Lou Allie Heath: A Country Girl’s Life in 488 Pages

By Joy Conklin December 15, 2011 14:09

“I didn’t write it because I thought I was special,” says 101-year-old Lou Allie Heath of her two-volume memoir. “I had just an ordinary country girl’s life.”

Lou Allie was born into a farm family on Nov. 6, 1910, in Erath County, Texas. She taught home economics for 26 years and raised two children in the Bay Area with her husband, Drum, a teacher and building contractor.

When she was 65 and newly retired, Lou Allie caught the genealogy bug from her daughter Mary. She started wishing she knew more about her grandparents and great-grandparents, and decided to leave a record of her own

Lou Allie, four in 1914, standing by the family dog, Buster, outside the backyard gate to the home she was born in.

history for future generations.

Typing was a challenge, since a fall into hot ashes as a toddler left her right hand scarred and one finger permanently bent. But that didn’t stop her. Using her own personal hunt-and-peck typing style, she started writing – a lot some days, a little on others. Some days she didn’t write at all. But she kept at it for 25 years, until 488 pages had piled up.

Mostly she wrote from memory, saving recollections of scrubbing laundry on a washboard beside her mother, and of stirring the soap they made together. She remembers flames shooting out of the gas iron, and the tedious daily duty of making the beds – mattresses stuffed with cotton balls.

“I remember doing all those chores better than I remember what happened yesterday,” says Lou Allie, who moved to Murphys in 1996, along with both daughters. Some facts she collected from other family members. And the parts about farming?

“My late husband, Drum, wrote those,” she says.  “I was writing them, but Drum kept telling me what to say, so I finally handed him the paper and said, ‘Here, you write it.’ ”

In 2001, after struggling for years with macular degeneration, she sat down to write about the 9/11 terrorist attacks. When she realized she couldn’t see well enough to continue, she stopped, leaving someone else to turn that corner of history.

Now, 10 years later, daughters Mary and Vivian are the keepers of the pages of her life, all 12 pounds of them. Woven into those pages are Lou Allie’s memories of her travels to 100 countries, and the honors and awards she received for decades of community involvement. She is pleased that people are interested in what she wrote, but there’s a trace of regret.

“I just wish Drum could know,” she says.

© 2011 Friends and Neighbors Magazine

By Joy Conklin December 15, 2011 14:09