BY JANE BLOODWORTH ROWE
VIRGINIA BEACH – Some people marry into money or fame, but those who married Elsie V. Creekmore’s children and grandchildren understood that they were marrying into work and butterbeans.
That’s the word from Sharon Creekmore Mosley, who, with her mother, Elsie Creekmore, and other family members, has run Creekmore’s Place at the Virginia Beach Farmers Market since 1976.
Elsie Creekmore, known as “Miss Elsie” or “Grandma” to customers, died on Nov. 14. Creekmore, a constant presence at the market who often was seen shelling butterbeans during the summer, was 98.
“If you could put all of the butterbeans that she’d ever shelled in her life into a big pile, I can’t imagine how big the mountain would be,” said Cindy Weatherly, owner of Cindy’s Produce, who had known Creekmore since Weatherly was a child.
Elsie Creekmore grew up on a farm in Princess Anne County and graduated from Princess Anne Country Training School. She married Linwood Creekmore Sr., and they farmed land on Indian River and West Neck roads.
Linwood Creekmore also worked as a longshoreman, so the four children, Linwood Jr., Patricia Ann, Linda, and Sharon had to help with the farm chores. Mosley remembers that her parents tolerated no nonsense.
“Our lives were structured around school, work and church,” Mosley said.
Mosley also remembers that her mother, who did most of the administrative work, had a lot of business sense – and she was as thrifty as she was hard-working. She was determined that her customers would have nothing except the highest quality produce, but she wasted nothing and set aside the less-than-perfect vegetables for canning.
Despite her rigorous work schedule, Elsie Creekmore found time to sing in the choir and participate in the woman’s club at Piney Grove Baptist Church. Mosely also remembers her mother as a very good cook, and she particularly remembers the fruit cakes that she made at Christmas.
“I remember those fruit cakes baking, and they smelled so good,” Sharon Mosley said. “To me, that smells like Christmas.”
Linwood Creekmore Sr. died in 1986, but Elsie, along with her children and seven grandchildren, continued to run Creekmore’s Place. The business opened there when the city-run market where Dam Neck and Princess Anne roads meet was first established.
Children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and extended family sometimes gathered for working reunions at the stand, where they socialized and ate snacks while they shelled beans and peas or waited on customers at the market.
The customers, too, would sometimes help shell the butterbeans.
“I’d just go sit down beside Miss Elsie and start shelling butterbeans,” Weatherly said.
She often turned to her for advice about her business, and she remembers that Creekmore could be very frank in her observations.
Even with customers, Elsie Creekmore would sometimes practice a kind of tough love, advising them on how to cook produce or telling them that they needed to try something new rather than cooking the same thing all of the time, Mosley said.
Mosley said that her mother was also remembered for her bright red fingernails, which she managed to keep immaculate despite long hours shelling butterbeans or doing other chores.
The family plans to continue in the business, which they see as a family legacy. It’s a way to pay respect to their parents and to teach the younger generations about money, work, and dealing with people, Mosley said.
“It’s in our blood,” she said, “and it’s a way to honor our father and mother.”
© 2018 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC