The Storytellers –
If you’ve lived in Greenville, SC for any length of time you may have heard of Mrs. Betty Farr (aka Grandma Betty of the Grandma Betty’s Farm exhibit at the Children’s Museum.) As a mother of seven, grandmother of 15, and great-grandmother of 3, Betty has been devoted to captivating children’s imaginations for many years. She can often be found around town, in full costume, storytelling at children’s hospitals, nursing homes, Sunday School, and the Children’s Museum of Greenville to name just a few. Having the opportunity to see her in action last year at the Children’s Museum, I can truly say that the energy and joy she effuses is contagious. “Miss Betty” as the children call her, has also built a charming playhouse just the right size for little ones in her backyard which serves as the perfect setting to read, play, dress-up, and “have tea.”
Betty’s fascination with storytelling and its power to unlock the imaginations of young people stems from her own experience as a child. When Betty was a little girl, her mother would take her to the public library on Main St. in Greenville to hear stories read with enthusiasm by Ms. Margaret Mahon. Betty always thought how she wanted to be just like her. Years later, after seeing Ms. Mahon perform again for the Jayceettes, Betty was able to discuss her desire to become a storyteller with her. Soon after, Betty began telling stories to her students at Betty’s School of Dance. Adding to the production value was Ms. Bette Waters, who would accompany Betty’s stories with piano. Betty soon finagled her way into storytelling at the Augusta Circle School. This exposure led to lots of other invitations to come tell stories.
Miss Betty still loves to see the faces of children and older ones light up when she walks into the room in costume. At one nursing home, an older gentleman who hadn’t spoken for two years, began to sing along with Betty to the amazement of the nurses, doctors and everyone there. When he died a few years later, the song “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” which had sparked him to speak again when he sang with Miss Betty, was played at his funeral. Using her gift for storytelling to make a difference in the lives of older ones and children brings Betty a deep satisfaction, and while she admits that not everyone may have the gift for storytelling, she recommends that women find their own gift and use it to make a difference in the lives of others.