Written by Heather Blizzard Meadows, granddaughter of Ned Alday.
My entire life, every year, when May approached I knew what to expect, what comments would be made, and how I would look inside my mother’s eyes and see the sadness of what occurred on May 14, 1973, come to life all over again – the tragic murder of six members of her family.
Each year she would look at the faces of the men that murdered them, in the paper or on the news, and the pictures from the funeral services, but rarely did you see the pictures of the victims before this day occurred. As I got older I wondered why the victim’s life was never focused on, because long before they died, they lived. They lived a simple life, a good life. They were good people, the type of people if someone needed a hand, they were there to lend it.
I was not born when these murders occurred but growing up just a mile from my Mawmaw, Ernestine Alday and listening to my mom’s stories about them growing up, I feel as though in some ways I knew them. My mom was the one that often told stories from their life growing up on the farm to us at Christmas time. My cousin would often request Aunt Nancy tell us about the “good old days” and she would oblige. Some of these stories I heard every year and some stories I just recently learned. So now as the 50th anniversary of their death approaches, I would like to tell you a little about the people that lived rather than died.
My grandad, Ned Alday was a character, to say the least. He always had a tall tale to share, or keep the kids going until Mawmaw had to break it up. One of the stories I found the funniest was once he was fishing and he caught a huge carp; he often told that that carp was so big that he later used the scales to shingle his barn. Another time he caught a fish so big that it turned sideways and blocked the entire Mosehole Slew (a popular fishing hole back in the day). So, you see like any true southern fisherman, he had his fishing tales and he loved to share them. He was also a plain spoken man that did not bite his tongue; I as a child was the same way. I can remember my mama saying to me “Okay, Lil Ned just tell it like it is.” Then that was something that I didn’t really comprehend, but now it is something I hold as an honor to be anything like my grandad in any way. One of his favorite things to do was get the boys all riled up wrestling or giving each other “red bellies” and then say, “Mom these boys are in here misbehaving you better come get them”, which often led to Mawmaw grabbing the broom and them stopping … stopping something that he had instigated.
Jerry was the oldest of the three boys that were killed. Jerry led the music at Spring Creek Baptist Church, and from what I am told had an outstanding voice. In fact, Jerry like singing so much, he was often known to sleep walk and sing Old Suzanna at night until he eventually woke himself up or someone in the house woke him up. He was the dresser of the family. He always liked his clothes neat and was a perfectionist about it, as well as most other aspects of his life. Mom often told that if he bought an outfit he didn’t like he would come home, unstitch it and sew it back like he wanted it to fit. She vividly remembers waiting on him to redo a swimsuit one time before they could go swimming. I often wonder if this is what attracted Mary to him, because she herself was always dressed well, never a hair out of place; she was a true Southern Lady in not only her dress but her lifestyle. She was known to cook meals for various people in the community. She was an exceptional cook; in fact my dad will tell you to this day she cooked the best blueberry pie he has ever eaten.
Chester, better known as Shuggie to his family and the community, was much like granddaddy in that he loved a good tale tell or prank. He was the one that kept everything lively, so to speak, when the family was together. Mom told me a story recently about Uncle Shuggie that there was a huge mud puddle in the front yard and granddaddy told all the kids they better not get in that mud puddle; well Uncle Shuggie, being the person he was, jumped in the mud puddle when granddaddy was not looking and when he spotted him he grabbed a newspaper and spanked Shuggie good. Mom and her younger siblings were so upset that Shuggie got a spanking, let me remind you with a newspaper, that they sat on the front porch and cried. The siblings all had a very special bond for sure, the empathy shown from a newspaper spanking shows it. Somehow I think he would have been my favorite uncle … you know, the fun uncle, so to speak.
Jimmy was the adventurous one of the bunch. He was always up for exploring. He even had an old purse that grandma had thrown out with a small frying pan, that grandma had gotten out a cereal box and gave him, along with some salt and pepper, and a small amount of oil that he kept hidden for his adventures. He would kill a bird, dress it and cook it on a make shift grill or small fire at the edge of the woods. He loved to climb trees and could often be seen in the top of a very large oak right close to their home. One day he tied candy up in the top of that tree to entice his younger siblings to climb the tree and join in on the fun, which they were excited to do because candy was a treat back then, not something you had daily. Of course, the shenanigans only happened when grandma had gone to town, because they knew she would get them if she found out. Jimmy was a very smart young man; while he didn’t always make the best grades in school, he was known to sit around and read encyclopedias for the fun of it. He found it a way to learn about things that he may not be exposed to in everyday life.
My great uncle Aubrey, I honestly don’t know as much about, since he didn’t grow up on the farm. What I have been told about him was he was a happy man. Mom said you rarely saw him that he didn’t have a huge smile on his face. He loved to keep something fun stirred up with the farm hands and could often be caught pulling the prank of scaring the others on the farm, something he got a big kick out of. He loved children, and spent a lot of time with his children and grandchildren. His nephews he worked with were an extension of his family as well, they all had a very special bond. He loved his wife, Aunt Inez, tremendously, and throughout the years of knowing her it was very evident she loved him and her family with all she had.
So as you can see, this family was a family that not only lived, but lived a good life, a family based life, a God fearing life.
When you saw one family member you often saw them all, especially when it came to the three boys. The three of them were all saved on the same day, all joined the church on the same day, all were baptized on the same day, all later became ordained deacons on the same day, and sadly all lost their lives on the same day … and in my heart of hearts I know they all entered their eternal home of Heaven the same day.
The story of the Aldays would not be complete to me without telling just a little about the matriarch of the Ned Alday family, my Mawmaw – Ernestine Alday, she was my person! While she did not lose her life that day, a part of her died as well. A life that she had grown accustomed to and loved ended and a new life she faced, not knowing what the future would hold. She was often asked “How did you survive this?” … and her answer was always the same … “What choice did I have? …What choice did I have? … You can either lay down and quit or you can pull yourself up and move forward.” She did move forward and lived a good life full of memories with the surviving children, their children and even some great grandchildren, some memories that included these stories which I shared today. One of the memories that I remember so vividly, I was around ten years old, sitting beside her in a testimony service at Spring Creek Church and when it was her time to share she stood up and said. “I have been through a lot in my life but I am not bitter, because God has made a way for me to get through. So I forgive Carl Isaccs for what he has done, as much as I hate it, and as much as I would change it if I could … I forgive him because in order for the Lord to forgive me, I must forgive him”. Those words at a young age taught me about the type of person I wanted to be … words that showed no matter what you face in life that God can get you through it.
I guess if I was to sum up what I think my family represented and represents today …” “Love God, Love People”, a legacy of which I am proud; a family that continued to impact the lives of others in this community and other areas for many generations; a family that still today tries to make a positive impact.
Growing up an “Alday” has been a privilege.