They didn’t tell her where until her birthday became closer. The surprise trip was to London and Paris, destinations that had always been on her bucket list.
Sydney had been out of the country twice. She went to Mexico and went on a Caribbean cruise. But this was the most extensive trip she’d ever gone on. She’s used to having nice surprises from her daughters, but this was the biggest surprise yet.
“We loved it,” she said. “We had a ball, just the three of us. It was fantastic.”
Sydney was married to her late husband, Howard, 52 years when he died in 2007. Connie and Camille gave their parents a party for their 50th anniversary. Sydney said she will always treasure the memories of that day.
Howard had been saved, but he had never been baptized. Prior to the party at their home, Howard was baptized in an official ceremony by Rev. Michael Ingram at First Baptist Church. Close friends and family attended.
“His baptism makes the memory of that day particularly sweet,” said Sydney.
Sydney and Howard met through a friend in 1952. She was living on a farm on the outskirts of Gadsden and Howard was living in Piedmont.
She remembers that Howard was tall, handsome and smart. And he had a new car. They dated off and on for almost three years.
On a date one night, Howard began talking about a cute little house in Piedmont that would be nice for a young married couple just starting out.
Sydney knew what he was leading up to. She said yes.
They didn’t live in that cute little house though. They lived with Howard’s parents until they could get their own home.
The Franklins worked at Goodyear. Sydney worked in the office and was there 32 years. Howard worked in the shipping department and was there 30 years.
Their older daughter, Connie Young and her husband Roger live in Section. Connie is a retired nursing instructor. Roger works in management in forestry.
Camilla Gibson and her husband Eric live in Montgomery with their 5-year-old son, Ace Franklin Borden Gibson. Camilla is an education specialist, and Eric works in marketing as a sales director.
Sydney said Ace is the most wonderful thing that’s ever happened. He has attended Bible school at First Baptist, where Sydney is active in the Esther Sunday Class, for the past two years.
Sydney said, besides her family and friends, her church is the most important thing in her life, along with two others who live with her. That would be her pit bull and rescued cat, Peanut and Mr. Big.
She enjoys playing cards, reading, traveling and entertaining.
Sydney was one of four children. She had two brothers and one sister and is the only sibling left now. Her sister died a few weeks ago.
Sydney was born in Mary Helen, Ky., where her father worked in coal mines during the Depression. He moved the family to Lafayette, Colo.; Rock Springs, Wyo., and back to Kentucky, before settling on a farm outside Gadsden in 1946. Sydney graduated from Etowah County High School and Gadsden Business School.
Her chores on the farm were feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs, milking the cows and, sometimes, slopping the hogs, hoeing, and helping gather fruit from the fruit trees. She also helped her mother can the produce from their vegetable gardens.
Sydney remembers when her father was working third shift at the steel plant in Gadsden.
“One night we had a possum in the hen house,” she said. “Daddy was at work. He’d taught us how to shoot a gun. I got the gun and Mama and I went to the hen house. I shot that possum and put it under a bucket to show Daddy when he got home. But when Daddy got home and I showed it to him, that possum got up and walked away. It had just played dead.”
When Sydney and Howard married, she learned to cook by asking good cooks a lot of questions. Howard especially enjoyed his mother’s cooking, so Sydney learned as much as she could from her mother-in-law, Sallie Franklin.
“When we first got married, Howard always wanted homemade biscuits,” said Sydney. “I never could make them. They always turned out to be a flop. I finally got tired of trying so I went out one day and bought some canned biscuits. When I served them to Howard, he said, ‘Oh, boy, you’ve finally learned to make biscuits.’ ”
Sydney got the hang of cooking by trial and error. Many of her favorite recipes have come from family and friends. Over the years, she has modified them to make them uniquely her own. Her family likes for her to prepare her grandmother Buckelew’s Cabbage Rolls, her grandmother Franklin’s Hot Chocolate Syrup, Mary Jo Wilks’s Squash Casserole and Edna Roberts’s Cranberry Salad.
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Grandmother Buckelew's Cabbage Rolls
1 lb. ground chuck
½ c. uncooked rice
Salt and pepper to taste
2 c. water
½ stick butter
1 c. catsup
Peel off 10-12 cabbage leaves. Place in large sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to rolling boil. Remove from heat and cover with lid. Set aside to wilt. Mix meat, rice, salt and pepper. Roll into eight balls. Remove cabbage leaves and reserve water. Wrap meat balls in the leaves. Arrange in pan. Add reserved water. Cut butter into eight parts and put one on each cabbage roll. Cover pan. Cook on medium heat 30 minutes. Pour catsup over rolls and simmer 15 more minutes.
Sydney serves this with sides of boiled red potatoes cut in halves, sprinkled with chopped chives, corn on the cob and a pan of hot crusty cornbread.
Grandmother Franklin's Hot Chocolate Syrup
2/3 c. sugar
3 T. cocoa powder
½ t. vanilla
Dash of salt
¼ c. water
Mix all ingredients in small sauce pan. Cook over medium heat. Bring to rolling boil. Cook 2-3 minutes.
Sydney serves this hot in a clear gravy boat with a small ladle. Pour or ladle over hot buttered biscuits.
Marry Jo Wilks' Squash Casserole
1 lb. yellow squash
½ c. mayonnaise
½ c. chopped onion
½ stick butter
½ c. grated cheese
¼ c. chopped bell pepper
½ t. sugar
Stack of Ritz crackers
Cook squash. Drain. Add butter and mash. Add next 7 ingredients. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour into greased 2 quart casserole dish and top with cracker crumbs. Bake 40 minutes at 350 degrees.
Sydney adds 2 T. pimento to this recipe for the holidays. It adds color and gives the dish a festive appearance.
Edna Roberts' Cranberry Salad
Large box raspberry jello
Medium size can pineapple, drained (reserve juice)
Can whole cranberries
½ c celery, chopped fine
½ c. apple, chopped fine
½ c. pecans
Use pineapple juice plus enough water to make 1 cup. Boil. Pour over jello and stir until dissolved. Add 1 cup ice cubes to cool. Add other ingredients. Pour in mold and refrigerate until firm.
Sydney likes to use a bundt pan for the mold. She serves this on a cake plate lined with a bed of lettuce. Garnish with red and green grapes. This makes a pretty dish for the holidays.