A - chatWITH… Eula Rollins
A chatWITH… Eula Rollins
Toombs County native Eula Rollins, known to her friends and family as “Eula Mae,” has seen a lot of change throughout her life, but has always remained diligent to her duties and open to whatever life lessons each scenario brings. It is this attitude that has helped her through the many trials she has faced and defined her story of faith and triumph over tribulation.
Life on the Farm
“I grew up in an era that was very different from the way things are today,” she emphasized. “Many things have changed – many for better, but many for worse. If you were born in the 1930s, you were a survivor; having been born in 1936 makes me eligible!”
She was born on May 13 to Pearl Stephens Lott and Henry Allen Lott as the couple’s second and final child. Eula grew up in a time that was much different from today’s age. “We came from a primitive background of sharecroppers,” she explained. “We didn’t have an abundance of material things, but we had an abundance of love – we didn’t know we needed more.”
She said that her family earned a living through farming, not in large operations as local farmers do today. She referred to her family farm as a “one-horse farm.” The term simply meant that you worked the soil with only one animal, Rollins explained. “Mostly mules were used, even though they were considered stubborn. Some horses were used but were known to be more ornery and contrary, while mules seemed to follow the farmer’s verbal instruction better.”
Life on the farm was filled with responsibilities, as it was Eula, her sister, and her parents who were to accomplish all things inside and outside the home. “We each had tasks to perform and we did them,” she reminisced. “My sister, being a little older than me, had the more difficult chores until I was able to assume as much as she – then, we became equal!”
Some of these responsibilities were helping with household chores, such as washing dishes, cleaning the house, tending the yards and flower beds, and doing work on the farm. Other times, the girls would work to help preserve goods to ensure that they had food for days to come. “There was no electricity at that time in rural areas; therefore, there were no freezers,” Eula remarked. “We canned fruits and vegetables. We even dried our own fruits for pies, turnovers, etc. We slaughtered our own hogs and processed our pork in the smokehouse. We canned the fresh meats that we didn’t cure in the smokehouse. We processed our own cornmeal and grits. We milked the cow and had our own milk, cream, and butter.”
She added, “Going to the store to pick up a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread was unheard of; we were organically growing food before organics were popular!”
Gaining an Education
Eula spent many days in the two-room Rock Spring School, which housed all grades. “We experienced very little interruptions due to behavioral issues,” she added. After completing fourth grade at Rocks Spring, Eula changed to Cedar Crossing School until seventh grade, when she transferred to Toombs Central for the rest of her educational career. “[When I started at Toombs Central,] Toombs County School consolidation came into play, which meant better and more efficient operation for students and taxpayers alike,” she said.
Eula’s family valued education, as her parents made sure that the girls “got their lessons.” This was not out of the ordinary for Eula’s parents, as they strived to help the girls become the best individuals they could be. “Our parents were not abusive – just firm,” she emphasized. “We learned ‘word definitions’ at an early age – ‘yes meant yes’ and ‘no meant no.’ There were no in-between’s or maybe’s.”
Yet, this firmness proved to be efficient, as Eula and her sister both were very good students, with Eula even earning the title of “valedictorian” for the Class of 1953.
Starting a Family
, nd , o n y. Back in the 1950s, it was not uncommon for girls to get married soon after high school, as the boys usually followed their parents into the farming operation or went into the military. “There were very few ‘industrial jobs’ in Toombs County,” she reminisced. “We had very few college
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students also, as there was no such thing as assistance for education.”
Eula’s relationship moved a little faster than the usual, as she married William Thomas “W.T.” Rollins in January 1953 – only a few months before she graduated. “I certainly don’t advocate following my lead at such a young age, but I was a little more mature than the average 16 or 17 year-old.”
The maturity may have helped in the survival of Eula’s marriage, but it did not make it any easier to convince her parents to allow the nuptials. “It was no easy feat to convince my parents that we wanted to get married,” she commented. “After the bold promise that I would graduate from high school, they finally relented. Love prevailed; I married the love of my life in January 1953, graduated from high school in May 1953, and had our first child in December 1953. Was I busy or what? [I was} a high school student, a new wife, and a mother – all within the period of twelve months.”
Eula and W.T. created a life similar to the one she had as a child; he worked as a farmer, and she helped with all the duties surrounding that job. The couple had four children – Tommy, Randy, Ronnie, and Angela – who all were taught to work on the farm and to help the family, just as Eula was taught as a child. “They learned how to do any and everything that was honest and honorable,” she shared. “They were always taught to do their best – whatever the task. Along with doing well at any job, they learned to manage their time, responsibilities, and resources.” In Sickness and In Health
These life lessons learned by Eula and the children throughout their lives were very helpful when W.T. was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, and given only a few months to live.
“Cancer was a death sentence in 1971,” she emphasized. “It was a different time – the modern lifesaving medicine was not available.”
During W.T.’s sickness, the children, other family members, and neighbors all came together to grow and harvest the crops on the family farm, while Eula and her husband traveled to and from Savannah for radiation therapy.
Though the couple was diligent in their work to treat the cancer, W.T.’s illness progressed. “We had ‘family conferences’ to try to keep our heads above water and our hearts at peace,” Eula reminisced. “He knew I would be faced with decisions to make I’d never had to make alone.”
Yet, according to Eula, W.T. continued to encourage the family. “He was very emphatic about the children getting a college education, [even while] knowing it was going to be a hardship, and it was. They made him that promise and all four followed through with it,” she shared.
“He emphasized to us that there was a distinct difference in being prepared to die and being ready to die,” Eula remarked. “He assured us that he was prepared to die, but not ready to leave us. He was a Godly man who loved his family second to his God.”
He also helped to prepare Eula for the financial hardships which his death would bring, cautioning her that she would need to be even more frugal than before to help the family survive and improve from the situation.
“With four children to finish rearing and educating, we realized farming was not going to be the answer for us,” she recounted. “Farming plans that are made in early spring don’t always look the same by harvest time in the fall. Many unforeseeable and adverse conditions arise – from not enough rain, to too much rain, to market instability, to name a few – and can surely change the bottom line. Farming is a great life, an honorable one – just not always a profitable one monetarily.”
After having this realization, the family began to sell the equipment, and Eula began to look for jobs that would provide a routine paycheck. She previously had worked a few clerical jobs, such as bookkeeping and secretarial jobs at Aiken-McArthur Hospital and Toombs Central School, so she knew she was familiar and capable of record keeping work. “I always figured if someone else could do it, I could also do it, and most likely a little more efficiently,” she commented.
Eula was not alone in this effort, as the children also worked jobs on campus when gaining their education, and came home on weekends to work more to help support themselves and the family. “All four of the children fulfilled the promise to their father that they would get a college education and become community-minded, productive citizens and to remember ‘who they were and whose they were,” she continued.
Life After Death
After her husband’s death, Eula continued to put her energy and effort towards helping herself and her children create productive, meaningful lives. “Even though we still miss him, we feel that he looks down upon us and knows we did our best with the life lessons he instilled in us, and he is pleased with our decisions,” she emphasized.
Their friend and neighbor, Mr. R.L. Cato, gave her a job working for his company, Cato Enterprises, where she was an employee from October 1972 until Mr. Cato’s death in 1997.
“I helped him to expand his operation tremendously,” she explained. “It meant long hours on a job during harvesting and shipping season, but I felt it was better to have one good job than to have to leave and go to another just to make ends meet. It gave me more family time.”
After Mr. Cato’s death, Eula’s sons bought the business from the Cato heirs, and continue to work it today. “They have continued their father’s legacy by their involvement in community activities and continuing to practice good stewardship of the land,” she said. “I’m sure he is pleased with their accomplishments.”
The men continue to work with their businesses, as Eula’s daughter, who retired from Southern Nuclear in 2014, has now joined her brothers in their business efforts, allowing Eula to retire. “I’m pushing towards 87 years old and feel that I have made my contribution in the workforce,” she commented.
Continuing to Shine
Eula continues to shine a light of love and hard work as she lives her daily life – yet, it is her faith that she holds dearest.
“Our faith has meant many things throughout our lives. I recall an old adage that describes faith as ‘seeing the invisible, feeling the intangible, and achieving the impossible.’ I have lived many days on, what seemed to me, faith alone – believing the unseen and always looking for the best in everything and everyone, which can be hard,” she stressed.
“I carry deep Christian convictions that were instilled in me from a very early age and I have managed to maintain them through many trials and tribulations,” Eula added. “They were instilled in me at such an early age that I don’t even know when or how they began. I just try to keep Philippians 4:13 in my mind, [which says] ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
It was that very verse which helped encourage Eula and her family through the hardships they faced with the illness and death of W.T. Knowing the power of words and encouragement, Eula now encourages others through cards and other gifts as a form of service to the Lord.
“I have my ‘card ministry,’ where I send cards and notes to the residents of nursing facilities, shut-ins, and others. I send 40-60 cards each week,” she said. “I still make cakes, pies, candies, cookies, jams, jellies, preserves, pickles, and relishes to share with family and friends.” She also never fails to remind others that she “absolutely refuses to let anyone steal her joy,” and encourages others to do the same.
When she’s not giving to others, Eula enjoys spending her days sewing, reading, crafting, and growing her famous amaryllis. “I have a green thumb for Red Velvet Amaryllis. I have the prettiest amaryllis beds around – but that could just be my opinion,” she commented with a laugh.
Overall, Eula strives to live out her days as the Lord intended; as she said, He has guided her every step of the way. “His plan is my plan; I call it the master plan,” she concluded. “I trust whatever and wherever it leads.”