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Boyette, Grethel McLamb

October 10, 1920 - August 28, 2017

Daughter of: Junius Vinson and Armatha Parker McLamb

Married: Ray Algram Boyette

Children: Douglas Ray, Donald Larkin, Martha June and Armatha Anne

Grandchildren: Claire, Meredith, and Julia Boyette; Penny, Walton, and Jonah Boyette; Sarah Midgett; Benjamin, Rebecca, and Mary Gaines

Graduate of Four Oaks High School
Johnston County, NC

Graduate of Atlantic Christian College
(Now Barton College)
Wilson, NC


"Miss" Grethel was born on a farm and she lived and worked on a farm until she went away to college. Upon graduation from college she taught school for several years before leaving the profession to become a full time wife and mother. She did lots of volunteer work through the years with the Girl and Boy Scouts, the Parent-Teacher Associations, the Red Cross and the Mental Health Association of Johnston County. She worked with other groups at fundraising and other special projects. As the wife of the Chairman of the Johnston County School Board for twelve years, both she and her husband were active in school affairs and politics.

Since 1983, most of her efforts have gone to the development of the Tobacco Farm Life Museum in Kenly. She has been on the museum's Board of Directors from the beginning, served as building committee chairman for the main building and served as chairman of the farmstead committee. She has been and still is the collections committee chairman and has been and is the volunteer curator and exhibit designer.

Mrs. Boyette reflects on her early life on the following page.

These pages contributed by the members of the Museum Board of Directors in honor of Mrs.
Boyette on the opening of the Farmstead to the public in June 1991.

by Grethel McLamb Boyette

Many times in the almost ten years since we started working on this farm life museum, many people, including myself, have asked why it was worth all the time and energy that we have put into it. I have never come up with a short or precise answer but I think it is rather like the mountain climber who responded "it is there" when asked about his desire to climb Mt. Everest.

The museum and all it could mean to so many people was "there." We just had to find it and put it together.

Recently, Lee Bounds; Director of the NC Department of Correction was quoted as saying, "I think we all walk at the head of a long progression of people we used to be. The museum illuminates the people and the societies we used to be."

Illumination of the past depends upon memories - memories based in facts but filtered through the hearts and minds of those who remember - and I remember.

My earliest memories are of the big white house, with big rooms, a wide hall and two porches. Near it were the open water well, the iron "wash" pot full of steaming water, the outdoor toilet and the garden. A bit further away were the log tobacco curing barns and the other barns for the animals and the harvested crops.

Maude and Minnie, the mule team, were an important part of our lives and are now remembered with love. The visions of tiny kittens in the hayloft, the pet cemetery and the string and stick life-size playhouse under the big tree are still vivid. And a child who has never collected a dozen eggs and gone to the store down the road to trade them for candy hasn't really lived!

Walking to the "crossroads" for typhoid shots three times a summer was a ritual just as was the spring buying of a little white straw hat and patent shoes to go with the dresses our mother so beautifully made from 510 cent a yard 100% cotton cloth!

Public schools had become big brick rectangles and buses had replaced the walking of earlier years. Teachers were strict disciplinarians, weekly chapel programs were fun to be in and to watch and maypole dances were exciting. Graduations were mammoth celebrations lasting two or three days.

Adolescent years were working years. Our family "tended" many acres of cotton, corn and tobacco and we children were the farm hands. Rewards came in good food to eat every day with lemonade on Saturdays, and a good night's sleep every night. Papa bought a victrola when I was thirteen. "The Little Brown Church in the Vale" was one of the records. I guess we were poor but I didn't know it.

I remember the wagon rides to church on Sundays and on weeknights for the revivals. The church was lighted with oil lamps along the walls. Baptizings were held in the ponds nearby and "bush arbor" meetings were lantern lit services under a pole and brush shelter in the edge of the woods in "unchurched" communities. Wayward church members were "turned out" of their church if they didn't ask for forgiveness for reported transgressions. Rivalry for men's souls was fierce among denominations.

The white clothed and hooded Ku Klux Klan marched in town on occasion and attended funerals of members in their flowing robes.

Our family's world expanded when my older brother became one of the first in our area to go to college. The country was in the midst of the great depression and all hands were needed to make a living. But my mother insisted that an education took priority over everything else. Brother's tuition and board at Atlantic Christian College were paid mostly with produce off the farm. Later, when he was a teacher, he helped me go to college.

These are but a few of the memories that I have of my growing-up years. If you have enjoyed my venture into the past, try taking one of your own here at the museum and in your own memories. Maybe you will know why the time and the energy spent here was worth it.

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