Ashland, blind, Charles Dickens, Cleveland, Ed Haley, Ella Haley, England, Freddie Smith, Great Expectations, Harts Creek, history, Jack Haley, James Hager, John Hartford, Kenny Smith, Kenny Smith Jr., Kentucky, Kentucky School for the Blind, Lawrence Haley, Michigan, Mona Haley, Mona Lisa Hager, Morehead Normal School, Morehead University, music, Noble Boatsman, Ohio, Pat Haley, Patsy Haley, Ralph Haley, Ralph Mullins, Raymond Willis, Robin Hood, Scott Haley, Washington DC, Wilson Mullins, writing
That evening, back at Lawrence’s, I was full of questions about Mona. She had made a real impression. As I spoke about her, I could sense a little hostility from Pat, as if there were years of family trouble between them, barely hidden away.
“Mona was married to Wilson Mullins,” Pat said. “He was from Harts. Mona was fourteen, I guess, when she married and he was 23 years older than her. She had one boy by Wilson Mullins — Ralph Andrew, who was named after Ralph Andrew Haley. When I came over here in 1949, Mona was divorced from Wilson and she was married to a Kenny Smith. She had two boys by Kenny Smith. Freddie lives in Michigan and Kenny Jr. lives in Ohio. Kenny Sr. is dead. Had a heart attack in Cleveland.”
After a brief marriage to Raymond Willis, a railroad engineer in Ashland, Mona married James Hager.
Pat said, “We met him once. I think they lived in Ohio.”
Mona had a daughter by Mr. Hager named Mona Lisa.
Pat seemed to think the most of Lawrence’s brother, Jack.
“Jack was a very devoted husband and father and had a beautiful home,” she said. “He worked very hard. Larry and Jack were very, very close. Jack was five years older than Lawrence.”
Jack’s wife Patsy had done a lot of family research “but found nothing beyond Uncle Peter and Aunt Liza.”
I asked if Patsy had any pictures of Ed and Pat said, “No more than what we have, because when Rounder Records came to Larry and we was getting pictures for them we went up to Pat’s and Larry got records from them. Jack had four or five records left and their son Scott brought those to Washington and whatever pictures they had.”
Pat promised to ask Patsy if she had anything.
Later that night, Lawrence told me more about his mother. He said Ella was a very small person, only about five feet tall. As a young woman, she attended the Kentucky School for the Blind at Louisville and earned a piano teaching certificate at the Morehead Normal School (now Morehead University).
“Mom was very refined,” Pat said. “No matter where she went, you could always tell she was an educated lady. Mom had very good manners. She was very good at speaking. And when you saw her and Pop together, and listening to both of them, you could tell there was a vast difference in the way they were raised.”
“Mom would read Dickens to us,” Lawrence said. “Robin Hood, Great Expectations — all them classical stories that came out of England and places at that time.”
When young, Ella was proficient at playing the piano and organ. After marrying Ed, she learned to play the mandolin and banjo-mandolin so that she could play “his type of music.”
“She used to sing more of the old English-type music,” Lawrence said. “Little nonsense stuff. We’d ask for it a lot of times ’cause we didn’t have anything else but the radio. I remember her singing one that had to do with a sea captain and it went something like this:
There was a noble boatsman.
Noble he did well.
He had a lovin’ wife
But she loved the tailor well.
And then it went on to state that the sea captain had to take his boat and go on a trip and he left his house and kissed his wife and started out. And the local tailor came in. And it just so happened the captain had forgot his sea chest so he came back and when he knocked on the door the wife was trying to find a place for him to hide. Guess where he hid? In the sea chest. And what happened to the tailor, he got chucked into the sea sometime or another on that cruise.”