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‘The Help’ brings back memories

July 24, 2011
By KATHRYN SPIRA , For The Leader Herald

One lazy afternoon last week I was down on the beach and struck up a conversation with our next-door neighbor, Judy. She said she was reading a fabulous new book called "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. She recounted that the book was about black maids in white households in the south in the 1960s.

She also mentioned that the book was being made into a movie of the same title due to come out in August. I learned the movie will be out Aug. 10 starring Emma Stone and Viola Davis. According to The International Movie DataBase, the movie is "a look at what happens when a southern town's unspoken code of rules and behavior is shattered by three courageous women who strike up an unlikely friendship."

Then I saw a "20-20" special on ABC-TV about the book and movie with interviews with the actresses portraying the original characters from the book as well as the actual people the book was based on. There also was a tearful reunion after 20 years of an elderly black housekeeper and the little girl she cared for, now grown to adulthood.

What I found to be of great irony was the fact that though these black maids, who wanted to be referred to as housekeepers, raised the white family's children, they weren't allowed to use their bathrooms or polish the silver because they weren't trusted.

This story brought me back to my own early childhood memories from the 1960s when I was growing up with our black maid named Mable. Mable was a wonderful, and I mean really wonderful, lady who I remember to this day as being very loving. I remember her giving me a bath and seeming to rub my bottom raw and I remember her saying to me, "I got to clean everywhere!"

Mable was a stickler for cleanliness and behaving.

I remember being on the second floor and yelling down the stairs, "Mable, bring me my doll!"

My natural father ran up the stairs and paddled my bottom to teach me respect for Mable who had more important things to do than bring me my doll.

I remember to this day calling in my childish, sing-song fashion.

"Mable, The Black Label!" I loved the way it rhymed, never thinking how Mable might have felt about it.

I have a wonderful fantasy of someday meeting up with Mable again and laughing about my childish years. I think she'd be delighted to know how fond the memories I have in my heart for her.

I'm sure life was difficult for Mable. Although she may not have had to endure the prejudices of blacks in the deep south, I vaguely remember her talking about the long bus ride to and from work each day.

It's been more than 40 years since I last saw Mable, but "The Help" brought back many fond memories of a wonderful person of whom to this day I have strong, loving memories.

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in New York City and Los Angeles, now pursues free lance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns and contact information may be accessed at her website at



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