The Beginning


When I tell people about the Porter Family Houseparty get- together, they first ask “what’s a Houseparty?”. They are awed that a family with 200+ can arrange to get together for a FULL WEEK and have 150 (2006)  attend. And when they discover we cook three meals a day for us to eat – they want to know ‘how?’. And then when I tell this has been ongoing for 67 years (1941 – 2007) with the exception of one year during World War II, they are further amazed. 


I lay pen to paper to record for our posterity ‘The Beginning’ of the Porter Family Houseparty. I do this at this time because the “original” members of the family are dwindling and we do not want to lose the history of the beginning of the reunion.


Where do we start in telling this story? With the first reunion? To do so would ignore some important events. We start this story with the Mama and Papa --  Preston S. Porter and Mary Anne Bush Porter.


Mama and Papa were married in 1898 and lived on a farm in White Oaks in Kelly, N.C. Their farm was next to Granddaddy, Aunt Ada, and Uncle Louis. The next year Rubye (Sis) was born. Then the boys, Troy, Toot, Hugh and Runt came along. I was not born until 1915. Papa was so happy to have a girl, he went out that day and bought a new 1915 Ford.  P.S. came along and Julia rounded out our family in 1921.


Papa did farming and had a sawmill. He also met the ferry and hauled the freight up from the river.  He’d pick up the mail for the Kelly area and also trapped in order to sell the pelts.

We all went to school in Kelly. Troy went off to the Navy, Al went off to the Army and Papa died in 1928 due to  Bright’s Disease; leaving Mamma to raise all us children.  Times were hard for us – money was scarcer than hens’ teeth. Life was made even harder due to flooding which ruined the crops two years in a row.



When I reached the 12th grade, I went to live with Aunt Bert in Clarkton since the high school in Kelly was not accredited that year. After graduation, I came back home, having no idea of going to college since there was no money.


Shortly after returning home, Mr. Stroud came by trying to get people to attend his beautician school in Jacksonville, Florida. Mama was very polite and listened to his offer. While he was there, the mail came with a payment check of $400 for not planting crops.  Mr. Stroud did some quick math and told Mama that would just cover the costs of school and board. Mama signed the check over to him.


A few weeks later, another of the children left home by train for school in Jacksonville. I arrived on Mothers Day, 1935. On the first night, I met Ferrell Ard at the boarding house. He was known by all the people at the school – he had a CAR – and it had a RADIO. Shortly, Ferrell discovered that several of my uncles had moved to Macon, Georgia where he was from, to work in turpentine. He told everyone he had known me for a long time; having met me in Macon when I visited my uncles – a fact that was not true. 


After 3 weeks at school, Mama passed away. P.S. sent me the money to come home by train. After the funeral, I decided to return to school – since it was already paid for. When I returned, Ferrell said that I was an orphan – I said I wasn’t ! !


During a date one night, Ferrell had the ferris wheel operator stop us on the top of the wheel. There, under a full moon, Ferrell stole his first kiss. I was so scared being on the top of the wheel, all I could do was to ignore him – I was so scared.


Ferrell was working at Tom McAnn shoe store. One night, he called and asked if he could stop by and talk. It was after midnight when he finally got there. He took my hand, gave me a ring, and asked if I would marry him. On July 24, 1935 we were married at his boarding house.


Over the next several years, we traveled to Kelly each summer, staying with Sis and Roland. Ferrell was uncomfortable with this, because everyone would come to Sis’, and he felt we were imposing on them. So, in early 1941, Ferrell asked some people if they could come to White Lake for a get-together. The answer was yes. So Ferrell rented us the Jessup cottage ( $25 for the week) for the 3rd week of July. This was considered good because Ferrell’s fourth of July sale was over and we thought most of the crops would have had been harvested.


So, in July 1941 we got together at White Lake. Several from Kelly asked if they could spend the week. Those from the farms brought the food and we had plenty of farm fresh food. During the week, we had about 15-20 people come up. “A good time was had by all.” At the end of the week, everyone agreed that ‘this was fun – we should do it again next year’. And so it has, from 1941 to today, with the exception of one, maybe two years during World War II.


So that is my story of “The Beginning” of the Porter Family Houseparty.


As I lay my pen down, I issue to you all this request – pick up the pen and add your chapter to The Porter Family Houseparty history before if becomes lost in time.


Submitted by

Mary Bernice (Bunny) Porter Ard