Cousins James Ransom and Cherie Johnson spent much of their childhood at their grandparents' house in Bradenton, Fla.
At StoryCorps, they remember Lizzy Devine, the neighbor and Sunday school teacher who taught and took care of two generations of the family.
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:
That music, as many of you know, means it is time for StoryCorps. And today, we're bringing you a story we first heard back in 2006. Cousins James Ransom and Cherie Johnson spent much of their childhood at their grandparents' house in Bradenton, Fla. Their visits included going to church with their neighbor and Sunday school teacher who helped raise two generations of the family.
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JAMES RANSOM: Let's talk about Ms. Devine.
CHERIE JOHNSON: Lizzie Devine.
RANSOM: She was the only person I knew that had more power than my grandmother.
JOHNSON: She wasn't a mean person. She was stern.
RANSOM: Stern, yes, real stern.
JOHNSON: And, you know, when she said something, she meant exactly what she said.
JOHNSON: The only thing that would keep you from going to Sunday school - you had to have one foot on a banana peel and the other in a grave.
RANSOM: Absolutely. There's no...
JOHNSON: That's the only thing.
RANSOM: ...No excuse.
JOHNSON: You had to go.
RANSOM: Had to go.
JOHNSON: One of the things that you prayed for when you were in Ms. Devine's class was Lord, please, let me get old enough to get out this class.
JOHNSON: She did the catechism. Who made you? God. Where is God? Everywhere.
JOHNSON: And we'd say, oh, Lord, have mercy, please.
RANSOM: (Laughter) This Ms. Devine would come in on Sunday mornings to take us to Sunday school. And when I saw her come, Cherie, I thought the leaves would be blowing out the trees and the sky would go black and the clouds would come in. And she'd come in the house one morning and say, good morning, children. And everybody - my mother on down - say, good morning, Ms. Devine. And she says, it's time to go to Sunday school this morning, children. I say, Ms. Devine, I can't go to Sunday school today. She said, no? I said, no, ma'am. She says, why not? I say, my mother didn't bring enough clothes for me to go to Sunday school this morning. She said, oh, no? What kind of clothes do you have? I said, all I have, Ms. Devine, are my pajamas and my tennis shoes. She said, well, that's OK, honey. Put your tennis shoes on. We go to Sunday school. I looked at my mother and she looked away, Cherie.
RANSOM: Ms. Devine made me walk two blocks in my pajamas and my tennis shoes. I had to sit in church with my friends. I will tell you, Cherie, I never lied again (laughter).
JOHNSON: Ms. Devine was always there to take care of us.
JOHNSON: But when Ms. Devine braided your hair, your eyes went up like this.
JOHNSON: You had to sleep on soft pillows because, boy, she had it tight. And Ms. Devine had mango trees all over her yard. But Ms. Devine never brought you a mango until it was rotten.
JOHNSON: It would smell like liquor.
JOHNSON: That's when she brought you mango.
RANSOM: (Laughter) But you know what? That's the kind of stuff that we got growing up. And I'll never forget that.
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GREENE: Cousins James Ransom and Cherie Johnson, remembering their Sunday school teacher, Ms. Devine, at StoryCorps in Bradenton, Fla. And this is cool. You can see this story as an animated short. Just go to npr.org.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.