ON JULY 20, 1917, beautiful twin girls, Ima Irene and Ina Mabel, were born in West Virginia to James Harrison and Mamie Jane Fox Walkup. (Ina was my mother.) The twins two brothers, George and Steve, were delighted to be big brothers. When they were told they had two baby sisters, George said, “Oh good. Daddy always did get us two of everything.” Other babies born in 1917 who had an impact on the 20th century in various ways were John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Ella Fitzgerald, Indira Gandhi, Andrew Wyeth and Louis Zamperini .
WHEN THE TWINS WERE in their first year of life, the 1918 Spanish flu hit hard. Their mother remembers folks pouring lye all around the perimeter of their homes and property in an attempt to protect their families the only way they knew how. Their family was spared. When the pandemic died down, 1/3 of the world’s population had died, with 500 million infected in most every corner of the world.
THE TWINS were the apple of their father’s eye. He loved to show off his girls. They remember him proudly taking them for ice cream. The first time he bought them a cone of ice cream, the twins quietly ate it out of the cone, and then asked, “Can we keep the cone?”
IMA and INA were inseparable until the day that Ima left home to marry. They slept together, played together, had the same friends, did chores together and even sat beside one another at the same desk in school. They always wanted to dress alike and never disagreed about what they were going to wear, as long as it was the same.
Mamie Jane Walkup and James Harrison Walkup
THEY GREW UP IN WV during the roaring 20’s, although they did not see much of the high life. Their mother was a talented dressmaker and made all of their clothes. Their home was in a coal mining community. They lived as well as any family in the community, with always plenty to eat. James Harrison Walkup was a skilled Master Carpenter who maintained the wooden coal tipple and all the company houses, along with two other carpenters. They used company script to buy groceries at the company store.
WHEN THE STOCK MARKET CRASHED IN 1929, the town began emptying out, as work in the mines screeched to a halt. The Walkup family stayed as long as they could, on promises from the mine owner that “things would turn around soon”. The Walkup family witnessed hardships in many of their neighbors. Ima and Irene frequently saw men they called hobos passing through the town begging to work for food, and knew well the story of the “stone soup”. James was able to find some work for small pay, although he had to walk miles and miles to find it. He often was away for weeks. The twins remember he had cardboard and newspaper in his shoes to cover the holes in the worn out soles.
EVENTUALLY, TIMES IMPROVED. The twins rode the train to Gauley Bridge to attend high school. The school administration in their wisdom of the day, believed it best to separate twins, so Ina and Ima were assigned to different teachers for the first time. They were not happy about this decision.
THEY WITNESSED so many changes in their lifetimes, two world wars, political and economic changes and scientific and technological advances beyond imagining. They saw the first “moving picture” the Jazz Singer with Al Jolsen. Ina attended the inaugural for FDR in Washington with her sister in law Shirley. They each married and had families, but always stayed in close touch. And in later years, they still wanted to dress alike.
WE CELEBRATED THE TWINS 90TH BIRTHDAYS with a ride in a limo and a reception at the Hilton. They were thrilled! The photo sculpted in icing on the cake was from one taken when they were 18 years old. They lightly swiped their fingers over the likeness to to see if it was really a cake.
INA AND IMA REMAINED CLOSE until Ina’s death in 2008 at the age of 91. Their mother Mamie lived into her 90’s and their grandfather Fox lived until he was 99. Our dear Aunt Ima is the first family member to celebrate a century birthday.
PLEASE JOIN US in wishing her a Happy 100th Birthday! We will celebrate her 100th birthday on July 20th. She would be thrilled to receive cards of best wishes during her birthday week (or the month of July)! Her address is:
Mrs. Ima Whately
4428 Pheasant Ridge Drive
Roanoke, VA 24014
Sue Marquis Bishop, July 2017