband moved out there with them.

Sharp said at 65 she continued to garden and sew in California and people still enjoyed coming by to see her flower garden.

"We lived through two 5.7 (on the Richter scale) earthquakes," she said. "And felt tremors at least once a week because we lived on the San Andreas Fault line. You could feel the whole house moving."

Sharp said their concrete garage floor and several walls in the house cracked and her daughter, Betty's, pool, that was six-feet deep, sloshed out. She said they moved back to Gantt in 1989 with her daughter Betty Killough because her son-in-law had family there. She said Floyd died in 1992 and she lived with her daughter until she came to the nursing home.

Betty said, "I inherited Mama's talent for sewing and flowers and my grandmother's talent for cooking. Mama said I didn't get cooking from her because she never really liked to cook!"

Sharp said she's seen a lot of changes in her life and that people have things much easier than she did. She enjoys reminiscing about her flower garden and sampling all the baked goodies her daughter brings to the nursing home. She said she grew up a Methodist and later became a Baptist but Sunday morning's now find her watching John Ed Matheson on television.

Sharp has eight grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren. She is a resident of Luverne Health and Rehab.