BIOGRAPHIES of HENDERSON COUNTY

RAYMELLE (RHODES) AUSTIN

Our Interesting Person this week has been associated with City Cafe here, first by working there herself 17 years, but coming down with asthma, she had to give it up because of the smoke and grease in the cafe. Her daughters had worked as waitresses during those years, and when Raymelle had to retire, various family members have owned and operated the cafe for the past 18 years. She has a large and busy family: 10 children, 21 grandchildren and 18 great­grandchildren. Raymelle was born in Henderson County, Nov. 10, 1924, one of 8 children born to tEelate Rev. Arvin Rhodes, and Nina Todd Rhodes. Five of her brothers^ and sisters live in the Lexington area. One sister lives in Florida. RaymeUe and her future husband, Merville Austin, went to school together at Shady Hill. They fell in love and decided to elope. During the drive to the minister's, they had a wreck and she suffered a broken elbow, but they kept on and were married. She was 14; he was 20.

They went home to her father's house and found him extremely surprised and angry. He put Raymelle to bed in the living room, and put her new husband in bed with her brother, Vaughan Rhodes. During the early years of their marriage, her husband worked on the pipeline and farmed. She worked on the farm. Their first child was born when Raymelle was 16-year old. Her husband served in two branches of the service, the Army and Air Force. After his discharge, he worked for TVA and with her father later worked building the Milan Arsenal.

As the years passed, the family grew to 7 children. It was hard to make a living for so large a family, so they moved to Illinois where MerviLle's father lived and they hoped to find jobs. She got work with Singer Sewing Machine Co., and taught classes on how to use the machines, and how to make dresses from patterns. She also sold and demonstrated how to are for the machines. All the children worked. The younger children. The boys worked delivering papers and doing farm work. Raymelle managed the money - the boys gave her their pay and she would give them spending money. All the family worked and they got by. Raymelle took a job with Katy's Bridal Shop, making veils and altering wedding gowns. She also did altering and tailoring in her shop. There were 7 children in school at one time which meant a lot of work for their mother and they began to sell produce door to door. As the i produce business increased, they set up stands at different locations and all the children worked at these stands. Her husband and older sons traveled to different farms and produce markets, gathering enough to keep the produce stands stocked.

Raymelle's next job was floor lady at Myers Pants Factory, a job consisting of hiring, firing and overseeing the unit production. Always there was a desire to move back to Tennessee and after 12 years in Illinois, enough to move back home. When they moved here in 1963, they bought a house on Main Street and also bought the City Cafe which became a family business. After leaving the cafe for health problems, she went to work for the Senior Citizens as Site Manager, a position she held for 7 years. Her husband developed Alzheimer and she gave up her job and cared for him at home for 6 years. He died three years ago. All her children live in the Lexington area. They are; Brenda Bush, Allan Austin, David Austin, Ronnie Austin, Judy Hayes, Redonna Campbell, Mark Austin, Fonda Buttrey, Barney Austin and Leanna Reeves. Raymelle is proud of her children, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. When they all get together at Christmas, it is quite a gathering. They usually meet at the City Cafe. She and her husband were married 57 years. Raymelle is currently active at the Senior Citizens Center, helping with games and other activities. She especially enjoys the exercise classes, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. She attends church services at Second Baptist Church. Friends often ask her how she stays active and young. She just tells them she's never had time to get old!

"An interesting Person" The Lexington Progress October 28, 1998

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