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The Legend of Big Mark Hampton and the Tea Party

By @gwhollan


The Hampton home was a rambling ranch-style house with the parlor (today known as a family room) and formal living room adjoining. Of all of our houses, it was the only one with accommodations sufficient to handle the number of attendees who had responded with positive RSVPs. The parlor was not only accessible from the formal living room but also from one end of the kitchen and a formal dining room that, in my memory, was never used. The family breakfast table was located near the entrance to the kitchen and it would be where some of the visitors would be seated. At the other end of the kitchen was the doorway to the hall leading to all of the bedrooms of which there were four; the master, Bellie’s, Little Mark’s, and the guest/spare. A second hallway made a “T” in front of the guest bedroom and led to the end of the formal living room opposite from the parlor. That’s was the basic layout.

On the morning of the party, Mother, my brother, Tony, and I arrived to begin the setup. Tony and I were shuttled off to Little Mark’s room to entertain ourselves and were admonished to do so quietly because Big Mark had arrived just before dawn and was asleep in the guest bedroom. Mother and Mrs. Hampton began meticulously placing card tables in strategic locations throughout. They both agreed that they would sit at the breakfast table because it was closest to the kitchen. While all the tables were covered with linen tablecloths and decorated with little flowers in tiny vases, the breakfast table was the focal point where the tea service and canapés would be located. In addition to themselves, Grandmother, Mrs. Dalton, and, of course, Mrs. Annabelle Weaver would be seated there. All of the other tables were placed with an unobstructed view of that most exalted center.

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