All of this is based on my wonderful experiences and best recall. Bella Holley Cameron better known to us, the three surrogate/adopted much beloved grandchildren was known as "Granny Billye" and the adults closest to her affectionately adapted that name to Billye. I remember a beautiful poem she had mounted on the wall entitled, "Only God Can Create a Tree". I remember waking up in the morning and she would recite a poem to me, "'lijah, lijah, bless the morn, don't you know this day's a born?"
She would also teach me Spanish and she would drill me with words like "cabeza" and "ojo" and teach me how to count 1-10. She was very proud of all her grandchildren and she would take us with her as much as possible, even to the Mexcan grocery store where she would speak in English or Spanish based on what was demanded to the shop owners, Everett & Ballo. Looking back on it, I think Ballo ran the delicatessen or meat section part of the store. This store was about 4-5 blocks from our house. She would be very proud of us when talking to the shop owners. They would smile, we had a great rapport and interestingly all business was conducted for the most part by running tabs to be paid at a specific time of the month. It was great mutual cross cultural respect and trust that I witnessed as a young person.
Bella also had a very hard and structured side because she was very compulsive, driven and only knew one direction -- forward and only knew one speed -- fast. She had just purchased a 1957 black and white Bel Air coupe. She loved the car. So did we all. America made it a classic. This car had plenty of pick up and thrust. The hood would raise up when she would accelerate. The first few times I wondered if it was going to actually take off. This is the car I learned to drive on. What a car! Often I recall her driving us to school and stopping students along the way from time to time asking them why they were truant yesterday or the fact that she knew their parents and whether the parents were aware of them skipping. I saw her do that a lot of times. There was a tough rumble tumble element in the school and she repeatedly warned me not to "become thick" with them. She really understood peer pressure. I remember as a young boy in 1st grade walking across the class room during class and kissing a girl who was totally shocked thereby disrupting the whole class. This news spread to the principal's office faster than any of today's technologies including e-mail.
There were several great mature pecan trees (maybe 3) in the front yard. In the fall we had beaucoup bushels of pecans falling on thick bermuda grass common to the region. In today's values, we would have been wealthy based on the pecans alone. Our collective memories made us wealthy in so many countless ways. She had a one-story house with beautiful hardwood floors in the front part of the house. There was also a room in the house where we would sit on a bed or sofa and watch TV. This is where I first saw a great new show for teenagers. There had been none before. With great excitement, my cousin Mayme burst into the room one day and said, "Why aren't you watching American Bandstand?" Even after she briefly explained it, we really didn't know what it was. And once watched, just like every young soul in America, we were instantly mesmerized. Bella had recently put in a patio and it had a beautiful bold dark red/ orange concrete. Because she knew I was enjoying basketball, she put up a hoop for me over the walk way leading from the house to the garage thereby transforming the surface of the patio for basketball games. Despite the slight obstruction of electric wires, this was a tremendous hit as there were no other courts in the neighborhood. Word spread fast. This was not only fun for me but all of the nearby young athletic boys. I think this is really where I first learned the game because most of the boys were slightly older and better players than myself at least for a while.
I recall many vivid memories in the kitchen sitting at the table by the window while the adults cooked and conversed. There was nothing special about the room, plain, more oblong than square. The memories made the room and the people made the memories. As a kid it was difficult to distinguish between week days and weekends sometimes. I remember we'd pick figs for our breakfast (tremendous producing trees in the backyard). She would split several open in a bowl, pour whole milk and sprinkle sugar on them. In the ubiquitous black cast-iron, she would fry slab, thick-rhined bacon, and scramble eggs but not at the same time. The bacon and much of the grease would be removed. The eggs were actually whipped, scrambled, seasoned and cooked in this same pan. Coffee as it has done so many times melded all the aromas together. Oddly, I don't remember eating any cereal but we always had grits. Sometime in the mid- 50's, an extension all purpose room was added beyond the kitchen where she would store things, and we now had space for a much needed new freezer. Venison (deer meat) from the hunt or fish from one of our numerous trips to the cabin at Padre Island could be more efficiently preserved. We would drive from San Antonio south to the Gulf of Mexico. The roads were narrow and had all the cracks repaired with tar creating an endless myriad of patterns which were a point of fascination for me as a kid. The monotony of the trip for the adults on the other hand was dramatically interrupted when either Julius or Bella hurriedly asked me to look out the window at a cow, deer or something unique. They all laughed when I finally responded "whar?" because a mile or two had already passed and the thing was no longer in sight. They knew I wasn't retarded but they couldn't get over my incredibly slow response. This made them laugh every time and brought the house down or the roof of the car down. They really liked the game of "did you smell something funny" -- Texas skunks had an incredibly foul odor. In contrast, when we got to the coast, the air was wonderfully refreshing -- the salt air of the gulf.
This link is to the website of the Bella Cameron Elementary School in San Antonio where Bella was a principal.
- Bella's formal name
- exact birthdate
- birth location
- exact deathdate
- death location
- personal memories about Bella (2)
- images (11)
- family tree
- father's name
- mother's name
- siblings' names
- children's names (1)
- spouse's name and marriage information
- autosomal DNA test connections
Rejected matches › Felix David Welton (1749-1815)