We next discussed Jean Thomas, who wanted to feature Ed in her “Wee House in the Wood” production.
“I remember Pop and Mom didn’t care too much for Jean Thomas,” Mona said.
Pat said she had a run-in with Thomas later, long after Ed had died.
“Larry and I went to see Jean Thomas so we could take our cub scouts out there and as soon as she found out he was Ed Haley’s son, she didn’t want a thing to do with him. We never did take our troop out there. She said Pop was blasphemous — which I suppose was true — and he was a drunkard because he would not go along with her plans to be Jilson Setters.”
Mona said, “Bill Day…there was some controversy there between Jean Thomas and Pop and Mom. And I think Bill Day had a lot to do with it. I remember that. He was almost blind. He wasn’t quite blind. He wasn’t blind like Mom and Pop. I wouldn’t say they were friends, but they were acquaintances.”
Mona said Bill Day wasn’t much of a fiddler and seemed to enjoy telling me how his son Clay was cross-eyed and a little “off”.
Talking about Bill Day got us on the subject of his wife, “Aunt Rosie Day.” Mona had great memories of her.
“She kept house for us a lot and lived with us. She was rough. She’s whipped me home a lot of time with switches. She chewed bubble gum all the time and dipped snuff and she would stick bubble gum up all along the door facings and stuff and go back and get it later.”
Pat said, “I knew she dipped snuff. I used to go down and try to clean Aunt Rosie’s house, bless her heart.”
Mona said, “We never called her ‘Aunt Rosie’. We just called her ‘Rosie’. She fell down the steps one time from the landing. She was drunk. Her and Mom had been drinking apricot brandy. I remember it well. They was a stove in the corner and Rosie got down to the landing and missed a step and hit that stove with her head and made a big dent in that stove and never even hurt her. Mom fell down the steps too once, but she fell from the top to the landing. This time Mom fell down, Pop was playing music down in the living room and Mom was dancing upstairs to his music and danced right off the edge of those steps. It didn’t seem to hurt her, either. They could make the house come alive with music. When I would dance, Pop would say, ‘I hear you. I hear you.'”
Pat said Ed used to get drunk and fight with Aunt Rosie Day. He liked to drink with her son-in-law, Manuel Martin. Martin was a bootlegger. He and his wife lived on Durbin Creek up the Big Sandy River. In the 1960s, Manuel got drunk and shot his son at the kitchen table in Canton, Ohio. Lawrence went to see him in the penitentiary, Pat said.
Just before Mona left, I told her, “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you coming over here and talking to me.”
“It’s my pleasure,” she said. “Anything I can do. I’m available.”
At the door, I gave her a big hug and she said, “It’s good seeing you, John. You seem like family.”
A few minutes later, just before I turned in to bed, I mentioned Ralph Haley’s importance in this story. It was Ralph, after all, who had the foresight to record Ed and Ella Haley’s music in the late forties. (Never mind that he wasn’t really Ed’s son or that he recorded him on a machine stolen from the army.) Pat said Ralph helped take care of the family when he was young, like stealing chickens when the kids were hungry. When he was older, he kind of distanced himself from the family by changing his last name from Haley to Payne — perhaps to protest Ed’s treatment of his mother. (This was the surname used on his tombstone in Cincinnati.) The Haleys tried to keep in touch with Ralph’s widow, Margaret, who remarried a younger man named Mel and moved to Florida to work a chicken farm. At some point, she had a grocery store in Tampa called “M&M’s”. In the late forties, Lawrence was stationed nearby and visited. When he went back, her husband put a pistol in his face and ran him off. Pat had no idea why.