Naomi Killough#039;s factory scrap quilts and a kept promise

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 9, 2006

Naomi Killough is a Crenshaw County icon whose life story has the makings of a good southern novel or a great movie about the South. She grew up on a farm in Crenshaw County, the youngest of 12 children, and she attended Ivy Creek School without an inkling that her simple life would turn out to be anything but simple. In talking with her, I suddenly envisioned Norma Ray standing up on a table in a factory, in the movie of the same name. People are always looking for heroes, and most people in Crenshaw County recognize the name, Naomi Killough.

Very modestly and exact, she talked of her factory days.

&#8220I was working in the factory here in Luverne,” she said. &#8220And then the lady we were riding with started working over in Greenville, so we all went to work over there. I sewed slacks, and I was good. They were throwing away big scraps of material; some pieces were big enough to sew a pair of pants,” she said. &#8220They only got in one shipment of each kind of materials. Well, we got permission and started taking the scraps home to piece quilt tops. I cut them out and sewed them at night. We all did. I made both my sons and all of my grandchildren quilts. Then, I just couldn't quit making the

squares, even though I knew I'd never quilt them!”

She just got interested in doing other things, she said, like going to the Nutrition Center in Luverne, after she retired from the factory at age 65.

&#8220You know, I led the singing down there about eight years,” she said. &#8220Ernie Pearl Hall, a good friend of mine, was our secretary, and we called ourselves ‘The Golden Age Singers.' Myrtle Barfoot was our president, and Ruth Whiddon played the piano, and we were quite a group. We sang every Wednesday at the Nutrition Center, and soon the word got around that we were good, so we started getting invitations to sing for church revivals in Crenshaw County.”

&#8220When I was growing up, they taught music in the schools,” Killough said. &#8220I taught myself to play harmonica, then my brother came along and could beat me playing. My sisters played the old pump organ we had back then. The teacher finally let me teach the music at school. I was all the entertainment we had back then, but we could only play when we weren't picking cotton or chopping wood!”

She married her husband, Guy Killough, in 1933, at her preacher's house in Honoraville when she was 16. They have two sons, Lamon and Lomax.

&#8220It was Guy who got us started traveling,” she said. &#8220Our older son, Lamon, was in the Air Force, and we traveled to every base he was stationed. We traveled when the factory was shut down, and I was laid off. We went to Hawaii and saw the USS ARIZONA Memorial at Pearl Harbor, and you could feel those thousands of men still down there and see parts of the ship. It was sad, but I felt so proud of our country and of our men, seeing all of their names on that big marble wall over there.”

Killough said that they went to Maine twice, both times in the winter. They also went to Washington several times, toured the West, went to Niagara Falls and to Nova Scotia. She said after her husband Guy died in 1982, she started traveling with groups. She even went to London, England, for a week, then on to Israel.

&#8220We went out on the Sea of Galilee in a boat and to the hill of Golgotha where Christ was crucified,” she said. &#8220I felt just like He was walking along with me.”

Her last trip was to the Amish country in Pennsylvania with a group of people from Crenshaw County.

&#8220We got there at milking time,” she said. &#8220And I have never been so surprised! They were milking with a generator- powered milking machine. The cows were trained to come around in a circle, and three men were milking about 20 cows. It beat all I've ever seen! While we were up there, I fell and broke five ribs. I thought sure I'd have to fly back, but the doctor said that the best way back was to ride the bus. It was a real ordeal. I've been lots of places, but home was the best sight I've ever seen on that last trip.”

Killough said that a friend of hers, Betty Stewart, was staying with her before she came into the nursing home in 2005.

&#8220We were cleaning out closets and found a box of my old quilt squares,” she said. &#8220They'd turned brown and needed throwing away, but Betty thought they were so pretty, and she said I'd put too much work into them to throw them away, so I gave them to her. She promised me that if she ever did anything with them, she'd bring them back and let me see them. Well, she kept that promise, and I just couldn't believe how pretty they turned out.'

Stewart said a friend of hers has a daughter, Janice Lunsford, who lives in California and does quilting. When she came home to visit, she took the old quilt squares back to California with her. While Lunsford was in Atlanta, on her way home, she took the quilt squares to an antique dealer who taught quilting, and together they picked out the backing for the period quilt pieces. Lunsford then did the quilting and shipped it back to Betty Stewart as a gift.

&#8220I've gotten so many happy memories of places I've been,” Killough said. &#8220My family treasures the factory scrap quilts I've made them because they're a big part of my lifetime memories, too.”

Born in Crenshaw County in 1917, Killough will be 89 in Feb. of 2006.

She is a resident of the Luverne Health and Rehab and a member of Siloam Baptist Church in Crenshaw County.