Photo by Heather Middleton
Louisa Blalock recently celebrated her 100th birthday. Swinging on the front porch has always been one of her favorite things to do.
By Heather Middleton
JONESBORO — Louisa Blalock has been a part of Joneboro history for the last century.
Friends and family came from three states recently to celebrate her 100th birthday.
“We had people here we hadn’t seen in a long time,” said Ann Sligh, Blalock’s oldest daughter.
The Blalock house was a gathering spot for neighborhood childen when Sligh and her siblings were growing up.
Many of those same children came to help celebrate.
“There were kids here I went to school with — they all looked at Momma as a mother,” Sligh said.
But perhaps her most famous birthday wishes came from President Barack Obama and Michele Obama, former President Jimmy Carter and Gov. Nathan Deal. Those are the perks of making it to triple digits.
Childhood in the Allen home
Blalock was born in the Mount. Zion area in 1913.
Her parents soon located to what is now known as the old jailhouse on King Street. There she lived with her five brothers, including Thomas Allen, who would introduce her to her future husband, Sam Blalock.
In 1919 when Blalock was 6-years-old, tragedy struck her family.
She lost her father Lon Allen to pneumonia.
She said her only memory of her dad was when he purchased his first car in 1917 — the first person to do so in Jonesboro.
“He came in the house so happy and took me outside to show me the car,” she said.
Lon Allen sold wagons for a local company. With the loss of his income, the family had to pull together to make money.
“You do what you have to do,” Louisa Blalock said.
Her mother, Alma Allen, sold stockings and cosmetics and all of her brothers went to work to help support the family. When Louisa was old enough she took in sewing to earn money.
Despite the difficulties, Louisa Blalock made sure to get her education.
She attended school in a two-story brick building in Jonesboro where the grammer school was downstairs and the high school was upstairs.
“Momma jokes that she has a class reunion everyday,” said Sligh. Louisa Blalock is the only surviving member of her graduating class.
Much like her home as an adult, her childhood home was always teeming with children. Her brother’s friends would congregate around at the Allen house.
That’s how she met Sam Blalock.
“One day Sam came in and asked my mother if he could take me to the carnival,” Louisa Blalock said.
She was 13 years old. Seven years later they were married.
Married Life as a Blalock
Louisa and Sam Blalock relocated to the Blalock family home on Main Street in 1933. They would spend their entire lives there.
They had three children together, Sligh, Samuel Gene Blalock, Jr. and Emily Gaddis.
The family added to the many years of memories already created in the home. All three of her children were born in the home as well as her husband and much of his family.
Many days were spent rocking on the front porch watching their children climb trees and play in the sandbox.
Louisa Blalock recalled an afternoon when her youngest daughter, Emily was climbing one of the Magnolia trees when she discovered a snake.
“She was yelling ‘Momma, Momma’ but none of us wanted to go out there with the snake in the tree,” she said.
Sligh talked about all the Halloween parties and Christmas parties they had while growing up.
“It was a wonderful time,” she said.
In 1992 after 59 years of marriage, Sam Blalock died of a heart attack.
“It was the first warm day in February,” Sligh explained. “Daddy sent Momma upstairs to get the seat cushions out of storage for the front porch.”
By the time Louisa Blalock returned, Sam Blalock had passed away in the home he was born in.
“Daddy was a wonderful, kind and gentle person,” Sligh said.
A changing city
Louisa Blalock talked about how much the city of Jonesboro has changed over the years. From dirt roads to cement and businesses giving way to law offices, the city continues to evolve.
“There use to be homes and families all up and down Main Street,” she said.
The downtown area was bustling with thriving businesses like the grocery store and a five-and-dime store and soda shop.
“There was always something going on down there, “ Sligh said.
Despite all that has changed, the Blalock house has remained virtually untouched since it was built in 1840 by J.F. Johnson. The Blalock family purchased it in 1890. Since then six generations have been apart of the home’s history.
“This is our little piece of the past,” Sligh said.
The present and future
Nowadays, Louisa Blalock spends her time to reading, sewing and quilting. Up until recently, she was walking three miles a day. She shares her days with BJ Blume a companion from Seniors Helping Seniors.
“They blessed me when they sent me here,” Blume said. “I love hearing her stories.”
When she’s not busy reading or sewing, Blalock can be found sitting on the front porch of her family’s home. The same porch where, with her husband, she watched her children grow up. And the same place she sat and watched her city change with the times.
Her son Gene still comes every day to sit on the porch with her and drink a cup of coffee.
“We’re all very close to mother,” Sligh said. “She’s the backbone of our family.”